27th > November > 2006 Archive

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Salesforce.com integrates to get ahead

Salesforce.com is today expected to take its latest step towards improving integration with third-parties' software, including business rival Oracle. The hosted CRM pioneer will announce an extension to its recently launched Apex platform and language called ConnectOut, which enables other applications to be notified of business events in Salesforce.com. ConnectOut – part of Salesforce.com’s new ApexConnect family of services - is scheduled for release with the Winter 07 edition of Salesforce.com CRM. Also due is ConnectOracle for integration with the Oracle 11i database, for bi-directional synchronization of data like customer account information between Salesforce.com and an Oracle repository. Integration is provided through a pre-built customer-master template. ConnectOracle follows this summer's launch of ConnectSAP, starts at $1,000 per customer per month, runs to $12,000 annually and is available on request from Salesforce.com. Missing from ConnectOracle, though, is integration between the Oracle-owned PeopleSoft and JD Edwards applications. Neither is there integration with Microsoft Dynamics. Salesforce.com said it picked Oracle in response to customer demand. The launch is intended to enhance the attraction of Salesforce.com's multi-tenant, hosted business application platform over single-tenant applications from Oracle, SAP and Microsoft. Single-tenancy systems traditionally have a tendency to be complex, thanks to their architecture and the number of modules plugged-in through customization, making upgrades and integration notoriously difficult. ConnectOut capitalizes on the multi-tenant model, where many people use the same platform, by making integration and customization easier. Connecting with non-Salesforce.com systems occurs at the API layer making it possible to kick-start an outbound message from Salesforce.com to another business application, such as an order fulfillment system. That is a potential riposte to Netsuite, its software as a service rival NetSuite, which is knocking Salesforce.com for being "only" CRM, by lacking the back-end platform that enterprise resource planning (ERP) provides to run a business. ConnectOut builds on the Apex platform and language released in October. Apex uses a combination of web services interfaces, AJAX and real-time messaging and integration to combine applications. It is unclear just how far ConnectOut gets into the guts of enterprise applications and data, though, or whether that will remain the preserve of dedicated integrations such as those for Oracle and SAP. Salesforce.com claimed dozens of customers are in production on ConnectSAP. Salesforce.com also provides integration with Microsoft Office, Outlook and Lotus Notes. According to Salesforce.com, it is helping reduce the cost of integration associated with installing applications. "Prior to ConnectSAP and ConnectOracle a lot of that connection was developed with Salesforce.com and partners. We are shifting more burden to Salesforce.com," Salesforce.com senior vice president Kendall Collins told The Register. "We will continue to pre-package the most popular and widely used product sets." Salesforce.com will also flag-up integrations using Apex for third-parties on AppExchange, making them easier for customers to find. An Apex Connected category will list 25 offerings from partners who include Tibco, Scribe and Informatica.®
Gavin Clarke, 27 Nov 2006

Sony and Ericsson get loved up over mobile TV

Sony and Ericsson are to expand their partnership beyond cell phones to provide mobile television and broadband services. Ericsson, the Swedish telecoms equipment maker, announced the expansion of the Sony Ericsson partnership on Thursday. Per Nordlof, Ericsson's director of product strategy and portfolio management, told Reuters: "There is a strong confidence between Ericsson and Sony after the success of the handset business and we will work to develop software that connects the gadgets in the home with the outer world." Sony Ericsson was a joint venture formed by the two companies in 2001 and has since become the world's fourth-largest mobile handset maker. Last month the company announced earnings of €433m for its fiscal third quarter, up 187 per cent on the same period last year. Sales for the period amounted to €2,913m, representing a year-on-year increase of 42 per cent, and net income was €298m, compared to €104m last year. The joint venture shipped 19.8 million phones during the period and currently employs over 7,000 people worldwide in Europe, Japan, China, and America. Nordlof said Ericsson and the Japanese electronics giant expect there to be a mass market for mobile television within the next two years, with 30 per cent of mobile phone users accessing mobile television by then. He said consumer demands will force telecom operators to offer broadband television services in order to retain their subscribers. Consumer demand for mobile television in Ireland at present is relatively small. Vodafone's Sky Mobile TV service, which was launched in June, currently has 68,000 subscribers out of the mobile giant's 2.1 million Irish customers. Despite the relatively low take up of mobile television offerings there are more options coming on the market to tempt Irish consumers. Three Ireland's X-Series of mobile phones, which includes Sony Ericsson as a partner, will go on sale in December and its services include mobile television. Three already produces sport and music-themed mobile television shows featuring Irish broadcasters Eamon Dunphy and Tom Dunne. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Emmet Ryan, 27 Nov 2006
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Xandros Linux conquers a hostile Sony laptop

