22nd > September > 2006 Archive
The open source community this week hailed the most significant update to Python in five years. Python 2.5 contains major improvements in reliability, performance and efficiency, according to release manager Anthony Baxter.
ColumnColumn The use of “lambda” originates from functional programming and lambda calculus, where a lambda abstraction defines an unnamed function. Lambda functions or Lambdas in C++ are one of the more interesting things to look forward to in the next C++ standard; giving us the ability to treat functions as first class objects at last; composing them inline and treating them as class objects. Up until now we've scraped by with pointers to functions, and various libraries like Boost Lambda, both of which approaches suck.
Internet overseeing organisation ICANN will become an autonomous body, free from any form of government control, on 1 October 2008, if plans drawn up between it and the US government go according to plan.
IBM is reaching out to venture capitalists by offering technology and go-to-market help for software start-ups they back.
Software development and business process outsourcing (BPO) firm Northbrook Technology is to create 400 new jobs in the north as part of a £23.5m expansion. The investment is being supported by £5.6m of assistance from Invest Northern Ireland and will enable the company to significantly expand its software development function in the north. Northbrook Technology already employs 1,400 people across three locations in Belfast, Derry and Strabane. The new software development jobs will be divided between the firm's Belfast and Derry plants, and it's estimated they will inject almost £10m in salaries annually into the local economy. Northbrook, which is a subsidiary of the Illinois-based insurance giant Allstate, first opened for business in Northern Ireland in 1999. In 2004, it announced it would be investing in its Belfast facility and also setting up new offices in Strabane and Derry. The company said at the time that the investment would create more than 660 new jobs by 2006. "Today's announcement underpins Northbrook's long term commitment to Northern Ireland and sends a clear message that Northern Ireland can be a serious contender in the global software market," said Invest Northern Ireland chairman Stephen Kingon. "This investment is a further step in our determination to drive the local economy up the value chain. It will increase Northern Ireland's international competitiveness and enhance our reputation as a preferred location for high value-added investment," he added. Copyright © 2006, ENN
West Midlands Police are trialing a system that controls police access to buildings and computer systems using a fingerprint scanner. Before now this technology has been used mostly in prisons, intelligence HQs, and schools. West Midlands Police support manager Fred Tracey said the pilot, being implemented by Wetherby firm Enline, uses biometric readers to mark where people are in police buildings and control their access to computer systems. Imprivata is the only other company to have a single security measure to control access to both places and systems. Geoff Hogan, senior vice president of business development and product management and marketing at Imprivata, said the system allowed security managers to tell, for example, if someone was in a particular room in a particular building, another person trying access computer systems using their identity from an outside location would be a fraud. Tracey said the police system will allow security experts to "know exactly where they [police] are in the building". "But it's not necessarily where they are in the building, it's whether they are somewhere they shouldn't be. It's not big brother, it's managing the life of an individual in West Midlands Police without a bureaucratic overhead." The pilot would have fingerprint scanners on just a handful of rooms. The police force could extend the scheme by putting more scanners in, or use other methods, such as RFID chips on pass cards, which would allow them to tell where civilian employees were on police premises. The global positioning system tied into police radios does a similar job. Tracey said his aim was to make the administration of the police force's security more efficient. He said there had been no data leaks that prompted him to fork out on the system. "It's about getting more boots on the beat," he said. "We're spending about 10,000 man hours a year managing the system. We reckon we can reduce that by two thirds," he said. For example, 10 separate directories of access rights are used to restrict the activities of 15,000 people in the West Midlands force to computer applications like the Police National Computer. There's a churn of about 2,000 people a year. ®
The Japanese Space Agency's (JAXA) Solar-B mission is set to launch tonight from the Uchinoura Space Centre in Japan. The satellite, which will study the solar surface for clues to the causes of solar flares, will be placed into a 96 minute polar orbit around Earth. Currently, the mechanics of solar flares are reasonably well understood, but solar physicists would like to be able to make better predictions about when they are most likely to occur. Solar-B is designed to shed new light on the events immediately preceding each eruption, which should lead to better predictions. "With its three advanced and highly sensitive telescopes (visible, X-ray and ultraviolet), Solar-B will be able to study the solar magnetic field at scales smaller than ever before, and connect its behaviour to the energetic and powerful processes at work on the Sun," said Bernhard Fleck, the European Space Agency's (ESA's) SOHO project scientist. He added that the Solar-B project would tie in well with existing solar observatories, such as SOHO. SOHO has been studying the sun for more than a decade. "Thanks to ESA's and Norway's participation in Solar-B, the European scientific community will now have access to a completely new set of data, complementary to that of SOHO," he said. ESA and Norway will be providing ground station coverage for the satellite at the Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) on Norway's Svalbard Islands. SvalSat is the only ground station in the world that can be used for every single orbit of Solar-B and will receive the satellite data for each of its 15 daily orbits. The craft will be set in an orbit synchronised with the Earth's revolution around the Sun. This will allow the spacecraft to be in continuous sunlight for at least nine months a year during the planned mission duration of three years, maximising its observation times. The probe is set to lift off tonight, at 11pm, British Summer Time. ®
3Com fell short of Wall Street’s expectations when it unveiled its third quarter results yesterday. The networking vendor turned in revenues of $300m, up 69 per cent on the year, but short of the $314m analysts were looking for. The figures were pumped up by the inclusion of figures from its Huawei-3Com joint venture, but the company also said pro forma revenues were up 16 per cent. Operating losses were $20.9m, compared to the previous year’s $46.7m loss. Net losses were $14m, compared to a $42m shortfall the previous year. This resulted in a loss per share of $0.04, including a $0.04 charge for restructuring amortization and stock-based compensation expenses. Wall Street had been expecting a $0.01 loss per share. Despite missing Wall Street’s expectations, 3Com pres and CEO Edgar Masri, said he was “pleased” with the figures, particularly the Huwaei and 3Com joint venture and expense control in its Secure Converged Networking business. Masri said its networking, security, voice and services businesses all grew year on year, but the company needed to “bring a level of consistency to all areas of our business so each group increases sales and profitability.”®
Sony has decided to equip the 20GB PlayStation 3 with an HDMI connector, possibly in response to Microsoft's move to bring the 1080p HD resolution to the Xbox 360. The company also cut the machine's Japanese retail price.
Palm reported revenue of $355.8m for the quarter ending 1 September, with a slim net income of $16.5m. Measured on a non-GAAP basis, the profit was $21.5m. Revenue rose four per cent from a year ago, but was down 12 per cent sequentially. Palm had earlier warned that revenue would be lower than it originally expected, in the $380m to $385m range.
Sir Richard Branson has pledged to invest the next 10 years of profits from his Virgin travel firms into developing technologies that will reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. The commitment is apparently worth around £1.6bn over the period. He made the announcement on day two of the annual Clinton Global Initiative conference in New York. He explained that the money from his travel companies, such as Virgin Trains and Virgin Atlantic, would be funnelled into a new division of his empire called Virgin Fuels. Virgin Fuels will invest in research into alternative and renewable energy supplies, such as bio-fuels. Sir Richard said: "We must rapidly wean ourselves off our dependence on coal and fossil fuels." He argued that travel firms needed to lead the way in developing "environmentally friendly business strategies". The move is not entirely altruistic: travel firms are under increasing pressure from environmental lobby groups. Friends of the Earth (FoE), for instance, warns that if the growth in air travel is not curtailed, we face a "climactic disaster". FoE is one of many groups campaigning for air fuel to be taxed in the same way petrol is. Currently, no duty is payable on kerosene, and in 2005 Tony Blair ruled out imposing any taxes on the fuel. Against this background, positioning himself as a greenie will do him and his firms no harm. But nor is it entirely spin: Branson has already announced funding for a California based firm that is developing a way of producing ethanol from corn. ®
The Java Platform, Standard Edition 6 JDK (variously called JSE 6.0, Mustang and, by many, J2SE 6.0; and, by some at least, JDK 6) has been in Beta 2 release format for some months and is nearing its actual release date (work started on this release around July 2005 and it is currently expected to be delivered in autumn/fall 2006).
