12th > October > 2006 Archive

MySpace founder loses court case over News Corp sale

A judge has dismissed MySpace founder Brad Greenspan's claims that the sale price of the social networking site to News Corporation was too low. Greenspan said he will appeal. Greenspan founded MySpace and is a former chief executive of its parent company Intermix. He filed a suit in February claiming that News Corp's $580m purchase of Intermix did not value the business highly enough, claiming that the company's officers acted out of a desire for personal gain above the interests of the shareholders. Superior Court judge Carolyn Kuhl dismissed Greenspan's claims, saying that the acquisition was legal and the decision taken by Intermix board members was legitimately taken, according to Fox Interactive, the division of News Corp which looks after MySpace. "News Corporation and Fox Interactive Media feel vindicated by Judge Kuhl's ruling," said Mike Angus, Fox Interactive Media's general counsel in a statement. Last week Greenspan published a demand that an investigation be conducted into the sale by the US financial regulator the Securities and Exchange Commission, the United States Department of Justice, and the United States Senate Committee on Finance. "News Corp's valuation has increased by $12bn since the transaction occurred just one year ago, and there are several independent analysts today that agree that MySpace is worth tens of billions of dollars,” Greenspan said in that statement. See: Greenspan's claims Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 12 Oct 2006
globalisation

EC boosts open source

The European Commission has taken steps to promote the use of open source systems and software in the public sector. It has selected a consortium led by Unisys Belgium to create and manage the Open Source Observatory and Repository (OSOR), the company announced. Other members of the consortium are the Maastricht Economic Research Institute on Innovation and Technology, consultancy GOPA Cartermill, and the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos of Madrid. They will provide an internet service and portal enabling European administrations to centrally store and share the software code of their open source applications and exchange open source knowledge. It is aimed at helping them improve the return on their IT investments and make their applications more interoperable. OSOR will be a common repository where, in addition to the source and object code, information will be available regarding the use of applications, different software versions, open source licences and contract material. On the OSOR web portal, member states' administrations will also be able to share know-how about their different open source applications. The European Commission hopes it will encourage European administrations to use each other's software and develop common projects. This could be in areas such as public e-procurement, interoperability between government applications and mutual recognition of the various e-ID card formats. Sharing and reusing applications would provide significant savings in investment costs. "Public administrations' interest in open source is not so much about open source replacing proprietary products," said Karel De Vriendt, head of the EU's European eGovernment Services Unit. "More and more it is about developing custom applications based on open source software, on collaboration during development, and on using open source licences to share the results of such developments. The new OSOR should become the preferred cooperation tool to speed up software pooling among member states." Unisys and its partners will consult with stakeholders to determine the format of OSOR this year, and is planning to make the service operational in late 2007. It will also look for interesting open source applications to add to OSOR and support collaboration between different European open source projects. 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.
Kablenet, 12 Oct 2006

Connection failures delay prison releases

Parliament's Public Accounts Committee has said the release of prisoners on home detention curfews (HDCs) is being delayed because most prisons are not connected to the Police National Computer (PNC). The Electronic Monitoring of Adult Offenders report, published on 12 October, recommends that the Home Office should implement a timetable for providing all prisons that release prisoners on HDC with access to the PNC, making all records available electronically. It makes the point that 60 per cent of prisons in England and Wales are not connected to the PNC, and this is delaying the release of many prisoners. In turn this is contributing to the severe overcrowding problem: the prison population reached a record 79,843 this month with just 125 more spaces left, according to government figures. A spokesperson for the House of Commons Committee of Public Accounts report told GC News: "It is not currently statutory for prisons to be connected to the PNC, even though it is logical to do so." The report says that HM Prison Service should transfer all paperwork associated with eligibility assessments with prisoners to prevent duplication of effort and to ensure they are released on their eligibility date. Edward Leigh MP, chairman of the committee, said: "The system is stuttering along at present. Most prisons have no direct access to criminal records on PNC. "Prisoners who are moved between prisons are not accompanied by their assessment records. These and other factors often delay the release of prisoners well beyond their eligibility date." In addition, governors are not being given feedback on whether prisoners whom they have released early have successfully completed their curfew. Leigh said: "The prison governors who take the final decision to release offenders on curfew are not told if their assessments turned out to be sound. "It is of crucial importance to public safety that they are given the kind of information on outcomes which can improve their future decision making." Meanwhile, the report suggests the Home Office should use its recently obtained real time access to its IT contractors to carry out independent monitoring and auditing of the contractors' performance and it should publish their performance. The Home Office made ex gratia payments totalling some £8,000 to two offenders because it could not prove whether they had intentionally damaged monitoring equipment. "The Home Office should instruct contractors to retain monitoring equipment when there is a dispute over the reason for the apparent breach, so the facts of such cases can be proven. It should incorporate it into any future contracts." Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Nick Clegg said: "Dealing with offenders means it is vital that we get tagging right. Once again, flaws in the system can be laid squarely at the government's feet for failing to implement the system competently in practice." However, the report praised the Home Office for forcing contractors to improve their performance through financial deductions for failing to meet all the requirements of the contract. "The Home Office negotiated a 40 per cent reduction in the price of the contracts when it renegotiated them in April 2005. The team responsible for the negotiations should produce a good practice guide to disseminate lessons learned from this experience to other contract managers within the Home Office," said the report. 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.
Kablenet, 12 Oct 2006

Sony touts 3.6Mbps 'super 3G' Vaios

Sony has begun offering a Vaio notebook bundled with an HSDPA-enabled datacard supplied by T-Mobile. The manufacturer quickly claimed the kit will allow users to download data at speeds of up to 3.6Mbps.
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006
DVD it in many colours

Libya signs on for 'One Laptop per Child'

