16th > November > 2006 Archive
Security attacks on smartphones have taken off this year, but many have gone unnoticed because they were not the familiar virus or Trojan attacks that grab headlines, according to a senior Symantec exec. Paul Miller, the boss of Symantec's wireless & mobile security group, said that although there have been Bluetooth-enabled viruses, attacks on mobile phones have shifted to target telephony-specific features. He highlighted spyware that sends premium SMS messages, and 'snoopware' - software such as Flexspy which can remotely activates the handset's microphone or camera to spy on its owner. He added that, in parallel with the malware trends on PCs, attacks on phones are shifting from pranks and vandalism towards financial gain - he included spying here, as it could be used for industrial espionage. "When we started seeing crimeware this year, we knew it's for profit now, not for fun," he said. "Mobile devices are like PCs in many ways, but they also face new threats." There's a number of reasons why phones are being targeted, he said: "First, your mobile phone is always with you, and where many people will have a laptop for work and another PC for home, most will only have one phone for both. "Plus, operating systems on mobile phones lag those on PCs by six years - and hackers attack the weakest link." The problem can only grow. Mobile phones will out-ship PCs by five to one this year, and are far more likely to be lost or stolen, according to statistics quoted by Symantec. Smartphones are in turn the fastest growing category of phone, with sales growing 77 per cent a year compared to 27 per cent overall. Conversely, Symantec's stats show that while 80 per cent of companies allow corporate data on handheld devices, only 25 per cent have so far addressed smartphone security. Miller claimed he was keen not to hype the problem up though, and added that it's not going to affect all mobile phone users - ordinary phones are much less of an issue than smartphones, for instance. "But any computer attached to a network needs AV, and a smartphone is a computer," he said, adding that IT staff need to target perhaps the top 5% of their users for additional defensive software such as firewalls and encryption, because they will be the senior execs and salespeople who keep critical business data on their phones. "Attacks are more targeted now," he said. "You don't attack a factory worker, you put snoopware onto the CEO or CTO." ®
Zune, the new digital music player from Microsoft, is not compatible with the software giant's new Vista operating system. Buried in the Zune website, Microsoft admits that the player is not compatible with Vista and gives no information as to when it will introduce a patch or update enabling the player to do so.
The rise of China combined with failing US education and tough visa systems means the US must surrender its superpower status and adopt a more multicultural worldview.
Dell today delivered a last minute disappointment to investors by delaying the release of its third quarter financial results. The delay comes as Dell tries to deal with an ongoing SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) investigation into the company's financial reporting. In a statement, Dell revealed that the SEC has elevated the investigation to "formal" status.
SC06SC06 A small software start-up thinks it might have "the little blue pill" necessary to keep massive clusters up and running at all times. Evergrid this week unveiled something called the Availability Management Suite, but you might as well call it cluster Viagra. The company’s software works to make sure that minor – or major – system failures don't hamper the overall completion of large computing jobs. In total, Evergrid helps you keep your cluster up, sturdy and strong for hours and even days at a time. Okay, we'll stop the bad "jokes" for a moment and get to the point. Evergrid is working off the premise that the high performance computing industry lacks the proper tools for restarting jobs on large clusters. Systems made up of thousands of boxes will have failures – plenty of them – and need a way to get jobs restarted automatically. Today, administrators must keep a close eye on their clusters, break jobs down into different chunks or try running jobs on smaller systems in order to avoid the pains of system failures. Evergrid tries to sidestep all this mess by running continuous "checkpoints" that capture the state of servers and their applications. If a failure occurs, the system can roll back to the last known state and then get cranking away on jobs once again. Some companies and labs have developed their own checking systems over the years, but Evergrid believes that the industry is begging for a standard here. Thankfully, customers will not need to rewrite any of their own software to make Evergrid's code work. The Evergrid "abstraction layer" slides in between an OS kernel and its applications. The checkpoints can then gather information on the state of memory, file I/O and the network at desired intervals. Evergrid CEO's Dave Anderson, speaking here at the Supercomputing conference, told us that the monitoring software could chew through as much as 5 per cent of a system's resources. He, however, pitched that as an Armageddon type scenario and claimed that more often than not administrators will not notice the Evergrid code. Come January, Evergrid plans to GA its Availability Services software and Resource Manager. Together, these products form the "flagship" Availability Management Suite. The Availability package performs the checkpoint operations, while the resource manager handles a broad array of tasks such as making sure certain jobs get a set amount of processing power and priority levels. We caught a demo of the Suite, and it worked as billed. An Evergrid administrator had three jobs spread across an eight-server cluster. The software could detect idle systems, throw them at jobs as needed and caught a failure when we ripped out one server. It stopped the one job that was affected and then got it up and running again in a couple of seconds on the available hardware. By the second half of next year, Evergrid hopes to extend out of the HPC market and target smaller business clusters. It's looking, in particular, at the database and application server markets. Such customers might flock to Evergrid's tools for stopping jobs and then restarting them on new servers. This would allow a company to juggle different jobs with more flexibility than they have today. For now, however, Evergrid will center on the HPC crowd that has enormous clusters built out of thousands of machines. Many HPC users deals with jobs that take days, weeks and sometimes months to process. They often have to restart these jobs from scratch due to system failures. Evergrid has one patent and another handful of patents pending that it thinks will protect its IP from overzealous Linux coders who might come up with something similar. Some of you will be familiar with the company's CTO Dr. Srinidhi Varadarajan who built the massive G5 cluster at Virginia Tech and is credited with banging out much of the special "checking" sauce. Evergrid claims two major customers at this point – an unnamed financial services company and the University of Oklahoma. The company has yet to set official pricing for its software, although Anderson guessed it will come in around "$250 per node with large volume discounts." There's more information available here. ®
