Police in Oakland, California today arrested Hans Reiser, the well-known Linux developer, on suspicion of murdering his estranged wife. Nina Reiser, mother of two, disappeared on 3 September, after dropping their children at Reiser's Oakland home. She has not been seen since. Police have not found her body, but say there is enough circumstantial evidence to indicate that she was murdered. "This includes biological evidence that can put the missing woman in a car her husband had access to," the San Jose Mercury reports. Nina Reiser's disappearance has attracted enormous media interest in Northern California. A website devoted to finding her has been established here. Hans Reiser, 43, is the creator of the eponymous reiserfs filesystem for Linux and other Unix-like systems. According to earlier reports, he had refused to talk to police about his missing wife. ®
Sun Microsystems has moved to quash growing reports (here and here) of problems between Java and Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system, due next month.
Industry commentIndustry comment Back in the mists of the past, people gave names to the days of the week. Some of these have survived in the names of our modern weekdays. Monday is Moon Day, Thursday is named after the Norse storm god Thor and the roman god Saturn is remembered every Saturday. We think this is a great idea and should be revived. People must agree with this as they have already started with the first name: today is Patch Tuesday. Looking through the past year or so we can see that there are some names for the other days of this week almost which are almost choosing themselves. Worrying Monday The day before patch Tuesday when all an administrator has is a worrying snippet of information about the patches that are soon to be released. Will they have to scramble to close a vulnerability in their enterprise? They have to wait and see. Patch Tuesday We think enough has been said about this one. Viral Wednesday With 24 hours gone since the release of the patches and details of the vulnerabilities being fix out in the open, Malware writers have a field day. New exploits and Trojans pour onto the internet hoping to catch people before they can close any of the holes that weren’t already being used to attack systems. Vulnerable Thursday Now the excitement of Patch Tuesday is past, those niggling little vulnerabilities that researchers have been sitting on can be publicly disclosed, safe in the knowledge that there is a month for any exploitation to do damage before the next round of patches. Rollback Friday The first administrators and users to patch their systems will now be discovering which patch is the dud this month. Maybe it was the patch documentation that wasn’t quite complete or perhaps a bug in the patch itself. Either way, a patch to fix one vulnerability has stopped something unrelated from working, or worse still, it has opened a wholly new vulnerability. ® Martin Ingram is VP of product management at AppSense.
CommentComment IBM is in full swing promoting its highly integrated and extensive It management tools and technologies which it's ready to roll-out into an enthusiastic, waiting business community. Or so it thinks. Why does this seem like another chapter in Kafka's The Trial to me?
Symantec today announced a hook-up with outsourcer Accenture to capitalise on a lack of security expertise the pair perceive in IT departments looking to bullet-proof their networks. Security Transformation Services will dispatch consultants from both firms to customers. Accenture security MD Alastair MacWillson said: "While today’s announcement is a key part of Accenture’s broader security business strategy, the solutions provided by the joint organisation are a critical aspect of that strategy, and will help our clients improve security while at the same time significantly reducing complexity and cost." The experto-suits will be parachuted into firms to help with secure application development, and monitoring and management of secure networks. In the US the new partnership will tackle compliance with Sarbanes-Oxley and health regulations. Symantec and Accenture hope forthcoming EU directives will provide leverage across the Pond. Security Transformation Services SWAT teams will be available in the US and Europe only to begin with. Presumably, Accenture has plenty of highly-paid consultants available in the UK, twiddling their thumbs following its retreat from the NHS IT programme fiasco. ®
"Mirror, mirror on the wall, do you think I need to shave? Or maybe change my diet?" Such were ENN's questions at the Accenture Technology Forum in Dublin on Tuesday. Accenture Technology's research in intelligent home services could soon lead to the "persuasive mirror" appearing in bathrooms and bedrooms across the world. The mirror operates using a computer screen and two video cameras either side that scan the user before verbalising information and advice. "Sometimes there's a need for some sort of a coach in the home situation - a life coach," said Martin Illsley, research director with Accenture Technology. The mirror presents a morphed image of the user to provide details of how they could look if they continue with the diet and lifestyle they lead and what they might look like were they to change it. Accenture Technology is working with the University of California, San Diego on the mirror, which is just one of a series of devices the company is researching for intelligent home services. Illsley was in Dublin on Tuesday to discuss these services and several other projects Accenture Technology are currently researching in Nice, France. Among these are behaviour monitoring systems which use sensors to determine normal and abnormal behaviours. Possible applications include monitoring car parks for suspect behaviour, or what exactly handlers do with our luggage on the other side of the rubber flaps at airport baggage carousels. By recognising normal behaviour the sensors are able to recognise unexpected activity. "We need to measure the usual before getting to the unusual," said Illsley. The system is currently being used by a bank in France and has been used to monitor activity and improve efficiency by recognising where and when certain customers entered the bank. Those with a fear of Big Brother might be wary of the "Dilbert scenario spotting" function of the system, as Illsley described it. The system monitors movements within a workplace and can detect if members of staff are in areas they aren't meant to be, or are away from their desk for long periods. Illsley said that given the privacy issues this raises the technology would need to be used in different ways depending on the environment. Illsley also discussed problems with the development of wireless sensor networks. He said they are good at delivering value in some circumstances but still have limitations. "Sensor fusion is an issue that hasn't been solved. Most systems aren't probabilistic in nature, they just provide a positive or negative response, so overlapping sensors lead to sensor fusion issues," he said. "For example, if a company uses a badge system and a video system to monitor staff and they contradict each other then there is a problem. We don't have the middleware at this time to solve this issue." Copyright © 2006, ENN
