Will Intel's current mobile chipsets soon be able to support multiple Nvidia graphics chips running co-operatively? That's certainly what moles from Taiwan's contract manufacturer community have claimed. The allegation comes on the heels of indications Nvidia is working on technology to allow notebooks to use both integrated and discrete graphics cores.
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Intellectual property rights (IPR) and revenues are becoming increasingly important to the mobile equipment makers, as they look to bolster falling margins by grasping control of the development agenda for 4G, and to boost their incomes. So far, Qualcomm has been portrayed as the bad guy, as it has come under fire for its royalty charges and licensing policies from Nokia, Broadcom and others in anti-trust complaints and patent suits. Now Ericsson is getting just as aggressive, suing Samsung over use of essential GSM, GPRS and EDGE patents. Like the multiple Nokia-Qualcomm disputes, the timing coincides with the run-up to renewal of a licensing agreement, as the technology owners come under increasing pressure from the handset majors to sweeten their terms. Ericsson, itself a handset maker through its Sony joint venture, and a supporter of Nokia's calls for royalty caps to reduce cellphone costs, is in a more complex position than Qualcomm, since it needs to balance its desire for increased IPR revenues with its drive to keep cellphone prices competitive. However, it can also use its patents to trade with other handset makers in royalties deals, and so the higher the value of its holdings, the lower the overall licensing burden for Sony Ericsson. Even without the bartering factor, the balance for the Swedish giant is shifting towards boosting its patent strengths anyway. In the past two years it has greatly expanded its activities in technology licensing, including the marketing of reference platforms to Sony Ericsson rivals, and while its joint venture focuses on the high end of the market - and so is less sensitive to royalty costs than the phonemakers chasing emerging economies - there is also a real option for Ericsson to quit handsets altogether, and one that we would expect it to take up in the next few years. Therefore, IPR is more central to the strategy going forward, and Ericsson aims to establish certain ground rules right now. In this, enforcing GSM patents and renewing existing agreements without significant dilution of the terms, is vital, since Ericsson has a huge patents holding in the technology. While 3G may be the growth area for smartphones, GSM has been given new expansion prospects with the migration of some CDMA operators, and the vast potential of new GSM subscriber bases in emerging economies. This sustained growth in the 2G base has also attracted Qualcomm, among others, more aggressively to assert its intellectual property rights in the platform to take advantage of the new boom. Ericsson has filed its complaint against Samsung, which holds third place in the world handset market against Sony Ericsson's fifth or sixth, in US district court in Texas, alleging the infringement of 11 patents in CDMA, W-CDMA and GSM/EDGE, including some related to power management. The new filing comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed in February claiming that Samsung had failed to renew its patent license agreement with Ericsson and so no longer had the right to use technology covered by Ericsson patents in GSM/GPRS/EDGE. The license expired on December 31 last year and extensive negotiations have failed to produce a renewed agreement, according to Ericsson. The original deal was signed in 2002. Ericsson claimed the objective of the lawsuit was not to secure damages, but to gain a court order banning Samsung from making use of proprietary, unlicensed technology in its mobile devices. "It's more a matter to make them stop using our patents if they're not going to license them at a reasonable price." However, the filing does also ask for punitive damages as well as payments to cover lost revenues. Like the Nokia-Qualcomm saga, there is a strong element of brinkmanship and bluff in all this. In the end, it is unlikely that Samsung will be able to work around Ericsson's patents any more than Nokia will be able to ignore Qualcomm's, but they will maintain the pressure to the last minute to gain a more favorable licensing deal, which could mean shorter renewal periods as well as lower overall royalties. Similarly, the patent holders will use the threat of lawsuits to scare their erstwhile customers into a rapid deal. But behind the short term tactics, the IPR battles are highlighting the paralysing effect that the current patents situation is having on the development of low cost mobile communications, let alone 3G and 4G. A new, more universal system is undoubtedly required, and the mobile companies need to look to the computer industry, from which Intel and others are emerging with a new approach to IPR, hoping to use this to make WiMAX and Wi-Fi more attractive than 3G. Copyright © 2006, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here.
John Caudwell was flicking through yacht catalogues this morning after sealing the sale of his telecoms empire to a pair of private equity groups for £1.46bn. The Phones4U chain and the business-to-business operation will go to Providence Equity, a US-based firm, while UK-based Doughty Hanson will take over the 20:20 Logistics handset distribution arm. Caudwell owned 85 per cent of the group, meaning he can look forward to a £1.24bn payoff when the deal completes next month. Caudwell’s brother, Brian, and finance director Craig Bennett owned the rest of the firm. The £1.46bn final price was much more than many observers had expected, with some last year estimating £800m as the going rate for the business. Caudwell had always said it was worth more, and also said a private equity sale was more likely to preserve jobs than a sale to a competitor. Whether this will be the case remains to be seen – private equity firms have a reputation for slashing costs and pruning assets as they seek a return on their investments. As for Caudwell, the papers and radio were quoting him today saying he was going to take some time off, do some work on his children’s charity and possibly sail around the world. After all, now he’s offloaded the business he started roaming charges won’t be a problem.®
CommentComment Since the euphoria of the late 1990s, it has become increasingly clear that there will be no short term gains from 3G investment, and after operator write-downs, delays and frustrated performance expectations, UMTS is surely a failed platform, at least without the HSxPA upgrades.