The Libyan government has signed up to Nicholas Negroponte's "One Laptop per Child" (OLPC) scheme to buy each of its 1.2m school children one of the machines by June 2008, according to reports. Negroponte told the New York Times that the contract in Libya was agreed on Tuesday, but neither the Libyan media nor the Libyan authorities have yet commented on the deal. Negroponte also noted that Col. Gaddafi, famed throughout Britain for his flatulence during television interviews, had expressed an interest in buying more of the computers for some of his poorer African neighbours. OLPC originally said it would begin production when it has orders for between five million and 10 million laptops. The deal with Libya takes it over the 5 million mark and, according to reports, the organisation plans to start production next year. The lime-green, wind-up laptops cost $100 apiece and Argentina, Brazil, Nigeria, and Thailand have all signed orders for a million machines. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Oct 2006

Transmeta accuses Intel of patent infringement

One-time low-power x86-compatible processor provider Transmeta has initiated legal proceedings against Intel, alleging the chip giant used its power-efficiency technology without permission. The lawsuit claims infringement of ten Transmeta patents.
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006

Dell, Alienware ready AMD Live! media centre systems

Dell and Dell subsidiary Alienware are to announce a number of media centre machines based on AMD's Viiv-like platform, Live!, the chip maker has revealed. Expect unveilings at the DigitalLife show taking place in New York this week.
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006

Copycat cat firm goes titsup

A firm offering to clone dead pet cats is to close, after selling a grand total of two of the moggies, including the first which we reported in 2004. Depite a price slash from $50,000 to $32,000, Sausalito-based Genetic Savings and Clone (geddit?) was forced to send letters out announcing its closure at the end of the year. It admitted it was "unable to develop the technology to the point that cloning pets is commercially viable", reports The Bakersfield Californian. It's thought unpredictable reproductive cycles and a high rate of attrition in cloned embryos meant the firm could not bring its cats in at an accessible price point. Genetic Savings and Clone also failed in its attempts to clone dogs, a feat it had received backing from correspondence university billionaire John Sperling, who was after a clone of his beloved hunting dog Missy. The venture had attracted criticism from animal rights and ethics groups because of the high failure rate and thousands of stray cats euthanised every year in America. The Bakersfield Californian reports Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States, said: "It's no surprise the demand for cloned pets is basically nonexistent, and we're very pleased that Genetics Savings and Clone's attempt to run a cloning pet store was a spectacular flop. It's not just a bad business venture, but also an operation grounded on the misuse of animals." Earlier this year biotech firm Allerca began selling "lifestyle pets". Allerca's attempts to genetically engineer allergy-free cats were abandoned in favour of a low tech selective breeding programme. A message on Genetic Savings and Clone's answer machine is directing potential punters to Texas pet and livestock cloner ViaGen. ®
Christopher Williams, 12 Oct 2006
SGI logo hardware close-up
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When Borland got shirty

Database myths and legends (Part 4)Database myths and legends (Part 4) In the second myths and legends story we related how the knights of the Good King Bill were accused of stealing secrets from Borland at a conference way back in 1992.
Mark Whitehorn, 12 Oct 2006

Sony launches leaked noise-cancelling Walkman line

Sony Japan has finally launched the NW-S700F digital Walkman series, a week and a half after details of the device slipped out on a UK retail website. As expected, the Flash-based line-up comprises models in a variety of metallic colours and with storage capacities of 1-4GB.
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006

Band translates Beatles into Cornish

A couple of Cornish musicians have decided to do their bit for the advancement of the local lingo by translating some of the Beatles' best-loved ditties into Cornish, the BBC reports. Matthew Clarke and Dave Miller, who together form Skwardya, have already tackled She Loves You (Hi a'th kar) and Something (Neppyth) and are currently working on All My Loving. Clarke told the Beeb: "We're just trying to expand the amount of stuff in Cornish that's out there. It's good to have some other things rather than just folk songs and the odd hymn." Cornish, aka Kernewek, is reckoned to be spoken fluently by around 300 to 400 people, with another 5,000 having "some knowledge of the language", according to the Cornish Language Fellowship. It's a Celtic language closely related to Breton and Welsh, effectively entirely displaced by English by the end of the 19th century. However, Cornish has in recent years enjoyed a revival, with the EU in 2002 rather kindly recognising it under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, in which it joined "Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Irish, Scots and Ulster Scots as protected and promoted languages". ®
Lester Haines, 12 Oct 2006
channel

Global Crossing eats Fibernet

US-based bespoke IP networker Global Crossing has acquired UK firm Fibernet for £49.8m in an all-cash deal. Global Crossing's subsidary GC Acquisitions UK has its hands on 91 per cent of Fibernet stock, meaning it will be able to acquire the rest through compulsory purchases.
Christopher Williams, 12 Oct 2006
cloud

IBM, Sun and Fujitsu keep hyping delayed chips

Plagued by delays, IBM and Sun Microsystems continue to try and beef up interest in their upcoming server processor lines. IBM, for example, spent this week hyping its Power6 processor that will slot into the company's Unix and Linux servers. Big Blue once hoped to push the chip out by the end of this year or early 2007, but it will now arrive in mid-2007 and gradually make its way through IBM's server line. The dual-core chip will likely come in at about 5GHz and boast up to 4MB of Level 2 cache per core. IBM has also confirmed that the two cores will be able to share a monster 32MB L3 cache, while each core will crank through two software threads. Much of this information had been leaked to the press over the last few months, but IBM confirmed the details at this week's Processor Forum event in San Jose. In an interview with CNET at the event, IBM noted that Power6 will also have hardware-based support for decimal math functions. That should help improve overall performance by a factor of two to seven over today's software that handles decimal – rather than binary – calculations. Customers will see the AltiVec instruction set present in the PowerPC line make its way to Power6 as well. Sun and fellow SPARCer Fujitsu tried to tempt the Processor Forum crowd with a couple of tidbits too. Fujitsu reckons that its upcoming SPARC64 VI chip will bring twice the integer processing performance per socket of today's SPARC V. On the floating point front, that performance gain jumps to 2.5x. The SPARC64 VI should ship at 2.4GHz with 6MB of shared cache between its two cores. Sun and Fujitsu look to ship servers based on the chip in early 2007. They've teamed to share some of the costs around chip design and production as part of an agreement to sell a single SPARC-based server line. The companies had once promised to get kit out the door by mid-2006. Sun is looking to get its high-end Rock chip out the door in 2008 and will likely replace the SPARC64 boxes at that time. ®
Ashlee Vance, 12 Oct 2006