The NFC Forum has just published the Smart Posters component of its short-range-radio standard, while Nokia continues with large-scale trials of the technology. Smart Posters are signs, billboards, or any other form of advertising which will incorporate a passive (unpowered) NFC Tag, from which a user can extract data by touching it with their NFC-enabled handset. The data could be a free ringtone, a URL, or even the configuration for a local Wi-Fi hotspot. But Smart Posters are much more important to the NFC than a mechanism for giving away a few tones or setting up networking. Smart Posters have been promoted as the mechanism by which network operators can make money out of NFC. The idea is that all those extracted URLs will generate lots of data traffic for the operator - which would be fine, except that an increasing proportion of network operators are charging a flat rate for data, so more traffic is a burden, not a profit. Meanwhile, Nokia is running yet more trials to show how great NFC is. This time it's public transport in Tampere, Finland, in conjunction with TeliaSonera and TietoEnator. We have to assume that Nokia has an awful lot of NFC-equipped 3220s lying around the place, as it doesn't seem to have bothered to equip any more up-to-date handsets with the technology and this trial, as so many others, will be using the three year old phone. With the Smart Poster specification completed, Nokia and its friends desperately need to prove that NFC can make money for network operators, who will be expected to subsidise handsets sporting the technology, but reducing bus queues in Tampere is not going to achieve that. ®
Here's one for the black helicopter files: is Yahoo! blocking the sending of YouTube URLs via its splendid IM service? Yes, says this post on Slashdot: This morning I attempted to copy and paste a youtube.com URL to two of my friends via Yahoo IM. But they kept complaining they did not see anything. Actually they saw all the text message lines except the line with the youtube URL. Is YIM blocking the competitor out? Slashdot reported: We verified in this office that a fully formed youtube.com URL could not be passed on YIM; changing the URL to read youtubex.com caused it to go through. Any other URL we tried worked. Well, we tried it this morning and there's no problem whatsoever. Which begs the question: if Yahoo! is not acting to prevent the dissemination of Google's $1.6bn crap home video archive, who else can save humanity from the relentless onslaught of mass mediocrity?* Bootnote *Yes, we know: lawyers. Hundreds and hundreds of lawyers filing breach of copyright suits.
AMD's upcoming 'Barcelona' quad-core Opteron CPU will deliver just "a few percentage points of added performance here and there", a company official has admitted. Instead, many of the tweaks improve the design of the part's architecture, including FB-DIMM support.
The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is calling on the government to overhaul its procurement of technology.
Intel has yet to ship 'Santa Rosa', the next major update to its Centrino laptop and small form-factor PC platform, but already it's working on the follow-up, codenamed 'Montevina', due to ship in 2008, it has been claimed.
CommentComment Just for a moment, please regard the humble bar code - unloved, old, barely noticed by people these days. What does it do? Well, the most used bar code, based on the Universal Product Code (UPC) standard, first appeared in 1974 on a pack of Wrigley's chewing gum in Ohio.
Carousel or missing trader fraud has fallen for the second month in a row. Figures from the Office of National Statistics reveal that trade in goods associated with the fraud fell to £1.2bn in August compared with £1.5bn the month before. Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has made the fraud a top priority, which has seen totals fall two months in a row. It has devoted more investigators to the scam and is getting EC law changed to alter the way VAT is paid for goods such as mobile phones and computer chips, which are most often used for the fraud. Last month HMRC scored a major victory against a bank it claims was involved in a large percentage of carousel transactions. It claimed some 2,500 UK residents were using the First Curacao International Bank to clear carousel payments. Customs worked with Dutch authorities to shut it down. Carousel fraud involves importing VAT-free goods from another EC country, selling them on with VAT added and then disappearing before paying HMRC the VAT. More complex fraud involves exporting, or claiming to export, goods in order to claim VAT back from the Revenue. Often the same goods are circled in and out several times. ®
An outbreak of bovine TB in Birmingham earlier this year which infected six clubbers was traced to a man who drank "untreated, unpasteurised milk", the BBC reports. The half-dozen infectees - susceptible to infection due to weakened immune systems caused by disease such as diabetes or HIV - were "thought to have all picked it up at a bar and nightclub". One woman subsequently died. There is growing concern that drug-resistant TB strains of tuberculosis in eastern Europe and central Asia are "putting EU states at risk of a deadly outbreak", the BBC notes. The World Health Organisation confirmed the "hottest zones" of new strains all lie on the EU's borders, while the Red Cross described the threat as "the most alarming tuberculosis situation since World War II". ®
Carphone Warehouse has bought up AOL UK for £370m in cash, instantly bumping up its broadband customer base by 1.5 million. The phone company will put £250m down with the rest to be paid on an installment plan over 18 months. Last month, the Times reported that BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse were battling it out for AOL UK, and now it seems that Carphone has won out and got itself over two million new subscribers, even if 600K of them are still using dial-up connections. Assuming the deal gets regulatory approval it should be all completed by the end of the year, making Carphone Warehouse the third largest broadband provider in the UK, after NTL and BT. Since offering its "free" broadband service, Carphone Warehouse has had 625,000 applications, and now has 421,000 connected subscribers, but this acquisition ups the ante considerably. Equally interesting is a commercial agreement with AOL in relation to "the Audience business" which "provides Carphone Warehouse with a ready-made platform via which it can generate material incremental value from its large and growing customer base". So this deal isn't just about getting more customers, but about making some money from those customers too. ®
The PCI-SIG has released version 0.9 of the PCI Express 2.0 specification, to all intents and purposes the incarnation that will be ratified as the standard.
