2nd > October > 2006 Archive

Airline passenger data talks stall

European Union and US negotiators have failed to reach a deal on sharing passenger data by Saturday's (30 September deadline), creating a legal vacuum over the Atlantic. US Homeland Security Secretary, Michael Chertoff, tried to allay concerns that difficulties in reaching an agreement might affect trans-Atlantic air travel. "The talks did not break down," Chertoff told AP. “Their delegation had to go home and that's fine." An agreement would have meant airlines had the legal all clear to send 34 items of data — including passengers' names, addresses and credit card details — about people flying from European to US destinations to US authorities within 15 minutes of a plane's departure. The procedures were put in place after the September 11 terrorist attacks. The European Court of Justice ruled in May that the agreement had no basis in EU law but permitted the practice to continue until the 30 September deadline. Airlines that fail to abide by US procedures risk fines of up to $6,000 per passenger and loss of landing rights. In theory, airlines who comply with US laws now risk prosecution by data protection agencies in European countries. Chertoff said that airlines would continue to comply with US rules despite this danger, which he downplayed. Chertoff said he had been assured that European airlines would continue to transmit passenger data and said he did not think European governments would penalize them for doing so. "There's no intention for them [airlines] to interfere with the continued transmission. I don't envision that while we're in these discussions any country in Europe is going to take some precipitous step to put the airlines in a difficult position," he added. ®
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2006

Gaming firms in freefall as US bans online betting

Shares in online gambling companies like Partygaming are in freefall this morning after the US Congress unexpectedly passed anti-online gambling laws late on Friday. The bill makes it illegal for credit card companies to process payments to gambling firms. PartyGaming saw 60 per cent of its value disappear in early trading this morning. The Safe Port Act is expected to be signed into law by George W Bush in the next two weeks. PartyGaming said in a statement to the Stock Exchange that if the bill is signed it will have to stop taking all cash bets from US punters. More than half of the company's revenue comes from US residents. 888Holdings is suffering a similar meltdown on the markets. Its share price has also fallen more than 45 per cent. In a statement to the Stock Exchange the company said that although the precise impact of the legislation was not clear it was obvious Congress is intent on marking all forms of internet gambling as illegal. 888 said in the six months ended 30 June 2006 52 per cent of its revenues came from US customers. Sportingbet is also down almost 60 per cent. The Safe Port Act is primarily aimed at providing some $3.4bn spending in making ports safe in The War Against Terror. Much of the money will be spent inspecting containers - described by one Congresswoman as having "the potential to be the Trojan Horse of the 21st Century."®
John Oates, 02 Oct 2006

Eric Schmidt to address Tory conference

Google's Eric Schmidt is to speak at the Tory Party conference tomorrow, returning the favour granted by David Cameron when he spoke at Google's Zeitgeist event in May. Google has close, if indirect, ties with the Tory Party, thanks to an exchange of PR people back in 2005. That December, Rachel Whetstone, former political adviser to Michael Howard took up the position as head of Google's European PR. At that event, Cameron was speaking about what wonderful things the Google brand had accomplished. He listed the almost impossibly fast growth of the company, the way it "democtratised" information, and, "of course the other amazing thing you've achieved is to turn your brand name into a verb." We only mention this in passing, because of course shortly afterwards, Google decided that it didn't want its brand to be used as a verb. But we digress. Schmidt's decision to address the Tories is being interpreted as a sign than business is taking the Conservatives seriously again, despite David Cameron's reluctance to clarify what his party's policies might actually be. Schmidt is set to speak about the challenges politics faces in a digital and internet age. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Oct 2006

Apple issues Mac OS X update

Apple has posted Mac OS X 10.4.8, offering the operating system upgrade for both client and server, and for PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. The patch incorporates a stack of tweaks, including all of Apple's most recent security updates. You can download the update using the OS' own Software Update utility or from Apple's website.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006

ATI to take GPUs into the stream age

ATI - effectively AMD - has begun pitching its Radeon X1900 graphics chip at corporates, not for running graphics on workstations but for processing large data sets much the way Intel's Streaming SIMD Extensions (SSE) are meant to.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006

Toshiba touts laptop-friendly HD DVD burner

Toshiba has launched a slimline HD DVD drive for notebook computers in a bid to boost support for the next-generation optical disc format. The drawer-mechanism unit not only reads and writes all ther usual DVD and CD formats, but also HD DVD recordable and rewriteable media.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006