HTC runs in with T-Mobile Dash smart phone

Taiwanese phone maker HTC today formally announced that T-Mobile will ship its S620 BlackBerry-like, QWERTY keyboard equipped handset in the US as the Dash. It's set to ship on 25 October, T-Mobile said.
Hard Reg, 12 Oct 2006

BT sniffs at PlusNet

PlusNet confirmed to the City this morning that it is in talks which might lead to the sale of the business - with BT reportedly in pole position. The broadband reseller said it had been forced to 'fess up because of unusual movements in its share price - which has gone up more than 25 per cent in the last two days. PlusNet said in a statement that it "has received a preliminary approach which may or may not lead to an offer being made for the company". The statment quoted the Independent which said a bidding war was possible because German group Freenet.de is also interested in the ISP. The firm's share price on London's Alternative Investment Market had skipped from 150 to over 200 since early Wednesday. It had previously fallen from an all-time high of over 400 in April. BT was said in reports to have shown an interest. The statement is available from this page on the LSE site.®
Mark Ballard, 12 Oct 2006

Saturn's new rings spark search for moons

The recent discovery of new rings around Saturn has prompted speculation that the Cassini mission will find previously unidentified moons orbiting the planet. "Just like the old maxim that says 'where there's smoke there's fire', at Saturn, where there's a new ring there's bound to be a moon," said Jeff Cuzzi, Cassini interdisciplinary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Centre. In mid-September, Cassini moved into Saturn's shadow and viewed the rings, backlit by the sun. As we reported, the researchers identified a new ring that shares its orbit with the moons Janus and Epimetheus, just inside the E and G rings. A week later, another ring was discovered overlying the orbit of the moon Pallene. A third and fourth ring were also identified by Cassini in a gap in the Saturnian ring system. These latest rings were not imaged by the voyager spacecraft. "We are hot on the trail of these possible elusive moonlets," said Joe Burn, Cassini imaging scientist at Cornell University. "Finding the moons and learning about their interactions with the rings will help us understand how the moons formed and perhaps how the Saturn system formed." The images taken while Saturn sheltered Cassini from the sun also revealed differences in the composition of the rings that have surprised astronomers. The infrared images reveal striking colour differences in the rings, indicating variations in composition and in microscopic particles between the various rings. The main rings show a neutral color, while the C ring is reddish, and the D and E rings are quite blue. Researchers are not sure what causes the difference in colour, but speculate that it could be to do with the size of the particles or the composition of the ring material. NASA says there are hints that materials other than the usual water-ice might be identified in the ring system. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Oct 2006
cloud

Sage says results in line with expectations

Sage has issued a trading update, stating that both revenues and pre-tax profits for the year ending 30 September were in line with market expectations. These results include an immaterial contribution from Emdeon Practice Services, acquired on 14 September 2006, the company said. In its announcement, it noted that the current average of analysts' forecasts for the company's performance were revenue of £927m, EBITA (earnings before interest, tax and amortisation) of £247m and pre-tax profit of £220m. The company said its preliminary results, with fuller details, would be announced on 29 November. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Oct 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

IBM takes the guesswork out of data centre fires

Buying tons of rack and blade servers has been a harrowing experience for plenty of customers. You load up a data centre with the compact kit and then cross your fingers, hoping the mesh of metal, plastic and cabling doesn't catch on fire. Now, instead of crossing your fingers, you can pay IBM to predict whether or not your data centre will light up faster than a Dell laptop. IBM this week started hawking a variety of services meant to help customers design cooler, more environmentally-friendly data centres. Like rivals HP and Sun Microsystems, IBM hopes to cash in on the current concerns around power consumption and heat in data centres. The services on offer from IBM centre around judging a data centre's capacity for handling lots of thin rack and blade servers, improving the air flow of a data centre, fixing rack designs, cutting back on the number of data centres you own, and crafting data centres for SMBs out of so-called "modular building blocks". Fixing data centres has become all the rage after vendors spent years shipping thousands of red-hot systems to customers. Neither the vendors nor the customers placed much emphasis on energy versus equipment costs. In recent months, however, energy costs have surged and chips from companies such as Intel have consumed more and more power. As a result, the cost of powering and cooling servers next year is expected to outpace the amount spent on new gear for the first time. IBM has provided more detail on its individual data centre cooling/construction services here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 12 Oct 2006

Bluetooth SIG launches TransSend app

The Bluetooth SIG has today launched its TransSend application, allowing websites to embed a chunk of data, such as an address or map, in a web page and have it copied to a mobile phone at the click of a mouse.
Bill Ray, 12 Oct 2006
homeless man with sign

BT debuts 'spam-buster' system

BT has launched an automated system to track down and tackle professional spammers and 'botnet'-infected customers on the BT broadband network. The telco's 'spam buster' system uses content inspection technology from security developer StreamShield Networks to filter spam and virus infected email traffic. Around 80 per cent of email traffic, equivalent to 6.5 billion messages a day, is junk mail or spam. Increasingly, spammers have taken to using networks of compromised PCs infected by malware and under the control of hackers to distribute spam email. The use of these so-called botnet networks is designed to make it harder to filter email traffic for junk mail simply by blocking rogue email addresses linked to spammers. BT's system, touted as one of the most sophisticated implemented by an ISP to date, scans email traffic and provides the telco with detailed reports on the location and size of spam-related problems originating from its network as well as filtering out junk. Using data from the system, BT's abuse team can cancel rogue accounts linked to spammers or add offending IP addresses to blacklists. The system also allows BT's admins to contact consumers whose compromised (zombie) PCs have unwittingly been made the part of the junk mail problem and provide advice on cleaning up their systems. Cleaning up the botnet problem on its network reduces the possibility that email traffic from BT's networks might be blocked by other providers as a result of abuse. ®
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2006

