3rd > October > 2006 Archive

cloud

Sun ships 52,000 Opteron cores to Texas

Sun Microsystems continues its march toward supercomputing respectability. The company has won a deal to supply the University of Texas with a system that should easily be one of the fastest on the planet when completed in 2007. The Texas Advanced Computer Center (TACC) at UT will put a $59m grant from the National Science Foundation toward the supercomputer. The school hopes to have a base version of the computer humming away by June 1 and a final version running by October 2007. All told, the finished product will have a whopping 13,000 four-core Opteron processors from AMD, 100TB of memory and 1.7PB of disk. It's a Texas-sized box to be sure. Sun had largely vanished from the Top 500 supercomputer rankings, allowing IBM, HP, Dell and more specialized players to have all the glory. The company, however, has enjoyed recent high performance computing success on the back of its Opteron-based server line. A Sun built system sitting in Tokyo currently claims the seventh spot on the Top 500 list. The TACC box should shoot well past the Tokyo system with Sun and UT claiming it will reach peak performance of 400 teraflops. IBM's Blue Gene system at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is the current speed record holder, topping out at 280 teraflops. Next year, IBM plans to launch a new machine that combines its own Cell processors with Opteron chips. That supercomputer for Los Alamos National Lab should come close to quadrupling Blue Gene's performance by cranking 1 quadrillion floating-point operations per second - aka a petaflop. The UT system will be used for a wide variety of scientific tasks such as calculating booster donations for the school's football team. The US has long considered its supercomputing systems national treasures. Washington has been willing to fund the giants with pork-rich grants, allowing us to prove that our boxes are bigger and faster than those in weaker, less manly nations. At times, however, Washington's interest in supercomputers has waned, leaving national labs with a pork shortage. W last year pledged to make sure that such shortages don't occur on his watch. And, wouldn't you know it, Texas ended up with a massive system. ®
Ashlee Vance, 03 Oct 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Share the Vista vision, Microsoft tells security rivals

Microsoft has called on security software firms to provide more than just "basic" products for Windows Vista. Partners must deliver more than "baseline" protection and support for Windows Vista's new security architecture to address future threats to computers, it says.
Gavin Clarke, 03 Oct 2006
chart

Cassatt and XenSource to sell hype software together

Normally, two virtualization companies with silly names forming a sales partnership would not capture our attention. But, people actually seem to use the software from Cassatt and XenSource, so here we are. Cassatt has secured a reselling deal with XenSource, allowing it to ship XenEnterprise alongside its own software. An "exclusive" deal this is not, since companies aren't exactly fighting for the rights to sell XenEnterprise, and since XenSource isn't really trying to stop anyone from helping it out. Still, if you're dealing with Cassatt and interested in XenSource, this should save you a phone call. Which is nice, unless talking to software salesmen cooks your oats. Some of you lucky folks out there have likely managed to escape the morass of marketing hype surrounding the virtualization market. The less fortunate will recall that Cassatt provides a one-stop management shop for controlling software across Unix, Linux and Windows servers. You can install applications, take them down, turn on servers, turn off servers, tweak your Java applications and fiddle with virtual machines all from one, magnificent control panel. Meanwhile, XenSource ships software for running multiple copies of an operating system on a single server. The Collage Cross-Virtualization Manager (XVM) is Cassatt's product for massaging virtual machines created by any server slicing products from VMware or the Xen crowd. The company plans to have full support for XenEnterprise with the next release of XVM, due out later this year. A couple of you accused us of venturing into shill territory with our Cassatt profile published in May. We dare say that Forbes has flopped right over the vacuous bar we allegedly set with its cover story on Cassatt CEO and BEA founder Bill Coleman. The story is realistically titled "The New Barbarians." As we understand it, Coleman's friends have taken to calling him Genghis Bill. Should you want to hear how Cassatt and XenSource can improve the state of your data center, tune into this web cast. ®
Ashlee Vance, 03 Oct 2006

Mars HiRISE images wow the crowd

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has delivered its first close-up snaps of the Martian surface, courtesy of the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE). The images, taken during the Orbiter's first mapping orbit, include this fine view of an area of the planet's Valles Marineris canyon grabbed on 29 September from an altitude of 280km: The accompanying HiRISE information centre blurb explains that "this sub-image covers a small portion of the floor of Ius Chasma, one branch of the giant Valles Marineris system of canyons", centered on -7.8 degrees latitude, 279.5 degrees East longitude. The picture (full-fat version available here) shows "bedrock exposures of layered materials, which could be sedimentary rocks deposited in water or from the air", plus "a few dunes" of windblown sand (bottom right). HiRISE also recorded this nice image of the "north polar layered deposits" (Flash zoomable version available here): The bands seen here "may represent annual deposition of water ice and dust that is thought to form the polar layered deposits", which "are thought to record global climate variations on Mars, similar to ice ages on Earth". The bright spots, the boffins reckon, are probably patches of water frost. HiRISE team member Nicolas Thomas of the University of Bern in Switzerland told New Scientist: "HiRISE's unprecedented resolution will allow the layers to be probed in finer detail than ever before in order to understand these climatic shifts." The pics would, he added, give scientists something to ponder until they can physically drill into the Red Planet to probe its history. He noted: "The only way we can do this now is with remote sensing using a high-resolution camera." Thomas also confirmed that HiRISE captured some colour images, which are still being processed. "From working on it, I can already tell you that it's going to be good," he promised. ®
Lester Haines, 03 Oct 2006
globalisation

Firefox JavaScript risk downplayed

UpdateUpdate Flaws in the way Firefox handles JavaScript code only crash the browser (at worst), contrary to earlier reports that researchers had identified a zero-day exploit that might lend itself to malware-based attacks. Researchers Mischa Spiegelmock and Andrew Wbeelsoi discussed the unpatched cross-platform vulnerability during a presentation at ToorCon hacker conference in San Diego last weekend. The stack overflow flaw said to be at the heart of the problem is down to Firefox's implementation of JavaScript which Spiegelmock described as a "complete mess". The hackers reportedly claimed the vulnerability was one of 30 security bugs in Firefox they knew. Window Snyder, Mozilla's security chief, who witnessed the presentation on Saturday, initially suggested that that security bug illustrated by Spiegelmock and Wbeelsoi might be a variant of a well-understand attack. Snyder told News.com that she was uncomfortable that the researchers detailed possible exploits during their presentation, a common criticism by software vendors against security researchers against researchers who practice full disclosure. After reviewing the flaw, Mozilla published a posting on its developer blog downplaying the seriousness of the bug, initially reported by El Reg and other news outlets as creating a means for hackers to execute hostile code on Windows, Mac OS X and Linux PCs. The posting contains an agreed statement by Spiegelmock in which the security researcher backtracks on claims made during the talk that Firefox was riddled with security bugs. "As part of our talk we mentioned that there was a previously known Firefox vulnerability that could result in a stack overflow ending up in remote code execution. However, I have not succeeded in making this code do anything more than cause a crash and eat up system resources, and I certainly haven’t used it to take over anyone else’s computer and execute arbitrary code," the statement reads. "I do not have 30 undisclosed Firefox vulnerabilities, nor did I ever make this claim. I have no undisclosed Firefox vulnerabilities. The person who was speaking with me made this claim, and I honestly have no idea if he has them or not." Mozilla's Window Snyder adds in the posting that despite the reduced seriousness of the risk it was continued to investigate the issue. ®
John Leyden, 03 Oct 2006

AMD to ship K8L next-gen desktop CPUs Q3 07?