A technicolour finch discovered earlier this year in eastern Colombia has been declared a new species, Reuters reports. The Gorrión-montes de los Yariguíes (aka Yariguies Brush-Finch, aka Atlapetes latinuchus yariguierum) was recorded back in June by a team from the Anglo-Colombian Fundación ProAves (report in Spanish), in the Reinita Cielo Azul reserve in Colombia's eastern Andean range. The Yariguies Brush-Finch gets its name from the mountain range's previous inhabitants - the Yariguíes tribe who legendarily committed mass suicide rather than bow to Spanish conquest. The team which tracked down the bird included Thomas Donegan of the Fundación ProAves and Blanca Huertas of the Natural History Museum. Huertas said: "The description of a new bird is a rare event. However, this is just the first of several new species that we will be describing from the Yariguies mountains, including several new butterflies." Any twitchers among you keen to get your binoculars over to Colombia for a shufti at the Yariguies Brush-Finch should note that the ProAves team's expedition was conducted partly by helicopter - the only way to get to remote parts of the Reinita Cielo Azul reserve lying at over 3,200 metres above sea level. ®
The CEO of Microsoft Germany has resigned citing differences with the company's US headquarters. Jurgen Gallman, a VP of Microsoft Europe, Middle East and Africa and CEO of Microsoft Germany, resigned last week and sent an email to staff blaming differences of opinion with HQ. He said Redmond was forcing increasing restrictions on its German subsidiary and ignoring local requirements. Microsoft has only said that he asked to leave because of differences over future strategy. Gallman is replaced with immediate effect by Klaus Holse Andersen who was VP of Microsoft Business Solutions. He will report to Jean-Phillipe Courtois, president of Microsoft International. There's more on Techworld here. ®
Microsoft has posted its monthly round-up of Windows security updates targeting, among others, owners of Windows XP Home Edition- and Windows XP Media Center Edition-based PCs.
Japan's I-O Data will next month ship a series of colourful USB Flash drives it claims deliver almost double the read and write speeds of standard products. Due to be made available in a choice or blue, red or black, and in capacities ranging from 512MB to 8GB, the ToteBag BH drives splits the storage into two banks which can be accessed simultaneously. The upshot, said I-O Data, is a write speed of 50s for 469MB of data, down from 91s for past products. The read speed likewise hits 21s, down from 40s. Oh, and there's a clip on the end so you don't lost the cap... ®
A judge has fine tuned one of the many disputes between Broadcom and Qualcomm, holding that Qualcomm has in fact violated one of Broadcom's patents. The decision passed down by International Trade Commission judge Charles Bullock wasn't exactly a win-win for Broadcom. He tossed out Broadcom's complaints around two disputed patents, saying Qualcomm did not violate the patents for technology found in cell phones and other wireless gear. Still, Bullock did find that Qualcomm violated parts of another patent around saving battery life in cell phones – patent number 6,714,983. The two companies have no less than 10 lawsuits and countersuits against each other scattered around worldwide courts. A judge in San Diego last week spanked the founders of both firms and told them to find a way to get along. Not surprisingly, no deal between the rivals has been reached. The recent decision around Qualcomm's patent violation - a fact the company disputes - must still go before a full ITC panel before action is taken. Broadcom expects things to go its way. "The commission is expected to issue a permanent exclusion order barring the importation into the United States of infringing Qualcomm chips, as well as a cease and desist order barring further sales of infringing products that have already been imported into the United States by Qualcomm," Broadcom said. Qualcomm has already started to explore designs that will bypass the need for Broadcom's technology. According to Qualcomm, judge Bullock recommended that third parties which have already built the technology in question into their products should not face "downstream remedies." Lucky for them. ®
Microsoft published 10 patches as part of its regular Patch Tuesday update cycle yesterday, but many users are experiencing problems getting hold of the software updates because of delays involving Microsoft's Windows Update delivery mechanism. Users looking for immediate protection are advised to download the updates directly from Microsoft's website. Redmond published six critical patches this month covering Windows Shell, PowerPoint, Excel, Word, XML Core Services, and Office. All six allow an attacker to craft a web page or file that allows remote code execution, according to patch management firm Patchlink. Most immediate concern will focus on a fix for a WebFolderView ActiveX security bug affecting IE (MS06-057), which has already been actively exploited by hackers. Fixes for a series of four critical bugs in PowerPoint (MS06-058) and coding flaws in Microsoft's implementation of XML (MS06-061) are also high on the danger list. Microsoft's overview of the various patches it released this month can be found here. Its explanation of Windows Update glitches can be found here. Fixing this SNAFU has to be a high priority for Microsoft and doubtless Redmond's hard working, much put-upon security gnomes will be denied access to fresh air and natural sunlight until the problem is put right. After this month, Microsoft is dropping patching support for Windows XP Service Pack 1. November also marks the last patch cycle that Server Update Services (SUS) will be supported. SUS users should consider upgrading to Windows Server Update Services, the SANS Institute advises. SANS's Incident Storm Centre has again produced a useful overview that'll help sys admins prioritse patching work. ®
ReviewReview Unlike some of the digital camera brands gracing shop shelves, Ricoh can claim a long and surprisingly prestigious photographic heritage, including development of the world's first mass-produced twin-lens reflex, the RicohFlex III, which launched back in 1950 with a class-leading price and a good quality lens spoilt by soft corners...
Expect to see the first Core 2 Duo-derived Celeron M processors in Q1 2007, the same timeframe Intel has assigned to the release of low-voltage Core 2 Duo CPUs, it has been claimed by folk who've had a look at the chip giant's latest mobile roadmap.
Sony Ericsson is preparing a handheld web-friendly tablet phone equipped with the ability to pick up DVB-H digital television broadcast if a heap of realistic-looking photos and concept paintings posted on the web. Or is it?
Security gadget maker Spam Cube is to bring its anti-malware hardware to a worldwide audience, courtesy of a tie-in with distributor eSys. The email-scanning device is currently only available to buyers in the US.
