2nd > November > 2006 Archive
The Greeks drove me to it. Last night, under the cover of conference quietness, I sneaked into the Apollon hotel store room and stole a waiter uniform. I’m not proud of it, but I am proudly wearing it today one for simple reason - I want my own coffee and water, and I don't want to have to wait 10 minutes for it to be served to me.
Don't hold your breath waiting for the big software companies to simplify prices or to make it fairer for those of you running software on multi-core processors.
Borland is now promoting a new TLA LQM - Lifecycle Quality Management. This could be an interesting new focus for development teams, as long as people understand Quality in terms of "fitness for business purpose" instead of just "well, it meets corporate standards and there's some really neat code in there". Lifecycle Quality implies that everyone involved with every stage of the product lifecycle is responsible for the fitness for purpose of the software they are building or supporting at all times – so "quality" isn't just something painted on by the QA people at the end of development.
ReviewReview So here we are, not quite four months since Intel launched its Core 2 Duo processor and we're already moving up yet another level. Intel will today officially announce 'Kentsfield', aka the four-core Core 2 Extreme QX6700. Some may claim it isn't a true quad-core CPU as Intel has fitted two Core 2 Duo CPUs together in a single package, but it is a first step to what the future holds...
Wary of "mission creep" in the National DNA Database, the Nuffield Council on Bioethics has launched a year-long project investigating the government's push to fingerprint the DNA of every person in the UK. The timely intervention comes after a speech by Tony Blair last week. During a visit to the Forensic Science Service he said there should be no limits on the development of the National DNA Database, already the largest repository of human DNA in the world. He said: "The number on the database should be the maximum number you can get." Blair's comments came despite government statements that "the majority of the active criminal population now have their DNA recorded." The law currently grants authorities the right to collect and retain the DNA of anyone arrested, regardless of whether thay are charged, prosecuted or convicted of any offence. In January this year the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 hit statute books, effectively abolishing the concept of an "arrestable offence". Police are now able to detain for any offence. The implication is that someone mistakenly arrested for an offence as trivial as littering will now have their DNA sampled, fingerprinted and stored in perpetuity on the National DNA Database. Scientists at Nuffield are concerned the public and legal system have been seduced by the portrayal of DNA evidence as infallible. Dr Carole McCartney of Leeds University, who is leading the Nuffield consultation told The Register: "DNA has become so popular in the public imagination." She expressed concern at a recent prosecution where a man was prosecuted for a robbery on two strands of evidence: he had been seen in the vicinity and a DNA profile matching his had been found near the scene. Professor McCartney said: "My DNA is all over my local off-licence. If it gets robbed will I automatically be a suspect?" Professor Alec Jeffreys, credited with inventing DNA fingerprinting, told the BBC's Today programme this morning: "When the DNA database was initially established, it was to database DNA from criminals so if they re-offended, they could be picked up." "Now hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent people are now populating that database, people who have come to the police's attention, for example by being charged with a crime and subsequently released." Professor Jeffreys also expressed concerns at the current database's uneven social distribution. He said: "My view is that that is discriminatory." One in three black men are on the database, compared to one in four of the male population. Recently introduced familial searching techniques will have extended its reach to the majority of the UK black population. The 24,000 under-18s sampled already by the database are a cause for concern at Nuffield too. In March 2005, the cross-party House of Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology found public views were poorly informed on the storage of DNA were not well known by politicians. To respond to the Nuffield consultation, start here. The Council is part of the Nuffield Foundation, a government-independent charitable trust which supports academic research. It'll report its findings this time next year. ®
Nearly all the Criminal Records Bureau's agents have illegally discriminated against people with past criminal convictions that are innocuous or irrelevant under the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act.
Anti-spam researchers at security company McAfee have discovered a new spamming trend nicknamed 'spam island-hopping'. The new trend involves spammers using the domain names of small islands as website links in spam campaigns. McAfee has traced spam activity from the Isle of Man to the tiny tropical island of Tokelau in the South Pacific. Traditionally, spammers have used well known top level domains such as dot-com, dot-biz or dot-info. By using top level domains from small island countries, spammers attempt to avoid detection by using domains that spam filters do not recognise accustomed as they are to blocking the well known domains. Using a lesser-known top level domain changes the game and makes it harder to distinguish spam from legitimate e-mail by examining the links in the e-mails. This trend was first discovered when McAfee researchers noticed a significant increase in the use of dot-st domains, which is the top level domain for Sao Tome and Principe, a small island off the west coast of Africa. This unusual activity raised flags for McAfee's researchers, who then tracked the spammers on a virtual migration around the globe. Subsequently, spam using top level domains from small islands has continued to increase. "This new trend is another example of spammers' relentless quest to spread their abuse of internet domains far and wide," said Guy Roberts, senior development manager on McAfee's anti-spam research & development team. "Some of these islands have dozens of spammed domains per square mile." Copyright © 2006, ENN
Nvidia's investigation into stock-option awards will result in a restatement of the company's financial figures for fiscal years 2004, 2005 and 2006, and for Q1 FY2007, the graphics chip maker admitted last night.
ColumnColumn Over the years, business process modelling has, at various times, been a big part of my life. From using a pencil, paper and stencils to draw process diagrams in the mid 80’s, through pushing the first generation of CASE tools to their limits, I eventually got into modelling environments from vendors such as Rational, Select, Protosoft and Casewise.
The information commissioner has said the UK is adopting uncomfortably high levels of surveillance. Richard Thomas expressed the view to mark the publication of a report, A Surveillance Society, released today. It looks at surveillance in 2006 and projects forward 10 years to 2016, describing a surveillance society as one where technology is extensively and routinely used to track and record people's activities and movements. This includes systematic tracking and recording of travel and use of public services, automated use of CCTV, analysis of buying habits and financial transactions, and the workplace monitoring of telephone calls, email, and internet use. The report suggests that such surveillance is set to become pervasive over the next few years. Thomas said: "Two years ago I warned that we were in danger of sleepwalking into a surveillance society. Today I fear that we are in fact waking up to a surveillance society that is already all around us. "Surveillance activities can be well intentioned and bring benefits. They may be necessary or desirable - for example to fight terrorism and serious crime, to improve entitlement and access to public and private services, and to improve healthcare. But unseen, uncontrolled or excessive surveillance can foster a climate of suspicion and undermine trust. "As ever more information is collected, shared and used, it intrudes into our private space and leads to decisions which directly influence people's lives. Mistakes can also easily be made with serious consequences – false matches and other cases of mistaken identity, inaccurate facts or inferences, suspicions taken as reality, and breaches of security. "I am keen to start a debate about where the lines should be drawn. What is acceptable and what is not?" The report was commissioned by the Information Commissioner's Office. 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.
The London Organising Committee (Locog) for the 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics Games has selected Accenture to run its back office systems.
LG's monster 100in (250cm) LCD TV - already assured of a place in the Guiness Book of Records as the world's largest liquid crystal telly - is finally set to go into mass production, the company has revealed. Not that it'll come cheap: expect to pay at least $150,000 if you want one.
