25th > July > 2006 Archive

Nintendo coughs to console case crack problem

Nintendo has admitted that some of its DS Lite handheld games consoles have been affected by a problem that causes the console's case to crack. The company claimed the damage was purely "cosmetic" and does not affect the "gameplay or integrity" of the gadget.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006

Betonsports boss sacked for being arrested

Betonsports chief executive David Carruthers has been sacked by the firm following his arrest in Dallas last week. In a statement given to the London Stock Exchange (LSE), the company said his contract was terminated yesterday and he had been removed from the board of directors. The statement explained: "This action was taken as a consequence of Mr Carruthers' continued detention by US authorities. Clearly, while he remains in the custody of the US government he is unable to perform his duties. Further, the company has been unable to speak directly with Mr Carruthers." Betonsports also tried to distance itself from founder Gary Kaplan. In a further statement to the LSE, which avoids using Kaplan's name, the company said: "The board wish to make absolutely clear that none of the founders of the original business has any continuing role within the company....the original founder has a consulting agreement with the company under which his role is non-management related." Referring to "media reports", that'll be Hookers and high rollers in the Mail on Sunday, the statement says the allegations refer to before the company floated. It says: "Since the time of its public listing, the board believes the company has operated in accordance with the standard expected of a UK Plc which is publicly quoted on AIM on the London Stock Exchange." The statement says the company is evaluating all its options and "deciding what steps will be taken next". We are promised a further statement when those decisions are made. ®
John Oates, 25 Jul 2006

European Parliament calls for censorship code of conduct

The European Parliament has called on the European Commission to establish a code of conduct governing the online censorship of dissidents. It wants companies such as Google and Telecom Italia to pledge not to help governments censor their citizens. The Parliament has adopted a text denouncing the governments of China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia for persecuting political opponents for views expressed online. It also name-checks Google, Yahoo! and Microsoft as companies that help those governments censor their citizens. "[The] Chinese government has successfully persuaded companies such as Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft to facilitate the censorship of their services in the Chinese internet market," says the text. Google said it believes that even the censored search engine provides some benefits. "Google respects the fact that people and organisations, including Amnesty, oppose our decision to launch a search service in China," said a Google spokeswoman in a statement. "Google believes that Google.cn will provide significant benefits to Chinese internet users and that our engagement in China meaningfully expands access to information there. "Google.cn already discloses to users when information has been removed from our search results in response to local laws and regulations. We believe this provides some additional transparency and is a step in the right direction." The Parliament cannot directly control companies' behaviour. "There is not pressure we can bring to bear directly on companies, but we have passed this on to the commission and the Council of Ministers and want them to draw up a code of conduct," said a European Parliament spokesman. The text is not a legally enforceable document, it is simply a register of the Parliament's support for freedom of expression on the internet, the spokesman said. The document says the Parliament "strongly condemns restrictions on internet content, whether they apply to the dissemination or to the receipt of information, that are imposed by governments and are not in strict conformity with the guarantee of freedom of expression". The Parliament said it "strongly condemns the harassment and imprisonment of journalists and others who are expressing their opinions on the internet [and] calls, in this respect, on the council and the commission to take all necessary measures vis-à-vis the authorities of the concerned countries for the immediate release of all detained internet users". The Parliament also wants the commission to consider limiting aid to countries whose internet policies do not protect freedom of expression. The document said the Parliament "calls on the council and the commission when considering its assistance programmes to third countries to take into account the need for unrestricted internet access by their citizens". The Parliament spokesman said the document could be considered alongside proposals that emerged at the World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis at the end of last year. He also said it could be adopted not just by the commission, but by the United Nations and the International Telecommunications Union. See: European Parliament resolution on freedom of expression on the internet Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 25 Jul 2006

Squeezebox maker pitches network music player at audiophiles

Slim Devices will ship its first audiophile-oriented network music player in September, the company said today. Dubbed the Transporter, the $1,999 stack-sized system is pitched at music lovers who want better sound quality than the company's Squeezebox can offer.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006
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HP signs Baidu for China

HP has signed a deal with Chinese search outfit Baidu to preload its portal onto PCs it ships to China. The tie-up will last a year to begin with, starting October 2006. HP China consumer PC director Wee Kee Yeo said: "The trend of individualisation is spreading quickly through the entire IT industry. HP is trying to achieve the ideal integration of innovative technologies and individualisation to bring true individualised experience to its users." China is of course the growth market in search. Baidu's courting of HP can be viewed as its response to Google's handing a reported $1bn to Dell in May to preload the Google toolbar. ®
Christopher Williams, 25 Jul 2006
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Hitachi-LG preps world's first 4x Blu-ray burner

Hitachi-LG Data Storage (HLDS) will this month ship the world's first 4x Blu-ray Disc recorder, it has been claimed. The higher speed applies only to recording - rewriteable BD-RE media will spin at the more commonplace 2x speed.
Hard Reg, 25 Jul 2006