Nominet rides election storm

UK registry owner Nominet has dismissed requests for a re-election of two of its Board members, announcing that the two incumbents, Gordon Dick and Fay Howard, would return to their positions. Controversy hit the election process when it was revealed that a miscalculation in members' voting rights had only been noticed at the last minute, and only after postal votes and proxy voting deadlines had struck. Two of the six candidates publicly asked for a revote, claiming that they had been unfairly discriminated against. After the complaints, Nominet apologised and announced it would leave the decision in the hands of its independent polling company, Popularis. Announcing the results, Popularis said that since the vote was properly conducted and the votes cast have been calculated correctly, a re-run was not required. Popularis noted it had received two complaints from two of the candidates but pointed out that it had not received a complaint from a Nominet member saying it would have behaved differently had it been aware of the change in voting rights. Its argument is somewhat Orwellian: "It would be unfair to penalise or give unfair advantage to any member in determining the outcome of the elections based on what all now accept was incorrect information," read a statement. "How candidates canvas for votes is a matter for them, and is not contained within any procedural requirements determined by Nominet." As it turned out the two candidates that complained - both of which Nominet would not have been overjoyed to have seen on the Board since one represents the controversial issue of domainers and the other was asking for a price reduction in Nominet's fees - would most likely not have won. But with a very poor turnout of just nine percent of members, it is clear that a well-organised campaign in the future could see a significant shake-up of the status quo.® Related links Election results [pdf] Popularis statement [pdf]
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Oct 2006

Sony to patch Blu-ray burners for BD-ROM playback

Sony's BWU-100A Blu-ray Disc burner will this month gain the ability to play pre-recorded BD discs, the consumer electronics giant has revealed. The fix will come courtesy of an update to the copy of CyberLink PowerDVD bundled with the internal drive.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006

AMD schedules December for 65nm Athlon debut?

What has AMD got coming up during the last three months of the year? A host of 65nm and 90nm Athlons, apparently, according to roadmap slides posted on the internet last week which would seem to confirm earlier reports.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006

US government steps back from internet control

AnalysisAnalysis The US government has taken a step back from control of the internet with a new contract between it and overseeing organisation ICANN that came into effect yesterday.
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Oct 2006

Australia and South Africa shortlisted for giant radio 'scope

South Africa and Australia have been shortlisted as possible sites for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. The telescope is being developed by scientists across 17 countries, and the recommendation was made by a group of seven scientists representing five nations. The telescope, once built, will consist of thousands of antennae spread over an area of 3,000 square kilometres. Half of the dishes will be installed in a so-called core site, an area of 5km by 5km. The remainder will be more widely distributed. It will be the largest telescope ever built and will be used to probe some of the most important questions in astronomy and cosmology. It will be used to investigate so-called dark energy, the origin of magnetism, and could be deployed in the search for extra terrestrial life, according to South Africa's minister for science and technology Mosibudi Mangena. The Australian bid proposes the core site be located at Mileura Station, 100km west of Meekatharra in Western Australia (nearish to Perth). The antenna might be spread so widely that some end up in New Zealand, the CSIRO office says. South Africa's proposal would see the core site being placed in the Karoo in the Northern Cape. The other two bids were from China and Argentina. The SKA steering committee said the proposals were excellent, but each failed at least one of the exacting requirements. Whichever site is chosen, it must have very low levels of man-made radio signals to avoid interfering with the cosmic radio waves the 'scope is designed to detect. The Australian team thinks it has the edge on South Africa in this regard: "The West Australian site is better in this respect than any site in the world currently used for radio astronomy," said Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation's Dr Michelle Storey, leader of the Australian SKA Planning Office. Other important conditions include a good view of the Southern Hemisphere's sky, where the centre of the Milky Way goes overhead, and stable ionospheric conditions, particularly important for low frequency observations. As you would expect with such a large bunch of boffins, argumentative by nature, there is disagreement even on when the final decision will be made. The South Africans expect it in 2008, but the Australians have their money on 2010. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Oct 2006