IGF blogIGF blog I got some good advice once. It was: "Make sure you never take yourself too seriously." That has stuck with me despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that it was delivered by an old French drunk sitting on a Paris bench facing a lit-up Notre Dame over the Seine at 2am. It is with that wisdom in mind that this blog post will stop harping on about with what has worked and hasn't worked with the IGF model, and get down to the good stuff - dirty conference gossip, and frivolous, almost libelous, material. Governments love to paint themselves as great respecters of other cultures and sensibilities, but the fact is that given half a chance they'd all be in a punch-up within 20 minutes if enough alcohol was involved. The German contingent made a massive faux-pas - no, not faux-pas, a fat cock-up - by throwing a bash for their respective candidate for the ITU Secretary-General job (which will be decided in the next few weeks at the ITU Plenipotentiary (read: big four-year meeting)). Not only did they throw it at the same time as the Greek hosts were throwing their party, but they also told everyone that only government officials were allowed to attend. Das ist nein gut Considering the entire point of the IGF is to foster better relations between government, civil society, business, and street cleaners this was, well, bloody stupid. It didn't take too long for this to become clear, so the Germans very quickly expanded the invitation to include lesser beings. It doesn't matter how many flashy brochures with their man adopting dodgy European-crooner poses the Germans print up, this was idiot behaviour. The ITU is sure to choose him. Anyone able to irritate so quickly and blindly is a shoo-in. That wasn't all. The head of the UK delegation - a man not known for waivering under pressure - had his own battle when a government delegate, who shall remain nameless until he recovers from his hangover, decided to take greater exception to the UK's stance at the other, official, Greek bash. It got so heated that Janis Karklins - ICANN chairman heir-apparent, ageing 80s pop-icon, and Jill to Paul Twomey's Jack - felt the need to intervene and calm things down. That's what happens when you allow in these subversive civil society influences - government officials have suddenly found tremendous release in actually saying what they think. The order for a boxing ring for the IGF 2007 meeting in Rio has already been put in by the Brazilians. Speaking of Paul Twomey, ICANN chieftain, I have it on excellent authority that he was spotted very late last night leaving a hotel room in the Divani Apollon with an enormous tray of empty beer bottles. It would be unfair to say he stumbled into oncoming guests, striking a wall in the process and crumbling to the ground in a giggling stupour because I have just made that up for my own amusement, but the tray of beers part is true. But the mystery deepened when Vint Cerf popped out the door moments later. Taking in the situation in an instant, the grandfather of the internet - as the Greek transport minister chose to call him - planted the perfect line. "You just missed the girls." Whatever you say about Mr Cerf, you can't deny he's quick on his feet. Greek battles The Greek government has a few problems. It's an interesting phenomena watching how responsibility for the internet moves through various government departments over time. At the start, it is always dumped on one department, and then gradually, as the net becomes more important, struggles begin over its ownership because it means power and, most importantly, junkets to interesting and pretty cities across the world. The Greeks are fighting among themselves - particularly because so many important people are in town. I can't recall exactly which department is actually in charge and which one wants the internet portfolio (some Greek did explain it to me over an Ouzo), but it has caused ructions. The department in charge has been playing its own game at the Apollon, but the other department today hosted a conference in the Hyatt up the road, pinching some of the best guests from the IGF. One department gave a bash at the fancy Astir Palace complex on Tuesday night. The other did the same the next night. The failure of the Greek Empire is replaying itself over and over again in history. It's just that in 2006, no one really gives a shit. Hot Iranians My God, the Iranians are angry. Moderator Kenn Cukier made one goof on the opening day of the IGF and it was to effectively dismiss a question from the Iranian contingent over, basically, ICANN and the US government. To be fair to Kenn, he had a near-impossible job and it wasn't his intention to dismiss the comment, it was just that everyone had in the forefront of their minds - and him especially as the lead-man - that the IGF should not be allowed to descend into the name-calling that characterises discussions over DNS control. Mr Cukier then called on Vint Cerf - and gave him a hard time - but even this was seen by the Iranians as a provocation. It was with this background - and with the diplomats finely tuned to the fact that the Iranians should not and could not be annoyed again - that their representative stood up today in the Access session and went off on a rambling, frankly rather ridiculous, statement, pulling in huge chunks of text from the Tunis Agenda, for literally five minutes without make a single point or raising a single question. The French moderator was wise to it and stayed quiet, but the Iranian representative was determined to provoke a reaction. He paused, just long enough to allow the French moderator to ask a sarcastic "and do you have a question?". "I haven't finished," the Iranian jumped in, before continuing to ramble on. It was pure, calculated provocation but the moderator has clearly seen some action because he didn't bite. Slight off-hand This is precisely how things get out of hand. An assumed slight, leading to purposeful provocation, leading to a row, and so on. The really big issue - and one that a lot of diplomats are discussing at the moment is how to calm the Iranians down. The core reality is this: all the Iranians are new to the internet process and all the careful learning carried out during the WSIS process has been lost because the change in government has seen new officials step up - officials that see the net as a small mirror of global politics. I hate to say it, but here is yet another reason why the US government has to hand over its role as soon as possible. The last thing any of us need is the internet being torn apart because of a few clashing personalities in government circles. Enough of that serious nonsense: I brought down the United Nations server today. My IGF2006.info site - which the organisers had very kindly let me stick on their server after my own hosting deal couldn't deal with the traffic - grew so popular that it killed the UN server as well. It happened right at the end of the meeting (thank God) as the hosting company shifted servers, and one of the IGF Secretariat joked they would send me the bill, but I was amazed at how calmly everyone took it. I can't decide whether this is because UN staff haven't grasped the importance of an online presence, whether they are dealing with real politik and I am wrong, or whether it was ignored through excitement from the fact that the main sessions were over and disaster had not only been averted, but most people were talking about how the IGF had been a really useful experience. I suspect it is a combination of all three. I have to say, my respect for those that built this forum - both the official secretariat and the numerous volunteers that all have proper jobs but have gone out their way to get the forum working as far as they can - really hit home today. I may not agree with the individuals involved on countless issues, but I also know that they disagree with me equally, and yet all that is set aside in the interests of a common goal. I'm not going to stop criticising, but I'd be deluding myself if I didn't say I have a hell of a lot more respect for them. JFK madness More than anything I have loved being at the end of groundless, baseless criticism. There was some crazed note on the IGF2006.info site from someone raving they had been banned from entering a chatroom on the DNS discussion. One, there was no chatroom on the DNS discussion, and the person concerned hadn't bothered to set one up either. Two, they hadn't been banned, in fact this was just before the whole site fell over because of demand in other chatrooms and other parts of the site. And three, the IGF2006.info site has nothing to do with the DNS session. I know I stuck a piece of paper under Milton Mueller's nose about the collaborative and entirely open site I had built to free up discussion, and while here I will also note that academics have actually been the very worst people for signing up to this open, information-sharing site. Worse than government representatives. I'm serious. This multi-stakeholder business needs to cut both ways, it seems. I also loved the fact that the mobiles phones I spent an entire day procuring and promoting so that people could text questions in if they wanted, was dismissed as the UN "just trying to give the pretence of openness". There's something surreal about being accused of being in a conspiracy when you had in fact gone to a hell of a lot of trouble because you think it might just be a good idea. I find it hilarious but I can see how your humour would very quickly fail if it happened regularly. I've guffed on enough. But I would just like to state that I was unfair to my hotel when I said in an earlier blog post that my room was so dilapidated that even brute force and a steel knife wasn't enough to open the balcony doors. In actual fact, I had overlooked the most basic solution: carefully pick up the more sturdy of the room's two chairs by two of its opposite legs. Then, with the back careful planted into your shoulder, ram the lock three times. You will hear something go click. Then simply pull back the door and you have free and unfettered access to the outside. I don't know what all the fuss was about. ®
