2nd > June > 2006 Archive

US pro-stem cell mission ready for fight

A cross-party American delegation has cautioned the US is lagging on embryonic stem cell research, and medical progress is suffering worldwide as a result. The group, currently visiting the UK, appealed for President Bush to withdraw a threat to veto a Bill set to be revive the impoverished American stem cell research community.
Christopher Williams, 02 Jun 2006

Vodafone records largest loss in European history – shares rise

Vodafone this week paid the price for its buccaneering past, writing down assets to create the biggest loss in European corporate history. The largest mobile phone company in the world also caved in to shareholder demands to return more cash to them, and committed to what appears to be a ruinous dividend policy, that will relegate the stock to being a cash cow. Vodafone used the opportunity of its year end figures to totally realign its balance sheet, taking savage impairments, the bulk of them a write down in value of its operations in Germany, acquired through a hostile $183bn takeover of Mannesmann in 2000. Vodafone recorded smaller, but equally dramatic falls, in the value of its Italian assets and on deals to sell its Swedish and Japanese operations. The net result was the biggest loss in European corporate history of some $17.2bn ($32bn) after total impairments of £23.5bn ($44bn). The impairments are not made in accordance with US GAAP rules, so will show as far smaller impairments in its US accounts. Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin praised the result claiming that organic growth of 6.7 per cent and free cash flow of £6.4bn ($12bn) was ahead of expectation with revenues up 10 per cent to £29.3bn ($55bn). The company has miraculously ended the year with 170m mobile customers, with organic addition of 22m customers on its continuing operations, despite losing a huge number of customer when it gave up the Swedish and Japanese operations. But its new dividend policy is a clear indication that Sarin has caved in to greedy investors and Vodafone will now pay out 60 per cent of its earnings both now with a final dividend, plus at a pro- rated level in future years. This strategy consigns the glorious swashbuckling past of Vodafone to the dustbin of history and ties up most of its cash generation going forwards. In the next few years more ambitious mobile operations may well be in a position to overtake Vodafone as the global mobile leader. The company also agreed to add a further £3bn ($5.6bn) of shareholder payouts to the £6bn ($11bn) it has already returned in cash from the Japan sale. Despite all this Vodafone has found ways this year to enter markets in the Czech Republic, Romania, India, South Africa and Turkey, through low priced acquisitions and says there's plenty of revenue growth here for the time being. Vodafone will now focus on cost reduction and ARPU growth and only pick up stakes in emerging markets. Vodafone gave an outlook of 5 per cent to 6.5 per cent growth and a one per cent lower margin and free cash flow of £4bn to £4.5bn ($7.5bn to $8.4bn) in the coming year. The potentially huge sale of Vodafone’s 45 per cent holding in Verizon Wireless in the US, to Verizon appears to be no longer on the cards, since Verizon has said that it will not meet the price that Vodafone recently placed on the shareholding. Vodafone still has £20bn ($37bn) of debt, which would be wiped out at a stroke if it ever sold the Verizon Wireless stake. However, it would lose its position as the world number one, with all the negotiating power that gives it with equipment suppliers. Vodafone's market capitalisation jumped from $135bn to $143bn in the two days after the announcement. 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, 02 Jun 2006

Cablevision suit a test case bound to happen

The underlying principle of fair use in copyright law is that if a piece of work is copied, "the author doesn't suffer loss and the copying person doesn't gain".
Faultline, 02 Jun 2006
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AMD runs out of magic rabbits and embraces 'Raiden time'

The glory days when AMD could make bold proclamations about 64-bit and dual-core advances over Intel have passed. Intel's imminent catch-up effort with the "Core" line of chips has made it impossible for AMD to trounce its rival on a grand scale. Instead, we're left with both AMD and Intel hitting the slideware harder than ever as they try to carve out advantages in various niches, stretching across server, desktop and mobile product lines.
Ashlee Vance, 02 Jun 2006

Getting your site sorted for IE 7

After five years of tweaking the hacks that make your site look the way it's supposed to in IE 6, the CSS changes in Internet Explorer 7 are probably going to cause you some more pain. Fixing bugs doesn't usually cause complaints, but the CSS bug fixes in IE 7 change behaviours web coders have come to rely on. Workarounds like the *HTML and underscore hack force IE to only parse the section of CSS you want it to; but they work because of bugs that are fixed in IE 7. In the best case, that won't matter. You put in the hack because the correct CSS that you've written for other browsers doesn't work in IE 6; the hack will still work for IE 6 visitors but IE 7 will parse the CSS intended for browsers like Firefox correctly and your site will still look good. Height, width and position bugs are fixed; you can scroll smoothly with JavaScript; and use CSS for transparency and hover effects without needing scripts. There's a full list of changes in the IE 7 Readiness Toolkit, which will also check your code and let you know if there are any hacks that IE 7 will break. You can see the public bug database for IE 7 at Internet Explorer Feedback (apply here; irritatingly you need a Passport account to use it). You can sign up for the Application Compatibility Toolkit V5.0 Beta at the same site, which tests sites and add-ons for both IE 7 and Vista compatibility. But not every layout bug is going to be fixed in IE 7. Current betas are layout complete, so if your code doesn't look right in the beta it won't improve in the final release. Rather than keeping the hacks you already have, Microsoft suggests rewriting them as conditional comments that lad the different styles needed for different versions of IE from a separate CSS stylesheet. You'll get the behaviour you want by calling it explicitly rather than relying on the browser parsing or failing to parse a line of code. If you're using hard-coded user agent strings that look for IE 6, at least change them to look for IE 6 or above, or IE 7 will end up with whatever fallback you put in to cope with browsers your user agent strings don't find (and if that's a page asking people to upgrade to IE 6, it doesn't look good). You can also force IE 7 to render as if it was IE 6 by telling it to render your page in quirks mode, which has none of the fixes implemented in strict mode; compatibility mode will still render as if it was in IE 5. But that loses advances like rendering transparent PNGs, lighting up the RSS button if you have a feed on the page and offering your site as a search option if you're using OpenSearch 1.1. Painful as it may be, it's better to clean up your code. If you're making changes to your site for IE 7, it's a good time to consider how much support you want to keep around for older browsers. IE 5 is in extended support as part of Windows 2000 and that goes on until at least June 2010, but IE 5.5 came out with Windows ME and it's now out of support, so you can expect business users to be moving away from it. By the same reckoning, after five years IE 6 is in extended support with Windows XP; but there are still plenty of users who aren't ready to make the jump to IE 7 (or Firefox). ®
Mary Branscombe, 02 Jun 2006