Seagate lifts Maxtor max capacities

Seagate has upped the storage capacity offered by its Maxtor Shared Storage II and OneTouch III external hard drive product line-ups, increasing the maximum unformatted data space provided by them to 1TB and 1.5TB, respectively.
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006

Vodafone cans Carphone Warehouse

Vodafone contract phones will soon only be available from Phones4U. The two firms announced an exclusive deal today which will see the operator's contract offerings disappear from the stores of Phones4U's biggest high street rival, Carphone Warehouse. Vodafone has gradually been taking back control of its contract customers and now has all of them back under its wing. Carphone Warehouse prefers to take over contracts for their duration, acting as a proxy for the networks. Vodafone UK chief exec Nick Read said: "This strategic deal will complement our significant direct distribution capability and ensure we can target all key customer segments through their channel of choice." Of particular interest to Vodafone is Phones4U's strength among 16 to 34-year-old consumers. They'll be key if the networks are to achieve their aim of becoming content providers. Carphone Warehouse responded to being shut out today with a statement: "We do not expect there to be any impact on market forecasts for this or future years as a result of this change in commercial arrangements, as Carphone Warehouse will continue to retain its core customer values of independence and impartiality, and offer customers the most appropriate network proposition." An "am I bovvered?" retort did little to impress investors, who accordingly sent Carphone Warehouse shares into a nosedive. At time of writing they were down more than 10 per cent on the opening price of 360.25 pence, wiping out gains earlier in the week as the market responded warmly to the acquisition of AOL UK. ®
Christopher Williams, 12 Oct 2006

Intel EOLs 91x, 955 chipsets

Intel has begun the process of discontinuing its 91x chipset family, along with the 955X. Some 15 chipsets in all will no longer be available for order after 13 March 2007, with all final orders due to be fulfilled by 12 October 2007.
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Infection-by-cache risk unearthed

Malware housed on storage and caching servers, such as those used by ISPs, enterprises, and leading search engines, continues to pose a risk after websites containing malicious code have been pulled. So says web security firm Finjan, which warns that instead of pointing users towards sites hosting malware, hackers could try to dupe users into visiting contaminated caches. The trick might be used to foil URL filtering products, it says. "This is more than just a theoretical danger," Finjan chief technology officer Yuval Ben-Itzhak said. "It is possible that storage and caching servers could unintentionally become the largest 'legitimate' storage venue for malicious code. Such 'infection-by-proxy' introduces new risks for businesses and consumers where trusted web addresses become a potential distributor of malicious code - making URL Filtering solutions blind." Finjan has published obfuscated examples of malware found on storage and caching servers to support its claims. One well-known hacking tactic involved breaking into vulnerable web servers to install Trojan downloader code, which often takes advantage of browser vulnerabilities to download malware onto target PC (examples here and here). Finjan's point is that users visiting a cached copy of such (potentially mainstream) sites would be infected even if the main site pulled the malware. Search engines are not doing enough to flush their caches, it warns." Finjan has sent search engines and service providers technical details of its discovery, uncovered by Finjan's Malicious Code Research Centre (MCRC) during its quarterly security trends analysis, and is continuing its dialogue with these firms in the hope of nipping the problem in the bud. Finjan's net security report, which also discusses the increased use by hackers of Web 2.0 technologies to upload malware and the illicit trade in exploit code, can be found here (registration required). ®
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2006

Nvidia launches mobile GeForce 7950 GTX

Nvidia has launched what it claims is the world's fastest notebook graphics chip. Yes, we're talking the mobile version of the GeForce 7950, appearing soon in a number of laptops as the GeForce Go 7950 GTX.
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006
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Audioengine A5 amplified iPod speakers

ReviewReview Loudspeakers designed for digital music players are ten a penny these days but their ambitions rarely extend to the audiophile. Most are intended to replace portable CD or tape units rather than living room systems, let alone pro-level kit. Apple's iPod Hi-Fi has helped show the player can drive room-filling kit, but US-based Audioengine reckons its Audioengine 5 (A5) set brings studio quality into the home...
Tony Smith, 12 Oct 2006

Google's Orkut accused of 'spreading hatred' about India

Orkut, the Google-owned social networking site, has come under fire for hosting a community called "We hate India", which includes anti-India messages and a picture of the nation's flag being burned. According to the Times of India, the Aurangabad bench of the Bombay High Court told the Maharashtra government to issue a notice to Google for alleged spread of hatred about the country. The order was issued by Justice A P Deshpande and Justice R M Borde on Monday in response to a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by local advocate Yugant R Marlapalle. The petition also appealed to the government to appoint a controller to regulate such communities. The next hearing in the case is due to be held in six weeks. It is thought that most of the members of the "We hate India" community are of Pakistani origin. Orkut is one of the most popular social networking sites in India, and an audit of Orkut users in August ranked India's user base as the third largest in the world, behind Brazil and the US. A Google spokesperson told the Business Standard: "Orkut is not based in India. It's an open community. However, as its owner, we govern the community with our terms of service, which strictly prohibit 'hate speech' and 'violence' among other things. "Orkut is a community of 'trusted' users since only those who are invited can join it. Besides, it has standards and tools whereby users can report news as bogus. We also heavily rely on users to report such acts. "In this case, Google will review and take appropriate action (removal in this case)." It's not the first time the site's been in trouble. In August, Federal Judge Jose Marcos Lunardelli gave Google's Brazilian affiliate until 28 September to release information needed to identify individuals accused of using Orkut to spread child pornography and engage in hate speech against various groups. Google did not release the information, but instead filed a brief in court explaining why it cannot comply with the judge's order. ®
Tracey Cooper, 12 Oct 2006
chart

