28th > July > 2006 Archive

Broken CD with wrench

Investors slaughter Rackable on Q3 sales slowdown

Rackable Systems today learned its toughest lesson since becoming a public company - imperfection doesn't cut it when you're supposed to be a darling. The server maker's rags to riches story started to rag up again after management frightened investors with a modest third quarter outlook. Executives told financial analysts that server sales have started to slow. That whiff of weakness was enough to send Rackable's shares crashing down 30 per cent in after-hours trading. Rackable went public back in June of 2005 with a modest $12 IPO. Things didn't stay modest for long though, as shares of Rackable shot up to $56 in April of this year. Investors warmed to the seller of cheap server and storage systems, especially when it flashed extreme growth and a customer list boasting the likes of Microsoft, Amazon.com and Yahoo. Over the last couple of months, investors cooled on Rackable, sending shares down into the mid-$30 range. Following today's news, however, Rackable plummeted to $24.69 per share, at the time of this report. The weak third quarter forecast actually came as Rackable announced second quarter results. It reported $89m in Q2 revenue - a 102 per cent jump over the $44m posted in the same period last year. Rackable also posted a profit of $5.3m as compared to a profit of $1.2m last year. "We are pleased with our performance in major accounts, and we also made substantial progress in our efforts to diversify our revenue base," said Tom Barton, Rackable's CEO. "Also noteworthy, our storage product revenues in Q2 represented approximately 11 per cent of total revenues, up from per cent in Q1." The Q2 positives drifted away as Rackable executives talked up expectations of higher sales, marketing and legal costs in the second half of the company's fiscal year. In addition, the company, which sells a vast majority of AMD-based systems, noted that Intel's introduction of the new Woodcrest version of Xeon seems to have delayed large purchases. "We have seen a lot of customers, including major customers, really evaluate the next round of decisions between Intel and AMD," one executive said, during a conference call with analysts. Rackable's dependence on AMD's Opteron chip has caused other problems as well. The company noted increasing prices for the DDR memory used with current versions of Opteron and said that systems from Sun and Dell have made life more difficult. Moving forward, Rackable expects Intel-based servers to account for a larger portion of its overall sales. Rackable has stopped providing a tally of its customer list. The company reckons that it's more focused on selling lots of boxes to few companies than acquiring tons of customers. So it doesn't want to tell anyone how many customers it has anymore. In the past, Rackable has said that Microsoft, Amazon and Yahoo account for a huge portion of its business. ®
Ashlee Vance, 28 Jul 2006

DVB-H rockets ahead in Italy

CommentComment One of the few successes to come out of the World Cup fever was the Italian DVB-H service from 3 Italia, which launched for real during the run up to the Cup.
Faultline, 28 Jul 2006

News Corp and Clearwire ready to tie the knot?

As the four major cablecos involved in a quadruple play joint venture with Sprint get ready to launch initial services, they may face another rival apart from the incumbent telcos, themselves moving towards quad play with a combination of fiber-to-the-home, IPTV, and their cellular arms.
Faultline, 28 Jul 2006

HP eats Mercury

So, HP has paid a small fortune for “tarnished” Mercury Software, has it? Perhaps it has got a bargain, as Mercury's technology is excellent and it has a good reputation for "Business Technology Optimisation" (aka "testing", in the widest possible sense) in big companies. I was impressed recently by its latest change management tool, which seemed to cope well with the complexity of delivering a portfolio of automated systems. And HP Openview, of course, provides an extremely complementary application management framework to Mercury's tools.
David Norfolk, 28 Jul 2006

Happy SysAdmin Day!

We'd like to thank Reg reader Dave for emailing to thank our System Administrators for doing such a good job keeping the website up and running. Today is SysAdmin Day when for generations people have given thanks, and even small gifts, to show their appreciation of the work of the humble administrator. Get along to sysadminday.com for more info on this important holiday. The last Friday in July is the one day a year your SysAdmin should get the love and respect they deserve. ®
John Oates, 28 Jul 2006

Don't give foresight, give me luck!

And so to lunch with Martin Richmond-Coggan, VP EMEA at Applix, ostensibly to talk about its acquisition of Temtec BI visualisation software. Apparently, Applix's TM1 combined with Temtec's Executive Viewer is proving much more attractive than TM1 alone to potential customers using Essbase and wondering what its strategic future is.
David Norfolk, 28 Jul 2006
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Ballmer to Wall St: we always back a winner

An unapologetic Steve Ballmer has committed Microsoft to investments in an array of new markets, while ruling and end to monumental delays on flagship products. Microsoft's chief executive on Thursday prepared Wall St for ongoing long-term R&D and marketing spending, which will push up costs and bust margins, into already occupied markets. Ballmer was closing Microsoft's annual financial analysts' summit, where company executives had spent the day beating investors into accepting the wisdom of betting on online services, search and internet advertising as growth strategies. It was clear from comments during the day executives had been grilled on the wisdom of this strategy, asked whether they see Microsoft as a leader or on the defensive, and what the implications are for margins and operating expenses. At 30-years' old, Wall St has is accustomed to Microsoft as a stable, non-risk stock. For Ballmer there was no question investors should put their faith in Microsoft. "There are very few areas where, except for Microsoft Bob, we haven't succeeded or were we're [still] telling you we are going to succeed," Ballmer almost joked. "We think the business we pick are very good businesses and we should stick with them." While Microsoft is not first in business intelligence, search and media players (with Zune), Ballmer said Microsoft could innovate against incumbents and leverage its size. Focusing on Zune, Ballmer said: "There's no other company that would be attempting to get into that business at this time, no other company has the opportunity, financial resources or the... no let's just leave it at that." Ballmer said such a spread of investments meant Microsoft is turning into a "multicore" company, making it difficult for investors to quantify. "There is a Sony that lives inside of us, and an aspiring Yahoo! or Google that lives inside of us, and an IBM mainframe that lurks inside of us... I want Microsoft to be in all of the good important big growth businesses in the world," Ballmer said. At about this point, investors must have been hankering for the security of Office, and client and server operating systems. With Windows Vista bedevilled by delays, Ballmer promised: "We will never repeat this experience with Windows again. We will never have a five-year gap between flagship products." Pressed to explain what the company has done to avoid delays, Ballmer said - chiefly - it had learned the classic lesson of promising too much in one go. He said he shared this mistake jointly with Bill Gates, Craig Mundie chief research and strategy officer and Jim Allchin, co-president for platforms and services. "We tried to incubate too many new things and integrate them simultaneously rather than let them bake. There was too much complexity. We worked down that path for a while and said it wouldn't work. We re-booted where we were. Other changes include the promotion of Steven Sinofsky, former Office development Czar, and named senior vice president of Windows and Windows Live engineering in March, to take over Windows from Allchin. Sinofsky has a track record for bringing in new versions of Microsoft's desktop productivity suite on time. ®
Gavin Clarke, 28 Jul 2006
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Rambus accepts lower damages from Hynix

Rambus has accepted the damages award granted to it by a jury following its patent clash victory over Hynix but last week slashed by the presiding judge. Hynix will pay the memory technology firm $133.6m instead of the originally awarded $306.5m.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006

Nvidia to bring SLI to Intel chipsets?

