13th > June > 2006 Archive

Carphone loses broadband price cut battle

The Carphone Warehouse has failed in its bid to force BT to slash the cost of migrating fully unbundled broadband lines in bulk. The decision by Ofcom means that Carphone will have to shell out more cash to migrate each fully unbundled line than it had hoped, adding to its overheads. Earlier this year, Opal Telecom (part of Carphone Warehouse) called on Ofcom to resolve a dispute concerning the maximum charge BT can make for the bulk migration of fully unbundled (MPF) and shared access (SMPF) lines. Fully unbundled lines are where the LLU operator takes full control of a phone line to a home or business providing both a broadband and phone service. Shared access is where the LLU operator provides the broadband connection, but the phone service remains hooked up to BT's network. In the case of both MPF and SMPF, the maximum amount BT is allowed to charge operators for migrating individual lines in bulk is £34.86 per line. But in May last year BT Wholesale announced a special promo of £20 per line for the mass migration of shared lines (SMPF). But when the giant telco refuse to match the price for fully unbundled lines Carphone took its complaint to Ofcom. In its "draft determination" to try and resolve the dispute, published last month, Ofcom ruled that the maximum charge BT should impose for the bulk migration of fully unbundled lines should be £29.06. In its final word on the subject published recently the regulator reduced the ceiling still further to £27.54. Although it's slightly better news for Carphone, it's still way-off the £20 a throw cost that it wanted. A spokeswoman for Carphone insisted that it was a "good result" and that the firm was "happy with the outcome". ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2006
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Sony engineers in shock Post-it® notes discovery

Sony has launched two new TFT displays with a unique new feature - the bottom bezel is extended to form a surface where you can keep Post-it® notes. You also get a groove which can accommodate pens. It is a mystery why they didn't go the whole hog and include a hand filing cabinet and somewhere to keep your sandwiches.
Leo Waldock, 13 Jun 2006

A man and his microscope: IBM's quest to make atom-sized chips

Into the ValleyInto the Valley When taken into the room holding the world's highest resolution microscope, we expected to witness a pristine marvel of engineering. Workers in bunny suits would be rushing around in an ultra-clean chamber, tweaking the microscope with refined instruments and unparalleled care. Instead, we found a hand-crafted oddity composed of tin foil, a maze of cables and iced tea cans. Somehow this monster can resolve the height variations of a surface down to about 1/10,000 the diameter of a typical atom, according to its creator IBM Fellow Don Eigler.
Ashlee Vance, 13 Jun 2006
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Promises, promises, promises

TechEd 2006TechEd 2006 The one advantage of delivering an uninspiring keynote is that it is very unlikely to inspire a myth or legend that I can later have fun imploding, but that was the task that seemed to be set for Bob Muglia and Ray Ozzie at the Microsoft TechED keynote here in Boston. It was short on technology and long on promises; with a total of four promises forming the cornerstone of their fundament-numbing two and a half hour introduction to TechED 2006: Advance the business with IT solutions manage complexity, achieve agility, protect information, control access, amplify the impact of your people In many ways these sound more like mission statements than promises; being almost impossible to quantify. Can you come up with a KPI that measures PIA (Person Impact Amplification)? There was some meat for developers in the form of ‘smoking’ demos of new software. For example the beta of Exchange Server 2007 will be available by the end of July and will include new features like searching on the mobile device. There was also one new product announced, Forefront. This is essentially a set of products that provide a suite of security products across client and server. The first Microsoft Forefront products will be called Forefront Client Security and is hoped to be in open beta by Q4 2006. In addition TechED delegates were given an insight into the new Windows Server Virtualization technologies that can, for example, reallocate memory to virtual servers on the fly. Incidentally we know the demos were ‘smoking’ because that’s how Mary Lynn Rajskub described them. Mary Lynn plays the high-tech guru Chloe O'Brien in the television series ‘24’. She added some badly needed light relief to an otherwise somewhat uninspiring keynote.®
Mark Whitehorn, 13 Jun 2006

MIT builds seeing machine for the blind

A researcher at MIT has developed a working prototype of a machine that will help legally blind people to see, Reuters reports. The inventor, Senior Fellow Elizabeth Goldring, says that the device will help people to read, to see pictures of friends and study other useful documents, such as the layout of buildings. The prototype, which MIT says will cost around $4000 to manufacture, plugs into a PC and uses light emitting diodes to project images directly onto the retina. Traditional sight aids work by projecting a video image onto a pair of goggles or onto a video screen. "The advantage of this kind of display is there's no extraneous stuff in your peripheral vision that gets in the way," Goldring, told the Reuters news agency. The so-called seeing machine was inspired by a scanning laser ophthalmoscope, a $100,000 medical device used to examine the eye. The technology involved in the ophthalmoscope is too expensive to make a device suitable for personal use, so Goldring and her research team spent a decade working on ways to reduce the cost. The device is a still a long way from being a Geordi La Forge-style visor. At 12 inches by 6 inches by 6 inches, even the generous would not describe it as wearable, and it couldn't be used to navigate an unfamiliar space. But as long as the user has some living retinal cells, he or she should be able to use the machine to see a clear colour image, such as the layout of a room they plan to visit. Tests on 10 legally blind volunteers found that most could see images and read words when using the device. Goldring now plans to develop a commercial version. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jun 2006
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US share probe keeps growing

