The time when Google doubling profits year-over-year impressed investors has passed. The ad broker-cum-search engine today reported a surge in second quarter profits to $721m from $343m in the same period last year. As a reward, investors sent Google's shares higher a paltry one per cent in the after-hours markets. But it's not all ho-hummery in hypeville. Even those with the highest of expectations have to be impressed with Google 77 per cent rise in second quarter revenue to $2.46bn. "Google grew at an impressive pace during a seasonally slower quarter," said Eric Schmidt, Google's CEO. "We continue to deliver valuable new products and services to users around the world through our partnerships and investments in our business. Our strong performance results from our clear focus on increasing the quality of user experience, particularly in search and ads." To reach its impressive revenue total, Google did have to shell out $785m in traffic acquisition costs (TAC), which amounts to 32 per cent of revenue. In the same quarter last year, Google reported TAC of $494m or 36 per cent of revenue. Google exited the quarter with $9.8bn in cash, leaving it with plenty of money to buy colored balls for its 8,000 staff. ®
The feds have put Silicon Valley on notice: there'd better be a damn good reason for putting the wrong date on share allocations and then hiding options from Wall Street, otherwise you're in big trouble - the kind of trouble that lands a man in jail for 20 years and costs him $5m. Officials from the FBI and Securities and Exchange Commission took the unusual step on Thursday of jointly announcing separate criminal and civil charges against three former senior Brocade Communications executives for securities violations covering $1bn worth of stock options awards. These are the first charges brought in a national investigation involving 80 public companies, of which a "fair number" are based in Silicon Valley, the SEC said, with many believed to be in high-tech. The Brocade trio face 20 years in jail and a $5m fine each. It is not clear what, if anything, will happen to hundreds of Brocade employees who received the options. The FBI is prosecuting former chief executive Gregory Reyes and ex-vice president of human resources Stephanie Jensen, while former chief financial officer Antonio Canova gets a civil action from the SEC for complicity. Hosting a packed press conference in San Francisco, investigators - sporting sharp suits, square jaws and poker faces - warned more prosecutions will follow. They refused to say which companies or individuals are next. That's bad news for a Valley whose corporate culture was out of control in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the period covered by the Brocade indictment. Stock options were commonly seen by many as the best way to win and retain talent in an intensively competitive, bubble-fuelled dot-com environment. According to the SEC and FBI, backdating of shares to lure and retain employees became a way of life at Brocade. Reyes acted as a "one man" compensation committee - having been granted sole authority by the board - to award shares from the date Brocade went public in 1999. Jensen supported this by instituting a system that allowed Reyes to easily tack back and find low points in the company's share performance. The scheme allegedly went as far to be formalized in an HR e-mail memo and to include the falsification of employee hiring documents. The FBI and SEC said they are now taking a tough, and united, stand to help restore the public's loss of confidence in the marketplace. Misallocation of shares in Brocade deceived investors and the public, and meant Brocade sought to gain unfair advantage over the competition, by back dating the company's shares to a period when the price was low and then hiding the expenses that were incurred, they argued. The resulting re-stating of expenses has wiped at least a billion dollars off Brocade's earnings between 1999 and 2004. The SEC expects billions more to be written off as other companies implicated in the growing scandal also restate their figures. SEC chairman Chris Cox said the SEC and FBI planned to stamp out back dating of share options. He went on: "Legislative structure prevents [our] coordinating cases... [but] we want to co-ordinate our announcements to show the full weight of the government is going into this." Linda Thomsen, SEC director of division of enforcement, added: "This case [Brocade] will not be the last. Teams of attorneys in the SEC are actively pursuing dozens of investigations." Those under investigation span small and large capital companies plus members of the S&P 500, she said. Kevin Ryan, US attorney for the northern district of California, went on to make it clear that the statute of limitations under the Sarbanes Oxley Act - designed to eradicate the last bout of fiscal criminality by executives in corporate America - would not stand in the way of either investigation or prosecution. SOX limits action to two years from the date of discovery and five years from the event. In certain cases, it is thought options were granted more than five years ago, as the dot-com boom kicked off in the late 1990s, making legal action impossible. "We are on this and a statute of limitations is not going to deter us from aggressively prosecuting," Ryan warned.®
Borland Software has found a buyer for its development tools business, although the company will not - as was expected - take a stake in the new firm. Borland is expected to announce a deal during the next few weeks having picked a buyer from a shortlist of three candidates narrowed from 10, sources told The Register. The deal is believed to be worth between $100m and $150m. A spokeswoman for Borland said a deal hadn't been signed but talks were "nearing full completion." Borland's goal has been to wrap up the sale by September. A deal represents the culmination of five months' worth of work by Borland to balance limited finances with a desire for growth. The company has chosen to ditch its JBuilder, Delphi, C++ and C# tools, plus a high-performance application server, and dedicate itself to the vogue of helping customers squeeze performance from their existing applications, and of making applications meet business needs in areas like regulatory compliance. Offloading tools should help Borland focus resources on a single market - enterprise customers and business users - rather than being torn between this group and developers - a constituency that has less individual spending power. The deal will also see Borland focus on engaging with its new customer base using a costly direct sales model. While Borland has pledged the 300 staff members of DevCo will continue building products like JBuilder and Delphi, it remains to be seen what exactly the new owner has in mind. Additionally, the pressure will be on to turn tools into a profitable business using things like subscriptions and services at a time when licensing revenue on tools is being challenged by the availability of "free" tools like Eclipse, and entrenched high-quality, charged-for products like Microsoft's Visual Studio. For Borland, the challenge becomes to succeed in a market delineated by well-resourced big names IBM and Computer Associates, and Mercury Interactive - a company which makes up for its lack of size by having a healthy mind share. In an indication of early strategy, Borland has decided to double down on its more profitable regions - UK, France, Germany and the Benelux states - and close down offices in low-spending markets.®
A US man who fraudulently accessed the details of thousands on a credit reference database pleaded guilty this week to ID theft-related charges. Brian Dill, 33, of Simi Valley, California, claimed to be a private investigator in order to access privileged information on the Merlin Information Services database. As part of a plea bargaining deal, Dill admitted he conducted at least 1,873 queries through the Merlin system obtaining information on over 5,875 people. He used this data fraudulently obtain a credit card and make unauthorised purchases of more than $2,000 on his own behalf. Dill also used the information he gained from the Merlin system to supply friends and acquaintances with fraudulently obtained credit cards before he was collared by the Feds. Dill, who pleaded guilty to computer hacking and fraud offences on Monday, faces a possible jail sentence of up to 20 years imprisonment. But he's likely to receive far less than the statutory maximum at a sentencing hearing before US District Judge Percy Anderson, scheduled for 25 September. ®
One good thing about being a developer these days – if real work gets too tedious there’s always a competition going to try your luck at. One of the latest is from Microsoft – the company must have a full-time department which thinks them up. This is `Invasion of the Robots’, a worldwide compo with a $40,000 prize at stake. Entrants to the UK end of it can get more prizes however, and the first 50 Brits to even compete get a £20 Firebox voucher. All you have to do in design a Robot that can be added to MSN Messenger and Windows Live Messenger and make sure it does something interesting or eye-catching. Background info on bot design is available on Microsoft’s Team BritBot website and three free SDK toolkits are available for download to build the bots, which must remain “live” until at least November 15th 2006. To enter the worldwide compo, upload the IM address of your bot here and then register on the BritBot website. Approved entries will then be open to public scrutiny and voting and, though not part of the official judging, there will be a $500 Users’ Choice award. Four key criteria will be used for judging: user interaction, usefulness, creativity and the use of multiple Windows Live services. The UK contest wraps up in August and prizes include the Grand Prize: Visual Studio® 2005 Team Suite with a year’s MSDN® Premium subscription, Xbox 360 bundle, Samsung 32 inch HD LCD TV, Nabaztag WiFi Rabbit, Creative Zen MicroPhoto 8GB and a Shinco Portable DVD Player. Five Spot prizes of Nabaztag WiFi Rabbits will be awarded and the winner of each category will win an Xbox 360 bundle. The International competition closes on September 15, with the winners sharing $40,000 worth of prizes. The top prize is a $10,000 Alienware MJ-12 7550 workstation. A full list of the prizes can be found here.®
