14th > November > 2006 Archive

Xen and VT cuts Windows hosting costs

The cost of dedicated Windows server hosting is set to tumble, thanks to XenSource's support for Windows. That's the claim of UK service provider Memset, which has added Windows to its range of virtual servers. Memset MD Kate Craig-Wood said that while her company already offers Linux virtual machines (VMs) hosted on Xen, its Intel VT (virtualisation technology) servers now let it offer Windows too - running Windows on Xen requires either Intel VT or AMD-V hardware. She added that some ISPs employ user-mode Linux or virtualisation software such as Virtuozzo, which provides each user with a partitioned application space, not a complete virtual machine. This can get more customers on a server than Xen does, but at the expense of them sharing system resources, she said. By contrast, Xen divvies up the hardware between the VMs, so each has its own dedicated slice of server. She added that while Xen has needed suitably modified versions of operating systems - and there wasn't one for Windows - VT removes that requirement. "Most small business users don't need a whole machine, but they want a dedicated resource," she said. "Some are uncomfortable with the security aspects of shared hardware, for example, and applications such as PHP are easier to manage if you have your own machine. "We have had to say to people that a dedicated Windows server will cost them £150 a month - now we can offer that for £40 or £50, including the Windows licence. "Also, VMs are very scalable - you can just reboot them with more RAM and disk, or mirror the whole machine to another physical server or data centre, and you can have a mixture of VM sizes on one server."
Bryan Betts, 14 Nov 2006

Intel clubs AMD with four-cores

Intel has earned the right to lay it on four-cores thick. The chipmaker today officially released versions of its four-core server and PC chips. The appearance of the 'Clovertown' and 'Kentsfield' processors gives Intel both a marketing and raw performance edge over AMD, which doesn't plan to fire up its own four-core gear in earnest until 2007. So, those looking for the best of the best will turn to Intel for the time being.
Ashlee Vance, 14 Nov 2006

Fujitsu Siemens Plans goes PC for the over 50s

Fujitsu Siemens will launch a desktop package for the UK’s baby boomer generation in January. And when we say baby boomer generation, yes we mean the over 50s who are even now slipping into retirement while humming the Beatles’ greatest hits as they wait for their plastic surgery appointment.
Joe Fay, 14 Nov 2006

Staffordshire ICT workers face pay cuts

One in four ICT school support workers in the Staffordshire area are expecting pay cuts. Envelopes containing details of the proposed pay scale were dished out last Friday to 28,000 county council school workers in the region. The source, an ICT technician who wishes to remain anonymous, told El Reg in an email: "Thought you may be interested in this. Today [10/11/2006] , many council workers across Staffordshire received their envelopes informing them of the proposed pay scale they would now be on, after four years of going through interviews, appeals, more interviews etc. "And, for our IT staff, it's a joke." He goes on to explain that his wage remained frozen at around £15,000 for the last four years. While the management team he works with has already seen their pay packets dramatically reduced, in one instance by £8,000. According to the source, an evaluation took place which required workers to make "specific statements" about their job role. "[If the proposals go ahead] We're pay-protected for three years (100 per cent the first year, then 90 per cent, then 80 per cent), but most people are already on the internet looking for jobs. So expect most areas of school support – IT especially – to drop through the floor...it's an utter joke," he said. However, a Staffordshire county council spokesperson said "nothing is set in stone" and that the consultation process is ongoing with the outcome expected to be determined next January. When asked about the level of anxiety currently being expressed by ICT school workers in Staffordshire, the spokesperson explained that the proposals are part of a much larger country-wide government initiative. But he also accepted that it is "a really sensitive issue" for individuals right now. He also conceded that up to 7,000 workers could expect a reduced pay packet in the Staffordshire area but stressed the importance of consultation with employees and the unions. In an official statement the council said: "This is the starting point and everything is still yet to be negotiated and very subject to change, based on what our employees and the unions communicate to us during this consultation period. This is far from a done deal. "There are 70 per cent of employees either going up in salary or remaining as they are, and we want to ensure that the 25 per cent of employees not in this bracket know that we will work with them and communicate comprehensively." Unison, which represents Staffordshire county council workers, has sent letters to its members outlining concerns about the job evaluation scheme. ®
Kelly Fiveash, 14 Nov 2006

Sky Broadband users speak out about support woes

Sky has been having a hard time fulfilling orders and providing technical support for its free ASDL-broadband service. Internet discussion groups are alive with complaints from customers awaiting connection and exchanging horror stories of hours spent talking to technical support in a variety of countries. The problems are not general to all customers, and many users are very happy with the service, but those affected are certainly suffering with connections reportedly taking months and unhelpful support only causing greater frustration. Customers wishing to change provider are also reporting problems getting hold of the codes necessary to take their connection elsewhere. The fact that Sky's service is free seems to cut little ice with most customers. One suggestion was that users should threaten to cancel their other Sky subscriptions, hitting the company where it hurts: but while vocal in their complaints, respondents pointed out that this would be an empty threat as they couldn't possibly live without their other Sky services. The service has certainly been sucessful since launching in July, and reports from inside Sky say customers have been switching to Sky TV just to get the free broadband, which is a thought to warm the cockles of many a quad player in today's market. Customers may just have to accept that the quality of service is a reflection of the amount paid for that service, and if you go for the lowest price you may not get the best customer service. As one forum poster put it: "Just remember you are getting FREE basic broadband or very cheap 16meg access so I am prepared for a few problems to begin with if I am saving money in the long run." ®
Bill Ray, 14 Nov 2006

Apple patches Intel-based Macs' firmware

Apple has posted revised firmware for its Intel-based desktop and notebook Macs: the Mac Pro, Mac Mini, iMac, MacBook and MacBook Pro. As usual, the company wasn't explicit in its description of the fixes incorporated in the updates.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006