Nvidia's SLI multi-GPU technology will soon work with Intel-made chipsets, it has been alleged. The claim came after the graphics chip company began highlighting the number of Intel Core 2 Duo-based desktops that support SLI.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006

Swede can't swallow McDonald's pizza

McDonald's will keep the domain name Pizza.eu after a legal challenge to the burger giant's right was rejected this week. Torbjörn Ahlberg of Swedish domain name sellers TBA Media had challenged McDonald's registration which was sought during an initial period when the .eu space was open only to trademark owners. McDonald's relied for its .eu application on a Hungarian trademark. The mark was a logo in which two McDonald's 'Golden Arches' (usually used to represent an 'M') were rotated to represent the 'Z's of the word pizza. A similar mark (pictured) was registered in the UK in 1994 but expired in 2004. Although McDonald's does not currently sell pizzas in either Hungary or the UK, it does sell them at its restaurants in Italy. In securing the domain name, McDonald's beat applicants from Italy, France, the Netherlands, each of whom presented evidence of relevant trademark rights. Its success was not because of a stronger claim; it was simply first rights-holder to file. Sweden's Ahlberg was the only failed applicant to challenge the award to McDonald's. The challenge will have cost an arbitration fee of €1,990 plus any legal expenses. He argued that the "Golden Arches" trademarks used by McDonald's were synonymous with the letter "M" not the letter "Z", therefore they represented the word PIMMA rather than PIZZA and were invalid as a trademark for the PIZZA domain. Irish panellist Joseph Dalby accepted that the "Golden Arches" logo is widely recognisable and easily identifiable as a symbol of McDonald's. But he considered the different use of the original motif was "a deliberate ploy to invite comparisons generally and perhaps puzzlement in some cases with the original." He added that "the general impression of the word is apparent in the mark without any reasonable possibility of misreading the characters". Thus, they disagreed with Mr Ahlberg's hypothesis that the logo spelt PIMMA and believed it was a valid trademark with which to register Pizza.eu. Hungarian company McDonald's Magyarorszagi Etterem Halozat Kft remains the owner of Pizza.eu, although it is currently a holding site, with no McDonald's-related content. McDonald's has an extensive trademark portfolio which includes text or graphical registrations for McPizza, McSoup, McCola, McFish, McToast, mmmmmmm, Fry Girls and Mayor McCheese. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 28 Jul 2006

Dell laptop goes up in smoke

Another Dell laptop has undergone spontaneous combustion, prompting the evacuation of the office it was situated in and the urgent intervention of the local fire brigade. Pictures of the incident point to a battery meltdown as the cause of the conflagration.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006

Meta tag abusers face 20 years in prison

The US has passed legislation which controls what website operators are allowed to put in their site meta tags. The law bans the use of words which might lead anyone to obscene content. The Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act is named after a six-year-old who was abducted in 1981 and killed. His parents have since dedicated their lives to protecting children from child predators. The law contains meta tag controls which were rejected when proposed as part of another law, the Stop Adults Facilitating the Exploitation of Youth (SAFETY) Act. The SAFETY Act was not passed by legislators. The law is designed to stop sites with potentially offensive material using meta tags to attract viewers under false pretences. It refers to the labels and meta tags which are seen by many search engines but not by users of sites. The bill is particularly targeted at those who use words that would attract children – such as the names of famous toys – in the labelling of websites containing pornography or other material deemed unsuitable for children. "Whoever knowingly embeds words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent to deceive a person into viewing material constituting obscenity shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not more than 10 years," says the bill. It carries a stiffer penalty for activity aimed at children: "Whoever knowingly embeds words or digital images into the source code of a website with the intent to deceive a minor into viewing material harmful to minors on the internet shall be fined under this title and imprisoned for not more than 20 years." "At home, we put the security of our children first," said house Speaker J Dennis Hastert. "We've all seen the disturbing headlines about sex offenders and crimes against children. These crimes cannot persist." In 2000, brand protection specialists Envisional searched against the names of that year's 26 most popular children's characters, including Pokémon, My Little Pony, Toy Story and Furby. Its study found several thousand links to pornographic sites. However, the significance of meta data for search engine optimisation has reduced in recent years. Most websites contain a meta description tag and a meta keywords tag. The description tag is used by several search engines, although Google is a notable exception. The keywords tag, however, is respected by very few search engines, due to the historical abuse of meta tags. The new bill deals more broadly with the registration and treatment of sex offenders and outlaws the sale of date rape drugs. It establishes a national sex offenders' register and pilot tagging programmes for sex offenders. Only a small part of the legislation deals with website meta tags. US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that "America's children will be better protected from every parent's worst nightmare-sexual predators," thanks to the law's passage. It has been passed by both houses and awaits the US President's signature before it becomes law. See: Full text of the bill Relevant part of the bill The use of trade marks in meta tags, OUT-LAW's article Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 28 Jul 2006

Sky flexes muscles for broadband deathmatch

BSkyB has released its annual results, parading its weapons-grade financial clout for the upcoming triple and quadruple play tussle. Revenues were up 8 per cent to £4.15bn, while pre-tax profits were up 1 per cent to £798m. Operating profit rose 7 per cent to £877m, which was adjusted to £561m, giving earnings of 30.7 pence per share. The £11m operating loss of Easynet, which comprised revenues of £79m and costs of £90m, was swallowed easily. Sky has so far invested net £12m in its residential broadband roll-out, including £1m in marketing, which can be expected to increase as the battle intensifies. Sky chief James Murdoch said: "We feel encouraged by the strong demand our customers show for new entertainment and communications services." Sky will be delivering some sport, movies and Disney content over broadband soon. Its broadband range, launched last week, starts at a "free" 2Mb connection to £10 a month for a £16Mb package, exclusive to Sky TV punters. Those satellite customers in areas lacking Easynet LLU can fork out £17 a month for 8Mb. Bosses see broadband and its fixed line phone service Sky Talk as a way of shoehorning its core pay TV business into homes. Sky hired 1,500 new call centre staff and 600 home engineers in preparation for demand for its broadband offerings. It spent £37m on LLU over the year. Yesterday Carphone Warehouse conceded it did not prepare well enough for its launch. Read the full statement from BskyB here (pdf).®
Christopher Williams, 28 Jul 2006

Europe demands Blu-ray Disc, HD DVD licensing details

While the consumer electronics and content industries worry that the battle between Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD will set company against company to the disadvantage of all, Europe's antitrust officials appear to fear that having two rival high-definition video disc formats isn't competition enough.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006

