30th > August > 2006 Archive

Novell delivers another mediocre Q3

You have to hand it to Novell for being consistent. The shrinking software maker has once again posted lackluster financial results - this time during its third quarter. Novell's third quarter revenue dipped 4 per cent to $241m. Only $12m of that total came from Linux-related sales, marking yet another quarter when Novell's promising new businesses didn't come close to offsetting declining Open Enterprise Server and Netware sales. Revenue for the latter two products fell 19 per cent year-over-year. On the plus side, Novell's profit increased to $11.6m, or 3 cents a share, from $2.1m or break-even last year. On the more negative side, Novell revealed that it has kicked off an internal investigation into how it has handled stock-based compensation. For that reason, Novell has characterized its third quarter figures as "preliminary" results. "The financial results reported today do not take into account any adjustments that may be required in connection with the completion of the stock-based compensation review and should be considered preliminary until Novell files its Form 10-Q for the third fiscal quarter ended July 31, 2006," Novell said. A couple months into his run as CEO, Ron Hovsepian put a sweet spin on the quarter. "Novell's focus on execution and acceleration of our strategy resulted in continued strong growth in Linux and Identity revenues," Hovsepian said. "The launch of SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 and the rollout of a new marketing campaign earlier this month has generated widespread customer and partner enthusiasm, and we are aggressively moving to drive adoption of the new platform." Linux sales rose 30 per cent year-over-year and Identity and Access Management sales jumped 46 per cent to $26m. Despite such gains, Novell's Linux business continues to look rather hapless, particularly when compared against Red Hat's subscription biz that brings in close to $80m per quarter. Novell is looking for fourth quarter revenue between $246m and $256m - well below the analysts' consensus estimate of $261m. ®
Ashlee Vance, 30 Aug 2006

Teen data on Myspace compromised

A security hole in the popular MySpace social networking site allowed users to view entries marked "private", a crucial protection for users aged under 16, according to weekend reports. Though the site is said to have fixed the problem, it was said by news reports to have been active for months. Nobody at MySpace was immediately available for comment. The explosion of social networking sites has caused significant worry for parents and politicians over how to protect children from sexual advances over websites. The amount of information that young people reveal about themselves coupled with the opportunities for deception by sexual predators has led to concerns that the sites can be dangerous. Leading social networking site MySpace introduced private profiles as a security measure. Earlier this summer, MySpace owner News Corporation introduced new rules to protect teenagers. The profile of anyone under 16 was changed so that it was automatically set to "private", a status that users could previously choose, but which was not compulsory. Users over 18 attempting to contact users under 16 now have to type in the child's actual first and last name or email address in order to initiate contact, a move designed to protect children from unsolicited advances. A piece of code has now been revealed which users claim can allow access to private profiles. Information about the hack became widely publicised through news site Digg.com last weekend, and reports this week claim that the problem has been fixed. There are much earlier reports of the existence of the hack, though, which suggest that profiles have been being hacked for months. A post by a user called AtariBoy on the site Geeklimit.com in April detailed a hack which claimed to access users' private profile details. "Many myspacers use CSS [cascading style sheets] to hide their comments, friends list and blog links," wrote AtariBoy. "These elements are not deleted tho [sic] and are still available publicly to anyone. You can view them by one of two methods below." The site was said this week to have fixed the problem, though some users of the hack reported subsequently that it still worked and private profiles were still accessible. "In the UK, the vulnerabilities alleged could amount to a breach of the Data Protection Act," said Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.COM and a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons. The Data Protection Act says "appropriate technical and organisational measures" must be taken to prevent unauthorised access to personal data held by organisations. "For any site, the technical measures that are appropriate will vary depending on the type of data held and the harm that might result from a security breach," Robertson said. "There is best practice guidance in the UK for sites used by children and, if the allegations are true, it may be that MySpace fell short of the standard expected." The Home Office taskforce's "Good practice guidance for the moderation of interactive services for children" refers to the Data Protection Act provisions and notes: "If data systems are vulnerable to hacking, or operated by people outside the control of the service operator, there is the potential that the security of users' personal data could be at risk." If the Act's security principle were found to have been breached, a person who suffered as a result could be entitled to sue in the UK for compensation for distress. See: guidelines from The Home Office taskforce on child protection on the internet (35 page/191KB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 30 Aug 2006

Fine unlicensed software users, says BSA

Software industry lobby group the Business Software Alliance (BSA) has called for government to mandate stiff penalties for companies using unlicensed software. The organisation says it wants a "harder enforcement stick" to ensure compliance. The group, which represents many major software publishers, says the current legal regime is no disincentive to illegal users since those operating without licence cannot be penalised in the civil courts. It wants a punitive fine to be added to the cost of the purchase of a licence for infringing products, said the body's counsel, Graham Arthur. "When we get in touch with a company about software they don't have a licence for we end up in a scrap because they go out and buy the licences and say that that is the case settled," said Arthur. "With a few wrinkles, that is more or less true. Judges in the UK court can't impose punitive damages, except in certain specific cases. "What would be useful would be a damages provision like the one in Ireland which says that the judge can award whatever he feels like, taking into account the circumstances and what is fair," said Arthur. "We are certainly at the weak end of enforcement and to change behaviour we need a harder enforcement stick." Currently, any company which uses software without a licence and is caught has to pay the licence fee that it ought to have paid in the first place, though there are much tougher penalties for counterfeiters actually trading in unlicensed software. The body was not looking for the kind of punitive damages found elsewhere which charge double the retail price of software in damages, said Arthur, but the lack of a penalty for infringement was a major factor in bolstering the UK's piracy figures. "As much as anything that contributes to high rates of piracy in the UK," he said. Arthur also said the BSA wanted the government to take more action to educate the market on software licences. "You do hear from the government that they are very supportive of intellectual property rights, but that doesn't mean anything unless something is done," he said. The BSA earlier this year said around 80 per cent of the infringement cases it comes across are down to negligence and not to malice, and said that many firms neglected to keep software up to date in times of rapid growth. Arthur suggested that these firms need to hear from the government that they must ensure that their software licences are up to date. The government last year asked former Financial Times editor Andrew Gowers to conduct a review of intellectual property and policy, and Arthur said the BSA had made its views clear to that review. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 30 Aug 2006