Bowman report highlights MoD misses

The National Audit Office (NAO) has said the Ministry of Defence needs to raise its game in managing major projects. It has made recommendations on how the MoD can improve its arrangements for delivering complex military capabilities as part of its report on the Bowman digital communications platform, published on 25 July. The NAO also identified several difficulties in the Bowman programme, which caused significant delays and added £121m to the cost. The most notable was that the 30 months set for the original programme in 2001 was too ambitious. The main recommendations in the report place an emphasis on the planning and management of such projects: the need to work towards clearer programme management arrangements that meet good practice as defined by the Office for Government Commerce; more explicit measures to assess the extent of concurrency and contingency within major programmes, and the risk this poses to timescales; the need to develop more flexible programme milestones, such as in service dates, which recognise that systems can be improved during delivery; better information on the numbers, configuration and distribution of vehicle fleets when planning major installation programmes; and extending the use of joint boards of suppliers and officials. Among the shortcomings highlighted in the report was that the MoD did not appoint a senior responsible owner of the project. It suggests that in future the department should pair a senior official with the programme manager for each large project. It also says the risks were not properly managed, that some of the decision making lacked an understanding of changing circumstances and demands, and the business case understated the costs, timescales, and technical challenges. Bowman, which involves the supply of a family of digital radios and the associated Combat Infrastructure Platform, was launched in 2001 under a contract with General Dynamics UK with plans for minimum military capability to be available by mid 2005. It is now expected to reach capability by mid 2007. The NAO report says it is already in operation in some areas, including Iraq and Afghanistan, and is acknowledged to be quicker and more secure than the Clansman radios it is replacing. But it will not be possible to assess the full benefits until the armed forces use the full fielded system. NAO head Sir John Bourn said today: "The introduction of Bowman and CIP provides the first increment of a world class military communication, command and control system, which is delivering considerable benefits to the UK armed forces. "The timescales set for the original programme in 2001 were overly ambitious given the technical challenges that emerged and the sheer scale of the conversion. To ensure delivery of the recast programme by 2007 the MOD and its contractor General Dynamics UK should continue to respond flexibly to inevitable change and to the remaining technical challenges. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 25 Jul 2006
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VAT fraud drives booming UK exports

Soaring VAT fraud is significantly inflating the UK's export growth figures. The Ernst & Young ITEM Club Summer forecast, released yesterday, predicts that export growth for 2006 will be more than 15 per cent. "However, once you allow for Missing Trader VAT fraud (MTIC) the headline figures look much more modest and stand closer to nine per cent," the accountancy firm says. Although the real growth figure is much better than the last two years, Professor Peter Spencer, chief economic advisor to the ITEM Club, notes: "It appears that the recent revival in UK exports largely reflects the activities of fraudsters rather than genuine business. When seen against the background of the boom in world markets, it's actually very disappointing." The main theme of the ITEM Club forecast concerns poor performance by UK manufacturers. The summary is here. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Jul 2006

UK declares war on cyberbullies

The government has published new guidelines to help parents and schools tackle the rise of cyber-bullying. Schools minister Jim Knight also said he would be working with industry to explore what more can be done by ISPs and telcos to help deal with the problem. New research, published by the Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA), has revealed that one in five pupils have been bullied over mobile phones or the internet. This form of bullying is particularly deleterious, the government said, because it can follow the victim home and into his or her private life. The ABA research identified seven forms of cyberbullying: abusive text messages, emails and phone calls, bullying using photo messaging, bullying in internet chatrooms, social networking sites, and instant messaging. It says girls are much more likely to be victims of cyberbullying than boys, especially by phone or text message. Presumably, boys are sticking with the traditional "punch-up-behind-the-bikeshed" technique that has served so many generations so well. However, as many as a third of all victims are still not reporting their experiences, according to the ABA research. Knight said: "No child should suffer the misery of bullying, online or offline, and we will support schools in tackling it in cyberspace with the same vigilance as in the playground. Every school should account for cyberbullying in their compulsory anti-bullying policies, and should take firm action where it occurs. "Unlike other forms of bullying, cyberbullying can follow children and young people into their private spaces and outside school hours. This is why it is essential that parents and young people themselves should understand how to use technologies safely to protect themselves at home and outside school hours, as well as supporting their schools in dealing with incidents." The government has set out its guidelines to help schools deal with this problem. It recommends that schools include cyberbullying in their anti-bullying policies, making it clear what will not be tolerated and the consequences for those breaking the rules. Email use should be monitored, and restricted if necessary; parents should make sure they understand about safe chatroom use, parental control software, and so on. The guidelines also recommend that kids ignore any abusive emails or text messages they get, but hang on to them in case they are needed as evidence. NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates told the BBC that teachers as well as pupils can be victims of online harassment, adding: "In the last two years we have had cases of photographs of a teacher being superimposed on obscene images on the internet, a website established to run a hate campaign against a teacher, persistent offensive phone calls to a member of staff and emails being used for sexual and homophobic harassment of members." Keates argues that schools should apply these guidelines to staff as well as to pupils. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jul 2006

