29th > August > 2006 Archive

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Microsoft Canada spills Vista pricing

Microsoft today provided the most concrete evidence to date that it will actually ship Windows Vista. It released pricing for the operating system on its Canadian web site by mistake. According to Microsoft's own site, the Home Basic version of Vista will ship at the same price as Windows XP Home edition – US$233. Customers will then have to pay extra - $269 - for the Home Premium version of Vista that works with Media Center and Tablet PC systems. Business customers can expect to see a price break with the new OS. Microsoft has priced Vista Business at $341 versus $386 for XP Professional. The super duper Vista Ultimate which has Media Center tools along with the Aero 3D GUI and extra security technology will cost a whopping $449. Of course, few people will end up paying the retail prices for Microsoft's upcoming OS. The discounted price of Windows is hidden within the cost of most computers. Customers have been waiting more than five years for a fresh issue of Windows and are praying that Vista will be a more secure, efficient OS than XP. Microsoft pulled the leaked prices quickly but, in an unusual embrace of reality, confirmed their existence to the press. Vista is supposedly meant to ship sometime next year. You can scope the pricing lists here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 Aug 2006
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Intel completes 'Operation Catch-up' with Tulsa release

Intel is ready to love promote the NetBurst architecture one last time, if it means giving AMD more competition in the high-end server market. The big daddy of chips today released its "Tulsa" version of Xeon meant for high-end x86 servers with four or more sockets. Strapped with a mammoth 16MB cache, the new chip gives Intel a weapon to use against AMD's well-regarded Opteron chip. Such a response has been too long in coming given that two of Intel's most faithful Xeon customers - IBM and Dell - recently picked up Opteron for four-socket servers in order to satisfy customer demand.
Ashlee Vance, 29 Aug 2006

Orange invents new word

Research provided to us by Orange supposedly shows the great new trend of “mobification” is spreading to the UK: apparently from the Far East. A release from Orange helpfully informs us that more than two million mobile phone users between 16 and 18 have succumbed to this latest trend; a massive 86.4 per cent of the age group. The release goes on to talk about youths painting their handsets or hanging charms from the lanyard, before admitting that the vast majority of “mobifications” (over 65 per cent) actually consist of changing the ringtone. Quite why changing a ringtone just became “the latest craze amongst Britain’s youth” is not explained, and the supplied photographs show youths painting the screens of their cell phones with glitter paint rather than downloading tones and/or graphics from the web. If one disregards the headline figures, and the lexical liberties, there is indeed a real trend here. Anyone who has travelled to Japan can’t help but notice their passion for hanging charms off their handsets, and every Nokia handset has a lanyard for just that reason. Many suppliers have tried to sell the concept in Europe, but with minimal success despite exhaustive promotion. It has been suggested that the current generation of European youth are too conformist to want to distinguish themselves; it is more important to fit in than to express individuality, but between the fluff the survey from Orange does suggest that hundreds of thousands of young people are using stickers and charms to stand out from the crowd, belying that suggestion. Orange has set up a site to promote, judge, and reward, phone modifications, as well as selling ringtones and graphics to the less courageous, or artistically inclined. We wish them well, and look forward to seeing the winning modifications, but we’ll put “mobification” into room 101: already home to “lappy” and “mobe”.®
Bill Ray, 29 Aug 2006
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Google bundles software apps

Google has announced a package that will offer email, calendar, instant messaging and web-page creation services. Google Apps for Your Domain is a free service that bundles together the US internet giant's existing services - Gmail, Google Talk, Google Calendar, and Google Page Creator. The announcement sees Google stepping up the competition with Microsoft, which already offers packages such as Outlook and Exchange that provide email, address book and calendar software. The Google bundle is designed to provide these services via the internet, removing the need to manage any software or hardware for the services. The service is aimed at small businesses, students, and non profit organisations. Google plans to release a fee-based version of the service aimed at larger companies by the end of the year: this version will include extra data storage and technical support. For its part, Microsoft is currently testing an internet-based service targeted at small businesses called Office Live, which includes email, web page hosting and group calendar services. Analysts believe competition between the two giants could intensify further if Google decides to add its online spreadsheet, Google Spreadsheets, and word-processing, Google Notebook, applications to its Google Apps for Your Domain. Google Enterprise general manager Dave Girouard told the Wall Street Journal that these applications were "really good candidates" to become part of the package in the future. This latest move follows Google's link up with Microsoft rivals Mozilla, Adobe and RealNetworks earlier this year. Together, these companies are offering a software package with services that are also provided by Microsoft such as web browsing, a media player, and a toolbar. Google has announced an advertising link up with eBay. Under the terms of the partnership Google will begin selling ads on the online auction site and help eBay customers make quick calls to online merchants. The arrangement will introduce click-to-call technology to a broader audience using both Skype, which is owned by eBay, and Google Talk. Click-to-call allows potential buyers to call up sellers by clicking a link in a Web page. "By combining the power of eBay in ecommerce and Skype in communications with Google's leadership in search and advertising, we can increase the usefulness of the internet for shoppers, merchants and advertisers around the world," eBay chief executive Meg Whitman said. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Emmet Ryan, 29 Aug 2006