Melting technology and missing black holes

LettersLetters It is hot out there. And hot is not good if you depend on bits of metal for a living. This is what Level 3 discovered this week, when its Goswell Road facility took some time out to chill. This news prompted a flurry of emails. Well, one or two. Telling tales of the heat killing technology all over the place: Level3's Goswell Road wasn't the only Tier 1 data centre to suffer on Sunday. Globix's rather aged facilities in Prospect House on New Oxford Street were down for a similar period after EDF forgot to put money in the meter. However this shouldn't have prevented the diesel generators from starting, but it appears that Globix may also have had a lapse of memory as they too soon gave up the ghost. Eric Globix wrote in to 'fess up: “On Sunday July 23, 2006, Globix experienced a power outage at its data centre in central London as a result of the wide spread power failure experienced by EDF Energy customers across London. Globix engineers worked hard to restore power to the data centre facility and were able to limit the disruption caused to customers’ through quick action to start the back-up fuel facilities. Globix is currently conducting a full investigation into the causes of the outage and will inform customers of the outcome.” And the hot weather wasn't just hitting data centres - a letter from L'Orange confirmed problems with its broadband network: Orange can confirm that a broadband network outage occurred for a short period in the late hours of Saturday 22nd July. We would like to reassure our customers that only a small number of users on our network were affected. As soon as we were made aware of the problem, we worked with our suppliers to rectify the issue as quickly as possible, and normal service has resumed. We apologise to those customers affected. An Orange Broadband Spokesperson From one environmental challenge to another. This time, the long-waited, seriously overdue WEEE directive looks like it might get an implementation date. At least that is what the government says. A well-placed source is less convinced: It will definitely happen ... Probably not on the dates you mention ... There have been three main issues with the delay in UK implementation: 1. No one wants it (including HM Govt): so no one has been in any rush to actually agree it. This still appears to be the case. I will not be at all surprised if July 2007 slips back to the Autumn or even 2008. 2. Historical WEEE (especially that from manufacturers/brands who no longer exist): Manufacturers know that they will be liable for their own mess, but have a lot of trouble with the notion that they will have to pay for mess created by someone else. 3. Not charging Consumers - Initially WEEE was not supposed to cost Joe-Blow any money. Manufacturers were going to do the cleaning up for free! Last night's BBC News seemed to be saying that this requirment had been dropped, and that the WEEE Directive would increase the cost of brown and white goods to consumers. This will be very well received. Once manufacturers are in a position to estimate the annual cost to them of the scheme, then they can work out how much more money they need to make off a microwave to keep existing margins (yes, it will/could turn into a nice little earner, depending on how well "cost recovery" is monitored ... and monitoring it will not be easy, if it's possible at all). Other Points: A "takeback scheme" - Consumers taking their own microwaves to "the tip"? This is not how it was originally envisaged (and it will fail if they mean this is the only route). The working assumption was that retailers who delivered a new washing machine would be required to collect the old one and deliver it into the WEEE scheme. Obviously retailers weren't happy that they incurred a cost, although I assume the "new deal" means they could recover the cost via their delivery charges. UK Treatment Facilities & Accredited reprocessing/recycling facilities - Blimey! I figured we'd cop out and ship it all to Germany. Be interesting to see who is stumping up the capital to create these. A nice shiny contract for someone (I have an idea who, but I'll keep that quiet for now). Unless a deal has already been done, this will be harder to create than the statement implies; so far, few entities have been willing to invest given the (low) earnings that were on offer. Maybe things have changed (though I have seen nothing - yet - to tell me that this is the case). Implemetation Date: In early June 06, the forecasted Consulting Date was Dec 06 and Implementation Date was April 2007. Producers kicked off that this was not enough time. I very much doubt they only had 3-6 months more in mind when they moaned about it! Name witheld Tool up. It's wiki versus Britannica. Except that it's not. But don't say we didn't warn you. In regard to your comment about Britannica being frozen 'until the next version', I just wanted to point out that the Britannica website is under constant revision. Not only do they list the most recently revised articles, but they are about to start an editorial feedback program, whereby registered users will be able to submit feedback on a particular article directly to the editorial team there. While your remark may hold true in regard to the print edition, that would be comparing apples to oranges (i.e. online vs. print), which isn't exactly fair. I don't want to start a Wikipedia vs. Britannica debate, since that's been done too many times already, but I thought I should bring that fact to your attention, since Britannica is still the most authoritative general reference work on the planet (whereas Wikipedia strives to be much more than that). Beyond that, Britannica is the only project between the two that is appropriate for young learners. I shudder to think of a school-age child searching for any number of four-letter words that are contained within Wikipedia. Or, God forbid, something more esoteric, such as 'felching'. Terrifying... Respectfully, Kevin You took issue with some of the activities accused of making a living from internet fraud: "There is evidence that [internet] fraud funds terrorism, drugs and people trafficking", eh? Terrorism I can buy- although it is such a political football I'd rather take that with a pinch of salt- but as far as I am aware, drug smuggling is largely a self-financing operation. Please think twice before you publish this spin. Jas So, Google builds its own servers eh? Cormac O'Reilly explained why he thinks his is a particularly good idea, and struck a particularly harmonious chord with many of you. Vive la revolution! Can I buy one of those servers from Google? Might be an option! Could be a reasonable deal. They might even support the device with some "smart" customer support people. Of course that might be pushing it, then again, they might work so well that the "traditional" support isn't needed. Wow! A reliable computer, that actually is! Tom Err, scuse me. How is this *news*? Is it really that hard to think in terms of function and building something that helps you get there? Apparently, google has been doing this for years. Apparently, archive.org even spun off their server building guys into a separate company. Personally, I don't buy into the big name game that essentially means spending gobs of money on the pretext of handing off all your problems to the hardware guys. Every time the hardware changes a bit or gets shuffled around, and the buzzwords change. You still end up talking to their premium gold telephone that spins an "we're ignoring you" tape. Shoulda just hired competent people instead of hoping the hardware (or software!) the IT director saw in his in-flight mag would take care of itself. In fact, it's always seemed to be hype, leaving me frankly amazed that anyone bought into it. Suckers. Anon The "comment" tag should help you with the first point.... You wanna come over and try to sell that to my boss? Alain Great story filled with strong supporting examples. Such a common sense article is long overdue and hopefully reflects a growing opinion of what is capable when "convetional sales gibberish" is forsaken for practical execution in IT strategy. Thanks for the article. Jeff IT Consultant Interesting surname, Jeff... I have three points upon which I disagree with your article. Please note that they're all very specific points - the general gist of this article is one that I very, very strongly agree with. Here goes: 1. "Do corporations really need to spend money and productivity on introducing another Battlestar Galactica operating system (Vista) from the Microsoft franchise - one so complicated that it can't quite seem to get out of the shop? Will PC users be measurably better off after the expense and disruption of introducing the next MS Office release?" Possibly. Microsoft are making some impressive progress with these. Whether it'll be worth the money, whether the software will be stable, well, we'll have to see. At the very least, they're unlikely to have made it *worse*. For reference, I'm an open-source fanboy. And yet I still have just a little faith that MS might've come up with something worthwhile by now. 2. "Why not buy standard networking equipment from reputable commodity providers like Netgear, instead of Cisco - as much as 80 per cent saving is likely to be the only noticeable difference to the business." Because the expensive Cisco boxes can do all sorts of amusing and exciting tricks with traffic, whereas the El Cheapo kit, um... won't, perhaps? Okay, I must admit that I'm with you on this one, though I'd replace Cisco boxes with an even *more* powerful alternative: commodity computers flying on OpenBSD/pf or one of the many traffic shaping doohickeys that exist on Linux. 3. FOR THE LOVE OF THE IT INDUSTRY, SHUT UP ALREADY! If CIOs and suits get a clue and start demanding this stuff for themselves, us geeks won't be able to implement this stuff in the enterprise ourselves and will lose the oppourtunity to present massive savings and operational gains on our own initiative(s) to the higher-ups. =D Richard I wholeheartedly agree with you... except about CSN(&Y)! Some of their songs prove that they were also in the cage-rattling business. Bert Very well put in re: Google's hardware philosophy. I've been saying since the late 90s that this year's server is next year's PC, and that with additional RAM and SATA disks (rather than the rip off that is SCSI) you can build cheaper, more resilient and reliable information services than by relying on the "server" class machines. Well said that man. Steve Still with Google, but more to do with traffic issues than who is building what kit. Something got lost in translation here: I've no idea what "tailbacks" are in the UK, but here in the USA, they're a linebacker in American football (you know, Rugby for wusses). It boggles the imagination that a driver would need Google to help him avoid running over people playing a sport in (what one hopes is) a closed stadium. Morely To set your tortured mind at ease, Morely, a tailback is a traffic jam. Like strawberry, but with cars instead. And now for the really silly stuff. Astronomers can't find enough supermassive black holes. Don't you hate it when that happens? Seriously... "but astronomers are having trouble locating supermassive black holes in neighbouring galaxies." Well - the thing about space, y'see, is that it's black. And the thing about black holes... I bet you'd struggle to find a nerdier letter this week! Yours (ashamedly) Gareth Well, you'd think so, and ordinarily, you'd have been in with a shout. But not today: Well, you see the main thing about black holes is, your main defining feature is, there black. And the thing with space is, it's main defining feature is, it's black. It's a simple mistake that anyone could make really... Holly And we'll leave it there, before it gets really ugly. Enjoy the weekend. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 28 Jul 2006

