Sun Microsystems will focus its $2bn R&D spending on "non-traditional" areas to "intercept demand" in complex business and consumer IT environments. Addressing a VC and start-up crowd in San Francisco, California, freshly-promoted chief executive Jonathan Schwartz listed development of energy- and space-efficient servers that help reduce customers' data center costs along with improved security and provisioning because "the internet today is too complex." Schwartz ruled out investment in consumer devices and services, unlike infrastructure rival Microsoft, as this would take Sun into competition with telcoms and service provider customers. "We have to make sure the infrastructure is agnostic to the device," Schwartz told the Supernova 2006 conference in San Francisco, California. With an eye to Wall St, Schwartz made it clear he is thinking about Sun's share price. There has been growing discontent, peppered with disbelief, among investors at Sun's inability to turn a profit or derive revenue and market growth from strategies Schwartz has engineered - including flat, subscription pricing for Sun's software. "My job is to make sure we deliver long-term value to share holders," Sun's CEO said. "Four to five years ago Sun was told to cancel Solaris because operating systems are commodities. Now we see some of the competition roll out next-generation servers and they are forced to run Solaris. I've got to make sure the bets pay off and not make arbitrary decisions." As such, Schwartz indicated spending precious R&D on commoditized or expensive hardware is on the way out for Sun - in at least some areas (NAS and storage apparently excepted.) The company has, of course, come in for heaps of criticism for channeling dollars into its proprietary Unix hardware, and software, architecture with UltraSPARC and Solaris while the world has moved to "commodity" Intel and AMD hardware running Linux and Windows. While Schwartz defended Sun's decision to continue spending on Solaris he, again, chose, to highlight new products like Thumper - the four-way, Opteron system combining storage, identity management and the Solaris 10 ZFS file system - as he did at Gartner's Symposium IT/expo last month. Only this time, the key selling point for Schwartz is the fact Thumper features software- rather than hardware-based RAID. "The era of custom hardware is on the way out. That sounds funny for a custom hardware company to say, but you can do away with RAID controllers because you can do RAID in software," Schwartz said. The end to custom hardware, obviously, means the end of custom hardware engineering and the need for engineers to build such products. Schwartz, though, did not reference reports earlier this week of further layoffs in this area for Sun.®
Oracle has claimed its database and middleware operations stole business from competitor IBM during a fiscal fourth-quarter that met increased expectations. Chief executive Larry Ellison spent Thursday crowing about 18 per cent growth in Oracle's database and middleware business during the last three months of fiscal 2006 along with a nine per cent increase for the full year. "We are growing faster than the overall database market because we are winning share from competitors," Ellison said in a statement as Oracle announced the results. In previous quarters Oracle has seen its largest database growth on Linux. Applications, a problem area in previous quarters, saw new license sales grow 53 per cent organically and 83 per cent with acquisitions included. Oracle bought 18 software companies during the period for fiscal 2005 and 2006. Total income surged 27 per cent to $1.3bn for the three months to May 31, as revenue hit $4.8bn, a gain of 25 per cent, and earnings per diluted share increased five cents to $0.25. Oracle foreshadowed the numbers by upping its expected earnings last week. For the year, Oracle reported a 17 per cent jump in total income to $3.3bn on revene of $14.3bn, an increase of 22 per cent. EPS hit $0.64, an increase of nine cents. Not that Oracle wasn't paying for last year's acquisition-rich diet. Operating expenses increased 24 per cent to $9.6bn for the year while Oracle experienced a 21 per cent growth in expenses for the fourth quarter to $2.9bn.®
Production of counterfeit digital goods is increasingly carried out within the UK, according to Intellectual Property Crime Group, a unit of The Patent Office. In a report just published, the group said it had confiscated 20 per cent more DVD-R burners than in previous years, and that disc production was becoming domesticated in a way never previously seen. "During 2005 there was a 20 per cent increase of DVD-R burners seized, confirming the shift to UK produced items from imported pressed master discs," the National Intellectual Property Enforcement Report said. "What was happening was that up to 18 months ago pressed discs from semi-legitimate factories were coming in from places like Malaysia," said Eddy Leviten, head of communications at the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT), the film and broadcast anti-piracy group. It was FACT's submission to the document which reported the rise in burner seizures. "There was a very good campaign by the Motion Picture Association and HM Revenue and Customs and some foreign governments to clamp down on those factories, which meant that criminals had to start to burn their own." The number of seizures involving any burner in 2005 was 204, but Leviten said that the seemingly low figure does not take account of the volumes involved. "We have done seizures where there are 50 burners, which means 500 burning trays. Already this year we have had two raids with 500 trays each and one with 200 each," he said. In its report of 2005 activity, the IP Crime Group claimed to have received 500,000 intelligence reports in a nine month period relating to intellectual property crime. The Patent Office has established a national IP crime database, called TELLPAT, which it says is recognised by the police, intelligence officers and trading standards officials. Patent Office chairman Lord Sainsbury said the activities funded organised crime. "We suspect that all international crime organisations are now involved in counterfeiting," he said. The report identified the internet as a major avenue of trade for fake goods, pinpointing auction sites as particularly useful for counterfeiters. It also said that counterfeit medicines are a growing market, with the incidence of their seizure rising by 45 per cent in 2005. See: The report (20 page/732KB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The world's biggest technology companies have kick-started a campaign for a US-wide privacy law. However, privacy advocates fear the proposal is too weak when compared to some of the state laws it would overrule. Google, Microsoft, Intel, eBay, HP, Oracle and Sun are among the signatories to a statement calling for personal information to be protected across the US. Non-profit lobby group the Centre for Democracy and Technology organised the companies into the Consumer Privacy Legislative Forum. "The time has come for a serious process to consider comprehensive harmonised federal privacy legislation to create a simplified, uniform but flexible legal framework," the CPL Forum's statement said. "The legislation should provide protection for consumers from inappropriate collection and misuse of their personal information and also enable legitimate businesses to use information to promote economic and social value." Privacy laws are currently operated on a state-by-state basis in the US and some, such as California's, offer considerable protection. Central to the CPL Forum's proposal is that any law automatically overrules state laws on privacy. Some privacy activists were reported as having concerns that the stricter state laws could be diluted by a bill that is likely to be weaker in order to gain national approval. "In principle, such legislation would address businesses collecting personal information from consumers in a transparent manner," the statement said. "Because a national standard would pre-empt state laws, a robust framework is warranted." Breaches of digital privacy are becoming increasingly common as more and more business and government processes are carried out on computers. Laptop loss has exposed data on customers and employees from a wide range of companies, including Sun, IBM, Cisco, BP, Nokia and several US government departments. The disclosure of some of these losses has in some cases only come about because of California's existing privacy law. The forum first met last winter when it comprised the CDT, eBay, HP and Microsoft as well as an Ohio University academic. See: OUT-LAW's legal info about data protection Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
SEK2006SEK2006 The foreign press at SEK2006 were treated to a speech and Q&A session from Korean Minister of Information and Communication Jun Hyong Roh. First, his deputy Woo Sik Kim outlined the country's IT839 plan. This covers eight services, three infrastructures and nine products which will help make Korea the digital hub of north-east Asia. The services the government is encouraging are: wireless broadband (WiBro), digital multimedia broadcasting(DMB), home networks, telematics, RFID, W-CDMA, terrestrial digital TV and VoIP. The three network infrastructures are a converged broadband network, a universal sensor network for RFID chips, and IPv6 network. The nine products are next generation mobiles, digital TVs, home networks, IT systems on chips, next generation PCs, embedded software, digital contents, software solutions, telematics, and intelligent service robots. They're serious about the robots - they are already in use in post offices and domestic robots will be available soon. By 2015: "The robot will have self-awareness and mutually interact with humans." This strategy aims to increase Korea's per capita GDP to $20,000 this year, and make Korea north-east Asia's digital leader. In the Q&A session, Minister Roh was asked what he thought the commercial prospects for WiBro are. He said predictions of 10m users within seven years in Korea may be too conservative - because mobile use was so much more popular than internet use, these targets may well be exceeded. Asked about privacy, Roh said it was an important consideration and that RFID and the universal sensor network will mean more information is collected and that measures would need to be taken to protect that information. He attributed Korea's success to two factors that he said would continue to be important in the future. "An information society is a people first society and investment in human resources is important." Korea has the world's highest university rates in the world - 80 per cent of high school leavers continue into further education. The minister predicted that making traditional services mobile would also be a key developmental step. More on IT839 here. ®