Guitar instruction sites shut down by music industry

Music publishers are taking action against guitar fan websites which they say infringe songwriters' copyrights. Publishers have started to use copyright lawsuits to shut down sites which share notations to help musicians to play songs at home. Called guitar tablature, or tab, the notations indicate where players should put their fingers. Books filled with tab are available in shops, but a number of websites make tab notations available for free. Now trade bodies are taking action against those sites. The New York Times reports that the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) and the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) have shut down several websites or forced them to remove all tabs using threats of copyright lawsuits. The sites are typically fan-run and not significant profit-making enterprises. Some of the tab notations are copied from paid-for books, but most of them are worked out by players just from listening to performances of songs. Some legal commentators in the US suggest that tabs generated by users may have free speech protection. "People can get [tab] for free on the internet, and it's hurting the songwriters," MPA president Lauren Keiser told the New York Times. The trade associations represent publishers, who share royalties from tab book sales with the composers of the material. Many of the websites that publish tabs are online communities rather than businesses and claim that much of the music involved would never have tabs created commercially, since only the most popular material is published in tab books. "The company which owns this website has been indirectly threatened with legal action by the National Music Publishers' Association (NMPA) as well as the Music Publishers' Association (MPA) on the basis that sharing tablature constitutes copyright infringement," said a statement at one of these sites, Guitar Tab Universe, from its manager Rob Balch. "At what point does describing how one plays a song on guitar become an issue of copyright infringement? This website, among other things, helps users teach each other how they play guitar parts for many different songs. This is the way music teachers have behaved since the first music was ever created. The difference here is that the information is shared by way of a new technology: the internet." Publishers argue that copyright legislation protects the tablature because they are "derivative works" of the original songs, which means they enjoy the same protection. So far, none of the sites has fought the orders to stop publishing the tabs. "When you are jamming with a friend and you show him/her the chords for a song you heard on the radio, is that copyright infringement? What about if you helped him/her remember the chord progression or riff by writing it down on, say, a napkin...infringement?" Balch said in his statement. "If he/she calls you later that night on the phone or emails you and you respond via one of those methods, are you infringing? I don't know." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 29 Aug 2006
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Patent rulings could destroy open source software

US courts are endangering the very existence of free and open source software, according to a leading digital rights pressure group. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has asked the US Supreme Court to reverse lower courts' patent decisions.
OUT-LAW.COM, 29 Aug 2006

Atlantis launch under pressure from Ernesto and Russia

Tropical storm Ernesto has almost menaced the Shuttle Atlantis back into a storm-proof hanger, as NASA mission managers wait for the weather to clear. Managers are preparing to roll the Shuttle off the launch pad today, unless the forecast changes dramatically. If the shuttle does have to be moved, the mission will be set back by at least several days, and possibly over a month. NASA says that even if the weather miraculously clears and Ernesto changes course, the launch is unlikely to happen before next Sunday (3 September). The forecast is most likely to send Atlantis scurrying for shelter, a move that on its own takes around six hours. If the shuttle is mothballed, the whole launch procedure will have to begin again, making it unlikely that Atlantis will take to the skies before 8 September, further delaying the long overdue work on the International Space Station. The delay is more than a costly irritation. The mission was supposed to be finished and NASA's astronauts on their way home by 14 September to make space on the ISS for the next Russian arrivals. NASA may have to wait until this mission is completed before sending Atlantis up. If negotiations with the Russians don't go well, the Shuttle could be grounded until late October. Ernesto is not expected to leave the area any time soon. Forecasters predict the storm will gain strength over the coming days before graduating to full hurricane status and sweeping through central Florida. Atlantis was originally scheduled to launch on 27 August, before the launch pad was struck by lightning. Although engineers concluded no damage was done, NASA had already had to postpone the countdown. Mike Suffredini, NASA's space station program manager told the Houston Chronicle that the next few flights would be critical to the success of the ISS. "This flight has to occur for the next flight to occur and then the next flight and the next flight," he said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Aug 2006

MS cuts UK Xbox 360 Core System cost

Microsoft UK has cut the price of the Xbox 360 Core System to a mere pound under £200, knocking a tenner off the console's previous price.
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2006
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Diode dearth still hindering blue-laser drive shipments?

Laser diodes for next-generation, blue-laser optical disc drives are still in short supply, it has been claimed. The problem: diode makers are still ramping up yields of the devices and there aren't, it's said, enough to go around.
Hard Reg, 29 Aug 2006
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Florida pirate banged up for six years

An online software piracy baron was sentenced to six years imprisonment by a US federal court on Friday. Danny Ferrer, of Lakeland, Florida, ran buysusa.com between 2002 and 19 October, 2005, when it was shut down by the FBI. He pleaded guilty on 15 June on one count of conspiracy and one count of criminal copyright infringement. Authories said their investigation, assisted by the Business Software Alliance, revealed Ferrer, 37, and his crew mailed out $4.1m in copied Adobe, Macromedia and Autodesk software. Investigators said the operation had cost developers more than $20m. US Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said: "We are very pleased with the sentence imposed today – one of the longest ever imposed for software piracy – and trust that it sends a strong message to those who pilfer the intellectual property of others." Among the booty Ferrer will be made to forfeit to authorities are: A Cessna 152 A Cessna 172RG A Model TS-11 ISKRA aircraft A RotorWay International helicopter A 1992 Lamborghini A 2005 Hummer A 2002 Chevrolet Corvette Two 2005 Chevrolet Corvettes A 2005 Lincoln Navigator An IGATE G500 LE Flight Simulator A 1984 28 foot Marinette hardtop express boat An ambulance As well as the prison term and losing his plundered fleet, Ferrer was ordered to pay $4.1m in restitution, and do 50 hours community service. ®
Christopher Williams, 29 Aug 2006

Samsung ships 'first' 80nm 1Gb DDR 2 chip

Samsung has begun rolling 1Gb DDR 2 SDRAM chips off its 80nm production lines in volume, the company said today. The South Korean giant claimed it's the first memory maker to do so, five months after it began mass-producing the first 80nm 512Mb part.
Hard Reg, 29 Aug 2006
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Getting to grips with Callisto

Eclipse is not just a Java IDE, it is a tools platform, which supports an increasing number of projects. The broad scope of these was apparent in Callisto, the code name for a set of simultaneous project releases earlier this summer.
Tim Anderson, 29 Aug 2006

Wheelie bin bugging foreshadows 'rubbish tax'

Electronic spy chips have been surreptitiously planted in household wheelie bins by many councils in an attempt to gauge how much rubbish we're chucking out. The RFID-based chips are being hidden under the lip of bins used for non-recycled waste. Transponders fitted on rubbish trucks read the chip's serial number when household waste is collected. As bins are hoisted up, another device on lorries weighs them. This data is then correlated alongside chip numbers to create a record of the quantity of waste each household discards. Already 500,000 of the devices have been deployed in Peterborough, South Norfolk, and parts of Cheshire, Surrey, and Wiltshire. In most cases, home owners were not informed about the deployment of the technology. Within two years the technology could be fitted in most of the UK, creating concerns that taxation of household rubbish or fines for people who fail to recycle waste might follow. But introducing a "pay-as-you-throw" tax might only serve to increase fly-tipping. Middle England is, predictably, outraged. Conservative MP Andrew Pelling told The Sun: "I don't think even the old Soviet Union made such an intrusion into people's personal lives. It's Big Brother gone mad." ®
John Leyden, 29 Aug 2006

