20th > October > 2006 Archive

Palm Treo 700wx smart phone rings in Middle Earth

New Zealanders can now buy a Palm smart phone running Windows Mobile 5.0 in their own country, the handset maker has announced. Middle Earth's main telco, Telecom New Zealand, has now begun offering the EvDO-equipped Treo 700wx.
Hard Reg, 20 Oct 2006

Nvidia posts graphics code tweaking tool

Nvidia has updated its suite of programming tools for graphics-intensive applications running under 32- and 64-bit incarnations of Windows and Linux. The tools target OpenGL and Direct3D apps that will render 3D imagery on the company's GPUs.
Hard Reg, 20 Oct 2006

Intel to 'spend $300m' to push Centrino Pro

Intel will spend a whopping $300m to promote its upcoming Centrino Pro enterprise-oriented notebook platform, it has been claimed by sources from Taiwan's laptop manufacturer community. Intel will piggyback the launch on Windows Vista, they added.
Tony Smith, 20 Oct 2006

MS readies 100GB HDD for XBOX 360?

Microsoft has apparently said it intends to introduce a 100GB hard drive for its Xbox 360 games console. The scheme was announced yesterday at X06, an event dedicated to the console and held in South Korea.
Tony Smith, 20 Oct 2006

TomTom seeks ban for Garmin's car products

Car navigation equipment maker TomTom has asked a Dutch judge to prevent the sale of Garmin's StreetPilot c300 and c500 series in Europe. TomTom alleged that Garmin copied many aspects of the TomTom GO design in its product line. TomTom demanded "immediate action" to stop Garmin from "further profiting from its 'me too products', in particular during the coming holiday season". TomTom claims that Garmin started to develop the StreetPilot c300 series in May 2004, just a month after it launched its GO device at CeBIT in Hannover. The Garmin designer claims he never saw TomTom's product, at least not during the early stages of development. "That's hard to believe," TomTom's lawyers told the judge yesterday, who was surrounded with samples and sheets of TomTom and Garmin products. "We know Garmin's people came to watch the TomTom products at CeBIT." Garmin allowed the lawyers of TomTom to look at early concept designs of the C300, although under a non disclosure agreement. "The documents clearly indicated that the product would help Garmin to fill the void in their product line. In contrast to what Garmin claims, the C300 was evidently not an evolutionary product," the lawyers argued. However, TomTom had difficulty pointing out the similarities between the competing products. Nor was it able to prove it suffered financial loss as a result of these products. Garmin's lawyer told the judge: "The reason why we are here is that TomTom wants revenge for the fact Garmin sued them for patent infringement." A ruling is expected within two weeks. ®
Jan Libbenga, 20 Oct 2006

Lunar ice evaporates under glare of new studies

It now seems the moon could be dry as a bone, as two new studies have failed to find any sign of the ice that some have suspected to lie in the shadows of lunar craters. The findings have prompted calls for on site exploration of the lunar surface in the form of rover missions to find out for sure whether or not there is ice on the moon, according to Science Magazine. Finding lunar water supplies is a vital part of plans to establish a lunar base from which astronauts could explore our moon. The search forms part of many of NASA's exploration plans. The discovery of water ice on the moon dates back to results from a 1996 radar survey of the lunar surface. However, the new study suggests that the interpretation of the radar signals was flawed. Planetary scientist Donald Campbell says his new study, which uses more instruments to give a better resolution, shows that the "ice" signatures are not coming from the shadows of craters at all. Rather, they seem to be from areas of rough lunar soil. And the prospects of finding lunar ice look even dimmer thanks to a study of the temperature of the moon's surface by David Paige of the University of California, Los Angeles. His work shows that the signs of water do not correspond with cold spots on the moon's surface. NASA is launching a new mission, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, in 2008 that will be specifically looking for ice on the moon. But some scientists say nothing short of a rover mission will be able to provide the certainty needed. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2006

Copiepresse continues copyright crusade

The organisation that won a Belgian ruling against Google and is negotiating with Microsoft's MSN will take action against Yahoo! as soon as it has the time, its head has said. Margaret Boribon told OUT-LAW Radio that she intends to open talks with Yahoo! Copiepresse represents Belgian newspapers and took the Google case because it believed the Google News service breached the newspapers' copyright. Google argued that it does not break the law because it uses only snippets of text. A Belgian case ruled in favour of Copiepresse and Google took down all reference to the newspapers represented by the body both in Google News and in its search engine. This week it emerged that Copiepresse has started discussions with Microsoft's MSN over the same issue. Boribon, Copiepresse's secretary general, told weekly technology podcast OUT-LAW Radio that Yahoo! was also on the body's list. "Yes," she said, when asked would she take action against Yahoo!, adding that it would have to wait until her organisation had time. "We are a very small team and I only have 24 hours in a day so I do my best. "The law is the law. We are producing protected works and the law in Europe says clearly that to re-use that content you have to ask for permission," said Boribon. "We want every search engine, aggregator or re-user of our content to respect it and to ask for agreement and to pay a fair price." The Google case will return to court in November, but Boribon said she is finding Microsoft eaier to deal with, and that it has been keen to talk from the outset. "MSN has a long tradition of attention to copyright for their computer programs so they know what copyright is, maybe more than Google," she said. Boribon would like a revenue share from all news services that use her members' material, but says she is open to offers on exactly how that would work. "What we ask for one we ask for the other one – the same arguments, the same measures, they have done the same infringements, taking content without authorisation, so we ask the same: withdraw the content and come to the table to negotiate a fair deal." She said her actions had attracted additional support from copyright groups representing authors, photographers, and scientific authors. Copiepresse hopes, said Boribon, that its actions against Google will set a precedent that will mean that subsequent cases can be settled more easily. "We think the point is to have a clear situation with the main one and the others will follow," she said.
OUT-LAW.COM, 20 Oct 2006

Archos connects PMP PVR with Wi-Fi

Archos may not make the sexiest looking personal media players but by jimminy they cram in the features. In the case of the Archos 604, it's wireless networking that's top of the list, now added in to the already feature-rich PMP the company launched back in August.
Tony Smith, 20 Oct 2006

Treasury fights to keep Gateway closed

The government has hired legal experts in an effort to block publication of Gateway reviews of the National Identity Card programme. Legal representation will come from the Treasury's Solicitors department, which has had approval to bring in external legal experts and a Queen's Counsel to fight a decision by the information commissioner, Richard Thomas, that two Gateway Reviews on ID cards can be published. The use of legal experts is expected to cost between £20,000 and £50,000. GC News understands that some senior government officials have quietly indicated they would prefer the Gateway Review system to be more open, while some on the industry side prefer to keep it discreet. A spokesperson for the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) told GC News that the Treasury, the parent department for the OGC, will fight to protect the "integrity" of Gateway reviews. "We will defend the integrity of the process and we have enough legal reasons to appeal (against the Information Commissioner's decision)," the spokesperson said. "People on the project or programme (including suppliers and civil servants) speak honestly with no holds barred we need to preserve that. Our aim is to help projects and the programme work efficiently." Other reasons for the secrecy include a belief that the reporting of the reviews could be taken out of context and create an inaccurate picture which would require additional resources to correct. Thomas ruled at the time that the reports did not contain information which would cause participants to be less willing to contribute openly and fully in future Gateway Reviews. The OGC spokesperson said the Gateway Reviews, which look at project implementation work, have made savings of £1.5bn since 2003. The scheme was instigated and is run by OGC, which has refused all requests under the Freedom of Information (FoI) Act for the results of two Gateways on ID cards to be published. Initially, the OGC refused to provide copies of the reviews even to the information commissioner. Computer Weekly reported that the commissioner wrote to the OGC asking for a hard copy of the reviews which were needed to reach a determination under the FoI Act. The commissioner had to get OGC specified assurances before the information was released to him. In August 2006, Thomas ruled under the FoI Act that the OGC should publish two Gateway Zero Reviews on the ID Card scheme. Gateway Zero looks at whether the government has the right skills to manage the programme, whether all the major risks have been identified, if there is a continuing need for new systems, and whether all the expectations for the programme are realistic. If the OGC had accepted the commissioner's decision it would have opened the door for other Gateway reviews to be published on other risky IT projects such as the National Programme for IT. 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, 20 Oct 2006