UK doctors are advising mobile-addicted Brit youth to lay off the chat during thunderstorms - or risk the consequences. According to the BBC, the British Medical Journal cites the case of a 15-year-old girl who was struck by lightning in a London park while talking on her phone. She suffered a burst eardrum and cardiac arrest and, a year later, "has severe physical difficulties as well as brain damage which has led to emotional and cognitive problems". What the kids of today don't understand, apparently, is that when you're struck by lightning, your skin's high resistance will cause most of the charge to pass over the body in a process called "external flashover". If, however, you have metal objects or liquids in contact with the skin, these can provoke the charge to enter and pass through your body where it can wreak havoc with your internals. The Northwick Park Hospital doctors who treated the unfortunate London victim discovered three fatal cases of mobile phone chat lightning strike - in China, Korea and Malaysia. Swinda Esprit, of the ear, nose and throat department said: "It is obvious really, but we all carry mobile phones and we don't think about it. Children particularly won't realise the risk." It's not, however, simply a matter of not making calls during tempests. The mere presence of your phone about your person increases the risk of lightning-induced internal injury, as Met Office boffin Paul Taylor noted: "It is well known within the thunderstorm detection community that wearing or carrying metallic objects can increase the likelihood of injury. "It certainly adds to the intensity of the skin damage and the article certainly amplifies that here. I would treat a mobile phone as yet another piece of metal that people tend to carry on their persons like coins and rings." ®
Cyworld is a South Korean phenomenon - it's a social networking site which is ridiculously popular over here and will soon be launching in Germany. The site launched in 1999 but only really became popular after it was bought by SK Communications in 2003 - a division of SK Telecom. The firm has 200 staff. Users of Cyworld set up their own homepages - called minihompy - and link them to friends' sites a bit like MySpace. But the finances of the site are incredible. Apart from the 22bn monthly page impressions, the site also sells digital items so users can decorate their pages. The basic page is free, but decorating it costs cash. A background, or skin, for instance, costs about a dollar a week. Background music for your page will cost about 30 pence. The site brings in about 200m Won a day or about £115,000. Sales of digital items account for 78 per cent of revenue, while 10 per cent comes from mobile services - you can check and update your site from your phone, and adverts make up the remaining 12 per cent. The reach of the site is enough to give your average marketeer a heart attack - 92 per cent of Korean 20-somethings have a minihompy. The site operates in China, Japan and Taiwan and is opening in Germany and the US this year. It has a million users in China since launching in April. The company is looking for a partner in Germany because it accepts that cultural differences are important - initial trials have shown German women did not react well to the more "cutesy" aspects of the site. The company is looking for a German firm with a similar open and liberal corporate culture. We were told an agreement has almost been finalised. Cyworld has had offers from other telcos, including France Telecom, because of the huge data traffic it creates. The site, and related instant messaging service NateOne, uses a data centre housing 3,000 servers. The network manager told us they knew what was going on in the real world by looking at the traffic. World Cup matches involving Korea sees traffic disappear - until half time when there is a huge peak. Cy means relationship in Korean and that's the most important part of the site - once a certain number of relationships are formed, users stay loyal. ®
If your digital identity is going to mean anything, it has to be secured, and Shelagh Callahan of Intel's Systems Technology Lab thinks that has to start on your PC. She compares the state of identity today to early car designs, each with a different way of starting the engine; today every car has a key and you just have to find the ignition. "With identity, not only do we not know where to put the ignition key, we don't even know there is a key. We want to make the platform understand what a key is and how you can use it. The intent is to make platforms as capable to understand identities in the future, as they are currently able to understand devices - to know what they are, how to 'load' them, how to find and associate resources, how to delete them, how to establish policy for them and so on." Too many passwords, over-used identifiers that quickly lose any security they had (how hard is it to find your mother's maiden name?), poor privacy; the way we work with identity on our PCs is full of problems and it isn't flexile enough to actually do what we want it to. "I must know exactly who you are and how to find you but you must be able to be anonymous and I must be able to prove I'm not snooping. How can you be both strongly authenticated and anonymous?" Single sign-on doesn't solve things, Callahan says. "With most solutions I have to give up control to get sanity." And you'll never get one single sign-on. "Intel won't federate with Amazon or with my local utility company." The only things all the services and suppliers have in common are you - and the devices you use. The idea of the identity-capable platform is to authenticate to the platform itself on your device, rather than to a remote service. That avoids interception problems; you aren't broadcasting your biometrics or your smartcard authentication. You can prove who you are without handing over the credentials you use to prove it. Callahan talks about a secure partition on your PC using the Trusted Platform Module chip. You authenticate yourself to the partition using a fingerprint reader, swipe card, mobile phone SIM or other secure methods and the partition provides your identity to remote sites and services, via web services being developed by the Liberty Alliance. There's no need for a site to deploy a Liberty Federation infrastructure to use ICP identities. As well as authenticating you to services that need to know who you are, the identity platform can authorise you for services that need to know what you're allowed to do but not who you are. It can also introduce one person, service or device to another, again via web services. If you travel, getting one bill for data connections from your mobile operator is simpler and often cheaper than paying for every hotspot individually - Callahan's team has worked on a prototype system where your mobile phone SIM gives you access to hotspots on your laptop. So if you want to set up a Wi-Fi account using the same identity as your mobile phone, the identity provisioning system can create a new identity that corresponds to the existing identity, using the TPM to lock the credentials to the platform for security. There will also be tools for linking identities (you might want to link a credit card identity to a membership identity so it gets renewed automatically), deleting identities and transporting them to other devices you use. Services trust the platform because they trust that it's accurate and secure; the platform can assert how trustworthy it is by disclosing which secure method you've chosen to use. For users to trust it they have to be in control of where it identifies them, so there are policies for controlling who can use the authenticated identity claims you provide and what they can use them for. "To the service providers the platform can act as a full partner in the infrastructure's identity strategy. And for the end user, their platform can safely store their personal information and they can more easily choose what they wish to disclose and to whom," Callahan says. The platform can also store preferences and metadata connected to an identity. Callahan sees the identity platform inside the PC becoming part of the identity metasystem that Microsoft's Kim Cameron and others are arguing for. Identity selection technologies like Microsoft's CardSpace (formerly InfoCard) could use the platform as a way of storing and authenticating your Information Cards, as could the connection manager for your network association or an identity provider like your ISP, bank or enterprise IT team. "The identity-capable platform is a strong complement to identity infrastructure, not competition for it," she says. "It is not about providing applications and services, but it is about making sure applications and services (including operating system level applications and services) can depend on consistent, standards-based support of identity functions." Multi-core chips and virtualisation make it easier to switch from thinking about multi-tasking to envisioning a PC with different partitions and platforms providing secure, isolated services, whether that's identity, the network connection or a third-party maintenance service. The combination of partitions and services is behind all of Intel's current platforms like ViiV and vPro - although the identity platform is still a research project rather than something planned for a specific Intel release. ®
Maybe it is just me, but I couldn't stop that hackneyed old cliché, "what goes around, comes around", wafting over me at the recent Microsoft Devcon event in London.
