15th > September > 2006 Archive
In briefIn brief Red Hat has lurched closer toward the Xen server virtualization package by including the software in a beta release of its server operating system. And now the company is begging people to test out just how well Xen functions with RHEL 5. "The Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 Beta 1 release contains virtualization on the i386 and x86_64 architectures as well as a technology preview for IA64," Red Hat said. "We are particularly interested in your feedback on the Xen technology." Rival Novell has been shipping Xen for weeks with SLES 10, while Red Hat executives have spent their time demeaning the server slicing software as too immature for data center use. Apparently, Xen is expected to mature quick enough to be ready for the expected December shipment of RHEL 5. You'll find more details about the latest goodies in the RHEL beta here. ®
No system works perfectly all the time, but for something as fundamental as being able to prove who you are and get access to what you’re supposed to be able to do, we need to set things up so there’s a fall-back plan. Breaking your identity up into pieces is good for security as long as we have audit trails and procedures for dealing with the problems. The Bandit project, led by Dale Olds from Novell, will add role-based authentication and auditing to identity systems, drawing on the Novell Directory Services, which Olds also worked on. He doesn't think this is an easy fix; indeed he admits “how difficult, almost unsolvable some of these issues are”. He wants to get away from a single identity storing everything about you that a particular system wants to know, in favour of looking up the minimum of information securely from identity providers you choose – an identity metasystem. “The premise I would start with is that we need to try to design systems that more closely follow the physical world, to try to prevent the over-aggregation of data and over reliance on any single system. There are so many aspects identity in our daily lives that we have not sufficiently handled in the online world: evolution and replacement of identifiers, anonymous financial transactions (cash), mutual authentication (I authenticate to a service, but I'm not sure it's really the intended service), as well as partitioning and isolation of various system breaches and failures, information leakage and more. By dividing up identity into multiple pieces we can get the business and technological incentive to prevent companies from storing more information than they need. We need to unify identity systems in the sense of being able to communicate between them; we don't want to unify them in the sense of having only one system.” With multiple identity providers, each of which have a small piece of information about you – your date of birth or your frequent flyer membership – there’s less to attack. Olds suggests you might store an identity claim on a system that wouldn’t even know enough about you to track to down if it was compromised, so the attackers wouldn’t get much that was useful. With multiple identity providers, if your insurance company isn’t available to provide your date of birth you can turn to another provider for the information. There isn't a single point of failure, although there’s always risk. Identity wouldn’t be much use if it didn't identify you. “One of the benefits of online identity management is the amount of good things that can flow from a reasonable online reputation. Trust involves persistence of identity so you have to be able to correlate information over time. The issue is how to get these dividing lines right.” And we’re always going to need ways to put things right when there’s a problem; Olds wants system designers to think about what can go wrong well in advance. “It is still going to be messy; even if we get it as right as real life is now - well that doesn't always work, so we need remediation mechanisms. And we need legal systems in place to get the motivation for moving in the right direction.” Multiple identity providers bring added benefits. You’ll have one place to update your details rather than hundreds and with less data duplication there's less opportunity for anything to go wrong. And the benefits to the businesses you’re dealing with could give them an incentive to push this kind of system. The less identity information you store, the less there is to store securely and in a compliant manner. Like Kim Cameron, Microsoft's identity architect, Olds has a background in directories and metadirectories and he sees identity as a natural progression; “authentication, authorisation and audit – the three As are still there”. Directories give the user the illusion of a single view of their information but the real value is in cleaning data via policies stating which sources are seen as authoritative. Inside a business you’ll trust the HR system to have your salary right, but the IT system will have your up-to-date email address; you don't need to copy that across if you know where to look for it. For customers, the address your credit card validates with is more useful than what’s in the shipping records from a previous order. A third of the average customer database is out of date within a year, so anything making it easier to stay up to date will save money as well as avoiding mistakes. Roles and authentication make it possible to dictate who owns the trusted information - and who can update it. There are no easy answers for dealing with redundancy and availability issues in a distributed identity framework like the identity metasystem; if the server for your identity provider isn’t online you can’t use it to provide your identity for a transaction. Microsoft’s Passport servers aren’t always as robust as you’d want , but banks and credit card processing services manage high availability; it’s going to be one of the factors we consider when we choose which services we want to use to store and provide information for us. Olds compares the changes happening in identity to a familiar programming method: refactoring. “You take a system that’s seen as monolithic and inflexible and sometimes you get it just right and it just works." Paul Trevithick of the Higgins identity project says the industry has to plan ahead and think defensively. “As Kim Cameron said recently, we need to design our identity systems like medieval castles with layers and layers of defences. The internet today is like living in straw huts when the Mongolian hordes come through with flaming torches. It wasn’t designed for the bad guys. We’re just now designing some of the first good defences. But this is going to take many years to get right.” One other thing Dale Olds thinks we might need to work on is the name. “When I talk to my neighbours about these issues, identity is something they don’t care about -but security they do care about. In the industry, security is encryption and passwords and cryptography but a user thinks of security as keeping my information safe - they think of it more as an identity thing. We are not presenting this to people in ways that help them understand why they should care. Identity is already shot through the Internet; if we show people identity is about protecting the things they care about then they see the positive advantages.®
Scientists think they have found evidence that the middle of our galaxy formed separately and at a different time to the spiralling arms in which we reside. Astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope (VLT) noticed that the stars in the galactic bulge, as it is known, have a different chemical composition from stars in the arms of the galaxy. The galactic bulge is made up of only the very oldest stars in the galaxy, dating back 10bn years. The arms, meanwhile, are populated by stars of all ages. The chemical makeup of stars gives astronomers clues to their pasts. Stars rich in heavier elements such as oxygen and iron, are probably second or even third generation - that is, they have been stars before. Massive stars can end their lives in a number of different types of supernova. It takes a type II supernova to produce most oxygen, while while iron is forged in type I-a explosions. Thus, the amounts of each element reveal something about the ancestry of the star. The astronomers studied fifty giant stars in four regions of the galaxy close to the central bulge. They found the amount of oxygen in disc and bulge stars was significantly different, suggesting that the two portions of the galaxy are "genetically different". “For the first time, we have clearly established a ‘genetic difference’ between stars in the disc and the bulge of our Galaxy,” said Manuela Zoccali, lead author of the paper published in the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics. “We infer from this that the bulge must have formed more rapidly than the disc, probably in less than a billion years and when the Universe was still very young.” The team found that for a given amount of iron, stars in the disc contain less oxygen than their bulgier counterparts. This means that bulge stars formed independently, and did not originate in the disc and then migrate inward to build up the bulge, Zoccali concludes. ®
Rok, which recently launched their Bluetooth VoIP application for mobile phones, has now launched a free TV service with video content available for a range of handsets and without any charge. Users are required to sign up at Rok's website - although few details are required - and a WAP link is sent to their handset. All the content is in the public domain, so while Rok aren't charging for it it isn't spending a great deal either. Right now, the range of content available is pretty small (half a dozen shows, and one film) but it aims to quickly expand its catalogue. Rok isn't clear on where it's going to make money from all this. It says that for the moment it is just building up an audience to see what happens, which is all very Web 2.0 (Mobile 2.0 perhaps?) But if you fancy watching some Buster Keaton or The Scarlet Pimpernel, and have an unlimited data tariff, then there seems little reason not to sign up and give it a go. ®
Sixty four million people now have broadband access across the 25 countries of the EU, but Ireland remains near the bottom of the pile in terms of penetration. That's according to the latest Broadband Scorecard, from the European Competitive Telecommunications Association (ECTA), which reveals that broadband penetration across the EU grew 14.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2006. Overall, the number of lines rose by 5.5 million, an increase of 9 per cent on the preceding quarter. However, the report indicates that during the three-month period, Ireland's broadband growth rate fell from 28 per cent to 19 per cent. Currently, Ireland's position in the EU15 is 14th in terms of penetration; when the ascension countries are added in, the Republic is 17th out of 25. In overall penetration terms, Ireland has moved up only 1.27 penetration percentage points and is beaten by seven other countries. Denmark tops the league with broadband penetration of nearly 30 per cent, followed by the Netherlands (26.8 per cent) Finland (24 per cent) and Sweden (22.9 per cent). Ireland's rate stands at a paltry 8 per cent while Greece trails far behind other member states at just 2 per cent. The average EU15 penetration rate is 15.9 per cent. According to ECTA, poorly scoring countries are not growing quickly enough to catch up with their neighbours, which is creating a widening gulf between connected and unconnected countries across the EU. "People often like to make comparisons between broadband take-up in the EU, US and Japan, but actually the divergence within Europe itself is even greater," said Steen Clausen, managing director of ECTA. "We don't have to cross continents to see how best to boost Europe's broadband. The answer is right in front of us. Countries that are performing relatively well, such as Denmark and the UK, have taken action to ensure there is choice and competition, while broadband access in laggard countries such as Greece and Ireland is still to a large extent dominated by the former state-owned incumbents," he added. Lobby group Ireland Offline reacted angrily to the latest report saying that unless something dramatic happens in the next few months Ireland is going to lose the broadband battle. The organisation also played down the continuous highlighting of Ireland's broadband growth rate with spokesman Eamonn Wallace claiming that a high growth rate on a low penetration rate is meaningless. "We grew by 19 per cent last quarter, the Netherlands grew at 6 per cent - three times slower - yet they have moved higher up the table and even further away from us. Penetration rate is the key indicator on progress and when you look at that you see the rest of the EU are doing much much better than Ireland," said Wallace. The Labour Party's communications spokesperson Tommy Broughan TD also criticised Ireland's broadband record. "This new eminent international scoreboard provides yet more evidence of Ireland's ongoing disastrous broadband performance," said Broughan. "This latest survey confirms once more the real-life frustrating experience of so many families and businesses across the country as regards accessing broadband services. "Recently ECTA warned many of the new EU member states that a 'two-speed' Europe was being created in terms of broadband services because effective measures were not being put in place fast enough in those states to accelerate their level of broadband rollout. Unfortunately, Ireland looks set to remain part of this group of second-rate broadband states." Copyright © 2006, ENN
Leeds City Council is to pilot a new telephone device that will enable flexible working while reducing the cost of phone calls Leeds employees involved in the pilot, due to begin on 18 September 2006, will be given dual mobile phones that incorporate regular GSM and WiFi connectivity. Calls made from these phones will connect via WiFi access points and be routed over existing fixed line infrastructure. Outside of the office the device will work like a regular mobile phone. The solution, part of BT's Corporate Fusion Service, is expected to reduce the council's telephone bill. Rakesh Mahajan, director of mobility for BT Global Services, told GC News: "Projected savings are dependent on the behaviour of the user. Users who travel a lot may find more benefits than those who just use a desk phone." Council employees can also have access to their council's full telephone directories and a forwarding or recording call facility via their phones. This means, if the customer requires them to transfer the call to a colleague, they do not have to put the mobile down and ring back from a landline. Leeds head of ICT operations Adrian Fegan said on 14 September 2006: "(This system) is an important part of our future overall voice strategy. It allows us to operate more efficiently by reducing our telecoms spend. "Also it gives us the opportunity to be more responsive: our employees can be more mobile and contactable and as a result they can serve the city." The pilot will run until the end of October. 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.
