You may or may not know that Earth's magnetosphere leaks. You might think it is therefore time to send for the intergalactic plumbers. And in a manner of speaking, that is what the European Space Agency has done, in collaboration with its counterparts in China. Between them, the two groups have tracked the leak to its source: they have found where it is that solar particles are managing to sneak in through our magnetic shield. This solar material can be a threat to very expensive satellites, and to even more valuable astro/cosmonauts. The venture involved the Chinese Double Star satellite, and ESA's four Cluster spacecraft, being in the right place, at the right time. On May 8 2004, both sets of satellites found themselves in the firing line, ESA explains. There was no unusual solar activity: no flares, coronal mass ejection or any other protuberances from the Sun. But for a period of six hours the Cluster spacecraft were hit every eight minutes by intense flows of electrically charged particles released by the Sun. The Double Star TC-1 spacecraft took an even harder pummelling, ESA explains, being blasted every four minutes for eight hours. What happened was that a series of so-called magnetic flux tubes swept past the satellites again and again. These tubes are channels created by the merging of the Earth and Sun's magnetic fields. One end of the tube is connected to Earth, and the other to the full force of the solar wind, and so they allow solar particles to penetrate the normally protective magnetosphere. When this happens, physicists say there has been a Flux Transfer Event. It is also known as magnetic reconnection. The phenomenon has been known to exist for many years, but what is interesting about the day in May 2004, is that the same location underwent magnetic reconnection several times. And the satellites were there to watch it. The data from the five spacecraft enabled scientists in France, led by Aurélie Marchaudon of the Université d'Orléans, to triangulate the location of the magnetic reconnection region, and to deduce its size. They found that the reconnection site was on the daylight west side of the Earth's magnetic shield and was around 25000 kilometres across. Later, Jean Berchem of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and his team, conducted computer simulations that confirmed the observational data. ®
LettersLetters Let's start with the bloggers. Such an easy target - there are so many that any mud slung is bound to stick to some of them. Still, as Ashley Norris points out, Daily Mail columnists really should be careful about any kind of projectiles they launch, lest they turn out to be boomerangs: Thanks to this article I wandered over to the Daily Mail web site and naturally was further lured to an article titled "Volvo estate named 'best passion wagon'". This could probably be a reason for the spate of septuagenarian orgy stories frequently seen in El Reg. However, what really caught my attention was the top 10 list. The Audi TT comes in at number 6. Now there may be many and varied ways to define sex but I would think that none of them could possibly include an Audi TT. The owners were probably trying to justify the enormous amount they spent on a flattened VW Beetle in the hope of pulling something other than a muscle trying to get into the thing. Chris It's also fun to read the comments to the DailyMail's blogrant. Ok, the obvious reaction is "hey, you're ranting, you're repetitive and it looks suspiciously like a blog --- you must be right!" However, being reactionaries, the readership has a lifelong training in superior reactions so comes up with the delicious troll (link) "Thank God for one brave and fearless voice speaking out against the tide of mediocre thinking and blatant pornography. that is the so-called "world-wide-web". My grandaughter was convinced to try this "googling" of which you speak by a schoolfriend and now she is pregnant. What I want to know is, what is this Government going to do about this nonsense, especially now foppish young Cameron has revealed it to be one of his unseemly passions? In my day, such an admission would have been a resignation matter. I'm disgusted." Marvin the Martian Our thanks also go to the other readers who pointed us to this gem. Firefox is broken. Oh wait, I was only kidding. Nice. One of the odd things about all of the flaw reports I read is Window Snyder. Depending on what article I was reading Window (a wonderful name) was either he or she. The Washington Post split the difference, calling M? Snyder both he and she. Dan Broadband in Northern Ireland is apparently not living up to the hype: I am orginally from Northern Ireland and my father who lives in County Fermanagh would strongly disagree with the comment "100% Broadband coverage". Seems that BT like to play on words, 100% of its exchanges are broadband enabled but thats not the case for its customers. If you live too far from an enabled exchange you wont be able to get broadband. Talking to a BT engineer about the issue he told me that BT can install 'repeater nodes', but they are unwilling to do so. 100% suggests that all NI customers can receive broadband, I know for a fact that at least 20 of my neighbours homes and business can not get it. Maybe its 99.9% and someone rounded up !! All the best, Clive Vodafone does everyone a huge favour and upgrades its BlackBerry email service to glory: This 'upgrade' is completely ridiculous. What happens if you go on holiday for a couple of weeks and turn off your Blackberry. You used to be able to go to the web site and select all the emails that you did not want and delete them, now you turn on your Blackberry and have to delete them on the Blackberry, a painful process. Another example of the 'upgrade' is what to do when you are abroad with roaming charges. You sed to be able to delete emails from the web service so that you were not charged for them, now you can't, so more money for Vodafone in Roaming Charges. I spoke to Vodafone about this and suprisingly they don't think it is a problem. While there are clear benefits to the new system, why do they not give you a choice as to which option to use. They did say that RIM forced the upgrade on them, they did not decide to do this themselves. Anon Seems that eBay is not the best place to go shopping for the Tardis of your dreams. Much better versions are available elsewhere. We were stunned. Stunned, we tell you. Re. the TARDIS on eBay Well, yes but you can get a licenced product for less than that from thisplanetearth.co.uk http://www.thisplanetearth.co.uk/page25.html And it doesn't need tarting up Garry A Tory on the Fringe demonstrates exactly why he is there by suggesting people might want to swap all their personal data for a zero rate council tax: "Such use of the data gathered through the E+ cards, previously known as Edge smartcards, would be voluntary for residents – but for those who did not wish to take part, "it will be £1,400 for a band D", Bettison said." So the data which has been "obtained fairly" (in this case by the threat of legal punishment for not supplying it) will be used "only for the stated purpose" (ie administering the affairs of the local authority plus whatever they damn well feel like doing with it). Citizens will be free to withhold permission, but free in this case means "will cost them a four figure sum" ! Yep, that fits entirely with the intention of the Data Protection regulations ! Simon Nokia does its best to bring power to the toothers. Blue ones, naturally. I count 9 radios when you include gps and rfid. which no doubt by the time this thing actualy comes to market will be ubiquitous on all phones. and how about dab, iridium and and some sort of cb transmitter just so this this can truly bristle with arials? :) Tristan And then it says we'll have to wait years for our fuel-cell powered mobile phones because of supply chain issues. Pah. With regads to "dilute methanol" as a possible fuel cell battery power source - won't the under 18s be a bit pissed off that mummy has to go and recharge their battery for them? Just a thought. Simon Dilute methanol? And you expect it to be refilled like a lighter? No chance. Just think of it. Shops would only be allowed to sell it to people over 18 so a huge chunk of the mobile market would not be able to recharge their phones. Far more logical would be some sort of canister that clips into what was the battery bay. This would either be totally disposable or would employ some for of exchange system, like with gas bottles, where by you would take the canister back to the shop and they would exchange it for one that had been refilled for a nominal cost. However for that to work the manufactures would need to come up with an agreed standard design for the shape of these things. Tristan Perhaps, Tristan and Simon, these are the supply-chain issues to which they refer? They didn't consider running the fuel cell on Vodka then... Hamish And finally, this might tickle the general Register reader funny bone. It tickled ours, so we thought we'd share: In what has surely been a little-noticed development, Apple CEO Steve Jobs has apparently let slip the strongest evidence yet that Apple executives are making use of time travel technology, at least for internal projects. The Washington Post broke the story today (emphasis mine:) "Jobs was aware "in a few instances" that **unnamed company executives had gone back in time** to cherry-pick dates when stock prices were low to increase the likelihood that employees would turn greater profits. But Jobs did not "receive or otherwise benefit from these grants," the Cupertino, Calif., company said in a statement after the markets closed." (from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/10/04/AR2006100401376.html) Jobs goes on to say that he is "unaware of the accounting implications" of this kind of cavalier approach to history, not to mention thermodynamics. The fact that Apple didn't realize it could go back in time to repair the scandal either indicates a disturbing level of cluelessness, or that we're living in one of the "possible worlds" less favorable to Jobs's company. Time will tell ... Joe Which makes it the end of the week. Enjoy the weekend, but don't forget to come back on Monday. ®
The Identity and Passport Service (IPS) has completed its transition to the production of ePassports, replacing the production of traditional passports with those containing a facial biometric. This means the UK has beaten the US Visa Waiver deadline for the introduction of ePassports, and means British citizens issued with passports after 26 October will not need visas to travel to the US. The IPS also claimed to have passed a milestone with the issue of over 2.5 million ePassports since their introduction in March. The new design comprises a number of security features, including a secure chip with the holder's facial biometric. The new format is harder to forge and helps show whether the passport is genuine or has been tampered with. The facial biometrics on the chip also help directly link the passport holder to the document. Over 40 countries are already in the process of introducing ePassports. Facial recognition will be used to check passport applications against a database of known passport fraudsters, as well as being used to enable increasing automation and efficiency of border control and to render them more secure. IPS executive director for service delivery Bernard Herdan said: "I am very pleased to able to announce that the Identity and Passport Service has completed switching all of its production to the new ePassport, the UK's first biometric passport. This new design, containing a secure chip holding an image of the bearer's face and the relevant biographical details, is the most secure passport ever issued by the UK. "This has been a huge project involving the deployment of cutting edge technology, but we have taken great care and carried out the changeover to ePassports gradually over a period of months, at the same time as dealing with record levels of demand for passports. "Since March we have issued over 2.5 million ePassports to British citizens, and with the end of digital passport production, all new British passports will now be ePassports." This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Distie Northamber has had to cut its dividend after falling sales and margins hit profits. The company complained that tough trading combined with pressure on prices pushed profits down to £430,000 from £2.61m last year. Revenue was down too, despite higher volume. Northamber sold £204.4m worth of kit compared to £236.3m in 2005. Margins fell half a per cent in the period.
