5th > September > 2006 Archive
The lazy, hazy days of summer witnessed a continuation of the ongoing shift from large-scale virus outbreaks toward phishing and more targeted attacks, according to a study by net security firm MessageLabs. Online criminals are developing sophisticated new phishing attacks and Trojans that exploit widespread vulnerabilities, such as the much publicised MS06-040 vulnerability. Instant messaging and social networks, as well as ecommerce sites, were also targeted by various attacks last month, the UK-based managed services firm reports. Phishing attacks, as a proportion of all virus and Trojan activity, accounted for almost one-third of all threats in August 2006 compared to one-fifth of all threats the previous month. MessageLabs has observed a steady rise in the number of phishing attacks since 2005, which now account for 30.7 per cent of all malicious emails. Phishers are also casting their nets wider, for example, by launching attacks on users of social networking site MySpace, rather than sticking to old favourites, such as online banking websites. Trojan attacks, many targeting the MS06-040 vulnerability in Windows Server services, were also commonplace. For example, a Russian spammer was able to exploit unpatched servers using the infamous Pro Mailer DMS spam software and its advanced "spam-cannon" technique. This technique, which employs a powerful mail-merge of addresses with preset spam templates, enables the spammer to maximise throughput and distribute millions of junk mail messages per hour through a single compromised computer. The global ratio of spam this month is 64.5 per cent, an increase of 1.8 percentage points from July, partly fueled by spam-cannon attacks, MessageLabs reports. By contrast, large-scale virus attacks are on the wane. On average only one in 98.4 emails contains a virus in August, compared with July's one in 96.6 emails. MessageLabs uses these figures to support its argument that online criminals are moving away from virus outbreaks and focusing their efforts on more targeted (and financially lucrative) phishing attacks. Danish managed security firm SoftScan also noted a rise in phishing-related malware last month, but attributed this increase to improved detection techniques within anti-virus scanners. An impressive 89.5 per cent of all viruses stopped by SoftScan were classified as phishing-related. The percentage of phishing emails stopped by SoftScan has increased dramatically in the last few months, but SoftScan reckons this is due to improved detection rather than any real increase in the number of phishing emails distributed. SoftScan CTO Diego d'Ambra said: "We have seen several minor outbreaks of Worm.Stration variants during August, but nothing major and virus activity generally continues to follow the trend of remaining low key. Recent enhancements and developments by the anti-virus industry to their scanners has meant an increase in detecting phishing emails as malware, as opposed to spam. This gives the impression that phishing has risen significantly, but in actual fact is really due to the re-classification from spam to malware." The Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) identified 9,255 phishing sites featuring 130 brands in June, the last month where records are available. These sites stayed around for an average of 4.8 days before someone pulled the plug. APWG reports (PDF) that many phishing attacks rely on attempts to trick users into sites infected by malware. The number of such sites surged by 40 per cent between June 2005 and June 2006, an increase attributed to the increased availability of so-called phishing toolkits that dumb down the process of infecting websites with malicious exploit code. ®
The unconventional internet businessman at the centre of a Japanese corporate scandal has pleaded not guilty to the charges against him by prosecutors. Takafumi Horie was the chief executive of internet firm Livedoor until forced to resign in January. Horie is accused of breaking securities law. Prosecutors allege that the 33-year-old former poster boy for the new economy conspired with others to massage Livedoor's profits to convey the impression that the firm still enjoyed growth. Horie denied the charges. "I have not carried out, or instructed, such crimes as were mentioned. The indictment was written with malice," he told a Tokyo court on Monday. "It's regrettable that I've been indicted." Horie became a media star in Japan where he was seen as mounting a brash challenge to the conservative business establishment, where business practices such as mounting hostile takeovers is frowned on. He founded Livin' On the Edge, the predecessor company to Livedoor, in the mid 1990s as a small internet company and oversaw its growth into a stock market-listed titan worth $6bn. With frequent appearances on television and his casual business style, Horie had become a celebrity and had even been approached by Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi and asked to consider being a political candidate. When prosecutors raided the firm in January, $5bn of the company's $6bn stock market valuation was wiped off by plunging share prices in a scandal that shocked the whole Japanese stock market. Four other Livedoor executives are standing trial and media reports in Japan have stated that some have made admissions to some of the charges against them. The lawyer acting for Horie, Yasuyuki Takai, told the court that his client would be making no admission of guilt. "The prosecutors have forcibly scripted a story that makes it look as if there had been a major crime," he said. "The logic of their case does not stand." Horie will face up to five years in jail and a fine of $43,000 if convicted, but more financially damaging could be any damages claims from investors in Livedoor, whose shares were delisted after the January raid. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The Vatican will publish the minutes of the Pope's recent meeting with his former doctoral students in which he discussed the Catholic Church's position on the origins of life, evolution, and creationism. The meeting was called, aides say, not to align the Catholic Church with the Intelligent Design camp from the US, but to revive a public discussion of faith and reason. Intelligent Design is presented as a counter to the theory of evolution, suggesting that life is too complex to have evolved without a designer, usually understood to be God. Proponents want it taught in science classes, alongside Darwin's theory. Father Joseph Fessio, provost of Ave Maria University in Florida, told Reuters that described the session as "a meeting of friends with some scholars to discuss an interesting theme". Fessio explained that the conclusion that God created the world is not a scientific position, but a philosophical one. This, he said, is where the Catholic Church differs from the creationist movement in the US. He told the news service: "There's a controversy in the United States because there is a lack of awareness of a thing called philosophy. Evangelicals and creationists generally lack it and Catholics have it." Pope Benedict has also argued that some scientists go too far in their interpretation of the theory of evolution, and make claims for it that are based on ideology, rather than science. Vienna Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn said that the minutes would probably be published in November. ®
Clarity Ireland, the distribution wing of IT company Horizon Technology Group, is to be sold to British IT distributor Westcoast for €6.2m.
