9th > November > 2006 Archive
Jim Allchin, outgoing Windows general, has rallied his Windows Vista troops one last time, 10 weeks before the over-hyped operating system hits "general" availability.
Roaming charges in the EU are such a rip-off, many cross-border travellers simply switch off their phones when abroad. These high charges are putting people off using their phones when away from home - and consumers want the EU to do something about it. So says a new EuroBarometer survey, which found that European mobile phone users are paying between €4 and €6 for a four minute call abroad while roaming. In some cases, prices for calls exceed €12 - an Irish customer in Malta could pay as much as €13.16 for a four-minute call home on their mobile. Mobile phone owners admitted to researchers they used their phones less when abroad, particularly younger users and students. The overwhelming majority - 81 per cent - cited high costs as the biggest deterrent, while Polish and Slovenian users are most discouraged: 94 per cent of respondents from these countries said they slash their mobile use abroad. More than two thirds of the nearly 25,000 EU citizens who took part in the survey - 70 per cent -- think the EU should intervene to make sure that roaming charges are not significantly more expensive than those at home. Some 68 percent would support EU action to reduce SMS roaming charges, a figure that rises to 78 per cent among the 15-24 age group. The prices are significantly affecting mobile use. About 15 per cent of mobile customers choose not to take their phones on holiday or switch them off completely, while 21 per cent use only text messages while abroad. However, 59 per cent of those surveyed say they would use their phones more when abroad if charges were lower. "Excessively high prices restrict mobile usage while abroad. This hurts consumers, it hurts European industry, and it hurts Europe," said EU Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding. "Reducing roaming prices is not only a political responsibility of the European Commission, but can also be an interesting business model, as demonstrated by some operators who have started to move in this direction in recent months with the introduction of special roaming packages." Reding called on the mobile operators to help eliminate what she described as the "last visible border in Europe’s internal market". "It is not acceptable that the burden of international mobile roaming continues to be shouldered by ordinary citizens who pay standard tariffs," she said. Mobile networks in the EU have been warned repeatedly by the European Commission to reduce roaming charges within the EU, or face new regulations. The new legislation, which is currently being discussed in the European Parliament, would reduce charges for making and receiving calls abroad for both citizens and businesses, and benefit from enhanced competition among mobile operators. The rules could be in place by summer 2007. In recent months, operators such as Three Ireland, Vodafone and O2 have abolished roaming charges between the Republic of Ireland and the UK, and some operators have introduced special packages for roaming abroad. Three welcomed the European Commission's announcement that all mobile phone companies must reduce roaming charges across Europe. The group blames high retail roaming charges on the "unjustifiably high level" of wholesale international roaming rates. Copyright © 2006, ENN
LettersLetters Fast24, the broadband ISP and domain registrar missing in inaction, has created headaches for many users of its domain services. Yesterday Reg reader Jim Howes recounted how he regained control of his domains. Today, more readers weigh in with their advice. I recently went through a similar process when my old domain-name provider - JumpDomain - became completely unresposnsive for tech support requests. The base problem and reason for my switch was that email routed through the domain was delayed ont JumpDomain's servers for two full days. Fortunately I could simplify the process by using the still-active tools to unlock the domain and then initiate a domain transfer request to 1and1. It all went smoothly, and in fact 1and1's service has proven more responsive and capable that what I had before. Still, it's a pain in the rump to have to do this kind of thing. Del I too had to do this, but of course mine (that is, my furious customers') were .com domains. This involved contacting Bulk Register (who have recently been taken over by eNom) and paying $50 to become a domain reseller, then effectively gaining control of the domains via the reseller control panel. It did require a call to the States 001-877-841-6827 but once the situation was explained (and $50 taken...) they were very accomodating (especially as the domains in question had expired due to Fast24 never answering my increasinly frantic emails and calls over a period of 3 months). So, there you go. It costs $50 but its worth it! Boo! Down with Fast24! Bad ISP! Bad! Adam Just read the Fast24 article that mentions BulkRegister being difficult to contact. BulkRegister has recently been taken over by eNom - who generally speaking do respond the same day, so it may be worthwhile for the stranded customers to contact eNom. Thanks, Karl Austin KDA Web Services Ltd. I'm also trying to recover a (now expired) .com domain - the people I have been directed to are dotregisrar.com who are indeed proving helpful. Richard The process of moving your domain name from Fast24 and domain buster if you have a .com domain is not quite as painful as your article suggests. Bulkregister is based in Canada and so for most of the day when you call them they will not of even started the day. We called them much later in the day, I think it was early evening and got through to one of their technical guys who went and actioned the changes while we where on the phone to them. As they are the tag holder in this instance you simply need to move the domain records onto someone elses DNS servers which is faster than moving tags. Cheers Paul C. Hartley Primogen Solutions Ltd
If you need your home computer to be fixed don't go to PC World's repair centre, a new report has warned. Consumer magazine Computing Which? carried out an undercover investigation of independent and major stores that offer a computer repair service.