Apple has quietly updated its U2-edition iPod to match the specification of the 5.5G model it announced earlier this month. As before, the 30GB machine sports a red Clickwheel and comes with the band members' signatures laser-etched on the back, but now its battery life stretches to 14 hours for music, 3.5 hours for video. The screen's a lot brighter too. But at $279 - down from $329 - it's $30 more than the regular 30GB iPod, though the price includes 30 minutes' of free iPod music videos. ®
Reprogramming an ATM to dispense more cash than it ought to is far easier than anyone imagined. Last week CNN screened a video of a man suspected of reprogramming an ATM to dispense $20 bills that it thought were $5 notes, so fraudsters and the unscrupulous were able to withdraw four times more money than was debited from their accounts. The suspected perp didn't reprogram the Virginia gas station machine after he pulled off the scam, so it continued to dispense more money than it should have for nine days, until some honest individual pointed out the problem. The suspect used a pre-paid debit card to make withdrawals, making it harder for police to track him down. These difficulties prompted investigators to go public on the scam, which was carried out last month, in the hope of identifying the suspect from CCTV footage. The hack was far from sophisticated. Security researchers have discovered that ATM manuals for the Tranax Mini-Bank 1500 Series, the machine involved in the Virginia scam, can be easily located online using nothing more fancy than a Google search query, eWeek reports. These manuals explain how to switch ATMs into diagnostic mode, where its possible to reprogram ATMs in the way carried out in the Florida gas-station hack, for example. Would-be fraudsters would still need a PIN code in order to be able to access functions normally only available to installation engineers but the manual lists typical factory-set default passwords. So unless machines have been set up properly, they are wide open to abuse. It seems the hack is limited to Tranax's line of mini-bank terminals, though that's unclear. Tranax has delivered 70,000 ATMs, self-service terminals and kiosks across the US. Many of these installations involve the Mini-Bank 1500 machine that was the target of the Virginia hack, so the potential for abuse is clearly high. We can only hope that the wave of publicity over the scam will prompt Tranax into action so that the scam is nipped in the bud. At the very least it ought to pull the copies of its manual offline. In theory these manuals are only available to authorised distributors or service providers though at least one Canadian-based reseller of Tranax terminals has left this information easily available to all and sundry. The Virginia hack shows at least some crooks already have their hands on this information. ®
US-based VoIP handset maker Paragon Wireless has launched what it claims is the world's first Windows Mobile 5.0 phone designed for Session Initiation Protocol (SIP) VoIP calls that also operates as a regular quad-band GSM/GPRS handset.
Episode 31Episode 31 "Ah, could we borrow you for a couple of minutes?" the Boss asks quietly, interrupting the PFY's riveting (if somewhat longwinded and one-sided) discussion of RS6000 boot flags. "Of course," I yawn, getting up quickly for fear that the PFY will mistake my patience for interest and tell me what each of the hundreds of associated boot codes means. "How can I help?" "Well, I...must say I appreciate your enthusiasm," the Boss says. "But it's just a simple thing. We're interviewing for the new senior management IT support person role..." "Oh yes, after the previous person left on medical grounds." "He tripped carrying a PC down a stairwell and was subsequently hit by a 19" monitor!" the Boss says recalling the tragedy. "Nasty," the PFY adds. "Yes, although he did claim the monitor had been thrown down on him after he had been pushed down the stairwell." "I think you'll find that that was just the concussion talking," I add. "My theory is that he put the monitor at the top of the stairs to save two journeys back to the original office, then tripped over the cable when he was carrying the base unit..." "I..." the Boss replies, thinking about it for a bit. "Hmm, well I still think it was a little unfair of you to press the company to make him pay for the damaged machine." "It was all entirely avoidable!" I say, neglecting to mention that the way to avoid such an accident was to ensure you didn't mention to an easily-led board member that outsourcing IT was cheaper than contractors... "In any case, he didn't leave on medical grounds - he was taken to hospital!" "And where are hospitals located?" "?" "ON MEDICAL GROUNDS!" the PFY chuckles. "!" "So anyway, you're interviewing for this person," I say. "And you need our help how?" "We have two candidates and we can't really pick between them because they both seem to be equally qualified." "Just pick one at random then," the PFY suggests. "We can't do that, it's not right. Anyway we called them both in and thought we'd have a face to face with them both." "So you've got them both in the same room?" "Yes, we thought it would be fair for them to see who they were up against." "And HR okayed this?" the PFY asks dubiously. "We didn't ask, it's really just another type of interview process." "I see. And so where would you see us fitting into this...process?" "We thought that some form of testing might help." "You want us to test them?" "Yes." "What on?" "On their suitability for the support role." "To be quite honest," the PFY chips in. "If you want an accurate assessment of their abilities you'd probably want to opt for a less formal environment where they're unlikely to be on their guard." "What are you suggesting?" "I dunno, something less rigidly structured and more aimed at finding out their strengths and weaknesses - while at the same time giving us a chance to gauge their technical abilities." "And this could be achieved how?" ...Later, at the pub... "So you realise that while this is a less formal environment it still constitutes part of the interview process?" the PFY asks. "Yes," both the candidates respond. "So, who fancies a pint?" "I'll just have a water," contestant number one says. "Shandy for me," contestant number two says. "Good choice," the PFY replies, sarcastically. "Actually, make mine a lager," number one counters. "A pint of extra strength heavy!" number two responds. ... ...10 triple tequila slammers later... "So why do you want the job?" the PFY asks. "What job?" number two asks. "The IT support job at our company." "Oh, that job," number one replies. "It looked like it paid well." "IS THE RIGHT ANSWER!" the PFY blurts. "Is that it?" number two gasps. "Of course not, we'll have to do second interviews with you both, same time, same place tomorrow - the company's paying." "Oh, ok then. But won't you just pick him again?" "It's possible, but then you get to appeal the decision because your comments were made under duress and you can't be judged for suitability based solely on your ability to drink..." "...although that's obviously an important feature in an IT support person," the PFY adds. "...and after that you'll get to do the whole interview process again!" I cry. ... "Actually, I don't want the job, come to think of it," number one says. "It sounded like a lot of work." "Me either," number two says. "Those senior managers sound like a hassle." "True, but remember the job pays well," the PFY adds. "Nah, I think I'll stay where I am," number two slurs. "Me too." "But the interview's only half over - there's hours to go to till closing time," the PFY whimpers at the exiting figures. "Bugger," I blurt from the bar. "Two pints of lager and a packet of salt and vinegar crisps, and...Have you considered a role in IT - you'd be a shoe-in with your ability to put up with idiots!!!?" BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Today has been designated One Web Day - a day of celebration of the internet - with a number of celebrations planned across the world tonight, including the appearance of the man that invented the world wide web, Tim Berners-Lee, expected in London. The holiday is the brainchild of net luminary and law professor Susan Crawford, who started planning for the day at the start of the year and has persuaded a number of other web leading lights to join in and host their own events from New York to Tokyo to Naples and London. In London, the Lord Mayor (not Ken, the other one) will make a speech at 4pm outside Mansion House about the future of the web, while the UK's net community has planned drinks in the Royal Exchange Grand Cafe & Bar at Bank between 2pm and 6pm where, it is rumoured, Tim Berners-Lee will make a guest appearance after it was discovered he was in the country. Meanwhile, net entrepreneur Joi Ito has already started celebrating at the Ana Hotel in Tokyo, posting details on his blog; and Crawford will be at the New York event along with Craig Newmark of Craigslist, Scott Heiferman of Meetup, Drew Schutte from Wired, and Gale Brewer from New York's City Council. A further 20 events from Bulgaria to the Phillipines, and even on virtual world Second Life have been organised. All details on events across the world have been listed on the OneWebDay website. The idea behind OneWebDay is to remember that the web is not just a jumble of machines, but also a social environment. "The web is worth celebrating, and so we're going to do that - and not take it for granted," Crawford explained. "The idea behind OneWebDay is to create an Earth Day for the internet. It is a day to celebrate how important the web is to each of us." As well as the talk and excuse for a party, however, OneWebDay also wants to encourage people to collaborate over the net, including posting photos of events across the world online, and recommends that everyone do one web-related action in celebration. It suggests teaching someone to use an application like a blog or a wiki, start a group blog, help a student find a new educational resource, talk to your town about getting free wireless access, and so on. More details about events and the idea behind OneWebDay can be found at www.onewebday.org. ®
JSR222 specifies the Java Architecture for XML Binding (JAXB) 2.0. JAXB 2.0 specification is implemented in Java Web Services Developer Pack (JWSDP) 2.0. JAXB 2.0 has some new features that facilitate the marshalling and unmarshalling of an XML document. I have used both JAXB 1.0 and JAXB 2.0 and have found that JAXB 2.0 generates less code and has some additional features.