Thomson dusts off MaLigne software

Thomson has polished up the SmartVision IPTV middleware it acquired from Thales last year, and put it together with VoIP technology and claims it is the world’s first integrated triple play engine. It seems all the rage to take middleware that was written for a single vendor (Imagenio from Telefonica for instance) and turn it into a package and now the system that sits behind France Telecom’s MaLigne TV is coming to market. Faultline said at IBC this year that the last thing the world needs is another IPTV middleware package as there are now about 30 on the market. The acquisition cost Thomson around €130m ($155m) at the time, and gave it capabilities in video-on-demand, mobile TV content delivery and management, video-over-IP test and measurement technology and quality of service (QOS) analysis tools for mobile TV. So expect Thomson to use the service to catapult the company into the next generation of IPTV services, offering content from the same sources in different formats for TVs, PCs and handsets, delivered over a variety of wireless and fixed networks. Thomson at the Broadband World Forum Europe was making it clear that it can now merge broadcast systems, head-end encoders from its Grass Valley company, its own compression technology, remote management systems, ad insertion systems, IP-enabled set-top boxes, and home gateways to its Cirpack VoIP Softswitch it acquired last April. Thomson said last week it would pre-integrate its back end service delivery platforms so that operators can add sophisticated voice and video features which interact and are aware of each other over DSL networks. You would think that after all the delay that has been associated over the past two years with triple play services that there might be a substantial appeal for a complete triple play that comes pre-integrated. But since all of the offerings that Thomson has acquired happen to be French, we think it is unlikely that there will be a sudden list of new telco customers outside of France for these systems. In fact, Thomson's approach of integrating softswitch and IPTV middleware function via a single service delivery platform means that when a customer already has VoIP, it will have to "unbundle" the software, to service them. Thomson says that SmartVision TV service offers live TV with picture in picture, video on demand, network personal video recording, and that Cirpack adds caller ID on TV for incoming calls, browsing of call history with click to dial, activating call forwarding, configuring black lists or selecting musical ring back tones on the TV. It can even turn the TV screen into a unified messaging centre for voice mail, video mail, SMS and e-mail, which we think has been the Microsoft Alcatel convergence message all along, so it appears to have arrived at this product set a good two years too late in our view, but with a customer the size of France Telecom, it may catch up. Thomson says the same core network platforms can manage mobile devices for telephony such as dual mode WiFi-GSM phones and mobile video devices such as 3G phones or DVB-H receivers. About the time of the sale of Smartvision to Thomson there were rumours that France Telecom was about to capitulate and embark on a path to switch to the Microsoft Alcatel IPTV route, and pressure from those quarters may well have been what drove the sale by Thales to put it in the hands of a company that may be more willing drive forward its feature set. 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, 20 Oct 2006

Avoiding SOA standards-based chaos

SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) is apparently nice and easy to understand - a bit of WSDL, some XML, SOAP, and a simple UDDI directory to select your services from.
David Norfolk, 20 Oct 2006

Tzero adds new investor for UWB product roll out

Tzero Technologies, a three year old UltraWideaBand (UWB) start up that supports the WiMedia Alliance variant of the technology, has taken another round of funding. While it hasn't specified the amount this time, Tzero has added Miven Venture Partners to its roster of investors, on what seems like the same terms as its earlier $25.5m Series B round that went through in June this year. UWB is inordinately expensive to develop, even for a fabless semiconductor firm, and we have seen how many set backs and political battles, which the industry's innovator Pulse-link has had to put up with. The difference is that Pulse-Link has over 200 patents in UWB technologies, many of which cover even the WiMedia Alliance approach, and it also has a thriving business in homeland security to support it. So far Tzero has already had over $40m in funding and is targeting LAN distances for High Definition TV signals throughout the home, something that Pulse-Link already offers, with a technology that the WiMedia Alliance would like to marginalise by terming "proprietary". Pulse-Link's system already offers 1 Gbps versus the 480 Mbps speeds of WiMedia. The new money at Tzero will be used to expand business opportunities and bring new products to market and as a result of the deal Victor Tsao, a founding general partner of Miven who also happened to be a Linksys co-founder and senior vice president of Cisco Systems, will act as an advisor to the company. Meanwhile, Pulse-Link carried out a public demonstration of HD video transmissions using both 1394 Firewire and Ethernet being transmitted simultaneously over the same coaxial cable, at the Connected Home conference in San Diego. Pulse-link is now pushing its ability to merge Coax and Wireless connections into a single hybrid network with the same chipset in either device. Pulse-link says it offers the only technology that can allow multiple simultaneous streams of High Definition content with "Trick Play" and interactive menus. 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, 20 Oct 2006

Asus readies red, green gamer-oriented laptops?

Asus is preparing to ship its Lamborghini VX1 laptop in the US in a limited "Golden Edition" even as it gears up to release a pair of gamer-oriented laptops, if a series of allegedly leaked publicity shots are to be believed.
Tony Smith, 20 Oct 2006
fingers pointing at man

Bigger, longer, uncut: Oracle OpenWorld

After two years' buying other people's companies and merging Oracle World and Oracle Apps World, it can safely be said Oracle's annual call to Mecca has outgrown itself.
Gavin Clarke, 20 Oct 2006

Hot technology agendas

What are the hottest infrastructure technologies as we look forward over the next two years? This was a question the all new Reg Barometer set out to answer by asking readers to rate the short and medium term importance of 25 emerging or fast developing technology areas. The study provides some good insights into what's on buyer agendas, and this doesn't always match up to the IT industry view. Beginning with the enterprise sector (companies with more than 5,000 employees), security is still very much at the top of the list. You might think that everyone ought to have sorted themselves out in this area by now, but the barometer tells us otherwise. The security story does seem to have moved on, however, from basic protection measures such as anti-virus, anti-spam, firewalls, etc, to focus more on authentication and access. The top three items on the agenda in the enterprise space are single sign-on (SSO), identity management (IDM) and network access control (NAC). Not far behind security, we have technologies that are designed to deliver greater efficiencies and flexibilities in the infrastructure. Both storage and server virtualisation hold a very prominent position and blade server architectures appear in the top 10 enterprise list too. Highlighting the need for flexibility in a different manner, enterprises are also putting a lot of emphasis on portal technology and composite applications. The other big theme is then advanced communications in the form of IT Telephony (IPT) and mobile solutions. On the open source front, Linux on the server puts in a good showing, but doesn't quite make it into the enterprise top 10 (it occupies the number 11 slot). The story is very different for Linux on the desktop, open source office suites, and the related ODF standard, however, which all fall into the bottom five, together with application streaming and software as a service (SaaS). But views and plans are different when we switch our attention from enterprises to more mainstream mid-market and SMB organisations. While the overall level of interest and commitment to advanced technologies is significantly less, the rankings are different too. For one thing, Linux on the server surfaces to the number one position, closely followed by IP Telephony. While still not high up the rankings, some of the more client oriented open source offerings are also rated more highly. But what about the vendors? Well, the most striking difference between those involved in selling IT products and services and the buying community is the sellers' enthusiasm for open source. Vendors are three times more likely to highlight the importance of desktop Linux than enterprises, for example, and four times as likely to take open source office suites seriously. Differences are also seen with server based Linux, but to a lesser extent. It is difficult to tell whether these differences are a result of superior insights in the vendor community, a greater level of technical skill allowing easier adoption of emerging open source offerings, or simply a desire to drive more competition into the market by promoting alternatives to the dominant Microsoft presence. In reality, it's probably a mixture of all of these. The barometer report itself, which was put together by Freeform Dynamics, presents the detail behind these and other findings. You can view or download a copy in PDF format here:
Dale Vile, 20 Oct 2006
homeless man with sign