China struggles against online game bloodbath

A Chinese online game designed to counter the growing addiction of young citizens to blood-spattered foreign imports is still not ready for release after a year's development, Reuters reports. According to Xinhua news agency, Chinese Heroes will dispense with the gore and offer a roster of traditional role models such as "Lei Feng, a Mao Zedong-era model soldier, and Zheng Chenggong, a pirate also known as Koxinga who seized Taiwan from Dutch colonial rule in 1661". Gamers can apparently "click on statues [of heroes] to learn about their experiences and carry out tasks like moving bricks" - which suggests that Western games developers have little to fear. Chinese Heroes is being put together by Shanghai gaming outfit Shanda. Spokesman Zhuge Hui admitted: "Five heroes have been developed, but we have not yet decided the launch date." Nonetheless, the powers that be have high hopes for the product. Kou Xiaowei of China's General Administration of Press and Publication, which is overseeing the game's development, said: "We hope the game will teach players about Chinese ethics." Beijing Internet Addiction Treatment Centre director Tao Ran expressed doubt that Chinese youth were much interested in traditional ethics, noting: "Teenagers seek adventure and fulfillment in dramatic and skill-demanding games. If hero games do not focus on killing and domination, gamers will definitely not play them." The Chinese Heroes initiative is further evidence of Beijing's unease at the effects of foreign culture on the country's impressionable young minds. It recently "decided to ban foreign cartoons from primetime TV slots in an attempt to protect its indigenous animation industry". ®
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

Finn triumphs in mobile chucking contest

A local man has triumphed against strong international competition to take gold in the Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship in Savolinna, Reuters reports. Showing a field including Belgians, Canadians, and Russians exactly how it's done, Lassi Etelatalo lobbed a scrapped Nokia 89 metres to secure the crown. After his world-beating performance, Etelatalo admitted: "I prepared by javelin throwing, I haven't really practised throwing mobile phones." Silver went to Dutchman Elie Rugthoven in the freestyle event. His projected mobile came to earth outside the official landing zone, but his "phone juggling performance that impressed the judges" was enough to earn a place on the podium. Competition founder Christine Lund described the event as "a good source of light exercise with an environmentally friendly twist". She explained: "There are a lot of mobile phones on the second-hand market, and we are recycling them." The model of Nokia favoured by the winner is not noted, but there is evidently some science involved. Lund elaborated: "People choose by size, by colour, or by how it fits in the hand...Some believe a heavy model will ensure a long throw, some want a light one." ® Bootnote We at El Reg are disappointed at the apparent lack of UK representation in Savolinna. Sadly, reports that Naomi Campbell will next year fly the flag for Blighty are unconfirmed.
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

LG confirms Nvidia HDCP-native GPU plan

LG has tacitly confirmed Nvidia's plan to roll out a revised version of the GeForce 7900 GT graphics chip with built-in support for the HDCP anti-piracy technology. The South Korean company today launched a PC fitted with the Nvidia chip and the 'world's first' 4x Blu-ray Disc writer.
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2006

Firemapping system put on back burner

Terrorism has delayed the launch of a new system for monitoring wild fires in the US, according to NASA engineers. Tighter rules, prompted by heightened fears over the security of flying from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) were among "several factors" cited by the NASA researcher in charge of the project for the delay, according to CNet. The system was due to have launched today, but having unmanned aircraft flying around is clearly not on right now and the planes will be grounded until 6 September. Vincent Ambrosia, principal investigator of the Western States Unmanned Aerial System Fire Mission said the tests will be a stepping stone to further development of the system next year, but added: "We may be slightly held back this year due to the FAA regulations, understandably." Ambrosia did not elaborate on which regulations were holding back the test phase of the project, nor did he list the other factors behind the delay. NASA was due to perform several test flights of its unmanned remotely piloted Altair craft, adapted from the Predator UAV. The Predator has seen service in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The tests were designed to demonstrate the craft's mobility, imaging, and real-time communications capabilities, NASA says. The planes will eventually be used to survey wildfire outbreaks, sending real-time data back to the US Forest Service on the spread and temperature of the blazes. The craft will carry NASA sensors capable of discriminating temperature differences as small as half a degree Fahrenheit. This level of sensitivity will be useful when mapping the fires. Another new piece of kit on board is NASA's Collaborative Decision Environment, technology originally developed for the Mars Exploration Rover, that makes it easier for a range of people on the ground to access, use, and interact with the data the craft will send back. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Aug 2006

CNN to rerun 9/11 coverage online

CNN has decided to mark the fifth anniversary of 9/11 by rerunning its news coverage of that day on its CNN Pipeline service, Yahoo! reports. The blow-by-blow account, running from 8.30am until midnight, will be accompanied by another feed showing live coverage of memorial services. CNN.com general manager David Payne explained: "Our users may choose to view the stream of coverage from Sept 11, 2001, or live coverage of memorial services at Ground Zero, or they may click through the numerous interactive elements on the site. They have the power to determine the best way for them to remember the anniversary." To ensure viewers don't accidently access the archive material, "the replay feed will be covered with a notice instructing users to click only if they want to watch". And, for one day only, CNN will offer its four Pipeline feeds for free. Subscribers normally pay $2.95 a month or $24.95 a year for the service. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

Corsair to cool high-speed DDR 2 DIMMs with clip-on fan

Memory maker Corsair has launched a pair of high-performance memory modules that not only ship with a specially design heat sink but can also be supplied with a clip-on cooling fan. The DDR 2 DIMMs run at 1,111MHz.
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2006