UK banks have agreed to government data sharing proposals on suspected financial criminals, but say they want the public sector to share its data with them. The banks also express doubts about whether the plans would actually help to catch criminals. The British Bankers' Association (BBA) outlines its views on the new plans in a response to the Home Office's recent consultation paper on organised crime. That paper outlined a number of anti-crime measures, including the creation of corporate ASBOs for companies suspected of participating in organised crime. "Data sharing between the public and private sector has to be a two way process," said the response of the BBA to the Home Office. The BBA also asks that "[data sharing] does not occur where there is no need, and avoids creating a competitive advantage". The Home Office released a consultation paper proposing new powers to tackle organised and financial crime. The consultation period is over and its results are expected in November. The BBA was critical in its response of the government's handling of financial crime in the past. "The Home Office proposals need to form part of an overall package of measures that will address the fundamental problem of a lack of strategic leadership in government in tackling financial crime that has contributed to the inconsistent measurement, prevention, enforcement and prosecution of fraud in the UK," said its response to government. The paper from government proposed the creation of "corporate ASBOs", control orders on companies which are suspected of being involved in criminal activity. In the introduction to the report, Home Secretary John Reid admitted that the orders would be used where there was not enough evidence for a prosecution. "These sort of orders might be used in cases where there was a strong weight of evidence but not enough for a prosecution," he wrote. The BBA expressed reservations about the effects of such orders. "At a pragmatic level, the proposal seems a laudable way of targeting the activities of those on the fringes of criminal activity without imposing further burdens on an already straining criminal justice system," its response said. "However, as an indication of government intentions towards tackling the causes of crime, the proposed Ocpo (Organised Crime Prevention Order) raises a number of concerns." "These are: unless designed to prevent harm rather than as a punitive measure, such orders might attract the protection of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights; inappropriate application of Ocpo against an innocent institution, as a third party supplier to the recipient of the order; pressure for banks and other financial institutions to, in effect, monitor and police the operation of the Ocpo and the recipient's compliance with it; Ocpos should not replace the deterrence of prosecution where the necessary evidence and proof of criminality exists." The BBA also said the plans will not necessarily lead to more prosecutions of criminals. "It is clearly disappointing that the proposals in themselves, even if implemented fully, will not necessarily lead to increased police and law enforcement investigations and prosecutions," said the BBA. "The absence of any mandating or tasking of police investigations makes it difficult to determine what the law enforcement outputs would be, if any. While interesting and useful to obtain a greater understanding of the lifetime career of individual fraudsters, there can be no more effective deterrent than prosecution, sentencing, and asset recovery." The BBA represents 240 banks from 60 countries and claims that financial services account for 8.5 per cent of the UK economy and a quarter of UK corporation tax. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Smutty films, long touted as the pivotal factor in the VHS vs Betamax war of the 1980s, will not play a similar role in deciding whether HD DVD will beat Blu-ray Disc or vice versa, it has been claimed.
In the weird world of quantum computing, the state of computer systems networked together is so fragile that a read access to a single quantum bit, or qubit, on one machine would require a network-wide reset.
The surveillance state is sorting society into pockets of desirable and undesirable people and treating them accordingly, a major survey by the UK's privacy guardian, the Information Commissioner said today. The democratic values of equality and freedom are threatened by the creeping advance of surveillance into all walks of life, according to A Report on the Surveillance Society, edited by two of the world's leading thinkers on the social consequences of surveillance, Kirstie Ball and David Murakami Wood.* The report fends off any potential accusations of paranoia by first declaring that there is no "malign plot hatched by evil powers" to control the world. It then goes onto describe something that might merely be considered insidious. "Power corrupts or at least skews the vision of those who wield it," it says, before going on to explain how the growing use of surveillance in all walks of life is putting unprecedented power into the hands of state and industry. It warns how the information describing people's identities - likes and dislikes, status, movements, means and actions - that is being stored in so many public and private sector databases, is being merged to create a fixed record of their cultural capital, their value to the organisations that control the systems. "This information is then sorted, sifted and categorized, and used as a basis for decisions which effect our life chances," it says. That might be all very well with someone who the system deems desirably wealthy, healthy, well adjusted, intelligent, talented, ASBO-free -- the Blairite picture of normality. But the other sort of normal people, the human sort, are being sorted into less favourable categories by the system. These might be crude immigration systems that give people with a pristine life history a fast track through customs, or consumer databases that give high earners preferential treatment in shops and hotels. Amazon, it says for example, charges different customers different prices. "Call centres now rank order customer accounts according to their relative spend, and alter their service levels accordingly," it says. The impending reprint of Michael Young's prescient dystopian satire of modern life, The Rise of the Meritocracy, couldn't have been timed better. "Social sorting is endemic in the surveillance society," says the report, and, " Once classified, it is difficult to break out of the box. It is the sort of categorization that in conventional human society is called social stereotyping, which can mean someone is treated differently according to their (apparent) identity. So women might be patronized in the workplace, or a man in a suit might get more deferential treatment from a police officer than lad with a hoody. Yet people who change their identity realise that society is quick to adjust its treatment of them accordingly. Even then, it can be difficult to break out of the box and the consequences run deeper than mere treatment. Diane Halpern, a West Coast academic, proposes that as people's brain physiologies are altered by their life experiences, social stereotyping actually directs, and potentially restricts, people's psychological development. Database stereotyping gives people even less room for manoeuvre. "Surveillance society poses ethical human rights dilemmas that transcend the realm of privacy," says the report. But, "Given the power of large organisations with sophisticated surveillance capacities, however, it seems only fair that ordinary people should have a say," and those holding and using the data should be accountable to the people that it spooks. It also describes how surveillance is changing the rules by which human society is structured, undermining the trust on which our social relationships are based, and fostering suspicion. And no-one quite knows where it is all headed, because technology is moving faster than ever, faster than civil society has the means to absorb it, understand its implications, and humanize it. One of the drivers of this trend, it reminds us, is the power of the defence industry, which is putting much of its resources into developing tools for civil surveillance. The latest developments are systems that determine people's behaviours, what they might do and arranges for them to be treated accordingly. Some, like the UK Home Secretary, John Reid, believe that this is vital for the survival of our economy, but dash the consequences for society. Another driver is the desire of business and government for efficiency. "The intention of surveillance is often simply to manage efficient and swift flows of goods, people and information. However, what spells 'efficiency' for one person spells 'social control' for another," it says. After an extensive description of the way in which surveillance is being used in all walks of modern life, it proposes, unsurprisingly, that there should be regulation dedicated to bringing these systems under democratic control, before they become the means for computers to control democracy. The current data protection rules, it is becoming clear, have been left behind as well.®
Dell yesterday launched its first notebook line based on AMD processors. The Inspiron 1501 can be configured with a range of AMD CPUs, from Mobile Semprons through to dual-core Turion 64 X2s.