BT results for the second quarter ended 30 September 2006 show a four per cent rise in revenues to £4.9bn and a 12 per cent growth in pre-tax profits to £655m. The telco trumpeted growth in what it calls "new wave revenue" - cash from networked services, broadband and mobile phones. New wave revenues now make up 35 per cent of total cash or £1.7bn. BT now claims three million retail broadband customers and one million unbundled local loops. At the end of September BT had 9.3 million wholesale broadband connections including 830,000 unbundled local lines. Broadband subscribers passed three million and some 650,000 are using Voice over Internet Protocol services. In other news BT, has struck a deal with Disney's Buena Vista TV company to provide video-on-demand services. This will give BT Vision punters access to a selection of Disney films. BT's replacement network 21CN is making progress - 10 per cent of the core infrastruscture is now in place. Nine fibre rings have been built in south Wales. Customers in Cardiff should start moving onto the new network at the end of the month. BT shares in London were trading slightly up on the news. ®
Yesterday, Mercury passed between Earth and the Sun, giving astronomers a rare opportunity to study the planet's very tenuous atmosphere. By studying the sunlight as it is filtered through the atmosphere, and comparing the data to the Sun's known spectral signature, astronomers can determine the atmospheric composition. The atmosphere was only discovered in 1985 by Andrew Potter and Thomas Morgan. It is thought to be mostly composed of sodium. Potter, an astronomer at the National Solar Observatory in Arizona, studied the planet during the transit using the Kitt Peak's McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope. He is hoping to determine exactly how much sodium the atmosphere contains. Kevin Reardon of Osservatorio di Arcetri in Arcetri, Italy, used the same facility to observe the Sun's features, using Mercury as a knife edge to enhance spatial resolution. If Earth and Mercury orbited the Sun on the same plane, Mercury would pass between us and our star several times a year. However, the two planets' orbital planes are slightly inclined, so Mercury only transits the Sun 13 times a century. The phenomenon won't be seen again until 2016. The transit was visible from much of the Americas, Australia, and eastern Asia. Those on the west coast of the US got the best view, as the transit was completed before the Sun went down. Mercury began its passage across the face of our star shortly after 7pm, GMT. That's a much more sunlit 11am, if you happened to be in California. Observers equipped with proper H-Alpha filters, or pinhole cameras, were able to watch as the tiny black circle of Mercury spent the next few hours tracing a path across the Sun. The dark circle, taking up just 1/200th of the sun's surface, finally disappeared from the view of West Coast observers just after 4pm, or midnight, GMT. ®
HP has named John W McCain as the new boss of its services arm. McCain, who has done time at EDS and Capgemini, becomes senior vice president and general manager of HP Services replacing Steve Smith who left for "personal reasons".
Reg Reader PanelReg Reader Panel One of the IT vendors with a particularly active and creative marketing department is Oracle. This means that while the company is undoubtedly doing a lot of good stuff, it is sometimes difficult to tell what's real among all the positively spun positioning.