Louisiana rejects ban on violent video games

A Louisiana judge has declared that a proposed state ban on sales of violent video games to minors "violates free speech rights and cannot be enforced", Reuters reports. US District Judge James Brady ruled last Thursday that the state "had no right to bar distribution of materials simply because they show violent behaviour". Brady called the ban an "invasion of First Amendment rights" of manufacturers, retailers and end-user minors, and stated: "Depictions of violence are entitled to full constitutional protection." The law suggested a ban the sales of video games to minors "if an 'average person' would conclude that they appeal to a 'morbid interest in violence'," as well as the "sale of games to minors if the average person would conclude they depict violence that is 'patently offensive' to an adult, and the games lack artistic, political or scientific value". Retailers faced $2,000 fines, a year in prison or both for selling such material to minors. In response to the state's claim that "video games should be treated differently from other forms of media because their interactive format can encourage violence", Judge Brady wrote: "This argument has been rejected many times," citing other judges' rulings that "movies and television also have interactive elements". Brady further rejected the state's argument that "video games depicting extreme violence can be 'psychologically harmful' to minors". He wrote: "The state may not restrict video game expression merely because it dislikes the way that expression shapes an individual's thoughts and attitudes." Louisiana now joins California, Illinois, Michigan, and Minnesota in legally rejecting the ban. Reuters notes that an Illinois judge earlier this month ordered the state to pay legal costs totalling $510,000 to three business groups - including the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) - fighting the ban locally. ESA president Douglas Lowenstein slammed Governor Kathleen Blanco and state lawmakers for "approving the law while struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina". He said in a statement: "In the post-Katrina era, voters should be outraged that the Legislature and governor wasted their tax dollars on this ill-fated attack on video games." Blanco countered in a statement last Friday that she "believes violent video games harm children". She added: "I'm calling on all parents to diligently monitor the video games that their children are allowed to play. If the courts cannot protect our children, then we need to do it by rejecting the merchant of violence." ®
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

AOpen mobile-on-desktop PCs enter Core 2 Duo era

AOpen has equipped its MiniPC line-up with Intel's mobile Core 2 Duo processor - aka 'Merom' - the company said today, neatly avoiding World+Dog's announcements yesterday of notebooks based on the chip giant's latest next-generation part.
Tony Smith, 29 Aug 2006

eBay dials Google for 'click-to-call' advertising

Google will give eBay a taste of its lucrative advertising business when the two companies team up to plaster the online auction site with advertising from early 2007. For its trouble, Google will get to trial "click-to-call" marketing in a heavy traffic environment through the joint venture. VoIP-enabled eBayers will be able to click on context-sensitive ads and be connected straight to the vendor through Skype or Google Talk. eBay is in the process of adding Skype functions to its site following its $2.6bn acquisition of the VoIP specialist, which currently claims about $100m punters worldwide. The partnership will be eBay's first play at establishing a new direct cash flow from Skype. The two firms said the arrangements will be based on "revenue sharing", but did not give specific details of the carve-up. Google CEO Eric Schmidt said: "Our technologies will allow us to connect users to relevant advertising across eBay's international properties. By working together to promote click-to-call functionality through Google Talk and Skype, we are offering advertisers another innovative way to connect with customers." The deal will mean Google becomes the sole provider of text-based advertising on eBay outside the US. "Click-to-call" hawking will launch globally. A Google statement said: "The specific components and timing of implementation will depend upon initial test results, and will vary by market, largely driven by local dynamics and joint capabilities." We can imagine the marketing strategy boutiques being scrambled even as we write. ®
Christopher Williams, 29 Aug 2006

Dog crashes car during driving lesson

A Chinese dog owner who allowed her mutt to take the wheel of her car promptly crashed headlong into an oncoming car, Xinhua News Agency reports. Mrs Li from Hohhot, the capital of Chinese Inner Mongolia, admitted her dog was "was fond of crouching on the steering wheel and often watched her drive". Accordingly, she decided it was a bright idea to "let the dog 'have a try' while she operated the accelerator and brake" - with inevitable results. Xinhua sadly fails to note either the breed of dog involved or details of the vehicles and the resultant carnage. It does, however, state that Li "paid for repairs", which seems fair enough in the circumstances. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

Nokia 8800 Sirocco to blow in next month

Nokia will next month ship an enhanced version of its Nokia 8800 luxury slider phone, upping the handset's camera to two megapixels and re-naming its the 8800 Sirocco.
Hard Reg, 29 Aug 2006

Europe temps cause icy chaos in the US

The Butterfly Effect theory has it that a butterfly flapping its wings in one part of the world could cause a hurricane on the other side of the globe. Now, we're not suggesting the reported 1777°C high in London a couple of weeks ago was a matter in any way belittled by comparison to a butterfly, but energy has to come from somewhere, and concentrating that kind of extreme heat in one place is bound to have a reverse impact elsewhere. And reverse impact it did have. The usually balmy San Franciso Bay region has borne the brunt of London's all-time high, with temperatures over the weekend plummeting to the staggering overnight low of -30,000°F (which by our calculations is -16,649°C), according to the National Weather Service. With the icy forecast set to continue this week, the Reg philanthropic department has taken pity on our US cousins. Reg hats, gloves, scarves and thermal hoodies have been dispatched to San Francisco for delivery this afternoon. Stay warm. ® Bootnote Thanks to Gary Setnor for the chilly tip-off.
Tracey Cooper, 29 Aug 2006
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Wi-Fi Alliance to certify 802.11n ahead of IEEE standard

The Wi-Fi Alliance is to start certifying 802.11n products in March 2007, despite the fact the standard won't be completed until the following year, according to CNet. Devices will be tested for conformance to the draft standard, and for interoperability, which have been the major concerns of buyers to date. Anyone buying 802.11n kit today is wise to stick to one manufacturer, or risk compatibility problems, and this has prevented large scale uptake of the technology. Apparently, the Wi-Fi Alliance is "hoping" that equipment certified to the draft standard will be compatible with equipment conforming to the final version, though it offers no guarantee, and that might not be enough for corporate buyers. Of course, if pre-standard but certified equipment becomes popular enough, the final standard will have to be compatible or risk becoming sidelined. But once equipment has the Wi-Fi Alliance logo on it, is tested for interoperability, and starts selling, what will be the point of the IEEE continuing to debate the details of a standard which cannot be significantly changed and which no one cares about anymore? Without significant enhancements, which will be difficult if compatibility is to be preserved, there will be little motivation for anyone to adopt the "proper" version of the standard. The way the IEEE debates and establishes standards has already come under fire for being too bureaucratic and slow for today's market-driven industry, and the way in which it was sidelined in the Ultra Wideband debate amply demonstrated that. If the Wi-Fi Alliance is prepared to sidestep the formal approval process, the real question becomes what future has the IEEE in the wireless industry? ®
Bill Ray, 29 Aug 2006

