29th > June > 2006 Archive

Arguments and gunfire

ICANN MarrakechICANN Marrakech It's difficult to know if there is anything more frustrating than being unable to get on the internet at an ICANN meeting, but then I'm certain that the greengrocers of Georgia or undertakers of Uxbridge have an anecdote or two to put that in shadow. While it's nice having a much bigger conference venue than usual - no more cramming on plastic chairs - its size has made it increasingly difficult to find anyone. I know for a fact that a series of people I want to catch up with are here somewhere because everyone keeps telling me they've seen them. But can I find them? Everyone has ended up communicating with email - which would be fine if you could get an internet connection - at which point you realise you have stood-up three different people without even being aware of it. And it's still only 11am. I would, of course, have popped out of the meeting I was in without net access and held my laptop under the nearest access point, were it not for the fact that the domain name workshop proved to be fascinating viewing. And it wasn't just me - everyone in the room was amazed at how these building blocks of the net have now become such an advanced industry that people are making millions from simply owning obscure domains for five days. Everyone in the room was stifling the same thought: hang on, I could do this. It's not illegal and frankly I've always fancied a second home in the Seychelles. But such is the proud moral standing of the internet community that such thoughts were washed from our minds. It didn't stop the pannelists from having a bit of argy-bargy over systems, changes, even lawsuits going on between them. It was great theatre and, amazingly, hugely informative. There was only one thing missing from the session, however: it needed someone to hold up large cards behind each speaker outlining just how many hundreds of thousands of dollars they had made that month from the particular practice they were now defending with vague love-terms such as "innovation", "competition" and "fat wallets". The reality The simple fact is, as everyone knows, that the existing system of getting hold of domains has to change. Currently, less than 20 companies in the world bombard the same server millions of times over a two-hour period every day and remove any chance that anyone else will ever get hold of a particular name on the net. It's not exactly hard to see why the companies that have invested in highly technical, advanced systems just to achieve this goal are unhappy about changes, but then it's much easier to see why the system will have to change. Steve Crocker - one of the men that actually built the internet - was scathing about the current situation and won a rare round of applause. The highly respected Sabine Dolderer from Denic - representing the second-biggest registry in the world following dotcom - also asked why on Earth the system was as it was. The simple answer, as we all know, is profit. As the immortal John Berryhill pointed out: the internet is unique in that it makes money even when it doesn't do anything. Has there every been a more enticing pitch? Chez Ali It was Tuesday night, so it must be ICANN local culture extravaganza night. Every meeting, the local hosts put on a cultural event which involves eating, drinking, chatting, gawping in wide-eyed amazement at the entertainment, and then eating, drinking and chatting some more. Those that have been to Marrakech have already had the Chez Ali experience - something which apparently is classic tourist fare. What happens is this: you drive for 20 minutes out of Marrakech, drive down a dark road into a huge constructed Moroccan courtyard where you are greeted by men on horseback, men with long trumpets and women ululating (love that sound). There you take a few snaps, take a seat, and then tuck into what appears to be an entire lamb plonked on the table, followed by cous-cous and veg. And then the show starts... Being a miserable sod, I found the horse tricks, belly dancing and men charging with their horses and then firing guns terrific - but only the first time I saw it. After the woman had rotated on the cardboard fort for the six hundredth time I headed to the bar, where you had the opportunity to pay three times normal beer prices in return for sound-proofing. It was in the bar that even Sir Milton Mueller revealed the depths to which a few hundred traditionally dressed Moroccans can drive a man. I proposed loudly (over the gunfire) that the Moroccans must be out of touch with the real world because one of their biggest money-spinners was to take snaps of you at dinner and then try to sell the pictures for €20 an hour later. Didn't they realise that 90 per cent of people now had digital cameras? Sir Milton sheepishly pulled out his table's photo. But it wasn't just him. My table - comprising the freak element of the top-level domain market: .cat, .xxx and .berlin - all got one and loved it dearly. Fortunately, I found a voice of sanity in a fetching OECD representative who had never been to an ICANN meeting before and so remained unsullied from the madness it clearly induces. The biggest disappointment of the night, though, was that Vint Cerf wasn't put through the normal mildly humiliating experience of having to join in with the festivities. Seeing the father of the internet charging along on a horse, with one foot in the stirrups, swing down and scoop up an item off the ground would have made ICANN Marrakech. The strange thing is, though, that you wouldn't put it past him to pull it off. ® More of this sort of rubbish, can be found at KierenMcCarthy.co.uk.
Kieren McCarthy, 29 Jun 2006

Vicious cat-fight breaks out at NASA over space race

A most unusual cat-fight broke out last night at the NASA Ames center here, as two women battled to learn when they will be able to take cheap flights into space. SpaceDev founder James Benson had plowed through the majority of his presentation on space tourism opportunities when the cackling broke out. "Will you sit down. I can't see the screen," barked one woman. "Well, I can't hear the lecture. We came hear to listen to Mr. Benson not to hear you gossip," replied an older Asian lady not much more than 5 feet tall. The squabble escalated from there with both sides agreeing that they despised each other's lack of social graces. Eventually, the bitching match devolved into a playground-level spat with both of the ladies verging on yelling, "I know you are but what am I?" A dose of comic tension filled the NASA Ames conference room, and then the two ladies quieted down. Is there a moral to be found from this incident, we wondered. Yes, we think there is. We hope that companies such as SpaceDev can deliver on what they promise because they're getting little old ladies awfully excited about the prospect of zooming off to the Moon in the near future. "I believe the cost (for a suborbital trip) will be down to $50,000, maybe as low as $15,000, in seven to 10 years," Benson told the NASA crowd. Of course, plugging low-cost space flights is SpaceDev's agenda. The company makes or has plans to make a wide variety of devices, ranging from cheap satellites to manned spacecraft. SpaceDev fired up in 1997 with the singular goal of "making commercial space happen." The company is probably best known for making the hybrid rocket technology that carried SpaceShipOne into space for a victory in the $10m X-Prize contest. In addition to helping out commercial operations, SpaceDev also seeks work as a government contractor, making gear on the cheap for the Feds. Benson insists that changes in the space industry mirror changes that took place in the computing industry in the past. Huge mainframe vendors once dominated the computing landscape, charging a premium for their gear. Then, the minicomputers and networks arrived and drove the cost of computing down. The space field is still owned by mainframe vendor equivalents such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin, according to Benson. "The space industry is like the mainframe computer industry 20 years ago," he said. "It's dominated by giant companies that have a near monopoly hold on the industry. They are hooked on the narcotics of cost-plus-fixed fee . . . corporate welfare . . .and entitlement programs." SpaceDev, along with a number of other companies, are out to break this "monopoly," but then you knew that already. NASA's decision making in the next few years will be key to crushing the federal pork pattern. Benson didn't hold his tongue on this front, dissing NASA on its home turf. "The space industry has been brought to its knees by a fear of failure," he said. Benson portrayed a picture where new NASA administrator Michael Griffin was taken into dark rooms in Washington D.C. and told his place by delegates from Florida and Texas - two NASA strongholds. "They want to keep those 10,000 jobs in their districts. They don't care if there is any progress. That is the state of space today. I don't think it's a very rosy picture." Then, he added, "Boeing can't have a meeting for $30m, and NASA is not much better." About twenty minutes later, however, Benson did the ass kissing required of a private company seeking its own federal handouts. "Right now, NASA has a great opportunity because Mike Griffin has the right stuff, I believe, and enough wiggle room to make things happen," he said. SpaceDev is one of six finalists bidding to win NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract. NASA plans to hand out $500m to any number of companies that can design a vehicle capable of making runs to the International Space Station. "That is exciting," Benson said. "That's the kind of thing that can let this administration and Griffin leave his mark." Key to SpaceDev's space flight plans is its Dream Chaser craft, which is well worth a look. Many doubts haunt the space tourism game, but we were impressed with SpaceDev's rather concrete plans for meeting tough objectives. With a stock price hovering around $1.34, it would seem that investors aren't quite as convinced about the company's long-term prospects. But with a healthy balance sheet and the possibility of pork on the way, SpaceDev might just stick this out for the long haul. What could be better than a hardcore cat-fight come 2016 to see which one of those ladies gets to rocket down to the Moon first? ® Bootnote There's some fascinating history here about the role that Ham radio operators played in making many of the first satellites. Radio buffs too drove the rise of electronics here in Silicon Valley until the chip heads took over.
Ashlee Vance, 29 Jun 2006