ATI unveils HDCP-native chipset for Intel CPUs

ATI last night rolled out its latest chipset for Intel processors, pitching the part at both desktop and notebook systems. The launch marks the arrival of the chip maker's RS600 North Bridge and features not only its Avivo video processing pipeline but full HDMI and HDCP support.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006

Guidelines needed to protect anonymity

In early August, officials at America Online released information about searches being conducted by AOL members and users of the AOL search tool. This historical data was released onto the internet by several AOL officials to demonstrate how useful such data could be for tracking patterns, uses and interest of AOL members.
Mark Rasch, 30 Aug 2006

Russian abuses apparatus in sex doll rafting race

A participant in the annual Sex Dolls Rafting Tournament near St Petersburg was disqualified in shame for "sexual abuse of apparatus", Mosnews reports. The event - held on the Vuoksa river and sponsored by "a number of Russian sex shops" - this year attracted 400 athletes determined to tackle the choppy 1,200 metre course with nothing more than an inflatable partner for buoyancy, as our pic shows. As organiser, Dmitriy Bulaviniv told Zizn' newspaper: "It's fun and difficult to swim in stormy river with an exotic apparatus, as inflatable ladies slip out of hands." Yes they do. According to Mosnews's entertaining commentary, as "strong wind and flow snatched out resilient dolls from strong men's hands", only 40-year-old Igor Osipov was left to make the final climactic dash to the finish line. At this point, however, "the jury then noticed Osipov's strange position and told him to moor. When he came out of the water, gazers saw signs of recent sexual activity on the swimmer's doll." The mind boggles. The judges then "found the swimmer guilty of sexual abuse of the apparatus and disqualified him" because, as the organisers explained: "Air sex dolls can be used only for swimming." We conclude by repeating what our correspondent Matt noted when forwarding us this gem: "I can't think of an IT angle for this, but I'm not sure I really care." We wholeheartedly agree. ®
Lester Haines, 30 Aug 2006

HTC touts record results

Smart phone company i-mate has announced its versions of HTC's TyTN and MTeoR handsets even as the manufacturer, which is now selling its products under its own name, announced record financial results.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006

IBM beefs up security in global services

CommentComment Last week IBM announced that it was acquiring US-based Internet Security Systems (ISS) for $1.3bn. ISS's specialty has been the proactive security for the enterprise through automation and focusing on vulnerabilities in the ever-evolving IT infrastructure. IBM believes the acquisition, its largest since it acquired PWC, will advance IBM's strategy to use IT services, software and consulting expertise to automate labour-based processes into standardised, software-based services for its clients. IBM also believes it will help advance its position in Managed Security Services, which addresses issues ranging from data theft to implementing regulatory requirements. ISS is one of the largest providers of security products and managed security services in the industry, with more than 11,000 customers worldwide, including many of the largest banks, public insurance companies, and national governments. ISS will join IBM as a business unit within IBM Global Services' Security organisation. ISS has been admired for a while for its approach to security. While many are still trying to protect objects or systems, ISS has been evolving a holistic approach that respects that the environment is ever-changing, and that looks at automating systems as the way to respond in a proactive manner. In this respect its philosophy is close to that of IBM which has also embraced a holistic approach and has had a self-healing approach for its systems and software along with other automated capabilities for years. Both companies understand that evolving IT security requires an architectural, big-picture approach rather than a point-product, perimeter-centric approach. In that sense, the combination of the two should bode well for both vendors' customers. IBM customers will see the inclusion of a strong security vendor's products and services beefing up IBM's offerings, which have not been as strong as those of some of its competitors. For ISS, IBM's scope gives it access to a greater number of customers than it could have reached alone, and adds credibility to both companies' reputations as trusted corporate advisors. Customers of either company should feel secure that IBM and ISS are committed to proactive, automated security and managed security services. Next we will be waiting to see what the company does with identity management, a hot topic on its own that is tightly connected to many other security issues. In some ways, it is sensible for IBM to place ISS within Global Services. The product would be awkward in any other part of IBM, even if it is largely a software capability. However, that said, putting ISS within Global Services also makes us uncomfortable. Global Services is the biggest part of IBM, and it is important, in that frequently Global Services acts like a laboratory where large customers with specific needs can work with IBM to make solutions that solve specific problems, and then that intellectual property can be shared internally within IBM to help productise it for a larger market or share it in some way with services partners who can offer it in appropriate form to the SMB market. This is a nice idea in theory, but the problem is that we haven't really seen that happen. For many reasons, most of them quite sensible, Global Services is unable or unwilling to deal with entities smaller than roughly 1,000 employees. In the grand scheme of IT, this leaves an awful lot of the market open. Global Services' business model is not designed to deal with the mid-market, nor should it necessarily do so, but IBM still does not have a way to capture the extensive IP it is building within Services to leverage it across the company or the market. We fear that ISS's products and approach will continue to benefit large companies but that an awful lot of the mid-market will not have access to those capabilities. While this may not seem terrible from a near-term revenue viewpoint, from a security viewpoint it should be viewed with alarm. Organisations interact, especially within supply chains, and partners need to be inculcated in the same methodologies, approaches, and philosophies as the larger players. IBM has a significant partner organisation although it is essentially a tactical unit for helping partners navigate IBM. However, we strongly urge IBM to work with its product groups, Global Services, and the partner organisation to figure out ways to take the great ideas in Global Services and bring them out of the ivory towers of the consultants and academicians and down to the larger masses of IT managers worldwide. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Joyce Becknell, 30 Aug 2006

Fujitsu preps perpendicular laptop HDD for Q4

Fujitsu has extended its 2.5in, notebook-oriented hard disk drive line up with both parallel ATA and SATA models, the latter utilising the perpendicular recording technique to offer up to 160GB of unformatted storage capacity.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006

