1st > November > 2006 Archive

Kazaa pays off the music publishers

And you thought Kazaa had gone completely kosher. Wrong. Months after paying $100m to the record labels and movie studios to settle piracy charges, the browbeaten P2P music service has only today come to terms with America's music publishers. In a statement, the National Music Publishers Association (NMPA) said Kazaa had agreed to pay a "substantial settlement to compensate music publishers and songwriters for the infringement of musical works on the Kazaa network". The NMPA doesn't attach a dollar figure to the settlement and says the deal needs rubberstamping by its members. But it appears all over bar the shouting. This brings to an end the music publishers' class suit against Kazaa. And it leaves Kazaa free to resume its latest incarnation as yet another lossmaking legit music service. ®
Drew Cullen, 01 Nov 2006
For Sale sign detail

Sun puts enterprise muscle into NetBeans

Sun Microsystems is backing a "milestone" release of NetBeans by expanding a year-old partner program to drive uptake for its tools environment and IDE.
Gavin Clarke, 01 Nov 2006

Intel set to show off 'Footballers' Wives' four-core line

The server and PC markets will get glitzy and awful hot in a couple of weeks when Intel pushes out its four-core chips. Both Kentsfield for high-end PCs and Clovertown for servers should officially arrive on 14 November, although review sites will be freed from their NDAs on 3 November, sources tell us.
Ashlee Vance, 01 Nov 2006
For Sale sign detail

Net forum produces anti-spam plan

IGFIGF Six of the world's largest anti-spam organisations have set up a new website aimed at killing the online menace. Timed to coincide with an anti-spam workshop at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Athens, the OECD has started StopSpamAlliance.org, along with Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC), the EU Contact Network for Spam enforcement Authorities (CNSA), the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the London Action Plan for Spam Enforcement (LAP), and the Seoul-Melbourne MoU. The idea is to agree upon and share the same methods for reducing spam across the globe - a problem amplified by the current lack of international agreements for how to deal with it. The website contains information on anti-spam laws as well as guides for educating both consumers and business, plus best practices for fighting spam, and for forging international co-operation. The agreement is the result of a year of hard work from the OECD following an in-depth 2005 report on how to best deal with the problem. While those involved readily admit the agreement is far from a final solution, it does represent the first serious, co-ordinated international effort to deal with spam. "We know there's no simple single solution to fight spam, and the OECD's work on the anti-spam toolkit stressed the importance of a holistic approach to combating spam", said Claudia Sarrocco of the OECD. "International organisations could and should work together more effectively against spammers, and this initiative will help them do that". International Telecommunications Union (ITU) secretary general Yoshio Utsumi was also on hand to praise the approach: "This will build confidence and security in the use of ICTs and its new Partnerships for Global Cybersecurity initiative." Despite countless efforts to limit spam, the simple ability to send millions of messages for almost no cost has made spam a constant intrusion into people's lives. The hope is that the new StopSpamAlliance will inform anyone interested over the best ways to dealing with the problem. ® Related links StopSpamAlliance.org
Kieren McCarthy, 01 Nov 2006
channel

Open standards group to beat Microsoft at its own game

IGFIGF The first "dynamic coalition" resulting from the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has vowed to get governments interested in adopting open standards for both hardware and software. A panel, which included academics, business, and standards bodies argued its case in Athens, where one of the aims of open discussions between different groups has been to get like-minded people together. Sun Microsystems government policy head Susy Struble warned of "technical hooks" being embedded into standards, where companies suddenly claim controlling rights to widely adopted protocols, and argued that government's proper role in developing standards needed to be understood. "A truly open standard provides for the highest level of competition," she said. "It provides more equitable access, and wider, global interaction." Meanwhile, Yale Information Society Project head Eddan Katz argued that people tend to overlook the power governments have on standards - not only in the purchase and widespread use of the chosen technologies, but in the huge databases of information built by governments using particular formats. What no one at the launch - which included the head of technology at the Library of Alexandria, Professor Magdy Nagi, Daniel Dardieller from W3C, and Free Software Foundation Europe president Georg Greve - would say, however, was that the initiative is hoping to take Microsoft on at its own game, namely, persuading governments of the advantages of its software. Ever since Linux was officially promoted as a threat to Microsoft's enormous global software reach, representatives from the software giant have gone to extraordinary lengths to promote the Microsoft software model with governments across the world. The drive has been very successful, and despite numerous reports praising the advantages of open source software, governments have tended to stick with what they know. It is this inertia that the "Open Standards Workshop Organisers Form Coalition" hopes to fix. "Governments talk about open standards in general terms," explained Jamie Love from the Consumer Project on Technology. "It's one thing to agree, but quite another to implement it." Struble gave recent examples of the Danish government and the State of Massachusetts' decision to use the open document format (ODF) as models. The group therefore aims to produce a best practice guide for governments in moving to open standards. The process will begin with a "data collection phase" starting immediately and continue with a Yale University symposium on the issue on 3 February. ® Related links The announcement blogged by Robin Gross of IP Justice
Kieren McCarthy, 01 Nov 2006
globalisation

US DoJ SRAM probe turns to Sony

Sony has been told by the US Department of Justice to provide information regarding its SRAM business, part of an investigation into an alleged attempt to fix prices. Separately, the probe took on a European dimension when it emerged European Commission officials are engaged in a similar investigation.
Tony Smith, 01 Nov 2006

