17th > July > 2006 Archive

Ruby on Rails Part 2

TutorialTutorial In the previous introductory Ruby on Rails article, we created an Oracle database table. In this article we shall develop a Model-View-Controller (MVC) CRUD (Create, Read, Update, and Delete functionality) application using Ruby on Rails. Rails is a combination of the following sub-projects…
Deepak Vohra, 17 Jul 2006

Shuttle, plus leak, set to land today

The Space Shuttle Discovery is scheduled to land in Florida this afternoon, after completing an almost 13-day mission. The Shuttle was cleared for launch late last week, the widely feared catastrophe having (fortunately) failed to occur. Even though a few pieces of foam did fall from the tank during the launch, a careful in-orbit inspection of the insulating tiles revealed no serious damage. This means the astronauts can come back to Earth, rather than setting up residence in the International Space Station. It must be something of a relief, the ISS not being five star rated for comfort. Oxygen is sometimes an optional extra up there, after all. The Shuttle detached from the ISS early on Saturday, and was given a final scan to check for damage. NASA described the undocking as "by-the-book". Engineers were not worried about the Shuttle exploding during its launch, but were not sure that the problem of falling debris had been solved. The fear, of course, was that a piece of falling foam could once again damage the Shuttle's heat shield, as happened on the last flight Columbia made in 2003 before she broke up on re-entry with the loss of all on board. Before the weekend only one question mark remained over Discovery's journey home; a small drop in pressure in one of the tanks that fuel the power units Discovery will use for braking and steering when she returns to Earth. The drop could have been caused either by leaking nitrogen, or hydrazine fuel. Engineers were planning to test the unit yesterday, to see if the leak rate had changed. At the current rate, about six drops an hour, the leak is far too slow to cause a fire, even if it is leaking hydrazine. Once the test results are in, and once he is given the final all-clear, Discovery's Commander, Steve Lindsey, is scheduled to make the first de-orbit burn at 12:04pm, BST, when the mission will have lasted 12 days, 18 hours and 29 minutes. All being well, the Shuttle should land at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. However, because of the uncertainty over the power unit, NASA also has emergency crews standing by at the Edwards Airforce base in California. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Jul 2006

Sony BMG ruling rocks European Commission

The European Commission's arguments supporting the Sony/BMG merger in 2004 were not of "the requisite legal standard" and were marred by "a manifest error of assessment" according to Europe's second highest court. In overturning the commission's decision to allow the two record labels to merge, the Court of First Instance has dealt a severe blow to the commission in its role as Europe's competition regulator. It is the latest in a long line of overturned decisions, though the first in which an approval was overturned; other cases involved blocked mergers which were then approved. In 2002, the commission blocked three mergers which were subsequently approved by the Court, prompting a major review of the commission's merger review processes. The Sony/BMG decision was the first taken entirely under the guidance of the new rules, and this latest overruling will undermine that new approach. "This is a disappointing result for the commission, particularly given the radical changes it has implemented since the series of defeats in 2002," said Christina Day, a competition law specialist with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. This week, the Court upheld a case brought by independent music label association Impala to have the approval annulled. "This is a watershed in European affairs, a landmark judgement for music," Impala president Patrick Zelnick said. "There is no doubt that it will block any further mergers and will transform how music and other creative sectors are treated." Previous overrulings have involved mergers that were blocked by the commission. Many observers assumed that approvals of rulings were less likely to be challenged. Some commentators have said that former competition commissioner Mario Monti, who made the original decision just as he was leaving office, was keen to approve the merger to avoid controversy. The ruling itself carried scathing criticism of the incomplete nature of the commission's basis for its judgment. "The elements on which that argument was founded were incomplete and did not include all the relevant data that ought to have been taken into account by the commission," it said. "They were therefore not capable of supporting the conclusions drawn from them." The commission now has the right to appeal, but only on points of law and not on the case as a whole. The body has two months in which to lodge its appeal with the European Court of Justice. The case may also have implications for a proposed merger between two of the other four major labels, Warner Music and EMI. Both companies are keen on the merger but cannot agree on price. The Court's ruling makes a regulatory hurdle more likely even if the companies can come to a financial agreement. Following the annulment of its first decision, the commission will have to conduct another investigation into the merger. "Given that the Court's judgment heavily criticises the commission's inadequate analysis and assessment of the merger, it is likely that the commission will be even more wary when reconsidering this case, thus prolonging the parties' uncertainty further," said Day. In a message to staff, Sony BMG chief executive Rolf Schmidt-Holtz said: "While we are not pleased with having to incur the cost and inconvenience of a reconsideration process, we are confident this re-examination will confirm the commission's original findings." See: The Court's press release (Two page - 100KB PDF) The judgment Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 17 Jul 2006