NASA satellites spy on forests

A NASA funded study is using satellites to monitor forests, with the aim of measuring the impact of climate change on their growth and health. The research should help scientists better understand the interplay of the factors that contribute to the composition and health of a forest. This in turn may help them forecast how forests could change as weather patterns shift. The research is based on the so-called "vegetation index" from the MODerate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. This is a measure of forest productivity - a measure of photosynthesis and the ability of the forest of absorb carbon dioxide and convert that into new planet tissue. The scientists found a strong link between the diversity of a forest's trees and its overall productivity in different weather conditions. Richard Waring, professor emeritus of forest science at Oregon State University and lead author of the study, said: "These new data help us better predict how forests may change so officials can implement environmental plans or regulations to lessen the impact in advance. The data...may be helpful in sorting out changes in forest health caused by land conversion or pollution rather than climate change." According to NASA, the vegetation index can also be used to estimate the number of tree species in a region. Previously, tracking forest diversity was a very laborious process, involving lots of expensive field work and sample analysis. This project compared the predictions from the vegetation index against the last forest "census" and found that the predictions are usually very accurate. There was an anomaly, however, in the Pacific North West. Here, the vegetation index correlated with about double the actual number of tree species. The researchers suggest that an abrupt climate shift during the Pliocene, when the region became much cooler and drier, is responsible. Many species died out during this period and have not recovered. However, the data suggests the region could support as many as 60 additional species, were it not for this shift. "It is unclear how forests will respond in the future, when climate change is likely to accelerate," said Waring. The work does suggest a couple of scenarios. If evergreen conifers move into new, previously treeless areas, for example, they could actually accelerate local warming because they would reflect less of the sun's heat than the snow they'd be replacing. Alternatively, a shift in climate could increase diversity in some forests, making the forest more resistant to disease or infestations of insects. It could also make areas vulnerable to invasion by "alien" species, the researchers said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Aug 2006

UK examines civilian use of UAVs

The UK is examing the possible deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) within 10 years across Britain's airspace for a range of civilian tasks including traffic control and environmental monitoring, The Guardian reports. UAVs cannot currently operate in UK skies, except in "restricted conditions". Accordingly, the government has pumped £32m into Astraea - "a national programme that focuses on the technologies, systems, facilities and procedures that will allow UAVs to operate safely and routinely in the UK". The potential operation of UAVs is "fraught with difficulties such as avoiding other aircraft and communicating with air traffic control systems", The Guardian notes. Astraea chief exec Simon Jewell said: "Every regulation for flight has been written on the assumption that a man would be in the cockpit. You have to go back to first principles to explore every aspect of controlled flight and then what is needed to be different to make it safe for unmanned flight." Once Astraea has tackled the thorny problems of making UAV operation safe and reliable, the technology can then be released into the wild. Jewell said: "UAVs are low-cost vehicles which then allow you to put on to them an array of different facilities. The commercial market will determine what those facilities are. This will grow over the years as confidence in them grows." Suggested uses for UAVs include crowd and traffic monitoring, allowing firefighters to "spot blazes in remote locations" or they might even guide trawlers to shoals of fish off the UK's coast*. Jewell also offered: "You could look at issues of environmental risk and damage. If there's an oil pipeline that has fractured in a remote area and it's spewing out oil, then you could have a UAV at high altitude very effectively looking for it, whether it's oil or gas or a chemical pollutant going into a river." BAE Systems last year carried out the UK's first civilian UAV flight over Scotland, using its Herti (see pic above). The company is one of the partners in Astrea, which also include QinetiQ, Rolls Royce, the MoD, and several universities. Astraea kicked off in earnest on 17 July with the signing of the contracts marking the "formal start of the Astraea programme's 16 work projects", which include "key technologies such as collision avoidance systems, communications, flight control, propulsion, autonomous decision making, health monitoring and affordability". ® Bootnote *Yes, we asked ourselves the same question: just how many fish will there be off Britain's coast by 2016?
Lester Haines, 30 Aug 2006

Japan tells Apple to probe burning battery problem

Japan's trade ministry has given Apple a week to explain why one of the Mac maker's notebooks allegedly burst into flames in April this year and to detail what's being done to make sure the incident isn't repeated.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006
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Gov stitches up IT price cuts

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has negotiated price cuts of 45 per cent on computer hardware supplied through its Catalist framework agreements, it said yesterday.
Mark Ballard, 30 Aug 2006
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Sony ships 'world's fastest' DVD±R burner

The first fruit of Sony's optical drive partnership with NEC have arrived in Europe: a drive the company claims is the world's fastest DVD±R writer, capable of burning single-layer discs at up to 18x speed.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006

Dell kits out XPS 700 gaming PC with Core 2-class CPUs

Dell UK has formally upgraded its XPS 700 gaming machine to include Intel's Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme desktop processors, dropping the Pentium D chip the system was originally specified with.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006
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Logica feels the labour pinch

Anglo-Dutch firm LogicaCMG is stuggling to find the brains it needs to fulfill IT services demand in the West. In a statement accompanying its latest financials, it said: "The increased demand is causing some tightening of labour markets in our major geographies with the supply of new graduates in developed economies becoming more limited." Logica said it had been able to cover the increased cost of staffing through wage increases and subcontracting by putting the squeeze on customers requiring more highly skilled services. The firm made the comments as it issued its H1 2006 results. Revenue hit £1.243bn, up 39.4 per cent on the same period in 2005. Much of the boost came from the acquisiton of Unilog, however. Net profit for the six months to 30 June was £10.3m, down on the £23.7m the firm coined a year earlier. Basic earnings per share were £0.007, compared to £0.027 last H1. Shareholders will get a £0.022 dividend in October. Chief executive Martin Read said: "We recently announced the acquisition of WM-data which will give us a leading position in the Nordics, the fourth largest IT services market in Western Europe. This acquisition will deliver strong returns over the coming years." Logica last week offered around £882 for Swedish rival WM-data. More from Reuters here. The UK remains Logica's most competetive market, it said. The full detailed run down from Logica is available here. ®
Christopher Williams, 30 Aug 2006

Beatles fan foils Scouse blag

An attempted burglary of a Liverpool sports store was foiled after a vulture-eyed viewer of a Beatles-related webcam alerted police. A Dallas man spotted the break-in while perusing an online feed from a webcam on Mathew Street, close to the home of the Cavern Club where the Beatles held many of their early concerts. Three thieves were caught in the act after the man alerted Merseyside police. "We received a call from someone in Dallas who was watching on a webcam that looks into the tourist areas, of which Mathew Street is one because of all the Beatles stuff. "He called directly through to police here," a Merseyside Police spokeswoman told Reuters. ®
John Leyden, 30 Aug 2006