New WEEE facility opens in Dublin

Cedar Resource Management has announced the launch of a "state-of-the-art" Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) recycling facility in Dublin. The facility is based in the Greenogue Business Park, Rathcoole and was officially opened on Friday by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, Dick Roche. To date, Cedar has invested over €12m in its facilities in Dublin and Cork. Cedar said this investment would allow it to exceed legislative targets laid down for it by the European Union's WEEE Directive. In the past year Cedar has processed 12,000 tonnes of WEEE. The launch of the Dublin operation will allow the company to expand on that as the new facility has the capacity to process 30,000 tonnes of electrical and electronic equipment annually. "We are one of the leaders in Europe in transposing the WEEE Directive," said Roche. "We have been able to do this through partnership with industry, developing a sophisticated system that is now viewed as a model of how to implement a new producer-responsibility initiative for this waste stream. Ireland's performance to date has been stunning and has led to a resultant five-fold increase in recycling of electronic waste." Cedar, which collects and recycles WEEE from around Ireland, has expanded its workforce by 30 this year and has plans to develop the business further in 2007. The facility at Greenogue allows the complete recycling of waste equipment into small fragments of individual materials such as ferrous metal, non-ferrous metal, plastics, and glass. These materials are supplied back to smelters and plastic producers to manufacture new products. "We're delighted to be officially launching our state-of-the-art WEEE recycling facility. Cedar has invested heavily to ensure that we have a world-class recycling plant for electrical and electronic equipment," said Brendan Keane, managing director of Cedar Resource Management. "Industry and consumers in Ireland are taking a responsible approach to WEEE recycling and the level of activity in our facilities is testament to this. Cedar is proud to be associated with the fact that Ireland is exceeding its targets as set by the WEEE Directive." Cedar also has plans to develop its Cork facility. "We are looking to expand the Cork site and do processing down there," said Sean McGarry, business development manager with Cedar Resource Management, speaking with ENN. He said this would require more staff being taken on at the site. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Emmet Ryan, 02 Oct 2006

Underwater gig for mellow Melua

Songstress Katie Melua is preparing for a gig on an oil rig that will earn her a Guinness World Record for the deepest underwater concert performance. The concert, taking place today, is to be held more than 90m below the sea on the Statoil Troll oil rig, in Europe's largest offshore gas field. Melua and her band have been having medical checks ahead of the performance. The concert will be watched by Guinness adjudicators and the rig staff. It will also be televised in Norway. Melua is the UK's biggest selling female artist and, surprise surprise, has a land-based concert coming up in December. She is reported to have described the stunt as "pretty cool". ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Oct 2006
homeless man with sign

Virus-infected email hits rock bottom

The move to more targeted Trojan attacks as opposed to mass mailing worms left last month's virus charts almost static. The long running Netsky-P worm continues to top Sophos's anti-virus charts, with the top five most prevalent pieces of malware retaining their position from August. There were no new entries in September's chart and just one re-entry - MyDoom-AJ. The overall proportion of infected email has dropped to an all time low of just one in 300 (0.33 per cent), Sophos reports. But the move from mass mailing in favour of more subtle and menacing Trojan assaults, targeted at just a small group of users, meant the number of new threats shot up. Sophos recorded 4,080 new threats in September, compared with just 1,998 in August 2006. Russian anti-virus firm Kaspersky Labs backs Sophos's conclusion that there's a move away from global epidemics towards smaller, more low-key attacks. However, it rates Nyxem-E as its top reported threat with Mytob-C (seventh in the Sophos chart) as number two in Kaspersky's rogues gallery. September 2006 malware chart, according to Sophos Netsky-P Mytob-AS Bagle-Zip Nyxem-D Netsky-D Mytob-E Mytob-C Zafi-B MyDoom-O MyDoom-AJ (re-entry) ®
John Leyden, 02 Oct 2006

Football video game wins European patent

The maker of a video game that improves player control has been granted a patent despite the European Patent Convention stating that "methods for playing games" are excluded from patentability. Game developer Konami applied for a patent for a system which identifies which player in a football game has the ball and in what direction the nearest player is to whom he can pass the ball. The game identifies the player and direction with a graphical mark which follows the player below his feet. That application was denied by the European Patent Office's (EPO) examining division. The company appealed to the Technical Board of Appeal which has now granted the patent. The original application was denied because the examining division ruled that only one part of the new system was actually a technical issue and that there existed previous examples of it, known as prior art. The Technical Board of Appeal found that there were more elements which constituted technical improvements and that some of these were new and did not have prior art associated with them. Both times the application was judged it was decided that the application was acceptable, despite the Patent Convention's exclusion of "methods for playing games", which appears in Article 52 of that convention. "Eligibility for patent protection has not been called into question by the Examining Division," says the technical board's ruling. "The guide display device according to claim 1 indeed represents a physical entity in particular comprising displaying means which have a technical character by their nature. The displaying steps of the independent method claim imply the use of displaying means which provides a technical character to the method." The ruling says that it follows the landmark Hitachi judgment of 2004 which defined what could be included for patent consideration under Article 52 broadly. Following the precedent set by that ruling, the EPO will allow a patent claim to be made as long as it involves technical means. In contrast, many national patent offices, including the UK's, have a much more narrow definition of what constitutes a patentable invention and take a harder line on preventing software and games patents. The ruling overturned the earlier decision and ordered that a patent be granted. It said that the direction marks did involve an inventive step and that they had technical character. Though some of the other claims would not be permitted, the invention as a whole was deemed patentable. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Oct 2006
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Pioneer picks eSys for distie

