26th > May > 2006 Archive

Freeview will push UK DVRs as Playback devices

The UK has had its TV services changed forever by the early introduction of a 30 channel digital terrestrial service called Freeview, which has driven over eight million customers in two and a half years, and now that service will come out with a Digital Video Recorder specification using the Freeview Playback brand. The broadcasting companies behind Freeview will put together a promotional effort around the Playback brand. Freeview is a huge success because it is free to air and consumers only have to spend around $50 in a one off payment to get the set top that converts a digital signal to one that can go into a conventional TV set. The Freeview Playback initiative aims to provide an industry standard label for Freeview digital recorders to reduce consumer confusion. So far just a handful of DVRs have been sold in the UK, most of them attached to the BSkyB pay TV service SkyPlus. Almost none have been sold to work with Freeview, hence the need for the Freeview consortium to be behind this push. Already BT is preparing an assault on Freeview offering its BT Vision hybrid this autumn, which merges the Freeview broadcasts access to VoD services which come over a broadband line to the same set top. BT is widely expected to make one of its options a service with a DVR, and it has often made the point that a full IPTV service is not the right service to offer in the UK, where uptake of Freeview so early has created a free service almost as good as pay TV. Freeview is the main reason that IPTV services such as HomeChoice have not had the takeup that is found in the rest of Europe, especially in Spain, France and Italy. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 26 May 2006

Italy to get mobile TV in time for World Cup

This week, Silvio Berlusconi's Italian broadcasting empire Mediaset and Europa TV finalised their agreement, set at the end of last year, to sell broadcasting infrastructure and spectrum for the Mediaset imminent launch of a DVB-H network. The two companies received regulatory and merger authorisations allowing Elettronica Industriale, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Mediaset, to go ahead and buy the spectrum for $238m. What baffles us is just how Mediaset intends to introduce the service. Is it going into competition with 3 Italia, which has promised to launch its own network using spectrum acquired when it bought Italy's Channel 7, or is it going into partnership with 3 Italia? Over the past year Mediaset has announced deals with Telecom Italia Mobile, H3G and Vodafone. H3G is of course just another name for 3 Italia with the H standing for Hutchison Whampoa, the parent company of 3. Between these it is pretty much all of the local market for mobile operators. Sure there are other operators, but with Telecom Italia and Vodafone at one and two in the market, this is quite a hefty chunk of all mobile customers. Mediaset also says it is pursuing contacts with other operators and that it wants to provide an open, mobile TV service. What appears to be happening is that both Mediaset and 3 Italia have bought spectrum for the job of creating a mobile TV service in Italy, but Mediaset continues to include H3G and vice versa, in many of their respective announcements. Perhaps they are planning to run apparently competing networks, but will put content across both of them that makes them more or less the same. Certainly, Mediaset content is included the 3 Italia services. The other option is that the two spectrum chunks are combined into one service. That way far more channels could be offered space on the service and it will act as a big obstacles for anyone else entering the market. Each broadcaster might own its own channels going over a technology and service neutral network. The build out could then be spread across the country evenly, in order to get one merged service to market carrying multiple TV channels from different broadcasters. Both companies have said they will be out in time for World Cup coverage and that they will carry World Cup coverage, which starts on June 9, and they can't both build a national network in a couple of weeks, so build out must have been going on, anticipating the regulatory environment, for the past six months. Either way, given the proximity of spectrum between the two services, any extra radio tuner placed in any handset is likely to be able to receive both services anyway. H3G has said its service will start with 20 TV channels rising to 30 in 2007, and 40 in 2008, and for that it sound like both sets of spectrum will be required given that with DVB-H, up to 16 channels have been tried out in a single 8MHz slice of spectrum, so at least twice this spectrum will be needed for the amount of channels anticipated. Europa TV, is controlled by Holland Italia, in turned owned by Tarak Ben Ammar and the French broadcaster TF1. The deal has been completed "pending necessary authorisations" which had better come pretty soon if the World Cup is going to be the driver to sell these phones. This move is described as non-exclusive in nature and Vodafone was previously said to be working with government TV operation RAI, which is now part of this set up, as is Sky Italia. Italy could set a blueprint for European use of DVB-H, assuming the competition authorities do not block or later reverse these negotiations, whereby a consortium pays for the spectrum and builds the network and then offers carriage to multiple TV channels on an unbundled and unbiased basis. If so, this is a rather similar model to how the Finnish service is being brought to market. 3 Italia is calling its service Walk TV, and said two weeks ago that it would offer it on LG Electronics and Samsung handsets, in 3 Italia's 5,000 shops, from about now. It is also creating its own programming with a channel called La3 Live and La3 Sport, and it will charge either €3 per day, a monthly charge or €99 for six months. At the 3 Italia launch the only mention of Mediaset was the fact that it would offer a channel and that its exclusive European Champions League content would be offered on the service. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 26 May 2006

BEA to go organic on SOA tools

After a string of middleware and tools acquisitions, BEA Systems expects to build its own SOA composition environment for the fledgling AquaLogic product line. Mark Carges, executive vice president for BEA's business interaction division, said BEA should be expected to "build something organically" to fill the current hole in its AquaLogic strategy that is the lack of a composition environment. Speculation has been rife over BEA's plans for SOA composition since the company spent much of the last year building out the runtime aspect of AquaLogic. Notable acquisitions in this strategy included portal specialist Plumtree for "user interaction" and Fuego, which gave BEA a business process management server. Users, such as they are for a set of products that account for just 10 per cent of BEA's revenue, are working with tools that already ship with Plumtree and Fuego to construct service routing and transactional rules. That means, though, a lack of common interfaces and the need to switch between the different environments using tabs. Aside from a common look and feel, BEA needs a single composition environment that is simple enough for line-of-business managers to build applications and services that wrap up security, data integration and messaging functionality buried in BEA's AquaLogic middleware layer. Carges gave no indication when BEA would launch its composition environment, but said it was right for BEA to provide its own technology, rather than buy. "It has to come last [and it has to come] from the vendor that owns all the parts," he said. It should be noted BEA's operating expenses are growing at more than 20 per cent per quarter while R&D runs at $150m to $200m, which could indicate work is already under way to build AquaLogic's composition environment. Carges ruled out extending, or re-using, BEA's current composition environment, WebLogic Workshop. Remember WebLogic Workshop? That was hot when the buzz was about composing "web services" and it let developers import Java code constructed using other vendors' integrated development environments. According to Carges, WebLogic Workshop's support for open source such as Spring and Hibernate make developers its primary audience. "Composer is for line-of-business professionals. It's about 'how do I configure and put policy and meta data out there'," he said. Sounds a little like what they used to say about WebLogic Workshop. ®
Gavin Clarke, 26 May 2006

The myths and legends of the holy land of the database

The database world has more myths and legends than the court of King Arthur. The current myths tend to be less about dragons and dungeons and more about features and performance, such as:
Mark Whitehorn, 26 May 2006

Microsoft Identity workshop

I've just been at a Microsoft Identity Workshop - Exploring Digital Identity. It was a good rough and tumble session, with a lot of the (pretty well-informed) attendees asking some searching questions.
David Norfolk, 26 May 2006