Motorola unveils slimmer, 'super 3G' RAZRs

Motorola yesterday launched its anticipated slimline KRZR and RIZR handsets, along with two 3G versions of the RAZR and an high-speed incarnation of its SLVR phone.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006

ATI's RD600 Intel edition will ship, says mobo maker

ATI CEO Dave Orton yesterday said the company's short-term roadmap remains the same, whether the firm gets bought by AMD or not, but there's still concern in some quarters that news of the takeover will impact ATI's ability to ship Intel-oriented chipsets in the near future. Well, according to mobo maker DFI, ATI's RD600 for Core 2 Duo will ship.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006
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Ubuntu heads for the mainstream

InterviewInterview Mark Shuttleworth, millionaire cosmonaut and self-funded Linux guru, has managed to make his Ubuntu project the Linux distribution of choice in just two years. But now the friendly brown OS with the cute drumming noises faces an awkward journey towards the commercial mainstream.
Ben King, 25 Jul 2006

BenQ readies 'world's first' HDMI monitor

BenQ is gearing up to ship what it claims is the world's first computer monitor with an HDMI port. The 24in FP241W will support the full 1080p HD resolution when it ships this coming September.
Hard Reg, 25 Jul 2006

Iraq sat phone shambles costs UK $1.1m

A failure to shut off the service of satellite phones stolen in Iraq has left UK taxpayers almost £600,000 ($1.1m) the poorer. Light-fingered robbers were able to use the nicked phones for up to a year before Foreign Office officials twigged that anything was amiss. The crooks went to elaborate lengths to make the most of the phones. The Daily Telegraph reports that the thieves established a premium rate phone line in the South Pacific islands of Wallis and Futuna. Using one of the hi-tech phones to call the premium rate number raked up bills of around £290,000 ($537,000) over just two months, earning crooks a tidy percentage. The scope of the scam emerged following an investigation by the National Audit Office, the government's spending watchdog, which criticised the Foreign Office for inadequate controls. Ten satellite phones were dispatched to diplomats in Iraq in September 2003 but staff on the ground weren't told the kit was coming and no provision was made to store phones securely until they were needed. No records were kept of who collected the phones which, handily from the thieves's point of view, were activated in Britain before they were dispatched to the Middle East. Three phones went missing in early 2004 but the last of the phones wasn't barred until June 2005. By that stage, crooks had run up a bill of £594,370 ($1.1m) at the expense of the Foreign Office. A junior official queried the size of the bills as early as September 2004 but nobody took any action, an oversight that wound up costing the British taxpayer a packet. ®
John Leyden, 25 Jul 2006

Level 3 has a little lie-down in the sun

Level 3's data centre on Goswell Road suffered a five-hour outage on Sunday when uninterruptible power supplies got interupted. The hot weather in London meant the company was unable to keep temperatures down earlier on in the week - despite the help of the London Fire Brigade. The company which, according to its website, is "widely recognised for its culture of technology innovation and leadership", could not keep temperatures within the Service Level Agreements. Which didn't upset customers half as much as the five hour downtime they suffered on Sunday. According to some emails received at Vulture Towers, the generators failed to work and the batteries began giving up over the next two hours. One source continued: "Level 3 charges tens of thousands of pounds in premium for power for it's datacentre class power backups, and boasts that its onsite generators in Goswell Road are deemed 'nationally important infrastructure' which enables them to get priority supplies of diesel. Good to see that's money well spent, given the care and attention that's clearly been paid to their maintenance." The last problem, that we heard about, at Level 3 in the UK was at its Braham Street data centre in March when the building had to be evacuated after the sprinkler system went wrong and doused high voltage equipment in water. Level 3 declined to comment. ®
John Oates, 25 Jul 2006

Panasonic splashes photos on HD TVs

Panasonic today announced a photo playback device that's ready for the HD TV era. It also supports the high capacity SDHC memory card format the company has been promoting of late and handily featured in its latest digital cameras and camcorders.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006

Craigslist robberies rise

Craiglist isn't just about destroying local newspapers. It's about helping to "disintermediate" the local retail chain, too. Gang members in Northern California recently hooked up with a Craigslist poster who had advertised clothes for sale for a casual mugging encounter, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The items in question were hooded tops. San Jose experienced four Craigslist-prompted robberies in one week last month. "The series of robberies through Craigslist casts the website in a different light from its reputation as a tight-knit community, led by Buckmaster, who espouses a philosophy harking back to the hippie era, and the company's convivial founder Craig Newmark," notes the Chron. Police have warned posters to meet in a public space, such as a parking lot. But following this advice didn't help the two victims from Pleasanton and Livermore who were mugged for their hoodies...in a parking lot. The classified chain, which likes to pose as a non-profit, rakes in an estimated $20m a year, earning it the nickname "Craig$list". There's more, here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Jul 2006