Data failings threaten NHS payments

The Payment by Results (PbR) system could be in jeopardy because data collected by the NHS is not accurate, a pilot has revealed. The Royal College of Physicians has published a report on a trial of the system conducted by its iLab facility. It found that clinical data entered onto the Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) for England and the Patient Episode Database Wales (PEDW) – used for analysis for PbR – was inaccurately entered by administration staff. Practice Based (GP) Commissioning and Payment by Results (PbR) was launched in April 2005 to overhaul the way secondary care was funded. Its aim was to provide a rules based system to pay trusts based on their needs for services, rewarding efficiency and support of patient choice, but the RCP said the two year pilot has found the information it relies on is incomplete and inaccurate. The Engaging clinicians in improving data quality in the NHS report concludes that although coding staff are very effective at accurately coding and entering information, the "information clinicians provide in patient notes and discharge summaries, can often be incomplete or unclear for the purposes of coding. This has been cited as a possible weak link in the data quality chain." Mistakes included codes entered by individual trusts into a central system that allocated a patient to the wrong consultant, incorrect lengths of stay for inpatients, and failures by hospital administrators to collect and record all the relevant data. An iLab spokesperson told GC News that the PbR is in jeopardy because the clinical information cannot be relied on. "If the consultant undertook a particular procedure and it is then coded as something else then that can lead to problems," the spokesperson said. The report recommends that in the short term existing national hospital databases should be expanded to include outpatient data, administrative, demographic, and clinical. In the longer term, the Department for Health will need to develop clinical information systems which better reflect working practices. Consultants and doctors should also be more involved in the process of collecting data to ensure its accuracy. "As a result of these limitations and existing consultant level data quality problems, national comparisons of individuals practice using HES/PEDW data should not be made," says the report. Dr Giles Croft, project manager for iLab, said: "This research highlights the inadequacy of centrally collected clinical information in the NHS. The fact that we have to resort to decades old management information to examine clinical practice simply reflects the sad reality that there are currently no alternatives. "We have shown that improvements can be made, but even if accuracy was at 100 per cent this data would still not come close to reflecting the complexities of the care doctors provide to their patients." 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, 01 Nov 2006

CE giants punt wireless rival to HDMI

Six big-name consumer electronics companies have come together to thrash out a wireless alternative to the HDMI cabling standard that may also tread on the toes of next-generation Wi-Fi technology.
Tony Smith, 01 Nov 2006

Reid fires starting gun in spook toys arms race

The UK Home Secretary has called on the country to back the surveillance industry at the start of a civil security arms race. Speaking to a surveillance industry conference today, John Reid described how British society must change in order to protect itself from those peoples left embittered in the wake of the cold war. He started by redefining the values of modern, liberal democracy for the 21st Century war. The ideal of liberty remained, but transparency and trust had given way to qualified, or "guarded openness". He reiterated the Blairite idea of a battle of ideas, but said that on our overpopulated planet the battle was being given added intensity by its resources. So we had to battle with our values, he said, "in defiance of the terrorist menace". We had to "speed the execution of delivery" of the surveillance devices produced by the security industry, Reid said. "It is vital that our enterprises sustain the delivery of innovation at a pace that outstrips our adversaries," he said. To sustain this would require more public services to be delivered by the private sector, he said. In the context of security, this meant surveillance and a society wrapped in such a cloak would have to change its rules, he said. "This involves nothing less than together renewing the social contract," Reid said. "The whole community must be engaged in the struggle," he added later. To tell citizens what they should fight for, he drew a contrast between the society of failed states, in which everyone has to muck in to make the most basic services work, and the society of modern western states, in which people's needs are provided by the private sector. This was reason enough to dismiss the famous warning given by US President Dwight David Eisenhower in his parting address in 1961, that the wealth of our economies had become so dependent on the war industry that we should watch that the war profiteers did not gain undue influence over civil policy. "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes," outgoing president said, coining this economic dependence the military-industrial complex. Rather than take Eisenhower's lesson and apply it to the emerging civil surveillance industry (a phenomenon coined the security-industrial complex by Statewatch since military industry was behind most of the new civil surveillance technologies), the current Home Secretary said civil society can learn from the defence industry. "Competitiveness of markets makes Eisenhower's fears less relevant today," he said. "In the wake of the cold war," he said, the threat was complex and "ultimate victory" could only be achieved if we all joined together. Reid stretched the idea of the "enabling state", a euphemism for the private provision of public services, to encompass civil surveillance. "This will mean the public, private and voluntary sectors partnering and embracing competitiveness as never before," he said. "Liberty, tolerance and guarded openness are not luxuries but vital to the conduct of a struggle that will be long, wide and deep," he added.®
Mark Ballard, 01 Nov 2006

Government turns down request for FOI data

The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) has refused a request to make public the data behind a controversial recent report. The DCA is in charge of policy for the Freedom of Information Act (FoI). The DCA commissioned a report by Frontier Economics which analysed data it had gathered on the cost of processing FOI requests. It is that data which Maurice Frankel of the Campaign for Freedom of Information has requested, and has been refused access to. The Frontier Economics report found that the processing of FOI requests costs public bodies £35m a year. This partly formed the basis of the government's decision to limit the numbers of requests and change the charging structure relating to requests. "We asked the DCA for the results of the one week survey they carried out at the beginning of the year to look at the actual time spent by officials in dealing with requests," Frankel told OUT-LAW. "This is the data that was given to Frontier Economics and forms a major part of the data they based their assessments on and we've been refused that data on the basis that it relates to the formulation of government policy and disclosure would not be in the public interest. "We've now challenged that because there's a very strong steer in the Act itself that factual information should normally be disclosed and what we've asked for is primarily factual information," he said. The Campaign for Freedom of Information has published the letter from the DCA refusing the request. "I can confirm that the department holds information falling within the scope of all three elements of your request," it says. "However, the information is exempt from disclosure under section 35(1)(a) of the FOI Act, which exempts information that relates to the formulation and development of government policy." A spokeswoman for the DCA told OUT-LAW that the decision was under internal review. "Factual and statistical information should not be released while the policy decision has not been made, and this decision has not been made yet," said the spokeswoman, referring to the changes to the charging structure relating to the FOI Act. "The whole debate becomes very difficult if the government is not prepared to release the factual survey which forms the basis of the Frontier Economics report," said Frankel. "We think the DCA has disregarded its own advice to Whitehall on the application of this exemption. It says that there have to be very clear grounds for refusing factual information." It has also emerged that the costings used to calculate the £35m total included an hourly charge of £300 for ministers' time in its assessments of the true cost of FOI request processing. "The problem is that we don't know what the basis of that £300 an hour charge is and we don't know how it's been calculated. There is no explanation of how exactly it's been derived or why involving a minister should cost as much as that, it's a vast sum to be attributed to a minister," said Frankel. Though Frontier did not respond to a request for comment, one of the company's directors, Michael Ridge, told The Guardian that "it is difficult to identify an appropriate benchmark for the cost of ministerial time. However, the opportunity costs of ministerial time could be considered similar to that of senior executives or partners in a city law firm". "By using figures that appear to be very high and whose basis is not clear one has to question the whole basis for deciding that the whole cost of the FOI Act is £35m," said Frankel. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 01 Nov 2006