The European Space Agency (ESA) is plotting the demise of the SMART-1 lunar probe, the first ever European mission to the moon. ESA says the probe, which has been orbiting our largest natural satellite for almost 16 months, will be crashed into the surface on 3 September. The craft, launched in September 2003, was designed to test a variety of new technologies, including an ion-propulsion engine which could one day be used for interplanetary travel. Its six month mission began when it arrived in its lunar orbit in November 2004. The mission was later extended by a year. Mission managers used the little craft to try out communications techniques that could be used on deep space missions, as well as techniques for autonomous navigation. The craft also carried pint-sized scientific instruments for, presumably, pint-sized experimenting in lunar orbit. Left to itself, of course, SMART-1 would crash into the lunar surface on 17 August. However, the landing site would be on the far side, and we wouldn't get to see anything. So, ESA is giving it a couple of little nudges, enough to put it onto a new orbit that will bring it into the surface of the moon some time between 05:41 and 00:37, universal time on 3 September, just over a fortnight after it would have crashed on its own. ESA would be more specific about the landing time, it says, but it doesn't know enough about the surface of the moon in that region. Scientists do know that the so-called "Lake of Excellence", located at mid-southern latitudes, is a volcanic plain, surrounded by highlands. The soil in the area is also known to contain a variety of minerals. As the craft comes in for its landing, Earth-based observers will get a good view of the local topography. The Lake of Excellence will be on the moon's dark side when the probe hits, but will be gently lit by scattered Earthlight. This, ESA says, makes for perfect observation conditions. A bright surface would have totally obscured the landing, and a new moon is visible for such a short time every evening, that it would have been very difficult to time the landing right. Researchers hope when it hits, SMART-1's impact will throw up a plume of dust that will be visible from Earth, and will reveal more about the composition of the ground. ®
Pictures of Research in Motion's upcoming BlackBerry 8100 camera-equipped gadget popped up on a variety of websites this weekend following what appears to be a mass email-out by a lone leaker. The snaps show the GSM/GPRS/EDGE machine in its T-Mobile colours.
Google has teamed up with an anti-malware organisation to offer warnings when search results might otherwise lead surfers to sites hosting malicious code. The search engine giant is using data from the Stop Badware Coalition (StopBadware.org) to display warnings about potentially harmful sites. In this way, Google hopes to provide users with a safer searching experience. Warnings issued currently link to a general page on StopBadware.org. But once research on hacker sites is finished, StopBadware.org will replace this general alert with a specific report on a site (example here). StopBadware.org, launched in January by Harvard University's Berkman Centre and the Oxford Internet Institute, aims to establish a neighbourhood watch-style scheme that will put pressure on purveyors of unsavoury programs that snoop on consumer's net habits. Net users can check the site to see if programs they encounter are potentially damaging. They can also report suspicious sites to StopBadware.org by following the link here. The project is supported by Google, Sun, and Lenovo. By including StopBadware.org warnings within search results, Google has deepened this relationship. StopBadware.org hopes to work with other search engines on similar services. ®
3 has announced a deal with ITV to offer flagship entertainment channel ITV1 and gaming channel ITV Play via mobile TV. The deal will enable 3's 3.5m punters to endure top ITV shows like Love Island, Celebrity Wrestling, and swiftly-dumped Pip Scofield-fronted musical tosh It's Now or Never on the move. 3 has scored the rights to ITV for 6 months, beginning this Autumn. ITV boss Charles Allen pitched in: "We are delighted that we are teaming up with 3 to be the first terrestrial broadcaster in the UK to launch this kind of service. This...makes the ambition of fully streamed mobile TV a reality." Allen will have plenty of time on his hands to enjoy the Coronation Street omnibus on a two inch screen: it's widely expected he will hand his resignation to the ITV board this evening.®
Warner Music is to sell albums on DVD rather than CD, using the extra storage capacity to include iPod-compatible copies of the songs, along with other extras, such as ringtones and music videos.