EU will fund stem cell science

The EU yesterday decided not to follow the Bush administration's lead and declined to impose a blanket ban on federal funding of scientists doing research on embryonic stem cells. The politicians disappointed scientists, however, by refusing to allow EU cash to be used in projects which involve harvesting stem cells from surplus IVF embryos. Religious and pro-life lobbyists argue this constitutes taking human life, though scientists argue the embryos are currently destroyed when not required by an infertile couple. In a statement, UK scientists' body the Royal Society said: "It remains to be seen what impact these limitations will have on stem cell research given that they impose greater restrictions than currently exist for EU research funding. It also remains to be seen whether the European Parliament approves these restrictions in November." A qualified majority voted for proposals which do not include harvesting cells to be included in the £37bn 2007 to 2013 research budget. Poland, Austria, Malta, Slovakia and Lithuania voted against funding the entire field. The German research minister who had earlier told the meeting: "We must conserve human life from its conception. We want no financial incentives to kill embryos," accepted the compromise to fund every stage of stem cell science bar the first. Speaking to The Guardian, Stephen Hawking, who famously suffers from motor neurone disease, described the EU settlement as a "fudge". National governments remain free to fund scientists as they wish. The UK research councils have already given funding to therapeutic cloning projects, similar to those faked in Korea by Hwang Woo-Suk. The worry among academics is that the EU funding restrictions will make pan-European cooperation more difficult, and so slow progress towards cures for debilitating diseases such as Parkinson's. ®
Christopher Williams, 25 Jul 2006

Gearing up for DIY BI

CommentComment Every coming trend or market needs a good name to define it, so let’s try this one: DIYBI, the Do IT Yourself Business Intelligence system.
Martin Banks, 25 Jul 2006

Amazon founder aims for space

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is well and truly in the commercial space race, with details of his planned vertical take-off and landing rocket launcher emerging from the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA). The company he funds, Blue Origin, filed an environmental assessment report with the FAA, detailing plans for a private launch facility near its own HQ in Texas. The filing explains that Blue Origin is planning to "launch reusable launch vehicles (RLVs) on suborbital, ballistic trajectories to altitudes in excess of 99,060 meters (325,000 feet)" from "private launch site, which would include a vehicle processing facility, launch complex, vehicle landing and recovery area, space flight participant training facility, and other minor support facilities". The details of the project have been, until now, something of a closely guarded secret. But the draft environmental report, which you can read here, (it's a pdf) suggests that Blue Origin has plans for up to five test launches this year, with a further 25 to take place per year over the next five years. The company is most likely to build the launch site on a 165,000 acre Corn Ranch in Culberson County, owned by Jeff Bezos. The local wildlife would certainly notice Blue Origin's arrival. The report warns that "small numbers of less-mobile, burrow-dwelling animals (gophers, chipmunks) inhabiting the construction area could be displaced by construction activity or killed if burrows are filled, crushed, or paved". The report says that although no state listed animals are known to live in the area, it is "possible" that some protected lizards and/or birds could be disturbed by the project. A public consultation on the proposal is due to conclude this week, The Independent reports, with a meeting in the nearby small town of Van Horn. On a related note, Blue Origin is currently on the lookout for all kinds of space-related engineers, provided they are excited by the idea of actually building stuff. PowerPoint enthusiasts, it says, need not apply. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jul 2006

Apple ships Bluetooth Mighty Mouse

Apple has launched the wireless incarnation of its Mighty Mouse multi-button, scroll-ball fitted input device. As anticipated from recent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) filings, the rodent used Bluetooth 2.0 and drops LED optical tracking for a laser-based system.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006

Scotty's ashes get new launch date

The ashes of actor James Doohan, better known as Star Trek's Scotty, will be sent up into space in October, just over a year after they were originally supposed to leave Earth. The actor died last July from Alzheimer's disease and pneumonia. His wife Wende said it was his life's ambition to go to space. She issued a statement last July saying: ""He finally gets his wish, I can't think of a more fitting send-off than having some of his fans attend this, his final journey," the BBC reports. Fans and family will hold a ceremony on the day of the launch, to pay tribute to the actor. The ashes of Star Trek writer John Meredyth Lucas are scheduled to be on the same flight. Series creator Gene Roddenberry also had his ashes sent into orbit when he died. The original flight was cancelled, pending further testing. We only hope the engineers involved told launch controllers that it was because they "couldnae change the laws of physics". RIP, Scotty, RIP. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jul 2006

Skype ships more 'Mac-specific' VoIP app for OS X

UpdatedUpdated Skype has posted version 1.5 of its VoIP client for Mac OS X. It's a pre-release test version and while Skype said the software was now even more Mac friendly than before, the OS X incarnation is still lagging some way behind the Windows release.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006
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Stateside spam slaying stalls