Microsoft unleashes improved Firefox

UpdatedUpdated [Update: The msfirefox site went offline earlier this morning. Which may or may not have something to do with Microsoft lawyers. Thanks for all the emails and we're sorry for spoiling breakfast for some Mozilla fans.] The open source community is in a state of shock this morning at the news that Microsoft has released a version of popular browser Firefox. The audacious move, which pretty well guarantees Redmond control of the entire browser market, will be received with dismay among those who previously believed that the might of Bill Gates' chequebook could, and should, be resisted. Naturally, Microsoft has made some improvements to the product, and the new features offered to Firefox fans include: Simplified user experience Microsoft Firefox presents a noticeably simpler, more streamlined, less cluttered interface than all other browsers. The introduction of the Cut Away Effect™ randomly disables the rendering of 9/10 of Microsoft Firefox [and] helps to reduce the strain on system resources. This also maximizes the area of the screen devoted to the desktop that you want to see and makes performing the most common computing tasks easy. Amazing marginal manipulation Automatically scales a printed margin so that it's not wider than the paper it will be printed on. Microsoft Firefox also includes a multi-page margin preview with live margins, resizing margins to avoid margin clipping, and an option to print only selected margins. Never have you seen a more robust margin technology in one small package. Instant search box Web searches using your favorite Microsoft search provider can now be entered into a search box within the toolbar. By eliminating the clutter of other search engines, you can easily choose a REAL reliable Microsoft provider from the dropdown list. Tabbed browsing View multiple Microsoft sites in a single browser window. Easily switch from one Microsoft site to another through tabs at the top of the browser frame. Seems plausible enough. Of course, it's in the area of security where MS Firefox really scores: Dynamic security protection Microsoft Firefox 2007 provides security through a robust new architecture, security features that help defend against malicious software, and new ways to better protect against the theft of personal data from fraudulent websites, a practice known as Googling. Third party opt-in Disables nearly all pre-installed non-Microsoft software to prevent potentially vulnerable controls from being exposed to attack. You can easily enable or disable required programs as needed through the Add-on Manager by using any valid credit card. Security status bar Enhances awareness of website security and privacy settings by displaying colour-coded notifications next to the address bar. Microsoft Firefox changes the address bar to green for websites bearing the Microsoft Partnership Certificate, indicating the site owner has completed extensive identity and friendship verification checks. Googling filter notifications, certificate names, and the gold padlock icon are now also adjacent to the address bar for better visibility. Googling filter Proactively warns and helps protect you against potential or known fraudulent sites such as Google.com, blocks the site and shuts down your computer if necessary. The filter is updated several times per hour using the latest security information from Microsoft. Delete browsing history Allows you to clean up cached pages, passwords, form data, cookies, and history of illegal warez and propaganda sites - all from a single window. Address bar protection Every window, whether it's a pop-up or standard window, will present an address bar to the user, helping to block malicious sites such as Yahoo.com. Parental controls To help keep kids safer online, parents can control browsing behavior through the parental control settings built into Microsoft Firefox with an extensive range of options - on or off. Force your child to browse educational Microsoft based content sites only. Teaching your children programming for "native Javascript objects for rich AJAX-style applications" has never been easier. Browsing sessions are automatically examined by Microsoft marketing representatives 24/7. Microsoft Firefox is available for download here. Please note it won't run on Mac or Linux. ® Bootnote Thanks to the many readers who alerted us to this shocking and quite unbelievable piece of news.
Lester Haines, 14 Nov 2006

AMD ships Stream chip and coding kit

AMD today attempted to liven up the world of scientific and engineering computing, launching its first Stream-branded GPU - a graphics chip designed to crunch non-graphical data - and a "thin hardware interface" to go with it dubbed 'Close to Metal' - a sort of Bon Jovi of the chip world.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006

Mars Global Surveyor goes AWOL

NASA engineers have not been able to contact the agency's Mars Global Surveyor space craft for more than a week. Speculation is mounting that the craft, which has been in orbit around the red planet for the better part of a decade, might be entering a terminal decline. The craft's communications with Earth petered out over several days. The last contact was on 5 November, two days after NASA instructed the craft to reposition its solar arrays to make the most of the sunlight. After that instruction, the craft returned data that suggested it had a problem with a motor. NASA engineers sent a command that should have switched on a backup control circuits and motor, but apart from a weak signal on the 5th, they heard nothing in reply. Engineers have asked for the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter to take a picture of the Surveyor to see if there are any visual clues to what has gone wrong. The working theory is that the orbiter has switched itself into safe mode and turned towards the sun to conserve power. It is possible that in doing so it has moved its communications gear out of alignment with the Earth. A picture of the craft may be able to confirm this. It is also possible, NASA says, that it was hit by a micrometeorite, which could have knocked its antennae out of alignment. The craft is programmed to turn its low gain antenna towards Earth if it has not received a signal for a while. This could mean it only has one solar panel in the Sun though, which would dramatically shorten its life expectancy. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Nov 2006

Lite-On unveils 'first' 20x DVD burner

Taiwanese optical drive specialist Lite-On IT has launched what it claims is the world's first DVD writer capable of burning discs at 20x speed - less than three months after Sony began shipping the first 18x DVD burner.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006