On average, more than 2.5 million mobile phones were shipped every day during the second quarter of 2006. Figures from researchers at Strategy Analytics show an annual industry growth rate of 26 per cent based on 235 million handsets shipped during the three-month period. Market leaders Nokia, Motorola and Sony Ericsson all reported that new products played a critical role in driving volumes and profits during the quarter, and Strategy Analytics is maintaining its forecast of 1 billion units to be shipped for the full year. The prediction relies on the fact that so far no phone vendors are reporting noticeable inventory build-ups or slackening demand across a broad number of markets. Nokia shipped a third of all handsets during the quarter: 78 million units. This is a 29 per cent year-on-year increase in shipments for the Finnish company. Motorola grew its shipments 53 per cent year-on-year, selling 52 million units. Its global market share of 22 per cent is at its highest level since 1998. Researchers at Strategy Analytics predict Motorola could overtake Nokia as the world's largest mobile phone company by 2007 - if the two firms continue growing at their present pace. Third-placed Sony Ericsson saw improvements in shipments, revenues and profits, and benefited from marked improvements in getting its new line of Walkman-branded models onto the market during the second quarter. In contrast, Samsung launched its new products late in the last quarter, leading it to register its market share at half that of Motorola. The manufacturer's eight per cent annual growth is marginal; analysts reported that Samsung is continuing to miss out on the boom in low-spec handsets in developing markets, which could have offset losses in the high-tech sphere to the Motorola Razr and Sony Ericsson Walkman line. LG increased volume by an above-average 26 per cent year-over-year during the second quarter of 2006, due in part to strong demand for its new Chocolate range of products. Strategy Analytics reckons LG faces a break-even-to-negative operating-margin reality over the next four to six quarters as it races to build scale in export markets. Overall, LG recorded its second consecutive quarterly operating loss with noted weaknesses in Korea and North America, according to Strategy Analytics. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Philips has lost a case to amend a patent for its television menu technology. The electronics giant had attempted to change its existing patent, but the alterations were ruled to be too wide ranging. Rival electronics company Pace Micro took the case against Philips to the Patent Office, where a Hearing Officer ruled largely against Philips. The company has six weeks in which to submit a new set of amendments. The dispute arose when Pace Micro and Philips were negotiating over use of technology Philips had patented. Its system allowed a television viewer to see thumbnails of available channels and let the viewer select a channel from the mosaic of moving pictures on the screen. "We found an invention of an earlier date," said Richard Clack, Legal Counsel for Pace Micro. "It wasn't our patent, but we thought it showed that Philips's was not novel." Philips proposed amendments to its own patent, and Pace Micro objected to those. The dispute ended up before Hearing Officer R C Kennell of the Patent Office. "Pace have argued that, because the wording of the proposed claim is broader than that of the description, it should not be allowed in a post-grant amendment," wrote Kennell in the judgment. "The patentees reject this argument as unsustainable." "I find that the proposed amendments, whilst resulting in claims that are novel over the prior art, introduce matter in contravention of section 76(3). For that reason I refuse to allow the amendment in its present form," wrote Kennell. Section 76(3) of the Patent Act says: "No amendment of the specification of a patent shall be allowed … if it (a) results in the specification disclosing additional matter, or (b) extends the protection conferred by the patent." "The Patent Office effectively said that the amendments would introduce added matter not contained in the original patent, and that is not allowed," said Clack. "This is a good result for us." Philips is now permitted to lodge alternative amendments which are not as broad in scope. "It seems to me that there may well be alternative amendments which would cure the lack of novelty in the independent claims whilst avoiding the addition of matter," wrote Kennell. "No ground of bad faith or covetousness having been made out, I am prepared to allow Philips an opportunity to submit fresh amendments." Philips has six weeks in which to submit new changes to its patent. Clack said that Pace Micro would assess any new proposals and object to those if it felt they were not appropriate. See: The ruling (12-page / 55KB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Letter of the WeekLetter of the Week We should have known better than to abbreviate "San Francisco" to "San Fran" in our shock report earlier this week into the UK's first Masturbate-a-thon. Oh yes, and we accused the locals of sexual degeneracy, which turned out to be a bad move: As an American, as well as a San Franciscan--that is, a resi of the cit whos nam you customar inexplic, habitua, annoyi trunca in yo stori as "San Fran"--humility compels me to demur at your story's subhead: "American Degeneracy Crosses the Pond." I have it on good authority that you Brits were resplendently degenerate long before white men ever set foot on this side of the pond, and you've retained your headstart. To say nothing of the French. And not even to THINK about the Germans or Dutch. (Assuming Amsterd deserves even half of its naughty reputa.) I hear Rio de Jan and Bangk know how to party too. But tha for the implic compli. We'll endeav to live up to it. Coming as it does from Engla, a country whose name is all but synony with elabor kinky corpor punishm scenari, discipl, cross-dres, etc., your "degener" dub makes my heart swell and throb with pride. I'm sure I speak for all of Ameri as well as for my little city with its appar imposs long unwiel nam. Hoping your heat wave ends and Lond returns to its customa tempera comfor clim soo. Jonathan Rasmussen Well done, sir. For the record, we also had a few letters this week about the word "doco" (=documentary), as featured in this story on Channel Five's intention to air a cryonic freezing doco. Roughly half of correspondents demanded the immediate reinstatement of the banned words mobe and lappy while the remainder demanded the immediate reinstatement of the birch for such linguistic outrages. The Vulture Central Lexicographical Soviet is considering the matter, and a pronouncement is expected soon. ®
Football star and petulant pug-face Wayne Rooney is seeing red again - this time over his internet domain namesake. The English striker has taken the owner of WayneRooney.com - a Mr Huw Marshall from Wrexham - to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva in order to get the name back. Following in the footsteps of a slew of other celebs - most recently Jeffrey Archer, who won back his dotcom, and Tom Cruise, whose case is still under review - Our Wayne appears to have come a bit late to the internet party but is prepared to make up for that by using his fortune to hire expensive lawyers. How far he is willing to go will have to be seen. So far, WIPO has only been approached over WayneRooney.com (see case number D2006-0916) but there is barely a WayneRooney that hasn't been taken. WayneRooney.co.uk is also registered to Huw Marshall, who bought both in April 2002. And .net, .org, .info, .biz, even .org.uk have gone. If you thought messing with easily riled Wayne was not a good idea though, pity Moniker Privacy Services in Florida who are sitting on ZinedineZidane.com. When it comes to vicious attacks, Zidane is not to be bettered in the world of football at the moment. ®
The Home Office wants to issue control orders to businesses as well as individuals. An ASBO for businesses is the central proposal of a parliamentary Green Paper from the Home Office published this week. Home Secretary John Reid wants to tackle organised crime, and has proposed a series of measures that can be taken against businesses without the burden of proof required by a criminal court. "Currently law enforcement authorities essentially have a choice between prosecution or no action when dealing with organised crime," said Reid in his introduction to the paper. "That can be a stark and unproductive choice and we see a place for something in between – organised crime prevention orders – which could be imposed on individuals or organisation in such a way as to prevent organised criminality continuing." The paper itself says that the measures would be used where there was not enough evidence to prove wrongdoing, and to anticipate and prevent criminal activity before it happened. "These sort of orders might be used in cases where there was a strong weight of evidence but either not enough for a prosecution, prosecution was planned but additional measures were urgently needed to prevent harms in the interim, prosecution had been ruled not appropriate on public interest grounds, or the evidence of criminal activity could not be prosecuted (e.g. because it took place overseas)," it says. "These sorts of orders could be imposed to prevent criminal activity in the first place." The new proposals also make a case for more liberal data sharing between government bodies, and between public and private organisations. "To make a real impact, law enforcement needs to use a lot more than the information at its own disposal," says the paper. "It has become increasingly clear from discussions with our stakeholders that data sharing with other parts of the public sector is highly patchy, while sharing across the public/private divide is rarely even attempted." "This paper sets out some simple and practical steps for improved data sharing, which we believe could make a considerable impact against financial crime, fraud and money laundering," it says. The Green Paper has been presented to Parliament and is subject to a consultation period that runs until 17th October. The results of that consultation will be made public in November. If adopted as law, the proposals could have serious implications for hackers and others suspected of using computers to commit crime. The paper contains proposals permitting the confiscation of equipment under a Prevention Order as well as having limits placed on their financial activities, such as using only certain credit cards which have been cleared by the Home Office. These sanctions would also be available to the government without the securing of a criminal conviction against individuals or organisations. Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.COM, said: "The Government has a challenge on its hands to write a law that balances its proposal to punish people and organisations for crimes that it cannot prove with the safeguards in the European Convention of Human Rights, notably the right to a fair trial." See also: Home Office Green Paper (51-page / 1MB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The United States government is under pressure again, this time from two high-profile insiders, to end its overseeing role on the internet and transistion its role to an international body. A paper [pdf] co-written by the ex-government lawyer that originally drew up the contract between the US government and internet overseeing organisation ICANN in 1998, J. Beckwith Burr, and ICANN insider and member of the ICANN's President's Strategy Committee, Marilyn Cade, will be officially released later today at a public meeting called to discuss the organisation's future. Entitled "Steps the US government (USG) can take to promote responsible, global, private sector management of the DNS", the paper is under no doubt that the USG has to internationalise its role as ultimate authority over the internet's domain name system and root zone file and explains that it hopes to provide a "concrete pathway" for doing just that. It outlines four steps that it "urges" the USG to follow in arriving at that end-point. Make a statement stating that it will not use its authority to undermine any ICANN decisions, and that it will make VeriSign make changes to the A root in 14 days. Set up an international working group to take over its role which will comprise top-level government officials from across the world (not the existing GAC members, it suggests) plus ICANN officials. This group will be able to put a temporary hold on the implementation of any ICANN recommendations on the limited grounds that the change would led to "an unreasonable risk to the technical stability or security of the Internet". Publicly restate and provide assistance in getting back to the initial ICANN principles where private ownership is respected and ICANN's technical role is limited. Force some accountability onto ICANN by making it review its procedures and appeals mechanisms The paper will be outlined at an all-day meeting today called by ICANN to discuss its future in time for a public meeting of the US government on 26 July, both preceding the end of ICANN's current contract with the USG on 30 September. That the paper is written by the official that originally wrote ICANN and the USG's contract and has been a close follower of ICANN ever since will lend extra weight to the paper's proposals. And co-author Marilyn Cade's appearance means that both US industry and ICANN's leadership are broadly behind the measures. Experts that have so far reviewed the paper have been supportive and see it as a pragmatic exit for the USG, whose role has come under increased pressure in recent months, most recently just a week ago when a striking 87 percent of respondents to its own consultation urged the move to an international body as a matter of urgency. The main area of dispute would appear to be in the formation of the international working group as outlined in the paper. EU civil servant and Net expert Patrick Vande Walle has already pointed out that the paper's suggestions over which countries should be included in the group are politically naive. But then the paper's strength comes from the fact that it is written by the US perspective and so is far more likely to meet with US government approval. The exact details can be thrashed out later. ICANN's meeting schedule has now been posted, and there will be a live audio feed [Real Player] during the day (starting 7.20am US Pacific Time) for anyone interested in the topic of internet governance.® Related links The Burr/Cade paper [pdf] ICANN meeting agenda Live audio feed
Microsoft has a software platform called Windows Mobile, which includes - free - an Instant Messenger client for MSN or Windows messenger. Microsoft has a research study out on IM. Mobile? Doesn't get a mention. Why so shy? This research was conducted by Vanson Bourne amongst 800 Information Workers in the UK, on behalf of Microsoft's Unified Communications Group - and it suggests, unsurprisingly, that more business IT strategies should include IM. But the advantages of IM on a mobile platform seem to have eluded Vanson Bourne. "Business and IT decision makers need to seriously consider incorporating IM technology into their IT strategy," said the official release, quoting Neil Laver, Head of Sales and Marketing, Unified Communications Group at Microsoft UK. Official sanction, he says, would "ensure their enterprises, irrespective of size, benefit from the increased productivity it brings," he concluded. "Corporate IM tools allow businesses to do this in a secure and manageable way ensuring their employees using it adhere to company policy compliance." The research shows that the stable door is open, and the horse has bolted. Business use is flourishing: "Instant Messaging technology has become a vital communication and productivity tool for Information Workers across businesses in the UK with 50 per cent of employees using IM at work." But the software is not official; individual workers are installing it on their own PCs. "People are primarily using IM to communicate with colleagues with 58 per cent using IM to communicate with colleagues in the same office and as many as 74 per cent communicating with their colleagues based in other offices," opines the writer of the report, adding: "An overwhelming 70 per cent of IM users believe the technology facilitates quick decision making therefore saving them, and their employers, time which is undoubtedly a key driver for its use across UK businesses of all sizes today." Is it insecure? You bet it is: "Corporate IM tools allow businesses to do this in a secure and manageable way" - that's another way of saying that without the use of these corporate tools, these are consumer applications, written in the innocent days before Sarbanes-Oxley, and with no audit trail. Is this also true of the IM client on a Windows mobile phone? Well, yes. Is that why the report fails to mention it? Well, duh... Copyright © Newswireless.net
Intel yesterday played music chairs with its senior management. As CEO Paul Otellini prepared to pause the looped tape of the chip giant's infamous five-note jingle, Bill Siu and Richard Wirt, respectively head of the company's Channel Platforms Group and chief of the Software and Services Group announced their retirement, reducing the unseemly dash for seating by two.
CommentComment Over the last eighteen months Salesforce.com has made a number of high profile and, more importantly, highly significant announcements as the company has rapidly developed its ability to deliver applications “on demand” to a wide community of users. This week the company has launched a Partner Relationship Management (PRM). Partnerforce, Salesforce Partner Edition, is an application that seeks to address the increasingly common and notoriously tricky issue of managing partner channels to optimize sales opportunities for organizations that employ indirect routes to bring their offerings to market. In effect, Partnerforce will allow companies using Salesforce.com's Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool to make customer information available to its channel partners. Information is made available to the partner community through a simple to use, and easy to access, Web portal that can be accessed via any supported Web browser. At the same time, the portal can capture key metrics on the channel partner's sales and lead management processes, potentially providing the organization with a near complete view of the entire sales pipeline, direct and indirect. The software includes dashboard facilities to provide focused information to users on the realtime situation. Lead management capabilities are also included permitting leads to be distributed through both the direct sales organization and channel partners in line with company polices and agreements. The software has also been built to provide tools to help foster the entire partner recruitment, marketing, selling, and monitoring processes. The software will be available for use from July 12, 2006 to organizations using Salesforce.com's Salesforce Enterprise Edition or Unlimited Edition. The additional functionality will cost $1,500 per partner per year and includes subscriptions for five partner login identities. The importance of Partner and Channel sales grows day by day. Even large organizations that have traditionally utilized direct sales as their primary route to market now recognize the importance of employing various partners in the sales process. The use of channel partners is particularly important to organizations that sell to the SMB (small and mid-tier market sectors). For the vast majority of organizations the only viable methods to reach this huge potential customer base are via the Web or through channel partners. Indeed, even selling via the Web is frequently more effective when utilizing a variety of partners. For these reasons there is clearly a viable customer base for effective PRM solutions. However, the very nature of selling via channel partners poses problems for the suppliers of PRM systems and the vendors that could benefit from deploying such tools. Chief among these is the fact that channel partners do not typically use computing platforms managed by the vendor themselves. Instead they have their own systems and support staff, the nature and skills of which may not match closely those of the primary organization. In these scenarios it can be problematic and expensive, if not impossible, to deploy traditional client-server applications. Equally the often volatile nature of channel sales relationships may also pose challenges to client-server solutions. The ability to access Salesforce Partner Edition via a Web browser in an ‘on demand’ fashion neatly avoids the majority of these technical challenges leaving organizations free to concentrate on using the software to the benefit of all concerned, namely the optimization of sales efforts. We are firmly of the opinion that the accessing of centrally managed systems via Web browsers is the future for a very large number of organizations, large and small. If Partnerforce has the functionality required to assist the management of channel sales efforts in a simple-to-use fashion, it will attract customers. If its use is coupled with other solutions available on the Salesforce AppExchange platform then the potential benefits to organizations could be extremely significant. The AppExchange platform represents a very profound development in IT service delivery history. While the release of Salesforce Partner Edition is another sign that Salesforce.com is becoming a very serious supplier of business applications, it is the AppExchange platform that holds the potential to change the face of IT service delivery and support in the years to come. Copyright © 2006 Sageza Group Tony Lock is research director, EMEA at The Sageza Group. This article was originally published at IT-Analysis.com
