25th > September > 2006 Archive

Sybase squeezes more SAP into devices

With Oracle and SAP going at each other last week, Sybase has updated its Unwired Enterprise strategy to help put more SAP business applications into the field.
Gavin Clarke, 25 Sep 2006

Sony probes Los Angeles Airport laptop blaze

Sony has revealed it is investigating the recent self-immolation of a Lenovo ThinkPad T43 at Los Angeles Airport. The fire was apparently caused by the notebook's battery, which may have been a Sony-made component.
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2006

Dell Apple to ditch Intel for AMD?

AnalysisAnalysis Apple is the new Dell. Yes, now that the PC giant has finally, after a decade of speculation, signed up to buy processors from AMD and end its Intel-only policy, we can now expect ten further years of similar rumours that Apple's about to adopt the Athlon too.
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2006

UK firm touts phone-friendly Bluetooth media player

UK digital music player specialist Advanced MP3 Players (AMP3) has launched a compact music and movie device fitted with Bluetooth technology not only for wireless stereo audio but also to allow the gadget to interact with a mobile phone.
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2006
6

A database solution is more than database software

BlogBlog I was interested to read Ian Murphy's story about SQL Anywhere. Despite the availability of embedded databases, it seems to me that the database (in the DBMS sense) hasn't really come to mobile devices like phones yet. This is largely because of resource constraints - they're back in the 1970s mindset before enterprise databases really took off, using clever file systems for data storage (remember VSAM?).
David Norfolk, 25 Sep 2006

Smart axes 180 in strategic review

Troubled telecommunications company Smart Telecom on Friday laid off a further 180 people after completing a strategic review of its operation. The announcement was made to the London Stock Exchange and came as something of a surprise as the strategic review undertaken by NCB Stockbrokers was not expected for another fortnight. A company spokesman confirmed the redundancies to ENN and said Smart is due to reduce its workforce from its August figure of 348 to 100 over a three month period. "We're prepared to clarify factual details, but other than that we have no comment," said the spokesman, before adding that further redundancies are expected as part of the "process". "It's human nature that - given what's going on - [staff] are upset and disappointed that people they know are losing their jobs. We're getting ourselves back in shape and at the end of all this downward cost-cutting people can now look forward to coming in on Monday and get things back on track. "But that's the last bit of bad news you'll be getting out of us," he added. As part of the restructuring process stemming from the NCB review, Smart will be selling off its "low margin businesses" including its payphones and pre-paid call card division over the coming months in order to concentrate on growing its corporate and residential broadband business. Since the current hiatus became public a fortnight ago at Smart's AGM when co-founder and chief executive Oisin Fanning stood down, Smart has been reliant on funding from fellow founder and major shareholder Brendan Murtagh of the Kingspan dynasty to plug the gap; he is supplying a €2.4m loan to Smart. New chief executive Ciaran Casey said significant challenges remain for Smart but that he was satisfied with the outcome of the strategic review. "The decision by key investors to support the new strategy is very positive news for our customers, staff, and other stakeholders," he said. "I believe that the review will bring Smart very quickly to a cost base appropriate to our revenues and will reposition the company for growth within broadband and corporate services." The company requires additional equity funding - presumably to continue upgrading its broadband infrastructure - and Smart's board has engaged financial adviser Hugh Cooney of BDO Simpson Xavier to assist with deciding the most appropriate form that this fundraising should take. At the same time, executive directors Paul Sullivan and Maria Pearl Roche are resigning from the board, as is non-executive director Ken Barry. Although Smart said it had 2,000 broadband customers waiting to be connected above its current figure of 17,100 residential broadband customers, first half financial figures show sales down 15 per cent to €20.3m from €23.7m last year. An increase in administrative expenses of 61 per cent - mainly due to the hiring (then letting-go) of a 130-strong feet-in-the-street broadband sales team, and a massive advertising campaign - contributed to an operating loss of €17.9m. The six monthly figures also include an asset write down of €4.1m and Smart has completely written off the €9.9m spent on its still-before-the-High Court bid for a 3G mobile phone licence. After accounting for these exceptional items, the operating loss for the six month period totals €31.9m and after depreciation and amortisation, €35m. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Maxim Kelly, 25 Sep 2006
DVD it in many colours

No more kickboxing for the cook

Ionian BlogIonian Blog I honestly thought the cook had lost a toe. I'm pleased to be able to report that he hasn't. Equally, I'm pleased to be able to report that we're steaming along at a cracking pace under engine and, finally, I've cracked the problem of charging the satellite terminal's battery. You'll be wondering why the cook's toe is relevant to navigation or to satellites; and I'll tell you. It has to do with getting a good night's sleep, and not wanting to climb a 40-foot mast which is swaying from side to side. There are a lot of wireless goodies on a boat. Believe it or not, the wind speed indicator at the top of the mast is both wireless and solar powered. That little three-cup rotating gizmo - the anemometer - sends its opinion of the wind speed down to the deck. There, it is mocked by captain and crew. Now, how do you suppose you switch it on and off? Well, yes, you could climb up the mast, and press a button, or you could run a wire down the inside of the mast and along inside the cabin to the nav panel. But nobody wants to climb the mast, so you need to answer the question another way. Yesterday, however, the cook did want to climb the mast. It was one of those rare days when the wind looked like blowing in a useful way - allowing us to switch off the yacht's big diesel, and use the sails. So we pulled up the sails. And they jammed. "Stop! Stop! Stop!" said the cook, who was on the wheel. "It's that rubber band of yours!" he added accusingly, glaring at the owner. There's this clever system, you see, to allow the owner to get a good night's sleep. As the owner of the boat, he gets the big cabin in the front of the thing, with an en-suite toilet, or "head" all to himself. And right next to his head, when he goes to sleep, is the mast. Up and down the mast go all the big ropes, including the biggest - the one that hauls the main sail up. In the night, if the wind blows, it moves back and forth, like a very very deep bass string on a ridiculous guitar. And in so doing, it thumps the mast, like a bored toddler with a drumstick. Easily fixed! - you wrap a bit of rubber bungee cord around it, and also to the shroud - the wire that holds the mast up. That keeps the rope from touching the mast. And the owner gets a peaceful sleep. All you have to do is remember to undo that rubber band before hauling up the main sail. The owner himself does that, and on this occasion he forgot; the rubber band was now dangling 20 feet up off the deck. Volunteers to climb 20 feet up were hard to find, and The Irish rugby player decided to jump. Well, naturally that didn't work, even with a 12-foot long pole in his hand. He went up, and he came down, (without the rubber band) smack on the cook's toe. The cook said: Well, actually, on mature reflection, I think the spelling checker will choke on some of those words, so we'll leave it that he now has a red and blue toe. After he said what he had to say, we did do some sailing. And while we did that, I read some emails, and discovered that the question of "how do you switch the thing off?" was important. Answer: with the wind meter, it stays on as long as it is getting a signal from the navigator's panel. After that, if nobody wants to know what it thinks about the wind speed, it sulks, and conserves its little battery in case the sun goes down. Something similar happens with most of the other onboard electronics. You switch them on or off, and when there's no engine charge, they close down as much as possible. The Inmarsat BGAN terminal, however, is not a marine device. It's not designed for the job I'm bullying it into. I have a secret message from Inmarsat pointing out that a ship-board BGAN product is on their list of plans for 2007, and asking me to point out that they know perfectly well that the current device is not suitable for marine work. (Well, I know that, but I suppose I didn't tell my reader. So I'm telling you). What they didn't tell me is that this marine life makes assumptions that aren't sustainable. And for one of them, I think the BGAN design needs changing. Specifically, it needs to wait till I tell it to turn on before turning itself on. Like many electronic devices, the BGAN terminal has an "on" and "off" switch. You switch it on when you want it to work, and off when you've finished. And there it would end, except for the fact that if you plug it in to charge, it assumes you want it switched on and working. So here I was trying to work and something was beeping. It wasn't the VHF radio. It wasn't the lighting panel or the audio panel. It was, of course, the BGAN, sadly lamenting its inability to find a BGAN satellite. It had switched itself on when the engine came on to raise the sails, and it had stayed on when the engine went off. So, in the two hours we'd been sailing, it had been recklessly discharging the battery I'd so carefully been charging. I've sent an urgent message to Inmarsat HQ in case there's a default setting I can change, but I think the message is: don't leave the thing plugged in once it's charged or it will turn itself on when power returns. An easy problem to deal with, once you understand what's going on. That resolved, we moved on to the evening's entertainment: a rowing dinghy race. The whole flotilla tied up near a pretty beach and the oarsmen were blindfolded and instructed to row by a partner in the boat. If you ever get roped into this entertainment, I can tell you how to do it: have the partner in the water, behind the boat. It doesn't matter how crookedly the oarsman rows; with a human dragging behind the boat, it will go forward. The partner can steer it from the water; and while everybody else is spinning in circles and smashing into anchor chains and expensive Onassis-style cruisers moored nearby, the inflatable dinghy will proceed elegantly in a precise course, and win by an hour. Meanwhile, the Irish rugby player has been accidentally treading on the cook's damaged toe. The first time, it was taken as an accident; the second time, the cook expressed himself even more freely than when the original accident occurred. The third time, I suspect it was put down to malice, and I think it is just as well that the cook's deadly weapon (right foot) is disabled... ®
Guy Kewney, 25 Sep 2006