Fund managers in the US are asking 1,500 companies if they are likely to get dragged into the ever-growing investigation into backdating of share options. Yesterday saw job site monster.com and Broadcom admit they were facing Federal investigation. The Council of Institutional Investors, whose members run $3 trillion in investments, asked 1,500 firms if they were under investigation or were running their own investigations into share options. The Council said share options should be granted at the same time each year unless there were exceptional circumstances. Monster said it was running its own investigation and has also received a subpoena from US Attorney in Manhattan. Chip maker Broadcom said it had received informal enquiries from the SEC about granting of share options. Data center provider Equinix Inc is also facing an informal probe. Accountancy software maker Intuit said on Friday that it too was facing an informal SEC inquiry. Calpers - California's public employees pension fund - has written to some two dozen companies demanding they investigate and publicly disclose what they discover. Calpers says directors should carry out a full audit of executive pay and compensation. More from AP here and from the Seattle Post Intelligencer here. The scandal came to light after research by Eric Lie, professor at the University of Iowa. He found backdating of options was more common before August 2002 when new SEC reporting regulations came into effect. More from him here.
John Oates, 13 Jun 2006

European Commission fears copyright levy for ISPs

A “copy tax” could spread from blank CDs to mobile phones to internet service providers, according to a consultation document from the European Commission. The document warns that a wide spread of the tax would cause a backlash against it. In most European countries, though not in the UK, copying of music for private use is allowed. These countries add a levy to the cost of items which are likely to be used to make private copies so that the copyright holder can receive some compensation. The Commission is consulting with industry so that it can change the laws around this “copyright levy” to suit the world of digital copying. It has warned, though, that applying traditional principles to digital media could cause consumers to reject any idea of a copyright levy. "[In the digital media world] it would no longer be possible to hold only liable the manufacturers or importers of equipment and media," said the Commission's consultation document. "The logic of levies would also have to be applied to broadband and infrastructure service providers including telecommunications providers that carry content." "If this were to happen, levies would proliferate and there would be a serious risk of a backlash against the rights holder community and consumer welfare," it said. Already some nations charge copyright levies on mobile phones and printers, as well as blank discs and DVD writers. Computers are also being levied, since they are capable of and used for the copying of copyrighted material. The Commission has called for the complex situation to be clarified and is seeking the opinions of industry, but its consultation document recognises that it is not an easy task. "The current system of copyright levies as a means of compensation for rights holders does not take into account the phenomenon of convergence," the document says. "Copyright levies were born in the analogue environment … the distinction currently applied in levy systems between media, equipment and devices is already outmoded as it has not been adapted for the advent of the digital environment." Most European countries allow private copying but recognise that rights holders must receive some compensation for that use. The copyright levy raises money that goes to artist representative groups. The UK chose instead to outlaw even private use copying, so no levy exists. Last week the British Phonographic Industry chairman Peter Jamieson told a House of Commons committee that the BPI will not pursue individuals copying privately, even though it is illegal. "We now need to make a clear and public distinction between copying for your own use and copying for dissemination to third parties and make it unequivocally clear to the consumer that if they copy their CDs for their own private use in order to move the music from format to format we will not pursue them," said Jamieson. See: The consultation (20-page / 287KB PDF) See also: BPI won't sue you for putting music on your iPod, OUT-LAW News, 07/06/2006 Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 13 Jun 2006

IXEurope spends £15m on new London datacentre

IXEurope is to splash out around £15m to build a new datacentre in West London. The London Stock Exchange listed datacentre outfit said that once up and running next year, the "London4" centre will be IXEurope's fourth and largest datacentre in London. The site will offer roughly 6,500 square meters, with most of the £15m spend being shelled out over the next two years. The first floor of the new centre in West London is expected to be ready during the first half of 2007. The second floor will be kitted out to meet additional demand for space. Said Guy Willner, chief exec of IXEurope: "We have successfully placed major anchor customers in each of the three new IXDatacentres and given the current traction of our UK operation, we are confident of a similar result when we open London4 IXDatacentre in H1 2007." IXEurope has a number of sites across Europe in the UK, Germany, France and Switzerland and boasts some 400 customers including Merrill Lynch, Google, Network Rail and France Telecom. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2006

Coffee defends liver against booze

Researchers have confirmed drinking coffee can protect against one of the worst effects of alcohol. Alcoholic liver cirrhosis progressively scars the organ, and is known to be affected by a range of factors including smoking, diet, infection and genetics - as well as alcohol. The team at the Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program in Oakland took a survey of more than 125,000 cirrhosis-free patients between 1978 and 1985. Participants were quizzed about their alcohol, coffee and tea consumption and their progress monitored. By 2001, 330 had been diagnosed with the liver disease, of which 199 were alcohol-caused. For every cup of coffee participants drank each day, the researchers calculate they were 22 per cent less likely to develop alcoholic cirrhosis long term, strengthening earlier findings by the team and an other groups. More info here. Reporting in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine the authors write: "The data do suggest that coffee intake may partly explain the variability of cirrhosis risk in alcohol consumers." The relationship is buttressed by findings from blood samples, which showed the amount of damage-indicating enzymes released by the liver is less if the patient is a coffee drinker. Tea has no such protective powers, they found, meaning caffeine may not be responsible for the effect. The team explain: "Previous reports are disparate with respect to whether the apparently protective coffee ingredient is caffeine; in our opinion this issue is quite unresolved." Drinkers can't expect the effect of a lifetime of heavy boozing to be mitigated by a foamy latte in the morning however. The authors, led by Dr Arthur L. Klatsky, caution: "Even if coffee is protective, the primary approach to reduction of alcoholic cirrhosis is avoidance or cessation of heavy alcohol drinking."®
Christopher Williams, 13 Jun 2006