LettersLetters The mystery Chinese military installation near the village of Huangyangtan this week provoked a bit of a speculationfest among El Reg Google Earth aficionados: So, just what is this remarkable scale model for? Let's consider some possibilities: I think you will find that it is used to help train remote pilots of UAVs, the pilotless recon planes. in the UK we actually use computer generated landscapes that are fed back to the pilot via a monitor, it would appear that our friends abroad are using actual modelled landscape, which is more realistic especially when simulating turbulence, etc. Most excellent find though it does amaze me that people have so much time on their hands to find these things. :o) Damian Jauregui Before computer graphics were up to the job, commercial pilots in Western countries were sometimes trained on simulators that worked by having a TV camera attached to a monitor in the "cockpit" zoom around a model landscape according to how the pilot operated the controls. Once computers became good enough though they abandoned this completely. It's difficult to imagine why the Chinese would go to all the trouble of recreating a landscape in miniature when it would be far cheaper and more flexible to do so in a computer (even small fairgrounds often have flight simulator rides nowadays!). Kris I was discussing this with a "Friend", his take on it is that it is almost certainly used to test "airborne optics". ie Spy Sats, and or high altitude aircraft. Since it's a scale model, and you can get in very closely and look at the detail on the ground to correlate with what the airborne snapshots show you, it will also assist with the interpretation of images of the real thing... Not much point for training the Black Chopper pilots with, as a VR simulation will do a much better job without tipping your hand. This installation is designed to be seen from space.. Which co-incidentally is how people found it... Rob A training aid, almost certainly, but I doubt it's for helicopters. The altitudes in the region this represents make helicopter operations rather difficult. My guess would be that it's a large scale 'sandbox' used for running wargames to help train operational level commanders and their headquarters. Mike hi lester; neat article. i bet that mountain terrain in miniature was actually designed to cover up some kind of factory or military building that sits below it. that is to say, all that stuff is sitting on top of the roof of a big building. they probably think it makes it harder for enemy bombers to hit during combat, and might help shield it from cursory inspection of satellite photos. this is not an uncommon thing, i know it was done in the u.s. during the second world war and i'm sure it was done in other countries as well. i wouldnt be surprised that people still do this today. neat to look at, though. google maps are a blast. i wonder if kim jong il realizes that you can get almost as close a look at pyongyang from google maps as you could if you lived there? but humorously enough even though you can peek into the furthest corner of pyongyang, the resolution for my boring midwest town is totally lousy. whatever. i guess i already know what it looks like here. anyway, i dig the column. -S This is amazing all by itself but a "rogue thought" just struck me. What purpose could there be in constructing a miniature topographical terrain set of this size and accuracy? I'd like to compare this with some photos taken "from space" by Chinese satellites or astronauts. The people that think the US faked the moon shots are cranks, but it is conceivable that China faked some space "successes" while they were trying to play catch-up and prove to the world the superiority of Marxism-Lenninism-Englesism-Stalinism-Maoism Possibly they did this in the early years even if later trials succeeded. P.S. I'm not the Ken Jennings of Jeopardy fame--but I am his father. Too bad DNA doesn't flow uphill . . . . Cheers! That's the purely military options. Of course, there may be a less sinister alternative: Looks to be a river system in the area ... maybe they are modelling water flows etc in the same way as US Engineers do/did for the Sacramento Delta/SF Bay in the "Bay model" in Sausalito. David A possibility is that this is a hydrological model. Look at http://www.baymodel.org/history/bmvc.html for what has been done before. Alasdair It looks like a 'hoover' dam simulator to me. Where they can test out the locations for some electricity dams on a small scale. stijnelijn Mystery military project wows the crowd: my guess is it might be a scale model of an area under plans to be dammed. Could the grey areas indicate the flood areas? Simon Yes, the hydrological model idea holds a certain amount of water, as it were... ...and here's another environmental suggestion: Hi there, I don't normally jump onto news stories but yours grabbed my attention for some reason. Possibly the fact that it's 200 degrees in this office today and i feel like doing very little in the way of manual exercise! http://english.people.com.cn/200307/01/eng20030701_119201.shtml the link attached is of a rather non noteworthy item from the china press. As far as their story goes they intend to do a large amount of forestry in order to stop the desert creeping into a heavily populated area. At first i thought this map might just scale model of the work due to be undertaken in that area. Also the maths don't quite work. In your story you quote 450 X 350 kilmetres which by my maths makes about 15 million square meters. The area they quote is 666.7 hectares (lets not even mention the beast) which is only about 6 million square meters....well short. If it is just a large scale map of the area to be developed then inside or close to a military base is an ideal place for it. I'm sure that amount of materials are quite valuble in that ecomomic area and the chances it being stolen (in part and for the parts) are quite high. However the question still begs....why so big? Surely planting a few trees doesn't warrent a model that large! Marc We had quite a few emails on this, including the following rather rude missive: http://english.chinamil.com.cn/site2/columns/2005-04/29/content_194724.htm It took little more than 30 seconds for me to find the answer to this "mystery" - and it took no more than typing a single word (Huangyangtan) into Google to solve it. A little research on young Lester's part, rather than the following of blogs, and rants etc etc, would have revealed a very interesting SCIENTIFIC topic. Instead, you have turned the story into a rumor worthy of the National Enquirer. I expect more than that from you guys. If I want rumour and innuendo, I'll go on over to Digg, and see what the smelly masses have to say... Dave Daley Right, let's consider the facts here: Beijing has rather wisely decided to plant lots and lots of trees and grass in the Huangyangtan area in an attempt to stop the desertification which is contributing to huge dust clouds menacing Chinese cities. As part of that process, it's decided to build a huge model of a disputed area quite some distance away on the China/India border. Right, gotcha... So, while Mr Daley pushes off to Digg and leaves us in peace, let's have a few more suggestions which - while not entirely serious - are at least as plausible as the idea that Beijing's citizens can breathe more easily as a result of a 900x700m landscape model. 1. It could be for testing equipment for use on other planets (eg. Mars landers), athough this wouldn't explain why they copied some terrestrial land. 2. Perhaps the PRC has developed a range of miniature robotic super-soldiers and is testing them out before building full-size ones? 3. Maybe it's to confuse the Google Earth fanatics :P? 4. They might be trying to buil a geographic fractal - no matter how much you magnify, it always looks as if it is at the same scale. This would be spooky... 5. Finally, the Chinese president may enjoy a spot of Airfix modeling and could have constructed this as miniature battle zone in which to carry out his plastic fantasies. Potentially possible? James B Er, yes. Keep taking the tablets. Surely it's a piece of Art? Similar to the Boyle family http://www.boylefamily.co.uk/boyle/index.html who meticulously reproduce semi random pieces of ground. Admittedly this is on a huge scale, but if you have enough people...why not. James Are you sure it's not just the Chinese equivalent of this...? http://www.bekonscot.com/ Ian Yes, but where are the charming windmill and the rose-clad country cottage? We don't think the tourists will be flocking to the Huangyangtan Maoist Model Village. Personally I think the Chinese are building the worlds largest model railroad. Who knew that Hu Jintao was such a hobbyist? Seems that we have caught them in between laying the terrain and adding the track and foliage. Check back in a few months to see the little trains running and a smiling Hu;) Mike Well, we'll leave it to you to decide which of the above is the most plausible. And while you're travelling Google Earth, keep an eye out for Bert Ofnuts, who fell mysteriously silent right after sending this email: Now I understand why Google has invested billions in Google Earth. Remember Stardust@Home? Google Earth is nothing more than an undercover Intelligence@Home project. By uncovering this kind of stuff, people are doing to the work of the CIA... what is that noise? an helic... ®
Nvidia has offered enthusiasts a pre-release version of Quad SLI drivers that allow two GeForce 7950 GX2 cards to work together in perfect harmony - or as near to it as beta-test software allows, at any rate.
AnalysisAnalysis If your company is averse to openness and transparency and is unlikely to change, then this article is not going to interest you much. Unless, of course, you are considering a change of direction.
WSAWSA Naomi Campbell was treated to a short ride in a police car after allegedly "going berserk" outside the Belgravia home of ex-boyf Badr Jafar, The Sun reports. Dubai prince Jafar dumped the supermodel earlier this month - a decision which may have been provoked by a recent Italian cuisine-based tantrum aboard his yacht in the Tuscan Riviera during which Campbell allegedly caused £30k worth of damage to "antiques, light fittings, china plates and glasses". Campell's latest escapade reportedly involved her turning up at 3.30am at Jafar's pad "demanding some belongings". When Jafar declined to let her in, she allegedly "turned the air blue, yelling and swearing and waking neighbours". Police attended the scene and, having copped an earful themselves, duly arrested Campbell for breach of the peace, stuck her in a police car and drove her to a nearby street where she was "ordered to calm down". One source told The Sun: "It was a very strange time of day to want to collect possessions but luckily for her the police team treated her very leniently and sensibly. "Instead of banging her up in a cell they told her to calm down and pull herself together. When she came to her senses they de-arrested her and even arranged for her to get home safely." Indeed, officers rather kindly went to collect Ms Campbell's belonging's from the Jafar residence and returned them to the de-arrested perp. The Metropolitan Police later confirmed that "officers had been called to a disturbance". Campbell is still awaiting trial in New York 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". Previous form includes the accusation that she attacked her personal assistant with a BlackBerry. ®
Intel is to update its desktop Core 2 Duo-friendly P965 chipset, the chip giant informed its customers this week. The change, which will take the part from version C-1 to C-2, also affects the 946GZ and 946PL chipsets too, Reg Hardware has learned.
Expect to see even more HDMI video ports on consumer electronics kit - the organisation in charge of licensing the technology has just knocked 30 per cent off the annual admin fee it makes manufacturers pay.