Punters suffer in broadband price war

Consumer research out today revealed what Orange and TalkTalk customers already knew: the launch of "free" broadband was botched. Some 1.5m new customers have come to broadband in the last 10 months with average prices pushed down 17 per cent by increased competition, according to online comparison site uSwitch. The pioneers of "free" broadband, TalkTalk and Orange, came joint bottom of uSwitch's broadband customer satisfaction survey though. It found overall levels of satisfaction have sunk 9 per cent since it last dipsticked the industry in May. TalkTalk did top the value for money ratings, despite the fact it is yet to connect tens of thousands of customers it attracted in the brouhaha following the launch of the "free" bundle. The firm was forced to start releasing disgruntled customers from their contracts to avoid further poisoning the brand. Orange, meanwhile, has suffered repeated large-scale and lengthy outages on its network. See here and here. uSwitch head of communications services Steve Weller said: "It's disappointing to see that the majority of providers are failing to accompany the growth in customer numbers by sufficient growth in customer service operations and the required investment in technology." And he should know. At Orange, Weller was responsible for the launch of "free" Orange broadband after it rebranded ISP Wanadoo. He told The Register while protestations from TalkTalk and Orange say their performance is continually improving (see here for TalkTalk boss Charles Dunstone's latest blog on his firm's problems), on the ground customers were still not happy. Vodafone will be arriving late to the bundle party in the new year, but has eschewed a "free" play in favour of throwing free technical support into the £25 cost. Vodafone's soon-to-be mobile operator rivals Telewest netted a clutch of first places for quality of connection, customer services, billing, and tech support. NTL customers, coughing up to the same shareholders, were still being subjected to some of the worst service, finishing up eighth out of 10 for overall satisfaction. Virgin.net punters, currently enjoying highest overall satisfaction, according to the uSwitch survey, can look forward to being assimilated into a single customer service organ when the three are integrated as part of the Virgin rebranding of NTL:Telewest next year. In the rapidly-consolidating mid-sized ISP field, Plusnet, once highly regarded, suffers worst in the customer satisfaction ratings compared to last time round. The Sheffield-based outfit's score nosedived 16 per cent on the back of a series of technical cock-ups and customer service gaffes reported on The Register. See here, here and here for an introduction. Plusnet topped the twice-yearly uSwitch survey only in May. The ISP's front end still trumpets the coup. The uSwitch online YouGov survey polled 11,205 UK broadband punters. ®
Christopher Williams, 14 Nov 2006

Vodafone exceeds expectations with multibillion loss

Vodafone has recorded a loss of £3.3bn for the first half of this fiscal year, but still managed to beat analysts' expectations. The gut-wrenchingly large loss was due to more writedowns in the first half of the year, the company says. Earlier this year, Vodafone recorded a record European corporate loss of £15bn, thanks to poor performances in Germany and Italy, whose effects are still being felt. Despite all the negative numbers, the company did grow revenue some 4.1 per cent to £15.6bn for the period. Earnings before tax etc (EBITDA) stood at £6.24bn, beating forecasts of £6.08bn. Falling turnover in the UK, Germany, and Italy was offset by growth in the US, the company said. Like-for-like, mobile revenues were up six per cent. Voda CEO Arun Sarin said: "Competitive and regulatory pressures in the European region have been offset by strong performances in our developing markets and the United States. We have also made good progress since May in the execution of our new strategy and the response to our new products and services has been very encouraging." After its distinctly unimpressive year end results for 2005/2006, the company announced a new strategy, under which it would consider offering landline-style calls on a mobile. It says some progress has been made on this path. It has also announced an advertising deal with Yahoo!, which will see customers receiving advertising on their phones in exchange for free mobile TV, web browsing, and cheaper calls. This is likely to launch in the first half of next year. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Nov 2006
homeless man with sign

Fujitsu Siemens proposes sticky solution to power crisis

Fujitsu Siemens' CTO has called on the IT industry to start offering meaningful power ratings, so that corporates and consumers can buy kit the same way they buy their freezers and washing machines. Joseph Reger, opening the vendor's annual jamboree in Augsburg, said vendors weren't doing enough to reduce power loss in their kit, or to help customers make meaningful comparisons. He slated white box kit, surprise surprise, for having power supplies that instantly waste as much as 50 per cent of power. He then admitted that in general power supplies can waste about 30 per cent of the power they draw. Client devices, especially mobile devices, could be tweaked to better manage power draw and waste, he said, though added that midnight updates often made a mockery of standby. Servers, on the other hand, are supposed to run at 60 to 70 per cent utilisation, meaning power management was less of a solution. However, he continued, often utilisation was more like six to seven per cent. Consolidation, virtualisation, and the use of blade architectures went some way to reducing server power consumption. But, he warned that cramming in too many blades concentrated heat, demanding air con, big fans, and other power hungry solutions. Sharing power supplies was one solution. More useful, he proposed, was the return of water cooling, whether at data centre, rack or chip level. But, what Reger really wants, is for IT vendors to submit to the sort of energy rating system white goods vendors work under. Anyone who's bought a fridge or washing machine recently will know what we mean - stickers with ratings from A to G, in handy, heat related colouring. "We need benchmarks, and we need stickers, on laptops, desktops and servers," Reger thundered. This is the sort of thing Europeans do very well, of course. But would the Americans play ball? As Reger pointed out, US energy costs are skyrocketing, and Google's energy bill is around $100m. With the likes of Hummer driving and California governor Schwarzenegger now touting his green credentials, the Americans may just have to come in line. ®
Joe Fay, 14 Nov 2006
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Intel EOLs Pentium, Celeron D CPUs

Intel has formally announced the end of the Pentium D 950 and 960 processors, company documents seen by Reg Hardware reveal. The Celeron D 315, 320, 325, 330 and 340 are all for the chop too, it seems.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006