Judge shuts down footie streaming site

Football body UEFA and broadcaster BSkyB have shut down a website which re-broadcast Champions League games over the internet. UEFA and Sky took the three people behind Sportingstreams.com to the High Court where the judge upheld their claim that the site's re-broadcasting of games was unauthorised and breached copyright legislation. The case was so clear that Judge Justice Lindsay granted a summary judgement to avoid a full trial. The trio behind the website offered no defence in the case and did not turn up to court. The website charged subscriptions of users who then watched football and cricket matches via the site. The website has been replaced by a page of text and those behind it say that no refunds will be offered to subscribers. "Due to legal actions and current legal proceedings the website will be closed for the foreseeable future," said a statement on the site. "This was not our choice but we cannot resist the onslaught any longer." "Unfortunately we will not be able to offer any refunds on memberships as our payment account has also been taken away," said the statement. Lindsay said that a summary judgement was appropriate because "the defendants have no real prospect of successfully defending the proceedings." "There is reference [in the claimants' submissions] to a good number of warnings and invitations sent to the defendants that they should cease and desist from their activities but with, so far at any rate, no success," said Lindsay in his judgment. "Indeed, the claimants say that the defendants have indicated a cynical disregard for UEFA's copyrights and a determination to continue infringing in order to make substantial profits for themselves," he wrote. ® Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 13 Jun 2006
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eBay APIs updated

Auction site eBay will release new APIs in the next few months so developers can start creating applications. The announcement was made at eBay's developer conference in Las Vegas. The auction house will make four APIs available - one for express searches, one for accessing the express checkout, one for extra product information and one Contextual Keyword API for altering listings on blogs or other sites with rapidly changing content. More on the conference here or from IDG here. eBay's payment unit PayPal is improving online support for developers with a new website and simplifying access to resources by putting them all in one place. The auction house also announced the imminent arrival of its own advertising platform - AdContext which will put it in direct competition with the likes of Google for selling contextual advertising.®
John Oates, 13 Jun 2006

UK targets ExoMars mission with £1.7m funding package

The UK's astronomy research funding body, PPARC, has earmarked £1.7m to develop technology that will seek out evidence of past or present life on Mars. The cash, part of the UK's commitment to the European Aurora programme, will be split across nine projects to develop technology and instruments for the 2011 ExoMars mission, Europe's first solo mission to the red planet. PPARC (Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council) says the money will be spent on furthering research in areas when the UK already has a proven track record. It aims to build on the knowledge gained from the ill-fated Beagle 2 mission, and the hugely successful Mars Express orbiter and Huygens probe. Professor Keith Mason, PPARC's Chief Executive, said: "Mars Express has, and still is, delivering outstanding science from orbit around the Red Planet...but we have unfinished business on the surface. To really understand the mysteries of Mars we need ground-truth data and ExoMars will deliver that with the rover and base station". UK researchers will use the money to put forward plans for a rover to explore the surface, a chip capable of identifying organic materials and a panoramic camera to map the planet in three dimensions. Other projects include a microseismometer to detect any Marsquakes, entry, descent and landing systems and a simulation to model parachute behaviour on Mars. The remainder of the money will go to developing an atmospheric experiment package, and instruments to study the geology of the planet, and the type and amount of radiation reaching the surface. Professor Mason says the funding will put UK teams in a strong position to win "leading roles" in the ExoMars mission itself. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jun 2006

Artist's impressions from BenQ-Siemens

Mobile phones are wonderful things but blimey you can get sick and tired of looking at reams of photos all showing little screens and keyboards. So we say God Bless BenQ-Siemens and all who sale in her for making life more interesting by releasing a series of design sketches of three of its latest phones.
Leo Waldock, 13 Jun 2006
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PC shipments slow, but market still healthy

PC shipments slowed to 12.6 percent in the first quarter of 2006, but still managed to outdo March predictions of 11.8 percent annual growth, according to IDC. Although computer shipment growth has slowed since 2004, when the first quarter recorded 15.1 percent year-on-year growth, and in 2005 when annual growth was 16 percent, the market continues to surprise analysts and exceed expectations. First qaurter growth in Western Europe and the US declined by 1 percent more than expected, while other major regions also saw a fall-off in demand. However, once more the Asia Pacific region exceeded projections, while Japan and the Rest of the World regions also recorded healthy growth. Despite the fall-off in shipment growth in the major regions, the market is still looking remarkably healthy, and analysts at IDC believe the outlook for 2006 is improving. According to IDC, the outlook for shipment growth in 2006 has climbed to 10.8 percent, an increase from March's prediction of 10.5 percent. The 2007 outlook has also benefited, with a 1 percent increase to 11.7 percent and 2008 growth projections also increased slightly to 10.6 percent. The analysts expect some 230 million units to be shipped throughout 2006, growing to 257.1 million in 2007 and 284.5 million 2008. "Slower growth in mature markets, the delayed release of Windows Vista, and rising inventory increase the risk of slower growth," said Loren Loverde, director of IDC's Worldwide Quarterly PC Tracker. "Nevertheless, we expect these factors will shift volume from 2006 to 2007 rather than reduce overall consumption, while strong demand in emerging markets, portable adoption, falling prices, incomplete market penetration, continuing technology development and aggressive competition between component vendors, PC vendors, and distribution channels will continue to fuel solid growth." Looking further ahead, 2009 and 2010 are expected to see slightly reduced growth rates, but total volume for these periods are expected to be higher than earlier projections due to the higher level of near-term growth. There is some good news for PC vendors too; the total value of worldwide PC shipments is projected to rise by between 3 percent and 5 percent each year until the end of the forecast period. Key factors that are being credited with this value growth are the increasing shift to portable PCs, desktop growth in emerging regions, and the introduction of dual core processors. Copyright © 2006, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 13 Jun 2006
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MS clean-up stats shed light on malware infections