MS and Cisco back resistance to controversial patent law

The US Supreme Court is to rule on one of the most controversial aspects of patent law, "obviousness". Though the case involves car accelerator pedal technology, Microsoft and Cisco are backing one side of the case, which could set a vital precedent. US firm Teleflex has accused KSR International of infringing its pedal technology, but KSR has argued that Teleflex's patent claims are invalid because the inventions are "obvious". That argument was initially supported by the courts, then reversed on appeal. The Supreme Court will now make a further judgment on the contentious issue of "obviousness". Patents are vital to technology companies, and Microsoft and Cisco are backing KSR's case that patents are sometimes granted too leniently. The companies have filed a brief with the court in support of KSR. "If the test for patentability becomes too lenient and allows routine variations on prior inventions to be patented anew, the public's free use of information in the public domain is clouded by a new monopoly," the brief says. "Moreover, the public receives no value in the disclosure of minor variations of inventions already known and disclosed in the prior art." KSR has argued that the Federal Circuit Court has been misinterpreting the law of what "obvious" means for many years, and hopes for a precedent-setting reinterpretation. A 1952 patent law states that an invention does not qualify for a patent if a "person having ordinary skill in the art" would consider it obvious. KSR is arguing that the technology it used was previously available, and that all it did was combine them in a way which it argued was "obvious". "Claims of obviousness are often the most successful way to defend patent infringement actions," said Deborah Bould, a partner at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW. "If the invention was obvious to an uninventive skilled technician in that sector, then the patent is invalid and will be revoked by the court." "KSR argued that all the integers of the claim were disclosed previously in various sources and that the skilled person would have combined those sources. When that was done, the invention was obvious," said Bould. "This is known in Europe as mosaicing – combining pieces of prior art. It is generally not allowed unless the sources cross refer to each other or it would have been obvious to the skilled person to combine them." The Court of Appeals in the US upheld the patent because it said there must be "teaching, suggestion or motivation" that would lead the skilled person to combine the features to reach the invention, and that this was absent in the KSR case. Microsoft and Cisco argue against the motivation test in their court filing. "The Federal Circuit’s motivation test establishes too lenient a standard for patentability, and it has had a stifling effect on true innovation because it encumbers ideas well beyond the limits imposed by Congress for patentable inventions, and effectively precludes courts from exercising their authority to decide ultimate questions of patent validity," the document says. "It seems unlikely that the Supreme Court is going to relax the 'teaching, suggestion or motivation' test, which is well established, as this will open up more patents to challenge," Bould said. "The Supreme Court is generally perceived as supporting technology and patents. However, companies such as Microsoft and Cisco are arguing hard to open up the obviousness test." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 29 Jun 2006

Committee criticises DCA minister

Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs has criticised the government for failing to acknowledge the "serious threat" to Freedom of Information (FOI) in how electronic records are stored. The cross party group of MPs have said they are "disappointed" with evidence provided by the Department of Constitutional Affairs minister Baroness Ashton on how the records will be preserved. Parliament's Committee on Constitutional Affairs says in its report Freedom of Information - one year on, released on 28 June 2006: "When the DCA minister Baroness Ashton came to give evidence to us about government plans to ensure the long-term preservation of documents held in digital form, we were disappointed by her failure to recognise that this was a serious threat." It says plans are needed to handle the rapid and significant changes in technology and the "inevitable" degradation of storage media. "National Archives and the DCA must take the lead in developing such plans," said the committee. "FoI has no force without a proper commitment to ensure that the information held is in a retrievable form." Record management practices in some public authorities also need "substantial" improvement, warns the committee. "More proactive leadership and progress management of departments' records management system is required." Overall the committee finds the FoI Act a "significant success," due to the efforts made by public authorities to meet its demands. But it warns that delays in providing the information outside of the 20 day statutory deadline undermines the effectiveness of the act. "In addition, lack of interpretation in the code of practice as 'reasonable' time limits enables public authorities to make indefinite extensions of many months in order to make public interest decisions and to conduct internal reviews," it says. The committee recommends the DCA should also improve compliance, and finds that the complaints resolution process provided by the Information Commissioner's Office during 2005 was "unsatisfactory". Requesters and public authorities said they have "waited months" for the commissioner to start investigating their complaints. The commissioner responded to this by saying it will publish a progress report in September 2006, which the committee will use to assess whether any follow ups are needed. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 29 Jun 2006