Universal Tube, a company that sells pipe making machinery, has embarked on a lawsuit against YouTube, claiming that the video sharing site has disrupted its business thanks to the similarity in the two company's web addresses. Universal Tube's website resides at www.utube.com, and it seems that plenty of wannabe YouTubers, fluent in text-speak, but less adept at typing out full words, are surfing their way over to the Universal Tube site by accident. In the suit, Universal Tube alleges that its traffic has soared from around 1,500 hits in a month to over two million because of vast numbers of visitors looking for "lewd and other disgusting video". This, the firm alleges, has caused confusion, cost it money, and caused lost sales. Universal Tube owner Ralph Girkins issued a statement saying: "This is an enormous expense and distraction for us. Contact with our customers has been disrupted, so I fear we have lost sales. We have even been contacted by police in Australia accusing us of having child pornography on our website. I resent this personally and this confusion is hurting our business." He notes that his company's site predates YouTube's by a decade or so, and says he is asking either for YouTube to find a new home for its site, or for the company to cough up cash to help his company establish a new corporate identity. Universal Tube is seeking an unspecified amount in damages, but a lawyer acting for the firm told the press that the suit could be described as "multi-million dollar". ®
EMC has acquired another software vendor, its fourth this year. This time round it's swallowed Californian data backup and recovery specialist Avamar Technologies for $165m cash. EMC is betting on storage customers continuing to swallow the "demise of tape backup" line. Avamar's software is aimed at improving the efficiency of backup to disk by de-duplicating data on its way to the archive. Avamar claims up to a 300:1 data reduction. EMC Information Management Software SVP Mark Sorenson, who will be in charge of Avamar when it becomes part of EMC's storage product operations group in the next 30 days, said: "The overwhelming value proposition of backup-to-disk is getting stronger by the day. "Most recently, the limitations of tape-based backup have inspired the creation of new technology such as data de-duplication to significantly alter the cost and efficiency equation for disk-based backup." EMC said its latest toy would not have an impact on 2006 revenues. ®
Ofcom has no intention of lording it over the net neutrality debate, the head of the regulator made clear yesterday. The regulator seems set on a hands-off attitude, leaving content providers to negotiate premium deals with access providers if they want, while giving them the option of using competition law if they feel they're being turned over. Ofcom chairman Lord Currie of Marylebone dismissed the US clamour over net neutrality during a Q/A following the annual Ofcom lecture in London today. Asked what the regulator's view on the debate was, Currie said: "It's as well it hasn't come over here, as it's a somewhat confused debate." If service providers were investing in their networks, it was clear they would want to make a return on their investment, he said. "[I] think it's a thoroughly bad idea not to charge for quality of service," m'lud declared. Asked by the moderator, BBC correspondent Nick Higham, why the debate was so much more high profile in the US, Lord Currie suggested this was because the application of competition law in Europe was tougher. "I do see competition law as the answer to many of the issues," he said. Speaking to El Reg after the debate, he added that the crucial point was whether providers were attempting to force content providers to pay. A content provider going to a service provider and asking for a guaranteed level of service was OK, he said. Access providers strong arming content providers into paying, was not. What the net neutrality lobby had done, said Lord Currie, was to turn an essentially economic issue into a moral crusade. ®
Car navigation equipment maker TomTom has lost its "me too" design infringment case against Garmin. In a normal summary proceeding TomTom asked a judge to prevent the sale of Garmin's StreetPilot c300 and c500 series in Europe, alleging that Garmin copied aspects of the TomTom GO design in its product line. Both companies make similar-looking portable navigation devices that are shaped like miniature desktop computer monitors. Today the Dutch judge ruled that at first glance there are clear differences between Garmin's StreetPilot c300 and c500 and TomTom's Go models. For instance, Garmin's c300 and c500 have an angular form, while TomTom's Go has a round shape. The judge included drawings to underpin his views. TomTom said it won't appeal, but is counting on a procedure on the merits it has filed earlier on Garmin's car navigation design. There are also several patent infringement cases between the two rivals. Earlier this year, Garmin called for unspecified financial damages in its claim that TomTom is unlawfully using five US-patented Garmin technologies designed to "calculate which streets are important enough to a drivers' route to be displayed". Garmin today reported that its third-quarter profits rose about 20 per cent on stronger automotive sales. Sales for vehicle-based devices increased 147 per cent during Q3 to $238m. ®
A mission to Venus might be able to find out more about the planet's history than previously thought, as new evidence casts doubt on the theory that the planet was totally resurfaced during a cataclysmic bout of vulcanism 500m years ago. Scientists at the University of Minnesota have carried out a new analysis of the surface and have concluded that this massive, destructive event probably never happened, New Scientist reports. The age of a planet's surface is traditionally estimated by counting craters. The more pock-marked the rock, the older the surface. By this method of reckoning, Venus, at 4.5bn years old, ought to have around 5,000 craters. Any fewer than this, and processes such as weathering and geological activity have to be invoked. But Venus only has around 1,000 visible craters, all of which are very well preserved. This led scientists to conclude that a single, massive volcanic event must have wiped all the other craters from the planet's surface, leaving a coating of fresh lava between one and three kilometres deep over most of the planet. Vicki Hansen of the University of Minnesota and her colleagues revisited data from the Magellan mission. They analysed areas where smooth flat plains are punctuated by islands of older terrain. By considering how each island sloped off, they could estimate roughly where neighbouring islands would meet, that is, where the base of the valley lay. They found that the older terrain was covered by a much thinner layer of lava than had previously been thought. Less than a kilometre. This suggested that the "catastrophic eruption" scenario could not account for the missing craters. Instead, the researchers concluded that Venus must have been resurfaced much more gradually, and that this process has left plenty of the older surface intact. Hansen says parts of surviving surface could be as much as a billion years old. "The implication is that Venus on its surface preserves an extremely long record of rich geological history," Hansen told New Scientist. "That's what's so exiting about it. It says Venus actually has a lot of secrets to tell us." If this is so, future missions to Venus will be able* to collect and analyse samples of rock from various periods throughout the planet's history, providing us with a much broader picture of the evolution of our twin planet. ® *Providing they do not melt or get crushed, or corroded, or otherwise destroyed by Venus' rather inhospitable environment. ®
Orange describes the upcoming Samsung X830 Blush as the "only compact a girl needs", but at 2cm thick, it's not what you'd call a slimline handset. But then the Blush is bright pink, so we're clearly going to gooey at the fork for it no matter what, the fellers at Orange reckon...
