14th > June > 2006 Archive

Digging into the future of data mining

CommentComment The first thing to appreciate about data mining is that it should be thought of as R&D. That is, you do a bunch of research, some of which (but by no means all) is then deployable in the business. Moreover, some of it becomes so well established that it becomes a mass market product. For example, market basket analysis (which products have relationships to others) was once regarded as being as esoteric as anything else in data mining but is now so mainstream that it is embedded in all sorts of other environments. This is a trend that will continue, with techniques moving out of data mining R&D and into conventional deployment.
Philip Howard, 14 Jun 2006

Retain or restrain access logs?

CommentComment A recent proposal by the US Department of Justice that would mandate Internet Service Providers to retain certain records represents a dangerous trend of turning private companies into proxies for law enforcement or intelligence agencies against the interests of their clients or customers.
Mark Rasch, 14 Jun 2006

EU has rethink over roaming charges

The European Commission (EC) has watered down plans to force mobile operators in Europe to slash the cost of using a mobile phone abroad. The EC had wanted mobile users to be charged the same price for using their phone while abroad as they pay in their country of residence, according to proposals put forward by Commissioner Viviane Reding earlier this year. Now, it's emerged that this aggressive move, which would have helped cut the cost of using a phone while travelling in the EU, has been dropped because it's too complicated. Instead, a spokesman for Reding, told Reuters that the EC had made "some fine-tuning changes to the regulation at the wholesale level". He explained how the new proposals call for wholesale roaming charges for local/national calls are to be capped at twice the average EU mobile termination rate, while wholesale roaming charges for international calls are to be capped at three times the average EU mobile termination rate. Analysts at Ovum have already been crunching the numbers and according to their figures, it means that wholesale roaming charges for the EU would be capped at around €0.24 a minute, while wholesale roaming charges for international calls will be capped at around €0.36p a minute. "Reding has sensibly moved away from the home pricing principle," said Ovum which described the previous proposals as "too intrusive and also practically unworkable". And it insists that it is still "good news for consumers" who should save money when using their mobile abroad. Last month Europe's telecoms regulators supported EC plans to cut roaming charges but said it should be done by cutting the cost of wholesale charges rather than retail prices. In a statement the European Regulators Group (ERG), which includes UK regulator Ofcom, warned that attempting to regulate retail prices could be counter productive for end users. It went on to say that while it "supports the commission's objectives, it has significant reservations about the regulatory mechanisms proposed by the EC". ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Jun 2006
cloud

Google Earth v.4 comes to Linux

Some excellent news this morning for all you Linux jockeys - you can now join the rest of the planet in enjoying Google Earth, as the search monolith has just released Version 4 beta of the programme in PC, Mac and Linux flavours. Version 4 reportedly offers "greater coverage and higher resolution" and comes in French, German, Italian and Spanish variants. We haven't had a chance to give it a run yet, but this early report reckons "the application works relatively well on the Linux platform". ®
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2006

MySpace to auction off its search

Music and networking site MySpace plans to sell off its search function to Google, Microsoft or Yahoo! Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp paid $580m for MySpace in July 2005. Now all he needs to do is find a way to make some money from it. The site is good at collecting page impressions, but has had less success selling ads. Chief operating officer Peter Chernin said: "We will auction off our search business to Google, Yahoo or MSN." Chernin said the company has only "scratched the surface" of how to monetise MySpace. The site claims 80m members. News Corp may also consider buying an ad serving company. Chernin said the company was looking at various ad serving technologies to help turn page impressions into money. More from the FT here. In only very vaguely connected news, Chernin said NewsCorp was looking to use every part of its media empire to promote the hell out of the long-awaited Simpsons movie due for release 27 July 2007. ®
John Oates, 14 Jun 2006

Non-scents from Nokia

For six months, 25 Industrial Design MA students from London's CSM College of Art and Design have been working to create concepts for a premium but mass market mobile device capable of providing 4G or 5G multimedia services.
Leo Waldock, 14 Jun 2006