Cisco posted quarterly results swollen by its Scientific Atlanta acquisition to a gurgling Wall Street yesterday. Investors sent the networking firm's shares as much as nine per cent higher in after hours trading on the back of a 27.5 per cent GAAP profit hike. Sales in Q1 2007 hit $8.2bn compared to $6.5bn for the same period last year. These netted Cisco $1.6bn in GAAP income ($0.26 per share). For the same period a year ago, it made $1.3bn ($0.20 per share). For the first time, results from Cisco's $6.9bn acquisition of Scientific-Atlanta, which went through in February, were added to the pot. The cable TV box firm contributed $584m in new revenues. CEO John Chambers said: "The balance across our routing, switching and advanced technologies is the best that I've seen in a number of quarters. Routing revenue grew year over year by 13 per cent, switching revenue grew year over year by 15 per cent, and advanced technologies' revenue grew year over year by approximately 23 per cent." In a conference call, Chambers added: "The balance was amazingly good everywhere. All elements of our vision have evolved as we thought." Cisco indeed saw growth across its customer base. Service providers in particular couldn't get enough networking gear. The growth in bandwith-hungry services like video-on-demand leaves Cisco sitting pretty. ®
The German Society for Musical Performing and Mechanical Reproduction Rights (GEMA) is demanding royalties from YouTube. A spokesman for GEMA told Germany's Handelsblatt that the popular video service needs to delete all videos with non-licensed German music, or pay up. GEMA says it is currently holding talks with YouTube about possible arrangements. GEMA didn't want to wait until the takeover of YouTube by Google was finalised, the spokesman told Handelsblatt. With 70,000 new videos every day, there is a lot of unlicensed music posted by individual users. Currently, there is no preliminary screening process to prevent copyright clips from being uploaded. Last week, German soccer club Bayern Munich also threatened YouTube with legal action over pirated material. And last month YouTube deleted nearly 30,000 files after The Japan Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers complained of copyright infringement. GEMA, however, is the first major music industry association that is trying to settle copyright claims with YouTube. Google CEO Eric Schmidt denied on Tuesday that his company had set aside $500m to settle copyright claims by media companies. YouTube did, however, agree to deploy an audio-signature technology that can spot a low-quality copy of a licensed clip. Such material could then be removed automatically. ®
Morse said today that its new structure of two divisions - one for mobile services and one for its traditional consultancy business - is working well. The company told the London Stock Exchange that trading is in line with expectations.
HP is suing the German subsidiary of Korean firm InkTec for infringing its printer-ink patents. The company claims that ink found in the InkTec branded cartridge refill kits violates patents held by HP.
The sorry saga of vanished ISP Fast24 will conclude for customers next Friday when the firm's broadband suppliers Tiscali and NetServices finally pull the plug on connections. Fast24 customers are being offered the chance to "rescue" their connection by moving over to EzeeDSL, a brand of Leeds-based business ISP 186K. Tiscali and NetServices have appointed 186K to put up a "walled garden" for Fast24 users when they try to connect, which will offer the chance to enter into a 12 month contract with the new provider. EzeeDSL has come to specialise in these customer-base salvage operations. It was originally brought on stream to offer an easy escape route for trapped E7even punters. E7even went titsup in July. Tiscali and NetServices won't be dishing out MACs to those who don't sign up for EzeeDSL. They say it is a breach of their customers' - Fast24 - confidentiality. Provision of MACs is currently ungoverned by Ofcom, though the regulator has unveiled proposals to take over the increasingly fractious business. Tiscali and NetServices will be hoping many won't fancy the inconvenience of waiting for Fast24 to be wiped off the net on the 17th and then starting from scratch, potentially through BT or another wholesale source. Along with broadband connections, many domains were lost in the Fast24 chaos thanks to the disappearance of its hosting tentacle DomainBuster. Register readers came to the rescue with advice on how to escape that labyrinth here and here. ®
Mozilla issued an update on Wednesday to address several vulnerabilities with older, but still widely used, versions of its web browser that create a possible means for hackers to attack vulnerable PCs. Related flaws also prompted an update to the SeaMonkey application suite. Users are advised to upgrade to Mozilla Firefox 188.8.131.52 and SeaMonkey 1.0.6 in order to address scripting errors and memory corruption security bugs that could be used in cross site scripting, denial of service or remote access attacks. The flaws do not apply to Firefox 2.0, the latest version of Mozilla's browser software, which was released in late October. Security notification service Secunia has published an advisory giving an overview on the bugs. Mozilla's advisories on the various problems the update addresses can be found here, here, and here. ®
German public prosecutors are looking into the bankruptcy of German mobile phone manufacturer BenQ Mobile. Chief senior public prosecutor Christian Schmidt-Sommerfeld told the southern German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that it has started an investigation into the bankruptcy of BenQ Mobile, but declined to discuss details. Insiders say BenQ Mobile's management was fully aware of the company's cashflow problems as early as August, but didn't communicate them to its employees and deliberately delayed filing for bankruptcy. According to some reports, the company also made false statements about the number of BenQ handsets sold in Q2. Instead of the reported 10.7 million, it only sold 7.4 million handsets. The whole staff has been lied to, the head of the central works council at BenQ Josef Michael Leuker told German news agency DPA earlier this week. The company's bankruptcy trustee and BenQ Mobile have both refused to comment. When the former Siemens unit collapsed in September, over 2,000 workers lost their jobs. Siemens decided to set up a €30m hardship fund for workers affected by the closure. The group was savaged by leading politicians for selling its loss-making handset business to Taiwan's BenQ last year.®
Well, while I was digesting my meal here last night – and trying to make sense of the fire hose of information that has just washed over me – Windows Vista was released to manufacturing. So it is finished at last, which is good news. Take a look at the Vista blog here for some real enthusiastic responses. Although it occurs to me that many of the improvements users of Vista betas tell me about – such as a better UI and improved Search - could surely have been done on XP. Why should I have to install a whole new operating system just to get fixes; mightn't XP be "good enough"?
