23rd > October > 2006 Archive

MPAA scouting for young hearts and minds

The top brass at the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) must have spent the entire weekend drinking champagne and smoking Cuban cigars after their latest spectacular PR coup. Because the MPAA understands the Jesuit saying "Give Me the Child Until He Is Seven and I Will Show You the Man", Los Angeles Boy Scouts can now, lucky them, earn badges for understanding how copyright works and why piracy is bad. The scouts will have the basics of copyright law hammered into their young minds, and to win the badge will have to know five types of copyrighted works and three kinds of copyright theft. The youngsters will also be taken on a field trip, possibly to a movie studio, to learn how piracy harms people. According to an Associated Press report, the movie industry developed the curriculum for the badge, which shows the international copyright symbol, a film reel and a music CD. "Working with the Boy Scouts of Los Angeles, we have a real opportunity to educate a new generation about how movies are made, why they are valuable, and hopefully change attitudes about intellectual property theft," MPAA chairman Dan Glickman said in a statement on Friday. The badge isn't a merit badge, which means the scouts don't actually have to win one to progress through the ranks. Other such activity patches include ones for conservation or volunteering work. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Oct 2006

Researcher attempts to shed light on security troll

For over a year, subscribers to the Full Disclosure security mailing list had to endure the taunts and rants of a self-styled vulnerability researcher known as "n3td3v."
Robert Lemos, 23 Oct 2006

FoI changes could block release of controversial info

Changes planned to the rules surrounding Freedom of Information legislation will prevent the most controversial information from being made public, according to legal and political experts. The media is likely to be hardest hit by proposed changes, they said. "[Changes] would knock out a significant volume of the most important requests on public issues so it would have a pretty drastic effect on the legislation," said Maurice Frankel, director of the Campaign for Freedom of Information. Frankel was speaking to OUT-LAW Radio, the weekly technology law podcast. "Major newspapers are going to be rationed in terms of one or two requests a quarter to organisations like the Home Office which has all sorts of important responsibilities, and we're going to get much less information that is of public interest that is needed to hold public authorities to account." The Department of Constitutional Affairs has announced planned changes to the rules governing FOI requests. More administrative activity charges will apply, meaning that a greater number of applications will break the £600 threshold after which requests can be denied. In addition, the government will allow claims from the same organisation to be wrapped together and refused once they breach £600 in any three month period. Alan Beith is the Liberal Democrat MP who chaired the Commons Committee which reported into the success of the FOI Act this summer. He believes the media is being targeted. "I'm particularly concerned that responsible media use of the FOI Act is the target for this," he told OUT-LAW Radio. "They occasionally cite abuse of this some of which are by individuals rather than media organisations, some of which can be dealt with by existing powers and none of which require this sort of draconian measure." The DCA said it did not intend to stifle use of the Act. "The government are doing what they always said and reviewing the position after 12 to 18 months live running and considering changes in light of experience," a DCA statement said. "The changes being considered are not to avoid difficult questions," it said. "They are aimed at giving public authorities the ability to deal with burdensome requests or requestors who create a disproportionate burden on a public authority because of the volume of requests they make. It's about getting a balance between the provision of services and the provision of information." Dr Chris Pounder, a data protection specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW, has made calculations that show there is a correlation between the number of requests likely to be denied, the number of requests made by journalists and the number which are supervised by ministers. By analysing figures supplied in a Frontier Economics report commissioned by the DCA, he found that one in seven requests could well be denied should the changes come into force. One in 10 requests is by a journalist and one in nine is sent to be analysed by a minister, he found, raising suspicions that there is a large degree of crossover, meaning that journalists' requests are overseen by ministers and are likely to be turned down under new laws. "We looked at some of the averages Frontier's report produces and the results are quite surprising," said Pounder. "The conclusion we draw is that a significant proportion of journalists' requests seem to involve ministers." According to Frankel, any request referred to a minister is almost certain to be denied because of the extra costs involved under the new plans. "Officials can say about any request they are not keen on, we'll send this up to ministers and that will immediately add £200, £250, £300 to the likely costs of dealing with the requests and make it much more likely that it will be refused without further consideration, and that will make it much harder to get information which ministers are worried about. "Information that ministers are worried about will, merely because they are worried about it, become more difficult to obtain," said Frankel. See: OUT-LAW Radio Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 23 Oct 2006

Computer factory workers show 'elevated' risk of cancer

A study of workers at computer plants in the US has shown an “elevated” chance of contracting and dying of cancer. A study conducted by a US academic, Richard Clapp, and published in Environmental Health, covered 31,941 individuals who died between 1969 and 2001, and who had spent five years or more working in computer or semiconductor manufacturing plants. The study found death rates for all cancers were elevated in both males and females who had worked in computer plants. At the same time, there were reduced deaths due to non-malignant respiratory disease in males and females, and of heart disease in females. (Are any computer plants not non-smoking?) More specifically, the study found higher rates of: brain and central nervous system cancer, while kidney cancer, melanoma of skin and pancreatic cancer were significantly elevated in male manufacturing workers. Kidney cancer and cancer of lymphatic and hematopoietic tissue were significantly elevated in female workers. The figures were enough for Clapp to conclude that mortality was elevated due to specific cancers, and amongst workers more likely to be exposed to solvents and other chemical exposures in manufacturing. However, there wasn’t sufficient information to pointy the finger at any particular agents. There’s no doubt that computer and semiconductor manufacturing involves some nasty substances and processes, including arsenic, nickel and chromium, not to mention electromagnetic fields. Earlier studies had suggested that computer plant workers had suggested higher cancer rates. The data Clapp used was produced during a lawsuit in which IBM was sued by former plant workers. In the report, Clapp, an epidemiologist at Boston University School of Public Health, was “paid a consultancy by the plaintiff’s law firm” but that the law firm did not design the study or review or approve the report. Clapp was not paid for preparing the report in the journal. The full report is here.®
Joe Fay, 23 Oct 2006