Organised crime fails to stop skiddies

CommentComment About a year ago, I attended a top-level roundtable meeting of malware experts, where we discussed organised crime on the internet, and came to the conclusion that, in one sense, it might be a good thing for users. That sense was trivial, of course, compared with the problems of extortion and "protection" rackets. But it looked real: it did seem as if there would be a small "up side" in that the big-time gangsters would find it irritating to be upstaged by script-kiddies, and might start taking them down. At the time, that seemed good sense. In fact, it turns out to have been hideously naive, because it made two unjustified assumptions. First, it presumed that the gangsters were competent, and second, it assumed they would be able to protect their turf. Two examples of internet hacking show that this isn't the case. First, my own local ISP was subjected to a full-blown distributed denial-of-service attack (DDOS). And second, in the last week, a small time blogger has been catapulted into the limelight he has been seeking ever since he started his website, and has been systematically attacked by zombie farms. We'll keep his name out of it so the script-kiddies can't harrass him any more. The style of the attacks shows that it's not organised crime trying to get money out of them, but is a spite campaign, designed to harass and bully. Both these incidents - and I could quote dozens more without doing any serious research - are exactly the sort of script-kiddie exploit which my roundtable experts agreed was on the way out. "It's a bit like trying to run a protection racket on three local news agents who are already paying protection money to the Mafia," said one of the experts a year ago. "All you'll get is a visit from the Cosa Nostra enforcer, telling you that they don't appreciate the competition." In fact, it isn't like that. It's more like getting a bunch of innocent old ladies to block the entrance to a small newsagent by telling them the proprietor is giving away £5 notes. And the result is a nuisance - sometimes on a grand scale - but no money changes hands. And if no money changes hands, there's no audit trail. Right now, tracing the origins of a zombie army is a task beyond technology. If the general of the zombie army is careless enough to leave a signature that betrays his location, he can be found, perhaps; but the real way to track a DDOS exploit operator is the cash. What normally happens is that a large financial institution - a bank, a gambling site, or a large online shopping system enabler - is contacted by criminals who ask for money. "They are in a real hole," said one security expert at the roundtable. "They know the risk is serious. Typically, they have a big payday coming up - for example, a bookmaker site the day before a big race like the Grand National in the UK, or the Kewney Stakes in Australia, or the Kentucky Derby in America. They know they can spend the next two days with their internet connections overwhelmed by multiple attacks from innocent PC owners, who have no idea they're doing it." But if they pay up, the hard lesson of the last year is that the criminals immediately pass the word around that "so and so is an easy touch!" and a dozen other syndicates send similar demands and threats. Nonetheless, sometimes they pay up and a deal can be done unofficially which says "hands off" to rival syndicates. And if money does change hands, it becomes possible to track the beneficiary - not easy, but possible. With a spite attack, the only motivation is the misery of the target. In the case of the small ISP mentioned above, a script-kiddy hacker who regarded their own status as having been called into question by a claim that "we can block you" by the internet company, decided to prove them wrong. The result was that several thousand zombie PCs marched into action, and flattened the ISP site for a day. The perpetrator is known - there's no mystery there - but proving it? "Almost pointless to try," admits the victim. In the case of the blogger, his only crime was to be hideously insensitive to the difference between political correctness and homosexuality. He exposed himself to public notice through his suggestions of what could be entertainment for a software convention, and when criticised, tactlessly suggesting that anybody who didn't like the idea was obviously gay. The incident made a vaguely amusing diary story. But someone - or a group of someones - took personal offence, and set about a campaign of online harassment - subscribing the victim to porn sites and mailing lists and bombarding his ISP with a mini DOS attack. Again, it is almost pointless to try pinning this on any one perpetrator. Even if you could track all of them, it's doubtful that anybody would; the damage is already done, and won't continue. The notoriety of the victim is typical of a "15 minutes of fame" blip - within a week you'd expect the world's attention to have shifted to a mother of triplets who was claiming Sir Paul McCartney was the father, or a footballer who sent rude texts to a film star, or a dog which tried to hang itself. Or maybe even an innocent tech journo who found himself displaced from BBC News TV by a job-seeker who wanted an entirely different type of interview...but that's probably too unlikely. The problem is difficult to solve with current technology, it seems. Just occasionally, some teenage hacker goes to court accused of hacking crimes and is careless enough to leave an unmistakable audit trail, or even admits to it in public. At that point, retribution is possible. Either the organised crime syndicate whose patch has been disrupted can arrive by night and threaten the kid, or else the process of law can proceed - but that doesn't concern the next thousand hacker geniuses, all of whom know perfectly well that they won't make the same mistake. Both are irrelevant in the search for more secure internet computing. And if you try to tell me that Windows Vista will be the breakthrough which we're all looking for, I will probably laugh... ®
Guy Kewney, 20 Oct 2006
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BOFH: Armageddon

Episode 35Episode 35 "We've, ah, got a bit of a problem," the head of IT says, entering Mission Control. "What's that then?" I ask, always willing to help management out - particularly if they've just come in. "It's about that Top 500 IT-Savvy companies survey we did a few weeks back." "What's that then?" "The editor of the magazine would like to see the room." "I'm sure he would." "And so would dozens of readers of the IT Survey, apparently," the head adds. "Of course, you told them that as a secure underground facility we couldn't possibly let just anyone have access?" "They said they'd be happy with photos." "Well why didn't you ask sooner!" ...quarter of an hour of the PFY's time later... "So what do you think - too many Crays?" I ask, handing over an image to the head of IT. "Perhaps...10 is a little over the top - and you can tell that one's just a mirror image of that one because the label's back to front." "Good point - we'll drop the Crays down to...three and add a few more racks of 1U machines. And don't worry, I'll put you in the background somewhere checking the dipstick of a machine." "Thank you." "Don't thank me, thank the PFY and the good folk at Adobe!" ...Later that day in the head of IT's office... "A problem with the photo we sent," the head murmurs with his hand over the handset. "Yes?" "They say that by their calculations the facility is about three times larger than our building." "Of course it is," I say. "It's a bunker!" "Under our building..." "Yes." I take a seat while this information is relayed with the relevant hint of indignation. "And they say the local council records don't show any consents for the building of this facility?" the Head asks, getting a little worried. "They wouldn't would they - it's...uhmmm...one the ex Ministry of Defence Cold War command shelters!" I ad lib. "No records were ever kept - uh...for security reasons." ... "Now they want to know how we managed to get those large Cray computers down there." "Down the missile shafts," I say, wondering if I'm going a BIT far... ...Later that week... "Uh Simon...Could we have a word?" the head of IT asks, looking slightly pale. "Mmm?" I ask, noticing a couple of suited figures behind him. "This is...Mr...uhm...John and David from the Ministry of...Defence." "And how can we help you?" the PFY asks, entering the conversation from the Tape Safe room. "It's about your computer bunker" Mr...uhm...John says. "We were contacted by a magazine publisher interested in the details of our disused site..." "Yes?" "I think we all know that it doesn't exist." "Have you not seen the photos?" the PFY asks. "That's some of my best work." "And highly imaginative. But still not real." "What's your point?" the PFY asks. "The point is you can't go around fabricating ex-MOD sites." "So fabrication can only be used for Weapons of Mass Destruction purposes?" the PFY asks. "I..." "What is the real problem?" I ask, before things can turn nasty. "You said you had an ex-MOD site." "Yes..." "And you referred to a missile silo." "A missile shaft." "Which has caused some concerns about missiles sites in inner London." "Just tell them it was a Cold War plan which was never put into effect," the PFY suggests. "And there's the crux of the matter - why should we lie just to support your lie?" "Two reasons," I say. "One, because there's always going to be some people who'll think there was a site here - even if you excavated the ground to prove there wasn't, and two, with a 'neither confirm nor deny policy' you could make a small fortune selling fictitious ex-MOD bunkers." "I think you'll need to expand a bit why people would believe the bunker," John says. "Actually, I'd rather hear about the small fortune stuff," David says. ...a day later... "...so I've lined up a couple of companies, one who'd like to be number 200 or so, and the other who'd like to be in the 400s somewhere," I say. "...so what have you got?" "Trafalgar and Russell Squares," David says. "The place is riddled with underground stations!" the PFY comments. "These are very deep installations - made to survive even the heaviest bombings," David says. "And there might be a bit of a problem given that one of the sites is on the other side of the Thames." "Linked to the site by a tunnel similar to the one which links MI5 and MI6," David adds. "You've pretty much got it all sewn up then...apart from the finder's fee," I say. "How about we waive that given that your company is getting your facility for nothing. After all, we'd hate to have a disastrous structural failure." Bugger, Checkmate! "How about 10 pints and a curry then?" the PFY suggests - always the peacemaker. "That'll do nicely!" BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 20 Oct 2006

