22nd > November > 2006 Archive
Vodafone has acquired Aspective and Isis Telecommunications Management; two UK-based consultancies that specialise in the mobilisation of customer relationship management and sales force applications, as well as providing telecommunications services to small and medium businesses.
Carphone Warehouse has tapped storage newbie 3PAR for 24TB of virtualised disk storage. The replicated pair of 3PAR InServe S400 disk arrays will provide virtualised storage as part of Carphone's move to a utility data centre. They replace IBM ESS-800 storage boxes and will support critical applications such as Carphone's Oracle-based retail software, Carphone enterprise architect Steve Gall said. Gall added that as well as being cheaper than IBM, the 3PAR storage can stripe data across the disks available to it, providing better performance. "We migrated to Oracle 10g on the ESS and were finding performance problems," he said. "We're not getting the same problems with 3PAR - 90 per cent of the software is running faster now." Other advantages over ESS include the ability to provision storage much more quickly, and simpler management, he said. "Our guys had half a day's training from 3PAR, and they find it adaptable and easy to use - you don't have to have highly skilled SAN technicians in place," he explained. "With IBM's management software, you've got to be a storage professional to use it." He added that 3PAR's thin-provisioning - where physical capacity is allocated to a logical volume only as it is actually required - is already producing cost savings as it means that snapshots take up less disk space and happen faster. "A major thing for us is we can do regression testing on a 2TB database in minutes, where it was taking days," he said. Carphone looked at other storage platforms, including NetApp and Kashya, before picking 3PAR. Gall added that, following a proof-of-concept project with its partner Computacenter, Carphone is now putting the necessary technology in place for its utility data centre, including IBM Power5 servers and Intel-based systems running Linux and VMware. The plan is to consolidate 200-odd systems into virtual machines running on physical servers at a ratio of 25 to 1. The project also includes software called Enigmatic to automate the process of moving and resizing virtual machines, Gall said. Among other things, it will enable non-production servers to be converted into failover targets for the production servers, as needed. ®
UK registry owner Nominet is this morning holding its second extraordinary general meeting in a year in Oxford in an effort to expand its business and modernise its processes. Following a disastrous attempt eight months ago to rewrite its corporate make-up, where the company faced a revolt by members of its own advisory board and had the rug pulled from under its feet by its largest stakeholders, Nominet has gone back to the drawing board and put forward only the two changes that have proven most popular with its members. The first will allow the company to pitch for business outside its core role of running all .uk domains. In particular, Nominet wants to win the contract to run the UK's upcoming ENUM system, which should contact the telephone system directly with the internet. And secondly, Nominet wants to be able to run ballots electronically - something it is restricted from doing at the moment and feels is a ridiculous constraint, especially when it exists on the cutting edge of internet technology. Despite the general popularity of the changes, however, CEO Lesley Cowley told us that the EGM remained "a bit of a test". Nominet has changed its voting rules to ensure that its largest shareholders don't hold an effective veto, but even so it needs 75 per cent of votes passed to get the e-voting change, and an unwieldy 90 per cent to pitch for the ENUM contract. The reason for the rush is that the ENUM contract will be decided before Christmas, and Cowley openly accepts that the vote is the "last chance" for Nominet to win it - and for a non-profit company to run what could become an important infrastructure and opportunity for Nominet members. "Not everybody realises the potential effect of ENUM," warns Cowley. If that measure passes, Nominet also hopes to bid for the .eu contract when it is rebid, but Cowley dismisses any suggestion that it will end up competing with its own members. "We are a registry, we are good at running big databases, the idea that we would compete with members is a red herring." However, she is also unhappy about the suggestion that Nominet formally states it will not compete with members: "VeriSign is a member, for example," Cowley says, referring to the company that runs the dotcom and dotnet registries. "It would be a bit strange to state we wouldn't compete with members on that basis." As for the e-voting issue, Nominet hopes it will help solve one of the company's main problems: the extremely low level of interaction members have with it. Despite the importance of the changes, less than 15 per cent have voted so far. Ironically, the fact that Nominet is obliged under its current rules to send out a paper ballot for any changes and record only those papers physically sent back, is a major reason for a low member turnout among companies that exist entirely within the electronic world. Cowley isn't sure members realise that until the changes go through it is not legally allowed to make the process easier. She, and Nominet, will be hoping the issue is rectified this morning. ®
LettersLetters Lots to cover today, so let's get right to it. We start with a dig at Scott "The Green" McNealy, who described this week how he and Sun could stop global warming armed with nothing more than a bic biro, a used washing-up liquid bottle and some sticky-backed plastic (OK, maybe that wasn't quite what he said, but you know what we mean): Interesting article about Scott McNealy telling people how energy efficient their new chips are - would he like to explain that to the people of Farnborough who have had to endure weeks of roadworks, where more power cables have been laid in to supply even more power to Sun Microsystems who have an HQ near Junction 4a of the M3. Keep up the good work. Cheers, Matt Your analysis of Nintendo smashing as a route to fame and fortune follows: I read with a mixture of amusement and horror the story regarding the two snorkeldicks who purchased a PS3 and then sledgehammered the thing to pieces. I noted that their financial model included the purchase of a second, bigger, 60GB model that they hope to sell on eBay to cover the cost of the wantonly destroyed 20GB version. However, I would imagine that the team of console crunching show-offs have not factored in the royalty payments or the MPA-initiated, court-extracted compensation for the use of the Franz Ferdinand music that plays almost throughout the currently available video clip. If you are going to produce a video that you expect or want to be a high-profile news story, then for God's sake don't nick the incidental music off a commercial CD. Nige. Will spammers kill themselves off with their continued fake stock plugs? We hope so... There's actually a bit more to this story than you write. A couple of months ago I started analyzing the stock scams coming into my mailbox since they're almost impossible to filter out. I noticed the same trends that you did, with one important observation: They keep pumping the SAME stocks! For example, I know that there have been at least *four* campaigns to push up [a particular stock], as I've gotten at least that many. (I stopped bothering to track it at that point!) I can see a PND working once, but once you see the exact same stock pumped four times, OF COURSE nobody is going to pay attention! So it's a combination of laziness and stupidity on the part of the spammers; they're killing their *own* scam. Vince "but investors willing to make a habit of buying spammed stocks and losing money are certainly in short supply. " A fact which the lawyer acting for the third cousin of the ex-wife of the late General Sani Abacha will surely testify to as he turns to earning an honest crust.................... Tim Who wants to do more status reporting? Yeah. Line up those metrics. Yeah. Yeah, anyone can see the men who thought this up are not the people actually doing the work. It's total panic (including much stress and unpaid overtime) to get the quarterlies out on time as it is. Doing that on a weekly basis would probably more than double the administrative overhead for a listed company, be more prone to error, and then you've got the problem of auditing it. The auditors would have to be present practically full-time. In a situation like that, people tend to "go native", it's only human (even in auditors). What price independence and objectivity? Someone's been reading the more excitable Internet gurus with their sense of reality switched off. Technically it's no doubt possible, but the figures would be worse than useless. Rose You argue that the police's latest way of dealing with students has its merits: "As the officers attempted to escort him out, he went limp" The commie bastard! No wonder they tasered him - it's the only language they understand... James A judge handed a conviction over to a pair of information tea-leafs. You wondered if the learned Lord was punishing the right people:
By phoning organisations and often posing as employees, the couple were able to obtain bank account details, income tax information, and ex-directory telephone numbers of their targets.Let me get this straight: some jackass phone a public office pretending to be an employee of same office, and get right away with bank account details and other thing? And _they_ got fined? Not the moron that just piped out the information for Blatant Stupidity? I'm impressed... Davide Put the boxing gloves on and step into the ring. Ting ting. In the red corner we have Novell and in the blue corner, Microsoft. Let's get it on: Isn't it high time someone interviewed Ballmer and asked him, point-blank, to state exactly which intellectual property of Microsoft's is used in Linux? If he is able to make such a categorical statement, he must certainly know the exact nature of the infringement. If he chooses not to give a convincing reply, we can draw our own conclusions - probably, that Microsoft has been blustering and bullying again, in a futile effort to create FUD. If, as I suspect, he would prevaricate and then point out how much KDE (for instance) looks like the Windows GUI, his attention could be drawn to the fact that ideas can neither be patented nor copyrighted. And if a look-and-feel like that of Windows can be patented or copyrighted, Apple still has a great case against Microsoft for Windows 1 (and, of course, Xerox against Apple). The sad fact is that Microsoft - as often documented - has hardly invented a single feature of its software. Virtually everything has been copied from others, who did the hard work for far less reward. By suggesting that Linux uses Microsoft's IP, Ballmer is demonstrating yet again the psychological cliche that we are most prone to noticing and criticizing in other people those weaknesses from which we ourselves suffer. In a word, Ballmer has been projecting. Tom And while we're on the subject of Mr Ballmer, we'll pause to consider his claims that MS holds patents on code that is integral to Linux: I would estimate (with no expertise, just cynisism) that it is highly unlikely that Microsoft will be successful in demonstrating that they did actually invent something that Linux is using. If they did and users had to pay up or move on I wouldn't be surprised if users moved to Solaris. It has many of the same desirable features, and Microsoft really would have a hard time targetting that in the IP courts. Matthew Quote: Ballmer said in a question and answer session at a technology conference that Microsoft signed the deal because Linux "uses our intellectual property" and it wanted to "get the appropriate economic return for our shareholders from our innovation". I'm willing to stop using the wheel on my mouse when I'm in Linux... that will mean I'm not using any of Microsoft's innovations, and Ballmer should be happy. Steve Linux and the OSS do in a sense owe Microsoft. Even aside from patents, there has been such an enormous amount of reverse engineering that has enabled the open source movement to create software without spending billions on R&D. A good example is Open Office. A rag-tag group of academics and hackers simply could not create software like this on their own, primarily because they simply do not know the requirements. MS Office, its interfaces, formats and functionality were a necessary template for Open Office, which duplicates it almost exactly. I have some concern about this, because products like MS Office require a staggering investment of money and human resources, and reverse engineered copies of it bleed off the profit that fuels future R&D efforts. Don WebRage? Pah, that is soooooo yesterday: Hi, Unfortunately this is not the first case of Web Rage Attack. However, it is the first that seems to have been taken seriously by police. I was attacked in a club after an argument with someone on a football message board. This was months after the argument. The police did nothing. They did not charge the culprit who even bragged about the attack on the same message board and is still gloating about the fact that he got away with it. All this despite the premises having CCTV of the incident and security staff that witnessed the assault. But there you go, seems some people can get away with anything. Paul And on that cheerful note, we'll call time on this collection of your musings. More later in the week, so don't be shy. Tell us what you really think... ®
The new Police and Justice Act, published today, could criminalise legitimate IT security activity. There are fears among security experts that changes it makes to the Computer Misuse Act will make it illegal to distribute some vital tools. The new law modifies the Computer Misuse Act of 1990, the cornerstone of Britain's anti-hacking law. The changes make clear for the first time that denial of service attacks are an offence, but they also address the distribution of hacking tools. The new Act will make a person guilty of an offence "if he supplies or offers to supply any article believing that it is likely to be used to commit, or to assist in the commission of, [a hacking offence]". The word "article" is defined in the Act to include "any program or data held in electronic form". Some software tools commonly used by IT security professionals can also be used for malicious purposes, making the new legislation a cause for concern. "This applies particularly to dual use tools like nmap, which security professionals use to check if a network is insecure or not and which the bad guys use to scan for insecurities to then attack it," said Richard Clayton, a member of digital rights group the Open Rights Group and a security researcher at Cambridge University. "Distributors of this have to decide if the people getting it from them are the good guys or the bad guys." Legal argument and uncertainty will surround what exactly constitutes "likelihood" to be used for malicious purposes. "The Home Office believes that likely is more than 50 per cent, so you have to have a trial within a trial to decide if it is more than 50 per cent likely that distribution is more likely than not to result in an offence being committed," said Clayton. The final wording of the legislation is broader than was initially proposed. A version of the bill published in January 2006 (145 page/663KB PDF, at clause 35) made the offence contingent upon knowledge or intent that the article would be used for hacking; but the final version reduced that requirement to a belief that such use is likely. The legislation may have been broadened as it went through Parliament to ensure that a person can be prosecuted if, for example, he posts software to the internet with a reckless disregard for its use. Another fear of the new law is that it could be stretched to apply to warnings about security flaws and damage the ability of security firms to warn about third party software security breaches. "The difficulty in the Act is that it says 'any item' and people are worried that that might include information about a piece of software's security vulnerability," said Clayton. "If you distribute information about a security vulnerability and the bad guys use it to attack it then the information about that vulnerability might qualify." That could then allow software companies themselves to block publication of their products' flaws. "There are worries that software companies will use this to stop people publishing information about security flaws, to suppress that because they don't want the information out," said Clayton. Security company Sophos said it did not plan to alter its practices, despite the law change. "We have no intention of changing our procedures in light of this legislation," said Carole Theriault, a spokeswoman for Sophos. "We don't believe it likely that any information relating to a computer threat supplied by us would be used to commit an offence. "Trusted vendors in the security market provide information and tools to prevent security risks – certainly not to help them," said Theriault. "We are always careful – common sense dictates that we obfuscate information that might help someone contemplating online crime." See: The Police and Justice Act 2006 (184 page/875KB PDF; see clauses 35-38) The Computer Misuse Act 1990 (before amendment) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