Intel, AMD squeeze other x86 chip makers

AMD increased its share of the x86 processor market during Q3 2006, it has emerged. But fanboys hoping AMD's gain came at arch-rival Intel's expense will be disappointed: the chip giant's market share also rose sequentially.
Tony Smith, 01 Nov 2006

Smart loses battle with ComReg

Smart Telecom has lost its High Court battle with ComReg, with the court ruling that the troubled telecoms firm should not have been offered a 3G mobile licence. The ruling from Justice Peter Kelly states that the regulator was right to withdraw the offer of the 3G licence from Smart. The offer of the licence was withdrawn early this year on the back of issues surrounding the €100m bond to be paid by Smart. Smart Telecom has acknowledged the decision from the High Court but has yet to give any comment. "We have received today's ruling by the High Court. We now need to reflect on it and consult with our legal advisors," the company said in a statement. "ComReg welcomes today's judgement, which confirms that ComReg's original decision was correct, and that it followed fair and correct procedures. ComReg believes that it has been vindicated by the court," the regulator's chairperson Isolde Goggin said in a statement. The ruling comes as Smart Telecom shareholders voted to approve the sale of the troubled telecoms firm to a Brendan Murtagh-owned company for €1. Shareholder approval for the sale came at the firm's extraordinary general meeting (EGM) on Tuesday. The decision means that Calally Limited, a company controlled by Murtagh, will acquire the assets of Smart for €1 and assume Smart's estimated €40m liabilities. In exchange Smart will receive a 10 per cent shareholding in Calally. Smart CEO Ciaran Casey has welcomed the decision of shareholders and added that "while we accept that the disposal represents a very disappointing outcome for all shareholders, it is the only option to ensure that shareholders have an opportunity to get some value for their investment. It also means that the long-term future of the business can be assured, creditors will be paid in full, employment for staff secured and services to the company's customers be maintained". In order to manage payment to creditors, Casey said the company is currently working on a detailed payment plan. "All debts will be discharged in full in a reasonable timeframe. We very much appreciate the patience shown by suppliers in supporting Smart through this difficult period," said Casey. This should come as welcome news to the Smart Creditors Action Group (SCAG), which on Tuesday called on Smart to ensure payment takes place promptly. "Ciaran Casey made a clear public statement of commitment at today's EGM and we hope that he will follow this through as soon as possible with a detailed payment schedule. The Smart Creditors Action Group now represents over 30 Smart Telecom creditors and all are anxious to have their outstanding debts cleared," said Martin Ferris of Ferris & Associates, chairperson of SCAG. SCAG was established in the past two weeks in a bid to ensure that all outstanding creditors of Smart are remunerated. The group will act like a Creditors Committee of Inspection in a liquidation situation. Over 30 creditors attended the inaugural meeting of SCAG last week and a second meeting will take place in the coming weeks. Looking ahead Casey said Smart will focus on its residential and corporate broadband and data services. He said in the last few weeks Smart has retained over 90 per cent of its residential broadband customers and claims to have also signed additional contracts with corporate customers for data services. As for the situation Smart found itself in last month, with over 40,000 of its customers left without voice services, Casey said management and the board take full responsibility and are not looking to blame anyone. However, he went on to say that government needs to "reassess how the market is operating if companies are to compete more effectively and if the benefits of competitively priced broadband services are to be made available to Irish residential and corporate customers". Copyright © 2006, ENN
Deirdre McArdle, 01 Nov 2006

European expansion on the cards for 3V

Pay-as-you-go Visa voucher firm 3V is preparing to launch its product in the UK and Europe, raising €20m to fund the expansion and creating new jobs. The vouchers were launched in the UK on Tuesday, backed by a £2m marketing campaign. Other European markets will be added in 2007. "Following the successful pilot of 3V Voucher here in Ireland over the last 12 months, the capital raised will help us to complete our European roll out in the UK this year and another four markets next year," 3V Transaction Services chief executive Kieron Guilfoyle said. "We believe 3V Vouchers tap into a very buoyant market and will have a positive impact on the digital economy - this is the largest ever investment made in the pre-paid market outside the USA." The expansion means extra staff for the firm's Dublin headquarters, with 55 new posts to be added, while a further 12 positions will be created at 3V's London office. The new jobs will be created over the next year and a half. 3V is targeting a €500bn European prepaid market opportunity with its prepaid voucher that allows users to shop online without the need for a credit card. The vouchers can be purchased by anyone over the age of 16 and can be used wherever Visa is accepted. The vouchers are also designed to help reduce fraud, as they cannot be skimmed, and security details, such as the expiry date, are sent separately to the customers' email or mobile phone. Founded in Dublin in 2004, 3V has already won 60,000 Irish members since the vouchers were introduced in 2005. Atlas Venture, who funded the €20m capital together with Benchmark Capital Europe, is firmly behind the venture. "3V is the first company to come up with a really easy payment method for online shoppers in Europe who don't want to use a debit or credit card on the internet," said Christopher Spray, senior partner at Atlas Venture. "It is elegant in its simplicity and accepted by all merchants. We believe there is a significant un-met need for this." Copyright © 2006, ENN
Ciara O'Brien, 01 Nov 2006

Mystic mixes media player and VoIP phone

Say hello to the Rimax Mystic a 7mm-thick music and video player - that's a 1.5in, 65,536-colour OLED on the front - that doubles up as USB-connected VoIP phone. There's an FM radio on board too and a sufficient battery capacity for up to eight hours' music playback time. Available in 512MB, 1GB and 2GB capacities, the Mystic bundles extra covers if you don't fancy the standard blue'n'silver look. Prices run from £56 (512MB) to £90 (2GB). The Mystic is available from Rimax's RMXdirect website. ®
Register Hardware, 01 Nov 2006