AMD is set to launch three Athlon 64 FX processors for its upcoming 4x4 gaming platform, sources who claim to have seen the chip maker's roadmap claim. All three CPUs will use AMD's 1207-pin Socket F interconnect, they add.
UK carrier O2 this week confirmed it is looking for new handset maker partners to push its XDA smart phone family forward following a parting of the ways with its original XDA supplier, HTC. Long-time HTC customer i-mate may also be for the chop, if comments from the manufacturer are to be taken at face value.
CommentComment Movio, the impending disaster that is British Telecom's approach to mobile TV, announced it has signed up ZTE to make 3G phones for the service. It also said its strategy would be largely built on showing existing UK TV channels – BBC One, ITV1, Channel 4 and E4, on the phone. We have discovered in the past that this shortcut into mobile TV, using the existing DAB multiplexes around the UK that were built solely for digital audio radio, will deliver a TV channel in around 70 Kbps, as opposed to the 400 Kbps that is likely across the rest of Europe. That will make it look very average, if not downright unwatchable. This choice was made so that the service could get a one year head start on other services which lack spectrum and which won't get any until the spring auction for the less than perfect 1.45 GHz spectrum that regulator Ofcom has found in its closet. It will then take six months to build a network and get a service off the ground, so BT thinks it has a year's head start. But that's about all it has. It has had to go to ZTE for phones because none of the majors are interested in what is likely to be a tiny requirement, and couldn't even line up its partner Virgin to use the same phones. Virgin instead will use a Windows Media Mobile phone from HTC. The new phone is supposed to offer the opportunity for other 3G operators to offer BT Movio, alongside their existing video-on-demand services. Do we hear the clamour of Vodafone, O2 and Orange, which all have advanced video strategies, beating down the door to take an inferior mobile TV service? We don't think so. Also the choice of channel and the fact that those channels will simulcast is rather strange. The main usage patterns for mobile TV are to watch them in work breaks, while traveling to and from work, and at home while the TV is on, and again late at night. Most UK channels have children's programming on them during the work breaks and travel time, and when watching at home they will see the same programmes that they are avoiding on TV by watching their phone. Even a six to eight hour delay would have meant that adults can watch last night's TV that they missed on their phones, which might promote viewing. Of course, the channel owners are reluctant to offer a delay, scared of losing viewers and might want more money for a delayed service, but it would be worth it. If Movio gets a decent number of customers (not assured by any means) it will be in an invidious position a year from now. It will be faced with putting in a high bid for the new spectrum to ensure it gets all or some of it, in order to avoid the comparison of a new service running in clear QVGA, at 30 frames a second, against its own impoverished, unwatchable, low resolution, screens. If it doesn't get that spectrum it won't only have missed an opportunity, but wasted everything it spent on Movio as well. BT Movio says it is the first wholesale mobile TV service in the world and that it combines live TV, DAB digital radio, a seven day program guide and "red button" interactivity for mobile phones. Virgin Mobile, which has previously been announced as the first UK mobile operator to offer this service, has also released retail pricing, product specifications, advertising support and availability details. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
AMD looks set to introduce its first 65nm processors in December this year, a quartet of dual-core Athlon 64 X2 CPUs, if a report citing sources who've seen the chip maker's latest roadmap are to be believed.
Riverbed Technology has become the first storage company to go public in around two years - it's also one of the first WAN acceleration start-ups to go public. Riverbed, whose Steelhead boxes act as local file caches and can also speed up WAN connections between offices, opened on Nasdaq yesterday at $9.75 per share. The price rose to $15.60 in later trading. The IPO raised some $86m for the four-year-old company, which has been spending hard in recent quarters and lost $10m in the first six months of 2006, according to its IPO filing with the US SEC. Rivals had accused Riverbed of spending too much on sales and marketing and not enough on R&D, but the company said it was strengthening its management to support its strong growth - it has grown at least 30 per cent in every quarter since introducing its first Steelheads in 2004. In its prospectus, Riverbed said it would use the money raised to grow the company, develop new products, and possibly acquire other companies. It also said it has an accumulated deficit of $41.8m and expects to continue making losses - something which doesn't seem to have deterred investors, desperate to jump onto the latest techno bandwagon. Several other WAN acceleration start-ups have already been bought up, as Orbital Data was recently by Citrix, but the success of the Riverbed IPO could bode well for those still in private hands, such as Availl, Certeon, Expand Networks, Signiant and Silver Peak Systems. ®
The German government this week published proposals to modernise the country's computer hacking laws. The proposed update makes denial of service attacks and hacking assaults against individuals clearly criminal. Previously, only attacks against companies and government organisations were indictable offences. Gaining access to data, without necessarily stealing information, would also become an arrestable offence. The measures would raise the maximum tarriff for computer hacking offences to 10 years imprisonment in the case of conviction for the most serious crimes. In large part the proposals update existing laws, and bring German legislation in line with an EU resolution on information system attacks proposed in February 2005, heise reports. Controversy has centered around a provision in the draft laws that would make it an offense to create or distribute "hacking tools", something of an ambiguous term. Critics point out that many of these tools are used by system administrators and security consultants quite legitimately to probe for vulnerabilities in corporate systems. "White hats will not be able to get them [hacking tools] and use them internally for testing or external security consultants won't be able to do security testing," van Hauser, president of The Hacker's Choice, a non-commercial group of security experts told IDG. "It's a win-lose law in favour of the bad guys," he added. The proposals are explained in a release by the German Justice ministry here and in greater detail here (PDF in German). The proposed German changes in computer hacking law are similar to measures proposed in the UK's Police and Justice Bill, published by the government in January. As with Germany's draft legislation, security experts here took exception to plans to ban the development, ownership and distribution of so-called "hacker tools". The distinctions between, for example, a password cracker and a password recovery tool, or a utility designed to run DOS attacks and one designed to stress-test a network, are not properly covered in the proposed legislation, critics say. ®
AMD opens up, Intel follows suit AMD is to open up access to the specs for its Opteron socket set so other companies can make chips and accelerators that will fit straight onto the board. The decision means it won't be too long before you'll be able to stick AMD and Intel chips onto the same motherboard. AMD already gives some access to companies and it is keeping a veto on who gets the info – companies which have "the capability and staying power", we were told. Sun, IBM, Cray and Fujitsu are already getting involved. Of course, there's nothing like being open from a position of strength, but AMD is not alone. We're hearing whispers that Intel is planning a very similar move. Here's AMD's friends and family package and here's the lowdown on Intel's moves. HP turns mole into mountain HP's refusal to even pretend to sort out the phone snooping mess continues to cause trouble. Chief executive Mark Hurd, the supposed new broom who is taking over as chairman once Patricia Dunn leaves her post, has inevitably been drawn into the mess. Leaked emails about the search for leaks reveal Hurd knew investigators were going after reporters' phone records. Even more bizarrely, the potentially illegal investigation was overseen by HP's ethics chief – so what are the qualifications for that job? HP will be getting through plenty of expensive printer ink as the SEC and Congressional committee demand copies of all those pesky emails. There's so much coming out of HP that the Reg is considering a weekly anthology all of its own – like Eastenders on a Sunday. A board meeting later today (Friday) may offer more clarity, but we wouldn't count on it. To help you keep up: HP powers up its printers HP's lessons in PR One in three directors pinches data And before we get too smug about HP's problems, have a look at a recent survey that found one in three directors admitted stealing company data. Favourite