BOFH: Office politics

Episode 25Episode 25 So, I'm approaching Mission Control one morning and can't help noticing a disturbance in...the force...It's almost as if a million souls were suddenly installing OS2. Ignoring the feeling, I slip inside to find the Boss and PFY discussing something heatedly. "...so if you could just reinstall Office on his machine that would be good." "There's nothing wrong with his Office install - outside of the whole selling-your-soul-to-Lucifer thing," the PFY argues. "His Word documents aren't displaying properly, so it must be broken!" the Boss explains carefully. "It's not Word that's broken, it's the archaic document he uses as a template which doesn't look like it used to when he was using the original years-ago version. If he just got off his arse and created a new, REAL template file he'd stop having problems!" the PFY snaps. "I think you'll find these Office products are always backwards compatible, so it must be the program that's broken." "Backwards compatible just means that people who are backwards can use them!" "?" "My assistant is simply suggesting Word's for wissies who can't manage vi," I say, realising that I'm not really interested in calming this situation down any... "I want you to go and reinstall it," the Boss directs. "It's just a waste of time," the PFY says, tapping away on his keyboard. "Look!" I join the Boss as he takes a quick shufti at the PFY's screen, which shows a picture of the user in question picking his nose and eating it. "What's this?" the Boss asks. "This is live from his webcam," the PFY says. "We pushed some software around the building to allow us to activate webcams when desired to...uh - aid us in...debugging applications!" "Shouldn't it be pointed at the screen then?" the Boss asks. "No, we know what's on the screen from the remote help software - this is so we can see them using their keyboard." "You can't even see their keyboard!" the Boss protests. "Obviously, you can't see their keyboard now, but if we ever needed to we'd get them to move their camera." "So you're saying you rarely need to see the keyboard?" "No - you can tell he's an idiot just by looking at his face!" "Wellll...perhaps you should do a reinstall anyway, just to be sure..." the Boss wheedles. "I'm telling you, there's nothing wrong!" "I think you should still go down there and reinstall it," the Boss sighs. "He's been complaining all week, and you know what they say about the squeaky wheel." "Needs a good bash with a hammer?" the PFY asks. "No, it gets the oil," the Boss answers. "So you want me to grease up our user?" "I want you to reinstall Office!" The PFY resigns himself to the process and wanders off... "There he is!" the Boss blurts a few minutes later as the PFY appears in the picture. "What's he doing?" "Just shutting the office door - standard operating procedure for users who have become...a liability." "Ay?" the Boss repeats. "I'm telling you, the problem isn't the user, it's Office! In fact, the way this is going we should probably install all our user's Office products - just to be on the safe side!" "All our users. Reinstall every machine? It would take weeks! We'd have to listen to them talk about how it's not as good as what they used to use years ago." "Yes, but it'll be for the best." "I see..." I sigh, reaching into the drawer for some gaffer tape. "Could you... uhmmm.. just pop the door of Mission Control closed?" >slam!< "What's he saying?" the Boss asks, returning from the doorway. "The Mic's off - he's probably just asking the usual support questions." "Like what version of Word he's using?" "No. More likely it's whether the office is soundproof, if he's got any important meetings this afternoon that he'd be missed at, whether he's got a large roll of carpet or a big duffel bag handy..." "Why?" the Boss asks. "I'm not sure, it's just something he does. I could ring him and ask, but it might take a while to get hold of him and you'll have meetings to get to..." "No, no, miles of time! I'd like to see how this pans out first hand." "Really? Oh well, in that case, I think I can help you. Can you do us a favour while I ring him and unroll that large sheet of plastic?" "That black stuff with 'HAZARDOUS WASTE, DO NOT OPEN' on it?" "Yeah, that's the one. It's actually an antistatic pad that we've been trying out which I thought you might want to look at while you're here." "Oh, ok. Where do you want it?" "Where you're standing will be fine" >shuffle< >shuffle< "What's he doing now!?" the Boss snaps angrily, peering back at the screen "I thought I told him to reinstall Office, not rewire his bloody machine! What's he handing to the user? Oh look! The screen's gone blank, that's just lovely!" "It's just a static problem on the monitor," I say, plugging a lead into the wallsocket. "Just needs a degauss. Hang on to this...degaussing wand...for a second will you?" "What? Oh sure" >CLICK< >KZZZZEEERT!< And suddenly the force is back to normal, shaken, but not disturbed... BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 28 Jul 2006

Financial instrument pricing using C++

Book reviewBook review C++ is the most used language in that most lucrative of fields: financial engineering. Yet most of the people who use it for derivatives have no formal training in programming, and often use C++ as little more than C, or even as a mutant form of Fortran. The results are not always pretty.
Dominic Connor, 28 Jul 2006

'Official' Vodafone 3G Treo pic spotted on web

Is this the face of Palm's upcoming 3G Treo smart phone for Vodafone's European networks? Euro website MSMobiles.com seems to think so, claiming to have found the snap in Microsoft document, of all places.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006

Pulling things together as India draws near

Imagine CupImagine Cup Time is ticking, and we're flat out working on getting the digital recovery environment finished. It seems that despite some pretty damn good project planning, for students anyway, we're only a week or so away from deadline and we're still doing some of the development.
Team Three Pair, 28 Jul 2006

LG to ship 5Mp camera phone next month

LG's five megapixel camera-equipped phone, the KG920 will hit the UK's shores next month, retailer Carphone Warehouse has claimed, though it's keeping mum on how much the handset will cost.
Hard Reg, 28 Jul 2006
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McAfee reports profit dip

Net security firm McAfee reported reduced quarterly profits on Thursday. The company also warned it may have to restate past financial results because of a previously announced ongoing investigation into its stock option practices. For the quarter to 30 June, McAfee reported preliminary Q2 2006 profits of $31.4m, down from $41.7m on the same quarter last year. Q2 revenues were $277m, up from $245m in Q2 2005. McAfee expects full year 2006 revenues of between $1.05bn and $1.15bn. McAfee cautions that its financial statements between 2003 and 2005 can no longer be regarded as definitive as it may have to restate its results. The security firm - like rival Symantec - faces pressure from Microsoft's entry into the consumer security market. But the firm's ability to add new consumer customers despite this has reassured investors, leaving McAfee's share price unchanged. ®
John Leyden, 28 Jul 2006