SC06SC06 Sun Microsystems has birthed a smaller blade server chassis meant to appease the high performance computing crowd. The Sun Blade 8000 P takes up 14 standard rack units, as compared to the existing 19U Sun Blade 8000. The smaller size means that customers can pack three of the systems in a full rack and reach 1.2 Tflops of total performance. The wee chassis still holds 10 four-socket Opteron-based servers just like its big brother. Thankfully, customers don't have to make too many tradeoffs by going with the more compact kit. Each server that slots into the chassis has 6 PCI-Express slots, 16 DIMM slots and 6 hot swap power supplies. You can find all the specs here. While you can order the system now, Sun won't actually begin shipping product until February. Shortly thereafter, Sun should begin shipping a Niagara-based blade that fits into the same chassis. As reported first here, that blade has been dubbed the Sun Blade T6300. Sun has largely missed out on the rise of the blade server after having failed in its first attempt to crack the market. IBM and HP are the clear blade server leaders. Sun, however, has enjoyed some recent high performance computing success thanks to its Opteron-based gear, and the new smaller chassis should prove attractive to this demanding set of customers. ®
BT has offered £67m to buy internet service provider PlusNet. The offer values PlusNet shares at 210 pence each - they've been trading recently at about 200 pence. The shares have had a rollercoaster year - they've been as low as 100 pence and as high as 400 pence. BT said it was buying the company because "broadband is increasingly becoming more than just fast internet access and PlusNet has a strong reputation for both customer service and innovation". PlusNet hit the headlines this summer for network outages and for accidentally deleting customer emails. PlusNet CEO Lee Strafford said: "BT recognises the importance of retaining PlusNet's identity and culture and I believe this will give rise to exciting opportunities for PlusNet, our customers and our employees." The company has almost 200,000 broadband customers and some narrowband punters too. PlusNet will keep its brand, its CEO, Strafford, and its Sheffield headquarters. For the year to 30 June 2006 the ISP turned over £41m and made net income of £3.9m. Directors unanimously recommend the offer and have provided irrevocable undertakings to accept it. BT's statement is here. ®
The British Medical Association (BMA) is urging doctors to begin telling their patients about the new electronic health record. It published guidance stating patients should be made aware soon about how the record, a core element of England's NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT), will hold information about their health and medical appointments. Connecting for Health (CfH), the body in charge of NPfIT, is planning a public information campaign, but the BMA says efforts to let patients know about the NHS Care Record Service (NCRS) should begin now. In a letter to the medical profession, BMA chair James Johnson tells doctors that the NCRS will bring significant changes to the way patient healthcare information is recorded and accessed in the NHS. The BMA urges doctors to be fully aware of these changes so they can prepare themselves for the new system and help patients with any concerns or questions. Johnson said: "The BMA would like patients to be able to make a positive informed decision to share their medical records if they feel that is right for them. This type of approach will have the added advantage of providing an opportunity for both doctors and patients to check the accuracy of the information before it is shared. "Patients will need to make important decisions about who can access their health information. People with medical records containing information about unwanted pregnancies, mental illness and HIV status in particular, will need to be reassured that they have the right to keep this information between themselves and their doctor. "There has already been considerable publicity on the new health record, and until CfH puts in place a comprehensive public information campaign, we would advise doctors to start discussing the implications of introducing the new system to protect the confidential nature of the doctor/patient relationship at the heart of modern medicine." This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
This is the next article in our occasional series on new, more formal (mathematically-based) approaches to system development. The first article (here), looked at Bayesian analysis and formal methods (which are only "new" to the general development space, of course).
Orange and BBC World have extended their current mobile distribution offering by signing a ground-breaking global deal which will allow Orange mobile phone customers in eight new countries to watch the channel live. BBC World, the BBC's 24-hour international news information service will be the only English language news channel to be streamed live to mobiles in Belgium, Poland, the Netherlands, Romania, Portugal, Jordan, Egypt, and the Dominican Republic. Orange mobile customers in France have been able to watch BBC World for the past two years. Orange France recently signed a renewal deal to continue this relationship and also offer the channel to IPTV customers. The global agreement will allow Orange mobile broadband customers to access live breaking news wherever they are by watching BBC World on their mobiles. It also increases BBC World's new media distribution channels worldwide, encompassing mobile, broadband, and live streaming to PCs and airline seatback TV systems. Gerry Ritchie, BBC World's regional director and business development, Europe, Middle East, South Asia, Americas says: "Orange is one of the most forward thinking new mobile distribution platforms for television so we are thrilled to extend our relationship with them. This new live streaming deal makes our channel even more accessible to mobile users who like to keep in touch with breaking global news while on the move." France Telecom content division executive vice president Patricia Langrand says: "Orange was first in several countries to offer mobile TV to our customers. This agreement allows us to extend and enhance our mobile TV offer ensuring Orange customers have access to a variety of channels at any time. We are now delighted to increase the scope of our partnership with BBC World to include multiple territories." Orange mobile TV offers customers a multitude of television services and content, customers may view a variety of programmes on their mobiles including well-known soap operas, music videos and sports programmes. BBC World will be streamed live through 3G or EDGE networks. Copyright © Newswireless.net
Online attackers have started to experiment with embedding malicious code or links to such code in different video formats.