Prison terms for phishing fraudsters

A new anti-fraud bill has been passed into law for England and Wales. The Fraud Act 2006 received Royal Assent last week and will come into force in early 2007. The new law aims to close a number of loopholes in preceding anti-fraud legislation, which the government said was unsuited to modern fraud. Until now there has been no single, general fraud law in English law, but an untidy mess of eight specific statutory crimes, such as "obtaining property by deception", and a vague common law offence of "conspiracy to defraud". Scotland does have a common law crime of fraud, committed when someone achieves a practical result by a false pretence. The Fraud Act introduces a general offence of fraud which can be committed by false representation, by failing to disclose information, or by abuse of position. The offence carries a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment. "The Act replaces the existing complicated array of over-specific and overlapping deception offences," said a Home Office statement. "These offences have proved inadequate to tackle the wide range of possible fraudulent activity today or keep pace with rapidly developing technology." Struan Robertson, a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons and editor of OUT-LAW.COM, said: "One perceived loophole in the old regime was the possession of computer files in preparation for launching a phishing attack." This is where emails are sent in bulk, purporting to represent a well-known brand in the hope of sending victims to a bogus website that tricks them into disclosing bank account details. Such 'phishing kits' have been available on the internet but difficult to prosecute. "That loophole is closed by the new Act," said Robertson. "When it comes into force, possession of such any software or data for use in a fraud could result in a prison term of up to five years." The Act also provides that writing software "knowing that it is designed or adapted for use in...connection with fraud" can result in a sentence of up to 10 years. "The new Fraud Act will make an important contribution to the fight against fraud," said Home Office minister Gerry Sutcliffe. "It will remove the deficiencies in the existing provisions and establish an effective criminal law that is flexible enough to capture the true breadth of fraud today." KPMG Forensic's Fraud Barometer reports that fraud levels in the UK are increasing dramatically. Fraud levels rose to their highest level in 10 years in 2005, to £900m that year. Already 2006 is proving worse, with £650m worth of fraud recorded in the first six months of the year, compared to £249m in the same period in 2005. KPMG's barometer measures the fraud levels involved in court cases in the UK where the fraud under consideration is greater than £100,000. Figures published this week by the UK payment card association APACS said that credit card fraud fell in the latest measured period, the first six months of 2005, from £219m to £209m. Online banking fraud increased from £14m to £22m in the same period, it said. See: Fraud Act 2006 (17 page/112KB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 14 Nov 2006

SMEs to get tech boost from trio of schemes

Three new initiatives aimed at helping small businesses make use of new technology are to receive €5m in government funding. Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin approved funding for the three schemes on Monday. The aim of the Knowledge Acquisition Grants scheme, the Innovation Vouchers scheme, and the ICT Audits programme is to boost the productivity of the small business sector by encouraging it to more actively embrace innovation and new technology. The schemes were designed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Enterprise Ireland, and the County and City Enterprise boards. "I am delighted to be able to announce that funding of €5m will be provided for these new schemes. As I indicated when launching the Report of the Small Business Forum, I am committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the forum to the maximum extent possible. Today's announcement is a sign of my determination to deliver on the promise of improving the environment in which small business operates," Minister Martin said. The Knowledge Acquisition Grants scheme is designed to develop the innovation capability of small companies. The scheme will be available to clients of Enterprise Ireland and the grants will be focused on companies which are formalising their research and development activities for the first time. Grants of up to €50,000 will be available on a once-off basis for projects up to one year. The ICT Audits programme will, over the next three years, allow several thousand small businesses to undergo a subsidised audit of all their information and communications technology systems. Upon completion of the audit, firms will be presented with a strategy for their business aimed at developing ICT skills within the organisation. The scheme will be administered by the County and City Enterprise Boards. Finally, the Innovation Vouchers scheme aims to generate innovation within the small business sector by helping them to work with institutions such as universities in researching ideas for expanding their business. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Emmet Ryan, 14 Nov 2006

Intel readies Core 2 Duo revamp?

Intel's plan to refresh its Core 2 Duo dual-core processor line in Q2 2007 appears to have been nudged back a quarter, if reports coming out of Asia detailing the chip giant's latest roadmaps are to be believed.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006
For Sale sign detail

Computacenter Factory opens

Computacenter has launched a new "library" service which it hopes will help reduce costs for its client-base.
Kelly Fiveash, 14 Nov 2006
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C# pulling ahead of Java

C# has come a long way since it emerged from Microsoft's mythical "Project Cool" back in 2000. It is the primary language of Microsoft .NET, and has pulled ahead of Visual Basic among professional Windows programmers.
Tim Anderson, 14 Nov 2006

Sony admits PS3 compatibility hiccup

Sony has yet to lend its voice to the argument, but independent commentators have claimed the consumer electronics giant sold just shy of 90,000 PlayStation 3 consoles this past weekend. Sony did admit that not all PSOne and PS2 games run on the new machine. Whoops.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006

Intel preps dual-core Conroe-based Pentiums?

Intel appears to have stepped up a notch its plan to ship Pentium chips based on its current desktop Core 2 Duo processor. Originally scheduled to debut as single-core parts, the post-NetBurst Pentiums will now be dualies, according to the chip giant's latest roadmaps.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006
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DCC expects healthy return

Ireland-based DCC has revised its full-year financial expectations after strong interim results for the six months to the end of September.
Kelly Fiveash, 14 Nov 2006
fingers pointing at man

OneCare slaps viral warning on Gmail

Faulty signature updates resulted in Microsoft's Live OneCare anti-virus service falsely reporting Gmail's website was infected with a computer virus. The false alert, which arose for a signature update issued late last week, meant OneCare users visiting Gmail were warned that the site was contaminated by a virus called BAT/BWG-A, News.com reports. Microsoft rectified the SNAFU with a revised signature update late on Sunday, but not before the issue had hit a significant number of users, as posts to OneCare and Gmail forums (here and here) show. The glitch often hits OneCare users updating to IE7, Virus Bulletin notes. The software giant has apologised for the false positive alert on the popular webmail service, which it attributes to mistakes in understanding coding changes made to Gmail last week. The software giant is reviewing its procedures to prevent a repetition of the problem. False positives among anti-virus packages is a problem by no means confined to Microsoft's fledgling OneCare service. In March, a faulty signature update from McAfee's falsely identified components of MS Office as a low-risk virus. In another similar incident, MS anti-spyware labeled security software from rival Symantec as a Trojan back in February. ®
John Leyden, 14 Nov 2006