AMD's 65nm 'Altair' processor, the first desktop chip to be based on the company's next-generation K8L architecture, will debut Q3 2007, various Asian reports claiming to be derived from the firm's roadmaps allege.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006

Google comes up trumps in AdWords dispute

A New York district court has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Rescuecom, a computer repair firm, that accused Google of trademark infringement by selling its brand as a search term. Google's keyword advertising system is called AdWords. If a company pays for a keyword it means its text advert will be displayed alongside search results when that word is searched for in Google. Mordue's decision means the case will not be heard, but other courts have allowed similar cases to go further. Insurance company Geico took a case against Google on similar grounds. That case was heard in the Eastern District Court of Virginia and was mostly a victory for Google. The judge ruled that Google's sale of trademarked words to third parties was not an infringement, but that it would be an infringement to include that trademark in the text ad itself, since that caused a "likelihood of confusion". That case was settled out of court and neither party has ever revealed the terms of the settlement. Another case, involving American Blind and Wallpaper Factory, is pending. Judge Norman Mordue of the northern district court of New York ruled in the Rescuecom case that Google's "internal use" did not violate any trademark rights because it was not claimed that it put the trademarked terms on "any goods, containers, displays or advertisements, or that its internal use is visible to the public". David Milman, CEO of Rescuecom, called the decision a "dangerous precedent". French courts have taken a firmer view and have ordered Google not to allow a search using one company's trademarks to turn up information about another company's products or services. See: The ruling (16 page/1.7MB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 03 Oct 2006
fingers pointing at man

Stealth techniques push malware under the radar

Increased use of stealth techniques such as rootkits is leading to fewer reports of new viruses, according to a study by net security outfit VeriSign iDefense. Since 2003, VeriSign iDefense has been collecting and recording information on every uniquely identifiable malicious code, using public and private resources. Discovery of malicious codes was steadily growing between 2003 and 2005, but from January to June 2006 VeriSign iDefense noticed a significant downward trend each month. Its conclusions are markedly different from those of anti-virus vendors, who report a decrease in mass-mailing worms but an increase in more targeted attacks. VeriSign iDefense has a number of theories about why it is seeing fewer examples of malware doing the rounds. For one, anti-virus programs may be improperly detecting polymorphic codes as older variants or code families. Then again, malware authors might be turning to phishing and pharming attacks as a means to rack in illicit funds. As such attacks grow in popularity, the theory goes, they might start to replace malicious codes as a means to gain personal information for financial gain. While it's true that phishing attacks are gaining in sophistication, VeriSign iDefense neglects to mention that key-logging Trojans are one of the most effective means to gain secret account information. However, the company believes the most significant factor in the decrease of malware it reports is the increased use of rootkit techniques. Rootkits, designed to push malware "under the radar", are increasingly foiling anti-virus programs and other security techniques, it says. VeriSign iDefense reckons the number of malicious codes installed today is still significant, but simply not being detected. Senior malicious code analyst Frederick Doyle said: "Levels of spamming continue to be a good indicator of malicious code use, as those techniques are generally used by the same types of hackers. As the public improves in its defences against spamming, malicious code users are increasingly turning to different means of attack." ®
John Leyden, 03 Oct 2006
channel

Netezza surprises with technical capabilities

CommentComment I have recently returned from Netezza's second annual conference. This was well attended, with nearly all of the company's customers (around 75) being represented, as well as a significant number of both prospects and partners. It was very (to use a technical term) buzzy and there was a degree of enthusiasm that I have rarely encountered. However, what was most interesting for me was the number of things I had not previously appreciated about Netezza's technical capabilities. And, of course, its roadmap for the future (though I can't say too much about that). To begin with there is the question of indexes. Data warehouse appliances in general, and Netezza in particular, tends to be type cast by detractors as only being good for large table scans, because they do not support indexes and therefore cannot run complex joins. However, in the case of Netezza, at any rate, this is misleading. This is because it uses what might be described as an anti-index, which is called a zonemap.A zonemap allows you to load say, sales by time, and then the zonemap breaks the relevant data down into blocks, storing the details of the first and last record in each block (thus there is a much lower overhead compared to an index). What this means is that when you run a query you only read the blocks that contain the data you are interested in, ignoring all the other blocks. This ability to limit the data you read means that joins are much more effective than would otherwise be the case. In its roadmap, Netezza described future approaches that will further reduce the amount of data you need to read. Another interesting thing to come out of the conference was that a number of Netezza customers have stopped using aggregates as a result of implementing Netezza. For example, Carphone Warehouse told me that it was both faster and more accurate to calculate directly from the raw data. As aggregates are a major issue for database administrators, being able to get rid of them (or, at least, minimise their use) is a significant benefit. Not that Netezza eschews aggregates altogether. More than one user employs a data warehouse appliance (not only from Netezza) as an aggregating engine as a front-end to a third party enterprise data warehouse. I will discuss this further in a subsequent article. And while talking about enterprise data warehouses (EDW), there are several arguments put against using a data warehouse appliance as an EDW. The first is that you can't use an appliance for complex joins but, as discussed above, this is less and less true, at least as far as Netezza is concerned. Secondly, there is the issue that the large EDW vendors provide pre-built data models - well, one of the things that Netezza has not made much of is the fact that it has partners that provide exactly these sort of capabilities (typically built on either a star or snowflake schema). And, thirdly, there is the question of managing mixed workloads. In this last case, Netezza offers guaranteed resource allocation (floors but not ceilings yet), short query bias, materialised views, and prioritisation. Another area in which Netezza has been hiding its light under a bushel is in the matter of FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays). FPGAs are used to process data as it is streamed off disk. Note that this is important to understand. Most data warehouse appliances (and, indeed, conventional products) use a caching architecture whereby data is read from disk and then held in cache for processing. Netezza, on the other hand, uses an approach that queries the data as it comes off disk before passing the results on to memory. In other words it uses a streaming architecture in which the data is streamed through the queries (whose programs have been loaded into the FPGA) rather than being stored (even if in memory) and then queried. There are several points to make about this. The first is that you can get much better performance when using this sort of approach than when using a conventional one. For example, it is stream-based processing that is used for algorithmic trading, where processing requirements are of the order of 150,000 transactions per second. The second is that FPGAs are the natural way of handling streaming environments. For example, they are widely used for voice and video streaming. They are not yet used for event stream processing, but we know of one vendor that plans to do exactly that. In turn, what this means is that FPGAs are very much a commodity item. Those of us working in more conventional environments may not think of FPGAs like that, but they are as much of a commodity as, say, an Intel processor. And talking about processors, the other thing that Netezza uses that may seem odd to some people is that it employs a PowerPC chip rather than using said Intel (or AMD). Again, this is similarly a commodity device that is widely used in small footprint devices, primarily because of its low power consumption. To be specific, a Netezza Snippet Processing Unit (where a snippet is the compiled SQL query that data is streamed through) requires just 30 watts. A complete Netezza rack with 112 of these and 16.5Tb of disks (with 5.5Tb of user data) requires little more than 4Kw and produces 12,000 BTU heat output. Given the power and cooling issues afflicting most data centres today, this is a substantial advantage, as are the reduced floor space requirements. Returning to FPGAs for a moment, the performance and price of these is following along a similar price/performance curve as those of processors. It is expected that performance and price will both improve by five times by 2010, as will the amount of logic that you can put on an FPGA. This last is particularly important because it will enable Netezza to introduce even more functionality into the FPGA in the future. Even with the current FPGAs, Netezza plans to introduce features that will increase raw scan-rate performance, tactical query performance, and advanced analytic performance. The advanced analytic capabilities will be made available to partners rather than end users and will allow predictive analytics vendors (like SPSS or SAS) to embed scoring capabilities (say) directly into the FPGA, which should provide significant performance advantages. Another potential use of the functionality embedded in the FPGA would be to implement column-level encryption, which would be useful for companies in the data aggregation and resale market, for example, because you could use different encryption techniques for each customer's data. Encryption generally is not available and is not currently on the roadmap and while I would like to see this it is arguably unnecessary - given the structure of a Netezza appliance you would need some seriously good hacking skills to read a Netezza disk, even if you could get at one - so column-level encryption on its own may be good enough. To conclude, I was surprised by this conference, not just by the enthusiasm of the attendees but also about some of the functionality that Netezza can offer, which I don't think it has done a good job of explaining to the market. It has, for obvious reasons, concentrated on performance, price and reduced cost of ownership but, to take TCO, it has tended to focus on the removal of indexes and tuning but hasn't discussed its advantages when it comes to aggregates. Similarly, it hasn't really explained why using FPGAs are a good idea, it hasn't made it clear that zonemaps are a form of anti-index, and it hasn't talked much about its advantages in the data centre. Given all of this, and adding in the rich set of new features in the company's roadmap (a number of which I have not mentioned), there is no reason to expect Netezza to do anything but go from strength to strength. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Philip Howard, 03 Oct 2006

ATI 80nm GPUs given PCI Express thumbs-up

ATI's upcoming RV535, RV560 and RV570 GPUs have been certified as PCI Express-compatible by the PCI SIG, a move that paves the way for the parts' release.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006