Samsung announced the SCH-B600 ten megapixel camera-phone way back in March this year, but this week launched the device to consumers in its native South Korea. The camera's equipped with a 3x optical zoom, 5x digital zoom, auto-focus and a flash, but if photography's not your thing, the B600 can pick up digital TV broadcasts, not to mention the usual music and phone features. It'll cost KRW900,000 ($939/£506/€749) South Korea Telecom customers. ®
The paranoid style pervades internet discourse like sap coursing through a tree - as we've seen with the 9/11 "Truth Movement" and the net neutrality scare - and as we've previously noted in the fascinating SCO vs Linux saga. For three years conspiracy theorists examining the entrails of the litigation have looked for the smoking gun: evidence that behind the curtain lurked Microsoft, directing investments and pulling all the strings. Microsoft had good reason to see Linux come a cropper, and SCO knew its litigation offensive would eventually bring it head to head with IBM, the world's biggest computer company, and the business which needs Linux the most. So rationally, SCO could have used some powerful help. Then again, direct involvement would have damaged Microsoft immensely, exposing it to catastrophic litigation (remember that it's a convicted monopolist that's monitored for compliance, and that's sworn to behave). So was Microsoft really the power behind SCO's Linux jihad? Or did it simply wink approvingly from the sidelines? We now seem to have conclusive evidence that while Redmond's Black Helicopters revved their engines, they never took off - let alone flew any active combat missions. Gun nut and self-appointed spokesman for the open source "movement" Eric S Raymond thought he'd found evidence of a conspiracy two years ago, by exposing an email from a long-time associate of new SCO boss Darl McBride, Mike Anderer. Retained as a contractor to look for new capital for SCO, Anderer boasted of Microsoft's influence in gaining SCO some high profile investment. "Microsoft will have brough [sic] in $86m for us including Baystar," he claimed. VC firm BayStar bought a 17.5 per cent stake in SCO for $50m in late 2003, but the relationship turned sour. Baystar withdrew from the deal six months later, blaming McBride for being all mouth and no trousers. Raymond said this proved Microsoft was funding the anti-Linux litigation and that SCO was just a "puppet". In fact, BayStar's Lawrence Goldfarb was simply confirming that Microsoft had approached BayStar two months before it disclosed its investment, but hadn't stumped up any cash. Far from being the smoking pistol, it was the conspiracy that should-have-been, but never was. Now those communications between Goldfarb and Microsoft have been disclosed in a little more detail. An IBM filing contains testimony by the Baystar member himself. A senior Redmond VP, Richard Emerson, approached Goldfarb "sometime in 2003" about investing in The SCO Group. Goldfarb alleges Emerson, "stated that Microsoft wished to promote SCO and its pending lawsuit against IBM and the Linux operating system. But Microsoft did not want to be seen as attacking IBM or Linux". "Mr Emerson and I discussed a variety of investment structures wherein Microsoft would 'backstop', or guarantee in some way, BayStar's investment...Microsoft assured me that it would in some way guarantee BayStar's investment in SCO." That much we already know. Goldfarb confirms the offer was never followed through - Redmond stopped returning his calls - and Emerson subsequently left Microsoft. So no guarantee was ever made. Maybe Emerson was a Register reader, and got wise? About the same time, we noted how Intel had evaded anti-trust scrutiny by avoiding written communications - while Microsoft's gassy executives emailed themselves into heaps of trouble by committing every comical boast and threat to email or IM (see Why Intel doesn't write stuff down) The cautious Emerson left no written details. Yesterday, Microsoft confirmed that it had done little more than make approving noises, to Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Todd Bishop: "Microsoft has no financial relationship with BayStar and never agreed to guarantee any of BayStar's $50m investment in SCO. The BayStar declaration confirms that no guarantee was ever provided. Microsoft does have a deal with SCO that has been widely reported. We paid SCO for licensing rights to ensure IT interoperability for UNIX migration technology, currently in use in Microsoft Utilities for UNIX-based Applications." So there. And yet people will imagine the shadows of Black Helicopters, if they really want to. Facts only make the dedicated conspiracy theorist more determined. "This won't faze the nuts. They're immune to any reality check," wrote Alexander Cockburn recently, describing the 9/11 conspiracies. "Such fantasists are not the foot soldiers of any movement for constructive social change." ®
UK police are attempting to reach thousands of Brits who have become victims of malware-powered ID theft scam. A computer seized in the US contained personal data - including names, addresses, credit card information and transaction records - from around 2,300 UK punters. The data was swiped using key-logging Trojan software, according to the Metropolitan Police Computer Crime Unit, which is investigating the case. Police are not explaining how the US computer came to be seized in the interests of protecting what's described as an ongoing investigation. It's unclear how much, if indeed any, money has been stolen from online accounts as a result of the scam nor how many people from countries outside the UK are at potential risk of fraud. "It is too early to establish at this early stage how the computers have been infected. However, there are thousands of computer users worldwide who have had their computers compromised and data stolen," a Computer Crime Unit detective said in a statement. Ironically, Met Police attempts to notify potential victims by email are often being ignored, ZDNet reports. "We're appealing for anyone who's had an email from the Met officers who work in the Computer Crime Unit to get in touch. There's a security measure that people have to go through when they ring, but people are ignoring the emails because they think they're a hoax," a Metropolitan Police rep said. ®
Those of us who have been waiting 50 years for the answer to the question "where's my bloody flying car?" need wait no longer. It's right here on eBay: Yes indeed, the Moller M400X Skycar may not actually be "certified for use by the Federal Aviation Authority nor as a licensed road vehicle", but for a bid in excess of the current $1,751,750, you too could hover majestically above your own lawn while the neighbours look on with amazement and envy. A word of caution, though: the M400X has only ever been tested to an altitude of 40ft and using ground-based remote controls. Wannabe Biggles are duly warned that once you get in the cockpit, you're on your own. We advise life, accident, and third-party liability insurance, and plenty of it. ® Bootnote Ok, that's that one sorted, now where's the bloody robotic butler I was promised back in 1956, eh? Oh yes, and an aeronautical ta very much to Craig Graham for the Skycar tip-off.