A British webmaster accused of supporting terrorism was arrested in his London home on Wednesday. Syed Talha Ahsan, 26, is accused by the US of aiding and abetting the Taliban and Islamic fighters via the creation of various fund raising and propaganda websites. He's also accused of illegally possessing classified US Navy troop movement plans and providing jihadists with temporary housing in London. US authorities are seeking Ahsan's extradition, following his indictment on conspiracy to support terrorism and conspiracy to murder charges by a US Grand Jury in Connecticut (PDF). Ahsan was charged in the same case as Babar Ahmed, who has been resisting extradition to the US for the last two years. The pair are both accused of running websites including Azzam.com, which US prosecutors allege was used as a fundraising, recruitment and propaganda tool for jihadists between 1998 and 2002. Both men are being held on remand pending the outcome of extradition proceedings. ®
Bond producers say Daniel Craig will play 007 in a second film slated for a May 2008 release, the BBC reports, despite widespread outrage among diehard fans who questioned the blond actor's suitability for the role. Craig's Bond debut - Casino Royale - will hit the silver screen in November. His co-star Caterina Murino admitted Craig had been upset by the flak his casting had attracted, but said he was convinced he'd win over the fans. She explained: "This James Bond doesn't look like a little cartoon like before, like the last one or so charming and playful like the first James Bond. This is new." Producer Barbara Broccoli also praised the sixth Bond for "portraying, with emotional complexity, a darker and edgier 007". ®
LettersLetters Hands up, then how many of you, honestly, know what your mobile phone's model number is? Not many, it seems, according to a survey we covered this week. Does it matter if you don't know your RAZR from your 6330i? You had Views on this: Even knowing your handset model doesn't help, because finding accurate information about its true capabilities is very difficult (assuming some capability hasn't been crippled by the cellco who sold it to you). And this doesn't stop there. You have mobes(*) selling themselves as MP3 players... but to make them usable as such you have to invest in a Flash card and proprietary headset (3.5 jack? WDNNS 3.5 jacks!) which end up costing more than a fairly nice MP3 player... It would also be nice if these features where a bit standardized (screen sizes, number of voices on Polyphonic tones, etc...) (not speaking of WML implementation) Berf (*) Yes! This is all very well but every time i phone Orange they tell me i am talking on a v3 razr ... just because this is the phone i got with the contract... little do they know, or more accurately ... they havent noted from my conversation, that i flogged that on ebay as soon as it came to me. Since i only want to talk on the phone, i then bought a much cheaper L6 or L7 ... The tech savy among us know that a brand new model can fetch a decent price on ebay, and when you have a contract they hand out these new models every year... Jez Any word on how many users don't know what their actual phone number is? Greg More mobile phone unhappiness. Not content with foisting incomprehensibe handsets (see above) upon us poor punters, Orange has taken it upon itself to charge users an extra quid and a half a month for itemised billing, and a penny a go for text message confirmation. Stealthy: Furthermore, I was disgusted to note that they've started attaching a hefty premium to their "orange Wednesdays" 2-for-1 cinema tickets promotion. It used to be free to request a text-ticket. Now when you do so, they reply saying "this shit is going to cost you 35p ... reply "yes" if you wish to be extorted". OK that's my paraphrasing. Interestingly, though, you can still get a "free" one if you request it via their WAP site (or whatever you kids are calling it these days), subject to data charges of course. After 6 odd years with Orange, looks it's time for me to give them the hard goodbye. Al I can't belive how they get away with it. T-Mobile (who I left to go with Orange) now offer flat rates for data but Orange still charge me £4 per mb. On 3g that's very easy to do. I got 6 months free data, but during that 6 months 2/3 people I spoke to at Orange assured me no such service existed. Also, the handset I received from Orange had been majorly crapped on. Thinking they knew more about user interfaces and usability than Nokia, they'd put their own homescreen on the phone, meaning I had 7 clicks to read a new message. Obviously I took it to the scary looking man in the market to get it flashed with standard nokia firmware. I had no intention of renewing my contract before the increase in cost. I'm now advising people to stay away from Orange, as there's poor service and no confidence that you'll get what you paid for after a couple of months. Jake. It's worth mentioning, there is a (free!) text number to opt-out of the itemised billing, saving you £1.50 a month. Mark Some stories never die. The old NHS patient database, and whether or not the government has asked Joe Public if s/he'd like to join in. Thank you for publishing the above letter. I emailed the ICO. I sent them the link to your article, told them that I was unaware of this plan, that on balance I did not want my data on the system either and that my informed consent had never been obtained to put my records on it. I asked what rights I have to stop my records being put on this system and, if they had already been added to it, what I could do to compel their deletion. I received the following response: Thank you for your E mail of the 5th of July 2006 regarding the NHS Care Records Service. I note that you were unaware of this project which, ultimately, aims to move the NHS towards a full automated care records service. My understanding is that the marketing campaign is ongoing and that every household in the country will eventually receive detailed information as the scheme is rolled out over the next few years. It is not necessarily the case that vast numbers of staff within the NHS will suddenly be able to access all your medical records. Access restrictions can be applied to particularly sensitive information and individuals who have permission to access it can be nominated by you. However, there may well be the opportunity for patients to opt-out of this scheme although they need to be aware of the potential care and treatment consequences of taking this course of action. In the first instance, you should approach your GP about this and highlight any specific concerns. I hope this information is useful. Yours sincerely [name snipped] "It is not necessarily the case that vast numbers of staff within the NHS will suddenly be able to access all your medical records." That isn't really my concern. I am far more uncomfortable about all the people _outside_ the NHS that will be able to see my records for "official" purposes. Best regards, Paul. Keep your eyes peeled for more on this in the next day or so, Paul. We could hardly get through letters without mentioning the fun poor old PlusNet has been having. First data goes missing, the customers get a bit annoyed and then, the marketing boss goes librarian-poo on a forum: Ooh! Nothing like a snotty marketing drone to show the real attitude of a company. Bill Hicks said this (paraphrased) about people who work in marketing: "Kill yourself. Kill yourself. Kill yourself. There's no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers, Okay - kill yourself - seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good." A techie at an ISP I used to use (bought out some years ago I think) posted something in a similar vein to Marco Potesta when paying customers got more than a little concerned about outages. I (and I'm sure quite a few others) decided to take our business elsewhere. Given PlusNet's recent performance I wouldn't expect anyone to take Mr Potesta's kind of attitude. Far from endearing wavering customers back to PlusNet, this teenage snot-laden outburst will only drive them away and put potential customers off. Who's he calling self-righteous? 700Gb of e-mails? That's a pretty big balls up Marco. Made me ROTFLMAO too. No amount of spin or self righteous snot can cover that fact up. That kind of attitude doesn't belong in this sector. Jamie Wow! And there was me thinking that Technical Support was the pinnacle of sales prevention and customer de-retention. I hope Mr Potenta enjoys his next job more than this one. Tim Same old, same old. You never hear from the happy punters, do you? Well, except me. I've been with PlusNet for about a year and never had a problem. Good service (their automated setup was excellent), queries answered accurately and promptly (I never read a reply that seemed to be pre-prepared or didn't answer the question posed and when issues occur, they do let you know. A lone voice of satisfaction in the storm for you. Pete And we had this from spokesman Seb, over at ADSLGuide: PlusNet has been causing a lot of controversy with chopping and changing of various products and policies over the last year. We have been in frequent contact with PlusNet and even put up with Lee Strafford, CEO of PlusNet referring to me as an 'arrogant shite' and despite this have continued to engage with PlusNet. We have a fundemental disagreement with PlusNet on the way an open community should be moderated. This isn't to say we've been perfect.. we've been under-staffed for the last few months so we accept we haven't been as responsive as we'd like to. However PlusNet believe we should be repressing more of the comments, in particular those from non-customers and ex-customers. They believe only current customers and those with a financial stake in the company have a right to question them, something we strongly disagree with. You don't need to be a PlusNet customer signed up to their referral scheme to have a perfectly valid view of their business. We've faced accusations in the forums over the last few months of being corrupt', 'sticking up for [PlusNet for] Financial gain' and receiving 'backhanders'. We've left those on the forums too rather than risk a conspirancy theory developing by removing them. We have defended PlusNet's right to put its views on the forums across to the same level as we have allowed users to express their opinions. PlusNet front-line staff are some of the most most committed in the industry and we are sorry to see them in the middle of all this. Despite what PlusNet may claim, we do remove many derogatory comments, probably before they even notice them. Either way, they have our respect. Seb The government says it might consider implementing a carbon allowance trading scheme. You suspect it has ulterior motives. Really, you lot are so cynical: One suspects that a carbon allowance system, usable at transaction time, might requires some form of robust identify system. Like, say, ID cards. John Hark, was that the sound of an arrow hitting an enraged male cow somewhere in the occular region? Ooh! Another government tax idea. Let's tax people just for living shall we? Let's have a quick look at how this idea might work... OK. So do people who use public transport to work get caned for that because they don't have a car? There are some very smoky, very smelly buses, trains and coaches around. People already pay over the odds for a crap service, do we have to get taxed on it as well? Do those on lesser incomes get caned because they can't afford the latest energy efficient fridges, freezers and cookers or the latest flat screen televisions? Millions of people have no choice about the energy they use. Let's cane them for that anyway. Holidays are already expensive enough, especially if you have children (I'm sure a tax on that will be coming soon). Taking term time holidays because they're cheaper is nigh on impossible now. But hey, let's screw them for even more money by taxing their flights additionally. Why should the individual take the rap for something that industry isn't being seen to be doing anything