Googled by GWT - Part 2

GWT (or the Google Web Toolkit) provides a Java library and set of tools that allow a pure JavaScript and HTML application to be derived form a Pure Java development environment. The executable is then generated from this and is implemented in terms of JavaScript, HTML and CSS etc. As such, this allows a much higher level of abstraction to be used by developers, while still generating the latest AJAX based web applications. Why is this useful or even desirable? I believe the answer to this question is akin to the answer provided by people regarding low-level languages such as assembler and higher level programming languages such as Pascal, Ada and PL1, back when I started out in computing. By working at a higher level, we can focus on the requirements of our systems rather than the quirks of various different browsers, or the integration of various different browser based technologies. It also makes the whole development process simpler for developers who have less experience in these technologies and their integration. Remember AJAX is not so much a technology in itself as a technique integrating a number of other technologies. Having built numerous desktop-based Swing applications, I find the development approach adopted by such environments much richer and at a higher level than a pure AJAX environment. I also believe that working at such a level reduces the number of technology-oriented bugs. GWT moves rich web client development to this level of abstraction. In this column, we look at the technical details of actually creating a GWT based application. We will examine the structure of a very simple application and review the translation process and the final execution environment. Basic UI Components The basic components used within a GWT application will have a familiar feel for anyone who has ever done any AWT, Swing, or indeed SWT work. You will find that there are UI Components such as Buttons, CheckBoxes, Labels, Tables, Trees, and TextBoxes. In GWT terminology, these are called Widgets. Widgets can be combined together using Panels (of various sorts such as Flow, Horizontal and Vertical), grids etc. You create displays by combining various widgets together in panels, much as you would combine Swing components together within JPanels etc. For example, the following uses HorizontalPanel with a number of Widgets added to it. HorizontalPanel hp = new HorizontalPanel(); hp.setVerticalAlignment(VerticalPanel.ALIGN_MIDDLE); hp.add(new Button("Start")); hp.add(new HTML("Welcome", true)); hp.add(new Button("Stop")); GWT also provides a number of built in widgets that are useful for AJAX applications, including hierarchical trees, menu bars, tab bars and model dialog boxes. GWT also possesses an event handling framework that is very similar to the delegation event model used with Swing applications. This means that to write a simple call back handler for a GWT button is no harder than writing the equivalent handler for a Swing application (although some Adapter classes are missing – adapter classes are default null implementations for Event handlers that reduce the number of methods you may need to write). For example, the following code snippet implements a very simple event handler for a button: ClickListener listener = new ClickListener() { public void onClick(Widget sender) { Window.alert("Hello GWT World"); } }; Button b = new Button("Click me", listener); This code snippet creates an anonymous subclass of the ClickListener that will display a message "Hello GWT World" whenever it is run. It is then used as the listener passed to the Button construct such that whenever the button is clicked the associated onClick method will be executed. When this application is translated into AJAX, the call back mechanism will be handled completely within the JavaScript implementation. Anatomy of a GWT application Let us now briefly dissect the simple GWT application presented in Figure 1. Our class, HelloWorldApplication, directly implements the EntryPoint interface. EntryPoint is the interface that a class can act as a module entry point. It defines a single method onModuleLoad which is used to initialise the class (and thus potentially the module). A module is essentially a GWT application – in a manner similar to an executable Jar for a Swing application or a WAR for a standard Java web application. A module can have zero or more entry points – these entry points allow applications to be instantiated or application behaviour to be triggered off. As well as implementing the EntryPoint interface, an entry point class must also have a zero parameter constructor. When a module is loaded, every entry point class is instantiated and its onModuleLoad method is called. So, in the following class the onModuleLoad method sets up a button, a label, creates and registers a ClickListener with the button and adds the button and label to the RootPanel. The RootPanel is analogous to the root pane of a Swing application. public class HelloWorldApplication implements EntryPoint { /** * This is the entry point method. */ public void onModuleLoad() { final Button button = new Button("Click me"); final Label label = new Label(); button.addClickListener(new ClickListener() { public void onClick(Widget sender) { if (label.getText().equals("")) label.setText("Hello World!"); else label.setText(""); } }); RootPanel.get("slot1").add(button); RootPanel.get("slot2").add(label); } } In addition to the Java class created by the GWT tools, two other files are important. One is the GWT configuration file that specifies the location of the core web toolkit material and the entry point for the application. For the HelloWorldApplication this is the HelloWorldApplication.gwt.xml file presented below: Finally, there is the HTML file that drives the module. In our case, this is a file called HelloWorldApplication.html which looks much like any other HTML / JavaScript file with the exception of the GWT module reference: and the reference to the GWT javascript code that bootstraps the whole process: One thing that might surprise you is the location of these files. As illustrated in Figure 2 the XML file and the HTML file are both located within the Java source package structure. This is not a mistake as the GWT tools expect to load them from here. Running in Hosted mode To run your GWT application in hosted mode, all you need do is run the com.google.gwt.dev.GWTShell that is a class that is found in the gwt-dev-windows.jar (or gwt-dev-linux.jar). This class takes a number of parameters including the URL to launch. For example: com.regdev.HelloWorldApplication/HelloWorldApplication.html This can be done in Eclipse as illustrated in Figure 3. The application then runs in just the same way as a Swing application and can be interactively debugged in the same manner. Running in web mode To run in web mode you must first generate the HTML and JavaScript version of your GWT application. To do this you need to run the module compile command generated when the application was created. In our case this is the HelloWorldApplication-compile.cmd. For example: c:\javalibs\gwt-windows-1.0.21>HelloWorldApplication-compile.cmd Output will be written into c:\javalibs\gwt-windows-1.0.21\www\com.regdev.HelloW orldApplication Compilation succeeded In the output directory, I now have a set of files that implement my GWT application using HTML and JavaScript. For example: 14B4BAB3B0DE05BB39CFBF9A0551F95D.cache.html 14B4BAB3B0DE05BB39CFBF9A0551F95D.cache.xml 81677B969CD0C6EB7CBB3305CEFE7DBE.cache.html 81677B969CD0C6EB7CBB3305CEFE7DBE.cache.xml B762F92F372AC2E5337520D4E5005B16.cache.html B762F92F372AC2E5337520D4E5005B16.cache.xml F360E12E64EF8D691E75006875BE43D9.cache.html F360E12E64EF8D691E75006875BE43D9.cache.xml HelloWorldApplication.html com.regdev.HelloWorldApplication.nocache.html gwt.js history.html tree_closed.gif tree_open.gif tree_white.gif By opening HelloWorldApplication.html in a browser I can see the end result of my hard work running as a pure HTML/JavaScript application (as illustrated in Figure 4). I could now deploy this to a web server and make my first GWT application available over the web. Summary GWT is an extremely interesting and useful development environment for (in particular) Java developers who want to produce rich web clients. It provides a powerful develop-debug-deploy environment that can exploit the full program creation and debug facilities in IDEs such as Eclipse. There are of course those who will say that the AJAX code produced by the GWT can't be as efficient as that produced by hand (which may well be true, although the Google team are proud of the quality of the code automatically generated); but it also has the potential to contain fewer architectural or technology oriented bugs. Obviously, the generated client must still be tested within any browsers that will be used by end users – merely testing the pure Java version in the Eclipse IDEs is not sufficient. In addition, the fact that this is a Google tool suite, rather than part of the Java platform itself or from the Apache Organisation may trouble some. However, as a tool in and of itself, it is one that I will be watching closely; and I will look for an opportunity to test it within the context of a real world application as soon as possible. ®
John Hunt, 29 Jun 2006
cloud

Spain adds levy to blank discs

The Spanish government will add a levy to blank media such as CDs and DVDs to hand over to copyright holders to compensate for the duplication of copyrighted materials.
OUT-LAW.COM, 29 Jun 2006
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IE blighted by flaw duo

A brace of new Internet Explorer vulnerabilities have been disclosed on a security mailing list. The most serious of the two flaws, which has been accompanied by the publication of proof of concept exploit code, involves HTA applications and creates a means to trick users into executing malign code providing users can be tricked into double clicking on an icon. Workarounds against the flaw involve disabling active scripting. The second security bug involves processing of the object.documentElement.outerHTML property. This vulnerability creates a means for hackers to retrieve information from sites a potential mark is logged into, such as a webmail page, in order to swipe user credentials. Microsoft is investigating both flaws. The SANS Institute says it's yet to hear of the active exploitation of either vulnerability by hackers. ®
John Leyden, 29 Jun 2006

Virgin France cops €600k piracy fine

Virgin France has been slapped with a €600,000 fine for illegally downloading Madonna's Hung Up for resale on its site - in the process ignoring an "exclusive deal reached by Warner Music France with France Telecom and Orange", the BBC reports. France Telecom had inked a €500,000 deal with Warner, which allowed it to exclusively offer the song for sale on its website or for download to mobile phones. The agreement ran for one week in October, but "after the tune was made available the Virgin store downloaded it, repackaged it and made it available on the Virginmega website", a Paris industrial court ruled. France Telecom's Herve Payan told the International Herald Tribune: "This is an amazing case of simple piracy by a respected company. Virgin behaved in a surreal manner by downloading the song, cracking protection measures, and then selling it from their own website." In its defence, Virgin France declared it had "broken the exclusive agreement in the interest of consumers", - a reference to the growing practice of exclusive release deals which, some argue, "limit consumer access to music". The Beeb cites similar deals in the US involving Starbucks which ruffled feathers down at HMV. The court, however, duly fined Virgin France, ordering it to pay €250,000 each to France Telecom and Orange, and €100,000 to Warner. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Jun 2006

Nokia works with Korean vendors on Wi-Bro and WiMAX

AnalysisAnalysis Samsung may be looking to Wi-Bro, its pre-802.16e technology, to provide it with the means to gain global presence in networking infrastructure, but it knows no wireless system will really hit the mainstream without some support from Nokia, with its huge sway over the handset market. Nokia has formed a cooperation project with ETRI (the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute) of Korea – with Samsung and LG the creators of Wi-Bro, on which 802.16e is based. The Finnish giant will work with ETRI members on Wi-Bro, WiMAX, image processing, and open source software. It will gain valuable insights into the advanced Korean market and in return provide endorsement of the technology with probable handset design programs. On a broader scale, any move to integrate the Asian and US dominated agendas of Samsung and Intel will be beneficial to keeping the WiMAX community and platform unified and international. As with its existing 4G partnership with Samsung, under which the handset rivals exchange and pool R&D and seek to accelerate the creation of next generation systems, Nokia will look to jumpstart the roll-out of a new platform that could generate new handset revenues for all parties, and in which it believes it will have a headstart through its efficient supply chains, high R&D activities, and joint WiMAX handset initiative with Intel. Nokia has been ambivalent towards WiMAX in general. A founder member of the forum, it then lost interest when the focus switched from cellular backhaul to mobile access, potentially limiting growth in W-CDMA, where Nokia Networks is strong. However, the Finnish company has been looking to diversify its device revenue streams, introducing more products that are not tied into cellular networks, including its popular IP tablet, which has no cellular radio. It will not launch a WiMAX device until it sees significant operator build-out, or a high level of demand in its key target growth market, the enterprise, but it is ploughing significant funds and expertise into 802.16 on the basis that it could become an important network – and Samsung’s early success with Wi-Bro in Korea, Latin America and elsewhere could help that day come earlier than Nokia had originally expected. Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
Wireless Watch, 29 Jun 2006
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Dell rejigs US units

Dell has reorganised its US consumer and business units to focus on growth. Ro Parra has been put in charge of Dell's consumer and small business unit. Joe Marengi is now running its US corporate business. The changes were made several weeks ago but have only just been made public. Dell CEO Kevin Rollins told the FT the company was seeing competitors, "on fairly shaky profitability ground flying a bit closer to the ground". He believes the market will see a new round of consolidation. He said consumers increasingly want more media-rich machines but denied this was a problem for a direct seller. He said Dell's retail business, which accounts for some eight per cent of consumer sales, would not be a focus for future growth but remains very useful as a way to find out what consumers want. He compared Dell's kiosks to 160 focus groups which make a profit. Asked about rumours that Dell was preparing to offer AMD PCs as well as servers, Rollins said: "I think it's correct that there is a rumour. I confirm that I have heard a rumour as well." Dell is also offering a new level of support for servers and storage products called Platinum Plus. More here. More from the FT: here. ®
John Oates, 29 Jun 2006

3! inks! deal! with! Yahoo!