Microsoft's anti-virus clean-up tool has removed 16m instances from 5.7m Windows PCs during its first 15 months of operation. Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), the malware removal software which Microsoft releases free of charge and updates every patch Tuesday, has been executed 2.7bn times on 270m computers since its debut in January 2005. Stats from its use present a new perspective on how bad the Windows malware problem really is. On average, the tool removes at least one instance of malware from every 311 computers it runs on. It has removed at least one backdoor Trojan (the most damaging types of malware, which give hackers control of compromised PCs) from around 3.5m unique computers. Zombie bots represent the most common flavour of backdoor code encountered by Microsoft's tool. Rootkits, forms of malware that hide their presence on infected PCs, are also a growing threat. Of the 5.7m unique computers disinfected by Microsoft's tool, a rootkit was found in 14 per cent of cases. But this figure drops to 8 per cent if the "WinNT/F4IRootkit", the rootkit distributed on some Sony music CDs, is excluded. In one of five cases at least one Trojan was found on PCs also contaminated by a rootkit infection. "The malware problem appears to be migratory in nature. Most of the computers cleaned with each release of the MSRT are computers from which the tool has never removed malware," Microsoft's researchers conclude. A white paper from Redmond's anti-malware team on their experience with their anti-virus clean-up tool can be found here. ®
John Leyden, 13 Jun 2006
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Imagine CupImagine Cup One of the things we've been playing around with lately is the animations used in Windows Presentation Foundation.
Team Three Pair, 13 Jun 2006

Telecom NZ execs visit BT

Execs from Telecom New Zealand (Telecom) visited BT and Ofcom last month to see what measures have been undertaken to improve telecoms competition in the UK. Industry onlookers reckon the visit shows that that Telecom is considering the idea of splitting its wholesale and retail businesses to head off criticism from its own government. The Kiwi Government has already signalled its intention to drive through a series of measures to force incumbent telco Telecom to unbundle the local loop and increase competition. A raft of proposals - including LLU, increased regulation, and the promotion of investment by rival operators in fibre, wireless and satellite networks - have been put forward as a way to drag New Zealand out of the bottom third of the OECD's league table of broadband countries. The Kiwi government has decided that key to this lacklustre performance is the lack of effective competition among broadband and telecoms providers. Telecom has already rejected the proposals claiming that there are no guarantees that the measures "will deliver on the government's aims of high speed broadband throughout New Zealand". However, reports from New Zealand that execs from Telecom have visited the UK shows that the telco is taking the matter seriously, especially if, as reported, the Government has already threatened to break-up Telecom if it fails to adopt the measures. Earlier this year BT unveiled a new access services division called Openreach created as part of a regulatory settlement with Ofcom. Openreach was set up to ensure that rival telcos and operators get transparent and equal access to BT's phone network after firms complained that BT was abusing its dominant position as both a wholesale and retail provider of telecoms services. This partial "splitting" of the former monopoly meant BT was spared an investigation that could have led to its break-up. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Jun 2006

'Microsoft was caught stealing secrets from Borland'

Database Myths and LegendsDatabase Myths and Legends "Microsoft was caught stealing secrets from Borland.".
Mark Whitehorn, 13 Jun 2006

Football gets ASCII'd

BootnoteBootnote Fancy watching the World Cup footie, but don't sit anywhere near a TV? Have a terrible aversion to clear, colour pictures of international sport? Ever wondered what people do when they have too much time on their hands? Well, your luck is in, because it seems you can now watch matches live on Telnet, gloriously rendered in ASCII. Er, splendid? Streaming begins ten minutes before kick off, according to the site, which also boasts that it is: "The best, most ridiculous, most redundant graphical implementation of ASCII!" This may very well be true - we'd love to know what you think. If you're feeling sporty and geeky all at once, point your browser here and watch the game on telnet. All the cool kids are doing it. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jun 2006

eBay unveils keyword ad system

Online auction giant eBay is to launch a keyword advertising system directing web surfers to product auctions related to the website they are visiting. The new system, called adContext, is similar to Google's AdSense platform. It allows websites to display ads for relevant eBay inventories, and site owners hosting these auction notices to get a slice of the sales. Contextual adverting is already used by Google and Yahoo!. An example best illustrates the idea: a website concerned with the Star Wars movies may have ads on it that bring the web visitor to an eBay auction for Star Wars collectible figures. These ads will most likely be a photo of the item for sale, like a model wookie for example. Analysts in the US said nothing about wookies, but they did predict that the system may prove popular with bloggers who could use it as an extra source of revenue. The eBay plan seems to be that bloggers would be able to run snippets of code on their website to automatically showcase items for sale on eBay. The adContext systems works by reading keywords embedded in websites which it then links to auctions. According to eBay, "the contextual ads take into account the popularity of certain keywords on eBay, not just the keywords on a given website". eBay executives reportedly discussed the initiative at a conference held in Las Vegas in early June. The conference drew together partners developing eBay's expanding network of ventures, which now includes PayPal, Skype, Shopping.com and e-commerce software service ProStores; alongside eBay's traditional online auction business. Not unlike Amazon.com, eBay tends to open up significant portions of its infrastructure to outside developers, relying on partners to drive additional sales through eBay's core auction platform. eBay also recently hooked up with search engine Yahoo in a partnership which will see yahoo become the exclusive third-party provider of all graphical ads on eBay and will offer sponsored searches for complementary products on some eBay search results pages. In return, eBay's secure online payment system, PayPal, will become the default payment service on all Yahoo channels. It is not yet clear how this relationship will be affected by the adContext programme or indeed, whether it is something the two internet giants have worked on together. Ad driven business models have been touted by many technology analysts as the future core income stream for many internet giants such as Google, Yahoo! and MSN. However one note of warning was sounded by eMarketer chief executive Geoff Ramsey at a conference held in New York in February. He said "consumer trust in advertising has plunged 41 per cent over the past three years," and only 10 per cent of consumers "trust" ads today. If these stats are accurate then internet companies will have to invest a lot of time and energy into improving consumer confidence in their new advertisement driven business structures. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Maxim Kelly, 13 Jun 2006