Red Hat leans on JBoss for middleware

Red Hat is to junk its application server in favour of a competing offering from its latest acquisition, JBoss. According to Red Hat, it was important to own an application server because it "gives you the footprint to radiate out from". And JBoss gives Red Hat an application server with immediate brand recognition among users. Brian Stevens, Red Hat's chief technology officer and vice president of engineering, told The Register Red Hat's previous efforts in this area had been less than successful - Red Hat licensed the JOnAS application server some time back, but the effort failed to mature thanks to Red Hat's core focus on Linux. "Our foray into application servers has been largely unsuccessful - to put it bluntly," he said, ahead of next week's Red Hat Summit in Nashville, Tennessee. That's been a problem for Red Hat. "The application server container will determine quality of service in terms of how you provide high availability, migration, security, isolation, and changes in resource - everything we've been doing," Stevens said. Management seems to be a core focus for Red Hat's thinking on JBoss, and something beyond the Red Hat Network appears to be cooking - although neither Red Hat or JBoss are giving too much away. "Most management platforms are built around JBoss and [another] application server already...management is providing application level guarantees as opposed to [only] monitoring," Stevens said. "Right now we haven't put a toe in the water on management. The Red Hat Network is about how do we provide secure signed content to customers globally. It's not a complete systems management offering...that's a growth area if we decided to go down that path." JBoss chief executive Marc Fleury sees his company's role as the application and middleware wing of Red Hat. Ownership by Red Hat gives him the cash to fund JBoss's pre-existing product plans. "From 1 June, we have the financial backing to go out and accelerate," he told The Register. "This is a clear mandate from Red Hat to us to articulate the product and market vision. He added that Red Hat would not continue development on JOnAS, but the company is likely to work with other projects run by ObjectWeb - the consortium co-ordinating JOnAS. "We are looking at messaging, the ESB effort, the management space...the sky's the limit for what's next. Some of the dimensions we are talking about include verticalization of the offering - into telco. Why not have SIP [session internet protocol] server? We are looking at that." That should be good news for BEA Systems, which has been trying to overlook the JBoss thorn in its side for some time. BEA launched the WebLogic SIP Server last February but admitted this week business has been below initial expectations. The server was launched to help telcos provide converged voice and IP services. An open source, free-to-download, product would only serve to challenge the argument further for paying thousands of dollars per CPU for a BEA product - especially if Red Hat succeeds in beefing-up the real-time capabilities of the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) it licenses from Sun Microsystems to suit carriers. ®
Gavin Clarke, 26 May 2006
channel

Berners-Lee applies Web 2.0 to improve accessibility

Accessibility seminars often begin with a quote by Tim Berners-Lee: "The power of the web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect." It's an old quote, but the web's inventor offered fresh ideas yesterday.
OUT-LAW.COM, 26 May 2006

Intel to push Core 2 CPUs across the board

Intel's upcoming 'Conroe'-based Extreme Edition Core 2 Duo processor will ship with the model number X6800, it has emerged, courtesy of the latest roadmap leak from the chip giant. And it will be pushing the Core 2 series at the same price as current Pentium processors.
Tony Smith, 26 May 2006
Cat 5 cable

z9 BC: A mainframe for the mid tier

IBM recently announced details of the IBM System z9 BC. The new platform is designed with all of the key characteristics with which the mainframe is deservedly associated: namely reliability, security, availability, and flexible virtualisation. In addition, it provides a new entry point and greatly increased upwards growth potential. The IBM System z9 supports the full range of speciality engines, operating systems, and system management tools to allow customers to dynamically allocate its resources in response to fluctuating business requirements. Highlights of the announcement include: Same low entry point as existing z890 platform; 37 per cent improvement in uniprocessor capacity on existing z890; Extensive granularity: seventy-three capacity settings; Improved security: configurable Crypto Express2 and CPAF enhancements; Enhanced availability capabilities; Up to eight PUs; On/Off Capacity on demand for CPs and speciality engines (zAAP, IFLs, ICF, zIIP); Capacity backup (CBU) for zAAP, IFLs, ICF, zIIP and CP; Wide-ranging connectivity enhancements including HiperSockets support of IPv6 and Ficon Express4; Supports Linux, z/OS.e, z/VSE, z/VM; Sub-capacity License Options. Pricing/Availability The z9 BC is scheduled to start shipping at the end of May 2006 and is being positioned by IBM to be the new entry point mainframe system. Net/Net The System z9 BC is being firmly positioned as the entry point mainframe with extensive, and highly flexible, upgrade capabilities. z9 BC offers a new start point for organisations looking to consolidate diverse applications onto a secure, highly available, and flexible mainframe. The System z9 BC brings down the entry cost for mainframe computing and IBM is making available an extensive range of financing options available to further enhance the attractiveness of the platform. Perhaps unsurprisingly for a mainframe, the announcement of the new System z9 BC and its larger brother, the System z9 EC, provides readers and potential customers with a huge volume of detail. Indeed, the sheer versatility of the System z9 BC in terms of scalability and flexibility of configuration almost demands a vast catalogue of items and options. However, for organisations with complex business-critical applications, both those running in traditional database-driven/transaction-oriented environments and those with "new" J2EE workloads, the investment in time considering the IBM System z9 BC or EC could easily be repaid. In addition to the System z9's standard processors, the new platforms will also have the complete existing suite of speciality engines available from day one. Speciality engines currently available include the System z9 Application Assist Processor (zAAP) for hosting J2EE workloads, as well as the recently released z9 Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) to accelerate many DB2-based applications while minimising the associated database license charges. The other speciality engines, the Integrated Facility for Linux (IFL) and ICFs, are also fully supported. Indeed, it should be noted that the IBM System z9 BC and IBM System z9 EC are built on exactly the same architecture as all other existing System z9 platforms and, therefore, will likely benefit over time to developments made for the overall range of servers. With the System z9 BC, IBM is also increasing the range of encryption offerings with the availability of the configurable Crypto Express2. Further, IBM has stated that it intends at some stage in the future to develop outboard data encryption. Alongside the new mainframe's entry point comes a new, lower entry cost. It is also worth noting that the so-called speciality engines are also offered with lower pricing. zIIP, zAAP, IFL, for example, on the z9 BC now carry a list price of $95,000, considerably less than prices previously offered on the z9 platform. Indeed, IBM has stated that it will be making considerable efforts to highlight the very wide range of financial offerings it can bring to bear to make the IBM System z9 even more affordable to its target mid-market customers. In fact, IBM is recommending that organisations should actively seek out their System z9 sales personnel, whether they be IBM staff or those of one of the company's channel partners, to discuss what financial acquisition model would be most beneficial. Through its Global Finance organisation IBM is able to offer a wide range of financial offerings from which most potential customers should be able to find an appropriate means to acquire and operate their System z9 BC. This is not a re-invention of the mainframe, but is instead another step in the Server z9's continuing development. It visibly represents IBM's continuing commitment to invest in extending the mainframe into new arenas. There is every likelihood that existing mainframe customers will welcome the System z9 BC and the more powerful System z9 EC. However, it is very clear that in order to promote the mainframe outside of the existing, and very loyal, customer base, IBM will need to make significant efforts to educate organisations on the modern mainframe. This is the case especially in the mid-tier sector of the market. There is no doubt that the System z9 BC has characteristics that will appeal to mid-market customers, especially with respect to the system's very high availability, performance, and security. The trick will be for IBM and its partner channel to convince new potential customers that the z9 BC really has been designed for them. The z9 BC's lower entry point and entry price, coupled with its ability to meet the business needs of customers today, deserves to be successful in attracting new customers to the mainframe. As the central hub of an integrated IT infrastructure, the IBM System z9 BC has much to recommend it as the host for business critical secure transaction processing and data management environments, especially as a consolidation platform. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Tony Lock, 26 May 2006
graph up