A former solicitor who set up an internet prostitution business has been jailed for a year at Guildford Crown Court for "prostitution offences", UK tabloid The Sun reports. Father of two Davy Tang, 42, netted up to £14,000 a week by advertising the services of 30 women. One, named "Sonia", earned her pimp £535 in two days, while commission in one week from 31 "appointments" by "Madelaine" was £1,550. In four years, Tang earned £500,000 with which he bought a house in Ripley, Surrey, a BMW, Mercedes, and a Porsche. He was brought to justice after a tax probe. ®
The UK now has 735,000 unbundled phone lines in BT's local exchanges, but "planned quality levels" have not been met for Business As Usual lines (individual lines rather than bulk migrations), according to the Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator's monthly report.
The BBC can award itself a "department of the bleedin' obvious" commendation for the headline adorning this piece yesterday concerning the case of 31-year-old Omed Aziz who was nicked while driving through Oldbury, West Midlands, while in possession of neither MOT nor licence nor insurance nor those most useful of driving aids - eyes. Aziz, who lost said eyes in a bomb blast, appeared before Warley magistrates on a dangerous driving rap after reaching speeds of up to 35mph during a half-mile jaunt "aided...by an allegedly banned driver in the passenger seat". Aziz and companion were stopped by police who noticed he was driving on the wrong side of the road. PC Glyn Austin told the court: "I attempted to speak to the driver, who appeared to be fumbling around with the controls. At that point the passenger leaned across and stated: 'He's blind'." PC Stuart Edge magnificently continued: "I asked him if he could see me. He removed the dark-coloured sunglasses he was wearing and I could clearly see he was blind as he had no eyes." Richard Knight, chairman of the bench at Warley Magistrates Court, concluded: "Mr Aziz was fully aware of his disabilities and we find the driver was in a dangerous, defective state." Aziz had already pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to driving with no MOT, no licence and no insurance. In mitigation, he claimed "previous driving experience prior to being blinded" in his native Iraq. He will be sentenced next Monday. ® Bootnote Thnaks to Peter Kemp for eyeballing this one.
An unpatched Microsoft Word 2000 vulnerability is being actively exploited by hackers to spread malware. The MDropper-Q Trojan downloader, recently detected by Symantec, takes advantage of the unspecified zero-day vuln to load other malware onto compromised PCs, including a backdoor Trojan called Backdoor-Femo, which surrenders control of compromised PCs to hackers. The attack is dangerous but not, as yet, widespread. Documents incorporating the exploit code must be opened with a vulnerable copy of Microsoft Word 2000 for the attack to succeed, so the exploit doesn't lend itself towards the creation of self-replicating network worms. Users are advised not to open untrusted documents until Microsoft patches the vulnerable software, in this case Word and Office 2000. Symantec is holding back on releasing details of the vulnerability pending a fix from Microsoft. A previous version of MDropper attempted to target users of Microsoft's Office 2003 suite of applications. As Symantec notes: "Microsoft Office vulnerabilities are a great platform for social engineering and email based attacks." ®
Google has revealed plans to help convert the world's paper filing cabinets, in Tron-like fashion, into mere nodes in the great hive mind. The firm will be using an optical character recognition program called Tesseract that was found gathering dust in Hewlett Packard's garage.