Intel has opened its third 65nm, 300mm-wafer processor production facility, the result of an upgrade made to its Leixlip, Ireland plant, the chip giant said yesterday. More than half of the CPUs the company is now producing are 65nm parts, it added.
SEK2006SEK2006 This month, South Korea will start commercial roll-out of WiBro - the Korean name for WiMAX - and enough of it is up and running for journalists to get a demo. Four areas of Seoul will get coverage first - Gangnam, Seocho, Songpa and Shinchon - the university district. One satellite town, Bundang, and the roads and subway into Seoul will also get coverage. Initially the service will be accessible via PDA or a card in your laptop, but is expected to be built in to laptops by year end. Korea is promoting the technology as a way for western Europe and the US to speed convergence and as an affordable way for eastern European, south American and African countries to quickly build a combined telco and internet infrastructure. The demonstration vehicle looks like a rock band's dark blue tour bus from the outside, complete with darkened windows. On the inside it is pure James Bond baddie with shiny ivory-coloured seats and a white interior. Each seat has a table equiped with a flat screen, a PDA ,or a internet-ready mobile phone. We wear wireless headsets to get over the problem of engine noise. The bus does manage to find a street empty enough of traffic so we can get up a decent speed. We are then treated to a three-way video conference between the bus, a gent in Queensland, Australia, and a woman at Seoul University. It all works pretty well and we get the chance to access the internet while bouncing around the roads of Seoul. Admittedly, this does make pen interaction with a PDA a little tricky and Seoul's roads are better, if more crowded, than most. More on WiBro here. ®
AMD is said to be preparing a broad range of deep price cuts in a bid to take the fight to Intel's next-generation architecture Core 2 processors, due to be released in the coming months. AMD will cut its prices by up to 46 per cent, it has been claimed.
Editor's blogEditor's blog In previous lives I have worked in software QA and in internal control in a major bank, and I am convinced that security must be designed into software from the start. Bolting on security to an insecure design is fraught with problems (just ask Microsoft): You decide that making things secure needs a major rewrite of the underlying software - very expensive; Addition of the security makes the software hard to use or too slow; Adding security has a serious impact on delivery dates; In practice, compromises are made and the bolted-on security is largely cosmetic anyway.
Geek TVGeek TV From the makers of Tech Digest and the World Cup blog Who Ate All The Bratwurst Don't even talk to me. First off, they kill TotP, citing competition from downloads, ringtones and happy slapping. The death of the show that gave us Billie Piper is inevitable TV euthanasia, but it still makes you feel old and bald. Noel Edmonds is so traumatised that he's developed RSI in his elbow (don't start.) Then we heard...oh, you know. The news. The Doctor Who news. The Big Bad Doctor Who News. Who fans will come round and remove my eyeballs with spoons if I give the plot away, so click here for the full spoiler-protected horror. Best make yourself a nice cup of tea first, lads. But it's not all bad news. Cosgrove Hall Films yesterday announced that it's recreating missing eps from the unfinished 1968 Cyberman story, The Invasion. The black and white animation will be unleashed on DVD in November, which, in a shock turn of events, is just before Christmas. None of this matters to the suits in the TV boardrooms, who are too busy playing "my digi is bigger than yours". The BBC has long blazed a trail for telly innovation, but it's currently hamstrung by its governors, who are busy figuring out whether live online streams are in the public interest. While they dither, C4 steams ahead with live TV/net simulcasts of all its commissioned programmes, starting next Tuesday - adverts included. Late 2006 will see C4 launch its video on demand service, and US acquisitions like Lost may be added to the simulcast line-up. Even ITV is upping its digital game with a time-shifted version of ITV2, which should delight fans of Celebrity Wrestling: Bring It On. Again! Again! Top five to watch this week: 1. Mindshock - Transplanting Memories Monday 26 June, C4, 10pm Boffins wonder why transplant recipients sometimes take on their donors' personalities and food cravings. Genuinely perturbing. 2. Doctor Who, Saturday 24 June, BBC1, 6.45pm Fear Her: The Tardis lands in Olympics-obsessed London 2012, where danger lurks in an ordinary East London house. That's just another day in E17 to me, pal. This ep was supposed to be written by great British polymath Stephen Fry, but he was too busy reading dictionaries. 3. 24, Sunday 25 June, Sky One, 9pm 4:00pm-5:00pm: Most people experience an afternoon lull at 4pm. They contrive extended fag breaks and wish it was time to go home. Not Jack Bauer. At 4pm, Jack discovers that ex-CTU agent Henderson (Peter "Robocop" Weller) has gone into the nerve gas business. 4. The Baby Mind Reader, Monday 26 June, Five, 9pm Derek Ogilvie, eponymous telepath, has one of those receding hairlines that's too far gone to be covered up with a highlighted fringe. Shave it all off, Del. We'll all feel better for it. 5. Lost, Tuesday 20 June, E4, 11pm Season three begins airing on ABC on 4 October, and will comprise 23 more episodes of twisty turny tangents. Further seasons of further twisty turny tangents will continue until ABC ends it all in, say, 2009. We suggest voting them off the island, one by one. Who goes? You decide! Other stories Channel Four to air shows simultaneously online Sony PS3 first to use HDMI 1.3 Tosh combines HD DVD, DVD and hard disk in one box Hi-def time lag a killer for live events Portugese football players in live World Cup snogging vid
BT has signed an agreement to distribute videophones from US outfit WorldGate to other telcos and operators, but the UK incumbent hasn't decided whether it will flog these to its own punters. According to a statement issued by WorldGate on Wednesday: "BT plc (BT) and WorldGate Communications Inc announced today that they have entered into an agreement providing for BT's purchase of WorldGate's Ojo Shadow personal video phones for resale to customers around the world." The statement adds that the Ojo videophone will be "an attractive new offering for its [BT's] wholesale customers as well as their [BT's] end user consumers". However, a spokesman for BT told us that while BT has agreed to resell the Ojo videophone, it is still evaluating the product for use among its own customers. At this stage it's unclear when BT's evaluation might be completed. Earlier this week BT unveiled details of a new broadband package called "Total Broadband". Tucked away at the bottom of that announcement were details of the launch of "BT Broadband Talk Video, including the BT Videophone". "Customers equipped with a BT Videophone can see the person they are talking to, and the service is compatible with PC users equipped with Softphone and a webcam." BT currently offers two videophones - the BT Videophone 1000 which costs £150 and the 2000 model which costs £200. Neither is supplied by WorldGate. Among the features listed for the BT Videophone 2000 is an "easy-to-use lens cover if you don't want to be seen". ®
Philips is to quit the chip business, the consumer electronics giant announced this week. It called its withdrawal from the market a "disentanglement" - untying the knot will see its semiconductor division spun off through an IPO.