SOCA saves UK high-tech crime unit - offline

Concerns that the work of the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) could be lost in the transfer process to SOCA, the newly formed Serious Organised Crime Agency, are clearly misplaced, if an answer to a Parliamentary question earlier this week is to be believed. Granted, mentions of the NHTCU on SOCA's new site might tally up to a number not unadjacent to zero. And yes, that might well make one wonder where all of those specialist skills and services NHTCU brought to the crime-fighting table might have gone. Indeed, one might even be positively disturbed by SOCA having simply shoved a 'don't bother us, phone your local plod' message up to replace the NHTCU site. But don't worry it's under control. Asked by Margaret Moran MP "whether he plans to replace the contact service formerly provided via the National Hi-Tech Crime Unit website", Vernon Coaker, Home Office Under-Secretary i/c policing etc, responded: "The National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), as part of the National Crime Squad, became part of the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) on 1 April 2006 and now operates under the title of SOCA e-Crime. "The NHTCU was never a crime recording centre and always requested members of the public to contact their local police force. The NHTCU provided a website that contained a great deal of advice relating to harm reduction and awareness surrounding the use of computers and the internet. The content of the website has been saved and discussion is ongoing as to the most appropriate location for this to be available. Organisations and members of the public who wish to report a crime should continue to contact their local police force in the normal way." Which we might take to mean that SOCA has an e-Crime Unit which was formerly known as the NHTCU. Or we might not. But we can sleep soundly in our beds, secure in the knowledge that, somewhere on a USB drive (do look after it, chaps) resides the contents of the NHCTU web site,* ready for redeployment just as soon as we figure out where the blazes to put it. e-Government in action, part 94. ® * One could also conjure images of banks of chilled NHTCU techies stacked in a secure storage facility pending redeployment, but today, one won't.
John Lettice, 26 May 2006

So there is 'community'

One of the strong undercurrents to be heard at the recent JavaOne conference in San Francisco is to be broadly welcomed. It hinged around the use of the word `community’.
Martin Banks, 26 May 2006

For you, Tommy, ze warez is over

LettersLetters Filesharers beware: the German authorities this week kicked in a few doors as part of the ongoing war against the illegal dissemination of music. For you, Tommy, ze warez is over: The German state prosecutor this week claimed it has searched 130 homes all over Germany and identified 3,500 suspects who have been offering up to 8,000 music files through P2P network eDonkey. If all this prosecuting continues, are we going to face a situation where up to 80% of the western world's population is languishing in jail for file sharing while our friends in the far east and africa are copying stuff like there is no tommorrow. At what point is someone sensible going to point out that file sharing is hardly murder or terrorism, and if so many people are doing it, then there is a problem with the current business model, and we the consumer are no longer going to prop up the pigopolists. Jeremy Surely if the "authorities claim they have access to a server located in the German city of Hürth, southwest of Cologne, which acts as a distributor in the eDonkey network" then by not shutting the server down they have participated in the crime, and could even be seen as encouraging it. The word "entrapment" doesn't even come close... Nathan You said: "Are 3500 German eDonkey file sharers really facing criminal prosecution?" Answer: Let's hope so ! They are scumbag criminals after all. Oli Agreed. Let's see 'em swap files while dancing the Tyburn Jig, eh? 3500 People, they searched 130 homes. Isn't that like, almost 27 people per home? Friendly. Anthony Actually, it's a known fact that filesharers commonly cohabit in large anarchocommunist clusters, practicising pagan free love and ritual human sacrifice. They still argue over who drank the last of the milk, though. And when our German filesharing friends eventually find themselves banged up for their trouble, they can forget organising clandestine P2P networks from the comfort of their prison cells, since the powers that be have decided to jam mobile phone signals in German jails. Well, that's the plan: I don't see why the German governments need special laws. Using a jammer is not illegal if you have an operators licence. They could quite easily get the German mobile networks to install the jammers. I did once speak to an operator that wanted to put a jammer in their meeting rooms to stop people texting in meetings. They could do this because they had the licence. I don't think they did it though. As an aside the popular phone with prisoners is the http://www.engadget.com/2004/10/19/haier-p7-pen-phone/ because it's easy to hide in a body cavity (sorry). I don't know what you do with the charger :-) Name supplied Erm... get the wife to hide it in a big cake? Of course they could adopt other approaches to the prison mobile phone problem. They could have the networks block calls made from within the prison by using triangulation similar to the location based services in use. Or perhaps The networks could supply the IMEI numbers of phones used within the prison and the authorities could somehow filter out legit numbers and block the offender's phones. Or they could wire up passive GSM short range detectors in the prison for identifying when phones are being used so they can be confiscated. Anything to stop the crims voting in Big Brother... Jonathan As every nerd knows, the best way to halt electromagnetic waves is with a faraday jail. Just wrap in tinfoil the entire jail. If open air is needed, put a copper mesh over the openings. They could also use EMPs to burn the devices, but there will be 'colateral damages' for shure. Also the 'dual approach' could be more efective: Wrap the building in tin foil and _then_ fry all the inside electronic devices with an EMP (or one every day, at a random time). Albert, with the tinfoil hat on. Criminals shouldn't have cellphones in the first place so I say go right ahead and JAM it up their azzes. Oli Isn't that how they got these damn cellphones into the jail in the first place? Change of tack: Microsoft has announced the launch of its proprietary Windows Media Photo format. Those wishing to beat the idea with a stick please form an orderly queue: God does the world really need another photo format? Presumably it's heavily encumbered with patents and other restrictions. It'll never be as widely supported as JPEG or PNG and adds nothing worthwhile that isn't available from them. Stu What the Christ? The printer (or computer, if it’s a printer without an onboard processor) still has to render it, which could conceivably take longer by using some sort of fancy compression technique which it has not been optimized for. Regardless, this format will fail – there is no way that digital camera manufacturers will just cut out everyone except Windows Vista and XP users. (perhaps if they had an option on the device itself, but I could see few people activating it unless it was on by default – good luck.) I still can’t see any benefits over JPEG anway – the format is widely used and understood, and I can’t see the industry making such a huge shift for a couple more kb… Henry "Microsoft is making a pitch for the jpeg picture market with a rival Windows Media Photo format which will be supported in Windows Vista and made available for XP users." Whoop-te-do. Microsoft will create yet *another* proprietary format in yet another attempt to overcome existing (and superior) standards. In related news, the Sun rose at dawn, and pigs have no wings. Morely Have you asked them if it supports Windows DRM? It wouldn't suprise me and I think we should be told. Cheers, Jonathan Of course, though only a small royalty will be charged, it will lock out any open source projects, just like the FAT filesystem patent. George Your list of specs omitted "Lock Out Open Source," which, while not listed on their public spec sheet, is assuredly in there somewhere, given MS' habitual business practices and their greatest competitor. I'll believe in MS' honest motives when I see this proposed as an ISO standard with no restrictive conditions or royalty requirements. (That faint scraping noise you hear is Lucifer sharpening up his ice skates...) Steve Not too keen, then? We're inclined to agree that MS faces an uphill struggle getting the industry to adopt its Windows Media Photo. The Betamax of image formats? Time will tell. We often get emails about Google's contextual ads which run on El Reg, mostly regarding unintentionally amusing juxtapositions of story content and advertisement. This one's worth a look: Check out the ebay ad on the right of the fusion article. Not only discount but a huge range too, lol! Mike Wallis Lovely. We're also attracted to the ad for Nuclear Waste News, which is offering free samples. Put us down for a couple of kilos of spent plutonium. Now, if we can be deadly serious for a moment, we are very offended by suggestions that we had not realised the full comedy potential of Eastbourne's Sexual Health Action Group. That's right, it says SHAG, dear. I said SHAG! - turn up your hearing aid. No thanks at all, then, to all those of you who suggested we'd missed this deliciously silly acronym, like this bloke did: Maybe I've been working in Local Government too long, but I have to say the idea of a Sexual Health Action Group doesn't sound dodgy to me - sounds like an action group focusing on promoting Sexual Health. Far better in my view are some of the jobs advertised in Councils and Primary Care trusts: "Teenage Pregnancy Co-ordinator" and "Substance Misuse Co-ordinator" spring to mind. These people really do exist! [Name withheld to protect correspondent from peer group ridicule] Finally, a quick word on the pedigree bulldog 419. Form these words into a well-known phrase: fool/money/parted... Ms. Wombad is a liar! I didn't want to be greedy, so I sent her $900 to cover the fair market value of the bulldog. She didn't send me the dog. I wrote to her, and she said the $900 hadn't included shipping costs, so I sent her an extra $150. Still no dog. I wrote again and she said she had forgotten about the customs fees. I am starting to think this might be a scam. I'm sending her a final $100 to cover fees but after that, if she doesn't send the dog, I'm not sending any more money. That'll teach her! Simon Good show. We're off now to the Cameroon Bulldog Breeders' Association annual dinner and dance at the Mugu Palace Hotel, Abuja, Nigeria. Have youselves a merry and scam-free weekend. ®
Lester Haines, 26 May 2006