Police number plate cameras may breach RIPA - Commissioner

Police use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras could 'break human rights law' according to some reports. Which, it would seem to us, is a novel way to categorise the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000, the Act police procedures appear to break. This had not previously been thought to be a landmark of human rights legislation, but go on then, blame the Human Rights Act and move swiftly on to blaming Europe, why don't you? ANPR's problem has been spotted by Chief Surveillance Commissioner Sir Andrew Leggatt, part guardian of liberty, part doormat, who notes in his annual report that RIPA requires authorisation for operations involving intrusive surveillance. This is usually granted for surveillance operations on named suspects, but clearly fixed ANPR cameras scanning for large numbers are suspects (e.g. those recorded as not having tax, insurance or MoT) don't readily fit into such a system. Police are also busily building a national 24x7 vehicle movement database intended to record all passing number plates, everywhere, at the rate of 50 million a day, records to be retained for two years. Or actually, six years, or forever - see Spy Blog for details. "24x7 vehicle movement database" is actually how the police describe it, and from the point of view of a Surveillance Commissioner you'd think that was a dead giveaway. The system doesn't just track named suspects, even hundreds of thousands or a few millions of named suspects, it tracks all vehicles, keeping the data so that it can be mined to discover the movements of people who at some point in the future become suspects. So effectively, everybody is a suspect. Has Leggatt actually noticed this? He describes ANPR as "very effective in crime reduction", and "a prime example of intelligence-led policing", and urges Ministers in Scotland and the UK (RIPA covers both, although there are some devolved features in Scotland) to amend the law in order to avoid evidence being challenged in court. Which we're sure is all very helpful of him. But we're not quite sure we can follow the reasoning. If it is the case that police use of ANPR is starting to constitute unauthorised surveillance under the terms of RIPA, would that not be what we'd understand as breaking the law? In that case, mightn't a Surveillance Commissioner be expected to suggest to them that they stop breaking the law, at least until the law is changed to their satisfaction? Or maybe he's just not sure whether or not they're breaking the law, or at what point the growing network is going to start breaking the law. Maybe he should ask an expert about this - the Surveillance Commissioner, maybe? ®
John Lettice, 17 Jul 2006

High-tech chicanery worries Irish punters

Consumer fear of online identity theft could be costing Irish businesses up to €250m a year, according to a survey released on Friday. Research group Behaviour and Attitudes also reported that more than 15,000 Irish internet users may have had their identities stolen through sophisticated phishing scams, which entice surfers to supply personal information, such as bank account details, to fraudulent websites mimicking legitimate companies. "This is a wake up call for Irish consumers and businesses," Computer Associates (CA) security expert Sean O'Connell told ENN. "Well-organised criminal gangs are taking advantage of regular email releases from companies such as Amazon, eBay and Aer Lingus and are harvesting personal log-on details such as your date of birth and address," O'Connell said. He believes increasing demand and take-up of broadband in Ireland has been noted by international cyber criminals who may now focus their attention on gathering data on Irish citizens. The gangs are collecting personal information to illegally access bank accounts - one Irish woman recently had €25,000 pinched from her account, for example. The fact that there has been plenty of media coverage of high-tech trickery such as phishing, credit card skimming and cash machine scams in Ireland means people are not only well informed of potential cons, but they may now be loathe to transact with banks and retailers online. The B&A survey, which was commissioned by Computer Associates, reports that of the 1.4m Irish internet users, as many as 350,000 do not engage in any online transactions. One third of people surveyed who never transact online said they made this choice based on mistrust of all online business. Only 17 per cent of Irish consumers believe online organisations are currently doing enough to protect their private data, and one in 10 online transactions are not completed because of security concerns. Irish consumers trust medical institutions and banks most to protect their personal details, followed by the government and credit card companies. "Ultimately, Irish businesses need to be seen to take greater levels of care of consumer personal details such as passwords and credit card details. People are aware that unscrupulous online criminals are seeking to compromise their information. Companies need to increase the layers of security and precautions and invest in better technology, better processes and ongoing staff training," said O'Connell. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Maxim Kelly, 17 Jul 2006

Does Reid plan to punish businesses mean ID card for immigrants?