MEPs vote to restrain pan-Europe patents

The European Parliament today adopted the compromise resolution on patent policy put forward by a coalition of MEPs, by a majority of 494 to 109 votes. Parliament made some further amendments to the resolution, which already sought to restrain parliament's approval of the contentious EPLA (European Patent Litigation Agreement). The original resolution has been championed by Commissioner Charlie McCreevy. At first it was very strongly pro-EPLA, and at one stage it looked like parliament was getting ready to vote it down. But last week, after McCreevy acknowledged some of the concerns about the draft, a compromise was put forward that would allow the Parliament to broadly support the EPLA, but require certain amendments to the text. Exactly what those amendments where was not specified, leading some anti-patent campaigners to complain that the compromise resolution was too vague. Critics of the EPLA were concerned that the agreement would remove democratic control from the granting of patents, put too much power in the hands of the EPO (European Patent Office) and result in increased litigation costs, particularly harmful for small businesses. They were also concerned that by putting the EPO in charge, the EPLA effectively paved the way for software patents to be officially granted in the EU. The compromise agreement does deal with some of these issues, but some watchers see a longer battle ahead. Particularly significant, we are told, is amendment number seven, which officially voiced the Parliament's "concerns about democratic control, judicial independence and litigation costs". "The good news is that the EP is the first institution to have raised major objections concerning the draft EPLA in its present form. The bad news is that the EP stopped short of throwing a spanner in the EPLA works, and we have yet to find the first political body to oppose the EPLA in stronger terms," long-time anti-software patent campaigner Florian Mueller said. The FFII, meanwhile, says it welcomes the overall result, describing it as a far cry from the original draft, which "almost unequivocally" supported the EPLA. It says it is not happy that the amended compromise still cedes so much power to Europe's bureaucracy, but says it is "80 per cent happy with the result". ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Oct 2006
For Sale sign detail

ICANN refuses to pull Spamhaus domain

Internet governance organisation ICANN has said it does not have the authority to suspend the website of The Spamhaus Project. An Illinois court last week proposed pulling Spamhaus.org in response to a lawsuit brought against the anti-spam organisation by an company it accuses of spamming. The threat of domain loss came after the anti-spam organisation refused to comply with a September ruling by a US court requiring it to pay $11.7m in compensation to e360 Insight, pull the organisation's listing, and post a notice stating that it was wrong to say e360 Insight was involved in sending junk mail. In the proposed court order, published last week, Judge Charles Kocoras of the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois calls on either ICANN or Tucows, the Spamhaus.org registrar, to pull or suspend the domain in response to Spamhaus's non-compliance with the court's original ruling. Spamhaus chief executive Steve Linford said that suspension of its domain could create an "enormous amount of damage on the internet". ICANN's stance of declining authority on the affair passes the onus onto Tucows, the Spamhaus.org registrar. Since Tucows is based in Canada, and not the US, it's in a much better position to decline to apply the court's request. So the threat of the loss of Spamhaus's domain appears to have receded, at least for now. UK-based Spamhaus Project declined to defend itself in the case, arguing that the US courts lack jurisdiction. The voluntary organisation ignored the Illinois court on principle amid concern that fielding a defence might open it up to a barrage of nuisance lawsuits by spammers. The loss of the Spamhaus domain would, at minimum, reduce the effectiveness of its services. Spamhaus maintains a blacklist of IP addresses used by spammers that's widely used by ISPs and organisations as a "first-level defence" in weeding out junk mail traffic. According to Spamhaus, its list help block 50bn spams per day. Suspending its services could potentially result in a huge increase of unwanted junk hitting mail server queues all over the world. ISPs and end-users commonly use other spam-filtering techniques independent of Spamhaus so all these extra spam messages would not necessarily hit users inboxes. Removal of Spamhaus's services would still, however, put an additional unwarranted burden on computing infrastructures. In technical terms, Spamhaus could move onto a separate domain not under US control, but such an action might leave it at risk of being held in criminal contempt by US judges. ®
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2006

3G broadcast trials leave T-Mobile in the cold

Twelve cell sites in Bristol will be used to trial Multimedia Broadcast Multicast Service (MBMS) over the next three months, with Vodafone, Orange, and 3UK all taking an active role in evaluating the technology along with Telefonica (owner of O2). MobiTV Inc will be providing the content and client application, while IPWireless will manage the infrastructure and site integration. MBMS is broadcasting over a 3G network, allowing networks to send out TV signals or similar to all its subscribers without building a new transmission network or licensing more frequencies. The alternatives include DVB-H and TV over DAB. The former has been championed by Nokia, but requires massive infrastructure that someone will have to pay for. TV over DAB has been launched by Virgin in the UK, but suffers from a lack of bandwidth and other technical limitations that make it a less than ideal carrier. The availability of new frequencies next year, and the eventual switch off of analogue TV, have been suggested as routes to mobile TV, but MBMS has long been the preferred technology for networks keen to cash in on the money they paid for 3G licenses. The fact that no additional towers or masts will be needed isn't the only attraction for the network operators. By encouraging handset manufacturers to make MBMS-compatible phones they can keep customers tied in to their networks and continue to try and claw back some of their initial investment. After all, they haven't got that long left. ®
Bill Ray, 12 Oct 2006
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IE market share: What's going on?