Dell launches XPS 700 gaming rig in UK

Dell has begun offering its new gaming-oriented PC design to European buyers, branding the machine the XPS 700 and equipping it with a top-end Pentium Extreme Edition processor and a pair of Nvidia GeForce 7900 GS SLI graphics cards.
Tony Smith, 26 May 2006
Click here for the full BOFH range

BOFH: Blast from the past

Episode 18Episode 18 "That's...odd..." the PFY says early one morning, looking at his screen distractedly. "What's odd?" I ask, coming to the point quickly so that I can get back to recounting the story about myself, some raspberry vodka and a handful of female reps from an anti-virus show booth... "The Financials Database - it's just sent me an email saying it hasn't been backed up for 187 days." "Ridiculous!" I cry, hastening to the PFY's side as I realise that any problem with this system could impact the paying of my monthly invoice - which might in turn impair my ability to purchase sufficient quantities of raspberry vodka with which to entertain enticing young women from anti-virus show booths.... "It's true," he says, pointing to the screen. "There's a stack of them. And there's some saying that the redo log area hasn't been archived for 187 days, 22 hours." "It can't be!" I say. "I have a batch job which exception-checks the backup log output - it's seen nothing!" "Nothing because it isn't running, or nothing because there's no errors?" "I...No, it's working - it flagged a tape drive that needed cleaning just last week!" "So what's sending us the errors?" "I dunno - what was different 187 days ago?" "I'd only heard the story about the anti-virus women and the vodka about 200 times?" the PFY says unkindly. "No, what happened around that time in our system? Did it reboot or something?" I ask, ignoring the PFY's sad attempt to ridicule the Everest of my career as a tradeshow attendee. >clickety< "Uptime on the financials server is 203 days" the PFY says. "What about before then?" "Before then it wasn't there - it was a hardware upgrade, remember?" "So it was," I reply thoughtfully. "But we checked that the backups were running at the time - so the email must be spurious - UNLESS..." "Unless what?" "What happened to the old server?" "Server Graveyard," the PFY says, pointing into the tape safe room. "You're sure?" "Put it there myself," the PFY says, opening the door. "Right there in the corner by the..it's gone!" NGGGAAARGG! "Check the server info database, get the old hardware address and find out where it's plugged in!" I snap. ... "Yes?" the Boss asks, as I bounce his door open without knocking. "Where is it?" I demand. "Where's what?" he asks, faking innocence. "The old financials server!" "What old financials server?" "The old financials server you took from the tape safe room. The one plugged into port E-145?" "I don't have a 'port E-145' - whatever that is - and in any case I'm in a meeting - do you mind?" "Don't mind me," the helldesk geek gasps from behind the door. "No no, this is an important meeting!" the Boss counters. "We can deal with whatever they're on about later." "Oh, well I'll just wait outside till you're done then..." I suggest. "We could be here for some time," the Boss burbles, obviously trying to think up a plan to sneak the machine out of his room while I'm not around. "A couple of hours even." "Got all the time in the world!" I respond. "A couple of hours at the earliest..." "Fine by me...although I won't want to miss lunch. They've got Chilli Bhajis on the menu as a Johnny Cash tribute!" "I can't promise anything," the Boss lies. "We might still be talking..." "Tell you what, I'll camp out here in case you get finished earlier than lunch, otherwise I'll pop in tomorrow when the old Ring of Fire's died down." "Ok, fine" the Boss says, pushing the door closed... ... "Did you find it?" the PFY asks when I get back to Mission Control. "Nah, he's got it hidden away in his cupboard. I couldn't hear any noise, but I noticed a cable going in there." "So what do we do, disable the port?" "That would be at most a temporary fix. Bear in mind that he somehow got E-145 livened." "You mean to say he's been in the comms room!!!" the PFY gasps. "It would appear so." "What do you want me to do?" the PFY asks, realising that this is serious. "Flip the breaker on the building airconditioning, while I login to the old server and disable one of the power supplies." "Why?" "So the redundant supply will switch to double speed - and about quadruple noise." "Won't he just switch it off?" "Not when you go in to investigate the 'loud computer noise' in his office and he makes up some lie about his desktop always making that noise." "And what will you be doing?" "Getting his desktop and the server to exercise their CPU and disk drives aggressively in an effort to..." "...raise the room temperature by a degree every three minutes or so.." the PFY nods. "And with the aircon off he'll have heatstroke by...uh...just before morning tea time..." "Indeed." "MASTER PLAN!" the PFY chirps. ... In retrospect, no one could have known the Boss would stash the server beside a stack of papers in the cupboard, or that the thermal cutout in the machine was located in the disabled power supply...Suffice to say that the resulting fire was contained inside of five minutes - although the PFY did leave the firehose running inside the Boss' briefcase for a couple more minutes in case there was a potential 'hotspot' amongst the Boss' cellphone, digital camera, PDA or watch. Not the way we normally decommission servers, but still, it all worked out well in the end and that's the best we can hope for... BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 26 May 2006

Danger Hiptop 3 pic pops up on web

No one knows the spec - well, anyone who does isn't saying - but pictures of Danger's eagerly anticipated Hiptop 3, more likely to ship as the T-Mobile Sidekick III, are slowly starting to appear.
Tony Smith, 26 May 2006

How long does it take the body to...