Brazilians unearth new monster dino species

Brazilian paleontologists who have spend the last four years piecing togther fragments of a monster dinosaur have declared it a new species of the Titanosauria group - a 13 metre, nine-tonne beast snappily dubbed Maxakalisaurus topai, Reuters reports. The herbivorous giant - dating back 80m years and characterised by "large body, long tail and neck with a relatively small head" - was unearthed between 1998 and 2002 beside a road in Serra da Boa Vista in Minas Gerais state. It gets its name from a local indian tribe, the Maxakali, and their divinity Topa. Reuters notes that it's customary in Brazil to dub paleontological novelties with indigenous names. The Titanosauria group were the principal herbivorous dinosaurs roaming the super-continent of Gondwana and its post-split components of Africa, Antarctica, Australia, India and South America. The importance of Maxakalisaurus topai lies in the fact that it's closely related to the highly-evolved Saltasaurinae group which put in an appearence 70m years ago and have to date been discovered only in Argentina. The new Brazilian species appears to have suffered the post-mortem indignity of being eaten by carnivores, as attested by teeth marks on some of the bones, researchers explained. Its reconstructed skeleton was unveiled yesterday in the National Museum in Rio de Janeiro. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

Wireless Brits just want to do it in the garden

An AOL survey of more than 2,000 UK internet users reveals the popularity of wireless surfing: more than a third have wireless access and 84 per cent of those use it at home. However, the vast majority of those (75 per cent) only got wireless in the last 18 months, and almost half (39 per cent) in the last six. When it comes to choosing where and why to use wireless, the respondents demonstrated a startling lack of imagination. Asked about their dream location to surf wirelessly, half chose their own garden, while the beach was only selected by 15 per cent, and a quarter wanted to surf from bed (to check their stock portfolio during the night, obviously). Bedroom surfing was more popular amongst the 18-to-24-year-old group who obviously have more stocks to check as 41 per cent of that age group wanted under-the-duvet connectivity. Freedom is cited as the reason people want wireless, though the lack of cables also makes things tidier. More than 3,000 people have accidents involving electrical leads or extensions every year, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, and unless all those garden surfers have laptops with unprecedented battery lives, then the growth in wireless probably means more trailing cables rather than less. Meanwhile, more than one in five respondents admit to stealing bandwidth from an unguarded access point, mainly in London and the South East, though 80 per cent of respondents with wireless came from those regions. Men are much more likely to have stolen connectivity than women (22 percent compared to six per cent), but both sexes feel that such thefts should be punished. ®
Bill Ray, 29 Aug 2006
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AOL software labelled as 'badware'

Privacy watchdogs have slapped a health warning on the latest version of AOL's client software, AOL 9.0. StopBadware.org, an academic project supported by the likes of Sun and Google that aims to establish a neighbourhood watch-style scheme to put pressure on purveyors of unsavoury programs, has taken the unusual step of classifying AOL's software as potentially damaging badware. AOL's inclusion of bundled software apps and lack of transparency over additional installed components earned it the negative label. "AOL has a long and storied history of being a leader in the fight against badware. AOL plainly does not belong in the same category as the all-too-prevalent garden variety badware providers. But the free version of AOL 9.0 that we tested, in our view, does not live up to the company's rich legacy," explained John Palfrey, co-director of StopBadware.org, in a posting on StopBadware.org's blog. StopBadware.org wants AOL to be more upfront about the software components its client installs. It also wants the internet giant to provide an easier way of declining to install these components or of removing them once they are installed. The pressure group says it has been pleased with AOL's reaction to its criticism, which is based on a preliminary analysis of AOL's software. AOL said it would review StopBadware.org's recommendations. "No company has done more to fight malware than AOL," AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein told News.com. "We're reviewing the suggestions made in the report, and we are taking steps to address them, as they mostly involve minor UI issues. ®
John Leyden, 29 Aug 2006

Gang robs eBay car buyer at gunpoint

A gang which set up a fake eBay car auction robbed the would-be buyer at gunpoint when he met to close the deal, The Daily Mirror reports. Shahzad Ali Shah, 23, agreed to meet the "seller" in Dagenham after successfully negotiating to buy the Mercedes Benz Kompressor C180. Shah felt "assured" by the vendor's 92.3 per cent approval rating and agreed to pay for the vehicle in cash after he demanded hard currency. Student Shah, of Crawley, West Sussex, explained: "The man said if I paid in cash he would not offer it to anyone else. He said if I had the cash, the car was available and we could do the deal straight away. I put in an offer for £5,500 and he accepted." Later the same day, 20 August, brother-in-law Shaharayar Talpur drove Shah and his mother Shahnaz to the meeting point. Shah's mother, a catering assistant, had saved for 15 months to buy her son the car as a university graduation present. Shah recounted: "While waiting, two youths came towards us as if checking who was in the car. We moved to the main road as something didn't feel right, but when we parked there, the two guys and two others got out of a Vauxhall Corsa behind and approached us. "An Asian guy told my brother-in-law to open the window and when he refused he pulled a gun from his fleece. He ordered him to open the door and took the keys so we couldn't drive off. He kept saying, 'You're here for the Merc - where's the money?' "I said we didn't know anything and didn't have any money, but he just walked over and pointed the gun at me. Mum was terrified." The gang made off with £5,580 plus Shahnaz's purse, phone, and credit cards. She told The Mirror: "I saw them point the gun at him [her son], the man started counting and I was so scared something would happen to him. I'm relieved my son was unhurt but I'm still having flashbacks now. I'm still scared." During the robbery, one of the perpetrators "accidentally hit a button" on the stolen phone and dialled Shahnaz's daughter Zohar, 14, who was able to listen to the whole ordeal. She in turn called her sister Jabeen in panic, who later recalled: "When Zohar answered all she could hear was Mum screaming and the man shouting at her to give him her money. She was so worried she called me to say, 'Mum's in trouble'. She's still upset now." Police are investigating the robbery. Shah told The Mirror that they "have told him data protection laws governing eBay and the fact the gang's car reg plates were fake have hampered their hunt". eBay assured: "We've an excellent relationship with police and always provide information and assistance when requested." ®
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