Company directors will be disqualified if their firms are caught employing illegal immigrants on two separate occasions, according to proposals to be put forward by Home Secretary John Reid. The move is apparently planned as a 'central plank' of Reid's master plan to deal with the immigration component of his "dysfunctional" department. On its own this is a difficult one to take seriously, if you've been paying attention. It's already a criminal offence to fail to make an adequate check on a potential employee's work status. This penalty has however proved extremely difficult to enforce because the complexity of the immigration system and a plethora of different documents make it genuinely hard for an employer to be absolutely sure, and fairly easy to to produce a persuasive defence. So Reid would appear to be proposing to add a second unenforceable penalty to the first one. Even David Blunkett, not exactly known as the most liberal Home Secretary since the Second World War, conceded that the penalty wasn't a great deal of use - albeit in the context of a sales pitch for ID cards. But there, perhaps, is your connection. The ID cards scheme was discovered to be wrecked just a week ago, and it remains so. However, for as long as Mr Tony is in the chair, it will continue to twitch, and Blair (along with Reid) remains insistent that ID cards will happen. Last Wednesday the Prime Minister's Official Spokesperson (PMOS) claimed that ID cards remained "broadly on track", and that what we might see was a "slight re-sequencing" that addressed the issue of foreign nationals first. Reid was said to believe firmly that ID cards were a crucial part of dealing with migration and other identity issues. Asked if cards for foreigners might be brought in earlier than they were for UK nationals, the PMOS said that by 2008 we would be "going for the foreign nationals". While that might perhaps not be the most delicate way to put it, we can see how things are going. John Reid needs a convincing fix for the 'immigration issue', and as the 'more legislation' gambit is now well past its sell-by date, piling on another dud penalty isn't it. But Tony Blair is insistent that ID cards will happen and have not slipped, and appears to believe genuinely that ID cards are the immigration solution. So should we expect a heavy sales pitch for ID cards for immigrants as the actual central plank of Reid immigration strategy? With a 2008 date attached? The flaw here is that all of the specification, design and procurement roadblocks that make it impossible to begin shipping ID cards for everyone from 2008 apply equally to a card for immigrants, unless that card is a lower specification "variant" that doesn't operate with the National Identity Register, because the National Identity Register doesn't exist yet. The civil servants clearly don't think it can be done, but that hasn't stopped Reid and Blair in the past, so this week's announcement could prove to be absolutely fascinating. Note that the Immigration and Nationality Department at least in theory has records of the immigration-related work entitlement status of all known immigrants, and at some point will have to nail down that data and get on top of it anyway. Note also that policy (UK and EU) is to move towards biometric visas for non-EU visitors and immigrants. Conjuring with those two sets of data, one might conceptualise some form of 'immigrant work card' which one could call an ID card, but which would really be a rather different animal from the one described in the ID Cards Act. The disqualification proposal, incidentally, is interesting in itself. In the case of smaller companies directors frequently do have direct responsibility for employment, so at this level the legislation would have at least some chance of hitting the appropriate target. But disqualifying the directors of small companies causes an inconvenience quite a few of them could live with - they're not trying to impress the City, and the shareholders are often relatives. Further up the chain, however, directors don't control the minutiae of hiring, but are going to find disqualification a major issue. So the proposal would cause severe wrangles in Parliament, and if it did make it onto the statute book, would be likely to face serious legal challenges. Which would be the case in spades if Reid puts forward the proposal (mentioned in the Sunday Telegraph report) to disqualify the directors of companies whose contractors employ illegal immigrants. Several of the companies who would find themselves thus exposed are very large, and were very interested in the construction of the Gangmasters Licensing Act. Their directors would not be happy - not at all. Significantly, in interviews on Sunday Tony McNulty seemed to be rowing back from the main proposal, claiming "these issues are currently under discussion. No decisions have been taken." ®
John Lettice, 17 Jul 2006

AMD reverse multi-threading tech 'does not exist'

AMD is not working on technology to allow a multi-core processor to emulate a single-core chip, it has been claimed by reports citing sources close to the company. The claims contradict alternative allegations that maintain the chip company has been working on just such as system.
Tony Smith, 17 Jul 2006

Intel to add 3G connectivity to next-gen Centrino?

The next generation of Intel's Centrino platform, codenamed 'Santa Rosa', may well include 3G mobile phone network connectivity as well as the standard Wi-Fi, if allegedly leaked company roadmaps are to be believed.
Tony Smith, 17 Jul 2006
cloud

BT tops DSL league

BT is the UK's best performing broadband provider, according to a survey from network speed testing firm Epitiro. BT came out on top overall and also provides the fastest service as a percentage of its theoretical maximum. Virgin was in second place followed by Demon, AOL and Orange. Virgin, BT and AOL were fastest to connect to the internet. Pipex, Orange and BT delivered email four times faster than the industry average. The survey found 12,503 connection failures during 948,411 attempts - a failure rate of 1.93 per cent. Epititro's ADSL Broadband Service Level Report tests download, upload and connection times. It uses 250 monitoring agents at ten locations. Tests were carried out between April and June 2006 from Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hook, Kingston north, two places in London, Manchester, Swansea and Teeside. This is the first time the survey results have been made public. The survey only looked at ADSL providers - NTL-Telewest and other cable providers were not included. There's some more information on Epitiro's website here. ®
John Oates, 17 Jul 2006

BlueTrek Serenity

ReviewReview Always forgetting your keys, or leaving your phone behind? BlueTrek's Serenity claims to be able to help, not through a programme of concentration-enhancing exercises, or by stapling the offending keys to the back of your hand, but through the application of wireless technology...
Bill Ray, 17 Jul 2006
globalisation

Intel plans 3 September Celeron M update

Intel will extend its Celeron M low-cost mobile processor line-up on 3 September - the day that will see the debut of the anticipated low-voltage Core Duo L2500. The new arrivals will push down the prices of existing models.
Hard Reg, 17 Jul 2006