Virgin hires robot doctor

Virgin Atlantic is buying telemedicine machines that will help cabin staff diagnose sick passengers with the help of doctors on the ground. The machines take blood pressure and pulse readings as well as video footage. This is sent back to the ground using Virgin's existing satellite phone system. The information goes to a medical centre in Arizona where doctors will diagnose the patient and advise Virgin cabin staff. The box is called Tempus and is made by UK firm Remote Diagnostic Technologies. The deal covers fleet expansion until 2009. Graham Murphy, managing director at RDT, said: "Virgin Atlantic was the first airline to introduce defibrillators across its fleet and, as with defibrillators, RDT anticipates that this technology will soon be adopted as industry standard.” More on RDT website here.
John Oates, 02 Jun 2006

Dr Who makes you fat

Geek TVGeek TV Following our revelation that the upcoming collision of Doctor Who, Lost, 24, Big Brother and HD footy will make you ill from schedule stress, Geek TV can now confirm that telly also makes you fat. No! Yes! In a shock new study, the British Dietetic Association reports that the youth of today likes a nice sit down in front of TV, computer games and the internet. The BDA claims that "British teens" spend two and a half months a year "staring at screens". Two and a half months out of a whole year? That's nothing. We intend to stare at screens for two and a half months of the next two and a half months. To help us achieve this, the BBC is airing the World Cup online as well as on telly. Director of sport Roger Mosey explains: "We know a lot of online viewing is done in the office." That's right: the Queen's own BBC is helping people to skive at taxpayer's expense. Rock on, Auntie. Even if you find a golden ticket and get beamed into bed with Imodium, disGrace and Nikkkkki, you cannot escape the magic goggle-screen. But will Big Brother show the World Cup on their special plasma screen, like they do at music festivals? Happily for the future of mankind, not everyone is a lazy telly addict. Little Britainer David Walliams is busy coating himself in goose fat to prepare for his cross-Channel swim, and Rose's mum out of Doctor Who has taken up running. "A couple of guys chased me in their cars," actress Camille Coduri told The People. And there's no escape on set: "More often than not you're tearing down the road screaming." So once the rest of us have succumbed to TV-borne schedule stress and obesity, Dave and Camille will be left to save the human race. Get your swim finished first, Dave. Top five to watch this week: 1. Lost, Tuesday 6 June, C4, 10pm The is the one that divided fans in the US. We're firmly in the pro camp: the fast-paced whiz through the tail-end survivors' 48 days on the island so far reminded us why we got addicted to Lost in the first place. Turn over to E4 afterwards for the next episode. 2. Doctor Who, Saturday 3 June, BBC1, 7pm In "The Impossible Planet", the Doctor and Rose risk getting sucked into a black hole, a bit like the Doctor did in the mid-80s. Then switch over to hob-nob with the set designers in Doctor Who Confidential (BBC3, 7.45pm). 3. Tricks from the Bible, Friday 2 June, C4, 11.05pm Tricksters Barry Jones and Stuart MacLeod perform their versions of Bible stories: getting water out of stones, that kind of thing. Our favourite is the one where they turn walking sticks into vicious snakes. Imagine if you could do that in Lakeside on a Saturday afternoon. 4. 10.5: Apocalypse, Tuesday 6 June, Sky One, 8pm US miniseries set in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake. 5. Horizon: The Woman Who Thinks Like a Cow, Thursday 8 June, BBC2, 9pm Featuring Dr Temple Grandin, who can talk to animals and read their minds. Well, if you had to grow up with a name like Temple Grandin, wouldn't you hang out with farmyard creatures? Other stories Evesham's 20inch HDTV LCD Microsoft slams Sony over PS3 Blu-ray Sync your iPod to your TV Big Brother news and vids
Jane Hoskyn, 02 Jun 2006

ATI RD600 chipset to support auto-overclocking

ATI's upcoming RD600 chipset will ship as the CrossFire Xpress 3200 and, like Nvidia's nForce 500 series, support automatic overclocking, according to online reports.
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2006