The DVD Forum, the organisation which oversees the DVD and HD DVD formats, looks set to introduce a region-coding system for the next-generation optical disc technology next year.
AnalysisAnalysis We're not short of wireless standards these days, so quite why Nokia felt the need to launch another one on Tuesday is open to question. Wibree is a low-power option for Bluetooth, at least that's how it's being pitched by Nokia. But in reality there seems little similarity between the two. Wibree will use the same antenna and frequency (the increasingly crowded 2.4GHz band), but other than that the work has been to ensure that it will happily co-exist with Bluetooth, not be compatible with it. The Bluetooth SIG said it has been in discussions with Nokia about incorporating Wibree into its standard, but that discussions were still proceeding - which is unsurprising given the lack of details yet available on Wibree. Bluetooth works because it incorporates a couple of really useful technologies, which Wibree will struggle to emulate. The first of these is the comprehensive frequency hopping which Bluetooth devices do when communicating. Interference in one part of the 2.4GHz band will have little or no impact as Bluetooth devices leap around, unlike their becalmed Wi-Fi cousins. This hopping does consume some power, so Wibree won't use it, but will instead do something very clever indeed; the details of which are not yet available. Bluetooth devices can also interrogate each other to ask about capabilities and functions. This is known as the Service Discovery Protocol and prevents you sending documents to your headset or routing a phone call to your printer. Again, Wibree will have something very clever to replace this, but we don't know what yet. We do know that Wibree packets will be dynamic in size, unlike the fixed-length Bluetooth packets, so there is some power-saving there if small amounts of data are being sent. We also know that Nokia has developed prototypes to test parts of the technology, and that we should have the full standard some time towards the middle of next year. This looks pretty poor in comparison to some of the other short range wireless technologies on the market, such as Zigbee and Z-Wave, both of which are established with hardware in production. Neither standard feels they have much to fear from Wibree. In a statement, the Zigbee Alliance said: "We can only surmise that this is simply a proprietary solution masked as some type of industry driven push." A representative of Zensys (owners of Z-Wave) was equally taciturn: "It seems like a marketing spec, they have said nothing which would worry me". So, is there room for another wireless standard? Nokia certainly thinks so, and says that while Zigbee and Z-Wave are aimed at home automation and industrial markets, Wibree has a different focus. Quite what that focus is isn't clear. Nokia keeps citing the connected watches and shoes, as well as keyboards and mice, as its target market. But it seems unlikely that those constitute enough of a business to justify their own wireless standard. Most wireless mice and keyboards use proprietary protocols, but where a standard is needed then Bluetooth seems to do OK. Squeezing their market down to watches and shoes surely makes it insignificant, and ironic, as sales of watches are dropping because people use their phones to tell the time. So we are left with a half-finished standard, addressing a tiny market which might not even exist, and the question of why Nokia chose to announce it now. Surely it would have been better to wait until the standard was completed, at least in draft form? It seems Nokia is not entirely unaware of the challenges facing Wibree. It tells us the reason for the announcement was to allow other companies to sign up early, something Nokia will be urgently hoping some of them will do. ®
Mobile games revenues are expected to grow from $3bn in 2006 to $10bn by 2009, according to new research. The forecast comes in Juniper Research's latest study of the global mobile games market. Analysts from the firm claim that the rise in mobile gaming will be driven by continued growth in subscriber numbers, an increase in roll-out of 3G services, falling game prices, and a new generation of "made for mobile" games. Juniper believes that coinciding with this will be a shift in demographics, which means that in addition to the traditional male gamers aged between 12 and 25 who have tended to be the primary purchasers of mobile games, older players and females will becoming increasingly influential. Looking further into the future, the research firm predicts that continued growth of mobile subscribers in developing markets and a continuation of the demographic shift will propel the global mobile games market to annual revenues of $17.6bn, resulting in a cumulative revenue stream of nearly $57bn over the next six years. The Asia Pacific region, which has dominated the mobile gaming market since its inception, will be responsible for 38 per cent of cumulative revenues between 2006 to 2011, while Europe and North America will account for 31 per cent and 22 per cent respectively. Juniper believes that market growth will be fuelled by increased purchases of so-called "casual" games rather than cutting-edge 3D and multi-player ones, and it says games that concentrate on the inherent strengths of the mobile platform, rather than those which simply seek to replicate console or PC games on a handset, will enjoy the greatest success. "I think mobile games have come of age. They are no longer the poor relations of console and PC games. They are a different family of entertainment products with its own family characteristics. The casual games sector is going to be the market driver, even though it may not be at the leading edge of mobile games technology. Casual games make most use of the inherent advantages of the mobile platform. People want to fill 'dead time' with easy to use, but fun games. This is the same in just about every culture," said Bruce Gibson, research director at Juniper. "A lot of market and media focus is currently on mobile music and TV. However, Juniper believes that over the next three to five years mobile games offer almost as much revenue earning potential for service providers as mobile music and mobile TV," Gibson added. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Nokia has announced it will be working with Orange to customise Symbian S60 handsets, allowing Orange to remotely manage and update interfaces to highlight new services as well as provide an individually customised user experience. Current Orange signature handsets are all Microsoft Windows Mobile-based, but this deal should provide the same functionality on Symbian. Nokia has always provided customisation to network operators buying enough handsets - preinstalled graphics and ring tones, in-box leaflets, for example - but this goes a step further. The entire interface can be modified and branded, and remotely updated when desired. Such capabilities have previously been available to operators deploying additional software, such as clients from Surf Kitchen or Action Engine, and Orange itself uses a client from Abexia on its Pocket PC devices to create a branded experience. But S60 believes its knowledge and experience with the platform lends it a competitive advantage. Vendors of other solutions will need to concentrate on the server side, managing all these customised devices, or look to other platforms for market development - there are a lot more Java-capable handsets than S60 ones, even if the functionality is more restricted. But they need not be in a hurry to do so. Nokia announced a similar deal with Vodafone in February and we've yet to see any handsets. Mainly, this is about Nokia trying to appeal to the network operators, willing to go a long way to maintain that handset subsidy which funds its business. With VoIP appearing on handsets already, and Wi-Fi providing latency-free connectivity, network operators are having a hard time justifying a £200 subsidy on a handset which might only use its network for the occasional incoming call. Nokia will be working hard to appease the network operators and trying to demonstrate it is still on their side. ®
Europe's first polar orbit satellite has been given a new launch date after a "mechanical incident" at the Baikonur cosmodrome caused delays. The MetOp satellite, which will improve weather forecasting and provide data for those monitoring changes in the Earth's climate, will now launch on 17 October, 10 days after its previously scheduled lift-off date. The satellite was originally scheduled to launch in July and three attempts were made before engineers returned the craft to its hanger. Once in its polar orbit at an altitude of around 800km, the MetOp satellite will provide scientists with plenty of atmospheric data. It will monitor temperature, humidity, ozone levels, and wind velocity. But what of the "incident" so coyly referred to in the European Space Agency's press material? The BBC reports that on 30 September the whole spacecraft was dropped a few centimetres while mission engineers were getting it ready to be transported to the launchpad. Apparently, one of the chains supporting the spacecraft was twisted and, as it untwisted, the upper part of the load, including the satellite and the rocket's upper stage, was jolted. The whole assembly has now been checked and cleared for the new launch date. ®
Minister for Communications Noel Dempsey has praised Irish mobile operators for introducing new tariffs designed at reducing roaming costs in Ireland and the UK. Following a meeting held on Thursday between the minister and his Northern Ireland counterpart, Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment, Marie Eagle, MP, it was confirmed that all of the UK and Ireland's mobile phone operators are now offering reduced tariffs for customers roaming between the two territories. The announcement follows the decision by Meteor to introduce cheaper roaming rates between the UK and Ireland two weeks ago. Other Irish mobile operators, 02, Vodafone and Three had previously brought in cheaper tariffs in March 2006. Speaking on Thursday, Minister Dempsey said he was aware of the initiatives undertaken by mobile phone operators in going further than just addressing inadvertent roaming. "I am particularly pleased that all the Irish mobile phone operators have introduced roaming initiatives that benefit both bill paying and pay-as-you go users," Dempsey said. Eagle, meanwhile, claimed that the introduction of new tariffs by UK mobile phone operators could lead to savings of up to £3m for mobile phone users in Northern Ireland. "The introduction of new tariffs by all the operators is good news for all mobile users within Ireland and the UK but particularly for those citizens and businesses in border counties," said Minister Eagle. Both ministers said that the roaming issue has now moved to EU level, where the European Commission is planning legislation to slash mobile phone charges within the EU25. Under the proposed legislation, wholesale costs - the fees mobile operators pay one another for processing roaming calls - will be capped. The EU will annually review an average of this cost in order to set the cap. Then, the mark-up at retail will be limited to 30 per cent. The caps will apply to calls both made and received while abroad. The proposal has come under attack from mobile operators who could reportedly lose up to €4bn in revenues should the legislation be approved. However, while most operators can only see fault with the proposed legislation, most admit that something needs to be done to reduce roaming costs in the EU. In a statement released on Thursday, Three Ireland said it agrees with the commission's argument that international roaming prices are exorbitant. "The Three group believes retail rates for international roaming are high as the direct result of the unjustifiably high level of wholesale international roaming rates. Three believes the industry must now collectively address consumer and EU concerns by dramatically lowering wholesale roaming charges across the Europe." Copyright © 2006, ENN
Vodafone has quietly begun offering Research in Motion's BlackBerry Pearl email phone to new customers. The carrier is currently taking pre-orders for the handset on its UK website.