Demon hosting back online

Demon Web Hosting is back online today after technical problems downed the service for a week. In a statement, the company said: We experienced a file system software failure on one of our many Demon hosting platforms and our engineers continue to work around the clock to bring this small hosting platform back into service. Due to the nature of the software failure, detailed and specialist activities have been required which have taken a longer period of time to complete. However, we anticipate that service will be restored in the morning of Tuesday 3rd October. We apologise to affected customers for the inconvenience caused." Essential maintenance carried out last Monday 25 September at midday started the problem. By Friday 29 September, engineers were promising a fix in 24 hours. Demon was one of the UK's first ISPs, founded in 1992. In 1998 it was bought by Thus. ®
John Oates, 03 Oct 2006

Creative boosts Zen V Plus to 8GB

Creative's Zen V Plus music player is to be upgraded to 8GB, the music player manufacturer has revealed. The colourful gadget is currently available in 1, 2 and 4GB incarnations. It sports a 1.5in, 128 x 128, 262,144-colour OLED screen for video and photo playback, and supports MP3 and WMA DRM music formats. It can take voice recordings and sync contacts and calendar data with Microsoft Outlook. The 8GB Zen V Plus is due to ship in Asia this month - US and European availability has yet to be announced. ®
Hard Reg, 03 Oct 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Proofpoint and VMware team up for messaging security

CommentComment Recently, Proofpoint Inc released the Proofpoint Messaging Security Gateway Virtual Edition, an enterprise-scale virtual appliance that provides messaging security.
Tony Lock, 03 Oct 2006

Ozone layer hits new depletion record

Despite optimism earlier this year that the ozone hole was stabilising and might even have begun to repair itself, scientists at the European Space Agency report that 2006 saw record losses of ozone over the south pole. Data from ESA's Envisat satellite show that although the area of the ozone hole (this year, 28m square kilometres) is not quite as large as it was in 2000, some 40 million tonnes of ozone were lost during the southern hemisphere winter. This is one million tonnes greater than the previous record from 2000. The loss is calculated by combining the area of the hole with the depth of the ozone layer. The depth is measured in Dobson units, which describes the thickness of the layer directly over the location being measured, ESA explains. This year saw the ozone approach the thinnest it has ever been, around 100 dobson units, approaching the record of 1998. So although it is not as large as the hole in 2000, nor quite as thin as the layer in 1998, the two combined mean the layer has been depleted this year more than ever before. ESA's atmospheric engineer Claus Zehner explains that the conditions over the Southern pole this year were ideal for depleting the ozone layer: "Such significant ozone loss requires very low temperatures in the stratosphere combined with sunlight. This year’s extreme loss of ozone can be explained by the temperatures above Antarctica reaching the lowest recorded in the area since 1979," he said. The Ozone layer, to fill in an unlikely gap in your knowledge, is a protective layer of the atmosphere which absorbs much of the harmful UV from the sun's rays. Its composition naturally fluctuates during the year. It is typically thicker in summer, and thinner in the winter. The conditions for the hole are set up during the Antarctic winter. In this cold season, a weather pattern known as the polar vortex keeps the atmospheric mass above the Antarctic continent isolated from exchanges with warmer mid-latitude air. This keeps the air mass above the continent cold, and in the cold and dark, clouds that contain chlorine can form in the polar stratosphere. Once the spring returns, this chlorine, much of it originating from man-made pollutants like chlorofluorocarbons, disrupts the ozone layer causing the hole with which we are all now so familiar. Zehner says the current consensus is that the ozone layer will recover from its human induced damage by 2060. Long term measurements, he argues, are key to understanding this process. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Oct 2006

Sony Ericsson unveils text-recognition phone

Sony Ericsson will this month ship its first true clamshell form-factor phone with a touch-sensitive main display. Dubbed the Z558, the handset will also feature character recognition ready for what the company called "one-touch" text messaging.
Hard Reg, 03 Oct 2006

HP debuts HD DVD add-on drive

Erstwhile Blu-ray Disc backer HP is preparing an external HD DVD drive, it has emerged. The company's also equipping two of its consumer-oriented notebook and media centre systems with drives that support the next-gen optical disc format.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006
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James Martin - guru?

James Martin popped up on BBC Radio 4's Start the Week yesterday, mapping out technology futures. I go back a long way with James Martin - not personally you understand, although I met him once. His seminal book on Computer Database Organisation was largely responsible for me becoming a DBA instead of a programmer. With hindsight, I came to think that this work was less than prophetic, certainly in its details, although I suppose it did predict the current ubiquity of RDBMS. I suspect it was, even then, a compendium of current knowledge given a predictive slant, although it was a pretty solid piece of work, even so.
David Norfolk, 03 Oct 2006

North Korea to test nuclear warhead

North Korea has announced it will test one of its nuclear warheads, the BBC reports. North Korea's foreign ministry declared: "[North Korea] will in the future conduct a nuclear test under the condition where safety is firmly guaranteed." It added provocatively: "The US daily increasing threat of a nuclear war and its vicious sanctions and pressure have caused a grave situation on the Korean Peninsula." The ministry said North Korea "can no longer remain an on-looker to the developments" - a reference to "vicious" US sanctions which have caused a situation where "the US moves to isolate and stifle" the country. The Pyongyang regime is under considerable US-led pressure to cease and desist its nuclear weapons programme. In 1994, it signed an agreement to "freeze all nuclear-related activities", but in December 2002 restarted its Yongbyon reactor and booted two UN nuclear monitors out of the country. A fully-operational Yongbyon reactor could, the BBC notes, "produce enough plutonium to build approximately one weapon per year". Google Earth features a nice view of the Yongbyon facility, as seen here:
Lester Haines, 03 Oct 2006

Swedish man acquitted in file sharing case

A 29-year-old Swedish man suspected of sharing local movie Hip Hip Hora was acquitted by the Svea Court of Appeal yesterday. If found guilty, the man, from Västerås in central Sweden, would have been the country's first person to be convicted for file sharing, but there was simply not enough technical evidence, according to news site The Local. Although the man first admitted he had made the movie available to others by using file sharing software DC++, he then withdrew his confession and said it had all been a misunderstanding. He thought he was being charged with downloading copyright-protected material, which wasn't illegal in Sweden until 1 July 2005. The only evidence remaining in the original case was that his ISP, Bredbandsbolaget, confirmed that the IP address belonged to the Västerås man. Although his lawyer devoted several hours in court demonstrating the lack of certainty when an IP address is used as evidence, Västmanland District Court decided to fine the defendant 16,000 kronor ($2,000). In its judgment the court pointed out that illegal file sharing could have major consequences for the film industry and that "one should therefore take this crime seriously". The Swedish Court of Appeal yesterday overruled the previous district court decision, saying there was insufficient proof that the movie was uploaded from the man's computer. House searches were not allowed in this particular case, so his computer couldn't be investigated. Prosecutor Chatrine Rudström has told Swedish news agency TT that "it is difficult to predict the consequences of this ruling". Others believe the ruling will make it extremely difficult for the film industry and other interest groups to pursue the issue in the courts. ®
Jan Libbenga, 03 Oct 2006
cloud

Mather and Smoot collect Nobel Prize for Physics

The Nobel Prize for Physics has been awarded jointly to John Mather and George Smoot "for their discovery of the black-body form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation". The Big Bang theory predicts this radiation, first registered in 1964, as a relic of the massive explosion that heralded the birth of the Universe. An alternate theory for the origins of the universe - the idea that the universe had always existed in a steady state - had also been proposed. NASA's COBE satellite was launched in 1989 specifically to investigate the nature of the cosmic microwave background radiation. Mather and Smoot analysed the data gathered by the satellite and, according to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, this work was instrumental in developing cosmology into a precise science. It further bolstered the Big Bang theory, confirming at least two of its predictions. After the Big Bang, the Universe was quite hot - around 3000K - and emitting what is known as black-body radiation. This refers to a very specific spectrum of radiation which is dependent solely on the temperature of the body. Over time, the Universe was expected to cool to around 2.7K, just above absolute zero. With data collected in the first nine minutes of COBE's operation, Mather and Smoot confirmed that the cosmic microwave background radiation did indeed have a black-body form matching that predicted by the theory. This indicated that the radiation is indeed a result of the Big Bang, and therefore that the Universe has not always existed in a steady state. Further detailed analysis of the data showed there were slight fluctuations in the temperature of the radiation depending on the direction it was measured in. Because of this, it is said to be anisotropic. This anisotropy is responsible for matter being able to aggregate to form stars, galaxies, planets and, eventually, Nobel laureates. John Mather works at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Centre, and George Smoot is based in the University of California, Berkeley. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Oct 2006