Part twoPart two Also in this week's column: How long does it take the body to...(Part one) Do our ears grow longer with age? Do we still remove the appendix as often as we used to? Part Two: How long does it take the body to... It takes time for everything, including what happens in the human body. On average, nerve regeneration takes four to six weeks. Gums are renewed every one to two weeks. Eyelashes, which are more plentiful on the upper eyelid than on the lower eyelid, are shed continuously. Each of the more than 200 hairs per eye lasts from three to five months. The vibrations in the air constitute sound waves. The higher the pitch, the greater the frequency or cycles per second. Adults can detect sound waves that have a frequency between about 16 and about 20,000 cycles per second. Yet they hear best at frequencies ranging from about 1,000 to 2,000 cycles per second. Children hear higher-pitched notes better than adults. After puberty, this sensitivity declines at the same time as the voice deepens. Thus, our ears are best adapted to the pitch or sound frequencies of human conversation. The ability of the brain to detect the location of a sound depends on the differences in the time of the arrival of the sound to the two ears. We can detect the source of a sound even if it arrives in one ear a hundredth of a second before it gets to the other. The body loses water through the skin (from simple diffusion) at the rate of half a litre per day. The body loses about the same amount of water each day from the lungs - in breath. A breath lasts about five seconds. Inhaling takes about two seconds, exhaling about three. Nicotine, a component of tobacco smoke, gets into the body very rapidly. With one puff on a cigarette, nicotine reaches the brain in seven seconds. This is several seconds faster than it takes alcohol to get into the brain. Even heroin, when it is injected into the arm below the elbow, takes twice as long as it does for nicotine to reach the brain. Statistically, one's life is shortened 14 minutes for every cigarette smoked. On average, a single cancer cell divides only once every hundred days. At that rate, owing to exponential growth (one cell dividing into two, two into four, four into eight, and so on), one cancer cell may take eight years to form a pea-sized tumor. But two years later, the tumor will be about the size of a cantaloupe melon and weigh more than a pound (half a kilo). Human adult males have four or five erections per night while sleeping. Each lasts about 10 minutes, if uninterrupted . Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 26 May 2006

Do our ears grow longer with age?

Also in this week's column: Part One: How long does it take the body to... Part Two: How long does it take the body to... Do we still remove the appendix as often as we used to? Do our ears grow longer with age? Asked by Judith Berry of Staffordshire, United Kingdom As we see others age or as we see ourselves age, we often notice that ears appear to get longer in middle and old age. But do they really? The scientific validity of this common observation has been challenged from time to time by those who maintain that ears don't really grow longer (or larger) with age - they only look as if they do - that it's all just an illusion. They point out that since the body shrinks somewhat with age, the ears may appear to have grown longer (and larger) while actually staying the same size. So what does science say? In fact, our ears do grow longer with age. Indeed, they grow throughout our lives. In 1990, Drs L Pelz and B Stein from Medical Branch of the University of Rostock in Germany measured the ears of 1,271 children and adolescents. They report in Padiatrie und Grenzgebiete that ear length increases "steadily and annually", but ear width remains the same. Dr James Heathcote, a general practitioner from Kent in the UK, along with four colleagues, studied 206 patients with the mean age of 53. Dr Heathcote concluded in the 23 December 1995 British Medical Journal, that "as we get older our ears get bigger (on average by 0.22mm a year)". The next year, in the 2 March British Medical Journal, Dr Yashhiro Asai, a physician at the Futanazu Clinic in Misaki, Japan, along with three colleagues, agreed with Heathcote. Their study of 400 consecutive patients aged 20 and older concludes "that ear length correlates significantly with age, as Heathcote showed, in Japanese people". In 1999, Dr VF Ferrario and four colleagues from the Functional Anatomy Research Centre at the University of Milan in Italy, writing in the Journal of Craniofacial Genetic Developmental Biology, present evidence that not only do ears get longer with age, but it happens to both women and men. Men’s ears start out longer than women's and they stay that way. Why ears grow longer with age? Gravity over time forces every body appendage to sag. The bane of human aging: If it can sag, it will sag! Ears included. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 26 May 2006

Do we still remove the appendix as often as we used to?

Also in this week's column: Part One: How long does it take the body to... Part Two: How long does it take the body to... Do our ears grow longer with age? Do we still remove the appendix as often as we used to? Asked by Peter Fletcher of Sydney, Australia Dr Dean Edell, the famous physician on US radio and television, once said that the appendectomy paid off more swimming pool loans of doctors than any other surgical procedure. A generation ago, the slightest sign of an appendix problem and the doctor reached for the scalpel. Is this surgery still undertaken as often now? It seems no one knows for sure. And it may differ from place to place. Three UK doctors recently studied this question and published their results in the May 2005 Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. Drs A I Ahmed, D Deakin, and S L Parsons of the Department of General Surgery of the Queen's Medical Centre in Nottingham found that "Appendectomy...is still practiced by 75 per cent of general surgeons in the Mid-Trent region (of the UK)." Less than 25 per cent of surgeons employ some other form of treatment besides surgery in appendix cases. The doctors add that, "at present, there is no agreed consensus on the management" of such cases. "There is a need to develop a protocol for the management of this common problem." Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 26 May 2006
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How long does it take the body to...