MP3 player chip maker PortalPlayer will see one of its media processors integrated into Apple's much-rumoured iPhone, a US analyst has claimed. And since PortalPlayer should soon be a Nvidia subsidiary, the deal, if true, is good news for the graphics chip company too.
Ten police forces in England and Wales are to test handheld fingerprint checking devices on the roadside. The forces' automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) teams, who already cross check vehicle number plates against databases, will be able to verify a person's identity within five minutes without having to take them to a police station. The Police Information Technology Organisation (Pito), which is managing the Lantern scheme, said the device could save police forces £2.2m a year in resources wasted pursuing false identities. Around 60 per cent of drivers stopped give a false identity, according to Pito. The device works by electronically scanning the person's index finger. The scan is then sent using encrypted wireless transmissions to the National Automated Fingerprint System (IDENT1), which currently holds 6.5 million prints. A Pito spokesperson told GC News: "People will have to give their consent and the fingerprints will only be stored onto a mobile device until it is full, which is at around 100 fingerprints. "The fingerprints will not be stored onto the national database. However, the device gives the police more visibility and makes them more efficient." Barry Taylor, Dyfed-Powys Police deputy chief constable and senior responsible owner for Lantern, said: "Lantern is a powerful tool in that it allows an officer to make better informed decisions about how to proceed at the point of interaction with an unknown person they suspect of committing an offence." The police forces taking part in the pilot are Bedfordshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Lancashire, North Wales, Northamptonshire, West Midlands, West Yorkshire, the Metropolitan Police Service, and British Transport Police. The pilot is due to end in December 2007. 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.
O2 is to trial picocell technology which, in theory, could see every Be customer doubling up as a VoIP access point from the comfort of their own home. The concept is pretty simple: a tiny cell site is placed in the customer’s home, similar in size to a Wi-Fi access point, which allows nearby GSM handsets to connect and then routes their phone calls over the broadband connection. Some form of restitution for the customer would be provided, perhaps a cut of call cost or credit on their account, but the details are a long way from being settled. The model has been proposed from time to time using Wi-Fi for the wireless connection, but enabling normal GSM handsets to use the connections will make a lot more sense and O2 reckon they can get the hardware costs down to below 70 quid. Picocells are tiny GSM transceivers which are normally used to provide coverage in buildings such as shopping centres, and other blank spots in the network. They operate on very low power; to reduce interference with the main transmitter network. What has send the Evening Standard into it’s tizzy is the old chestnut of the health implications: the fact that it isn’t possible to prove that mobile phones don’t give you cancer obviously means that they do, and while our bodies are awash with radio signals the thought of adding any more – and in our own homes - has brought out the traditional Campaigners Against Stuff with their warnings of dire trouble ahead. Quite how O2 will guarantee quality of service, share the revenue or ensure seamless cell handover from VoIP to circuit-switched connections all remain to be resolved: which is what the trials are for.®
The Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR) says that government policies designed to safeguard children could divert resources and create a surveillance culture where parents are sidelined. Titled Children's Databases: Safety and Privacy, the report was written by the FIPR for the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) and published on 22 November. It analyses the databases being built to collate information on children in education, youth justice, health, social work, and elsewhere. These systems are linking up through the new Information Sharing Index. The government hopes that sharing information on children will improve child welfare in the UK and reduce the incidence of serious child abuse such as in the Climbié case. But the report's authors argue that it means child protection will receive less attention. They also conclude that the systems will intrude so much into privacy and family life that they will violate data protection law and human rights law. They list five main concerns: The new strategy will divert resources and attention away from frontline services. The government hopes that sharing information from health, education, social care and youth justice systems will enable it to predict which children will become criminals. But predictions can be highly fallible, and labelling children can stigmatise them. Moving responsibility from teachers, doctors and social workers to a central system will also erode parental responsibility. Parents and children's views will be more easily sidelined. Children will be bullied into providing intrusive data on themselves, their parents and friends without proper safeguards, and into giving their consent to widespread data sharing without involvement of their parents, in contravention of the law. Families' privacy and autonomy will be corroded as the government puts them under surveillance. The new policy will treat all parents as if they cannot be trusted to bring up their children and to ask for help if and when needed. Dr Eileen Munro of the London School of Economics said: "When dealing with child abuse, we do need to override privacy. But the new policy extends this level of intrusion into families that are not even suspected of abusing their children, and to all concerns about children's development. "It will also over-stretch scarce resources, damage parents' confidence and divert services from focusing on real cases of abuse." Professor Douwe Korff of London Metropolitan University added: "The proposed surveillance system is contrary to the basic principles of data protection and human rights law. It replaces professional discretion (in both meanings of the word) with computerised assessments of human behaviour that are inherently fallible." The ICO published a paper on the issue on the same day, and said there is a need to look carefully at the implications of collecting information on children. Assistant information commissioner Jonathan Bamford said: "Just because technology means that things can be done with personal information, it does not always follow that they should be done. Public trust and confidence will be lost if there is excessive unwarranted intrusion into family life or if some of the issues that have been identified actually materialise." In 2007 the ICO will publish a code of practice for public sector organisations to ensure they share information appropriately and comply with the principles of the Data Protection Act. It will also consider whether further information would be helpful, such as: producing guidance on consent issues; investigating the production of easy to read guidance to help social services staff (and possibly health and educational professionals) explain data protection to their clients; producing new guidance aimed specifically at young people aged 12 to 18. The ICO has also identified priority areas for discussion with the government, such as minimising the risks from profiling, how to reflect the views of parents and children, and data quality and security. The government is currently running a consultation on proposed regulations for the Information Sharing Index. 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.