Breast implants save car-crash Bulgarian

A Bulgarian woman driver escaped relatively unscathed from a head-on pile-up with another vehicle when her 40DD breast implants absorbed most of the impact, Ananova reports. Elena Marinova, 24, of Sofia, pranged her motor in the northern city of Ruse. Both cars were written off and the other driver seriously injured, local paper Standart reported. A police expert explained: "[The implants] worked just like airbags - protecting the victim's ribs and vital organs from damage." He did, however, add: "They are not as safe as the real thing because they exploded, which airbags are not supposed to do." Bootnote Yes, it's official: extraordinarily pneumatic breasts will be henceforth known on El Reg as "Bulgarian airbags".
Lester Haines, 03 Oct 2006

British Museum to police eBay

British Museum experts will monitor eBay antiquities sales and report illegal activity to the Met's Art and Antiques Unit in an arrangement announced today. The initiative will try and tackle the problem of potentially academically valuable artefacts being traded. Amateur treasure hunters finding precious metal objects and groups of coins over 300 years old, or any prehistoric metal objects are obliged to report them by the Treasure Act 1996. A team set up by the museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme will now keep an eye on eBay in the UK for dodgy-looking auctions. British Museum portable antiquities chief Dr Roger Bland said: "Our experience is that most people who buy and sell UK archaeological finds do so without being aware that they may be breaking the law if items have not been reported. "We will be contacting sellers to ensure that they have reported items and have appropriate documentation." The two have produced a new guide for antique sellers to check thay are not breaking any laws. Find it here. eBay isn't handing over any cash to the taxpayer-funded museum to monitor its auctions. There's a memorandum of understanding though, so that's good. The irony of the British Museum - repository of Empire plunder of immeasurable significance to its creator people - acting as eBay's antiquities exploitation watchdog is not lost on us. ®
Christopher Williams, 03 Oct 2006

AMD to bridge Socket AM2, AM3 with intermediate interconnect?

AMD looks set to implement a Socket AM2 revision spanning the processor interconnect's current specification and the upcoming Socket AM3 due in 2008. That at least is what reports coming out of Taiwan citing local motherboard-maker sources claim.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006
cloud

Unofficial patches defend against further IE flaw

Two groups of security researchers have released unofficial patches designed to protect surfers against an outstanding Internet Explorer vulnerability in the absence of available security updates from Microsoft. The Zeroday Emergency Response Team (ZERT), a new ad-hoc group of security pros that came to prominence with the release of an unofficial fix designed to address a Vector Markup Language (VML) component vulnerability in IE, released a patch designed to address a vulnerability in the browser's Active X controls last weekend. Security consultancy Determina published a separate fix for the same security bug in the WebViewFolderIcon ActiveX component of IE. The security bug is unrelated to a (still unpatched) flaw in Microsoft's Direct Animation Path (daxctle.ocx) ActiveX control discovered last month. Microsoft released an out of schedule patch to address the VML exploit, the subject of the majority of recent IE-based attacks, last week. The other security bugs in the browser remain open to attack. The latest unofficial patches were released in response to the availability of exploit code targeting the WebViewFolderIcon IE vulnerability, which creates a means to inject hostile code even on fully patched Win XP systems. Microsoft is working on a patch, currently scheduled for an October 10 release, as part of its regular Patch Tuesday update cycle. While conceding that a threat exists, Redmond reckons published exploits are mostly harmless. "We are aware of websites attempting to use the reported vulnerability to install malware. Our investigation into these websites shows that, in most cases, attempts to install malicious software by exploiting this vulnerability fail," a security notice from Microsoft explains. ®
John Leyden, 03 Oct 2006

Nokia touts low-cost, low-power wireless tech

Nokia today invited hardware and software makers to join it and implement a new wireless data transfer technology designed to operate over very short distances. Yet the Finnish phone giant insisted the technology, dubbed Wibree, is complementary to Bluetooth.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006
channel

Big Blue unwraps packaged networking services

IBM is developing off-the-shelf service products covering real-time collaboration, unified messaging and SOA, after launching a pair of networking packages last week. However, it looks like its channel partners will have a limited role in actually selling the products.
Joe Fay, 03 Oct 2006

Blue Coat claims super-secure remote access

Blue Coat reckons its new SSL VPN appliance could be the most secure remote access device yet. Not only does Blue Coat RA encrypt the traffic between the client and the host, it also blocks keyloggers and framegrabbers, and encrypts the files it caches onto the client's hard disk. The device derives from Blue Coat's takeover of Permeo back in January, Blue Coat international veep Nigel Hawthorn said. "We have strengthened it and repackaged it on the security side." "What's most interesting about it is that it integrates remote access with endpoint security, and it does it transparently," he added. The SSL VPN gateway downloads software called Blue Coat Connector to the client. This then scans it for dodgy processes and suppresses them - the company claims this means it can run securely even on clients that it doesn't manage, such as cybercafe PCs, and doesn't require the user to have admin rights to install it. Where a file is downloaded to the client's hard disk, such as an email attachment, it is stored in encrypted form and only decrypted to the screen. It is then deleted once the session is over. "We have done a lot of work to scan for and suppress keyloggers and framegrabbers," Hawthorn said. "Plus, the software is completely transient and completely cleans up after itself." This level of security looks to be a first, although other VPN developers such as F5 and Whale (now owned by Microsoft) have the technology to follow suit. Hawthorn said there will be three Blue Coat RA models, the difference being the number of remote users they can support simultaneously. They range from the 100-user 510A to the 500-user 810A and 1000-user 810B. Prices start at around £3,750 and go to almost £30,000. ®
Bryan Betts, 03 Oct 2006