US efforts to stop the nation serving as the world's top spam relaying nation are stalling. For the first time in more than two years, the US has failed to rein in the hordes of botnet computers that made it the source of 23.2 per cent of the world's spam in Q2 2006. Its closest rivals are China and South Korea, although both of these countries managed to reduce the amount of spam they were responsible for between the first and second quarters of 2006, according to an analysis of the top 12 spam relaying countries by UK-based net security firm Sophos. Sophos says the prosecution of spammers under the US's CAN-SPAM Act needs to be accompanied by improved home security if hopes of reducing spam are to be realised. During Q2 2006, Europe overtook North America as a spreader of spam, with an increase of 2.1 percentage points over the quarter leaving it responsible for 27.1 per cent of global spam in Q2 2006. Although Russia does not feature in the dirty dozen of spam relaying countries, Sophos reckons Russian spammers control vast networks of compromised (zombie) PCs in other countries. Sophos notes an increase in spam containing embedded images, up from 18.2 per cent in January to 35.9 per cent in June, a ruse designed to fool some anti-spam filters that rely on the analysis of textual spam. There's also been a growth in spam messages designed to inflate the value of company stock (so called pump and dump spam) which currently accounts for 15 per cent of spam messages compared to just 0.8 per cent in January 2005. ® Top 12 spam relaying countries (Q2 2006), according to Sophos United States (23.2 per cent) China (20.0 per cent) South Korea (7.5 per cent) France (5.2 per cent) Spain (4.8 per cent) Poland (3.6 per cent) Brazil (3.1 per cent) Italy (3.0 per cent) Germany (2.5 per cent) United Kingdom (1.8 per cent) Taiwan (1.7 per cent) Japan (1.6 per cent)
John Leyden, 25 Jul 2006
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Micro-ISV: From vision to reality

Book reviewBook review Every developer working for an employer dreams, at one time or another, about striking out alone. Whether it's a dream of starting up the next Microsoft, or simply the chance to create the perfect widget, it's a common enough fantasy for those working for someone else. And, like all such dreams, there are a few souls brave enough to try to make the fantasy a reality.
Dr Pan Pantziarka, 25 Jul 2006

Roxio paves way for Mac-compatible Blu-ray burners

Roxio has added Blu-ray Disc authoring support to its Mac-based burning tool Toast 7, the company said today.
Tony Smith, 25 Jul 2006

Future of the net to be decided tomorrow

The future of the internet and the US government's role within it will be debated at a public meeting tomorrow in Washington DC. Starting at 1.30pm local time, officials from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) will discuss "issues associated with the continuation of the transition of the technical coordination and management of the internet domain name and addressing system (internet DNS) to the private sector". What that means is that NTIA will debate what changes should be made to the contract the US government has with internet overseeing organisation ICANN when the existing contract ends on 30 September. The public meeting follows a consultation exercise last month which saw 632 emailed comments outlingin ideas and reservations about the current state of internet governance. The agenda for the meeting has been posted and will also be webcast. Department of Commerce assistant secretary John Kneuer, the US government's man in charge, will be speaking and will also chair one of the two discussions. ICANN CEO Paul Twomey is also scheduled to speak. DoC senior adviser Meredith Attwell Baker will be chairing the other discussion. The NTIA hopes to keep a tight rein on discussions, and in particular steer clear of the growing calls for the US government itself to transition its role to an international body as soon as possible. ICANN carried out its own consultation exercise for the meeting on Friday where it lined up a series of speakers to give their opinion on what changes ICANN needs to make for the future. The most controversial aspect in that consultation was the fact ICANN remains a US company and so exists within the highly litigious American system. There was also some discussion about ICANN's failure to include everyday internet users in its decision-making processes. There will two periods of 15 minutes for public questions at the end of two sessions, but otherwise speakers have been chosen by the NTIA, and Twomey and Kneuer will be given 10 minutes without questions to end the meeting. ® Related links Meeting agenda Webcast link [RealPlayer]
Kieren McCarthy, 25 Jul 2006

Appeal against ISP snooping goes to Washington

A group of technology companies and civil liberties groups will continue to challenge a law requiring ISPs to allow eavesdropping of customers by security agencies. The US Government is trying to force ISPs to re-configure their systems to allow agencies to snoop on email and internet traffic. The relevant laws demand that phone providers allow such eavesdropping on voice calls, but the government and the companies dispute whether or not it allows the same actions with regard to data. On 9 June a federal appeals court in the US ruled by two votes to one that companies would have to change their systems. That decision will now be appealed to the Court of Appeals in Washington, DC. The coalition of groups mounting the appeal includes the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, Pulver.com, Sun Microsystems, and the National Association of College and University Business Officials. Those organisations argue that the current systems have never blocked law enforcement agencies finding out information that they have needed in the past. "As far as the record on appeal reveals, 100 per cent of attempted interceptions of internet communications to date have been successful," says their brief in the case. The coalition of groups opposes amendments to the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) being proposed by the US communications regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They argue that the FCC went too far when it framed the requirements for ISPs and argue that the FCC is demanding changes that are outside of its legal scope. "CALEA requires telecommunications common carriers to build certain capabilities into their networks to facilitate wiretaps, but expressly excludes providers of information services," argues the coalition's brief. The legal basis for internet wiretaps is currently in place, but the FCC is trying to standardise the methodology used, causing privacy concerns for those opposing it, as well as economic concerns about the cost of rewiring systems. "It is crucial to remember that the issue here is not whether law enforcement can tap new technologies like VoIP, but whether they can tap it easily," said a statement from the EFF. "Existing laws already permit law enforcement to place internet users under surveillance, regardless of what programs or protocols they are using to communicate. Industry already cooperates with law enforcement to give it all the information requested, and this will continue to happen with or without a new FCC rule interpreting CALEA." The one dissenting judge who ruled in favour of the objections in June, Harry Edwards, called the FCC's evidence in that case "gobbledygook" and "nonsense". Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 25 Jul 2006
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Hacker conference PI charged with witness tampering