A draft study commissioned by the Australian Attorney General's office finds that the music and software industries attributes sales losses to piracy without any evidence to back their claims, The Australian reports. According to a draft report by the Australian Institute of Criminology, the music industry can't explain how it arrives at its statistics for staggering losses through piracy. The Business Software Association's claim of $361m per year in lost sales is "unverified and epistemologically unreliable", the report says. "Of greatest concern is the potentially unqualified use of these statistics in courts of law," the authors observe. According to The Australian, the study is due to be revised after the institute's senior members disagreed with its conclusions. "We have an extensive quality control system in the institute, so that drafts are read by most senior staff," principal criminologist Russell Smith told the paper. It will be interesting to compare the final revision with the current draft to learn if the language is merely softened or if the aforementioned "quality control system" should involve reaching conclusions that the report's purchasers would prefer. ®
Over 150 scientists met in Italy this week for the third international GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) workshop. The ESA mission is scheduled to launch next year and is the first in a series of Living Planet missions planned by the European Space Agency (ESA). It will spend 20 months gathering data on the Earth's gravitational field. GOCE is unusual because it will fly in such a low orbit, just 250km above our heads, its design has had to account for the effects of the Earth's atmosphere. As a consequence, the satellite is a long, but narrow, octagonal tube. It also has an ion engine to counteract the atmospheric drag. ESA head of Ocean Ice Unit Dr Mark Drinkwater described the satellite as the "Ferrari of gravity missions". The mission's gradiometer is comprised of three pairs of accelerometers oriented along, across, and radially (pointing from the centre of the Earth outwards) to the flight track of the satellite. This means the researchers can record gradients in the Earth's gravity field, Drinkwater explained. This data will allow scientists to model the geoid, the hypothetical surface of the Earth, reflecting the variations of the gravity field. ESA says this data will give scientists insight into the internal dynamics of our planet, as well as events on the surface. Dr Reiner Rummel, Tech University of Munich explains how our gravity field affects the oceans and, in turn, our climate. "The oceans deviate slightly from the level, and these deviations are what cause the oceans to move, to circulate. " he said. "This circulation is very important for understanding our climate, because it explains how heat is transported from the equator, how mass is transported, how polluted materials are transported," GOCE will allow the first direct measurement of how oceans move and will also help scientists explain sea-level changes, he said. Dr Drinkwater says GOCE will give details of how the gravitational field is affected by plate tectonics, which in turn should help improve models of how the Earth's crust moves and changes. He noted that this could eventually improve predictions of earthquakes and volcanic activity. ®
The US government and AT&T have been granted an opportunity to argue for dismissal of their case concerning the mass wiretapping of phone and email traffic, Reuters reports. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Tuesday that the defendants' motion for dismissal, originally rejected by US District Court Judge Vaughn Walker back in July, will be heard. The case was initiated by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in January, and alleges that AT&T gave the NSA unlawful access to citizens' phone and email records in a massive, warrantless, electronic dragnet. The District Court had ruled that the government could not seek dismissal on grounds of revealing state secrets, essentially because the spy program has been mentioned enough times in the press and cited by enough public officials that it can't be regarded as a secret. The government argues that there are enough details thus far undisclosed that a court case would threaten national security. Or at least, now it can try. ®
Google has admitted that three posts on the Google Video group blog on Tuesday evening were contaminated with the Kama Sutra (AKA Kapster-A) worm. The offending posts have now been deleted. It's unclear how many subscribers to the 50,000 member list became infected as a result of the SNAFU. Google advises concerned subscribers to run an anti-virus check. The Kama Sutra worm is a mass mailiing worm, discovered in January 20o6, which deletes the registry keys of anti-virus and P2P programs from infected PCs. The worm is also programed to delete system files on the third day of every month. The worm, which spreads in the guise of offering pornographic content, never spread very far and was never considered much of a threat. Google has apologised over the incident and promised to take steps to make sure something similar doesn't happen again. ®