VoIP goes wireless

Innovative Jajah uses PCs for internet phone calls - but only to set up the calls. They then connect two landline or mobile phones together to chat over the IP network. Now, the company has revealed it's going one step further, and will use a Java applet on the phone itself to set up the call. According to the company's CEO Mark Sullivan, Roman Scharf had one of those light-bulb moments. "Until March, Jajah was just another PC-based VoIP service like Skype Technologies and Google Talk," wrote Sullivan. "But Scharf says he had a moment of clarity when market research suggested that 97 per cent of computer users still don't use PC-based VOIP services." The company has developed a Java applet, which allows mobile phone users to connect to Jajah, which then sets up the call without the need for a PC. Officially, these calls are free. But blogger Tom Keating said this is bait: "Jajah believes they can "earn" money by providing added value services that the community finds useful and are willing to pay for. Other services like the occasional scheduled call and text messaging, for example, will help Jajah pay the bills. Although I am not sure how scheduled calls and text messaging is enough to offset the costs of free calls being terminated by Jahjah..." A trial service is available without registration. ® Copyright © Newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 17 Jul 2006
hp wireless chip

HP reveals tiny, tiny wireless chip

Some of HP’s biggest brains have created what the company claims is the world’s tiniest wireless data chip.
Joe Fay, 17 Jul 2006

Naomi Campbell in yacht trash rumpus

WSAWSA Supermodel Naomi Campbell allegedly caused £30k worth of damage to her lover's £1.5m yacht after an Italian chef's "romantic meal" for the two nautical lovebirds failed to float her boat. According to The Sun, 36-year-old Campbell and Dubai-born prince Badr Jafar had moored the 100-ft "Nasma" in Viareggio on the Tuscan Riviera and summonsed the cook from a local restaurant to create a "memorable, romantic meal". Sadly, the chef - known only as "Andrea" - failed to correctly interpret the international jetset definition of "romantic", and served up a "simple tomato, mozzarella and dried ham starter" accompanied by a local white wine. Campbell immediately told him "where to shove it", which provoked a verbal retaliation in "colourful Tuscan dialect" which in turn triggered a textbook supermodel tantrum during which Campbell allegedly "lashed out at antiques, light fittings, china plates and glasses". An eyewitness in Viareggio harbour reported: "All hell seemed to break loose. All you could hear was shouting and screaming in English. There was the sound of plates being broken. "Some of the crew later said the kitchen was a complete mess and the curtains and cushions had all been ripped apart." Campbell recently appeared in a New York court on a charge of second degree assault on her housekeeper who suffered four stitches to her head "after being hit by a mobile phone following a row". She has previously been accused of attacking her personal assistant with a BlackBerry. ®
Lester Haines, 17 Jul 2006
graph up

Firefox fans offered name check

Firefox fans are being offered the chance of "geek immortality". Users who successfully persuade a friend to switch to the open source browser before 15 September will earn a name check for both themselves and their amigo within a display accesssible from Firefox 2.0, the next version of the software. That's right folks, obscure immortality awaits here. Which is nice. Submited names will find their onto an interactive Firefox friends display. The name check offer was floated by Mozilla on 15 July to mark the anniversary of the creation of the Mozilla Foundation three years ago. Over that period, the Firefox web browser has scored notable success in offering an alternative to Microsoft's still dominant Internet Explorer browser software. Firefox has a market share of 12.9 per cent compared to 83 per cent for IE, 1.8 per cent for Apple Safari and one per cent for Opera, according to a recent study by web analytics firm OneStat.com. ®
John Leyden, 17 Jul 2006

Daily flaws ratchet up debate

HD Moore is used to polarising the vulnerability-research community.
Robert Lemos, 17 Jul 2006

Intel 'Merom' due 23 July?

Intel's pricing plan for 'Merom', its next-generation architecture mobile Core 2 Duo processor, has leaked out ahead of the chip family's debut - now apparently scheduled for 23 July.
Tony Smith, 17 Jul 2006

Bogus clicks undermine online advertising

More than one in ten clicks on internet ads are fraudulent, according to new data released on Monday. The health of internet search engines' lucrative ad-based business models has been questioned with the release of a survey by Click Forensics. Based on responses from 1,300 online marketing experts, 14.1 per cent of recorded mouse clicks on ads are bogus. The survey has ramifications for internet search engines such as Google and Yahoo, who charge advertisers on a pay-per-click basis. It means advertisers who shell out for prominently placed top-of-the-screen banner ads or skinny "skyscraper" ads alongside popular search terms may be paying over the odds. These false click-through statistics, which up the price of advertisements, are created by simple programs, or even by individuals paid to increase the number of hits on ads. The scammers work by either repeatedly clicking ads hosted on their own websites in order to generate revenue, or targeting the search terms purchased by competitors with the aim of draining their marketing budgets. The more popular a search term is, the more it costs to advertise on the relevant results page. The latest estimate that more than 14 per cent of click-throughs are "phantom shoppers" shows an increase on the estimated figure of 13.7 per cent three months ago. A recent survey of 407 online advertisers the US by market research firm Outsell estimated advertisers may have spent €637m on bogus clicks last year. Nearly all search engines have policies for not charging or for refunding advertisers who can prove click fraud. Still, the major worry for search engine executives is that much of their companies' revenue comes from advertising spend, and the high number of bogus click-throughs could reduce demand for ads from online marketers. The major search engines have tools that weed out click fraud, but a large proportion still gets through the net. Click Forensics estimated that 12.8 per cent of clicks on ads published on Google and Yahoo were false - up from 12.1 per cent last quarter. These figures rise to 20.3 per cent and 27.1 per cent for second and third-tier search providers. Click Forensics chief executive Tom Cuthbert said the study shows that organisations purchasing higher-priced search terms are significantly more vulnerable to click fraud. The study indicated that the highest percentage of click fraud - more than 88 per cent - originated from within the US and Canada. Outside North America, click fraud was most prevalent in India, increasing 26 per cent in the second quarter. Google has admitted that click fraud is a problem. The company's chief executive, Eric Schmidt, said recently that the issue is being addressed by the company. Yahoo chief executive officer Terry Semel reportedly declined to discuss the latest click-fraud data, saying he would address the issue when the company releases its second quarter earnings on 18 July. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Maxim Kelly, 17 Jul 2006