Jobless extra goes gun-crazy on Brazilian soap set

Geek TVGeek TV TV story of the week comes straight outta Rio, where a jobless Brazilian actor stormed onto the set of a soap that had once employed him as an extra. (You know where I'm going with this, don't you?) Ricardo Dualibi, who carried a loaded gun and was clad only in his swimming trunks, fired two shots and took a member of the Snakes and Lizards crew hostage. He told police he just wanted to draw the studio's attention to his art. According to Reuters, Dualibi "shouted nonsense before guards overpowered him", and he was arrested for attempted murder. By genuinely scary coincidence, Ricky Gervais this week hinted that he was quitting comedy to "do something with more weight, like The Sopranos". Ricardo, mate, I think you've found your new employer... Remember winter? Remember huddling round the nuclear glow of your chilblains, promising never, ever to moan about the Tube being too hot in July? Be careful what you wish for, punters. One shaft of light in that miserable February of 2006 was Life On Mars, the barnstormingly successful time-travel Mac copper drama starring telly deities John Simm and Philip Glenister. Series two is almost in the can, due to fill a screen near you in autumnish – and you'd better enjoy it, because it's all you're getting. "John Simm and I are pretty adamant that we don't push the show beyond its natural shelf life," Glenister told US journalists this week. "We think that's probably sooner rather than later. Whether we wrap things up at the end of this season, or whether we have a two-part special afterwards, we're not quite sure yet." Roughly translated from junket-speak, this means: "We're bored. And I want to be in the movies." If it never quite works out for Phil post-Life On Mars, Mrs Glenister is advised never, ever to let him leave the house with only his trunks on. Top five to watch this week: 1. Alive Sunday 30 July, C4, 8pm New eight-parter featuring "extraordinary survival stories", like lots of mini-Touching the Voids. 2. Charlie Brooker's Screen Wipe, Thursday 3 August, BBC4, 10.30pm Essential viewing for fans of Love Island. 3. Time Trumpet with Armando Iannucci, Thursday 3 August, BBC4, 10pm In which 60-year-olds Ant and Dec talk about the day Charlotte Church vomited herself inside out, and other unmistakably Iannucci-penned nonsense. 4. Silent Witness, Sunday 30 and Monday 31 July, BBC1, 9pm Shocking post mortems, apparent suicides etc. 5. Little Platform, Big Stage, Sunday 30 July, BBC4, 10pm Zimena Percival's film tells the stories of five Routemaster conductors from five decades of London's history. None of them ever fell off the little platform and broke their foot, though, did they? I did. So there. ®
Jane Hoskyn, 28 Jul 2006

Why doesn't a hangover occur the night before?

Also in this week's column: Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue? What issues are there for women in space? Why do babies always seem to have a runny nose? Why doesn't a hangover occur the night before? Asked by Anna Ro of Newtown, New South Wales, Australia This type of headache is technically called a "delayed alcohol-induced headache" or DAI headache. According to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, symptoms of a DAI headache include "a pulsating pain that's felt in front and on both sides of your head. It may worsen when you move around". A DAI headache from excessive drinking is due to the following: Alcohol contains the chemical ethanol. Ethanol causes blood vessels to expand. Such an expansion can give you a headache. Ethanol also disrupts the body's water balance and causes dehydration. Dehydration contributes to headaches. Congeners are flavouring ingredients frequently added to various alcoholic beverages, particularly the darker colored ones. Congeners also can cause headaches. Congeners in high amounts can even be toxic. When alcohol is metabolised by the body, the blood becomes more acidic than normal. This is called acidosis. It too can contribute to a headache. Alcohol ingestion can alter the normal daily rhythm of various body functions. After the assault upon the body from too much alcohol occurs, it takes time for the body to respond to the stress and eventually get back to normal. Thus a hangover is not immediate. And just because you may have a headache that's DAI doesn’t mean you should risk a DUI. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 28 Jul 2006
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Why do babies always seem to have a runny nose?

Also in this week's column: Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue? Why doesn't a hangover occur the night before? What issues are there for women in space? Why do babies always seem to have a runny nose? Asked by Michael Woodhams of Palmerston North, New Zealand There are at least three reasons why infants and young children always seem to have a runny nose. First, in fact they have more colds. Infants and young children have many upper respiratory tract infections due to a lack of a more mature immune system. This is why children often get so many colds when they start school. Close contact for the first time with other humans (and often infectious children at that!) exposes them to many viruses they have never encountered before. In the obverse, this is also why the elderly rarely have colds. Exposure to more viruses builds up immunity. Old people have had the exposure, young people have not. Second, infants and young children may not always keep as warm or as cool as they should. Thus, they may be more susceptible to vasometer rhinitis. This occurs when there is a change in temperature that causes swelling in the tiny blood vessels in the mucus membrane linings of the nose and produces a runny nose. Third, an infant or young child may not have fully developed sinuses that could cause the nose to run more often. According to Dr Vincent Iannelli, author of The Everything Father's First Year Book (Adams Media, 2005), a baby's sinuses are not well developed. However, it is a myth that a baby has no sinuses at all. In fact, newborns have very small maxillary and ethmoid sinuses. The maxillaries are under the cheeks while the ethmoids are higher up in the nasal cavity. They are so small that they cannot be seen in a normal x-ray until the child is one to two years old. Dr Iannelli points out that "the frontal sinuses and the sphenoid sinuses don't begin to develop until a child's second year and can't be seen on an x-ray until the child is five to six years old. The sinuses continue to grow until your child is a teenager." Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 28 Jul 2006

What issues are there for women in space?

Also in this week's column: Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue? Why doesn't a hangover occur the night before? Why do babies always seem to have a runny nose? What issues are there for women in space? Asked by Richard Pierce of Lincoln, United Kingdom Menstruation is not an issue in space travel. Gravity is not essential for menstruation to occur. Menstruation is a very complicated physiological process involving the internal factors of many different hormones, the woman's sexual organs, and the brain. Very little blood is lost during menstruation. Thus, it is not considered a major "waste management" problem by space flight scientists. When menstruation occurs in a zero gravity environment it will have to be dealt with somewhat differently hygienically. But to do so is far less of a challenge for scientists than the far more important "waste management" problems posed by urination, defecation, infections, and a few other normal body processes and events that can be expected when humans travel in space. Writing in the Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey in February 2000, Dr Richard Jennings and Dr Ellen Baker from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston point out that: "There currently are no operational gynecological or reproductive constraints for women that would preclude their successful participation in the exploration of our nearby solar system." Dr Baker is also an astronaut with the NASA-Johnson Space Centre in Houston. Women have been an important part of space crews since almost the beginning of space travel in 1961. The first woman in space was Valentina Tereshkova who flew on the Soviet Union's Vostok 6 flight in 1963. In the US space program, the first woman in space was Dr Sally Ride in 1983. There are gender differences in the ability to withstand extremes such as reduction in oxygen supply (hypoxia), heat, cold, decompression, acceleration, isolation, and "impact". However, as Drs Jennings and Baker observe, "these differences are generally minor, often depend on acclimatisation and individual variation, and favour women as often as men." Interesting facts The vast majority of women astronauts have not had children. Most delay their first pregnancy until their space career is over. Of these women, the average age of giving birth for the first time is 40. It is certainly possible for humans to conceive in space. Such experiments were rumored to have taken place in some Soviet space flights, but were officially denied at the time. NASA will not allow women astronauts to participate in neutral buoyancy training while pregnant. This involves dives underwater lasting up to eight hours. The pressure changes are thought to be potentially harmful to the developing baby. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 28 Jul 2006
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Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue?