Picture this

Imagine CupImagine Cup We've gone and done it. We're on Flickr: there's not many pictures there at the moment but we'll be uploading some more. So if you want to see us working away and doing other random stuff then check us out here. ®
Team Three Pair, 13 Jun 2006

Google readies PayPal-killer

Google is all set to launch its online payment system, or "PayPal-killer" for the over-dramatic. According to a note from investment bank RBC Capital Markets the search giant will let people selling goods through Google Base use the system to pay for purchases. GBuy is due to launch 28 June and will initially be limited to Base users. This will be extended to "Google-approved merchants" later. The service will be free at first but Google wants to charge between 1.5 per cent and 2 per cent of sale price. The service will be targetted at small merchants who are unable, or unwilling, to accept credit card payments. The "Trusted GBuy Merchant" tag alongside search results may have a beneficial impact on click-through rates. Although ecommerce is growing fast - £18bn last year or 2.5 per cent of household spending - there is still a perception that security fears are holding back some purchases. Google's brand may help allay these fears. If the search giant was to track purchases too then it would have valuable information to feed back into its search engine. The announcement, or rather lack of announcement - Google has not confirmed the launch - is widely seen as bad news for market-leading payment system PayPal, owned by eBay. There's more on how GBuy works and what it looks like here or on the San Jose Mercury News here.®
John Oates, 13 Jun 2006

Small but perfectly formed Meizu Mini Player

Smaller than a business card, but rather thicker, the Meizu Mini Player measures 79 x 48.2 x 10mm and weighs 55g. Desperate to maintain the metaphor we’ve confirmed this is the equivalent of 45 business cards.
Leo Waldock, 13 Jun 2006
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IBM catalogues SOA services

Next week IBM SOA Business Central opens its doors. This website will house the IBM SOA Business Catalogue, a way of finding resuable IT services based on its software. The directory of Big-Blue service-oriented architecture will include partner software too and by the end of the year, is expected to include "more than 3,000 SOA assets spanning more than 15 industries to solve specific business problems". The catalogue contains process templates, web services, tools and adapters and advice on integration. ®
Team Register, 13 Jun 2006

'Naked civil servants' celebrate infamy

Civil servants at Newcastle's Rural Payments Agency (RPA) went out on a bender last night to celebrate their notoriety after the local paper revealed staff were caught on office CCTV leaping naked from filing cabinets. Staff were pleased their antics made the front page of local newspaper The Evening Chronicle. Team members and managers from the DEFRA agency, which is in charge of paying out farmers' subsidies, were seen in the Toon enjoying a night of booze-fueled madness, The Register can reveal. The RPA said yesterday one individual had been dismissed and investigations are ongoing following the allegations. As well as bare-back Parkour, staff are accused of play-fighting, conducting break dance-offs, sex and drug taking in toilets, and of a bizarre craze for hiding vomit-filled cups to be discovered only by their stench. Sources said the "Cup a Sick" prank was played by angry and poorly paid contract workers sourced from outside the civil service. The high-jinx came to light after disgusted employees blew the whistle to high-ranking officials. An internal memo said: "I'm appalled at the level of depravity that is being tolerated at my work place." "We have particular concerns about the activities that have been going on and which have been photographed. Although the staff obviously feels it is a great laugh, by anyone's standards in the workplace setting this represents misconduct and may not be allowed to go unchallenged." An RPA statement today said: "Action has been taken to strengthen RPA Newcastle with a senior manager drafted in to take charge while the investigation and series of disciplinary actions to resolve some instances of serious misconduct and behavioural problems there is concluded." A further member of staff has been demoted and transferred, and a letter was sent to all staff on Friday "reminding them of their responsibilities". National Farmer's Union communications director Andy Gibson said: "Given the real hardship caused to thousands of farmers by the seemingly endless delays to the implementation of the Government's new Single Payment Scheme, I'm sure farmers will be angry and disappointed to imagine how the RPA staff at the Newcastle office are spending their time."® Bootnote Following the revelations of starkers daredevilism within the ranks of low-level RPA employees, The Reg has obtained an email that has apparently been doing the rounds at said powerhouse of rural governance. It uncovers evidence of a malaise going back to at least last summer. A manager noticed a "dodgy" comment added to an account by a frustrated temp, and decided to pull up the rest of her contribution to the agency for everyone's delectation: 31 August 2005 dude he was trying to part field suffix fields when its just not necessary! Not cool, man, he needs to sort that out, nobody likes a crazy farmer 14 August 2005 WELL, ON FIELD 0660, THE FARMER HAS TRIED TO CLAIM FOR NA1, NON AGRIG LAND WHICH IS WRONG WRONG WRONG! SILLY FARMER 17 August 2005 yeah crop codes wrong so will take several months to go through. good luck with that! hopefully i'll have left 18 August 2005 HELLO WELL THE PROBLEM HERE SEEMS TO BE THAT THE FARMER WAS SUFFERING FROM MALINGERING HEAD TRAUMA AND FILLED IN THE SAME FIELD TWICE! BLESS. UNDERSTANDABLE THOUGH AS THE FORM IS SO BORING REPETITION SEEMS A NATURAL, RIGHT REACTION 25 August 2005 part field suffix problem as fields named 'a' or 'b' but in unrelated field. could i be less bothered? 25 August 2005 YADA YADA YAH ALSO RING FARMER HE'S MENTAL!!HE'S TRYING TO ESTABLISH MORE THAN FILED SIZE WHAT A NUTTER!I CAN'T BELIEVE IT, CRAZY, UNHINGED MAN. 29 August 2005 ANSWERED NO TO THE MILK QUESTION THEN PUT ENTRY IN Q21. WE MUST ACCEPT THIER FIRST ANSWER,THEY,SADLY LOSE! 02 September 2005 twenty odd pages of fields needing completed, crop codes cannot have a value as non-food type. Apparently. Personally i'd just leave this till it goes away of its own accord. plan! "Silly", "nutter", "unhinged", "crazy" and "malingering"? Given, as the sender notes, that the records these comments come from are open to freedom of information requests, we can imagine a nation of livid, penniless farmers will be writing in, and then loading their muck spreaders for a trip to Newcastle.
Christopher Williams, 13 Jun 2006
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Elonex UK goes titsup