Morgan Stanley takes domain name from cat

A cat has lost its bid to retain a controversial domain name after a multinational investment bank took it to the National Arbitration Forum. Baroness Penelope Cat of Nash DCB, who is listed as the owner of mymorganstanleyplatinum.com and was given some assistance in the case by Michael Woods, lost control of the domain to Morgan Stanley. A key part of the case rested on whether or not Baroness Penelope was truly the owner of the domain. The first indication that the decision was unlikely to veer cat-wards came in the written decision of Arbitration Forum Panellist Richard Hill. "Respondent maintains that it is a cat, that is, a well-known carnivorous quadruped which has long been domesticated," summarised Hill. "However, it is equally well-known that the common cat, whose scientific name is Felis domesticus, cannot speak or read or write." Baroness Penelope argued in its submission that "the registration information is not false; there are an immense number of Domain Names registered by non human beings". Hill was not to be swayed, however. "A common cat could not have submitted the Response (or even have registered the disputed domain name)," he wrote. "Therefore, either Respondent is a different species of cat, such as the one that stars in the motion picture 'Cat From Outer Space,' or Respondent's assertion regarding its being a cat is incorrect." "If Respondent is in fact a cat from outer space, then it should have so indicated in its reply, in order to avoid unnecessary perplexity by the Panel." In order to retain the domain name, Baroness Penelope had to fulfill three criteria. Having failed the first two, the case rested on whether or not having a cat as a registered owner of a domain constituted "bad faith". Hill ruled that it did. Baroness Penelope was uncontactable for comment at the time of going to press. See: the ruling Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Jun 2006

Captain Copyright© captivates Canadian kids

Those readers who have kids and are waiting with tredipation for the day when their offspring ask the question every parent dreads will be relieved to know they can now direct inquisitive minds to a Canadian website guaranteed to take the embarrassment out of that most sensitive of subjects. So, when little Jonny finally asks "Dad, where does intellectual property come from?", there's no need to fake an urgent appointment and rush from the room with a quick "ask your mother", because Captain Copyright is on hand to set the record straight. And how. Try the unexpurgated glossary of copyright terms, the heartwarming Story of Captain Copyright or the educational Copyright Quiz which kicks off with: "You wrote a poem for class. Do you have to register it with the Copyright Board of Canada for your poem to be protected by copyright law?" Yes or No?" Oh yeah, and here's a fun fact about Canadian copyright guaranteed to burn itself indelibly into any developing brain: "Ottawa in 1889 passed an act requiring that, in order to secure Canadian copyright, a book would have to be published in Canada within one month of its publication elsewhere; otherwise, that book (in intent, that American book) would be considered common property in Canada, which meant it could be re-published without penalty by any Canadian firm." Yes, I tried that one on my own 14-year-old son and he immediately jumped from the sofa where he'd been punishing his Playstation and declared: "Dad, forget that quad bike I wanted for Xmas. Get me a book on Canadian copyright law instead because I see now that when I grow up I want to be an intellectual property lawyer and make the world a safer, better place for my children and my children's children." Thank you, Captain Copyright! ®
Lester Haines, 02 Jun 2006
Cat 5 cable

Europeans rail against SMS and email tax plan

A storm of protest is building up against a proposal by Alain Lamassoure, member of the centre-right European People's Party, to introduce a tax on SMS text messages and emails as an alternative source of revenue for the EU budget. Even though the proposal, which included a tax of 1.5 eurocents on text messages and a 0.00001 cent levy on every email sent, has since been shelved, several online petitions have sprung up, including Keep Email Free. "We believe that email, in its current untaxed form, has become such a mainstay in our current way of communication that it has become an integral part of our society and the way we do business," the site says. Keep Email Free hopes to collect 100,000 signatures. At present, the EU is funded through a combination of import duties, value added tax revenues, and direct contributions from member states. However, the EU believes a new tax system is required. Lamassoure previously called the proposed tax "peanuts", but said: "Given the billions of transactions every day, this could still raise an immense income." The proposal immediately raises a lot of practical issues: who would collect the tax, ISPs or mobile operators? And would spammers escape the tax? However, the speculation may no longer be necessary. Lamassoure issued a statement yesterday in which he suddenly distances his comments from the budget committee, claiming that "any email or SMS tax could not be an EU measure because at present as the EU has no tax raising powers". "I have no intention of putting these issues on the table," Lamassoure says. ®
Jan Libbenga, 02 Jun 2006

Texas wants P2P border surveillance

The governor of Texas is spending $5m installing web cameras along the state's border with Mexico so ordinary web surfers can get involved in stopping illegal immigration. The idea is that a "virtual wall" will be created by putting night-vision cameras and motion sensors on private land near the border. Illegal immigration and violence has become more of a problem recently, thanks to a drugs war over the border. The footage will be streamed in real time onto a website so concerned citizens snooping loons can watch for illegal immigrants. A freephone number will be set up so citizens can report any crimes they see, or think they see. This comes despite problems with vigilante groups like the the Minuteman Project who last year started making their own armed patrols of the border. Governor Rick Perry is promising to spend an extra $20m strengthening border patrols and will ask for the state legislature for another $100m in the next session. The news reflects calls for a "virtual border" made yesterday by George W Bush and Homeland Security boss Michael Chertoff. The Bush administration also announced an extra 6,000 border guards. Perry complained of "federal inaction" and that the Department of Homeland Security is cutting border funding in Texas by 31 per cent despite supposed intelligence that Al Qaeda views the southern border as a prime entry point. More on Governor Perry's website here. ®
John Oates, 02 Jun 2006