Hitachi has asked for 16,000 Sony-made laptop batteries which may pose a fire risk to be returned for a free replacement, the Japanese computer company said today, the second notebook maker to launch such a recall this week.
Service-oriented architectures (SOAs) are the subject de jour with IT vendors, who have been using the term as if the concept has been totally understood by the buying audience and is well along the way to general implementation.
Two studies which demonstrated that rectal massage was a cure for "intractable hiccups" last night secured the prestigious Ig Nobel Prize for Medicine at the annual Annals of Improbable Research awards ceremony. Francis M Fesmire of the University of Tennessee College of Medicine was honoured for his medical case report entitled "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage", sharing the spoils with and Majed Odeh, Harry Bassan, and Arie Oliven of Bnai Zion Medical Centre, Haifa, Israel, for their subsequent medical case report also titled "Termination of Intractable Hiccups with Digital Rectal Massage." Other laureats stepping up to receive their awards at Harvard's Sanders Theatre included: Nic Svenson and Piers Barnes of the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation, for "calculating the number of photographs you must take to (almost) ensure that nobody in a group photo will have their eyes closed" (Mathematics award); Basile Audoly and Sebastien Neukirch of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie, in Paris, for their "insights into why, when you bend dry spaghetti, it often breaks into more than two pieces" (Physics); and Antonio Mulet, José Javier Benedito and José Bon of the University of Valencia, Spain, and Carmen Rosselló of the University of Illes Balears, in Palma de Mallorca, Spain, for their study "Ultrasonic Velocity in Cheddar Cheese as Affected by Temperature." (Chemistry). The full list of ground-breaking scientific endeavour can be found here. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to deal with a nasty bout of hiccups...®
The US has confirmed China has successfully blocked one of its spy satellites using a ground-to-space laser. The high-powered light was able to blind onboard cameras, acknowledged National Reconnaissance Office director Donald Kerr, responding to a report in Defense News. He said: "It makes us think." Alluding to wider concerns about the vulerabilities of communications satellites, Air Force space commander general Kevin Chilton said: "We're at a point where the technology's out there and the capability for people to do things to our satellites is there. I'm focused on it beyond any single event." The incident is likely to reignite the debate over the US's own anti-satellite programme, for which the House of Representatives attempted to block funding. More here from Reuters. ®
NASA is calling for US undergraduates to design and then take part in a series of lunar and zero gravity experiments. It wants submissions by 30 October. NASA has run low gravity experiments for students for many years, but this time it wants students to design experiments for lunar gravity, one sixth of that on Earth. But don't get your hopes up too high: the space agency does not propose loading the students on to the next Shuttle and sending them to the ISS. Instead, it wants volunteers for a series of experiments on the so-called vomit comet, NASA's modified McDonnell Douglas DC-9 jet aircraft. The DC-9 aircraft can easily reproduce the feeling of being in space by performing a series of climbs and freefalls. By altering its slope of descent slightly, it can also produce short periods of lunar-equivalent gravity. "These students will be the ones helping to design our trips back to the moon and beyond," said Donn Sickorez, university affairs officer at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston. "By putting them through the same procedures as our space research scientists and providing them with a three-dimensional reduced gravity laboratory, we're better preparing students for these future missions." Each proposal, NASA says, will be evaluated for technical merit and safety. The "winners" will be announced on 11 December and flown in 2007. Fancy your chances? Point your browser here to find out more. ®
ATI will target AMD's Socket AM2+ interconnect with its RD790 chipset - a part with the abiility to host four graphics cards, allegedly leaked company roadmap slides reveal.
Episode 33Episode 33 "Check it out," the PFY says, pointing at the pair of fat blokes who are levering a large crate into the Boss's office on a heavy duty trolley. "What do you think it is?" "I'm not sure - It's carefully packaged and very heavy so whatever it is is probably bloody expensive,” I reply. No sooner is it in the Boss's office than the door is closed, blinds wound shut and the sounds of hammering are heard. "Curiouser and curiouser," the PFY mumbles. "To the Batcave!" I blurt as we both make a dash for Mission Control. "I can't see, the Boss is in the way!" the PFY snaps once he's activated the hidden camera on the Boss' bookshelf, strategically placed where it'll never be touched (inside the spine of a volume of The VAX/VMS Architecture Planning Guide). "Plan B," I say, as the PFY taps away furiously. "...No, there's a fatbloke blocking...everything!" the PFY seethes as its vantage point (the spine of Improving your Management style) proves useless. "Ok, easy," I say. "We'll catch the fat blokes as they leave and offer them some pikey cider if they spill the beans." "Sorted!" the PFY says, preceding me out the door. "Bugger!" "What?" "They've gone!" he says, pointing at the Boss' office, which is now open and empty. "Weird," I say. "I didn't know they could move the fast, unless..." "...Someone else offered them some pikey cider to make themselves scarce!" the PFY finishes. "Ok, well lets just strike while the iron's hot," I say, making a move for the empty office. ... "Armourworth 3000 Intelligent Datasafe," the PFY reads off the front panel. "Hmmm," I say. "No dial, no keypad no external cabling. It's either wireless, a timelock or has some fancy mechanism inside it which determines the opening criteria. But how 'intelligent' can it be?" "Smarter than me," the Boss burbles, entering through the doorway. "Yeah, I've got an intelligent paperweight like that," the PFY responds. "Is it computerised?" the Boss asks. "No it's a brick," the PFY replies. Sadly, the Boss' attention span expired between the PFY's sentences so the Boss probably now thinks the PFY has computerised brick. Sigh "Yes, this is the Armourworth Intelligent safe!" the Boss says. "Top of the line for storing data. In fact, it's a safe within a safe. The outside safe talks to my laptop through a special webpage which talks via a special short range network which is encrypted to 512 thingies." "512 thingies," the PFY gasps. "That sounds pretty secure!" "It is! I had to take my laptop to the dealer to get it setup for this safe, and it would apparently take ALL the computers in the world over TEN YEARS to break into this safe." "Well, no time to lose then!" I say, making to leave. "Are you suggesting you could break into this safe?" the Boss asks. "They use these to store Government secrets!" "You mean secrets like how the Weapons of Mass Destruction disappeared?" "I... ... It's impenetrable!" the Boss states ignoring the PFY's outburst. "You're on!" I say. ... "So what's our plan?" "Spend a couple of days printing safe manuals and looking frustrated till the Boss gets complacent" ...two days later... "So, who fancies a couple of drinks after work - my shout - to celebrate the PFY's birthday?" I ask. No sooner had the Boss heard free beers than he was up for it. I make a mental note to suggest he attends a Richard Stallman talk about GPL sometime. ...Later that night... "Ok, so he's left his laptop at work," the PFY whispers, "but you've still got to get into it" >tappity< >tap< "How did you..." "Keystroke logger," I reply. "And we open up his browser and check his favourites and...lookee, Armourworth Login” "It'll be password protected!" the PFY says. "And the password's bound to be..." "SAVED IN THE BROWSER!" I blurt happily, seeing the prefilled fields. "Bonus!" >click< >CLUNK< >CLICK< >WHIRRRRRRRRRR< >CLACK< "You little dancer!" the PFY says opening the door. "Who'd have thought it'd be so eas.." "Uh-oh," I say, recognising the internal safe from our recent documentation downloads. "Now THAT is a serious safe. 12 digits, with three successive failures initiating a lockout requiring a serviceperson reset." "So we'd better get it right then." the PFY says. "What do we think, birthday, twice?" "Bound to be. So first of April, but what year??" "'54." the PFY says. "Same as my Dad's." >BUZZ< "One down," I say. "Home phone number?" "With internationl prefix," the PFY adds. "Of course!" >BUZZ< "Bugger, one try left, what could it be?" "The factory default?" the PFY suggests. "He wouldn't!" ..Twelve zeros later... >CLACK< >WHIRRR< "He would," the PFY sighs. "So what's he hiding???" "......" I say "What?!" the PFY says, pushing past "...." ... "Why would you keep nothing in an expensive safe like that?" the PFY wonders out loud. "Because he has nothing of any value," I say, opening my backpack. "Which is why I've bought along this expensive item of my own to store." "What?" the PFY says as I pull my present out. "Is that a...salmon?" "Oh yes," I say, slapping the fish in the safe, pulling the airtight seal off the internal door and slamming it shut. "That's just cruel!" the PFY says. "No," I say, tapping away at the keypad. "Cruel is entering the wrong number in three times." "Oh." "Cruel," I continue. "Is breaking off the wireless antenna connection." >SLAM!< >WHIRRRR< "Cruel," I add. "Is chucking your housekeys into the safe before I close it." "I... Y... You BASTARD!" the PFY gasps. "Yeah I know," I chuckle happily. BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
October's Patch Tuesday, Microsoft's monthly security update, will see the release of 11 security updates, some of which are critical. Six of the bulletins deal with flaws in Windows (at least one, and possibly more, one of which is critical), four deal with flaws in Microsoft Office (again with at least one critical update). There's also a patch for Microsoft's .NET framework, but this one is less of a problem since it's rated only as "moderate". Redmond is also updating the Windows Malicious Software Removal Tool. Hopefully, the patches will address software bugs that are currently the subject of active exploitation by hackers, such as a recently discovered flaw in WebViewFolderIcon ActiveX control. Microsoft's advance bulletin notice can be found here. ®
Aggregates are probably the second biggest headache for database administrators in data warehouses after indexes and the tuning thereof.