Airbus A380 delayed - again

Customers eager to get their hands on the new Airbus A380 may face a further six-month delay in getting their new toy - bringing the total time they've spent twiddling their thumbs to a year. An Airbus statement attributes the case to "to bottlenecks formed in the definition, manufacturing and installation of electrical systems and resulting harnesses". Parent company EADS has accordingly "cut delivery targets to nine from an original target of 20 to 27 in 2007", the BBC reports. Singapore Airlines will, however, take delivery of the first behemoth on schedule* "later this year". The production bottlenecks also mean a delivery shortfall of "five to nine aircraft in 2008 and five in 2009" in the anticipated 20-25 A380s due for release in 2008, and 45 in 2009. EADS admitted that the knock-back may cost it customers, with airlines opting to cancel orders. Alternatively, they may look for compensation, and EADS estimates annual losses of €500m between 2007 and 2010 associated with the revised delivery schedule. The first delay in rolling out the "Superjumbo" - up to six months for some carriers - came back in June Last year, although no specific reasons were given. Airbus currently has 159 firm orders for the A380 from 16 airlines including Emirates, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic. ® *The June 2005 revised schedule, which added three months to the original intended delivery to Singapore Airlines.
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2006
cloud

NI wins 1,000 call centre jobs

An Indian outsourcing company is to create 1,000 jobs in Northern Ireland over the next two years. ICICI OneSource, one of India's largest business process outsourcing (BPO) companies, is to create the jobs at two sites in Northern Ireland. The first is due to be up and running by the end of next month at a site in Belfast and staff are already being recruited. The hunt for a second location is already underway. ICICI OneSource's decision to expand in Europe comes as a number of companies want to outsource their call centre operations but don't want that work migrated to India. The firm's chief exec Ananda Mukerji said: "Our Northern Ireland centres will be our first outsourcing operation based in Europe. We have a strong market presence in the UK and we see significant demand for high-end business processing which our Northern Ireland centres will be ideally placed to fulfil." With its HQ in Mumbai, ICICI OneSource employees more than 8,000 staff and generated revenues of $74m for the year 2004 - 2005. It provides BPO services for firms in the financial services and telecoms industry, among others. ®
Team Register, 14 Jun 2006
fingers pointing at man

eBay poised to stick Skype on site

Online auctioneer eBay is to integrate Skype onto its website - and try and convince the world of the wisdom of its $2.6bn purchase. The idea is to simplify communication between buyers and seller. Sellers will have the option of including a "Skype Me" button on the pages they set so bidders can call them using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP). Traditionally, eBayers have communicated by email, which stops sellers having to repeatedly answer the same questions as they are left on the site. Whether sellers will be as enthusiastic about getting phone calls remains to be seen. This man is probably glad he wasn't stuck answering phone calls for the whole course of the auction. eBay will test the service on some product categories before considering a general roll-out. The pilot will be free, although eBay has in the past said it will be able to charge people for making the calls. More from the FT here. ®
John Oates, 14 Jun 2006

UK homes to be rated for energy efficiency

From June next year, all homes in England and Wales must be given an energy efficiency rating before they can be sold. The government says the move, which is in line with European agreements, will help the UK reduce its carbon emissions. The Energy Performance Certificate will form part of the Home Information Packs, to be introduced next year. Inspectors will evaluate the current and potential energy efficiency of each home, giving a rating from A to G. The report will also list measures the home owner could undertake to improve the rating. Housing Minister Yvette Cooper said that people should be entitled to have information on energy costs before buying a home, drawing a parallel with the energy ratings available for various white goods such as fridges and boilers. "By providing people with sound advice on how to improve energy efficiency this will help sellers and buyers who want to do their bit to cut carbon emissions as well as cutting their fuel bills too," she said. According to The World Wildlife Fund, British homes account from 27 per cent of the country's CO2 emissions. "The introduction of the Energy Performance Certificate represents a very positive step forward," Paul King, WWF's UK campaigns director said in a statement. "It means that for the first time people will be given the kind of user-friendly information they need to reduce both the environmental impact of their homes and their energy bills." You can have a look at a sample report here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2006