BriefBrief eSys will distribute Pioneer's optical disk drives across Europe, except to Germany and Turkey. Mark Littlechild, a senior manager at Pioneer Europe, said: "Eastern Europe in particular is a thriving market where sales of DVD writers remain buoyant, and we see eSys' excellent relationships with system developers and the local channel playing a pivotal role in our growth strategy in the region."
John Oates, 02 Oct 2006
homeless man with sign

PGP puts finger in network storage dyke

Encryption specialist PGP will plug a sizable hole in its line-up this week with the release of its networked storage product NetShare. PGP hopes the boom in companies sharing data centre resources will provide a fillip for NetShare. It'll work both ways, they reckon; commercial interests like intellectual property will be better protected, while customers and employees can feel more secure about the privacy of their data, with files unreadable by system administrators. PGP says NetShare is totally transparent to users, acting automatically in the background to scramble all data sent to the network with minimal performance cost. There's an upcoming open goal for PGP's encryption technology in Europe with national governments required to implement the EU's Data Retention Directive by August next year. Huge data losses in the US are disclosed, punished, and given a high and embarrassing media profile. The directive should ensure similar accountability in the EU. An obvious move for PGP would be to let EMC et al - who increasingly fancy themselves as providing added value to customers through software and services - act as resellers for NetShare. EMC's recent cash splurge on RSA and Network Intelligence demonstrates its seriousness in the area. PGP marketing VP Andrew Krcik told us the firm would be "glad to work with" the hardware vendors, so watch this space. Rival Pointsec already partners with RSA, so an EMC deal would be a big win for PGP. Netshare is available later this week for PGP and its resellers, as the silly countdown timer on its site's front page teases. Also announced will be a raft of updates to its existing encryption offerings. ®
Christopher Williams, 02 Oct 2006

Sling pitches revamped net TV boxes

Sling Media will bring its HD-oriented Slingbox Pro to the UK next year, along with the Slingbox AV and Slingbox Tuner the company also announced late last week, expanding its device line-up from one machine to three.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Google gets nostalgic with garage buy

Google has gone back to its roots and, in the style of HP, has bought the house and garage in which founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin first established the company. The company has not said how much it paid for the property. Page and Brin rented the garage from Susan Wojcicki, then a friend of an ex of Brin's, now vice president of product management at Google. She needed some money to help pay her mortgage and for five months Brin and Page made the garage their second home. According to reports they also helped themselves to plenty of frozen pizza from Wojcicki's freezer. The garage has, apparently, already become something of a tourist attraction. Google asked reporters not to publish the house address because bus tours have already become a local nuisance. Google says it is not sure what it will use the house for. A spokesman said: "We plan to preserve the property as a part of our living legacy." We can only hope that the search empire is content with mimicking HP in this one aspect, and does not feel the need to start rifling through people's phone records or sending spyware-laden emails to journalists. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Oct 2006
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RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100

ReviewReview Research in Motion's BlackBerry has, with its seamless email and sturdy workhorse ruggedness, captured the business market. But its bulky designs and lack of extras have put off many a consumer. That's all set to change with the introduction of the Pearl, RIM's first handset aimed slap bang at the consumer market...
Jason Berman, 02 Oct 2006