Car industry must cut CO2 or face legislation

The European Commission has warned car makers that they need to do more to reduce the carbon dioxide emissions of the vehicles they produce, or they risk EU-wide legislation being drafted. The commission announced that CO2 emissions from cars have fallen 12.4 per cent since 1995, but said this was not enough if the industry is going to hit its target of a 25 per cent reduction by 2008/9. Commission vice president and commissioner for enterprise and industry Günter Verheugen said while car manufacturers have made continuous and substantial progress since 1995 "the situation is not satisfactory. I urge industry to step up their efforts. We expect that industry sticks to its commitments". The commission refused to rule out bringing in legislation that would force manufacturers to hit the targets if the situation did not improve. Under the terms of the voluntary agreement, European manufacturers have to produce cars with an average fuel efficiency of 140g/km of CO2 by 2008. The Japanese and Korean manufacturers have until 2009. Voluntary targets for manufacturers are one of three prongs on the EU strategy for dealing with vehicle emissions, as part of its work towards targets set out in the Kyoto protocol. This requires the 15 "old" EU countries to reduce their CO2 emissions to eight per cent below the levels in 1990*. The other two prongs are better information for consumers about the fuel efficiency of the car they buy, and financial incentives to choose low emission cars. ® *See hell, snowflake's chance
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Aug 2006

London school to fingerprint students

A London school is to embark on a trial to fingerprint children when they return to school. Holland Park School is believed to be one of the first schools in the UK to seek to fingerprint every pupil in an effort to monitor their attendance. The school said it will test the system, costing about £4,500, on pupils who are late to school from next week before rolling it out to all 1,500 pupils. It plans to build a database so children can be identified and their time of arrival recorded in a "Live Register" by pressing a finger on an electronic pad. If late arrivals fail to press a pad at the gates or in a classroom they will be recorded as absent. A spokesperson for the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in which Holland Park School is located, told GC News: "In order for the system to operate students have one finger scanned. No record of the scan is kept. Rather, it is turned by process of algorithm into an individual number that is recorded and recognised when a student places their finger on the reader." The council also denied that the database is being developed to as part of the government's controversial proposal to build a Children's Index, a national database of under 12s. "All data is retained in the school as part of our current database and will not be shared with any third party," said the spokesperson. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 29 Aug 2006

Free legal music downloads in time for Christmas

It had to happen. A new legal music download service will be launched in December which will offer MP3s free at the point of delivery. New York-based Spiralfrog says its site will be fully funded by advertising. The firm has some heavyweight backing in the shape of Vivendi Universal Music Group. Research apparently revealed consumers were willing to suffer ads for products relevant to them in exchange for free tunes. Spiralfrog said it will make the entire Universal back catalogue available at no charge, including current hit parade favourites like Razorlight and Johnny Hallyday, together with its roster of classics from the likes of Stevie Wonder. Independent labels will be hosted too, along with video content. The International Federation of Phonographic Industries estimates there's currently 40 illegal downloads to every single legal one. Spiralfrog will be pitching at the tech-savvy 13 to 34-year-old demographic. Spiralfrog CEO Robin Kent said: "Offering young consumers an easy-to-use alternative to pirated music sites will be compelling." Kent is a former Saatchi & Saatchi advertising executive. The CTO is Vesa Suomalainen, the Finn responsible for managing the development of Microsoft Host Integration Server. Strategy is being handled by Robert Goodale, the former CEO of Ultrastar, David Bowie's online music communities venture. The standard download charge at iTunes is currently at £0.79 or $0.99 per track. Whether Spiralfrog's entry will prompt a rethink at the dominant player remains to be seen, but industry watchers are already pondering the implications. Ovum analyst Michele Mackenzie said: "There is no mention of which audio codec or DRM solution will be used, although it is very likely that the record labels will insist on some DRM being in place. "Few service providers are currently in a position to provide the large audiences that advertisers require, and few pure music providers have the heritage of building a business funded by advertising." The nascent firm's announcement is attracting more excited speculation from mainstream newspapers and the BBC. If it indeed becomes a major force, the rest of the "big four" record companies - Sony BMG, Warner and EMI - are sure to follow Universal's lead and clamber on board. And then Apple will really have something to think about. ® Bootnote In other music liberalisation news, which will be greeted with equally heavy hearts in some record company boardrooms and the Zune development bunker, The BBC reports yet another application is being offered for download which can bypass the Windows Media Player DRM. It's called Fairuse4wm, and is widely available now...apparently.
Christopher Williams, 29 Aug 2006

Home Office coughs to five database breaches

Security at the British Home Office's Identity and Passport Service (IPS) database has been compromised four times, with individuals' data used inappropriately by Home Office employees and contractors. A fifth breach has hit a Prison Service database. In three of the cases workers were able to access data they had no authority to use and in the fourth a worker who did have authority to access data used it inappropriately. The fifth case involves a worker accessing the Prison Service sentencing database, a Home Office spokesman said. "Disciplinary action was taken that resulted in the dismissal of three of those people. A fourth resigned before the process of a charge of gross misconduct could be completed. Another was an employee at a private sector partner, who has been dismissed," said the spokesman. The security breach has raised questions for some about the security of any database attached to identity cards, a major plank of current Government policy. "Plainly, centralising all of our identity data into one register in the Home Office's control is going to expose our information to risk of abuse from staff," said Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of NO2ID, an anti-identity card pressure group. "Many of the risks that attach are not so often about hacking from the outside but from the inside job, but this is something that the Home Office has completely and flatly denied throughout the process and said 'we'll have security protocols in place and procedures to stop this'," said Booth. "They've claimed this for other databases as well and yet we have highly publicised cases such as the chap at the DVLA who was passing information to [animal rights groups] not just a few times but over 13 months." The Home Office spokesman said that remaining staff at the IPS have been warned about unauthorised access. "The IPS takes its security very, very seriously and has reminded staff that any breaches will involve a charge of gross misconduct which will result in dismissal and that any offender will be liable to prosecution," he said. The Home Office could not confirm at time of going to press whether or not any further legal action or a prosecution will follow the dismissals. The information came to light following a parliamentary question from the Liberal Democrat Party. NO2ID says it is compiling information on further potential for security breaches within the Home Office. "NO2ID has been approached by a contractor at one of the companies tendering for the database for the ID card system who described to us how quite regularly he was able to break protocol and gain access to supposedly highly secure databases of another wing of the Home Office while on a job," said Booth. The Home Office said it could not comment without further details on the identity of the contracting company and the databases in question. Booth said the group would not make those details public until later this week. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 29 Aug 2006