Part onePart one Also in this week's column: How long does it take the body to...(Part two) Do our ears grow longer with age? Do we still remove the appendix as often as we used to? Part One: How long does it take the body to... It takes time for everything, including what happens in the human body. Fingerprints form six to eight weeks before birth. Fingernails grow about four times faster than toenails - about .02 of an inch (0.05cm) per week. If a child below the age of 12 has their finger tips and nails severed above the first crease of the first joint, they can regenerate. Regeneration takes about eleven weeks. Adults do not have this ability. At the time of birth, the human female possesses 400,000 egg cells in both ovaries. Of these, only about 480 may ovulate during her entire reproductive life. And of these, only five per cent or so will be fertilised. On average, it takes 72 seconds for a mature egg to be pushed out of the ovary. The fertilised egg remains within the oviduct for about three days before it enters the uterus. In the testes of the normal human male, a thousand sperm cells are produced every second. It takes about two months to manufacture a fully mature sperm cell. After ejaculation, the sperm swim for the egg cell at the speed of 15 cm (5.91 inches) per hour. This is the equivalent of a human swimmer covering about twelve metres per second. Sperm reach the fertilisation site in about 50 minutes and remain alive for roughly two days. The amniotic fluid that surrounds the embryo and fetus during development is anything but a stagnant pool. While over 98 per cent of it is water, between one and two per cent is made up of substances such as fetal hair, skin cells, enzymes, urea, glucose, hormones, and lipids. It is constantly and completely replaced about every three hours. In the fetal brain, nerve cells develop at an average rate of more than 250,000 per minute. At birth, a child's brain contains close to a trillion nerve cells. After birth, this rate of neuron growth slows down dramatically. Taste buds are among the earliest sense organs to appear in the fetus. By the third trimester of pregnancy, fetal taste buds are responsive to chemicals in the amniotic fluid. The life-span of a taste bud cell is about 10.5 days. Twins are born, on average, 19 days earlier than singletons. Their larger combined size stretches their mother's uterine muscles, causing earlier contractions which push the twins out (there’s an old joke: A mother-to-be carrying twins doesn't give birth for 60 years! When doctors check her out with ultrasound, they find two little old men inside saying over and over to each other: "After you"). A lactating mother produces about three pints of milk every day. Even so, if milk is not continuously removed from a mother's breasts, the ability to continue secreting milk is lost within one or two weeks. However, if the mother continues to have her breasts stimulated, milk production can continue for several years. Milk begins to flow within 30 seconds after an infant begins to suckle. During this time, nerve signals move from the breast through the spinal cord and then to the brain. The brain then secretes the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin travels through the bloodstream back to the breasts where it causes milk to be released. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 26 May 2006

HD DVD to incorporate region-coding restrictions

HD DVD is to get region coding after all, if the DVD Forum, the industry organisation that maintains the DVD format, has its way. This week, the Forum decided to put in place a team to create a region-coding scheme for the next-generation optical disc technology.
Tony Smith, 26 May 2006
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Dell Googles itself

Dell broke the heart of another long time amour this week, ditching Microsoft in favour of Google as the pre-installed search engine on its machines. According to a rash of US reports, Eric Schmidt told an investor conference yesterday that Dell PCs are to be Googled, with the search giant's desktop, toolbar, search engine, and home page all lovingly pre-installed. Previously, Dell customers would see their new machines spark into life plastered with Microsoft logos. The tie-up will cover the vendor's SME and consumer machines, according to reports, and may extend to some enterprise systems. This is the second time in a fortnight that Dell has called a long-time partner and said: "We need to talk." Dell, the quintessential Wintel house, announced last week that it would for the first time use AMD parts in its hardware. In a third piece of desperate shape shifting, the vendor which pioneered the direct model to market announced this week that it would open its own retail outlets in the US. Anyone would think Round Rock's finest was trying to invent itself in the face of slowing revenue growth and sliding profits Hang-on, it has just reported slowing revenue growth and sliding profits. Is the world's biggest PC vendor having some sort of mid-life crisis? Here at El Reg we're dreading the moment Michael calls us and says, "it's not you, it's me", before kick starting his newly-bought Harley and riding off into the sunset, singing "I want to break free". ®
Joe Fay, 26 May 2006

Cambodia bans 3G phones

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen has responded to a complaint from his wife that she'd received pornography on her 3G mobile in a manner befitting his Khmer Rouge past - by banning the technology altogether.
Lester Haines, 26 May 2006

3M Laptop Privacy anti-peek filter

ReviewReview Mac owners peeved that Apple has only just introduced glossy notebook displays - products the rest of the laptop industry have long since adopted - have a saviour, of sorts, in the Post-it company 3M. So too do notebook users fed up of folk peering over their shoulders to sneak a peek at their screens. 3M has solved both problems with a new line of LCD privacy filters...
Tony Smith, 26 May 2006

Mobiles now the target for developers

When it comes to targeting the highest of high volume applications markets, developers have now only one place to look, according to Rob Shaddock, corporate vice president and chief technology officer of Motorola. That place is the mobile phone and its growing range of expanded derivatives.
Martin Banks, 26 May 2006

Network equipment - get surveyed, win 60Gb iPod Video!

Reader surveyReader survey We're running a special survey this week for all those of you who like to get down and dirty with network equipment and would also like the chance to win a 60Gb iPod Video: the "Network Equipment 60Gb iPod Video Prize Draw Survey", as we've rather brilliantly decided to call it. Regular surveyees will know the score: complete survey, click submit button, await brighter future. In this case, however, there's added spice in the shape of said prize kit which will be dispatched to one lucky pollee chosen at random by our lovingly hand-crafted Network Equipment 60Gb iPod Video Prize Draw Survey algorithm. Questions range from "Which vendors come to mind when you think of network equipment?" to "How important are the following characteristics when selecting a network equipment vendor?", and we reckon the whole thing will take around 10-15 minutes of your valuable time. To participate in the draw, you'll need to supply an email address but, as is the local custom, we will not use it for any other purpose or pass it on to third parties. Enough said. Proceed directly to the survey here, and good luck. ®
Team Register, 26 May 2006

Invisibility cloak moves a step closer

After generations of being effectively invisible to the opposite sex, physicists have finally laid down blueprints for a functioning invisibility cloak. Light or other electromagnetic radiation could be bent around objects covered in exotic materials, making it appear as though they aren't there, a team reports in Science Express. The theory relies on metamaterials, which get their electromagnetic properties from their structural mix, rather than directly inheriting those of the substances composing them. The idea is that we now have technology to manipulate the surface of metamaterials on the nano scale, meaning light can be directed very precisely around an object, making it imperceptible to an observer. Researchers at Imperial College and Duke University did the sums, and found that an invisibility cloak should be possible. Duke professor David R Smith said: "The cloak would act like you've opened up a hole in space. All light or other electromagnetic waves are swept around the area, guided by the metamaterial to emerge on the other side as if they had passed through an empty volume of space." Invisibility would not be the only application, of course. Metamaterials could be used to improve the transmission of any kind of electromagnetic signal around obstacles, or they could be tuned to steer sound waves for perfect acoustics. Earlier this month, other researchers detailed an alternative cloaking method using "superlenses", but stressed that their technique would work only for tiny specks of matter. The metamaterial approach is based on sound, old-school physics. Smith said: "[The maths is] nothing that couldn't have been done 50 or even 100 years ago. The theory has only now become relevant because we can make metamaterials with the properties we are looking for." The plan now is to validate the predictions with experiment. Smith said the team, funded by Defense Department research organ DARPA, are well on their way.®
Christopher Williams, 26 May 2006

LG touts 4x Blu-ray Disc recorder

LG has announced what may be the world's first Blu-ray Disc recorder to run at 4x speeds. The catch: it doesn't support dual-layer, 50GB media, only single-layer, 25GB discs.
Tony Smith, 26 May 2006