Apple has updated its Windows-on-Mac utility, Boot Camp. The latest release, version 1.1.1 and still a beta test incarnation, primarily incorporates support for the Apple's recently released Core 2 Duo-based iMacs.
CommentComment Yesterday evening, as America finished its working day, and Europe settled in for the evening, I started to download my first iTunes movie. I'm in Gresham, Norfolk and I have a BT/Virgin broad band connection, which actually works very well. My wife Maggie selected the iTunes movie (Flight Plan) and I bought it from the iTunes store for just under $10. I used my .Mac account credentials to pay, which is registered in Texas, my sometime USA home. That was between six and seven o'clock. By 11pm it was still downloading and too late to watch - what happened to Steve Jobs' promised 30 minutes download time, I wondered. Being an avid Apple fan, and an investor, I'd actually watched his QucikTime 12 September Keynote presentation in the afternoon - with no network driven delays, by the way - so I clearly remember his 30 minutes download time quote. Before bed, and after nearly five hours of downloading, iTunes predicted another five hours before the movie download would complete. I went to bed and this morning discovered the download had continued and then crashed as I slept. Restarted, its been going for over an hour as I write this - the download (which is just over a gigabyte) has another two hours to go according to iTunes. Nice one Steve! Let's hope Apple's not too reliant on movie downloads for its 2007 financial success! Of course it could be that the whole world had been downloading Flight Plan, and the iTunes site was stuffed by its own success - but I doubt it. If video download is the name, transmission volume is the game. Yesterday afternoon I downloaded a game for my video iPod (no download delay) but found that I had - for some unknown reason - to re-authorize my computer on iTunes before it would down-load to my iPod. What's going on? Has Apple stumbled? Are my expectations too high? God knows how many IT systems and services I've introduces that had teething problems - should I have know better? Are these just start-up problems from the king of execution? Or, like the Apple promised iTV unit, is this service, with its only 75 movies available for download, just not ready yet for prime time? Is video movies just a nut too hard for Apple to crack? Could this be the Newton all over again? The downloadable media stakes are high - video media is an area where if others succeed, Apple's media crown would be at serious risk. Microsoft are snapping at Apple's heels - its own media player rapidly evolving; its new video ready iPod competitor reportedly in manufacture. Cable and Satellite companies are all in or getting in the game - with News Corp just having to halt their movie download service for security reasons. And Tivo is poised to release its new video player, which is tied to movie and video download services. A possible underlying theme is that these most recent Apple product announcements were market forced, and ahead of the necessary the technology - early instead of arriving, as in the past, fortuitously at the same time. With the iTV device, announced for future shipment - a first for Apple - needs 801.11n wireless, which is just not yet ready for standards prime time. But without announcing the iTV TV companion device, Apple's movie products and services initiative makes no real sense, especially in the light of the competition. Jobs said so himself - the computer is in the den, while the family are in the living room watching the telly. With music media downloads, Apple build on pirating experience - Napster proved that mass music downloads were ready for primetime. Bit Torrent, now in the pirate video download space, is hardly ready for the consumer market - a masters degree in computer science coupled with the commitment of a suicide bomber seem like minimum requirements for its use to me. Apple's leading wireless networking (Airport products) worked out, but like the early laser printer successes in the 1980s, was not capitalized on. Cisco and Intel made the commercial killing. And the technology in the iPod had been well proven prior to its introduction by Palm and others. It was the killer music application (itself established by Napster) that was successful. And what about the newly announced Nano players? Personally I can resist having a player with a screen slightly larger than an air mail postage stamp displaying my album art. And I really don't need the 24 hours of continuous music the new player promises - unless, that is, I'm killing time waiting for my iTunes store movie to download. I'd already bought into the iPod Mini, so have been through the multi-color aluminum case stage already. And as a consistent Apple impulse buyer, I own a fifth generation iPod to watch my videos on - its just a pity that I can't get to first base (downloading them onto my computer) in the movie process! Maybe Apple won't pull a Newton; but might pull a Sony. Sony is today's most obvious example of a company that got forced ahead of technology because of competitor pressure. Now Sony lives with batteries burning, new game stations getting later and the promised new walkman, endlessly delayed. All down to too early technology adoption and a panicked reaction to loss of market share. Will Apple fall into the same trap - I hope not. ® Cormac O'Reilly now acts as a senior advisor for Gustin Partners, a Boston based boutique management development firm, while not spending his ill-gotten gains living in Texas and the UK.
Microsoft yesterday revealed what World+Dog already knew: what it's upcoming Zune-branded digital music player will look like. Yes, the star of US Federal Communications Commission filings and blurry, amateur-look picture leaks is official.
JVC has developed what it claims is the "ideal sound source" loudspeaker. Well, almost - the company described its "pulsating sphere" system as "very close" to its goal of creating "a natural, near-perfect sound field".
There was a time when Britons could leave the security of their homes and venture forth safe in the knowledge that in the unlikely event of falling down a manhole, their fellow citizens would at least have the courtesy to stop and enquire: "Hello, are you from the Water Board or are you down that manhole involuntarily?" Not any more, as 65-year-old Clive Collins can attest. The poor bloke fell down a 5ft-deep manhole in a car park in Boscombe, Dorset, and was trapped for 45 minutes "while shoppers ignored his cries for help", the BBC explains. Collins recalled: "Probably about 15, 20 people walked by. The more I called out, the less they seemed to notice me." He continued: "What surprised me is that they didn't make eye contact. A woman actually parked along side my camper and put the hood up on her car. "I said 'can you please call me an ambulance' and she refused to acknowledge the fact that I was there. One chap looked straight at me in his car driving very slowly by and I waved. He waved back and then carried on." Collins was, despite having two broken ribs, able to fish his mobile out of his pocket and call 999. He was subsequently treated at Royal Bournemouth Hospital for said rib damage, plus a chipped tooth, a strained groin and other injuries requiring 47 stitches. Bournemouth Borough Council spokeswoman Carly Earnshaw assured: "A full investigation is being carried out as to how this happened and if any vandalism on the manhole has taken place. In the meantime we would like to reassure residents that the site is now secure and that we do have policies in place to maintain our car parks." Sadly, a quick poll of members of the Vulture Central staff reveals that this disregard for the wellbeing of others is not confined to Dorset. One hack confessed he'd probably use the opportunity to steal the poor chap's car, while another said he'd have his phone away - "but only if it was 3G". Otherwise, he added, "I'd steal his wallet and use his credit card to buy a 3G phone". ® Related stories Error: a thorough search of the Register database for "manhole" and "trapped" returned  results. Please modify your search to contain at least one IT-related term.