information for the light-fingered director is training manuals, but some 18 per cent pinch financial figures, and 14 per cent liberate client reports. MP3 players and memory sticks are the favourite way to carry the information off, while 18 per cent use email. Never mind hackers, it's the company directors you need to be keeping any eye on. We've more here on directorial data thieves. Virgin trains: late but fast Virgin Trains is set to offer its customers broadband wireless internet access. Travellers will be able to while away the time online while they're, err...on the line. The technology comes from a company called Nomad, which is using unlicensed spectrum and cunning handover technology. No details on pricing, but it's expected to be in line with other hotspots. Mucky malware targets IE hole Hackers are exploiting a known hole in IE to infect browsers visiting mucky websites. There's a bunch of holes in IE, but most are not being actively targeted like this. So switch your browser, or clean up your browsing habits. Also this week saw the man behind the Zotob virus sentenced in Morocco. The man, nicknamed Diabl0, got two years for the attack in August 2005 which brought down ABC, CNN and the FT, among others. Diabl0, and an alleged co-conspirator, were picked up just 12 days after the virus attack thanks to help from the FBI. Windows Vista: It's a beautiful view It's late, Gartner says you don't want it, and the European Commission is already considering anti-trust action. But Jim Allchin was banging the drum this week for the wonders of Microsoft's newest operating system. Of course, we can't knock a Vista evangelist for coming over a bit evangelical, but Allchin's open letter is a touch gushing. Titled "Windows Vista: Now is the time!" the letter promises: "People will flock to software that is new, compelling, and 'cool'." Not just that, but we're promised: "We are very close to being done." Read our version here or have a look at Allchin's letter here. Virtual teams need real help A bit of timely advice from Cisco this week on running virtual teams. Which might sound flash, but in these days of home working and offshoring this could mean almost any team you manage. The research shows a virtual team will take four times as long to exchange a set number of messages as a team working in the same location. It also notes the gaping hole left when the team-building pub-related afternoon is removed from the equation. Virtual teams need a virtual pub trip as much as better messaging technology. Data recovery bloomers A nice collection of d'oh! moments from data recovery specialist Disklabs which had a look through the 50,000 cases it deals with each year. Top of the list was a laptop that had been peed on by a cat. Also worth a mention is the road warrior who left his laptop on the roof of his car. In his own words: "I was doing about 40mph when i saw it in the rear view mirror." More data recovery schandenfreude here. While we're on the subject, who can resist a water company forced to close its IT department because of a leaky pipe? Not us. Some headlines need no further explanation: PC thief steals court PC during trial Dutch TV hounds Google Earth topless sunbather Arms manufacturer loads lead-free bullets Dell Q3 dulling Analysts are warning that a supply glut in Asia will hit Dell's third quarter result. This won't be helped by reductions in its marketing budget from Intel. Dell's recent adoption of AMD chips could see cuts from Intel. Pressure on prices will also continue to eat into the company's margins. DTI watches over sickly health provider The Department of Trade and Industry is keeping a steady eye on the health of health provider iSoft. Health secretary Patricia Hewitt admitted this week that payments of £58m and £23.8m were made to the troubled company just days before its financial year ended in 2005 and 2006. Hewitt insisted the deal offered value for money. SGI: blast from the past Finally, this week saw the return of SGI. A judge this week approved the server specialist's route out of bankrupcy. It is a slimmed-down version of its old self with just 1,600 staff and an old school strategy of sticking with Xeon – we wish them well. That's it for this week, thanks for reading. ®
Caveat: some historical details and aircraft specifications in this piece are based on a variety of sources - not all of which agree. We've done our best to provide what we believe are the right facts and figures, but some aspects of the ekranoplan story are still open to debate.
Pity poor Sun Microsystems - not only is staff morale crushed by huge losses and puzzling fat cat bonuses - news has now reached Vulture Central of a flood of lavatorial mischief at its Belgium tentacle. Cue an internal email with the subject "Respect for others". Take it away, Sun Belgium and Luxembourg managing director Paul De Decker... All, As there are no small children in this building, I never thought I would have to send this kind of mail. During the last couple of weeks, it seems one of the male employees on the _second floor_ either has a serious illness or a lack of respect for others..., cause he urinates against the wall in the toilettes instead of in the appropriate recipient. Apart from the nuissance for other people and for people cleaning, I worry about the health of the person involved. So should anybody see this happening, please do notify us, so that we can take appropriate measures. Thanks, Paul - -- Paul De Decker* * Managing Director Belgium - Luxembourg Oh dear. We were unable to contact the "appropriate recipient" to see how he/she feels about the snub. If anyone can...er...finger the perp, or can lend Sun a mop, get in touch. ®
LettersLetters Take a deep breath in. Breathe out and congratulate yourself. You have made it to Friday, and are soon to be rewarded with a weekend (unless you work on Saturdays or something).
Mobile WorkshopMobile Workshop It seems like we struck a nerve with the recent mobile workshop article on email devices. With other subjects, such as security and push email, there has been a discussion around the various approaches and their pros and cons, but on the device front it seems that there is a high degree of frustration.
Also in this week's column: Why are so many humans near sighted? Is there a speed or stride where running is more efficient? Can you be addicted to the internet? Why are we not irritated by the volume of our own voice? Asked by Vincent Rot of Heemstede, The Netherlands How can we stand our own shouting? After all, we're closer than anyone else to the source of the loud noise (unless we're shouting directly into their ear). So if they can't stand it, how can we? The answer is actually fairly simple. It is related to another classic Odd Body Question: Why does my voice sound differently to others than it does to me? When we listen to our own voice, including when we shout, we are not hearing solely with our ears. We are also internally hearing a mostly liquid transmission through a series of bodily organs. Speech begins at the larynx (voice box) from which a sound vibration emanates. Part of this vibration is conducted through the air. This part is what others hear when we speak. But another part of the vibration is directed through the various fluids and solids of our head. Our inner and middle ears are located within caverns hollowed out of bone. In fact, this is the hardest portion of the human skull. The inner ear contains fluid, the middle ear contains air, and both are constantly pressing against each other. The larynx is also encased in soft tissue full of liquid. Sound transmits differently through air than through solids and liquids. This difference accounts for nearly all of the tonal variations we hear compared to what others hear. The volume of a voice depends upon many factors. One of these is the size of the resonance chamber of the upper respiratory tract. When this is constricted by a cold our voice is not as loud and sounds differently. The skull and tissues insulate us from the volume of our own voice. Also, we project our voices away and not towards our ears. This lessens the volume of our voice that we hear. If you hold your hand in front of your mouth, your voice sounds louder since your hand reflects back the sound. 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: Can you be addicted to the internet? Why are we not irritated by the volume of our own voice? Is there a speed or stride where running is more efficient? Why are so many modern humans near sighted? Asked by Alan Harper of Oakland, California, USA The eye receives rays of light and bends them so that an image is resolved on a small point of the retina. But things can go wrong. If the rays focus in front of the retina, the person has myopia (aka near-sightedness or short-sightedness) and suffers blurred vision of distant objects. But if the rays focus at a point behind the retina, the person has hyperopia (aka hypermetropia, far-sightedness or long-sightedness) and suffers blurred vision of nearby objects. According to Dr Stephen Miller, director of the clinical care centre of the American Optometric Association in St Louis, "the shape of the eyeball and the focusing power of the lens and cornea help determine focus, but the angle at which light rays hit the eye plays a role". "Light comes into the eye from all directions. Rays entering the eye at an angle from above or below would tend to focus somewhere before or behind the centre of vision. Those rays coming in essentially perpendicular to the eye, on the other hand, would tend to be focused more directly on the retina, providing a clearer image of what one is looking at." Myopia occurs in at least seven different forms, occurs in varying degrees of severity, and can first develop in infancy, youth, or adulthood. The prevalence of myopia varies from country to country. Depending upon how it is defined, myopia rates are as high as 70 to 90 per cent in Asia, 30 to 40 per cent in Europe and the US, but only 10 to 20 per cent in Africa. A 2005 study published in Optometry and Vision Science found that slightly more than 50 per cent of UK first-year university students are myopic. School myopia appears during the childhood school years. This form of myopia is attributed to use of the eyes for close work at school. As humans use their eyes more and more in close activities (reading, computers, video games, television, and so on) in our modern world, it's not surprising there is so much myopia. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