The land that GPRS forgot

Ionian BlogIonian Blog To the bat-cave! You were wondering what happened to the sailing blog? Answer: I found a place in the Ionian islands where no wireless works. None. Well, that's probably not entirely true; I'm sure that if I could have found a mains power socket to charge the BGAN satellite modem up, and another to power the PC, I'd have been able to send you pictures of the dolphins and the bat-cave. That is, if I'd taken any. But I couldn't, and I didn't, so I couldn't. But at least I taught the cook how to swim on his back... What I can tell you is that Google Earth has its Greek place labels all over the ruddy place. I was searching for Abeliki Bay. You can google for that, and find loads and loads of stuff; but Google Earth says: "Your search returned no data" and I'll have to resort to stealing a snapshot to show you what we were doing. Google Earth knows the island of Meganisi, which is the fractal landscape illustrated. Unfortunately, if you search for "Meganisi, Greece" it takes you into the Ionian about half a mile south of the island. Oh, sure; you can see the island if you zoom out. You can even see the label on the island saying "Meganisi" - but it's not the same place. Similarly, the map shows "Vathi" and I can assure you, that's not Vathi. Vathi is a beautiful little village with mooring space for a dozen or so yachts the size of Summer Lightning, and accordingly you will be quick to realise that it must be a place with houses and sea. The satellite photo shows a place with houses and sea, and the detail picture makes it clear, I hope. And to the right of Vathi, you can see another bay, which is a bit like the shape of an elephant's foot. Ignore the elephant's b*ll*x above and to the right, of course; that's a different bay. It's the foot: that's Abeliki Bay, and it's beautiful and remote. And the cellphone doesn't work there. I managed to find a way to get to Vathi for essential supplies (beer, of course) - you swim from the boat to the shore, climb the hill till you find a road, and walk along the road for 15 minutes or so, then down the hill until you reach the village. A retail establishment accepts legal tender in exchange for bacon, eggs, beer and so on, and you carry them back over the hill. By the time you get back to the boat, you're really glad of the 50 metre swim involved. Greece, this time of year, may not be as hot as it was in August, but it still makes a brisk walk, carrying groceries, a definite aerobic exercise. Up to now, in the gaps between power-charging, I've had my life saved by the Vodafone data card. No doubt it would be better if its high speed download packet access (HSDPA) abilities worked. They would, if there were any 3G wireless signals with HSDPA. But there aren't even any 3G signals, so GPRS it has had to be - but in a pinch, GPRS will do. Here at Abeliki Bay, there isn't even GPRS. So the bat-cave. Well, the map doesn't show it, but on the big picture above, you can see that to the west (left) of Meganisi island, there's another land mass. That's Levka. And the furthest point south shown, is where the bat-cave is. The thing is, I don't have a waterproof camera bag, and the only way of getting into the bat-cave is to swim. Also, there's nowhere to anchor; the water is too deep. So while the ship owner and the Irish rugby player taxed their intellects by minding the boat, the cook and the skipper (me!) got into the dinghy and rowed over to the foot-high entrance to the cave. It was at this judiciously chosen moment that the cook revealed that he couldn't row (why did he take the ruddy oars?) and was scared of swimming in deep water. I had to tie the dinghy to an outcrop of sharp volcanic rock, and gently talk him into the water, and into the cave. Yes, there were bats; and there is, also, the most incredible blue light. The entrance above the water may only be a foot or two; but below, the entrance goes down about 40 feet or more. And that's where the light comes from - filtered by masses of sea water, only the palest blue gets through. It's worth the flight, the sailing, and the swim, just to see it. If I had a picture, you'd say: "Photoshop". You have to see it. And this was the moment where the cook revealed that he didn't want to swim out on his tummy, and didn't know how to swim on his back. Of all the places to start swimming lessons, a dark cave, 40 foot deep, with a gap that is two foot high when the waves are still but only an inch or so when a wave comes... The fact has to be accepted: I succeeded in my teaching. If I hadn't, the cook would still be in the cave, but he isn't. The cook can now swim on his back, and both of us got back to the boat. It turns out that he couldn't get into the dinghy from the water, either...very fortunately, my life-saving training, 20 years ago, taught me how to pull a 14-stone man from the water onto the side of a swimming pool, and the lesson needed only slight modification to enable me to land the cook in a dinghy. We're nearing the end of our Odyssey. I hope I'll be able to tell you about the dolphins, but apparently I have some beer-drinking duties...so "another time" will do. ®
Guy Kewney, 03 Oct 2006

UK and US plan realtime police database links

UK and US immigration databases have been linked in an intelligence sharing experiment that could lead to permanent trans-Atlantic data stores of wanted and suspected people.
Mark Ballard, 03 Oct 2006

Fuel cell-powered phones still years away: Nokia

If the supply chain was ready, we could have fuel cells in our mobile phone handsets tomorrow, according to handset manufacturer, Nokia. Early last year, the company said it was calling time on developing the technology which it then described as "immature". But 18-months later, Nokia research centre head Tapani Ryhanen told reporters at a seminar celebrating the 20th anniversary of the facility that Nokia had tested the technology underlying fuel cells and is confident it is ready. Fuel cells generate electricity as a by-product of the oxidisation of dilute methanol. Although this technology has been well understood, the problem has always been making a small enough cell to provide a phone with decent battery life. But now, Nokia seems confident it has overcome this barrier: "It is not a technology question, it is more like a supply-chain issue at the moment," Ryhanen said. The issue that has still to be resolved is how to get the fuel to consumers, Reuters reports. Initially this is the one issue the company said would be reasonably easy to solve: it proposed refilling the cells in much the same way as a cigarette lighter can be refilled when it runs out of butane. "A few years you would still need to wait," Ryhanen concluded, Yoda-style. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Oct 2006
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Microsoft buys DesktopStandard

Microsoft says it is to acquire software developer DesktopStandard for an undisclosed sum. DesktopStandard develops tools for Microsoft's Group Policy technology, part of the Active Directory in Windows Server that aids centralised management of computers and users. Under the terms of the deal, DesktopStandard will operate as a subsidiary of the software behemoth until the technology is transferred to Redmond. Microsoft plans to integrate much of the software into its Group Policy toolset, including GPOVault, ProfileMaker, Dragnet, PolicyMaker Standard Edition, Registry Extension, Share Manager, and Software Update. DesktopStandard's PolicyMaker Application Security business was not included in the deal, and will continue to be available through BeyondTrust, a former subsidiary of DesktopStandard. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Oct 2006
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BT courts SMB IT outsourcing

BT is promising to makes small businesses' IT headaches all better as its Business IT Manager outsourcing service gets a nationwide rollout today.
Christopher Williams, 03 Oct 2006

Nokia extends Bluetooth into low power applications

Nokia has launched a new wireless standard to add to the short-range wireless mix. Wibree borrows much from Bluetooth including frequencies and antennas, but lowers the power consumption to make it more applicable for devices with low-bandwidth requirements such as embedded sensors and user interface devices – mice and keyboards. More particularly, Wibree devices have extremely low idle-time power consumption, making it ideal for devices which spend a great deal of time sitting around doing nothing: such as a typical mouse, or a watch which can display caller-ID. Bluetooth can be used in these applications, but consumes a comparatively large amount of power. Nokia foresees devices such as mobile phones supporting both Bluetooth and Wibree, with both technologies sharing chips and antenna, while a mouse or wristwatch would only support Wibree with a corresponding increase in battery life. By designing the standard as an adjunct to Bluetooth the cost of adding it should be tiny, though it is unlikely to be much cheaper than Bluetooth to implement alone. Bluetooth SIG global marketing director Anders Ediund said Nokia has been in talks with the company for some time about incorporating the Wibree technology into the Bluetooth standard. Such an arrangement seems likely and could be necessary for Wibree to be widely adopted, assuming they can come to an agreement. The first version of the Wibree standard is scheduled to be published around May next year, so it will be a few years before we see handsets supporting it - but when they do it will take the radio count on a Nokia handset to six. Starting with 3G connectivity for telephony, along with Wi-Fi on some models at least, Bluetooth will provide for medium-range connections including headsets and car kits, and supporting WiMedia when a high-speed connection is needed. Wibree will provide for low-power-medium-range connections to embedded sensors, while NFC (Near Field Communications) is used for very short range applications such as proximity payments or setting up other connections. Add in an FM radio and you hit seven. Notably absent from this list are Zigbee and Z-Wave, both of which are targeted at just the kind of application Nokia wants to see Wibree doing. Nokia has signed up to neither technology, so its launch of a competitor makes sense, though both Zigbee and Z-Wave already have deployed products, so are significant competition. Announced by anyone other than Nokia this would be just another standard going nowhere, but with such a power-house behind it Wibree could well take on Zigbee and Z-Wave. Nokia now needs to sign up some component manufacturers beyond the launch partners - Broadcom, CSR, Epson, and Nordic Semiconductor - to demonstrate that there is industry-wide support for Wibree and it isn't just a Nokia initiative. ®
Bill Ray, 03 Oct 2006

Western Digital ships 1TB RAID-able external HDD

Western Digital has beefed up its My Book Pro line of external hard drives with a RAID-equipped model that packs in two HDDs to yield a whopping terabyte of unformatted storage capacity.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006
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Flight disaster phishing scam lands in Brazil

Pond-dwelling scammers are seeking to exploit interest in last weekend's Brazilian airline disaster to tempt potential victims onto a site hosting a Trojan downloader. The malware attempts to install a banking keylogger onto the PCs of potential marks. The attack, written in Portuguese, targets online banking customers in Brazil, a major centre of phishing attacks. Scam emails contain subject lines such as "fw: as fotos do acidente do boeing da Gol!", as illustrated in an advisory by web security firm Websense. The ruse attempts to exploit prurient interest in a disaster that killed all 155 people on-board a Boeing 737 jet that crashed into a remote stretch of Brazilian jungle. Similar - though arguably less sophisticated attacks - followed last year's London bombing attacks, hurricane Katrina, and the Asian tsunami of 2004. No human disaster these days is complete without a topical piece of malware. The language of these malware-promoting scam emails is no longer restricted to English, as the Brazilian Gol Airlines scam shows. ®
John Leyden, 03 Oct 2006