Mac OS X-friendly OpenOffice to go public next month

A version of OpenOffice that will run natively under Mac OS X's Aqua user interface will be demo'd in public at Apple Expo Paris next month, the team behind the software have revealed.
Hard Reg, 30 Aug 2006
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Southampton Uni's computer whizzes develop 'mini' grid

In a bid to help its students explore the potential of grid computing, the University of Southampton's Computer Science department has developed what it calls a "lightweight grid". The system has been designed to allow students to experiment with grid technology without the complexity of inherent security concerns of the real thing.
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Aug 2006
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Emulex to buy Sierra Logic for $180m

Storage guts maker Emulex will buy privately-held chip firm Sierra Logic for $180m in a mixed stock, cash, and debt transfer deal. Sierra Logic's revenues in 2005 were $15.6m. It has around 70 employees at its Roseville, California, offices. The firm describes its products as "intelligent I/O solutions", which we take to mean "fancy kit for shoehorning cheap SATA drives into high-end fibre channel enterprise storage". In May it was named by PriceWaterhouseCoopers as one of the 100 fastest-growing new companies in the US. Emulex CEO Paul Folino said: "This acquisition solidifies Emulex's embedded multi-protocol strategy and is another critical step toward becoming the market leader in the end-to-end embedded storage components market. "It builds upon our prior acquisition of embedded switch supplier, Vixel, as well as our joint development efforts with Intel. Together, Emulex and Sierra Logic will provide our OEM customers with embedded solutions for the full range of enterprise server and storage systems." Emulex said the buy would have no impact on its non-GAAP earnings per share for the quarter following completion. The deal has been approved by the two boards and is expected to go through on 30 September. ®
Christopher Williams, 30 Aug 2006

EC moots telecoms super-regulator

The concept of a European super-regulator has been considered in a report from the European Commission, looking at ways in which competition could be increased in the telecommunications business. As reported by OUT-LAW; the commission has published three reports looking at competitiveness in Europe, one of which examines the idea of setting up a European Regulatory Authority (ERA). While the report concludes that the majority of the industry is against the idea, it seems that a significant minority believe their local regulatory bodies (NRAs) aren't up to the job. "Some respondents alleged that their NRA was either lax or ineffective in imposing regulation. There appears to be an expectation that an ERA could alleviate the negative effects of tensions between the NRA and the government in certain countries." The report does not identify the counties, or respondents, but goes on: "In support of this notion, an alternative fixed operator stated that an ERA 'would prevent or at least reduce the possibility of political interference'." Implementation of competitiveness measures has certainly not been uniform across Europe, but in most countries the controls on ex-monopoly players have worked to encourage competition and while most of the ex-monopolies still have "significant market power" (defined as owning more than 25 per cent of the market) they exist in a competitive market where customers do have real choice. ®
Bill Ray, 30 Aug 2006
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O2 closes call records site after security flap

Mobile phone firm O2 was forced to disable logins to its Bill Manager web site on Tuesday following the discovery of a coding error that exposed a serious security breach. The service, which allows small businesses to manage their spending on mobile calls, was suspended after it emerged that registered users could see other customers' call records. Although the security breach was mitigated by the fact the curious would have needed a valid login for the Bill Manager web site - and even then they wouldn't be able to see billing information - it still represents a serious security flaw. Bill Manager is a bill analysis application, designed to let users look at call traffic profile, identify trends and look for anomalies. The application doesn't give direct access to billing details. Reg reader Russell stumbled across the flaw when he logged in to look at call records for his company. He notified O2, which acted promptly to shut down the site until the security breach was resolved. The scope of the breach was extensive, Russell told El Reg. "When I was logged in earlier, there were 600 pages worth of company names listed. Anyone registered with one of those could view details," he explained. "I could look at call spend, minutes used, which numbers were assigned to which company (often tagged with a name and a department) and could probably have viewed itemised billing details for each user going back at least three months." Using the loophole in the site, it would have been possible to write a script to pull a list of mobile phone numbers assigned to particular firms, along with details of the calls made using those numbers over the last three months. In most cases, the name and department of the person making calls was also readily available. "Considering there were some huge accounts on there (think £360,000 a month), that's a lot of data, and would have been invaluable to competitors," Russell commented. A raft of social engineering pranks and the ability to make nuisance phone calls or target SMS spam at specific individuals in specific companies might also be possible with the benefit of this data, he added. Russell was able to access this information through a simple URL manipulation that allowed him to elevate his privileges to view information on the site. He supplied O2 with full details of the breach so they could replicate the problem. Within an hour of receiving Russell's initial warning O2 suspended access to the site. Russell praised O2 for dealing with the security issue he highlighted promptly and professionally. O2 replaced logins to the site with an apology. "From time to time it is necessary to 'bring down' the website in order to upload data, commence production processes or add essential upgrades. O2 will always endeavor to minimise these times and we will do our best to make sure the site is available during peak demand periods," the notice stated. Prompted by questions by The Register, O2 issued a statement clarifying that access to the site was temporarily suspended because of an "isolated security problem". It apologised to customers for any inconvenience. O2 hopes to restore the service later today (Wednesday). "Bill Manager, O2’s online bill viewing service, has been taken offline temporarily due to an isolated incident that raised security concerns," the statement said. "O2 took immediate action to shut down access to the site to ensure no risk to our customers' security while we add additional security features. It is important to note that this was a one off incident and no financial details were exposed. We would also like to reassure customers that their bills are unaffected. We apologise for any inconvenience this causes our customers and Bill Manager will be up and running again by the end of Wednesday."®
John Leyden, 30 Aug 2006
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New guard take over at Morse

Morse is splitting in two and promoting the bosses of two of its acquisitions to lead the new units, the firm said in a statement today.
Mark Ballard, 30 Aug 2006