Get your very own Channel9 Guy

Imagine CupImagine Cup While we were in the sunny US we headed over to see those fine chaps at Channel9, for an interview about the Imagine Cup.
Team Three Pair, 17 Jul 2006
channel

Eclipse: We don’t have a relationship with Sun

Prospects of a thaw between Sun and the Eclipse Foundation seem as slim as ever, judging by remarks made to The Register by Eclipse executive director Mike Milinkovich.
Tim Anderson, 17 Jul 2006

Unmasking Novell's identity plans

Identity systems such as Higgins and InfoCard give us new ways of storing and exchanging information about users; good news for users and developers. The other half of the picture is managing and auditing those identities and the roles they correspond to, so you can use identities for role-based access control; the features both developers and administrators need to have. That's one of the pieces Novell's new open source identity management project Bandit aims to address. It's less about providing identities and more about providing common identity services such as authentication, roles, policy and compliance reporting. The name (apparently a common dog name in the US rather than a reference to masked men), plays on the old joke that on the internet, nobody knows you're a dog; along with the idea of dogtags. More prosaically, according to Novell distinguished engineer Dale Olds, "Bandit focuses on open source implementations of components needed to provide a consistent experience of identity to users and administrators. In practice, this means that we are not advocating a new protocol or standard, but provide implementations and 'glue' for existing standards and systems."; You can use these components in your applications and network services, working with existing protocols and APIs. Olds believes that Bandit will simplify federating identities from multiple sources (say, LDAP directories and SQL databases) for authenticating users and calculating roles. "The developer simply uses Bandit components and does not need to know how to code to specific systems or what authentication method or identity repository is used - these things can be configured at installation time rather than during development." If that sounds like the Higgins Project, it's no coincidence. Bandit builds on Higgins, which you can think of as a unifying API for different identity systems. Many Bandit components are built on top of the Higgins Identity attribute service, adding higher-level services like role calculations and audit record reporting. Bandit also implements new Higgins Context Providers, extending the number of identity systems Higgins covers to include Novell's eDirectory. There are components from SUSE Linux; the authentication services component (CASA) and the identity database (FLAIM). FLAIM is the database used by eDirectory and GroupWise; Olds calls it a scalable repository for the semi-structured data common to identity systems. There's also a credential store that synchronises passwords and other credentials among various Linux system services. Put it all together and you could log on to a Linux workstation securely, using a smartcard and LDAP and have your name and credentials captured by CASA. When you visit a website that uses Bandit, a browser extension will detect this, ask you which identity you want to provide to the site and what information you're willing to make available (which doesn't have to be everything the site is asking for) and then use CASA and the Higgins identity framework to log in the identity stores that have your credentials in – including the original LDAP server. You see that the information has been transferred and you get on with your browsing or shopping without having typed in yet another password. Head to another Bandit-powered site and you might be asked for information again; you get to choose which identity to give each site and which details to disclose. While Bandit is a long way from being finished, Olds encourages developers to start working with it – and to give feedback on what they want to see. Given Novell's investment in eDirectory, it's not surprising that Bandit doesn't mean replacing any existing directory services or metadirectory services you may already have in place. Instead, Olds claims: "They make it easier for developers to write applications and services that use and integrate those identity systems. Developers can use Bandit and Higgins to access such systems without knowing specific mechanisms and protocols. Therefore, they can focus more on identity services and such emerging diverse areas as reputation and compliance verification." Bandit is building part of what Olds calls the "identity fabric", similar to the "identity metasystem" Microsoft's Kim Cameron refers to; an abstraction layer for identity that lets you work with the same identity concepts and services across multiple systems. This isn’t co-incidence – or rivalry. Bandit provides some of the pieces for an identity infrastructure; others come from Higgins, Microsoft, the Liberty Alliance, the WS-* standards and other players in the identity world, and they're all beginning to interoperate. According to Paul Trevithick of the Higgins project: "What you're starting to see is the emergence of several key open source projects in the identity space, and increasing levels of cooperation between them. Higgins working with Bandit is just one example of this." Similarly, the open source OSIS identity selector project is more than a way to work on open source implementations of InfoCard. It's the major identity players – including Microsoft, Novell, IBM and Verisign – getting together with the open source community to pull together the new identity systems to give the internet the workable identity platform it needs. ®
Mary Branscombe, 17 Jul 2006