Momentary horse-laugh of the day goes to Chris Suellentrop, an editor at Slate, writing in Wired about becoming a convert to the decrepit church of cyberterror in "Sim City: Terrortown:"
Site NewsSite News Reg Hardware is expanding. We're inviting applications for the following two posts: Reviews Editor and Reporter...
The SEC may be struggling with the vast scope of its stock option investigation if its delay in actually collecting a fine from Brocade is anything to go by. Storage switch maker Brocade, the first company implicated in the scandal is yet to have its settlement approved, many months after a deal was struck. Brocade agreed the $7m fine with local SEC officials in California before the summer and set the dollars aside. It's a trifle against cash coffers swelled by four consecutive record quarters for Brocade, but there's frustration at the SEC's apparent heel-dragging in Washington; the penalty is yet to be approved. "Perhaps they're on a different time frame to us," said worldwide marketing VP Tom Buiocchi. There's wider resentment in Silicon Valley over a perceived double standard the affair has spotlighted. As a "niche" executive, ex-Brocade chief Greg Reyes was a soft target, it's mumbled. Some are asking whether Apple's Steve Jobs should be in the prosecutor's firing line too, except for the fact he is Steve Jobs, America's hippest turtlenecked-tech-exec, with products in millions of homes. The SEC's interest in Apple is ongoing. Jobs issued a mea culpa on backdating on October 4 , saying: "I apologize to Apple's shareholders and employees for these problems, which happened on my watch." The comment was made the same day an internal investigation cleared him of personally benefiting from backdating. He was aware favourable grants were dished out in some cases, investigators found, though was "unaware of the accounting implications". The same story from Greg Reyes' defence fell on deaf ears at an August dismissal hearing. The ex-CEO had not been plugged into the ramifications of backdating stock options on accounts submissions to the SEC, it was claimed. Attorney Richard Marmaro said: "Nowhere in this affidavit does it allege the defendants intended that consequence." NetApp CEO Dan Warmenhoven has been the most vocal against the investigations after an internal review confirmed the NAS specialist was bullet-proof on stock options. In August he told Business Week: "I think the government is looking to find some egregious examples [of wrongdoing] and to publicly hang people for them. That's fine. But where does it stop?"®
BlunkettwatchBlunkettwatch Stunning revelations in today's excerpts from The Blunkett Tapes in the Guardian - although the offshore jurisdiction limbo that is Guantanamo Bay is generally held to be a US innovation, it was in fact devised within easy bagging and tagging range of the very offices whence we report. Like vertical take-off aircraft, the hovercraft, apocalyptic science fiction and Churchillian rhetoric it was in fact a British innovation. And, like all of the above, it was lifted and commercialised by our 'special' relations. It is October 2001 and, the late Home Secretary writes, HMG is wondering uneasily what to do with all of its suspected terrorists. The Foreign Office cautions that it might not be entirely advisable to sign agreements with "certain countries" on the transfer of terror suspects. Plus ca change, although these days we're rather less scrupulous about who we sign bagging agreements with, more recent Home Secretaries have been having the devil of a job getting the beggars to sign anyway. (Something about them not seeing the point of promising not to torture people when they flatly deny that they torture people anyway). Says David: "I had suggested we might get people out of the country by moving [them] to Gibraltar." Which is possibly not something that'd go down a treat with Gibraltar's local government, so you can maybe see the objection. But no, apparently you can't, because it wasn't that. "Someone said Gibraltar is too easy to escape from [oh, right...] and anyway it is too close to Morocco [but aren't they on our side?], so what about Ascension Island? The Foreign Office were apparently unhappy so I said: 'Well, we could send them to the Falklands!'" Great plan, David. Hostile environment, sheep, uncleared minefields, some squaddies, but no shooting and no Taliban. So ship in Taliban suspects, then see if it reminds you of anywhere else. But whatever, we didn't do it, and the rest is history. Or, given Gitmo's poorly-documented un-status, perhaps not. Anyone suspecting that the people running HMG might not be entirely glued would do well to rewind a month, to September 11 2001 where a bunkered (and we trust tin-hatted) COBR emergency briefing is taking place. The Global War on Terror is afoot, and the War Cabinet is discussing matters of national and international security, to wit, the protection of the upcoming Labour Party conference. "It was put to me that there should be a battleship off the coast [Brighton rocks, unexpectedly] that would have capacity for ground-to-air missiles in case unauthorised planes looked as if ["looked as if? Hmm...] they were going to attack the conference centre or hotel. When I said that I thought this was way over the top, the MoD [said] they could have missiles mounted either on the roof or in a series of lorries near by. I vetoed that as well." Not even a gas mask then? Spoilsport. ®
Intel's upcoming ICH9 South Bridge family, due to ship in Q2 2007 with the 'Bearlake' chipset series, will support what the chip company calls "Rapid Recover Technology" to get users up and running quickly if their primary hard drive fails, it has been claimed.
Indian outsourcing giant HCL Technologies has told its software engineers they have to work longer days without any extra pay for the greater good of the company.
Ericsson has entered into a deal with MTN, with funding from the GSM Association, to supply electricity for cell base stations using biodiesel-powered generators. While currently only a pilot project, the idea is to establish the viability of biodiesel for network rollouts across the developing world. Biodiesel works much like conventional diesel, and often in unmodified engines, but is supposed to be carbon-neutral as the carbon released when it is burnt is absorbed by the next crop. The greenness of large-scale use of biofuels is still open to question, but as well as deploying base stations, Ericsson and MTN will work with the local population to create crops and processing to manufacture the fuel locally - and that's got to help the environment if nothing else does. The first base station will be in Lagos, with expansion into eastern and south western Nigeria to quickly follow. We'll be watching the success of the project with interest, but for the moment it's just nice to be able to report something about Nigeria without mentioning online fraud at all. ®
OpinionOpinion Former HP chairman Patricia Dunn has displayed remarkable courage during the unravelling of the company's spy scandal. Where others might hide behind humility and full disclosure, Dunn has bravely moved to rewrite history and fashion her image in something approaching a decent light.