NBC aplogises for Emmys plane crash skit

NBC has apologised for a sketch in its Emmy Awards programme which showed presenter Conan O'Brien aboard a private jet that crash landed on a desert island. The pre-recorded skit - meant as a spoof on "some of television's most well-known scenes", according to an NBC statement - was shown on the same day as a Comair CRJ-100 jet bound for Atlanta crashed shortly after taking off from Lexington airport in Kentucky, killing 49. The BBC reports that Tim Gilbert, president of NBC's Lexington affiliate WLEX, declared his station "horrified" at the sketch's broadcast following the Sunday morning tragedy. The NBC statement admitted: "The timing was unfortunate and we regret any unintentional pain we have caused. In no way would we ever want to make light of this terrible tragedy." Unfortunate timing aside, NBC's Emmy show was hit by poor ratings - 16.1m or the forth lowest ever, the Beeb notes. Last year's offering on CBS attracted 18.8m viewers. Two reasons have been offered for the slump: the decision to move the show from its traditional September slot "to make way for NBC's American Football coverage", and the absence of shows such as Lost and Desperate Housewives from the nominations. ®
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006

World of Warcraft fingered in iPod aircraft terror alert

A World of Warcraft aficionado travelling from Chicago to Canada earlier this month to hook up with fellow gamers sparked an airborne terror alert after accidently flushing his iPod down the toilet.
Lester Haines, 29 Aug 2006
channel

Botnet herder jailed over hospital attack

A California man has been jailed for three years and one month over a botnet attack that floored tens of thousands of computers including systems at a Seattle hospital, a California school district, and US Department of Defence machines. Christopher Maxwell, 21, of Vacaville, California, was also sentenced to three years probation at a sentencing hearing last week after earlier pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit computer fraud and sabotage offences, AP reports. Defense attorney Steve Bauer sought probation for Maxwell by arguing that he never intended to cause the chaos he created. US District Judge Marsha J Pechman was unmoved by these arguments and said Maxwell ought to go to jail as "deterrence for all those youth out there who are squirreled away in their basements hacking". Maxwell and two juvenile co-conspirators made an estimated $100,000 installing intrusive adware programs on compromised machines infected by other forms of malware. ®
John Leyden, 29 Aug 2006
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TrendNet ClearSky Bluetooth 2.0 Skype handset

ReviewReview The time will surely come when someone ships a really sexy Skype-friendly handset. Until then we'll have to make do with gadgets like TrendNet's ClearSky. But what this device lacks in looks it makes up for in functionality: not only good integration with the Skype service itself but also a Bluetooth wireless connection for cordless calls...
Nick Hawkesmoor, 29 Aug 2006

Cassiopeia A gets papped by Hubble

Hubble has snapped yet another stunning picture of a not-too-distant part of the galaxy. This time, the relatively nearby supernova remnant known as Cassiopeia A (Cas A) poses nicely for the camera, revealing intricate details of the remains of the star. The picture has been built from 18 separate images taken by Hubble's newly restored Advanced Camera for Surveys. It shows the stellar material thrown out by the explosion glowing in the heat generated by the shockwave from the supernova blast. The image is false colour, with the colours indicating predominant chemical composition. Green, for example, indicates areas rich in oxygen, while red and purple show sulphur, and blue represents hydrogen and nitrogen-rich zones. Hubble has shot Cas A twice in the last year, at nine month intervals. The remnant is so young, that even this short space of time is enough for the images to be different. NASA says the expansion of the debris is clear to see in the second snap. A faint string of debris in the upper left side of the remnant is moving away from the rest fast enough to get from the Earth to the moon in around 30 seconds. And yes, we wrote this whole blurb just because we liked the picture. Enjoy. ® Bootnote: In response to reader requests, a full sized image can be found here.
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Aug 2006

Footballers harvest babies for stem cell 'repair kits'

Premiership footballers have apparently swapped their copies of The Beano for Nature and jumped on the stem cell bandwagon. The Sunday Times reported this weekend that the overpaid sportsmen are having their newborns' umbilical cords cryogenically frozen in a bid to preserve cells they could later use to repair their knackered knees. One unnamed footballer told the paper: "As a footballer, if you're prone to injury it can mean the end of your career, so having your stem cells — a repair kit if you like — on hand makes sense." Very early research has suggested stem cells could be used to encourage repair in the knee. It's thought cells from a patient's own bone marrow are a more likely candidate, however. Either way, the field is many years away from offering any useful treatment. Paul Griffiths, managing director of Liverpool-based CryoGenesis International, which claims to have frozen the umbilical cords of five footy sprogs, said: "The stem cells are injected directly into the knee and because they have the same genetic code they start rebuilding." Which is not exactly true, of course. Only half a baby's nuclear DNA will come from its father. Though if the goings-on on defunct ITV trashfest Footballer's Wives bear any relation to reality, even that's got to be in some doubt. ®
Christopher Williams, 29 Aug 2006

Analog Dylan kidnapped, replaced by digital Dylan?