MS and researchers split hairs over first IE7 flaw

A dispute has broken out over reports of the first security vulnerability in IE7 since its release earlier this week. Microsoft claims the vulnerability stems from a flaw in Outlook Express, but security researchers say that since the bug can be exploited via IE7 it is really an IE7 vulnerability. The dispute kicked off on Thursday after security notification firm Secunia published an alert about an information disclosure bug affecting IE7 hours after the release of Microsoft's long-awaited browser. The flaw is said to stem from errors in the handling of redirections for URLs with the "mhtml:" URI handler. Secunia reports that the same bug was discovered six months ago in IE6 but remains unresolved. The flaw might be used to access documents served from another website, a trick that could be useful in various scam and phishing attacks. Microsoft branded reports of the first IE7 bug as "technically inaccurate". It said the security bug Secunia refers to, which Redmond has under investigation, involves Outlook Express and not Internet Explorer. "The issue concerned in these reports is not in Internet Explorer 7 (or any other version) at all. Rather, it is in a different Windows component, specifically a component in Outlook Express," writes Microsoft staffer Christopher Budd on MS's official security response weblog. Budd adds that Microsoft has received no reports of the misuse of the vulnerability in attacks against its customers. Secunia maintains it was right to describe IE7 as vulnerable to the security bug it highlighted. It claims Microsoft is being disingenuous in claiming otherwise. "The vulnerability is fully exploitable via IE, which is the primary attack vector, if not the only attack vector," Secunia CTO of security notification Thomas Kristensen said. "For a long time Microsoft has had a policy of tagging various vulnerabilities where IE was the primary or only attack vector as operating system vulnerabilities. While it may be correct from an organisational (and PR?) point of view within Microsoft, this does not fit into how it is perceived by users and administrators and how they are going to defend against exploitation. "Hiding behind an explanation that certain vulnerabilities, which only are exploitable through Internet Explorer, are to blame on Outlook Express, Microsoft Windows, or other core Microsoft Windows components seems more like a way to promote security of IE rather than standing up and explaining to the users where the true risk is and taking responsibility for the vulnerabilities and risks in IE, which are caused by IE being so heavily integrated with the underlying operating system and other Microsoft components," Kristensen concludes. The SANS Institute's Internet Storm Centre provided a neutral perspective. Its analysis confirms that the vulnerability exists in the MSXML ActiveX component which is actually part of Outlook Express, but it agrees with Secunia's assessment that the bug in exploitable via Internet Explorer and that both IE6 and IE7 are vulnerable. ®
John Leyden, 20 Oct 2006

Microsoft assumes temporal dominion

Next week could see chaos as Microsoft assumes control of the fourth dimension, robbing UK businesses of a whole hour of work. A problem with Microsoft Exchange Server means programmes such as Outlook will turn the clocks back a week early, plunging Britain's Blackberry-weilding suits into a thundering whirlpool of temporal bedlam. The bug has arisen because this October is unusual in having five Sundays. Exchange is hard-coded to assume only four, and to readjust from BST to GMT on the fourth Sunday. For Microsoft Exchange enthusiasts, the schoolboy error lies in the Collaboration Data Objects API, which is partly responsible for sending messages and creating appointments. Microsoft has fix information here. If you're running a pre-service pack 2 Exchange Server, however, prepare to enter a nightmare world in which time has no meaning. The years 2010, 2011 and 2016 will see the same issue rear its time-bendingly ugly mug. Hopefully, Microsoft will have some new software by then, but you never can tell. ®
Christopher Williams, 20 Oct 2006

Airbus revises A380 break-even point

Airbus parent company EADS has announced a new break-even point for its troubled A380 programme - 420 aircraft as opposed to the previous 270, the BBC reports. Current orders for the A380 stand at 159. The A380 roll-out has now been delayed three times due to "wiring problems" and the first example will not be delivered until October 2007. New Airbus big cheese Louis Gallois recently admitted "painful" job losses were likely as a result of the knock-backs, while Rolls-Royce earlier this month suspended A380 engine production while "waiting for more details about requirements from Airbus". Airbus has calculated that the whole sorry saga will cost it €2.8bn in profits over the next four years, added to the €2bn it announced back in June 2006. Airlines, meanwhile, have expressed growing frustration at the situation. Qantas, which won't take delivery of the first of 12 A380s it's ordered until August 2008, recently asked: "How are we going to mount the capacity in the short-term?" Emirates, the biggest customer to date with 43 on order, admitted it was "reviewing its options". On a brighter note, EADS chief financial officer Andreas Sperl told a gathering of analysts and investors that Airbus "still expected to sell more than 750 of its new planes over the life of the project". ®
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2006

Venturing online in Ireland

CommentComment I'm flattered by the number of Reg readers who have spotted the change in my byline and taken the time to ask if I've moved permanently. And for the record, yes; I and my lovely wife and dear little boy have emigrated from the USA. And yes, we're very much pleased to be here.
Thomas C Greene, 20 Oct 2006
homeless man with sign

Sun in a box and IE7 out of the box

Vodafone walks own path The trouble with the technology business is that no sooner is there a bandwagon then everyone is on it. So it's nice to see a company ignore what the rest of the industry is doing and walk its own path. While every mobile phone company is keen to sell us broadband services, cable telly, video messaging, and a nice holiday in the Ardeche it's refreshing to have Vodafone stick to its knitting. The only trouble is some of its investors aren't convinced by the "strategy" - or even if it is a strategy at all. Part of these changes emerged this week with the departure of the company's chief technology officer and predictions of more job cuts to come – including that of chief executive Arun Sarin. Cost cutting will also mean less Maseratis in the Reading car park. The other change emerged last week when the company ended its agreement with Carphone Warehouse. In the future, Vodafone contracts will be available in only one High Street shop – Phones4U. What a business provider has in common with the chav-tastic Phones4U we're not exactly sure...analysis and wild predictions available here. Dangers of the net Back in the olden days of Bubble 1.0, you couldn't move for people telling us how dangerous the internet was. So it was with a warm glow of nostalgia that we heard US homeland security chief Michael Chertoff telling British police officers that there is now "a capability of someone to radicalise themselves over the internet". More musings on terror by email here. And the European Commission is getting in on the act too. Franco Frattini, Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner, is looking at how to rid the web of nasty websites and other sources of information potentially useful to terrorists. Like much EC policy this sounds like a laudable aim but gets a little tricky in practice. Setting up an equivalent to China's Great Firewall would be expensive, ineffective, and against any ideas of liberty or freedom of information and expression. Dabs for kids In our day kids got inky fingers from using pens...nowadays it comes from having your fingerprints taken. Conservative and LibDem MPs are getting behind a campaign to stop schools fingerprinting kids. They might as well enjoy their freedom before rule changes for European passports mean all children will get their dabs taken anyway. Sun's data centre in a box, well, a shipping container... If your company is short of space but has a car park, Sun's latest launch could be for you. Apparently aimed at the underserved trailer park market for utility computing, it is a data centre in a shipping container... So, as long as there's room in the car park and you have electricity and water, you're all set. No more talking to cooling companies and finding space in your server room. Microsoft launches are go The next few months will see an orgy of Microsoft releases, if the European Commission can resist the temptation to rain on the parade. First up this week we had Internet Explorer 7 which hit the road a little. It's available now if you're keen, or there's more details here on MS's first browser update since 2001. Despite IE7's much-vaunted improved security a flaw was spotted a few hours after release. Farmers feel the pain of government IT Another week, another government IT screw up. This time it's farmers who suffered. The National Audit Office – one of the few government institutions to actually ask questions of government IT stuff-ups – published a report into why the payments agency failed to meet its targets. Creeping changes to the specification of the project after it had started contributed to its failure. TVR quits UK You might have thought the UK car industry had already left the country, but this week saw another manufacturer throw in the towel. Contractors' favourite TVR is off to mainland Europe and abandoning Blackpool, its home since 1947. And who knew TVR's name was taken from the first name of its founder, Trevor Wilkinson? Trevor? Panto season already Well it's nearly Christmas so it shouldn't be a surprise to hear the choruses of "Yes, he did..." "Oh, no he didn't!" ringing out. Microsoft continues to say it's working with security companies and giving them full access to Vista. But the security companies keep saying it ain't so. It's trial by press release with the European Commission acting as referee. But the last thing Microsoft wants to see is yet another delay to Vista – we've given up counting how many times this release has missed a deadline. Round One McAfee, Round Two Microsoft, Round Three...errr... Storage Expo a go-go This week also saw Storage Expo – a local show for local people. Somerset start-up keeps it simple, A cunning plan from Boston, Hertfordshire, and a Flash solution to hard drives. And don't miss the beard-based analysis of the show. Symbian show This week's other show was for mobile operating system Symbian. What does mobile VoIP mean for the future of mobiles? Will the US catch up? And when buzzwords go bad: Web 2.0 vs Mobiles. Quarterlies season It's results season for the web giants this week and eBay was up first. It posted strong results helped by payment service PayPal, which grew revenues by 41 per cent. Good news for Google too, but good news for Google meant bad news for rivals - Yahoo! grows but not enough. Not exactly financial results, but close. Gartner's look at hardware shipments had a surprise at the number one position with HP taking top spot over Dell. Other news... Elbow/painting interface proves expensive Nailgun meets testicle Reuters sends reporter to Sadville That's it from us this week, thanks for reading. ®
John Oates, 20 Oct 2006