Mrs MARIAM ABACHA TAYLOR, wife of the recently-cuffed CHARLES TAYLOR of LIBERIA, had better watch her step when she gets off the plane at Heathrow with a suitcase crammed with the SIXTEEN MILLION DOLLLARS ($16 MILLION) set aside by her thoughful hubby before his unfortunate downfall, because the place is crawling with conmen waiting to "pour tomato juice or other substances" on her dress before offering to help remove it, in the process fleecing the hapless dictator's other half of her hard-earned cash. That's according to an official travel advisory issued by the Nigerian government obtained by Reuters, Yahoo! reports. Other advanced techniques used by pitiless ne'er-do-wells to part Nigerians from their valuables involves "pretending to pick up an object from under a potential victim's seat to distract his attention while he robs him". The advisory identifies blackspots as "airports, high streets, markets, hotels and restaurants, shopping centres, tube stations, bus stops and buses", and declares: "Nigerian travellers are hereby warned not to carry large amount of money on their body and ensure that their air tickets, passports, expensive wrist-watches as well as trinkets are securely hidden." Although the Nigerian High Commission in the United Kingdom has recorded "an upsurge in crime and assault against Nigerians visiting London in the recent past", it says miscreants are not targeting Nigerians specifically, but "ostentatious dressing, spending and ancillary actions may identify a target". Enough said. Mrs MARIAM ABACHA TAYLOR, consider yourself duly warned. ®
Episode 21Episode 21 "It's a capacitor - uhhh, electrolytic," the PFY says, gazing into space, deep in concentration. "What?" the Boss asks, looking vacant. "Nah," I reply. "There was no bang, and besides it's got that siliconny edge to it." "A Power Transistor?" "BINGO!" I cry. "WHAT!?" the Boss snaps. "That smell. Something's cooked in the machine room and the smell's leaked through the aircon, so we're trying to figure out what it was." "Can't you just look in the machine room?" "Where's the fun in that?" the PFY asks. "Yeah, that's no fun at all. Anyway, I'm thinking power supply," I add. "If it's a power transistor it's almost certain to be, BUT, for the bonus point question, did it short out or open circuit?" the PFY asks. "What does that mean?" the Boss interrupts. "If it's shorted it will have almost certainly taken out a circuit breaker - plus all the power supplies of machines on that breaker - but if it's open circuit it'll just be the one machine." "How can you tell that from a smell?" "It's an educated guess thing," I reply. "For instance, older kit tended to have older technology with larger components which generally meant more current required to cook them which in combination meant more smell. Newer kit has such smaller componentry and advanced heatsinking that it often barely makes a sound when it fails - particularly if it's a short circuit failure." "Huh?" "If it's an open circuit failure," the PFY explains scribbling vague component diagrams on the whiteboard, "there's likely to be a small component which died meaning a small sound and a small smell, but if it's a short circuit failure there's liable to be a large bang and lots of smell." "Hadn't you better go and check?" "No, if there's a system outage we'd be paged and as you can see there's been no..." *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP* "..?" the boss implies. "No, that's just a single page, if it's important there'd be..." *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP* "Now will you check?" "In a moment, the second beep just means that it's an important server, but if it were really urg..." *BEEP* *BEEP* *BEEP* ...Seconds later, in the computer room... "It's alright, no need to panic!" the PFY says. "It's just the salaries payments machine." "And why shouldn't we panic about that!?" the Boss gasps. "Because we're contractors, we get paid through accounts receivable," I reply. "I'm not a contractor!" "Ah, well in that case forget what I just said," the PFY says. "So our payroll system is down?" the Boss gasps. "No, no." "Oh, it's a redundant system?" "No, the payroll system is up, it's just the machine that dials up the bank to feed the data about who gets paid what isn't." "How long will it take to fix?" "It depends what's wrong with it" "You just said it was a power supply!" "Yes, it probably is, but it's not technically our machine - it's the bank's. That being the case we're not permitted to open it. To make it worse, the machine is fitted with a tamper evident high security locking system so we can't open it even if we had discovered that the lock wasn't all that 'high' security." "Who's got the key then?" "Finance, possibly - but if the case is opened the High Security BIOS in the machine will lock it from powering on until someone from the bank enters a special enabling number." "Why?" "I believe the thinking was that if the box was made super secure then no-one would be able to insert...uh.. extra payments...into the data that was sent to the bank." "Yes, that probably makes sense," the Boss nods. "Yeah, you're right," the PFY says sarcastically. "It would be so much more difficult to insert a couple of extra rows into our salaries database just before the data transfer to the payments machine then, delete them immediately after..." "Or inserting a second machine - like that laptop over there - into the serial line between the salaries database and salaries payments machines and just add a couple of payments to the data stream..." I add. "I'll...uh... call finance," the Boss mumbles. ...Later that day.. "A dud capacitor," the engineer says pointing into the power supply. "Really?" the PFY says smugly. "Not something siliconny?" "Point taken," I admit dryly. "So how long will it take to fix?" "Hmmmmm" the engineer sighs, in the manner that only engineers and mechanics can manage. "...Tricky." "How tricky?" the Boss asks. "Dunno, when do you need it by?" the engineer asks shrewdly. "As soon as possible," the Boss says, making the proverbial land-war-in-Asia classic blunder. "Weeellllll, it'd probably be costly," he says, thinking pound signs. "What if we have a replacement power supply?" the PFY suggests. "You'd void the warranty," the engineer warns, countering the PFY's counteroffer. "Not if an engineer were paid...CASH...to install it," the PFY observes. ...ten seconds later.. "So it's agreed, I'll give you a power supply and you get 50 quid to install it." "And everyone's pay will go through," the Boss says happily. "I'll just go and sort out the 50 quid." "A...hundred quid" the PFY says. "Huh?" "Fifty quid for installation, and 50 quid for the supply." "They're our power supplies!" "No, they're power supplies I rescued before the kit went into the bin!" "I...guess I don't have time to argue," the Boss blurts, folding at the thought of missing an automatic mortgage payment. ...five minutes later... "..and here's YOUR 50 quid" "Thanks," the PFY says graciously. "Fire her up." "Sure thing," the engineer says, flicking the switch. >Click< >CRACK!< "Now THAT was a power transistor!" I snap. "Sure sounded like one," the engineer says. "So what do we do now?" "Get a replacement power supply from your office before five!" the Boss gasps. "Get there and back in an hour and install it? You've got to be joking" "I may have another spare power supply..." the PFY suggests. "...But this one's a little more expensive." "And there's probably going to be an additional power supply reinstallation charge..." the engineer hints. Something tells me that's the start of a beautiful friendship... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Mobile outfit 3 has unveiled a new set of packages designed to give SMEs and SOHOs (small office/home office) access to email on the move. It is the first time the cellco has released packages specifically aimed at the small business market. As part of the launch of the new service, 3 has unveiled details of two new handsets, due to be made available over the next couple of months. The first is the Nokia E61 smartphone, which uses the Symbian software platform and includes a qwerty keyboard. The second handset is the QTEK 9000, which has a revolving screen. ®
ARM has acquired Norwegian mobile graphics chip developer Falanx, the pair announced today. The financial details of the deal were not made public. The news is not good for Imagination, now essentially ARM's former graphics technology partner.