Microsoft is planning to shake up its MS Works package, possibly making it available over the web. The almost-announcement follows Google's declaration of interest in the software market at the end of last month. The move, which has been confirmed as in the pipeline by Microsoft, is a tricky one for the company. Although it surely wants to put the smackdown on nagging competition from the likes of Google, it doesn't want to be in the position of putting its rather pricier Office suite under any pressure. But it has to do something with Works. According to Business Week, retail sales of the package are few and far between, and the licensing revenue is not much cop either. The company is experimenting with various models, such as hosting the software and making it available on the web, or making it available as a download funded by advertising. Whatever is eventually decided, don't expect anything soon: the revamped Works is not expected to be available in any form until after the launch of Office 2007. ®
ATI will unveil Radeon X1950 Pro and X1650 XT graphics chips and add-in cards on 17 October, according to reports from Taiwanese moles and leaked documents intended for the company's customers.
LogoWatchLogoWatch We at the Vulture Central LogoWatch Soviet have a shameful admission to make this morning: we've been holding off on reporting on the new Virgin Galactic logo in the hope that, in return for our silence, Sir Richard Branson would call and offer us the free space-flight ticket which William Shatner recently turned down. Well, the bejumpered multi-trillionaire has not done the decent thing, so here it is: Virgin Galactic has succumbed completely and utterly to a spectacular bout of rebranding madness: A new vision, a new identity Design guru, Philippe Starck has inspired an exciting new identity for Virgin Galactic to reflect the vision of the project. Using the amazing and beautiful image of an iris, he allows people to reflect on the basic human instinct to push boundaries and explore. Philippe Starck explains: "The curiosity and adventure of the human spirit exists in the vision of a human eye, from today, through millions of years of evolution, right back to the beginning of mankind. The nebulous iris represents the infinite possibilities of this endeavour and signifies our opportunity to look back at earth from space with our own eyes for the first time. The eye's pupil incorporates an eclipse, the dawning of something new, something unique but accessible. Something far, but near." For the love of all that's Holy. Richard Branson, presumably having inhaled an overdose of incense smoke, added: "When I look at the logo I am reminded of childlike awe." It's clear then that the first Virgin Galactic passengers will not, as previously reported, blast off to David Bowie's Space Oddity, but rather the sound of whalesong and the scent of joss-sticks. Quite what Sigourney Weaver - booked onto the inaugural flight - will make of it is anyone's guess, but her reaction is likely to involve stripping down to knickers and vest and blowing Sir Richard and monsieur Starck out of the airlock. Enough said. ®
Trolltech's Linux-based handset, the Greenphone, will set curious coders back at least $695, the company has revealed. The device, announced in August this year, it pitched at software developers rather than consumers or businesspeople.
While doing some research for another project I came across an arguably old idea being re-visited - or perhaps that should read "disinterred". Parallel processing is, a growing number of people believe, not just the way of the future but the only way real development progress is likely to be made in future.
LettersLetters This one just isn't going away. To recap, for those who did not fingerprint themselves into earlier lessons: The information Comissioner's Office rules that schools can fingerprint pupils without parental consent. You are all outraged.
The Apple iPhone displayed on a French news magazine this week may not be the Real McCoy, but behind the scenes the development of the Mac maker's first foray into phone hardware is continuing apace with a view to an early 2007 introduction, it has been claimed.
Also in this week's column: Why isn't pubic hair the same colour as hair on your head? Are there people with no sense of smell? Why does natural selection take so long to get results? Asked by Colin Jackson of Telford, UK The reader further asks, "when controlled breeding programs can get results in a relatively much shorter period of time, wouldn't more rapid evolution itself be a good species survival trait and thus have been selected for?" Although there is fierce debate as to how fast natural selection can proceed and if natural selection is still proceeding in humans due to our technology, there is a short answer. Speed is probably not very important in natural selection and is certainly not the only consideration in natural selection. There is a danger in mutation. Most mutations do not help the species survive. A species and an environment exist in balance with each other. Populations simply adapt to their current surroundings and to changes in those surroundings. They do not necessarily become better in any absolute sense over time. A change in the environment may require a change in the species for that species to survive. But if a mutation spreads too quickly across an entire species it may prove maladaptive to the species if the environment undergoes a further change. More diversity in mutations and hence change is probably better than speed in a mutation becoming widespread in a species. Related to this question, an important principle of natural selection is that a trait that is successful at one time may be unsuccessful at another. This principle was demonstrated by the classic experiments of C Paquin and J Adams of the University of Laval in Quebec, Canada, and published in Nature in 1983. Paquin and Adams developed a yeast culture and maintained it for many generations. Every so often a mutation would appear that allowed its bearer to reproduce better than its contemporaries. These mutant strains would crowd out the formerly dominant strains. Samples of the most successful strains from the culture were taken at a variety of times. In later competition experiments, each strain would out-compete the immediately previously dominant type in a culture. But interestingly, some earlier strains could out-compete strains that arose late in the experiment. Competitive ability of a strain was always better than its previous type. Yet competitiveness in a general sense was not increasing. The success of any organism depends on the traits of its contemporaries. There is likely no optimal design or strategy for most traits, only ones based on chance such as the competition and the environment. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also in this week's column: Why does natural selection take so long to get results? Are there people with no sense of smell? Why isn't pubic hair the same colour as hair on your head? Asked by Hannah Swain of The Hague, The Netherlands Just as with skin, the colour of hair is determined by the amount of melanin in the outer layer (cortex) of each hair. Melanin is a protein that has colour. Black hair has the greatest amount of melanin. White hair has no melanin. Hair gets its colour from the two types of melanin that create the variety of hair colors we see. Eumelanin (sometimes called black/brown melanin) is the darkest melanin and the most commonly found in humans. Phaeomelanin (sometimes called red melanin) is the lighter melanin. One's hair color is the ratio of eumelanin to phaeomelanin. A high amount of eumelanin with little phaeomelanin results in black or brown hair. As the ratio of eumelanin to phaeomelanin lessens, the result is red, ginger, and blonde hair. This ratio varies enormously among humans. This is why everyone's hair is just a little different. Melanin is produced by a group of specialized cells called melanocytes. These cells are located near the hair bulb. They collect and form bundles of a pigment protein complex called melanosomes. The size, type, and distribution of the melanosomes will determine the type of melanin produced and in which ratio. The type of melanin of a person's hair is inherited. Melanin also varies in the hair of different parts of the body. This is why pubic hair is sometimes a slightly different colour from hair elsewhere. The absence of melanin later in life causes white hair. White hair may appear on some parts of the body before others because there is variation in this too. Interesting facts The average human hair is 91 per cent protein. The average human hair is composed of 45 per cent carbon, 27.9 per cent oxygen, 15.1 per cent nitrogen, 6.6 per cent hydrogen, and 5.2 per cent sulfur. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
Forget YouTube: eBay is the hip place to be if you want no-holds-barred video entertainment, as the vendor of this NEFF Washing Machine can prove: WTF, we hear you cry? An eBay washing machine auction challenging the mighty home of all that is great and good in homegrown visual entertainment? Have you gone mad? Well, try this: "The machine works fine (Fills/Empties and Spins). Previously listed as not working but I have replaced the Carbon Bushes with brand new ones and the machine is 100% working (have video footage if required)." Terrific. If the seller were Damian Hurst, then Charles Saatchi would right now be deploying his special chequebook with the extra-long cash amount field reserved for buying the Britart luminary's more challenging works. Suggestion for the NEFF vendor: stick a label on your VHS tape calling it "The Unbearable Lightness of Persil" and get yourself straight down to the ICA. ® Bootnote Thanks to Colin Deady for the whiter-than-white tip-off.