UK launches science scholarships

The government has announced a new science scholarship scheme, backed by £100m, to attract top scientists to work in the UK, the BBC reports. The Rhodes-type scholarship comes in an atmosphere of increasing concern for the future of science in the UK. The numbers of students taking science subjects at university has failed to keep step with the increases in other disciplines, and as money follows student numbers, many science departments are at risk of closure. This month, Reading University announced that its physics department will no longer be accepting new students, and will be shut down no later than 2010. However, the government argues that the scheme will raise the profile of British science. Trade secretary, Alistair "eyebrows" Darling, is to say: "Science has been one of Britain's best-kept secrets. I want to change that. To be the best you need to work with the best. This new scheme aims to attract the best in science to Britain. It will push our world class science base further and help give us a business edge." The Department for Trade and Industry points to the success of a similar scheme in Germany, the Humbholt Foundation. That scheme has produced over 20,000 scientists and 35 Nobel Prize winners, the DTI added. The British scheme will be run by the Royal Society. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Oct 2006
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'Carousel' bank's founder due in court

John Deuss is due in court in Holland later today to face charges relating to the First Curacao International Bank (FCIB). Deuss, who founded the bank, was arrested by Dutch police on his arrival from Bermuda. Dutch and UK tax authorities took action against the bank in September. UK Customs accuse FCIB of being the favoured bank of carousel fraudsters. HMRC reckons every individual it collared for carousel fraud in the last two years held an account at FCIB. It suspects some 2,500 UK citizens of using the bank. Accounts were frozen after joint police raids in Holland and the UK. Customs said at the time the action would have a major impact on carousel fraud. Deuss, who denies any wrongdoing, is appearing voluntarily and waived his right to an extradition hearing in Bermuda. He will appear in the magistrates court today as prosecutors want more time to question him, according to the Guardian. More details here. ®
John Oates, 23 Oct 2006

Mobile snap nails dog sex man

A Washington state man faces prosecution for bestiality under a new animal cruelty law after his wife discovered him having sex with the family's pit bull terrier, kirotv.com reports. According to the Pierce County sheriff's office report, Michael Patrick McPhail, 26, of Spanaway, Pierce County, was caught red-handed last Wednesday night "having intercourse with their four-year-old female pit bull terrier" on the couple's back porch. The dog was "squealing and crying", charging papers note. The unnamed wife quickly "took photos with her cell phone and called the sheriff's office". McPhail was duly hauled before the local Superior Court last Thursday where he pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree animal cruelty. He posted $20,000 bail, and is set to appear before the court on 11 December. Assistant Pierce County prosecutor Karen Watson said McPhail was "the first person in Pierce County to be charged with the new bestiality offense". The new law came into force in June and was "prompted by a case near Enumclaw in which a Seattle man died after having sex with a horse". Washington was previously "one of 14 states where bestiality had not been explicitly prohibited". Watson added that the dog was "taken by animal control". ®
Lester Haines, 23 Oct 2006
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Firefox 2.0 goes live

UpdatedUpdated Firefox 2.0 was due to be released on Tuesday but the final version of the source browser was available from Mozilla FTP site early on Monday. Demand was such that the ftp.mozilla.org site appears to have buckled under the strain. However the software remains available from mirror sites such as one run by Oregon State University here. Availability of the next edition of the open source browser follows the (also) delayed release of Internet Explorer 7, Microsoft's market leading proprietary alternative, last week. Firefox 2.0 boasts a raft of new features including an integrated in-line spell checker, as well as an anti-phishing tool, tightly-integrated search, and improvements in tabbed browsing. Mozilla published the "almost ready" Release Candidate 3 version of the browser last Tuesday (17 October). The software comes in 39 languages for systems running Windows, Mac and Linux computers from will be officially released through getfirefox.com from Tuesday (24 October). ®
John Leyden, 23 Oct 2006
For Sale sign detail

SMB budgets fall short of storage growth

BriefBrief Demand for storage capacity is continuing to rise, but SMB (small to medium sized business) budgets are failing to keep up, according to a Gartner survey. Though 55 per cent of the 1,100 IT managers surveyed rated keeping up with demand as their biggest storage challenge, estimating their capacity needs would increase by an average of 25 per cent in one year and 41 per cent in two years, only a third of companies plan to increase spending on the technology in 2007. Gartner analyst Pushan Rinnen said: "Sometimes the budget has nothing to do with your need." On the bright side, however, storage budgets are not shrinking, with 70 per cent of respondents saying their spending "will increase or remain the same". Rinnen said SMBs can get round the budget deficit by employing information lifecycle management strategies such as tiered storage that could "solve their problems without growing capacity". Fewer than 30 per cent of IT managers were currently considering these options, she said. ®
Tracey Cooper, 23 Oct 2006

Pure play apps could eat IT budgets

Here is an interesting little conundrum that is probably worth a straw poll of some sort among our readers. A simple observation was put to me recently by HP software pre-sales manager Dave Clarke, which suggested that the greater the number of "pure play" applications packages an enterprise employs, the greater the percentage of total IT resources that will need to be committed to the maintenance and support budget. What's more, it then becomes at least theoretically possible for an IT department to introduce sufficient packages to completely use up the IT budget in maintenance and support costs, leaving nothing for the development of the specific applications code the enterprise requires.
Martin Banks, 23 Oct 2006

Biologists propose alternative to 'cloning'

Biologists would like people to stop talking about "therapeutic cloning" because it gives too many the heebie-jeebies. Instead, a group of biologists would like to refer to the process as "somatic nuclear cell transfer", New Scientist reports. This would distinguish the process of cloning embryos for harvesting stem cells from other kinds of cloning, such as reproductive cloning. But the nomenclature just seems to have confused people. Researchers at the Genetics and Public Policy Centre in Washington surveyed 2,000 people, seeking their views on deriving stem cells from cloned embryos. They asked 1,000 whether or not they approved of using cloned embryos and 1,000 about their feelings towards somatic nuclear cell transfer (SNCT). The half asked about SNCT were far more likely to approve of the process, with 49 per cent giving it the thumbs up, compared to 29 per cent in the cloning group. Alone, this might have been encouraging, but the researchers also asked about using SCNT to make a baby. Again, the new terminology elicited a much more positive response raising the approval rating, from 10 to 24 per cent, suggesting that people are more likely to approve of something if they don't really know what it is. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Oct 2006

AMD pares processor prices

AMD has cut the prices of its Turion 64 X2, Athlon 64 FX, Athlon 64 and a number of its Sempron chips, the company announced today. CPU prices fell by up to 35.8 per cent.
Tony Smith, 23 Oct 2006

Nvidia readies nForce 650i pair?