In my last article, I looked at one of the differences between the C++ and Java communities; the availability of application development frameworks that have a profound effect on programmer productivity. I mentioned specifically the Java example of Hibernate and tried to identify reasons why the Java community is more innovative with this type of code reuse.
A 17-year-old US student has, after two years' work and 1,000 hours of research, managed to achieve nuclear fusion in the basement of his parents' Oakland Township home, The Detroit Free Press reports. Thiago Olson's Fusor was knocked together with bits and pieces bought on the internet and blagged from manufacturers at a discount. It includes "a piece of equipment taken from an old mammogram machine", which provides the 40,000 volt charge necessary to provoke fusion in deuterium gas injected into a steel vacuum chamber. Nuclear fusion wasn't Olsen's orginal aim, however. His mum Natalice admitted: "Originally, he wanted to build a hyperbaric chamber," adding that she firmly vetoed the plan. Of his fusion success, she enthused: "I think it was pretty brave that he could think that he was capable to do something so amazing." Olsen was a semifinalist this year in the Siemens Foundation's National Research Competition and plans to enter the Science and Engineering Fair of Metropolitan Detroit next year, and thereafter qualify for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. His long-term aim is to work for the federal government, The Detroit Free Press notes. ® Bootnote According to www.fusor.net, Olsen is the eighteenth amateur to achieve nuclear fusion. The site has more background to the "Inertial Electrostatic Confinement" approach to fusion as developed by Philo T Farnsworth back in the 1960s, which forms the basis of the young man's machine.
Indian Muslim clerics have condemned the use of verses from the Koran as mobile ringtones, Yahoo! reports. Mohammed Asumin Qazmi, an official at the Dar-ul Uloom seminary in the northern Indian town of Deoband, said the verses were "not meant for entertainment", and declared that "anyone who persists in using these should be ostracized from society". The practice is said to be common among among Muslims in Uttar Pradesh, especially those in their mid 40s and 50s. Bank manager Faiz Siddaqui defended his Koranic ditty thus: "Whenever my phone rings, I hear these verses that stress the values of hard work and honesty, and I feel closer to my religion." Mufti Badru-Hasan, a leading cleric in Uttar Pradesh capital of Lucknow, was having none of it: "One should hear the complete verse of the Koran with a pious mind and in silence. If it is used as a ringtone, a person is bound to switch on the mobile, thus truncating the verse halfway. This is an un-Islamic act." ®
Intel's upcoming integrated G35 chipset, part of the 'Bearlake' series, will incorporate support for HDMI and HDCP, leaked company information indicates.