3 is to give its punters unrestricted access to the wibbly wobbly web following a deal with Yahoo!. The 3G phone outfit has signed a global agreement with the internet giant to use its mobile internet services. The pair will work together to offer 3's punters services such as Yahoo! Search, Yahoo! Mobile Web, Yahoo! Messenger and Yahoo! Mail. The first services will be made available in the UK later this summer. But 3 is also looking to expand the service to other countries, including Italy, Ireland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark and Australia. The companies will jointly market the services on the Yahoo! and 3 networks. "The arrangement will use Yahoo!'s expertise in transcoding online content for mobile devices to allow 3 customers to surf the entire world wide web from their handsets for the first time," 3 said in a statement today. Up until now 3 has restricted access to the web. Last September it introduced its "Mobile Web" service, which provided access to sites that had been vetted by the cellco and "optimised for viewing on compatible video mobiles". Before that, 3 provided access to a "walled garden" of content. ®
Tim Richardson, 29 Jun 2006
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Intel reportedly delays 'Conroe'... by four days

Intel has allegedly put back the shipment of its 'Conroe' Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme processors by a whopping four days, Taiwanese motherboard-maker sources have claimed. How will the chip giant's fanboys cope?
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2006

Sapphire ready to ship first HDMI graphics card

Sapphire has claimed to be the first graphics card maker to offer a board with a built-in HDMI port. The card is based on ATI's CrossFire-ready Radeon X1600 GPU.
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Rank outsider poised to buy Elonex

A printer cartridge recycler has entered the final stages of negotiations with administrators to snap up choice cuts of defunct British PC manufacturer Elonex Plc. If a deal is struck today as expected, Elonex, a firm that cultivated an upper class image with customers in the "Times Top 100" and public sector, could be pulled back from the brink by the Newcastle-based office products trader which has its eye on Elonex's customer base and maintenance business. Final talks with administrators Deloitte Touche are thought to be focusing on how much of London-based Elonex will be bought by Afic (Applied Film Industries Company Plc), which makes and distributes office stationery and sells reconditioned printer cartridges from its plants in China and Romania. Afic managing director Yuval Ella said the company is not looking to buy Elonex's PC manufacturing facility at this stage, but has not completely ruled it out. Ella said he knew Elonex's directors from previously doing business with them, and had seen an opportunity to exploit some of the PC firm's assets. "Elonex has a very big base that people are not aware of - of maintenance," said Ella. "They've got contracts with huge amounts of people - tens of thousands of people have bought equipment from Elonex over the years. So do a maintenance contract with us and that'll supply you with all the imaging consumables you need," he added. Afic has been trading since 1984. In its last published UK accounts, to 30 April 2005, it made a loss after tax of £0.04m on £14.5m turnover. Ella said it now does £20m sales in the UK and £80m overseas. Deloitte Touche refused to comment. ®
Mark Ballard, 29 Jun 2006

Venus Express reveals double-eyed storm at planet's pole

The first scientific results are already beaming back from the European Space Agency's Venus Express mission. After spending nine days in an elongated orbit around the planet in April, the spacecraft has confirmed the existence of a huge double vortex atmospheric system at the south pole of the planet. Venus Express made its observations shortly after arriving at the planet, when it was initially captured into the elongated orbit. This path took it between 350,000km and 400km from the planet's surface, giving scientists the opportunity for both close study, and an extended, but still distant view of the surface. It has been known for a long time that extremely high speed winds blow westwards around the planet - they take just four days to cover the entire globe. Coupled with the recycling of the very hot atmosphere, this super-rotation is expected to produce a vortex over each pole. Although previous missions had seen the expected atmospheric disturbances at both poles, only the north pole had been studied in any detail, and the double-eye structure had never been seen before. "We still know very little about the mechanisms by which the super-rotation and the polar vortexes are linked," ESA Venus Express project scientist Håkan Svedhem said. "Also, we are still not able to explain why the global atmospheric circulation of the planet results in a double and not single vortex formation at the poles. However, the mission is just at the beginning and it's doing fine; we expect this and many other long-standing mysteries to be addressed and possibly solved by Venus Express." Venus Express has collected data in the visible, infrared and ultraviolet spectra. Each reveals something new about the planet. The infrared images, for example, reveal more details of the cloud structure than has been seen before, while the ultraviolet views show striking bands in the southern hemisphere's skies. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jun 2006

ATI RS600 said to be set to ship as Radeon Xpress 1250

The Intel-oriented version of ATI's RS600 chipset will ship as the Radeon Xpress 1250, it has emerged.
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2006

Scots battle English on Andy Murray blog

The blog of Scottish tennis hopeful Andy Murray has turned into a Braveheart-style battlefield between Scots and English following the player's recent comment that he'd back Paraguay in England's opening World Cup match, and in fact he'd support "anyone but England" during the tournament. Well, the English didn't like that one bit. Reasoned responses to the ill-advised outburst include "Well anyone but a pathetic Little Scotlander sweaty like you at Wimbledon for me old chum", "Hi Andy - my mate told me that you are not eligible for the BBC Sports Personality of the year award because you haven’t got one? Is that true?", "I went to Scotland once, it was full of ginger haired weird men wearing womens skirts eating square sausage and trying to make love to a wooden pole" and "You are rubbish. Tennis is a rubbish sport. Scotland is absolutely rubbish, and if it isnt, then why do you all leave to come south?" Oh dear, oh dear. The Scots were, naturally, soon wielding their claymores with: Just shows you how sad, pathetic and small minded some english people are and you wonder why we cant stand you arrogant fvcks. Keep speaking you mind Andy, all of Scotland loves you for it. Dont let these morons get to you, us scots have a sense of humour that these knuckle-draggers just dont get. Theyre all being the forum hardmen, love to even see them attempt to say anything to your face or any scotsmans face, COWARDS! and... Ha ha, you have to laugh at how much these poor wee sensitive souls have worked themselves up over Andy's throwaway comment about the World Cup!! "Boo hoo - no-one loves us" and as for not supporting Andy at Wimbledon, do you really think he gives a flying fvck about some miserable guffs not supporting him?? and... Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die, Scotland til i die... And so on... The conflict has, sadly, now escalated into an international free-for-all, with one Aussie commenting: "Can't belive how upset these Poms are about a completely innocuous comment about one of the oldest sporting rivalries in the world! It won't just be the Scots pissing themsleves when the poms falter (get 'robbed' - again!!!) out of the world cup. Good -onya Andy tell them the way it is." An American, meanwhile, weighed in today with: "My, my, the English are very easily upset aren't they? Some of the comments on here really show what a band of small minded bigots they really are. A nasty, nasty people, If you are not English then beware before visiting the country otherwise you could be in for a VERY rude awakening. Better still visit Ireland, Scotland or Wales where in my experience the welcome is warm and genuine." Hmmmm. Murray attempted yesterday to avoid United Nations intervention by declaring: "I'm not anti-English! I have supported Tim the last ten years and he is English! Ricky Hatton is one of my favourite boxers and he is English. I said I think England will beat Portugal in my press conference! I made a joke I don't mind whether England win or lose! Press blew it out of proportion!" To little avail, it must be said. Further damage-limitation came from the The Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) which, as The Scotsman notes, "is to use £500,000 from its publicly funded coffers to pay for coaching for Murray". An LTA spokesman offered: "Andy is Scottish, but he represents Great Britain in tennis. We certainly wouldn't tell him which football team he should support, nor should anyone hold it against him. Whether he's an Englishman or a Scotsman is irrelevant; he's a great British tennis player." Although this statement - containing as it does the word "British" - is unlikely to assuage the patriots from both sides of the border, we're delighted to report that while the carnage continues unabated, there is at least one voice of reason to be found crying in the wilderness: Could anyone tell me where the skegness today site has gone? I was looking for it but got sent here instead, and although i think andrew is obviously a very nice young man, I really wanted to discuss the pressing issues (yes, that illegaly built shed is causing me some vexation!) relating to Skegness. Would any of you younger types here please care to point me in the direction of the Skegness today website? thanks Roy ®
Lester Haines, 29 Jun 2006