Also in this week's column: Can you be addicted to the internet? Why are we not irritated by the volume of our own voice? Why are so many humans near sighted? Is there a speed or stride where running is more efficient? Asked by Ville Herva of Espoo, Finland Optimal stride What makes an optimal stride? It seems that nobody knows for sure. According to Kevin Beck of Human Kinetics, Inc of Champaign, Illinois: "It would be great to answer that question, but in fact, no one knows." As a general rule, taller runners with longer legs have longer optimal strides. On average their optimal strides are 1.4 times their leg length (while running seven minute miles). However, on an individual basis, height and leg length are poor determinants of optimal stride. In a study of 10 experienced runners, the subject with the shortest leg length had the longest self-selected and the longest optimal stride. The runners, on average, chose strides just four centimeters from optimal. Beck adds that "most experienced runners select a stride length that does not differ dramatically from the ideal". This implies that overall running experience has something to do with the capacity to self-select an optimal length of stride. In one study, when collegiate runners were studied from the beginning to the end of their competitive careers, researchers found that running stride lengths tended to decrease from their first year to their final year. This is in line with the findings that elite runners tend to have shorter strides than experienced but less accomplished runners. But does all of this help an individual runner to optimise his or her stride? After all, some runners self-select strides that are shorter than optimal. Beck further adds that "without true predictors of what an optimal stride length is for an individual (and even a trained coach would probably have a hard time determining whether a runner was over-striding or under-striding), there's not much a runner can do except let his or her body adjust to an optimal stride through experience". It is possible that runners choose a stride rate that is most efficient, regardless of the speed, and adjust stride length to obtain the desired speed. According to Beck, "this is because stride length has to balance with stride frequency, or stride rate, to produce a given speed, and because each runner's stride length varies widely across speeds while stride rate stays relatively constant - increasing slightly with increasing speeds. Optimal speed Humans adjust their walking and running gaits to minimise the metabolic energy cost of motion. The walking speed that we tend to prefer is the one that minimises energy cost per unit distance. According to Dr R McNeill Alexander of the School of Biology at the University of Leeds, writing in the September 2002 issue of the American Journal of Human Biology: "When time is valuable, faster speeds might seem preferable. At speeds up to two metres per second, walking requires less energy than running, and we walk. At higher speeds, running is more economical, and we run. At each speed we use the stride that minimises energy costs." From the use of a computer model that predicts metabolic rates for all conceivable gaits of a simple biped, we understand these and other features of human gait. For example, the energy cost of walking is increased on uphill slopes and also on soft ground such as sand. Energy expended is greater with an increased heavy load as well. Interesting facts Humans may be the most efficient of all animals at one type of running: Trotting. We may not be the fastest runners over a short distance, but we trot the best over long distances. Humans often survived by wounding a large game animal during a hunt and tracking it down often over great distances until it fell. We did this thanks to our ability to trot. Humans have been walking as we do today for about 3.2m years. This is according to research headed by Dr William Sellars from the Department of Human Sciences at Loughborough University in the UK and published in the July 2005 Interface of the Journal of the Royal Society. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
UpdatedUpdated Forget the threat to humanity posed by Spaniard-swallowing cyberkiosks: it's evident the Lizard Army has deployed a far more dangerous version of the murderous telecoms cubicle, viz: the bottle-wielding Mancunian attack phone box: Chilling stuff indeed. Fellow neoLuddite Resistance Army members in Manchester are advised to take the usual precautions against homicidal phone box attack: laser pulse plasma rifle and kevlar vest. You have been warned. ® Update The Lizard Army's BBC operatives moved quickly to cover their tracks on this one: the story now reads "The 19-year-old man was attacked near a phone box..." Bootnote Thanks to NRA scout Adam Barraclough for the intelligence.
Also in this week's column: Why are we not irritated by the volume of our own voice? Is there a speed or stride where running is more efficient? Why are so many humans near sighted? Can you be addicted to the internet? Asked by Ian Anderson of Aberdeen, Scotland Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is one of the new psychopathologies of the internet era. The first mention of "internet addiction" was in a 1996 paper by Drs O.Egger and M Rauterberg of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. The first case of IAD in the clinical literature was presented by Dr KS Young of the Department of Psychology at the University of Pittsburgh campus in Bradford, Pennsylvania and appears in the February 1997 Psychological Reports. Bradford is now the home of the Centre for Internet Addiction. The case concerns a 43-year-old housewife who was addicted to the internet yet who otherwise had no prior history of any other psychiatric problem. It is unknown how many people suffer from IAD. There are several symptoms of IAD. These include: A need for an ever increasing amount of time on the internet to achieve satisfaction or a dissatisfaction with the continued use of the same amount of time on the internet. Two or more withdrawal symptoms developing within days, weeks, or up to a month after a reduction or cessation of internet use. These include distress or impairment of social, personal, or occupational functioning such that there is psychological or psychomotor agitation such as anxiety, restlessness, irritability, trembling, tremors, voluntary or involuntary typing movements of the fingers, obsessive thinking, fantasies, or dreams about the internet. Internet engagement to relieve or avoid withdrawal symptoms. Internet often accessed more often or for longer periods of time than was intended. A significant amount of time is spent in activities related to internet use (for example, internet surfing). Important social, occupational, or recreational activities eliminated or reduced due to internet use. Risk of loss of a significant relationship, job, educational, or career opportunity due to excessive internet use. Internet engagement used as a way of escaping problems or relieving feelings of guilt, helplessness, anxiety, or depression. Concealing from or lying to family members about the extent of internet use. Internet user driven to financial difficulty due to incurring unaffordable internet fees. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
A high-speed magnetic levitation train has crashed on a test track in north-west Germany, killing 23 and injuring 10 others. The Transrapid train crashed into a maintenance vehicle this morning, about one kilometer after leaving a station, according to a local police spokesman. The train was left hanging off the elevated track, police said. Transrapid's 31.5km (20 mile) test track is now the only maglev system in Europe, although maglevs are carrying passengers in both China and Japan - Transrapid's one commercial line links Shangai airport with the city's financial district, moving passengers at up to 500kmh (310mph) to cover 35km in just eight minutes. Environmentally clean, but hugely expensive to build, maglevs use the repulsive force generated between magnets or electromagnets to lift the vehicle. Most forms of the technology (including Transrapid) also use a magnetic linear motor for propulsion. Maglev technology was first used commercially in the UK, with a low speed shuttle linking Birmingham airport to its railway station. However, that system was replaced by a pulley-based shuttle in 1995, after 11 years of operation.