AMD releases ATI Catalyst update

AMD's ATI division has released the latest version of its Catalyst drivers package, implementing the usual array of tweaks to boost game framerates and benchmark scores: gains of 6.7-15.8 per cent can be seen in 3DMark06 and 9.7-10.5 per cent in 3DMark05, the company claimed.
Tony Smith, 01 Nov 2006

S&P updates ratings method for exchanges and clearing houses

Exchanges and clearing houses have changed almost beyond recognition over the past 10 years. They have been transformed from private mutual, member types of organisations in many instances with monopoly powers and business franchises to public and, in many cases, listed organisations. The old membership category has for the most part "sold the family silver" to be replaced by institutional shareholders, who demand improved financial returns. At the same time, exchange and clearing house users demand improved, efficient, lower cost services, better liquidity and transparency for execution. Exchanges and clearing houses are responding to these demands but they are competing against each other, in some instances through merger or acquisition, to consolidate their business position. Much of the response by exchanges and clearing houses has seen extensive deployment of technology internally and through onward sales and licensing of technology to users and other exchanges and clearing houses. Equally, increased commercial exploitation of data and information services generated by exchanges, clearing houses, and their users has focused on the by-products which technology has enabled to evolve. Consequently, S&P has revised its rating methodology, a combination of qualitative and quantitative analysis. It now rates exchanges and clearing houses as "going concerns". Importantly, the deployment and commercialisation of technology forms an important element of the analysis for rating purposes. Exchanges and clearing houses have to maintain adequate investment in transaction and operating systems in order to deliver reliability, speed of delivery of information, and transaction execution. Technology migrations, from R&D through systems purchases upgrades, are the largest cost for an exchange and generally involve very substantial capital expenditure. Where capital expenditure demands grow beyond the financial capacity and capability of the exchange or clearing house, that is normally a signal for acquisition or merger. S&P examines the IT expenditure of exchanges and clearing houses in relation to overall costs and operating cash flows. This can provide an analytical challenge where IT spend, for example, does not include people-related expenditure and reflects only maintenance of existing infrastructure. Equally, where capital expenditure is included in R&D and those costs are capitalised and appear in the cash flow statement, costs of specific projects can be difficult to determine through financial analysis. In terms of determining the rating of exchanges and clearinghouses, S&P analyses the risks, which it segments into three key components, though they do not have equal weighting: business risk, risk management, and financial risk. Within each of the risk categories, the analysis of technology is a consideration. Business risk Business risk has two categories: market position/business diversification and management and strategy. Within both these risk categories technology has to be evaluated. For example, does the sale/licensing of technology and sale of information and data services provide a significant level of revenue diversification from dependency on uncertain and fluctuating trading revenues? Does the Exchange/clearing house technology have a "brand value"? What is/how good is the current technology strategy for the exchange/clearing house? What is the future technology strategy and what is the evaluation of it? Risk management Risk management has two categories: operational risk and credit and market risk. The technology infrastructure is an important consideration in operational risk evaluation, including its capacity, reliability, speed, and accuracy of trade execution. Likewise, disaster recovery, its business continuity and technology back-up capabilities are factors for evaluation. Financial risk Financial risk has two categories: profitability/cash flow and debt leverage/capital. Exchanges and clearing houses typically have high fixed cost bases and relatively small variable cost bases. They depend on trading volumes to increase operating margins. Technology investment, current and future, is critical to reduction of fixed costs by increasing capacity and reducing fixed costs. Equally, where technology can contribute efficiently to other income streams through licensing and software sales, diversification thorough sales of distributed prices and other market information and analysis modify the revenue dependency on the uncertainty of trading volumes. It is interesting to note that S&P would apply its rating methodology for exchanges and clearing houses to "financial institutions that execute, clear and settle listed and OTC securities and commodities in cash and derivatives markets, as well as central securities depositories (CSDs)". Institutions, seeking to build the new alternative electronic platforms permitted and encouraged under MiFID, Multilateral Trading Systems (MTFs) and Systematic Internalisers (SIs), may well give serious consideration to the rating methodology employed by S&P, as they build value in these new enterprises. The technology embedded in these enterprises may prove to be an even more important element in rating and valuation of such enterprises. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Bob McDowall, 01 Nov 2006

Welcome to RTFM: the Reg audio experience

Welcome to RTFM: a new audio service from sci-tech world superpower The Register. We at Vulture Central have been talking for some time about doing a pilot for a possible monthly broadcast, and we finally got out of the pub long enough to put together a 14-minute sonic burst for your listening pleasure. The RTFM cast of thousands includes myself and John Oates, who provided vital news resources. Further plaudits should go to Phil "Philipe" Mitchell, who offered Strategy Boutique logistical back-up, while a round of applause is certainly in order for voice artists Hils Barker and Silas Hawkins, who toiled selflessly over a hot microphone down at Cut Glass studio in Norrrf London under the caring eye of soundmeister Phil Corran. The mp3 is available for download right here (19 meg mp3), or you can have a listen on our RTFM mp3 player below. Your feedback on this initiative is welcome, as long as it includes the words "I love you and want to have your babies". Enjoy. The whole wonderful thing Technical update Loads of you wrote to say you need RTFM available via an RSS feed which will allow you to automatically download it to, for example, your iPod. Well, here are the urls: www.theregister.co.uk/odds/rtfm/headlines.rss and www.theregister.com/odds/rtfm/headlines.rss. We gave this a go in Bloglines, and the audio file appears as an enclosure with this story. You should, therefore, be able to download it automatically to your iPod or similar. Let us know if you have any problems. Some of you also noted that having the sketches as separate files would be nice, so you can cherry-pick your fave bits. We agree, and here they are for instant listening or download: The London cabbie Brinfinger Space wurzel Trainspotting geeks The Strategy Boutique Bootnote If this thing takes off - and that's very much up to you lot - we're looking at expanding the range and scope of broadcasts available, and bringing in some third-party talent to further entertain you, our beloved readers. Watch this space.®
Lester Haines, 01 Nov 2006

Samsung squashes 16 Flash chips into one

Samsung has worked out how to stack up to 16 memory dies in a single package, allowing a standard-sized chip to contain rather more storage capacity than is currently the case. A chip that might have once held 10GB of Flash memory can now hold 16GB.
Tony Smith, 01 Nov 2006