First they came for the networks, then they came for the developers. Hoping to take advantage of last year's open-ended Supreme Court ruling on P2P software, the RIAA has filed suit against the two programmers behind the open source LimeWire project. The suit, filed in a New York District court, accuses CEO Mark Gorton and Greg Bildson of LimeWire LLC of exerting "substantial influence" over the software project, accusing the two of inducement to infringe copyright, contributory copyright infringement, and common law copyright infringement. The suit was filed on behalf of the Big Four labels, Universal, Warner, EMI and Sony BMG. The first of these three charges is where the case breaks new ground. As we reported at the time, when the Supreme Court heard the MGM vs Grokster case last year, it decided to punt the issue back down to the lower courts for settlement. The Supremes had no appetite, as they did in 1982 when they rejected the MPAA's attempts to ban the then-new VCR, to set a precedent. In Sony, the Supremes ruled that if a technology had substantial non-infringing uses, its sale should not be inhibited. Last year the Supremes left Sony intact, but suggested that while an infringing technology was lawful, the company creating it, distributing it or profiting from it shared some moral responsibility for infringement. It rejected the common call, often raised in copyright cases involving new technology, that "guns don't kill people - people kill people". The result was a flurry of litigation against the commercial P2P networks, with seven being targeted. Grokster went legit, eDonkey and WinMX rapidly shut up shop, Kazaa resisted only a little longer. But the Supremes' subtle, and consciously open-ended ruling, confused many reporters at the time - and continues to do so today. While the LimeWire network and the individuals responsible for operating it are vulnerable, open source software is a tougher nut to crack, and much of the development work for LimeWire is contributed by third-parties. Which leads us back to where we started, really. This, the first case against distributors of an "infringement inducing" piece of software, does raise a further, fascinating question. At what point does "distributing" a piece of software begin? At the source code repository itself? ®
Open Text has outgunned rival suitor Symphony Technology Group for the hand of Hummingbird. Open Text is paying $489m cash for the enterprise content management vendor, trumping an earlier $465m agreed bid from Symphony. Open Text says that Hummingbird is a "strategic fit", but there will surely be scope for back office and real estate savings, especially in Canada, where both companies have their headquarters.
Global PDA shipments reached a record high in Q2, market watcher Gartner said today, but is it counting correctly. We don't dispute the company's numbers, but at what point does a smart phone become a PDA and vice versa?
ReviewReview Nokia's eagerly-anticipated E70 phone revives one of the company's cleverest designs, stuffs it full of bleeding-edge features, and aims it squarely at the enterprise market for the first time. It's one of the most versatile designs on offer, and appears at a time when enterprise email has matured. Unfortunately, the promise of the design remains just that. The phone has been released too early: the flakey software on today's production model makes for an unsatisfactory user experience.
AnalysisAnalysis 'Sources' close to Chancellor Gordon Brown are floating plans to finish off ID cards entirely in the UK - although that isn't quite how they're putting it. Instead, the advance men for the Prime Minister in waiting are offering a nightmare pitch that harnesses the private sector to implement a total surveillance system while raking in revenue for the Government. Most of the components of what's being run up the flagpole now have already been suggested by mad wonks, with reference to the Home Office ID project. Future generations of cashpoints and point of sale equipment, they've told us, could cater for biometrics and ID cards, and the widespread use of ID checks in association with financial transactions would combat identity fraud (or credit card theft, as we used to call it before we needed to fiddle the identity fraud figures). People would find themselves (happily, not grudgingly, in this deranged scenario) using their ID card several times a day, and all of those lovely ID checks of the National Identity Register would provide the Government with revenue, and detailed records of everybody's financial transactions and whereabouts. For example, right back at the start in the consultation document for the entitlement cards scheme (remember that?) we were told: "Existing cards such as loyalty cards issued by retailers could use the entitlement card, saving the cost of producing and distributing cards. Organisations might also be able to make use of cards for internal purposes for example access control to their premises or computer systems." Harsh realities however have meant that we've only seen glimpses of the weird vision of total security, total surveillance in ID scheme documentation. The idea has still always been there, in the sense that the Identity & Passports Agency is being positioned as the UK's identity gatekeeper within a Government monopoly of ID verification services, but the point where the private sector piles in has always been out there in the middle distance, in some future phase where ID cards had already taken off. So on hearing what Gordon is allegedly thinking one begins to wonder if perhaps this man skipped watching most of the last series. The proposed "massive expansion" of the project certainly suggests he's been smoking the biometric crack, and has bought into the notion of single, centralised ID big-time. Yesterday's Observer report details some of the benefits Brown and his team see as deriving from a more extensive and pervasive ID scheme, but gives no indication that they've considered the associated costs or the feasibility of the proposed extensions. It is suggested, for example, that stores could be allowed to "share confidential information with police databases" and that this would mean police "could be alerted instantly when a wanted person used a cash machine or supermarket loyalty card." Well, how does that work then? Clearly people making point of sale transactions would need as a matter of routine to have their ID checked against a list for... For what? Arrests warrants? All arrest warrants, or just for the more serious crimes? Non-payment of fines? Effectively, once you've made the decision to run the check at POS then the structures you put in place could support enforcement action for a wide range of reasons by any organisation. Note also that when a wanted person is using "a cash machine or loyalty card" the network already has a record of their name and the transaction. So you could just as well do the alerting right now if the systems supported it. What they're talking about here is therefore really more a case of using an ID card to verify the cardholder's ID, and bolting on a new deck of state surveillance while they're about it. We probably shouldn't hold our breath waiting for the civil liberties implications of this