BBC presenter in psychedelic blouse outrage

This just in: BBC presenter Kate Silverton was forced into an on-screen apology to viewers after her "psychedelic" blouse had Middle England choking into its Coco Pops. Silverton hit the sofa on BBC Breakfast yesterday in an ill-advised and potentially lethal lime green and yellow blouse/scarf combo, prompting outraged viewers to demand immediate action, the Evening Standard reports. She duly announced: "My blouse has divided opinion. I apologise if it has made you turn down the contrast on your set." This is not the first time 35-year-old Silverton has courted TV controversy, the Standard notes. Last year her News 24 co-host Philip Hayton resigned from the Corporation after 37 years' loyal service, saying he "could not stand working with her". She appears, however, to have failed in this attempt to dislodge fellow presenter Bill Turnbull, who "maintained a polite silence" throughout the blouse crisis. He is not reported to be suffering any permanent optical damage as a result of prolonged exposure to the fluorescent apparel of death. ®
Lester Haines, 02 Jun 2006
bofh_sidey

BOFH: Union 'negotiations'

Episode 19Episode 19 As fate would have it, I've been asked by the unions to see what I can do about getting the computer support staff an across-the-board salary increase. After lengthy protestations about my unsuitability for the job I'm eventually convinced that I may have something to offer by the impassioned pleas of the union delegate. The 500 quid up front helped sway me, as did the promise of a full Archer if I can swing more than five per cent. I decide that the best approach is a full frontal assault against the Boss and the head of IT, so arrange to meet with them both in a secluded meeting room. "As I'm sure you're aware, I was recently contracted to act as a third party union negotiator," I start. "No, But you're a contractor - you're not even in the union!" the Boss protests. "It's a separate contract." "But you're contracted to us as well. Isn't that a conflict of interests?" the head of IT blurts. "Only if I were interested in either party - which I'm not. However, I'm sure that it would be of interest to you to know the complaints that have been brought to my attention" "Complaints? So this isn't about money?" "Of course not. No, I have a number of complaints that people have brought to my attention which need addressing." "Which people?" "I'm afraid that the people concerned wish to remain anonymous so as not to risk being singled out for some form of retribution." "All right then, but what are these complaints?" "Well, as you know, a few months back there was some discussion about Quantum Computing?" "Vaguely," the head of IT responds. "Well, the union members would like some assurances about the safety of this as a technology." "What do you mean safety exactly?" "We'd like some assurances that anyone using a Quantum Computer won't be - for instance - thrown into the future somehow." "What?" "Sent into the future - or the past for that matter." "What're you talking about?" "The members would like to be assured that they won't suffer the same fate as that guy on Quantum Leap", I explain. "QUANTUM LEAP WAS A BLOODY TV PROGRAM!" the Boss shouts, "IT WASN'T REAL!" "Nevertheless, I think the members would like a written assurance." "This is ridiculous. Quantum Computing is perfectly safe!" "Yes, they said that about asbestos." "This isn't F---ing asbestos!" the head of IT shouts. "Yes. Item 2, the members would like free access to learning materials to further their knowledge in computing." "We're not stopping them learning more about computing! You're the one putting all the magazines through the shredder as soon as they turn up!" "Yes...I don't think we should be naming names here, it's just not helpful. Now, I should emphasise that no one here is blaming anyone for the poor state of affairs that these individuals have been subjected to in an almost criminal manner." "YOU'RE THE ONE DOING IT!" "Once more, we're not here to name names or apportion blame to the people who've been responsible for allowing this sort of thing to go on unchecked in a manner which has created a hostile workplace environment." "YOU'RE CREATING THE HOSTILE ENVIRONMENT!" "Right, well I can see we've reached an impasse on Item 1 and Item 2 so perhaps we'll see if item 3 would be more workable." "What's that?" "The members would like some assurance that they won't be affected by the radiation from the mobile phone towers on the building." "There aren't any mobile phone transceivers on the building?" the head of IT says. "There aren't any now, but there might be some in the future. So the members would like to get a comprehensive company medical plan should any of them suffer ill effects from radiation." "WHAT BLOODY RADIATION, THERE'S NO TRANSCEIVERS?!" "Not at the moment, but at some point in the future there might be." "So what, we'll cross that bridge when we decide to put transceivers up." "So you admit you're going to install transceivers?" "I said nothing of the sort!" "Yes you did, you said WHEN, not IF." "LOOK, I can't know if the company, at some point in the future, will put up transceivers for cellphones any more than I can tell if they're going to...I don't know..,make the staff all wear company coloured uniforms or something. It might happen, it might not" "So what you're saying is that the company MAY, at some stage in the future, install cellphone transceivers which will emit possibly harmless radiation onto the staff. When combined with the possibility that Quantum Computing could possibly send someone INTO this harmful environment, I think that we should probably be making this medical plan available right now!" "WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT! PEOPLE WON'T BE SENT INTO THE FUTURE AND WE WON'T BE INSTALLING CELLPHONE TRANSCEIVERS!" the head of IT shouts. "I...think that in this...hostile...environment perhaps a compromise would be the best way forward. Perhaps if management were to...compensate the people most likely to be affected by these changes - in the manner of a token gesture - perhaps the issue would, well, go away." "So it IS about money," the Boss sighs. "I think a seven per cent increase across board for the computer support staff would be positively received." "I don't think so," the head of IT says. "And as for the suggestion that they'd believe any of that nonsense - that's just ludicrous." "It's not them I'd be worried about - it's the rest of the staff. Once one of two of them start voicing their concerns in the company cafeteria..." "They'd be out the door so fast their feet wouldn't touch the ground!" the Head snaps. "And when one of their fellow workers happened to mention that the REAL reason they'd gone is that they'd been sucked into the future and the whole 'firing' thing is just a cover-up..." "You're serious aren't you?" "Serious enough to get the support staff to start wearing tinfoil hats..." I say. "I...I'll give you five per cent." "Six or nothing" "I...OK," the head of IT folds. "Six percent it is, and not a penny more!" "OK, I accept on behalf of my members, six percent plus, say a 10 quid a week clothing allowance." "What clothing allowance?" "What - you expect them to pay for the company-coloured uniform out of their own wages?" BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 02 Jun 2006