Fourth Samsung exec pleads guilty to price fixing

A Samsung executive at the centre of a memory chip price fixing scandal has pleaded guilty and agreed to serve eight months in jail. Thomas Quinn agreed the penalty as part of a plea bargain with prosecutors. Samsung Electronics is accused by the US Government of driving up the price of memory chips used in PCs and servers, called DRAM. He was accused of violating the Sherman Act. The US Department of Justice has said that Quinn has agreed to the jail term and fine but that this must now be approved by a federal court in San Francisco. "Prison time for price-fixers remains the most potent deterrent to illegal cartel activity," said Thomas Barnett, assistant attorney general in charge of the DoJ's anti-trust division. "Today's action sends a clear message – those who engage in price-fixing schemes will be held accountable for their illegal conduct." Quinn is the fourth Samsung executive to plead guilty in the case. He is the thirteenth person to be found guilty in the probe, which has gathered $731m in fines. Samsung pleaded guilty and paid a $300m criminal fine in 2005. The DoJ spent more than three years investigating price fixing between DRAM manufacturers between 1999 and 2003. Other firms which have pleaded guilty include Hynix, which in April 2005 agreed to a $185m fine and Infineon, which agreed to pay a $160m fine in September 2004. In January, Japanese manufacturer Elpida Memory agreed to plead guilty and pay an $84m fine. The DoJ's case claims that the price fixing scandal affected the businesses of some of IT's biggest names, including Dell, Hewlett-Packard, Compaq Computer, IBM, Apple, Gateway and Sun. The case against Quinn said he conspired with unnamed employees from other memory makers to fix the prices of DRAM sold to original equipment manufacturers from on or about 1 April 2001 to on or about 15 June 2002, said the DoJ. It also said that he coordinated bids on a 5 December 2001 Sun Microsystems auction. "Quinn is charged with carrying out the price fixing conspiracy by participating in meetings, conversations, and communications with competitors to discuss the prices of DRAM to be sold to certain customers [and] agreeing with competitors to coordinate bids submitted to Sun Microsystems Inc," said a DoJ statement. "This is the most recent charge in our continuing efforts to bring to justice both domestic and foreign-based executives who were involved with fixing DRAM prices," said Scott Hammond, the anti-trust division's director of criminal enforcement. "We are still very actively investigating anti-trust violations in the DRAM industry." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 25 Sep 2006

Graduate women more likely to orgasm: official

NSFWNSFW It's official: graduate women are more likely to experience an orgasm when making the beast with two backs, according to a revealing survey of 19,307 Australians. According to "Sexual Practices at Last Heterosexual Encounter and Occurrence of Orgasm in a National Survey", carried out by researchers from the UK's Sussex University and the universities of Sydney and Melbourne, it also helps if you speak English at home, have a "higher household income" and "a managerial/professional occupation". Those women who'd "used a sex toy in the last year" and "had sex more than twice a week in the four weeks before being interviewed" were similarly "significantly more likely" to have felt the earth move. The likelihood of female orgasm was not, however, affected by "whether [women] had become sexually active before age 16, the length of time they had been sexually active, the number of sexual partners over the lifetime, whether they had masturbated in the last month, had deliberately visited an internet sex site in the last year, had watched an X-rated video or film in the last year, or their attitudes toward sex". As for the blokes, well, the researchers found there "was no significant association between whether men reached orgasm during their most recent sexual encounters and language spoken at home, education, household income, occupational classification, or religious belief". Clearly demonstrating their ability to shoot their loads without regard for their mother tongue or how fat their paypacket is, 94.8 per cent of men had an orgasm during their last sexual encounter, compared to just 68.9 per cent of the opposite sex who finished the session totally satisifed as women. The principal reason for female frustration is, however, not due to socio-economic factors. Yup, you guessed it: lack of proper attention considerably reduced a woman's likelihood to orgasm. Specifically, "orgasm was least likely (50 per cent) among the group whose only reported practice was vaginal intercourse. Rates were higher (around 70 per cent) among those who had intercourse plus manual stimulation, or intercourse plus cunnilingus". And, finally, the survey unsurprisingly found that "women having sex with women were more likely to reach orgasm at their last encounter (76 per cent)" - a fact which provoked UK tabloid The Sun to condense the entire report down to the delicious headline "Lesbians have more orgasms". ®
Lester Haines, 25 Sep 2006

Asus to update HD DVD laptop for Core 2 Duo

Asus is preparing to update its W2 mobile multimedia notebook, equipping the new machine not only with a range of Core 2 Duo mobile microprocessors but also ATI's new Mobility Radeon X1700 chip and an HD DVD drive with HDMI output.
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2006

Online pharmacies raided by UK regulator

Healthcare regulators have raided a series of UK web businesses believed to be connected to the illegal offering of prescription drugs on the internet. The raids were carried out by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and involved police officers as well as MHRA staff. Raids were carried out in Essex, Middlesex, Kent and Lancashire. The raids were the culmination of investigations begun in May into 51 sites suspected of offering illegal medicines. This week's raids involved residential properties and commercial premises. The sites were alleged to be selling medications without prescription relating to the treatment of insomnia, impotency and smoking addiction, among other conditions. Regulators found unlicensed impotence drug Kamagra and 100-capsule tubs of Ephedrine in their raids. "People can be at considerable risk if they buy medicines from illegal and unregulated websites," said Mick Deats, head of enforcement and intelligence at the MHRA. "A medicine bought in this way has no guarantee of safety, quality or effectiveness. Today's visits demonstrate our commitment to safeguard public health and act as a stark warning to those in the UK who are engaged in any way with supplying medicines illegally." "Our message is simple, if you sell or supply medicines illegally, we will use all appropriate measures available to stop you, including prosecution and confiscation," said Deats. The MHRA currently has 13 cases against alleged internet medicine sales operations pending prosecution and 118 live investigations with a connection to websites. People selling medicines without prescription are guilty of breaches of the Medicines Act and the MHRA says that it will use the Proceeds of Crime Act to claw back illicit earnings from any illegal activity. Breaching the Medicines Act carries a penalty of up to two years in jail and an unlimited fine. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 25 Sep 2006