YouTube deletes 29,549 copyright-busting files

Industry predictions that Google may have bought itself a whole heap of copyright trouble when it recently acquired YouTube for a modest $1.65bn, appear to be coming true as media companies worldwide move to protect their assets from illicit online dissemination. According to Reuters, the Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers - which represents 23 media companies including TV networks and movie distributors - has successfully lobbied for the removal of 29,549 files from the website. The Society added it would ask YouTube "to set up screening and other measures to block postings of unauthorised files". It also rather hopefully requested users "not to post video clips in violation of copyright laws". In the US, meanwhile, a veritable phalanx of media outfits are currently "co-ordinating their negotiations" with YouTube. As we noted earlier this week, YouTube has to date avoided such unwelcome attention, "because with zero revenues it hasn't been worth pursuing". Google, on the other hand, is absolutely loaded - as its Q3 earnings statement shows - and is therefore worth pursuing. ®
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2006

Morgan Stanley in billing boo-boo

Thousands of Morgan Stanley credit card customers were shocked this week to find the bank had multipled their debt by a factor of 100. Register reader Gordon Sinclair discovered the decimal point in his numbers had been shifted two places by an IT blunder. Instead of £149.49, Morgan Stanley demanded payment on a debt of £14,349.00. Gordon said: "On the plus side, they are making another £775,651 available to me in further credit!" The Mirror reports that 15,000 customers were affected by the blunder. Morgan Stanley will be issuing corrected statements, along with letters coughing to the gaffe. But at least Morgan Stanley's mistake didn't force customers to pay for their dinners by washing dishes. ®
Christopher Williams, 20 Oct 2006

N Korea cancels further nuke tests

It appears Chinese pressure on North Korea not to carry out further nuclear tests has succeeded, the BBC reports. The Pyongyang regime reportedly detonated a small device on 9 October, much to the chagrin of just about everyone, but notably the United States. Accordingly, Chinese president Hu Jintao dispatched envoy Tang Jiaxuan to have a cosy chat with Kim Jong-il during which he may have repeated China's threat to cut off "vital oil supplies" to the Stalinist state. The Beeb's man in Beijing, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says: "The threat to the oil supply demonstrates just how angry and frustrated China now is with its erstwhile ally." The entire agenda of the encounter is not noted, although China's foreign minister Li Zhaoxing said Tang had "spoken to the North Korean leader about how to kick-start six-nation talks on resolving North Korea's nuclear ambitions which have been stalled since late 2005". Tang himself was playing it close to his chest, admitting only that his meeting with Kim Jong-il had "not been in vain". ®
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2006
arrow pointing up

Proprietary coders complain about OS study

Proprietary software makers have complained to the European Commission that they have not been given enough time to review a report on the economic role of Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS), and accuse the commission of being "intolerant to opposing comments" regarding the research. In a letter seen by The Register Hugo Lueders, a representative of the Institute for Software Choice, addresses himself to Francoise Le Bail, a deputy director general, and three senior directors in the DG Enterprise, Michael Ayrall, Petro Ortun, and David White. The letter has been denounced by OSS supporters and anti-patent campaigners as a thinly veiled piece of pro-patent lobbying. Lueders argues that the success of OSS proves it doesn't need special support and that any measures that undermine the current system of intellectual property rights would be "disastrous". He describes plans to give tax credits to support open source development as "extreme", warning that this would just provide an incentive for people to dump poorly constructed code into the OSS community. He also accuses the commission of a lack of transparency in the way it put the report together. He writes: "The ISC applauds the initiative to carry out such a study... That noted, the limited window...we and others have had to comment clearly as hampered a more comprehensive reply..." And later: "...From this one might surmise that the commission is intolerant to opposing comments...and thus a closed process has ensued which clearly limits the input from dissenting or diverging points of view". Mark Taylor, of the Open Source Consortium, says the comments are remarkable, given that the report is a publicly funded piece of academic research, conducted by "academics with a reputation for objectivity" (UNU-MERIT). "If he really wanted to give feedback he should have written to the researchers themselves, not gone behind their backs and make furtive insinuations at the highest level of the European Commission," he told us. Lueders goes on to complain that the report does not give much time to considering how the proprietary software industry has contributed to the economy of Europe. However, as he notes himself: "This is to some extent understandable, since the report is a study primarily on the FLOSS model". The report itself is expected to be published soon. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2006

Spamhaus-style service aims to curb click fraud

A UK-based service aims to emulate Spamhaus' success in helping organisations block spam by tackling web advertising fraud. As much as 70 per cent of annual online advertising spend is wasted because of click fraud, according to Clickhaus, a not-for-profit project that aims to help combat the loss of revenue caused by click fraud. Online advertisers stand to lose $1.6bn in wasted ad expenditure by 2008 because of the problem. Clickhaus aims to help online advertisers clamp down on abuse by compiling a database of IP addresses associated with click fraud in much the same way Spamhaus compiles a list of addresses associated with spam and spam-related botnet activity. Corrupt affiliates of ad networks such as Google and Yahoo! are reckoned to account for 85 per cent of all click fraud. Clickhaus will provide a service allowing IT pros, advertisers, and search engines the ability to report instances of click fraud. This data will then be published in a database, currently in beta. "We got the idea of Clickhaus from Spamhaus because we were impressed with the way that they have helped reduce spam by sharing the IP addresses of known spammers," explained Robert Snell, director of search engine marketing firm Brain Talent, the founding sponsor of Clickhaus. Some organisations already maintain private databases of IP addresses associated with click fraud. The Clickhaus project aims to encourage the sharing of this data among partners in the online advertising community in order to reduce losses. Clickhaus is realistic enough to recognise that click fraud, much like spam, is a problem that's not going to go away anytime soon. "Clickhaus will not end the problem of click fraud, but it's a step in the right direction," Snell said. ®
John Leyden, 20 Oct 2006

What type of person is accident-prone?

Also in this week's column: At what height can you survive a dive into water? Why do you sometimes lose bowel function when scared? What happens when you are executed by electrocution? What type of person is accident-prone? Asked by Charles Haywood of Cedar Rapids, Iowa "Accident-prone" means one suffers a greater number of accidents than normal. Researchers are trying to discover if there is a certain type of person who is accident-prone. A few studies reveal a few clues. A French team of public health researchers, led by Dr G C Gauchard of the WHO Collaborative Centre in the Faculty of Medicine at the Henri Poincare University in Nancy, attempted to identify the determinants of accident-proneness. They studied 2,610 French railway workers and reported their findings in the 1 February 2006 issue of Occupational Medicine. The Gauchard team found that 27 per cent of the individuals they studied had more frequent than usual accidents with injuries. This was much higher than the researchers suspected. The researchers also found that youth, inexperience on the job, dissatisfaction with the job (indicated by applying for a job transfer), having no safety training, having a sleep disorder, smoking, and getting little or no exercise were all related to suffering more accidental injuries. Surprisingly, there was another factor too: Not having a personal hobby (such as gardening). In 2001, a team of British researchers from the Manchester University Institute of Science and Technology, led by now emeritus Professor Ivan Robertson, identified three key personality traits of people who are not accident-prone: Openness: This is the tendency to learn from experience and to be open to suggestions from others. But the Robertson team cautions that too much openness can increase accident risk. Dependability: This is the tendency to be conscientious and socially responsible. Agreeableness: This is the tendency not to be aggressive or self-centered. The Robertson team argues that people with low levels of agreeableness tend to be highly competitive and less likely to, for example, comply with safety instructions. Interesting facts When it comes to accidents, some people seem to be truly star-crossed. Take the sad case of Thomas L Cook as reported by the Denver Post newspaper on 23 September 2006. Cook got off to a poor start in life, and it never got any better. Cook's accident-proneness started before he was born. He nearly died before birth as his mother nearly miscarried. As a child he suffered many serious accidents. He broke his collarbone, suffered brain hemorrhage due to a playground accident, had his spleen removed due to an injury playing touch football. He then had a go cart accident while a teen, a near-fatal car accident before attending university, and spent five months in a come due to another car accident while at university. While employed as a computer programmer, Cook broke his back three times and broke ribs in various car accidents and falls. To his credit, he fought back from serious injury to regain his health. As Claire Martin writes in her Denver Post story: "Thomas L Cook, who died at 54 when he was fatally hit by a car on the 11 September, spent much of his life recovering from the misadventures that plagued him even in the womb." Sometimes it's just not fair. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 20 Oct 2006
Diving Board from Seattle Municipal archives

From what height can you survive a dive into water?