OS ReviewOS Review I have an impressive talent for buying laptop computers hostile to Linux. Right now I'm using a Sony Vaio VGN-FS840/W, with more proprietary drivers than you can shake a stick at. It's so bad that even a retail edition of Windows XP won't run on it; you need the OEM Windows (and sure enough, Sony is too cheap to include the CD), or you need to go to the Sony support site, download all of the drivers, and make your own supplement CD.
Thomas C Greene, 27 Nov 2006

Costs go sky high at MoD

Skynet 5 and other military equipment projects are running a total of £2.6bn over budget, a report from the official spending watchdog reveals. Restructuring of Skynet 5, the Ministry of Defence PFI project to develop the next generation of military satellite communication services, will cost an extra £885m, says the National Audit Office's (NAO) latest report. The original deal for Skynet was signed with contractor Paradigm in 2003 with a forecast cost of £2.77bn. But problems with insurance led the ministry to restructure the deal two years later. The length of the project has been extended and, as a result, costs are now forecast at £3.66bn. The NAO's Major Projects Report 2006, published on 24 November 2006, reveals that the cost of the 20 biggest military equipment projects is now £2.6bn higher than agreed at the outset. Thirty-three months of delay to these projects occurred in the year 2005-06, but the NAO points out that this is a better performance than in any of its major projects reports since 2002. Edward Leigh, chair of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee, commented: "When news of an additional 33 month delay in the delivery of big defence projects is called a step in the right direction, that tells us plenty about the MoD's track record in managing those projects." Although the Ministry of Defence appears to be making progress in controlling costs, the reality is that it has done this largely by juggling costs between budgets, said Leigh. The ministry has recognised the concerns expressed by the committee and the NAO about the need for better cost control and is making changes to its purchasing procedures, according to NAO head Sir John Bourn. These changes include better management of commercial and contractual arrangements and more cost effective means of delivery. "To provide more public information to Parliament we are working with the MoD to make sure that the major projects report evolves in parallel to ensure it provides a more complete account of the progress of defence equipment projects," Bourn added. 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.
Kablenet, 27 Nov 2006
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Fujitsu Siemens challenges EMC and NetApp on virtual tape

Fujitsu Siemens Computers is taking its CentricStor virtual tape appliance to midsize users, introducing two entry-level models with a mere 2.7TB of caching disk each and the ability to connect to one tape library and up to four physical tape drives. The CentricStor VTA 500 and 1500 appliances manage the process of disk-to-disk-to-tape backup. They look like a tape drive or library to the servers (but several times faster), store the backup volumes on disk cache, and then stage them to real tape in the background. Because they virtualise the physical tape drives they are useful for backup consolidation, said FSC product marketing director Marcus Schneider. They can look like a Magstar drive to the mainframe, Storagetek to Unix and DLT to Windows, say, while really storing everything on a single LTO library. The VTA includes tape cloning as standard - it can create two identical copies of the same tape at the same time to avoid relying on a single tape copy for long-term backup. It also automatically checks tape content and condition, consolidating part-full cartridges and replacing those that show signs of going bad. Schneider said that VTA is "true tape virtualisation". It competes with virtual tape libraries (VTLs) from the likes of NetApp and EMC, but he said that those focus on replacing tape with disk. For example, he said EMC's Clariion VTL can be used with tape, but only by hanging a real tape library off the same backup server and operating it in parallel. That limits its ability to consolidate your backup operations, he added. "This is not low end," he said, pointing out that even the smallest model - the CentricStor VTA 500 - starts at £86,207. "This is for mid-market companies, with data centres and perhaps 1000 employees, not for people with one tape drive." He claimed that the big advantage of CentricStor is that it handles everything itself, so there is much less need for manual intervention by storage admins: "People don't have to deal with physical tape any more - that saves a huge amount of money." Both the new appliances are expandable, the VTA 500 to 22TB of disk and the more powerful VTA 1500 to 173TB. They can connect to servers via ESCON, FICON or Fibre Channel, and appear on the SAN as between 32 and 128 virtual tape drives. ®
Bryan Betts, 27 Nov 2006

Palm ships Treo 680 in UK

Palm has formally announced the availability of the Palm OS-based Treo 680 smart phone in the UK. The handset will go on sale today for around £299 - £30 less than the company recently began taking pre-orders for.
Tony Smith, 27 Nov 2006

Security: Is technology saint or sinner?