to dawn on Gordon, but the complexities and impracticalities of actually doing it will likely come to his attention sooner. How would the check be set up? Would warrants on the police national computer be matched by an automatic flagging of the individual on the NIR? No, because the police don't necessarily want everybody to know who they're looking for, and the 'automagic' linking would be a pig to set up, considering the current state of police systems. What would happen when a fugitive was IDed at POS? Tricky one this - you can't safely alert the checkout operative, or the potentially dangerous terrorist currently buying a kumquat. So it has to be an alert tripped at the NIR level and then a further alert has to go to the police response centre covering the area, then a patrol vehicle has to be alerted... Need we go on? By the time it gets to the response centre you need to have time, location, name and nature of the suspect, and he'll be long gone. Aside from the obvious technical issues, there's the problem of convincing businesses - what's in it for them? Identity fraud, the Government keeps telling us, is a major concern (but apparently not major enough to warrant the Government measuring it properly) and needs to be fought. Banks, credit card companies and major retailers however aren't automatically going to line up behind 'rock solid ID' at any cost, and nor will their customers. Yes, ID fraud is a cost to business and an inconvenience for the victims, but the costs are bearable, and the more security you have in a system, the more inconvenient it's likely to become. So there's a pretty strong argument that businesses think that they've got just about the right level of security now, and that they can keep losses within boundaries and absorb them as a cost of business. If an ID check at POS didn't take any time and was 100 per cent reliable and didn't require new hardware investment and cost virtually nothing, then maybe they'd see it as useful. Otherwise? In addition to this, businesses aren't likely to want to trust the accuracy, reliability and security of Government systems. The banks and credit card companies have run customer databases for years, generally fairly effectively and with relatively few security breaches. More recently the supermarkets have got fairly cute at running loyalty schemes, and while these can be vaguely sinister, they're voluntary, and there are limits to what the supermarkets can do with them without triggering massive PR disasters. Government, on the other hand, has shown itself incapable of getting absentee parents to pay for their children's upkeep, while Gordon Brown's own department is the one that gives away money on the Internet after massive ID theft from a Government department. Really, no sensible business that knows what it's doing as regards networks and personal data is going to want to play with these people unless the law forces it to. Brown's team seems, rightly, to view identity management as a key issue for both the public and private sectors, but then confuses what the Government has been doing with what should be done, and what the private sector will do. "What [the Tories] are objecting to in the political sphere is going to be absolutely commonplace in the private sphere", says the source. That is, Brown still buys the notion that a centralised system with 'rock solid' ID based on biometrics is the way identity management is going to go, and that "as private companies acquire biometric security systems, their spread in daily life is inevitable." The central fallacy here is that biometric systems provide 100 per cent verification of an individual, end of story. But they don't; the readers have major limitations, biometrics can be spoofed, and the more dependent we become on biometrics as an absolute 'guarantee' of ID, the more likely they are to be spoofed and subverted on an industrial scale. Microsoft UK CTO Jerry Fishenden had a lot to say about this earlier this year, and more recently produced a an illustrative fiction showing how in the near future widespread use of biometrics would lead to their subversion as an absolute 'gold standard' of ID. Nor do you always want 100 per cent rock solid ID that you can't subvert or override, as the cautionary tale of the finger shows. The private sector, responding to commercial pressures and market requirements, will hone and refine its ID management systems (note that it already has these, and in the main they work), and it will to some extent introduce biometrics. But you won't see it introducing biometrics as 100 per cent across the board ID verification - more likely biometrics will be used to back up other forms of verification, or for highly restricted and policed forms of ID (i.e. if it isn't going to cost much and you can keep a lid on how many times it costs, maybe fingerprint is good enough). Nor will the private sector ID management systems produce single centralised databases that form the key to everything there is to know about everybody in the country. In the ID world according to Gordon, on the other hand, ID management will proceed down pretty much the path laid out by the architects of the ID scheme. It won't consider more decentralised and secure approaches that tailor levels of security to need, and although such matters will surely have to be considered by Brown's ID management task force (otherwise, what does it have to investigate?), Brown himself seems to be already pre-empting its report. Government ID management will however incur the vast levels of expense and complexity associated with the original ID scheme, and will, if Brown persists with the notion of expanding it to the private sector, collapse in even greater costs and complexities. ® Biometric crack alert Careful readers may have noted the Observer's "Cars could be fingerprint-activated, making driving bans much harder to disobey." Something of this ilk might actually happen, as the police have already made noises (to the Transport Committee) favouring both this and remote disabling of vehicles, one of their beefs was that run-flat tyres were making stingers (the ones in the road, not the shoulder-launched missiles) less effective in stopping escaping vehicles. And there are also EU moves towards compulsory black boxes in vehicles. There are obvious problems and disadvantages associated with biometric activation of vehicles, but ask yourself why Gordon Brown thinks this has got anything to do with ID cards, and you get a pretty clear answer. The central idea is that it has nothing to do with the card and everything to do with the biometric that 'proves' absolutely that you're you. You're tagged for life, they always know where you are, what you can and can't do, who's looking for you and who you owe money to. Just thank the stars it doesn't work... Dyning ID scheme alert: The Sunday Times reports that the Home Office has a more modest wheeze for making the ID scheme pay for itself. Charge every £8 every time they change their details on the NIR. This one's actually quite compelling as an idea - it would kill off the scheme far more swiftly and at less expense than Gordon's longer-ranging mega-disaster, and might just make John Reid even less likeable than he is already. We're impressed.