about? All the adverts and spin don't mean anything. Show us what government and industry are doing to help and how much of a difference they are making and maybe then people will start to believe they can make a difference. Seems to me the most politically correct thing anyone can do is starve themselves naked on a street corner. At least corpses are more biodegradable than a lot of the packaging used today. Jamie What on earth will this do, when the US, China and India continue to consume world resources at an increasingly unsustainable rate? The only thing this will do is make the UK extremely unattractive as a country to live in. I write from sunny Dusseldorf. Here, for this city of half a million people, we have public transport that would make any Transport for London staffer green with envy. It's cheap, too - costing about £30 a month for unlimited all-day access on all buses, trains, U-bahns and street trams. After 7pm every evening - and all weekend - you can also travel across a very wide area (including several cities), and take a friend with you for free. The UK transport companies are too busy trying to screw as much money out of the consumer, rather than seeing the benefit of providing value for money. I own a car, but hardly ever use it. Give someone enough of a carrot, and they'll munch on it. Unfortunately, the UK government seems obsessed with providing sticks instead ... which is why I'm now paying my taxes to the German government. Even though I pay slightly more tax, I am happy to see that the Germans actually spend it on services I will use. Value for money is something citizens should expect from their government - if you aren't happy with the deal you're getting from your country (not just your gas, electricity, water company, etc) - consider switching. Oliver. The idea of using RFID chips to stop lackadaisical surgeons leaving bits of equipment behind in their patients' abdominal cavities struck some of you as an inspired notion. Others thought it was daft beyond daft: Thirty five years ago when I was a medic in the service the "four by" sponges we used in surgery had a radio opaque strip (much like your pound notes) that would show up on an x-ray. In addition to keeping a sponge count, we shot a picture when we closed 'em up. Not only would it show any errant sponges & instruments but also any nasty metal bits that were left behind. It wasn't a perfect system, but it was a damn sight better than sponge and instrument counts done by our civilian counterparts. Cheers, John Adding RFID chips to surgical sponges is total overkill. The simple addition of a small piece of metal will do. One can find the metal with a detector wand - you don't need to know exactly what was left behind - it should be sufficient to know that something was left behind, then go and look for it. Herman Nuts to that; I want to know how often sponges are left in place during vaginal surgeries! ...and if the number is so astronomical as to skew the numbers high (why would it be excluded otherwise?), shouldn't there be a Kotex lawsuit somewhere? :) Vince Er, right. Enough! Enjoy le weekend. ®
Episode 24Episode 24 "Whew," the PFY says wiping the tears from his eyes as he steps into Mission Control. "I don't think I've laughed so much since you slapped an old scanner one top of our shredder and convinced on of the Bosses that it was a self-feeding photocopier." "Yes," I nod. "Who could have known he'd slip in late at night to copy some share certificates? He went through half his portfolio before he wondered why no paper was coming out..." "But then in the morning you convinced him it was a paper jam AND HE PUT THE REST IN!!!" the PFY weeps, shaking his head happily. "Yes, I have to admit it was a triumph of stupidity..." I reply. "So what was so funny?" "He shredded his shares!!" the PFY explains. "Yes, yes, but what was so funny today that reminded you of that?" "Oh that!" he gasps. "We're being sued!" "WE are, or the company is?" "The company of course!" "Why?" "BECAUSE," the Head of IT says, pushing into both the office and conversation, "the specification we provided for a server room build wasn't quite kosher." "Not kosher?!" I cry, preparing to defend my good name. "Yes, apparently a basement housing 10 Vax 11/780s isn't a commonplace thing any more." "That was a joke, just delete it!" I sigh. "And what about Thick-Wire Ethernet cabling TO THE DESKTOP?" "That was different - that was a GOOD joke, but just delete that as well." "They can't delete it because they presented it for tender and accepted a proposal." "In a week!" the PFY chuckles, "without even reading the document!" "Well no-one's going to be able to supply 10 Vaxes or that much thickwire cabling, so why don't they just retender?" "On the strength of the tender acceptance someone HAS sourced the computers and cabling AND contracted some VMS specialists out of retirement to install them - and now that the company wants to pull the pin on the project they're suing them. As a result that they're suing us and WE, in turn, are suing YOU!" the Head of IT snaps, just as the Head of HR enters Mission Control to provide moral support. "You can't sue us!" the PFY snaps. "Yes we can. We can sue you for malpractice." "You could try, but you'd fail," I reply. "Why?" the Head of HR responds. "Here's the hidden bonus," I respond. "You'll note that this company entered into a supply contract with another company but that our contract was solely with (as was pointed out to us) this company. And our contract specifically states that we're liable for damages to company property that result from our work, not other damages or damages to another company. So in effect this company is the liable party." "Is he right?" the Boss asks the HR bloke. "I'd have to look over the contract but I fear that he might be correct," the Head of HR burbles, ducking out. ... ten minutes later ... "He's right, they aren't liable," the Head of HR says. "Told you," I chuckle. "...Under the original contract," the Head of HR says. "But under a revision you signed six months ago - to get a performance bonus - it only mentions damages to the company, and not just its property." !!! Woopsy! "So we're stuffed then?" the PFY says. "I think so," the Head of HR smirks cheerfully. "I'm not so sure," I say. "I don't recall signing any revision..." "It's all here in black and white - and blue, where the signatures are..." "Hmm. You don't mind if I take a copy for my solicitor?" "I don't think so..." "We'd get a copy during discovery anyway." "Ok, I suppo..." >SHRED< >SHRED< "Oh dear, there's been a paper jam in the photocopier," I gasp. "So you've accidentally destroyed the only evidence of an agreement mentioning our liability?" the PFY asks. "I'm afraid so," I sigh. "Bloody technology!" "So we're in the clear?" "It... would seem so," the Head of HR seethes. "Well to show there's no hard feelings, here's a possible solution: Instead of being sued why not just approach the successful tenderer and offer to pay them for the Vaxes and cabling plus some dumping costs as well as paying off their Vax specialists for doing nothing. It won't involve solicitors which will mean it'll be about one quarter of the expense" "I... Hmmm," the HR Head says looking to the Head of IT for agreement. "I suppose it's probably our only option." . . . "That was a sneaky trick," the PFY says, tapping the shredding scanner benevolently. "Which bit, the shredding of our contract or tendering to supply 10 Vaxes, three miles of thickwire and a couple of VMS experts?" "I... You didn't! ... Isn't that a little, well, venal?" "So you're not interested in being one of the VMS experts then?" "I... Well I didn't say that..." "I didn't think so..." ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Insight Enterprises, the very big US reseller, is to buy its smaller rival Software Spectrum for $287m. The surprise here is just how long the owner, web backbone provider Level 3, held on to its subsidiary. In 2002, Level 3 bought Software Spectrum and Corporate Software, one of the first big resellers, and merged them into each other. At the time it spouted a lot of nonsense about convergence, although we wondered what broadband and software distribution had in common. Conveniently, the purchase bulked up Level 3 sales and enabled it to avoid breaking banking covenants. So we guess that this divestment marks the official divergence of communications and flogging commodity software to corporates. Press release here. ®
Computer 2000 have installed a new PC components and supplies chief in a bid to get a bigger slice of the systems building pie and tackle untapped industrial markets.
Dell's December 2005 battery recall followed the recording of dozens of incidents over a two-year period of overheating notebooks, many resulting in melted or burned computers, it has been alleged this week as the company continues to investigate the case of a laptop that burst into flames in Japan.
Samsung yesterday showed off what it calls a "free folder" phone - a handset that can not only open up vertically, clamshell-fashion but can fold out horizontally the way devices like Nokia's Communicator do.
Geek TVGeek TV Jane Hoskyn, TV Scoop While Channel 4 is busy sending American TV execs Ferrero Rocher and M&S gift vouchers* in a bid to let them include Lost and Desperate Housewives in their telly-stroke-web simulcast, Five has nipped in to snatch video on demand (VOD) rights to CSI. CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CSI Miami and CSI New York will be the centrepiece of Five’s upcoming VOD service, which will allow you to download David Caruso and continually satisfy your perverted fascination with that off-and-on again thing he does with his sunnies. It’s basically the missing link between the world’s oldest profession (pay-per-perversion) and the world’s newest technology. In other telly news, the cruel hand of fate is just not leaving Doctor Who fans alone. Billie’s gone, the Saturday night episodes have gone, and now the bloke who voiced the first Daleks has been exterminated. Peter Hawkins has gone to the great sound booth in the sky, at the not inconsiderable age of 82. He also created the flobalob voices of the original Bill and Ben, and – OK this is genuinely upsetting exciting – he was the Smash robots, and Zippy in Rainbow. Zippy is dead. I’m not sure I can handle this. Can I cut to the ‘what’s on this week’ bit now, please? I need to go and lie down. * To be strictly accurate, C4 aren’t doing this. But they’re welcome to try. Top five to watch this week: 1. Cutting Edge: The Dead Body Squad Monday 24 July, C4, 9pm C4’s top doc series returns with a look at the Dead Body Squad, specialist cleaners who deal with some of the 32 people who die alone and undiscovered in the UK each day. 2. 50 Films to See Before You Die, Saturday 22 July, C4, 10.05pm Quentin Tarantino, Steven Spielberg, Samuel L Jackson and oodles more luminaries reveal why you really have to see such flicks as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Apocalypse Now and Walkabout. 3. Prehistoric Park, Saturday 22 July, ITV1, 6.50pm Now, this could be rubbish. ITV trying to do BBC stuff often is. But it might also be really good, so suck it and see. Nigel Marven puts CGI prehistoric animals into a wildlife sanctuary, and watches what happens. Star of the series opener is, somewhat inevitably, Mr T-Rex. 4. Mythbusters, Thursday 27 July, BBC2, 7.30pm American special effects experts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage use modern-day science to find out whether there’s any truth in them there urban legends. 5. Only Human: Can't Stop Eating, Thursday 27 July, C4, 9pm Somewhere in Kettering, 58 people with Prader-Willi Syndrome – that means they always feel hungry – live together, alongside their carers and support workers. C4 drops in for a visit. Hold onto your lunchbox, camera man.
LG this week launched a bid to get 3G network 3's customers downloading music - and scratch-mixing the stuff afterward. Punters can even listen to tracks using wireless headphones or out loud through the built-in stereo speakers.