Nvidia will next month unveil two Intel-oriented nForce 600 series chipsets alongside the nForce 680i SLI, pictures of which leaked out last week. The other chipsets are the 650i SLI and the 650i Ultra, both budget parts, it has been claimed.
Hard Reg, 23 Oct 2006

Intel bares Tigerton

Intel is sticking with its roadmap for the quadcore Tigerton and demonstrated a server running four of the little blighters on Friday, according to reports. Quad-core processors for single processor and dual processor systems are due to appear sometime after Halloween.
Team Register, 23 Oct 2006

Sony defeats PSP importer in UK court

The English High Court has ruled that importing Japanese and North American PlayStation Portable handheld consoles into Europe through unofficial channels is unlawful - the latest outcome of Sony Computer Entertainment Europe's (SCEE) battle with Hong Kong-based online retailer Lik-Sang.com.
Tony Smith, 23 Oct 2006
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Lenovo retires from CeBIT

The news that Lenovo is backing out of CeBIT, Europe's biggest IT trade show, begs the question: Is CeBIT bleeding to death? Lenovo is the latest major company to pull the plug on the show, to be held in March 2007 in Germany. It joins Nokia and Motorola who have already announced they would not be at next year's show. BenQ has also cancelled. Sony, E-Plus, and Philips did not attend this year's show, while Dell and HP haven't returned since their retirement from CeBIT a couple of years ago. Deutsche Messe AG has organised CeBIT in Hannover each spring since 1986, but attendance is dropping, with only 200,000 visitors in 2006. About 850,000 visitors attended CeBIT 2001. The biggest problem, according to some experts, is that CeBIT wants to please everyone, including manufacturers of consumer electronics, while companies such as Lenovo want to reach a hardcore IT or business audience. Taiwanese company Shuttle, which had a big booth at this year's show, will also not be present at CeBIT 2007: "We don't reach our audience, by which we mean retailers," marketing director Melanie Liu told Heise Online earlier this month. However, some exhibitors, including Samsung, remain committed to CeBIT. The organisers maintain CeBIT is still an important trade show for decision-makers. The percentage of visitors with a high degree of decision-making authority went up sharply this year: from 59.9 per cent to 64.3 per cent. ®
Jan Libbenga, 23 Oct 2006
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SpamThru Trojan bundles own virus scanner

Internet miscreants have created a spam-sending Trojan that comes fitted with an anti-virus scanner. The SpamThru Trojan attempts to reserve control of compromised machines by blocking infection by other forms of malware using a pirated copy of a commercial anti-virus scanner. Security researchers at SecureWorks reckon the sophistication of the malware rivals the complexity of commercial software, indicating that unknown malware authors have devoted considerable effort to create one of the most potent forms of malware produced to date. Many forms of malware attempt to block access to anti-virus software updates in order to frustrate disinfection efforts. Some are even programmed to delete Windows registry keys associated with rival forms of malware. But SpamThru is reckoned to be the first form of malware that comes bundled with its own anti-virus scanning engine, in this case a pirated copy of Kaspersky AntiVirus for WinGate. The malware takes this scanning software from a server controlled by hackers before loading it into a concealed directory on compromised machines. The malware is then programmed to prevent the security package from making proper license signature checks before downloading new signature updates. Ten minutes later, this software is used to check for other forms of malware on compromised machines. Checks for the SpamThru Trojan itself are, of course, omitted. Other forms of malware are removed when a compromised machine is next re-started. The sophistication of the malware extends to the command-and-control structure used to manage compromised hosts. SpamThru uses a P2P-based control system that doesn't rely on any single control server. "Control is still maintained by a central server, but in case the control server is shut down, the spammer can update the rest of the peers with the location of a new control server, as long as they control at least one peer," SecureWorks researchers note. All this programming effort is being expended so SpamThru's built in junk mail-dispatching client can operate with the minimum likelihood of interruption. The spam engine is mostly being used to dispatch stock tips as part of a pump-and-dump money-making scam. SecureWorks' comprehensive analysis of the malware can be found here. ®
John Leyden, 23 Oct 2006
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Child safety pop quiz violates child safety laws

An FBI website designed to help children to learn safe surfing tips is pointing users towards a website that violates US child safety laws, Wired reports. The FBI's Safe Online Surfing site invites young surfers to take part in a quiz run by the Common Knowledge Scholarship Foundation on how to become an FBI agent. To take part in the quiz, kids have to hand over home telephone numbers and addresses. Any site collecting personal details on youngsters needs to get verified consent from a parent to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). But a Wired investigation found that Common Knowledge fails to obtain this clearance despite claims that it complies with child safety laws. As Wired notes, the only safe way to complete this online scavenger hunt is, err, not to complete it. ®
John Leyden, 23 Oct 2006