Supersexy mobile operator O2 revealed its glamourous secret to growing a dynamic converged communications operation: proceed with caution. O2 UK execs have watched with glee as Orange and TalkTalk's "free" broadband offerings have been widely reported as backfiring. Since it bought small ISP Be in June, O2 says it has been quietly working on local loop unbundling to ensure it works when it finally launches bundled mobile and broadband in the middle of next year. It announced that Be had unbundled 300 exchanges, covering under a quarter of the population. The plan was detailed at O2's annual strategy knees-up in London following results on Tuesday which must have had rivals at Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone sobbing into their cornflakes. The roll-out should be as free of cock-ups as possible, O2 says, and shoot for straight-up value rather than tricksy "free" marketing. O2 UK CEO Matthew Key said: "Customers are rebelling against free broadband. They associate free with substandard." Vodafone will be targeting the same perceived customer service weak spot in existing bundles after its recent about-face on broadband by announcing a bundle to launch in the new year. It had previously pontificated about its plans to be a "pure-play" mobile outfit. O2's calculated entry into the broadband market will be mirrored in its apporach to new technologies. Outside the Czech Republic, O2 has only dipped its toe into IPTV. Contrast that with BT, which is set to dive right into the market with BT Vision anytime now. Similarly in mobile TV, while Virgin has already launched the Lobster phone to a muted reception, O2 yesterday refused to be drawn on when it would enter the fray. The firm is conducting trials across its territories concentrating on building interactivity into the experience by combining DVB-H TV with 3G services. HSDPA has the beating of WiMAX, according to O2 CTO Dave Williams. When it begins punting converged mobile/broadband at consumers and businesses, O2 will offer shrunken 2G and 3G base stations as wireless routers rather than getting involved in unlicensed spectrum. O2 group CEO Peter Erskine said: "We back winners." That's despite apparently betting on web 2.0-style services to get paid-for content into user's pockets. The firm demonstrated its LookAtMe YouTube-style video service, which charges 35 pence per clip. Accepting the hype bubble surrounding long-tail monetisation of frat boy-generated video will burst sooner-or-later, Erskine denied O2 could suffer in the fallout. He told The Register: "We're not exposed to that at all." ®
Apple is preparing a notebook computer based on an AMD microprocessor, it has been claimed by - of all people - sources from within Taiwan's high-capacitance multi-layer ceramic capacitor (MLCC) manufacturing community, though the reasoning behind the claim isn't entirely clear-cut.
South African reseller DiData increased profits by 50 per cent in the year ended 30 September 2006. Turnover grew 15.9 per cent to $3.1bn and operating profit was up by 50 per cent to $85m. The company said network integration, converged communications, and security all helped it bring in a profit.
CommentComment In a decision with significant ramifications for the travelling public, the FCC has ruled that the Massachusetts Port Authority (Massport) cannot block a Wi-Fi access point in the Continental Airlines lounge at Boston's Logan International Airport. In its ruling, the FCC stated that the rules governing Over The Air Reception Devices (OTARD) stated that Continental Airlines was within its rights to provide free Wi-Fi services in its President's Club lounge located at Logan Airport. The larger effect of the ruling was to reaffirm that consumers and businesses are free to install Wi-Fi antennas without seeking approval from landlords just as they can install antennas for video and other fixed wireless applications. The issue arose last summer when Massport decided that for safety reasons, its competing $7.95/day Wi-Fi service would be the only one permitted at Logan Airport under the reasoning that competitive Wi-Fi services system posed a risk of interference with equipment used by state police and Transportation Security Administration officers. The FCC restated that unlicensed spectrum, such as the 2.4GHz on which Wi-Fi operates, has different standard interference protection than those used for public safety purposes. Massport officials have not ruled out further legal action. With all the fees, legitimately applied, that the agency has, including landing fees, retail space rentals, gate fees, concession recovery fees, tourism fees, passenger facility fees, and many more buried within its operating agreements, why does Massport feel it is entitled to coerce the business traveller to fork over another $8 for the privilege of using the internet while waiting for a flight? With its captive market, Massport is trying to insert itself again into the pockets of the traveller. It is amazing that Massport has not tried to confiscate mobile phones or force users onto a specific cell network as well. Clearly, this is a case of simple greed and arrogance. We think the FCC is right on this one: airlines should have the ability to offer Wi-Fi access to their customers, for fee or for free, without heavy-handed interference from the airport. Continental has paid the rent for the lounge space, and is not engaged in illegal activity, so that should, and hopefully will now be, the end of it. The value of Wi-Fi to the business traveller is substantial: it is an innovation that pays dividends for users, their businesses, and the economy as a whole in regained productivity previously lost to the opportunity cost of air travel. This reality is reflected in the numbers of access spots throughout the country, and the interest of some large cities to build out no-cost Wi-Fi networks that reach all incorporated limits. While some might believe that Massport misses the obvious value of ubiquitous Wi-Fi access, we reason that Massport very much understands the value of Wi-Fi service and its shameless attempt to corner the market is petty, very petty indeed. Nevertheless, some enterprising folk, including at one least Sageza analyst, have long circumvented the powers that be through the simple use of a GPRS-enabled mobile phone. GPRS, along with EDGE, EVO, and WiMax, are all competitive solutions to Wi-Fi, and unless Massport was planning to build the RF equivalent of the Berlin wall around Logan, these solutions would have easily encroached on Massport's shortsighted Wi-Fi policy anyway, thus reducing the value of its money-grabbing monopoly in the long term. Despite the best efforts of some to constrain or profit unfairly from the freedom of communication, in this case we believe the FCC has ruled in the best interest of users and the marketplace overall. Copyright © 2006, The Sageza Group
Book reviewBook review Everybody loves Ajax. Javaists, Rubyists, Pythonistas; even Microsofties get to play with Ajax in the form of Atlas. Book publishers love Ajax too, judging by the stack of new titles coming hot off the presses.
We can only conclude some Japanese employers are as parsimonious as their British counterparts and refuse to turn the heat up in offices during winter. How else to explain this trio of choice items designed to prevent computer users' getting chilblains?
HTC, manufacturer of rather a lot of the world's Windows Mobile-based smart phones, may be looking to break into the ultra-mobile PC market next year, according to a senior company executive. Unlike today's UMPCs, HTC's product would include full phone functionality.