Forensic storage developer WiebeTech has developed a pair of write-blocked PCIe adapter cards that connect to devices such as disk drives or arrays, but prevent the host computer from writing to them. The RedPort cards allow an investigator to study or copy stored data without the risk of accidentally altering it, according to WiebeTech CEO and president James Wiebe. He claimed that if you make a normal host adapter read-only it may still be possible to reverse that in software. "A primary design task was to ensure that an investigator would not be able to turn a RedPort card into a read/write card by accidentally installing the wrong software drivers," he said. "Thus, either RedPort works write-blocked, or it doesn't work at all." The reason for doing read-only adapter cards is that WiebeTech's other forensic gear only connects to individual hard drives. That's a bit of a pain if you have a multi-drive array to copy – more so if those drives are part of a SAN or a RAID set. The RedPort cards each provide two write-protected 4Gig Fibre Channel or Ultra320 SCSI connectors. WiebeTech said they're called RedPort because the ports are red. Actually, they're not – the back panel plates are striped red, but the effect is similar. They're not cheap – they list at £1,769 and £719 respectively – but that's not much compared to the cost of losing a court case because you damaged the evidence. The cards use ATTO hardware with modified firmware, and are distributed in the UK by AM Micro. ®
LettersLetters You're still appalled, and amazed, that the BBC recently handed over its flagship TV science show to cranks and New Age nutballs. This week's show was even worse - if that's possible. But here are more of your letters: Just read your letters page. Did BBC's horizon really claim that a computer equal to the human brain might come around in 20 years? Given that one of the world's biggest, richest companies takes five years of frantic work to get a facelift and a few bells and whistles on it's aging O/S, I'd say that is verging on the ridiculous. Let's hope the artificial brain doesn't need a new database file system eh? Paul Thank you for saying what needed to be said about that awful Horizon program. Well there were a couple of interesting points: the radio-controlled bull and radio-controlled rat sequences demonstrated just how much electronics has been miniaturised, although there was apparently no advance in neuroscience. I laughed out loud at the scientist scanning slices of rat brain in order to model the neurons in a huge IBM multi-processor comuter. He had been doing it for many years and still had a "couple of years" to go. Even if he finishes before his computer is obsolete, just what did he think would be the outcome? Is the machine going to ask for cheese? This week's Horizon about an autonomous vehicle race was actually rather good. It was a bit like Scrap Heap Challenge for PhDs. The programme explained the principles of the winner's vision algorithm, simply, cleary and without being patronising. There were no pointless analogies, they just told you how it worked. The effect was only spoiled at the end when the credits gave away that it was a Nova production with "additional material" (presumably re-recording the narration in a plummy accent) by the BBC. May I suggest that you collect all the feedback you have had on this and forward it to the BBC? I looked at the Horizon website but there was no opportunity for feedback there. Instead I got distracted by some clips of an early 80s Horizon featuring Richard Feynman just talking about science, not a pop video in sight. Oh happy days! Simon Rae. Jeremy Scott said : "Even the New Scientist is dumbing down". Wrong tense. It dumbed down over ten years ago when it stopped illustrating articles with relevant pictures and employed graphic artists to decorate the pages instead. Colin Sutton Cheer up, Colin. At least Nature remains a bastion of integrity - unwilling to give sacrifice its reputation by giving credence to New Age techno-mysticism? Er.... So moving swiftly on then, we even got an email from inner space: Just visiting this planet, but I'd say Horizon is doomed when its most vocal defendant hasn't watched it. But then a pause for thought when said defendant wonders "how does anybody know that the singularity hasn't happened already?". Conventional wisdom has it that the past is the easy to predict tense, the future less so. I'd say the last few million holdouts that have their head screwed on straight *all of them* know that the singularity hasn't happened already. Now, 'tis the lord's day today so let me go back to my altar for the Invisible Pink Unicorn, may her pointy hooves crush all dissenters. All the best, Marvin the Martian But, wait. There's high quality science on the radio, points out Rowland McDonnell Yes, I know that listening to BBC Radio 4 is a minority taste, but what of it? It's got lots of examples of high quality BBC science programming - thus giving the lie to the idea that BBC science coverage is all useless because no-one at the Beeb has a clue about science, which seems to be the line taken by the ignorant folk whose opinions you chose to publish. Consider yourself chastised. I agree about Horizon, I have given up on it. Why do they persist on the amateur dramatic *reconstructions*. BUT I will stick up for their Material World prog on Radio4. The presenter is a bit cheesy jokey but content is wide and interesting. Jim Grady Ross Aitken noticed that the only support for Horizon that we printed was from a nutter - and wondered if we'd slanted our mailbag. Not at all, Ross. Two nutters supported Horizon - and we picked one. Only just caught up with your excellent article on Horizon. You may well already have seen it but someone else has had a pop at the show, this time in relation to the "talking with chimps" episode featuring Danny Wallace, at
http://asadodo.blogspot.com/2006/10/intelligent-science-programmes-on.html . Bring back QED
Finally, thanks to Steve Pugh, who offered us this sneak preview of next week's show.