Borland goes for ALM 2.0

Nine months ago, Borland announced it was spinning off its IDE tools into a separate business to focus on ALM (Application Lifecycle Management) products and services. The divestment is taking longer than planned and, as I write, the Borland Developer Tools Group is still part of Borland. But is the focus on ALM still on track? Recent reports that the company is abandoning its Core SDP (Software Delivery Platform) suggest some uncertainty; but Marc Brown, director of product marketing - ALM Products, assured me this is not so. The changes are apparently more to do with licensing and packaging than with the strategy itself. Core SDP is a role-based product with different features available according to whether you are an analyst, architect, developer, or tester. Borland discovered that role-based products do not work. "We found that the fixed role-based packaging that we offered in Core SDP simply was not satisfying customer needs. Customers define those roles differently between each organisation or in some cases even between different project teams," Brown said. Perhaps Microsoft will learn this same lesson: it has fallen into the same trap with the licensing of its Team System suite. Still, this does not change Borland's central theme of SDO (Software Delivery Optimisation). SDO is a phrase which hard-core developers tend to dismiss as being a buzz word too far. If so, they will also dislike Borland's new meme, ALM 2.0. In truth, SDO and ALM 2.0 are nearly synonymous. Forrester Research appears to have coined the term ALM 2.0, in a paper on the coordination of development lifecycle activities here. It is about integrating the outputs from multiple tools into a single, manageable, and predictable business process. This is similar to what former Borland CEO Dale Fuller described to me (see here), back in 2004 when SDO was first announced: a dashboard from which all project participants could monitor and analyse progress. Brown said the dashboard concept is "still a huge theme". "Organisations lack the ability to have objective measures that can be surfaced within a dashboard, to give them the objective data to manage these projects correctly." Getting such a dashboard to work is a significant technical problem, particularly when organisations use ALM tools from a variety of vendors, ranging from modelling through to requirements definition, development, testing, profiling and change management. It implies a standard API through which such products can report their status and interact with other tools, and no such API exists. Microsoft's Team System, with its project portal and reporting tools is an interesting single-vendor approach, while the Serena-led ALF (Application Lifecycle Framework) project at Eclipse is working on a common vocabulary and eventing system for lifecycle tools using web services. Despite its love affair with Eclipse, Borland is dismissive of ALF. "Adoption has not been positive by the bulk of the ALM vendors," Brown told me. Part of the reason is that Borland is developing its own alternative. "We've developed an ALM metamodel that we'll use," Brown said, including its own "vocabulary to share data across the application lifecycle". Borland intends to work with ALM partners such as Mercury to build adapters into a federation layer, or else to build its own adapters where necessary. It is an ambitious plan, and makes you wonder why Borland does not put its effort into ALF to make broad adoption more likely. However, it remains a promising approach, even if in the end it works best with Borland's own growing range of ALM tools. I also asked how Borland is untangling its ALM tools from the IDE products which will eventually belong to another company. "It was a challenge to isolate what was being shared, what was needed by both sides, who the owner should be, and what agreements needed to be in place," he admitted, but added: "It was actually healthy. It was a good clean-up exercise." The spun-off organisation will, it is planned, remain a strategic partner. ®
Tim Anderson, 23 Oct 2006

Intel to ship 'Bearlake' chipsets as 3x series?

Intel's 'Bearlake' chipset family, due to debut in Q2 2007, will bring Intel's 9xx chipset naming scheme to an end, reports coming out of the Far East suggest. Instead, Intel will apparently code what will ship as the 3x Express series according to market position and feature set.
Hard Reg, 23 Oct 2006
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Irish passports go RFID, and naked

AnalysisAnalysis The Irish government has begun issuing RFID passports with biometric data that can be read at a distance to comply with US regulations for its visa waiver programme. But unlike the RFID passports the USA is now issuing, the Irish ones lack a security feature preventing them from being skimmed, or read surreptitiously. The US government has gone to the trouble of fitting its passports with a layer of foil that interferes with skimming attempts when the document is closed. The Irish government has not. A local lobbying outfit called Digital Rights Ireland (DRI) has complained that the new passports are ripe for remote privacy invasion. As of course they are. Unfortunately, DRI has taken that a step further, fretting in a recent interview with the Sunday Times that the unprotected passports could leave Irish travelers "open to targeting by terrorists". We find that to be quite a stretch, since Ireland remains neutral in the GWOT. While we wouldn't expect a terrorist attack to be called off because Irish citizens might become casualties, we're fairly confident they would be among the last people actively targeted. But forgetting terrorists for a moment (not easy, we know, with everyone and his brother playing that card), there are significant privacy issues attached to carrying a document that broadcasts your name, nationality, date of birth, digital photo, fingerprint(s), tax number, and sundry other tidbits either in the system now, or scheduled to be added in the future. Meanwhile, identity thieves have exhibited miraculous powers of imagination and Herculean initiative in exploiting the simplest holes in data security. This passport, while not an open book today, will likely become one long before its many holes are patched. A simple layer of foil in the cover would help, although it's hardly a privacy panacea. Recent tests have shown that the RFID chips can be cloned. It's also been found possible to read an unprotected chip from as far away as 30 feet. And it has been demonstrated that RFID systems are vulnerable to viruses. This is merely the start of a string of vulnerabilities we can expect to hear about, and the system is only now getting underway. Some of the best ones might not be discovered by researchers, but might instead be exploited by criminals for quite some time, until they're finally discovered and a fix is found. Furthermore, passports are often used as ID cards, not merely as travel documents. The potential for skimming in that situation is virtually unlimited. The whole scheme is meant to prevent people flying on fraudulent passports. And indeed, if it weren't for the cloning potential, this would be a help, although not a comprehensive fix. It is still quite easy to get an authentic passport with phony documents. I got one with nothing more than a birth certificate, a picture ID, and an application on which my signature had been witnessed by a notary public. I was asked to swear that the information on the application was accurate, which I did. Perhaps I might have flinched if I'd been lying, but I doubt many criminals would. With that, I received the passport in less than 24 hours. I think it unlikely that the authenticity of the birth certificate, the picture ID, and the notary public's stamp could have been verified in that time, unless I'd been the passport office's only customer. Most likely, if any verification is done, it's done on a fraction of the applications. The RFID/biometric component has been grossly oversold as an authenticity panacea. It's hi-tech, scientific and all that, so it impresses the man in the street, who now feels that international criminals, illegal aliens, and terrorists will have a harder time operating. But this scheme might actually make life easier for them, since the overall perception of the biometric passport is one of enhanced security and sophistication. Which means that a bogus one will be even more convincing than it should be, and less likely to be challenged. Besides not addressing the issue of authenticity terribly well, from a privacy point of view, RFID is the worst possible technology. But it seemed so next-generation to State Department bureaucrats, it was irresistible. A less fancy chip that can be read only through contact, such as those deployed on some credit cards, would be far more secure in terms of privacy. Of course, a layer of foil in the cover, which the US passports have and the Irish ones lack, will at least be helpful in this regard. This scheme may yet prove to be a terribly expensive blunder. While no one has yet demonstrated a technique for tampering with the data on an RFID chip, we can certainly expect one to surface. Probably long before the first generation of super passports will have expired, prompting - well, what? A mass, international passport recall? Who will pay for that? And how will passport offices manage to replace millions of defective passports while still issuing new ones in a reasonable period of time? Or will we just live with the fact that many millions of passports are unreliable? RFID isn't going to fix the problem that it's intended to fix, that is, the proliferation of bogus travel documents, yet it will become a boon to identity thieves. Basically, it's a bit worse than what we had. But it is hi-tech, scientific, and all that. Which, for the US State Department, is enough. ®
Thomas C Greene, 23 Oct 2006