Don't bet on Americans being dumb We started this week with news that David Carruthers, the managing director of online gambling website BetonSports, had been detained for questioning while changing planes in the US en route to Costa Rica. Gambling online is illegal in the US. The law is not entirely clear - Congress is looking at new legislation at the moment - but US authorities obviously think the law is quite clear enough. And they seem quite clear on directorial responsibility too. Carruthers is being held in prison until his trial because he is considered a flight risk. There's more here on David Carruthers and America's distaste for gambling. Given Carruthers' high profile criticism of US gambling policy maybe he should have found a flight that went via Mexico City. Team-ups of the week Microsoft and Nortel are teaming up to make integrated voice and data products. The four-year deal was announced on Tuesday - the two will develop products together, share IP and jointly market services. Microsoft has already got the mobile side of its converged future set up thanks to a deal with Motorola, and Nortel should provide a few missing pieces. Go here for more on Microsoft and Nortel. BT and Sage are working together to give accountants an easier way to manage phone bills. The two will work together to integrate BT's Billing Analyst software with Sage accounts packages. So no more going through pesky mobile bills. More here on easier managed phone bills. On a sadder note Peter Hawkins, the man who first gave voice to the Daleks, died this week. He also created the "flobabob" language for Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men and voiced the robots in the Smash instant mash adverts. It's not as funny/magic/clean as it used to be Viz is an adult comic which has been running for 25 years. A few years ago it adopted the strapline "Not as funny as it used to be". The Geordie comic regularly printed letters from readers saying the same thing. The Reg remembers one of the Viz founders saying he first heard this said after just a couple of issues when they were still selling the magazine themselves in pubs in Newcastle. We'd link to a relevant interview here but Google has let us down - Google used to be much better at searching didn't it? Which brings us on to eBay - chief executive Meg Whitman admitted the auction site is losing its "magic". Apparently it's full of "identical, often poorly-priced items" - well who knew? Inland Revenue: giving away your money The National Audit Office is still as funny as it ever was. This week it had a look at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs and it didn't like what it found. HMRC was accused of being over-generous in paying golden hellos to IT suppliers. The NAO accepted that multi-million payments to Capgemini were needed to encourage competition but questioned if they needed to pay quite so much. Money went to EDS and Accenture too - more here on how HMRC pays too much. Great debates This week saw a couple of stories which might help make sense of the arguments over “net neutrality” - the idea that the internet should treat all data equally or whether it would be better to favour some types of data over others – VoIP calls for instance. If you want a decent summary of both sides of the debate – to impress your mates with this weekend – then we can help. Not with your friends, obviously. Last week saw big-brained Vint Cerf and Dave Farber, a Carnegie Mellon professor, taking both sides of the fence at the Center for Amercian Progress. Andrew Orlowski covered the debate for us here – Net neutrality: yeah or nay If this whets your appetite, and this is an argument you're going to hear an awful lot more about, earlier this week we put up a technical, but not too technical, look at the issue from engineer Richard Bennett. He takes a practial rather than political look at the argument. More here. To urr is human Last week's story on Fish4's error message led to a flurry of alternative suggestions for the World's Greatest Error Messages. Make sure your favourite is there. And a quick apology. Very shortly after we put up the first story on error messages our website fell over. Revealing the Reg's very own error message. Talking of mistakes, this week also saw the Chief Surveillance Commissioner (how many do we have?) warning that the police use of number-plate recognition technology may be illegal. Which might be bad news for Mr Plod. Especially as the police are rolling out Gatso 2 – or a “24-7 national vehicle database” which will track every vehicle on the roads and keep the data for two years. Shorties and Quickies Problems with counting clicks on internet ads? Click here. Just once... When you climb to the top of the Monte It’s been a long time coming, but Intel finally launched Montecito. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say it finally launched a chip and stuck the Montecito tag on it. Even a London taxi driver would be hard-pressed to negotiate the number of roadmap changes this baby’s had. It’s possible, just possible, that this dual core beast might finally breath some life into the Itanium project that’s been pulling downwards on Intel’s neck for most of this decade. But, then again, no. Security scare of the week Symantec warned that Windows Vista’s networking technology may actually be less stable - at release anyway - than its predecessors. The security/utility/whatever firm pointed out that its tests were only conducted on Beta code. Then again, that’s all we’re likely to have for a while yet. Course, that particular nightmare’s all in the future. Possibly, the very very distant future. If you want to keep yourself awake at night right now, just consider that H.D.Moore has published code to help find malware via special Google searches. A great idea or a bad one, depending where you’re coming from and what you’re looking for. Meanwhile, mal-contents are using twisted Powerpoint presentations and fake Google toolbars to trick the unwary into compromising their own systems. You’ve earned it Earnings season kicked into full gear, with IBM, AMD, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and a host of others unveiling their numbers. Close to home, Capita and LogicaCMG issued their figures, with the latter dropping hints about a “tightening labour market” leading to more use of contract staff. Choose your sentence from the following list of options... For once, though, the latest quarterlies were not the thing making Silicon Valley’s finest sweat. Rather, it was the SEC’s widening probe into stock option grants, with the Feds flinging criminal and civil charges at former Brocade CEO, Greg Reyes amongst others.The charges related to options Reyes approved for new hires, not for himself. Reyes’ lawyer said his client was innocent and would prove it in the courts. The rest of the world - or at least execs at the other 80 odd companies being probed by Washington - will be watching very closely. Home Office looks for CIO - a job for lifers Of course, the real tragedy is the effect this sort of action will have on the worldwide supply of senior IT executives. After all, the Home Office is set to suck up a CIO and whole host of other very senior IT execs to take control of its information strategy - you know, cakewalk jobs like sorting out the ID card database, the criminal records system, the immigration database. Seems this is all due to kick off, oooh, anytime now. Once he/she has jumped through all the recruitment hoops, worked notice/gardening leave, and found their desk the new CIO will have to dash off a "Home Office-wide IT strategy". No worries, though, they’ve got till December 2006 to pull it off. Potential candidates, particularly those with brewery/piss-up experience, can find out more here. And in the end... Microsoft pours a little open source over its virtualization strategy. In the meantime, learn how to compute socially here. To go beyond social you might want some advice from the Vietnamese government here. And, we can't tell you how the world will end, but it may be down to some trouble here. Let's leave it there shall we? See you same place next week.®
Partygaming, the online poker and casino website, reported better off-season sales this year thanks to customers it picked up in Europe. The firm said that almost half of the new customers it got in the three months to 30 June 2006 came from outside the US, most of those being in Europe. It said it is going to get "aggressive" about acquiring even more customers in the tail end of the year, particularly in South America. Twenty-seven per cent of its $319.3m revenue came from outside the US in the quarter. Overall, revenues were up 49 per cent on the same period last year. People spent 13.9m days playing poker on Partygaming in the quarter, and 2.1m playing casino games. Mitch Garber, chief executive officer of Partygaming, said he was "delighted". But the firm's yield per player had declined from $307 to $250 for poker games and from $488 to $223 in casino games. Still, it somehow managed to report a slightly improved consolidated yield per player, from $315 to $318 per active player. Meanwhile, in other gambling news, Antigua and Barbuda is still pursuing its complaint against US restrictions on online gambling through the World Trade Organisation.®
Online banner ads running on MySpace.com and web sites infected more than one million users with adware, according to net security firm iDefense. The attack exploited a Windows Metafile (WMF) exploit, fixed by Microsoft in January, to infect vulnerable Windows machines with malware from PurityScan/ClickSpring family of adware. The malware surreptitiously tracks internet usage while bombarding infected users with pop-up ads. The banner ad that played a staring role in the attack ostensibly advertised a site called deckoutyourdeck.com. In reality, machines were directed to Russian-language website in Turkey, which tracked the number of times adware programs were downloaded, the Washington Post reports. Data on the site suggested that the adware had been installed on 1.07m PCs, a huge figure that equates to a big payday for the unknown perpetrators of the attack and plenty of pain for ordinary surfers. ®
Antitrust addict Microsoft has outlined a 12-Step Recovery Program, which it says will help prevent it from lapsing back into anti-competitive practices in the future. The declaration follows three major "interventions" in fifteen years. A 1991 investigation by the Federal Trade Commission resulted in a Consent Decree signed in 1995. A 1997 investigation by the Department of Justice, joined by a number of US states the following year, resulted in a conviction and settlement in 2002. And just last month, the EU rejected Microsoft's claim that it was complying with a 2004 antitrust settlement. Microsoft calls these vows "Windows Principles", or "Twelve Tenets to Promote Competition", and they reiterate many of the pledges made in 1995, 2002 and 2004. "Through the set of voluntary Windows principles that we are announcing and adopting today, we're taking a principled, transparent and accountable approach to the future of our operating system," said Microsoft's general counsel Brad Smith. Some of these "principles" are familiar - others are plain strange. Pledges you may have heard before include a promise to permit OEMs to choose their own desktop icons and remove Microsoft's, and not to retalitate against OEMs. These were part of the 2002 Settlement. There are promises to document its server APIs (made in 2004), and license its IP on a "fair" royalty basis (2002). Then come the strange vows. Microsoft will not prevent anyone from installing their own software, it says, nor will Windows "block access to any lawful Web site or impose any fee for reaching any non-Microsoft web site." As far as we can remember, not one of these transgressions has ever happened. What Microsoft has been found guilty of in the past, however, is preventing already-installed software from running as it should (DR-DOS); and blocking access to third-party browsers (Opera). But in the latter case, it was MSN that was doing the blocking - not Windows. "We want the developer community to know that it is free to develop, support and promote products that compete with any part of Windows," says Microsoft. Two months ago Microsoft and the Department of Justice agreed to renew the monitoring period, which was due to expire next year, for an additional two years. Microsoft admitted that its documentation program "needed a reboot". The EU is currently fining Microsoft. "One day at a time, Lord," said Smith. No he didn't - we made that bit up. ®