G8 warned not to be blinkered by bird flu

Scientists around the world have urged the G8 leaders not to get so caught up in the threat of bird flu that they divert their attention from the real global killers: TB, HIV/AIDS and malaria. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that between them the three kill around six million people every year. An assemblage of the national science academies of every G8 country, including the Royal Society in the UK and the National Academy for the Advancement of Sciences in the US, issued the call ahead of the G8 summit in St Petersburg next month. While recognising the potential danger if bird flu makes the long-posited evolutionary jump to human to human transmission, Royal Society president Martin Rees said: "It is also crucially important for the global community not to forget that, at present, avian influenza is not the most significant disease concern for people globally. "It is other emerging diseases and existing infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and malaria which are causing widespread illness and severe economic harm to developing countries." Tina Harrison, awareness officer for UK tuberculosis charity TB Alert said: "I would totally agree." A WHO-backed plan to eradicate TB, which kills between two and three million annually, is $31bn short of the $56bn campaigners say it needs to succeed. The scientists' statement calls for better funding of such efforts. Rather than competing for cash, the threat from bird flu should serve as a driver to combat existing epidemics, they say. The promised killer pandemic of a mutated H5N1 has so far failed to appear, despite having been discussed since soon after the strain was first detected in Guandong in 1996. Governments, NGOs and commercial groups have produced reams of reports about preparedness and strategies in case of an outbreak. Barring isolated cases where people have been in extreme proximity with livestock, however, the virus has had little impact in human populations; there have been 225 recorded cases, 128 of which have been fatal. The disease in poultry is yet to cross the Channel to British animals. Researchers have been busy uncovering just why the disease struggles to gain a foothold in people. In their G8 recommendations, the scientists argue for better cooperation on epidemic disease generally. Developing nations often have little facility to combat or monitor outbreaks, they say. Both SARS and H5N1 are thought to have originated in impoverished rural China, while HIV is thought to be derived from the simian form of the virus found in African monkeys. In a sister statement, the bodies called for the G8 to return to the climate change agenda that hit headlines last year at Gleneagles. Russia plans to make energy security a key issue of its presidency. Rees said: "Dealing with energy security should not merely be seen as an opportunity, for example, to open up new markets for fossil fuels." ®
Christopher Williams, 14 Jun 2006

eBay racks up 200m users

Online tat bazaar eBay has racked up 200m registered users, Reuters reports. Chief exec Meg Whitman announced the milestone figure - which excludes those enjoying other eBay "properties" such as Rent.com and Shopping.com - at the company's annual user shindig in Las Vegas on Saturday. To underline the scale of the achievement, Whitman proclaimed that only "China, India, the United States and Indonesia are larger in terms of population" - which leads us to believe that the auction monolith may be considering demanding a seat at the United Nations and the right to enrich uranium "for domestic purposes". eBay's biggest markets are the United States, Germany, Britain and South Korea, Reuters notes. ®
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2006

UK paper buys smallpox online

UK newspaper the Guardian has bought a sequence of smallpox virus DNA. The sequence was 78 letters long while the full smallpox genome is 185,000 letters long. The paper claimed: "So to build a virus from scratch, a terrorist would simply order consecutive lengths of DNA along the sequence and glue them together in the correct order." But the paper did concede: "This is beyond the skills and equipment of the kitchen chemist, but could be achieved by a well-funded terrorist with access to a basic lab and PhD-level personnel." A scientist told The Register that the would-be terrorist would need more than a kitchen lab - he'd probably have to take over the front room and the garage as well. The sequence was supplied by Gateshead company VH Bio Ltd. VH Bio Ltd chairman Alan Volkers told The Reg: "My information is that the chances of producing the smallpox virus from this are infinitesimal. It has been done for smaller organisms and is possible in theory but in practise it will probably not be possible for the next 50 years." He said the company would be happy with any regulations that it could follow and stay in business, but it cannot use current screening software for every order. The sequence had three modifications, at the paper's request, to make it harmless. This was done so the paper would not be in breach of the 2001 Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act. Read the whole story here. ®
John Oates, 14 Jun 2006
channel