US geneticists scoop Nobel Prize for Medicine

The 2006 Nobel Prize for Medicine will be shared by Stanford's Andrew Fire and the University of Massachusetts' Craig Mello for their detective work on the phenomenon of RNA interference (RNAi), which has the potential to revolutionise medicine. RNAi enables geneticists to design molecules to "silence" specific genes. It's early days for the field, but the target could be a malfunctioning copy of one of our own genes, as in many cancers where cells are reproducing out of control. The faulty gene responsible for sickle cell anaemia, one of the world's most commonly inherited diseases, could be knocked out by an RNAi molecule. Alternatively, genes key to a multiplying bacterium or virus, like HIV, could be knocked out and the infection halted. Trials in mice have already been successful. The never-ending battle with viruses is thought to have been the driver for the emergence of RNAi early in the evolution of multicellular life - the apparatus is shared by plants and animals. The value of RNAi to basic science is enormous too. It makes the herculean task of identifying the function and interaction of each of the genes discovered by the Human Genome Project easier. It was first observed as part of a plant breeding programme in the late 1980s, where genetically engineered petunias did not develop the colours they were expected to. Instead of deep purples and reds, the flowers were white or part-white. The molecular mechanism of how the petunias silenced the pigment genes which had been inserted into them remained obscure. Fire and Mello worked out that specially targeted RNA molecules were responsible for the knockout. RNA - RiboNucleic Acid - is a close chemical relative of DNA. It acts as the genetic workhorse in cells: if DNA is an encyclopaedia, RNA is a daily newspaper; shorter, quicker, throwaway, but powerful nonetheless. The Nobel Foundation is announcing the 2006 recipient of one of its prestigious gongs every day this week, climaxing with the Peace Prize on Friday. Fire and Mello will share a purse of 10 million Swedish Kronor (about £730,000). The worth of their discoveries to the biotech and medical industries will likely dwarf that figure. More importantly, the value of RNAi to disease sufferers will not be measured in currency. ®
Christopher Williams, 02 Oct 2006

Microsoft Zune, Apple iPod go head-to-head on web

Microsoft's Zune music player doesn't ship in the US until 14 November, but the gadget has already begun appearing in public - and being compared directly to Apple's latest '5.5G' video iPod. One blogger, Jake Ludington, has even posted a set of snaps of the two gadgets side by side.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006

Intel invests $9.88m in PowerVR developer

Intel is to pump £5.28m ($9.88m) into UK-based graphics chip designer Imagination Technologies. The chip giant also said it had extended its licence to use Imagination's video and graphics processing cores - as, separately, did Texas Instruments.
Tony Smith, 02 Oct 2006
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Vista hit by EC fears and McAfee ire

More bad news for Microsoft's delayed operating system Vista - the European Commission is widening an investigation into whether or not it breaches competition law. Microsoft and the Commission were already discussing the oft-delayed software. But the Commission is now concerned about encryption technology and handwriting recognition which are included in the release. The Commission is concerned the development could put Microsoft back in bundling territory, according to the FT. Today also saw full-page adverts in the Financial Times from security vendor McAfee. The open letter, addressed to "Dear computer users around the world,", warns that Vista is likely to make security problems worse. The letter says that the best defenders of Microsoft's operating systems have been third party developers and security firms. But for the first time with Vista Microsoft is stopping security companies accessing the "kernel" - the heart of its operating system. The letter says: "For starters, customers should recognise that Microsoft is being completely unrealistic if, by locking security companies out of the kernel, it thinks hackers won't crack Vista's kernel. In fact, they already have... "Microsoft's new approach is misguided in principle, bad for innovation and competion. Above all it is bad for users." McAfee asks Microsoft to return to its previous collaborative approach.®
John Oates, 02 Oct 2006
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BDE swallows The Systems Practice

Business software reseller BDE Group has bought up the Sage business of rival The Systems Practice (TSP) for an undisclosed sum. TSP's Southampton office will continue as a Microsoft-only reseller, with the rest of the staff moving to BDE.
Christopher Williams, 02 Oct 2006

MIT promises safer, more efficient nuclear plants

Researchers at MIT have developed technology they say will boost the power output of nuclear power plants by 50 per cent, and make them safer to run. The technology applies to pressurised water reactors. In these, water is used as a coolant, and is kept under pressure to prevent it from boiling. The uranium is also used to heat water, stored separately from the coolant system, generating steam which in turn is used to generate electricity. By modifying the shape of the uranium pellets used to fuel the plants, the researchers say they can lower the operating temperature of the plant, and increase heat transfer, Reuters reports. On the face of it the technique seems very simple, although as it took three years to develop, it's probably actually quite complicated. Normal uranium dioxide fuel is made into solid cylindrical pellets. The MIT researchers' technique works instead with hollow tubes of the fuel. This increases the surface area of the uranium exposed to the water, improving heat transfer. It also means the plant can run at 700°C, less than half the standard operating temperature of 1,800°C, and much lower than the melting point of uranium (2,840°C). Pavel Hejzlar, a principle research scientist in MIT's Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering, and his colleague Mujid Kazimi worked on the project for three years, in conjunction with the US department of energy. Hejzlar says there was no time to patent the concept before he published his first paper on the work, and notes that it could take up to 10 years to commercialise the project. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Oct 2006
For Sale sign detail