RZSLRZSL A Helsinki squirrel dived into the bicycle wheel of passing opera singer Esa Ruuttunen, hospitalising him and killing itself. The squirrel - apparently not an opera fan - ran headlong at Ruuttunen's spokes. Alarmed, the bicycling bass baritone hit the deck. Instead of attending rehearsals for new Finnish opus Kaarmeen hetki (Hour of the Serpent), Ruuttunen attended casualty with concussion and a broken nose. Fans of Scandinavian-language* "passion-laden thriller[s]" looking forward to the aforementioned "wild drama delving into the soul of a woman" needn't begin a candlelit prayer vigil for Ruuttunen's recovery though. A Finnish National Opera spokeswoman told Reuters: "He is not yet singing in rehearsals, but thinks he will be able to perform at the world premiere." Yesterday's tragically notable exception aside, things have been fairly quiet on the animal attack front this summer. We look forward to a resumption of full hostilities forthwith. ® Bootnote *Within seconds of posting this story, we were deluged with complaints from the Arctic unit of El Reg's diachronic linguistics and etymology SWAT team. Firstly, it's "Käärmeen hetki". The letter "ä" in Finnish, unlike German for example, is a totally separate letter of the alphabet. Secondly, the opera cannot be "Scandinavian-language" as Finnish isn't. It's Finno-Ugric, being related to Estonia and Hungarian, rather than the likes of Swedish and Norwegian. - George We consider ourselves duly educated.
BT has announced the first deployment of hardware for its much-touted new network, known as 21CN. Cardiff is the lucky city, and will see 10 per cent of its subscribers moved onto the Internet Protocol-based technology by March next year, with the rest of Cardiff migrated by the end of summer 2007.
LettersLetters Europe's first ever mission to the moon came to a smashing end on Sunday (bad punning, we know) as the mission scientists deliberately crashed the probe into the lunar surface. That's all very well, you said, but where are all the pictures? Is it just me or has there been a distinct lack of sexy visual imagery? Where's the footage from the onboard cam as the probe plunges towards the moon at 5000 mph? Where's the realtime shots from ground-based telescopes that were supposed to have such a wonderful view of the event? What the hell was Hubble doing? ESA has made loud noises about what a great time all their boffins have been having at tax payers expense, and how successful the mission has been, yet we haven't seen so much as a blurry polaroid of the whole event. Accuse me of dumbing down if you will, but the American's would have had a full colour panoramic on the NASA website within the hour, and stunning video sequences to loop endlessly on News 24 an hour later. Hardcore science is all very well, but if we're to interest a new generation in the subject, we need the WOW factor. Colin Colin, you've hit on one of our particular whinges about UK and European space exploration. The science is fascinating, the images (if you can find them) are often terrific, but where is the glitz? ESA presentations tend to be long on thanking bureaucrats and sponsors, but short on the fun stuff. Who knows why? Answers on a postcard, please. An Oxford rector suggested that simple bribery might succeed in attracting more kids to study maths at A-level. She proposed a £500 reward for an A grade for any student from a state school. Let the fireworks commence: Bribes could increase maths intake. "kids ought to chose the right subjects for them" - those will be the ones that are easiest to pass, then? No doubt the link between teachers salaries and the grades their students achieve is purely coincidental. Chris Money for gaining qualifications? Isn't that called a salary? Richard Er, no. Where do you work? Ivory tower syndrome or what - who is going to sign up for £500 unless thet already think they are in with a shout of getting it and have probably already decided to take the subject. And as the parent of someone who starts their A levels (AS) today and had to do the rounds of local sixth forms & colleges, I have to say that 'Theatre Studies' aka Drama is probably the only subject that every kid should be made to take, focussing as it does on intelligent listening, critical thinking, report writing, original idea development, team working and confident public speaking. Allegedly what every employer wants. Ian Along with the ability to be a tree, yes. Shrunken Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson is to be let loose on a remake of The Dam Busters. As many gossip mongers have said, Hollywood is officially out of ideas, so this isn't too surprising, in and of itself. But you had a couple of issues with this story beyond the ordinary concerns of the film critic: It was not widely shown but one issue of the Dam Busters had B17s dubbed into it for the American market. It all but caused a diplomatic incident and was responsible for loads of Yank Airmen being chastised by my fellow members of the Royal Air Force in the vicinity of Lincoln. Altogether it indicated the inability of the USAAF to think up and execute such operations. Francis Child Support Agency notice ---------------------------- We notice that you have posted the pseudo-musical notation "Da, da, da, da-da-da, da daaaaa...." in order to simulate a popular rendition of the Dam Busters theme tune. However, this should actually be "Da, da, da, da, da-da-da, da daaaaa...." This therefore implies that your Da is missing, and because your Da is missing (and therefore no longer supporting your Ma), the Child Support Agency has opened a file to investigate whether or not your Da should be making payments to the CSA to reimburse the Government for any benefits being paid to your Ma... Robin >Peter Jackson to remake The Dam Busters >Da, da, da, da-da-da, da daaaaa.... Excuse me, who wrote this subheading? Everybody know the dam busters goes like: daaa, da, da, daa, da,da,da (etc). Please get your facts right first... Alex Actually, it's Daa, Da, Da, Da, Da da da, da daa, da, da, da, da da da, da, da, da, da, da, daa, da, da da, da, da da da, da, da, daa, etc. I wonder if they'll remember to do the bit where they fly under a bridge. Flying goggles are at the ready! Matthew think you should write to Mr Jackson and tell him not to bother. That kiwi bastard has ruined many great stories - Lord of the Rings, for example, missed entire sections of the book out, and put in a load of other crap. King Kong was appalling, three hours of absolute cack. He should stop doing this bollocks and go back to what he did best - low budget horror films. Andrew Hi Just wondering what the dog will be called in the remake ? African-American? Canine of African Descent? Pooch of colour / color ?? N*****? Just a thought ( only just ) regards Boz Lester, You missed out the most important question. Forget the submarines... what is Jackson going to call the dog??? Don't you guys watch The Office? Cheers James Legendary croc hunter, snake wrangler, and all round nutty-naturalist Steve Irwin died this week in a freak stingray attack: This is tragic news. I live within a 100KM of where Steve died It has been a shock and a great loss to the nation. I don't know where Steve was born, but his mannerisms were very classic local here. He does remind me of the more colorful local characters we have further up North, in the wilderness that he spent so much time in. Here's to you Steve. I hope he made the right choice in the after life, where he can do as well. Wayne Morellini. The most bizarre thing about this letter is that it is the only one. We can only assume that you are all just too choked up to write to us about it. And finally, pedant of the week award goes to (or would go to, if we actually had one) Blaise Egan, who writes: In your article 'Indian satellite launch ends in disaster' you referred to a satellite weighing "2,000kg". May I draw your attention to the fact that this simple description contains at least two errors? The rules for writing SI units are defined in the International Standards Organization documents ISO 31 and ISO 1000. ISO 31 states that there must be a space between a number and an SI unit symbol. (Note that the SI system uses *symbols*, not abbreviations, since symbols are language-independent and abbreviations are not.) Secondly, the comma is specifically prohibited as a digit grouping symbol, since it used in many countries as the decimal point symbol. The SI digit grouping symbol is the space character. Lastly, as a point of information, you do not have to use digit grouping symbol for numbers less than 10 000. It's OK to write 2000. Regards, Blaise F Egan Er, thanks, Blaise. If it makes you feel better, just consider us non-standard. More from you, later in the week. ®
Online tat bazaar eBay has a penchant for slipping plugs for itself into your Google search results page, invariably offering to sell you whatever you type into the search field, regardless of plausibility. Reader Jeremy Hooks wonders if on this occassion it hasn't gone a pitch too far: Hmmm. For the record, there's a few bits of Steve memorabilia knocking about on eBay UK, but mercifully no sign of the bloke himself or indeed the stingray which provoked his untimely death. ®
An attempt by a UK cabinet minister to discuss proposed environment policy using a wiki has ended in embarrassment after pranksters made merry at the expense of the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs' (Defra). Tech-savvy environment secretary David Milliband was left with egg on his face after his department's draft "Environment Contract" wiki was edited to include spurious entries poking fun at the initiative. Hours after publication of the policy, pranksters launched dozens of attacks against the wiki, hosted on Defra's official website. The heading for discussion "Who are the parties to the environmental contract?" became, "Where is the party for the environmental contract? Can I come? Will there be cake? Hooray!" Responses to the question of "what tools can be used to deliver the environmental contract?" solicited the illuminating answer: "Spade, Organic Yoghurt Stirrer, Old washing up liquid bottle, Sticky Back Plastic." Hackers suggested the correct tools to "create the right incentive frameworks" included a "Big stick" and an "Owl magnet". Less light-hearted responses included criticisms of the government's use of taxes for "little tangible improvement" to citizens' quality of life. An image of a Swastika was posted in another attack. Around 170 spurious entries were reportedly made to the site. As defacement archive Zone-h notes, the misuse of the government wiki was an accident waiting to happen. "The reason why there were so many intrusions was in the structure of the document's page itself that used an editing technique which is very similar to the one of Wikipedia, that is, all the users with basic skills could get into the page and do whatever they wanted with the content," it reports. After failing to stem the attacks, government sys admins purged the offending entries and temporarily disabled new entries. Milliband said the attacks have not put him off the idea of using wikis for future policy consultation exercises. "I gather that we have demonstrated the extreme openness of the wiki by playing host to some practical jokes plus a swastika. Strange how some people get their kicks. But the experiment will continue," he writes in an entry to his departmental weblog. ®
Chassis manufacturer ENlight has come up with a barebones offering that is out of the ordinary for us PC boys, but iMac users may find it strangely familiar. In essence, you build your PC into a 19inch TFT display which has a resolution of 1,280 x 1,024, contrast ratio of 500:1 and brightness of 270cd/m2. Your micro-ATX motherboard sits behind the screen with support for an LGA775 Pentium 4 up to 3GHz in speed.