Stressed out Chinese workers are being offered the chance to vent their anger while imbibing a drop of the amber nectar at Nanjing’s first anger release bar. Rapid industrialisation is taking its toll on China’s workforce, but patrons of the Rising Sun Anger Release Bar will be able to attack staff, scream abuse and wreck fixtures and fittings according to the China Daily. Around 20 hand-picked male “models” have been given training in how to roll with the punches, and presumably kicks, chops, glasses and bottles. They’ll even dress up as bosses, or more worryingly, women, to enable stressed out punters to really let rip. If all that fails, the bar will have four counsellors on hand to help drinkers get it all out. The bar is already doing a roaring trade, apparently, with the clientele dominated by women from the city’s entertainment and “hospitality” sectors. Opinions on the concept differ, China Daily reports, though Zhang Yong, of Nanjing’s Xiaoran Psychological Consultation Centre reckons that "no matter how civilised people have evolved to be, some still find that violence is the best way to get rid of their burning rage". Which only highlights the massive opportunity the Rising Sun represents for Britain. Councils up and down the UK are always agnonising over how to revive their decaying booze-soaked town centres. Now, all they need to do is ship them wholesale to the Far East to allow on-the-edge Chinese to drink, shout, sing, break things and vomit to their heart’s content. ®
Telstra has confirmed investor fears and announced its talks with Aussie regulators, aimed at paving the way for a AUS$3.1bn (£1.2bn) high speed fibre network, have collapsed. A statement from the telco said: The major stumbling block was the ACCC’s unwillingness to recognise the actual costs that Telstra incurs in providing its services and, especially, the costs it incurs in providing services to rural, regional, and remote Australia. Until Telstra’s actual costs are recognised and the ACCC's regulatory practices change, Telstra will not invest in a fibre-to-the-node broadband network. Read the rest of the statement (.pdf) here. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said it was "perplexed" by the decision. Chairman Greame Samuel said: "The ACCC notes that the calculations which Telstra has provided, to date, on the costs of services on its existing network have been based not on its actual costs or its regulatory accounts, but on Telstra's own highly contentious economic model." Their statement is here. A deal was viewed as key to Telstra's attractiveness to potential buyers of the Australian government's remaining 51.8 per cent stake. As we reported in April, investors were already getting twitchy about the talks, with Telstra shares at an all-time low. They fell again on today's announcement. The failure to reach a deal leaves Australia with no plan to replace its aged national copper network. ABC News reports that opposition communications spokesman Stephen Conroy described the news as "an absolute disaster". Communications Minister Helen Coonan responded: "What we'll do is we'll have a look at it and see what the situation is. I think this is an opportunity for us all now to take stock and to let other competitors have a look at what they can do." ®
We all want our homes to stand out from the crowd, and what better way to do so than by decorating your front garden with some interesting lawn ornaments? Only, we're not talking garden gnomes, stone frogs, or even wishing wells. Nope. We're talking about the ultimate accessory for the house of the 21st century: a recently decommissioned Sea Harrier jump jet (probably) took part in the Falklands War. Astonishingly, this plane (minus weaponry and engines) is for sale on eBay. The firm that is selling the plane usually specialises in selling trucks. It got hold of the Harrier in a part exchange deal with the Royal Navy. The boys in blue got a Scania truck in return. However, like many Christmas puppies, the plane turned out to be too big for the truck firm to keep, and marketing director Chris Kelly decided he'd flog it on eBay. "A lot of unusual items have done rather well on eBay," he told us. Although the bidding currently stands at over £200,000, Kelly doubts the plane has really done that well. "I have no way of knowing right now which bids are serious," he says. "I doubt all of them are." Keltruck will be dejunking the list in the next three days, before the auction closes, and only offers from preapproved bidders will stand. The bidding history is certainly interesting reading. Some bidders have spent long periods of time bidding against themselves. One bidder raised the price by almost £30,000 in a furious, solo, bidding war. Keltruck is also advertising the plane for sale in AutoTrader, The Sun reports, where the firm is asking for offers in the region of £20,000. ®
Sony's PlayStation 3 will play "thousands" of PSOne and PS2 titles, the company has claimed, but if players want to carry over saved games, they'll need to obtain a memory card adaptor first, the Sony US PS3 website has revealed.