Also in this week's column: Why doesn't a hangover occur the night before? What issues are there for women in space? Why do babies always seem to have a runny nose? Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue? Asked by Liam Johnson of Frankfurt, Germany Here's Liam's question in full: First the simple question: Can you die from testing a 9V battery on your tongue? I have read newspaper reports (around 1990) of a woman dying after her boyfriend used a 9V battery as sexual stimulation. A brief look on the internet brings up a number of comments. Apparently there was a US sailor being trained as an electrician who killed himself by sticking the probes of an Ohmmeter through his skin to measure his internal resistance. There are also claims of eight people a year dying in Australia (why just Australia?) from testing batteries. Now, the explanation I have heard as to why this is, is that in certain freak cases, the battery can make an almost direct connection to the nervous system where the nerves are close to the surface and the skin is wet, thus ionising the nerves so that they will not work correctly. Result is death. The detractors who attempt to answer this question invariably end up quoting figures for levels of current which kill then stating that a batter cannot generate these levels of current. This basically just dodges the issue since we have a fairly specific set of circumstances and it is not claimed that the current actually kills, rather the effect of a DC potential connected directly to the nervous system. Besides, the figures quoted are guidelines for safety and not intended to be an absolute guarantee of safety. It is also my understanding, having spoken to a number of older electrical engineers, that there were different figures quoted for lethality for DC voltages and AC voltages, with the level of DC being significantly lower than for AC. Hope you can find some information on this issue! Thank you very much for your time! Dr Xheng Hu of the School of Electrical and Information Engineering at the University of Sydney confirms that a 9V battery does not have enough voltage to kill a person by testing it on the tongue. He adds: "It cannot be entirely excluded however. If a person is very ill, for example, has heart problems, or has a heart pacemaker that could be disrupted, and so on, they could possibly die from testing the battery in this way. But normally it wouldn't happen." Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 28 Jul 2006
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Directors blame Dell, Intel for Elonex collapse

The directors of renowned British PC maker Elonex Plc have blamed US giant Dell and its team mate Intel for its collapse last month. Elonex went down owing nearly £18m last month. The administrator's report received by creditors this week revealed that £10.7m was owed to unsecured creditors, but only £2m of this is likely to be paid back. Directors Gideon and Israel Wetrin set out their reasons for the London-based firm's collapse in the creditors' report. “Low prices from Dell have caused our target retail customers such as PC World and Comet to defocus from [us],” the Wetrins said in their financial statement. The report also appeared to blame Dell for making: “Difficult competition led by US policy to support American organisations over local manufacturers.” This referred to Dell and Intel, said Gideon Wetrin, speaking to The Register. “Dell and Intel are very close. They've arrangements that are not to anyone's benefit. Ask anyone in the industry,” he said. Elonex's creditor's report explained how it had tried to survive: “It was felt that it was necessary to find a new niche that would protect us from increasingly aggressive practices from the US where product would often be dumped.” The British PC industry has been quick to blame collapses like that last year of its biggest player, Granville Technology, on unfair competition from Dell. One complaint is alleged to have been made to the European Commission about Dell, but it was never confirmed and British manufacturers appear loathe to air their grievances publicly. A European Commission investigation into alleged anti-competitive practices by Intel led to raids of Dell's offices last year. There were other nails in Elonex's coffin, however. IT budgets were slashed in health and education, leading the PC makers' sales in the public sector to plummet three quarters to just 1,000 units a month. The cancellation of the government subsidy, the Home Computing Initiative, in March, removed £8m of planned revenues. But the the clincher was the removal of credit by Elonex's suppliers and financiers. Distributor Computer 2000 issued a winding up order on 24 May to claim £51,075 of debt that Elonex had accumulated since March 2004. Then on 30 May HSBC Bank issued a demand for £1.9m. Total debts were £17.7m. Trade creditors were owed £4m. Total assets available to preferential creditors were £9.5m. Employees were owed £0.6m.®
Mark Ballard, 28 Jul 2006

Industry terrifies mobile phone thieves with... 'charter'

The mobile industry has launched a charter aimed at tackling the source of mobile phone theft. The Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum (MICAF), which represents the five primary operators, along with BT, Virgin, Nokia, BenQ-Siemens and the biggest mobile retailers said the new code would mean 80 per cent of stolen phones would be blocked on all networks within 48 hours. The companies will get involved in awareness campaigns and provide special anti-crime training to staff. MICAF chairman Jack Wraith said: "The charter clearly sets out the key steps the industry will take to help cut mobile phone theft further so as to ensure that people can continue to use their phones, safe in the knowledge that measures are in place that will make them worthless to thieves if they are stolen." He told the Beeb that networks would be "named and shamed" for poor compliance with the charter. Home Secretary John Reid recently blamed a 22 per cent rise in robberies on people carrying mobile devices with them. The BBC has the story here. The Home Office has pleged £1.35m to a new national specialist mobile crime unit, which will be advised by MICAF. Welcoming the new charter, Reid said: "I believe the public should be free to carry valuable items, such as mobile phones and MP3 players, on the streets without fear of becoming a target for robbers." We do too, John. ®
Christopher Williams, 28 Jul 2006

IBM's pricing hots up as data centres overheat and HP makes a sizzling buy

Well, it might be nearly August, and feel even hotter, but it's been a week of big announcements from leading vendors. Microsoft talks Microsoft spent the week reassuring investors that its $2bn spending plans had been thought through. Despite taking its time to understand the impact and importance of the internet, of portable music and of paid-for search, the software giant tried to persuade Wall St that it has got the right strategy in place. Steve Ballmer was delivered up to make the pitch, but what his speech seemed to be missing was anything really different. The company's move into paid-for search is not different enough to that offered by Google. The company talks about disruptive business models, but still seems to be looking for one. All its efforts are measured using traditional metrics and it still looks like it's playing catch-up. Meanwhile, we heard from chief operating officer Kevin Turner that the company itself will "focus on excellence" and "becoming experts in the art of selling". Ballmer should have the last word. Talking about Microsoft's music player, Zune Ballmer said: "There's no other company that would be attempting to get into that business at this time, no other company has the opportunity, financial resources or the...no let's just leave it at that." Indeed. Read more from Ballmer, and why Microsoft delays are a thing of the past. And here's Kevin Turner on how to "compete respectfully but compete and compete hard each day". IBM prices processors Big Blue is changing the way it runs its software licensing on big machines. Traditionally, such licenses were charged per user or per processor – or some combination of both. Complicated enough. IBM is taking a third way. From the release of Intel's Clovertown four-way chips the company will work out licensing costs according to "Processor Value Units". Each chip will be given such a value by IBM and prices will vary accordingly. All the big vendors are going to make pricing changes with the arrival of multi-core chips and it remains to be seen whether anyone else follows IBM's lead or if Processor Value Units stay as a proprietary terminology. Getting an accurate answer on how much this is going to cost you is always difficult in this industry, and the new pricing models don't look like they'll change that. Now we know you don't want to, but...go here for an understandable explanation of pricing changes. Hyping the hype This week's Reg reader research study looked at Service Oriented Architecture – which has been marketed so heavily and for so long that you might have forgotten what the hell it actually is. Luckily, some of the kind folk who completed our survey do know. Some of them even have successful projects under their belts. And many of them admitted that the hardest part of getting a project approved was explaining to business people what SOA actually is. Wisdom from your peers on SOA. ICANN can An important meeting took place this week to decide what should happen next to ICANN – the closest the internet has to a governing body. The US government accepted that it is time to hand over the reins to what is now a global resource. The meeting also heard from a Canadian representative who said it was time for ICANN to recognise its quasi-judicial role and adopt policies to match. He called for more openness and written notice of its future meetings. So what should the future leadership of the internet look like? Security Roundup Nothing too appalling on the security front this week. But there's a nasty hole in Firefox. A piece of research from Sophos showed that the US is still the world's biggest spammer. In bizarre arrests this week (which we might make a regular feature), we had: PI arrested just before giving presentation at security show, and Company sack man arrested for working for company. In "kind of" security news, it was announced this week that Microsoft will push IE7, its next browser release, through automatic update – that annoying box that flashes up in the bottom right corner of your screen. This means most people will be blindly clicking "yes" and installing the new browser. Which might cause grief for ecommerce sites and anyone else running online applications. The good news is Microsoft has released a blocker for corporates – so you can stop the auto update until you've got everything running properly with IE7. IE7 coming soon Remember the $100 laptop? Nicholas Negroponte's $100 laptop had a mixed week. The idea is to provide kids in the developing world with a hand-cranked laptop computer. To keep the price down, the One Laptop Per Child project needs pre-orders for between five and 10 million machines from governments. And this week saw the first government order with Nigeria ordering a million laptops. This led to a small flurry of emails offering a wide variety of jokes predicting a new wave of junior 419 scams. But in less good news, for OLPC India decided against backing the project. In fact, they rejected the idea. Education secretary Sudeep Banerjee said the project was not mature enough to be taken seriously and that Indian schools would be better off sticking to existing spending plans. And while we're on India, we heard this week from a senior guy at Indian software and services association Nasscom. He was talking up security on the sub continent following a high profile jailing of a fraudster working for an HSBC call centre. Fraud is everyone's problem. Big buy of the week HP took us back to the heady days of 2000 this week by making a massive old school purchase. It paid $4.5bn for Mercury Interactive. The biggest buy since Compaq means a big boost for HP's software business, and it will be getting into the lucrative enterprise resource market. Mercury Interactive has also been bolstered by the increasing need for companies to ensure their IT systems are good enough for US regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley. Sadly of course, in a case of the cobbler's kids having no shoes, Mercury Interactive is currently under investigation for breaching regulations concerning the granting of share options. Indeed, the takeover by HP won't happen until the company has refiled its accounts. Here's HP buying Mercury and some analysis of what the deal means. It's hot in the City The only glimmer of hope for an IT journalist looking for news in the quiet dog days of summer is the legendary over-heating data centre. The only trouble with writing a story warning of such problems is it inevitably means the heatwave ends. But this week it actually did happen. Level3's hosting centre on Goswell Road, which had struggled, and failed, all week to keep temperatures down suffered five hours of downtime on Sunday. And it wasn't alone. Register letter writers, still the best source of information at Vulture Towers, tipped us off that Globix had suffered a similar power failure on Sunday. Then another reader told us Orange had problems, and so did Yahoo!. More hot letters-based misery here. Before we go, take a quick look at Ashlee's piece The Life and Times of Bill Hewitt and Dave Packard. It's got pictures of the famous garage, their shared office, and even of their shared bathroom. There's also some interesting tales from how these two men helped shape the culture of a whole industry. That's about it for this week. Stay out of the sun, and don't forget it's SysAdminDay. ®
John Oates, 28 Jul 2006