It's getting back to serious science - as you can see:
All Horizon-inspired artwork and programme ideas are welcome here at Vulture Central. You keep the © of course - so you can sell the idea to the producers in time for the next series. ®
Cable & Wireless said results for the six months ended 30 September 2006 showed the company turnaround was on track. Revenues grew by £237m to £1.7bn mainly because of the takeover of Energis. But total operating costs grew by £217m to £1.5bn. This left group Ebitda with a 10 per cent increase to £221m. Pre-tax profit was £134m, down from £175m for the same period last year. The interim dividend for shareholders goes up 21 per cent to 1.7 pence per share. The group wrote off a charge of £22m for restructuring as a result of redundancies and its departure from the retail broadband market - it sold Bulldog in September. Cable & Wireless said its UK business, serving enterprise and network companies, is in "the recovery phase". "This phase comprises three areas: improving our service, managing our costs and simplifying our business." The customer reduction programme, yes really, is going well. Cable & Wireless has reduced numbers to 14,566 customers, ahead of targets of 18,000 customers. Its final target is to serve just 3,000 UK customers. Looking forward the company said it expects results in line with expectations and still hopes to build a business with £2bn in revenues and double digit operating profit. Full results available from C&W (as a pdf.) here. ®
Pope Benedict XVI has warned scientists to beware of making alarming predictions without having the proper science to back them up. His remarks are widely being interpreted as a swipe at last week's forecast that by 2050 the world would have all but depleted its fish stocks. Speaking at this week's plenary session of the Pontifical Academy of the Sciences, he reiterated his guarded support for the sciences. He said again that he sees no conflict between science and religion, and that faith need not be threatened by scientific endeavour. Rather, he argued, science is part of God's plan. As before, however, there was a caveat: scientists must know their limits. "Science cannot replace philosophy and revelation by giving an exhaustive answer to man's most radical questions: questions about the meaning of living and dying, about ultimate values, and about the nature of progress itself," he said. He argued that researchers have a moral obligation to accuracy as well as recognising their limitations. "This means avoiding needlessly alarming predictions when these are not supported by sufficient data or exceed science's actual ability to predict. But it also means avoiding the opposite, namely a silence, born of fear, in the face of genuine problems," he said. Few in the scientific community would disagree with that last statement, and his sentiments echo those of Mike Hulme, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, decrying the trend of sensationalising science, particularly around climate change. Hulme said in an interview with the BBC that "campaigners...politicians and scientists...are openly confusing the language of fear, terror and disaster with the observable physical reality of climate change, actively ignoring the careful hedging which surrounds science's predictions". ®
Those of us who've been wondering where all of that cash the government poured into improving the UK's rail network actually went can take heart in the fact that, instead of squandering it on improved signalling and new track, Britain's rail operators actually used the money to develop the world's first stealth train: Impressive stuff. The Eurostar in question is seen here decloaking as it approaches London's Waterloo station - presumably to avoid waiting passengers seeing it appear from thin air once at the platform. A quick bit of research by our black ops directorate revealed that the UK has in fact been operating stealth transport technology for some years, which explains why you never see a number 73 bus when you need one. ® Bootnote Thanks to Sam Wallace for the tip-off.
Broadcom said it has landed the supply of 802.11n advanced Wi-Fi chips to Chinese PC maker Lenovo, one of the largest PC makers in the world, which took over the IBM PC operations at the end of 2004.
IPTV DRM specialist Verimatrix said at the TelcoTV show in Texas this week that it has landed a deal with Motorola to put its Video Content Authority System (VCAS) on Motorola IP set-top boxes.