According to a report on The Middle East Media Research Institute, Apple's NY Fifth Avenue store has been slammed by "an Islamic website" as a "new insult to Islam".
Nokia is bundling Orb's "MyCasting" client onto one of its smartphones, giving punters the chance to access their own TV subscriptions and music libraries on the go. Today's announcement is for one phone, and one market only - the N80 Internet Edition Wi-Fi/3G slider phone soon to be launched in the USA - but the deal is sure to be closely watched by the wider industry. Vodafone launched an Orb trial deal in Germany this summer under the name "MeinFlo". This year has seen plenty of hype about TV on mobile devices. Verizon's VCast and Sprint's Sprint TV offer clips and content in a range of subscription deals. Vendors are pushing TV operators to adopt DVB-H and MediaFlo, a digital broadcast system optimised for mobile devices. But why bother when you can simply use the cable subscription, and the channels it includes, that you already pay for? Orb requires a TV tuner card and a small run-time client on a Windows PC: that's enough to unlock music and photo collections, and streaming radio and TV broadcasts, for use on another PC or mobile device. Users can also remotely record TV shows and play them back later. Widespread adoption of Orb would make operators' investments in high bandwidth multimedia services such as DVB-H fairly pointless. We reviewed the N80 here and previewed the Internet Edition, here. ®
Symantec is shifting its strategy towards protecting information and interactions on the net, rather than just devices or computer networks. The announcement of its strategy for next-generation security came with the launch of a major product revamp from the security software giant, which is facing increased competition from Microsoft, especially in the consumer security market. Dubbed "Security 2.0", in an obvious nod towards industry hype over Web 2.0, the strategy is designed to boost confidence among both consumers and enterprises in the safety of doing business online. The approach will consist of sets of products, services and partnerships, some of which Symantec announced in a company launch in New York City on Tuesday. For consumers, Symantec is developing products to protect identity and reputation, which it sees as essential to building confidence and trust online. Norton Confidential (a new product) provides web browsing protection, protection against online malware and anti-phishing protection via website authentication. Symantec is hoping to partner with banks and online retailers to sell the new technology. That's in contrast to Symantec's distribution model for its internet security suites and anti-virus software which has focused on working with hardware manufacturers, software disties, download sites, as well as (to a lesser extent in its case) ISPs. On the enterprise front, Symantec will focus more effort into helping firms meet increasingly stringent corporate governance standards, which partly involve meeting security compliance targets. It highlights data leakage or internal fraud involving corporate data as a risk in this area as a spur to developing data leakage protection technology, included as a component within its new database security and mail security products. Symantec also said it plans to integrate multiple security products such as anti-virus, firewall, network access control, and anti-spyware into a single security management product reduce complexity and ease security management headaches. The firm further aims to boost revenue from security consulting off its own back and through partnerships with firms such as Accenture. Symantec is also teaming up with VeriSign to jointly market identity protection technologies. The products flesh out a data protection strategy that Symantec chief exec John Thompson has alluded to for some time, going back at least as far as a speech we heard him make at the RSA Conference last year. All this may well play well in Wall Street, persuading investors that Symantec is capable of growing its business despite new competition from Microsoft and product revamps from other playing in the consumer security marketplace, but what we'd really like to see is product development that makes Norton Anti-Virus and its more comprehensive security suites less of a resource hog, something our readers (for one) regularly complain about. ®
UpdatedUpdated Brocade is not sweating over the Federal Trade Commission's anti-trust investigation of its acquisition of McData and pressing ahead with plans to digest a second third of the storage switch market. Worldwide marketing VP Tom Buiocchi is unworried by the FTC's interest. The Commission is polling Brocade and McData customers on their concerns over the acquisition. McData customers are giving Brocade an overwhelmingly positive welcome, he reckons. Once McData is factored in, the combined company will account for more like 70 per cent of the switch business. Brocade execs believe their products are the ones which deserve to be pushed though; they mostly paid $713m for a customer base: the McData name will disappear. The $100m saving Brocade has promised investors will mostly come from staff. Pre-regulatory approval, a team of 10 consultants has already set about scouting for where the scalpel should fall. Some customers will have been disappointed, if not at all surprised, over Brocade's decision to ditch McData's flagship i10k director sharpish. The meat from the acquisition of Senera, the product has been a tangible failure; it was the sickness which let Brocade consume McData, rather than vice-versa. Buiocchi is in Europe this week for the firm's annual sales get-together in Madrid. The firm does most of its business over here, largely thanks its relationship with europhile HP. The target for Brocade's footsoldiers for financial 2007 will be to boost the firm's share of the market by 10 per cent from the third it owns now. A new services division for big enterprise customers is hoped to fuel growth too. The Brocade board are plotting their assualt on a New World in storage - the file area network (FAN). The NuView acquisition is being positioned as a key piece of a jigsaw puzzle that still requires acquisitions to be a complete, marketable proposition. Cash-rich Brocade reckons it's in a strong postion to stage a land-grab once the hype curve takes off sometime in the next couple of years. ® Update Brocade asked us to clarify how it will continue to support products. Go here (pdf) to read the letter Brocade sent all customers after the takeover.