The private investigator who was arrested by the Feds shortly before he was due to give a presentation on privacy at a hacker convention on Saturday has been charged with witness tampering and obstruction of justice. Steven Rombom (AKA Steven Rambam) allegedly impersonated a federal officer in April 2006 in an attempt to locate a government witness who his client, Albert Santoro, accuses of entrapment. Santoro, a former Brooklyn assistant district attorney, faces money-laundering charges. Rombon was due to give a two-hour talk on how it was possible to get someone's personal background during a presentation at the HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference in New York before he was arrested on Saturday. His arrest is not related to this scheduled presentation, which formed part of a panel discussion entitled Privacy is Dead... Get Over It. Rombon has been released on bail, is due to re-appear in court on 7 August, The Washington Post reports. ®
John Leyden, 25 Jul 2006

Stem cells flee DC for Xanadu

LettersLetters Bush has used his presidential veto for the first time to scupper the federal funding for stem cell research. We understand Nancy Reagan is not happy with him. And neither were you. We wanted to include a letter of Bush-support, for balance, but we didn't get ANY:   "The president is not going to get on the slippery slope of taking something living and making it dead for the purposes of scientific research."
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jul 2006
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IBM's fresh Unix (1) boxes maul old HP servers

IBM today mucked up a perfectly good Unix server announcement by coating it in a vague, software ooze. As expected, IBM has ratcheted up the speed of the dual-core Power5+ processor and then crammed the chip in its high-end boxes. Customers will find the 16-processor System p5-590 and 32-processor p5-595 shipping with 2.1GHz versions of the Power5+ chip starting on Aug. 11. A 2.3GHz version of the chip will also be available for the p5-595 system. With that 2.3GHz chip, IBM expects up to a 30 per cent performance boost over kit running on the 1.9GHz Power5. IBM has also started shipping more flavors of the Power5+ for its lower-end systems. Customers will find a one-core 1.9GHz chips with no L3 cache, a two-core 1.9GHz chip with 36MB of L3, a two-core 2.GHz chip with 36MB of L3 and a four-core (MCM) 1.65GHz chip with two 36MB L3 caches. IBM's processor refresh follows Intel's release last week of the dual-core "Montecito" version of the Itanium 2 processor. The arrival of the new chips has prompted IBM and HP to re-ignite their high-end server benchmark war. IBM, for example, claims it has released the "world's most powerful server (1)" with a TPC-C score of 4,016,222 on the 32-processor p5-595. That beat out HP's Integrity Superdome running on - ahhh, here's the (1) - old single core versions of Itanium. In fact, HP submitted its Integrity result way back in November of 2005, so IBM beats the hell out of yesteryear's server. Of course, it's no surprise to see IBM hammering away on ancient gear with the Power5+ boxes. Customers once expected IBM to push the speed of the Power5 chip up to 3.0GHz. Instead, IBM has trickled out a slight speed increase here and there and has lost much of its dramatic performance lead over Intel and Sun Microsystems. Adding to IBM's disappointments is the fact that the company did not release pricing for the new Unix servers. And now to the ooze. IBM has resisted the need to change its Unix software pricing models to deal with the arrival of dual- and soon four-core chips. The vendor extended the resistance policy today by revealing that it plans to adopt a "processor value units" pricing model. Get ready for this. In the coming months, IBM will force customers to buy software 100 processor value units at a time. It will, for example, take 100 units to fire up DB2 on a one-way dual-core Xeon-based server and 200 units to fire up the same database on a two-way dual-core Xeon-based server. Up until now, IBM had agreed to count dual-core Xeons and Opterons as single chips, while counting its own Power products on a per-core basis in software pricing models. That policy made sure IBM could still charge a premium for WebSphere and DB2 running on Unix. Meanwhile, the likes of BEA, VMware and Microsoft have vowed to count all mutlicore processors as a single chip, while Oracle has crafted an odd formula of its own. So far, IBM wins the contest for the oddest model of all. We can't wait to see what the processor value unit method really entails when IBM starts showing it customers. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Jul 2006
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People-chipping tech cloned by hackers