Scientists from Georgia State University have rather splendidly discovered that crayfish "act out elaborate rituals of dominance and submission", Reuters reports. Specifically, Fadi Issa and Donald Edwards found said crustaceans "display... a complex ritual, when two males engaged in pseudocopulatory behaviour to signify their dominance relationship" which was followed by "a reduction in aggression and an increased likelihood of the subordinate's survival". Indeed, this is not just a bit canine rolling on your back when the top dog's around - it's a matter of life or death for crayfish. The researchers noted that "lower-ranking crayfish that did not go along with another male's overtures were killed, dismembered, and partially eaten". Issa and Edwards, who monitored sub-dom behaviour among a group of 20 males, said it was "most common when two strange males first met, and appeared to defuse tensions after a few days". They further explained: "These effects are similar to those of copulation between male and female crayfish, and such copulation can also begin with an aggressive encounter and has been seen as an extension of male dominance behaviour. Moreover, if the female refuses the male's attempts to mate, she can be killed." The scientists concluded by saying "the findings in invertebrates showed such behaviour was common in the animal world and may have evolved more than once over time". This suggests a bit of sub-dom is "useful for survival", they added. Issa and Edwards' findings are available in the journal Current Biology. We look forward to their forthcoming paper on Promiscuous lesbianism among spider crabs as a mechanism for social harmony. ®
Storage switch maker Brocade continued its run of financial good form by posting its best ever revenues, and said its acquisiton of arch-rival McData could close as soon as January. Brocade brought in $208.8m in Q4, 44 per cent up on revenues for the same period in 2005. It beat its own best expectations of $205m, which it had already upped from earlier estimates. On a GAAP basis profit hit $20.0m, or $0.07 per share, up on Q4 2005 when Brocade barely broke even by making $1.1m. For the financial year overall GAAP profit was $67.6m on revenues of $750.6m, compared to $43.1m on revenues of $574.1m for 2005. McData's earnings report as a standalone company earlier this month revealed it shrank in market share and revenue during what Brocade hopes will be its last year in the game. Cisco's storage revenues meanwhile increased last quarter, but nowhere near as quickly as Brocade's. In a conference call, CFO Richard Deranleau said he expected the Federal Trade Commission's interest in the $713m acquisition of McData to come to nothing. He said he expected the deal to be approved and go through as soon as January. CEO Michael Klayko said: "The success in our Storage Area Network (SAN) business has helped us to drive returns this year while at the same time allowing us to invest for future growth." The firm is working on a move into File Area Networking (FAN) and expanding its services division. Shares in Brocade gained 3.7 per cent in after-hours trading last night. ®
New website ReviewMe has just hit the web, offering a unique way for bloggers to make money - by being paid to review products and services. Making money out of blogging isn't easy, a few Google ad-words aren't even going to cover the cost of the coffee drunk while typing, let alone the cost of running a website. So bloggers are always looking for an alternative source of income, and ReviewMe offers an intriguing alternative. Paid reviews must identify themselves as such, but have no obligation to be positive - though one suspects that repeat bookings will tend to come to those who aren't too negative. The cost is dependent on the popularity of the blog, as rated by Technorati and Alexa, and ranges from $50 to $250 for the really top blogs. ReviewMe isn't going to get into the distribution and return of samples or products as only soft services can be reviewed, which means websites, which generally means other blogs. So here we have the perfect Web 2.0 business model - bloggers paying each other to write about how great their sites are, and the blogosphere finally consumes itself in an orgy of self importance. You can read a review of the service, but remember that it was paid for. ®
Smart phone seller i-mate has launched its latest Windows Mobile handhelds: a follow up to the QWERTY keyboard equipped JAQ it launched a few months ago, and a classic tablet-like PDA phone squeezed into a candybar form-factor.
The terms of Microsoft's End User License Agreement (EULA) for its upcoming Vista operating system raises the conflict between two fundamental principles of contract law. The first, and more familiar, is that parties to a contract can generally agree to just about anything, as long as what they agree to doesn't violate the law and isn't "unconscionable".
As Apple prepares to take the iPod into mobile phone territory, so O2 may be preparing to pitch its XDA smart phone line as an alternative portable media player platform, if allegedly leaked marketing collateral for its upcoming XDA Flame is to be believed.
Fresh from Steve Ballmer's claim Linux infringes on Microsoft IP, Microsoft has itself succumbed to another accusation it is illegally using someone else's technology.
Those of you who have yet to see* Daniel Craig giving it some stick in Casino Royale will undoubtedly get added pleasure from the experience armed with www.moviemistakes.com's comprehensive list of the film's outrages against continuity and fact. For example, one sharp-eyed critic notes: "When Bond first gets into his Aston Martin outside the Casino Royale, the driver's door is open. Then the shot cuts and the door is closed." And if that's not bad enough, try this shocker: "When James Bond is supposedly in Montenegro, this was filmed in the Czech Republic - although they changed most of the signs they forgot some. When they are having a drink in the square there is a visible sign saying 'Bily Kun' which means 'White Horse' in Czech." Oh dear, oh dear. Surprisingly, though, the net pedants down at Movie Mistakes have dismally failed to list the worst howler of all, viz: Daniel Craig is blond and, as every true Bond fan knows, 007 is not and Ian Fleming is spinning in his grave and I wish to protest in the strongest possible terms, etc, etc... ® Bootnote *Me included. I hear good things about the latest Bond, blond or not.
The Verisign board has decided to restate more than four years worth of financial reports after an internal review found stock options may have made them unreliable. The investigation by the online transaction security firm's independent directors is ongoing. "Incorrect measurement dates and other administrative inconsistencies" already uncovered precipitated the action, announced on Tuesday. The SEC has its own investigation into Verisign, along with dozens of other technology firms over the practice of backdating share options. Backdating involves retroactively setting the date they were granted to improve their value - itself not illegal at the time in question - but the effect non-disclosure may have had on some firms' accounts submissions was. Verisign says its findings to date indicate $250m in options needs to be included in accounts from 2001 to 2005, and the first quarter of 2006. The internal review should be complete by the end of the year. Cleaned up accounts will be made available as soon as possible after that, Verisign added. Former Brocade CEO Greg Reyes joined the Verisign board in 2002. The first high profile Silicon Valley figure to face criminal charges in the SEC backdating investigation, Reyes resigned from Verisign two weeks after the SEC announced it would indict him. The SEC alleges he used backdating to mislead Brocade investors. Verisign's shares lost more than 15 per cent of their value around the time the charges were filed against Reyes, but have since recovered. ®
Technology distie Tech Data made sales of $5.4bn for the third quarter ended 31 October, an increase of seven per cent on the third quarter of fiscal 2006.