Breaking newsBreaking news Elonex Plc (UK) has gone into administration after weeks of speculation that the PC builder was having serious credit problems. The company is thought to owe almost £20m to creditors in the UK, Europe and US.
John Oates, 13 Jun 2006

BBC gives tips on blocking BBC World Cup content

The BBC has published advice explaining how to block access to one of its own heavily promoted services - live streaming video of World Cup matches. Two weeks ago the British broadcaster said the service offered UK broadband-connected office workers as well as Brits at home the chance to watch World Cup games at their desks. Roger Mosey, the BBC's director of sport, said: "We know a lot of online viewing is done in the office, so we suspect this will allow people both to do their job and to keep up with the very latest action from Germany." Networking firms were quick to warn that widespread use of the technology in corporate environments could cause network congestion and slow down the performance of business critical applications. Such warnings are routinely issued every time a World Cup comes around. We remember, for example, warning of networking meltdown in the run-up to Brazil's opening game against Scotland at the start of the France 98 tournament. In the event, no problems occurred. We've not heard of any problems in corporates because of the BBC's enhanced streaming media coverage this time either, aside from gripes that the service isn't available outside the UK. Nonetheless the corporation has published a list of URLs that might be blocked by corporates wishing to block streaming video content from the BBC while still allowing staff access to other BBC Sport content. "Due to the high demand for live streams for the World Cup during office hours, we understand that some corporate networks may wish to restrict access to the streams available from the BBC Sport website," the corporation explains, in a tacit admission that network congestion problems are at least possible. Reg reader James H, who helpfully pointed us towards the BBC's notice, reckons that although "well hidden" the site may save some techies work if they're requested by management to block streaming media content. "[This] may be of use to other IT galley slaves who are pulling their hair out about how do it," he said. ®
John Leyden, 13 Jun 2006
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C2000 gets InFocus

Computer 2000 is to start wholesaling InFocus projectors to the UK channel. InFocus is keen to sign up resellers working the SME and education sectors - in March it introduced The Work Big IN24 and IN26 to target these markets.
Team Register, 13 Jun 2006