The next generation of ATI's South Bridge core logic technology will support Flash memory as a fast-loading, power-conserving hard drive data cache, if allegedly leaked company roadmap slides are to be believed.
ReviewReview The MiniDAB is slighly smaller than early iPods, and while it's very much lighter than the Apple device - it feels like it's missing the battery, even though it isn't - it has none of the iPods looks. Apart from the iPod-like black and white colour schemes, the MiniDAB has a rather 1990s look about it: simplicity is out, complexity is in - presumably to imply a large feature set.
Also in this week's column: What are the scientific reasons for having sex? What can you learn from the sound of someone's voice? What are the most widely practiced religions of the world? How does a cross-eyed person's view differ from others? Asked by Michel Durinx of Leiden, The Netherlands The medical term for "crossed-eyes" is strabismus. Another medical term for it is heterotropia. But it goes by other popular names too including wandering eyes, squint eyes, and walled eyes. Walled eyes is often thought of as the opposite of crossed eyes. Crossed eyes is when the eyes point inwards. Walled eyes is when the eyes point outwards. Strabismus is a chronic abnormality of the eye from the normal visual axes (ocular deviation). The the eyes don't point in the same direction. Strabismos is Greek for "squinting". The type of strabismus is referred to as a tropia. Troupe is Greek for "turning". A prefix indicates the direction of the ocular deviation. So when one eye is rotated around its visual axis with respect to the other eye it is "cyclotropia". Cyclo is also Greek for "turning". When the ocular deviation is such that one eye turns inwards it is "esotropia" and when outwards it is "exotropia". When the ocular deviation is such that one eye turns upwards it is "hypertropia" and when downwards it is "hypotropia". Eye muscles (extraocular muscles) bring the gaze of each eye to the same point in space. Strabismus occurs when there is a lack of coordination of these muscles. This results in poor binocular vision that affects depth perception. Near or far-sightedness can result because the brain cannot fuse the two different visual images into one. In infancy, congenital strabismus can cause amblyopia. This is a condition in which the brain ignores input from the ocular deviating eye, although it is capable of normal sight. Amblyopia is sometimes called "lazy eye". Sometimes when the infant's bridge of the nose is wide and flat and when there are skin folds in the corner of the eyes, there is an appearance of strabismus. This is called "false strabismus" or "pseudostrabismus". As the child grows, the skull develops, and the bridge of the nose narrows, the folds in the corner of the eyes go away. There is no problem with vision. The test for this involves the doctor shining a light into the child's eyes. The light's reflection off of the pupil should be in the same spot of each eye if there is no strabismus. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
Also in this week's column: What are the scientific reasons for having sex? How does a cross-eyed person's view differ from others? What are the most widely practiced religions of the world? What can you learn from the sound of someone's voice? Quite a bit it seems. There is considerable evidence that the sound of a person's voice reveals a great deal about the speaker. Studies have shown that a listener who hears the voice of someone else can infer the speaker's social class, various personality traits, emotional and mental state, and attributes related to deception. In research with experimental subjects who listen to voice samples from speakers, subjects are then just as capable of correctly estimating the height, weight, and age of those speakers with the same degree of accuracy as that achieved by examining photographs of those speakers. They both correctly estimate the height, weight, and age of speakers 75 per cent of the time. This was the conclusion of a study by Dr Robert Krauss and colleagues from the Department of Psychology at Columbia University and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2002. Research by Dr Susan Hughes and colleagues at the Department of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany, found that individuals with a symmetrical (ie, an attractive) body were rated as having more attractive voices compared with individuals with a less symmetrical (ie, an unattractive) body. As deviation from a symmetrical body increases, the attractiveness of the voice decreases. In an article published in Evoution and Human Behaviour in 2002 and another in 2004, the Hughes team concludes that the sound of a person's voice may serve as "an important multidimensional fitness indicator". Voice may be an important factor in sexual attraction. Just as people are attracted to healthy bodies, they are attracted to healthy voices. Humans tend to desire fit mates. It is in their individual interest and in their species evolutionary interest to do so. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Also in this week's column: What are the scientific reasons for having sex? How does a cross-eyed person's view differ from others? What can you learn from the sound of someone's voice? What are the most widely practiced religions of the world? Asked by Charlene Dupree of Toronto There are some 4,300 religions of the world. This is according to Adherents, an independent, non-religiously affiliated organisation that monitors the number and size of the world's religions. Side-stepping the issue of what constitutes a religion, Adherents divides religions into churches, denominations, congregations, religious bodies, faith groups, tribes, cultures, and movements. All are of varying size and influence. Nearly 75 per cent of the world's population practices one of the five most influential religions of the world: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Christianity and Islam are the two religions most widely spread across the world. These two religions together cover the religious affiliation of more than half of the world's population. If all non-religious people formed a single religion, it would be the world's third largest. One of the most widely-held myths among those in English-speaking countries is that Islamic believers are Arabs. In fact, most Islamic people do not live in the Arabic nations of the Middle East. The world's 20 largest religions and their number of believers are: Christianity (2.1 billion) Islam (1.3 billion) Nonreligious (Secular/Agnostic/Atheist) (1.1 billion) Hinduism (900 million) Chinese traditional religion (394 million) Buddhism 376 million Primal-indigenous (300 million) African traditional and Diasporic (100 million) Sikhism (23 million) Juche (19 million) Spiritism (15 million) Judaism (14 million) Bahai (7 million) Jainism (4.2 million) Shinto (4 million) Cao Dai (4 million) Zoroastrianism (2.6 million) Tenrikyo (2 million) Neo-Paganism (1 million) Unitarian-Universalism (800,000) Are there more human religions or more human languages in the world? Languages. There are some 4,300 religions of the world compared with 6,800 living languages spoken somewhere in the world. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to email@example.com
Also in this week's column: How does a cross-eyed person's view differ from others? What can you learn from the sound of someone's voice? What are the most widely practiced religions of the world? What are the scientific reasons for having sex? Asked by Jill Howard of Alexandria, Virginia, USA The reasons for not engaging in sex include transmission of diseases, heart attack due to exertion, and many others. The reasons for engaging in sex are numerous. Among these are: Sex helps boost the immune system. According to Dr Carl Charnetski of the Department of Psychology at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, people who reported one or two sexual "episodes" per week enjoyed higher levels of Immunoglobin A. This is an antibody that helps fight disease. Sex helps boost longevity. In one study cited by Dr Charnetski, men who had more orgasms over a 10 year period boosted their longevity compared with those who had fewer. Sex helps ward off cancer. In another study cited by Dr Charnetski, men who had more ejaculations over a 35 year period had 33 per cent less prostate cancer compared to those with fewer ejaculations. Sex results in a more youthful appearance. According to a study by Dr David Weeks, a clinical neuropsychologist at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital in Scotland and co-author of Superyoung (1999), men and women who reported having sex an average of four times per week looked approximately 10 years younger than they really were. Sex helps reduce stress. Numerous studies show that it does this through lowering anxiety levels, boosting relaxation, and aiding sleeping. Sex helps fight depression. A study by Dr Gordon Gallup of the Department of Psychology at the State University of New York at Albany found that women who regularly engage in heterosexual sex in which they come in contact with semen were significantly less depressed than those women that did not. he causal relationship is unclear. Dr Gallup speculates that "possibly because when absorbed through the vagina, semen may have an effect on mood in women". However, Dr Gallup is quick to point out: "Regardless of the findings, this study does not advocate that people abstain from using condoms. Protecting oneself from an unwanted pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease is far more important." Sex helps coping with middle age. This is the inference drawn from research by Dr GA Bachmann at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey and published first in 1995 in the International Journal of Fertility and Menopausal Studies and continuing in The Journal of Sexual Medicine in 2006. Sex is good exercise. Exercise helps circulation, lowers cholesterol, and releases helpful endorphins. Sex helps in losing weight. Well, at least a little. One burns approximately four to five calories per minute or perhaps 300 calories per hour during sex (depending upon how, shall we say, "vigorous" the sex is). About 7,000 to 8,000 excess calories must be burned to lose one kilogram of fat (3,500 to lose one pound). You do the calculations. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
President Bush has approved legislation that will make amateur radio hams part of the emergency communications network in the US. The provision was tucked away in a section of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 2007 Appropriations Act (HR 5441), which was signed into law on Wednesday following earlier Congressional approval. Part of the wide-ranging legislation includes the 21st Century Emergency Communications Act, portions of which call for the newly created Regional Emergency Communications Coordination Working Groups to liaise with radio hams. Quite how this might work is yet to be hammered out, ARRL, the national association from amateur radio reports. Earlier versions of the bill would have seen radio hams sitting on the boards of RECC Working Groups. In addition to working with amateur radio enthusiasts, RECC Working Groups will work with equipment manufacturers, telcos, local broadcast media, satellite communications services, emergency services, hospitals and other to co-ordinate plans for local communications systems in the event of an emergency. Potential disasters covered might include anything from natural disasters to terrorist attacks. RECC Working Groups will draw up reports designed to help the US "accelerate the deployment of interoperable emergency communications nationwide". The working group would operate at state and local level with a federal RECC Working Group, made up of representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, federal department and communication agencies co-ordinating national plans. ®
ATI's ageing AMD-oriented RD580 discrete chipset will soon be upgraded to support three graphics cards and two CPUs, it has been claimed. The part will join the upcoming RS690 to lead ATI's sales drive during H1 2007.