UK government policies designed to safeguard kids might backfire by diverting valuable resources while creating a "culture of surveillance" where the role of parents is sidelined, according to a report for the Information Commissioner published on Wednesday. The study, Children's Databases: Safety and Privacy (PDF), takes a critical look at child databases designed to collate information from multiple agencies including schools, doctors, social workers and law enforcement. By linking up these databases in an index, the government hopes to reduce the incidence of serious child abuse, highlighted by the Climbié case. But the report warns that by extending Britain's child protection systems - from the 50,000 children currently identified as been in substantial risk of serious harm to the 3-4 million children with some form of welfare issue - means that the most serious cases might receive less attention. The study also warns that the system will intrude into family life in violation of data protection and human rights law. Children listed on the system might become "stigmatised" by being labeled as at risk of becoming criminals. Furthermore moving responsibility from teachers, doctors and social workers to a central system might also erode parental responsibility, critics believe. It's also possible kids might be pressurised into providing intrusive data on themselves, their parents and friends without proper safeguards. The study was produced for the Information Commissioner by the IT think tank Foundation for Information Policy Research (FIPR). Its authors included academics, computer scientists, a law professor and a representative of a leading children's charity. Director of Action on Rights for Children Terri Dowty said: "Offering services that support families is highly desirable, but you need to listen to parents and children in order to understand their problems. As it is, the Government proposes to take the child protection system and apply it to all aspects of children's health and welfare needs, when the system doesn't have the needed resources anyway. We also don't want a surveillance system that forces professionals to be defensive and suspicious, and make clumsy risk assessments." Academic critics of the policy warn it threatens to erode the privacy and autonomy of families. Dr Eileen Munro, of the London School of Economics said: "When dealing with child abuse, we do need to override privacy. But the new policy extends this level of intrusion into families that are not even suspected of abusing their children, and to all concerns about children's development. It will also over-stretch scarce resources, damage parents' confidence and divert services from focusing on real cases of abuse." Critics argue the even though the government's aims are laudable replacing professional discretion with computerised assessments of human behaviour is the wrong approach to take. There's also concerns that the system will join the growing list of failed government IT initiatives. The Government is currently running a consultation on proposed regulations for the Index. ®
The police and Home Office are to press for regulatory powers that will insist that every one of the 4.2 million CCTV cameras in Britain is upgraded so it can be deputised to gather police evidence and provide a vehicle for emerging technologies that will automatically identify people and detect if they are doing anything suspicious.
UK broadcasters the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Five have hailed the trial run pumping out HD content across the Freeview free-to-air digital TV network a "technical success", paving the way for terrestrially broadcast nationwide HDTV in the very near future.
Sony's PlayStation 3 production lines are "now running smoothly", a senior company executive has claimed. The consumer electronics giant is "focused on our goal of shipping a million units to retail by the end of the calendar year", he added.
Three laptops, containing the payroll and pension details of more than 15,000 Met Police officers, have been nicked from the offices of LogicaCMG, the outsourcing firm that handles the payments. It's unclear whether or not sensitive details stored on the laptops were encrypted even though the Met Police describe the risk of identity posed by the loss of the laptops as "minimal", the BBC reports. A man has been arrested on suspicion of the burglary, which took place in LogicaCMG's offices in south-east London last Thursday. Despite the arrest, the loss of laptops containing sensitive details of half its workforce is something of a cause of embarrassment for Scotland Yard. Organisations really need to be asking themselves whether laptops really need to contain sensitive personal data like payroll details and if so what procedures and policies they should have in place to guard against this type of threat," said Donal Casey, security consultant, at IT consultancy Morse. The theft of the Met Police's PCs follows news of the theft of employee laptop containing customer details from a worker at Nationwide, the UK's largest building society. Nationwide's 11 million customers began receiving letters this week about the security breach, the result of a burglary that took place back in August. It's unclear how many customer records might have been exposed by the theft. Nationwide is seeking to calm fears by saying data on the laptop, which was been used for marketing purposes, was "security protected". Police are investigating the case but are yet to make any arrests. ®
A Kiwi marquee company has apologised to a bride-to-be and her fiance after the company office manager emailed the couple saying their wedding plans were "cheap, nasty and tacky". Aucklander Steve Hausman emailed Great Marquee Company saying he and fiancee Paula Brosnahan would not require the company's services for their wedding: Hi Klaus Paula and I went and viewed your marquee setup at Devonport the other weekend and unfortunately we did not like it.So this is just to let you know we will not require your services on 7 April 2007. Thanks for your assistance and we are sorry that it turned out this way although we are glad we looked at the marquee prior to booking as that would have been a huge disappointment. Regards Steve Hausman The couple, due to marry in April next year, received this reply: Hi Steve, Thanks for your reply. Your wedding sounded cheap, nasty and tacky anyway, so we only ever considered you time wasters. Our marquees are for upper class clients which unfortunately you are not. Why don't you stay within your class level and buy something from payless plastics instead. Kindest Regards Katrina Office Manager The spiteful email, forwarded on to a handful of Brosnahan's friends, ended up in hundreds of inboxes in New Zealand and Australia, and bridal message boards worldwide carried copies of the exchange. Brosnahan told the Herald on Sunday that their wedding, to be held on a Whangaparaoa cliff-top, was far from a frugal affair. "We are spending $30,000 on this day, they don't know anything about our wedding so I can't see how they can label it cheap." The company, whose website was temporarily down on Friday, has published this apology on its site: This is not the view of The Great Marquee Company. If you are emailing us or visiting our website because of the recent (inappropriate) email communication between a customer and one of our staff. We would like to advise that we regret the exchange. We have apologised to the customer concerned and this staff member's contract has been terminated and processes has been put in place to ensure it won't happen again. We most certainly do not condone rudeness on the part of any of our staff or endorse the views in this particular response. With a long history in Auckland of supporting events with our marquee hire, we know that planning a wedding is one of the most stressful times in a person's life and we do what we can to make it easy. You may be aware that the email that was forwarded by our customer has now reached some thousands of people. We do not believe it is fairly representative of the service that we usually provide, and perhaps more importantly it is generating many calls to the former customer which is stressful for him. We would rather not comment any further but move on having learned from this situation. Again, we pass our apologies on to this customer. In an even better twist, the bitter-tongued staff member, who was promptly fired after the email came to light, is, reportedly, also the CEO's wife. ®