WGA, NPfIT and 'rude' councillors polarise readers

LettersLetters Last week's coverage of new and exciting cock-ups in the NHS's NPfIT attracted its usual wide variety of readers, including some folks over at Connecting for Health. They wrote to us to explain that we'd got it all wrong, guv. (NpfIT responds to Reg criticism). Far from being a waste of public resources, the £19m of taxpayers money that had to be signed over to Fujitsu is in fact a "positive outcome". The NPfIT project over budget? Lawks, no sir. Cheaper than if we'd spent more. Delays? Only to be expected with a project of this size... And so on. You had some thoughts on this that you wanted to share: I see NewSpeak is alive & well - 'clusters' indeed :) Isn't madness defined as the inability to perceive reality when it is bashing you over the head? I expect the men in white coats to shortly arrive for the whole NHS management, if this is any guide. Is the NHS safe in the hands of... the NHS? Keep up the good work, Mike How disingenious Would you like to hear about how even the very first deliverable of the NpfIT - the so-called Identity Agent to authenticate users against "the Spine" with their smartcards - has added massively to the cost of deployment because they couldn't be bothered to build an installation package that could run hidden and silent and therefore be centrally deployable? How about the fact that the JVM delivered with the identity agent doesn't work with the Oracle client required by ESR? I was in a meeting the other day where a CfH representative made the point that ESR "isn't part of the National Program". Why, if patient confidentiality is so important, will NHS Mail not support encrypted conenctions with local Trust email systems? Why, after all this time, are CfH now crowing about finally delivering a version of NHS Mail (or whatever they call it this week) that delivers "the same experience as if (the users) were on Microsoft Exchange" - for something like 180 million quid over 10 years they could have installed a LOT of Exchange servers and hired the administrators to manage them. £180 million for what basically amounts to Hotmail is a lot of dosh. How about Choose and Book - which seems to break regularly and just this very day would not let me book my own appointment? The National Program is trying to perpetuate the old, socialist, vision of the NHS as a centrally run agency governed by the equivilent of five year plans, while the rest of NHS and the Government in general is moving to a locally managed, agile, lightweight model of delivery (cf "Foundation Trusts"). I know I am not just speaking for myself when I say that grassroots Trust IT staff have just about had it with CfH and the whole National Programme. Instead of a centrally delivered model requiring building huge core systems and then extending them out, the National Program should have built from the outside in, defining standards and offering financial incentives to Trusts to upgrade their local systems so that they could transfer their locally held data into the Spine; instead everyone is expected to throw out their local systems and drop all previous relationships with the suppliers in favour of the LSP delivered core systems - however so far the LSP's seem to just fill the role of middle man - getting in the way, taking the profit but not actually delivering any value add, all the time watching for contract violations by the NHS so they can get extra payouts. Name witheld I was thinking about this a few days ago. Why isn't this new NHS gizmo being developed in public? It's being paid for with taxpayers' money, and surely whatever is developed should belong to us rather than a few mega-corporations. They could publish a view of the overall system architecture so all us uber-nerds could check it out and chip in our suggestions for improvement. They could avoid all the "I could have told you that wouldn't work" by inviting people to say "that won't work" before the event. More to the point, they could make mock-ups of the system as it would appear to all the users in the NHS so they could go on and try them out, and say thing like "you've missed the field which labels the patient as a nutter" *before* squillions of quids have gone into something which will be imposed on the users. Working in public would mean that all the parties would know what everyone else was doing, so there would be no excuse for there being components which don't work together. Surely this project is an opportunity for a new and better approach to developing and deploying government IT, one where the users can verify that it's fit for their purposes, and the architecture is open to public scrutiny before loads of cash is wasted on something which is a bad idea? There could be no better ongoing scrutiny than to develop in public. Dunstan Meanwhile, many of you are still gamely looking for the Advantage in Windows Genuine Advantage, and you're keeping us up to date with your search: Another possible angle on this piece of 'technology' for you to investigate is as follows: When I installed the WGA update, it presented one of Microsoft's oft-used 'license agreements' that required an "I Accept" button press before continuing. I did (with some reluctance, clearly justified as it turns out) but I do remember reading a very interesting sentence somewhere not far from the top, which went something like: "Upon installing Windows Genuine Advantage in your premises..." and I'm pretty sure it used the words "in your premises" rather than "on your PC" To my suspicous mind this means that, legally, if you install WGA on just ONE machine in an office, then it may give Microsoft the right to disable ANY PC on the premises that appear to be running an illegal copy of XP. Further, how do we know, for instance, that they haven't somehow incorporated this technology in the low level networking code, so that each machine can effectively check the piracy status of others, for instance through the master browser network comms. Just a thought... but a good one! Cheers, Dan WGA does offer a real advantage... To Ubuntu, Linspire, and a few other distros. If you look on the the respective forums, you are suddenly seeing an influx of "With the latest WGA stuff, I am trying xxxx for a desktop..." Some companies are having problems with this. In many cases it is easier to transition to Linux (and removing licensing as an issue, and also stop user installed [pirated?] applications) than to fix WGA. An example here. In many cases a false positive means a full reinstall, and in an enterprise this is no small thing. Lee Something El Reg should look into (along with the EU authorities) is how many people, when faced with the "unlicensed copy" message from WGA simply buy a new copy of Windows (or take their PC to the local "geek centre" for a new install)? I know that my parents have purchased 3 copies of Windows XP home for the same machine, unmodified, as MS does not register a VIA EPIA machine quite right each time. Rather than re-register, my poor 80-year-old parents find it easier to pay US$500 to have a Geek Squad technician drop over to install a fresh copy of Windows. Six months later, the problem reoccurs, and they cough up the half-kilobuck again. Is this MS response to the 2 million Euro fine: get punters to kick up the fine amount with false illegal messages every day? Conspiacy? Or is this Business2.0? Brett I have mixed feelings about WGA and similar technologies. They're an invasion of privacy, and as an IT professional, they sometimes make my job harder. (I was pretty incensed, a while back, when Microsoft's servers went down and they were unable to process activations for much of the afternoon.) On the other hand, they also help me cover my ass. I really resent it when an employer asks me to break the law just because they don't want to pay for enough copies of Microsoft Office for all their users. You can bet that if the BSA came in and fined them, I'd be the first one canned when upper management started asking questions. "I can't install another copy of that because it won't activate" carries a lot more weight than "I can't install another copy of that because it's illegal." David I have two HP PCs, both with XP licences, but I choose to run a "dodgy" copy of XP on them as I got fed up with reactivating them all the time - as I love nothing more than tinkering as swapping hardware every few days it was becoming a real pain. From bits I've read, and my own take on disabling WGA: - You can't delete the EXE and DLL files as they are in use. But you can rename them. Start a DOS prompt CD \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 REN WGATRAY.EXE WGATRAY.XXX REN LEGITCHECKCONTROL.DLL LEGITCHECKCONTROL.XXX REN SPMSGS.DLL SPMSGS.XXX CD DLLCACHE REN WGATRAY.EXE WGATRAY.XXX REN LEGITCHECKCONTROL.DLL LEGITCHECKCONTROL.XXX REN SPMSGS.DLL SPMSGS.XXX (note that not all the files are necessarily in DLLCACHE too) Reboot the PC, and start a DOS prompt again CD \WINDOWS\SYSTEM32 MD WGATRAY.EXE MD LEGITCHECKCONTROL.DLL MD SPMSGS.DLL Creating the directories with the same names as the offending files will prevent them ever re-appearing. Neat trick. I have since been asked to download WGA updates, I now choose custom rather than automatic updates and then untick the update. Windows kindly asks me if I ever want to be bothered with that update again, which I politely decline. Cheers John Regular readers wil no doubt remember last month's cautionary tale of Chichester councillor "Taff" Davies, who was suspended from his elected post for being rude to tech staff. Well, it seems Taff has now left the building. Here follows edited highlights of your responses, starting with antipodean Dean, who disliked our use of the term "politically correct": Much as we should hold up to ridicule all neo-Victorians, & other wowser, bowdlerisers & prudes, please refrain from banging the old 'politically correct' drum. El Reg - ever the exemplar of English as she should be spoke - should stop using such unhelpful labels. The moniker 'politically correct'/'PC'. does nothing to advance the argument & continues the debasement of the currency by the self-appointed arbiters of plain-speaking. It would be plain-speaking to call your spades 'spades' - or 'shovels' if you will: thus the harrowed staff could be "thin-skinned whingers", or the 'rude' councillor "brutally honest, if intemperate". If the over-sensitive wowser is the object of your ridicule, just say so. However if you mean to ridicule idea of treating each individual with respect, please keep that bigotry to yourself. For all that, my day wouldn't be complete without a dose of The Register's irreverence & iconoclasm. Keep up the good work, but with fewer shibboleths! Dean Ransevycz (Sydney, the Antipodes) P.S. Please reinstate 'mobe' & 'lappy'. Shan't. But we concede your point. Still, resident newshound Ballard adds: The point of the story was not to ridicule the senstitive wowsers who complained about Davies for being softies, nor to criticise political correctness per se, it was to highlight how ridiculously out of hand things have got when someone is suspeneded for office for a year for being an ass. How proud are the ethics officers of expelling a 70 year old man for being forthright? He had told the IT department the council's email system was "crap", and was subsequently pulled up under the council charter governing "honesty and integrity". Presumably the council charter outlaws "honesty and integrity"? Seems rather mild for a naval captain. Alan You may mock the events surrounding the demise of Councillor Taff Davies but there is a clear point here: you don't treat IT staff like sh*t. Especially when you're dealing with local authorities. His bullocking, barracking attitude belongs to the Arthur Scargill school of management, locked away to rot in the mists of time. As Sir Francis Bacon said, "For he that cannot possibly mend his own case, will do what he can, to impair another's" I'm sure there are many more upset IT staff who have been wrongly slated, slagged off and generally abused by ID-10-T users (often directors) who would like a right of reply to those people, telling the world how crap they really are... I certainly could tell you some merry tales of management incompetence and eunuchism. For every opinionated halfwit who says "IT are shite" there's a trail of piss-poor performance behind them. Jamie "... I can't behave like that, which I find amusing at my age..." Well it is hardly surprising that a cranky, bullish 70-year old, who always had his way until now, will be surprised when people who are neither his children, nor his wife, nor his subordinates decide not to bow before Old Blowhard. Old habits die hard, especially after a lifetime of having people shine your shoes and bow down at your slightest sign of displeasure. There is no surprise here, and no amount of councelling will change it either. He said it himself : at 70 years old, it's too late to change. So throw him out already and let him vent his copious anger on his own family. They're probably quite used to suffering anyway, and normal people will be able to get on with their lives. Pascal. And for the defence: That man must be considered a martyr! There are many IT users in business and education who are simply fed up with the tyranny of so-called technical support. Esteemed professor at Stanford, Larry Cuban, discusses research where IT departments actually hinder any hope of developing new teaching and learning environments using ICT innovatively. Just look at the way computer labs are set up - rows and rows of PCs. How can groupwork be facilitated? The computer lab is a representation of Victorian classrooms. Why? Because the tech guys insist on this layout as it is easier to cable and network. In the 1980’s there was hope as technology became more user-friendly and ordinary people had some say in how computers should be used in, say, classrooms. However, the IT guys have regained their lost power and we are back to a more controlled digital fortress using technology that may be considered suitable for tech support personnel but total annoyance and a hindrance for ordinary end users. Who is supporting whom? And try bringing your Mac to the tech support office! In 17 years in education I feel that the IT department Heads do more harm for integrating technology into our education, our business practices, our lives than any uninformed peer in the House of Lords . The councillor simply spoke up - loudly - at the frustrations of using mediocre systems when he/ we know there are better alternatives. Regards, Michael Got a lot of sympathy for the captain. Councils tend to be staffed by idiots who can't get a job anywhere else with an inflated sense of their own importance and a complete lack of understanding as to who funds them. And £11.5m for a town of 100K (Wikipedia)? £115 per person: 9% of band D for a fancy website to make paying parking tickets easier (assuming every man, woman, and baby pays council tax)? Outraged? I'd be foaming at the mouth if I lived there. Besides which, who is this "ethics committee" to slap down the democractically elected representative for "rudeness"? Who is the unelected "Chie Executive" to start wiretapping a councillor? Where does the IT department get off refusing to meet him, now matter how much of an idiot he may be - he's elected, they're not. Get over it, people. While it seems to confirm a lot of my prejudices about people from the armed services who use their old ranks after they've retired, it also seems to confirm a lot of my prejudices about the dismal state of local government. Go on, captain! Alex We have a feeling this one could run and run, so we'll put a time limit on it. Anyone with tales of woe to share (from either perspective) must put finger to keyboard by the end of this week. Unburden yourselves. It'll feel better. But for today, that's all the time we have. Back on Friday. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jun 2006
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COMPUTERLINKS is even more remote