Google buckles in Belgian copyright wrangle

Google has finally complied with a court order that it must publish the judgment in a copyright case it lost against Belgian newspaper group Copiepress. The firm was facing a fine of €500,000 per day if it failed to make the ruling public. Despite this, Google said it would not play ball after it lost an appeal against the publishing order on Friday. It claimed the case had already attracted enough publicity. A full appeal against the case will go ahead in November. A Google spokesman said the change of tack in publishing the original ruling would allow it to move on to the wider battle against Copiepress. Earlier this month the publisher of La Derniére Heure, La Libre Belgique and Le Soir successfully argued that Google News Belgium infringed its copyright by republishing snippets of it newspapers' content without permission. The ruling can be read in French here at google.be. For an English translation, Babel Fish does a decent job on the judgment. Babel Fish is here. Simply stick google.be into the URL field. Be quick though, Google is only required to display its telling-off for five days. ®
Christopher Williams, 25 Sep 2006

Robin Hood actually Welsh, says American

A US historian has upset the good burghers of Nottingham by claiming Robin Hood was actually Welsh, the Evening Standard reports. Stephen Lawhead, 59, reckons our dashing hero was really called Bran ap Brychan and led his merry men in the Marsh, "a primeval forest in Wales in the eleventh century". Bran is described as "a spoiled and selfish prince who becomes the rightful heir to the kingdom of Elfael after his father is killed by the Normans". Sadly, said kingdom is quickly occupied by evil Norman prince Count Falkes de Braose, forcing Bran to leg it into the woods. Naturally, and since we suspect Lawhead is moonlighting as Mel Gibson's screenplay writer, Bran (Brad Pitt) soon hooks up with Angharad (Paris Hilton), a "mysterious healer and singing storyteller", whose faith in the renegade's "potential as a heroic king" gives him the bright idea to steal from the rich - including Count Falkes de Braose (Alan Rickman) - "in order to raise the money needed to buy back his kingdom and free his people, forced into slavery by their new ruler". Lawhead said: "Several small but telling clues locate the legend of Robin Hood in Wales. Every single Welshman was ready for battle at a moment's notice. A Welsh location is also suggested by its nature and landscape. "While the forests of England had long since become well managed business property at the time, Wales still had enormous stretches of virgin wood. It would have been exceedingly difficult for Robin to hide in England's ever dwindling Sherwood. But he could have lived for years in the forests of the March and never been seen nor heard." After outlining his Braveheart-standard historical evidence, Lawhead admitted: "I realise, though, that we could have some trouble with Nottingham. They are pretty heavily invested in the Nottingham Robin Hood version and with good reason." Nottingham City Council's Stephen Richeux duly responded: "We laugh at this suggestion. We imagine this author is trying to make a name for himself with the outrageous suggestion that Wales is the home of our beloved Robin Hood. He is known to have spent a lot of time in Sherwood Forest, so I don't know where Wales gets a look in." Richeux further suggested that Lawhead was in the pay of the Welsh Tourist Board, presumably desperate for Mel Gibson's Glendwr (working title) to inject some cash into the local economy by hiring every unemployed man in Wales to bare his buttocks at the Normans. ®
Lester Haines, 25 Sep 2006

Hubble survey yields clues to galaxy formation

Astronomers have uncovered more than 500 previously unknown young galaxies in images of the early universe taken during the Hubble Space Telescope's ultra deep field survey, completed in 2004, and the Great Observatories Origins Deep Survey (GOODS), made in 2003. The young galaxies are approximately 13bn light years away, meaning they give us a glimpse of a time when the universe was less than seven per cent of its current age. Once the red-shift associated with expansion of the universe is accounted for, the galaxies appear very blue, indicating that they are teaming with stars being born. The galaxies are much smaller than those we see in today's universe, and much dimmer. Rychard Bouwens from the university of California says this supports the theory that galaxies grew by merging with one another, building up over time. So often with Hubble, the images returned confound astronomers, turning conventional wisdom on its head. And while this is fantastic for advancing the state of the science, the theorists must yearn for data like this, which suggests sometimes at least they have got it right. The findings also provide evidence to support one explanation for the so-called reheating of the universe. This is a period in the universe's history after the Big Bang when the universe had expanded enough for the gas in between the stars to have cooled down. Astronomers had long debated how the gas was reheated. "Seeing all of these starburst galaxies provides evidence that there were enough galaxies one thousand million years after the Big Bang to finish reheating the Universe," explained team member Garth Illingworth, also of the University of California. "It highlights a period of fundamental change in the Universe, and we are seeing the galaxy population that brought about that change." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Sep 2006
For Sale sign detail

Unofficial IE patch saves humanity

Security researchers have released a patch designed to protect users against an outstanding Internet Explorer vulnerability in the absence of available security updates from Microsoft. A new ad-hoc group of security pros, called the Zeroday Emergency Response Team (ZERT), has released an unofficial fix designed to address the Vector Markup Language (VML) component vulnerability in IE, the most serious of two unpatched IE vulnerabilities. It plans to release other security bug fixes in future. Hackers are taking advantage of this VML security flaw in IE to infect users visiting pornographic websites. Opening maliciously constructed emails in Outlook is also a potential risk, especially as attacks targeting the vulnerability are growing in prevalence since their first appearance last week. The security bug is unrelated to a (still unpatched) flaw in Microsoft's Direct Animation Path (daxctle.ocx) ActiveX control discovered earlier this month. ZERT said users should replace its fix with Microsoft's patch once this becomes available. "It is always a good idea to wait for a vendor-supplied patch and apply it as soon as possible, but there will be times when an ad-hoc group such as ours can release a working patch before a vendor can release their solution," it said. Separately, security management firm PatchLink released a more limited workaround designed to help its customers (and only its customers) protect their networks from the VML exploit. PatchLink estimates the number of vulnerabilities in various applications released this year will reach 6,700, some of which will become the subject of exploit before vendors get around to releasing patches. Because of the growing issue of unpatched (so called zero-day) exploits, IT administrators can expect to see more third party patches such as the VML patch released by the ZERT group. PatchLink advises to check the provenance of patches and carry out testing before applying fixes in case they cause more problems than they solve in a user's environment. ®
John Leyden, 25 Sep 2006