An American woman has been accused of trying to hire someone to kill her ex-boyfriend's new lover after finding her details listed on his MySpace page. According to Arizona police, 22-year Heather Kane old paid an undercover officer $400, promising a further $600 once the job was done. "Basically, we got a murder for hire. A young lady was jealous that her boyfriend moved in with another girl. She did her own investigative work and found out the girl was one of the people on her boyfriend's MySpace.com friends list," Detective Jerry Gissel told AFP reporters. Kane spoke to an acquaintance after finding the new girlfriend listed on her ex's "friends" list on his MySpace page. According to police, she told her friend that she would pay to have the woman killed. Her friend contacted the police, who set up the undercover sting. Kane met with the purported contract killer on Tuesday, where she handed over all the information she had amassed from the MySpace page. "He said he would shoot the woman in the head if that was all right, and Kane said that was fine," Gissel said. "She showed no emotion." He added that the incident demonstrated the dangers of having so much personal information publicly available. Kane was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to attempt murder. She is being held in custody, and bail has been set at $90,000. ®
The task of apportioning blame has begun in earnest in the wake of the Montreal college shootings as Canada and its media try to digest the incident. Scrutiny has fallen on website vampirefreaks.com and gunman Kimveer Gill's favourite videogame Super Columbine Massacre. Gill, 25, maintained a profile on vampirefreaks.com, a MySpace-style web community for goths. Gill's last postings, on the morning of the shootings gave no hint of the horror about to unfold. He said: "As you can tell, I got nothing of importance to write about today. Poor me...Whiskey in the morning, mmmmmm, mmmmmmmmm, good !! :)" The profile was removed early yesterday morning, though not before photographs Gill posted of himself brandishing guns hit front pages. The site was swiftly called to defend itself in the media. In an interview with CTV, the site's owner Jethro Berelson said: "I think people on the site are generally very friendly and nice...we have 600,000 users - it's only a matter of statistics that there's going to be a couple of users that are going to commit crime." In a message to the site's members he said: "i do think this event is a tragedy, but i feel that this site is wrongly being associated with the shooting. i'm sure this kid also had accounts on various other sites, but the media likes to associate crimes with gothic culture because it makes a better story for them. so, i just want to ask our members to really try to set a good example to the world, to show that we really are caring, responsible, non-violent people." On his vampirefreaks.com profile, Gill wrote: "Life is like a video game, you gotta die sometime." The quote is thought to be a reference to a comment made by convicted police killer Devin Moore to arresting officers. Gill apparently cited Super Columbine Massacre as his favourite videogame. In the downloadable game players are cast in the role of Eric Harris or Dylan Klebold, who killed 12 of their fellow students and one teacher in 1999. Anti-videogame violence campaigner Jack Thompson quickly fired a statement to media with the subject "Jack Thompson Right Again". He said: "The massacre in Montreal is simply the latest tragedy of mass killing linked to violent virtual reality murder simulators." Super Columbine Massacre is graphically very basic, created using a freely available toolkit in a deliberately crude retro style. In a statement, the game's creator Danny Ledonne said: I am, like most, saddened by the news of the recent shooting at Dawson College. I extend my condolences to those affected by this painful event." He has maintained the game is an artistic attempt to help understand the mentality of the two Columbine shooters. Kimveer Gill was not a student at Dawson College, and his motive remains obscure. He killed one woman and injured 19 before turning his gun on himself. His mother told AP: "Just ask anybody. Ask the neighbours. He was a good son." ®
A Serbian man who went to a witchdoctor in search of a cure for premature ejaculation rather foolishly took the shaman's advice, viz: have sex with a hedgehog. You know the rest: Zoran Nikolovic, 35, from Belgrade, ended up in the hospital with severe lacerations to his wedding tackle, according to Ananova. A hospital spokesman said: "The animal was apparently unhurt and the patient came off much worse from the encounter. We have managed to repair the damage to his penis." We contacted a member of the International Association of Witchdoctors this morning for a comment. He told us: "This demonstrates the dangers in consulting unlicenced witchdoctors. We advise anyone with ejaculatory disfunction to consult our list of approved practitioners." On the matter of premature ejaculation, he added: "Mix one teaspoon of powdered ocelot spleen with Red Bull under a full moon. Drink one hour before attempting penetration while sitting in a pentacle formed by toad skulls. Then, when you're on the job, think about the mother-in-law and filling in tax returns." ® Related Stories Error: a thorough search of the Register database for "sex" and "hedgehog" returned  results. Please modify your search to contain at least one IT-related term.
Xbox 360 buffs who think their next-generation games console is just too darned bulky for gaming on move - not to mention the TV you'd have to lug around - should take heart from fellow fan Ben Heckendorn who decided enough was enough and re-configured his console into a laptop form-factor.
Nominet has gone a long way toward solving the problem of rogue domain sellers in the UK by reducing transfer fees. From 1 October, the company that oversees the .uk registry will slash the cost of moving .uk domain names both between agents and actual owners. The result will not only improve competition within the domain name market by making it cheaper to shift Internet names, but also effectively remove a loophole that has allowed some unscrupulous companies to charge customers over the odds. Because of Nominet's free market approach, a large number of different business models have appeared, contributing to .uk success (it is the fourth largest registry in the world after .com, .de and .net). One approach has been to initially charge consumers less than it actually costs the company to buy the domain. Although it makes a loss at first, when the customer then goes to renew that domain, the company massively increases the cost of renewal. If the customer tries to renew the domain with a different company, the first company then charges a large transfer fee to move it across. Customers caught in this situation - or even caught in limbo when a domain company goes under - have always been able to go to Nominet as a last resort. But because Nominet doesn't want to impinge on the market, it has felt obliged to charge much more than domain sellers for forcing through a transfer itself. The reality has been that some companies charge between £40 and £80 (with one occasion of £150) to transfer a domain, while others increasingly offer transfers for free or for nominal amounts. Even if customers become aware that they can go through Nominet, transfer of ownership of a single domain costs £30 plus VAT, and a single change of agent costs £15 plus VAT. During the Firevision issue last year, one reader summed up the frustration felt by emailing us, complaining "£15+vat to change this is extortion". From 1 October, both these fees will be reduced to £10 each. Nominet CEO Lesley Cowley was keen to point out that the fee change was not a direct attempt to alter the market because Nominet tries to maintain as hands-off a role as it can, but admitted that Nominet was "quite aware that changes we make can have an impact on the market". The price reduction, she explained, has come about thanks to a huge effort to improve the efficiency of Nominet's systems. And since Nominet is a non-profit company, it is able to pass those savings down directly to customers. While consumers are likely to benefit when using Nominet as a last resort, the larger benefit is to those moving large numbers of domains. While it will cost £10 to move one domain's agent, two or more domains will cost £15, down from £30. And shifting ownership of two or more domains will cost just £22 from £60 previously. The change is just one of many that Nominet is making as it attempts to expand beyond its role simply as the .uk domain registry and into the wider Internet market. A recent change in its voting procedures means that it will no longer be possible for a small minority of Nominet's members to block the management's plans to take on projects such as ENUM - as happened at an extraordinary general meeting in March. And at the company's AGM at the end of the month, the company will ask members to vote on shifting auditors to Grant Thornton - an indication that the company has grown far beyond its early structure. Cowley told us the company now has a turnover of £13m and needed more tax advice.®
FoTWFoTW There are times we at El Reg feel like laying down our quill pens, extinguishing the gas lamps and exiting the gloom of Vulture Central, never to return. And here's why: try this response to Chris Williams' recent Steve Irwin obit... Exactly what are you referring to when you say hacks? Your paper states "Register readers and hacks were this morning digesting the tragic news of the death of the colourful Aussie wildlife presenter Steve irwin following a tragic stingray attack." So since i am not a register reader (nor would i ever subscribe to a paper like that) according to your paper i am a hack, since I too read the news. Is this correct? I am offended and am contacting a lawyer. Chris Williams is responsible for this pathetic article. Im sure he knows little and I would assume you will punish him for his ignorance. He is obviously retarded and needs help, but then again... all you UK fags are like that. Im glad to be an American where a man runs the country instead of being led by a woman... hahahhaa. How embarrassing to have a woman run your country. They cant even drive properly let alone run a country. Words fail us. In his defence, our correspondent "Al" (or isn't it actually "Cleetus"?) has quite likely been out with his mountain chums playing his banjo and raping city boys in the woods since Maggie T sank the Belgrano. Now if you'll excuse us, we're off to punish Mr Williams in the traditional style. As they say where Al comes from: "Now let's you just drop them pants..." ®
James Murdoch has put the willies up BT with his don't mess with us, you'll end up "in a scary place" warning. Quite where this "scary place" can be found is uncertain, but something akin to a walk in the woods. At night time. With only the Murdochs and a shovel for company is one image that immediately springs to mind. James Murdoch, the BSkyB chief executive was speaking at the Royal Television Society's London conference yesterday where he described telecoms companies as "big beasts", or his obvious rivals in what is an evolving marketplace. According to Murdoch the television battleground to capture viewers is no longer simply Sky vs. BBC, but that increasingly it will be with broadband providers. BT has recently announced its intention to move into the broadcasting market as telecom companies, which offer broadband services, continue to expand into providing media content over the internet. In a surprise move earlier this week Telecom Italia teamed up with News Corp to do exactly that. BT Vision is expected to be launched later this year offering freeview and on-demand services to its broadband customers, which could include a variety of television content and Hollywood films. Murdoch said: "If BT wants to just give away all of the expensive programming out there, that ends in a very scary place for them. I feel pretty well placed in that mix and in how we see value going forward for our consumers," reports The Guardian. Meanwhile, Opinion BuzzTracker - the new blog tracking partnership between FoxNews.com and RealClearPolitics.com - will apparently probe the blogosphere flagging up the most popular politics stories in a given 24 hour period. The official statement reads: "The tool permits Internet users to easily filter through thousands of political news articles and blog conversations to determine the 'wisdom of the crowds' in a continuously updated format." According to Opinion BuzzTracker the top three blogs today come from RightWinged.com, Ace of Spades HQ and And Rightly So! - all "points of the political compass" covered there then ...