Google Earth users can now view stunning satellite images of volcanic eruptions, dust storms, colliding icebergs, and other natural phenomena, thanks to a deal between Google and the European Space Agency (ESA). ESA announced that it has made 130 satellite images available to Google Earth to create a new layer of content. As well as the images, ESA is providing detailed scientific explanations and theories to explain the phenomena, and facts and figures about man made landmarks, such as the Palm Island in Dubai. Google Earth director John Hanke said the collaboration would give people access to some "fascinating information" that would help them understand more about their environment. ESA Earth observation programmes director Dr Volker Liebig commented: "The imagery has been specifically chosen to afford Google Earth users the possibility to tour the planet from a bird's eye view and to gain a different perspective and appreciation of their planet by witnessing its splendour as well as its vulnerable spots." He said he hoped the images would create public awareness of the work of the agency and create interest in space technologies "in particular for those related to Earth observation and the protection of the environment". The pictures have been selected from the library of images sent back by the Envisat mission, the largest environmental satellite ever built, and from the ERS and Proba satellites. Envisat uses three imaging sensors: Advanced Synthetic Aperture Radar (ASAR), Medium Resolution Imaging Spectrometer (MERIS), and Advanced Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR). Each has a specific task. MERIS takes visible light and some infrared images of the clouds and the planet's surface during the day, while the AATSR sensor measures sea and land temperature, tracking forest fires and mapping vegetation. The ASAR instrument uses radar to map the land and profile waves and ice. The data is used by scientists to track things like El Nino events, deforestation, and pollution. It also provides insight into rising ocean levels, ESA says. To find out how to access the content, point your browser here. ®
Sony's PlayStation 3 games console costs the consumer electronics giant at least $840 to make, $241 more than the $599 asking price, market watcher iSuppli has claimed. Its figure is its estimate for the cost of the materials and manufacturing, but Sony's R&D and marketing expenditure will surely push the console's unit cost much higher.
WSAWSA Naomi Campbell's former maid is suing the battling supermodel over claims that she called her a "dumb Romanian", the New York Times reports. Gaby Gibson, 40, filed papers on Tuesday in a New York court which allege Campbell subjected her to "repeated discriminatory assaults based on national origin". Specifically, Gibson claims Campbell asked her: "Romanians are not usually as dumb as you?" Gibson described Campbell as a "violent super-bigot" who "called her names and threatened to press charges for theft when the model was unable to find a pair of Stella McCartney jeans". Campbell was yesterday before the beak in Manhattan Criminal Court on a charge of assaulting another former maid with a mobile phone. She appeared for just five minutes, "dressed in a form-fitting empire-waist charcoal dress decorated with a black bow at the chest", as the NYT notes, before making good her escape in a black Cadillac Escalade. The DA's office and Campbell's lawyer are apparently working on a deal whereby Campbell will cop some community service in lieu of hard time. This will likely not, however, be purging New York's mean streets as did Boy George last summer - sentenced "to sweep sidewalks for five days...as punishment for falsely reporting a burglary at his downtown apartment" - since her lawyer David Breitbart "suggested that cleaning up was just not Ms Campbell's style". Breitbart said he hoped she might be sentenced to "community service in a hospital, like Memorial Sloan-Kettering or Mount Sinai". Campbell is due back in court in January to discover her fate. ®
A Swedish firm has secured $5.1m of funding to produce software that uses facial recognition to sort images on the internet with people's photo libraries. Polar Rose AB, of Malmö, Sweden, said in a statement it should release a beta version of its software in early 2007 after getting the money (worth €4m, or SEK37m) from Copenhagen's Nordic Venture Partners. The firm's Californian spokesman reckoned the software had some "intriguing social networking capabilities". The mind boggles. We gather that the idea is the software acts as a sort of search tool that finds images with certain things in them as one might use the Google toolbar to find documents with certain words. Polar reckons its Bloom™ face matching technology will be just one component of this. The brains behind the firm, founder and CTO Dr Jan Erik Solem, is pitching the tool as "bionic software", because it relies in part on its artificial intelligence to sort images, as well as input from the user. That might be a way of saying that computers aren't yet as clever as the human brain in sorting images, so they need some help. Though we weren't able to get in touch with Polar at the time of writing to confirm this supposition, it is worth noting that facial recognition software is not yet clever enough to do what many authorities running CCTV networks in Britain would like, which is pick a face out of a crowd and match it against a database. Polar is also pitching Bloom as a "disruptive technology". We'll hold them to that when they bring it round for a viewing in December. ®
We're obliged to reader Harvey for forwarding the following chilling image of a London Underground monitor at Baker Street station at around 8am on Tuesday morning: Nasty. According to this thread in MS's forums, the possible causes of the crash are "Yahoo Toolbar add on" or spyware. Our resident security guru John Leyden notes that iexplore.exe outrages are sometimes caused by adware, as noted here, and you should certainly keep a sharp eye out for the cunningly-named iexplorer.exe "AdClicker parasite". In the meantime, we suggest London Underground takes the usual remedial measures: reboot, sweep system for illicit .exes, and then switch to Umbongo Linux. ®
Slingbox maker Sling Media has completed the Symbian version of its SlingPlayer Mobile application, and today announced UK mobile phone network 3 will bundle the software with two 3G handsets when they ship on 1 December.
The SANS Institute released its annual Top 20 internet security risk list on Wednesday. Unlike previous editions of the long-running list, many security risks highlighted in the run-down are not dependent on operating system security bugs. VoIP service and phones, threats posed by fraudulent phishing emails, and web application flaws all figure prominently in the run down. Operating system and software application-related vulnerabilities still pose a serious threat, of course, and it's no surprise that Internet Explorer appears at the top of this list. A special category in the run-down highlights the threat posed by so-called zero-day vulnerabilities, security bugs that are the subject of attacks before vendors have gotten around to issuing a patch. The list, compiled by the SANS Institute in association with organisations such as the FBI, is designed to help sys admins prioritise security remediation work so they concentrate on the issues which pose the greatest threat to their organisations. The full run-down can be found here. ®
Small and medium businesses (SMEs) in the UK want to adopt new technologies but aren't sure where to go for information and often lack the skills to manage and implement projects, according to a BT report.