CA snaffles records manager

CA has bought itself yet another storage bowstring, in the form of records management firm MDY Group. MDY's FileSurf software automates record-keeping for email and other bottomless file dumps produced by businesses. CA says the snaffle represents a continuation of its "Intelligent Storage Management" strategy. Last year the firm bought email and instant messenger archiving specialist iLumin. CA anticipates that these acquisitions will make it well placed to take advantage of increasing regulation of enterprise data. Storage management SVP Bob Davis said: "With this acquisition, CA is providing customers with an even more compelling and complete solution for mitigating risk and streamlining information assets." All 70 of MDY's New Jersey-headquartered employees will make the move. MDY founder Galina Datskovsky, who gets a plum job as a SVP for CA's flagship BrightStor line as part of the deal, said: "We're excited about...applying our technology in an integrated manner with customers' broader enterprise IT management strategies." CA has not disclosed the terms of the deal. ®
Christopher Williams, 14 Jun 2006

Hawking: Leave Earth or die!

Stephen Hawking has called for a new diaspora, telling a Hong Kong press conference that humanity must leave Earth and colonise the rest of the solar system if it is to avoid extinction. The respected physicist warned of the increasing risk that some kind of natural or man made disaster - such as global warming, or a nuclear war - could destroy the Earth: "It is important for the human race to spread out into space for the survival of the species," he said. He believes we could have a colony on the moon within 20 years, and an established base on Mars within 40, according to reports, but says that unless we travel to another star system, we "won't find anywhere as nice as Earth". Various other space scientists and science writers have offered their views. Alan Guth, professor of physics at MIT told The Seattle Times that in the short term he'd rather build an underground base in Antarctica, but said space would be the "ultimate life boat" in 100 years or so. Meanwhile, Kim Stanley Robinson, author of a series of books about a future settlement on Mars, told New York Daily News: "You want to treat this planet like the only one we have because Mars is poisonous." Hawking has made similar predictions before. In 2001, when he was promoting his book The Universe in a Nutshell, he warned that a manmade doomsday virus was likely to destroy mankind before the end of the millennium. This time round, he's drumming up interest for a children's book he is planning to co-author with his daughter. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2006

US Marines investigate singing squaddie

The US army is investigating whether a video which purports to show a serving Marine singing and playing the guitar on YouTube is genuine. The clip appears to show a chubby US soldier playing acoustic guitar and singing into a microphone in front of an audience. The man's voice might upset Simon Cowell, but it is hardly the most offensive video the Marines have made in Iraq. Last year, US police investigated website www.that'sf**kedup.com where serving soldiers were trading stills and videos of dead and injured Iraqis and Afghans - along with porn clips. Called "Hadji Girl" the lyrics are more or less what you'd expect. It's not the most culturally-aware composition you've ever heard but presumably the squaddie wasn't recruited for his singing ability. A spokesman for the Marines told AP the video was: "inappropriate and contrary to the high standards expected of all Marines." He did not confirm whether the man was a serving soldier but said it was being investigated. The Marines are being investigated for some real crimes in Iraq, like the alleged massacre in Haditha, rather than just crimes against musical good taste. If you're searching for music/marine/iraq clips we found this much more fun clip Or Hadji Girl is here at the time of writing.
John Oates, 14 Jun 2006

Virgin Mobile stuffs England fans with free kebabs

Those fans who are currently camped out at England's footie enclave in Achern and are worried about the effect on their of health of excessive consumption of post-beer bratwurst will be relieved to know that Virgin Mobile is offering customers some proper healthy British nosh in the form of a free kebab. The company has apparently set up a "kebab emporium" in said field of dreams and all users have to do is text "kebab" to 26666 to "receive a mobile voucher entitling them to a free meal upon redemption of the voucher". Virgin Mobile sponsorhip big cheese, Steve Rogan, said: "We want England fans to be match fit and ready to give our boys all the support they can muster. The post match kebab has become a ritual in towns up and down the country so offering fans a taste of home while they are on foreign soil might help." Of course, although Virgin is sparing Ingerlaaaaand supporters the ordeal of stuffing their faces with dodgy Teutonic pork-based products, there is a business rationale behind the kebab bonanza. Ramesh Kumar of ActiveMedia Technology - the outfit behind the "mobile voucher and redemption software" - explained: "Virgin Mobile recognises that mobile incentives are a fun and cost effective way of rewarding loyal customers and a great way to raise brand profile among a targeted demographic. "The kebab emporium has become a regular fixture at high profile events over the last three years helping Virgin underpin its reputation as a youth lifestyle brand. We are hoping it will prove a good talisman for England in Germany!" Yup, we're sure Wayne Rooney would agree with the concept of kebab as talisman. The mobile kebab emporium will remain in Germany as long as England remain in the tournament. See you back in Blighty on 21 June then chaps. ®
Lester Haines, 14 Jun 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