Pope calls a meeting on evolution

The pope is set to host a seminar with his senior clergymen to discuss the Catholic Church's position on evolution. The move follows months of mixed signals from the Church with supporters of Darwin's theory at odds with those giving more credence to Intelligent Design, and other more creationist views. The last pope, John Paul II was pretty clear on the subject. In 1996 he issued a formal statement that evolution was "more than a hypothesis". The recently departed head of the Vatican Observatory was also an outspoken supporter of Darwin's theory. Father George Coyne had described creationism as a "religious movement devoid of all scientific basis". In an interview with a science magazine, he expressed further support for the theory of evolution when he said: "God isn't a designer and life is the fruit of billions of attempts". It is not known if Coyne will be at the meeting. He stepped down from his post earlier this month saying he needed treatment for cancer, but there has been speculation that he was given the old heave-ho because of his stance on evolution. Cardinal Christoph Schönborn is known to be attending, according to New Scientist. The good cardinal, once considered a papal contender, has been seen as a supporter of intelligent design, the notion that life is too complex to have arisen without the intervention of a superior intelligence, presumably God. He last made an appearance on El Reg when he announced that evolution and creationism need not be incompatible, although he reserved the moment of genesis for God himself. However, his remarks at Rimini when he announced the seminar seem to have backtracked again. According to New Scientist he repeated his belief that life could not have formed in a random way. Dominique Tassot, a prominent Roman Catholic scientist who does not support evolution, said that the meeting should help to broaden the debate. It is hard to say what the seminar will mean for the wider public. While the intelligent design vs. Darwin debate is still raging in the US, the Roman Catholic Church has not been a major player in the dispute. In his inaugural speech, however, Pope Benedict did say that humanity was not the "accidental product, without meaning, of evolution", which suggests that he might not share his predecessor's support for science. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Aug 2006
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Orange SPV M3100 3G handset

ReviewReview Although the Orange SPV M3100 is a version of the HTC TyTN, Orange has come up with a better-looking design. That said, the two devices are otherwise identical. The black device with silver trim looks great and that's only the beginning of it, as this is a really terrific smart phone...
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 30 Aug 2006

Nuns have multi-point mind-link to God, say researchers

Nuns don't have a single G-spot (that is G to God) in their brains after all. This groundbreaking and no doubt riveting piece of information comes courtesy of researchers at the University of Montreal. The research was prompted by suggestions that religious experiences all involved a common part of the brain. This led some rather excitable people to conclude that there was a part of the brain reserved specifically for communication with God, the BBC reports. To investigate the hypothesis, researchers hooked 15 nuns up to MRI scanners and asked them to recount religious or mystical experiences they had had. During the retelling, brain activity was monitored and found to increase in up to 12 regions of the brain, including areas normally associated with emotion and self-consciousness. Lead researcher Dr Mario Beauregard told the Beeb: "Rather than there being one spot that relates to mystical experiences, we've found a number of brain regions are involved. "This does not diminish the meaning and value of such an experience and neither does it confirm nor disconfirm the existence of God." As unlikely as we at El Reg think it is that a region of the brain is reserved for chatting with the big fella, this research doesn't really rule it out. Presumably, none of the nuns was actually having a mystical experience while on the MRI scanners, so all we have are indications of the parts of the brain involved in memory. Short of strapping all nuns to MRI machines on a permanent basis, though, we're not sure how to design a better experiment. The work has been published in Neuroscience Letters. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Aug 2006

Samsung models skinny 3G phones in Europe

Samsung has launched its Ultra Edition slimline 3G phone series in Europe, pledging to make then available cross-continent by the end of the year. This time round, Samsung's naming the trio after their respective widths, so we have the Ultra Edition 13.8, the 11.8 and the 8.4 for fans of slider phones, clamshells and candybar handsets, respectively. All ship with the customary array of multi-megapixel camerage and big, colourful screens. Prices have yet to be set. ®
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006
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Reporters Without Borders petitions Steve Jobs

Campaining organisation Reporters Without Borders has asked Apple big cheese Steve Jobs to intercede on behalf of two journalists who are being sued for defamation by iPod assembler Foxconn over a 15 June article they wrote for China Business News critical of conditions in the firm's factory at Longhua, near the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. Back in August, Apple dispatched an audit team to Longhua after an 11 June Daily Mail piece which described "workers driven more than 60 hours and more than six days per week, living in dormitories packed 100 to a room, earning £27 per month, and being denied visits from non-empoyees". The resulting report largely exonerated the company, finding "no evidence whatsoever of the use of child labour or any form of forced labour" and factories which were "generally bright, clean and modern with air-conditioned assembly line areas". Now, Foxconn tentacle Hong Fujin Precision Industrial, which operates the Shenzhen plant, has hit hack Wang You and editor Weng Bao with a lawsuit for repeating the allegations. Reporters Without Borders' letter to Jobs explains the matter in detail: Paris, 29 August 2006 Dear Mr. Jobs, Reporters Without Borders, an organisation that defends press freedom throughout the world, urges you to intercede with your subcontractor in China, the Taiwanese company Foxconn, and get it to drop its lawsuit against reporter Wang You and editor Weng Bao of China Business News (Diyi Jingji Ribao). These two journalists were responsible for an article on 15 June criticising work conditions at a Foxconn plant. At Foxconn’s request, the Shenzen intermediate people’s court froze their assets - apartments, bank accounts and cars - on 10 July. Foxconn then brought a lawsuit accusing them of “smearing its reputation” and demanding 30 million yuan (3 millions euros) in damages. We know that Apple is already aware of this case. After the London-based Daily Mail newspaper ran a story about it on 11 June, your company reacted by investigating conditions at Foxconn’s plants and discovered that your supplier had indeed violated several aspects of your code of conduct, including those concerning the length of the working week and days off. We believe than all Wang and Weng did was report the facts and we condemn Foxconn’s reaction. We therefore ask you to intercede on behalf of these two journalists so that their assets are unfrozen and the lawsuit is dropped. We trust you will give this matter your careful consideration. Sincerely, Robert Ménard Secretary-General For its part, Foxconn has issued a statement in response to widespread coverage of its litigation. It reads: 1.Name of the reporting media: Xinhuanet, Sina, China Economic Times, Guangzhou Daily, BJ Youth, Nanfang Daily, The Beijing News and other domestic and international media, editors and journalists... 2.Date of the report:2006/08/29 3.Content of the report: ”...Foxconn sued China Business News reporters...” 4.Summary of the information provided by investors:NA 5.Company's explanation of the reportage or provided information: Stern Public Announcement: 5.1. Regarding the June 15, 2006 malicious false article by two China Business News reporters, using erroneous information like "For every 1,000 new hires, 500 having pre-existing illness", Company seeks legal remedy only to defend our name and to force out the truth. We believe, under our circumstances, we have no other avenue to rectify the defamation damage other than thru court judgment. 5.2. To maintain and protect our employees' physical and mental wellbeing have long been Foxconn's highest guiding principle on social and environmental responsibility front; thus we had invited People's Hospital to set up branch operation in our campus, an extremely rare approach by any company worldwide. We firmly believe that Chinese youths are strong and fit and cannot be of 50 per cent having pre-existing illness. In fact, we have documented statistics to show how over 99 per cent of our employees are healthy and fit. 5.3. Reporters' work should be free from any prejudice and strive to present only the truth; this is any journalist's basic code of professional conduct and code of ethics, as he or she enjoys unfettered freedom for speech. We believe the article in question is the result of careless journalism, lacks even the minimum implied level of due diligence. 5.4. We firmly believe that journalist community virtually lives by high professional standard. However, of the minority who wrongfully abuses their so-called freedom of speech by spreading malicious false statements, we believe one must willfully and forcefully defend him- or her-self, to ensure the public is not being misled. 5.5. Of this entire episode, what the Company had asked for is simply the right to protect her reputation, to preserve the Chinese dignity. Any claim to us is more for its symbolic meaning than anything. We hereby solemnly announce that we will donate entire eventual compensation to non-profit organization for good cause. 5.6. This is purely a legal issue. We sincerely hope that it will not be misdirected by any exaggerated distortion. We hereby plead with the journalist community to seek out the truth, reporting without prejudice and respect the law. This is our humble wish and appeal. Well, in the spirit of "unfettered freedom for speech", we'd like to suggest that if the allegations are unfounded, then Foxconn does indeed have a case for litigation. However, asking a court to seize journalists' assets - "apartments, bank accounts and cars" - smacks less of the preservation of Chinese dignity and more of a shameful abuse of a system in which journalistic freedom is pretty well non-existent. ®
Lester Haines, 30 Aug 2006