AOL plots UK ISP sale

The break-up of of AOL's European activities could see Time Warner ditching its UK ISP operation. With 2.2m subscribers, AOL is the UK's third biggest ISP. The sale plan comes out of investment bank Citigroup's continental review of AOL for the media giant. Noises out of AOL say Citigroup are briefed to look at all options for AOL UK, including partnership arrangements and a full-scale sell-off. There's no timetable for when decisions will be made. Similar reports in May said AOL Germany is for the chop too. More from The Guardian here®
Christopher Williams, 02 Jun 2006
Sony_Ericsson_W810i_sm

Sony Ericsson W810i Walkman phone

ReviewReview The W810i is Sony Ericsson's latest Walkman model, but it shares most of its features with the older K750i and the W800i. There are some major enhancements, especially if you intend to use it as your MP3 player. The play controls have been vastly improved and there's now a dedicated button that launches the Walkman music player, but is all this enough to convince people to buy the phone?
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 02 Jun 2006

NZ brawl handbag commands tear-jerking price

Bidding has spiralled out of control on New Zealand auction website Trademe.co.nz as punters scramble for the now famous handbag used by ex-All Black captain Tana Umaga to reprimand Chris Masoe in a Christchurch bar in the wee hours of Sunday morning. The auction, posted last Friday by the entrepreneurial owner of the fashion accessory, has reached outrageous heights, and at time of publication had attracted 518 bids, the highest of which exceeds NZ$100m (£33.9m). Umaga took action after his Hurricanes team-mate punched another drinker who he thought had tripped him over. He then reportedly picked up a woman's handbag and hit Masoe in the head with enough force to smash a cellphone inside the bag. Masoe, who forms part of the tough "Devil's Henchmen" loose trio in the Hurricanes, allegedly burst into tears and fled from the bar after the handbag assault. Independent Online reports that the 22-year-old owner of the handbag told The Christchurch Press: "I mean a handbag, of all things. How hilarious...he hit him pretty hard. We heard it across the bar. He cracked him up the side of the head twice." Earlier that day, the Hurricanes were beaten 19-12 by the Crusaders in the inaugural Super 14 Final. The New Zealand Rugby Union fined Masoe NZ$3,000. No charges were laid against Umaga, but he did replace the woman's mobile phone. The auction carries the following description: "These are the genuine articles. Handbag was used by Tana Umaga to hit Chris Masoe at the Jolly Poacher in Christchurch after the Super 14 final. Cellphone that was broken in this bar incident is also included. This can be verified as the genuine articles at time of purchase. Please note this has been listed on owners behalf. In typical Friday fashion, questions have been coming in thick and fast from bidders, and include: Does this come with Masoes girls blouse? Is there any blood on the handbag? Is there any guarantee that hitting someone with this will make them cry? and, Can you throw in a vial of Chris Masoe's tears that were shed that night? Another victim of the disturbing trend of handbag abuse, asked: "My wife tends to hit me with her handbag too....you think I could sell this one too to pay for my new glasses?" But as bidding continues to reach bizarre heights, some watching the auction are concerned about the validity of the bids. Luckily for the seller, she was offered the services of this helpful lawyer: "If your top bidder does not front up with the said amount (even if it's 100+ million) I would be more than happy to provide free from all costs litigation proceedings to ensure the bankruptcy of the person/s responsible. I do this to people on a daily basis, and would much enjoy helping you destroy the fake bidders financial freedom for the next three years. Superb once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, it's a real shame you have idiots ruining it." The auction closes on Saturday 3 June at 6.59pm (NZ time). ®
Tracey Cooper, 02 Jun 2006

eBay taps Opera to go mobile

eBay is piloting a scheme to bring its Online Marketplace service to mobile users in Germany. Using a customised version of Opera's Mini mobile web browser, eBay and Opera are creating a means for people to sell, bid and buy items using mobile phones. Opera gets paid based on the volume of web transactions such as bids made on eBay.de using its lightweight mobile browser software. eBay Germany has 20m registered users, making it the online auction site's second biggest market after the US. Opera Mini has 3m users in advance of the launch of Opera Mini eBay edition, which is due to debut later this month. Traditionally, Opera has made its money by licensing its software to operating system (such as Symbian) and handset suppliers. Hakon Lie, Opera's CTO, said it was moving up the value chain by dealing with telcos, persuading them to ask handset manufacturers to pre-load Opera software, and content providers, such as eBay. ®
John Leyden, 02 Jun 2006