Parents are preparing a legal challenge to schools that have fingerprinted their children without their consent. Janine Fletcher, a solicitor and concerned parent who instigated the legal response, said she became concerned when she learned that 70 schools in her home county of Cumbria had taken childrens' fingerprints without seeking parental consent. "It's a breach of human rights," she said. "Lots of parents are willing to take legal action. There's a clear case." "We are trying to get a list of distressed parents together who are prepared to take group action," she said. "Every child has a right to privacy." Richard Furlong, a barrister who has advised the campaign group Leave Them Kids Alone, which is co-ordinating the action, said: "Once the kids fingerprints are taken, the schools are obliged in law to disclose the fingerprint to the police if they are investigating a crime. All of a sudden, police have a huge database to query. But the police only usually have access to your fingerprints when you are arrested." "All of a sudden they've got this great database and in twenty years time they'll have everyone's fingerprints through the back door," he said. "People say, 'if you've got nothing to hide, you've got nothing to fear', I always say, well how much do you earn then?" he added. Many schools put their fingerprint systems in over the school holidays and informed parents by letter on the first day of term, said Fletcher. Parents weren't being given enough time to disagree with the scheme, let alone think through the ramifications of their children being fingerprinted. The group are preparing to take a test case against a school that has fingerprinted children without parental consent.®
HP comes home to roost We're not sure we'd have a weekly summary to write without the help of HP. This week we learnt a bit more about the company's sickly sweet relationship with a reporter on the Wall Street Journal. IM conversations never look as good in the cold light of day – just ask Mark Foley. This week also saw the first criminal charges filed against ex-HP chair Patricia Dunn. The Californian Attorney General charged five people connected to the HP scandal with various wire fraud and conspiracy charges. More charges are likely to follow. The Securities and Exchange Commission is still investigating how the company informed, or misinformed, the markets about the resignation of director Tom Perkins. Internal documents released this week show at least one person at HP realised just how wrong what they were doing was. One of HP's internal gumshoes, Vince Nye, wrote: "As I understand Ron's methodology in obtaining this phone record information it leaves me with the opinion that it is very unethical at the least and probably illegal. If (it) is not totally illegal, then it is leaving HP in a position of (sic) that could damage our reputation or worse." There's a selection of HP's juicier emails here. And anyone tempted into a bit of snooping of their own can take heart from this advice - planting bugs in offices is legal in the UK. But be careful what you do with the information you collect because then data protection laws kick in. Away from the scandal, HP this week offered users the chance to take a look at its dual core Montecito servers. Customer BT was there too talking about utility computing. In a similar vein, a massive deal between HP, BT and Pepsi was announced this week. Microsoft and schizophrenic licensing Licensing and Microsoft are two words guaranteed to upset many an IT manager. This week it emerged that Microsoft's oft-promised operating system Vista will go into lockdown mode if it suspects you of buying the software from a car boot sale rather than an approved reseller. Which would be fine - if it worked, and didn't label lots of honest people pirates. This week Microsoft's much-loathed WGA raised its head again – wrongly labelling a bunch of businesses as pirates. But don't give up the faith just yet – Microsoft gave some details of how its future licensing strategy will work. Here's hoping... And let's not forget that Microsoft isn't as mean while it is trying to build market share. Microsoft is a relative newbie in data centre operating systems and this week made its software licensing even more open. Trying to understand the complexities of data centre licensing can make your eyes bleed, but Redmond is trying to make it easier. Virtual servers mean applications and boxes aren't tied together anymore in the way old school licenses require. Crackberry users forced into rehab Partners and friends of Vodafone Blackberry users were shocked this week that their conversation with the mobile email addicts were even more truncated. An upgrade at the weekend left customers without the option to access and manage their mail over the web - meaning even more time spent thumb twiddling.. Remember the virus wars? Virus infected emails fell to a record low this week. Just one in 300 emails sent last month contained a virus, according to researchers from Sophos. Progress of sort – even if it means we have inboxes full of bleeding spam instead. If you don't remember the virus wars, it could be that your teeth have fallen out. Swedish researchers have discovered a link between memory function and a full mouth of gnashers. PGP gets on the network Sticking with security, PGP this week announced its network storage product. It reckons companies sharing data centre resources will snap it up More on networked encryption here. Euro patents compromise The European patents row has been rumbling on forever, but there's been progress on a compromise this week. In essence, the European Parliament is agreeing to look again at the unpopular legislation. EMC cheers Vista, but McAfee jeers While the world awaits Vista software, companies are busy making sure they don't get locked out. Office and SharePoint Server 2007 users will be able to archive information straight into EMC's Documentum archiving software. But it's not all sweetness and light among Microsoft partners rivals. Anti-virus company McAfee used a full page advert in the FT to complain that Microsoft is witholding the information it needs to make its products with Vista. It's a bizarre missive addressed to "computer users of the world". The whole letter is available as a Pdf here. In duller McAfee news, it is paying $60m for a majority stake in Citadel Security, which helps companies ensure they are compliant with Sarbanes Oxley and other regulations. Well, if you can't survive as a virus company anymore... Fuel cells: on, off, and on again We like fuel cells – filling up your phone with gas, or even vodka, must be more fun than recharging it. The trouble is no one seems able to decide if they're ever actually going to arrive. Early last year Nokia said: "Schtop this technology isn't ready yet." But now we hear the technology is ready, but the supply chain isn't. Nokia's research boss said: "A few years you would still need to wait." See the full SP on fuel cells. Dammit JANET Poor students and professors lost their superdooper network JANET this week. A mysterious outage brought much of it down on Monday. No official word on why, but sources tell us a Scottish rat chewing through a cable was to blame. Siemens we salute you Siemens is taking positive action to help workers at its mobile unit, which was sold to BenQ. BenQ promptly shut it and sacked 3,000 workers. The board of Siemens is foregoing a €30m pay rise and is paying the money into a fund for the laid-off staff. Bulgarian airbags save the day More good news from the east – a Bulgarian woman was saved from serious injury by her sizeable breast implants. A police expert said: "[They] 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." News in Briefs Stock option probe claims Apple CFO scalp Well, that's about it for this week. Thanks for reading. ®
CommentComment Intel has used the platform of its developer conference to reveal a roadmap for future wireless connectivity that will take in at least three different types of broadband connectivity for PCs. Intel has long made it clear that it will support WiMAX in its next generation onboard radio chips, but is now also adding a 3G HSDPA option, in collaboration with Nokia. This will mean that sometime in 2007 top end Intel laptops will be able to work with the new 802.11n Wi-fi system, with WiMAX and with cellular networks, straight out of the box. And this time this is no fly-by night partial roadmap from one small group inside Intel, this is a straight up announcement to developers telling them to get ready for a new era of permanent PC connectivity. This announcement sends many messages. It says that Intel has finally understood that the owners of HSDPA networks are also likely to be the big WiMAX users, and may want to offer roaming capability, in effect some UMTS cellcos will go down the WiMAX route, others down the HSDPA route, and some will use both technologies in different ways. Whatever they use, Intel is now making their life easier to sign up new customers, since laptops and anything else Intel comes up with, such as palm sized computers, promised in the same timeframe, will have the onboard radio equipment to make any kind of connection that is required. But it also means that Nokia and Intel have just undercut an entire body of plug-in card suppliers that have made it their main business offering PCMCIA and USB cards offering connectivity. Intel is going to control overnight just as many radio chips, possibly more, than any single handset maker. Intel will come to dominate onboard PC radio chips in the same way that it dominates motherboards, in the same way it took over the client Wi-Fi chip market, by creating Centrino in the first place. The other big change that is coming is the feeling of always being connected. This time it is PCs that genuinely are always connected, even when traveling, and that in turn should have a profound effect on the way that customers work and consume entertainment on their PCs. The increase in the speed of all forms of connectivity, with HSDPA now at around 1.5 Mbps rising later to 14 Mbps in subsequent generations, and WiMAX flexible with most network likely to be around the speed of fixed DSL, and the shorter range 802.11n ramping up to 100 Mbps. Intel outlined to the Developer Forum the Kedron family of chips, including a dualmode Wi-Fi/WiMAX chipset and one supporting 100Mbps plus 802.11n, both due in 2007 and demonstrated the next generation Centrino Duo platform, scheduled for introduction in the first half of 2007, which will improve upon the Intel Core 2 Duo processor by offering new power saving capabilities and a faster front-side bus from 667MHz up to 800MHz, which is all about offering greater energy efficiency to save on the laptop battery. The product will contain a new Wi-Fi radio that will be compliant with the emerging 802.11n specification. To ensure that its 802.11n capable chipset will interwork with other pre-standard 802.11n products, Intel is carrying out cooperative testing with Wi-Fi equipment makers Netgear, DLink, Linksys and Buffalo. Also being tested is Ofer-R, a product that will offer the world's first combined Wi-Fi and WiMAX radio chipset by 2008. The new Centrino will add some Intel vPro capabilities currently available on business desktop PCs, such as Active Management Technology to improve asset management, system security and availability. The new systems will also include Intel's flash memory-based accelerator, and a new integrated graphics core. The Santa Rosa chip is based on the Core 2 Duo chips for ultramobile PCs, and these will consume half as much power as Intel's current mobile designs but at one-quarter the size. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