MySpace mugging: not just kids at risk

It seems that it isn't just teenage girls who are in danger on MySpace. A 22-year-old Florida man has been held up at gunpoint after going to meet an 18-year-old he made contact with on the MySpace network. According to reports, Ernest Evans had arranged a date with a woman calling herself Natalia after the two had been chatting online. Natalia claimed she was 18, and said in her profile that she was "Lookin' for something fun". However, Natalia is said to have been a fictional persona invented by a pair of teenaged girls, 13-year-old Rafaella Yusupova and 14-year-old Yana Galilova. When he arrived at their agreed rendezvous, Evans told police, the two girls approached him and asked to borrow his phone. Once he had handed it over to one of the girls, the other held a loaded gun to his head and demanded his wallet and money. The two girls have been arrested and charged with armed robbery and carrying a concealed weapon. A 21-year-old man who was with them when they were arrested has also been taken into custody and charged with furnishing minors with firearms. The moral of this story is the same as ever. If you meet someone online and you want to meet up in real life, do so in a public place, preferably not alone. This story just underlines that the rule applies to everyone, not just 14-year-old girls. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jun 2006
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Yahoo! settles click fraud

Yahoo! has settled a class action case brought against it for click fraud. The search giant will pay $4.95m in attorney fees and offer cash and discounts to thousands of unhappy advertisers. There is no limit to the final amount Yahoo! may have pay out, but the company seems confident it won't break the bank. The decision was made by Judge Christina Snyder in LA District Court. A retired judge will oversee the payment process. Yahoo! has also agreed to work with others in the industry to define what click fraud is. Google settled a similar case in March but its payments were capped at $90m. There are various forms of click fraud - from paying someone to click repeatedly on a competitors' advert, which they must pay for, to sophisticated re-direct schemes. The scale of the problem is disputed with estimates ranging from 12 per cent of total ad clicks to as much as 30 per cent. Both Google and Yahoo! refund unhappy advertisers, but the process is unclear and has cast a shadow over the real value of the market. More from AP here. ®
John Oates, 29 Jun 2006

Penis pump judge faces stiff sentence

A retired US judge is himself before the beak in Bristow, Oklahoma, "on charges he used a penis pump on himself in the courtroom while sitting in judgment of others", AP reports. The trial of Donald D Thompson, 59, has reportedly provoked much courtroom merriment as the jury has been entertained by both a defence attorney and prosecutor indulging in "pantomime masturbation" and a former juror in Thompson's court identifying the sound of the pump because "he had seen such devices in Austin Powers and Dead Man on Campus". A key witness in the trial has been former court reporter Lisa Foster. In giving testimony, she "wiped away tears as she described tracing an unfamiliar 'sh-sh' in the courtroom to her boss". Foster alleges that between 2001 and 2003 she saw the judge expose himself "at least 15 times", adding: "I was really shocked and I was kind of scared because it was so bizarre." Foster further testified that during a 2002 trial, she heard the pump "during the emotional testimony of a murdered toddler's grandfather". She continued: "The grandfather was getting real teary-eyed, and the judge was up there pumping on that pump. It was sickening." Thompson's pneumatic proceedings came to an end after a police officer heard the pump's distinctive signature during a case, and photographed the device during a recess. Thompson was charged with four counts of indecent exposure - each carrying a 10-year maximum sentence - and faces the possible withdrawal of his substantial $7,489.91 a month pension if found guilty. From the witness box, Thompson claimed the pump was "a gag gift from a longtime friend with whom he had joked about erectile dysfunction". He admitted keeping it under the bench or in his office, but denied he'd ever used it. He added: "In 20-20 hindsight, I should have thrown it away." Moments of light relief in the trial have included the aforementioned Austin Powers connection, offered by Daniel Greenwood, and expert witness Dr S Edward Dakil who "repeatedly prompted laughter" with his urology testimony. When challenged by defense attorney Clark Brewster that the penis pump was "an out-of-date treatment for erectile dysfunction", Dakil asserted: "I still use those." After a suitable pause, Brewster enquired: "Not you, personally?" to which Dakil responded to jury laughter: "No. I recommend those as a urologist." ®
Lester Haines, 29 Jun 2006

Intel readies 'Kaylo' uni-processor server platform

Intel appears set to ship the its anticipated Xeon 3000 processor family for single-CPU servers and workstations in August - a year after details of the new product line first emerged. The chips will form part of the company's 'Kaylo' platform for such machines.
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2006
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HP taps Brocade for new SAN gear

HP has added a trio of Brocade connectivity platforms to its storage portfolio. HP's B-series will present offerings based on the Brocade SilkWorm® 4900 switch, the SilkWorm 7500 router, and the SilkWorm FR4-18i Blade for the SilkWorm 48000 Director. Brocade marketing VP Tom Buiocchi gushed: "Today's announcement underscores the strength of our long-term partnership with HP and the proven performance of the 4 Gbit/sec SilkWorm family." HP SAN marketing jockey Kyle Fitze said: "SilkWorm line complements HP's emphasis on flexible, open, standards-based storage infrastructures." More from the announcement here.®
Christopher Williams, 29 Jun 2006

Plextor readies Blu-ray recorder

Plextor will ship its first Blu-ray Disc drive in September, the storage specialist has said. The PX-B900A is an internal unit for PCs and will support both single- and dual-layer recordable and rewriteable media.
Hard Reg, 29 Jun 2006

Pure pushes PocketDAB sound, battery life

Pure has updated its PocketDAB portable digital radio, boosting the battery life, trimming the weight and adding an FM tuner for good measure and overseas jaunts. Oh, and it's now available in rather more tasty black attire.
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2006

Guardian blushes red in tech quiz challenge

The story began on 9 March, when Richard Sarson flung down the dataglove by writing Techno world has MPs beat, in which he put the number of technically unchallenged MPs at no more than 20 or 30 and expressed the hope that implementing the ID card bill would be the thing that made the rest of them care. Apparently, MPs do use the technology that is newspapers, and there was some aggrievance. Enter BT offering revenge in the form of a challenge quiz: four MP-led teams and one from the Guardian, all facing off over four rounds of seven or eight questions each. The prize for winning: £1,000, to be paid to the charity of the team's choice. The teams The Bit Players, led by Andrew Miller, Labour MP for Ellesmere Port and Neston. The Telstars, led by John Robertson, Labour MP for Glasgow Northwest. Taylor's Technos, led by Ian Taylor, Conservative MP for Esher and Walton and minister for technology in the Department of Trade and Industry from 1994 to 1997 (and one of the Illumitechnorati quoted by Sarson in his original piece). And, for the Guardian: technology editor Charles Arthur, eternal computer editor Jack Schofield, online editor Neil Mackintosh, and freelances Mike Cross and I. The compere: Tom Dunmore, from Channel 5's Gadget Show. In a suit. Let me just say: we got robbed. The competition Each table had a laptop and a publicly viewable display. The first round of questions was on technology history. What were the first words spoken over a telephone link, who was the Melissa virus named for, things like that. Easy stuff when you have Jack Schofield on your team. The first hint of disaster was the assigned activity: take a picture with the supplied camera, and use the laptop to email it to Flickr. Five technology hacks sitting at a table; how many do you think actually use PCs? One. Me (and I was not operating the laptop). They all use Macs. Guess how many of us use Hotmail, the email interface we had to use? Right: none. Our photo arrived last, after the deadline. The robbing happened in the next round, "Technology Benefits", in which BT permitted itself a small but real advertisement for broadband penetration. Who, they asked, was the first MP to have a blog? The correct answer is Richard Allan. They said Tom Watson. Compare the dates of the first entries, and you'll see that we were right. Plus, like Woody Allen with Marshall McLuhan, we had Richard Allan right there to back us up. No dice. A few acronyms, website logos, and quotes to identify later (one of these was "I took the initiative in creating the internet", to which Ian Taylor commented, "I know it was Al Gore. He said it to me"), and we had to find which MP1 had the best voting record. Man, these MPs were speed demons on that one. Taylor's all-female Technos had They Work For You up halfway through the previous round. We, actually, didn't find it within the five minutes. With the Telstars leading by one point, a decent veil must be drawn across the Singstar karaoke sing-off pitting Charles Arthur against John Robertson, singing Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds". Winner John Robertson said: "We actually are human beings sometimes. We'll be back to defend our crown." The winners' £1,000 went to the Macmillan Cancer Trust. ® See the Guardian article here.
Wendy M. Grossman, 29 Jun 2006