SCADA system makers urged to tighten security

Idaho National Laboratory and the New York State Office of Cyber Security and Critical Infrastructure have teamed up with utilities and makers of distributed control system software to offer advice on how to make system security a major part of the critical infrastructure.
Robert Lemos, 28 Jul 2006

Google Earth reveals swastika water feature

Google Earth aficionados have created a bonfire in the quiet town of Maasmechelen in Belgium, very close to the border with the Netherlands, by revealing that the fountain at the city council office looks like a swastika from the air. The fountain has spouted happily for over 27 years, but now the mayor says he will replace it, fearing the town will otherwise be doomed. Seventy-two year old designer Robert Tachelet says he is "not a nazi, and I'm proud of the fountain. The Germans don't have the monopoly on the swastika, it is an ancient symbol of the Sun god". He's right of course. In Europe by the early 20th century the swastika was widely used and regarded as a symbol of good luck and auspiciousness - it's just that its most enthusiasitic and best known proponents were the Nazis. In 1979, when Tachelet presented his work to the previous Mayor, the resemblance of the swastika was not a issue. According to Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws (The Lastest News) the fountain will now take the shape of a shamrock. The hunt for swastikas will most likely continue. Last year, a Swastika Junction was discovered in Florida, and Google Earth aficionados are still looking for a swastika house near Dublin which once belonged to the Germans. Google Earth users can examine the evidence for themselves here. ®
Jan Libbenga, 28 Jul 2006

MS to spend big bucks and lose money pushing Zune

Microsoft has pledged to spend "hundreds of millions" of dollars establishing its Zune music hardware and services combo while losing money on the package for the next few years. It'll take the company 3-5 years to make a significant impact to the market, it reckons.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006
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Security flap after US Navy loses laptops

A pair of laptops containing the personal data of around 31,000 US Navy personnel officers and potential recruits were separately stolen from two New Jersey recruitment offices over the last two months. The Navy said that sensitive data on the machines was password protected in both cases. Around 4,000 of the records held on the PCs contained social security numbers. The Navy is seeking to play down identity theft fears arising from the thefts. "There have been no reports of illegal usage of personal data identified by these incidents," Navy spokesman Lt. Bashon W. Mann told AP, adding that precautionary steps were being taken to identify and notify affected parties. Civilian and Navy police are investigating the thefts, the first of which only came to light following an inventory check after the second laptop went missing. The incidents are the third time personal information held by the US Navy has become the subject of an information security flap over recent months. Earlier this month, the social security number and other personal details of around 100,000 naval aviators was exposed on a Naval Safety Centre's website. In June, sensitive personal data on around 26,000 sailors was similarly exposed via a civilian web site. ®
John Leyden, 28 Jul 2006
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Magic Dell desktop switches off by text

A big thank you to Register reader Chris who sent us an interesting email conversation between a systems administrator and Dell technical support. It concerned problems with Dell's GX520 desktop machines which were powering down unexpectedly. An exchange of emails with Dell's technical support failed to shed any light on what was causing the shutdowns which seemed to happen entirely at random. But then the administrator - Ben - discovered what was causing the computers to switch off. Not only that but he found a blog where someone was hosting a video of exactly the same problem. If you put a mobile phone near the hard disk and that phone receives a text message or phone call then the computer will go into suspended animation. Blogger Rickard Liljeberg found this so weird that he took, and posted, a video of the shutdown on his blog. We got a response from Dell which reads as follows: "Communication devices do sometimes cause interference with other communication devices. The level of interference created may depend in part on the model and condition of the phone. "Dell systems are designed to operate in line with industry standards for power and electro-magnetic shielding. We recommend to customers who are experiencing interference to avoid using mobile phones within one foot of the system. We encourage customers to contact Dell directly if they have other concerns." Any other Reg readers who've had problems with mobile interference let us know at the usual address.®
John Oates, 28 Jul 2006

BenQ preps Bluetooth stereo speakers

BenQ Mobile will next month ship its first set of mobile phone add-on speakers designed to be fed over a Bluetooth link. The stereo system is portable, running off batteries or an AC adaptor, and provides bass-boosting and stereo-widening, the company said.
Hard Reg, 28 Jul 2006

London borough develops own microclimate

Those Islington residents that were sitting on their balconies enjoying the 27 degree sunshine while having a quiet post-work pint yesterday afternoon, would have been bamboozled to hear colleagues today speaking of taking shelter to escape the terrible rain and hail. So we at Vulture Central went to the fount of all weather knowledge and found the answer to the confusing climatic conditions. It's simple. Islington has its own microclimate. As reader Andy explains: Logged onto BBC weather last night to check the forecast. It told me it was going to be hammering it down in London today, which was a bit depressing. I then put in my postcode largely coz I was bored and was shown the forecast for Islington. 3 degrees cooler, and sunny skies! Excellent! The Islington microclimate is clearly demonstrated above, and the rest of London forecast, below. It's been a bad week for the BBC weather centre. As reader Kirk kindly pointed out, the troubled weather forecaster is having difficulties figuring out how many hours are in a 24-hour forecast. Today's 24-hour prediction for Cardiff showed only from 22:00 Thursday to 19:00 on Friday. Oh dear. Reader Andy sums it up nicely: What the hell is going on with the BBC weather site recently? 188 degrees in Leeds... no sunrise in Bristol... why don't they shut it down if it's giving incorrect information? Because then we'd have nothing to do on Friday afternoon. ® Bootnote Thanks to readers Andy and Kirk for the tip offs.
Tracey Cooper, 28 Jul 2006