Chinese democracy campaigner attacks Yahoo! snitchers

Yahoo!'s snitching to Beijing over pro-democracy activity on the internet refuses to go away. Leading campaigner Wei Jingsheng sigled out the portal on Monday for actions which directly led to a journalist being imprisoned in 2004. He made the attack on Monday at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan, Computerworld reports. In 2004, Yahoo!'s burgeoning Chinese tentacle provided the neccessary files to connect an email received by a New York-based pro-democracy website to its sender, a reporter on Hunan Province's Contemporary Business News. Shi Tao leaked internal Communist Party documents revealing how the regime planned to suppress coverage of the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Wei Jinsheng said: "Let me specify Yahoo. They will track down Internet users and help to sentence them. This really threatens the safety of Internet writers in China." When Shi Tao was jailed for divulging state secrets, Yahoo!'s actions drew damning criticism from media free speech organisation Reporters Without Borders and human rights campaign Amnesty International. In its defence, Yahoo! later said: "When Yahoo! China in Beijing was required to provide information about the user, who we later learned was Shi Tao, we had no information about the nature of the investigation. We were unaware of the particular facts surrounding the case until the news story emerged." More on Wei Jinsheng's comments here. ®
Christopher Williams, 01 Nov 2006

Level 3 floored by robbery

Level 3, the supposedly secure back bone provider, has lost all services at its Braham Street data centre thanks to a robbery. The company refused to speak to The Register this morning, but many of its customers have been in touch. According to Level 3 customers thieves got into the building on Braham Street, E1, and stole core router cards. An email sent by Level 3 to its customers said only: "There was a security breach in our Braham St gateway early this morning. A number of service affecting cards were removed without authority from live equipment. This has resulted in the loss of IP and voice services to a number of customers at Braham St. We are currently attempting to restore service as quickly as possible. We will issue further updates as information becomes available." We were told no spokesperson was available or likely to be available. Other technology companies hit by the downtime include easyspace.com. The theft has raised fears that data centres and large IT departments in the City of London could be the target of an organised gang - last month Easynet's centre on nearby Brick Lane suffered a similar robbery. In other news BT Broadband suffered a major failure last night. A spokesman for BT told the Reg: "About 100,000 BT Retail customers lost access late last night but normal service has now been restored. There was an authentication problem with our servers and it was not related to events at Level 3." ®
John Oates, 01 Nov 2006
homeless man with sign

VXers target online video

Virus writers are tapping into the popularity of online video sites to spread their malware. As well as posting spyware and adware infected files that pose as video clips onto P2P networks, hackers are booby-trapping Windows codecs that are needed to play some video formats with Trojan code or posting viruses that pose as codecs. David Robinson, UK head of security firm Norman Sandbox, told the BBC that spyware and adware purveyors are producing malware bundles that offer a range of codecs. The tactic is similar to the more familiar ploy of offering so-called browser enhancements that load adware bundles onto the Windows PCs of prospective victims. Anti-spyware firm Sunbelt Software has identified one supposed codec that claims to have discovered security problems on a victim's PC in a bid to bully users into buying so-called clean up software that is itself infected by ad-ware. Hackers are trying to get round basic anti-virus defences by writing code that directs users to visit sites containing malware rather than directly including malicious code in their packages. David Emm, senior technology consultant at anti-virus firm Kaspersky Labs, said that as well as P2P networks Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube and MySpace were ripe for exploitation. ®
John Leyden, 01 Nov 2006

Stupid aul' Reg hack has tin ear

CorrectionCorrection In a recent article about electronic voting in Ireland, I claimed that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had been misquoted in a Sunday Times article by Mark Tighe on the same topic. Speaking in the Dáil, Bertie had advocated resurrecting Ireland's electronic voting terminals whilst decrying the insult to Irish sophistication implied by voting with "stupid old pencils." At least that's how I heard it. Mark heard it differently and quoted him as saying "stupid aul' pencils." "We can assure readers that the Taoiseach does not, in fact, talk like animated Lucky Charms cereal pitchman Lucky the Leprechaun," I had written in a smart-alecky tone. Mark was kind enough to send me a recording, to which I listened carefully, headphones and all. And I have to say in all honesty that I continued hearing it as "old pencils". But I listened several more times, and will allow that my brain was likely translating what it heard into what it expected to hear. Sure enough, Bertie sounds just like aul' Lucky himself, no doubt emphasizing his working-class accent to sound like a man of the people - much the way Mick Jagger sounds just like überyokel Gomer Pyle singing "you kaiynt oweeys git wut you waaw-unt," because he innocently imagined it would make him sound "black". The Register regrets the error, and apologises to The Times, to Mark, and above all, to our readers. ®
Thomas C Greene, 01 Nov 2006

PayPal claims 15m UK users

PayPal now has 15m accounts in the UK - a third of the adult population and more than half of active internet shoppers. Figures from Datamonitor estimate there are 24.9m online shoppers in the UK, spending an average of £600 each a year. UK chief executive Geoff Iddison told the Reg: "We are growing faster than ecommerce in the UK. And these are not just user numbers but accounts connected to a specific bank account." The online payment system can take and make payments in 103 markets and in seventeen currencies. Worldwide, PayPal made revenues of $350m by making transactions worth some $9.1bn. It is going after more merchant accounts and also wants to get a slice of the £440m sent by UK residents to families abroad. The company, bought by eBay in 2002 for $1.5bn, has 123m account holders worldwide. ®
John Oates, 01 Nov 2006

Sony launches 'world's lightest' laptop in Japan

Sony has launched what it today claimed is the world's lightest 12.1in notebook, an 898g machine constructed out of carbon fibre, though the weight pushes past 1kg if you want a machine with a bigger battery capacity and an optical drive.
Tony Smith, 01 Nov 2006
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Vista delayed by 18,000 years