The days of high street DVD sales are numbered, if new poll figures are to be believed. Video download gremlins are holding growth back, however. The poll of 1,008 internet users said 39 per cent have been scuppered by poor quality. Users expect downloads to be cheaper too, but as we saw with the launch of Disney movies on iTunes at $14.99, so far they're not. As with music downloads, the subsription model is finding an audience, particularly among younger users. More than half would prefer to fork out once a month for unlimited viewing, despite the likelihood of DRM software nixing further viewings when the subscription is ended. Despite the problems and lack of proven business models, two-thirds have already been convinced by hypesters that video downloads will be the norm inside three years. Kim Bayley, secretary general of the Entertainment Retailers Association, which represents more than 90 per cent of stores in the sector, thinks that date is somewhat ambitious. She conceeds that hardware makers like Apple have stolen a march on high street stores; 41 per cent were unaware that iTunes and iPod don't have to be used together, and just 16 per cent of downloaders used the site of a primarily bricks and mortar operation like HMV. The research was conducted for pollster ICM on behalf of video download distributor British Internet Broadcasting Company (BIBC). Managing director Paul Hague was predictably upbeat about the figures. He said: "For years people have talked about the death of the high street, and video downloads are set to offer a new challenge. "This is particularly pertinent to the DVD market, which cannot compete with downloads as they cannot possibly offer the same cheap, environmentally-friendly, high-quality, and secure offering that video downloads can provide." ®
FoTWFoTW Last Friday we ran a revealing piece on the unfortunate tale of an old timer in Dorset who fell down a manhole and whose cries for help were duly ignored by his fellow Brits. A damning indictment on UK society today, to be sure, and one which had this Canadian reaching for the angry tablets: Having read this article, I am beginning to think that maybe the Muslims are right and the west is evil. After reading about your associates who would have stolen the guy's car and cell phone, I am inclinde to think that perhaps amputation of the left hand for theft is not such a bad idea after all. Your associates are the worst kind of assholes, and I hope never to have the misfortune of being in their disgusting presence. Wishing you all the very worse in life, because you are a bunch of dickheads, who desever no better. Ron Sigh. I could respond to this invective at some length, but I've just noticed out of the window that one of the Vulture Central ad sales boys is trying to steal the 3G phone which I ill-advisedly left on my car's dashboard. Back as soon as I've chopped the disgusting bastard's hands off... ®
HP - which faces US federal and state investigations for spying on board members and journalists - is co-sponsoring an award for "privacy innovation". The annual awards, now in their fourth year, are jointly sponsored by HP and the Maine-based International Association of Privacy Professionals, and aim to honour "strong and unique contributions to the privacy industry". Previous winners of the awards have included Microsoft and eBay. Nominations for this year's awards are currently open with winners in three categories (large organisations, smaller organisations [under 5,000 employees] and technology innovation) due to be announced during a ceremony in Toronto, Canada, on 20 October. IAPP executive director Trevor Hughes said HP's mismanaged leak probe doesn't make it an inappropriate sponsor of the awards. "A private investigation done through a board of directors is a bit removed from the normal things that we would cover," Hughes said. "Everything I have seen has shown me that HP is actually a very good corporate citizen when it comes to consumer privacy issues." The targets of HP's wide-ranging mole hunt might well disagree with this assessment. During the probe, private investigators acting on behalf of HP got hold of directors' phone records in an effort to finger the mole. Investigators posed as directors and journalists in order to obtain call records (using a practice known as pretexting). The firm is also accused of trying to install spyware onto a journalist's computer, and looking into the feasibility of planting spies in the newsrooms of CNet and The Wall Street Journal. Entertainingly, the investigation was overseen by HP's director of ethics, Kevin Hunsaker. One long-term HP director, Tom Perkins, resigned in protest over the methods used in the investigation while another, George Keyworth, resigned after being identified as the source of leaks on HP's corporate strategy to news media outlets. HP's chairman, Patricia Dunn, agreed to step down (but not until January) after acknowledging her role in authorising the mishandled investigation. Despite this, Dunn will retain her seat on HP's board. ®
ReviewReview It seems that having a laptop stamped with an Italian sports car brand is the in-thing these days. Acer has been hanging around the pit-lane with Ferrari, and Asus has teamed up with Lamborghini to create the VX1. It comes in a choice of black or yellow trim - Lamborghini's corporate colours - although there's more to the VX1 than a cool paint job...
Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is claiming a major victory over carousel fraudsters after discovering they were all using the same bank. Every fraudster who had his collar felt in the last two years for carousel fraud had an account with the First Curacao International Bank (FCIB). The Caribbean bank was shut down after raids in cooperation with Dutch authorities following raids in Holland and Wales. HMRC believes many of the 2,500 UK citizens who also use the bank are involved in carousel fraud. HMRC released a statement: "HMRC has in place a comprehensive strategy to deal with carousel fraud, and will actively pursue the organised criminals involved and deny them the proceeds of these crimes, wherever the money trails take us anywhere in the world. "Our investigations in recent months have shown that FCIB has regularly been used by fraudsters and we are confident that the Dutch actions will have a significant disruptive effect on fraud in the UK." A government source told the Guardian: "We think the carousel fraud industry has been holed below the waterline." Carousel fraud involves importing, or claiming to import, goods from another EU country without paying VAT, then selling them on and pocketing the tax. The same goods will often go from country to country earning fraudulent tax at every stage. Increasingly, the goods don't even physically move. Dutch police want to question the bank's founder John Deuss. Deuss admitted to reporters that the bank was under investigation but denied any wrongdoing. Customs investigators used powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act to track the fraudsters' earnings. But FCIB had problems finding a bank to handle final payments to its UK customers - this forced it to suspend accounts. HMRC recently got permission from the European Union to change the way VAT on mobile phones and computer chips, most often used for carousel fraud, is collected. More from The Guardian here. In other news a BBC investigation has found the total value of VAT-fraud could be up to four times higher than Customs estimates. Panorama used figures from Eurocanet - a European Commission sponsored joint police initiative. It estimates total UK fraud to be as high as €12.2bn. More here. Customs disputes the figures.®
Cisco says it will cut its corporate carbon emissions by 10 per cent within the next year. The company plans to achieve most of the reduction by cutting back on air travel for its employees and investing $20m into alternatives to travel, such as collaborative technologies. The move is an aggressive commitment that will be "a real challenge to meet", according to David Yarnold, executive VP of the US non-profit advocacy group Environmental Defense. However, Cisco boss John Chambers said that Cisco also expects to save $100m on its travel bill as a result of the cut-backs, so it has a real incentive to make it work. In a second project, Cisco is also investing $15m in pilot programmes that will embed technologies such as GPS, RFID and wireless comms into transportation systems in Amsterdam, Seoul and San Francisco. The aim is to reduce congestion and improve how people move around cities. "The Connected Urban Development initiative will create an urban communications infrastructure that increases the efficiency of traffic flow, which in turn dramatically enhances how people experience life in and around cities," said Chambers, adding that less congestion also means less pollution. The plans were announced by Chambers, as Cisco participated in the Clinton Global Initiative in New York. They coincided with even grander statements from bearded business baron Richard Branson. However, Chambers did not mention how much more hype we could expect from Cisco over the coming year on how collaborative technologies and unified communications mean we no longer need to travel to meetings - just like all those other meetings that videoconferencing saved us from, years ago.®
WSAWSA The personal assistant allegedly attacked with a BlackBerry by battling clotheshorse Naomi Campbell has appeared on US TV to give the full, gory details. Amanda Brack, 20, entertained The Tyra Banks Show earlier this week with claims that the supermodel attacked her three times, spat in her face and threw her passport in a swimming pool. The infamous PDA incident, Brack claims, occurred not in Rio de Janeiro as previously thought, but rather in Mexico when Campbell allegedly "cornered her against a wall over problems with flights and luggage". Then, Brack recalled: "She got really, really upset and slammed her Blackberry in my face." Brack went on to claim that the only thing which saved her from a righteous techno-beating was Campbell's hairdresser, who intervened to pull off the enraged bitchslapper. Brack also claimed that Campbell's international litany of abuse included the launching of a friend's mobile phone at her head (New York); spitting in her face (Morocco); and cutting up her passport and chucking it in a swimming pool (also Morocco). Campbell's other alleged escapades encompass: throwing a cell phone at the head of housekeeper Ana Scolavino (New York); causing £30,000 worth of damage to former lover Badr Jafar's yacht (Tuscan Riviera); and going mental outside the aformentioned ex-squeeze's flat at 3.30am (London). Campbell, meanwhile, is in Australia for a "private engagement". She landed aboard a Quantas flight at Sydney yesterday and, according to News.com.au, gave a Qantas flight attendant a piece of her mind with: "Fuck off" and "I am never flying Qantas again." The outburst was attributed to Campbell's mistaken belief that Qantas had tipped off the media as to her arrival in Oz. In fact, representatives of The Saturday Daily Telegraph just happened to be waiting for another VIP arrival when they heard she'd landed. Ms Campbell set them straight, too, telling members of the Lucky Country's press to "Fuck off" and "Respect my privacy". Campbell is still awaiting trial in New York on the Ana Scolavino second degree assault rap. We suspect the US media will not much respect her privacy when she is eventually hauled before the beak. ®
Google has lost its appeal to Belgian courts to ditch part of the ruling in a copyright case against its news service which it lost earlier this month. The case was brought by newspaper group Copiepress, which said Google News should have asked its permission and agreed financial terms. In the original judgment, the court ordered Google to publish the full judgment on its site. Google didn't fancy that much, whining that the publicity the case had attracted rendered it unneccesary. Today an appeal against the 5 September decision was rejected. Google will be fined €500,000 for each day the judgment goes unpublished. It said it will appeal again as part of a wider attempt to overturn Copiepress' victory in November. The search engine has always maintained Google News does not trip any copyright legislation. In other news, increasingly frustrated by Google's copyright-infringing plot to index everything in the world ever, publishers will trial a system which should avoid messy legal wrangling in future. The World Association of Newspapers (WAN), the European Publishers Council (EPC), the International Publishers Association (IPA), and the European Newspapers Association (ENPA), represent media organisations around the globe. A pilot of Automated Content Access Protocol (ACAP) - a technology for granting permissions - was announced today. EPC chairman Francisco Pinto Balsemão said: "ACAP will unambiguously express our preferred rights and terms and conditions. In doing so, it will facilitate greater access to our published content, making it more, not less available, to anyone wishing to use it, while avoiding copyright infringement and protecting search engines from future litigation." More details on ACAP should emerge in October. ®
Intellectual property lobbyists are warning that new plans to shake up Europe's policy on patents could put patentable software back on the menu, as well as upping legal fees and putting small businesses in jeopardy.