EU.biz mired by complex security systems

European companies are becoming bogged down in their increasingly complicated IT security arrangements, according to new research. A study commissioned by security software company McAfee reveals a desire for easier management of IT security is being undermined by complex security system purchasing strategies. Despite IT managers demanding a single view of IT security, too many security suppliers, solutions, and management consoles are weighing down businesses with unnecessary complications, McAfee claims. The research was conducted by Ipsos MORI Research and assessed 600 businesses in Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Italy. Researchers found that while over three quarters (77 per cent) of those questioned would like to have a single overview of the security of their IT infrastructure, nearly a third (29 per cent) currently use four or more management consoles. Just over a third of businesses have five or more security solutions deployed, while one in five (22 per cent) enterprises questioned have seven or more different solutions. A quarter (24 per cent) of larger enterprises with more than 1,000 employees also claimed five or more different security suppliers. "Managing a range of different solutions from a range of vendors is a headache. It is also inefficient and expensive. Businesses need to look at integrated security solutions under a single console which deliver protection against a full range of threats while at the same time being cost effective and easy to manage," said McAfee's European director of system security Aminah Gianfrancesco. One of the main difficulties for businesses with multiple software solutions from a variety of vendors is keeping the whole security shebang up-to-date, and this means managing the deployment of patches. Across Europe, just over half of respondents said that they apply software patches daily or even more frequently. Italian businesses are the biggest patchers with 67 per cent admitting to deploying patches at least once a day, closely followed by German businesses. Regardless of multiple IT security systems, only 23 per cent of respondents said they are completely satisfied with the level of security across their systems and network. When it comes to purchasing new security solutions, functionality is the main driver. Over a quarter of businesses questioned say they base their purchasing decision on specific features of a product. Only 13 per cent responded that price is the driving force behind purchasing new security systems although cost is the biggest motivator for British businesses with just over one-in-five companies admitting to choosing the cheapest option. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Maxim Kelly, 02 Oct 2006

Ageia preps PCI Express games physics card

Physics processor chip specialist Ageia is about to launch a PCI Express version of its PhysX card, the company told Reg Hardware today. Considering that Ageia had PCI-E and PCI production samples in March, it's a wonder it has taken them this long to announce product.
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 02 Oct 2006

Siemens creates hardship fund for BenQ workers

Siemens' board voted this weekend to forgo a planned 30 per cent pay rise in order to set up a €30m hardship fund for workers affected by the closure of the German handset business it offloaded to BenQ last year. Siemens boss Klaus Kleinfeld said that after an extraordinary meeting on Sunday, the board wanted to "show solidarity" with the affected workers. "We think the way BenQ has acted in Germany is unacceptable and want to help where we can," Kleinfeld told Bild. "If BenQ is going to leave employees in the lurch, then we want to help actively and quickly." Taiwanese firm BenQ acquired Siemens' loss-making handset unit last year. In exchange, Siemens agreed to invest in BenQ by buying shares. Under the terms of the deal, which saw Siemens effectively paying BenQ to take over operations, BenQ guaranteed jobs at the handset unit until the middle of this year. In July it announced a 10 per cent reduction in the workforce, and then last week the firm filed for insolvency of the business unit, the first step towards closing the German handset business and shedding its 3,000 workers. Shortly after the announcement, protesters gathered outside Siemens' HQ to express their dissatisfaction with the situation. Kleinfeld said last week the firm was considering taking legal action against BenQ. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Oct 2006

Nvidia's 'G80' to ship mid-November?