UK registry Nominet has won two crucial votes at its extraordinary general meeting this morning - but only just. In what the company's CEO Lesley Cowley called "a bit of a test", the request that the company be allowed to expand its business beyond running the .uk registry passed by just 0.97 per cent - a margin that may have come down to literally one or two of Nominet's 3,000 members voting. That approval was hard fought for since under Nominet's current rules, approval required an unusually high 90 per cent in favour. Nominet also has a traditionally very low voter turnout. An extensive telephone poll by staff managed to double the normal numbers, but still only 20 per cent of Nominet’s 3,000 members participated. A second vote to allow the company to hold electronic votes in future, which required 75 per cent approval, also passed with a virtually unanimous 96.66 per cent. Chairman Bob Gilbert reflected on the company history before the votes were finalised: "When Nominet was formed in 1996, there were 100 members and everyone knew one another. Ten years on, the market is very different and the days of getting everyone in one room are over." After the votes went through, Gilbert told us he was greatly relieved. Referring to an aborted attempt to make more sweeping changes in March at an earlier EGM - a move that was roundly defeated by members - he said: "I’m delighted that we’ve got the support and trust of our members back. And second, we’ve removed this inability to do certain things which has caused immense frustration." Under the changes to Nominet’s Memorandum of Association, and Articles of Association, the company will be able to ballot its members electronically, as well as undertake "other registry services", which are stated as "including, but not limited to, ENUM, domain names, telephone numbers, internet protocol numbers, Autonomous System numbers, port allocations and digital object identifiers". That will come into immediate effect when Nominet bids for the contract to run the UK’s ENUM service later this year. ENUM is basically a way to connect the traditional telephone numbering system with the internet’s domain name system and has the potential to revolutionise everyday access to the internet. Some members remain concerned however that the changes may see Nominet compete with them in future by selling domain names directly to the public rather than through the registrars. Cowley and two members of Nominet’s Board refuted that by stressing it was not the intention nor the ethos of the company. "We are better at running events than we are acting as a registrar," Cowley quipped. "We run big databases, that’s what we do." Cowley told us after the meeting was over that she was "excited, relieved and very pleased". The changes will "mean we can take Nominet forward". It is measure of the constraints placed on Nominet however that Gilbert, Cowley and the Board members present all confessed that they had did not have any immediate plans to expand Nominet’s business because any plans would have been worthless had the vote not gone through. Gilbert told us that he had spent twice as much time trying to overcome Nominet’s constitutional issues as he had looking where the company was going. But now it was freer to move, he was looking forward to having "wider thoughts". And first up would be raising Nominet’s profile. One of the more pleasant duties Nominet will have to deal with is consider what to do with the surplus money is had made over the years - which as a not-for-profit company it is not allowed to return to members. The funds - which stretch into the millions - will be used in the "interests of the .uk industry and of our stakeholders" Cowley said, although she confessed there were no plans in place. One hope is that the money will be put into a trust to encourage and foster training and development of the internet’s infrastructure in the UK. For the moment, however, Nominet is just relieved that it has managed to scrape the 90 per cent approval to be able to consider more options.®
Those readers who find there simply aren't enough hours in the day to get stuff done are advised to check out Continental Airlines' return flights to the US of A: now complete with in-flight meal, a choice of entertainment and some bonus time in New York to catch up on that vital work: A good effort: four short hours extended to a comfortable 28. No doubt Ryanair will soon respond by offering a cut-price "extra-30-hour-day" deal, while Virgin Atlantic business-class customers will certainly enjoy an executive 100-hour solar cycle in which to quaff the finest champagne. ® Bootnote Thanks to Andy Vernel for the tip-off.
ETSI has finally agreed a standard for high-speed access to the SIM used in GSM mobile phones, after several years of prevarication and filibustering the winner is...USB. SIM chips in phones currently communicate with a handset over a serial connection at a speed of 9600bps, which is fine for exchanging cryptographic keys or saving an SMS message to a SIM with a 16KB capacity, but Orange (in France) are already deploying SIMs with a capacity of 128MB, making faster communications essential. The problem has been that there were two competing standards - one based on MMC (Multimedia Memory Card) and the other on USB (Universal Serial Bus). MMC is easier and cheaper to implement, while USB is more robust and leaves a spare connection on the SIM for other things (such as an NFC antenna connection), and ETSI (the European Telecommunications Standards Institute) has been deadlocked between the options. Recently, it looked as though MMC would win, and that is the technology which Orange has deployed in anticipation of the standard, but at the last moment SanDisk (manufacturers of various removable memory cards, but not SIMs) stated they owned patents on MMC and would not be happy if it was adopted as a SIM standard. That, combined with the recent merger of the two largest SIM manufacturers, was enough to swing it for USB in the second round of voting: as reported by Card Technology. It is worth taking a moment to understand the motivations of the different parties involved here: SanDisk has nothing to gain from high-capacity SIMs, just the reverse as people might be less inclined to use their memory chips, so its effective blocking of MMC could easily be seen as a deliberate attempt to delay any standard being deployed. The handset manufacturers, who tried to push their own standard at the last minute, also have nothing to gain here as they would much prefer users to store their data on the phone. So it is only the network operators can gain from using a high-capacity SIM, and they have shown little interest in doing so. The application deployed by Orange is clever enough: allowing the user to carry the whole user interface with them when they change handsets, including graphics, ring tones and menus, but that requires customised software on the handset too, which is not widely available. The primary problem seems to be that high-capacity SIMs now exist, and a high-speed interface is needed to use them, so a standard is a good thing. But unless the network operators can think of a compelling application they are not going to force the handset manufacturers to implement the standard - and you can be sure no one is going to support USB on a SIM without being forced to do so. ®