MS June update fixes dangerous Word flaw

Microsoft has released a bumper batches of 12 security updates - eight of them critical - as part of its regular Patch Tuesday update cycle. The security patches address various critical vulnerabilities involving Microsoft Windows, Internet Explorer, Media Player, Word, and PowerPoint that create a means for hackers to compromise vulnerable systems, run malicious code, or crash Windows PCs. Put simply, all Windows users, unless they're running Windows 95 in an underground Siberian bunker without access to the net, are going to need to update their systems. Among these patches is a much anticipated fix for the zero-day vulnerability in Microsoft Word, which became the target of hacking attacks last month. There's also a cumulative security update for Internet Explorer, designed to fix four critical vulnerabilities affecting IE 5.0 and 6.0 on Windows 2000 and Windows XP/Windows Server 2003. More info can be found in Microsoft's summary here or an overview by US CERT here. ®
John Leyden, 14 Jun 2006

NPfIT letter raises more reader hackles

Letter of the WeekLetter of the Week Every now and then we get a letter of such quality that we can't wait 'till the next batch of correspondence to run it. This is such an occasion. Allow us to remind you of the story last week detailing the latest financial difficulties to beset the NHS's National Programme for IT. Shortly after this story ran, the NPfIT itself wrote to us explaining just how wrong we were. As well as a whole sackful of responses (published on Tuesday this week here) we have received the following. Dave, you have the floor: Ohh, look, a spokesperson... hey, I know, let's play 'shoot the messenger'! " It has been reported that the NHS has been "fined". The NHS has not been "fined". It has to pay for not meeting its contractual obligations. " Hey! Spokesweasel! What you're saying is that the NHS is in breach of contract, and so the other party to the contract has invoked a penalty clause, resulting in the NHS having to pay a financial penalty, yes? And what's the dictionary definition of the verb "to fine"? Well, dictionary.com quotes: "A forfeiture or penalty to be paid to the offended party in a civil action." The breach of contract is a civil case, yes? And the money you paid was a penalty, yes? And the people you paid it to were the offended party, yes? Then it's a fine, dummy! BANG! Now, what else can we shoot you for.. oh yes.. " Theo (sic.) central costs of the IT programme, covering the core contracts, are £6.2bn. These costs have not risen. However, we have long been clear that the cost of implementation will also include local NHS IT spend on software, hardware and training. These costs will be met by trusts' existing spend on IT - around £1bn a year - so to claim costs have spiralled to £20bn is misleading as it includes the £6.2bn central costs plus additional existing local spend on IT over the 10 year implementation of the programme." Hey! Spokesthing! The way I add it, ten plus six makes sixteen. Where'd the other four billion quid go? You may not call that spiralling, but I know how I'd feel if something I was buying suddenly got a whole 25% more expensive while I was in the middle of purchasing it... BANG!< Oh, plus of course: the Reg didn't actually use the word "spiralling". You made that up to make their claims seem overexaggerated so that your false denials would seem more plausible, didn't you? BANG!< Yes, you did! In fact, you said that it was "completely incorrect" to describe the project as over budget, but then you admit to a four billion pound deficit and deny only that it's "spiralling". That means it's NOT AT ALL incorrect to describe it as overbudget, by your own admission. BANG!< Aww. It's still writhing. Maybe we should stomp on its head. Then again, maybe we should just leave it there to bleed slowly to death. Strewth, who ever decided the NHS needed spin doctors more than medical ones really needs to have their head examined. That's assuming there's still any NHS psychiatric care services *left*, of course.... cheers, DaveK
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2006
Akasa_combo_sm