The company formerly known as Unipalm has added remote access and monitoring products from Avocent Cyclades to its distie line-up.
Drew Cullen, 13 Jun 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

PCs to developing world 'fuel malware'

Programs to send PCs to third world countries might inadvertently fuel the development of malware for hire scams, an anti-virus guru warns. Eugene Kaspersky, head of anti-virus research at Kaspersky Labs, cautions that developing nations have become leading centres for virus development. Sending cheap PCs to countries with active virus writing cliques might therefore have unintended negative consequences, he suggests. "A particular cause for concern is programs which advocate 'cheap computers for poor third world countries'," Kaspersky writes. "These further encourage criminal activity on the internet. Statistics on the number of malicious programs originating from specific countries confirm this: the world leader in virus writing is China, followed by Latin America, with Russia and Eastern European countries not far behind." But what about all the positive uses in education, for example, possible through the use of second-hand PCs in developing nations? We reckon these more than outweigh the possible misuse of some computers at the fringes of such programs. We wanted to quiz Kaspersky more closely on his comments but he wasn't available to speak to us at the time of going to press. A spokesman for Kaspersky Labs agreed that PC donation programs have benefits but maintained that in countries with "fewer legitimate openings" for work the possibility of "unintended side effects" can't be overlooked. He said that Eugene Kaspersky's comments should be viewed in the context of a wider discussion of criminal virus writing, contained in an essay on the anti-virus industry here. ®
John Leyden, 13 Jun 2006