Ofcom chief exec to quit

CommentComment Stephen Carter is to stand down as chief exec of Ofcom after more than three years in the job. The former NTL boss will continue to be in charge of Ofcom until 15 October, but will cease to be involved in economic, competition, and policy decisions from the beginning of August. He will also be unable to scout around for a new job while he is still employed by Ofcom. The vacancy is to be advertised from this weekend and anyone interested in the role will need to not only impress senior bosses at the regulator, but will also need government approval. In a statement, Ofcom chairman David Currie said: "Stephen took on an immensely challenging task - and has performed outstandingly. His legacy is an effective and credible organisation which plays an important role in delivering greater choice, lower prices and greater innovation." While there is little doubt that Carter's reign has covered a period of immense change in the telecoms industry (just one of those sectors represented by Ofcom) it is harder to say what impact the regulator has had on these changes. After all, when Carter was appointed to the post early in 2003 he came in for a fair amount of flak, with one member of the government's influential Broadband Stakeholders Group (BSG) describing Carter's appointment as "most depressing" and a "victory for big business over consumers". It was said that Carter's appointment would result in consumers being "shafted" and that the interests of the telcos and media giants would be served at the expense of ordinary people. In part there is some truth in this, as Ofcom's record of consumer protection is not what it might be. Only this week it was heavily criticised for failing to do enough to combat the mis-selling of phone services. In the 12 months since the regulator introduced mandatory guidelines on mis-selling, BT says it's received more than 200,000 complaints about dodgy sales tactics, while Trading Standards has called for more action against rogue phone companies. Ofcom has also come under fire for its failure to react more quickly when ISPs - such as Bulldog last year and E7even - struggle to provide a service that is fit for purpose. In both cases, Ofcom only intervened after months on the sideline and scores of complaints. With regards to Ofcom's other major contribution - the Strategic Review of Telecoms - it is still too early to say whether the partial splitting of BT has created a more equal and transparent telecoms sector. Clearly, there are some in the industry who still believe BT is dragging its heels. But the framework for a workable solution to end BT's dominance of the sector has been put in place, although some are still unsure whether this is a blueprint for real change. Earlier this week, for example, operators warned that BT's honeymoon period was nearly over. What next? A return to rowing and smashing plates? Then again, after several false starts, local loop unbundling is also beginning to take off giving genuine competition in parts of the UK. Perhaps the best judge of Ofcom's contribution to date can be summed up by asking this simple question: would Oftel, Ofcom's predecessor, have been able to carry out the review of the telecoms industry, forced BT to sign up to more than 200 or so legally binding undertakings, and managed to kick-start local loop unbundling as a commercially viable alternative to wholesale services from BT? The answer? Not a hope. Not in a million years. No bloody way. If Oftel was around today it would still be tied up in knots by BT. Far from carrying out a root and branches assessment of the telecoms sector it would still be holding subcommittee meetings deciding on the colour of the cover of the eventual report and whether to use Arial or Times New Roman for the text. As for the size of the text... Make no mistake, there are plenty of areas where Ofcom has to continue its regulatory work. But Carter's reign has been positive and, crucially, it has set out the framework for a new era of regulation. It will be up to his successor to ensure that those in the industry work within that framework. If they don't, then the regulator has to have the mettle to use all the regulatory sanctions at its disposal. ®
Tim Richardson, 26 May 2006

Viewers 'confused' by HDTV

TV viewers are confused about high definition TV (HDTV) with one in five not realising they need to buy an HD ready TV set to receive the crystal clear pictures. Half of those quizzed didn't realise they would also need a new HD set top box, while two thirds failed to twig they would also have to shell out for a monthly subscription. This rather confused state of affairs comes as research from price comparison outfit uSwitch.com found that 2.6m UK households are planning on getting HDTV next year. Researchers reckon punters are confusing Digital Television (DTV) with HDTV, while others who have already bought an HD ready TV may assume they're already watching high definition TV. "Customers are confused - both as to what equipment they need to buy, and what the total cost will be," uSwitch.com's Chris Williams said. "Although there has been a lot of publicity surrounding the HD broadcast of the BBC's and ITV's coverage of the World Cup on 'free-to-view' channels, viewers will still need to pay at least £10 a month to receive the HD service from either Telewest or Sky." The research also figured out that the total cost of hooking up to HDTV - including an HD ready TV, set top box and subscription - could be around £1,900 in the first year. reg;
Tim Richardson, 26 May 2006

eBayer driven to edge by email quippery

It's a simple enough prospect: you've got a second-hand silver Ford Galaxy Ghia automatic you want to offload, so where better to get rid of it than on eBay? Here's the plan - set up auction, post nice pictures, include full details and wait for the bids to roll in.
Lester Haines, 26 May 2006

World Cup and 24 in red button face-off

Geek TVGeek TV What's bigger than Tom Cruise's ego and scarier than Gillian McKeith on X Factor: Battle of the Stars? Your Summer 2006 TV To-Do list. There's Doctor Who to watch, Lost to watch, Big Brother to watch and pretend you don't, McKeith to peer at over your bleeding knuckles, 24 to watch, and some unavoidable men playing football. In fact, it'll be such a busy summer you're going to die of it. "People are suffering schedule stress," warns psychologist Harry Witchel, who tested his theory by sticking electrodes into Lost fans and forcing them to miss an episode, the big bastard. The results, says Harry, were "dramatically stressful". Here's a new ailment for Harry to study: format stress. It's bad enough that we might not get our Sky HD box in time for the Beeb's World Cup coverage. Now the sports geeks among us have to decide whether to watch it on the pub's big screen, or stay at home and play with our red buttons. C4 boss Andy Duncan recently dismissed interactive TV as "clunky" - hence no interactive Big Brother this year - but that little button will be every football obsessive's best friend for the next few weeks. The BBC's interactive applications include assorted commentaries, switching between live games and a forum for your "messages" (translation: sweary death threats to the ref), and both BBC and ITV offer live stats, results, fixtures and news. Oh yeah, and Sky has pimped 24 so you don't bugger off and watch the football. Jack Bauer addicts can now select an alternative start time for their Sunday-night fix - but only until the World Cup's finished. Then it's back to 9pm or bust, matey. Unless you've got Sky+. If schedule/format stress leaves you wanting to pull heads off puppies, click here to singalonga Lordi and release your tension. Finland's rubbish Wizzard tribute was only in Eurovision by accident, you know. He'd been lined up for Doctor Who, but went off in a huff when the Cybermen got top billing. Five to watch this week: Saturday 27 May: The Science of Star Wars, Discovery Science, 6pm Discovery shoves together its three recent docs about the robots, weapons and hot rods of Star Wars for a Saturday-night triple bill. Sunday 28 May: Top Gear, BBC2, 8pm It's only right and proper that Philip Glenister, aka Cortina-abusing DCI "Driving School" Hunt from Life On Mars, is this week's celebrity racer. Asked about series two of Life On Mars, Glenister says: "It's basically sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll." And Cortinas. Sunday 28 May: 24, Sky One/Sky One HD, 9pm Why don't they get Jack Bauer to advertise Pro-Plus? Winning combination. Monday 29 May: Inside Spontaneous Human Combustion, Sky One/Sky One HD, 10pm High-def look at people who go up in smoke from the inside. There was an ace QED doc on this years ago; read about it here. Wednesday 31 May: How England Won the World Cup, Five, 8pm In which Sven is strapped into a chair and forced to watch a mathematical analysis of Alf Ramsay's 4-3-3 formation. Legal note: The bit about Sven and the chair only happens inside our heads. ®
Jane Hoskyn, 26 May 2006
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Symantec coughs to security hole in its AV software