LogoWatchLogoWatch LogoWatch regulars among you know that the symptoms of rebranding madness (the process by which companies pay suitcases full of cash to Strategy Boutiques who then, high on the scent of joss-sticks and to the distant sound of whalesong, fearlessly redefine the corporate brand frontage paradigm) range from light motivational slogan generation (Accelerate Convergence!), to full-blown infection wherein thousands of hours are expended at the flipchart flowcharting the company logo to better express the "value proposition it represents to constituents". Rebranding the logo is not, however, always present in the most serious outbreaks. Never has this been better demonstrated than by recent events at New Zealand state-owned power outfit Mighty River Power which, through its retail tentacle Mercury Energy, generates and distributes around 20 per cent of New Zealand's power. Of course, Mighty River Power would like 25 per cent of the market. Or 30. Or 50. Accordingly, management recently spent a weekend of "intensive meditation and dope-smoking" during which they formulated their Satanic plan to shape the company's "path for the future". The result has been dubbed "Positive Charge". One extract from the declaration subsequently inflicted on hapless employees sums it all up: There is energy in who we are and how we work. Our culture is motivated by wanting to see the good side to, and the potential in, every circumstance. Motivation, energy and positivity enable us to deliver an exceptional level of service. Working with our customers in this way is vitally important - it makes them feel at ease with us and with what we do for them. Their ease requires our energy. And our energy needs to be continually positively charged." At this point, experts have confirmed, the rebranding madness could have been contained to management by airlifting the whole top floor to a dedicated deprogramming facility where former paratroopers beat patients with BlackBerrys while sobbing CTOs and CEOs drink their own urine at gunpoint and tear out sheeps' throats with their teeth before being forced to participate in a humiliating naked "Fight Club" ritual where they are matched against bare-knuckle fighting gypsies. Chillingly, though, this is no longer an option for Mighty River Power, since the plague has now spread to the lower orders. Initial symptoms are pretty textbook: sudden unexplained enthusiasm for Positive Charge manifesting itself in the overwhelming desire to adopt the lotus position and post inspirational poetry on the company's intranet. Please note that, for reasons of safety, the examples below have been enclosed in El Reg's proprietary "quarantine" tags. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES remove these tags, unless you want your entire staff high-fiving around a Powerpoint presentation and a-whoopin' and a-hollerin' about "paradigm-shifting synergies":
Title: We are Motivated - You Can Be Too
Roses are red, violets are blue
When the hard yards are called for - we will come through
Mercury's colours are yellow and blue.
Chorus: We are motivated - you can be too!
Row, row, row your boat gently 'Downstream'
Focused on achievement we work as a team
The purpose of recycling is to cut down on reams.
Chorus: We are motivated - you can be too!
Incy wincy spider climbed up the spout
Calls coming in and calls going out
Customer service is what it's all about.
Chorus: We are motivated - you can be too!
Mary had a little lamb
Mercury has a hydro dam
The best power company in all the land!
Chorus: We are motivated - you can be too!
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Regardless of setbacks, with projects we stick
Can't think of a rhyme - I feel like a dick!
Chorus: We are motivated - you can be too!
Title: Positive Mercury
We come here today
To share something in a positive way
Unless you want to go away.
Chorus: Positive Mercury!
We relentlessly look for a way
For customers to have their say
We will help you any time of the day
For we work in a proactive way.
Chorus: Positive Mercury!
We have to follow the Privacy Act
Cause if not, we will get the sack
The next is the Fair Trading Act
Where penalties and liabilities are a fact.
Chorus: Positive Mercury!
No matter how you think in your way
We always delight you every day
Plus - we finish our work day by day.
Chorus: Positive Mercury!
We take the initiative and follow it thorough
Because that's what we're here to do
So pick up the phone and call us soon!
Chorus: Positive Mercury!
Sadly, this tragic case of rebranding madness has, literary experts believe, gone so far that there is little alternative but to sanitise all of Mighty River Power's offices and facilities. The company's IT department is accordingly warned that it has about two hours to get a minimum of 25 miles from the servers before stealth aircraft bearing nuclear weapons do the decent thing. ®
Network Appliance has appointed a new boss to run its European sales channels. Juan de Zulueta left his post as director of southern Europe and Latin America at Brocade to take the NetApp job. Prior to that he was EU director of storage at IBM. In a statement, NetApp said Zuletta will take responsibility for NetApp's channel strategy, the VIP reseller programme, which the company says has given it "the competitive edge".