Vodafone outage caused by robbery

Cable stealing thieves were responsible for a network outage that left some Vodafone UK customers without service for most of yesterday. A spokeswoman was unable to explain what the cables were for, but confirmed that the theft in north Wales caused the network downtime for most of Sunday. She said: "There was a robbery of some cabling in north Wales and that caused parts of the network to go down. The Midlands, parts of the north-west and south-east, and north Wales were affected." Several Reg readers emailed us to complain about the problem. Vodafone is working with local police who are investigating the theft. Normal service was restored overnight. ®
John Oates, 23 Oct 2006
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Sony Vaio VGC-LA1 all-on-one PC

Review Let's suppose you're a City high-flyer and you want a computer for your Docklands loft. Or perhaps you're a hip and happening teenager who wants to watch TV and use the internet in the privacy of your bedroom. Maybe you're a student who has moved away from home and you don't have the space to house a TV and a PC. Whichever category you fall into, a beige tower PC simply isn't acceptable and a laptop may not have a big enough screen to watch TV on, so you need something else. What you need is the Sony VGC-LA1, and we have to admit that the logic is compelling...
Leo Waldock, 23 Oct 2006

Europe holds summit on future of print

The European Commission is hosting a meeting today with eight editors-in-chief from some of Europe's more established and respectable newspapers and magazines, including The Times, to discuss the future of printed media. The discussion is expected to cover sources of advertising revenue, and the rules "distinguishing editorial content from advertising features". Commissioner Viviane Reding makes a point of reassuring the editors that there are no plans within the commission to ban advertising. She sits on a Media Task Force which, the EC says, scrutinises proposed legislation at "an early stage" to assess its potential impact on print media. Reding said in a statement that the press is "a cornerstone of freedom of speech and democracy". Because of this, she said, the EC needs to pay attention to the policies that have an impact on print media. She went on: "Both journalistic freedom and solid economic foundations are indispensable for newspapers and magazines to flourish in the multi-media age." The delegates will also consider how increasing internet use will affect their publications, and how to tackle the waning interest of the younger generation in printed media. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Oct 2006
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BT offers online storage

BT is offering consumers a simple way to store important files and photographs to protect against accidentally deleting things or losing hardware. BT Digital Vault Basic is a free service open to BT and non-BT customers. It offers 2GB of space if you sign up before 7 January 2007 or 1GB if you sign up after that and are not a BT broadband customer - BT broadband punters will continue to get 2GB. Or for £4.99 a month you can get BT Digital Vault which will automatically store a backup of any important files. You tell the system which files or folders to watch and it will automatically take a backup whenever the file is changed. You get 20GB of space. The information is encrypted before it is sent for storage in a data centre. Along with standard storage, customers can also use a photo album to share pictures with friends and family. More from BT here. ®
John Oates, 23 Oct 2006

Skype offers Brits free yak

BriefBrief Skype users who buy Skype Credit to pay for international and mobile calls will get six months free calls to UK landlines. The offer includes any calls to landlines in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man, and Northern Ireland. The offer is available until 31 December. Skype users already get free calls to Skype or other VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) users, but if you call a landline or mobile number you need credits. Credit must be paid for using a UK registered credit card or PayPal. The service cannot be used for call forwarding. More from Skype here. ®
John Oates, 23 Oct 2006

HP to join 18x DVD writer league

HP will next month ship its first internal DVD writer that not only burns at up to 18x speeds but also supports the LightScribe label etching system. Says who? Says Lite-on IT, the Taiwanese optical disc drive maker that manufacturers HP's drives. 18x "will" be HP's new writing speed standard, the PC giant's supplier has ruled.
Tony Smith, 23 Oct 2006

3Com flips for Wi-Fi clamshell VoIP phone

3Com is hopping on the VoIP bandwagon, this time hoping to steal a lead over its rivals by pitching a Wi-Fi equipped clamshell device rather than the more common candybar form factor.
Tony Smith, 23 Oct 2006