An external security advisory committee reporting to the US Department of Homeland Security has produced a highlight critical report (PDF) advising against the use of RFID technology in government documents. But the scathing analysis remains stuck in limbo, as a draft report, while the government pushes ahead with plans to include RFID tags in everything from passport and diving licences to library cards. The Data Privacy and Integrity Advisory Committee of the DHS concludes that RFID chips are useful in inventory management but aren't suitable for human identification, where privacy issues remain a concern. Using RFID tags to identify miners or firefighters more quickly may be a sensible use the technology. Where the technology falls down is where it's used to verify identity, where the experts reckon it offers little advantage over previous technology while creating the possibility that data held on RFID chips might be intercepted by undesirables. "RFID appears to offer little benefit when compared to the consequences it brings for privacy and data integrity. Instead, it increases risks to personal privacy and security, with no commensurate benefit for performance or national security," the report states. The experts advise that "RFID be disfavored for identifying and tracking human beings. When DHS does choose to use RFID to identify and track individuals, we recommend the implementation of the specific security and privacy safeguards". The draft report was criticised by the RFID lobby when it came out in summer but a Homeland Security spokesman denied suggestions that anyone is trying to spike the study. "The committee is still soliciting input and the draft report is on its website, so I guess they are proceeding," he said. Civil liberties group the Center for Democracy and Technology is also critical of the report because of its failure to recognise the reality that RFID technology is already widely deployed. The committee needs to produce suggestions on how the RFID-chips can be more securely deployed instead of advising government to avoid the technology. Jim Dempsey, the policy director for the CDT, told Wired that the report was "off-target". Jim Harper, a Cato Institute fellow and member of the advisory committee, remains hopeful that the committee will vote to publish the report so that it can influence the PASS card, an RFID-based system designed to act as an alternative to passports for US citizens returning from neighbouring countries such as Mexico and Canada from 2008. "If we don't have a report out before the (PASS card) comment period ends, then we are irrelevant," Harper told Wired. ®
Asian smart-phone supplier Dopod has unveiled its latest HTC-made handsets, among them version of the manufacturer's familiar BlackBerry-like S620, the 3G-friendly P3600 and the GPS-enabled P3300. But a couple of other, unexpected models stood out from the rest.
Updated:Updated: Observant Reg readers will have noticed the recent kerfuffle about airport security so why is the Civil Aviation Authority publishing supposedly secret documents on its website? A document by the UK's Civil Aviation Authority, and posted on its website, contained blacked out sections containing: "RESTRICTED and CONFIDENTIAL information". The note continues: "This information can not be publicised in any way outside the CAA and can not be included in any public consultation documentation." The eight page pdf is an application from British Airports Authority to suspend payment of rebates triggered by delays caused by extra security. BAA complains that it is impossible to meet its target of ten minutes queueing time because of "enhanced security reqirements". Several sections of the document are blacked out. But they can be easily accessed by right-clicking on the relevant section or using the read-aloud feature of Adobe Acrobat. Like many "secret" documents they make rather dry and dull reading and for that reason, and in the interests of not going to prison, we're not going to share them with you. The document was linked to from at least two pages on the CAA website. A Register reader spotted the cock-up last night and tried, without success, to report it to the CAA's 24 hour emergency line. He told us: "It was freely available. I was just looking around the site. I opened the pdf, saw the yellow warning notice and kept scrolling down. It was perfectly visible because my screen settings are a bit weird." We contacted the CAA to request the removal of the document before publishing this story. Which they did. Eventually. The CAA sent us this statement: "The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) was today made aware that a document provided to it for publication on its website contained information which, although blacked out, could still be accessed using a particular set of procedures. The CAA immediately removed the document from its website, and thanks the Register for bringing this to the CAA's attention. ®
Toronto-based StyleTap has released the final version of its Palm OS emulator and application migration tool for Windows Mobile devices - and it's already pledging a Symbian version.
Carphone Warehouse has posted its interim results for the six months to 30 September, with revenue up over 40 per cent to £1.8bn The phone flogger claimed "headline" profit up an even better 60 per cent to £59.3m. However, expenses incurred setting up broadband infrastructure, and the launch of Virgin Mobile France, hurt, reducing pre-tax, or as we call them, real, profits to £14.1m, less than half last year's £37m. The impact of Vodafone's exclusive deal with Phones4U won't be felt yet, and chief executive Charles Dunstone said the company is in discussions with Vodafone about a pan-European framework covering both contract and pre-paid customers. Also interesting is the growth of the various Carphone Warehouse branded mobile networks, with TalkTalk Mobile now the primary brand. Nearly half a million mobile customers are using the Carphone Warehouse MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) in the UK, and the company is looking to grow that considerably. Other MVNO operations in France (with Virgin), Spain, and Portugal are all on track. There has been some talk of Sky acquiring Carphone Warehouse to gain a mobile phone operation, and these figures give some credibility to that, though it would be an expensive move for Sky. The full statement is available here, but in summary: things are going well, though not quite as well as the company had hoped. ®
A breakthrough by a group of researchers in the UK and in Spain could pave the way for much improved disease detection, and detection of explosives. T-Rays, with a frequency in the region of a thousand billion cycles per second, inhabit the part of the electromagnetic spectrum between micro and infrared waves. Many complex molecules have very distinct reactions when probed with radiation of this energy, the researchers say, making T-Rays potentially very useful in detecting explosives and in the quality control of prescribed medication. However, the current state of the art is such that it is very hard to focus them with mirrors or lenses, meaning they are of little practical use. What this team of Anglo-Spanish scientists has done is find a way to focus the T-Rays onto a point just millimetres across. An ordinary wire does not transport T-Rays very well, but engraving a metal wire with a series of tiny grooves, the team found that it was possible to control the flow of the terahertz radiation. By tapering the corrugated wire as well, the researchers were able to focus the rays as well as direct them. Dr Stefan Maier, of the University of Bath's department of physics, who leads the research, described the technique as a "significant breakthrough". "Metal wire ordinarily has a limited ability to allow T-Rays to flow along it, but our idea was to overcome this by corrugating its surface with a series of grooves, in effect creating an artificial material or 'metamaterial' as far as the T-rays are concerned. "In this way, the T-Rays can be focused to the tip of the wire and guided into confined spaces or used to detect small objects, with important implications for disease detection or finding explosives that are hidden." The team's findings are set out in the current journal Physical Review Letters. ®
The head of a New York-based hi-tech firm has been arrested over charges he used the personal details of his workers to obtain fraudulent loans and credit cards under false names.
Say hello to Asus' Asteio D22, its first media centre, launched today in a bid for Viiv stardom. There's a dual-core Core 2 Duo desktop processor on board backed by a gig of memory and 250GB of hard drive space and one of the company's Silent-branded Nvidia 7600 GS-based passively cooled graphics card - all for an ultra-quiet system, Asus claimed.