Bush tasks tech execs with rebuilding Lebanon

George Bush has unveiled his latest initiative to bring peace to the Middle East - despatching a pair of top notch Silicon Valley execs to advise war torn Lebanon on reconstruction. Bush has sent a presidential delegation to Beirut, Lebanon, with a brief to "visit areas affected by the recent conflict and to meet with Prime Minister Siniora and business leaders to discuss rebuilding priorities". The team will also encourage Americans to donate to a reconstruction fund for Lebanon. As well as assistant secretary of state Dina Powell and US Ambassador to Lebanon Jeffrey Feltman, the delegation will include Cisco CEO John Chambers and Intel chairman Craig Barrett. El Reg has to confess its ignorance of Barrett and Chambers' previous form bringing peace to the world's troubled spots, or their qualifications for clearing countless cluster bombs someone happened to leave lying about southern Lebanon. However, we do know that Chambers is the model of Southern charm and gentility, so once he starts passing round the mint juleps, we're sure the region's warring parties will soon all be getting along like a house on fire. As for Barrett, we seem to remember past Intel Developer Forums pushing the fact that he, er, loves to fish. And during his time as CEO at Intel he certainly pumped plenty of capital into building new fabs. Unfortunately, some of them were to build Itaniums. Other members of the delegation include Ray Irani, chairman, CEO and president of Occidental Petroleum Corporation, and Yousif Ghafari, chairman of GHAFARI Inc. Ghafari's appointment leaves us quite mystified. His firm describes itself as a "solutions provider for facilities, process and people", boasting they "can integrate architecture and engineering service for buildings, with manufacturing engineering and professional staffing services". Why on Earth would they want to bring someone along who knows how to put up buildings quickly? They could have someone who really knows about bringing people together and building trust – Steve Ballmer perhaps, or even Patricia Dunn. ®
Joe Fay, 25 Sep 2006

Telecommuting space tourist soaks in the views

Anousheh Ansari said the trip up to the International Space Station (ISS) wasn't great fun, but that every moment since then has been fantastic. She described the first moment she saw Earth from the ISS as "beautiful and peaceful", something she would never forget. Ansari is the first official female space tourist (there is some debate about this, see here for more of the finer details), and the first female Muslim in space. She is also the first Iranian to reach Earth orbit. Her ride up to the ISS, courtesy of the Russian space programme, is said to have cost her $20m. Speaking to reporters from the ISS, Ansari said the flight had been uncomfortable. She suffered from motion sickness, back pain, and a headache, she said. But "the entire experience has been wonderful up here," she added. She also said she has been trying to keep on top of her office work while she has been aboard, and has been receiving status reports from her staff at Prodea Systems, the telecommunications company she co-founded. ESA astronaut Thomas Reiter said it was always nice to have guests on the space station. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Sep 2006

How to stop exam cheating: put teenagers in cages

A psychology professor has come up with a brilliant and practical plan to save Britain from the epidemic of technology-facilitated exam cheating which is jeopardising the economy and the moral fortitude of our youth. Professor Jean Underwood of Nottingham Trent University was commissioned by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority to look in to how to nix cheating kids. She said: "There is a rising fear that technology is fuelling this problem. There are enough people doing it to be worried." Her plan is as simple as it is audacious: insulate every exam hall in the country from mobile communications by installing a giant Faraday cage. A Faraday cage is a big metal enclosure that insulates the inside of the cage from outside electromagnetism. The Pentagon installed one at enormous expense some years ago. Read more about Underwood's well thought-out solution here at the Daily Mail. Forgetting the fact that it would do nothing to stop pre-loaded devices being used, we don't know about you, but at our school the buildings budget was mostly spent on (a) patching holes in the decrepit roof and (b) thrice-winterly engineering call-outs when the boiler conked out at the first sign of a snowflake. Oh yeah, and to pay for the 100-foot-high brass Van Der Graaf generator that the physics department successfully lobbied for in the 1950s (What's a physics dept? - Ed) ®
Christopher Williams, 25 Sep 2006

Carphone Warehouse ships out to US

Carphone Warehouse is set to try its luck in the US with the help of local chain Best Buy. The deal has two parts, according to reports. Firstly Carphone Warehouse will offer UK and European customers the chance to get technical support by offering a version of Best Buy's the Geek Squad service. CPW's recently launched TalkTalk - its phone broadband service - which has been collecting customers but also complaints that service and speed are not up to scratch. Extra technical support could help soothe unhappy customers. Secondly CPW will start selling mobile phones out of several US Best Buy stores. There is limited retail competition for handsets in the US because most people get phones from their providers. Best Buy already sells a small range of mobile phones through its stores. Best Buy's Geek Squad offers US punters 24-hour technical support lines, a dedicated website and home visits as well as buying advice. Geek Squad operates on flat rates. The deal could be a great, and cheap, way for CPW to get into the US mobile market while it is still expanding. And by offering technical support through Carphone stores the firm is betting on extracting more cash from computing customers who sign up for his broadband service. More details are expected when CPW updates its trading status 11 October. Carphone Warehouse refused to comment on, or deny, this story. More from the Telegraph here and from the FT here.
John Oates, 25 Sep 2006
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Elgato EyeTV Hybrid USB TV tuner for Mac

ReviewReview There are plenty of compact, USB-connected TV tuner dongles for the PC but nowhere near so many for the Mac. Elgato's EyeTV Hybrid is to be welcomed then, not only by owners of portable Macs looking for a handy tuner but by anyone who wants to turn a Mac Mini into a DVR or a media centre system...
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2006
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One device or two? And who chooses?

Mobile WorkshopMobile Workshop One handset or two? That seems to be a major point of discussion in the quest to square the mobile device circle. On the one handset front it has traditionally been a choice between something like a full-on Windows Mobile PDA with all the toys, but which is therefore bulky and has a short battery life (translation, useless on business trips without a charger), and the workhorse mobile phone that leaves the user out of touch until they can get out their laptop (possibly a business restriction, and certainly nothing to boast about at the golf club).

US outfit patents 'invisible' UAV

A US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) manufacturer has been granted patents on an "invisible" surveillance platform which relies on persistence of vision to achieve stealth, Aviation Week & Space Technology reports. Minneapolis-based VeraTech Aero's "Phantom Sentinel" is a "single blade rotorcraft" offering "the ability to deliver close up, real time video intelligence within 75 feet of nearly any event and remain virtually undetectable to the human eye". The company's blurb explains: Based on the concept of persistence of vision, the Phantom's single rotor blade has a center of rotation outside of the UAVs' physical fuselage. As the aircraft spins, it disappears from vision. The Phantom has a uniquely minimal cross section allowing it to "slice" through even the most adverse weather conditions that would keep conventional UAV systems on the ground. The rotational inertia generated in flight allows the UAV to self level and maintain a very high degree of stability, even while hovering. VeraTech Aero reckons the technology is scaleable from two to ten feet, requires "limited training" and can deploy a "high speed camera offering 360 degree spherical viewing". Alternatively, it can be used to hunt kangaroo, as the picture shows. ® Bootnote Thanks to Mike Plunkett for not spotting the Phantom Sentinel.
Lester Haines, 25 Sep 2006
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ID cards could cost less, minister says

A Home Office minister has said the cost of the proposed ID card could be dramatically reduced if the government used its existing databases as a foundation for the scheme. Liam Byrne, Minister of State, Immigration Citizenship and Nationality at the Home Office, was speaking at a fringe meeting at the Labour Conference in Manchester. He told delegates that his experience as an IT consultant made him wary of taking a "big bang" approach to the project, the BBC reports. According to his website, Byrne "began his career at Andersen Consulting and worked for NM Rothschilds before starting a venture-backed technology company in 2000". "There are opportunities which give me optimism to think that actually there is a way of exploiting systems already in place in a way which brings down the costs quite substantially," he said. The likely cost of the card has been estimated at between £90 and £300 per person. The party has obviously noticed that such a high price tag will not sit well with the traditional Labour supporter. Byrne did not specify by how much he thought the cost could be reduced. His approach could avoid relatively few, very large contracts being farmed out to the big IT companies. Instead, there would be more, smaller deals on offer. Roger Smith, director of human rights group Justice, also addressed the meeting. He warned that the project would fail, like the NHS IT project was failing, and in the process would alienate voters. Byrne also faced questions about the scope of the project and the implications of a national identity register. One Salford councillor told him he was prepared to go to jail rather than have a card. He told the minister that a national identity card was vulnerable to subversion by a future government. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Sep 2006