AMD is pitching its ATI Radeon X1000-series graphics cards as the ideal add-on for anyone who buys Microsoft's Zune media player. Separately, the company updated its Catalyst drivers package to version 6.11.
In the debate on software patenting, there is one point on which almost everyone is agreed: the current system is not working well. How to solve the problem and fix the system is where opinions tend to diverge.
As any defence expert will tell you, the aircraft carrier if one of the most potent weapons available to the modern international superpower - capable of raining fiery death on less well-endowed nations from a safe distance. They do have one shortcoming, however: getting close enough to launch swarms of angry aircraft can takes days, if not weeks, of urgent steaming. The solution? Simple: develop an aircraft carrier which can itself take majestically to the skies and put down in any suitable body of water: This remarkable vessel is currently moored on a lake near Shanghai. We assume that its vast, 220-metre-long body is levitated by the previously-theoretical hyperdrive, since that's certainly the only tech capable of lifting this particular behemoth: Interestingly, while the Chinese have evidently made a great leap forward in advanced propulsion systems, they let the US of A do all of the legwork on the ship's basic design: Yes indeed, that's the non-levitating USS Nimitz at anchor in San Diego - an uncanny resemblance, we're sure you'll agree. In summary, those readers who live by the sea, or any reasonably large lake or river should keep their eyes peeled for unscheduled flying aircraft carrier landings, presumably preceded by black helicopter reconaissance flights. ® Bootnote Good work by Mark Dorman in spotting this incredible ship. For the record, the real truth behind the Chinese flying aircraft carrier is out there somewhere. Happy hunting...
ReviewReview Plonk a Sparkle card based on Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTS graphics chip next to its bigger brother, the GeForce 8800 GTX - reviewed here - and you can quickly spot a couple of differences. The GTS is visibly shorter than the GTX - 23cm against 24cm - and it has a single six-pin PCI Express power connector sticking off the end, instead of the pair of side-mounted connectors that you find on the GTX...
Former HP chair Patricia Dunn surprised no-one yesterday when she pleaded not guilty to four felony charges relating to the spying scandal at her former employer. Dunn, who faces charges covering fraud, identity theft and conspiracy, entered her plea at the Santa Clara County Superior Court. Four other execs also implicated in the scandal entered their not guilty pleas at earlier hearings. According to reports, Dunn was accompanied to the hearing by her husband. She apparently chose not to speak to reporters gathered at the court house. Dunn has not always been so reticent. A month ago she wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in which she claimed she had been assured that the methods HP used to trace the source of press leaks were “legal, proper, and consistent with the HP way of performing investigations”. Just in case you forgot, HP’s investigators impersonated subjects to obtain their phone records, and considered placing spies in the offices of publishing companies. Dunn also went on primetime US news show to stick it to her former (male) colleagues, and to insist she’d always thought it was perfectly normal to call up a phone company and ask for someone else’s phone records. After initially fighting to keep the chairmanship of HP when the scandal first broke, Dunn finally resigned in September.®
NetSuite is putting itself to something of a public test with the recent announcement that TalkTalk Direct, the Carphone Warehouse-owned communications and free broadband provider, is using NetSuite CRM+ as the management platform for customer support.
We suppose we have to record the big news story of the week, covered by everyone from the New York Times down, that Microsoft is letting Universal Music Group get some revenue every time it sells a Zune player. The record labels have made it very clear that they resent Apple's success with its iPods, which they see as being sold on the back of iTunes, and their content. The only problem with going forward with Universal is that all of the labels will have "most favored nation" terms in their contracts and so will also want the same terms, while Microsoft cannot have such wording in its favour. Universal will get less than one per cent and insiders said they expect around $1 for each $250 device. If every major record label took the same amount it could be getting on for two per cent to three per cent of the value of the device, and as much as six per cent of the amount that Microsoft gets paid by a retailer. It makes turning a profit on the Zune far harder than on the iPod. Microsoft confirmed it would now offer similar royalty deals to the rest of the industry. But that cannot be the end of the story. Has Microsoft got better terms for the sale of each piece of music. In other words, will it reasonably recoup its lost dollar in music sales as they rise? Regardless, the Zune is scheduled to be launched next week. Another reason given for the reverse royalty is that this will compensate artists for loss of revenue through piracy. It is well known that iPods tend to carry copies of unprotected CDs and some pirated works, but this is just being used as an excuse by Universal. Why should its artists get recompense, and not those of the 2,500 or so independent labels, or the other major labels. That's what equipment levies are for, so Microsoft sells a Zune outside the US, in a country like Germany, which has storage high levies, and those levies are being paid twice over. It looks to us like this payment might be construed as an abuse of dominant position, and might get challenged, certainly in countries in Europe. You cannot be in a dominant position and ask for money for something that doesn't involve the sale of your product. If Universal tries this with Apple, Steve Jobs would, we are sure, have no qualms in cutting it out of a huge amount of existing music revenue. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Four people have been arrested in Spain over their suspected involvement in linked credit card theft and virus writing offences. Two 17-year-olds were arrested in Alicante on Wednesday and charged with writing a Trojan horse that allowed them to control the webcams of compromised machines at a local college. The duo allegedly used potentially embarrassing footage obtained through the ruse to blackmail victims. As part of the same inquiry (codenamed Operation Praxis), police arrested two adults in Madrid. Investigators reckon these unnamed suspects used the same strain of malware to pinch sensitive data from compromised machines for the purposes of ID theft. The pair allegedly ran up to €60,000 in fraudulent credit card bills before they were busted. Operation Praxis is not the first time Spanish police have faced webcam-related online crime, net security firm Sophos notes. In February 2005 a Spanish computer student was fined for spying on a young woman using her webcam, as well as monitoring her online chat conversations. ®
Money...nasty stuff, I know, and it seems sad to think that the fine arts of application development should be sullied by association with the denizens of Mammon. But that is also a key part of the real world that IT departments have to live in and, in the view of Daniel Magid, CEO of Application Lifecycle Management tools provider Aldon, it is about time IT departments and apps developers got their heads round this issue.