Net neut now needs a miracle

Barring an unlikely Senate filibuster, the issue of net neutrality has almost certainly died for this year's legislative session in Washington DC. On Wednesday, a Senate commerce panel failed to attach the provisions preventing operators "from blocking, degrading or prioritising service on their networks" to this year's telecomms bill. The panel split down partisan lines, 11-11, on an amendment proposed by Senators Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) and Bryon Dorgan (D-ND). A version of the bill minus the net neut language sailed through. So that's that. Hopes remain that a Senate Judiciary committee may yet decide to intervene with an amendment of its own, and a filibuster may yet take place on the Senate floor. However, neither is likely to succeed, given the composition of the Senate today. The lack of popular interest in the subject - which has failed to excite passions except on the fringe - is unlikely to sway majority Republican senators that it's a cross-partisan issue. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 29 Jun 2006

Korean carrier readies 'lipstick' phone

South Korean telco KTF has unveiled one of the world's most compact slider phones, so small it's shorter than a lipstick dispenser and perfectly sized for any purse, the company's handset design subsidiary claimed.
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2006
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Google payments service arrives at last

Google's long-predicted payment service has finally arrived. Called Google Checkout, the service goes live in the US today and will be available elsewhere soon. The search giant promises users easy purchasing and the choice to keep email addresses private. An icon for Checkout will appear next to AdWords ads for shops using the system. Merchants will also get a discount - for every $1 they spend on AdWords they can process $10 in sales through Checkout for free. Google says there are various options for including the system on websites - from cut-and-paste buttons, to APIs that allow integration with commerce platforms such as MonsterCommerce and ChannelAdvisor. Customers without a Google ID can create one from the merchant's site at the time of purchase. Holders of Citi credit cards get a $5 credit for using the service. Google Checkout's main competitor will presumably be PayPal, which has the advantage of being platform of choice on its parent site eBay. The question is whether Google's discount on transaction fees for users of AdWords will be enough of a draw. More from Google here. ®
John Oates, 29 Jun 2006

Indonesians cuff Playboy model

Police in Indonesia have arrested the country's first Playboy model and her editor-in-chief on a decency violation rap. Playmate Kartika Gunawan posed in lingerie for the first local edition of the magazine, which provoked a storm among the country's Muslim population. Reaction by hardliners prompted the publishers to up sticks from Jakarta and relocate to predominantly-Hindu Bali. The second edition of the mag, which hit newsstands in early June, did little to calm the situation, featuring "Bali-based French beauty Amar Doriane, whose seductive poses in see-through lingerie make her April predecessor Kartika Gunawan look like a naive schoolgirl", as AsiaMedia puts it. It also showcased Joanna Alexandra flaunting "an alluring gaze as skimpy outfits expose her midriff and thighs". Worse still, the issue carries a piece by the chairman of the Bali chapter of the Alliance for Independence Journalists, Anton Muhajir, giving forth about "the roaring success of pork meatball soup" in Bali plus an investigation into the "thriving business of selling locally brewed beer in Yogyakarta". And just in case that didn't do the job, the magazine also ran an interview with death-row convict Fabianus Tibo, a "Christian who was sentenced to death for his role in the Poso sectarian conflict". Hardliners have been demanding Tibo's prompt execution since he and two others "were sentenced to death for committing premeditated murder and inciting riots, following ethnic and religious violence in the town of Poso, Central Sulawesi, in May 2000", according to an Amnesty International report. The possible fate of Ms Gunawan and editor Erwin Arnada is less serious. If found guilty, they face a maximum of two years, eight months' chokey. Gunawan said: "I am not sorry, because every decision I made was well considered. I was not trying to make a sensation, many more people have posed more vulgar than I did." ® Bootnote One thing the second edition of Indonesian Playboy didn't carry much of was adverts. Potential advertisers bowed to pressure to pull out of the issue, prompting publisher PT Velvet Silver Media to leave white space carrying the message: "These blank pages are dedicated to our loyal clients who have been threatened against placing ads in this magazine."
Lester Haines, 29 Jun 2006

LG touts 'super 3G' widescreen slider phone

Korean industrial giant LG this week attempted to attract local buyers with a new HSDPA handset designed to allow them to make video calls in widescreen, though it'll be handy for video playback too, we'd guess.
Tony Smith, 29 Jun 2006

AOL bidding continues

CommentComment The AOL rumours just won't go away. In Europe it appears that the company is up for sale, in the US the management still maintains that it is expanding in Europe. This week is the turn of Telecom Italia to be put in the headlines, believed now to be in the front running to buy AOL's German and French operations. So why would a telco buy an ISP anyway? All the European Telcos had every chance to start and maintain their own ISPs for all of the past decade. The enlightened operators did, but many sold them off. Deutsche Telekom, for instance, separated T-Online for a sell off and changed its mind, luckily, at the last minute. AOL has paying customers. That's the plain and simple of it, and people that have purchased broadband lines have shown themselves to be in the front running for new technology adoption. These are the crème de la crème of European customers and all ISPs are now hunted across Europe for the customer bases they have accrued in the last 10 years. Unlike the US, where the big ISPs have market capitalisations that mean they are just as likely to buy a telco as the other way around, in Europe this is part and parcel of the telco war against cable operators and against incursion by single VoIP providers. The power players of Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telecom Italia and Telefonica, alongside part players like British Telecom and TeliaSonera, can all finally recognise the shape of the future. They will have voice revenues eroded, so they need new services, those services have to be IP based, and the more services they can send over a single line the better. Mobile phone customers are additional and key, because they currently have the largest margins to protect, and broadband lines are essential, even where they are wholesaled from an incumbent, or unbundled at the local DSLAM. These major telcos need to buy outside their original wireline operations as much as their mobile operations had to bid for spectrum outside of their territories. The US portals are more interested in their core activities back home, and for MSN that means Microsoft and software, for Yahoo! it means being a portal, but for AOL it means being Time Warner and running the biggest content business in the world. AOL has one million DSL customers in Germany, but it also has dial up customers ready to convert, and so it is a prime target and of course similar sized operations in its other two territories. Already this week, Telefonica, through its O2 subsidiary, has purchased Be Broadband, the UK local ISP, in a deal which is about more of the same. Telefonica has bought Cesky Telecom in the Czech Republic and has ISP operations in its native Spain and in Germany. It needs coverage in Italy and France for a Europe-wide service and we would expect it to move there eventually, and it too could be on the bidders list for AOL in France at least. Be Broadband was started up with Scandinavian money, by a serial entrepreneur who had sold out to one of the incumbents and moved to the UK. The purchase price for Be was £50m, which curiously is more than double the purchase price of Bulldog, the second largest unbundled broadband operation in the UK, which was thought to be up for sale once again after being bought two years ago by Cable and Wireless. The price shows just how much broadband operators are now highly valued and seen as part of the triple play food chain. Be has a fraction of the lines that Bulldog had, but two years on fetched double the price. Be is only halfway through building its own national broadband network focusing on high end ADSL2+ connections offering speeds up to 24Mbps and has so far only rolled out the service to 150 local exchanges. To get a decent UK footprint it needs to be at 400, which was its stated target for the end of this year when it would reach 50 per cent of the UK population. Rival Orange recently rebranded its Wanadoo ISP and began offering free broadband lines to its top end mobile customers. O2 is almost certain to be looking to do the same. Currently Be offers a 24 Mbps broadband line for just £24 per month. And NTL, which is about to rename itself Virgin, after buying out MVNO Virgin Mobile, is all set to launch quadruple-play services including TV, internet, and both mobile and fixed voice. At these transaction prices expect more and more ISPs to come to the block in the next six months, because now is the time to cash in. AOL, of course, does not work with unbundled lines, (although in the UK AOL has installed its kit in 200 exchanges and has some 100,000 LLU lines - Ed) instead it wholesales them from incumbents like Deutsche Telekom and British Telecom, and it was rumored by the press to be up for sale in the UK to BSkyB, the leading UK satellite TV company. That may well be the case, but we would expect that many commentators are not looking at the big European picture, and any one of the major telcos could leap into the bidding for any of the AOL properties. Versatel and smaller local operations such as freenet.de and United Internet have also been mentioned as potential AOL Germany buyers, not to mention every private equity group in Europe that thinks it can break the properties up or hold them for a year or two while they develop an even richer price. Reuters last week reported the CEO of AOL Germany saying as much. "There are a number of bidders." Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 29 Jun 2006