Germany's Nova Media has launched Globesurfer ICON, an all-on-one GPRS, EDGE, 3G and HSDPA wireless data modem for the Mac. The €339 ($432/£yy/€228) box hooks up to a spare USB port - it's bus powered - and comes pre-loaded with connection settings for 300 carriers around the world, courtesy of the company's own Launch2net software, though UMTS and HSDPA 3G connectivity isn't available in the US. More details from Nova Media's website. ®
ExclusiveExclusive AMD has secured yet another major partner win thanks to Opteron. Starting with the Power7 processor, IBM will give up on making its own Unix/RISC box motherboards. Instead, it will plug the Power chips directly into slightly modified Opteron boards in an effort to save money. Neither IBM nor AMD would comment for this story. Multiple sources, however, did confirm the move in interviews with The Register. IBM and AMD have already signed an agreement around the arrangement. Our sources have also revealed that Sun Microsystems is in discussions with AMD to pursue a similar plan for its UltraSPARC and UltraSPARC T1 processors. "We are excited about AMD's common socket initiative because it opens up a whole new set of possibilities in systems design, but we aren't prepared to discuss any specific products using this at this time," said Sun's server chief John Fowler. This week, AMD revealed a new partner program that will let third-parties such as Sun, IBM and smaller vendors build products that fit directly into Opteron sockets. Most analysts believed that IBM and Sun were just experimenting with how they would make use of this Opteron option. But The Register can confirm that engineering efforts have started within IBM to fit the far off Power7 chips right into the Opteron sockets. By playing off Opteron motherboards, IBM would enjoy some serious cost savings. It would no longer need to produce separate motherboards for its Unix server line. Some questions remain as to how well x86 motherboards will stack up against RISC boards in the high-end SMP server market. Although, experts interviewed for this story said that by the time Power7 arrives - possibly in 2009 - AMD should be able to churn out top-notch SMP systems. "I think people are getting smarter about how to take advantage of commodity stuff," said Fred Weber, AMD's former CTO and now CEO of MetaRam. Given the apparent direction of Opteron designs, it would be feasible to create 32-socket systems outfitted with four-core chips, Weber said. And that's just in the 2007 or 2008 timeframe. So, IBM could easily build large SMPs by the time Power7 ships. When asked if all the Tier1 RISC vendors are likely to head toward AMD's boards, Weber said, "It would not surprise me if they did or if they didn't." There are clear cost benefits to be had here for the RISC crowd. Intel, for example, plans to have both Itanium and Xeon chips slot into the same motherboards by at least 2009 and possibly 2008. That would lower the overall costs of producing Itanium servers for OEMs and likely translate to a cost break for end customers. If AMD could sign up IBM, Sun and Fujitsu, then it would enjoy a significant volume play and associated cost savings. And all three of the RISC vendors would potentially save money by turning to a single supplier for their motherboards rather than producing custom gear on their own. Beyond the cost aspects, AMD has to be pleased from a public relations standpoint to secure this deal with IBM and to have possible deals with Sun and Fujitsu in the works. Its pay for openness policy seems to be working well against Intel for the moment. IBM has spent the last few years pouring money into specialized chipsets for Xeon-based servers. Big Blue now seems to be forming deeper ties with AMD. ®
ExclusiveExclusive Virgin Atlantic has updated its restrictions for the use of Apple- and Dell-branded notebook computers on its flights. The good news: the ban on battery use is no longer total - the company is now restricting only those batteries whose serial numbers are covered by the vendors' product recalls.
The imminent arrival of Windows Vista is a mixed blessing for developers. The good bit is lots of new features to play with, along with better security and an updated user interface. The downside is compatibility problems, and with the challenge of meeting expectations for well-behaved, good-looking Vista applications. There is going to be some pain. Tripping up over UAC At a developer-focused press briefing last week, Microsoft assured us that Vista is the biggest release of Windows ever. Perhaps it is; but the most basic question is this: will your existing applications run on Vista They may do; but if they trip up, it will most likely be over UAC or User Account Control, Microsoft's attempt to bring Unix-like user security into Windows. There is a fair amount of confusion over UAC, which is mainly famous for perplexing the user with numerous permission prompts. These have been tamed in the latest Vista Release Candidate, but the fundamentals of UAC remain. By default all users run without administrator rights, even administrators. Applications that require additional permissions must be started as an elevated process, hence the prompts. But how will Windows know what permissions your application requires? The answer: only by reading a manifest resource embedded in the executable. Pre-Vista applications will not have one, so they might crash or behave strangely. The strange behaviour is because of a UAC feature called virtualization. The idea is to accommodate legacy applications that write to protected locations such as Program Files, or registry keys in HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE. This is so common that Microsoft devised a mechanism that allows these applications to work. When they write to the protected location, Windows redirects the write operation to a user-specific location. The application thinks it is writing to Program Files, but in reality a file gets written to a second Program Files directory in the user's Virtual Store. In some cases this works fine, but it is far from perfect. Data which the application thinks is globally accessible silently becomes private to the user, and near-invisible to other applications unless they also have virtualization enabled; and typically only legacy applications will use virtualization. You are also likely to get unexpected behaviour. Imagine that your application modifies a file that already exists in Program Files. It will succeed, but in reality Windows will make a copy and put it in the Virtual Store. Now there are two different versions of that file. Some applications will see one, and some the other. Next, imagine that the application tries to delete the file. The delete appears to succeed, yet the file still exists in Program Files and remains visible to the application. If it retries the delete, an access denied exception is thrown. This is going to cause some perplexing bugs. Virtualization is one feature of UAC that administrators may want to disable. Programming the new API Vista introduces a hugely expanded Windows API, some of which is also available as an add-on for Windows XP. These XP-compatible elements will be initially more interesting to developers, and include Internet Explorer 7, the XML-based GUI called XAML, the distributed computing libraries called Windows Communication Foundation, the Windows Workflow Foundation, and the XML Paper Specification. Parts of IE 7 are relevant even to FireFox diehards, particularly the RSS Platform, a centralized store for RSS feeds. Many other parts of the new API are exclusive to Vista, including the shell and desktop APIs to support translucent glass effects, live thumbnails that show your running application in miniature, and new task dialogs that include features such as progress bars, hyperlinks and expandable text. The idea of task dialogs is to enable richer dialogs and message boxes without forcing developers to built custom forms. These are unmanaged, C++ APIs, and to use them in .NET applications you need to use Platform Invoke, which lets you call native DLLs from .NET code. If you want your application to look like a true Vista citizen, some conditional code to call these APIs when running on Vista is the way to do it. Another handy newcomer is called Application Recovery. The idea is to enable your application to crash gracefully, saving critical data as it fails, and firing up again automatically. Apparently the feature was designed for Windows Explorer in XP, for which it works some of the time, but has now been opened up for any application. While on the subject of crashing applications, it is worth mentioning that any developer can register with Microsoft to get access to crash reports uploaded by users for their application, for the cost of a digital certificate. A two-tier API? The extent of Microsoft's commitment to .NET has often been debated. At one extreme, .NET