IGFIGF The closing day of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) has ended on a high note with attendees from across the world (from business, government, international organisations and civil society) all expressing their delight at the experimental forum. When the forum opened its doors in Athens four days ago it was uncertain whether the meeting would work, or would even continue next year, despite its five-year remit. But following a series of changes introduced to its structure while the meeting itself was going on, the final session saw two countries vying to host the event in 2010 - Azerbaijan and Lithunia - and the host for next year, Brazil, announcing the date and location for the meeting. "We are here, we are ready, and we are ready to participate," said a joyous representative from the Women's Centre, who also announced a "dynamic coalition" of a number of organisations for discussing online gender issues. Jamie Love, director of the Consumer Project on Technology, explained that he was searching for words to explain "just that I feel good about this meeting". He settled for: "This is the right thing to do at the right time for the internet." IGF head honcho Nitin Desai made a joke this time last year when he was asked about the forum's likely success: "Every United Nations meeting is either a success or a great success." We asked him which it was after the end of the closing session. "It was an outstanding success," he smiled. Warning That feeling was reiterated by ICANN chief exec Paul Twomey who presented himself as the head of the only other organisation that has tried to build a multi-stakeholder organisation surrounding the internet. But Twomey also had some advice and a warning. Such organisations "are not easy to put together and to manage at all", he warned. "I'll be a little heretical here. I will particularly challenge business and civil society in the dialogues that many people are talking about as they go between here and Rio. The test I'll put to you is: are you sure that the governments are engaged in the dialogue?" A number of governments had stood up during the course of the session and all were complimentary, but many also had suggestions for changes. Former Mali minister and the head of the first part of the WSIS process Adama Samassekou said. "I was just wondering as to the actual format of the forum in terms of overall results. After the wonderful discussions we've had, why shouldn't we have something specific come out of it?" Decision making thorn This issue of whether the IGF should be decision-making body is a thorny topic. Desai resisted efforts to move the forum to a more legislative basis. "Decision-making means having a legislative capacity and it means you have to have a defined membership. The IGF is an open door. This is a controversial issue but the IGF is not a membership-based model." The same view was reiterated by the IGF Secretariat head Markus Kummer, who stressed that he wanted to keep the forum's "open doors policy" when asked if he would consider accrediting particular organisations. Desai warned there was still much to do, however, referring to the three widely different cultures of the governments, non-governmental organisations, and civil society that had sat down in Athens. The first has its protocols, the second has strong views, and the third wants things done now, he explained. "I think in all three cultures we need a little adjustment. I think governments will have to accept that in a multi-stakeholder forum will be a little more frank than a normal democratic conference would be and that they have to participate in it in that spirit. Equally, I believe civil society has to accept that if the purpose of this exercise is ultimately to lead to joint action, then a certain degree of restraint - they have to approach this in a different way. If you want to work with somebody, you are not going to be able to work with somebody if you start calling that somebody names straight away." Arranged marriage And then, in a characteristic flourish, Desai provided an analogy for the IGF and the way forward. "In my country, when people get married, we have arranged marriages, and usually the first meeting between the boy and the girl, they are scoping each other out, so the conversation tends to cover everything. And at the second and the third meeting they start talking about more specific things, what are your tastes in this area or that area? And it is some time before they actually start holding hands. So let's just treat this as a first meeting where people have just gotten to know one another and maybe it will lead to marriage." Desai was confident the IGF will have the full five-year run originally planned, and Kummer was also optimistic about getting more funding for next year - "now the first meeting is over, we have a great product to sell potential donors". The next IGF meeting will be held on 12-14 November 2007 in Rio de Janeiro. ®
L'Orange is shutting its SmartGroups service at the end of the month. But users are complaining that France Telecom's mobile division is not giving people enough time to get organised and move to other providers. Smartgroups were supposed to be a way to organise groups of people - they include group emailing and shared home page and calendar. One group organiser told us: "Messages posted to groups (on the website or by email) have often taken a week or more to be delivered. Some of us have been concerned about the very apparent lack of commitment by Orange...The shock is how quickly they are shutting it down and the total lack of consideration they are showing for the administrators of the groups...Orange is offering no facility to save these messages other than viewing each message in turn and copy/paste!" There is an administrators support list on Yahoo! here. A member of the SmartGroups support team sent us this email: "I can confirm that the service will be closing on the 30th November and will not be returning. We have been running a service for several years and have tried to maintain a reliable facility for people to share there interests, pictures and to discuss important issues that concern them. However, it has proven difficult to sustain the quality of service within the financial constraints of a free service and the time has come where we have decided to close the service. We notified members on the 31st October to hopefully give Adequate time to transfer data or remove their groups." Assuming L'Orange won't reverse its decision, administrators are asking the telco to leave the groups up as read-only content for a few week so they have a chance to archive them. ®
MIT and the University of Southampton are to collaborate on research into the social, technical, and scientific challenges presented by the web. The aim of the work is ultimately to establish "web science" as a new scientific discipline. The Web Science Research Initiative (WSRI) is a long-term venture that will, the institutions say, provide a global forum for scientific and scholarly collaboration on research into the web. "As the web celebrates its first decade of widespread use, we still know surprisingly little about how it evolved, and we have only scratched the surface of what could be realised with deeper scientific investigation into its design, operation and impact on society," said Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the World Wide Web and a founding director of WSRI. He said the initiative will allow researchers to take the web seriously as an object of scientific enquiry. The research will seek to answer questions such as: How do we access information and assess its reliability? By what means may we assure its use complies with social and legal rules? How will we preserve the web over time? Professor Wendy Hall, head of school at Southampton University School of Electronics and Computer Science and also a founding director of WSRI, argues that a new type of graduate is required to deal with the implications the web has for science and industry. "We are seeing evidence of this with major internet companies and research institutions lamenting the fact that there are simply not enough people with the right mix of skills to meet current and future employment demands," she explained. "In launching WSRI, one of our ultimate aims is to address this issue." ®
Asus has confirmed it is preparing to ship an updated version of its Lamborghini VX1 laptop. Dubbed the 'Golden Edition', the machine boasts an almost top-of-the-range Core 2 Duo mobile processor, 2GB of 667MHz DDR 2 memory, a 160GB hard drive and Nvidia's GeForce Go 7400 VX GPU.
Symantec has launched a major update to Backup Exec, one of the choicest cuts from the Veritas acquisition. Version 11d has been adapted for Windows Exchange servers and for those who just cannot wait to get 64-bit Vista. Apparently, they've got a patent pending on something called "Granular Recovery Technology", which makes it possible to recover a single email rather than a whole mailbox. Symantec claims this'll slash half the time off the backup process on Exchange servers. The firm promises its whizzy new continuous backup will recover activity from just one second before a power cut, plague of locusts, or meteor strike crocks your desktop. Also new for version 11d is a choice of 128-bit and 256-bit encryption, so backups are more secure. Backup Exec has long been popular with small and medium-sized outfits running Windows file servers, but it also supports NetApp filers, as well as Oracle, Mac OSX Solaris 10, and SUSE Linux 10.0 clients. The new version hits the streets on 6 November via Symantec's channel resellers. Try to keep the queue orderly. ®
Orange has launched its own satellite navigation product, consisting of a GPS receiver which can be connected to an Orange mobile phone for displaying maps, giving directions, and playing geocaching games. The package comes from Webraska and is basically that company's product with an Orange wrapper.