Chat sites must take care of their kids

InterviewInterview The companies behind social networking sites are failing in their duty of care by not protecting their most vulnerable users, according to Matt Colebourne, CEO of digital society site, LunarStorm. He argues that companies like MySpace need to bite the bullet and put proper security systems in place, even if that means spending a fair chunk of change. "It is as though these sites, which in many cases were developed for adults, are ignoring the fact that they have younger people online. MySpace, for instance, has not done its job," he reckons, referring to the case of a 14-year old girl who is suing the company for millions of dollars after she was allegedly sexually assaulted by someone she met on the mySpace network. Simply listing proscribed behaviour to children and teenagers and expecting them to toe the line is naive: "You can't expect teenagers to follow the rules, and you have to presume that until someone is an adult, you don't always know enough to be able to make decisions that are in your own best interests. That is the presumption of law. So you have to take a proactive approach to monitoring, and have people patrolling the forums." LunarStorm, which is aimed specifically at the 17 to 19 year old age group, employs security staff to keep tabs on what is going on in its chatrooms, and recruits volunteers to moderate each space and report anything untoward. But it doesn't want to be Big Brother. After all, when you get a bunch of teenagers talking, there will be some frank and no doubt fruity discussions, and not all of these will be the kinds of things parents want their kids talking about. But until it crosses the line and becomes illegal or dangerous, Colebourne is happy to stay out of it. "What we look for is content or behaviour that might cause harm - physical or mental - to come to one of our users," he says. "We are not the moral arbiters of this space." The biggest problem, he says, is not the most high profile, but is bullying by the peergroup. "Let's not overstate the case. The threat [from paedophiles] is very small." But it does exist, so how do you deal with it? Like MySpace, LunarStorm requires users to register and state their age. But again, like MySpace, there is no way of verifying the age listed is genuine (we signed up to LunarStorm as a 19-year-old, to see if we could - yep, no problem). "Criminals will always misrepresent themselves, so you have to look for behaviour. We do some assessments of the kind of language people use because language is indicative of age - it is hard not to trip up if you are pretending to be younger than you are." The company also has its back-end systems monitoring for indicative behaviour. This could be things like repeatedly searching for a very specific type of person to chat with, then lurking rather than contacting them. But also the behaviour profiles of the different age groups on the site are pretty well known. Anyone falsely claiming to be 19, for instance, should stick out like a sore thumb. "Fixation is a pretty well known paedophile behaviour," he says. As for the rest? "Even I don't know what the other indicators are. We don't want anyone to be able to subvert our systems, so we keep the details secret." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jun 2006
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Red Hat shows strong first quarter

Red Hat posted good results for the first quarter of 2007, ended 31 May, with revenues up 38 per cent to $84m. Subscriptions made up $71.5m of this, with training and services providing the other $12.5m But Wall Street wasn't impressed and pushed Red Hat shares on Nasdaq down five per cent. GAAP net income for the period was $13.8m. Total cash and investments on 31 May was $1.1bn. More from Red Hat here. In other news, law blog Patently-O is reporting that Red Hat is being sued for patent infringement by FireStar. The lawsuit relates to software from JBoss, which Red Hat bought on 2 June. More from Patently-O here. ®
John Oates, 29 Jun 2006

Canadians go ultrasonic for tooth regrowth implant

Scientists in Canada have patented an ultrasound device which they say will help regrow broken teeth. A team at the University of Alberta have miniaturised a technology called low intensity pulsed ultrasound (LIPUS) so a wireless growth-stimulating 'chip' can be implanted into a patient's mouth. The regenerative effect of LIPUS was discovered by Dr Tarak El-Baily while working on rabbit subjects. The inducer is targeted to "massage" the root of a tooth injured either mechanically or by disease. It stimulates new growth and counteracts the destructive process of dental resorption, which often means a damaged tooth has to be completely removed. El-Baily said: "If the root is broken, it can now be fixed. And because we can regrow the teeth root, a patient could have his own tooth rather than foreign objects in his mouth." Before El-Baily collaborated with circuit design specialists to shrink the device to smaller than a pea, test subjects had to hold a large LIPUS source to their mouth for 20 minutes daily for a whole year. It's envisaged that the device could also be deployed to treat microsomia, a congenital underdevelopment of the lower jaw. The prototype is now being turned into a marketable version, which the team hopes to have ready "within the next two years".® Bootnote If anyone is planning a UK roll-out of the device, one Reg hack requests participation in early trials after his right front tooth came off worst following a recent argument with a crab shell.
Christopher Williams, 29 Jun 2006
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Dell adds 'Captain Kirk' tool to premium support package

Dell's extended apology to its corporate customers continued this week with the rollout out of a new server and storage support option. Customers have now been blessed with the choice of signing up for Dell's Platinum Plus service. That's an upgrade over the boring old Platinum service that Dell offered before, and existing customers will get the "Plus" at no additional charge. What all does the "Plus" entail? Well, at its most basic level, Platinum Plus is 7X24 everything, including hardware support, software help and access to Dell's vaunted "enterprise expert center." But, let's face it, you've come to expect 7X24 goodies with just the Platinum package. Where the hell is the Plus? To get to the Plus, Dell has added a couple pieces of eye candy. The first is an "Operations Benchmarking Feature." This tool looks at the overall performance of your data center and compares it with results from other data centers within your company or with results from other companies. You can catch a glimpse of the sophisticated software here. Dell reckons this is a real money saver as customers can avoid taking pricey surveys. The graphical fun doesn't stop there. Dell has also added an "Enterprise Command Center Real-Time Tracking Window." If the Captain Kirk in you is excited, it should be. From your Command Center, you can now tap into Google Earth Pro and create a 3D display of all the services issues affecting your company. You'll see notices of the downed disks in Tokyo, the flailing servers in Paris and the Itanium server purchase that was just approved in Topeka. More basic additions to Platinum Plus include Dell's move to offer this level of support to the Asia Pacific Region and to cut the server minimum from 200 down to 100 boxes. Dell is quick to point out that selling you the most expensive support contract it can come up with is part of a $200m investment the company has made "in a set of processes, people and tools that have formed the foundation of Dell's enterprise support services." Other elements of this investment include hiring more technical experts, opening expert centers and opening command centers to monitor customer problems. Dell hopes that corporate customers are paying attention to its services advances. The company's server business slowed in a major way over the past year. Part of the slowdown seems to have come from Dell's refusal to sell Opteron-based servers, and another part has come from an overall displeasure with Dell's corporate gear. Now Dell wants you back, and it's hoping that Google Earth Pro will seal the deal. Those desperate to learn more about Dell's services can tune in here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 Jun 2006

Cellcos ally to keep their hands on beach front spectrum for 4G

CommentComment Six of the world's largest mobile operators have formed the Next Generation Mobile Network (NGMN) Forum, aiming to use their collective lobbying might to ensure they can run fourth generation mobile broadband networks in their existing spectrum without significant additional licensing fees.
Wireless Watch, 29 Jun 2006
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RSA in three-way mating dance