Orange reveals upcoming smart phones

Orange's upcoming smart phones got an airing this weekend, revealing the carrier will be bringing Samsung's QWERTY keyboard-equipped, 3G-connected Windows Mobile 5.0 device, the i320, on board.
Tony Smith, 17 Jul 2006

Wanted: Protector of the (easy) faith

easyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou shows few signs of abandoning his megalomaniacal campaign to own all things prefixed "easy". In the FT last Wednesday, the hyperactive entrepreneur advertised for a managing director to run easyGroup IP (eGIP), his private company. The job is worth between £120K and £150K a year, and the candidate should have a legal qualification, 10 to 15 years work experience, preferably in licensing and franchising, and experience of managing a P&L. The successful candidate will own and manage the easy brand through licensing and royalty agreements – there are currently 14 easy branded businesses. Plenty more, no doubt, are coming downstream. The other main role of eGIP is to "protect the 'easy' brand by companies who aim to mislead the public by inferring [sic] that they are members of easyGroup". This suggests that Stelios's campaign to wrest domain names with "easy" in them will continue at full pelt. In 2000, easyGroup suffered a legal setback when the World Intellectual Property Organisation ruled that it was not entitled to domain names with the word "easy". But since then it has threatened numerous lawsuits against purported "brand thieves". Undoubtedly, many small businesses will have caved in to demands to hand over their "easy" names. This is cheaper, after all, than slugging it out in courts. easyGroup has a mixed track record in cases that have come to court - in 2001, it won easyrealestate and, in 2003, lassoed easycarfinance, after a successful day in the English High Court. But since then it has been less backed away from or lost lawsuits against easypizza.co.uk, easyart.com and easyhotels.ch. The problem for Stelios is that "easy" is well, so, common. And while he may claw back IP rights from so-called brand thieves, his legal blunderbuss leaves him at risk of being branded a "rich bully". Repeated enough times, and Stelios - a household name in the UK (at least his first name is) - could end up losing his personal brand as the cuddly face of British entrepreneurialism. If you are a small business, operating under the name "Easy-", or thinking about doing this, take heed of this advice, penned by Reg colleague Kieren McCarthy in 2003. If you copy the well-known trademark orange, cuddly font and lowercase "e" that has become so well known through EasyJet and EasyCar, you deserve to have Mr Haji-Iannou's undoubted legal might directed your way. If, however, you register an internet domain containing the word "easy" meaning "not needing much work or effort; free from pain, care or anxiety", you have every reason to believe the law will stand by you and declare it as your legitimate property. That is, if you can afford the £50,000 it will cost to get you there. Stelios can. ®
Drew Cullen, 17 Jul 2006

Freescale serves up alternative to flash

CommentComment When Freescale recently announced a four megabit memory chip, my immediate reaction was to laugh.
Guy Kewney, 17 Jul 2006

How to fry an egg… on an Apple MacBook

Now we know why Apple’s notebooks run hot — the company wants you to own a computer you can cook your breakfast on. Well, maybe not, but hasn’t stopped one enterprising user claiming to have done so. He’s even gone so far as to put the laptop’s AC adaptor into service as a coffee warmer.
Tony Smith, 17 Jul 2006

Home Office defends DNA practice

The Home Office has insisted that details from the National DNA Database are not being misused by commercial companies. This follows a report in The Observer that LGC, a company that analyses DNA samples to help populate the database, has been retaining the details. This includes names, ages, skin colour and address. In response, the Home Office issued a statement saying: "Forensic science companies do not have their own 'DNA database'. The companies who provide forensic services to the police do store forensic samples and retain records on completion of analysis, in case the samples need to be re-examined in future. All of this stored information remains the property of the police. "Companies have been issued with strict guidance that instructs providers that this information cannot be used for any purpose other than for populating the National DNA Database or in response to a specific and formal request by the police. "The National DNA strategy board would not approve research unless there were clear potential operational benefits to the police in terms of detecting and/or solving crime." The details are only made available to the police or for research approved by the Home Office. This has prompted the pressure group Genewatch to claim the management of the database is "out of control". Its deputy director, Dr Helen Wallace, said: "It is deeply disturbing that companies conducting DNA analysis for the police can keep copies of this sensitive information. This makes a mockery of claims that access to and uses of the database are tightly restricted and controlled. "At least 19 projects have been approved since 2000. Most of the research was conducted by the Forensic Science Service (FSS), which the government plans to partially privatise. However, despite numerous requests for information, the list of research projects is still incomplete and, in addition, the decision making process is inadequate and unclear." The DNA database is the largest is the world with almost 3m samples. Police are allowed to retain DNA from anyone arrested in England and Wales whether or not they are convicted of a crime. Genewatch has called for changes in the law, claiming that it goes much further than in any other country, and pointing out that the Scottish Parliament recently rejected proposals to retain the details of people who were not convicted. 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, 17 Jul 2006
channel