Editor's blogEditor's blog We all know that structured data is boring and useless; while unstructured data is sexy and chock full of value. Well, only up to a point, Lord Copper. Genuinely unstructured data can be a real nuisance - imagine extracting the return address from an unstructured letter, without letterhead and any of the formatting usually applied to letters. A letter may be thought of as unstructured data, but most business letters are, in fact, highly-structured. This issue exercises Duncan Pauly, founder and chief technology officer of Coppereye, which sells indexing technology that exploits data structures, even when the data is in an unstructured container. Duncan comes from the Oracle database world and has a deep understanding of data analysis and structure - and he finds that a fundamental knowledge of database and data structures is becoming increasingly rare.
Those of you looking for your own little bit of paradise can thank Google Earth for providing its exact location: Nevada, USA. Of course, this is a decidedly American paradise, as our screenshot shows: Ah yes, the ultimate expression of western civilisation, which Google Earth users can enjoy here (.kmz file). Please try to avoid succumbing completely to a motorcade-induced state of nirvana. ® Bootnote Thanks to Jacob White for leading us to Paradise.
AMD will ship processors based on the next generation of its AMD64 architecture in two years' time after sampling them late 2007, company CEO Hector Ruiz has revealed.
Watchers of right-wing Christian groups in the States say a new apocalyptic videogame released by cultish Revelations-based fiction series Left Behind is riddled with spyware. Developers have incorporated software from an Israeli firm called Double Fusion. It incorporates video advertising and product placement into the game, and reportedly records players' behaviour, location, and other data to be uploaded to Left Behind's Bible-powered marketing machine. Aimed at 13 to 34-year-old males, Left Behind: Eternal Forces casts the player as a director of God's Earthly militia, left behind in the Rapture to roam the streets of New York, battling Satan's minions and shooting unbelievers. With plans to distribute 1 million copies in evangelical "megachurches" nationwide pre-Christmas, Eternal Forces has attracted criticism from religious and secular commentators for its pushing of a violent brand of Christian supremacy. Christian anti-videogame violence campaigner Jack Thompson said: "It's absurd. You can be the Christians blowing away the infidels, and if that doesn't hit your hot button, you can be the Antichrist blowing away the Christians." In an interview on the series' website Greg Bauman of Left Behind Games explains: "Left Behind: Eternal Forces will help readers get a sense of the conflict and chaos of the time period portrayed in Left Behind and live out how they would defend themselves and their faith from the Antichrist and his Global Peace Keeping Forces." The United Nations, already organ of satanic machinations for many on the Christian far-right, features strongly in the game. Goat-footed demons reportedly emerge from UN peacekeeping humvees. One reviewer noted: "The only way to accomplish anything positive in the game is to 'convert' nonbelievers into faithful believers, and the only alternative to this is outright killing them."®
Also in this week's column: What makes a wound stop bleeding? Why are opera singers fat? Why don't humans molt? Why can't we agree on the names for phobias? Asked by Anka Saarinen of Helsinki, Finland The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) of the American Psychiatric Association is the main diagnostic reference book for mental health professionals in the US and in much of the rest of the world. According to the DSM-IV, a phobia is a persistent and irrational fear of a specific object, activity, or situation (the phobic stimulus) that results in a compelling desire to avoid it. This often leads either to avoidance of the phobic stimulus or to enduring it with dread. A study by the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland found that between 8.7 and 18.1 per cent of Americans suffer from at least one phobia. Yet for reasons unknown, the mental health profession cannot agree on the term to be used for many of the most common phobias. There are 11 names for the persistent and irrational fear of being dirty - Automysophobia, Coprophobia, Misophobia, Molysmophobia, Molysomophobia, Mysophobia, Rupophobia, Rypophobia, Scatophobia, Spermophobia, and Verminophobia. There are eight names for the persistent and irrational fear of water - Aquaphobia, Caninophobia, Cynophobia, Hydrophobia, Hydrophobophobia, Kynophobia, Lyssophobia, and Nautophobia. There are seven names for the persistent and irrational fear of anything new - Cainophobia, Cainotophobia, Centophobia, Kainolophobia, Kainophobia, Kainotophobia, and Neophobi; being alone - Autophobia, Eremiophobia, Eremophobia, Ermitophibia, Isolophobia, and Monophobia; Odours - Autodysosmophobia, Automysophobia, Bromidrophobia, Bromidrosiphobia, Olfactophobia, Osmophobia, and Osphresiophobia; and pain -Agliophobia, Algophobia, Ergasiophobia, Ergophobia, Odynephobia, Odynophobia, and Ponophobia. There are six names for the persistent and irrational fear of being touched - Aphenphosmphobia, Aphephobia, Chiraptophobia, Haphephobia, Haptephobia, and Haptophobia; cats - Aclurophobia, Ailurophobia, Elurophobia, Felinophobia, Galeophobia, and Gatophobia; cold - Cheimaphobia, Cheimatophobia, Cryophobia, Frigophobia, Pagophobia, and Psychrophobia; Heights - Acrophobia, Altophobia, Bathophobia, Batophobia, Hypsiphobia, and Hypsophobia; night - Achluophobia, Lygophobia, Myctophobia, Noctiphobia, Nyctophobia, and Scotophobia; red (colour or word) - Ereuthophobia, Ereuthrophobia, Erythrophobia, Erthyrophobia, Erytophobia, and Rhodophobia); thunder - Astraphobia, Astrapophobia, Brontophobia, Ceraunophobia, Keraunophobia, and Tonitrophobia; and walking - Ambulophobia, Basiphobia, Basophobia, Basostasophobia, Stasibasiphobia, and Stasiphobia. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
Also in this week's column: Why are opera singers fat? Why can't we agree on the names for phobias? Why don't humans molt? What makes a wound stop bleeding? Asked by Alicia Rauzok of Greensboro, North Carolina A wound stops bleeding due to the process of clot formation called coagulation. Coagulation is from the Latin coagulatus meaning "to cause to curdle". Blood contains an enzyme called Protease 34 kD or thrombin for short. Thrombin is made in the liver. The only time thrombin seems to become active in the body is when there is an open wound. Blood is circulating tissue composed of a fluid portion (plasma) with suspended formed elements (platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells). Arterial blood is the means by which oxygen and nutrients are transported to body tissues. Venus blood is the means by which carbon dioxide and metabolic by-products are transported from body tissues to exit the body. In blood plasma there is a specific protein called fibrinogen. In an open wound the enzyme thrombin unites with the fibrinogen to form needlelike crystals called fibrin. This union forms a biochemical alliance that catches blood cells called corpuscles as they try to flood out of the body through the wound. Corpuscle is from the Latin "corpusculum" meaning "any small particle or body". All this chemical action creates a plug called a blood clot. After a time, moisture is squeezed out of the clot and it contracts. This process is called syneresis. It's not widely known but the same chemical process of syneresis also happens in the formation of jams and jellies. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also in this week's column: Why are opera singers fat? Why can't we agree on the names for phobias? What makes a wound stop bleeding? Why don't humans molt? Asked by Lisa Blumfield, age 10, of New York City Most people think birds molt and humans don't. That's because birds have feathers and humans have hairs. But humans do molt. We shed hairs and skin cells. Technically, that constitutes molting. "Molting" means the periodic shedding of feathers, hairs, horns, nails, shells, and skins - any outer layer. Molt is from the Latin mutare meaning "to change". Of course, how long is periodic? Although figures vary slightly between blondes, brunettes, and redheads, each of us carries an average of about five million hairs. About 100,000 to 150,000 of these hairs are located on the head. We lose an average of 50 to 100 hairs each day. If we comb and brush our hair we lose more hairs. About 16 per cent of our body weight is skin. The body devotes between five to eight per cent of its metabolism to the maintenance of skin. Skin is composed of skin cells. When a skin cell dies, it is shed. The lifespan of a skin cells is roughly 35 days. At this rate, everyone gets a new skin a little more than about 10 times per year. Enjoying a normal lifespan to age 80, you will have acquired more than 800 skins. That's enough to make any bird envious. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