A reprehensible, juvenile prank is diverting valuable time from cultivating "the future of human knowledge" - Wikipedia. Ryan North says he wants to save the project by focusing vandals' energy on just one topic: chickens. And it's causing quite a hen flap. "Screw Britannica and their 2.92 errors per article. Together we can build Wikipedia 2.0: the World's Best Encyclopedia, covering every topic in the universe, except chickens," says Ryan on the project page every topic in the universe except chickens.com. Ryan reasons that the damage will be minimal because the world knows everything it needs to about chickens already. The boundaries of rooster epistemology have not only been discovered, but mapped, and then endlessly trodden and retrodden by Dubarry wellies. "Does an encyclopedia really need an article about nature's tastiest birds? You know the answer is 'no it most certainly does not'", he says. Whereas if you need to find lists of Star Trek characters, 80s porn stars, and every episode of Friends - then there's only once place to go. In Ryan's idea there's a compelling piece of logic. Wikipedia is vandalised around 20 times a minute, but perhaps we can save it - by rendering it fit only for trivia. And in that goal, Ryan's not alone: he already has an army of Wikipedia administrators helping him out. You might even call this the dominant ideology of the project. So was he a contributor, we wondered? "I refuse to answer the second question of whether I am now or have ever been a Wikipedian on the grounds that it may incriminate me," he told us. Under attack: a chicken Earlier this year, Stephen Colbert satirised the notion that you could vote for the truth by inviting viewers to insert spurious facts into an entry about elephants. Viewers responded in their hundreds, forcing administrators to "lock down" the article - leaving the world bereft of up-to-the-second developments on the pachyderm front for several days. Wikipedia administrators hailed the exercise as a success. ®
The Hong Kong privacy commissioner has ordered a school to stop fingerprinting children before it becomes a runaway trend that is too late to stop. The school, in the Kowloon District, installed the system last year but, under the order of the Hong Kong Privacy Commission, has ripped it out and destroyed all the fingerprint data it had taken from children. Roderick Woo, Justice of the Peace at the Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner, told El Reg he had decided to examine the issue immediately after the first school installed a fingerprint reader to take registers in his jurisdiction. And, he decided: "It was a contravention of our law, which is very similar to your law, which is that the function of the school is not to collect data in this manner, that it was excessive and that there was a less privacy-intrusive method to use." In other words, he said, what better way is there for a teacher to take a register than to look around the class, note who's missing, and take down their names for the record. Measuring fingerprints seemed a little over the top for the task in hand, which translated into terms understood by privacy laws, means that the use of information technology was not proportionate to the task in hand. He also looked at the need of schools to get consent from either pupils or parents before they took fingerprints at class registration. This is an avenue being considered by parents in the UK who want to challenge schools that have taken their children's fingerprints without parental consent. Britain's Information Commissioner has said it might be enough for a school to get the consent of a child before taking its fingerprints. Woo, however, decided otherwise: "I considered the consent of the staff and pupils rather dubious, because primary school's consent in law cannot be valid and there's undue influence. If the school says, 'give up your fingerprint', there's no way of negotiating. "Also it's not a good way to teach our children how to give privacy rights the consideration they deserve," he added. That is another fear expressed by some parents opposed to their children being fingerprinted, even when the majority of the systems in use are much more primitive than those used in criminal investigations. The Hong Kong Office of the Privacy Commissioner ordered the school to remove the fingerprint system in the hope it would discourage other schools from installing similar systems without careful consideration, and prevent a rush of school fingerprinting as has occured in Britain. However, Woo did note that other schools could not fingerprint their children for other purposes. "That's not to say I'm opposed to any fingerprint scanning systems. I will look at any complaint on a case by case basis. It's not an anti hi-tech attitude I take," he said. ®
Microsoft's Autumn Xbox 360 update is causing consoles to freeze at random intervals during play. The snafu apparently affects all games. The update was bugled on the Xbox community site as "another 85 reasons why 360 rocks".