Hackers demonstrated how to clone a copy of an human-implanted RFID chip at a hacking conference this week. The demonstration goes against claims from people-chipping firm VeriChip that its technology, the subject of the experiment, can uniquely identify an individual. By cloning a chip it would be possible to assume someone's identity, at least in situations where VeriChip devices are used as the sole means of identification. The main difficulty against such an attack is that a VeriChip can only be read at a range of less than 30cm. During a presentation at the HOPE (Hackers on Planet Earth) conference in New York, Jonathan Westhues demonstrated how it was possible to read the ID number of a VeriChip implanted into the arm of his colleague, Annalee Newitz, using a standard RFID reader, an antenna, and a laptop running signal-processing software. Westhues first held the RFID reader against Newitz's arm. He then scanned the tiny device again using an antenna connected to his laptop in order to record the signal transmitted by the implanted device. Westhues then waved the RFID reader by the antenna, revealing Newitz’s until then "unique" ID. This information is enough to produce a cloned chip, the hackers claim. "Their [VeriChip's] website claims that it cannot be counterfeited — that is something that Jonathan and I have shown to be untrue," Newitz said, adding that the tiny RFID chip used by VeriChip contains no built-in security (such as a challenge response mechanism) that prevents the attack. A spokesman for VeriChip, a subsidiary of Applied Digital, said it hadn't had a chance to review the experiment so it wasn't able to comment on the hacker's cloning claim. "We can't verify what they may or may not have done," a spokesman told Reuters. "We haven't seen any first-hand evidence other than what's been reported in the media. "It's very difficult to steal a VeriChip… it's much more secure than anything you'd carry around in your wallet," he added. "VeriChip" is described by its manufacturers as an implantable, passive radio frequency identification device (RFID) about the size of a grain of sand that can be used in a variety of applications such as assessing whether somebody has authority to enter a high-security area. In medicine (the main market), the idea is that if a patient is unconscious, or otherwise unable to tell doctors about their medical condition, medics can still find out this information using the ID contained on the VeriChip. This number is cross-referenced with hospital databases to give a patient's medical records. ® External links Cloning a Verichip
John Leyden, 25 Jul 2006

Sun's Q4 loss/sales spike combo stuns Wall Street

Call him "Mixed Bag Schwartz." Sun Microsystems' new CEO hit investors with a large net loss but also a surprising, healthy spike in sales, as the company reported fourth quarter results today. Sun posted a net loss of $301m or a loss of 9 cents per share, during the fourth quarter. Those figures compare to a profit of $50m or 1 cent per share in the same period last year. A number of charges contributed to the reversal in Sun's fortunes, including costs for layoffs, taxes and stock options. Investors want nothing more than for Sun to stay in the black for a few quarters in a row, so the fourth quarter loss hurts. Overall, however, Sun's sales figures look healthier than they have in years. Sun's fourth quarter revenue jumped 29 per cent to $3.8bn. The year-over-year revenue growth was aided by some of Sun's large acquisitions, but the company demonstrated short-term gains as well. For example, the fourth quarter revenue was 20 per cent higher than third quarter revenue, marking Sun's strongest sequential growth from Q3 to Q4 since the glory days of 2000. "We have increasing confidence in the stability of our business," said CEO Jonathan Schwartz, during his first post-McNealy era conference call with the financial analysts. In a most unusual occurrence, Sun's quarter seemed to leave the financial analysts speechless. They literally ran out of questions even though quite a few minutes remained on the Q4 conference call with Sun executives. That's quite the change from the past three or so years, where the Wall Street crowd has turned Sun's earnings calls into a type of "kick 'em while they're down" sport. Merrill Lynch's star analyst Steve Milunovich made a career of knocking Sun during the calls before he lost a career as a hedge fund manager. Most astounding to the analysts was Sun's claim that it saw sales increasing near the end of the fourth quarter. The optimistic message runs in stark contrast to recent warnings dished out by IBM and Dell about slowing corporate purchases in June and July. "We saw no soft close in June," Schwartz said. "If anything, we saw things strengthening near the end of the quarter." The increasing sales have left Sun feeling "optimistic" and like it has an edge over rivals, Schwartz said. Looking back at the fourth quarter, Sun's product sales increased to $2.5bn from $1.9bn last year. Services revenue jumped as well to $1.3bn from $1.0bn last year. Sun noted strong sales of its x86 systems. But, while impressive, Sun's x86 server growth rate has slowed dramatically. The business grew 53 per cent year-over-year in the fourth quarter as compared to 81 per cent in Q3, 93 per cent in Q2 and 109 per cent in Q1. Schwartz also highlighted sales of the UltraSPARC T1-based boxes. "Our UltraSPARC T1 volume ramp has been superb - faster than any product I can remember, with Q4 being our first $100m quarter," he told The Register. "That's especially gratifying in comparison to some of our peers, whose systems we're both consolidating, as well as leveraging as platforms for Solaris." But it wasn't all rival bashing for Schwartz. He's claiming that HP and Dell boxes are proving some of the most popular for Solaris x86 these days. "We don't see our erstwhile hardware competitors as the enemy," he told us. "Now, we look at them as channel partners." Investors pushed Sun shares slightly higher in the after-hours market to $4.14 per share at the time of this report. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Jul 2006