Averatec unveils unsexy handheld GPS

Averatec has extended its Voya satellite navigation line with a mid-range model pitched at US motorists, hikers and cyclists who want something a little less snazzy looking than the likes of TomTom's Go and Sony's Nav-u
Hard Reg, 14 Nov 2006

Fixing phantom limbs with virtual reality

Amputees suffering from phantom limb pain could be helped by a virtual reality system being developed by scientists at the University of Manchester. Earlier research has shown that phantom limb pain can be alleviated by fooling the brain into thinking that it can see and move the amputated limb. The Manchester scientists have developed a virtual world in which patients have their missing limb replaced with a virtual one. The research has focused on a small group of patients who had lost a limb between one and 40 years ago. Two were upper limb amputees and two had lost parts of their legs. They all used the virtual world between seven and 10 times over the course of three months. Each session lasted for 30 minutes. The patients were fitted with special data gloves and sensors, and their head and arm movements were monitored. They donned virtual reality helmets and entered a world where they could see their missing limb restored. In this virtual universe, patients can move their fingers, hands, arms, feet and legs. They also have hand eye co-ordination, and can use their virtual limb to play ball games, the researchers say. The results shocked the researchers: four of the five patients reported improvements in the phantom limb pain, and much faster than the team had expected. Project leader Dr Craig Murray said: "One patient felt that the fingers of her amputated hand were continually clenched into her palm, which was very painful for her. However, after just one session using the virtual system she began to feel movement in her fingers and the pain began to ease." The team has presented the findings at a conference in Denmark on the use of virtual reality for rehabilitation. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Nov 2006
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Korean police break phone sex scam

South Korean police raided two local phone sex firms and arrested six people over allegations they hacked into the systems of competitors to harvest phone contact details. The group allegedly swiped personal data on 8.42 million customers of rivals before bombarding them with 100 million saucy text messages. The cybercrime division of Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency arrested six people including a 33-year-old hacker called "Lee", according to local reports. Two of the suspects, including Lee, have been held in custody while four others were released on bail. All six face charges of stealing personal information in violation of South Korea's Information and Communications Law. Lee allegedly used a Chinese hacking program called X-Scan to break into the systems of competitors an estimated 12,000 times. The group allegedly used Daepo phones registered under false names in order to send lascivious text messages without copping the bill. Each of the messages normally costs 30 Won (3 cents), so as well as hacking charges the group also face possible indictment for ID theft-related offences. Investigators reckon the gang targeted heavy users of other firms' phone sex services. The alleged crooks made 2.5bn Won ($2.7m) profit through the scam prior to their arrest, police allege. "This is the first time someone who broke into several servers at the same time and took personal information has been caught," police said. "Communication service companies can check out Daepo phones by confirming a client who used a phone excessively in a short time. However, their passive attitude has resulted in shifting losses to customers." ®
John Leyden, 14 Nov 2006
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Danish spam-filtering service goes titsup

Danish anti-spam service Spamache has gone tits up. Reg reader and Spamache subscriber Phil reports that the services stopped working on 5 October. The website became unavailable last week although its contents can still be retrieved from Google's cache (here). The reason for the collapse of the service, which received some positive reviews in the tech press, remains unclear. The email address and fax number used by Spamache for customer contact purposes have both been taken out of service. During its tenure, Spamache blocked 293 million spam messages. That's a small fraction of the number of messages blocked by higher profile services such as MessageLabs and BlackSpider. Nonetheless, the loss of the service is a blow to its limited number of subscribers, some of whom at least have been left out of pocket by Spamache's collapse. "The service was paid for in advance, but to be honest I miss its services more than I worry about the lost money issue," Phil said. ®
John Leyden, 14 Nov 2006
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Fujitsu Siemens latest vendor to roll in clover

Fujitsu Siemens clambered about Intel's Clovertown bandwagon today, announcing five servers based on the four-core chip. The vendor unwrapped two tower systems, the TX200 and TX300 S3, two rack fillers, the RX200 and RX300 S3, and the BX620 S3, a blade. The S3's are dual -socket designs, meaning eight cores humming away. Fujitsu Siemens Computer (FSC as it now likes to be known) is pushing the new devices' increased performance per watt - almost double, it says. Power, or rather the use of a lot less of it, is a big theme for the vendor at its Visit conference in Augsburg this week. FSC is also sticking the quad core parts into a brace of workstations, the Celsius R540 and R640. The R540 is Fujitsu's compact workstation and starts at €2,199. The €2,399 R640 is a larger workstation, which is, apparently, much quieter. It wasn't all about servers and workstations, though. The newly launched AMILO Pro V3525/V3545 Edition is, FSC claims, the first entry level notebook with UMTS/HSDPA. Starting at €999 the device has a 15.4 inch screen and an optional GeFroce GO7300 chipset. FSC says it will integrate UMTS/HSDPA in all its mobile devices "as quickly as possible". In parallel with this, it has struck a partnership with T-Mobile, which will see it ship SIM cards with all its mobile devices. Users will get a month's free service with the vendor, before being encouraged to sign on the dotted line. The scheme will kick off in Germany, but FSC hopes to roll it out Europe-wide. ®
Joe Fay, 14 Nov 2006
homeless man with sign