RSA Security has confirmed it is talks with at least one potential bidder after the New York Times said storage giant EMC was closing in on the company. The NYT said RSA was talking to EMC "or at least one other bidder” about an acquisition which could be worth more than $1.8bn. The firm’s board will review final bids before the weekend, the report said. The report smoked out RSA, which issued a statement confirming “RSA Security is currently engaged in negotiations with parties regarding a potential strategic transaction.” It added that “No definitive agreement has been reached” and there was no guarantee a deal would be finalised. That did nothing to dampen down speculation which powered RSA’s share price up over 18 percent to $22.9m the last time we looked, pushing the value of the firm upto $1.7bn. The perceived benefits of integrating storage management and security has exercised the brains of industry execs in recent years. To date the most spectacular buy has been Symantec’s $13.5bn hoovering up of Veritas. But while the marriage of two software companies is less likely to scare potential customers and partners, RSA customers may balk at the idea of its technology being tied too closely to EMC’s hardware.®
Joe Fay, 29 Jun 2006

Intergraph revives patent cash cow

An old microprocessing patent that has in previous years has nabbed Intel, Dell and others was sprung on a clutch of South East Asian computer firms today. Intergraph, which started out doing missile guidance systems in the 60s, acquired a microprocessor technology it called the Clipper and sold for a brief few years as an engine for graphics workstations in the late 80s. Though Intergraph has not produced microprocessors since the early 90s, when it started using Intel chips, the Clipper patent is still being upheld in the courts. Its latest lawsuit, announced today, has been filed against Fujitsu, NEC and Toshiba in courts in California and Hamburg. It accuses them of infringing its Clipper patents. Intergraph sued Intel for infringing its Clipper patent in 1997. After the case was settled in 2002, Integraph decided to go after three of the richest OEM's that had integrated the Intel microprocessor into their personal computers - Dell, Gateway and HP. A deal it struck with Intel over another patent in March 2004 included a concession not to go after any Intel customers and Dell was immediately erased from its targeting systems. Gateway and HP were pursued for a while longer, however. Gateway settled up two months later with payments of $10m and royalties of $1.25 per unit till February 2009. It took HP till January last year to agree to cough up $141m and for both of them to wipe their hands of all patent disputes and share their intellectual property. Intergraph now makes most of its money from selling surveillance and security systems for the military and civilian agencies, but its mapping systems also end up at places like Britain's Ordnance Survey.®
Mark Ballard, 29 Jun 2006
channel

Spanish revolt against blank media levy

Spanish activists have launched a web-based campaign to fight the recently-imposed levy on blank media which will "place a tax on blank CDs, DVDs and even flash memory sticks", as we reported earlier today.
Lester Haines, 29 Jun 2006

Supremes axe Gitmo kangaroo courts

The US Supreme Court has axed a pillar of the Bush Administration's national security strategy by insisting that prisoners in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba not be subjected to the kangaroo courts, otherwise known as "military tribunals," that the Bushies have attempted to use in disposing of terror suspects.
Thomas C Greene, 29 Jun 2006

Top engineer quits NASA ahead of shuttle launch

A senior NASA engineer has quit just days before the countdown for the Discovery Space Shuttle, citing management differences. Charlie Camarda, previously director of engineering at the Johnson Space Center, with a history of 30 years working for NASA, has stepped down saying he could no longer tolerate the way management decisions were being made. In an email, obtained by ABC News, to colleagues at Johnson Space Center, he wrote: "I cannot accept the methods I believe are being used by this Center to select future leaders. I have always based my decisions on facts, data and good solid analysis. I cannot be a party to rumor, innuendo, gossip and-or manipulation to make or break someone`s career and-or good name." According to unnamed sources quoted by ABC, Camarda and NASA administrator Mike Griffin had argued over the way NASA management had treated safety concerns raised by engineers. As the final preparations for launch get underway, some engineers still argue in favour of more changes to the craft before the launch is greenlighted. Bryan O'Connor, head of safety at NASA, has advised that the launch should be delayed until all problems with insulating foam have been resolved. Falling foam caused the fatal damage to the Shuttle Columbia in 2003, and more foam fell from Discovery's tanks during its Return to Flight launch last year. However, mission commander Steve Lindsay says his crew are all excited that the mission has been okayed. "This is my fourth time doing it and I still get excited," he said. The Shuttle is slated to launch on Saturday, barring any unforeseen technical problems. Weather trouble could yet delay things, and there are reports of cloudy weather on the way. If any problems do arise, NASA has a two-week window before this opportunity to launch is lost. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jun 2006

Solaris dials domain zero with Xen

Sun Microsystems will release sample code next month giving Solaris 10 its first injection of virtualization on Intel and AMD hardware, finally expected in 2007. Sun will release a snap shot of code to the OpenSolaris community, which runs on the community's Xen virtualization technology and provides domain zero support for Solaris running on 32-bit and 64-bit Intel and AMD processors. Domain zero will enable Solaris to run securely on the same hardware as Linux distributions under the control of the Solaris management framework. Open Solaris is the open source, unsupported edition of Solaris, and Sun plans to add domain zero support to its fully supported version of Solaris in early 2007. Sun's support for Xen potentially brings Solaris 10, as well as virtualization, to a wider audience. Sun already supports VMware but Xen comes at a substantially lower cost than VMware thanks to the fact that it's free. The fact that it also runs on Intel and AMD means customers can get virtualization with Solaris on a low-cost platform. Sun claims it's giving customers "choice" by offering them both VMware and Xen, however Sun clearly has a wary eye to the future. That future? Using low-cost virtualization to drive uptake of Solaris on mass-market Intel and fast-growing AMD. That's incredibly important to Sun, because widespread use of Solaris is the foundation stone to its strategy of increasing revenue from software services - in this case Solaris 10. Sun currently has three Solaris support offerings: a basic rate of $120 per year per physical CPU, $240 for support running eight hours a day five days a week, and a premium level of support that kicks in at $360 and is available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Chris Ratcliffe, Sun's director of system software, said it's important for Sun to support Xen to ensure Solaris retains its appeal among customers and developers. "Part of the strategy in integrating Xen is to keep it competitive, ahead of the competition at a functional level, and make code available to developers," Ratcliffe said. Support for Xen has an added twist. XenSource is positioning Xen 3.0 as ideal for the mid-market of Windows users. Sun will be eager to see these customers running Solaris on Intel and AMD instead of Windows. The addition of Xen running with a secure operating system like Solaris could give them a reason to switch. ®
Gavin Clarke, 29 Jun 2006
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EMC buys three more letters for $2.1bn

EMC continued its all out shift toward software today by throwing down $2.1bn for security specialist RSA. Earlier in the day, the New York Times reported that RSA had offered itself up to suitors and that EMC was the most likely candidate to go through with the buy. EMC later confirmed this report by revealing that it will pay $28 per share for RSA. The deal still hinges on customary closing conditions and is expected to be finalized in the late third or early fourth quarter. The speculation of an acquisition sent RSA's shares up close to 20 per cent on the day to a close of $22.88, which equals a market capitalization of $1.73bn. The purchase is a smart one for EMC, as it provides leading security technology for protecting the data sitting on EMC's vast array of storage systems. Over the past four years, EMC has built out a rich software portfolio to cover just about every aspect of storing and managing data. And the company has a proven track record of making good on high-profile acquisitions as evidenced by its $635m VMware buy. VMware is now bringing in hundreds of millions in revenue per year for EMC. "Businesses can't secure what they don't manage, and when it comes to securing information, that means simply two things - managing the data and managing access to the data," said EMC CEO "Diamond" Joe Tucci. "EMC is the leading provider of information management solutions. Bringing RSA into the fold provides EMC with industry-leading identity and access management technologies and best-in-class encryption and key management software to help EMC deliver information lifecycle management securely." Both EMC and RSA are headquartered in Massachusetts, and RSA will operate as EMC's Information Security Division. Current RSA CEO Art Coviello will turn into an EMC EVP and President of the security division. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 Jun 2006