Also in this week's column:
Stephen Juan, 20 Oct 2006

Why do you sometimes lose bowel function when scared?

Also in this week's column: What happens when you are executed by electrocution? What type of person is accident-prone? At what height can you survive a dive into water? Why do you sometimes lose bowel function when scared? Asked by Peter N, of Albury, New South Wales, Australia Humans sometimes defecate at times of extreme fear due to the acute stress response (aka the "flight or fight" response). When we are experiencing extreme fear, the sympathetic nervous system goes into overdrive and produces a state wherein we are better prepared to engage the source of the fear in a struggle or better prepared to flee from it. A number of temporary physiological changes occur in the acute stress response. For example, more adrenaline is pumped through the system. This boosts heart and lung activity and thus aides physical functioning needed in fighting or running. Other temporary physiological changes include dilation of blood vessels for muscles, constriction of blood vessels in parts of the body not needed for fighting or fleeing, liberation of nutrients needed for muscular action, inhibition of tear glands and salivation, dilation of the pupil, inhibition of stomach and intestinal action, inhibition of erection in males, and relaxation of elimination control. Thus, under circumstances of acute stress such as in extreme fear, the bladder and bowels can "let go". Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 20 Oct 2006

What happens when you are executed by electrocution?

Also in this week's column: What type of person is accident-prone? At what height can you survive a dive into water? Why do you sometimes lose bowel function when scared? What happens when you are executed by electrocution? Asked by Ron Talbot of Tyler, Texas In the late 19th century, it was widely believed that a more modern method of execution was needed to replace the three most commonly used execution methods at that time (hanging, firing squad, and, in France, beheading). The first practical electric chair was invented by Harold P Brown who worked for Thomas Edison. The first person to die in the electric chair was executed in 1890. A parallel occurrence at around the same time was the scientific discovery of the precise effects upon the body of high voltages of electricity. For example, according to Dr T Bernstein of the Wallace-Kettering Neuroscience Institute at Wright State University, writing in Medical Instrumentation in 1975, two doctors by the name of Prevost and Battelli demonstrated in 1899 that death from electrocution was caused, not by damaging the brain, but by high voltages of electricity causing very rapid irregular contractions of the heart (ventricular fibrillation) eventuating in the heart stopping. As for the execution itself, the prisoner must first be prepared for execution by shaving the head and the calf of one leg. This permits better contact between the skin and the electrodes which must be attached to the body. The prisoner is strapped into the electric chair at the wrists, waist, and ankles. An electrode is attached to the head and another to the leg. At least two jolts of an electrical current are applied for several minutes. An initial voltage of about 2,000 volts stops the heart and induces unconsciousness. The voltage is then lowered somewhat. In one US state, the protocol calls for a jolt of 2,450 volts that lasts for 15 seconds. After a 15 minute wait, the prisoner is then examined by a coroner. After 20 seconds, the cycle is repeated. It is repeated three more times. The body may heat up to approximately 100°C (210°F), which causes severe damage to internal organs. Often the eyeballs melt. Taping the eyes closed is often part of the preparation for execution by electrocution. The effects of the electricity often cause the body to twitch and gyrate uncontrollably and bodily functions may "let go". Prisoners are sometimes offered diapers. Although death is supposedly instantaneous, some prisoners have been known to shriek and even shout while being executed in this way. There have been reports of a prisoner's head bursting into flames. There have been reports too of a prisoner being removed from an electric chair that has malfunctioned part way through the electrocution and then being placed back in the chair once it is fixed in order for the job to be finished. Some skin is burned off the prisoner. The burned off skin must then be scrapped off the seat and straps of the electric chair before it may be used again. Interesting facts In 1991, a recommendation was made by two Polish doctors that the thighs also be strapped in. Warsaw Drs L Zynda and K Skiba reported in the Chirurgia Narzadow Ruchu I Ortopedia Poska on the case of a 58-year-old executed male who whose legs were broken by the intense twitching of the legs due to the force of the deadly electric current passing through his body. In 1946, an electric chair malfunctioned and failed to execute the prisoner who reported shrieked "Stop it! Let me breathe!" as he was being executed. Having survived, lawyers for the prisoners argued that, although he did not die, he had been executed as defined by the law. In 1947, in the case of Francis vs Resweber, the US Supreme Court ruled against the prisoner. He was returned to the electric chair and successfully executed later that year. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 20 Oct 2006

Spam Cube signs Amazon.co.uk for British debut

Amazon.co.uk is due to offer Spam Cube's automatic anti-malware home-network gadget to British buyers before this coming Christmas, the hardware maker revealed today.
Tony Smith, 20 Oct 2006

Google Earth goes to pot

As regular readers know, we here at El Reg have had hours of fun playing with Google Earth. We've found marauding insects, mysterious scale reproductions of bits of the China/India border, not to mention swastikas and black helicopters too numerous to link to. But never have we used it to track down fields of homegrown. No, we'll leave that to the fine officers of the Racine County Sheriff's Department. According to reports, a man was arrested when officers found 18 pounds of homegrown in his car, after he was pulled over for one of those "routine traffic stops". The haul was worth between $63,000 and $140,000. Commentators suggest, however, that this estimate might be a little high for a couple of bags of buds. Dean Brown, 37, of Racine, also had about his person a GPS navigation unit, in which he had cunningly stored the co-ordinates of various fields throughout the county. You can guess what happened next. Yes, the boys in blue (or possibly brown) went to investigate the fields, first checking the co-ordinates on Google Earth to work out the location. They found marijuana plants growing at four of the locations, and subsequently charged Brown with four counts of manufacturing marijuana, in addition to the charges of possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Brown faces a maximum of 59 years' jail time, since he has been charged as a repeat drugs offender. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2006
homeless man with sign

McAfee hoping MS will live up to 'hollow' promises

The latest in the never-ending ding-dong between Microsoft and Vista-twitchy security vendors was another snipe from McAfee yesterday, swiftly followed by the inevitable backbitching from Redmond today.
Christopher Williams, 20 Oct 2006

Abit AW9D-Max 975X-based mobo

ReviewReview Abit was synonymous with top-performance motherboards, but of late its products have been less than impressive. Abit has set out to correct this with its latest line-up of boards, including the AW9D-Max, designed to be a top-of-the-range Core 2 Duo mobo based on Intel's 975X chipset. But does it live up to the expectation?
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 20 Oct 2006

Mystery surrounds Easynet 'robbery'

UpdatedUpdated Easynet suffered a large and embarrassing robbery earlier this week and is doing its best to keep what happened under wraps. Late on Monday, two thieves used a swipe card to drive a van up to Easynet's Brick Lane headquarters. Once inside they began loading equipment into their van. They were watched by two security guards - one was doing his rounds and the other watched by CCTV - but both assumed the thieves, with their legitimate swipe cards also had a legitimate reason to take the kit, according to our sources. Several Reg readers have got in touch. One said by email: "Two of them, they used a valid swipe card to open the side gate, went in with a van; down to the basement. "Helped themselves to a load of kit, loaded it up, drove out. "One of the guards was doing his rounds at the time and saw them; the other saw them on CCTV; but since they had a valid swipe card, they just assumed that they were legit." Other versions of the story appeared on internet service provider mailing lists. One version initially reported that it was an armed robbery and another put the value of the kit stolen at £6m. According to other Easynet customers who emailed the Reg, the ISP was telling customers a power outage was responsible for the problems. The company is now owned by Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB. Easynet refused to comment except for this statement: "Easynet is working closely with the police on an investigation following an incident earlier this week." Which isn't terribly informative. What is even stranger is that the Metropolitan Police and the City of London Police say they have no record of Easynet being in touch. Easynet insists the matter has been reported to the police and there is an ongoing investigation. It also sent us this letter (pdf) which was sent out to customers. ®
John Oates, 20 Oct 2006