Researchers have demonstrated how to bypass security protections in order to inject potentially hostile code into the kernel of prototype versions of Windows. The demonstration by Joanna Rutkowska, a senior security researcher with Coseinc, highlighted the possibility of loading arbitrary code into the latest Vista Beta 2 kernel (x64 edition), thereby circumventing Vista's policy of only allowing digitally-signed code to load into the kernel. The attack, presented at the Black Hat conference in Las Vegas last week, can be performed "on the fly" (i.e. no reboot is necessary) but it does require admin privileges, unlike most malware attacks that are equally successful in conventional user mode. Used successfully, the attack creates a means to install a rootkit (contained in an unsigned device driver) onto compromised hosts by disabling Vista's signature-checking function, Information Week reports. Disabling kernel memory paging could be implemented among a number of workarounds against the attack, she added. Rutkowska also demonstrated her previously announced technology for creating stealth malware, Blue Pill, which uses the latest virtualisation technology from AMD - Pacifica - to inject potentially hostile code by stealth, under the radar of conventional security defences, onto a server. Although Vista wasn't as secure as Microsoft would have us believe, Rutkowska commented that Microsoft had done a good job with the OS, adding that her attack didn't mean Vista was inherently insecure. Microsoft director of Windows product management Austin Wilson was among the delegates who attended Rutkowska's well received presentation on Thursday, Information Week reports. Wilson said correcting the security shortcomings highlighted by Rutkowska was on Microsoft's development road map for Vista. He added that the driver-signing function was only implemented by default on 64-bit versions of the OS. Microsoft is going out of its way to reach out to the security community in its attempts to improve the security of Vista prior to its release, now expected early next year. Microsoft director of security outreach Andrew Cushman began the week by encouraging ethical hackers to poke holes at the OS. Later, Microsoft security group manager John Lambert explained the security development process behind Vista, claiming the OS had been through the biggest penetration testing effort ever mounted against an operating system. Redmond had recruited more than 20 security researchers to give Vista a "body-cavity search", he said. ®
Extensity, the venture capitalist-owned business software vendor formerly known as Geac has been bought by Infor - another VC enterprise. Extensity itself bought UK firm Systems Union only this April. On paper the nascent group has revenues of $2.1bn, trailing only Oracle and SAP. Industry watchers have been surprised at a company swelling to such a size purely in the hands of VCs. The Extensity deal was done with a mixture of cash and loans. A $150m revolving credit facility was backed with a $2.25bn term loan and a $1.425bn senior subordinated bridge facility. Infor CEO Jim Schaper said: "Companies can now choose fully integrated solutions for specific industries as well as best-in-class standalone solutions from one provider." With presence in 100 countries, the three companies have significant overlap in their products and midsize markets, so some consolidation can be expected.®
A German court has upheld a decision by a lower court in Munich which banned the resale of used software licenses. The Appellate Court of Munich ruled last week that the sale of used software licenses to third parties in Germany is illegal, at least in the case of software from Oracle.
After recently recovering from last month's sweltering 188 degree heatwave, the unfortunate residents of Leeds are about to experience a dramatic about-turn in weather fortunes. In an unseasonally chilly twist, the mercury is forecast to hit its peak at a nippy 3°C tomorrow, according to the Beeb. Brrrrrrrr. Our Leeds readers are advised to warm their souls by donning the woolies, phoning in sick due to "extreme-change-in-temperature" malaise, and throwing a real mid-summer Christmas party...light the fire, warm the mulled wine...you get the picture. Enjoy!® Bootnote Cheers to reader Mike Hyslop for the tip-off.