TomTom ships a pair of Ones

Satellite navigation specialist TomTom today found its way to releasing the successor to its TomTom One GPS gadget, rolling out two versions of the next-generation product: one for pan-European travellers, the other for drivers motoring around Britain.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006

Core 2 Duo jargon decoder

Intel's Core 2 Duo may be the world's most advanced desktop microprocessor, but like all those that have come before it - and almost certainly those yet to appear - its arrival is accompanied by a veritable dictionary of jargon and tech-talk. Baffled by 'Digital Media Boost'? Can't get your head around 'Viiv'? Look no further than our plain-English guide...
Leo Waldock, 30 Aug 2006

Core 2 Duo-ready software compendium

Here is a selection of some of the many, many applications and utilities that are ready to take full advantage of Intel's dual-core processor architecture. All software applications will gain from the higher processing performance the Intel Core 2 Duo delivers, but programs specially written to be 'multi-threaded' are ready to make the most of the Core 2 Duo's two-processors-in-one design.
Register Hardware, 30 Aug 2006

Ryanair joins the rush to allow inflight calling

Ryanair passengers will soon be able to make and receive GSM phone calls in the air. The budget airline has teamed up with OnAir to equip its entire fleet with the technology by the middle of 2008. It will be the first airline to be completely GSM-enabled. Ryanair joins bmi, who will be offering the capability on selected routes by the end of 2006, and Air France, who will be trialling the system in 2007. The system operates by having a GSM picocell located on the plane. GSM handsets adjust their output power depending on their proximity to the nearest cell so, by having a cell onboard, the output power is kept to a minimum, vastly reducing any potential risk of interference with aircraft instruments. From the picocell the connection is over a satellite link, which will introduce an unavoidable latency. Voice and SMS should work acceptably and most GPRS applications including email and web surfing, but no World of Warcraft over the Atlantic. The system is also GSM and GPRS only, no 3G. Planes are, for the moment, relative islands of escape from the ever-present mobile, but according to OnAir "research has shown that concern over noise related to mobile phone usage is ranked lower than a baby crying or a passenger snoring loudly". "Solutions include passengers turning phones to silent mode (i.e. no ringing or beeping) onboard aircraft; [or] cabin crew switching the system to 'tap not talk' mode (i.e. SMS and GPRS only) during quiet phases of flight." The big question is how much these services are going to cost. No one is being drawn into estimates yet, other than to say it will be comparable with current international roaming. Though if that means before or after the EU-mandated capping of such charges remains to be seen. ®
Bill Ray, 30 Aug 2006
graph up

Thousands hit by AT&T website hack

Hackers might have gained access to the credit card details and personal information of up to 19,000 people after breaking into AT&T's online store last weekend, the US telecoms giant said on Tuesday. The breach affected punters who'd purchased DSL through AT&T Charts web store. AT&T pulled down the shutters on the store after discovering the attack. The giant telco has pledged to notify affected customers of the breach, and is offering to pay for subscriptions to credit monitoring services in order to protect against the use of stolen data in fraudulent purchases. AT&T has also notified credit card firms of the breach. "We recognise that there is an active market for illegally obtained personal information. We are committed to both protecting our customers' privacy and to weeding out and punishing the violators," AT&T chief privacy officer Priscilla Hill-Ardoin said in a statement, CNN reports. AT&T is co-operating with police in an investigation that aims to bring the culprits of the attack to book. ®
John Leyden, 30 Aug 2006

Violent porn crackdown

The family of a woman murdered by a man obsessed with violent internet pornography won their battle for government action today as Ministers announced new legislation to crack down on extreme material. Jane Longhurst, a 31-year-old Brighton schoolteacher, was found strangled on Wiggonholt Common in West Sussex in April 2003. During the following trial, jurors heard how her killer Graham Coutts, from nearby Hove, had spent hours viewing strangulation fetish sites. Jane Longhurst's mother Liz, last year presented Parliament with a petition carrying 50,000 names calling for a ban on owning violent pornography. The 1959 Obscene Publications Act already makes it illegal to produce or publish extreme imagery. The new laws, announced today, will be designed to close the loophole surrounding possession. After consultation the Home Office said it would press ahead with legislation to make possessing such material a criminal offence. Minister Vernon Croaker said: "By banning the possession of such material the government is sending out a strong message - that it is totally unacceptable and those who access it will be held to account." Liz Longhurst said: "My daughter Sue and myself are very pleased that after 30 months of intensive campaigning we have persuaded the government to take action against these horrific internet sites, which can have such a corrupting influence and glorify extreme sexual violence." The move has concerned civil liberties groups, however. The BBC reports that Libertarian Alliance director Shaun Gabb said: "If you are criminalising possession then you are giving police inquisitorial powers to come into your house and see what you've got, now we didn't have this in the past." The government said it will introduce the new laws as soon as parliamentary time allows. ®
Christopher Williams, 30 Aug 2006