UK anti-virus firm Sophos has defended itself after sparking a controversy with its decision to allow sysadmins to block distributing computing programs such as SETI@Home. The firm has extended the optional application control feature of Sophos Anti-Virus, Version 6 to allow enterprises to restrict the use of distributed control programs as well as VoIP software and P2P apps within large organisations. A survey conducted by Sophos found that 89.3 per cent of 460 respondents wanted to control usage of distributing computing programs such as SETI@Home and the BBC's Climate Change Experiment on their networks. Both applications use unused networked computing resources for complex number-crunching, and involve the receipt and transmission of information to and from third parties. The SETI@Home project analyses radio telescope data in the search for extra terrestrial intelligence while the BBC's climate change application uses much the same process to look for evidence of climate change. Reg reader Simon questions these figures in arguing that it was sysadmins themselves who put these applications on their network. However, Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos, responded that Sophos's optional feature blocked SETI@Home at work and then only if a sysadmin decides that the program is unathorised. "IT admins have a tough enough job already and it should be up to them to decide what runs on their networks," he said. "We're not saying these distributing computing programs are bad or classifying them as malware, indeed some of them feature cool technology. However, it should be up to the person who runs a network to decide what runs on it and to restrict this to authorised applications." Cluley said unauthorised applications can affect network performance. "The technology may be perfectly legitimate in the home, but businesses want more control over what runs in their corporate environment. IT staff simply don't want their PCs being used in the hunt for small furry creatures from Alpha Centauri, and other distributed computing activities," he added. Looking ahead, Sophos is considering extending its application control feature to give the option to restrict staff use of online gaming in the workplace, a move that moves the software further into the employee management market that's traditionally been the domain of firms such as WebSense. ®
Mobile device security firm Protect Data has acquired privately held UK-base security outfit Reflex Software and its subsidiaries in a deal valued at up to £15m ($28.6m). Protect Data will pay £12.5m in cash up front followed by up to £2.5m more providing Reflex meets sales targets by the end of March 2007. The deal allows Protect Data to add port and device control technology to its Pointsec data protection product portfolio. Reflex Software and its subsidiaries have 35 employees who brought in sales of £3.1m in the fiscal year ending 31 March 2006. Reflex Software is a holding company managing the shares in Reflex Magnetics Ltd and Reflex Software Europe SARL. Reflex Magnetics’ product Disknet Pro allows enterprises and government agencies to control the use of all communication ports on clients, including access to attached peripherals. The technology can be use to prevent data transfer to USB memory devices or to block access to P2P file sharing networks. The firm also markets an enterprise encryption product called DataVault.®
Wind River this week lent a helping hand to one of Sun Microsystems' more interesting processor efforts. The software maker announced that its telco hardened version of Linux will be tuned for Sun's UltraSPARC T1 processor. Customers will need to wait quite awhile to see the - prepare for it - Wind River Platform for Networking Equipment, Linux Edition operating system - phew - run on Sun's UltraSPARC T1 - aka Niagara. The companies plan to have everything done and dusted in the second half of 2007 by which time Niagara II should be stirring. Sun has spent the last few years looking for an "iPod moment" - that breakthrough product that brings in billions of dollars. UltraSPARC T1 counts as an "iPod accessory moment." In each of its past two quarters, Sun has sold $100m worth of servers based on the multi-core chip. As a result, the processor has emerged as one of Sun's main R&D success stories in recent times. The chip is sold with four, six and eight cores and is aimed at handling multi-threaded software. No other major vendor ships anything quite like it. Wind River looks to capitalize on interest around the chip by catering to the telco crowd. Its not well branded telco OS has been tweaked to meet the high availability demands required of the phone players. The OS will run on Sun's Netra T2000 telco server with the UltraSPARC T1 inside and the Sun Fire T2000 and CP3060 ATCA blade.®
Computer Associates' former chief executive Sanjay Kumar has been sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $8m for his role in the company's massive accounting scandal. Kumar avoided the maximum 20-year sentence for obstruction of justice and securities fraud charges as US trial judge Leo Glasser said this constituted unreasonable punishment. While Kumar was not a violent criminal, he "did violence to the legitimate expectations of shareholders," Glasser said. The prosecution claimed Kumar deserved firm treatment as he was the architect of an elaborate cover up that was "the most brazen in the modern area of corporate crime." Kumar conceded there'd been "no excuse for my conduct." Kumar was indicted for instituting and enforcing CA's infamous "35-day month," whereby sales deals were backdated to be included in quarters that had closed, and for offering bribes to potential trial witnesses. Kumar's defense team had urged the judge to hand down a short sentence followed by a longer stint of community service, saying Kumar was one of the software industry's "great minds." ®
Microsoft has agreed to sell cancer. Or least to support Novell's SUSE Linux and be more friendly to the open source operating system. In a bizarre corporate tie-up, Microsoft looks set to announce this afternoon a partnership with a company it's spent years trying to crush. The company will reveal a support and software development deal with Novell around SUSE Linux. In addition, Microsoft is expected to pledge that it will not sue over IP issues around the OS. CEO Steve Ballmer has scheduled a press conference this afternoon in San Francisco where he'll likely provide more details on the deal. If correct, this would be Microsoft's latest tie-up with an open source company and a tacit recognition that Linux is becoming a force cannot be ignored. In the last two years Microsoft has struck deals with MySQL, JBoss, SugarCRM and Zend to improve these technologies running on Windows, while announcing support for Linux in Windows Virtual Server 2005 and a broad relationship with open source virtualization player XenSource. A relationship with Microsoft is significant for Novell, which has struggled to turn Linux into the corporate success story it had hoped for when it bought SUSE. Investors appear bullish about Redmond's aid, sending Novell shares up 20 per cent after learning of the possible deal. Perhaps Microsoft can sell Linux better than the folks in Utah. Red Hat certainly will take notice of this deal. Last week, Oracle beat up on the Linux seller and now the other major proprietary software vendor has chipped in. ®
A campaign by Diebold to torpedo a TV documentary investigating its controversial e-voting machines looks set to backfire. Diebold president David Byrd and CEO Chris Albrecht this week fired off press releases and angry letters to HBO demanding the US network pull the doc, Hacking Democracy, and that it airs disclaimers before, during and after presentation this week. Byrd cites "egregious" errors and misrepresentations, while Albrecht alleges some kind of pinko-liberal-Hollwood conspiracy against Diebold. Hacking Democracy "is directed by the directors of VoterGate, and contains much of the same material. VoterGate was produced with special thanks to Susan Sarandon and The Streisand Foundation," he writes. According to reports, the Diebold duo have not seen Hacking Democracy, and they are also getting their documentaries mixed up. Confusingly, Votergate is the UK working title of Hacking Democracy. The documentary that Diebold is complaining about - the US Votergate, if you will - was produced and directed by a different bunch of people, HBO says. The storm comes a week before US citizens go the polls to vote in the bitter 2006 mid-term election campaign. The usual round of political debate and mud slinging has the added spice that there are unresolved questions over the reliability of machines from Dieblod to accurately count and securely record votes. It seems to be common practice for machines to record votes for Democrats as Republican while machines have also been hacked under tested conditions. Diebold has always maintained its machines are tested and secure. According to Diebold, 40 per cent of votes this November will be recorded electronically with its own machines accounting for 40 per cent of that market. That's enough to put the frighteners on a growing number of voters. Representatives of the NAACP told the US radio broadcaster NP that the organization has counted an upsurge in people casting absentee votes, a paper- and postal-based approach that circumvents Diebold machines. ®