Trojan downloader uses Zidane lure

Nefarious virus writers are using continued interest in Zinedine Zidane's infamous headbutt in the World Cup final to distribute malware via a malicious website (screen shot here) that poses as an official FIFA World Cup 2006 website. Surfers straying on the site are exposed to a Trojan horse downloader, which uses Windows exploits in a bid to install malware on vulnerable PCs. If successful, additional malware payloads are downloaded on to victimised machines. According to web security firm WebSense, the US-based site uses the underground "Web Attacker" toolkit, a malware package available from a Russian website at anywhere between $20 and $300. The appearance of the site coincides with the continued circulation of humourous emails satirising Zidane's headbutt outrage. The latest hacker attack is a "viral email" of a very different type, that illustrates, once again, how hackers frequently look to topical events in order to propel the distribution of malign code. ®
John Leyden, 17 Jul 2006

Intel 'Tulsa' 65nm Xeon MPs to ship 27 August?

Intel appears set to introduce a new line of dual-core Xeon MP server chips on 27 August, bringing the family into the 65nm era and once again equipping its top-of-the-line x86 server chips with L3 cache.
Tony Smith, 17 Jul 2006

Senate to debate stem cell research

The eternally thorny issue of stem cell research comes before the US Senate today, in a debate that is as much about politics as science. The US lawmakers will consider three bills on stem cells: one of which would overturn restrictions on research funding put in place by Bush in 2001, and would pave the way for federal funding for research using embryonic stem cells, using embryos created for IVF that would otherwise be destroyed. Although the plans would outlaw embryo farming, President Bush has said he will veto this, if it passes, despite wide Republican support for the bill. It would be the first veto of his presidency, and neither the House nor the Senate is likely to have enough support for the bill to override a veto. And this is where the political wrangling becomes almost more significant than the content of the bills, because polls show huge levels - 70 per cent - of public support for the proposals. Senator Bill Frist, the Majority Leader, is expected to vote for all three bills. He is also widely expected to run for the top job in 2008, and is seen as needing an image overhaul if he is to appeal to moderate Republicans. The debate is likely to run into Tuesday's session before a vote, but all three bills are expected to pass. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Jul 2006

UK betting boss held in US

David Carruthers, chief executive of online betting site Betonsports.com, has been detained by Federal agents while changing planes in the US. It is not clear whether he has been detained because his website accepts bets from US gamblers or if he fell foul of other US border rules - which are many and various. Since last year it has been illegal to carry a cigarette lighter onto an aeroplane bound for the US. Carruthers was on his way to the company's offices in Costa Rica, Reuters reports. While US authorities regard online gambling as illegal, the situation is unclear and a gambling bill is currently being considered by Congress. News of the bill sent shares in other gambling websites tumbling. The markets have been wary of online gambling because of worries about US regulators. Sportingbet shares fell 10 per cent and Partygaming shares were down nearly five per cent. Betonsports shares had plummeted nearly 20 per cent at the time of writing. A spokeswoman for Betonsports told The Reg: "There is not much more we can tell you. He was detained, not arrested, while travelling through the US on his way to Costa Rica. He was stopped at Dallas airport." More from Reuters here. ®
John Oates, 17 Jul 2006

Baseball blacks-out online

CommentComment You won't find a more un-American business than Major League Baseball's online arm - MLB Advanced Media. There. We said it.
Ashlee Vance, 17 Jul 2006

Vodafone chases Telecom Italia for $666m

Vodafone is demanding $666m from Telecom Italia after accusing the rival telco of beastly market abuses, it has emerged. Reports this weekend said the UK mobile operator has accused the Italian firm of using its fixed line dominance to underpin its TMI wireless operation. It claims that Telecom Italia has used information on its fixed line subscribers to put together discount deals for its mobile services. Voda has filed a suit in the Milan courts, according to reports, and is seeking €525m in compensation, which equates to £364m or the much more interesting figure of $666m. The Sunday Telegraph reports that Telecom Italia has vigorously denied Voda's claims, saying that the separation of its fixed line and wireless customer info had been verified by inspectors. ®
Joe Fay, 17 Jul 2006

Dell, Acer tout 802.11n wireless laptops

Dell and Acer both announced today notebook-oriented add-in cards equipped with a pre-standard version of the 802.11n next-generation Wi-Fi specification. The company's cards provide data transfer rates of up to 270Mbps and 300Mbps, the two firms claimed respectively.
Tony Smith, 17 Jul 2006