Finnish court clarifies breast-fondling tariff

Any reader who's been wondering quite what he or she might be charged for fondling a woman's breasts, will be delighted to learn that it won't be more than €2,500 a pop - in Finland at least. That's according to a court in Kokkola, which last week jailed for more than a year an unnamed couple in their twenties for "charging a 74-year-old who suffers from dementia a total of €25,500 to enjoy the woman's breasts on 10 occasions", Reuters reports. Judge Hasse Hakki, said: "Based on general life experience alone, it is indisputably clear that a 25,500 euro charge is disproportionate to the compensation in question." Wisely, however, the judge decided he would not rule on "the proper financial value of the compensation", leaving fondlees to negotiate their own price based on the quality of their compensations. ® Bootnote Thanks to Steve Rapaport for the clarification.
Lester Haines, 25 Sep 2006
chart

UK punters still falling for phishers

UK punters are still failing to take basic precautions when banking online despite a wealth of available advice, according to a recent survey by banking association APACS. Although net users are aware of scams such as "phishing" and Trojan attacks, they remain complacent. APACS advises the estimated 15.7m people who regularly use the internet to access their current, savings and credit card accounts to do their homework, unless they want to leave themselves at greater risk to fraud. Around 3.8 per cent of 1,835 UK adults quizzed in the survey said they would still respond to an unsolicited email asking them to follow a link and re-enter personal security details, supposedly from their bank. Such emails are the staples of phishing fraud. Awareness of the problem is little better than that evident from an equivalent survey from APACS two years ago. At that time, four per cent of those polled indicated they might respond to this type of potentially fraudulent email. More people than before are likely to check an email's validity with their bank before responding (39 per cent in 2006 compared to 28 per cent in 2004), but only half of those quizzed ignored these emails compared to 65 per cent in 2004. Divorced, separated or widowed people tended to be more cautious about responding to unsolicited emails supposedly from their bank. By contrast, single and married people were more likely not to notice anything untoward in potential phishing emails. APACS advises punters to treat every unsolicited email with caution and never to respond to such messages with sensitive personal information. We, the unprotected (mostly) Less than half of those surveyed (46.3 per cent) regularly update their anti-virus software, with only one in 10 people having anti-spam software installed and about a third having a firewall. Even worse, just over one third (35 per cent) of punters record their password or security information by either writing it down or storing it somewhere on their computer. Nearly two thirds (62.5 per cent) never change their password and one in five use the same password for non-banking websites as well as their online bank, both serious security no-nos. Older users are the worst password security culprits. Only half the over 55 year olds quizzed memorise their password without writing it down, compared to 73 per cent of 18-24 year olds. However, under 24-year-olds were more susceptible to scam emails that ostensible from their bank. Over 12 per cent said they would click on a link contained in unsolicited emails and divulge security information – three times higher than the national average. The number of phishing attacks has risen dramatically by more than 800 per cent over the 12 months up to August 2006, according to APACS, with a peak figure of 1,484 incidents last month. The surge in phishing attacks is mainly due to banks and internet companies getting better at quickly identifying and closing down phishing sites, which has meant fraudsters have ramped up the volume of attacks. APACS, the UK's payment association, has the job of co-ordinating the banking industry's efforts in combating online banking fraud, as well as compiling loss statistics. It estimated that total online banking losses last year reached £23.2m, a figure it expects will grow this year. "The internet has totally changed the way we shop and bank, and it's very safe provided you remember two simple rules: use a secure PC and be wary of unsolicited emails," Sandra Quinn, director of corporate communications at APACS. "This new research shows that some people still aren't doing all they should to protect themselves which, hand in hand with a large increase in phishing email attacks at the start of the year, leads us to expect an increase in online banking fraud losses in the first half of 2006." A plethora of advice on how to bank safely online can be found at websites such as banksafeonline and cardwatch. ®
John Leyden, 25 Sep 2006
cable

Intel hypes WiMAX to the sky in Brazil

ColumnColumn It is over five years since two LocustWorld staff set up a satellite van in a Yorkshire Dales village, and provided wireless internet to local users who couldn't get ADSL. And half a decade later, Intel took 60 employees, a satellite link, and a 300-foot WiMAX tower to achieve much the same thing. The story of how the WiMAX hype machine reached Parintins, an island in the Amazon River, is getting people from Associated Press to the San Jose Mercury excited. The Mercury's Dean Takahashi quoted Oscar Clarke, general manager for Intel Brazil: "If we can be successful here, we will replicate this in other isolated communities around the world where electricity and telecommunications are unreliable. If Parintins can do it, it can be done anywhere." If Takahashi or Alan Clendenning at the Associated Press feel any scepticism about the need to devote 60 people and a huge civil engineering project to achieve what mesh companies like Strix, Tropos and LocustWorld have been achieving with single volunteers in Ghana, Florida, Italy, and several South American countries for the last five years, the scepticism is well hidden. Clendenning reports that "overall, Intel will spend $1bn over the next five years with its World Ahead Programme", which was started earlier this year and "aims to help close the digital divide between developed and developing nations". That could indeed be the aim. It could also be the case that the aim is to hype a very ordinary wireless technology in which Intel has a huge stake, by getting non-specialist media to write enthusiastic stories about achievements which are neither new, nor sustainable without heavy promotional subsidy. Don't expect the scepticism to appear widely, even if it is felt (as it is) at board level inside a lot of blue chip wireless corporations. Intel, even if you discount the huge influence it exerts at a commercial level, is a powerful investor. Intel Capital has holdings in a vast spread of high-tech companies and, while there is almost certainly never any overt pressure on these companies to support Intel corporate policy, the giant corporation doesn't bother to hide its influence: "Since 1991, Intel Capital has invested more than $4bn in approximately 1,000 companies in more than 30 countries. In that time, about 160 portfolio companies have been acquired by other companies and another 150 have gone public on various exchanges around the world. Last year alone, Intel Capital invested more than $130m in about 110 deals with approximately 40 per cent of its investments made outside the United States." The result is that many directors of significant technology companies will express their private astonishment at the level of hype being generated by Intel for WiMAX - but will make it very clear that they will not go "on the record" with criticisms. They regard such public statements as "unhelpful" in their relations with Santa Clara. The result is that statements like "WiMAX delivers wireless access over long distances and is suited for remote places that don't have an established infrastructure of power lines or telephone poles", are routinely inserted into apparently authoritative AP stories. These will be printed, without any comment to the effect that ordinary Wi-Fi links with directional antennae costing a few dollars have covered distances of up to 100 miles, with the same bandwidth; or that new wireless technologies and modulation schemes like xG's xMax can offer significantly higher bandwidth, or that huge infrastructures already established with 3G, could easily be upgraded with technology such as Qualcomm's Flarion Flash-OFDM to provide genuine, standards-based mobile internet broadband. If you want to start off investigating WiMAX, don't read just the technical exposés. You will find any number of consultants prepared to do White Papers about WiMAX, in the hope (and not unreasonable expectation) of selling copies of their reports to Intel and Intel's partners. You'll also, to be fair, find people running seminars challenging this. But more interesting, perhaps, would be a history of the Korean WiBro technology. WiBro is actually a variant of WiMAX. It is, often, represented as a huge example of what WiMAX can achieve "if only it were standardised" - but in fact, it goes well beyond what WiMAX does by being genuinely mobile. WiMAX mobile is a standard still in committee; WiBro mobile has been "in the field" for years. "The difference," said a senior executive in San Diego who might, or might not have good trading connections with Qualcomm, "is that the Koreans decided not to wait for Intel. At first Intel was very supportive of WiBro, but when the Koreans decided to have their own standard, Intel withdrew that support, and started hyping its own variant." Is WiBro very successful? Common myth says yes. In fact, the actual live deployment of WiBro devices is hard to assess - another way of saying it doesn't show up on any radar from outside Korea. Does it do things that other wireless technologies cannot do? Myth again, says yes. In reality, a technology which really could do the things attributed to WiBro would not be ignored by other markets. The main benefit of WiMAX is that Intel is using its power in world standards areas to find a universal spectrum for it. That means that if Intel WiMAX becomes a standard, and works well, then a WiMAX-equipped laptop will work in America, Korea, Amazonia, or Antarctica. It will probably be at 2.5 GHz, because Intel has identified that as a frequency band which can be bought, assigned or even hijacked by de facto standardisation, in almost every country in the world. And it will not be blocked by unlicensed operations. That alone is enough to make those who doubt or even dispute Intel's marketing of WiMAX, keep their silence. Wi-Fi is seriously vulnerable to the fact that anybody can start a 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi transceiver anywhere, blotting out other users. Rogue WiMAX stations can (in theory, at least) be hunted down and prosecuted where an ordinary 802.11(pre-N) Wi-Fi station will be invulnerable - if Intel gets the spectrum universally accepted. For Intel, the benefit is that all its PC motherboards can include a WiMAX wireless device "free" with the processor - a marketing ploy. Intel reasons that the Centrino campaign shows just how many PC notebooks this can sell - and it reckons that the same idea, if the idea is extended to areas away from the home WLAN or Starbucks hotspot, would be a best-seller. When WiMAX 2.5 GHz is jammed there are vacant bands above 3.0 GHz which can be used. So there's no need to doubt that WiMAX, as envisioned by Intel, will "work" - what is at issue is whether an Intel-owned standard is the best for the world. The World Ahead campaign, achieved at the sort of cost Intel is pumping into it, is no such thing. It's the Intel Ahead campaign. If you like what it does, then by all means buy the hype. But let's call it by its true name. ®
Guy Kewney, 25 Sep 2006