Meteor totals German cottage

German police today announced that a fire which swept through a cottage near Bonn, in the process injuring a 77-year-old man, was probably caused by a meteor. According to Reuters, the 10 October incendiary incident in Siegburg gutted the cottage and "badly burned the man's hands and face". Police spokesman Burkhard Rick said: "We sought assistance from Bochum observatory and they noted that at that particular moment the Earth was near a field of meteoroid splinter and it could be assumed that particles had entered the atmosphere. "The particles usually don't reach the surface because they disintegrate in the atmosphere. But some can make it to the ground. We believe this was a bolide [meteoric fireball] with a size of no more than 10mm." ®
Lester Haines, 20 Oct 2006

GPS units lose cloaked shipping containers

LettersLetters Sun announced this week that it plans to sell shipping containers. Something of a departure, perhaps, except that these containers will be stuffed with half a million dollars worth of kit that sysadmins can stack in the company car park: This Sun data centre in a box idea is bound to work. It's exactly what sysadmins want. At last, reconfiguring their systems will be much more akin to playing with gaint lego bricks than ever before. Much more fun than slotting dull and boring blades in racks, etc. Of course every sysadmin out there is busily booking themselves on a crane driving course as it will become a vital skill of the job. There will be forums dedicated to discussions as to how high you can pile them up, and whether it's best to put the storage at the top of the pile so data gets some speed up as it runs down hill to the users. I wonder if crane drivers earn more or less than your average sysadmin? When you think about it, what would be the point in having an expensive and inflexible building when you could just as easily pile up ISO containers. RAID could gain a new meaning - Redundant Array of ISO Datacentres. Matthew Since Sun's data center in a container needs a water hookup, can one simply throw one at the bottom of a lake with a long extension cord and be done with it? :) Vince And the follow-up: A lot of the article touts the requirements for cooled space as something that this new shipping container will solve, I quote: "Way back in 2000, Hipp emphasized that server vendors should place more emphasis on cooling and space conservation" "Sun's solution looks much easier and cheaper to me than building out more data center space that requires specialized cooling and the like" Which begs the question, why the hell are they putting it in a BLACK shipping container. Surely even the good people at Sun realise that black is the colour that absorbs the most heat from solar radiation, thus only increasing the temperature of the box?? Just my $0.02 worth. Tony. Those black trailers make me wonder if Sun shouldn't be providing an MP3 of the theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Jonathan We had a couple of extra contributions on the whole HSBC card crash debacle: OK let me get this right theregister is a web site that give out IT based news, so it would not be to farfetched of me to say that most people reading it, and responding to articles, will have something to do with IT. Give that everyone here is in IT I'm going to assume a bit of IT knowledge, like the importance of backups, and that we all know that both primary and secondary systems can fail at the same time for different reasons. With this knowledge that we all have WHY OH WHY DO PEOPLE ONLY HAVE ONE WAY AT GETTING THEIR MONEY? Given the number of pre-approved credit card applications that I get sent everyday, it makes sense that I have one from a bank that is completely different and independent of my main bank account. I've got one it costs me nothing to have and I keep it tucked in my wallet and never use it, but if my normal one gets refused I can get it out. Mind you if I was with HSBC I'd get a second credit card and change banks, actually I did just a few months ago and it really is easy. Won't say who I moved to but its all smiles here. Johnk Seriously? Is it just me, or is that scarily paranoid? We were stuck in a pub in the Lake District, our dinner cooked and on table with no alternate means of payment. They accepted the little cash I had on me and an IOU that I would call back whe nthe bank was back 'online' and do a card holder not present. I contacted HSBC during the outage and received a rather poor and un-helpful sevice/responce from one of their non UK 'call centres'. I have since lodged a complaint and insited that they pay me £25 for my inconvenience. As they feel that £25 is a fair charge to me for going overdrawn I felt it only right for me to charge them. They have contacted me back and I'm glad to report I am now in receipt of a credit to my account for £25. I'm sure they'll find somthing else to charge me for before the year is out. Stew C Scientists announced they have developed a cloaking device. So far, it's only good at hiding things from radar, but not as some readers suggest, merely by duplicating stealth technology. But what about the cloaked person, you wondered? I don't wish to pour cold water on their efforts but if the cloak bends all the microwaves/light around the object (like water around a smooth pebble) then presumably if you are inside the cloak you can't see out as you would have no incoming radio/light waves to process. A bit like walking around a cave in the pitch black without any lights on so no-one can see you. Problem is you can't see where you are going either !! Richard There still exists a way to identify/locate an "invisible" object using microwaves--- Because the object redirects the waves around the object, the path length of the wave being redirected is longer that the direct path. This means that the redirected path would take a longer time for a pulse wavefront as compared to the direct path. Using a wave pulse of sufficiently short duration should make the "smearing" of the return pulse detectable due to the difference in the time taken by the redirected wave. A "subtraction" of the original wave pattern from the reflected pattern should show the delta. This might be easiest to detect by having a flat background to reflect the pulse from. Other backgrounds would work, but that would require having "snapshots" of the background when the "invisible" object isn't there. Granted, the "invisible" object would still be invisible if there is no reflected pulse to compair. But that might be worked around - possibly by having a predefined wave pulse broadcast from one site, then picked up by a second site. If it were optical, then I would expect the "invisible" object would show up by an interference pattern (just like a hologram is generated) revealing the objects outline. Jesse You'll need a hardy constitution for this one. But as Thomas C Greene argues, the US might not have one anymore: I have been a devoted reader of this website for years now and have never seen such an inappropriate piece of journalism on what I thought was a technology news outlet that published articles concerned only with technology. Sure there are the usual politically-biased pokes and prods but they are always light-hearted. Your publishing of this material has no doubt scarred The Register's reputation in the eyes of a significant number of readers. While the points and opinions are relevant and warranted, readers expect certain things from this source and this stuck out like a self-inflicted, rank wound. And no, I do not vote Republican or Democrat for that matter. If you wanted to started publishing purely politically-biased garbage, then why couldn't you at least pick a native author? Matt Just for the record, Mr Thomas C Greene is about as American as they come. If nothing else, you can tell by the middle initial. From constitutional madness, we turn to customer services badness from Sony Ericsson: What's the news? Sony Ericsson has bean deaf to complaints ever since. Roughly three years ago I sent in a complaint about the P800 of a quality that makes you expect someone from the company to give you a call. At least. I never even got an eMail in return. Oliver That bouncing email is pretty typical of Sony and their subsidiary branches. Sony Online Entertainment's cancellation response email address, (where you basically tell them the billion and one ways they screwed up the MMORPG game you were playing and why it caused you to quit,) just bounces straight back to you. As a response SOE can happily sit in their offices not recieving any complaint emails, and thinking that they are doing everything right. Hence the reason why they were so shocked that their 4-500,000 player base for Star Wars Galaxies took a massive nosedive after they released the NGE, (New Game Enhancements,) and they are now sitting at just above 100,000 players. Most of whom are not active accounts, but cancelled accounts that still have credit on them. Bouncing rubber emails from Sony is the norm sadly !! Dan The story of Reuters and Second Life gets a second wind: "How very sad. To my mind Second Life has always been something of a posterchild for the wooly headed Web 2.0 (Second Web?) mob, with its focus on 'user created content'." Maybe Mike should do some more research then... I'm not a massive fan of Second Life but to dismiss it as a "Web 2.0" gimmick is to misunderstand it. For one thing, it's far more level-headed than Web 2.0 - it uses a fairly sound business model which doesn't involve crossing your fingers and hoping Google buys you, but which instead rewards users monetarily for high-quality content and then (as I understand it) takes a percentage off everytime someone decides to convert their virtual earnings into real money. For another, it's less about the future of the web than it is about the future of online-enabled games, which /are/ heading towards more user-generation of content, partially because ownership begets attachment, and partially as a counter to the increasing cost of content generation in games. Personally I think what Reuters is doing here is a great experiment. They're taking online games seriously (something which far too many non-industry people fail to do), they're looking at alternative ways to deal with the much-heralded "death of newspapers", and they're probably going to make a good return on investment given the Second Life model. Hell, if the Linden Labs "Cash in/cash out" model really is the future of online games (unlikely IMO, but possible) Reuters could make a killing on the back of this move. Hats off to them for having the balls to do it. Matt Youyou areare lessless [Enough! - Ed]. Sorry. You are less than impressed with TomTom's court case against Garmin: Garmingarmin, is this the way to your lawyer's office? Alex I hope the JudgeJudge throws TomTom out, if only for their appalling adverts. What advertising agency in their right mind thought it a good idea to annoy prospective customers? Tim And finally, one very jumpy reader wonders if he needs to move house soon: re. Galactic collision captured in stunning detail "our own galaxy, which is likely to collide with the (cosmically) nearish Andromeda galaxy in about six billion years time." Oh my God! What are we gonna do! Oh wait...I thought you said 6 MILLION years. Mike That's all from us, this week. Back on Tuesday, so keep writing. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 20 Oct 2006