Sun and Unisys are going after South Korean memory chip maker Hynix for damages related to its role in a price-fixing cartel. The US companies jointly filed a suit Friday in the US District Court in San Francisco claiming compensation for losses incurred in DRAM purchasing. According to AP, Hynix spokesman Park Hyun yesterday said the manufacturer would seek an out-of-court settlement with Sun and Unisys. Following an investigation which began in 2002, Hynix admitted price-fixing to the Department of Justice last year and agreed to pay a $185m fine. Samsung, Infineon and Elpida Memory were also fingered and copped fines in the scandal. Park said: "The two US firms seem to be taking action to follow up on the ruling." Hynix is the world's third biggest memory maker. In April it lost a patent case against Rambus and was ordered to pay $306.5m in compensation to its rival. ®
NetServices has seen its share price tumble after it warned that full-year losses would be higher than expected. It was the second profits warning the company has issued since it floated back in March. The 8.5p shares are now worth just 10 per cent of their highest value. Despite this apparently gloomy situation, company spokeswoman Maria Goggin insisted that NetServices was on track. "Our strategy has always been to move away from the broadband side of things," she told us. "We have a range of other services - wide area networking, hosting and a voice offering, that we are focused on instead. That has always been our strategy." She couldn't say how much of the company's revenue came from these other offerings. Goggin denied reports that the company was planning to sell its wholesale broadband operation, and tried to allay concerns that it had been caught napping by "free" broadband offerings from the likes of Carphone Warehouse and Sky, saying the market had moved a lot for everyone in the last year: "We were caught off guard as much as anyone was," she said. She argued that the "hype" around so-called free broadband packages will start to calm down in the next couple of months. "People are savvy to this not really being free, and just included in the price," she told us. The ISP was founded in 1996, and had a turnover of £17m before it floated on AIM back in March.®
Nokia has launched three new mobile phones as an update to its L'Amour collection, the Nokia 7390 WCDMA (3G), Nokia 7373 and Nokia 7360. The 7390 offers high speed streaming and video calling, a three megapixel camera with autofocus and integrated flash, and music player with one-button access. The Nokia 7373 has a 2 Megapixel camera, music and video player, twin stereo speakers, complementary fashion headset, pouch and phone jewellery. Finally, there's the Nokia 7360, complete with Stereo FM radio, integrated camera, MMS, MP3 ring tones, and Nokia Xpress Audio Messaging.
The German mobile market will experience sluggish growth in 2006, according to a report from analyst Telecompaper. The report predicts a 0.5 per cent to 1.5 per cent increase this year, a far cry from figures in previous years. Last year, the market enjoyed 4.7 per cent growth. The first half of 2006 has seen growth of 0.6 per cent, but with mobile phone penetration at 99.4 per cent as of June (up almost 10 per cent on last year) it's not easy to see where more growth is going to come from. This, of course, is the same challenge facing operators in all the developed markets: how to continue rapid growth in the face of customer saturation? Stealing customers from competitors is expensive, so data and other premium services are being pushed heavily in the hope of sustaining revenue growth. The second quarter of 2006 saw these non-voice revenues top €1bn in Germany, while voice brought in €4.2bn, compared to €924m and €4.31 respectively in the same period last year. A return to the rapid growth of the past won't be easy, and might not even be desirable. But the relevance of such figures may become less as the companies concerned cease to be mobile phone networks and become media and connectivity providers, making it more difficult, and less useful, to split off mobile revenues. ®
Deep ice cores from Antarctica reveal there is more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today than at any time in the last 800,000 years. The data comes from analysis of tiny air bubbles buried 3.2km down in the Antarctic ice sheets. These provide a record of the ancient atmosphere and give insight into how climate was affected by CO2 levels in the past. Dr Eric Wolff from the British Antarctic Survey explains: "Ice cores reveal the Earth's natural climate rhythm over the last 800,000 years. When carbon dioxide changed there was always an accompanying climate change." He says over the last 200 years the concentration of CO2 has been increased beyond the natural variation, and that human activity is to blame. No one knows how the environment and climate will respond to this amount of atmospheric CO2, he added. He told the BBC: "There's nothing that suggests that the Earth will take care of the increase in carbon dioxide. The ice core suggests that the increase in carbon dioxide will definitely give us a climate change that will be dangerous." As well as unprecedented CO2 levels, we are also seeing the fastest rate of change in the concentrations of the greenhouse gas, Wolff added. Until very recently, the fastest rate of change was an increase of 30 parts per million over a thousand years. We have seen the same increase, 30ppm, in the last 17 years. "We just don't have an analogue in our records," Wolff said. The impact of further increases in atmospheric carbon could be wide ranging, the BAS says, beyond the well publicised potential to affect the climate. Although the Earth has plenty of natural carbon sinks - places that absorb carbon - it is uncertain how effective these stores will be in the future. If carbon levels continue to rise, the oceans will have to absorb more and more carbon, and as a consequence will become more acidic. This could have consequences for marine organisms' ability to build skeletal parts. ®
VIA’s Mini-ITX EPIA PN motherboard has been spotted on sale in Tokyo, Japan and while two versions use a VIA C7-M processor (choice of 1.5GHz or 1.8GHz if you really want to know), the third version has a 479-pin processor socket. Combine that with the VN800+VT8237R chipset combo and it’s a safe bet that the PN supports the Pentium M processor but not the later Core Duo processors.