Mobile sales set to fall

Sales of mobile handsets will decline to single digit growth, but not before annual sales break the billion barrier. Analysts Informa reckon we'll see sales rise this year to 943 million units - up 16 per cent from 814.4 million last year. In 2007, they predict, total unit sales will reach 1.03 billion. Between 2002 and 2005 mobile handset sales grew by more than 20 per cent a year. But then growth will slow. Emerging markets will continue to grow strongly, but mostly for entry-level phones with low profit margins. Informa analyst David McQueen also said mobile operators' moves into providing broadband, fixed line and TV services could distract them from properly addressing a shrinking market. McQueen said operators were struggling to make revenue from the various features on high-end phones and that battery life is still a limiting factor. Informa predicts handset manufacturers will increasingly try to find and exploit their own niches - such as Sony Ericsson's Walkman brand and Samsung's focus on high-end camera phones. But the analysts expect consolidation and mergers as manufacturers chase a more slowly expanding market. The analysts also expect less low-end phones to be sold by 2011. Basic phones made up 28.3 per cent of total sales in 2005. This will fall to 10.3 per cent by 2011. By 2011, 55.3 per cent of handsets sold will be high-feature. ®
John Oates, 03 Oct 2006
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Tandberg's tapeless tape drive

Tandberg Data is the latest storage vendor to bring out a removable-disk backup product. It says the RDX QuikStor combines the portability and simplicity of tape - its cartridges are tape-sized and plug in just as easily - with the speed of hard disk. The idea is that you use it like a tape drive, with the same backup software, but inside the cartridge is really a 2.5-inch hard disk. Tandberg says it can back up 80GB of data in under an hour, and access it again in milliseconds. Initially, it is offering 40GB, 80GB, and 160GB cartridges, with a drive and a 40GB cartridge costing £160. Extra cartridges will cost from £65. Although Oslo-based Tandberg pitches itself as the only European data storage manufacturer, RDX QuikStor is actually American technology - it comes from a licencing agreement with Colorado-based ProStor. Several other companies are also touting cartridged hard disks as the modern alternative to tapes, including Iomega and Imation. Unlike Iomega's REV - which has just the drive mechanics in the cartridge, not the electronics - but like the Imation Ulysses technology, the RDX QuikStor is a complete hard disk in a plug-in enclosure. So why not simply use a USB external drive, such as those offered by Maxtor/Seagate or Western Digital, and back-up to that? Tandberg product manager Kjell Aasene said it's to do with the degree of ruggedness. The reinforced cartridge includes a shock-proof mounting, and the drive enclosure adds an extra level of error correction via ProStor's Adaptive Archive technology. Aasene added that because the system is hard disk-based, the same "drive" will be able to accept higher capacity cartridges in the future, something that's impossible with tape drives and cartridges. He said users can either treat the unit as an extra hard disk and drag files to it, or use it as a backup device via either the copy of Symantec Backup Exec QS that comes with it, or any other software that supports backing up to disk. QuikStor is available in 3.5 inch and 5.25 inch versions, connecting to the host server either internally via SATA or externally over USB. ®
Bryan Betts, 03 Oct 2006

Ireland exits British Isles

Irish publisher Folens has announced that in future Ireland will not be included in the British Isles, The Evening Standard reports. The decision apparently came as a result of a complaint to Ireland's Education Minister Mary Hanafin from one disgruntled parent that the Emerald Isle was still effectively classified in a Folens' tome as part of the happy union of British nations. Hanafin then duly advised the parent to "bring the matter to the attention of the teacher, the school's management board and publishers Folens". However, The Irish Times reports that John O'Connor of Folens said he had not received a complaint from a parent, but claimed "the decision was taken after it was brought to his attention by a geography teacher". O'Connor said: "I have a policy that if I see a potential problem I'll act on it immediately instead of waiting to see if a problem arises. So from January 2007 the reference will be removed." Argentinian geography teachers are hereby alerted to the fact that you have until Xmas to pitch your "Malvinas" claims and we reckon Kurds are in with a chance of securing some Irish textbook territory if you can get your email in sharpish. ® Bootnote Yes, we know Ireland has been a sovereign state since 1922, but, for the love of all that's Holy, is there no-one who can put a stop to PC geography teachers lighting up their pipes and pontificating? Get back to sewing patches on your tweed jackets, the lot of you.
Lester Haines, 03 Oct 2006
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Microsoft to appeal second EC fine

Microsoft confirmed today that it will appeal the second part of the fine imposed on it by the European Competition Commission. In July the commission fined Microsoft €280.5m for not complying with its anti-trust decision. The company had until 2 October to file an appeal. This is on top of the €498m fine which Microsoft is also appealing to the Court of First Instance. A decision on that is expected later this year. A Microsoft spokesman told us: "Microsoft announced at the time of the decision that it would appeal the fine imposed in July. The deadline for filing the appeal was 2 October and we met that deadline. Microsoft remains committed to full compliance with the commission's decision." A spokeswoman for the commission told us: "The commission is confident that its July 2006 decision is well-founded from a legal standpoint. It is up to the Court of First Instance to decide whether the Microsoft appeal is admissable or not." More from IDG here. ®
John Oates, 03 Oct 2006

Asus guarantees pre-n kit will meet 802.11n standard

Asus has put its money where its mouth is and pledged to provide free upgrades to its pre-802.11n wireless products should changes to the final version of the specification require software or hardware changes for compatibility.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006

Sony punching out PS3s 'full swing', claims analyst

Sony's PlayStation 3 production programme is "in full swing", market watcher American Technology Research (ATR) has claimed. Crucially, this means the consumer electronics giant will meet its target and ship 2m of the next-generation consoles by the end of the year.
Tony Smith, 03 Oct 2006
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Elonex phoenix crashes to Earth

Elonex Ltd has gone into administration, just three months after it was formed from the ashes of Elonex Plc by Staffs-based stationer Afic.
Mark Ballard, 03 Oct 2006
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McAfee erects Citadel

McAfee has agreed to buy a majority stake in security policy compliance firm Citadel Security in a deal valued at $60m. The deal is designed to bolster McAfee's capabilities in the area of policy enforcement and vulnerability remediation. The deal will allow McAfee to compete more effectively with competitors such as Symantec, which has also made acquisitions in the area of security risk management, in attempts to build sales of kit designed to help large companies to comply with increasingly stringent corporate governance legislation. Citadel's software also helps to reduce security exposure. McAfee plans to offer the technology alongside its existing ePolicy Orchestrator security management platform. According to a statement, McAfee's agreement to acquire "substantially all" the assets of Citadel Security will set it back approximately $56m in cash, plus an estimated $4m in working capital reimbursement. The transaction is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2006, subject to customary closing conditions including Citadel share holder approval. McAfee plans to discuss what the acquisition will do to its bottom line after announcing its Q3 2006 earnings on 26 October. ®
John Leyden, 03 Oct 2006