Last week, you may recall, Rolling Stone reported Bob Dylan's views on modern digital production technology. It was so bad, the great man suggested, he that he couldn't blame people downloading it for free on the internet. That was all it was worth, he said. But what's this? In a commercial promo over on Apple's iTunes site, someone who looks like Bob Dylan can now be seen croaking away, intercut with the friendless silhouettes who represent iPod owners. If true, it's an astonishing, 180 degree turnaround. The answer seems quite simple. The analog Bob Dylan has been kidnapped, and replaced by a digital copy. The analog Dylan hated digital recordings. The digital Dylan loves them! The analog Dylan thought you can download songs for free. The digital Dylan wants you to buy an iPod - and thinks one day, cities will be redesigned for the convenience of Segway scooters! If this strikes you as implausible, it's not half as nutty as some of the theories Dylanologists hold dear. One school of thought suggests that Dylan staged the motorcycle "accident" in 1966 in which he broke his neck, which led to his seclusion for more than three years. So perhaps the analog Bob knew of his impending replacement by a soulless digital Bob clone - and was simply trying to warn us. Thanks to EV Garcia for providing us with the shocking truth. Your erudite views on modern production techniques will follow shortly. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 29 Aug 2006
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IBM sends Power5+ downstream

IBM last week took care of its low-end System P Unix gear by outfitting the systems with new Power5+ chips and multi-core modules. Customers will now find a 2.1GHz version of Power5+ available across IBM's entire Unix system line. Back in July, IBM started offering the same 2.1GHz chip with its high-end Unix boxes - the p5 590 and 595. Overall, the Power5 upgrades have been far from inspirational with IBM performing such modest clock rate tweaks that the likes of Intel and Sun Microsystems have been able to gain ground on Power. IBM, however, does have a bit of razzle-dazzle left with the Power5+. The same systems that received the faster chip have also been prepped to handle IBM's four-core module. IBM creates the quad-core system via a bit of engineering savvy where it combines a pair of dual-core Power5+ chips. HP was forced to do something similar with Itanium before the new dual-core "Montecito" chip arrived. The chips in the quad-core module don't run at full speed. IBM has clocked the Power5+ cores down to 1.65GHz. Customers need to test out the dual-core and four-core systems to find out where their various software packages will run best. In general, you can expect the four-core boxes to handle jobs such as transaction processing well. Best to put apps that need high single thread performance on the 2.1GHz kit. IBM claims that the module gives it "the first (systems) in the industry with four cores per socket," which is true to a degree. Big Blue has used the four-core module kludge since October of 2005. Sun, however, sells four-, six- and eight-core versions of its UltraSPARC T1 chips with all the cores on a single piece of silcon. Those systems, announced in November of 2005, play in the same Unix space as IBM's gear. To complement the new chips, IBM has released four new p5 boxes. You'll now find the 1U, single-socket p5 505, the 2U, single-socket p5 510 and the 4U, single-socket p5 520. In addition, IBM has started selling the two-socket p5 550. All of the servers are available in pre-built Express configurations that sell for a bit less than the more configurable, standard boxes. You can compare and contrast the new models here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 Aug 2006
globalisation

Microsoft extends legacy products support

Microsoft is breathing more life into older versions of its products by offering businesses extended coverage for fixing security problems and bugs. Large companies running old favorites Windows NT 4.0, Exchange Server 5.5 and Windows XP Service Pack 1 can expect at least three more years of support from Microsoft after it decided to update the Custom Support Agreement (CSA) program. There is even the suggestion support will go beyond three years. Microsoft said it is updating CSA to help as customers migrate to newer versions of its products. This is the latest wrinkle to the Microsoft product lifecycle program introduced in 2002 and revised in 2004 to extend product support from seven to 10 years. Microsoft has also made more minor tweaks along the way such as January 2006 when it pledged to wait until regularly scheduled monthly security updates have been released to end support cycles rather than ending support at the close of a month or quarter. CSA itself was introduced two years ago to extend Microsoft's existing product support lifecycle. Under this lifecycle, customers get free security updates and non-security hot fixes for five years after their product shipped and for a further two years after its successor has shipped under "mainstream support." After that, customers only get security updates and pay for other updates for a further five years after the original product shipped under "extended support." After 10 years, you're on your own, as Microsoft provides internet-only support. Windows NT 4.0 and Exchange 5.5, launched in 1996 and 1997, have already left mainstream support. Windows XP SP 1, which appeared in September 2002, is due to expire next month - thanks to the licensing intricacies associated with SPs. Updates to Microsoft's support terms should come as little surprise, as big customers have proved notoriously slow to move to new versions of Microsoft's software. Gartner found in early 2005 that 61 per cent of US and 36 per cent of European companies had migrated to Windows XP SP 2, which shipped in September 2004. Microsoft has also had a hard time convincing users to adopt newer versions of Exchange Server. The latest updates will see Microsoft proactively provide security hotfixes for "critical and important" vulnerabilities and let customers request non-security hotfixes for new bugs for an additional fee. CSA will be charged per device rather than use a flat fee.®
Gavin Clarke, 29 Aug 2006

Google's CEO picks up side gig as Apple board member

Google today revitalized its attempt to make the company in Apple's image by sending CEO Eric Schmidt over to Apple as a board member. The good doctor can now pal around with other Apple board members, including Al Gore, Genentech CEO Arthur Levinson and, of course, Steve Jobs. Schmidt already sits on Google's board and on the board of trustees at Princeton University. "Apple is one of the companies in the world that I most admire," Schmidt said in a statement. "I'm really looking forward to working with Steve and Apple's board to help with all of the amazing things Apple is doing." Schmidt isn't kidding around with the Apple idolatry claims. He's turned Google into the same, super-secretive type of institution as the iPod seller. Both companies share a disdain for the press and consider transparency a quality best left to Saran Wrap. The firms also promote a fetish like quality for their goods and services. The placement of Schmidt on the Apple board creates quite the powerful club. Genentech's Levinson sits on the board of both companies and interesting conspiracy theories around that angle are welcomed. Then you have Gore over at Apple and the likes of Stanford Prez John Hennessy, Intel CEO Paul Otellini and venture king John Doerr over on Google's board. And don't forget Dr. Evil, Monty Burns and Rush Limbaugh the Google co-founders too. "Eric is obviously doing a terrific job as CEO of Google, and we look forward to his contributions as a member of Apple's board of directors," Jobs said. "Like Apple, Google is very focused on innovation and we think Eric's insights and experience will be very valuable in helping to guide Apple in the years ahead." With any luck, Apple can teach Google a thing or two about desktop search as well. We need something to make our XP machine usable again. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 Aug 2006