Also in this week's column:
In a bid to beat the Finns at phone throwing, adventure sports club 8th Day UK and recycling charity ActionAid have once again partnered to host the UK Mobile Phone Throwing championship, and opportunity to chuck a clamshell or sling a slider far enough to get into the record books.
Incessant delays to Libra have further set back a more ambitious programme at the Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), the £1bn DISC (development, innovation and support contracts) programme. DISC managed to escape the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee last week when they turned their attention on the DCA, though Libra got another bashing for still being in pilot after 16 years. It has been more than 25 years since the PAC first noted the shocking state of the computer systems used by Britain's courts. That makes Libra, the DCA's hi-tech answer to that jibe, a positively antique IT disaster. A DCA spokesman said contracts for DISC would not be let now until October. The £1bn project was going to be divvied into two contracts that would subsume the ill-fated Libra. This was going to happen in April, but the department moved the deadline to June while it figured out how the new contracts could swallow Libra. The DCA could not give an explanation for the delay. Even disregarding the legacy it inherited from Libra, DISC is more than your common government IT delay. It was meant to provide the Office of Government Commerce with with a trial of highly contentious contract terms, which are designed to be rather tough on suppliers. The answers to important questions have been put off again. We have discussed this at some length before, but there's an interesting new twist. To recap quickly, Libra used onerous PFI contract terms to lump all the risk associated with an IT project on the supplier, but it slipped up and PFI was banned for use in IT projects. In apparent disregard of that, the notorious £12.3bn National Programme for IT reintroduced those tough terms and two years later they became standard fare as part of the OGC's new model contract terms. So broadly similar terms to those that were held in partial blame for Libra's demise have been reintroduced in DISC, son of Libra, just to check if they still aren't working. Libra's demise and its subsequent resurrection under new contracts with new suppliers in 2002 was also blamed on a number of other things. Fujitsu's handling was "poor", though this was over-emphasised. Official government reports found the department's project management skills more lacking. Then there is politics. According to one source close to the project, Libra is currently piloting in only three of 42 districts because of political differences between the Magistrate's courts, who are not keen on the Libra brand of computerisation, and the DCA (or Lord Chancellor's Department as it was known at the beginning of this epic tale), which is trying to shove the new computer system down their throats. That's what we're told anyway. An idle but interesting comparison can be drawn between the DCA's approach and the autocratic line taken by NPfIT, which is also overtime and over-budget, and which has also found regional resistance to its bullyboy approach to modernisation. The DCA has still yet to provide an adequate explanation for the first slip to DISC that occurred in April. It might still be struggling with politics; it might be that those firms shortlisted for DISC's £1bn (Atos Origin, BT, EDS, IBM, LogicaCMG), don't want anything to do with it until Libra's back has been broken. We are none the wiser, despite this being one of the most important IT projects in the history of government computing. All we do know is that in the latest of many interims, as revealed by the PAC last week, the bill has gone up another £97m, to £487m - and this was a project that in 1998 was going to cost £146m.®
Blue Coat is to acquire NetApp's NetCache business in a mixed cash and stock deal. The two firms have signed an asset purchase agreement which should be rubber-stamped within 90 days. NetCache products are for web content delivery and security. NetApp wants to focus on its burgeoning core business in data storage. NetApp SVP of emerging products said Jay Kidd: "This divestiture allows us to sharpen our focus on data management solutions and services for the enterprise data center. Over the long term, our NetCache customers will be better served working with a supplier who has a broader offering in the content delivery market." Blue Coat CEO Brian Nesmith said: "The acquisition of the NetCache business is a critical component of delivering on our vision of secure and accelerated delivery of applications and content to users." NetApp said its NetCache staff would either switch to different product ranges within the firm, or be offered positions at Blue Coat.®
Letter of the WeekLetter of the Week We should have known better than to try and slip a quick mobile phone lightning death menace piece past you lot on a Friday, and here's why: Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! Everyone at El-Reg is fired. Yes. Everyone. Even the Lettuce bloke and the guy who made rather a mess of the "database" last week. Hell, sack the cleaner and the unforetunate who serves the danish and coffee during brunch. It's like the lovely Mr Blaater (or is it Blatter, I can't be bothered to go and find out) says: Someone should have run on to the pitch (ok, rushed around the cupboard that is El-Reg HQ) shouting "Stop! Stop!" Hang on ... It's my tablets ... You haven't really run with the Lightening Kills People on Mobiles "news" have you ... ONLY the BBC is going to run with that load of old cobblers, surely?! THREE PEOPLE in the whole wide world have been found dead after using their mobile phone in a thunderstorm (and one person is badly injured). It appears that's ever; not this week, not last year, not even back in the 1990s. Nope. Ever. Three people. So the El-Reg headline should read "Using mobile phones in a storm is LESS dangerous than blowing your nose!" I know it's Friday, I know the footie kicks off in an hour or so ... But there is no excuse. So yer all fired for being a bunch of bed-wetting, paranoid, happy-to-parrot-fear-mongering-nonsense wazzocks! (And where are the bl00dy Letters? Hmmm? Lunch-time has come and gone already ... tap tap tap ...) ;o) Andy Harrison Listen, Andy, we're not sure you're taking this mobile electrocution threat seriously. You try telling the bloke from China who was struck by lightning while gabbing away that it's not matter of life or death. And as for blowing your nose, well, a recent British Medical Journal exposé revealed that between 1560 and 2005, seventeen people were struck by meteorites while expelling the contents of their nasal passages. The reason? They simply had not been alerted to the possible risk. We rest our case. ®
Pure Digital, the digital radio company, yesterday unveiled its latest odd-looking tuner. The Bug Too adds PVR-like recording, MP3 playback and alarm-clock functionality to its predecessor's feature list.