Database security via event stream processing

I wrote recently about the potential for using event stream processing (or complex event processing) for database security. This is precisely what Symantec will be offering later this summer (the exact date has yet to be announced). Moreover, this database security product, which will also provide auditing capability, will be delivered as an appliance. Let me first deal with the appliance part of this equation. What this means is that Symantec will deliver a combined hardware and software product, with the latter having been pre-installed and pre-configured so that there are no set-up issues: you simply plug it in and go. You plug it into the network, where it monitors all traffic that goes into and out of the database. For the first few days after installation it will not apparently do much. This is because it is monitoring the behaviour of the various users that access the database and building up patterns of activity that it can recognise. Once it has done so it can report on any anomalies that may occur, ranging from authorised users doing odd things (according to the US Secret Service, 78 per cent of all fraud is conducted by authorised users) to SQL injection and Application Server hacks. This last is particularly important because CRM, ERP and other such applications have global access to the database so hacking the Application Server is an easy way to break into the system. Another important capability is what Symantec refers to as extrusion detection. That is, when anomalous data is leaving the database (as opposed to people getting into it). As an example, the company suggests setting up one or more dummy records in the database. There is no good reason why anyone should access these and, therefore, anyone who does so may be doing so for nefarious purposes. All alerts and reporting is done in real-time, as is the monitoring of traffic entering and leaving the database, which is where the event streaming aspect of the product is relevant. By contrast, the traditional way to provide this sort of information (which includes conventional auditing: who did what and when) is to use database log files. However, full database logging is normally turned off because it can kill performance and, in any case, database logs are not easy to read. At best, they are only useful for post-fact analysis. As with other event streaming products you can define filters - so you can tell the appliance that you are not interested in certain data and, similarly, you can define policy rules to be applied to incoming or outgoing information with respect to what you are interested in. As far as I can see, and bearing in mind that this will be a first release of a product that will no doubt add capabilities as time goes by, the only drawback to the appliance is that it uses proprietary storage mechanisms. While efficient from a storage and administrative perspective, this has a downside when it comes to analysis of the collected data. There are built-in query and reporting capabilities, but if you wanted to apply a business intelligence or data mining tool to the collected data for more detailed analysis, you would have to export the data to an external (ODBC compliant) data mart. However, this seems a relatively small price to pay for the peace of mind that this product should bring. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Philip Howard, 02 Jun 2006

What's happened to whistling?

Also in this week's column: Whatever happened to the gay gene? What lies without: Life on the human body What are tag questions? What's happened to whistling? Why do humans whistle? Whistling is the uttering of a clear sound by blowing or drawing air through puckered lips. "Whistling" is from the Old English hwistlian and the proto-German khwis and refers to the imitative hissing sound of a serpent. There are five types of whistling: Finger (wolf), hand, palate (roof), pucker, and throat. Humans whistle for many reasons. Among these are to express happiness, cope with boredom, alleviate anxiety, or simply enhance pleasure. Whistling is one of the earliest forms of human communication and evolved from the calls of other animals and the utterances of our primate ancestors. Entire human languages are based around whistling (whistle speech). One of the most famous of these is Silbo Gomero - the so-called "whistling language" of the Canary Islands. It has four vowels, four consonants, and over 4000 words - all of which are whistled. Other whistling languages are spoken in Burma, China, Greece, Mexico, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, and Turkey. Why don't we whistle as much as we used to? (Asked by Nicole Haack, The Nicole Haack Program, Radio 5AA, Adelaide, Australia No scientific studies exist to back up the claim that humans whistle less, more, or just about the same today compared with a generation ago. But the popular perception certainly exists that humans now whistle less. If so, is it because people are less happy, less bored, less anxious, or less desirous of pleasure? It is difficult to prove any of these. Perhaps it is partly due to technology. Radios and music players are now very portable. People when walking used to whistle. Now they are hooked up to their iPods where they only listen. Or, it may be partly due to the fact that most popular songs today are less "whistleable" than tunes of yesteryear. Try whistling a rap! Or it may even be that we have less time for whistling today as so many of us lead increasingly busy lives. We also live more crowded lives too. We may be concerned about offending people who may regard our whistling as an infringement upon their space and privacy. Or it may be that whistling is simply regarded today as unfashionable. In an interview, a famous super model said that models never smile on the catwalk because smiling is considered by the industry to be unfashionable and unsophisticated. If it can happen to smiling, it can happen to whistling. Whistling facts Abnormal whistling can be a symptom of epilepsy. Dr Samuel Johnson (1709-1784), the great English literary figure, suffered from involuntary whistling. It is now believe he suffered from Tourette’s syndrome. Whistling Face Syndrome (aka Freeman-Sheldon Syndrome) is a rare inherited disorder involving craniofacial and often limb abnormalities. The mouth is tiny and in a permanent puckering position resembling someone trying to whistle, hence the name. Russian folklore holds that whistling brings bad luck. ® 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, 02 Jun 2006
1