Mark Hurd's latest contribution to the HP spy scandal has made three things clear. The CEO has a horrible memory, a tenuous grasp of the internet and a very measured approach to tackling ethics issues. HP this week released a set of replies that Hurd provided in response to questions from Rep. Ed Whitfield, chairman of the House subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Whitfield looked to follow on some gaps from Hurd's Congressional testimony last month on the HP pretexting mess. And Hurd obliged with his best Ollie North impression. "Not that I recall" appears about nine times in Hurd's answers to the 20 questions. Most of the queries surround a July 22, 2005 meeting that HP held to discuss its spy probe. All the major probers were at the session, including Hurd. The HP CEO, however, can't remember how long he was at the meeting or what he said or heard. Perhaps he's not the detailed oriented chap that NCR and HP's PR machines have made him out to be? [Cough - Ed.] Showing his versatility, Hurd, like a Sadville pro, abandoned the Ollie North guise for a moment in order to take on former Chairman Patricia Dunn's form. When asked who at the meeting "mentioned the issue of 'obtaining phone record information off the web,'" Hurd replied: I cannot say who made the remark about obtaining phone record information off the web or when that remark was made without speculating. What I recall is that at some meeting someone mentioned getting phone record information off the web and thinking there must be a some sort of website with this information. Dunn too thought that one simply needed to ring up a hotline and ask nicely for your neighbor's phone logs. You'd expect that savvy types like Hurd and Dunn would have asked fellow board member and Verizon exec Larry Babbio about how accessible phone logs really are. But maybe Larry isn't all that chatty. Lest you think Hurd is not as naive as he sounds, we take you to answer 10 a. When the remark was made, I did not have any specific understanding of what type of "phone record information" could be obtained or what was meant by "off the web." I simply thought there must be some website containing publicly available information about phone records. I did not give any further thought to the issue and do not recall any other discussions about it. And what web site would that be, Mark? Papacanyouhearme.com? "I am not aware of any website where a person can obtain phone record information for someone other than himself or herself." Oh. Hurd's most curious answer of all, however, is 10 b. I cannot say that as of the July 22, 2005 meeting I understood that "phone record information" was being obtained in connection with, or was assisting in the "Kona I" phase of the investigation. At some point, I did come to understand that telephone call information was being used as part of the leak investigation. However, I do not recall when I became aware of that information or who made me aware of it, and I did not think that anything improper might have been done until after Tom Perkins resigned and subsequently contacted the company about the letter he received from AT&T suggesting that someone had accessed his phone records through the use of an e-mail account. We know that Perkins, a venture capitalist and former board member, between June and August chatted with HP's legal team and directors about his concerns. And yet Hurd did not hire an outside law firm to investigate the spying operation until Sept. 8. According to his own answer here, Hurd was well aware that something "improper" might have occurred weeks and maybe months before he acted on his fears. Hardly the type of behavior deserving of a promotion. ®
Nokia is taking on Microsoft in many of its key markets, and is apparently also adopting the Microsoft approach that, if a product is sub-standard the first time, it will succeed on the third reworking.
The most surprising applications often lead to market breakthroughs and we place in this category all applications that involve the transport of video through existing networks for security purposes. Which is why AT&T’s announcement this week of a home monitoring service is likely to go down a treat with the “paranoia ridden” US populace that is constantly wondering what’s happening to their homes, in a country that places a huge value on security and which occasionally has huge natural threats to homes. In Europe, where one of the best ways of solving street crime is to refer to the Closed Circuit TV systems that line the metropolitan streets, the transport of this video, once it is created, is a perennial network problem, and one that has spawned a huge industry. The AT&T service includes live video surveillance on a remote computer or even on your cell phone, complete with lighting controls and sensors that detect anything from motion, temperature change or flooding around your home. The service itself is priced at just $9.95 a month and it works with any broadband Internet service, but only with Cingular Wireless phones. In effect this is like attaching a couple of $100 cameras to a Sling Box, because it solves all the same issues of video sizing and bandwidth sensing, along with the additional problems of adding motion sensors and the like, and giving the cameras enough degrees of freedom so they can view most areas of a home. The video offered comes from a Panasonic camera and is not fullmotion, and only works at speeds up to seven frames a second, when attached to a PC, and fewer on a cellphone. If the handset runs HSDPA it can get as many as two or three frames a second, but works at just one frame a second on a normal cellular data service. To use the package on a phone costs extra, and requires mobile internet access, but of course it really only has to send a still picture fairly infrequently or when one of the sensors at home goes off. AT&T will provide a $199 package of a tilt-and-pan video camera, motion sensor for a door or window, a central router to connect those systems to the Internet, and two power-outlet modules that transmit the video between the camera and the router using the home's electrical wiring. It’s pretty unlikely that an end user could source all of the right equipment for anything like that amount. Users also can program the system to take specific pre-programmed actions, or send an alert via e-mail or wireless text message, when a sensor detects changes. If there's motion across the video camera's field of view or if a sensor detects that a window has been opened, the system can automatically send an alert, turn on a light and start recording video. A Web-based dashboard is used to configure the system, and most features can be controlled via a cellphone. One major weakness of the system is that if an intruder wants to turn the entire thing off, all he has to do is cut power to the house. Expect a rush of copycat services from a cellular operator near you. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
SC06SC06 IBM has added some serious floating point wallop to its pre-packaged cluster line. Customers can now order IBM's System Cluster 1350 product with the Cell-based BladeCenter QS20 blade server (3.0GHz) and with a floating point accelerator from ClearSpeed. These latest options join a wide range of Xeon-based, Power-based and Opteron-based servers that can slot into the 1350 Linux cluster. IBM, like all the major server vendors, has been going at the pre-packaged Linux cluster idea for awhile. Later this month at the Supercomputing conference in Tampa, a number of vendors will announce increased support for the cluster edition of Windows with their systems as well. IBM clearly timed the Cell and ClearSpeed announcements for the Supercomputing crowd. Both products cater to customers in the high performance computing community that often desire the best possible floating point performance for their mathematical and scientific software. The Cell chip, for example, is a champ with single precision floating point operations, while ClearSpeed sells a floating point accelerator that plugs into a server's PCI-X slot. Some of the top supercomputers in the world make use of the ClearSpeed technology today. "When a call is made by an application to a math library supported by the accelerator card, ClearSpeed software intercepts the call, calculates whether it should be sent to the accelerator hardware and, if so, transfers the required data to the board to compute the function," IBM explained in an announcement. "The answer is calculated on the board and the results are stored into host memory before returning to the application." Customers can outfit the 1350 with some of IBM's latest Opteron servers, including the 1U x3455, the 2U x3655 and the 4U x3755. You can also pick from the latest and greatest Xeon- and Power-based boxes. All told, the 1350 can scale up to a 1,024-node cluster. There's more information available here. ®