Nintendo has begun shipping the DS Lite in the UK, asking a mere £100 for the redesigned, lighter, smaller version of its handheld console. Taking a lead from Apple's iPod, Nintendo said the DS Lite will be available at launch in two colours: glossy black and shiny white.
LettersLetters Right, let's get down to it cos there's some top-notch footie to be watched and much beer to be simultaneously drunk this fine Friday afternoon.
Tech and telco insecurity problem exposed Spare a thought for the poor saps running systems in the technology, media and telecoms industry. International management whizzkids Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu have fingered the TMT sector as riddled with insecurity. And we don't mean missing deadlines, keeping up with the Jones's and wondering what the other half gets up to when they're working late. Nope, it seems half of companies in this sector have had a security breach in the last year. That would be a big concern for their chief security officers - if it wasn't for the fact that barely two thirds of these companies even have someone in charge of security. You might expect this of media firms anyway, of course. They're probably more concerned with looking under 30 and coming up with the next Big Brother. Well, that's fair enough. But TMT also includes technology and telecoms - you know, the guys who try and sell you secure IT products and bulletproof networks. Still, at least when they cold-call you and ask to speak to you chief security officer you can say, "OK, but only if I can speak to yours". More details here. Another degree of insecurity And on the subject of security, you'll be pleased to know the University of Abertay is training up a new generation of hackers. Sorry, make that ethical hackers. Yep, the nation's brightest can spend four years learning how to become whitehat hackers, able to defend UK Plc from cyber evil-doers. Applicants will be subjected to background checks to weed out anyone with a criminal background or other antisocial leanings. As course leader professor Lachlan McKinnon said: "We will monitor students closely because we want them to become ethical hackers. But there is no guarantee. Harold Shipman qualified as a doctor, after all, before deciding to become a murderer." Suddenly, we're feeling riddled with insecurity again. More here. Musical furniture at Microsoft Insecurity may be also be rife at Microsoft. With the streamers for Bill Gates's sort of leaving party still trailing across the plasma screens and basketball hoops, the firm let slip that it had parted company with its erstwhile point man for the assault on Linux. Martin Taylor had spent 13 years at the company and was an adviser to CEO Ballmer. His departure was so sudden that the company's PR department was still canning his quotes for press releases even as he was packing up. Lately, he'd been revamping MSN marketing, but previously had overhauled the company's response to Linux, transforming it from frothing rants by Ballmer to a more articulate approach deploying factual/commissioned research and reaching out to customers. While it is debateable whether this has done much to kill Linux's momentum, it at least made Microsoft appear to be a reasonable company that could respond to emerging changes in the industry in an adult manner, rather than turning straight to that well-known business play book, What would King Herod do?. More on the Taylor of Tacoma here. Nothing to sing about at Novell though Microsoft wasn't the only firm which was oiling the revolving doors this week. Novell waved goodbye to CEO Jack Messman. Well, wave goodbye may be too gentle a way to describe matters. The board of the Linux/networking/groupware/whatever software firm voted to replace Messman with erstwhile president and COO, 45-year-old Ron Hovespian, who has been at the company since 2003. Messman said in March that it would take two years to turn around the company. Clearly, the board thought it would be quicker to turn around Messman - towards the door that is. Novell also announced CFO Joseph Tibbetts is to be replaced by current finance VP Dana Russell. More here. Ice chips If you think someone has overdone it on the aircon, spare a thought for the eggheads at IBM and the Georgian Institute of Technology (Big Blue Gits for short?). They managed to get a silicon germanium chip running at 500GHz - that's GHz - by dropping the temperature to a mere 4.5° above absolute zero -286.5 to you and me. Yes, we know that's cooler than even the Fonz. But they did manage to hit 350GHz at room temperature. More here. Voda jumps gun on HSDPA If you're thinking about speed in the here and now, Vodafone looks to be first to market with HSDPA - or 'Super3G' - laptop data cards. The telco is touting peak download speeds of around "1.4Mbps and upload speeds of up to 384 Kbps". Beware though, complete UK coverage won't arrive till next year. More, including the price, here. White light, white heat Be warned though, the British Medical Journal points out that mobile devices can be seriously damaging to your health. It details how metallic objects in contact with the skin can make a lighting strike even more dangerous. And yes, no matter how light they are, those fancy phones and notebooks are chock full of highly conductive metal. And we're talking about just having a mobile about your person here - it doesn't have to be connected to anything. So if the clouds are gathering over the corporate hospitality tent this summer, do the sensible thing. Hand your mobile to the nearest PFY. More here. Government loses your NI contributions... Government IT systems provided a steady stream of headlines this week. Around half a million people had holes blown in their National Insurance records by a glitch at HMRC. But don't worry, it'll all be fixed by the autumn. Do your bit to help Whitehall get back on track - don't retire, change jobs, die, between now and Christmas. More here. ...but sells your name and address Thank god the DVLA was on hand to show what happens when things go right with government IT systems. Turns out Cardiff's finest have been making £6.5m a year selling names and addresses from its database to hire purchase companies, car park owners, clamping companies and credit companies like MBNA Europe and the like. Whose names and addresses? YOURS, everyone, anyone. At £2.50 a pop. The politicos are promising to get to the bottom of this. I mean, a government database that not only works, but actually MAKES money? It's just not on. More here. Unplugging WGA in the name of security Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage anti-piracy scheme continues to cause uproar, being widely condemned as spyware, after it emerged it calls back to the Microsoft mothership. And then calls again. And again. One firewall testing site has highlighted the potential security threat to both corporates and individuals and launched a tool that removes the notification element of WGA. Morehere. Unplugging just about everything Meanwhile, endpoint security vendor Bit9 said unauthorised apps are a bigger threat than malware. It reeled off a list of applications it says contain multiple vulnerabilities, and which naughty users tend to download to their machines. Many of the apps may not ring alarm bells - Firefox 1.0.7 Acrobat Reader 7.02/6.03, Apple's iTunes 6.0.2 and Quicktime 7.0.3 for example. Rather, it is when these versions are not updated and remain unpatched. Its answer? Completely disable the offending apps. More details here. Third