Obedient HP pops out quads

HP looks like the most well-behaved Xeon-based server vendor. Unlike rivals Dell and IBM, HP dutifully waited for Intel's "official" four-core Xeon announcement before revealing servers centered on the chip.
Ashlee Vance, 14 Nov 2006

Airlines to connect iPods to in-flight movie rigs

Six major airlines are to fit aircraft passenger seats with iPod docks, Apple announced today. US carriers Continental, Delta and United, along with Air France, Emirates and KLM, will begin adding iPod connectors during the middle of next year.
Tony Smith, 14 Nov 2006

Warwick uni in emergency email upgrade

The University of Warwick is upgrading its email system slightly ahead of schedule after a power outage temporarily downed its Novell GroupWise email system, permanently killing one of the boxes. The outage affected around 3,000 academic staff and critical services accounts. A spokesman for the college says rumours of a failing UPS system are "not entirely true". He claims that after the power failure, a backup generator failed to kick in, despite a successful test run just a week earlier. He told us the GroupWise system was the worst affected by the power problems. "Everything else was back up and running. It was obviously an inappropriate piece of software for us. It has been nothing but a headache since it was installed." A statement on the University's site explains: Major problems have affected some parts of the GroupWise email system used by staff and research students. Two of the Staff Post Offices - STAFF2 and STAFF3 - have experienced failures which are currently being worked on. In the case of the STAFF2 Post Office, the failure is serious enough that we are expecting a prolonged recovery period - sufficiently long that it will not be practical for those customers with email provided on that Post Office to wait for it to return to regain access to send and receive emails." The IT services team decided to shift as many accounts as possible over to a Microsoft Exchange pilot, ahead of schedule. Staff at the university are "really hacked off" with GroupWise and have no kind words for the IT services team: "I'm really hacked off with GroupWise and I'm really hacked off that IT Services didn't listen to us years ago," one self-styled 'heavy user' told us. "We told them that the system wouldn't be sustainable, and sadly we have been proved right." The IT boys, for their part, are keeping quiet. A team leader told us that none of them were authorised to make any statements about the failure. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Nov 2006
homeless man with sign

eSys elopes with Samsung after Seagate spat

eSys has signed a global distribution deal to sell Samsung's entire range of hard drives after getting the elbow by former partner Seagate. eSys was Seagate's largest customer, counting for about 5 per cent of its revenue or around $600m a year, according to Seagate. But in a financial report last week, Seagate revealed it had sacked the distributor for not allowing it to audit its books to check out some suspected "irregularities". In its quarterly statement to the Securities and Exchanges Commission, Seagate said eSys had admitted to "irregularities" in the way it had participated in a rebate scheme - when vendors pay distributors cash for marketing products. The vendor had wanted to audit eSys books to find out if its suspicions were justified. eSys subsequently denied this: "eSys strongly refutes any allegations of irregularities in its compliance of the Agreements," a statement said. "Over the last six years, eSys has been supportive of Seagate's and Maxtor's strategies, even at some cost to itself and its shareholders. Unfortunately, the intrusive nature of the audit would not be justifiable to our worldwide business partners under normal business practices." In its statement, Segate said it would still "aggressively" pursue its contractual right to to audit eSys' books and take action for any wrongdoing it found. But it looked like there might be a happy ending for eSys yesterday when it announced its deal with Samsung. "We look forward to working with Samsung and helping them achieve their business objectives in the most efficient way," eSys chief operating officer Neeraj Chauhan said in a statement. However, it remains to be seen how eSys will cope with the loss of a supermodel like Seagate, which had 70 per cent disk drive market in its thrall, even in the arms of a glamour model like Samsung. ®
Mark Ballard, 14 Nov 2006
channel

Rackable kicks off storage cluster play

SC06SC06 Rackable Systems has moved to make good on its storage dreams and aspirations with a new clustered setup. Okay, "new" probably is not the best word to use here. Rackable has basically taken the assets it acquired from Terrascale and turned them into the RapidScale SA3100 storage appliance. Rackable has aimed the box at customers looking to manage data spread across large Linux server clusters. The new appliance allows Rackable to throw all the storage buzzwords it likes at customers. It can now talk about dodging parallel file systems in favor of a clustered file system, a global namespace, and a shared pool of data. Rackable hopes the high-end storage talk will appeal to its existing server customers. The company has made a name for itself by selling Opteron-based systems to the likes of Yahoo!, Microsoft, and Amazon. Storage currently accounts for about 15 per cent of Rackable's $80m to $100m in quarterly revenue, and the company would like to see that percentage rise over time. That's why it grabbed Terrascale for $40m back in August. Terrascale's products have appealed to customers in the high performance computing arena – a segment that has been kind to Rackable as well. The SA3100 appliance ships as a 3U system that can store up to 8TB of data or provide 6TB of usable disk in a RAID 5 configuration. Rackable brags that the appliance can show near linear scaling with 200MB/sec of throughput for one box, 1GB/sec for 5 boxes, 10GB/sec for 50 boxes, and 25GB/sec for 125 boxes. The appliance starts at close to $39,000. In related news, Rackable unveiled 1U, 2U and 3U servers running on Intel's new four-core Xeon chips. There's more on the gear here. ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Nov 2006

First Data opens Glasgow call centre

US payments processor First Data announced it will open a call centre in Glasgow, creating 430 jobs over the next five years. The Scottish Executive has punted £2.3m in development cash to attract First Data away from international competitors. The firm sells point of sale and cash machine services to banks and card companies worldwide. Scottish Development International chief executive Martin Togneri said: "First Data is a key target to secure for Scotland. Its decision to locate here will help to reinforce and build the strength and breadth of the financial services industry in Scotland, sending a positive message to the industry worldwide." Worth £5bn, financial services now generate almost six per cent of Scotland's GDP having grown 36.5 per cent in the last five years. Which is nice. ®
Christopher Williams, 14 Nov 2006