Man saves laptop from battery blaze

An HP notebook was left damaged but not destroyed last week when it became the latest laptop to suffer a battery meltdown - the hasty removal of the power cell prevented a notebook fire like the one that took out a Lenovo ThinkPad two weeks ago. This time the incendiary incident was captured on video.
Register Hardware, 25 Sep 2006

Telehouse felled by power outage

Telehouse - the supposedly bullet-proof hosting solution for ISPs - has suffered another embarrasing power outage, just over a month after the last one. Many corporate websites and some ISP services were unavailable on Sunday after power failed at Telehouse North. We received emails from readers saying hundreds of corporate websites, several ADSL providers, and Nominet were all hit. Many ISPs host at least some of their infrastructure at Telehouse because of its supposed ability to stay online. Nominet systems administrator manager Ian Meikle told the Reg: "We were alerted on Sunday to problems with our machines. Our on-call engineer logged in, found the problems were caused by a power outage and took action to fix it. Within an hour or two we were back to normal." A statement from Telehouse said: Following a routine generator test within Telehouse North on Sunday 24 September 2006, a momentary interruption to critical power services occurred. At 12.46pm, the Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) system 'A' initiated an out of synchronisation transfer to internal bypass. A number of customers in the south side of the building are known to have been affected. Upon receipt of the alarm, the UPS system 'A' was checked and immediately returned to normal operation from the bypass condition. Service for all affected customers was resumed as soon as possible although some delay will have occurred due to the need to reset certain equipment. Building checks commenced and local alarms and equipment were reset accordingly. Following the incident, Telehouse's Service Desk has provided additional support to affected customers to ensure that all services are resumed as quickly as possible. Telehouse Europe will continue to investigate the cause of the UPS system error with the specialist manufacturer's maintenance team. Once the investigation is complete, Telehouse Europe will provide a full report to customers detailing the technical team's findings." So, that's all right then.®
John Oates, 25 Sep 2006
channel

Breach Security steps in to UK

Web security firm Breach Security has acquired UK-based Thinking, a provider of services and enhancements for the open source ModSecurity web application firewall, for an undisclosed amount. Breach said the deal, announced Monday, will allow it to bring together web application firewall and threat detection technology. It pledged continued support to the open source community with new releases of ModSecurity, as well as plans to incorporate ModSecurity technology into its commercial suite of web application security products. Breach is also offering to host product training, both online and in the classroom, as well as building an active community website. ModSecurity (which boasts 10,000 deployments) began as an open source project written by Ivan Ristic, a noted authority in Apache Security. Ristic is to will join Breach Security as a chief evangelist. ®
John Leyden, 25 Sep 2006

Online shoppers want to be healthy

People will choose to eat healthily if given the option, researchers in Australia have found. An experiment involving 497 people shopping for groceries online found that, when prompted, people are very happy to swap an unhealthy food item for a lower fat alternative. During the course of the experiment, the average shopper lowered the saturated fat content of their shopping basket by 10 per cent. The experiment was only concerned with fat, but the researchers reckon they would get similar results if the shopping engine offered people low salt or low sugar foods as well. The research was conducted at the George Institute for International Health. The team collated a list of 524 foods with saturated fat percentages between one and 92 per cent, (i.e. 1g saturated fat per 100g) and rewrote the supermarket site to display a pop up when someone added one of the items to their basket. The pop-up flagged the high fat choice and offered the shopper the option of choosing a lower fat alternative or sticking with the original choice. Most took the healthy option, and the older, more overweight shoppers were the most likely to make the swap. Low fat dairy items were the most popular substitutions. More information on the research, funded by the National Heart Foundation of Australia, is here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 25 Sep 2006

Nominet board candidate interviews

PodcastPodcast Two spaces on the board of UK registry owner Nominet will be decided at the company's annual general meeting this Wednesday. All registered Nominet members are entitled to vote, although postal votes have to be with the company by today. We got in touch with each of the six candidates and asked them to explain why you should vote for them. The interviews can be heard on MP3 files below. The candidates' individual statements can be found on Nominet's website [pdf]. Andrew Bennett runs the website Deleting.co.uk, which offers soon-to-expire internet domain names for sale. It is also a popular forum for the UK internet community. He has vowed to make domain resale an "acceptable business model". Listen to the interview. Gordon Dick is a current Nominet director who has proposed to make sure Nominet continues to be run in the interests of its members and to push the under-used ".me.uk" second-level domain. Listen to the interview. Lord Erroll is one of the few peers who take an interest in internet matters and a member of several governmental bodies dealing with the internet. Listen to the interview. Peter Gradwell is an internet businessman and is formerly of Nominet's policy advisory board. He has promised reform of some of Nominet's processes. Listen to the interview. Angus Hanton is a small business entrepreneur who is standing specifically on a platform that Nominet reduce the cost of .uk domains to members from £5 to £4. Listen to the interview. Fay Howard is the second Nominet director reapplying and a director of Nominet since 2002. She is also a representative for a number of other international internet organisations. Listen to the interview.
Kieren McCarthy, 25 Sep 2006