Microsoft's mythical operating system looks set to remain a thing of legend. The oft-delayed Windows Vista is facing an epic setback, having been pushed back 18,000 years. According to Manchester-based IT supplier Aria.co.uk, don't expect to run Redmond's new beast on your PC until 30 January, 20007. The site says: Don't hold out! Purchase Windows XP Professional edition after now and recieve a FREE* upgrade voucher for Microsoft's latest and long awaited Windows Vista Business Edition (release date January 30 20007). Long awaited it certainly will be. Vista has already been delayed by security bugs, anti-trust action, and the ire of other companies, and we can only speculate what's caused the latest multi-millennial mix-up. But, obviously, the Vista voucher is to become a thing of family legend, passed lovingly down from generation to generation until the lucky descendent can substitute their inheritance for the shiny new system. That, or its Microsoft's latest attempt at monopolising the future. Go figure. ® Bootnote Thanks to reader Charlie Burgum for the timely tip.
Tracey Cooper, 01 Nov 2006

Hitachi punts Frankenstein storage

Hitachi's hard drive division today outlined its strategy for the next year, pushing encryption and flash memory hybrids at notebooks. It'll be increasing capacity on its cash cow 2.5-inch notebook drives too. A 2.5in 7,200rpm effort will lead the charge in the first half of next year with 200GB of storage. Later in the year a 5,400rpm drive will push notebook capacity up to quarter of a terabyte.
Christopher Williams, 01 Nov 2006
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HP slices into storage

In BriefIn Brief HP has shoehorned its Storageworks brand into the c-Class server blade systems it announced in June. The StorageWorks SB40c will attach into c-Class server blades and provide up to 876GB of additional capacity from a maximum of six HDD slots. The modularity of the blade system is the filip for HP's marketing wonks; it'll fit in with IT buyers who are having to justify every inch of further space they're taking up. Each SB40c storage blade will connect directly to its server blade, so will be independent of the backplane. According to HP this will cut up to 60 per cent from the total cost of ownership compared to a SAN solution. The boxes will debut November 14 starting at $1,599. HP's info on the kit is here. ®
Christopher Williams, 01 Nov 2006

Fearmeister Reid fakes his terror figures

Quality control issues at the Ministry of Truth & Fear? To shore up his speech to the Society of Spookgear Suppliers yesterday Home Secretary John Reid produced some impressive (but strangely implausible) numbers showing the devastating effect the UK security services are having on terrorism. But by bizarre coincidence (?), on Monday Tony McNulty, Home Office Minister for tags, shackles and prison hulks, trotted out numbers covering precisely the same territory. But, ahem, they're different! Comrade Reid thanked the Plod on our behalf for its efforts: "On behalf of the nation I am delighted to pay tribute to our police, judicial, security and armed services for their great work and unstinting sacrifices. For example, from 9 September 2001 to 30 September 2006 there have been 387 people charged under the Terrorism Act and other criminal legislation..." Ah, you could see that one coming, couldn't you? It's barely worth firing up the few synapses needed to ask how many of these 387 were actually charged under terrorist legislation, and how many were instead busted for fraud, petty crimes or immigration offences, the latter often coming in handy when you've deployed several hundred cops to bust somebody suspiciously foreign-looking. But we don't really have to ask, because here comes McManancle with Monday's answer: "Statistics compiled from police records show that between 11 September 2001 and 31 March 2006 997 people were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 (TACT). Of these people, 154 were charged with offences under TACT and 79 of these were also charged with offences under other legislation. A further 175 individuals were charged under different legislation. A total of 25 people were convicted under TACT during this period." Notice the eccentrically different periods the two ministers produce figures for. But if you add together McNumptie's TACT and other offences charges, you get 329, which is ballpark similar to Reid's number, if the good Comrade Doctor's arresto-bots have been busy between April and September 2006. Which they have. But the Monday figures don't look anything like as clever as the Tuesday figures, do they? You pull in over 1,000 (including the April-September nickings, that would be), and you send down 25. Briefly fire up the synapses after all, and ask how many of those convicted were in the "Islamist" category, how many were stray IRA ceasefire refuseniks (they still turn up), and how many were banged up for frequenting dodgy web sites and/or having "terrorist" literature on their computers. Or, to cut to the chase, ask how many of them actually had bomb-type equipment and a coherent and plausible terrorist plan. None? Perhaps... Ah, but the trial process takes a long time, so we can't just assume that only 25 people will ultimately be convicted out of a total 154 charged. When all of these have fed through the system, the hit rate will surely look a lot better, right? So how many are awaiting trial? McNulty, unhappily, declined to play on Monday: "The Home Office does not publish statistics on the number of cases awaiting trial." Rats. So we'll just have to wait. Until, er, Tuesday. Because Comrade Doctor Reid continues, "...with 98 awaiting trial and 214 already convicted." The 98 awaiting trial at end September will include arrests outside of the period covered by McNulty's figures, and a dozen or thereabouts of these new arrests will have been of those currently in detection on suspicion of paralysing international air travel with the aid of an ungraded GCSE in Chemistry and a Lucozade bottle. Which suggests that quite a few of McNulty's 154 somehow came out of the other end of the process without a measurable result for the War on Terror between April and September. We can however tentatively tinker with the TACT charging numbers in another way. If there were 154 at the beginning of April, we can guesstimate 180-200 TACT charges up until the end of September, meaning that of Comrade Doctor Reid's 387 total charged, somewhere in the region of 200 were not charged under TACT. Even if we're vastly generous in guesstimating the additional number of successful results since April, then we surely need to conclude that at least 150-160 of Reid's "214 already convicted" were not convicted for terrorist offences. One could, were one not already bored with tallying up numbers, figure out a couple of indicators of the vast sums of money the police have been spending on terror investigations and then divide the total by the number of successful terrorist prosecutions. And one would not be at all surprised if each of these heinous criminals turned out to be, in their way, a millionaire of sorts. But the Comrade Doctor puts it for us in a different way: "Unless we speed the execution of delivery and open up to the drive of innovation that enables growth, security and resilience will come at unpalatable and unsustainable costs." This, were it not at least 80 per cent marketing bollocks, would be a clarion call to the vendors of surveillance snake-oil to fuel growth through innovation, in order to produce the prosperity to pay for increases in the Metropolitan Police's already impressive stock of heavy weaponry and tech-toys. So increased government and private industry security spend leads to a booming UK security industry, powering a booming UK economy. We at The Register do not entirely cleave to the opinion that Gordon Brown is a successful Chancellor and can count, but nevertheless we're sure he'll spot the flaws in this one, and tell Comrade Doctor Reid where he can stick his request for an increased Ministry of Truth & Fear budget. @reg; Truthwatch Truth is a strange and flexible thing. According to Alan Travis in today's Guardian, the shameless Reid's speech deployed the Dambusters in support of his absurd argument. "Today we face a situation similar to 'the technological battle to "beat the Nazis' in the second world war. 'In a sense it is a recall of the innovators of the past. Just as in the past innovators such as Barnes Wallis, Alan Turing and Tommy Flowers [who built the first digital computer as a codebreaking device in 1943], were vital in our battle to beat the Nazis, so now we must be able to use the skills and expertise of all in our battle against terror.'" Well, The Register didn't make it to the gig, but has a purported transcript (draft1a.doc) kindly sent us by the Home Office press people. This contains no Nazis, no Wallis, no Turing, no Flowers and no Dambusters. Weird or what? Did he have a Churchillian attack at the last minute? In any event, the Dambusters is to an extent appropriate, because although they were very brave men operating very clever technology, their impact on the Third Reich's physical war effort was negligible. The propaganda effect, however, echoes to this day. ®
John Lettice, 01 Nov 2006
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Softek signs distie agreement