Two Jedi this morning turned up at the UN's London HQ to demand official recognition of their religion, The Sun reports. "Umada" and "Yunyun" - aka 27-year-old John Wilkinson and 24-year-old Charlotte Law - timed their "protest" to coincide with today's UN International Day of Tolerance, which they'd like renamed "Interstellar Day of Tolerance". Wilkinson said: "We have come here today to ask that we are recognised as the fourth largest religion in this country." Indeed, more than 390,000 Brits are practising Jedi, according to the 2001 census. Brighton is the country's principal centre of Jedi activity, with 6,480 professing to follow the faith. Chewbacca was also on hand to petition the UN, and said via translator Yunyun: "It is not fair that there are lots of different life forces across the galaxy that are not getting recognised." ®
Last week, Samsung held the official launch of its Mobile WiMAX product range - formerly known as Wi-Bro and now rechristened to emphasise its harmonisation with the international standard. Apart from an array of trialists and potential customers - including, significantly, NTT DoCoMo and Clearwire - the spotlight was largely stolen by the first dual-mode WiMAX/CDMA device, a product that Samsung claims could replace the PC in the same way that personal broadband networks like 802.16 will replace the fixed, PC-connected internet link. That idea is nothing new of course, but Samsung's SPH-P9000 device - running Windows but looking very little like a traditional PC-oriented PDA - highlights the key issue: will the PC's mobile successor be a Windows device in a new form factor, or an entirely new beast owing a greater debt to the cellphone? For Microsoft, the answer is critical, since Windows is still not a natural fit for a mobile platform that has no PC heritage. Its future success lies not in religiously promoting the PC/PDA model of device - especially in consumer markets, where expectations of user interfaces and functionality are changing rapidly and are not dictated by Wintel - but in making Windows as adaptable as possible to devices of all descriptions, rather than tying itself to PC-style functionality or the Intel roadmap. So far, while enthusiastic about Wi-Fi, it has been hesitant on WiMAX, but the future of Windows in the mobile world will be safeguarded by its supporting all the new broadband wireless networks. A sign that it may be taking this on board, and taking new interest in 802.16, comes with a joint development with chipmaker and OFDM specialist Runcom to create a set of Windows Mobile drivers for WiMAX. The aim of this venture is to prove that WiMAX can be a plug and play environment, as it has promised in the past, and to give Runcom's 802.16e CPE chipset an edge over its rivals - chief among them France's Sequans and, in future, Intel - by incorporating Windows support at an early stage. With Samsung also running Windows, and the first WiMAX PDAs geared to enterprise users, this could be a major opportunity for Microsoft to steal a march in this sector and establish a lead for its operating system that it has been denied in other mobile arenas because of the dominance of the handset majors such as Nokia. With Nokia out of the WiMAX CPE picture for at least another year, Microsoft should look to ally closely with the early entrants - subscriber unit chipmakers like Runcom and device manufacturers like Samsung and LG - to gain a first mover advantage. Runcom claims that users will be able to connect Windows Mobile 5.0 devices to 802.16e networks simply by inserting a Mobile WiMAX CompactFlash or USB card (such as its own RNE200 CF card) without downloading or installing drivers. Runcom VP of marketing Israel Koffman called his company's collaboration with Microsoft "a very significant step" toward making OFDMA a mass market technology. In the short term, multimode devices that allow users to roam from WiMAX to Wi-Fi and cellular networks will be even more important in creating early market mass, and this is where Samsung is leaping ahead as it seeks to exploit the headstart that it gained when the Korean Wi-Bro technology was chosen as the basis of 802.16e. It has already reaped some benefits from that situation in the infrastructure side, powering the first commercial mobile WiMAX service, run by Korea Telecom in Seoul, and of course winning part of the huge Sprint Nextel contract. In Seoul last week, the electronics giant was focusing more on its greater strength, mobile devices, where it also aims to steal a march on Motorola and Nokia by launching products that conform to the first generation of the 802.16e standard - basically Wi-Bro - rather than waiting for the more sophisticated second wave. The SPH-P9000 boasts CDMA EV-DO, 802.16e and Bluetooth capabilities as well as a folding qwerty keyboard, 1.3megapixel camera and music player, and Windows Mobile - positioning it, as Samsung says, as an alternative to the PC, and "the only device a user needs" for both work and leisure. The product comes with five-inch WVGA screen and 30Gbytes hard drive, and weighs just over one pound. It will ship in early 2007. The next generation of the device will run on Intel chips. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Put a note in your diaries: this weekend the Leonids are coming to town. Although the meteor shower won't be as spectacular as it was in 1998, or in 2002, it should still be worth watching. The only down side is that the most intense part of the show will only last for a few hours, reaching its peak at the utterly horrible time of 4:45 (GMT) on Sunday morning. By then, the meteors should be visible at a rate of around 150-200 per hour, so all you have to do is hope for clear skies. The Leonids, so called because they seem to come from the constellation of Leo, are actually the debris left behind by the once-every-33-yearly passing of Comet 55P/Tempel-Tuttle. This year, we'll be passing through a trail that was left behind by a visit in 1932, according to New Scientist. The trail is much dustier than the very rocky section we got in 1998, so we'll see fewer, and fainter shooting stars. The shower should be visible in Europe, Africa, parts of the North America (north-eastern parts), and Brazil. ®
Several major corporate websites in the UK and parts of Microsoft’s MSN service and Hotmail have been down today. A spokeswoman for Natwest said: “Yes, we’ve been having DNS (domain name server) problems today which have stopped access to the website. We’re still working on fixing the problem.” Sky.com, skybroadband.com and Telstra Europe were also affected. A spokeswoman for Sky blamed the problems on PSINet – the backbone provider bought by Telstra Europe. PSINet was unable to comment when we called them. The Internet Traffic Report showed an outage at BT's Ilford core router. A spokesman for BT said he was not aware of any major network problems today.®