The Advertising Standards Authority has told phone retailer The Link and Freetalk Communication that a recent email advertising its Voice over Internet Protocol service was unfair to BT. The email started: "With Internet phone at The Link we are always finding new ways to save you money, so we have teamed up with Freetalk to offer you an exclusive deal that will save you and your family money on your phone bills." It continued with the usual marketing guff, but included a table comparing prices for its service with offerings from BT, Telewest and Tesco. BT objected to the comparison with its Together Option 3 package because the telco also offers a VoIP service which would be more comparable with Freetalk's service. The ASA upheld BT's complaint. It accepted that Freetalk and The Link were not intending to use the email again and advised them to consult the Committee of Advertising Practice website for advice on future marketing materials. ®
In an expensive attempt to stake a claim in Private Eye's Psueds Corner, Massachusetts Institute of Technology has announced a "Center for Collective Intelligence". The center is headed by luminaries from the Wharton School at U Penn., and MIT's Sloan Management School and brings in guessperts from the cognitive science faculty. The timing could be better - MIT has been under fire for cooking its research results But the first words of the new center's mission statement indicate that the venture is more faith-based than reality-based. "The recent successes of systems like Google and Wikipedia suggest that the time is now ripe for many more such systems," claims the Center. Er, ... "Success"? If this is the same Google that's fighting a battle with click fraud and junk websites (and diversifying its business appropriately), and the same Wikipedia that's become a staple of late night TV comedians' jokes, then we're in trouble. And if you can't trust the diagnosis from these management consultants, how can you trust their prognosis, either? Well, you simply need faith - and lots of it. Even the best-read prophet of "collective intelligence", journalist James Surowiecki, cautions against a hype he helped create. A fan of prediction markets, Surowiecki discovered only a rare alignment of circumstances could ever provide something useful, and he hedged around the tricky subject of gaming and capture - perennial problems for Google and Wikipedia respectively. Linux gets namechecked by the CCI as an example of collective intelligence. But Linux isn't a "crowd" at all - it's a tiny meritocracy of highly-skilled programmers employed by large corporations, or in some cases, universities. Nor is what emerges from the other examples usually cited "intelligence", but a kind of collectively-agreed risk hedging. When the vaunted "wisdom of crowds" is applied to creative endeavors - such as product development, the creative core of many businesses - the result looks like the brown lump of Plasticene in a kindergarten activity box. The work of many will typically be blander than the work of one, or a small and focused team. You may have heard of the iPod. Much of this thinking (if we're to be generous) isn't new - and where it's new, it isn't very good. So-called "bottom-up" empowerment rhetoric espoused by gurus such as Deming and Peters is misguided, history professor James Hoopes points out in False Prophets, a book about management consultants. And the answers you get are only as good as the questions you ask, points out Jaron Lanier. Yesterday's AI evangelists are today's Hive Minders. "The value [of the internet] is in the other people. If we start to believe that the internet itself is an entity that has something to say, we're devaluing those people and making ourselves into idiots," wrote Jaron Lanier earlier this year, discussing the mania. Still, there's a lucrative market to be gleaned from a business class that spends its spare cash at airports on management classes such as Who Moved My Cheese?. "Sell Air, Not Haircuts to Succeed," advises the CIC chief Barry Libert in his latest blog post, and he appears to be as good as his word. With that payday in mind, the MIT's Badger School already has a book project in mind - insultingly titled We Are Smarter Than Me - and you may be the next victim of the revolution. And we naively thought operations people, like BOFHs, keep companies running. No, the BOFHs need a dumb collective to tell them to do their job better than they already know: "By developing theories to explain all these things [our emphasis], we can help network professionals and others understand new ways of organizing themselves that would never have been possible before but that may be far more efficient, flexible, and innovative than traditional ways of organizing." So here's a quick poll for you. Which of the following functions performed by "collective-intelligence"-toting management consultants would you cut first? Really long expensive lunches [➠ Click here ] Useless blog and wiki software that's so flakey it makes Lotus Notes™ look well-designed and fully-featured [➠ Click here ] Mandatory collective-intelligence team-building exercises (possibly involving cheese or badgers) [➠ Click here ] All of the above [➠ Click here ] Click to answer, please. ®
Another day, another wireless Belkin iPod accessory. After the SportCommand wireless remote, here's the TuneStage II, a Bluetooth 2.0-connected combo for streaming music from the player to a hi-fi.
VA Research/Linux Systems Software founder and general open source blowhard advocate Larry Augustin plans to sever his ties with the company come December. In a regulatory filing, VA revealed that Augustin will not seek reelection as Chairman later this year. The company provided no details to explain Augustin's decision but said it did not result from a disagreement with the rest of the board. Many of you likely forgot that VA still existed. The company, however, gained plenty of attention back in the good old days as a Linux software and services pioneer. VA's easy to remember ticker symbol – LNUX – proved attractive to investors hoping to ride the Linux bandwagon for all it was worth. The company's shares opened at $30 and then jumped to $320 before dropping back to the still insane $239 by day's end. As it happened, VA actually brought in healthy revenue selling hardware pre-installed with Linux and then servicing the gear. Today, VA's Open Source Technology Group oversees geek hangouts such as Slasdhot and SourceForge. ®
The US Department of Justice has approved AT&T's proposed acquisition of Bell South, saying the enlarged group is "not likely to reduce competition substantially [or] harm consumer welfare". It has attached no conditions to the deal. This leaves one more regulatory hurdle to jump - say-so from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which votes on the matter on Thursday. In announcing its decision today, The DoJ's antitrust division notes the emergence of new technologies and competitors and also that BellSouth does very little business outside its heartland in the southeastern United States But the $67bn all-stock acquisition goes a long way to re-assembling the old Ma Bell. In 1984, the US government broke up AT&T on monopoloy grounds. The company was split into a long distance arm - the legacy AT&T - and seven Baby Bells, regional carriers, known in today's jargon as incumbent local exchange carriers (ILECS). Last year, SBC, the ILEC for the southwestern US, bought former parent AT&T for $16bn in cash and shares and then changed its name to AT&T. The AT&T-Bell South combo will control local phone calls in 23 states, as well as owning America's largest cellco, Cingular Wireless. ®