Akasa Combo multi-format memory card reader

ReviewReview Memory card readers come in all shapes and sizes, and it can be a challenge finding the one you need. Multi-format models tend to be the easy answer, but even then you can't be sure it supports all the memory cards you have. Fortunately, Akasa has come to the rescue with the Combo card reader, that not only supports most memory card formats, it does so without needing any additional adapters.
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 14 Jun 2006

ISS to brighten Europe's night skies

A diary marker for all you stargazers out there. This weekend (given clear skies, of course) most of Europe ought to be able to get a clear view of the International Space Station as it passes overhead. The ISS is generally only visible just after sunset or just before dawn. Twice a year, however, it moves out of the Earth's shadow and can be seen with the naked eye as it passes overhead. It will be visible up to four times in a night. The ISS orbits the planet at 7.7km every second, but since it is a mere 400km up, and has so many solar panels, it is bright enough that it is easily visible to the naked eye - as long as you know where to look. Photo-enthusiasts can even try to snap a picture of it as it whizzes past, although a picture taken on Monday by a team in Germany will take some beating. The rather impressively detailed picture above was captured at the Munich Public Observatory. The European Space Agency has charts showing the best viewing times for the next week or so at various locations across Europe, so make a note, do an anti-rain dance and turn your peepers skywards. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2006
fingers pointing at man

Brit workers love to snoop

Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of UK employees admit to having illegally accessed sensitive data such as salary details from their firms employer's IT systems. More than half (54 per cent) of 2,200 adults polled during a YouGov survey said they'd forgo any scruples to do the same, given half a chance, according to a Microsoft sponsored survey that points to a culture of internal snooping and casual identity theft in offices across Britain. Survey respondents said that HR and payroll information was the most popular target (36 per cent), followed by their manager's personal notes (28 per cent) and their colleagues' data (25 per cent). Given the chance, six per cent said they would pinch a colleague's password. Blokes expressed a greater willingness than their female counterparts to risk dismissal by stealing confidential data. More than a quarter (27 per cent) of blokes said they'd swiped confidential information compared to 16 per cent of women. Workers in London and Scotland (25 per cent) were the most likely to offend, with the most honest workers living in the Midlands (18 per cent). A third (33 per cent) of respondents said they'd be prepared to access confidential files from previous employers if they still had access. Microsoft, which sponsored the research, said the YouGov survey illustrated the importance of controlling users accounts on IT systems while ensuring that there is a process in place to disable accounts once workers move onto other jobs. ®
John Leyden, 14 Jun 2006

Baseball puts dugout phones on steroids

With steroids and human growth hormone scandals surrounding it, Major League Baseball (MLB) has gone into a desperation mode where it tries to find dignity in the strangest of places. On Tuesday, for example, MLB and Hall of Fame officials were on hand in Chicago to celebrate - get this - the use of a cellphone. For the first time ever, a Chicago Cubs coach used a mobile to call from the dugout to the bullpen to get a relief pitcher stirring. The use of a cell phone replaces a decades long tradition of lifting up a bulky landline receiver to make the bullpen call. Chicago-based Motorola celebrated it position as provider of the push-to-talk technology used by the big leaguers. "At Motorola, we strive to bring technology breakthroughs to the world and especially to those organizations in our own backyard,” said Peter Aloumanis, a general manager at Motorola. “We are pleased to provide the Chicago Cubs with this innovative solution that allows managers and coaches to have the freedom to make a call to, or from, the bullpen without being tethered to a wall.” Of course, baseball coaches have always seemed rather fond of being tethered to a wall. They rarely move throughout the course of a three-hour game other than to hack out some chaw or to touch their push-to-swell device. A Cubs vice president was even more breathless about the cell phone advance during his team's game yesterday against the Houston Astros. Wrigley Field stands as the second oldest baseball stadium in the US, and the VP believed the cell phone arrival to be yet another history making event at the Friendly Confines. He gushed and gushed and gushed some more throughout the third inning of the televised broadcast about the momentous day at hand. Sadly, it was during the VP's time in the broadcast booth that the Cubs had to use the "cell phone" for the first time. They were getting pounded by the Astros early on, and had to bring in some help. You'll all be happy to know that the cutting-edge, wonder phone worked - rather like it does for millions of people every day. MLB expects more teams to pick up the push-to-talk wireless system. The two handsets will only work with each other on a private channel. We can't wait until someone figures out how to hack into the system. It should make for much more exciting games around the country. Why even bother with wireless, you ask? Well, it's a branding opportunity. Have a look out for the gaudy Motorola handset holders in a dugout near you. While the use of a cell phone seems pretty basic to us, you'll find most of the press fawning over the telecommunications achievement. Enjoy. ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Jun 2006