Lenovo Group has filed disappointing Q2 results, with net profit down 16 per cent to $38m from a year ago when it was at $45.4m. Revenue for the period was flat at $3.7bn, just one percent up on the year before. The company said it was still absorbing IBM's PC division, and said "unusually aggressive pricing" by its US competition was behind the poor profits. China still accounts for almost 40 per cent of the company's revenue, and Company president and CEO William Amelio added that Lenovo's brand recognition in the US could be improved. He said that there was scope to tighten the supply chain too. Lenovo bought IBM's PC division in April last year and said it would spend $100m restructuring. In the first quarter this year the company wrote down $19m in restructuring charges, but just $2m in the second. Mary Ma, company CFO, said there was more restructuring in the pipeline. "We'll continue to examine our operations and root out inefficiency," she said. ®
SC06SC06 High performance computing (HPC) geeks will be pleased to find a new set of programming tools from Intel. The chipmaker this week announced Cluster Toolkit 3.0 and Cluster OpenMP for Intel compilers. Both products should help developers write parallel applications that can be spread across the server clusters that dominate the HPC scene. Intel's announcement comes just days before the HPC-rich Supercomputing conference kicks off in Tampa. The Cluster Toolkit bundle ships with new releases of Intel's MPI Library, Math Kernel Library Cluster Edition and Trace Analyzer and Collector. Meanwhile, the brand new Cluster OpenMP brings OpenMP to distributed memory clusters, which should please developers working with multi-core chips. Speaking of multi-core chips, Intel next week plans to release its four-core "Clovertown" version of Xeon. The company has also crafted the S3000PT compact server for HPC customers. The box actually runs on the four-core Kentsfield chips that's aimed more at workstation customers. "The small 5.9 inch x13 Inch form factor is well suited for personal clusters for individuals and workgroups as well as high- density datacenters such as ISPs and Web hosting," Intel said. You can find more information on Intel's HPC hardware here. ®
Red Hat has a friend after all. The Linux maker this week announced a bundling exercise with server virtualization specialist VMware. The companies' deal will see them pair Red Hat's version of the Linux operating system with VMware's flagship server slicing product. The upshot of the agreement – and it’s a minor one – is that Red Hat and VMware are now a bit closer partners. "With this relationship, the two virtualization platforms that Red Hat Enterprise Linux will support are the VMware platform and the Red Hat Integrated Virtualization platform that will be available in Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5," said Red Hat CTO Brian Stevens. The executive did VMware the favor of not calling out rival XenSource by name. XenSource has pushed to insert Xen directly into RHEL 5 when it ships later this year or early next year. Down the road, Red Hat and VMware look to ship "channel bundles" that pair Red Hat's Linux and Application Stack with VMware Infrastructure – VMware's own application stack – and VMware Server. The companies have also pledged to back each other up in debates around how future versions of Linux should handle virtualization. Somewhat comically, VMware – at $600m per year in revenue – makes more money by helping customers run multiple copies of Linux on servers than Red Hat makes selling and supporting Linux. Red Hat could sure use VMware's marketing helping hand this week after a rough run. Oracle's decision to open a Linux shop that competes most directly against Red Hat collapsed the company's share price. Then, Microsoft hit out at Red Hat by forming a licensing and technology sharing deal with Novell. ®
As if virtualisation wasn't complicated enough - what with virtual servers, virtual storage and virtual networks - you can now have a virtual load balancer for your virtual machines as well. However, Zeus Technology argues that running its Zeus eXtensible Traffic Manager (ZXTM) on top of VMware ESX Server can actually simplify the virtual environment rather than further complicating it. It said that the new virtual appliance (VA) version of ZXTM can intelligently route traffic to the most available virtual server. That improves responsiveness and the control of resources, and makes it easier to manage clusters of virtual Webservers, the company added. Future versions of ZXTM VA could even understand the relationships between the various applications running on the virtual cluster and automatically manage the VMs to give the best overall performance, Zeus said. "As the only software-based Layer 7 traffic manager, ZXTM VA is perfectly positioned to provide services in virtualised environments. It aligns with the strategic adoption of virtualisation as customers do not need to purchase dedicated physical appliances to meet their load balancing and traffic management needs," claimed Zeus boss Paul Di Leo. The software will only sell through VMware's Virtual Appliance Marketplace, he added, although Zeus is also offering a trial version for download and looking at versions to run on other virtualisation systems such as Xen, Virtuozzo and Microsoft Virtual Server. ®
Phishers are going directly after one of the prime targets of ID thieves, US citizens' social security numbers. Scam emails purporting to come from the US Social Security Administration give bogus warning that recipients risk having their social security account suspended unless they update their personal information on a site, designed to look like an official site actually run by fraudsters. To add some authenticity to the scam, bogus emails announces changes in social security rules on cost of living allowances supposedly scheduled to come into effect next year. Prospective marks are encouraged to hand over their name, address, date of birth, Social Security number as well as bank account numbers and credit card details (just for good measure). CNN has more here. ®
It's a historic deal - and the most talked-about tie-up in the music industry today. As Microsoft gets ready to launch its iPod-rival Zune next week, it's agreed to pay Universal Music Group a fee - believed to be a dollar per device - to compensate Universal artists. It's an unprecedented arrangement, for device manufacturers already pay a levy to rights holders on MP3-playing hardware.
Nvidia has had a cracking third quarter, pulling a record $826.6m revenues for the September quarter(Q3 2005: $583.4m) and net income of $106.5m (Q3'05: $86.75m).
CommentComment In the film The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood go into a bar. “What kind of music do you play?” one of them asks. “We got both kinds,” says the lady behind the bar, “Country and Western.”