Also in this week's column: Why does natural selection take so long to get results? Why isn't pubic hair the same colour as hair on your head? Are there people with no sense of smell? Asked by Lucy Altmann of St Kilda, Victoria, Australia People who cannot smell suffer from some form of nasal dysfunction. Anosmia is the complete loss of the sense of smell. Congential anosmia is rare, but can run in families. Traumatic anosmia can occur due to an injury, and viral anosmia can occur due to an infection. Hyposmia is the partial loss of the sense of smell. Parosmia is a distortion of the sense of smell. People with this dysfunction smell one smell and confuse it with another. Phantosmia is when smells are imagined. Presbyosmia is the decrease in the sense of smell due to aging. D.S. lives in a major city in the southern US. He has submitted the following (which has been slightly edited): To start from the beginning, I was born with congenital anosmia/parosmia, meaning that I have never been able to smell chemical odours (although vinegar and smoke do burn the inside of my nose, they do not have a "taste" outside of my tongue). Despite this, my sense of taste seems abnormal, but not exactly hindered. I can usually detect up to around 10 distinct flavour combos in food, in addition to the mouthfeel, but as I've never had smells tied with taste, this is understandable. I do, however, appear to have parosmia in the form of synesthesia [Synesthesia is a condition in which a stimulus, in addition to exciting the usual and normally located sensation, also gives rise to a subjective sensation of different character or localisation. For example, colour hearing. Synesthesia occurs often in artists and music composers]. While I can't smell a gas leak or fresh coffee, I can "smell" other things (a feeling like a taste coming from somewhere that my brain says is actually my nose). These sensations are predictable rather than random, and tend to indicate coincidences, corollaries, and shared points of reference across a domain, including déjà vu. One of the best examples I can offer is that of books...if I read a book, wait a few weeks at least, then pick up the same text (be it a different copy of the same book, or a different version even), there is a smell as soon as I touch the cover, and it intensifies as I begin reading, becoming a very familiar sensory state, but very specific to that particular book. Each book has a different smell, not so much "good" or "bad" as distinctive, with the same text in a different physical book producing a uniform result. This carries as well into my sense of touch, which is not only very acute, but also produces a sense like taste, if only in terms of a tactile/smell overlay that isn't really much like either one. Given that background, it should be noted that I spent a good amount of effort finding ways to organise my memory as a kid, since I didn't have a pervasive catalogue of smells with which to link my memories together. I found out some interesting things while doing that, but the one I'm expressing here is that I seem to be ever-aware of my "zombie state" behaviours. I am partly linked to my own heart rate...always aware of it and usually able to control it to whatever extent I choose. This is also true for breathing, achieving sleep, digestion, and a general knowledge of the state of most of my internal organs. I understand that this isn't the norm, but considering that I thought everyone was lying about smelling things until I was about 12, it didn't surprise me to have recently discovered that most people aren't even aware of their own heart beating (something else I just took for granted that everyone knew). My eye-sight is nominal, probably not 20-20 any more, but I've never needed glasses. All the same, I'd classify my sense of sight as "complimentary". It's not secondary, I use it extensively, but it's on about the same level as my sense of touch and hearing. I do not usually focus my eyes on something to see it. I just pay attention in whatever direction is convenient, regardless of where my eyes are looking. They see just fine, but they tend to see everything at once, rather than one thing at a time... my brain does the focusing for me. I am always at least somewhat consciously aware of all my activities. If I am driving, I am fully alert and do not tend to slip into autopilot. I never sleepwalk, and I almost always have a complete memory of events that wake me up, even briefly. I may not have reason to recall such memories without prompting, but will do so immediately if given a grain of information about the event. My taste in food varies as widely as some people's mood swings. I can usually tell what kinds of things I need to eat given the condition of my body. Something I crave intensely one day might be repulsive for over a week until it is needed, at which point it will be delicious once again. These aren't whims that I consciously think up, but I am still fully aware of them, and they guide my eating habits. This being said, there are still some things which I appear to enjoy regularly that give others pause...at best. Cooked beef tastes terrible, I can't stomach it, but raw beef is exquisite, almost orgasmic. Bone marrow, organ meat, seared animal skin, and cod liver oil are some of my favourites. Sushi and cooked fish are both essential, but I enjoy those about equally. Only chicken and pork I eat cooked, and pork rarely. I am none-the-less a hardcore omnivore, and I love all fresh fruits and vegetables as much as meat. I drink my body weight in milk every month, and love fried cow-blood sandwiches. I've been checked for anaemia, but do not show any signs of it (nor any renal problems or parasites). I have a direct aversion to anything used for flavouring that isn't found en situ...things like coffee syrups, flavoured anything, aspartame, and fake-strawberry range in effect from disgust to outright animal panic. Diet Coke and fake strawberry, for example, taste so poisonous that I cannot usually swallow them (but crunchy beetles and ant eggs are just fine). I grew up in a common middle-class home near [city and state deleted] USA, and my parents don't eat anything overtly weird. In terms of environment, I don't think I could reduce my stranger proclivities to anything specific. I get very hungry whenever I see bison or yaks on TV, and I probably look a little creepy when I'm at the grocery store's meat counter. Given my persistent awareness of my own mortality, I am not usually aggressive or territorial, but this seems more a personal choice than anything. Despite this, I still don't get bent out of shape very often, and I'm wondering if this may be due to an inability to detect pheromones (which I'd considered earlier, given that my parents don't viscerally feel like my parents, even though I like them. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
A US court has ordered anti-spam organisation Spamhaus to pay $11.7m in damages for "illegally" listing email marketing firm e360insight as an affiliate of a known spammer, an entry that meant users of Spamhaus's mail filtering advisory system would not have received email from e360insight. The Illinois court also imposed an injunction on Spamhaus against interfering with e360insight's email marketing activities without sufficient evidence in future. UK-based Spamhaus said the default ruling against it in the US court is unenforceable. It continues to maintain that its "blacklisting" of e360insight is correct. In a statement, e360insight said the court's ruling vindicates its position that Spamhaus.org is a "fanatical, vigilante organization that operates in the United States with blatant disregard for US law". It added that the ruling clearly "establishes the validity of e360insight's legitimate business practices as a responsible, opt-in marketer". Spamhaus disputes this point and argues that David Linhardt, the principle driving force behind e360insight, should re-file his case in the proper venue, a British court. Linhardt ought to known that British courts "do not accept US-style 'SLAPP' suits and impose penalties for lying to the court," it added. Related links e360insight Vs Spamhaus
News the arrest of Sportingbet chairman Peter Dicks may not lead to a court case has caused a sustained rally in the UK-based online gambling sites shares. Stock closed at £1.53 Wednesday, and at time of writing Friday had climbed to £1.85. Dicks was collared by New York customs officials who spotted his name on a Louisiana warrant. He appeared in 10-minute New York criminal court hearing yesterday. Reuters reports he faces charges of "gambling by computer" in the state. Online gambling is illegal in the US, though companies have found ways around legislation. Investors were cheered by news yesterday he may not be extradited to Louisiana to face the allegations, which could impinge on Sportingbet's US operations. The office of New York Governor George Pataki told the court they were withdrawing a warrant neccessary to transfer Dicks to Louisiana. Dicks resigned immediately after leaving his hearing. In a statement, Sportingbet said: "Further to its recent announcements regarding Mr. Peter Dicks, Sportingbet confirms that, with great reluctance ... the board accepted the resignation of Mr. Dicks as independent non-executive chairman of Sportingbet with immediate effect." Judge Gene Lopez adjourned the case until September 28. Dicks is free to return to the UK. Investors in online betting are twitchy about legal action in the US, particularly since Betonsports was forced to shut its Caribbean-based operation because of proceedings against it and its former chief executive. ®
Toshiba is to update its North American HD DVD player line-up, the company said yesterday, bringing the US-oriented products launch in March this year into line with the European models announced earlier this month.