Recent high-profile security problems with Internet Explorer have done little to dent its market share - or maybe not, according to conflicting reports on web browser use. Web analytics firm OneStat.com reckons that IE's global usage share is 85.85 per cent, an increase of 2.8 per cent since July 2006. Mozilla Firefox's open source browser claims second place with a share of 11.49 per cent, a decrease of 1.44 per cent since July 2006. Apple's Safari claimed 1.61 per cent (down 0.23 per cent), and Opera held 0.69 per cent of the market, according to OneStat latest (October) figures. OneStat.com stats are drawn from visitors to websites that use its web analytics technology. However, statistics from websites tools firm Net Applications, cited by Ars Technica, paint a contrasting picture. Its figures suggest the browser has only an 82.10 per cent share, its lowest figure for two years, while Firefox is enjoying a share of 12.46 per cent, with Safari in third berth with 3.53 per cent. Although these figures come from September that doesn't even begin to explain the huge discrepancy between statistics from Net Applications and OnStat.com. Differing methodologies probably lie at the root of these conflicting stats. Ars Technica reckons a lack of product innovation from Microsoft since the release of Windows XP SP2 almost two years ago explains IE's reported market dip. Word of mouth advocacy of Firefox and a series of high-profile unpatched vulnerabilities affecting IE over recent months might be closer to the mark, we'd suggest. Even though Firefox is far from immune from flaws, the most serious security flaps often focus around IE, thanks in part to its large market share, but also due to the continued shortcomings of its security architecture, particularly its reliance on Microsoft's proprietary ActiveX technology. ®
John Leyden, 12 Oct 2006

Physics students protest at Reading

Physics students at Reading University have come out in protest against their department's impending closure. The students took their protest, and their banners, to a meeting of the University senate yesterday. They wore masks depicting vice-chancellor Professor Gordon Marshall, who announced the decision to close the department in three years time. Simon Stacey, president of the university's physics society said: "No one has given us any reasons as to why the department is closing. We're here today to ask for an explanation of their decision and to try and get the vice-chancellor to change his mind about the closure." The problem lies in the way funding is allocated to universities. Although the number of physics students has remained relatively stable, according to the Institute of Physics (IoP), the huge increases in the number of students in other subjects can make it look as though it is shrinking. Physics is also an expensive subject to teach, as are all laboratory-based subjects. IoP assistant director of education and science Philip Diamond said the funding allocated to teaching physics probably doesn't reflect the costs. "What happens is that big departments get bigger and the small departments get smaller. At some point they drop below the level of viability." He added that other subjects are also at risk, including chemistry (another expensive lab-based subject) but also modern languages, particularly Chinese or Arabic. Reading University's department is unlikely to be the only one in the UK that has "dropped below the level of viability". The trouble is, departments can't advertise their vulnerability for fear of losing talented research staff and scaring off prospective students. "This is why we don't hear about it until it is too late," says Diamond. Similarly, it is probably already too late for Reading. Even if the department is given a reprieve, it would be an unusual student who would apply to a department he or she knew to be hanging by a thread. As Simon Stacey said: "I was hoping to go on to do a PhD at Reading after I graduate this year. Now I'm not sure if I will be able to do that." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Oct 2006
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Airport to tag passengers

Airport security chiefs and efficiency geeks will be able to keep close tabs on airport passengers by tagging them with a high powered radio chip developed at the University of Central London. The technology is to be trialled in Debrecen Airport in Hungary after being in development for two-and-a-half years by University College London as part of an EU-funded consortium called Optag. Dr Paul Brennan, of UCL's antennas and radar group, said his team had developed a radio frequency identification tag far in advance of any that had been used to now to label supermarket produce. People will be told to wear radio tags round their necks when they get to the airport. The tag would notify a computer system of their identity and whereabouts. The system would then track their activities in the airport using a network of high definition cameras. "[The tags] have got a long range, of 10m to 20m," said Brennan, "and the system has been designed so the tag can be located to within a metre, and it can locate thousands of tags in one area at a given time." RFID tags can normally only transmit their presence to readers a few centimetres away, while their location is difficult to grasp. The project, called "Improving airport efficiency, security and passenger flow by enhanced passenger monitoring," is using €2m of European funding so airports can herd people through the airport system. Colin Brooks, Optag co-ordinator, said the trial would determine if the tags would be feasible in the light of obvious problems, such as the possibility that people might ditch their tags to avoid detection, or swap them with another person. One solution might be to require people to use their tags to get through gates placed throughout the airport, he said. Perhaps a little like a shepherd might gate off his pasture and check the tags on his sheep as they passed into this field. ®
Mark Ballard, 12 Oct 2006

Sun's Darkstar invades Second Life

ContestContest Marketing-savvy companies trapped by the limitations of reality have found a new vehicle for their propaganda - the vacuous world of Second Life. Both Sun Microsystems and IBM held events this week in Second Life's make believe planet. Sun hawked its video game vision to lonely creatures, while IBM allowed fake versions of its alumni to mingle online. Second Life, for those of you who have been spared its inanity, is a video game full of fake cities, shops and people. It's the type of place where people who have sex with dolls in real life can have sex with avatars in fake life. And, oh my, what forms these avatars can take. The Guardian vomited out about 15,000 enlightening words on Second Life this weekend. The piece opened with the reporter declaring, "I am pole dancing for $18 in a sleazy club and I've never felt so alive! I've got pecs to die for, a lady-pleaser of a beard and an aura of sexual ambiguity!" Later, it added, "You can change gender, be more talkative, or less, or you can have sex (I'm not yet certain how) of the kind you wouldn't dare experience in real life." But more to our point, the Guardian propaganda piece had one Second Lifer noting, "My weirdest moment in SL was seeing Darth Vader fighting with a giant penis", and another declaring, "I work in a daycare centre for children, in Texas. My avatar is a big yellow triceratops: I am a 'furry' - and I found out about Second Life via a furry zine. My Second Life feels more real than my real life; it's the one where I feel pain." And so we started wondering what forms virtual press conferences from the likes of Sun and IBM will take now that they're deciding to cater to hapless furries who only feel pain while in the guise of a triceratops or throbbing member. CNET's Daniel Terdiman dove right into this query with an uncritical eye and tenuous grasp of the truth. He wrote that Sun this week used Second Life "to announce its 'Project Darkstar.'" That's sort of true if you accept that Sun did not "announce" the project for the first time but rather for about the 50th time, including once in a CNET article from March. Loosely, Project Darkstar is Sun's daunting code-name for a line of gaming servers and software it has built and hopes to sell. Sun argues that it's smarter for smaller game developers to turn to its sturdy hardware rather than trying to build their own data centers. To Sun's point, few outfits can afford to fire up data centers capable of letting millions of users worldwide play an online game at the same time. We've got more on Darkstar here. Sun shoved its distinguished chief researcher John Gage and Chief Gaming Officer Chris Melissinos into the Second Life world for a "virtual" press conference touting Darkstar. The company has joined IBM and others by buying virtual property to host such events. Apparently, the reporters and onlookers were all well-behaved. We've yet to encounter a story about Gage being molested mid-conference by a vagina or a lion with a peanut butter complex. But wouldn't that be fantastic. **Contest alert: Please submit your takes on what The Register's Second Life avatar should look like, and what our special place should be. We're thinking S&M parlor, but it's up to you. Winner gets a shirt or mug. [Graphics preferred]** Terdiman invited Melissinos to CNET's own Second Life chamber for an interview. At one point he queryed Sun on whether it has an actual business relationship in place with Linden Lab, the maker of Second Life. "Let's just say that we know the fine folks over at Linden Lab and are talking to them," Melissinos said. "I think a partnership between the two companies would make a lot of sense." As usual, Sun fluffed around instead of giving a real answer as to whether or not Linden Lab will move to Sun's gaming computing grid. So, there you have it. Even in a fake world with honey-soaked donkeys mating shy garbage cans, vendors refuse to say much of anything. Isn't it the case that a marketing Second Life is redundant? The world of public relations already attempts to massage reality in any way possible and folks like Terdiman – who used to be in PR and lists Linden Lab's CEO as a reference on his resume – gladly help out by taking on the reporter's avatar. You'd think PR firms and vendors would shy away from adding a layer of clunky software onto their well-greased propaganda machines. ®
Ashlee Vance, 12 Oct 2006