Italians put Pammy into orbit

Tomorrow will see the launch of Pamela, a satellite designed to seek out evidence of dark matter and anti-matter in cosmic rays. Pamela (Payload for Anti-matter Matter Exploration and Light-nuclei Astrophysics) is a joint project between the Italian and Russian space agencies, with contributions from their equivalents in Germany and Sweden. The satellite, described as a "parallelepipedon 1.3 metres tall", will spend three years in a quasi-polar elliptic orbit between 300 and 600 kilometres from the ground. The Italian Space Agency (ASI) says the satellite will measure flux, energy, and characteristics of galactic, interplanetary, and solar cosmic rays at a new level of precision. The main instrument, which weighs in at nearly 500kg, is essentially a large magnet with a variety of detectors attached, capable of identifying the particles in the cosmic rays, their trajectories and their energies, all of which help to understand their origins. Piegiorgio Picozza, director of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN) section of Tor Vergata, described the satellite as "the most advanced instrument for this field of astrophysics". Matter than we can see accounts for just five per cent of the universe. The remaining 95 per cent is theorised to be composed of around 25 per cent dark matter and 70 per cent dark energy. Anti-matter, meanwhile, exists only in tiny quantities, although matter and anti-matter are thought to have existed in roughly equal quantities at the time of the Big Bang. Since the two types of matter anihilate each other on contact, this poses a problem: why is there so much more normal matter hanging around in the form of planets and stars? What is the difference between the two kinds of matter? Researchers at ASI and the Russian Space Agency hope that Pamela will shed some light on these mysteries. The launch is slated for 11:00am local time on 15 June from the cosmodrome of Baikonur, in Kazakhstan. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Jun 2006
channel