NASA: checking out the sun in Stereo

Next month, NASA is to launch a new solar observatory that will make it possible for scientists to observe the sun in three dimensions for the first time. This should lead to better forecasting of space weather and a clearer understanding of the processes at work in our local star. The Stereo mission (Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory) is composed of two near-identical space craft with a battery of detectors on each. They will record data in Ultra Violet, and will also use a coronagraph, which creates an artificial eclipse, to study the outer atmosphere of the sun. They will both be launched into solar orbits, but set in different directions so they gradually drift further and further apart, sending back data on solar activity from two angles at once. Currently, even using the SOHO observatory we can only really see the sun from the Earth's point of view, which gives scientists a pretty one dimensional picture of our star. It gives us great images of material being ejected from the solar limb (the side of the sun) but it is still impossible to tell whether or not ejections are heading towards or away from the Earth until the material hits SOHO itself. This gives us just an hour's notice. Stereo will allow scientists to make observations of the sun from side on, so they can better track material from coronal mass ejections (CMEs) as it is flung into space. The progress of the CMEs will be monitored by a groundbreaking new device called a Heliospheric Imager, built at Birmingham University in the UK. It tracks the material using only the sunlight reflected from the plasma particles. This light is so much fainter than the solar glare that the detector has specially designed "baffles" that reject the stray light and allow it to pick out the solar storms. The observatories should give us more warning when this solar material is heading our way: up to two and a half days. This is good news for satellite owners, power companies and mobile phone operators, as big CMEs can disrupt all of these, as well as forming the Auroras Borealis and Australis. To coordinate the cameras over the roughly 500,000km separation, mission scientists will have to take the speed of light into account. This means that the two craft will take their snapshots at different times, in order to record the same event. The mission is nominally expected to last for two and a half years, but could go for as long as four years. At this point, the two craft will be on opposite sides of the sun from each other and Earth will only be able to receive data from one of the satellites at that point. The distances involved also mean data will take longer and longer to get through as the mission progresses. The craft was originally scheduled to launch on 1 August. However, a series of small problems meant that the date was becoming unrealistic. Last week, a problem with a crane meant that loading the rocket took longer than expected. Then, this week, engineers spotted a small leak in the rocket's fuel tank. "It isn't anything serious, and has probably already been fixed," a spokeswoman told us. "But it meant things would have been rushed, so they moved things to the next launch window." Barring any further "small problems", the rocket will now lift off sometime between 20 August 20 and 6 September. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 17 Jul 2006

'Skype clone' surfaces in China

Chinese software developers have reportedly reverse engineered Skype's internet telephony software to develop a clone. The unnamed company has developed a software client using the same protocol and encryption technology used by Skype. This software, which is still in the early stages of development, was used to call Charlie Paglee, co-founder of Voice over IP startup Vozin Communications. Although the software lacks features that indicate whether someone is online or instant messaging technology, Paglee reports that the mystery firm involved plans to add these features (along with stability improvements) and release a stable version of the software by August. The development paves the way for the possible creation of third party Skype clients. In April, VoIP firm Skype admitted that its Chinese partner (Tom Online) filters instant messages sent using its software to comply with local censorship laws. The Chinese authorities might take a dim view of a locally produced client that omits these features, regardless of the ethical arguments over the production of a "knock-off" clone. On the other hand, as Paglee notes, Chinese telcos might welcome the possibility of licensing locally produced VoIP technology that allows them to claw back revenue lost on international calls to Skype's officially sanctioned version of its software. In a statement, Skype played down the possibility that the development of third party Skype clients might affect its business. "Skype is aware of the claim made by a small group of Chinese engineers that they have reverse engineered Skype software. We have no evidence to suggest that this is true. Even if it was possible to do this, the software code would lack the feature set and reliability of Skype which is enjoyed by over 100 million users today. Moreover, no amount of reverse engineering would threaten Skype’s cryptographic security or integrity," it said. ®
John Leyden, 17 Jul 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

When PowerPoint presentations attack

Virus writers have seized upon an unpatched PowerPoint vulnerability to launch targeted attacks. The assault relies on tricking users into opening an infected PowerPoint document. Anti-virus vendors have updated signature definition files to add detection for infected documents. Microsoft is working on fixing the underlying vulnerability, which affects various versions of PowerPoint. The SANS Institute has published an advisory on attacks based on the vulnerability in its Internet Storm Centre diary here. ®
John Leyden, 17 Jul 2006

How 'Saving The Net' may kill it

InterviewInterview If you've followed the occasionally surreal, and often hysterical debate around 'Net Neutrality' on US blogs and discussion forums, you may have encountered Richard Bennett. The veteran engineer played a role in the design of the internet we use today, and helped shaped Wi-Fi. He's also been blogging for a decade. And he doesn't suffer fools gladly.
Andrew Orlowski, 17 Jul 2006

AMD's Geode exiles float to new Fort Collins center

There's a new game sweeping through AMD's engineering ranks called the "Colorado Shuffle." The company has revealed plans to relocate about 75 of the workers affected by the closure of its Longmont office to a new design center in Fort Collins. Ultimately, the Fort Collins outpost will employ more than 200 people.
Ashlee Vance, 17 Jul 2006