European authorities squaring up to the US over its secret surveillance of international financial records were caught off-guard when the firm caught in the middle of the tussle failed to volunteer key evidence. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) was called before EU privacy watchdog the Article 29 Committee on 23 August to reassure them that its co-operation with a secret US hunt for terrorist financiers had not broken data protection laws. The Terrorist Finance Tracking Programme had offended EU sensibilities, and possibly law, by trawling through the international financial records that SWIFT handled on behalf of 7,800 private firms. The European authorities called upon SWIFT, a Belgian firm that holds worldwide financial data in the US, to prove that its co-operation with the US investigation had not offended EU privacy laws. But after meeting on 23 August they were none the wiser. "SWIFT haven't been forthcoming in giving people information," said an EU source after the meeting. To be fair to SWIFT, it was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Indeed, the Belgian firm has become proxy for a test of wills, and authority, between US intelligence services and the EU privacy regulators. The Belgian data protection authority is leading the investigation of complaints made in 33 countries, by campaign group Privacy International, that the Americans peeked at millions of financial records that had nothing to do with terrorism. For the EU to feel confident that SWIFT had not betrayed home rules, and that the US hadn't stuck its nose where it was not warranted, it had to review the subpoenas by which the US has gained access to SWIFT's records for the last five years. Yet if SWIFT gave this information up, it would offend the US intelligence services. If it didn't give the information up, it would offend the EU authorities. To its credit, SWIFT managed to get the US to restrict its snooping, as well as having it audited by its own people. SWIFT claimed this was enough to make sure that only those financial records the US Treasury thought might have something to do with terrorist finance were opened. SWIFT won these concessions at an unspecified time after the first US subpoenas arrived in late 2001. So, it is fair to ask, was the US operating without oversight for two weeks or five years? The Belgian firm insists it has protected the privacy of its customers and has not broken EU law. But its arrangement was struck in secret with the US and its assurances were not good enough for the Europeans. They wanted to see evidence that the checks it imposed on the Treasury were adequate under EU privacy law, and that the audits were sufficient to ensure those checks were honoured when the US went snooping private financial records. They did not get what they wanted. The EU source told The Register after the meeting that this left them unable to form the opinion they had intended to on whether the US had stepped on their toes. "It depends on the nature of the audits. That's nothing we have any information on. Any organisation can turn round and say we've got audits, checks and balances," said the EU source. And SWIFT has no doubt done all it can in the small space it has. But the spokesman refused to say whether it had declined to hand the EU evidence that its checks were adequate and its audits sufficient under EU law. "We welcome the opportunity to explain how our compliance has been legal, limited, targeted, protected, audited and overseen. We have provided comprehensive responses to these reviews," is all a SWIFT spokesman would venture. The authorities would demand this information if SWIFT failed to volunteer it, said another EU source. Will the US let them?®
The three biggest home computer names are the ones consumers are most likely to recommend to friends, a Which? survey said today, suggesting branding has as much power in the consumer PC market as it does for sports shoes.
Optical drive maker Lite-On has decided to support the HD DVD next-generation optical disc format as well as rival technology Blu-ray Disc. Lite-On's first, half-height HD DVD drive will come to market in March 2007, it said.
Growth in the worldwide PC market dipped below 10 per cent in the second quarter of 2006, according to latest figures from IDC. Over 52 million units were shipped globally, representing growth in the quarter of 9.8 per cent. This is 0.6 per cent below expectations and slower than in recent quarters. In light of the results analysts at IDC have lowered growth projections for 2006 from previous estimations. IDC still believes that despite the slower second quarter the second half of the year will see a return to double digit growth.
Nintendo will ship its Wii console in Europe on Friday, 8 December, six days after the machine's Japanese debut and three weeks after the next-generation gaming system ships in the US. Wii will retail for around £179/€249, Nintendo said.
Do you ever get one of those weeks where nothing seems to have happened, yet it’s been incredibly busy? Puzzling, isn’t it? Nothing and everything seems to have happened this week. So where to start? Well, if you thought that Big Brother finished last month you were wrong. Everyone from Welsh school kids to HP execs has come under the beady eye of….well, you know who. Spy versus spy HP’s spying scandal grew and grew. As well as directors and reporters, it has now emerged that the investigative help hired by Chairman, Patricia Dunn, also cast their steely eyes over some HP employees. The California attorney general said he may lay charges against the firm. He better be quick, as the Feds and the SEC are also breathing down the HP's neck. Patricia Dunn announced that she was sorry about the whole squalid mess. Well, sorry that its plans to spy on directors/reporters/employees/whoever, went awry in quite the way they did. She is stepping down - in the New Year - though she won‘t be leaving the firm‘s board. CEO and prez Mark Hurd will add the chairman ship to his expanding job card. Which is just the sort of concentration of power that will reassure the world that HP’s Big Brother phase is over. Teachers silent on chips in schools No such worries in the UK. With schools now fingerprinting their charges, whether parents like it or not, the UK workforce will be so used to being watched that having your phone records swiped will barely raise an eyebrow. The teaching unions have made some noises of disapproval, but in nothing like the strident tones they reserve for outrages like suggesting the folk they represent take shorter holidays or put on a tie every now and again. It’s hard not to think that they know many of their members think fingerprinting plans don’t go far enough, and we should go the whole hog and chip the little blighters. Brit youth craves its mobile fix Alternatively, let’s just GPS-enable their mobiles. Apparently, being deprived of his or her mobile is enough to send the most hardened youth into cold turkey. Though you’d have to take their booze and drugs away as well to really mess them up. Bet that explains a lot about the mood swings of your latest graduate trainees. UK.gov buys Microsoft... Ok, that’s enough Big Brother bothering. Let’s get back to the really interesting stuff: squeezing suppliers. It seems UK.gov - you know, the folks someone voted in - has secured cheaper licenses from Microsoft. How did they do this? By jacking up the number of licenses bought. To how much? A whacking 1.5 million plus. That’s one Microsoft license for every 40 people in the UK. By breaching the 1.5 million barrier, the gov’s procurement arm, OGCbuying Solutions, reckons it will save the public purse around £1m per year. Or about 66 pence per user. You do the maths. Even better, just ask a civil servant. ...or is that the other way round? OGC was in the news again this week for appointing a new head honcho. Alison Littley was formerly director of global demand and marketing procurement at booze giant Diageo. How that kind of experience will play with civil servants and IV vendors is anyone’s guess. Breakout product of the week If Littley’s looking for new gadgets to spend government cash on, we can point her in the direction of a few new must-haves: IBM has finally shipped a product based on Cell, the chip architecture it developed with Sony and Toshiba. The QS20 blade features two 3.2GHz BE processors, each of which contains a Power Processing Element (PPE) and eight Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs). Each PPE is itself a PowerPC chip, with two-way hardware multithreading, 32Kb of level 1 instruction cache and 32Kb of level 1 data cache. Each SPE consists of a RISC chip with 128-bit SIMD capability and 256KB of local memory. Just in case you’re worried it might be a bit light on cache, IBM have also thrown in another 512KB of level 2 cache per processor. Like a circle in a circle, like a... Yep, cache is where it’s at, and IBM will be asking for a around $19,000 worth of yours for the basic model. Sun also refreshed its server range, popping 1.5GHz versions of the UltraSPARC IIIi processor into the low end of its server range. The freshened-up boxes also boast PCI-X and PCI Express for I/O rather than just PCI in the old gear. The V215 starts at $4,000 including 1GB of memory and one 73GB drive. The V245 starts at $4,600 with the same, basic configuration, and the V445 starts at $16,000 with two 1.59GHz chips, 4GB of memory and two 73GB drives. Intel in optical chips/Cortina trade-in Intel drives Cortina Elsewhere in the chip world, Intel offloaded its optical networking components business to a company called Cortina. Which just summons up images of the great chip breaking yard in the sky. The PC processor giant has already offloaded its comms chip business and is looking at dumping its media and signalling parts. Anyone who visited Intel’s Developer get-togethers in the first half of this decade knew that these areas - comms, optical - were the new frontiers for Intel as it grew beyond its core PC processor business. Well, except that they aren’t anymore. Expect a redesigned Intel Inside badge anytime now. Dell adopts 2.0 moniker - need we say more? And what of long-time Intel best friend Dell? Seems like Mike and the boys have a few problems of their own. An SEC accounting probe at the PC firm has gotten a bit more serious. So serious, in fact, that it’s going to have to delay its second quarter financial report. Worse for shareholders, it’s iced a share repurchase program. The firm is working put if any restatements may be necessary. The US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York has also begun its own informal probe of Dell Still, it’s not all bad news. The firm is revamping customer service and its supply chain in what it’s dubbing Dell 2.0. This, it says, will put it back on the growth curve. Oh dear. That’s the sort of thing that makes us really really nervous. Anyway, shouldn’t that be Dell 3.0? After all, there was Dell 1.0, with competitively-priced products backed by cracking customer service. Then there was…well, you know. Ofcom terminating charges - sort of And talking of regulators, UK regulator Ofcom is capping termination charges for mobile vendors at 5.3 pence a minute. It’ll look at the situation again in 2011. It’s also looking at termination charges on SMS as well. Which could add up to a nice slice of your mobile bill. Until the