What lies without

Also in this week's column: Whatever happened to the gay gene? What's happened to whistling? What are tag questions? What lies without: Life on the human body The skin of the human body is alive with life - microscopic life of all kinds. In his classic work, Life on Man (1969), Theodor Rosebury estimates that there are 10m individual bacteria living on the average square centimeter of human skin (155,000 per sq inch). Rosebury describes all of these robust, active, fertile microscopic creatures as like a "teeming human population during Christmas shopping". The population of bacteria on the 2 sq meters (21.52 sq feet) of the skin surface of the human body varies depending upon what part of the body you examine. The most bacteria-prone parts of the body are the armpits, the anal region, the pubic region, and the oily sides of the nose. For example, the armpit is the home of up to about 203,000 bacteria per square cm (516,000 per sq inch). Each square cm of human skin consists of about four million cells (10m per sq inch), 24 hairs (60 per sq inch), 35 oil glands (90 per sq inch), 6.1 meters of blood vessels (20 feet per sq inch), 246 sweat glands (625 per sq inch), 7,480 sensory cells (19,000 per sq inch), 23,622 pigment cells (60,000 per sq inch), more than 393 nerve endings (1,000 per sq inch), and all of that microscopic life. Although all the microscopic life is high in numbers, it is small in size and weight. Rosebury estimates that all of the bacterial life on the human skin surface would fit into a medium-sized pea and possibly weigh about as much. It is not just bacteria that live on the human skin. We can also become infested with a variety of creatures that set up household on our skin and dine there to their little heart's content. According to Dr Jonathan Kantor of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Centre in Philadelphia, there are three types of louse (Pediculus humanus corporis) that can live on humans. They are head lice (Pediculus capitis), body lice (Pediculus humanus), and pubic lice (Pthirus pubis). No prizes for figuring out where on the body each type lives. There are also the follicle mite (Demodex folliculorum) that lives on the eyebrows, the scabies mite (Sarcoptes scabiei) that lives everywhere, and several other Trombiculae mites (chiggers, redbugs, rougets, harvest, and scrub) that camp out everywhere. In addition there are the tropical rat mite (Ornithonyssus bacoti), the human bot (Dermatobia hominis), the primary screwworm (Cochliomyia hominivorax), and of course ticks, fleas, bed bugs, and a few others. Our skin is a veritable United Nations of tiny critters. 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, 02 Jun 2006
1

What are tag questions?

Also in this week's column: Whatever happened to the gay gene? What lies without: Life on the human body What's happened to whistling? What are tag questions? We know that "um", "er", and "ah" are called fillers and are used in conversations to keep the listener listening while the speaker searches for the next meaningful thing to say. Although "um", "er", and "ah" are not meaningful sounds (phonemes), meaningful sounds (morphemes), words, and entire phrases can function as fillers. Examples are "right", "sure", "you know", and "I mean". Tag questions are fillers in the form of a single word or a phrase asking agreement. Perhaps the most notable example of this these days is the English tag question "innit?" In actuality, this is a contraction of "isn't it?" Many in the UK, mostly young people and particularly in London, are known to end nearly every sentence with "innit?" And the trend seems to be to drop altogether the intonation that indicates a sentence that asks a question (interrogative) and make it into a sentence that sets forth or provides an explanation (declarative). Human language continually changes, innit. 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, 02 Jun 2006
5

Whatever happened to the gay gene?

Also in this week's column: What lies without: Life on the human body What are tag questions? What's happened to whistling? Whatever happened to the gay gene? Asked by Alex Walsh of St Albans, Hertfordshire, UK Is homosexuality caused by genetic or environmental factors? Is there a "gay gene"? This debate is well into its second decade and we are still not sure. In 1993, Dr Dean Hamer and four colleagues from the US National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland published a study in the 16 July issue of Science on 114 families with homosexual men. The study found linked DNA markers on the Y (male) chromosome. This suggested the possibility of genetics being involved in sexual preference of males. Thus a "gay gene" or genes was a possibility, but the evidence applied only to males. Intense debate ensued both inside and outside the scientific community and continues today, although perhaps not as hot as it was a decade ago. Some argue that, whether or not a "gay gene" or genes exist, gays will be stigmatised with such a finding. Others argue that gays will be stigmatised without it. Studies of male twins have suggested that about 50 per cent of the variability of sexual orientation is due to genes. This would leave about 50 per cent due to various environmental factors. In the March 2005 issue of Human Genetics, Dr Brian Mustanski and five colleagues including Hamer, studied the genetics of 146 families with two or more gay brothers. This study found that, among 60 per cent of the gay men, an identical clustering of genetic patterns occurred on three of the body's 23 chromosomes (7, 8, and 10). This is somewhat greater than chance would predict, thus the existence of a "gay gene" or genes seems more likely. In the 30 April 2005 British Medical Journal Dr Timothy Murphy, professor of philosophy and biomedical sciences at the University of Illinois in Chicago, comments that: "Like the others before it, this study is far from conclusive, but it adds to the growing sense that genes play a role in male sexual orientation. The evidence for a genetic contribution to female homosexuality is less well developed, but the case is hardly closed." ® 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, 02 Jun 2006

Bladerunner chases VAT robot through Web 2.0

LettersLetters It's official: AllofMP3.com is illegal, according to the music biz. This analysis found little favour with Reg readers, as the following emails demonstrate:
Lester Haines, 02 Jun 2006