managed code is presented as the future Windows API. In the other corner are the sceptics who observe that most of Vista and Office remains native code. If .NET is really the future of Windows, it is disappointing to discover that Microsoft has not yet wrapped some key Vista features in official .NET libraries. On the other hand, the Windows Presentation Foundation, the new declarative programming model for Windows, is a .NET API. In truth these two streams will continue for the foreseeable future. Both COM and native code remain in heavy use at Microsoft. Nevertheless, for enterprise developers who want to keep pace with Microsoft’s platform, .NET is the only sane choice, supplemented by native code where necessary. Essential platform technologies like Windows Communication Foundation depend on it. What you need to know about Vista Vista enthusiasts have plenty to explore; but what is the minimum that hard-pressed developers and admins need to know? The big one here is UAC, and the best single source of information is the white paper aimed at developers, which you can find here: In particular, everyone needs to understand virtualisation, which is enabled by default but can be disabled through security policy. There are going to be hassles for any application that does not follow best practices, and developers will be hastening to fix any features that require local admin rights, signing their applications, and adding UAC manifests. It will be painful, but this is excellent news for Windows users and long overdue. ® Other resources Vista developer center: http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsvista/ “Certified for Windows Vista” requirements: http://microsoft.mrmpslc.com/VistaPlatformAdoption/Overview/CertifiedFor.aspx Vista RC1 and SDK download links: http://msdn.microsoft.com/windowsvista/downloads/products/getthebeta/default.aspx Kenny Kerr on Windows Vista for developers: http://weblogs.asp.net/kennykerr/archive/2006/07/12/Windows-Vista-for-Developers-_1320_-A-New-Series.aspx Official site for info on what works in Vista and what does not. http://devreadiness.org/default.aspx
Symantec and Adobe have raised objections to the inclusion of security software and electronic document technology in Windows Vista. Adobe has asked the European Commission to prevent the bundling of PDF document creation and reading tools that compete with its software.
Phone-tap evidence could be admitted as evidence in court as the attorney general signals a change in UK Government policy. Lord Goldsmith told The Guardian newspaper that phonetap evidence is a "key tool" that should be used. Goldsmith, the Government's senior law officer, indicated that the current laws banning wiretap evidence could be changed in a bid to fight organised crime. "I'm personally convinced we have to find a way of avoiding the difficulties," he said. "I do believe there are ways we can do that. Otherwise we're depriving ourselves of a key tool to prosecute serious and organised crime and terrorism". Goldsmith is currently on a visit to the US where he has discussied the use of wire-tap evidence with the attorney general there, Alberto Gonzales. "What I'm being told here is that the admissibility of intercept evidence is critical to some of their most difficult cases," he told The Guardian. "They have put the top five mafia bosses in prison as a result of it." Official government policy is still to maintain the ban on phone-tap evidence, and security services and police have backed the ban amidst worries that investigation techniques would become apparent via the recordings. Prosecutors have also traditionally worried about the lifting of the ban because of the volumes of material that defendants might request. "We may need help from the legislature and the judges to avoid the agencies being swamped with irrelevant requests," said Goldsmith. The news of Goldsmith's change of heart comes as 20 Italians, many of them police, were arrested over wire-tap evidence abuse. Phone company security chiefs and police are implicated in a case involving the gathering of surveillance on celebrities, footballers and politicians dating as far back as 1997. Reports from Italy suggest that the leaking of wire-tap evidence to the press is commonplace in the run up to trials. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
CommentComment BEA's acquisition of Flashline in late August left me wondering why the company had not opted for Infravio. A partial answer was revealed on 11 September with the announcement that Infravio had been acquired by webMethods.
Patricia Dunn has not survived the HP spy scandal – a turn of events that everyone except HP saw as inevitable long ago. Dunn today resigned from HP's board, elevating CEO Mark Hurd to the Chairman role. Hurd announced the executive shifts during a tense press conference at HP's headquarters in Palo Alto. Voice trembling at times and with nervous ticks, Hurd confessed to most of the gritty spy scandal details that have leaked out in various media reports. He also admitted to being involved in portions of HP's investigation and to not doing everything he should have to oversee the affair. "This is a complicated situation, and the more I look into it, the more complicated it becomes," Hurd said. "I cannot guarantee that we will ever be able to obtain all of the information regarding this investigation." "I take (investigating this situation) very seriously, and I am committed to getting to the bottom of this." Hurd and hired gun Mark Holston, from law firm Morgan Lewis, provided a fairly detailed account of HP's boardroom investigation that has been ongoing since "early 2005." Concerned over leaks to the media, HP hired a security firm to probe its own board members, employees, reporters and reporters' family members. But then you knew that already. Hurd confidently proclaimed that he personally hired Morgan Lewis to investigate the spy operation on Sept. 8, and the law firm now directly reports to Hurd. Morgan Lewis has turned up evidence of a two-phased leak probe dubbed Kona I and Kona II. Under Kona I, HP Chairman Patricia Dunn hired outside firm Security Outsourcing Solutions – don't let the SOS irony escape you. SOS with help from Dunn started digging into reporters at BusinessWeek, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times. After two months, SOS then teamed with HP Global Security on the investigation, and reported on its findings at a July 22, 2005 meeting. Hurd, along with other HP employees, attended that meeting. Kona I finished off in the "late summer of 2005 without uncovering the source of the leaks," Holston said. Then, in January of 2006, Kona II fired up. HP's senior counsel Kevin Hunsaker led this investigation, which was triggered after a Jan. 23 CNET story. The probe continued for three months with regular updates making their way to Dunn and others. Hunsaker, SOS and SOS's outside counsel assured HP that all tactics used in Kona II were legal, according to Holston. The spy mechanisms, however, quite clearly were on the fuzzy side of the law. HP's investigators fraudulently obtained phone records by using peoples' Social Security Numbers, sent a tracking email to a reporter and used surveillance to follow a number of individuals. All told, these techniques have left HP in a precarious position where employees will need to testify before a Congressional committee next week. In addition, the California Attorney General's office and the SEC are investigating the company. Instead of confessing all in one go, HP has allowed story after story to appear in various papers over the past two weeks. This has resulted in a leak scandal far worse than the original, innocuous leaks HP was investigating. At present, most people want to know exactly what Hurd knew and when, since he's actually received a promotion as a result of this affair. Here's a recap of what Hurd confessed during today's press conference. "In, I believe, Februarys 2006, I was informed by the investigation team that they intended to send an email containing false information in an effort to identify the source of the leaks. I was asked to and did approve the naming convention that was used in the content of that email. I do not recall seeing nor do I recall approving the use of tracer technology." "In March 2006, I attended a meeting at which a verbal summary of the second phase of the investigation was provided. Specifically, that the investigative team had indentified the source of the leaks. I understand there was also a written report of the investigation addressed to me and others but I did not read it. I could have, and I should have." Um, yes. Beyond these revelations, Hurd offered a couple of concessions. "I will say that some of the findings Morgan Lewis has uncovered are very disturbing to me. "On behalf of HP, I extend my sincere apologies to those journalists who were investigated and everyone who was impacted." ®