On that $1.65bn Google - YouTube deal

Google is probably the right home for YouTube, for many reasons, not least of which is the corporate culture which prefers to fund everything with advertising and the fact that both companies have emerged as popular web favorites against the odds. Google itself has been attacking video, as is MSN, with a deal this week with Blinkx as well as Yahoo and AOL, and with all their existing traffic, it made more sense that one of those would have had the success that YouTube had. But as in so many of these cases, it is the newcomer that manages to get to grips with the passion that the man in the street has for video. Google no doubt will extract as much revenue from YouTube as it is possible to extract, but there have to be question marks over whether or not YouTube will ever repay the $1.65bn that Google this week agreed to pay for the company. The acquisition of MySpace by New Corp, for a measly $580m, puts this in perspective and what we have here is a heating up of the valuable properties in the market, in a very similar way to the dotcom era, when companies that had never made a penny of profit, and had only just begun to have revenues, however minor, were sold for a multiple of the number of people that visited their web sites. We have said time and time again that there is something not quite right about services like Google Video, or AOL’s Truveo (which is at least the most technically accomplished video search engine), and also about Blinkx, which is perhaps the best known search engine, and of course YouTube. While they offer novelty, and low quality, but original, user generated content, until this week they never offered the type of material that elicits a long term engagement with viewers that professional TV consistently does. People will sit watching YouTube for a couple of hours sat at their PC in the evening, but mostly those people are not typical and won’t do it for the remainder of their lives, just for a few months until the novelty wears off. Harvesting e-potatoes Sure, there are enough people on the planet that the proportion that continue to visit YouTube will provide Google with advertising targets for a long time to come, but YouTube is not the finished article and it has to continue to re-invent itself if it hopes to become so. By this we mean that it must engage people on a semi-permanent basis. One major stumbling block is the lack of professional content that is available on YouTube and the other is the lack of a comfortable way of viewing such content. This week YouTube has gone some way to rectifying the first problem by cutting deals with Universal Music, Sony BMG and CBS. That will bring it professional music videos, and it said quite recently that it wants to hold every music video ever made. The CBS TV deal through Showtime Networks will also offer the YouTube community short-form video programming from its news, sports and entertainment divisions. But that’s our point. These are all short form deals, the type that people can watch between jobs at work, and at home when they are sat at the PC. There are not TV class 30 minute plus entertainments, that require connectivity between the TV and the PC, such as that promised in the first quarter of next year by Apple Computer. Try the search interface at any of the above companies and see how long it holds your interest. The visitor has to come up with the search terms, has to have a reason to be there, unless he or she wants to watch "favorites" of other visitors that they don’t know, and who may have hugely different tastes from them. We’re not saying that YouTube cannot continue to evolve to become a mature video market place where all types of video are watched, in both the comfort of the sitting room, or with the flexibility of being sat at a PC, but there are still hurdles to overcome and if the YouTube management spend more time counting their $1.65 billion than working on breakthrough new ideas, then the phenomena that introduced us all to user contributed video, could just be frittered away, along with Google’s money. Given the revenue share that CBS and the other content partners are happy with, and the fact that they have all signed similar deals already with Google, then many more TV series should find their way onto YouTube in the near future, as soon as viewing figures for these deals become stable. These deals have only been made possible by new technology announced by YouTube a few weeks ago, that will filter out copyrighted content which is not authorized to appear on the YouTube service. That made a big difference between the P2P networks of music piracy fame, and the attitude of YouTube, and so has led to a viable business model. That solved, the company became marketable, and the bidding only took a few days. Following the acquisition, YouTube will operate independently from Google, although Google will add its technology, advertiser relationships and global reach to the YouTube pie. The deal is thrown into perspective by a report from In-Stat, a US researcher, that said that the User Generated Content market would only hit $850 million in value by 2010. If I were one of the Google managers that signed the YouTube deal, I would hope it would be an awful lot more than that at YouTube alone. 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.
Faultline, 12 Oct 2006
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Microsoft services chief to spend more time with his family