Nvidia will unveil the world's first DirectX10 GPU, codenamed 'G80' but expected to ship as the GeForce 8800, in the middle of this coming November, it has been claimed.
Hard Reg, 02 Oct 2006

Software wails on mobile muggers

A new weapon in the battle against mobile mugging and data theft hits the streets today. The people behind Remote XT software claim backing from the rozzers, in the form of the Met and the Mobile Industry Crime Action Forum. It's the latest in a new wave of aural annoyance technologies, which have included the high-pitched teenager repellent Mosquito. If the phone's SIM card is removed by a thief, Remote XT will launch into an ear-splitting screech and lock the device down automatically. There's an option to disable the automatic feature for people who operate multiple SIM cards on a single device. In that case the phone has to be reported nicked. Either way, the noise can easily be stopped by removing the battery. Perhaps more useful to data-paranoid suits, as well as screaming like a banshee, the phone's memory will be wiped. In the first instance, it'll come in two flavours, both pitched at businesses. For outfits big enough to run their own Windows Exchange server, it'll cost £9.99 per phone, while there's a £14.99 remote hosted option for smaller operations. Remote XT will be flogged through independent retailers like Carphone Warehouse as an option on new phones or as a download to pre-existing gear on any network. It's not available for Java platforms just yet, so Motorola handsets are out for now, but a release is "imminent", say the firm's techies. ®
Christopher Williams, 02 Oct 2006

Sony's next Flash Walkman details slip out

Sony will next week launch its latest Flash-based digital audio player, if online retailers' listings of the as-yet-unannounced Walkman NWS700 series devices are anything to go by. The pitch for the product line will centre on its inclusion of "noise-cancelling" headphones, a three-line colour display and 1-4GB of storage capacity.
Hard Reg, 02 Oct 2006

BT's musical Vision

BT has signed up Sony BMG to provide exclusive music video content for its forthcoming BT Vision IPTV service. BT sees exclusive deals as key to its success and credibility as a television operator when it goes head-to-head with Sky and NTL later in autumn. BT has been shipping its Home Hub converged phone/broadband/IPTV box into homes for some months in preparation for the launch of Vision. On-demand music videos from the likes of Foo Fighters, Beyonce, Bob Dylan and George "Chronic" Michael will be delivered first by BT, both through Vision and to computers via its download store. BT television services CEO Dan Marks said: "This is an important deal for BT Vision. It confirms that BT Vision will become one of the places that music fans will come to see and hear the artists they love, whenever they want." BT has teamed up with a bunch of content providers to add value to its TV proposition, which will not cost punters any extra if they don't choose to use the paid-for services. There's no word on exact pricing or launch date yet. ®
Christopher Williams, 02 Oct 2006
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Tesco launches own-brand software

First there was the computers for schools scheme, now Tesco is releasing software for all. The grocery giant is releasing its own line of software at budget prices that will see it go head to head with Microsoft. Tesco supermarkets in Britain and Ireland will offer six packages including office software, security systems, a photo editing tool and a CD/DVD burning tool. Each title will cost less that £:20 (€29.54) each. This is considerably less than packages such as Microsoft Office which can cost up to €440.
ElectricNews.net, 02 Oct 2006

UK's superfast Uni network hobbled by Aberdeen collapse

UpdatedUpdated A mysterious equipment failure has crippled part of the UK's superfast educational network JANET (Joint Academic Network). Throughout the day, reports trickled in to The Register of readers unable to access JANET. Status charts provided by JANET show that systems scattered throughout the UK were restarted today in an apparent attempt to deal with the problems. As of yet, however, JANET has not updated its official network status page to reflect a "major outage." Customer service representatives have been informed of two problems that could be affecting the academic network. Aberdeen City Council reported that its network has been down since Saturday. "They need access to Aberdeen University as they have detected a problem with their equipment there," the council told customer service, according to a report seen by El Reg. Coleg Harlech also faced off against a fire over the weekend in the room next door to their communications centers. As a result, a wide variety of networking gear has been switched off. The site has been down since Sunday. All told, JANET outages are rare with former users telling us they went four years at Uni without a single cock-up. The network provides UK universities with an exclusive, speedy network that taps directly into the telecommunications infrastructure. Charts, however, show that 40 out of 41 backbone nodes at Aberdeen failed in recent days with all of the external nodes collapsing as well. Beyond that, one chart shows every node being down as of 16:09 on Monday. [Screen grab available here.] In addition, sites Belfast, Dublin, Glasgow, Dundee, and Inverness appear to have been restarted today. We've yet to receive official word on the cause of the problems or their scope. ® Update All seems hunky dory with JANET now. One source tells us the problems were caused by rats chewing through a cable in the Aberdeen Metropolitan Area Network, which has been sorted by THUS engineers.
Ashlee Vance, 02 Oct 2006