HP aims to stick IBM with new blades

The surgeons within HP have performed an impressive gutting and reconstruction of the company's blade server line. HP today revealed a new chassis and new blade servers that make up its c-Class systems. HP has been working on the fresh hardware for three years, and the arrival of the c-Class gear marks the most significant blade server redesign from a Tier 1 server vendor to date. A number of new management, cooling and networking features have been bundled into the c7000 chassis, which address many of the problems customers have faced with the compact blade servers. HP hopes the latest line of systems can finally help it wrest the blade server market share lead from IBM. You can see a shot of the c7000 chassis here. Note that even the pulled out blades remain powered on. Magic! The 10U high chassis can hold up to 16 of HP's half-height multicore, dual-processor blade servers or eight full-height systems. The box also has eight interconnect bays, up to 10 fans, up to six power supplies and two administrator systems. On the networking front, customers can pick from Ethernet, Fibre Channel and Infiniband. The new chassis is much larger than HP's existing p-Class enclosure, which starts out at 6U and stretches to 7U and 9U with power enclosures. The c7000, however, has more networking options, more than double the memory support, redundant administration consoles and a centralized cooling system. HP is particularly proud of the "Active Cool Fans" that cut energy consumption by up to 50 per cent and make less noise than standard fans. Initially, customers will only be able to pick from Xeon-based blades. You can grab the half-height BL460c or the full-height BL480c. Both boxes hold two processors. HP has been painfully thin on additional information about the blades, as you can see here. HP will be more upfront about the Xeon systems next week when Intel officially releases "Woodcrest." You can then expect HP to expound on Opteron blades with AMD's Rev F delivery and on Montecito blades in July. HP won't be shipping four-socket boxes right away, but does plan to launch such systems along with kit based on lower voltage chips from Intel and AMD. For those customers who have already invested in HP's proprietary p-Class line, the company has tossed you a bone. It will keep selling the current gear through 2007 and support the systems through 2012. During a rather embarrassing scripted presentation, HP executives walked reporters here at the company's headquarters through some of the other advances with the new blades. The latest and greatest tools include the Virtual Connect architecture for virtualizing I/O on-the-fly, Thermal Logic Technologies for power management and the Insight Control Data Center Edition 1.0 software package for managing a mix of Windows and Linux blades. By this Fall, HP plans to ship Insight Control Linux Edition, which will contain the Control Tower software it acquired form blade server pioneer RLX. It's the Virtual Connect architecture that's being pitched as the special sauce behind the new blades. HP describes Virtual Connect as "a five terabit mid-place with eight high-performance interconnect bays in the back to enable customers to manage and connect to the existing standards and familiar brands in their data center such as Cisco, Brocade or Nortel. All third-party and HP interconnect options are hot-pluggable and can be deployed in pairs for full-redundancy." Quite the mouthful. On a broader level, Virtual Connect creates the fabled "abstract layer" between servers, storage systems and networking units. HP tells us that this will make it possible to create "a pool of up to 64 servers, allowing administrators to define a server's I/O connections to independently manage blade servers and their connectivity. Connections and configurations between server blades and the LAN and SAN can then be deployed at the click of a button, and migrated to another server bay instantly - all without disturbing the LAN or the SAN settings or administrators." A friend of ours described the technology more succinctly, "In a nutshell, what Virtual Connect represents is that up to four enclosures can look like one LAN and one SAN connection to the upstream switches. Typically, the holdup in deployments is that the LAN and SAN administrators can take weeks to provision IP addresses, DNS and Worldwide SAN names for servers. Virtual Connect allows the server guys to PRE-provision all this stuff before the blade even hits the enclosure." Unlike in the past, you can also pack a c-Class chassis full of StorageWorks blades and create an entire storage box. HP and others continue to pitch blade servers, which share networking, power and storage, as real winners over traditional rack-mount servers. Sadly, none of the Tier 1s has focused much on the original space-saving aspect of blade servers. There are density gains to be had, but HP and IBM seem content to give up on the notion of packing a rack full of hundreds of low-power systems. With the ISP data center build out underway again – as evidenced by the hundreds of millions being spent by the likes of Google, Microsoft and Yahoo! – there seems to be room for a focused player to go back to the blade basics. So far, Rackable Systems has answered this call with generic rack-mount boxes, but we suspect something like Sun's upcoming Niagara-based "Montoya" blades could provide a more elegant option. Without question, HP has put pressure on IBM with the latest blade server release, although IBM has done a grand job of reflecting HP's past blade work. "You will undoubtedly hear lots of noise from our competitors because we have got them scared," said HP EVP Ann Livermore, at the blade event, barely audible over HP's blades. She insisted that Dell lacks enterprise "experience," that Sun "can't do any of this," and that HP has "leapfrogged IBM on every single dimension with this announcement." The HP sales team is quite excited about the arrival of the c-Class gear and understandably so. HP has crafted a chassis that's meant to last customers about five years. The company then backs up this box with a flood of homemade management software that only IBM can really rival. Without being too glowing, we suspect that HP really has set the standard for other Tier 1s to follow at this point. You'll find more on the HP blades here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Jun 2006

JBoss drops JMX architecture

JBoss World is a pretty calm place - even Marc Fleury is pretty laid back (I suppose he has cause to be). But there was a flurry of interest when a speaker announced that the next smoother, faster JBoss architecture would do without JMX (Java Management Extensions, which JBoss currently uses, not for management particularly, but to start services etc). As I heard it, some panic ensured, because JBoss' customers may well be using JMX with JBoss.
David Norfolk, 14 Jun 2006