operators think up another new wheeze. Christmas is coming And while we’re in the corporate comms gadgetry dept, Palm and Voda will ship the 3G Treo 750v on 2 October. This is a Euro-centric UMTS-connected Windows Mobile 5.0 device and will no doubt be appearing on your team’s Christmas list, sorry, latest mobile strategy spec sheet sometime soon. Samsung also unveiled its latest piece of C-level jewellery this week, a multi-band, multi-moder dubbed the "World Phone". Not too sure about the name to be honest. Sounds a bit smiley utopian and earnest - like World Music as a genre. Still, there’s nothing overly earnest about being able to connect to CDMA and, JCDMAas well as GSM. BT drops British, goes Fusion And if that’s not enough, BT’s going to be knocking on your door trying to push its Fusion Batphone thingy for your corporate comms system. The telecoms giant, which no longer wants anyone to know it’s British (see here for more on that one), clearly reckons the device, which will hop between WLAN and GSM, is ready for corporate primetime after whirling it around consumers for months. In fact, Leeds council has already taken the bait. Cops hot under the collar We are, of course, in favour of anything that consolidates and streamlines corporate comms. That said, there is an argument for not consolidating too much content on a single device, as one harassed techie in Spain found this week. When he flicked the switch on a shared PC to start a police training video for 120 wannabe police sergeants, the hapless operator delivered not a vid on cultural sensitivity training or some other key police skill, but a whole load of hot blonde on blonde action. Truncheons were raised, and the department has now mounted a probe, sorry, investigation. And there you have it. Not a good week to be chairman of a major technology company, a Welsh schoolchild, or a Spanish police PC operator. Or British, if you’re a major telco. Same time, same place next Friday. ®
The Federal Trade Commission, the US consumer rights watchdog, has succeeded in shutting down four illegal spamming operations judged to have breached federal anti-spam laws. Targets of the lawsuits included an operation that offered the supposed chance to "date lonely wives" and two outfits that allegedly bombarded unwilling recipients with lurid ads for pornographic web sites, sent via compromised PCs. Cleverlink Trading Limited and its affiliates agreed to pay a fine of $400,000 to settle FTC charges that their lonely housewives spam violated federal law, by featuring misleading headers and deceptive subject lines, contained no opt-out positions or any disclosure that email contained sexually explicit content. Injunctions against further transactions of the CAN-SPAM Act and Adult Labeling Rules were imposed against Cleverlink and its affiliates: Real World Media, Brian D. Muir, Jesse Goldberg, and Caleb Wolf Wickman. The settlement obliges Cleverlink to monitor its affiliates so as to guard against further transgressions against anti-spam laws. In a separate suit, the FTC charged that Zachary Kinion sent spam hawking adult sites, cut-price mortgage deals, and supposed privacy software. He allegedly paid other miscreants to send spam messages for him through the compromised machines of innocent third-parties. A settlement announced this week bars Kinion from sending emails that violate the CAN-SPAM Act. He was also ordered to pay a fine of $151,000, the estimated revenue he raked in from his illegal spamming, suspended because Kinion is broke. Another spam operation, targeted by the FTC lawsuits, used zombie botnet networks of compromised PCs to hide the source of the sexually explicit spam. The FTC's settlement with William Dugger, Angelina Johnson, and John Vitale calls for the defendants to hand over $8,000 in ill-gotten gains accrued from their anti-social spamming operation, as well as agreeing to avoid further violation of federal anti-spam laws. Lastly, the fourth lawsuit targeted a professional "button pusher" who used spam to drive traffic to Web sites run by third parties. In order to conceal the source of ads for porno web sites and drugs, Brian McMullen (trading as BM Entertainment and B Pimp) sent junk mail through compromised Windows PCs, a clear violation of the CAN-SPAM Act. A settlement reached between the FTC and McMullen bars future CAN-SPAM violations and imposes a judgment of $24,193, suspended based on McMullen's inability to pay. In addition to this civil lawsuit settlement, McMullen has pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to spam and unauthorized possession of credit cards. He currently is awaiting sentencing for these offences. ®
AnalysisAnalysis One of the most interesting aspects of Microsoft's would-be iPod-killer Zune isn't technical at all. It has nothing to do with colour screens, codecs or disk capacity.
ReviewReview The SD37P2 is the first Core 2 Duo-ready small form-factor XPC from Shuttle, but it has far more than support for Intel's latest processor on offer. For anyone looking at building a high-end SFF system, the SD37P2 supports ATI's CrossFire - the first SFF PC to do so - although you're limited to single slot cards. Is this the most powerful barebone from Shuttle as yet?
Caught up in the airline security scare last month, JK Rowling won an argument with New York airport officials to allow her to fly with her latest Harry Potter manuscript. Speaking on her website about being allowed on board with the manuscript, Rowling said: “I don’t know what I would have done if they hadn’t; sailed home, probably.” She had been at a New York reading charity according to Associated Press, and was flying home at the height of security measures after British police intercepted an alleged terror plot to blow up airlines bound for the US. “A large part of it is handwritten and there was no copy of anything I had done while in the US,” she said. Eventually airline officials allowed Rowling to board with the manuscript “bound up in elastic bands.” It’s book number seven - the final volume of the Harry Potter adventures - she is yet to come up with a title.®
Customers of Legend Communications have been scuppered by a series of mishaps at the hosting, VoIP and broadband provider this week. Email, IP telephony and domain name servers have all hit the skids, and service is still reported to be shoddy. A catastrophic power outage at Legend's Docklands IP House at 3am on Wednesday morning seems to have triggered a cascade of problems. Legend, part of telecoms firm Thus, has partnership agreements with DSVR, KB Media and Pipemedia, who resell its services and whose customers have also been scuppered by the mess. We contacted Legend for some answers about when they were going to fix the problems, compensation, how they would do to avoid it in the future etc. They gave us a standard "we apologise for the inconvenience"-type response which, after days of their customers losing business, is unlikely to smooth relations. They added that the email issues were caused by high volumes of traffic. Now, we're not systems engineers lads, but we thought your business was all about dealing with high volumes of traffic. As none-too-happy reader told us: "Obviously they don't believe in disaster planning." ®
The chief of the world's biggest record label, Universal Music Group, has hinted that the company will sue the video sharing site YouTube for copyright infringement. "We believe these new businesses are copyright infringers and owe us tens of millions of dollars," UMG boss Doug Morris told a conference this week. "How we deal with these companies will be revealed shortly." It's no secret that YouTube has been a runaway success because it's a treasure trove of copyrighted material - effectively the internet's Oldies channel. UMG is also negotiating with News Corporation, owners of MySpace, for a cut of performance royalties on the site. MySpace vehemently denies it should pay these royalties, although its European VP justified its refusal recently on the grounds that MySpace users "... are interacting with music in the same way as they would in everyday life - in a store or on the radio". A bit of an oops, that, as stores and radio stations need to pay public performance royalties in most parts of the world. (Radio stations in the US are an exception). Analysts peg the UMG chief's comments as a negotiating tactic. It's doubtful, however, whether UMG will take a one-size-fits-all legal approach to infringement. MySpace is owned by one of the world's biggest media multinationals News Corporation, and snagged almost a billion dollars from Google recently for a three-year advertising contract. However the independent start-up YouTube is more likely to plead poverty: it has only just started to scratch around for revenues to offset its astronomical operating costs. Despite the claims made by the utopian lobby, most of the traffic at YouTube is people looking for copyright material. Or people looking at other people lip-syncing to copyright material. Not that pleading zero revenues has ever stopped UMG suing someone out of business before. Just ask Michael Robertson. ®
The Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) has blasted Hewlett-Packard after it was revealed that a private investigator was hired to obtain phone records of conversations between journalists and HP board members. In an official statement the SABEW said: “Such actions have a chilling effect on the journalistic process and thereby do harm to the public, investors and all of us who rely on the free flow of information. “Such actions also compromise a reporter's ability to talk freely with sources. Sources in sensitive situations may fear retribution if their bosses, or other possible adversaries, could easily steal the phone records of inquiring reporters.” Records were uncovered through the use of pretexting, which means impersonating someone else in order to gain access to their private information. The statement questioned “security practices at phone companies” and expressed deep concern about the protection of civil liberties. It also described HP’s actions as “unethical” and “a threat to freedom of the press.” Chairman Patricia Dunn will stand down in January and issued an apology for the methods employed by at least one investigator to reveal sources, according to Market Week. But she claims she had no idea what methods would be used to track who said what to whom.®