Creative adds wider screen to Zen Vision PMP

Creative has updated its Zen Vision:M digital music player and Zen Vision video device, at least in the company's native Singapore. Both gadgets had appeared in Western magazine ads, but this is the first time the company has discussed them officially.
Tony Smith, 30 Aug 2006
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No frills Rackable makes flashy Terrascale buy

Rackable Systems this week made an unusual acquisition for a no nonsense server vendor. It bought flashy storage software maker Terrascale for $38m in cash. You don't expect a company such as Rackable to go this deep with its software products. Rackable is kind of a like a revitalized Dell, selling cheap systems by the hundreds to major service providers such as Yahoo! and Microsoft. If sophisticated management software is what you want, then you look to an IBM, HP or Sun Microsystems as a supplier. That's the unusual side of this deal. On the other hand, this could be one of the more practical moves we've seen from a server vendor in a long time. Rackable has been looking to increase its storage sales at a quicker clip. In its most recent quarter, Rackable saw storage sales jump to account for 11 per cent of its $89m in revenue - up from 7 per cent in the same period last year. Having Terrascale's wares on its side could help accelerate the storage push. Terrascale sells a combination of storage appliances and file system software to improve the performance of data sharing in large clusters. The company's main pitch centers around alleviating the I/O bottlenecks that arise out of connecting hundreds of x86 servers to limited numbers of storage systems. "Leveraging best of breed hardware components, bundled with Terrascale's TerraGrid cluster file system software, individual Storage Bricks - ranging from 740 Gigabytes to 5.0 Terabytes of formatted, usable capacity - deliver in excess of 150 Megabytes per second I/O to Linux clusters," the company says in its best marketing speak. "With TerraGrid, multiple Storage Bricks, each of which is presented to cluster nodes as a 'virtual disk', can be combined to create a single (up to 18 exabytes = 18 million terabytes) global name space file system that spans all bricks assigned to a specific configuration. TerraGrid dynamically layers data across the bricks to load balance I/O, and aggregate throughput into the file system can exceed 10 GigaBytes per second!" We're talking about a company very excited by its own products! Like Rackable, Terrascale plays in the high performance computing market, making the two companies a solid fit. Rackable also has the option of buying a product Terrascale had under development called Distributed Parity Engine (DPE). It will evaluate the software and fork over $9m if it likes what it sees. Shares of Rackable have recovered a bit from the devastating blow they took back in July. At the time, Rackable warned that increased competition from the likes of Dell and Sun had slowed its torrid growth rate. Investors erased about 40 per cent of Rackable's per share value following that news, leaving it at $24 per share. The company's share price edged up over $27, following the Terrascale acquisition announcement. ®
Ashlee Vance, 30 Aug 2006

Intel exec hired as top VC spook

A former Intel executive has been slotted into the revolving door that is CIA-backed In-Q-Tel's CEO post. The spooky venture capital firm this week announced that Intel VP Chris Darby will become its CEO in late September. Darby will replace interim CEO Scott Yancey and former CEO Amit Yoran. Yoran only stayed at In-Q-Tel for a few months after having arrived in January from the Department of Homeland Security where he was head of cyber security. The exec apparently departed for personal reasons, saying he didn't like to travel all that much. Travel, however, is the name of the game when you're a venture capital firm based in Washington D.C. The In-Q-Tel staff try to find start-ups that will boost the US's national security mission or at least help the CIA spy on citizens with some really, really flash gear. In-Q-Tel also has a Silicon Valley office but refuses to reveal its exact location. Google, however, pegs the office at 2500 Sand Hill Road - Suite 113. At Intel, Darby headed up the middleware division, which is the first proof we've seen that Intel has a middleware division. More importantly for the snooping at hand, Darby used to run security and XML networking firm Sarvega and internet security consulting outfit @stake. "As an energetic and experienced entrepreneur with a deep understanding of technology, Chris brings to In-Q-Tel the qualities we were seeking in a leader to build on In-Q-Tel's large and growing base of portfolio companies and our top priority: delivering leading-edge solutions to pressing challenges confronting the CIA and other members of the Intelligence Community," said In-Q-Tel's chairman Lee Ault. For the curious, In-Q-Tel does in fact derive its name from James Bond's crafty technology helper. ®
Ashlee Vance, 30 Aug 2006