Boffins map surface of Titan by accident

Every planetary landing mission that flies from now on will effectively gain an new sensor set without a single extra piece of equipment, thanks to a chance discovery by scientists working on data from the Huygens lander. When Huygens unexpectedly survived the impact of its landing on Saturn's moon, Titan, the radio signal it was sending to its mothership, Cassini, was reflected off the surface of the moon. This unexpected reflection interfered with the main signal. The ESA team has been able to use the pattern of interference to learn more about the surface of the moon. Now, they say that by subtly altering the properties of a radio beam, a lander on a future mission could be tweaked to send scientists useful information about the chemical composition of the surface, for instance. Miguel Pérez-Ayúcar a member of the Huygens Team at ESA’s European Space Research and Technology Centre (ESTEC) in The Netherlands commented: “Huygens had not been designed to necessarily survive impact so we had never thought about what the signal would look like from the surface,” says Pérez. He jokes that the team initially suggested the signal was being caused by aliens dragging the lander across the surface. However, after a more serious investigation, Pérez and his team worked out what was going on. Cassini was not in orbit around Titan, but was flying by on its way to Saturn. As it travelled away from the Huygens landing site, the angle between it and the lander changed. This altered the way in which the interference between the reflected and direct beams was detected, causing variation in the signal's power. Pérez built a computer simulation that not only reproduced the effect the team had observed, but revealed that it was sensitive enough to pick out variations caused by individual pebbles on the moon's surface. In the 71 minutes the lander spent on the surface before Cassini flew out of range, this reflection interference sent back information about a two kilometre stretch of the moon's surface. The team was able to conclude that it was quite flat, but strew with pebbles of between five and 10cm in diameter. The serendipitous discovery will be everyone's gain. "This experience can be inherited by any future lander," said Pérez, "All that will be needed is a few refinements and it will become a powerful technique." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Jul 2006

HP drives Mercury Interactive into garage for $4.5bn

Hewlett Packard has bought into the application performance and IT governance trend by acquiring Mercury Interactive in HP's biggest deal since the Compaq purchase. HP is splashing out $4.5bn, or $52 per share, working out at a handsome 33 per cent premium over the current price for a company that set the tone for software companies helping customers trying to "align business and IT." We haven't seen that kind of premium since the go-go days of 2000 and 2001. There is, of course, a catch: Mercury must file its annual report for fiscal year 2005, still outstanding thanks to the fallout associated with its share allocation scandal. If all goes well, the deal is set to close in the fourth quarter of calendar 2006. Mark Hurd, HP's straight-laced chief executive, said the price makes perfect sense and the valuation is "in the normal range for a property of this strength." Hurd believes Mercury will help HP's software business deliver between 10 and 15 percent revenue growth in fiscal 2008. Mercury recorded preliminary revenue growth between 22 per cent and 24 per cent for its as yet unofficial fiscal year 2005. The company's strength has been in tuning applications like SAP and Oracle. "(They) had a software business that was a perfect complement to our software business," Hurd said. "We can build ERP-like capability for the management software market. "We've been thinking about this for a while. It has to be a deal that makes sense. This transaction demonstrates HP is building a software business that is to be reckoned with." While denying HP was warming up for any further, multi-billion-dollar-style acquisitions, Hurd also denied this was in any sense an opportunistic purchase that capitalized on the misfortunes of another. Realistically, though, it was only a matter of time before someone swooped in to pick up the once squeaky clean Mercury. Top executives, including Mercury's then chief executive and chief financial officer, stepped down last year following an investigation into illegal allocation of the company's shares. Mercury's was also delisted from Nasdaq as it re-stated years' worth of earnings. Quite an irony for a once high-flying company selling software designed to help others with their regulatory compliance and which, in 2004, set out its goal to become one of the industry's five largest software companies. For Mercury, which had some 2,300 employees, that meant rubbing shoulders with Microsoft, Oracle, SAP and CA. HP's deal certainly beefs up the company's stature in a field where Mercury is strong. The buy aids HP in performance optimization, regulatory compliance and service oriented architectures, helping it compete with IBM which claims to also help customers through a flowery combination of its WebSphere, Rational, Tivoli and DB2 software. HP should be expected to channel reporting from Mercury's software into its mighty OpenView systems management framework. It also throws a massive pebble into the water for smaller companies trying to milk this market. Among them, Borland Software in the process of shedding its 20-year IDE business to focus on its own "software delivery optimization" strategy. In an internal email to HP employees obtained by The Register, executive vice president of HP's technology solutions group, Ann Livermore called OpenView the "secret sauce" in the alignment of business and IT, saying it would help IT teams to automate the kinds of changes necessitated through new business demands. "With this move, we are redefining IT management by integrating the many building blocks into a complete solution for the entire IT lifecycle," Livermore said. "The acquisition increases the size of HP’s software business to more than $2bn in annual revenue, making HP one of the largest software companies in the world. I am very excited about this opportunity and look forward to its positive impact upon our business."®
Gavin Clarke, 25 Jul 2006

Ingres grabs Thinking Instruments

CA spin out Ingres has announced its first corporate acquisition in a deal that capitalizes on the core Ingres heritage established by its former parent company.
Gavin Clarke, 25 Jul 2006