Nuclear War launcher (and USB hub) heads West

The all-out nuclear war launch button Reg Hardware featured a couple of weeks ago - the gadget's a four-port USB hub in its spare time - is coming to the US and will be available to buy on Sunday, we've learned.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006
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Lords Committee to debate internet security

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee is to investigate personal internet security. They are calling on members of the public with direct experience to get in touch. The Committee claims this is the first in-depth Parliamentary study of the issue. Lord Broers, chairman of Committee, said: "We are doing more and more online, from our weekly grocery shop to banking to downloading music and video and, increasingly, using the internet to make [a] telephone call. Those who haven't done so are being encouraged to get online - but how many of us know about the risks?" The Committe will investigate: The nature and scale of the security threat to private individuals How well the public understand the problem What can be done to improve personal internet security and how much does this depend on hardware and software companies Whether the regulatory framework for internet services is up to the job How well the government is equipped to counter cybercrime and whether it needs more laws to do so. The Committee is collecting written evidence until 23 October 2006. It will then meet to hear evidence from experts, before preparing a report for government. For more information on giving evidence, or just on the Committee, go here.®
John Oates, 28 Jul 2006

CA finally names a finance chief

CA has gotten around to appointing a new permanent CFO after the last incumbent Robert Davis resigned in May following a brace of other top brass departures. The (in many ways unenviable) task goes to Nancy Cooper, an IBM alumnus who most recently occupied the same role at a healthcare market intelligence firm. CEO John Swainson said: "She has a successful track record in developing and leading high-performance teams and brings an exemplary combination of business judgment, professional skills and integrity to CA." "I also would like to thank Bob Cirabisi," Swainson continued, "who has served as CA's interim CFO for the past three months and has done an outstanding job in heading the Finance Department during a very active period." Active indeed. CA is still to file its 10-K annual accounts form to the SEC after a series of financial bungles and an SEC investigation into stock option chicanery. Swainson will be hoping a permanent appointment will allow the firm to put years of accounting woes behind it. He plans to reposition CA as a genuine integrated business provider, and cast off its oft-repeated tag as "the place where good software goes to die". CA's shares were steady at time of writing. According to a report on eWeek, CA execs are considering a cull of up to 1,000 jobs - around 5 per cent of the workforce. The cuts, rumoured to be aimed at CA's sales teams, would be a reach at profitability, which has lately eluded the company. CA refused to comment on what it described as "speculation".®
Christopher Williams, 28 Jul 2006

Firm ships MP3 player with integrated 'iTrip'

China's Netac has launched a digital music player with a built-in FM radio transmitter, pitching the product at motorists who want an MP3 machine for the car but don't want to pay extra for an iTrip.
Tony Smith, 28 Jul 2006
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Tool uses Google to hunt for open source bugs

A new research project aims to harness search engine Google to find security flaws in open source code. Bugle identifies common vulns using a (thus far) limited set of Google queries. So far the search queries look for cross-site scripting, SQL injection and buffer overflow flaws, for example. Emmanouel Kellinis, the brains behind the project, a side-line to his regular job as a penetration tester with KPMG, is careful to describe Bugle as limited. Source code review is a complicated process and Bugle should be viewed as helping to give helpful pointer rather than an alternative to more comprehensive analysis, he advises The release of Bugle comes a week after H D Moore published a Google-based malware search tool. ®
John Leyden, 28 Jul 2006
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Developers cry foul over Windows kernel security

Recently introduced security measures by Microsoft will make it more difficult to integrate third-party security tools with Windows, according to a rival personal firewall firm. Agnitum reckons that the introduction of Kernel Patch Protection by Microsoft will force independent security software vendors to adopt the same tactics as hackers in order to get their code to work. Security researchers at Agnitum - best known for its Outpost personal firewall product - reached this conclusion after an analysis of Microsoft's Kernel Patch Protection approach. The technology is designed to limit the exposure of Windows machine to rootkits, which are forms of malware that hide their presence on infected systems, by restricting access to low-level kernel functions. But Agnitum thinks the approach is susceptible to reverse engineering attacks by skilled hackers, while preventing legitimate software developers from installing software at the kernel level, unless ISVs similarly reverse-engineer access to the OS kernel. Such an approach would make it more difficult to install and maintain independent security products on Windows, Agnitum argues. Hackers, by contrast, have no need to fret about compatibility issues. "As the vendor of Outpost Firewall Pro, we have to install at the kernel level," said Alexey Belkin, chief software architect at Agnitum. "In addressing the potential problem of not being able to install Outpost on new versions of Windows, we have discovered that it is possible to drill past the new security measures introduced by Microsoft - if we use the same techniques used by hackers." Kernel Patch Protection protects low-level system activities such as the file and registry operations of the Windows kernel. Program that gains access to the kernel can, for instance, hide a folder on the hard disk and make it impossible to delete that folder using standard tools. The technology is slated for delivery with Windows Vista and 64-bit versions of Windows. Agnitum describes Microsoft's approach as misguided, if not deliberately anti-competitive. "Microsoft made a logical move with this attempt to protect Windows against rootkits," said Mikhail Penkovsky, vice president of sales and marketing at Agnitum. "Unfortunately, it doesn't really resolve the problem, and also makes it a great deal more difficult for independent security software developers to be fully compatible with Windows." "Nobody knows if Microsoft has done this intentionally, but we can't avoid the suspicion that this move may have been designed to force users to rely on Microsoft and only Microsoft for Windows security," he added. ®
John Leyden, 28 Jul 2006

The spy suit wars

Valley JusticeValley Justice Two United States District Court judges recently handed down decisions in high-profile cases involving wiretapping and alleged records aggregation on behalf of the National Security Agency (NSA). The suits were brought against AT&T by plaintiffs in the Northern District of California with the legal “expertise” of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and in the Northern District of Illinois with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.) The suits allege that AT&T violated constitutional and statutory protections against the disclosure of private information by providing telephone communications and subscriber information to the federal government.
Kevin Fayle, 28 Jul 2006

'Colombian Flu' takes down Mitnick

The headline "Famed hacker felled by the flu" makes you long for the days when the US media churned out stories that documented Kevin Mitnick's battles with the government. Sadly, the police chases, wiretaps and manhunts have indeed been replaced with stories about Mitnick's immune system. The AP this week reported that Mitnick caught the flu while in Bogota. The "Colombian Flu" was so bad that Mitnick spent time in a local hospital, which resulted in him missing the Hope Conference in New York. What exactly were Mitnick's symptoms? Well, "chest pains and elevated blood pressure," of course. One could propose any number of causes for the Colombian heart flurries, but Mitnick settled on blaming Bogota's high - get it - elevation. Mitnick received some antibiotics, morphine and a penicillin shot to the ass, which he described as "the worst thing that has ever happened to me," according to the newswire report. Like suckers, we thought eight months of solitary confinement would have been Mitnick's low point. So, there you have it, folks. The tough guy hacker who used to pick fights with the government, companies and The New York Times can't even take a needle to the rear. But, if you're going to be a wuss, be a famous wuss. Mitnick has to be the only geek on record to have his cold documented by the AP.®
Ashlee Vance, 28 Jul 2006