AnalysisAnalysis The latest problem to be thrown at us, on top of war, global warming, disease etc, is that we are "sleepwalking into a surveillance society".
Clive Longbottom, 27 Nov 2006

AMD's 65nm dual-core Athlons to debut 5 December?

AMD will ship its 65nm dual-core Athlon 64 X2 processors a week on Tuesday, it has been claimed. If correct, the 5 December debut apparently marks an acceleration of AMD's anticipated 65nm roll-out schedule.
Tony Smith, 27 Nov 2006

Yet more free MCP training for London SMEs

Site offerSite offer London SMEs with less than 250 employees have yet again been given the chance to get their staff some free training which includes any one Microsoft Certified Professional course and one exam towards the MCDST, MCSA 2003, MCSE 2003 and MCDBA.NET. Yup, it's the (re)return of the El Reg/Exchange Group giveaway, which has in the past provoked stampedes of eager MCP wanabees looking to enjoy their free lunch. This time around, there are just 20 places up for grabs, so you'd better hurry straight down to the Exchange Group website where there are further details on this European Social Fund-supported offer. The sign-up procedure is simple: send an email to Marcin Lai (cert@exchangegroup.co.uk), mentioning the magic words "The Register", and eloquently expressing your desire to avail yourself of this tasty offer. Happy studying. ®
Team Register, 27 Nov 2006
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Phoenix IT results show contract pain

Phoenix IT Group managed to hold up revenues and profits despite contract changes at its biggest customer. For the six months ended 30 September revenues were down to £54.4m from £54.8m for the same period last year. Profit before tax was £9.2m compared to £8.9m for the same six months of 2005.
John Oates, 27 Nov 2006

NASA spies bursting supermassive blackholes

NASA astronomers think they have identified a pair of supermassive black holes, or quasars, that look like they are teetering on the brink of huge explosions. Using the infrared camera on the Spitzer space telescope, the astronomers have been able to peer through obscuring dust and take a peek at the quasars at work. Astronomers have suspected for some time that when galaxies collide, the supermassive black holes at their cores consume huge quantities of material; dust, gas and stars. The material is produced by violent periods of star formation, triggered by the galactic collisions. It is normally very difficult to see the quasars at work on their intergalactic all-you-can-eat sessions because, as you might expect, two galaxies smashing into one another throws out a lot of dust and gas, blocking the view. However, scientists now think that at some stage, the quasars get full. Once this happens, it will emit a huge burst of energy (NASA is describing this as a cosmic burp...) that could blow away a lot of the obscuring material. Dr Maria del Carmen Polletta of the University of California at San Diego explains that black holes all emit radiation as they accrete matter. At some point, the amount of energy they emit is sufficient to destroy the surrounding dust. Polletta used the Spitzer telescope to measure the amount of energy being absorbed by the dust surrounding suspected supermassive black holes. This gave her an indication of how luminous the quasars are, and from that, the research team can calculate how much material is being consumed. She suggests that two quasars she has identified in a study (published in the May 2006 issue of Astrophysical Journal) are on the verge of just such an expulsion. One of the quasars is three billion times more luminous than our sun, suggesting it is gobbling up matter at a rate of around 68 solar masses per year; more than one of our suns per week. "Black holes that are this heavily obscured and with this luminosity are very difficult to find and have not been extensively studied," says Polletta. "The belch of a black hole has never been verified with observations, so the explosion may not happen. "The role that supermassive black holes play in the development of a galaxy is still unclear, there are still a lot of missing pieces. What we are seeing here is a very specific moment in the life of a black hole. "According to astronomical models, black holes at this luminosity should destroy their surrounding material pretty soon." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2006

AMD 'R600' DirectX 10 GPU spied on web

AMD's anticipated upcoming ATI-branded, DirectX 10-supporting graphics chip, the R600, appears to have made an unscheduled and ahead-of-time stop on the web, revealing itself to be a rather larger part than its predecessor, the R580.
Tony Smith, 27 Nov 2006