European plans to build a massive optical telescope with a 100m mirror have been scaled back in favour of a 'scope with a mere 42m main reflector after the projected construction costs for the original dish reached €1.5bn. However, the planned telescope is still bigger than the one planned by the US (30m), something scientists at the European Southern Observatory (ESO) admit has been a motivating factor. The telescope will still be astonishingly powerful, giving astronomers a glimpse of distant planets. While a 100m telescope could have captured snapshots of alien continents, a 42m telescope will be more limited. It will, however, be able to analyse the atmospheres of exoplanets, identifying any telltale signs of life, such as chlorophyll. Stargazers will also be able to peer back to the earliest years of the universe, and look at some of the galaxies that formed all those billions of years ago. The ESO has a stonking track record when it comes to doing world class science. According to the BBC, an average of 1.5 academic papers is published every day based on observations from the 8.2m Very Large Telescope the organisation currently operates. The ESO is considering a number of sites for the 'scope. South Africa, Tibet, Morocco, Greenland and Antarctica are all still on the table. If they manage to agree where to build it, construction could begin as early as 2010. ®
CommentComment The astonishingly high price put on Phones4U by the equity capital community is a cynical bet on the disorganisation of the mobile networks. One straw blowing in the wind: a complaint back in June from the Digital Evangelist - an industry insider, who had been pestered by phone retailers to "upgrade his handset". This high power consultant has been campaigning steadily against the abuse of privacy which sees him, his friends and family, constantly called by people claiming to be "Orange Upgrade Centre" or some other network name, but who are in fact taking advantage of the "churn incentives" the networks offer retailers. The deals are, superficially, irresistible. In fact, they are whatever phone the retailer has, which would normally be skipware; and the contract is rarely as good as the one the subscriber already has. But good salesmanship can see people abandoning very good contracts with nice phones, and getting an obsolete handset, and paying far more. The networks lose out; most of the profit from this goes to the retailer. As Digital Evangelist says: "The economics of the mobile market are flawed and at present not likely to change. The networks are starting to remove some of the distributors whose actions are too aggressive, but these people still have their own customer lists who they are prepared to churn to another network. The need to keep customer numbers up rather than grow margins means that the offer of a few thousand new ones is too much to reject." In theory, the networks could stifle this business tomorrow, by stopping the practice of paying retailers to recruit new subscribers. In practice, the networks are all addicted. They can't stop buying new accounts until their rivals do. And until they all form what would, really, be a cartel, nobody will break ranks. What the equity capital people are saying is that they are betting on this chaotic situation continuing, and for huge profits to be available on a parasitic level, as the networks scratch great gobs of each other's flesh off in the attempt to be biggest. Copyright © Newswireless.net
The US Senate ratified the Convention on Cybercrime on Thursday, the first international treaty on computer-related crime and the gathering of electronic evidence. US Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Dick Lugar said the move will enhance America's ability to join with other countries in fighting computer crime internationally. "The United States was a leading participant in the negotiation of the convention and expects it to have a significant law enforcement impact, particularly in terms of our ability to obtain assistance from other countries in the investigation and prosecution of trans-border computer-related crimes," he said. "In particular, it will enhance our ability to cooperate with foreign governments in fighting terrorism, computer hacking, money laundering, and child pornography, among other crimes." The convention, which also deals with copyright infringement, lists a number of substantive crimes that parties agree to prohibit under their domestic law, requires parties to adopt improved procedures for investigating computer crimes and provides for international cooperation in the investigation of such crimes. American law is already in compliance with the convention, so no implementing legislation is required, making ratification a largely symbolic gesture. The convention was signed in November 2001 and came into force in July 2004. The UK has signed the convention but has yet to formally ratify it. While ratification requires implementation of the convention's principles into national laws, most of them are already in the UK's laws. An Additional Protocol against racism and xenophobic material on the internet is not likely to be signed by the US because it is inconsistent with the country's Constitutional right to free speech. Canada became the 28th state and the first non-European country to sign the Additional Protocol last July. See: The Convention on Cybercrime The Protocol Current status of the Convention on Cybercrime Current status of the Protocol Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Virtualisation software specialist VMware has begun asking owners of Intel-based Macs to participate in a public test of its upcoming VMware for Mac OS X utility. Testing is due to commence "later in the year", the company said.
Dutch police have arrested a 30-year-old man in Lagos, Nigeria, thought to be the mastermind behind a European advance-fee (419) scam. Dutch police arrested suspected gang members earlier this year in the Netherlands. The gang operated from Amsterdam and Zaandam and targeted mainly Americans. In February, Dutch police arrested 12 people and confiscated €25,000 in cash, computers, and fake travel documents. US investigators then requested the extradition of four of the alleged scammers. Those four are currently fighting extradition to the United States, which can take a year or longer. "We will pursue these people wherever they are," spokesman René van der Wouw for the Dutch police told the daily Telegraaf this weekend. "Scammers who think they are safe on their home turf have to think twice." The arrested man is still being held in Festac, an area in Lagos where at least 250,000 419 scammers are believed to operate from. Recently, Nigeria passed a strict law on 419 activity, which allows for cyber cafe owners and even the landlords to be arrested if 419 activities are occuring on their premises.®
Preparations for the next Shuttle launch get underway with a vengeance today, as the Kennedy Space Centre readies itself for the arrival of the astronauts who will fly Atlantis when it launches later this month. The crew is scheduled to arrive this afternoon to kick off a week of checks, tests, and last minute training in using emergency equipment. They will also perform a dress rehearsal, where they will suit up and run through a simulated countdown on the launch pad. They will also practice escaping from the launch pad. The shuttle was moved to the launchpad on 2 August where engineers have been getting it ready for launch ever since. It is being loaded with its cargo: more construction materials for the International Space Station. The launch window for the mission opens on 27 August. ®
AOL Labs prompted a weekend of hyperventilation in the 'blogosphere' by publishing the search queries from 650,000 users. This mini-scandal may yet prove valuable, however, as it reveals an intriguing psychological study of the boundaries of what is considered acceptable privacy.