Job cuts loom at Los Alamos Lab

The arrival of a new master at Los Alamos National Laboratory will likely result in a rapid fire layoff, officials revealed last week. The consortium operating the lab expects to cleave off hundreds of jobs in an effort to lower costs. The lab faces serious financial challenges under its new management, which has to account for close to $200m more in various costs than previous manager University of California (UC). The prospect of lost jobs in New Mexico has prompted local politicians to mount their soap boxes. "This budget shortfall is about more than bad math - this is about the livelihoods of my constituents,'' U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a statement. "(The U.S. Department of Energy) should have better budgeted and planned for these costs." Los Alamos will likely do away with between 350 and 600 contract workers. The lab has more than 8,000 full-time staff and more than a thousand other contract workers. In June, a consortium dubbed Los Alamos National Security (LANS) took over sole management of the lab from UC, which had operated the site since the days of the Manhattan Project. The limited liability corporation (LLC) is composed of contractors such as Bechtel, Washington Group International and BWX, along with UC. The new management has been expected to run the lab with a similar budget as in years past. That's problematic because, as an LLC, LANS must pay more in taxes and pension costs than the non-profit UC. In addition, LANS expects to hand out raises and hopes to earn tens of millions in performance incentives from the government that were not available to UC. All told, that means the additional costs could chew through close to 10 per cent of the lab's $2.2bn budget. Up until now, lab representatives have played down the prospect of job cuts. Director Michael Anastasio in July called on workers to use "creativity" to solve the $200m budget shortfall. Any job cuts will be characterized as crushing to the cities around the lab, which depend on Los Alamos as a key part of their economies. "This is going to be devastating to the economy,'' Espanola mayor Joseph Maestas told a local paper. "That's why the state Legislature and the governor need to come up with ways to invest the state's share of this windfall to create a sustainable economy that gradually reduces its reliance on the laboratory money or federal money associated with the lab.'' The Department of Energy controls the lab's budget and is not expected to free up more cash anytime soon. ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 Oct 2006

Progress Software: its challenges

CommentComment Historically, Progress Software built its business around its 4GL (which it now refers to as an ABL—Advanced Business Language) and its database. And the company succeeded by focusing on the mid-market and a channel model for reaching that market. In other words, it was a company that targeted small and medium-sized businesses and, at the high end, the small enterprise market. However, that is changing and the company faces transitioning issues.
Philip Howard, 02 Oct 2006

DVD Jon opens Apple DRM for profit and pleasure

DVD Jon is back in the public eye with a method of reverse-engineering Fairplay, Apple's digital rights management software. He thinks Apple won't stop his efforts to turn his technology into cash.
Drew Cullen, 02 Oct 2006
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Seagate preserves Maxtor brand for channel freshness

Seagate has begun selling Maxtor-branded desktop and notebook PC hard drives through its distribution network worldwide.
Drew Cullen, 02 Oct 2006

Alphacidal Capellas dives into Silver Lake

Admitted Alpha killer and professional golden parachute artist Mike Capellas has joined investment firm Silver Lake Partners. When not performing technology buyouts, Silver Lake serves as a type of CEO holding tank. Former Sun Prez Ed Zander, for example, put in some time at the Lake and then took the CEO job at Motorola. Now, it's Don Capellas' - the man who sent Alpha to swim with the fishes - turn to marinade before springing back into action. Capellas is apparently a senior advisor at Silver Lake. "Capellas will work closely with the senior leadership and value creation teams at Silver Lake to help identify and develop new investment opportunities and provide expertise and counsel to Silver Lake’s growing number of portfolio companies," the company said, adding that Capellas will work from New York. Capellas, you'll recall, climbed his way up the ranks of various technology companies before settling into the CEO role at Compaq. After HP ate Compaq, Capellas ended up as President of the combined company, serving under PA-RISC whacker Carly Fiorina. That gig lasted just a few months before Capellas scrambled away to head up scandal-ridden WorldCom MCI. Once MCI mated with Verizon, Capellas departed his CEO post again. Through that glorious run, Capellas managed to sack away tens of millions of dollars in exit pay. Not bad work, if you can get it. We happen to think Golden Mike is eyeing the HP spy scandal to see if another job opens up. ®
Ashlee Vance, 02 Oct 2006