Qualcomm is to stop selling Eudora, the venerable email client, and is hand over development to the Mozilla Foundation. This makes a deal of sense: Qualcomm always was a strange home for Eudora - it does cell phone chips, not desktop software. In future, Eudora will be free and open source - while "retaining Eudora's uniquely rich feature set and productivity enhancements". And it will share the same cross-platform code base as the Thunderbird, Mozilla's open-source email program. Hopefully, this will mean improvements to Thunderbird, as well as greater stability for Eudora. Quallcomm today also announced the final editions of Eudora for Windows and Mac in its current form. The open source version is expected in the first half of next year. In the meantime, Qualcomm will continue to sell 'classic' Eudora at the cut-rate price of $19.95, complete with six months tech support. We don't anticipate a huge rush to the sales floor. The company says it will switch off ads in the free, ad-supported version sometime next year. Press release here. And FAQ for Eudora users here. ®
Two top McAfee execs and three CNET Networks chiefs have quit their jobs in the wake of America's growing backdated options scandal. Security software firm McAfee has appointed board member Dale Fuller as interim chief executive and president after CEO George Samenuk resigned, and president Kevin Weiss was fired by the board over misallocations of McAfee stock. Fuller joined McAfee's board in January, having previously served as Borland Software's CEO. Additionally, McAfee said it will re-state earnings for a 10-year period, a move that is expected to cost between $100m and $150m. And so to Shelby Bonnie, CEO and co-founder of CNET Networks - the biggest online tech site - today quit his job over misallocations of CNET stock, between "at least" 1996 and 2003. But, get this: Bonnie retains his position - and presumably remuneration - as a CNET board member. Two other CNET employees have also resigned, following an investigation by a special committee, which reports: "A number of executives of the company, including the former CFO and the recently resigned CEO, general counsel and SVP of human resources, bear varying degrees of responsibility for these deficiencies." In a departing statement on Wednesday, Samenuk - McAfee's CEO for six years - said: "I regret that some of the stock option problems identified by the special [options] committee occurred on my watch. I am proud of the accomplishments of the McAfee team in serving our millions of customers during my tenure." Bonnie expressed his deep disappointment. "I apologize for the option-related problems that happened under my leadership," he said. The fat cats that caught the cream Samenuk, Weiss and Bonnie are the latest casualties in a scandal that has seen some 120 US public companies - most in IT - either come under government investigation, or launch their internal probes into allocation of stock. So far, more than 30 executives, including CEOs, presidents, CFOs and heads of human resources (HR), have left companies that are under investigation. Executives from two, Brocade Communications and Comverse Technology, have been indicted. Internal investigations are intended to clear house and stave off prosecution by either the US government or financial regulators. The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are taking a tough line to help restore the public's confidence in the market place. Misallocation of stock, involving falsifying the date when grants were awarded, is believed to have cost $2.5bn in earnings. It became common practice for tech companies to hand out stock to retain staff in the highly competitive recruitment environment of the late 1990s. It also became common practice, though, to bend the rules over when stock was granted, without anyone really bothering to stop and question the legality. In the Brocade case, ex-chief executive George Reyes was granted sole authority to approve stock allocations - a process that usually goes through a special committee at most corporations. Prosecutors claim the practice of backdating stock became institutionalized at Brocade, as it drew the active support of the former vice president of HR and CFO. ®
There may have been no new news to emerge from BEAWorld in Prague this week, coming as it did so soon after BEAWorld in San Francisco, but CEO Alfred Chuang gave a significant pointer to BEA's thinking for future directions. What is more, it is a pointer to where we may well see something approaching a 'killer app' emerging for SOA.
Google has combined its online word processing and spreadsheet applications through a common interface, single sign-in and data repository. Google Docs & Spreadsheets, launched today in beta mode, has been devised to make Google's personal productivity software simpler to use. The suite also brings some much-needed order to the burgeoning Google catalogue. Google Docs & Spreadsheets unifies Google's Writely online word suite, purchased in March, and Google Spreadsheets, released by Google Labs in June. The applications share a common, tabbed-based interface - meaning an end to the Writely look and feel. Users have the ability to make edits in realtime with others, while also specifying who is allowed to view documents. There's a joint list for all users' documents and spreadsheets and one help center. As before, users can save and export as Microsoft- and non-Microsoft file formats. The launch appears to contribute to something called a "features, not products" initiative. The goal is to simplify Google's collection of services, and will apparently see Google's calendar added to spreadsheet and word processing. So far, at least, Google Calendar is offered through Google Apps for your Domain, launched in August and also featuring Gmail, Google Talk and Google Calendar, Google Page Creator, web site admin and 2Gb of storage. For now, Google Apps for your Domain and Google Docs & Spreadsheets are separate. World+dog has speculated over Google's desktop productivity app plans: is it lining up a challenge to Microsoft's $12bn Office business. Microsoft's reaction to Google has been - big surprise - scathing: Tom Rizzo, the director for Office SharePoint Server, reportedly slammed Google Apps for your Domain as "Frankenstein software" because the elements are less well integrated than Microsoft's productivity applications, server and portal software. Astute observers, though, will have recognized battling Microsoft in its sweet spot holds little appeal for Google - why go where Corel and Novell failed? Instead, the goal is to compete with Microsoft as the company leaves its comfort zone, on the desktop, and tries to find its feet in the online jungle, where Google exists. Google's target is OfficeLive, a rather poor and confused set of offerings from Microsoft, covering email and website hosting, that seems to target small businesses. Dave Girouard, head of Google's enterprise unit, told Reuters in August as Google launched Apps for your Domain: "The Google Apps platform is not designed to replace Microsoft's core software... we are not really out there to eliminate any applications. We are looking to introduce new ways to solve problems people have been having for years." ®