UK police are using digital fingerprint technology to speed up the detection of crime. Six police forces are using the technology, which allows police to transmit digital print images from the field using mobile devices, reducing the time it takes to establish matches from days to hours. The approach has allowed police to arrest burglars, for example, more quickly, thereby reducing incidents of further crime by recidivist offenders. "Where this system was first trialed in Lincolnshire, burglaries dropped by 40 per cent," Professor Nigel Allinson from Sheffield University told the British Association's Science Festival, the BBC reports. Officers using the technology are outfitted with a digital scanner, which links to a laptop fitted with a wireless data card. Physical copies are also taken, but digital records sent back to labs allow for swifter cross-checking against fingerprint databases. A key factor in the success of the technology has been the use of compression techniques, which allow high-resolution images to be squeezed by a factor of 15 while still retaining sufficiently detail in order to establish matches. "Fingerprint identification is all about looking for minutiae - for discontinuities in the ridge and furrow pattern. Experimentation has determined the optimum level of compression which allows officers to transmit prints with no loss of information in 30-60 seconds," Allinson told the conference. Without compression, images might take up to 20 minutes to send from the field back to labs. After the success of the trials with selected forces, the system is being rolled out across all 43 police forces in England and Wales following its approval by the National Fingerprint Board. Allinson and his colleagues are building on earlier work to design a system to match shoe prints left at crime scenes, the BBC reports. ®
A UK scientist claims he has evidence of what he calls "telephone telepathy" - the phenomenon by which you think about someone and, lo and behold, the phone rings... According to Reuters, Rupert Sheldrake reported on Tuesday the results of experiments which "proved that such precognition existed for telephone calls and even emails". Sheldrake's guinea pigs gave researchers the names and phone numers of four relatives or friends. One of these was contacted at random and asked to give the subject a bell. Forty-five per cent guessed correctly who was on the other end of the line, Sheldrake told the annual British Association for the Advancement of Science shindig - "well above the 25 per cent you would have expected." Sheldrake further commented: "The odds against this being a chance effect are 1,000 billion to one." A similar test involving email yielded the same result, although the researchers' limited pool of testees - 63 for the phone and 50 for the email - coupled to the fact that only nine subjects were filmed across the two tests, prompted "some scepticism". Sheldrake has vowed to continue his experiments, however, to prove what he believes is the "interconnectedness of all minds within a social grouping". Next up for scrutiny is text message telepathy. ® Bootnote We're sceptical about this, too. One Reg hack reports he recently had a new phone line installed and after a couple of days the phone rang. To his amazement, it was a friend he'd just been thinking about. However, when the initial shock had worn off, he remembered that he'd just been thinking that the friend in question was the only one he'd actually given the new number to.
The National Audit Office (NAO) has confirmed that it is to hold a new review of the NHS National Programme for IT. A spokesperson for the NAO confirmed to GC News that it was planning to produce a fresh report on the programme. "We have always indicated that we would look at it again," the spokesperson said, adding that "it has not been scoped yet". The new report is not expected until the middle of next year at the earliest. The move, which was first revealed in Computer Weekly, is not unprecedented – the NAO has previously produced two reports on the Channel Tunnel – but the fact the news has come just three months after the publication of the NAO's first report on NPfIT is a cause for surprise. When it was taken to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee (PAC) some members expressed surprise at how flattering it had been about the programme. Since then a first draft, which was more critical and was heavily amended, has become public. The NAO spokesperson acknowledged that the PAC hearing had a bearing on the decision, attributing it partly to a request for a follow-up study from the chair of the PAC. A spokesperson for Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for implementing NPfIT, commented: "The NAO have always stated they would be likely to do another report on the programme in the future and NHS CFH has always expected this given the scale and complexity of the programme. Indeed the NAO made mention of this in their report published in June. "When the NAO choose to do this report at some point in the future NHS CFH will co-operate fully." NPfIT is providing a new IT infrastructure and central patient records for the NHS throughout England. The NAO has estimated its total cost at £12.4bn. 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.
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has said a change in the focus of its benefits operations contributed to the shelving of work on new computer systems. A spokesperson for the DWP confirmed to GC News that it had halted work on an IT project for the Benefits Processing Repayments Programme, which was intended to bring together three existing systems - after spending £141m. The decision was taken in August partly due to "technical issues", and partly due to "issues over the priorities of welfare reform". "On the latter we wanted to focus on the employment support allowance," the spokesperson said. "We decided we didn't want to streamline all of the benefits in one system, and once at that point the original programme was not necessary." The BBC has reported that the future of the project came into doubt when a review was conducted in February. The DWP is still working on selected elements of the earlier programme. "Not all of the work has been junked," the spokesperson said. "Quite important streams of work are being taken forward." The three legacy systems that the Benefits Processing Repayments Programme was designed to replace - for income support, carers' allowance and disability living allowance - are still being used. "The aim will still be to roll them together in due course, but the time scales will be moved back," the spokesperson said. 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.