Cisco gets into the body language market

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to feel the actual presence of John Chambers, wonder no more. Cisco has finally launched its TelePresense Meeting system, which it claims will create “live, face to face meetings experience” over the net. The firm has been trailing the technology for a while, promising it will convincingly convey body language across the ether. When you read the bumf, it seems what the networking giant is actually selling is a high-end, IP-based videoconferencing system, centred around “life size, ultra high-definition 1080p” video. This claims Cisco, be twice as good as HD TV. This will be augmented by wideband spatial audio and multi channel, full duplex sound. Cisco cites specially designed cameras and microphones as part of the system. Despite all the data the system will be sucking up, upto 10Mpps, Cisco claims there will be “imperceptible” latency. All this doesn’t come cheap. The single screen TelePresence 1000, designed for small group meetings, comes in at $79,000 while the TelePresence 3000, with three 65 inch plasma screens, and designed for “meetings” of 12 or more round a virtual table, costs $299,000. Presumably, that’s for just one side of the virtual meeting room. Cisco claims participants will feel as if they’re in the same room together. And no doubt one of the first things they’ll be talking about is how they’re going to pay for it.®
Joe Fay, 23 Oct 2006

IBM wades into Amazon for patent infringement

IBM today announced it had filed two patent infringement lawsuits against ecommerce monolith Amazon.com. The lawsuits reportedly accuse Amazon of "willfully" violating IBM patents for "such services as allowing users to order items from an electronic catalog and displaying internet advertising". IBM listed the patents it reckons Amazon defiled as: US 5,796,967 - Presenting Applications in an Interactive Service. US 5,442,771 - Storing Data in an Interactive Network. US 7,072,849 - Presenting Advertising in an Interactive Service. US 5,446,891 - Adjusting Hypertext Links with Weighted User Goals and Activities. US 5,319,542 - Ordering Items Using an Electronic Catalogue. According to Yahoo!, Dr John E. Kelly III, senior vice president of IBM Technology and Intellectual Property, declared: "We filed this case for a very simple reason. IBM's property is being knowingly and unfairly exploited. "IBM is one of the world's leading creators of intellectual property and one of the most progressive in embracing new, highly collaborative ways of driving and managing innovation. Everything we do is premised on the fundamental principle that IBM's intellectual property is one of our core assets, and represents the work product of tens of thousands of scientists and engineers and billions of dollars of investment." Mercifully, a quick search of the United States Patent and Trademark Office revealed that IBM does not appear to hold a patent on the entire concept of ecommerce. Its claim, however, is not without precedent. Patent kerfuffle aficionados will remember Amazon's successful attack on Barnes & Noble.com which proved that it alone could claim to have invented the "1-Click" system "allowing customers to make repeat purchases at a website with just one mouse click, storing customer details for future use". ®
Lester Haines, 23 Oct 2006

NetKernel - taming XML and Web 2.0

After seven years in the making, and three years quietly simmering in production environments, 1060 Research's NetKernel is set to take on the corporate middleware mess.
Andrew Orlowski, 23 Oct 2006

Windows in HA does go

High Availability (HA) environments can obviously be classed as a `good thing’. For most users, however, the balance between need and the cost of implementation usually ends up tipping them towards the `not bother’ side of the fence.
Martin Banks, 23 Oct 2006
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EMC goes whole hog with hardware upgrade

EMC has gone brash and bold with its latest product rollout, pumping up all of the company's main hardware lines. Big spenders will find new Symmetrix boxes, while the mid-tier crowd receives a fresh Clariion. Away from this core kit, EMC has also pushed out a new virtual tape library system and a number of Celerras. The influx of gear proves that EMC still loves its Big Iron despite spending so much time acquiring software companies. To emphasize its hardware prowess, EMC managed to secure a canned quotation from an analyst. "It is impressive that EMC is providing concurrent improvements to four of its major storage system product lines," said Tony Asaro, senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group. "End user companies know that they can go to EMC for any type of storage system whether it is enterprise-class, midrange, NAS or VTL." We're sure you didn't know that before Asaro pointed it out. Anyway, on to the products. With the DMX-3 model 950, EMC has put out its latest take on driving Symmetrix down market. The system will replace the DMX800, making it the lowliest box in EMC's DMX-3 SAN (storage area network) line. Overall, the system brings improved performance and more capacity. It can hold between 32 to 360 drives (both 300GB and 500GB in the same system) and ships immediately. EMC bills the system as an answer for remote data centers. In particular, data centers suffering from space and power constraints could benefit from the kit. When packed with 300GB disk drives, the 950 eats up 10 per cent to 30 per cent less electricity than similar gear from rivals, according to EMC. Fill it with 500GB Fibre Channel drives, and the 950 beats out the power efficiency of Hitachi's XP12000 and IBM's DS8300 systems (with 300GB drives) by 70 per cent. Or so EMC claims. Over on the Clariion front, EMC has married Fibre Channel and iSCSI inside of its new CX3 UltraScale systems. The Clariion CX3-20 and CX3-40 both hit the midrange with "end-to-end" 4GB/s Fibre Channel and iSCSI support. The CX3-20 can hold between 365GB and 59TB worth of disk and support 128 hosts, while the CX3-40 stretches up to 119TB and supports 128 hosts. Perhaps more importantly for some, EMC has added the Navisphere Quality of Service Manager (NQM) software for the Clariions, which opens up some application performance tuning and service level monitoring options. EMC also tossed in some new configuration wizards for Navisphere that are said to make the software much easier to use. Over in fake tape country, EMC chucked out the Disk Library 4000 Series virtual tape library. This product replaces the DL700 Series kit EMC started hawking in 2004. All told, the DL4100, DL4200 and DL4400 systems can reach up to 340TBs of capacity and sustain 2,200 megabytes per second of overall performance. Once again, you get end-to-end 4Gb/s Fibre Channel goodness. EMC has also worked to add built-in management ties with Veritas NetBackup. The new VTL gear ships next month. Lastly, we come to another 4GB/s dynamo in the Celerra NS40/G and NS80/G Series systems. With the NS40, you get between 16TB of 32TB of storage space, while the NS80 hovers between 20TB of 60TB. Both boxes rely on the new X-Blade 65 server, which supports 10Gb Ethernet. In actual fact, EMC has flogged the NS40 since August. The NS80 ships next month. Now back to buying ISVs. ®
Ashlee Vance, 23 Oct 2006