CommentComment It became obvious this week that although Alcatel is starting small in WiMAX, compared to say the Sprint contract for Motorola, it is still actively looking to build a head of steam. Alcatel said it had won a contract with Elion Enterprises, part of TeliaSonera telecommunications company in the Nordic and Baltic region, to deploy a commercial broadband wireless access network in Estonia. Initial deployment has been completed in Tallinn and the surrounding area and the system will be in commercial operation in a few weeks time. Estonia with a population of just 1.3 million, is little more than a capital city project would be in the rest of Europe, but with only 40 per cent of homes having access to a wired telephone line, and virtually everyone owning a mobile phone, Estonia has the kind of profile of many Central and Eastern European nations that between them make up about a population about the size of the US. WiMAX is almost certainly the only way for such nations to go. It's hard to install broadband on a fixed phone line that doesn't exist and the cost of installing fixed lines from scratch is now prohibitive since the invention of mobile networks. Alcatel will supply an end-to-end WiMAX system based on its new range of WiMAX base stations and Customer Premises Equipment. Previously, Alcatel used to be a reseller for market leader Alvarion and WiMAX management systems from Navini. If Alcatel can become the WiMAX supplier of choice to all of TeliaSonera, then it will land much of the tier one WiMAX business in the entire Northern and Central European region. TeliaSonera has already landed WiMAX spectrum in Sweden in 2004 and in Finland this year, while Alcatel has already landed a major WiMAX contract in Austria earlier this year. Alcatel is already the world's leader in DSLAMS and fixed access networks, and it makes sense that it would try to dominate any technology area that might replace or rival fixed broadband. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
New research into Alzheimer's disease suggests the active ingredient of marijuana may help "stave off" the disease, as Reuters puts it. Specifically, scientists at the Scripps Research Institute in California discovered that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) can prevent breakdown of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine - a process which leads to progressive "memory loss, impaired decision-making, and diminished language and movement skills". THC is also, the team found, "more effective at blocking clumps of protein that can inhibit memory and cognition in Alzheimer's patients". Its report is published in the journal Molecular Pharmaceutics. ®
Rolls-Royce has suspended production of its Trent 900 engine for a year in the wake of this week's announcement by Airbus parent company EADS that the A380 "Superjumbo" delivery schedule had been put back for a third time. The Trent 900 is one of two engine models due to be bolted to the A380 - the other being the GE-P&W Engine Alliance GP7200. The implications for the workforce at the Derby plant which produces the Trent 900 are unknown. According to the BBC, Rolls-Royce said "it was too early to say what impact the decision to cut output would have on its employees". The company added: "We are waiting for more details about requirements from Airbus. Once we are clear on that and any potential impact on future workload, we will consult with the unions." Rolls-Royce did stress, however, that the Derby plant - which is home to 11,000 workers - also made engines for Boeing and Bombardier, and that the Trent 900 currently accounts for only a fraction of the firm's total sales, while all civil engine output "accounted for only about 20 per cent of the company's turnover". The first Airbus A380 is now slated for delivery in October 2007. There have been mutterings of discontent among airlines waiting to get behind the controls of the behemoth, with hefty compensation claims likely over the now considerably delayed delivery schedule. ®
European Union and US negotiators have struck a new deal on sharing airline passenger data, resolving concerns that failure to reach an accord before a 1 October legal deadline might affect trans-Atlantic air travel. An agreement struck on Thursday replaced a previous agreement ruled unlawful by the European Court of Justice in May. The previous agreement involved airlines sending 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 11 September terrorist attacks. The European Court of Justice ruled that the agreement had no basis in EU law but permitted the practice to continue until the 30 September deadline. EU and US negotiators failed to agree on terms before this deadline. The airlines were in a difficult position - in theory, at least - risking prosecution by data protection agencies in European countries if they complied with US rules and fines of up to $6,000 per passenger and loss of landing rights if they failed to co-operate with US authorities. The new agreement, hammered out over video-conference, will allow US authorities to distribute passenger data outside the Customs and Border Protection agency. It will apply until the end of July 2007. The previous scheme allowed border protection officers to "pull" data from airline systems, whereas under the new arrangement data will be "pushed" to the US Department of Homeland Security, which will distribute it to US counter-terrorism and border control agencies, the BBC reports. "This new agreement will provide a possibility of giving passenger data to the US authorities while guaranteeing sufficient data protection," said Leena Luhtanen, Justice Minister of Finland, the country currently in the rotating EU presidency hot-seat. EU justice ministers are due to meet later on Friday to discuss the new arrangement, which is likely to be formally accepted next week. ®
And ninthlyAnd ninthly Colonel Riley spent most of that week pretending to be a baby blue whale. His friends did not seem to mind, and neither did the real whales. As a whale, Riley was cheerful, agile and smooth. Things only turned ugly when he tried to swallow 20,000 gallons of brine in a single gulp with the help of a device of his own design. Everyone thought Riley's brine rocket ingenious. But we recoiled at the motivation lurking behind the machine - Julio Stantore, Butterflies are Always Welcome I never expected the Cellular Telecommunications & Internet Association (CTIA) to give us our balls back. But like a 20-year-old rock star fueled only by drugs and fake breasts, the CTIA brought a big old sack and dumped it on California. While others cower behind the notion that cell phones affect our driving skills, the CTIA delivers a more practical message. "Independent studies, various federal safety officials, and numerous state representatives have all concurred that such legislation (prohibiting cell phone use in cars) is ineffective, most likely has a negligible impact on safety, and obscures the greater issue of driver distraction," the trade group reminds us. "In addition, law enforcement officers in all 50 states already have the ability to cite drivers for reckless or inattentive driving." The CTIA hit that message hard as California last month approved a law to ban talking on cell phones, starting in July 2008. Drivers rejecting handsfree technology face a minimum fine of $20 and a maximum fine of $50. How pathetic. Rallying against these onerous fines, the CTIA defended its constituents well. More importantly, the trade group defended the very core of the American spirit. Various studies have tried to gauge the impact that chatting on a cell phone has on driving skills. Some claim that cell phone-enabled drivers cause more accidents than drunks. On the other end of the spectrum, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that only 28 deaths in 1993 occurred as a result of cell phone use and that's out of 53,000 drivers tied to fatal crashes. America has long thrived on the notion that commerce triumphs over all else. It's this ethos that the CTIA has embraced and that makes us better than all other nations. It's refreshing to see the CTIA defend such a stance in a post 9/11 world so tied to fear and reticence. It's high time that we get on with our lives and tell people about our successes when at home, at the office, or in the car. The CTIA has recognized this and played into our Wild West roots. What's a few deaths here and there when we're in the midst of vigorous progress and forming a great nation? Given such context, it should come as no shock that CTIA is run by former football legend Steve Largent. Steve knows how to fill a jockstrap. The beer and liquor crowd could learn a thing or two from these geek lobbyists. For too long, our alcohol giants have let whiney mothers control legislation around so-called "drunk driving". Take, for example, the work of Dr David Hanson. He notes: Research suggests that using a cell phone while driving may cause more traffic fatalities than driving drunk. But when a MADD official was asked how traffic fatality statistics involving cell phone use compared to those involving drunk drivers, he tellingly replied: 'I have absolutely no idea, nor do I care.' The issue for MADD is no longer preventing auto accidents but preventing drinking. Anyone with half a brain knows that cell phone-enabled drivers pose far more of an immediate risk on the roadways than boozers. I've only seen four obviously drunk drivers in my entire life, while I face off against the cell phone crowd stopping short or weaving into my lane on a daily basis. And yet mothers want to put cell phone in the hands of children, while taking away our right to drive buzzed. Outrageous. If Budwesier had a half decent lobbyist, DUIs would carry a $50 maximum penalty too. Perhaps Largent could be tempted to work for the real good guys with a six-pack and a few million? Let's face the facts, America. Cell phone-enabled drivers are worse than drunk drivers, and neither group is that bad. Accidents will happen, and the threat of a $50 fine is more than enough to have us all pay a lot more attention while chatting or drinking. Let's keep America safe, but, more importantly, let's keep American sane. ® Otto Z. Stern is a director at The Institute of Technological Values - a think tank dedicated to a more moral digital age. He has closely monitored the IT industry's intersection with America's role as a world leader for thirty years. You can find Stern locked and loaded, corralling wounded iLemmings, talking, drinking and driving, suppressing Bill Gates U, developing strong Mexican engineers, masticating beta culture, booing our soccer team, following Jimmy Wales, nursing an opal-plated prostate, spanking open source fly boys, Googling Bro-Magnon Man, wearing a smashing suit, watching Dead Man, dropping a SkyCar on the Googleplex, spitting on Frenchmen, and vomiting in fear with a life-sized cutout of Hilary Rosen at his solar-powered compound somewhere in the Great American Southwest.