Berners-Lee calls for Web 2.0 calm

AnalysisAnalysis Five years after the first internet bubble burst, we're now witnessing the backlash against Web 2.0 and a plethora of me-too business plans, marketing pitches and analyst reports exploiting the nebulous phrase. Tim Berners-Lee, the individual credited with inventing the web and giving so many of us jobs, has become the most prominent individual so-far to point out that the Web 2.0 emperor is naked. Berners-Lee has dismissed Web 2.0 as useless jargon nobody can explain and a set of technology that tries to achieve exactly the same thing as "Web 1.0." According to this transcript, Berners-Lee was reacting to an IBM developerWorks pod cast interviewer who'd categorized Web 1.0 as connected computers and making information available, and Web 2.0 as connecting people and facilitating new kinds of collaboration. Those who remember the empowering effects of Netscape and the moment email became more than just borrowing your mate's CompuServe account at work will also recognize such blanket assertions of historical revisionism for what they are. Berners-Lee's words come as the hype around all things Web 2.0 reaches a zenith. Entrepreneurs hoping to become the next Google or Salesforce.com acquisition, marketing types desperate for a home run, analysts segmenting the market to sell research, and opinionated bloggers have, at the latest count, attached the phrase "2.0" to 12 other "concepts" or technologies. We have: SOA 2.0, enterprise 2.0, grid 2.0, VoIP 2.0, voice 2.0, BPM 2.0, Office 2.0 and - outside of pure technology - advertising 2.0 and marketing 2.0 (both - naturally - taking advantage of Web 2.0's social networking technologies), business development 2.0 and - subverting the genre - hidsight 2.0 and lunch 2.0. There are two common problems with Web 2.0 and its derivatives. The first is the desire to characterize Web 2.0 as unique technology with unique consequences for business. Web 2.0 relies on technologies that have been around for years. Berners-Lee pointed out the things that drove Web 1.0 also underpin Web 2.0 - the document object mode, HTML, http, SVG, web standards and - because he's old school "Java script of course." Free Software Foundation chief legal counsel Eben Moglen recently concurred at this month's LinuxWorld, saying Web 2.0 owes its existence to software and development methodologies already established in open source. "The phenomena of the empty buzzword called Web 2.0 can only exist because of the real layer for free and open source software underneath," Moglen said, letting the Web 2.0 crowd down gently. Web 2.0 is, in Berners-Lee's definition, purely a blog and wiki thing. Reinforcing that idea is Andrew McAfee of the Harvard Business School, who is actually credited with creating the phrase Enterprise 2.0. Enterprise 2.0 wraps up wikis, blogs, RSS and Ajax, according to McAffee. While the ingredients that makes this stuff have been lying around for years, what makes things so different is the way it's all coming together right now. Services are affordable, services are morphing to create social networks, and tools are helping filter blog and wiki content. While enterprise software is indeed evolving thanks to blog and wiki technologies - well, at least so far as adding RSS to things like Microsoft Outlook and Windows goes - Enterprise 2.0 simplifies the complex history of, and relationship between, business and technology. Remember the PC revolution? Or what about remote working? Or e-commerce? Genuine milestones in the evolution of business because they fundamentally changed companies' structures and cultures. Yet these rate as incremental product version numbers somewhere between Enterprise 1.0 and Enterprise 2.0, apparently. It's interesting to note Web 2.0 poster child Wikipedia may expunge Enterprise 2.0 for a second time after the phrase was resurrected from the digital dead. The other problem if you peak behind the Web 2.0 blog and wiki curtain is that you'll find the man pulling the levers is either an enterprise vendor or an analyst eager to sell to business customers. Of special interest to businesses should be SOA 2.0 and grid 2.0. Weeding through the philosophizing on these buzzwords typified here and here, you'll find some common themes: essentially that version 2.0 goes further than the original idea and also creates a greater degree of flexibility. Specifically, SOA 2.0 is about an event-driven architecture, not just a "client/server relationship", and uses "deeper semantics" pulled together "mechanically." Grid 2.0 is about sharing networks and storage resources, and data not just raw computing power. While there is no single definition for SOA, the general thesis from the start was for systems to discover each other and work together reliably. That's why IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems and other companies large and small sweated through standards groups and the Java Community Process to devise the WS- specifications and Java APIs for asynchronous communication, secure and reliable delivery of messages, federated identity, and the development of enterprise services busses. Grids have been around for years, mostly in academic and high-performance computing environments. Groups like the Global Grid Forum, backed by Oracle, Hewlett Packard, Intel, and AMD among others, and Globus Alliance have been working to make grids something businesses can also tap by devising standards, best practices, middleware and tools. The inherent problem with grid 2.0 is the philosophy behind grids has always been about harnessing distributed computing power. In other words, grid 2.0 is grid 1.0 because it re-treads an accepted concept by just adding more stuff. What's really driving SOA 2.0 and grid 2.0 is hollow, buzzword-based marketing by companies trying to stand out in overpopulated and immature markets. On SOA, we have a general, high-level consensus in the absence of a single standards-based definition. Specifications for both SOA and grid are still being devised, and where specifications exist they are not fully implemented by all vendors. This has therefore created a vacuum in which vendors and analysts make hollow and partisan marketing claims to stand out. So-far, only Oracle, backed - curiously - by Gartner believe in SOA 2.0. Systems heavyweight IBM, making its own hollow claims of having dominant market share in SOA, its number-one rival BEA Systems, and SOA cheerleader SAP do not appear to share the Oracle and Gartner view. Judging by its staid LinuxWorld keynote, Intel is the only one banging the grid 2.0 drum. Oracle, the software grid champion, and possibly IBM would - you'd have thought - be among the first to recognize an evolution in grids if one existed. Not a chip manufacturer experiencing growing competition from grid evangelist AMD. You should thank Tim Berners-Lee. Not just for giving us the web, but for articulating what's gone wrong in the lexicon and thinking of Silicon Valley. Hopefully, his standing in the web community will serve as a rallying cry for right-thinking individuals and true visionaries, and mean Web 2.0 is put in its proper context.®
Gavin Clarke, 30 Aug 2006

Soldier takes aim at HP printer

Take it from our boys in Iraq. Automatic weapons are the most effective way to convince a customer service representative about the severity of your product issues. One US soldier has turned to YouTube - and his gun - to let HP know just how upset he is with their refusal to fix an all-in-one printer. The soldier outlines his problems in a video and then proceeds to obliterate the HP machine on camera by firing away at it for a few seconds. The video has apparently been in circulation for quite awhile, although it failed to gain much public notoriety. "This is the HP 5510 all-in-one office printer," the soldier says on the video. "It prints. It faxes. It scans. And it copies. "It also does not work. Let's see how well it deals with my little friend here." After shredding the machine, the soldier closes by saying, "Alright, HP. I appreciate your support of Uncle Sam and all the soldiers over here in Iraq. Thank you very much." "What a piece of shit this product is," adds the cameraman. There's a comic element to the soldier's video and maybe that's all he was after. It has a certain Office Space doused in excessive amounts of testosterone quality to it. At the same time, it's beyond irresponsible for this soldier to think making a video like this is a good use of his time or the military might. It makes the soldier look foolish and embarrasses the Army. And the suggestion that HP is somehow not behind our troops because of one bad customer service experience is pathetic. For the record, HP took care of the attention-seeking soldier. "HP was aware of the issue and resolved it back in March," the company said. "HP responds to each customer service request individually as appropriate and that response is confidential. We take customer service seriously and are committed to providing good customer service." Here's hoping our boys don't have too many Dell and Apple laptops. ®
Ashlee Vance, 30 Aug 2006