Data analysis isn't dead

Call me old-fashioned, but data is still pretty important. In most systems, if you feed bad data in you get bad data out (Garbage In, Garbage Out - GIGO). And if you analyse data structures and relationships, you can eliminate a lot of poor thinking before it goes live. If I know that one of these things is always, or never, associated with one of those things; or these things here can have no possible use or meaning when I delete that thing there; then at least some cases of incorrect processing can be identified easily because they produce results incompatible with this "logical data model", which documents the information associated with things and the relations between them. Or, on the other hand, if you generate your database from a complete and internally-consistent data model, some kinds of incorrect processing simply won't be possible. Data analysis is especially useful because it is usually an independent check on systems development - the data analysts are usually a separate team to the coders and make different errors and assumptions. If the data model doesn't match the code then one or the other, or both, are wrong. Data analysis was big in the 1980s when the curious idea was practiced that it might be good if all your customer information, say, was stored once and only once, in a single database - a single source of the "truth". Then Objects came along and data didn't matter much for a while. Objects were always right even if their associated data was rather undefined. Then, powered by some nasty things like Y2K (when you suddenly wanted to know where dates were and how they were used) and company directors signing off on financial reports (on pain of going to jail), data started to get important again... So I was a little saddened when Donna Burbank (pictured right), the director of enterprise modelling and architecture solutions at Embarcadero, told me that one of her reasons for leaving CA and moving to Embarcadero (one of only a few vendors of effective data analysis and DBA tools - BMC is another) was that CA's new focus on ITIL was putting data analysis in the shade. What sense does this make? Surely ITIL doesn't say that data isn't important? Good data is at the core of IT governance - and IT governance (as part of corporate governance generally) is why firms should be implementing ITIL. Or is ITIL simply an end in itself, a tickbox in a magic scroll, which you wave to keep auditors away? I hope not, it is worth more than that (it would also make for a very expensive magic scroll). Anyway, Embarcadero is certainly not abandoning data. It sees data as the core of a business - and control of data quality is vital to SOX (Sarbanes Oxley) and Basel II compliance and the like. In fact, I think this has probably been a nice little earner for Embarcadero. Now, Donna claims, it is moving on to the next stage, having done a pretty good job of assisting the DBA team with its automated tools. The "next stage" is adding a Business Process Modelling capability to the metadata repository which describes a company's data and their relationships. It's really a visualisation exercise for the business, based on the repository - and the repository keeps it honest because it can be validated for consistency and completeness, and it manages "real" operational data. Expect new Eclipse-based tools from Embarcadero, based on a new process-modelling framework, in October. These will bridge both logical and physical viewpoints and provide a conceptual mapping from the business into the repository. You should be able to reuse analysis at the object level, without necessarily having the whole model in place (early attempts at this sort of thing failed because they expected a complete and validated "Corporate Data Model", and no one ever finished building one). In fact, you can probably import an existing high-level conceptual model and use it, with its shortcomings (missing objects and information) highlighted. Oh, and if you're a DBA who's pretty happy with Embarcadero's ER Studio, don't worry. According to Donna "we are very protective of our ER Studio customers, they're already happy". So, the development team has split and Embarcadero's new framework is a fork, so that no one will be forced to migrate. And an ER Studio v7.1 product, is promised. This will apply data security classification schemes to document information security and introduce a Model Validation wizard which can help you check model completeness and help you review it for appropriate standards and best practices. It also includes workflow and productivity improvements (and N-level Undo/Redo) as well as many detailed technical updates. Database support is also enhanced (for example, foreign keys in MYSQL 5 are now supported, as are SQL Server 2005 schemas). But, whether you are a DBA managing database implementations or a company auditor managing SOX compliance, just remember this: data really is important. David Norfolk is the author of IT Governance, published by Thorogood. More details here.
David Norfolk, 25 Sep 2006

Fujifilm lines up face-detecting compact camera

Fujifilm's F31fd is the company's first compact digital camera equipped with the ability to spot faces in the frame then to focus in on them and set the right exposure accordingly. The gadget can cope with up to ten mugs at once, the company claimed. It's got anti-blur technology built in too, and is ready for low-light conditions with a sensitivity rating of ISO 3200. Pictures are snapped on a six megapixel sensor through the 3x optical zoom lens then displayed on the F31fd's 2.5in LCD. Fujifilm claims a battery life of 580 shots. The F31fd ships in November. ®
Hard Reg, 25 Sep 2006

Orange batphone comes home to roost

Orange today followed BT's lead in trying to flog a converged VoIP via Wi-Fi and mobile device to a so far non-plussed public. "Unique", as the service has been dubbed, launches in the UK, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Poland with a trio of handsets: the Motorola A910, Nokia 6136, and the Samsung P200. The kit hits the streets in October. The big idea with mixed VoIP and mobile service is to stymie an anticipated exodus of mobile punters to internet telephony with the promise of cheap and idiot-proof single bills and familiar-to-use hardware. Calls made at home via the Unique Livebox internet hub will be cheaper than those made out and about. Critics wonder at converged VoIP and mobile's ability to provide smooth handover between Wi-Fi and GSM, thoguh Orange claims Unique will. In Germany, T-Mobile, O2 and Vodafone have sidestepped this issue by simply cutting the cost of calls made on its normal mobile network while at home. Ovum telecoms analyst John Delaney voiced doubts about whether the technology behind Unique is ready to convince a market increasingly confused by myriad communications options. He said: "In my view, it has the same weaknesses of the other current fixed-mobile convergence (FMC) offerings on the market or in development. These include a very limited handset choice, and lack of true seamlessness in network handover. "So long as the inherent drawbacks of current FMC implementations remain, I believe that Orange is unlikely to be any more 'Unique' in terms of customer uptake, than in any other characteristic of its FMC service." Pricing details for Unique have not yet been released. We assume they will continue their current "Animals" campaign, so suggestions of an appropriate beast are welcome. ®
Christopher Williams, 25 Sep 2006
fingers pointing at man

Cisco doubles switch ports

Cisco today took the dust sheets off some new high-end ethernet switching gear for data centres. The Catalyst 6500 series gets a new 8-port 10 Gigabit ethernet module, doubling the number of ports. Cisco claims the mod the boosts local switching performance by 60 per cent while trimming 30 per cent off the cost per port. Cisco's aiming the switch at data centre managers keen for server aggregation, LAN access uplink aggregation, and connectivity within its environmentally-controlled empire. Despite recent diversification into TV-on-demand and security, ethernet gear remains Cisco's bread and butter. The 8-port Catalyst starts at $37,500 and is available now from your friendly local Cisco hawker. ®
Christopher Williams, 25 Sep 2006
graph up