Rick Devenuti, chief of Microsoft's fledgling managed services operation is the latest high-ranking manager to leave the company. Devenuti, senior vieep of services and IT, leaves at the end of year after 19 years at the company. He will spend more time with his family and "consider his next challenge," Microsoft said. A successor will be announced during the next month. Devenuti served for four years as Microsoft's chief information officer, during which time he established a set of metrics to measure the value of IT at Microsoft. However, it was as vice president of services and IT that he made the spotlight and stirred controversy as it emerged Microsoft's IT department was dabbling in managed services. Last year Microsoft said it was working with Energizer Holdings - famous for the Energizer batteries - to manage its desktop, and Exchange and SharePoint environments. The idea that Microsoft might soon start competing with companies already providing managed services was greeted with some dismay by partners. Devenuti joins a growing list of executives headed for the exit door at Redmond. Among them are 16-year Microsoft veteran and Windows chief Jim Allchin, due to leave in 2007 once Windows Vista finally ships; and Brian Valentine, vice president for Microsoft's core operating system division. He has already left for Amazon having been reshuffled out of his post after 19 years with Microsoft.®
Gavin Clarke, 12 Oct 2006
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ECI and chums set out to double DSL speed

Israeli telecommunications equipment maker ECI Telecom said this week it was behind a new consortium aimed at getting to the next technical level in DSL technologies. It wants to develop and promote an upgrade to DSL technology called Dynamic Spectrum Management (DSM).
Team Register, 12 Oct 2006

Sony Ericsson blames hit products for Q3 profits surge

Sony Ericsson has announced pre-tax earnings of €433m for its fiscal third quarter, up 187 per cent year-on-year. This marks a profit increase of €222m compared to the €211m recorded during its last fiscal quarter and a rise of €282m versus the same three-month period a year ago. Sony Ericsson, which is the world's fourth largest mobile manufacturer, reported sales of its Cyber-shot and Walkman phones had been particularly strong during the quarter. Sales for the period amounted to €2,913m, representing a year-on-year increase of 42 per cent. Net income was € 298m, compared to €104m last year. The firm shipped 19.8m mobile phones during the three-month period, a 43 per cent increase compared to the same quarter last year, and approximately double the market growth rate. "The third quarter saw Sony Ericsson reap the success of hit products announced earlier in the year such as the high-end K800 and W810, mid-range K610 and lower-priced W300 and K310. Our strategy of using flagship products to give Sony Ericsson a lead position within a product category such as imaging with the Cyber-shot megapixel camera phone or music with the Walkman line-up is creating a halo effect over lower-end models in the same category and encouraging new users to try our phones," said Miles Flint, president of Sony Ericsson. The mobile phone maker thinks the global handset market will total more than 950m units this year. On this basis the company believes it has outperformed the growth rate in the sector and gained more than a 1 percentage point market share this quarter, to reach a global market share of approximately 8 per cent. The company, a joint venture between Japan's Sony and Sweden's Ericsson, celebrated its fifth anniversary on October 1 2006. It currently employs over 7,000 people worldwide in Europe, Japan, China and America.
ElectricNews.net, 12 Oct 2006
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Penelope the Thunderbird

Actually, it was never quite clear why Qualcomm bought Eudora, the old market-leading email program, but it would have been quite understandable if it had been because it foresaw the growth in mobile email, and wanted to bundle something with BREW phones. But it seems that it wasn't. Qualcomm has now disposed of Eudora, it announced yesterday, and it will turn it into Penelope, which is a Thunderbird based product. It's going to be Open Source, from Mozilla, and effectively, this marks the unloading of the Albatross for the Thunderbird. Why did it buy it? "It was just one of those things," thinks Ferris Research consultant Richi Jennings. "I doubt they ever really knew why they bought it, and nobody else knows." Penelope will add several features to Thunderbird, says Jennings: "including these:" Data and settings import, to help with migration User interface options, to make the client more familiar for Eudora users (e.g., keyboard accelerators) Stationery "This is good news for Eudora users. Eudora hasn't had a bright future for some considerable time - it's hardly been a shining star on Qualcomm's balance sheet. This will move Eudora users onto a more stable code platform - one that's being actively developed." This is also [he reckons] good news for Thunderbird users. "It adds new ideas to the development team - a team that at times can feel like the ugly sister compared to the Firefox browser." Did Qualcomm have any hopes of taking Eudora mobile? "Nope, can't say I've ever heard anybody say anything of the sort," admitted Jennings. Copyright © Newswireless.net Bootnote And what of the Ugly Sister? Writes Reg reader Ihar Filipau: "If the deal doesn't include paid developer time, I think TB will be unmoved by the donation. As long time Netscape Messenger/Mozilla Messenger/Thunderbird user I can witness, the problem of TB isn't lack of features - but rather lack of active developers working on it. TB is only now reaching level of features of Netscape 4.x - and stability is very remote goal. Throwing Eudora into the mix definitely would not help."
Guy Kewney, 12 Oct 2006

Palm launches 'Low Rider' phone

Palm has launched its fourth smartphone of the year - a PalmOS model with a budget price. It's the first major upgrade to Palm's GSM line since the Treo 650, announced in late 2004 - and, which Palm was forced to stop selling in the EU in the summer because of the RoHS hazardous waste requirements. It's also much more aggressively priced than its predecessor.
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Oct 2006
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Insight opens China front

Insight Enterprises, the giant US reseller, is dipping its toes into mainland China, opening up base in Shanghai. The office is not facing inwards, more reaching out to multinationals with Chinese subs.
Team Register, 12 Oct 2006
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Maxdata buys electronics retailer

Maxdata, the PC and monitor maker, is moving into consumer electronics retailing in its German homeland with the acquisition of Yakumo, of Braunschweig. Yakumo's 51 staffaccount for a turnover of €146m. In a statement announcing the takeover, the company also slipped out a Q3 trading statement, with reduced losses of €5.8m. It attributes the improvement to restructuring, which began in the Spring. But it thinks it might not make its forecast of €600m and losses of €25m for the full year. ®
Team Register, 12 Oct 2006
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Outsourcing firms squeezed till their pips squeak

IT outsourcers are facing a torrid time with nitpicking customers demanding more and paying less for their services. The numbers of deals are increasing, but they are worth less than before, and they don't last so long.
Gavin Clarke, 12 Oct 2006