US court denies request to suspend Spamhaus domain

A US judge has denied a request to order internet registrars to suspend Spamhaus's domain, easing concerns that the spam blocking service might be interrupted. Judge Charles Kocoras turned down a motion from e360 Insight, a firm that sued Spamhaus after the anti-spam organisation blacklisted its domains over alleged spamming, in the latest chapter in an ongoing legal tussle between the two organisations. In a default ruling [PDF] made by an Illinois court last month, Spamhaus was ordered 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. UK-based Spamhaus did not defend the case and the ruling was made in its absence. Initially, Spamhaus ignored the ruling. e360 Insight responded by upping the ante and calling [PDF] on the Illinios court to order domain registrars to suspend Spamhaus's domain, Spamhaus.org. If carried through, the move could have resulted in a huge volume of extra spam hitting email servers. The draft order called on either internet governance body ICANN or Canadian registrar Tucows to suspend the spamhaus.org domain. The domain-name threat prompted Spamhaus to appeal the original $11.7m judgment against it. Meanwhile, e360 Insight's ambitious legal bid to have Spamhaus's domain pulled has been nixed. Judge Kocoras issued an order on Thursday denying e360 Insight's motion on the basis that the suspending the spamhaus.org domain would cut off all lawful online activities of Spamhaus, not just those in contravention of the Illinois court's injunction. The Court also noted that since there is no indication that either ICANN or Tucows acted in concert with Spamhaus, it was inappropriate to make them parties to the case. ®
John Leyden, 20 Oct 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Is archiving the answer to compliance?

Storage ExpoStorage Expo Disaster recovery is more important than regulatory compliance and organisations are using archiving to answer both needs, according to a survey of business managers and IT staff. The survey found that interest in regulatory compliance is falling, not rising, according to Tony Cotterill, the boss of BridgeHead Software, which commissioned the research. "It's not that people are bored by compliance now, it's that they were never interested in it," he said. "The converts are absolutely religious about it, but to the masses it's just not relevant." So does this mean an end to the stream of doom-mongering predictions that we've had from the vendors keen to flog storage and archiving gear to meet those compliance needs? Sadly, it seems not - and now that the lawyers have also jumped onboard the compliance gravy-train, there seems little hope of anyone else applying a little more common sense to the whole shebang. To make it worse, the regulations produced by different authorities often contradict each other, even when they apply to the same organisation. "To some extent we vendors are guilty, because we wanted a risk factor to hang our business on," admitted Cotterill, whose company is one of those archiving vendors. "We have painted ourselves into a corner by putting all those lawyers and accountants on podiums to talk about this." He warned though that, with compliance becoming an industry in itself, companies will eventually have to fall in line. "Today, business does a risk assessment and says it's cheaper to take the risk," he said. "But we haven't had any high profile failures or fines in the UK yet, and once we do, we'll have 40 per cent compliance." On the plus side, he said the survey shows that people are becoming aware of the difference between backup and archiving - the former is about system recovery, the latter is about finding data when you need it. Cotterill also announced that Bridgehead has added support for EMC's Centera content-addressed storage appliances to its HT integrated storage management (ISM) software. HT ISM acts as a graphical front-end to what would otherwise be just a 'black box'. It can use Centera as a target for data replication too, even when the replicated data comes from a non-EMC system. "It means you're not tied into the EMC box, because as long as we put the data in there, we can also move it out," Cotterill said. ®
Bryan Betts, 20 Oct 2006

Beer fingerprints to go UK-wide

The government is funding the roll out of fingerprint security at the doors of pubs and clubs in major English cities. Funding is being offered to councils that want to have their pubs keep a regional black list of known trouble makers. The fingerprint network installed in February by South Somerset District Council in Yeovil drinking holes is being used as the showcase. "The Home Office have looked at our system and are looking at trials in other towns including Coventry, Hull & Sheffield," said Julia Bradburn, principal licensing manager at South Somerset District Council. Gwent and Nottingham police have also shown an interest, while Taunton, a town neighbouring Yeovil, is discussing the installation of fingerprint systems in 10 pubs and clubs with the systems supplier CreativeCode. Bradburn could not say if fingerprint security in Yeovil had displaced crime to neighbouring towns, but she noted that domestic violence had risen in Yeovil. She could not give more details until the publication of national crime statistics to coincide with the anniversary of lax pub licensing laws on 24 November. She was, however, able to say that alcohol-related crime had reduced by 48 per cent Yeovil between February and September 2006. The council had assumed it was its duty under the Crime and Disorder Act (1998) to reduce drunken disorder by fingerprinting drinkers in the town centre. Some licensees were not happy to have their punters fingerprinted, but are all now apparently behind the idea. Not only does the council let them open later if they join the scheme, but the system costs them only £1.50 a day to run. Oh, and they are also coerced into taking the fingerprint system. New licences stipulate that a landlord who doesn't install fingerprint security and fails to show a "considerable" reduction in alcohol-related violence, will be put on report by the police and have their licences revoked. Offenders can be banned from one pub or all of them for a specified time - usually a period of months - by a committee of landlords and police called Pub Watch. Their offences are recorded against their names in the fingerprint system. Bradburn noted the system had a "psychological effect" on offenders. She said there had been only been two "major" instances of alcohol-related crime reported in Yeovil pubs and clubs since February. One was a sexual assault in a club toilet. The other occurred last Friday when an under-18 Disco at Dukes nightclub got out of hand after the youngsters had obtained some alcohol from elsewhere. A fight between two youngsters escalated into a brawl involving 435 12 to 16 year olds A major incident is when 15 police attend the scene, said Bradburn. She was unable to say how many minor incidents there had been, but acknowledged that fights were still occurring in the streets of Yeovil. The Home Office paid for Yeovil's system in full, with £6,000 of Safer, Stronger Communities funding. Bradburn said the Home Office had paid her scheme a visit and subsequently decided to fund similar systems in Coventry, Hull and Sheffield. The Home Office distanced itself from the plans. It said it provided funding to Safer, Stronger Communities through the Department for Communities and Local Government's Local Area Agreements. How they spent the money was a local decision, said a HO spokeswoman. ®
Mark Ballard, 20 Oct 2006

'Violent net-porn killer' has conviction quashed

The man convicted of murdering a Brighton school teacher has had his conviction quashed by appeal court judges. In February 2004 Graham Coutts, 36, of Hove, East Sussex, was handed a life sentence for the killing of Jane Longhurst. In the original trial, jurors heard how he had viewed extreme violent internet pornography, particularly strangulation fetish sites. Coutts' defence argued that Ms Longhurst's death was an accident during consensual sex. A trio of appeal judges yesterday upheld a Law Lords decision that the conviction was unsafe. The Law Lords said jurors should have been given the option of a manslaughter verdict. The victim's mother, Liz Longhurst, recently claimed victory in her campaign to have possession of extreme sexual material outlawed. Ministers announced plans to introduce legislation in August. Coutts remains in custody pending an Old Bailey retrial on fresh charges, though may apply for bail. ®
Christopher Williams, 20 Oct 2006