Mozilla Corporation has hired a former security strategist from Microsoft as part of its efforts to improve the security of its software, in particular its flagship Firefox web browser software. Window Snyder (sic), Mozilla's new Chief Security Something, an unusual job description but one not out of keeping for an organisation that used to to be run by someone who rejoiced under the title of Chief Lizard Wrangler, has pledged to trim redundant code in a bid to bolster security. "We want to reduce the overall risk [to Firefox] by evaluating where there are unused features, and then getting rid of that old code... We want Firefox to have a tighter code base," she told Techworld. Snyder founded security consultancy @stake before joining Microsoft, where she was involved in signing off the code for Windows XP SP2 and Windows Server 2003, before leaving to found Matasano Security. She joined Mozilla last week. Snyder's plans to cut Firefox down to size don't necessarily imply that future versions of the browser will be designed from scratch or that older features will disappear entirely. Features stripped from the general code base might be offered in the form of optional installs. After something of a honeymoon period, Firefox has come under fire form security firms such as Symantec in comparisons of the number of security flaws in Firefox compared to IE. "Just counting up the bugs is not a good measure of how secure an application is," Snyder said, arguing that the severity of identified bugs needs to be taken into consideration. Mozilla produces patches for security vulnerabilities far more quickly than Redmond can manage, she added. The next version of Firefox, in common with Microsoft upcoming IE 7 browser, will include anti-phishing technology. Further ahead, Snyder said Mozilla is evaluating the inclusion of memory management, managed code, and improved sandbox technology into the browser. In related news, Mozilla released a security update for Firefox on Thursday. Firefox 126.96.36.199 contains a number of security and stability updates as explained by Secunia here. ®
In case you didn't notice, Yahoo! is now a full participant in the journalism profession. The portal has a scoop. Earlier this week, Yahoo! reporters Charles Robinson and Jason Coles broke a story alleging that star footballer Reggie Bush and his family received financial perks while the running-back was still in school at USC. That's a no-no in the "amateur" world of college athletics where the performers must parade around in costumes labeled by Nike or Adidas for free, while the schools earn hundreds of millions of dollars. The Yahoo! story took eight months to research, and the reporters have some very specific evidence to back up their allegations. As a result of Yahoo!'s scoop, publications such as the AP, the Houston Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune have pointed the portal's story in their own coverage of the incident. This is the first really big news story Yahoo! has broken since it started hiring reporters a couple of years ago. In its baseball section, Yahoo! has tried out retired players such as Jack McDowell and Ryne Sandberg. Their reports were so awful that the jocks only lasted a year on the job. More recently, Yahoo! hired a proper journalist in Jeff Passan to pen baseball columns, although most of his stories as just as disastrous as those from the ex-atheletes. We're not talking about major hires here. Yahoo! has been trying to pick up reporters that might make something out of themselves and done so with little luck. On the harder news side, Yahoo! has been running stories from Kevin Sites. This long-haired, sultry guy sure seems like a real journalist and places himself in the "Hot Zone," according to Yahoo!, which means Sites goes to awful spots and reports on how awful or uplifting they are. And now, after going at it for awhile, Yahoo! has a bona fide scoop. This is a weird spot for a portal to be in. Yahoo! doesn't have many of the trappings usually associated with a news organization. A search for "Yahoo reporter" on Yahoo! turns up a link for Yahoo! News and then links for the movie The Passenger, an AP story and then some more movie pages. We certainly don't know much about Yahoo!'s media traditions or policies or than it tries to hire celebrities to pen stories whenever possible. Without question, however, Yahoo! is now officially some form of new media, and, we argue, a much more interesting form of new media than blogs on the other garbage the internet has churned out in the last couple of years. Yahoo! is trying to have it all by writing a story about an athlete, linking to other stories about the athlete, pointing to where you can buy the athlete's shoes, helping you find the athlete's contact information and giving you show times for movies about the athlete. And have a look at how professional the Reggie Bush scoop package is. That's worthy of CNET. Welcome to the New World, friends. Yahoo! is a real publisher. Or, at least it looks like one. ®
Valley JusticeValley Justice The good times just keep rolling for blogger Josh Wolf.
An Irish lobby group aims to dismantle Europe's laws forcing telecoms firms to retain phone and internet data on citizens. The group, Digital Rights Ireland, is taking a case both against the Irish Government and the European Directive on data retention. The action will begin in the High Court but is likely to be heard in the European Court of Justice, said the chairman of DRI, TJ McIntyre. The suit argues that the Irish law breaches that country's Constitution and that the EU Directive contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights. "It's a challenge to both Irish law and the EU Directive," said McIntyre. "We're challenging the domestic law on national constitutional grounds and the EU Directive and we're hoping for a preliminary reference to Luxembourg to assess the validity of the Directive." The Data Retention Directive was passed this year and requests that member states pass laws which mandate telecoms firms to retain data on customers' use for up to two years. Ireland's law on data retention was passed in 2005. "The Irish Constitution has an un-numerated right to privacy which has been read into it by the courts," said McIntyre. "The Irish courts have been very strong on saying that any limitation on privacy must be reasonable, must be justified and clearly that's not the case with data retention." DRI will ask the High Court in Ireland to refer the Directive to the ECJ for a decision on its validity. The action names as defendants the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, the Attorney General, the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Garda [police] Commissioner. DRI hopes that its action will have a knock on effect on data retention legislation across Europe. "If we're successful it will strike down the Data Retention Directive and that will invalidate a lot of the data retention laws across Europe," said McIntyre. "We're hoping that there will be a knock on effect. A ruling on the human rights case would be very persuasive for national courts." Ironically, Ireland was one of two countries which opposed the Directive on procedural grounds. The Irish Government had wanted more stringent measures and was unhappy that the procedure used to pass the Directive meant that it had no veto in what it regarded as a security matter, as is usual. McIntyre said that he agreed with the Government on the procedural basis of the Directive as well as objecting to it on the grounds of its content. He said that he will find himself on the same side as the government he is taking to court on those procedural grounds. McIntyre said that the action is being funded through donations. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
CommentComment This week I attended an event at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View that celebrated the golden anniversary of the IBM RAMAC 305, the first hard disk drive storage system.
Toshiba has settled its rancorous NAND flash memory lawsuit with Lexar, but at a hefty price.
Freescale Semi has accepted a $17.6bn offer from private-equity investors to buy the company. But there is a peculiar twist: the chip maker has reserved the right to seek a higher offer from other suitors over the next 50 days. Also, "Freescale may, at any time, subject to the terms of the merger agreement, respond to unsolicited proposals. If the company accepts a superior proposal, a break-up fee would be payable by the company. There can be no assurance of any alternative proposal." This caveat shows that Freescale wants to play away, while wannabe new owners, a consortium of private-equity funds led by Blackstone, are either desperate to deposit their cash in the company, or have secured a big divorce settlement in the pre-nups. According to recent reports, Freescale is playing footsie under the table with a second consortium of private investors, comprising Silver Lake Partners, Bain Capital, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co, and Apax Partners. Will these put up more cash on the table? We will know soon enough. In the meantime, Freescale's board is recommending the bid on the table today. Worth $40 a share, this represents a 36 per cent premium on the average closing price of the shares last week (i.e. before news of negotiations leaked out). The company, formerly owned by Motorola, IPOed in July 2004 at $13 a share. Press release here. ®
California is to ban the use of cell phones by drivers in a moving vehicle unless they are using a hands-free device. But not yet. Gov. Schwarzenegger today signed the bill which comes into force in July 2008 for private drivers and July 1, 2011 for drivers of commercial vehicles who use push-to-talk handsets. The fines for getting caught are derisory: $20 for a first offence and $50 for repeat offenders. In a state where you can get fined $1,000 for dropping litter on the freeway, this is a huge deterrence. The gap between deeds and words is also huge. Speaking today in front of a poster emblazoned 'Keeping California Safe', Schwarzenegger proclaimed: "The simple fact is it's dangerous to talk on your cell phone while driving. CHP (California Highway Patrol) data show that cell phones are the number one cause of distracted-driving accidents. So getting people's hands off their phones and onto their steering wheels is going to make a big difference in road safety. The ‘Hands-Free’ cell phone bill will save lives by making our roads safer." The governor also thanked Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who has campaigned for several years to get this bill on to the statute books. So why take so long to get going, and why are the fines so small? The answer to the former is that this will give the Department of Motor Vehicles time to update its manuals and also it will give drivers time to get used to the idea. Which doesn’t sound very plausible. As for the latter, it is possible that behind the scenes lobbying by the CTIA, which represents the US cell phone industry, has been in play. In public, only Sprint-Nextel opposed the bill, but it is joined in its antipathy by many fellow members of the CTIA. In a position paper on the matter, the CTIA notes: "such legislation is ineffective, most likely has a negligible impact on safety, and obscures the greater issue of driver distraction. In addition, law enforcement officers in all 50 states already have the ability to cite drivers for reckless or inattentive driving." It cites crash data from several states which "shows that wireless phone use is a factor in less than one per cent of accidents". How much less than one? A law that reduces road crashes by say, half a per cent, at the cost of at worst mild inconvenience, strikes us as a reasonable law. The Way We Live Now Even if CTIA members are agin the restrictions of use of cell phones while driving, why are they fighting this? The cost to the industry, in lost voice or data minutes, will be negligible. And Bluetooth earpieces will sell by the truckload. People who don't have hands free handsets, can always pull over and park the car, or use their phones when they have finished their journey. Three other states, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Washington, DC have enacted hands-free cell phone bills. Many more are expected to follow suit. ®