China has celebrated today's Moon Festival by releasing a list of ditties to be broadcast back to Earth from its Moon-probing satellite due for launch in 2007, Reuters reports. According to Xinhua news agency, the songs were selected by public vote and a "panel of experts" not thought to include Simon Cowell. The winner was folk ballad My Wonderful Home Town which pipped crowd-pleasers I Love China and Singing Praises of Motherland into second and third spots, respectively. Also on the playlist are China's national anthem and The East is Red - "a tribute to Mao Zedong, which was broadcast in 1970 from the country's first man-made terrestrial satellite". Xinhua said: "Experts said these songs can express Chinese people's love for the motherland, for life, peace and their pursuit of truth and nature, which will showcase the beauty of Chinese culture and its influence." When it's not singing the praises of the Motherland, China's lunar satellite will "obtain 3D images of the lunar surface, analyze elements and probe the depth of the lunar soil". ®
The premium rate industry has hit back at ICTSIS for the charge it imposed yesterday over misleading Big Brother voting rules. Channel 4 said it would cough the £40k+ the regulator is demanding in investigation costs from the broadcaster's text and phone premium rate providers Minick UK and iTouch. Network for Online Commerce chairman Roy Ellyat said: "This never was an issue that needed to go any further than a telephone call between ICSTIS and Channel 4. It should not be allowed to bring the Premium Rate business into disrepute for no good reason." ICTSIS' costs demand is a drop in the ocean of Channel 4 and its partners' annual milking of the Big Brother cash cow. The contestant reentry wheeze dreamt up by the show's producers prompted a tabloid campaign to have voting charges refunded. Ellyat added: "Big Brother is a game and at the end of the day nobody was harmed but Channel 4 did receive some excellent value for money publicity which assumedly made a significant contribution towards their 'costs'." ®
UK wireless watchdog Ofcom has published draft regulations that, when added to local law, allow iTrip owners to use their compact FM transmitters legally in this country.
Russian download store Allofmp3.com today responded with defiance to fresh US claims its activities are stalling Russia's attempts to join the World Trade Organisation. Allofmp3 sells music priced by file size at somewhere around a tenth of the cost per track of Western services like iTunes. America and record industry bodies say it does not pay any royalties and is illegal. Allofmp3's owners maintain that as a Russian business it complies fully with local copyright law. It has achieved second position behind Apple in the UK digital music market, largely by word of mouth. US trade representative Susan Schwab has been a prominent public critic of Allofmp3. Her office recently placed the company on a "notorious markets" list, and a speech last month blasted Russian authorities for allowing the site to operate freely. An Allofmp3 spokesman local media: "Susan Schwab markets us so effectively - she could already be our press secretary." A spokesman for Allofmp3's holding company MediaServices, Ilya Levitov, told AFP: "We announce on our website to every user that he or she should check the laws of the country in which he lives." The site's owners are battling the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry in Moscow courts. A stricter intellectual property regime that would bring Russia in line with Western rules was given preliminary approval by the Russian parliament last month, AFP reports. More here. ®
Virus writers have crafted a malware threat that serves up expensive Google AdSense web pages related to mesothelioma, a rare cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Industry workers affected by the disease have launched a series of lawsuits, a factor that means "ambulance chasing" lawyers pay through the nose to get a mention when searches for the term "mesothelioma" are made. The cost-per-click for the term "mesothelioma" is among the highest in the online ads business ranging from $4 to $13 and higher on various keyword bidding networks. This, in turn, makes the term a prime target for click-fraud. Google AdSense allows online publishers to make revenue by displaying Google ads relevant to the content of their site. Because Google pays the host Web site based on the number of clicks on their ads, the process can be susceptible to "click-fraud". The KMeth worm, which targets Yahoo! Messenger users, directs infected users to a web site serving a barrage of Google AdSense advertisements related to mesothelioma. Financially-motivated malware writers apparently hope to cash on the ruse through shares in the resulting advertising commissions which we doubt will materialise. Fraud detection mechanisms employed by Google are more than likely to identify rogue sites generating suspiciously high returns using such illicit tactics but that doesn't eliminate the other security risks consumers face from the worm. KMeth exploits IE vulnerabilities to infect surfers who visit malware infested sites controlled by hackers, promoted through IM messages sent to the Yahoo! Messenger contacts of infected users. The "status message" in Yahoo! Messenger can also be also hijacked, presenting potentially enticing messages to their contacts, such as "check out my blog" in order to trick potential marks into becoming infected, IM security firm FaceTime reports. Meanwhile an infected user's IM control panel is disabled, and their home page is hijacked to point towards rogue web sites designed to generate maximum revenue through click fraud. Using malware to perpetrate click-fraud is an established technique but the KMeth worm extends this idea by employing a battery of social engineering techniques. "Typically, financially-driven malware attacks use botnets to fraudulently increase traffic to specific online advertisements," said Chris Boyd, director of malware research for FaceTime Security Labs. "In this case, the hackers have cleverly borrowed tactics from botnet-creators to create a bot-less network of hijacked PC users to drive traffic to sites populated with these specific Google AdSense advertisements. Introducing the human factor into the scenario makes these 'bot-less nets' much more difficult to detect." A full write-up of the threat can be found on FaceTime's security research blog here. ®
A privacy group is suing the US Government for information about surveillance programmes after the FBI failed to respond to a freedom of information request. Meanwhile, a separate surveillance programme can continue while a legal challenge is processed. The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is taking the Department of Justice to court because of the FBI's failure to respond to its request for information on the DCS-3000 and Red Hook surveillance systems. The EFF believes that the DCS-3000 system is the latest version of the controversial Carnivore system which was designed to intercept and read emails. Red Hook is a system designed to perform a similar function for voice phone calls. Though the US government always maintained that the systems were designed to read the communications of terrorists, civil liberties activists have argued that its use was not limited to that. "Recent allegations of domestic spying by the US government already have both lawmakers and the general public up in arms," said EFF staff attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Americans have a right to know whether the FBI is using new technology to further violate their privacy. The Department of Justice needs to abide by the law and publicly release information about these surveillance tools." In a separate case, the US government has been allowed to carry on surveillance activities on people in the US while a legal case about the activity is ongoing. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) began a law suit in January accusing the government of conducting wiretaps on phone and internet communications without the proper warrants. The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of lawyers, academics and journalists who it said were being targeted because of their foreign contacts. Detroit district judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled in August that the surveillance breached the constitutional rights of US residents. The programme targets the communications of people in the US with people abroad. The Bush administration is appealing the ruling and had applied for the right to continue the surveillance while the appeal is heard. A three person federal appeals court panel has ruled that they can. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Google is close to buying YouTube for $1.6bn, according to reports. Props for the scoop, if the talks pan out, go to TechCrunch, the Red Herring of the Web 2.0 Generation, which today reported this "completely Unsubstantiated Google/YouTube Rumor". The WSJ today also says that Google and YouTube are negotiating and mention $1.6bn as the price. But this could merely mean that the two publications have the same source. According to the WSJ, the talks are at a sensitive stage and could break off. Which would be madness on YouTube's part, if it was doing the breaking. This enormously popular bazaar of video pratfalls, US government propaganda and stolen TV and film clips, needs a sugar daddy. At some point the VC money will run out, and at some point, it will be landed with a big copyright suit. Google has voluminous pockets; it has the servers and the bandwidth, and it is willing to tough it out with just about any copyright holder that gets its way. And while it may be the daddy of text search, it trails far behind YouTube, when it comes to video. YouTube's owners would be daft not to cut and run. ®
D-Link reckons its latest 24-port stackable Gigabit Ethernet switch should be just the ticket for small and medium-sized businesses looking to their next-generation network.