A video apparently showing a UCLA student being tasered by University of California Police Department (UCPD) officers has found its way onto YouTube. According to a report on the university's Daily Bruin, the incident occured at around 11.30 pm on Tuesday when security officers at the Powell Library CLICC computer lab "asked a male student using a computer in the back of the room to leave when he was unable to produce a BruinCard during a random check". When he didn't immediately vacate the building, the security operatives returned with police officers to escort him from the premises. The Daily Bruin continues: "By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well. "The student began to yell 'get off me', repeating himself several times. "It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition." The video shows the tasered ne'er-do-well shouting "Here's your Patriot Act, here's your fucking abuse of power", while refusing to get up. Shortly thereafter, the cops tasered him a second time for his trouble. Students who protested at the treatment were themselves threatened to keep their distance or cop a tasering. Laila Gordy, "a fourth-year economics student who was present in the library during the incident", claimed officers threatened to zap her "when she asked an officer for his name and his badge number". Eyewitness David Remesnitsky said of the incident: "It was the most disgusting and vile act I had ever seen in my life." The student was later named as 23-year-old Mostafa Tabatabainejad. According to a report on NBC4.tv, he was given "a citation for obstruction/delay of a peace officer in the performance of duty and then released from custody". A UCLA police sergeant who saw Tabatabainejad after the incident claimed he had not suffered serious injury as a result of the tasering. He said: "If he was able to walk out of here, I think he was OK." The UCPD released a statement yesterday afternoon, in which spokeswoman Nancy Greenstein explained: "This is a longstanding library policy to ensure the safety of students during the late-night hours. The CSO [community service officer] made an announcement that he would be checking for university identification. When a person, who was later identified as ... Tabatabainejad, refused to provide any identification, the CSO told him that if he refused to do so, he would have to leave the library. "Since, after repeated requests, he would neither leave nor show identification, the CSO notified UCPD officers, who responded and asked Tabatabainejad to leave the premises multiple times. He continued to refuse. As the officers attempted to escort him out, he went limp and continued to refuse to cooperate with officers or leave the building. "The officers deemed it necessary to use the Taser in a 'drive stun' capacity. A Taser is used to incapacitate subjects who are resistant by discharging an electronic current into the subject in one of two methods: via two wired probes that are deployed from the Taser, or in a 'drive stun' capacity by touching the subject with the Taser. In this incident the student was not shot with a Taser; rather, officers used the 'drive stun' capability. "The entire incident is under investigation, and a case will be presented to the City Attorney," Greenstein concluded. ®
Hong Kong-owned mobile outfit 3 is having another crack at convincing everyone mobile internet will take off by abandoning the traditional operator pricing blueprint. At a flashy launch in London today, 3 said it was marking a "historic day" for the mobile internet. Canning Fok, MD of parent company Hutchison, vowed 3 would press ahead with pioneering the web on mobiles, ruling out a sell-off. He told reporters: "The time for a flotation is past." Without giving full details, 3 announced the first commodity-style pricing model for mobile data. There'll be no by-the-minute or by-the-byte billing, rather "it's free when you see it", meaning you pay for the pipe not the data. There will be fair use caveats though, including a higher access charge for high bandwidth video. 3 has a bunch of big internet hitters on board. Partner deals with Google, Microsoft, Yahoo!, eBay/Skype, and Orb have ensured their services are optimised for handset screens. Plans to bring Skype to mobile were announced by 3 back in February at the 3GSM conference in Barcelona. On the surface offering an alternative to traditional voice calls is the bravest part of 3's new internet play. Ovum principal analyst John Delaney said: "Everything about the internet that worries the mobile operators is here. Flat-rate data tariffs remove the link between service usage and end-user revenue. VoIP undermines mobile voice revenues. Instant messaging offers text messaging at a fraction of the price of SMS." Elsewhere, Slingbox signed an exclusive deal to allow users to stream their TV direct to 3 mobiles. With mobile TV yet to prove its real world viability, this could be a canny tie-up from 3 and Slingbox. 3 gets to allay the costs of investing in further infrastructure and its customers get the wider choice of channels available to them at home, if they own a Slingbox. The push will be branded "X-series" and will kick off with a handset a piece from Nokia and Sony Ericsson, which will be in the shops in time for Christmas in the UK and in Q1 2007 in 3's other territories. The cash Hutchison is hurling at mobile broadband so early in the game is typical of its swashbuckling history of investment in the mobile industry. It's a dead cert the burden of risk is being shouldered by 3 rather than its big name partners. If anyone was going to properly break the ice on mobile broadband it had to be 3 with its big money backing. Global omnicorp Hutchison coined $31bn in 2005 revenues from everything from Canadian oil to Hong Kong hotels. Of course, its not the first time 3 has told us it's revolutionising mobile internet. Today Fok was candid about failures in services, handsets and pricing. And this time round it's going to be great. Honest. ®
I found the Reg Technology Panel survey especially interesting as I've just been discussing a similar survey made by the UK Oracle User Group (UKOUG), with almost double the number of respondents, with Ronan Miles, UKOUG chairman. Both surveys are professionally carried out, yet they have different results. This is almost certainly the result of different sample selections (OUG members are probably dedicated Oracle professionals, especially as the OUG ruthlessly prunes respondents with silly email addresses; our Technology Panel has wider membership) and question semantics (a minor change in wording could easily change an "over half" positive response to an "under half" one). Nevertheless, it does make noting down the results to three sig figs a little pointless for a general audience (the OUG is interested mainly in its own members, of course). Especially when surveys deal with terms like "happy" and "very satisfied" I'm much happier reporting that "most" or "around half" of the committed Oracle users (UKOUG members) surveyed "...were happy with..." instead of "...47.6 per cent of respondents were happy..." which perhaps conveys more precision than it should. And, of course, trends in the results over time would be more interesting than the absolute results, something that the UKOUG hopes to work on now it has five years of results. So, what does the UKOUG's survey tell us?