Hackers target home users for cash

Consumers are now on the main target of malicious hackers intent on enriching themselves through the misery of others. Vulnerabilities in desktop applications and the increased use of stealth techniques are on the rise among members of the digital underground, according to the latest edition of Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report. The report, which covers the first half of 2006, suggests that consumer security protection is weak, leaving Joe Public easy prey to identity thieves, botnet herders and other financially motivated criminals. Crackers are using a variety of techniques to escape detection and remain on infected systems for longer. Symantec reckons assaults against consumers account for 86 per cent of all targeted attacks. Banks and other financial sector organisations are the second most prevalent target for internet attacks. Phishing attacks almost doubled during the reporting period. The first six months of 2006 saw a continuation of the trend of large, widespread internet worms giving way to smaller, more targeted attacks focusing on fraud, data theft, and criminal activity. Client-side applications such as web browsers and email clients are popular attack targets. Vulnerabilities affecting Web applications accounted for 69 per cent of all vulnerabilities documented by Symantec in the first half of 2006. Flaws in web browsers were particularly prominent in this mix with 47 vulnerabilities documented in Mozilla browsers (compared to 17 in the last reporting period), 38 in Microsoft Internet Explorer (compared to 25 in 2H05), and 12 in Apple Safari (compared to six in 2H05). Symantec fails to say how many of these vulnerabilities are serious, so direct comparisons may be misleading. Ollie Whitehouse, Symantec research scientist and one of the authors of the report, told El Reg that the company didn't classify in the report how many of these vulnerabilities might be used to inject hostile code, as opposed to simply crashing browsers. Hide and seek In the first half of 2006, 18 per cent of all malicious code samples detected by Symantec had not been seen before, indicating that hackers are trying harder to evade detection by signature-based anti virus and intrusion prevention systems. Phishers are also attempting to bypass filtering technologies by creating multiple randomised messages. In H1 2006, 157,477 unique phishing messages were detected, 81 per cent more than the previous six months. The financial services sector was the most heavily phished, accounting for 84 per cent of phishing sites tracked by the Symantec. Spam accounted for just over half (54 per cent) of monitored email traffic, slightly up from 50 per cent in 2H05. Malware authors are increasingly trying to tempt users into web sites hosting malicious code as opposed to burying viruses within infectious attachments, where hostile code is more likely to be blocked. Networks of compromised PCs remain a lucrative resource for hackers. These bot networks can be used not only to spread malicious code, but to send spam or phishing messages, download adware and spyware, launch denial of service attacks, or harvest confidential user information. Symantec identified more than 4.6m active bot network computers and observed an average of 57,717 active bot network computers per day during the first half of 2006. During the reporting period, the IT security firm observed an average of 6,110 denial of service attacks per day, a big increase from the 1,402 DoS attacks per day it recorded in the last six months of 2005. Just over half (54 per cent) of these attacks were thrown at US-based systems. ISPs bore the brunt of the onslaught. Future imperfect Other financially motivated attacks use modular malicious code, malware that updates itself or downloads more aggressive threat components onto compromised PCs once it gains a foothold. During the first half of 2006, modular malicious code accounted for 79 percent of the top 50 malicious code samples reported to Symantec. Malicious code samples capable of exposing confidential data represented 30 of the top 50 samples seen be the security firm. Symantec predicts that virus writers will resurrect polymorphic virus techniques in a bid to escape detection by anti-virus filters. It also reckons hackers will apply "Web 2.0" concepts such as user-based publishing and technologies like AJAX in internet attacks. Symantec documented 2,249 new vulnerabilities in the first half of 2006, an increase of 18 per cent over 2H05 and the highest volume of vulnerabilities recorded for any reporting period so far. Fuzzers, programs or scripts designed to find vulnerabilities in software code, will raise the vulnerability count even further. On a more positive note, vendors are releasing software patches more quickly. The window of exposure for enterprise vendors and web browsers was 28 days, down from 50 days in the previous period. Microsoft Internet Explorer had an average window of exposure of nine days (down from 25), Apple Safari at five days (up from zero), Opera at two days (down from 18), and Mozilla at one day. These figures down take into account the effect of the latest, unpatched IE exploits might have on statistics. For the first time, Symantec also looked at how long operating system vendors take to patch security bugs. Sun had the longest patch release time with 89 days followed by HP with 53 days. Apple took an average of 37 days while Microsoft and Red Hat had the lowest average patch release times of 13 days apiece. ®
John Leyden, 25 Sep 2006

Could Capellas return to save HP?

Should the worst/obvious happen, and Mark Hurd leaves HP, you have to wonder what type of shape the company will be in to pick another leader. The last time HP needed to hire a new CEO it relied on the services of Patricia Dunn, Jay Keyworth and Tom Perkins. The three then board members formed the very "screening team" that interviewed CEO candidates and settled on Hurd as their "top choice." Well, all three board members have now resigned as a result of the company's spy probe, leaving HP with a weakened board to say the least. And the Hurd that Dunn, Keyworth and Perkins hired doesn't seem to be the Hurd who is running the company. The old Hurd, for example, wrote, "Of course, the ultimate erosion of trust is fraud . . . Success is at jeopardy if fraud needlessly undercuts the value of a company," in his book The Value Factor. The new Hurd, however, says things like, "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 int he content of that email." The old Hurd makes no mention of "integrity" in his book. The new Hurd uses "Integrity" all the time. But then, the new Hurd has a line of Integrity servers to sell. Might as well get an ad in where you can. Given that HP is in no shape to pick a new CEO to replace its current CEO who is just a shadow of his former self, we think that the company has one option moving forward. Hire Mike Capellas. Capellas knows this company - probably better than Hurd does. He's been through a huge scandal at Worldcom/MCI. He's, as far as we know, available at the moment. You can't find a better man for the job. At least, that's what our screening committee tells us. ®
Ashlee Vance, 25 Sep 2006

Calif. court OKs suit against Nextel billing 'spam'

A US consumer lobby group has won an appeal to sue Nextel over "text messages spam" sent to customers – three years ago. Last week, a California Court of Appeal overturned a lower court decision to block legal action against the cellco (now called Sprint Nextel) over alleged unfair billing practices. According to the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights (FTCR), which is fighting the case, Nextel should refund maybe millions of dollars to customers who were mistakenly charged on 12 September - the day the cellco got its wires crossed over "phony text messages" sent out by mistake. On that day Nextel sent four texts to each customer, at up to 60c a pop. To put this into perspective, customers were ripped off to the tune of $2.40 - max - each. In the scheme of things, this is not a great hurt to individual customers. But what really gets the FTCR's goat is Nextel's alleged response to the SNAFU, namely to refund only those customers who figured out they were charged for the messages and then called the company to claim a refund. From the sound of it, customers who jumped through those hoops were few and far between. To uncover the gouging-by-text in the first place, one would have had to be a hyper-scrutinizing skinflint, or blessed with second sight. For in October 2003, Nextel stopped itemized billing and "unilaterally ceased providing itemization of all phone calls on its monthly bill. Customers "were told they would have to pay $2.50 per phone for the information," according to the FTCR. "The lack of an itemized bill makes it impossible to determine whether charges are accurate," it adds. The FCTR, which has pursued Nextel since 2003, wants the company to change its billing practices. Press release here. ®
Drew Cullen, 25 Sep 2006
1

The Emperor's New AI

In the early 1970s, no science show was complete without predictions of HAL-like intelligent autonomous computers by the turn of the century.
Andrew Orlowski, 25 Sep 2006
channel

AMD boycotts Intel

IDFIDF The Intel Developer Forum, like having gas after eating beans, is one of those things that you can always count on. Twice a year, Intel's top executives spend a Monday before the show refining their gripping speeches. Their faces are primed to receive makeup. Their throats are lubricated with the finest teas Aramark can acquire. Their buzzwords are galvanized by roadmaps, code-names and ambiguous dodges to tough questions. And, on Tuesdays, the executives bloom in front of developers gathered from around the globe.
Ashlee Vance, 25 Sep 2006

Seagate ships breast cancer benefit pocket drive

Seagate will donate ten per cent of the purchase price of a limited edition pink version of its Pocket Hard Drive external disk to US breast cancer charity the Komen Foundation, the storage company said today. It also said it has begun shipping a 750GB HDD for DVRs.
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2006

Buffalo readies 1.2GHz DDR 2 DIMM set

Japanese memory retailer CFD has said Buffalo will soon ship DDR 2 memory modules clocked to a whopping 1.2GHz, claiming the parts can be set to run even faster: 1.25GHz for a PC2-10000 rating.
Tony Smith, 25 Sep 2006