Copyright extension a no-go: BPI reacts

UpdatedUpdated The Gowers Review of Intellectual Property will recommend the current 50 year copyright term on sound recordings is not extended, according to reports. Though the Review's opinion is not neccessarily binding on the government, it will be a blow to the recording industry which had been lobbying to extend the term to 95 years - the same as in the US. The BBC said late last night that former Financial Times editor Gowers will recommend the current term remains when he delivers his Review next week alongside the Chancellor's pre-budget report. The British Phonographic Institute (BPI), which represents many record labels and related companies, today tried to downplay the significance of the leak. Chairman Peter Jamieson said: "It is really the responses of the Treasury, DTI and DCMS and not the recommendations of an independent report, that we are most interested in. It's in the government's power to ignore such a recommendation and they should do so." One record industry source today told The Register the news meant the push to extend sound recording copyright could be about to hit the buffers. He said: "The fat lady hasn't sung yet, but she's tuning up." At the Economist's annual Innovation Summit earlier this month, Gowers said the decision over copyright extension should be framed in terms of whether it fosters creativity. The BPI and others including high profile recording artists like Cliff Richard and Mick Hucknall had argued term extension would be vital to the industry's ability to bring on new acts and would act as a pension scheme for retired musicians. Nacsent UK digital rights organisation the Open Rights Group campaigned against extension, asserting it would mostly benefit the four major labels. Influential liberal-leaning thinktank the Institute for Public Policy Research said in its recent report on copyright: "We have not seen any evidence to suggest that current protections provided in law are insufficient. We feel that to extend terms any further than their current length is economically illogical and anti-competitive." The British Library meanwhile said term extension would render nearly all of the UK's audio history into copyright and jeopardise its ability to preserve the national sound heritage. The independent Gowers review was commissioned around this time last year to examine a host of intellectual property-related issues as the Treasury seeks to encourage a "knowledge-based economy". ®
Christopher Williams, 27 Nov 2006
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RM chalks up flat revenues

RM posted its annual reults today, showing the firm had grown profits on the back of flat revenue figures.
Christopher Williams, 27 Nov 2006

LaCie ships 2TB RAID-able desktop drive

LaCie has begun shipping its 2TB Biggest FW800 storage box, a unit that packs in four lock-in-place hot-swappable 500GB SATA drives and a dinky LCD status panel.
Hard Reg, 27 Nov 2006

Samsung pitches 30in panel at content creators

Ladies and gentlemen, will you please welcome Samsung's CX305T, the company's latest 30in monitor aimed at content creators. With a native resolution of 2,560 x 1,600 and a 1000:1 contrast ratio, the tilt-and-swivel screen may well appeal to gamers keen to take advantage of next-generation GPUs like Nvidia's GeForce 8800 GTX. Like the high-end GPUs, the CX305T doesn't come cheap: KRW1.5m ($1,610/£833/€1,230). ®
Tony Smith, 27 Nov 2006
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Korean court rebuffs Microsoft in patents case

Microsoft has taken another slap from the authorities in Korea, after a court decision in a patent dispure raised the prospect of Office being taken off the shelves in the country. According to the Korean Times, the country’s supreme court on Friday upheld patents held by two Korean academics over technology for automatically switching between English and Korean. The academics reckon the Microsoft lifted their language switching technology in Office. They are demanding the offending versions of Office are pulled from the market and are seeking around $75m in damages from the vendor. Microsoft said it was continuing to dispute the patent’s validity. Whether the patents stand or not, Microsoft maintains its software does not infringe the patents. Korea has not been the easiest market for Microsoft in recent years. It has been forced to ship a stripped down version of XP in the country, sans IM and media software. Makes you wonder why you bother.®
Joe Fay, 27 Nov 2006
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More delays as NPfIT overhaul is ordered

The NHS' new chief executive is setting the stage for further delays at the already tardy National Programme for IT (NPfIT), by ordering an overhaul of the entire programme.
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2006

'Altair 8800' kit reaches $1,725 on eBay

We could describe this eBay auction as your opportunity to own a piece of computing history, but that would be an utter lie. No, this is an eBay auction that gives you the chance to own all the bits you'll need to make something that looks like a piece of computing history.
Tony Smith, 27 Nov 2006
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Brussels declares war on spyware and spam