Sony launched its LocationFree media streaming system in May of this year and now it seems that Version 2 with Added Bling is on its way. The Americans have been treated to a stack of new kit today which consists of a choice of two Base Stations as well as a new Location Free TV Box. You stream media from the Base Station and receive it at the TV box, which isn’t exactly a new concept but getting the process to work smoothly seems to be beyond some companies that have products in the market place.
Intel doesn't mess around when its sales slow. The chipmaker today revealed that it will fire 10,500 workers over the next year in the hopes of improving its bottom line. Through a combination of layoffs, attrition and the sale of business units, Intel plans to trim its 102,500 person workforce down to 92,000 people by the middle of 2007. To reach the 92,000 figure, Intel will let go of 7,500 people by the end of this year and then another 3,000 people in 2007. Intel expects to save $2bn in 2007 from these actions and then to save about $3bn annually by 2008. Management, marketing and IT staff will be the hardest hit by the near-term cuts, Intel said. In 2007, the firings will extend more broadly across the company. Intel expects to pay out close to $200m in severance pay. "These actions, while difficult, are essential to Intel becoming a more agile and efficient company, not just for this year or the next, but for years to come," said Intel's CEO Paul Otellini. Earlier this year, Otellini okayed the firing of 1,000 managers and the sale of two Intel business units. Since taking over as CEO in May of 2005, Otellini has run a battered Intel. The company failed to counter the release of speedy, power efficient desktop and server chips from rival AMD. As a result, Intel has lost tremendous amounts of x86 processor market share, particularly in the lucrative server chip segment. In the past, Intel has been able to count on holding somewhere between 80 per cent and 90 per cent of the x86 chip market. Most analysts now suggest that Intel should become accustomed to taking between 70 per cent and 60 per cent of the market, leaving it with a significantly smaller revenue pie. It's the reality of this shrinking market share that Intel is trying to deal with through these cuts. Rivals have enjoyed taking shots at Intel over the past two years as the company cancelled numerous products and delayed plenty of others. In addition, Intel had to change its entire processor architecture this year to better address customer needs around power-efficient chips. Most of Intel's gaffes stem from mismanagement that occurred during previous CEO Craig Barrett's tenure. Chip companies tend to take anywhere between two and four years to rework their product lineups due to the complexity of chip design and fabrication. But while Barrett failed to take the oncoming threat from AMD seriously enough, it's Otellini who has suffered in the public eye for Intel's mistakes. ®
Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) will turn to both AMD's Opteron chip and IBM's Cell in an effort to breath new life into its supercomputing program. Companies have been bidding for months, hoping to win LANL's "Roadrunner" supercomputer contract. The system, which will be built over the next year, should end up as one of the fastest - if not the fastest - machine on the planet. And it now looks like IBM will take the majority of the bragging rights for constructing the monster. The lab will announce that IBM will build Roadrunner using a hybrid design that makes use of Opteron and Cell systems, according to a report from online rag CNET. The publication cites "sources familiar with the machine" as claiming that the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which oversees LANL, will reveal IBM's win "in the coming days." LANL's supercomputing fortunes have suffered in recent years as the lab has fallen behind peers such as Lawrence Livermore lab in the race to build the latest and greatest systems. The lab, based in New Mexico, has struggled to complete some of its major supercomputing efforts and has lost a number of its top computer scientists. With Roadrunner, however, LANL hopes to reclaim its position as a cutting-edge facility. The system would be one of the first to kick off the petaflop era in supercomptuing. "It is expected to run scientific calculations of highly complex phenomena that are 10 times as detailed as any existing computer," LANL said back in May. "It also will establish Los Alamos as the leading contender to win the worldwide race to have the first supercomputer able to run at a sustained performance level of 1 petaflop, or a billion million computations per second." The use of the Opteron and Cell chips would mark an interesting mix for a supercomputer. Both chips are part of the volume processor market, meaning they should help lower the overall cost of Roadrunner (expected at close to $100m) when compared to supercomputers that run on more specialized chips. In addition, LANL should be able to use the speedy Opteron chips to boost the raw performance of the Roadrunner system, while turning to the Cell chips (found in gaming consoles) to handle demanding floating point and graphics- heavy computing elements. IBM happens to be the only Tier 1 vendor with a huge stake in both the Opteron and Cell camps. It now sells a wide range of Opteron-based servers and also teamed with Toshiba and Sony for the design of the Cell chip. You could expect that IBM could slot both Opteron- and Cell-based blade servers into the same chassis and present this combo system as a big part of the Roadrunner design. IBM takes great pride in sitting atop the supercomputing world. The company spends millions upon millions on bids and designs for potential clients and often cuts customers price breaks on the large supercomputers. Big Blue, which built the current top supercomputer at Lawrence Livermore, uses its strength in the high performance computing realm as a strong marketing tool for its business computer line. The LANL system should also provide a nice marketing boost for AMD, which now faces renewed competition from Intel. ®