BriefBrief Security distributor Softek has been appointed a distie for authentication company Deepnet Security. Mike Bienvenu, technical director at Softek, welcomed the deal and said: "Two-way authentication is absolutely essential in these days of phishing and identity theft.
John Oates, 01 Nov 2006
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Logicalis gets new boss

BriefBrief Logicalis is promoting Ian Cook, currently head of European operations, to chief executive officer. Previous CEO Jens Montana is being kicked upstairs, becoming chairman of Logicalis.
John Oates, 01 Nov 2006

HIS targets Radeon X1300 card at pre-Express PCI users

Last week, Reg Hardware reported PowerColor's plan to bring AMD's ATI Radeon X1950 Pro to consumers with older, AGP-based motherboards. This week, it's Hightech Information Systems' turn. It's just announced an ATI-based board for users languishing in the PCI era.
Tony Smith, 01 Nov 2006

AOL Europe gets new head

AOL Europe president Karen Thompson has resigned, leaving the job open for AOL France CEO Carlo d'Asaro Biondo, who starts today. Thompson has been with AOL for 11 years, becoming CEO of AOL UK in 2001, and chairman in 2005, before taking on the role of president in March this year. Four months after starting as president she was appointed a non-executive director at United Business Media. Thompson leaves the company on a high. The BBC reported today that advertising revenues at AOL are up 46 per cent, though what percentage of that is European isn't known. ®
Bill Ray, 01 Nov 2006

Virgin USA launches new audio services

Virgin USA has launched its Cyclops phone, so called thanks to a lens mounted on the front of the clamshell. The phone is pretty enough, but its support for two new Virgin services is what's really interesting. TXT Tones enable the user to change the alert which goes off when they get a text message, while VAM (Virgin Audio Messaging) is a form of push to talk with a store-and-forward capability. With TXT Tones, for $1.50 a Virgin customer with a Cyclops handset can download an audio clip, licensed through an agreement with Warner Group. This clip can then be played when they receive a text message, and even assigned to particular contacts in the address book so the tone indicates from whom the message originates. This type of functionality is de rigueur for received voice calls, being a standard feature on many Nokia handsets. However, being able to assign tones to text messages is a rare feature. VAM is a basic push to talk capability, with the user recording an audio clip and sending it to a contact with a compatible handset. In what way this differs from sending an audio message as an MMS isn't clear, but a simplified interface is often all that's needed to encourage use of a service, and it's just a shame Virgin hasn't used the MMS protocol to carry the messages. Support for both services is promised in future Virgin handsets and, while TXT Tones might be fun, the value of voice messaging is more open to question. Push to talk has resolutely failed to set the world on fire, despite predictions that it would. European users, and many in the US, were aghast at the idea that their phone would squawk at them without warning. Outside a few vertical markets - ones where the users have little control over their environment - PTT (or PoC as it was forced to become) has seen little market penetration. Voice messaging should be easier and quicker than SMS, but seems to fail every time. But the US is a strange market, so we'll watch with interest to see if US youth decide that words speak louder than txt. ®
Bill Ray, 01 Nov 2006
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Windows Firewall exploit overhyped

The release of an exploit that means a hacker, who happens to be on the same local area network, can knock over Windows Firewall on machines running XP has created a lot of publicity, despite being not much of a threat. By using the exploit, an attacker could disable Windows Firewall on a fully patched machine running Internet Connection Service (ICS).
John Leyden, 01 Nov 2006
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Azzurri buys virtual network firm Sirocom

BriefBrief Communications firm Azzurri has acquired UK-based virtual network operator (VNO) Sirocom for an undisclosed sum. Sirocom, which specialises in the design, installation and operation of voice and date networks, has an annual turnover of £31m and employs 110 staff.
John Leyden, 01 Nov 2006
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Apple sinks its teeth into Scotland

Glasgow is getting an Apple store, the company's first Scottish store and one in the eye for Edinburgh, Glasgow's east coast rival. The computer company has applied to make internal alterations to 147 Buchanan Street - one of the city's top shopping spots.
John Oates, 01 Nov 2006