Sex-allergic women offered lifeline

Women who suffer from an allergy to sex with men can mercifully be treated, according to a revealing report on LiveScience. The allergic reaction is apparently to proteins from the prostate gland, which can cause "itching, burning and swelling in the genitals", or the victim might suffer "hives or swelling ... elsewhere on the body and the woman might experience difficulty breathing". Nasty. Allergist and immunologist David Resnick of New York Presbyterian Hospital told the site: "It's really a very rare condition, but it does happen. Typically symptoms occur within 30 minutes of intercourse, but in rare cases it may be hours or even days later." Resnick added that around half of all women with semen allergy also demonstrate other allergies, such as skin reactions or hay fever. The majority of sufferers are between 20 and 30, with 41 per cent rather unfortunately copping symptoms the first time they indulge in a bit of boy-on-girl. He elaborated: "In most cases, symptoms gradually worsen and occur sooner with subsequent exposures." A University of Cincinnati study of 1,073 women "who sought information on semen allergy concerning their symptoms" discovered that 130 were indeed suffering from the allergy. Interestingly, some women only have an adverse reaction to one partner while others are allergic to all their paramours. Treatment for sex allergy involves either doctors applying "diluted samples of semen to a woman's vagina every 20 minutes, gradually increasing the concentration over the course of several hours", or sufferers can get "allergy shots containing small amounts of semen over the course of several weeks". Either way, there's some good news: both techniques require the patient to make the beast with two backs "two or three times a week", in order to "train" her immune system. ®
Lester Haines, 14 Nov 2006

Samsung launches DMB LCD TV, targets trendy couples

Register Hardware, 14 Nov 2006

BT to charge ISPs for lack of MACs

BT is to start charging ISPs which fail to provide departing customers with MAC codes - which help make moving provider seamless. Many internet service providers are slow or unwilling to issue the Migration Authorisation Code (MAC) to rival providers and as a result BT has decided it will start imposing a penalty charge of £33.75 from May 2007. It hopes that this will encourage ISPs to voluntarily issue the MAC numbers in order to avoid being charged. "If service providers participate in the MAC code process the cessation charges will not apply", a BT spokesperson told The Register. The MAC code should allow customers to switch easily between providers via BT's Openreach, which installs and maintains services for communication providers. But in many instances this is not happening and as a result Openreach has been footing the bill. This has also led to lines being cut off because the code had not been issued in time causing a break in service and frustration for the user. Mark Main, a senior broadband analyst at Ovum, said the lack of regulation means "there is no yardstick" and that "the industry needs to grow up". He advised that one possible solution is a model similar to that applied to the mobile industry, whereby providers are required to issue a PAC(Porting Authorisation Code) code within 28 days to rival operators. He also said that customers had to shoulder some of the blame and that a "buyer-beware" attitude was needed. "They should stop and ask the question:'what am I letting myself in for?'", he said. Telecoms regulator Ofcom is expected to provide guidelines to ISPs early next year. But while issuing the code between ISPs remains voluntary it is unlikely that all will participate. In related news, BT Wholesale Broadband is to cut its pricing structure once 1.5m lines have been unbundled, offering an alternative to Local Loop Unbundling (LLU) for service providers. It is planning to reduce its main product – BT Ipstream – by nine per cent from May next year. BT Wholesale head of strategy Cameron Rejali said: "These pricing proposals will help our ISP customers develop their business plans and compete effectively in the broadband market." ®
Kelly Fiveash, 14 Nov 2006
graph up

Linux Networx develops a LiSP

SC06SC06 Linux Networx wants to make supercomputers affordable for the Average Joe – or at least the Average Joe running complex crash/impact analysis. The hardware vendor this week launched a fresh line of LS-P systems, which it bills as "turnkey" kit for the high performance computing crowd. We were told that Linux Networx was "too busy" to brief us about its hardware, so we're going to do our best with the company's cryptic statement. Linux Networx uses a lot of phrases like "best-of-breed," "tightly integrated," and "time-to-productivity" to describe the LS-P gear. By this, we think the vendor simply means that it has certified specific sets of software to run on a specific server/storage/networking combination. And rather than selling you the disparate parts that make up this computing system, Linux Networx will assemble the bundle in-house and then ship it. The first LS-P boxes will be tuned for the computational fluid dynamics (CFD), crash/impact analysis and structural analysis crowd and ship in the first quarter of 2007. "LS-P systems performance tuned for ABAQUS, ANSYS Standard and LS-Dyna are available initially on platforms featuring Dual-Core Intel Xeon processors," the company said. "LS-P systems performance tuned for Star-CD are available on platforms featuring Dual-Core AMD Opteron processors." More LS-P kit for handling FLUENT and Metacomp Technologies products will arrive in the first half of 2007. LinuxNetworx has three LS-P configurations available, which you can see here. That is if you're not too busy to click on the link. ®
Ashlee Vance, 14 Nov 2006

Smartphones get a firewall

Trend Micro has a new version of its mobile security software out. Imaginatively named Trend Micro Mobile Security 3.0, it adds a firewall and intrusion detection software - the previous version was antivirus and antispam only.
Bryan Betts, 14 Nov 2006
For Sale sign detail