of Europeans completely IT-witless... Perhaps your best defence is to employ IT inepts. You won't have to look far to find them. Researchers in Europe found that over a third of Europeans have no basic computer skills. And they mean basic. A shocking 37 per cent of people between 16 and 74 were unable to use a mouse to copy a file or folder. The top performers, you may or may not be relieved to find, were Denmark, Sweden, Luxembourg, Germany, and the UK. More here. So Microsoft eyes Robots Alternately, you could just bypass humans altogether. Reg reporters in both Korea and Pittsburg were shown the future this week. And the future, it seems, comes in a shiny steel skin with articulated legs. And is probably called HAL. True to form, Microsoft is looking to "standardise" programming for robots, with Robotics Studio. You don't need us to spell out the potential ramifications - gim crack programming, security holes, remote seziure of robots by hackers, global apocalypse, etc etc. Meanwhile, robots are one of the key products of Korea's latest five year technology plan. Digital automatons are already working in the country's post offices and domestic service models should be appearing soon. It seems the most successful robot to date is the US's Roomba, a self-controlling vaccum cleaner. Frankly, we think it should stay that way. More details here and here. That's it for now. We're going to lock ourselves in a darkened room for the weekend while we read the Visual Basic programmers guide in case we ever need to disarm a rampaging Micro-bot. Or do the hoovering. Same time next week. ®
AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel AMD has started serving 32 new subpeonas against US companies in a bid to secure evidence it believes will support its allegations that arch-rival Intel used its market leadership to harm the smaller company's business.
When we kicked off our investigation into Windows Vista's hardware requirements we glossed over the graphics part of the system requirements and simply said that you need DirectX 9 hardware. It turns out things are rather more complicated than that plain statement suggests, and that may mean trouble ahead for Intel.
Toshiba is subsidising its HD-A1 HD DVD player by at least $175 in a bid to buy the next-generation optical disc format success. So claims market watcher iSuppli, which took the machine to bits and totted up the cost of all the parts.
Google has sold a stake in the Chinese search engine-cum-portal, Baidu. Google bought a 2.6 per cent share in the company June 2004, shortly before its own public floatation. Since then, Google had a change of strategy and opted for a direct involvement in China. In May last year, it applied for a license to operate in the PRC, and in December began to co-operate with the government's censorship mandates, the 'Great Firewall of China'. Earlier this month, Reporters Without Borders found that Yahoo! was censoring results even more zealously than Baidu. But in one respect, the investment in Baidu has paid off. Baidu stock began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in August last year. Google's original investment of $5m is now worth over $60m. By contrast Yahoo! invested $1bn in Chinese auction site Alibaba at the same time that Baidu was floating on the NYSE. Alibaba's eccentric CEO John Wu cheerfully admitted recently that the $1bn has been all but spent. ®
Staring at the Blogosphere for too long can make you blind. Blind, that is, to what people are really doing on the internet. Here are some fascinating statistics that suggest that the hype generated by technology evangelist bloggers can be profoundly misleading. Even more intriguingly, mainstream media who rely on the blog 'buzz' for clues are guilty of magnifying, rather than correcting, the distortion. And the more they rely on the tech evangelist buzz, the greater the distortion. HitWise Inc. has conducted a survey of popular photo sharing sites and finds that Photobucket rules the roost - with 43 per cent market share - two and half times that of the nearest rival, Yahoo! Photos. Stalwarts such as Kodak follow. But where is the "Web 2.0" darling, which we're told is revolutionizing how people use the internet? Er, it's crawling along in sixth place, with 5.95 per cent market share. For every Flickr photo linked to from MySpace, there are 70 downstream Photobucket links. But this isn't reflected in the blogosphere's 'zeitgeist', where Flickr was crowned long ago as defining the category of new photo sharing services. Let's see how the mainstream press covered the story. In the London Times, Flickr is mentioned in nine stories - the Photobucket phemonenon doesn't get a mention. The Daily Telegraph it's 5:0 to Flickr. The Independent carries 11 Flickr references to Photobucket's one. At the Washington Post it's 6:0 to Flickr. And the harder publications try to cover the web, the greater the distortion - presumably because they're listening for "Web 2.0" chatter. At BBC News Online it's 72 to Flickr, 1 to Photobucket. At the Houston Chronicle, it's 31 to 0 for Flickr - almost identical to the New York Times, at 30:0 in Flickr's favour. And at the desperately self-conscious Badger Week, it's 131 to 5. Over at The Guardian, Flickr is mentioned in 117 stories, and Photobucket just once. Hype paradise CNET manages four entries for Photobucket and an astonishing 67 for Flickr. That's a Lexus® High-Impact disparity. (One blog poster at the Graun pleads in vain: "Before Flickr takes over the world, and in the interest of balance, these might also be worth a look...") But Flickr isn't taking over the world. Or the Web. And it isn't even where people go when they want to share photos on the web. The dangers of cupping one's ear to the "Blogosphere" and mistaking it for the world at large have been written about many times before - we even coined a word for it, "GoogleWash". The press has always hunted as a pack - which isn't new. But why, when it's so easy to find out what people are really doing on the web, does it keep happening? Principally, it's because the internet is an echo chamber. If publications convince themselves that there's a phenomenon called 'Web 2.0', they need the evidence to back it up. And being lazy, look no further than the tech evangelist bloggers. Over at TechCrunch, Marshall Kirkpatrick noted, "This was a big surprise for parts of the blogosphere where Flickr is a hot topic", and goes on to demonstrate how much. But nepotism is also a contributory factor to the skew. "High-authority bloggers appear to write about Flickr about 3 times as often as they (we) write about Photobucket," notes Marshall, even though a wider sampling of weblogs shows an inverse ratio, with Photobucket mentioned three times as often as Flickr. The 'high authority' bloggers tend to inhabit the same social mileau as the Web 2.0 obscuros, and are only too happy to give their friends a plug. Or as a Reg correspondent pointed out after looking at the numbers - "Photobucket is all over Myspace and LiveJournal, and it gets the hits, but the San Francisco myopia only sees their web 2.0 darlings." ®
RoboBizRoboBiz Colin Angle this week demonstrated the authority that comes with being a robotic vacuum magnate. He told the crowd here at the Robo Business conference that they'd let consumers and businesses down with sub par products. They had supplied more hype than innovation and could use something akin to steroids for their imaginations if they hoped to get the robot industry moving in the right direction.