Alcatel reckons it's time that 10Gig Ethernet reached the wiring closet, and has extended its Omniswitch 9000 series with a low-end five-slot chassis able to support up to 24 10Gig ports, 96 1Gig ports, or a combination thereof. Like other 9000 series switches, the new 9600 offers features such as wire-rate IPv4/IPv6 processing, 802.1x and policy-based quality of service. It can also work with Alcatel's security appliances to do network access control, authenticating devices that want to connect to the network and using VLANs to quarantine them. All the 9000 series switches use the same cards, but unlike its eight and 16-slot siblings which can have two for high availability, the 9600 supports only one management card. The other four slots are available for line cards - six ports on a 10Gig card, 24 on a 1Gig card. Alcatel said it would add a Power-over-Ethernet Gigabit card later this year, to help with mobility and voice/video/data convergence by providing line power for devices such as wireless access points, webcams and IP phones. The OmniSwitch 9600 will compete with the likes of Cisco's Catalyst 4000 series, the HP ProCurve 5300 series and 3Com's Switch 4000 family. A 9600 chassis with power supply and management module lists for £6400, while line cards retail from around £2500 for 24 1Gig ports. ®
Millionaire entrepreneur Brendan Murtagh has offered to buy Smart Telecom for the grand sum of €1, as well as a 10 per cent stake in BidCo, the company formed to make the offer. The disposal recommended by Smart's directors means BidCo will assume Smart's estimated liabilities of €40m. Construction and property industry magnate Murtagh already owns just under 20 per cent of the seriously struggling telco, which had thousands of residential voice customers disconnected by Eircom during the week over a €1.7m debt owed to the infrastructure owner. The proposed deal as it currently stands is structured so that Smart will be de-listed from the London AIM market and the firm's shareholders will be offered a 10 per cent stake in Murtagh's private company BidCo, which will become the new owner of Smart. In a statement released on this evening, Smart said 42 per cent of its shareholders had committed to the deal. Around 80 per cent of shareholders will be needed to approve the transaction, which will be discussed at a Smart Telecom EGM expected soon. The company's interim financial results for the first six months of 2006 showed fixed assets of euro;63m, liabilities of euro;60 million, and shareholder funds of euro;3.4m. Smart Telecom said its financial position had "deteriorated further" since June. Ciaran Casey. Smart Telecom's acting chief executive - he replaced Smart's co-founder Oisin Fanning who stepped down for health reasons recently - said the proposed transaction would allow the company to continue to provide a full service to its corporate and residential broadband customers. "While this represents a very disappointing outcome for all shareholders who have supported the company over many years, it is the only option to ensure that shareholders have an opportunity to get some value for their shareholding. The proposal put forward by BidCo will allow Smart to deal responsibly with all its creditors in due course and ensure that a newly capitalised Smart will continue to deliver to its many customers the most competitive corporate and broadband offering in the market," he said. A Smart Telecoms spokesman was unable to confirm if a cash alternative would be offered to shareholders if the 10 percent stake in BidCo was not accepted. As a condition of the sale to BidCo, five of Smart's current directors will resign from the company's board. They are Ken Barry, Ray King, Paul Sullivan, Maria Pearl Roche and Tormod Hermansen. Kyran O'Dwyer has been appointed acting Chairman until the transaction is voted on by the shareholders. Smart has already reduced its headcount from 348 to 100, and last month announced its intention to concentrate solely on broadband rather than on its low margin voice, call card and payphone business units. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Bad brews and wasted beer could be a thing of the past, according to Rockwell Automation, which claims that its packaged Brewhouse Solution covers 80 per cent of a brewery's production management needs. The Rockwell software talks to the brewery plant over Ethernet to track the beer production process in real-time, and connect that back to stock levels, recipes, order tracking, etc. "Based on a virtual [virtu-ale?] brewery model, the Brewhouse Solution ensures that each step in the production process is executed and repeatable, leading to higher yield, consistent quality and greater production flexibility," the company said. It also lets the brewery hop between beers faster - you simply tell the system what beer you're making today - and makes it easier to develop new recipes, said Charley Rastle, Rockwell's global beverage marketing leader. "It's partly about consistency - people want things to taste the same," he said. "The other thing we're starting to see is the big brewers are adding more brands, so maybe it's 11 batches of light lager, and then the twelfth batch is something more interesting. "All you need is for automation to gain you an extra batch a day, and it's like gaining an extra brewery." There's other savings to be had as well. For example, Rockwell customer Harutsu Sake Brewing reckons automation has reduced its labour costs by 60 per cent. It's not small beer though. Rastle said that this sort of complexity isn't practical until you're brewing 100,000 to 200,000 hectolitres (17.5 to 35 million UK pints) a year, but said there's hundreds of breweries of that size around the world. Automating a brewery is hardly new - this writer recalls visiting Bass's Cape Hill brewery in Birmingham, 20-odd years ago, where everything was run by a couple of DEC VAXess - but Rockwell claims that a packaged solution will make it easier and cheaper to do, as well as tracking the process more closely. "In the past, we supplied the automation hardware and software, and then our partners developed the automation, but always from scratch," said Rastle. "Now, only 20 per cent needs to be custom-configured for that specific facility - how many coppers it has and so on." For anyone researching factory automation, this all provides an excellent excuse to visit the Brau Breviale beer trade show in Nuremberg next month, where Rockwell is launching the Brewhouse Solution. On the other hand, if you've ever wondered why all lagers taste the same, now you know...
New developments in online selling and the lawPublishers and authors are taking Google to court over its programme to digitise the libraries of four US universities, Oxford university library and the New York Public Library. Google has said that it will subpoena two of its fiercest competitors, Yahoo! and Microsoft, for information relating to their own book scanning operations as part of the case. The information being sought by Google includes project costs, lists of books, estimates of sales and details of discussions with publishers. The competitors may be reluctant to hand over sensitive commercial information to Google, but the court has ordered restrictions on who can see the data. "We have also made clear to these organizations that we will work with them to address any concerns about their confidential information," Google spokeswoman Megan Lamb told newswire Bloomberg. Google said that it would also issue similar subpoenas for documents from Amazon.com and publisher Random House. Google's project involves the digitising of books at the libraries so that they can be searchable in a project called Google Book Search. The publishing industry is instead backing a separate project called the Open Content Alliance (OCA). The OCA's specific aims are to make sure that content is freely available and that works in the public domain remain in the public domain after digitisation. That programme is backed by a mixture of companies and non-profit organisations. The OCA is backed by Adobe, Hewlett-Packard, the Smithsonian Institute Libraries and the UK's National Archives. Yahoo! and Microsoft are also part of the OCA, and it is documents in relation to this which Google is asking to see. The OCA seeks specific copyright permission before copying any work. Google's project allows a rights owner to stop a work being copied but automatically copies works unless it has been instructed not to. The Association of American Publishers is co-ordinating the legal action and says that copyright law mandates that someone ask before copying any work, rather than operate on an opt-out basis. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
T-Mobile USA, America's smallest cellco, is to splashing $2.7bn on a 3G network build-out. Until last month, the German-owned firm was constrained by a severe shortage of wireless spectrum - meaning crap reception in many areas and more network busy signals than its rivals. That was solved last month with the conclusion of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spectrum auction. T-Mobile USA dropped $4.2bn to ensure that it was the high bidder in 120 markets. Befitting its European roots, T-Mobile is deploying UMTS technology for the new network. It expects to to start offering 3G services in several markets by mid-2007, to substantially complete coverage by 2008 and finish the gig by 2009. Of course, T-Mobile's rivals are already well advanced with their own 3G networks, but since Americans are not exactly early adopters of data-paced mobile services, T-Mobile's tardiness shouldn't harm them too much.
Microsoft today made available a new test build for Windows Vista, the mythical desktop operating system of legend. It's called RC2, or Release Candidate 2 (build number 5744), and it really is only for diehard Vista testaholics. And the stupid. The download page comes with a warning in bold type: Please note: This build may not have the same level of support or servicing via Windows Update as RC1, and you may not be able to upgrade from this build to the final version of Windows Vista. Still interested? Then click this way. Microsoft had previously said that RC1 (build 5600) would be its last pre-release build to be made public. Opened for download business early last month, RC1 was expected to attract six million testers. Windows Vista is supposed to launch in January 2007, but seeing is believing. With Vista, Microsoft has bust more deadlines than a deadbeat journalist. ®