Oracle bulks up telecoms unit with MetaSolv buy

Oracle is buying another company: this time a provider of back-end software for telcos called MetaSolv Software. By Oracle's standards, this is a small purchase, around $219.2m cash.
Drew Cullen, 23 Oct 2006
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Dell and AMD celebrate their love in front of thousands

Michael Dell and new best buddy, AMD's Hector Ruiz, cozied up on stage today at Oracle OpenWorld to celebrate customer choice. While they didn't mention Intel by name, AMD's arch-rival was the butt of some badly-scripted managerial improv intended to highlight the wisdom of hardware vendors in picking AMD too. Michael Dell is expected to elaborate on Dell's new union with AMD - which includes fresh server and PC products - Monday afternoon during his own OpenWorld keynote. Faced with stuttering sales and falling profits, Dell in May became the last big-name OEM to work with AMD, ending an exclusive relationship with Intel. Admittedly, Dell's first embrace with AMD was less than wholehearted, with the company restricting itself to building quad-socket Opteron servers. Since then, Dell has bought on more AMD-based server and PC products, on its own account, and through its Alienware subsidiary. But questions remain over how deep its love runs for AMD. Hence, AMD CEO and chairman Ruiz welcomed Dell on stage Monday morning with a fine line in understatement: "I'm sure you've been getting as many questions as I have about AMD and Dell joining forces." According to Dell and Ruiz, the future of the companies' relationship is virtualization. "Virtualization is going to be increasingly important as AMD puts more processing power into a CPU... allowing customers to protect applications and multiple operating systems from each other," Dell said "AMD and Dell both understand the needs of the enterprise. The ability to operate in this new virtualized environment. Dell using AMD virtualization technology is going to assist enterprises to streamline the datacenter and achieve greater efficiencies," Ruiz added. And that was it. After a faux TV-teaser for this afternoon's news, Michael left the stage to the University of Texas's anthem, The eyes of Texas. ®
Gavin Clarke, 23 Oct 2006

Nokia gets another chance to stop Qualcomm lawsuit

Nokia will have another chance to stop a lawsuit brought by chip maker Qualcomm in the latest twist in a long-running patent battle between the companies. A US appeals court has ordered a reconsideration of an earlier decision in Qualcomm's favour. The dispute centres on patents owned by Qualcomm which it sought to protect in a court case begun last November. That case asked for a block to be put on Finland's Nokia's sale of mobile phones which Qualcomm claimed used technology that infringed its patents. Nokia has tried to resolve the situation by the use of an arbitrator and had asked for the law suit to be delayed pending the outcome of arbitration. A Californian federal court denied Nokia the right to a stay of the case in March this year. The US Courts of Appeal for the Federal Circuit has just ruled, though, that that decision must be re-considered. The Appeals Court has ruled that the lower court "did not perform the correct inquiry" and must re-consider whether or not to allow Nokia to delay the court action until arbitration has run its course. The case involves 11 Qualcomm patents and one belonging to its subsidiary SnapTrack. The case was filed just a week after Nokia joined with other companies to complain to the European Commission about Qualcomm's use of patents for third generation mobile phone technology. Nokia, Panasonic, Broadcom, NEC, Texas Instruments and Ericsson claimed to the Commission that Broadcom violated Europe's anti-trust regulations. An administrative judge ruled earlier this month that Qualcomm infringed some patents belonging to Broadcom. That judge did find, though, that not all of Broadcom's infringement claims were justified. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 23 Oct 2006

Fiorina: 'However bad it was for me, it was worse for you'

Change is good. Unless it means me getting fired. That was the theme of a talk delivered by former HP chief Carly Fiorina last week to a crowd of San Francisco lawyers. While on the road promoting her new memoir, Tough Choices, Carly stopped off to address the San Francisco Bar Association, to impart some wisdom, and sign some books. The themes of the talk were straight from the pages of the memoir, and stressed overcoming fear of change, combating resistance to change, and recognizing the need for change. Carly also took some time to emphasize the need for corporate America to focus on ethics (also a change), which we assume was directed towards those dirty sneaks who took over the reins at HP after the board gave her the sack. Fiorina opened up as well, showing the folks in the audience her personal side. After a question from the crowd about the number of times the book describes a pivotal moment in Carly's career that was immediately followed up by her shedding tears in private, she informed the group that "frankly, I hope that I will always be the kind of person who can cry - for the right reasons." And, in case you were wondering, she admits that she wept when she had to can over 30,000 people from the ranks of HP. It was a hard decision, Fiorina said, although she did acknowledge that is was probably "even more difficult for the people who lost their jobs." Yeah, and they didn't even get a $21 million severance package. But, Fiorina reiterated throughout the talk, change works, and the "tough choices" she had to make during the restructuring of HP and its merger with Compaq eventually paid off. After all, HP has now overtaken Dell as the primary supplier of PCs to the world once again. Yes, the Grey Lady of Silicon Valley is grey no longer, but Carly was too well-mannered and composed to take the credit for this turnaround. She did divulge that she saw it coming, though, and knew that "it was only a matter of time" before HP put the three-tenths-of-a-percentage-point clobber on Dell. "I knew the facts," she says, and the fact was that customer satisfaction with HP was waxing, and customer satisfaction at Dell was on the wane. Fiorina, as she proudly admits, puts her trust in leading indicators, like customer satisfaction, to guide her way. Speaking of leading indicators, as striking as what she said was what she didn't say: hardly a mention of the current state of the HP board - the leading indicator that HP's gains on the competition may only be ephemeral. Also nary a whisper concerning her replacement, Mark Hurd, a man who has only avoided the spy scandal fallout thus far - indeed, who has even assumed the role of chairman of the board - by admitting that he was too lazy to read the damn memo about the probe (which either makes him an idiot or the smartest man in the tech biz today). Nada. Zilch. Not a hint of schadenfreude, not the slightest tinge of happiness that the ungrateful board that defenestrated her after she succeeded in turning around a moribund company has self-destructed in an orgy of personal vendettas, lies and congressional inquiries. No, Carly is bigger than all that. Plus, she'd already done 60 Minutes. At this event, she was more interested in discussing the future: how, through her work with the Initiative for Global Development, she hopes to show companies that it is in their "enlightened self-interest" to help underdeveloped nations grow; and how America can maintain its economic might by repairing the crippled education system, encouraging innovation, and opening up to immigration. Wait - immigration? That's odd . . . why would a former high-tech CEO mention a political hot-button issue that's been on everyone's mind lately? Why is she mentioning policy matters like maintaining American economic might in the face of growing Chinese competition? Especially to a bunch of thought-leaders like a select group of the San Francisco Bar? Could it be . . . Carly is considering a run for office? Governor Fiorina? Senator Fiorina? Well, why not? Carly has proven herself capable of turning almost everything she touches to gold – or at least pyrite - so she might just be the right person to come in and fix the train wreck that is the California legislative process or the catastrophe that is, well, the federal legislative process. At one point Carly acknowledged her father, a judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals who was in attendance at the event, as being the basis for her appreciation of strong character and ethics. The senior judge stood up and announced to his fellow jurists: "I am so proud of her!" So are we, your honor, so are we.®
Kevin Fayle, 23 Oct 2006
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Oracle releases 11g database beta