Eircom pulls plug on Smart customers

Smart Telecom suspended trading on the AIM on Tuesday in order to protect its falling share price after infrastructure owner Eircom disconnected around 45,000 of its customers. It's feared that an additional 17,000 Smart Telecom customers could be left without any broadband or phone services - including emergency calls - as Eircom begins the next stage of disconnecting Smart customers from its network because of debts owed to the incumbent. On Tuesday morning Eircom and Smart held emergency talks with communications regulator ComReg to hammer out an agreement on how Smart customers could be reconnected. An Eircom spokesman told ENN that means to reconnect Smart's customers were discussed with the regulator, as well as a strategy to transfer Smart customers to a provider of choice. The two companies are expected to release a joint statement later today. Smart is understood to have a total net liability to Eircom of around €4m. This is made up of €1.7m in arrears and a €2m security bond. Smart has denied any customers will be unable to access emergency services while disconnected. Eircom claims that ComReg was informed about its plans to withdraw wholesale line services several weeks ago because Smart had been in arrears for some time. An estimated 67,000 Smart customers will be affected overall, including around 100 corporate broadband accounts. "Eircom's decision to cut off Smart Telecom customers without warning shows an arrogant disregard for consumers," said Brian O'Donohoe, managing director of broadband provider Imagine, whic has set up a dedicated emergency line to reconnect Smart customers. Widespread condemnation of the situation has been coming from all angles on Tuesday. The Irish Exporters Association has criticised Eircom's move to cut services "with no advance warning to customers" and claims the move will have a detrimental effect on businesses which rely on Smart's voice and broadband services to trade internationally. "Business generally, but exporters in particular, are dependent on broadband services... to enable them to meet the ever increasing data information demands of overseas customers. It is critical that the necessary steps are taken to ensure that exporters are not left without a broadband service, while this issue is being sorted out," said IEA chief executive John Whelan in a statement. The IEA has also called on Communications Minister Noel Dempsey to ensure a continuity of service to Smart's business customers, and speaking on behalf of Smart customers Minister Dempsey has called on Eircom to reconnect the lines. Labour Party communications spokesman Tommy Broughan has also criticised Eircom's decision to turn off Smart accounts "at the flick of a switch" and said the Minister and ComReg had questions to answer for allowing this situation to occur. "What type of market facilitates such atrocious levels of consumer protection that facilitates such behavior?" Broughan said. Head of Research at Dolmen Security, Stuart Draper, believes there is a political will and market expectation that Smart will pull itself out of its current crisis and pursue a "viable business model" concentrating on residential and corporate broadband after shedding its other voice businesses. Draper said there is a perception in the markets that Eircom has acted against Smart less in search of its EUR1.7 million debt, but more as a monopoly service provider acting out of commercial self-interest against a competitor. Draper expects Smart's main backer - Kingspan director Brendan Murtagh, who has been reportedly subsidising Smart with €3m\per month recently to keep it running -- to refinance the struggling telco. "I think there is real support from the major shareholders who have deep pockets," he said. NCB Stockbrokers, which were tasked with a recent review of Smart's operations, had contacted Eircom's retail unit to assess interest in buying Smart's wholesale line rental customers, Copyright © 2006, ENN but Eircom told ENN it said "no thank you".
ElectricNews.net, 03 Oct 2006
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Powered switch unifies wired and wireless LANs

3Com claims it's the first to properly unify wired and wireless networking for small and medium businesses (SMBs). Its snappily-named Unified Gigabit Wireless PoE Switch 24 - or Unified Switch to its friends - provides power-over-Ethernet on every port and has a built-in controller for up to 24 wireless access points, the company said. The aim is a single device that provides an SMB with all the critical stuff it needs to update its network, providing support for IP telephony, powered Gig Ethernet, and wireless networking, according to 3Com. As well as PoE for access points and wireless VoIP phones, the $2,750 Unified Switch also supports VLANs for voice segmentation, line rate Gig speeds on all 24 ports, 802.11n, WPA2 and AES encryption, and rogue access point (AP) detection. Controlling the wireless APs centrally should make it easier to secure the network, as well as simplifying the task of AP configuration. "3Com has delivered the first, Gigabit-class unified switching solution for the SMB market that we've tested," said Kevin Tolly, who runs the Tolly Group analyst organisation. The device can be managed via a web browser, but also has Telnet, SNMP, and command line interfaces available. A key factor is that it uses a single IP address and a common web interface to manage both wired and wireless networking, whereas equivalent converged products from companies such as Cisco still keep the two sides separate, 3Com claimed. 3Com also hopes to sell the Unified Switch through its resellers as part of a managed service - it reckons the box can be managed remotely, allowing SMBs to outsource their network admin. The Unified Switch can support up to 250 wireless users and should be available by mid-October. However, while it can power any wireless AP, it can only centrally manage 3Com's own 7760 and 8760 models. ®
Bryan Betts, 03 Oct 2006

Party Gaming axes interim dividend

Party Gaming, the world's biggest online gambling business, is axing its interim dividend, worth $115m, previously due to be paid on 31 October. It is making the move in response to the prohibition of online gambling in the US, where most of its customers live. The ban was smuggled unexpectedly through Congress late last week, with provisions making it illegal for American banks and credit card firms to process payments to gambling sites inserted the Safe Port Act. The ambush threw the big online gambling companies into disarray and sent their share prices plummeting. Most of the major players are listed on the London Stock Exchange, if domiciled abroad. Party Gaming, headquartered in Gibraltar, has suspended all real money gambling with US residents. It says the cancellation of the interim dividend will enable it to "take advantage of the many attractive opportunities in the sector that will emerge over the coming months". We take this to mean that it is looking to make distress purchases and to beef up its business in east Asia, a hotspot of gambling, of all kinds. ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Oct 2006
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FTC pokes stick at Brocade-McData buy

The Federal Trade Commission has asked Brocade to give it more information over its proposed acquisition of enterprise storage rival McData. The FTC made its request under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act to examine the deal for potential anti-trust implications, but this looks pretty much par for the takeover course. Brocade today confirmed its expectation that the deal will close as early as its first quarter of fiscal year 2007, ending January 27, 2007. The company announced its intention to buy McData, in a $713m all-stock deal, in August. It intends to wield the axe post merger, looking to shave $100m in annual costs. ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Oct 2006

IBM sweats acquisitions for bumper SOA rollout

IBM today rolled out 23 updated product and 11 professional services offerings for service oriented architectures (SOAs). Some use technology from recent and recent-ish acquisitions, Webify, BuildForge and Bowstreet.
Gavin Clarke, 03 Oct 2006
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A look at Apache modules

ColumnColumn As I write this, I'm on the Eurostar train, just returning from O'Reilly's OSCon (Open Source Conference) in Brussels. Some fascinating insights there; and even my own talk generated some interesting discussion. Some of the delegates, including O'Reilly himself, are promoting opensource ideas going beyond software and into society more generally. I've touched on that in this very column before now, but a related argument that's new to me is that the open/closed debate in software could become largely sidelined, as the industry focuses on software as a service (such as Google's offerings) more than as a product. Anyway, I've been meaning for some time to give you an article on writing Apache modules. But first things first. If you're going to write modules, you'll need a proper Apache installation. A safe option is to download the latest release version (currently 2.2.3) from httpd.apache.org, and install it from that. For the adventurous, you could install the current development version from svn.apache.org. If you use a different package such as an rpm or deb, you'll probably need an "apache-dev" package as well as Apache itself. What is a module? As I'm sure I've said, Apache has a diverse developer and user profile, and we all have very different uses for it. This approach to serving a wide range of needs is based on a small core, together with a large number of modules. Most of what you get when you install Apache as a package, from apache.org or elsewhere, comprises the modules that perform Apache's standard functions. Even such a simple task as serving an "index.html" file involves various modules: for example, mod_dir to resolve the URL http://www.example.com/ to the file index.html, and mod_mime to determine its MIME type as "text/html" so the browser knows how to render it. Just as Apache's standard functions are driven by modules, so we can write new modules to change its behaviour, or introduce entirely new capabilities. Some examples of the kind of things we can do with modules include: A content generator module takes an HTTP request and generates a response, in the manner of, for example, a CGI or PHP script. The default handler simply serves up a static file from local disc, while others may implement a service such as XML-RPC, do custom processing, or (like mod_cgi) delegate the work to an external script. A mapper module runs before content generation, and determines how a request will be processed. For example, mod_negotiation selects amongst different versions of a document (e.g. different languages) according to browser preferences, while mod_alias and mod_rewrite perform rule-based URL manipulation. An authentication module ascertains the identity of a user. When used, it is usually accompanied by an authorization module, which determines whether the user is permitted the attempted operation. A filter module transforms incoming and/or outgoing data. Filters may be chained arbitrarily, and are the building blocks for sophisticated processing and aggregation applications. They range from simple content manipulation such as server side includes, through compression, to SSL encryption, and include many of the most exciting third-party applications. A service module may export an entirely new API and/or service for other modules. For example, mod_dbd manages SQL database connections, and mod_xmlns exports an API for namespace-based processing of XML. A HelloWorld Module Conceptually, the simplest type of module is the content generator or handler, whose role in Apache is directly equivalent to a CGI or PHP script. That is to say, it processes a request in whatever manner is required, and generates a response to return to the Client. It is not required to deal with the details of the HTTP protocol, though (as with a script) it may do that, or any number of other things. Usually it's good to keep the content generator simple, and use other types of module for different tasks. So in the spirit of simplicity, let's take a look at a minimal HelloWorld module. Note that, unlike a script, this doesn't live amongst our web documents, so we can't run it straight from the filesystem. We'll need to configure it using a directive such as SetHandler instead: LoadModule helloworld_module modules/mod_helloworld.so SetHandler helloworld Here's a function to return a HelloWorld page to the client. The prototype is typical: it takes the request_rec (HTTP Request) object as a single argument, and returns an integer status code. The request_rec provides access to everything a handler might need (such as the variables available to a script) and also serves as an I/O descriptor, among other things: static int helloworld_handler(request_rec *r) { /* First, some housekeeping. */ if (!r->handler || strcasecmp(r->handler, "helloworld") != 0) { /* r->handler wasn't "helloworld", so it's none of our business */ return DECLINED; } if (r->method_number != M_GET) { /* We only accept GET and HEAD requests. * They are identical for the purposes of a content generator * Returning an HTTP error code causes Apache to return an * error page (ErrorDocument) to the client. */ return HTTP_METHOD_NOT_ALLOWED; } /* OK, we're happy with this request, so we'll return the response. */ ap_set_content_type(r, "text/html"); ap_rputs("Hello World! .... etc", r); /* we return OK to indicate that we have successfully processed * the request. No further processing is required. */ return OK; } So, that's our handler function. Now we need to hook it in to Apache's processing, so it will be run when we get a request for /helloworld. We use a special function that runs at server startup to register our handler with Apache: static void helloworld_hooks(apr_pool_t *pool) { /* hook helloworld_handler in to Apache */ ap_hook_handler(helloworld_handler, NULL, NULL, APR_HOOK_MIDDLE); } This hooks function is itself part of the module object. For most modules, this is the only symbol exported and visible to other modules or the core: module AP_MODULE_DECLARE_DATA helloworld_module = { STANDARD20_MODULE_STUFF, NULL, NULL, NULL, NULL, NULL, helloworld_hooks }; And that's all! We have a complete HelloWorld module. We can use apxs, a compiler-wrapper that is part of the Apache installation, to compile and (as root) install it: $ apxs -c mod_helloworld.c # apxs -ie mod_helloworld.la Well, as usual I'm over the 1000 words, so I'll bring this first look at modules to a close. For further information, stay tuned. If you're seriously interested, my book is now in production with the publisher, so for the first time you have a more than just the source code and a handful of ad-hoc materials to help upgrade your LAMP and application server skills!
Nick Kew, 03 Oct 2006