Symantec disclosed this week that researchers have discovered a software vulnerability that could allow hackers to take remote control of a PC and that it is working to verify the hole and provide a patch. And the software in question? Symantec's AntiVirus Corporate Edition 10.x. Oops. The security giant said it had been notified about the "potential remotely exploitable vulnerability", which was apparently discovered by security outfit eEye Digital Security. It said it was investigating the report, and would provide product updates as required. Symantec was at pains to point out that its mass market Norton products are not affected. More importantly, it said no customers had been affected and there is no known exploit. ®
Joe Fay, 26 May 2006

Web 2.0 opens can of worms for Cork

American technical publishers O'Reilly Media has formally requested Irish non-profit group IT@Cork not to call an upcoming discussion "Web 2.0". A letter dated 24 May from a lawyer acting for the O'Reilly partner company CMP, claims to have a pending application for the term "Web 2.0" as a service mark for arranging IT conferences, ENN has learned. CMP asserts that use of this term by the Irish networking forum for a conference it is arranging next month is a "flagrant violation" of CMP's rights. "CMP has a pending application for registration of Web 2.0 as a service mark, for arranging and conducting live events, namely trade shows, expositions, business conferences and educational conferences in various fields of computers and information technology," the letter asserts. Under US law a service mark is similar to a trademark but relates to services and advertising rather than products. "Web 2.0 is a generic term so I don't see how they can get a service mark for that term," IT@Cork committee member Tom Raftery told ENN. "Regardless of that we are in Ireland not the American jurisdiction," he said. "O'Reilly publishing did arrange conferences in 2004 and 2005 - they even invited me to one - but the special VIP fee for attending is USD2,795, whereas if you want to attend our talk in June it's EUR50. I think it would be difficult to mix up these conferences: one is in California and the other is in Cork." The legal letter goes on to note that IT@Cork's "mis-use" of the Web 2.0 term is "exacerbated" by the organisation's conference promotional material where it asks "what is Web 2.0?" and links to an article by Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Media. In this essay, O'Reilly claims that the term Web 2.0 was coined in a brainstorming session between O'Reilly Media and its pre-CMP partners MediaLive International. Raftery told ENN he had invited Tim O'Reilly to attend next month's IT@Cork conference back in February, but that O'Reilly was unavailable to visit Ireland until October this year. To add insult to injury it appears that O'Reilly is apparently originally from Cork. For a sizeable number of bloggers this minor row between the two organisations has taken on a symbolic significance, as the whole point of the next evolution of the internet - or Web 2.0 - is that it is generally open, in so far as anyone can use it and that web applications are generally free to use. "The real test of Web 2.0 is user interaction," Raftery said. "It's not all open source, but open for users to add comments and tag objects instead of book marking pages, creating blogs and creating wikis. It is in essence online interactivity." Due to time zone differences, a spokesperson for CMP was not contactable. However, the brouhaha in the blogosphere prompted O'Reilly Media's communications vice president Sara Winge to issue an online statement on Thursday. "In retrospect, we wish we'd contacted the IT@Cork folks personally and talked over the issue before sending legal correspondence. In fact, it turns out that they asked Tim [O'Reilly] to speak at the conference, though our Web 2.0 Conference team didn't know that. We've sent a follow-up letter to [IT@Cork] who can use the Web 2.0 name this year. While we stand by the principle that we need to protect our "Web 2.0" mark from unauthorised use in the context of conferences, we apologise for the way we initially handled the issue with IT@Cork." Raftery is not happy with the "permission" given to use the Web 2.0 term and shows no sign of backing down. One commenter on Raftery's own blog suggested changing the Cork conference from Web 2.0 to Web 2.1. Could the solution be that simple? Copyright © 2006, ENN
Maxim Kelly, 26 May 2006

Bichard reports widespread errors in Police data

Almost half of all police forces that have have been audited by the police database team of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary have been pulled up for duff data management, said the third report of the Bichard enquiry yesterday. Sir Michael Bichard's enquiry into the intelligence failures leading up to the murders of Soham school girls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman led to a 2004 report that recommended measures to improve the quality and timeliness of data input into the Police National Computer (PNC). HMIC's audits of Britain's 51 police forces were subsequently trained through Bichard's lens. The "progress report" published yesterday was meant to demonstrate how well the Home Office had responded to Bichard by making police data more reliable. It showed how there was a long way to go before police data could be treated as gospel. "HMIC has commenced direct communications with 13 forces which are causing varying degrees of concern in relation to their actual performance or their general direction of travel," said the progress report. It noted evidence provided by HMIC audits about the timeliness of data input into police computers. Almost a third of British forces were not meeting tough statutory targets for inputting data about arrests and summons on the computer in time, it said, drawing its data from the completed audits of data quality and related working practices HMIC has done of British police forces. It also noted that 39 per cent of forces were not inputting records of court proceedings within statutory deadlines. But it skirted over the other key data concern for Bichard, that of data quality. Error rates of between 15 and 86 per cent were identified in police data in the years before the Soham murders. Data errors are still a problem, as demonstrated by recent string of reports about the Criminal Records Bureau, which draws its data from the PNC. HMIC's audits, called Police National Computer Reports, do take an interest in erroneous police data, but it is limited by the Bichard recommendation that data input into the PNC is of good quality. It's scope does not include existing data. The last Home Secretary had ordered HMIC to concentrate its efforts on assessing timeliness, and that's what Bichard reported. Yet data quality is a concern for civil liberties organisations and those people who end up on the wrong side of the law because of data errors. The most recent PNC audit report published by HMIC, that of Avon and Somerset Constabulary, noted that 22 per cent of records that had already been checked by supervisors still contained an error. The error rate concerned a sample of records input in recent months. Old data, which might contain more errors, is not audited. Nevertheless, HMIC's work, and constant mithering of those police forces that do not have accurate databases, has brought about gradual improvement. Statutory guidance for data quality and related working practices was introduced in April. David Stevens, programme chair of Impact, the police intelligence computer effort prompted by Bichard, told an audience at the Association of Chief Police Officers conference this week, that input was still a problem. "At the moment there are no penalties for feeding garbage into a computer, but wrong information can have serious consequences," he said. He refused to elaborate. Reconsidered, the official view of Impact is that penalties won't help; a reverence for data quality must become part of the culture of the police. Stevens said the guidance and standards for handling data will bring about that cultural change. So will the work of HMIC. But it is slow work. HMIC has audited 31 of 43 police forces in England and Wales and seven of eight in Scotland. It works on a three-year cycle and is hoping to have completed its first round of PNC audits by October. Each audit generates an action plan designed, as the progress report said, to "address shortfalls in performance". Data quality will then be fostered by careful monitoring and encouragement of those forces that have the most glitches in their data.®
Mark Ballard, 26 May 2006