OpenWorldOpenWorld Oracle has kicked its next major database out to developers for testing, with features intended to improve the lot of DBAs and information workers.
Gavin Clarke, 23 Oct 2006
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SGI gives NASDAQ a go

SGI has returned to a major stock exchange for a second go at being a hardware star. The beleaguered server seller emerged today under the SGIC ticker on the NASDAQ. It handed off 11m new shares in common stock and opened at $20 per share. By day's end, SGIC had dropped 2.5 per cent to $19.50. The once glorious company was booted off the NYSE in November of 2005 and ended up in the world of penny stocks. Earlier this month, SGI "blasted out" of bankruptcy. The "New SGI" hopes to cater to a broader set of customers by expanding its server, storage and software lines. ®
Ashlee Vance, 23 Oct 2006
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Dell finally discovers Opteron servers

Dell on Monday finally gave AMD the big squeeze, when it popped out a pair of Opteron-based servers. Chairman Michael Dell unveiled the AMD gear with relatively little fanfare during a keynote at the Oracle Open World event in San Francisco. He touted the four-socket PowerEdge 6950, talked up the two-socket PowerEdge SC1435 and then went on to cheer Intel's upcoming four-core chips. It was the type of moderate public relations play you've come to expect from the vendor that continues to define boring boxes. The only hoopla that Dell mustered was a pre-keynote cartoon where King Dell battled evil creatures from "Proprietaryville." The cartoon Dell sang and danced with caricatures of Oracle chief Larry Ellison and EMC chief Joe Tucci. The trio came up with lines such as, "When we work together, there can be no disputing. We will have industry standard computing" and "Let big iron feel our steel because our partnership is real." The cartoon went so far as to have Intel chief Paul Otellini and AMD chief Hector Ruiz dancing together. Dell really has to kiss a lot of ass these days, now that it's given up the Intel-only stance. The new Opteron-based servers ship with no surprises. The four-socket 6950 starts at $6,499 and looks like Dell's other PowerEdge gear. It's aimed at handling databases and RISC migration – Dell's favorite pastime. The box also consumes 20 per cent less power than Dell's Intel-based four-socket systems. The SC1435 leans more toward the high performance computing crowd. It's a thin, rackmount server that starts at $1,299. Along with touting the new hardware, Dell championed his company's environmental efforts. He noted that Dell shipped 23.5m PCs last year. If each one of these systems had used the latest more energy efficient chips from Intel, then Dell's customers could have saved $1.6bn on electricity costs and reduced their carbon dioxide output by 12.5 million tons. Of course, similar gains could have been shown for Dell's customer base if the company had embraced Opteron sooner, but Dell didn't bother to mention that. The cartoon shown by Dell appeared to come from the same firm that did the previous Tech Force ads. We busted the ad firm Maverick Productions last year for hosting the cartoons on a Solaris powered web site. "We believe the Sun is setting over Proprietaryville," Dell closed, as he left the OpenWorld stage. If recent server sales figures are any indication, Dell is mistaken. ®
Ashlee Vance, 23 Oct 2006

Ex-Enron CEO gets 24 years in hi-tech prison

Former Enron CEO Jeff Skilling can look forward to making markets around dynamic cigarette allocation and tender love auctions now that he's been sentenced to 24 years in prison. US District Judge Sim Lake hit Skilling with his punishment today, saying the executive's "crimes have imposed on hundreds if not thousands, a life sentence of poverty." Lake recommended that Skilling do his time in a Butner, North Carolina federal prison. All three members of the Butner prison line are conveniently located near the hi-tech Research Triangle area, should Skilling want to fire up a new venture once his stretch in the pen ends. Along with the prison sentence, Lake asked that Skilling go to mental health and alcohol programs and fork over $45m, which will go to Enron workers. Skilling's partner in slime Ken Lay avoided the joys of lockdown when he suffered a heart attack in July and died. During today's two-hour hearing, Skilling almost showed real signs of being sorry for his actions. "In terms of remorse, I can't imagine more remorse," Skilling said. "I have good friends who have died." Stop there, Jeff! "All of that being said, your honor," Skilling continued. "I am innocent of these charges. I am innocent of every one of these charges." Oh well. He, of course, plans to appeal. ®
Ashlee Vance, 23 Oct 2006