Asteroid Itokawa just a big lump of rubble

Asteroid Itokawa - subject of a 2005 visit by Japan's Hayabusa probe - is nothing more than lump of rubble, new studies have shown. The fact that the 535-metre asteroid is not solid as previously assumed has come as a bit of a surprise to those examining the Hayabusa data, New Scientist reports. Photographs reveal the body's surface "littered with boulders and gravel" which suggest it's comprised of the debris of an earlier asteroid collision. Planetary scientist Erik Asphaug, of the University of California in Santa Cruz, said: "Five years ago, we thought that we would see a big chunk of monolithic rock, that something so small doesn't have the ability to hold onto any pieces. Everything we suspected about it turned out to be wrong." Other evidence backs up the photographs: Hayabusa measurements of Itokawa's gravitational field, with its size factored in, reveal it's 40 per cent empty space. Asphaug describes this porosity as "astonishing", explaining: "It's very hard to get porosities greater than that. You've got to start balancing things delicately, like you were building a house of cards. The only way to do it is to gently pack the stuff together." And therein lies the mystery, NS notes. Given its age, Itokawa should have become progressively less porous as repeated impacts "tamped down" the loose material. There's little evidence of impact craters on the surface, but that's believed to be because they're filled by gravel which is shaken down into the crater by post-impact vibration. Hayabusa, meanwhile, is en route home - albeit with a three year delay. It successfully landed on Itokawa but whether or not it collected the intended samples remains doubtful. There's a report on its current status down at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency website. ®
Lester Haines, 02 Jun 2006

HTC buys handheld customer

HTC is to take a majority stake in Chinese handset vendor Dopod, the phone manufacturer announced today. Dopod will become a subsidiary company, HTC said, describing a move that will bring the maker a step closer to offering handsets under its own name.
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2006

The art of software testing

Book reviewBook review I've had a soft spot for Myers' book ever since it first gave me an insight into the economics of testing some 25 years ago. Its essential thesis is that you can't test everything, in practice; so you have to allocate the limited resources you always have to maximise the defects found per euro. There's no point in wasting resources running a test unless it finds a defect - yet how many programmers still feel good about running a test suite which doesn't turn up any defects at all? What chance that the program being tested really is defect free?
David Norfolk, 02 Jun 2006

Dell hooks up with Skype

Computer giant Dell has announced that it has paired off with global internet communications company Skype in the latest tech sector marriage. News of the happy union comes hot on the heels of Dell's recent infatuation with Google, and search engine Yahoo's hook-up with Skype's parent company, eBay.
Maxim Kelly, 02 Jun 2006

Java licence issues still have a part to play

The law, some say, is an ass and it is quite possible that mule-like legal stubbornness has lain at the heart of the time it has taken for Sun Microsystems to get Java on Linux.
Martin Banks, 02 Jun 2006

Piratebay operators hope to win compensation

UpdatedUpdated The Swedish web operators behind raided site Piratebay.org will seek damages from the Swedish authorities if they can prove their innocence, according to a statement on the site earlier today. The statement, which promised that the site would be functional again within a day or two, said that those behind the site "can receive compensation from the Swedish state [if] the upcoming legal processes show that [Piratebay] is indeed legal". However, a Swedish legal expert has denounced their intended defence as "silly". Swedish police staged a spectacular simultaneous raid on a series of premises holding the servers hosting Piratebay.org, confiscating the servers holding the site and bringing the site down. The site was accused of being a source of global internet piracy and itself claimed to be the world's largest BitTorrent search index. BitTorrent is a technology which makes it easier to transmit large files, such as music or films, over the internet. In itself it is not illegal, and Hollywood studio Warner Bros has just agreed to use BitTorrent to distribute its material. One pressure group associated with the site claims that the Swedish police were misled and incompetent in their actions. "[Anti piracy group] Antipiratbyran has clearly misled the police in this case," said Tobias Andersson of Piratbyran, a spin-off of Piratebay.org dedicated to promoting file-sharing. "They seem to have convinced incompetent police that the servers in question are filled with copyright protected materials." The Piratbyran statement said that there is "no illegal material on the actual server". The servers contained not media files but links to BitTorrent files containing material. Christopher Wallin of the IT group of Swedish law firm Delphi & Co said that this is not likely to be a successful defence. "Our opinion is that that is silly. That is an argument they have been making for the last two or three years," said Wallin. "They have committed a contributory offence, it is a contribution to copyright infringement." Though no direct representative of the site could be contacted, a statement on the site said: "The necessity for securing technical evidence for the existence of a web service which is fully official, the legality of which has been under public debate for years and whose principals are public persons giving regular press interviews, could not be explained. Asked for other reasoning behind the choice to take down a site, without knowing whether it is illegal or not, the officers explained that this is normal." Copyright law in Sweden has been more lax than in other European countries, though recent changes have brought the law more closely in line with that in other nations. Sweden used to be known as a music and film pirate's haven because downloading copyrighted material without a licence was not an offence until last summer. "Uploading was always an offence but downloading was not," Wallin said. "That changed last summer. The law was not so much changed as clarified." "This is a very important development for Sweden, a country which has recently acquired a reputation as a haven for copyright infringement," said John Kennedy, chief executive of recording industry representative body the IFPI. "The Pirate Bay has damaged the legitimate music industry on an international scale and I am very pleased that the Swedish authorities have today taken such decisive action against it." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Bootnote A website run by Swedish police has been forced offline following a denial of service attack. The attack on Friday came two days after Swedish police seized servers associated with ThePirateBay.org, the largest search index for BitTorrent, bringing its web site down. Three people were arrested during a series of 10 raids and released pending further inquiries. It's unclear if the denial of service attack against Swedish police is linked to raids against ThePirateBay.org or motivated by some other reason, the BBC reports. Hackers also attacked regional websites run by Sony BMG and Warner Music on Wednesday, defacing the content on Italian, Korean and UK sites. Links between these attacks and those against Swedish Police remain circumstantial at best. You can view the defacements in archives run by Zone-h here. ® Additional reporting by John Leyden.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Jun 2006