SC06SC06 Mercury Computer Systems continues to astound us with its pragmatic, humble approach to the high performance computing market. Many of you likely only know Mercury because of its Cell processor partnership with IBM. Mercury has been selling a dual-socket Cell-based blade server that slots into IBM's Blade Center chassis, and IBM has since resold the same system as its QS20 blade. Playing in the Cell market brings a lot of baggage, especially when you're the only real IBM Cell server partner in town. Reporters – yours included – have heaped press upon Mercury, tying the company to the glory and hype that follows the unique gaming to supercomputing Cell chip. "We don't mind the attention, but that's not what we're all about," said Joel Radford, a Mercury VP, in an interview here at the Supercomputing conference. Mercury has embraced the HPC market in all its current shapes and sizes. The company has FPGA gear and calls GPGPU (general purpose GPU) kit "old hat," having sealed a deal with Ziehm Imaging around the technology. Now Mercury hopes to see what ATI/AMD and Nvidia have to offer on the GPGPU front. Mercury tells us that it's not tied to Cell at all and will focus on finding the best overall performance and performance per watt products. That said, it has a number of new Cell systems coming in 2007. Starting in January, customers will see a dual-socket 1U rackmount server that's aimed at HPC customers. For the first time, users will be able to create Cell-based clusters with relative ease and by using a form factor they're used to. In addition, Mercury will ship a Cell Accelerator Board (CAB) that plugs into a PCI Express slot. University lab, media and medical imaging types are the target audience for this meaty board that chews through 210 watts – more on that later. Then, in the middle of next year, Mercury will ship a ruggedized Cell-based server for the military. Rivals have knocked the Cell chip for being tied to single precision floating point and for its heat consumption. Sticking to its pragmatic roots, Mercury admits the single precision floating point limitation hurts its broader market chances for the moment. "But there are a heck of a lot of customers working with single precision floating point that can use our help now," Radford said. The Cell chip should also show a "dramatic improvement" in double precision floating point performance by mid-2008. On the heat front, Mercury dismisses critics. The company argues that Cell boards – while toasty – show a dramatic performance per watt edge over general purpose chips, especially when you begin clustering large numbers of systems. Moving to Cell systems can also give customers more flexibility. Researchers at Boston University, for example, had been dependent on sharing time on a large cluster. Now, however, part of the Biomedical Engineering group has moved off the cluster and onto a single Cell-based server that's all their own. Beside convenience, the group has seen a dramatic speed up as its jobs now finish in three minutes rather than three weeks. To prove that its Cell pitch is starting to pay off, Mercury plans to announce "two to three big design wins" in the next couple of months. The wins should be for 1,000s of units, Radford said. ®
You know how these things happen. A representative from a customer is wheeled in by some major vendor to demonstrate the efficacy of their wondrous technology, while the assembled audience smile politely and pray for the coffee. That’s what happened recently in Raleigh, North Carolina, where IBM was demonstrating the efficacy of its Blade servers, and Gregg Ferguson, Kilo Client manager at Network Appliance, had the job of showing it all in dynamic action.
BEA Systems is out of favor on Wall Street amid growing concern it's losing business to IBM and Oracle and growth is being fluffed out by services. The company's shares tumbled 17 per cent by early afternoon trading the day after reporting preliminary results that narrowly missed analysts' expectations. Merrill Lynch cut BEA's share price targets, telling clients the stock is overvalued and that the company's growth is being eclipsed by IBM and Oracle. According to Merrill, "evidence of decelerating license growth mounts". BEA on Wednesday reported 19 per cent revenue growth to $347.7m for its third quarter - Thompson Financial expected $348.7m. Worse, revenue from sales of new software was beaten by services. Licensing grew 12 per cent to $136.4m compared to services, which increased 24 per cent to $211.3m The company did not say whether growth is coming from its existing WebLogic business or companies acquired for AquaLogic. Also, BEA has not reported full results because of an internal review into stock option grants. BEA expects fourth-quarter revenue between $378m and $392m. Analysts are expecting $382.3m.®
I'm no survey enthusiast (in fact, as readers must realise by now, I'm pretty cynical about survey usage in the PR industry) so I thought I'd ask Dale Vile, our resident survey guru, about some of the points I raised about a recent UKOUG (UK Oracle User Group) survey here. How might the Oracle user sample in the UKOUG survey differ from yours?
Borland Software will retain control of its tools operation after failing to find a buyer during an eight-month search.
An IT boss, dismissed from a firm years earlier, faces hacking charges after he allegedly snooped on email traffic at the company before passing on messages to workers whose jobs were in jeopardy. Stevan Hoffacker, 53, was arrested in New York on Wednesday and charged with a computer-hacking offence against Source Media, a publisher of finance magazines, where he worked as director of IT and later VP of technology until his dismissal three years ago. If convicted, he faces up to five years imprisonment, AP reports. Prosecutors say Hoffacker used his knowledge of the email account user names and passwords of senior execs (which hadn't changed in the three years since he left Source Media) to spy on their email conversations. When he came across correspondence discussing the possible termination of two workers he allegedly forwarded this information from a Yahoo! account in August and September. This alerted Source Media to the fact it had a serious security breach on its hands, which cost is an estimated $100,000 in legal and IT security costs, and spurred the police investigation that led to Hoffacker's arrest. ®