Sprint tools up with Razr

Sprint is to start retailing the Motorola Razr handset for the first time in November. The US cellco is also playing catch-up with competitors by carrying the next gen update of the Razr, the Motorola Krzr and its equally unpronounceable sister, the Moto Slver. You can see pics and read stuff about Sprint's spiffy mobile data services here. Today's pre-announcement should go some way to placating Christopher King, an analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co, who in August blamed Sprint's poor handset roster for a disappointing sales quarter. "They don't have the [Motorola] Razr," he told Bloomberg. "It's been an extremely popular product that has changed the landscape of the industry." ®
Drew Cullen, 03 Oct 2006

'Don't spy on Verizon chair' - warned HP spooks

The executives willing to testify about their roles in the HP spy scandal have claimed a blissful ignorance around the legal ins and outs of obtaining phone records. Their defense has hinged on the idea that they were assured by hired investigators that any phone snooping was legal and that they did not become really concerned about how phone records were obtained until learning of the euphemism "pretexting." Even after learning about pretexting, it took executives weeks to comprehend in full the fraud behind the practice. Documents released this week by the House Energy and Commerce Committee show that - pretexting or not - HP's investigators knew they were in murky territory. . HP's investigators, for example, knew enough about the touchy practice of securing phone records to stay away from board member and Verizon vice-chairman Lawrence Babbio. "Babbio was report (sic) as a strong supporter of the former CEO (Carly Fiorina), however, due to Babbio's position with Verizon no attempts to obtain calls made from his cell phone were attempted," wrote Security Outsourcing Solutions, in a June 14, 2005 report to HP's investigative team. The hesitation to spy on Babbio should have started alarm bells ringing in any curious, diligent executive's mind. Why would spying on Babbio be different from other directors simply because he works at Verizon - a company that has fought pretexting? (Verizon last week began lobbing lawsuits at investigators tied to the HP debacle.) And there are more suspicious declarations in the SOS report. "It should be noted, the investigation has been somewhat hindered by the inability to date, to obtain information on the telephone calls placed from Robert Knowling's (a board member) cell phone during the period January 1 to April 2005. The aforementioned cell phone is reportedly a restricted government phone account and records on this type of account are difficult to obtain," SOS wrote. And later. "The firm's attempts to obtain the calls made from Elgin and Burrows' (reporters for BusinessWeek) office telephones were not successful. Due to the number of lines associated with the account, a pin is required to access the call register information." The report from SOS goes on to detail the monitoring of hundreds of calls made by directors and reporters from their home phones and cell phones. The investigators claim at times to be using "sources" and public records to get this call information. More often than not, however, they gloss over how the records were obtained or why they're having trouble getting records. [We had to show you this bit from the reports too. "Recommendation that all future briefings being conducted verbally and keep written work product to a minimum" was the advice on an HP PowerPoint slide. Followed by, "Given media relationships, the Investigation and management team must be sensitive to 'media's' right to publish information." How thoughtful.] According to the chain of emails and reports, former Chairman Particia Dunn seems right in claiming that she did not know all the ins and outs of what was going on. That said, she did take a very active role in monitoring the investigation and received broad overviews of what types of information had been obtained and what HP still hoped to uncover. Dunn has also claimed that she thought one needed only call the phone company and ask for someone else's records - no questions asked. It will be tough to maintain ties to such a veil of ignorance if state and federal investigators can show that Dunn even glanced at the above snippets. The same goes for CEO Mark Hurd. What's very clear from these documents is that knowledge of the term "pretexting" should have had very little to do with discerning the legal and ethical merits of HP's investigation. ®
Ashlee Vance, 03 Oct 2006
fingers pointing at man

Mandriva Linux 2007 outed

Mandriva has opened its download doors for business the latest version of its desktop Linux operating system.
Drew Cullen, 03 Oct 2006

HP told WSJ to, 'Go say nice things'

We've always wondered how elite reporters at publications such as the Wall Street Journal handle their communications with public relations drones. Thanks to HP's savvy investigators, we must wonder no more. An HP spy probe document released by investigators shows a lovely February 2006 chat between HP spokesman Michael Moeller and WSJ reporter Pui-Wing Tam. HP managed to record the instant message discussion between the flack and hack thanks to some spyware it planted on Moeller's computer. "The new monitoring system that captures AOL Instant Messaging is now up and running and deployed on Moeller's computer. It instantly began to pay results," bragged one HP spy. In the first snippet, we find the reporter fretting over competition from BusinessWeek star scribe Peter Burrows. Questions from Burrows during a conference call about sales and attach rates make Tam "VERY uncomfortable." Moeller reassures the reporter by saying that BusinessWeek is not a competitor. "Oh, that's what I was thinking," Tam writes. MM: nope. PWT: k Phew. Crisis averted. From there, Tam goes on to cheer HP's quarterly performance, saying "nice results." As any good PR would do, Moeller emphasizes the point by declaring "real nice," "shit" and "nice guidance." The verbose Tam agrees. "Yup." Both the flack and the hack express surprise about HP's rise in net income. Tam calls it "crazy," while Moeller chips in with "INCREDIBLE" - an "increase in net income for h-p?????" Easy, Mike, stay on the party line. The pair exchange a couple more pleasantries about HP's stellar results and then Moeller issues a parting command. "Go say nice things." We've yet to run across a Tier 1 flack willing to dish such a line our way. Usually, it's just third rate PRs that stoop to begging for cheery coverage. Anyway, the request is enough to make any journalist cringe. Well, except for Tam. ;-) - was the reporter's response. About a month after this chat session, HP's then senior counsel Kevin "I've been sacrificed" Hunsaker ordered more spying on Tam. "Can you please do some monitoring on incoming and outgoing calls to Pui-Wing Tam, and keep a really close eye on her IM traffic with Moeller," Hunsaker asked one of HP's internal security staff. "There is going to be a special telephonic board meeting next Tuesday to discuss a very important topic, and PWT called Tom Perkins a couple days ago asking about the precise topic the board will be discussing. According to Perkins, he told PWT 'I don't know.' Anyway, this is yet another major opportunity for a leak to occur." We'll be bringing you some more of Hunsaker's greatest hits tomorrow. ®
Ashlee Vance, 03 Oct 2006