IBM will target home and small business users with its Tivoli backup software. A deal with Digital River, who run e-commerce for the likes of the Staples office superstore chain, means Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files will be hawked at online stores. The software does pretty much what it says on the tin, continually copying and encrypting files to a remote location like a USB drive, rather than periodic snapshots. "Data loss threats caused by viruses and outages aren't just a big-business concern," Tivoli storage and security VP Hershel Harris helpfully explained. Digital River SVP Don Peterson said: "By offering IBM Tivoli Continuous Data Protection for Files through mainstream online retail sites in Digital River's oneNetwork, consumers and small business users have access to an enterprise-class data recovery solution." It'll cost $35 per PC.®
Rather than pointing a finger at itself, Dell has blamed a weakening global economy for its second quarter profit warning issued today. Dell sees second quarter revenue coming in at $14bn and predicts a Q2 earnings per share figure between 21 cents and 23 cents. It's that EPS range that's the real tragedy for investors. Analysts had been expecting revenue of $14.2bn and a much higher EPS figure of 32 cents. Dell shares began plummeting the instant word leaked about its second quarter update. At the time of this report, Dell had dropped more than 13 per cent to $19.14 - a new 52-week low. This marks Dell's second fiscal warning in a row. In the first quarter, Dell blamed tough competition and its own high prices for missing profit targets. This time around, Dell has decided to curse the world for its woes. "These (second quarter) estimates primarily reflect aggressive pricing in a slowing commercial market worldwide," Dell said. You can bet that financial analysts will give Dell a very hard time over the second quarter drop. The Wall Street crowd didn't seem too convinced about CEO Kevin Rollins' plan to boost Dell's fortunes by lowering prices. You'll also want to see if the analysts buy Dell's weak economy line. A weak chip sector and warnings from the likes of SAP had investors concerned earlier in the week, but solid results from IBM, Google, and Microsoft seemed to dampen these concerns. IBM's CFO this week noted that he did see a slowdown in corporate spending near the end of the company's most recent quarter but then added, "There is definitely no indication that this is a trend." Dell will announce the second quarter results on Aug. 17. ®
The Home Office briefly believed it owned all the money in the UK, World, and presumably the rest of the galaxy, a report by the Commons Public Accounts Committee has shown. The report on the department’s accounts for 2004 to 2005 details a financial shambles at the department. The summary of the report unsurprisingly adds that one factor behind the fiasco were problems with its new accounting system. It details one exchange at a Public Accounts Committee hearing where Richard Bacon MP dissed the department for submitting a paper which suggested its gross transactions were £26,527,108,436,994. OK, lets just round it up to £27 trillion. Bacon helpfully pointed out that this was not just 2,000 times the department’s 2004-2005 expenditure, but one and a half times the GDP of the entire planet. Of course, this was just a slip of the key, former Home Office mandarin Sir John Gieve explained to the incredulous Bacon. It was changed, Gieve continued, but it was “given as an illustration of the problems that we had” managing its accounts. Whitehall’s version of “spot the deliberate mistake” then. The report notes that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s examination [of Home Office accounts] was severely limited because the Home Office had not maintained proper books and records which would have enabled it to disclose with reasonable accuracy at any time the financial position of the Department. Well, that’s what the report says. We think it’s entirely likely the department spent the lot on tea, paper clips, training away days, and that old favourite “sweeteners” to induce IT services companies to bid for a chunk of the public purse. Gieve is now deputy governor of the Bank of England. Or is that the Cosmic Federation Treasury?®
It's Friday and it's damned hot, so what better way to end the week before slipping off to the nearest pub garden for a few liveners than with another bit of weather-based fun from the Beeb? Richard Cope explains: "I know it's hot, but bloody hell! Check out the minimum temperature predicted today in Leeds..." Blimey. Our Leeds readers who have not yet ventured out from their air-conditioned offices today are advised to slap on plenty of Sun Factor 5,000 and stay in the shade. Oh yes, and no beer either - just water and rehydration powders until things cool off a bit. Have a good one. ®
A US federal court has ruled that a repair firm did not violate the controversial Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in performing maintenance on tape backup systems from StorageTek. The decision, reversing the court's earlier ruling, came after an appeal court told the lower court to review its injunction against Custom Hardware. StorageTek claimed in a 2002 lawsuit, among other things, that Custom Hardware engineers performed procedures that violated the DMCA in gaining access to the tape drive's internal systems (specifically portions of maintenance code). Initially the federal court ruled in favour of StorageTek on this point but an appeal court decided last summer that this constituted an attempt to prevent competition, forcing the lower court to re-examine the case. Federal Judge Rya Zobel of Massachusetts ruled (PDF) late last month that StorageTek's GetKey security failed to "effectively control access" to the system, invalidating claims that Custom Hardware might have invalidated the DMCA, and reversing his earlier January 2003 decision. This legal victory for Custom Hardware is only partial, however, since StorageTek is suing it on other grounds of complaint, which the courts are yet to rule on. ®
ReviewReview Anyone planning to buy a hardcore gaming laptop will almost certainly have Alienware on their list of possible suppliers. Casual gamers and mainstream users might be put off by the machines' let alone the price, so Alienware's assembled the more mid-range Area 51 m5500. It doesn’t look as dull as your average laptop and offers a solid set of gaming-friendly features...
Is ATI about to be acquired by AMD? You might well think so looking at the graphics chip company's share price in early Nasdaq trading today - and that of its arch-rival, Nvidia.
US mobile operator Verizon Wireless has won a lawsuit against a telemarketeer that pestered its customers with Spanish language messages. All Star Vacations and Marketing Group, Inc. of Miami, Florida has agreed to a permanent injunction preventing it from making further calls. It also agreed to pay a $5,000 fine, which Verizon has sportingly decided to donate to support the phone recycling program of Casa de Esperanza, an organization that works with Latino communities to end domestic violence. Verizon filed a suit in February against All Star, as well as another Florida travel company, after complaints about an estimated 500,000 calls to Verizon customers. Punters were left Spanish language messages "congratulating" them on winning trips to various resort locations which could be redeemed if users phoned a toll-free number to claim their "prize". All Star hired Southeastern Bell Corporation to make these pre-recorded calls using auto-dialling equipment. Verizon amended its lawsuit to also ask for a permanent injunction and damages against Southeastern and its officers. The mobile operator sued defendants to the suit over alleged violations of the Federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Verizon reckons its suit is the first of its kind involving Spanish-language messages. "Our commitment to protecting our customers against invasions of their privacy has not wavered," said Steven Zipperstein, general counsel and vice president of legal and external affairs at Verizon Wireless. "This settlement is another victory for our customers and we will continue to take all necessary steps to vigorously defend our customers' privacy and protect them from these unwanted calls." ®
Not surprisingly, Sun’s response to the recent report from analyst Richard Monson Haefel of The Burton Group, which suggested that Java Enterprise Edition (Java EE) was effectively under a death sentence born of its over-complexity, have erred towards the dismissive.
Qualcomm, Toshiba, Sanyo and Japanese cellco KDDI, are planning to work on a new operating system for handsets, rivaling the Symbian OS, Linux and Microsoft’s Windows Mobile. The aim is supposed to be to cut the cost of designing new handsets, although initially at least, it is likely to increase costs, and what this seems to be really about is gaining control over handset designs by one of the major Japanese operators. It throws a new light on the break up of the deal between Sanyo and Nokia earlier this month, to work on CDMA handsets, which resulted in Nokia pulling out of the CDMA market altogether, saying it was too small an opportunity. Perhaps Sanyo was tempted instead by the opportunity to capture the great bulk of future KDDI handset business. Nokia, as the primary driving force behind Symbian, would never have agreed to go along with a deal like this. Its Series 60 development environment competes head on with Qualcomm’s BREW, and now Qualcomm has a chance to dominate a full operating system as handsets become more and more sophisticated and need to control more processes and peripherals. The move is supposed to cut the cost of producing a new handset by more than two thirds, but perhaps no-one has factored in the cost of supporting an operating system and we wonder about the accuracy of that statement. The software will be ready for mobile phone handsets to go on the market by the end of 2007, a statement said, claiming that handset makers can spend as much $85m to 170m to develop a high-end new phone and take a long as two years. The group says it can cut this down to one year with a new operating system. The four companies have agreed to include software for running cameras, messaging programs and wireless applications, as part of the operating system. Many major operators have already agreed a standard for running messaging systems at 3GSM this year. KDDI has 26 million mobile phone subscribers in Japan and it will need more converts to the new operating system at other operators in order to spread the cost over a sufficiently large population of handsets. 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.
AnalysisAnalysis At one time, the future of mobiles looked simple. The smartphone was a new kind of gadget that was subsuming the pager, the camera, the PDA, the Walkman, and almost every other iece of technology you could carry - and offering it in volume at an irresistible price. Often free. Over time, every phone would become a smartphone.
AnalysisAnalysis It used to take HP about two days, ten executives and 20,000 words to near a coherent explanation of the Adaptive Enterprise. Thankfully, the company has put that ugly past behind it and can now describe its overarching strategy in a quick, palatable fashion.