United Nations Internet forum goes titsup

The website of the United Nations' Internet Governance Forum has been suspended and replaced with a cartoon dog pulling wires out of a PC. The site at igf2006.info was taken down with 20 minutes left of the main speaking session after the hosts complained that demand from a collaborative website set up to elicit views from the wider Internet was overwhelming its server. It also brought down the main information site at intgovforum.org which was held on the same server. The hosts decided to shift the site to a bigger machine but attendees - not to mention the dozens of people interacting in the chatrooms - were surprised when the site not only apruptly disappeared but was also replaced with the cartoon dog. (Screen grab) Having made it through three days of high-pressure discussions in a largely experimental international meeting though, the IGF staff were bizarrely relaxed about the whole affair. "Well, they do say you don't know if it's a dog online," quipped Adam Peake, one of the meeting's main volunteers. Head of the IGF Secretariat, Markus Kummer, was equally sanguine: "Yes. It is down. It was too popular." The site is expected to be up again in a few hours. The real story The truth behind the story is that it was this author, Reg reporter and United Nations saboteur, that brought the site - and with it a number of other UN websites - by, well, letting the Internet hordes get direct input into the rarefied world of governments, big business and Internet specialists. The website allowed anyone that registered to add blog posts, pages, events, chat in real time as well as send email questions direct to the people putting questions to each session's moderator. On Sunday, the demand was such that yours truly persuaded the UN to let me shift it onto the UN server. Following direct input from the site's chatrooms to the IGF meeting, however, word got out online and demand increased exponentially. The site started falling over, the IGF staff were rebuked by email by the UN for not warning them about the spike, and then appeared the cartoon dog. Yes people, The Register has brought down the United Nations. And now we're off the quaff their booze in celebration. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 01 Nov 2006

MySpace tries to block unauthorised tunes

MySpace will use filtering software to block copyrighted music hosted without permission on members' pages, the site said. It will permanently delete the accounts of people who upload tunes a number of times. MySpace will use the Gracenote audio identification technology to identify audio recordings uploaded by its members. Once identified, copyrighted music uploaded without permission will be blocked. "MySpace is staunchly committed to protecting artists' rights – whether those artists are on major labels or are independent acts," said Chris DeWolfe, chief executive and co-founder of MySpace. "This is another important step we're taking to ensure artists control the content they create." MySpace is owned by Fox Interactive, a division of News Corporation, the Rupert Murdoch-controlled global media company. "Consistent with MySpace's current policy, individuals who repeatedly attempt to upload unauthorized music will have their accounts permanently deleted," said the company's statement. It is the latest example of major new web businesses bringing their sites into line with copyright law. Almost immediately after Google agreed to purchase YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock, the site deleted 30,000 videos at the request of a Japanese lobby group. This week YouTube was in the process of taking down thousands more clips. US TV channel Comedy Central, which broadcasts YouTube favourite The Daily Show, asked for all clips of its programmes to be removed. Gracenote's audio identification technology is already used by Apple's iTunes to identify songs imported from CD into the iTunes system. Gracenote last year purchased the audio identification technology developed by Phillips. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 01 Nov 2006

A policies primer

The suggestion that the next upgrade of the major applications suites such as Oracle and SAP will force users into adopting systems and business management policies that they may not realise are necessary has met with something of a mixed reception.
Martin Banks, 01 Nov 2006

Halloween bomb thrown at PayPal's HQ

San Jose's firefighters, bomb squad and hazardous materials team last night descended on PayPal's headquarters to investigate what appears to be a 'minor' bombing. The safety squadrons were sent in to investigate reports of explosions at PayPal's 2211 North First Street location. PayPal's security company told investigators that some HQ windows were shattered and that several explosions had been reported. And, in fact, investigators discovered a bomb like device. "It definitely was some type of explosive device that was placed outside of a window," said San Jose Fire Department Capt. Jose Guerrero, in an interview with The Register. "It was strong enough that it broke the window and bent the aluminum frame. "I don't know if it was a prank or they were trying to make a statement. It was Halloween night." The San Jose Police Department has started an investigation into the incident. The Fire Department did not find anything ablaze but did notice a certain haze emanating from within the building. No one was hurt by the explosion. PayPal - owned by eBay - has yet to return our call seeking comment. Hopefully, this has nothing to do with some bloke looking for his two dollars. ®
Ashlee Vance, 01 Nov 2006
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Image-conscious IBM wants to service thin clients

Without a PC albatross hanging around its neck, IBM can now zero in on the thin client market. Big Blue this week rolled out a fresh services package to do just that by helping customers move away from their tubby PCs toward "virtualized" setups that include thin clients, servers and a wide variety of software. The Virtual Infrastructure Access (VIA) service is a recent example of IBM's new, much-hyped services "products." Don't get too confused. IBM has simply started calling some services packages "products" instead of services solutions in an apparent attempt to make consultations seem like a more concrete affair. IBM insists that the services "products" have things like staffing, training and robustness behind them that separate the new from the old. But we get the sense not all that much has changed here. Anyway, moving back to the thin clients, IBM has teamed with the likes of Wyse, Neoware, Citrix and Propero to help out with different parts of the PC virtualization game. IBM's VIA services staff will come in and assess a customer's applications, network bandwidth and their "proclivity for running centralized services", and then suggest how that customer can make use of thin client computing, said Pat Bolton, IBM's CTO for end user services. IBM claims to offer a bit more flexibility than the likes of Sun Microsystems and HP, which have been at the thin client game for awhile. "Basically, all we need is a Java runtime and a browser to establish a tunnel to the infrastructure," Bolton said. HP has tended to push the 'blade server as a PC' model, while Sun has leaned more toward traditional thin client computing with a large box in the data center handling traffic for fairly dumb terminals. IBM doesn't care which approach customers want. It will service just about anything, Bolton said. "Our approach is an open approach." Internally, IBM ran a successful project with 4,000 employees around this thin client service. It hopes to expand the technology to another 30,000 to 50,000 people over the next 18 months. You've, of course, been hearing about thin clients for years thanks to eager beavers like Larry Ellison and Scott McNealy. But IBM is pretty sure that the time is right for the computing model to reach large companies. Bolton sees improved bandwidth, multi-core chips, better server virtualization software and security as drivers of thin client computing. "I think it will push more toward big business," Bolton said. ® Thankfully, we didn't hold our breath in 1996, and we're not holding it now. You can find more on IBM's oh so slim client services here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 01 Nov 2006
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Eleventh-hour name change for Microsoft database

Microsoft has made a quiet, last-minute name change to a planned version of its Windows database which was unveiled amid much corporate fanfare this Spring.
Gavin Clarke, 01 Nov 2006

IBM targets Microsoft .NET developers

IBM is drawing on some Web 2.0 weaponry to push developers into dumping Microsoft as a collaboration and messaging platfrom and adopting Java and Lotus.
Gavin Clarke, 01 Nov 2006