S&M saucepots want the Queen muffled

A diverse group of sexual adventurers and civil libertarians has joined in condemnation of that part of tomorrow's Queen's speech expected to propose banning "extreme porn", because the internet has made it too readily available for some people's tastes. The British government proposes a new offence of possessing extreme pornography under a Criminal Justice Bill. It is proposed that people found possessing porn of a violent nature should be imprisoned for up to three years. Backlash, a group of campaigners against the legislation, said today the law discriminated against consenting adults and offended Human Rights legislation. Those organisations that are, according to the legislation, dirty perverts because they oppose the new law include Feminists Against Censorship, the Libertarian Alliance, SM Dykes, the Society for Individual Freedom, and the Spanner Trust. Most organisations that responded to a Home Office consultation on the matter, however, wrote in support of the proposed law, while most individuals who responded were opposed to it, said the Home Office in its response (pdf) to the consultation in August. That is not surprising for legislation that, it is argued, favours collective morality over individual liberties. The Home Office also noted that those opposing the legislation said it would deny what would otherwise be dangerous men an outlet for their fantasies. The law does not propose to ban the act of consensual sexual violence, only the possession of a depiction of it. It will require a jury to determine that something was produced only for the purpose of sexual arousal, that it featured bestiality, necrophilia, or acts of violence that would be life threatening or result in a disabling injury, and that it had to be realistic. In other words British people will be able to watch depictions of violence against women, but not sexual violence against men. So the law would allow a film that featured a woman being hit in the face while having sex, or one man pumping another up the backside while a pack of dogs gnashed at their ankles, as long as the actors were not shown to be maimed beyond repair. And bad special effects might be all that was required for a film maker to avoid prosecution. "Now, you might not be into this sort of thing, but the question is, should the State get involved in the private lives of consenting adults who are?" said Backlash. Much of the debate cantered around the question of whether violently sexual pornography fuelled sadistic sex crimes. Without scientific evidence to back their claims that it one did lead to the other, the argument in defence was either anecdotal (policeman saying they suspected pornography led to crime) or moral. The first of these ideas, according to Backlash's website, was refuted by evidence that there was a lower rate of sexual crime in Japan and Denmark where such pornography was readily available. The moral position taken in support of the legislation was that violent pornography is simply not wanted in British society because it "creates a cultural context which devalues women’s humanity and dignity". Opponents say such pornography readily portrays women in positions of power over men who grovel in depraved subservience. Extreme depictions of such scenarios are no more depraved than graphic horror or war films. The accusation of hypocrisy is also slung at supporters of the law, most of whom protested on religious grounds, according to the Home Office. The argument of hypocrisy becomes easier every time something happens like last week's outing of Ted Haggard, the superstar American evangelical leader, who admitted to "sexual immorality" and buying drugs after being hounded over his earlier denials that he had been getting high and having sex with a rent boy on regular occasions for the last three years. His position of power among the faithful will no doubt gurantee his salvation. Thousands more people than usual are expected to tune into the Queen's speech tomorrow in the hope of hearing the old dear say the words "extreme porn". Players of Queen porn bingo (not to be confused with Queen porn players who also like to play bingo) will have their fingers crossed in case she says words such as "necrophilia" and "bestiality", which would win them bonus points. What do we think about this? We're not supposed to take sides, so we're sitting on the fence - and boy, does it feel good.®
Mark Ballard, 14 Nov 2006

Meet the world's most prolific spammers

Spamhaus has published a revised list of the world's 10 worst spammers. According to the anti-spam organisation, 200 professional spam gangs are responsible for 80 per of the high volume of junk mail pumped onto the internet every day. Public enemy number one is a Ukrainian known variously as Alex or Alexey, a prolific user of botnets, networks of PCs compromised with malware, to send out junk mail in association with a Russian spam gang called Pavka/Artofit. Alexey is involved in distributing child porn spam, among the many types of unsolicited junk he spew onto the net every day. The world's second worst spammer, according to Spamhaus, is Leo Kuvayev, who also works with Pavka/Artofit. Kuvayev was fined $37m for his anti-social activities by a Massachusetts court in October 2005. His present whereabouts are unknown. Spamhaus's number three offender, Michael Lindsay of iMedia Networks, runs a spam-hosting operation in the US that's used by numerous other junk mail firms. Down at number eight on the list, but well-known to law enforcement agencies is Western Europe, is Alexey Panov, an author of software used to send spam from compromised PCs and something of a Baron Samedi of botnets. Four of the world's most prolific spammers in Spamhaus's Register Of Known Spam Operations (ROKSO) database are from Russia and two are from the US. The other four members of the rogue's gallery are from Canada, Hong Kong, Israel and the Ukraine. Between them they push out a huge volume of junk mails touting porn, penis pills, loans, stock scams and other assorted tat. Much of the problem from spam stems from ineffective enforcement action by ISPs. A small number of large ISPs go even further by knowingly selling services to professional spammers, or doing nothing to prevent spammers operating from their networks through either corporate greed or mismanagement. Although all networks claim to be anti-spam, some can't resist the lure of selling services at a premium to spam operations. Others simply decide that purging botnet-infected machines from their network is too costly. Spamhaus names and shames the networks it reports as having the world's worst spam problems. Worst of the lot is verizonbusiness with serverflo.com and sbc.com picking up the second and three places, respectively, in Spamhaus' list of shame. Spamhaus also uses its spam blocklist database to pick out the countries that have become a "safe haven" for spam operations. As with a similar list compiled by net security firm Sophos, the US and China top the pile. Russia is behind Japan in fourth spot with the UK occupying the seventh berth. ®
John Leyden, 14 Nov 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Customers take Microsoft clusters seriously – true

SC06SC06 Microsoft has been knocked here and elsewhere for having puny clusters – the kinds of clusters people wouldn't dare show to the computational fluid dynamics experts in their families. As it turns out, the jabs against Microsoft's wee clusters might be unfair, according to none other than Microsoft.
Ashlee Vance, 14 Nov 2006