A Chinese web pornographer who founded the country's "largest pornography website" has been sentenced to life imprisonment, Reuters reports. The Taiyuan Intermediate People's Court jailed 28-year-old Chen Hui for his part in establishing "Pornographic Summer" and three other unnamed sites. Established in 2004, Pornographic Summer charged its estimated 600,000 users between £13 and £17, although police said it was "difficult to know how much money Chen made from the sites, since most of it was spent or squirreled away in foreign bank accounts". Eight other organisers of Chen sites were jailed for between 13 months to 10 years. The court also "ordered the confiscation of 100,000 yuan" (£6,600 pounds), according to Xinhua news agency. Chen evaded the authorities by regularly changing domain name and server, Xinua added. ®
Two alleged spyware operations have settled lawsuits brought by the US Federal Trade Commission. Odysseus Marketing and its principal, Walter Rines, along with John Robert Martinson, the principal of Mailwiper, and its successor, Spy Deleter, have agreed to be bound by injunctions against exploiting security vulnerabilities to download software or misrepresenting the purpose of their wares. In addition, the operators agreed to pay a combined total of $50,000 in fines, a modest total that's unlikely in itself to deter anyone else contemplating by violation of US federal anti-spyware laws. Odysseus marketed a program called Kazanon that purportedly allowed consumers to engage in anonymous peer-to-peer file sharing. According to the FTC, the package was loaded with spyware that snooped on user's surfing habits, manipulated search results and bombarded punters with intrusive pop-up ads. Odysseus also allegedly exploited browser vulnerabilities to dump its crud on user's desktops. The FTC settlement obliges Odysseus to destroy the personal information of users it collected. The FTC wanted to fine Rines $1.75m for his firm's anti-social behaviour but because he's broke it will collect $10,000. The rest of the fine is suspended. Mailwiper punted bogus anti-spyware products marketed under the names Spy Wiper and Spy Deleter. Affiliates of the firm, including infamous former spammer Sanford Wallace, exploited IE vulnerabilities to distribute spyware to promote the product, the FTC alleges. The settlement also imposes a $1.86m judgment on Martinson (Mailwiper's main man) which is suspended, except for $40,000, based on his inability to pay. Wallace was previously fined $4m over his role in distributing Spy Wiper and Spy Deleter, products which failed to live up to their promises of cleaning up infected PCs. Zango and cash In the case of both settlements, neither defendant has admitted any wrongdoing. The closure of the cases against Odysseus and Mailwiper are the latest in a string of enforcement actions brought the FTC against spyware outfits. The effectiveness of these spyware lawsuit settlement has been called into question after security researchers unearthed evidence that infamous adware firm Zango (the former 180solutions) was up to its old tricks just two week after it settled adware distribution charges with the FTC. Zango admits to problems in the past but claims to have cleaned up its act since the start of the year. However, spyware watcher Ben Edelman has published a study explaining that deceptive installs of Zango software continue to take place. Following its own investigation, the Center for Democracy and Technology has filed a fresh complaint (PDF) about Zango to the FTC. ®
SC06SC06 Storage start-up Panasas has polished off the first major product revamp in company history with a bang. It secured a mega-win to provide Los Alamos National Laboratory with mounds and mounds of clustered storage. Earlier this month, Panasas released a pair of new hardware systems that make use of its flagship parallel file system. The company hopes that the boxes coupled with a software overhaul will help it continue to dig deeper into the commercial high performance computing market. In the meantime, however, Panasas remains happy to ride the Los Alamos gravy train. The vendor - already well entrenched at Los Alamos - has been plucked as the storage supplier for the upcoming Roadrunner supercomputer. The system, built out of Opteron and Cell servers, should end up as the fastest supercomputer on the planet when its done in 2008. Panasas secured the Los Alamos deal on the back of its file system architecture that boasts high-speed storage performance for Linux clusters. "The big problem is that I/O did not get parallelized as the world moved to Linux clusters with hundreds of nodes," said Len Rosenthal, CMO at Panasas. "You end up with a parallel application, but it still has serial access to storage." The likes of IBM and SGI have created their own parallel file systems to provide better communication between servers and storage systems, while other vendors such as HP and newcomer SiCortex have backed the Lustre file system. Panasas too has a Lustre variant. Panasas has rolled out to new storage systems - the ActiveStor 5000 and 3000 - to back up its file system work. The company pitches the ActiveStor 5000 unit as a brand new play. The system has been designed to handle "interactive" HPC applications where customers want access to data on a fairly regular basis as well as batch jobs. In the HPC world, these batch jobs could include chip simulation, automotive design and animation. To pull off this kind of high-end box, Panasas has packaged the ActiveStor 5000 its ActiveGuard HA (high availability) software for handling failures and ActiveImage software for performing backups and instantaneous data restores. Panasas also equips each system with high-speed storage blades. Panasas eyes Network Appliance as its biggest competition in the "interactive" market. "NetApp has its Data OnTap operating system, which is similar to our ActiveScale OS," Rosenthal said. "But they charge an absurd amount of money for their software. We're showing 3x, 5x and in some cases 10x better price performance." Panasas' more standard new system is the ActiveStor 3000 box. It's aimed only at the batch market and is made up of 1TB storage blades. All told, customers can hold 100TB of data in a 42U rack using the technology. You can compare the two products here. Parallel file system work is not for the faint of disk. It often takes year to work out all the kinks in this type of software. Panasas, however, claims to have gotten things right with its kit. "We shipped our first product in 2003 to get the gear out there," Rosenthal said. "Now the product is stable and revenue is growing." Panasas, in fact, can lay claim to 75 paying customers - with that number doubling in the last year. The start-up began by attacking classic HPC customers in the labs, but has recently seen most of its business come from the commercial HPC market. While Los Alamos remains Panasas's flagship customer, close to 75 per cent of all sales go to big business, Rosenthal said. ®
After months of promises, and with backing from the Eclipse Foundation, Borland has released an overhauled edition of JBuilder that promises to overtake Eclipse on quality.
Security researchers have discovered a serious, unpatched vulnerability in Mac OS X. The memory corruption bug creates a means for attackers to take control of even fully patched systems. Flaws in the way the AppleDiskImageController handles corrupted DMG image structures could be exploited to trigger memory corruption and the execution of arbitrary code in kernel-mode, Secunia, the IT security consultancy, warns.
SOA (service oriented architecture) is a big deal, I like it. But it isn't the be all and end all of computing. Here are ten things you need to know about SOA.