Two US teenagers were arrested last weekend for stealing a Veterans' Administration laptop, an incident that proved a major security flap and brought calls for improved information security legislation. A thief stole the laptop from the Virginia home of a worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) during the course of a burglary in early May. At the time, VA officials were quick to blame the data analyst involved for violating agency policy in taking the laptop home. However, it has since emerged that the worker, who was placed on administrative leave during the course of an inquiry, had written permission to take the sensitive data away from VA offices in order to work from home. Information held on the laptop included the names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers of approximately 26.5m former and acting US servicemen and women dating back to 1975. VA officials went public to warn veterans of the incident. FBI and local law enforcement officials were involved in investigating the security breach. The laptop and its hard drive ended up for sale on a "black market" near a subway station near Wheaton outside of Washington DC and returned to the authorities by an unidentified woman at the end of June. A preliminary investigation by FBI officials suggests that data has not been accessed since the laptop was stolen, easing fears that the exposed data might have fallen into the hands of identity thieves. A phone tip-off led to the arrest on Saturday of two suspects, both from Rockville, Maryland: Christian Brian Montano, 19, and Jesus Alex Pineda, 19. Each faces burglary and theft charges, the AP reports. An unnamed male suspect also faces possible charges over the alleged theft, which police describe as a random burglary not motivated by thoughts of profiting from identity theft. ®
The great Intel sell-out is now complete with Apple today revealing the new Mac Pro workstation. The Mac Pro - codenamed 'Hero', incidentally - runs on a pair of Intel's latest dual-core Xeon server processors, giving it plenty of horsepower to handle the clunky Safari browser. The box offers up twice the performance of older IBM chip-based Power Mac G5s.
It will all be done and dusted by Friday. That is when the Microsoft Imagine Cup final reaches its final throw and we get to learn if Team Three Pair - winners of the UK end of the competition earlier this year - have had their Jenson Button moment and won the whole global shebang. Those interested in following the trials and tribulations of a group of students developing a product for the healthcare market over the last four months or so can backtrack through the history of that process in their Reg Developer-provided blog. For those seeking the executive summary, they have come up with a hardware and software package that can help patients suffering from coma to rea-djust to the world once they have regained consciousness. One of the hardest problems for such people, who may have "lost" several months of their lives, is that they have no knowledge of what has happened, not only themselves but also their families and friends. The Team's solution provides a variety of tools for family, friends and medical staff to record and notate important highlights in the on-going, wider life of the patient, during the period they are in coma. We'll keep you posted as to how they get on. ®
The Google crew started huffing air into their colored balls and uncorked a few cases of bubbly today after the company ripped MySpace from Yahoo!'s clutches. Google will pay the handsome sum of $900m for the rights to supply search and keyword services to MySpace's adolescent army and other Fox Interactive Media properties. The $900m will be spread over three years and come from the broad revenue/search/ad sharing deal, which hinges on Fox supplying a hefty amount of young, supple eyeballs to Google's ad network. Yahoo! had been pumping MySpace with ads courtesy of its Overture service. The portal, however, has lost a bidding war for MySpace's business that was thought to include Google, Microsoft and Yahoo. Fox Interactive, which oversees MySpace for News Corp., also includes web properties such as Foxsports.com, Scout.com and Americanidol.com. "This agreement demonstrates our commitment to bring the same innovation to monetizing user-generated content that we brought to search advertising," said Omid Kordestani, SVP at Google. "We look forward to other opportunities to partner with News Corp. to the benefit of its community." MySpace's current deal with Yahoo/Overture expires in sixty days, according to a Fox Interactive spokeswoman. The deal with Google is set to kick in during the first quarter of 2007 and run through the second quarter of 2010. "Under the terms of the agreement, Google will be obligated to make guaranteed minimum revenue share payments to Fox Interactive Media of $900 million based on Fox achieving certain traffic and other commitments," the companies said. There's a bubblesque quality to the internet's two most hyped entities hooking up so that they can "monetize user-generated content." But only a cynic would focus on that. Let's instead celebrate three more years of hammering our kids with ads for SpongeBob SquarePants sports-bras, natural Ritalin options and Jewish wedding singers.®