The European Commission called for stronger action against spammers and spy ware merchants today and said it may bring in further legislation to combat the problem. However, the Commission also said member states could do better in enforcing existing legislation covering illegal online activities. Trumpeting a new “communication” “On Fighting spam, spyware and malicious software”, Viviane Reding, commissioner for information society and media, said that the Dutch had succeeded in reducing domestic spam by 85 per cent. Concluding that other member states weren’t taking the problem seriously enough, she sucked in her cheeks and declared that “I'd like to see other countries achieving similar results through more efficient enforcement. I will revisit this issue again next year to see whether additional legislative measures against spam are required." The communication said that spam and spyware were moving from being a nuisance to an increasingly criminal activity. It called for clear lines of responsibility for combating the problem, and more cross border cooperation. While having a go at authorities for not pursuing web miscreants with sufficient vigour, the commission didn’t let service providers off the hook. It said it would "revisit the legislative framework next year when it will introduce legislative proposals to strengthen user privacy and security in 2007." This could see service providers being obliged to report security breaches, and giving regulatory authorities power to force service providers to implement adequate security.®
Joe Fay, 27 Nov 2006

Liverpool throws strop at Google Earth

Liverpool's regeneration bosses are a bit miffed at Google Earth for not showing their fine city in all its redeveloped glory, the BBC reports. The so-called "Liverpool Vision" has specifically complained about two sites where the "Paradise Project" retail and leisure development (indicated left) and the 10,000-seat "King's Dock Arena" (indicated right) now stand: Jenny Douglas, planning director of Liverpool Vision, explained: "The current Google Earth images show roofing work still under way at Lime Street train station. This work took place between 2000 and 2001, which means the Google Earth images are at least five years old. "The city centre has changed dramatically since then. It is important that the millions of people using Google Earth have access to the latest images showing the city's transformation." To add insult to injury, London's new Wembley Stadium is already available for the Google Earth Community's viewing pleasure, of which a Google Earth spokeswoman said: "We want to give the best service we can, and it would be wrong to delay updating the London images just because we can't do that yet for other cities." Well, we reckon Liverpool Vision should walk it like it talks it, because here's how its own website shows the area around the King's Dock Arena: Oh yes, and the Liverpool Vision site search returns no results for "Paradise Project", so we presume it actually goes by the rather less impressive name of "Retail Core". ®
Lester Haines, 27 Nov 2006

CfH report confirms confidentiality risk

Plans to upload medical records onto a central database - the so-called spine - will put patient confidentiality at risk, Connecting for Health (CfH) has been told by its own consultants. In its own risk analysis of the project, the agency responsible for centralising the country's medical records has acknowledged that GPs' concerns about patient confidentiality have merit, and that it would be safer to store records locally. According to Helen Wilkinson-Maker of The Big Opt Out, a campaign group opposed to the spine, the risk analysis was intended to consider two scenarios: a spine with and without "sealed envelopes", sections of the medical record marked by the patient as not to be shared. However, during the consultation with health professionals, civil servants, and patient representatives, a third scenario was put forward for analysis: that of locally held, digital medical records. This was found to present much lower risk of confidentiality breaches, according to the report. Wilkinson-Maker said: "One major result of the interviews was to start NHS CfH thinking of alternative solutions that would provide the desired confidentiality in a practical and effective manner without adversely impacting on patient safety." The Risk Analysis was presented to conference for General Practitioners in Stratford upon Avon on Friday by Dr Paul Thornton, a GP critic of the Connecting for Health proposals. Dr Thornton said: "These confidentiality risks to health have been found to outweigh the benefits from automatic sharing of health information on a national database. The more that information is accessible by all health workers, the less likely it becomes that crucial information will be divulged to any one of us." The consultants identified a conflict between patient safety and confidentiality: records with some details kept hidden were found to put patient safety at a greater risk than those with all the medical information in the clear. This is because the potential for error in diagnosis or treatment is much higher if all the facts are not known, the report says. Meanwhile, patient confidentiality is at its most secure when some information is not just sealed in a single envelope, but in a variety of envelopes, with data being stored locally, and therefore only being accessible locally. The consultants concluded that the alternative sealed envelope solution (i.e. local storage of data) presented the lowest summed risk to patient safety and confidentiality. The report was commissioned by CfH and produced by consultants DET NORSKE VERITAS. You should soon be able to read it here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2006
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Asus W6 leather-clad laptop

ReviewReview Leather, a material that calls to mind, at one extreme, Diana Rigg, tight thigh-length boots, the crack of the whip and, at the other, well-worn sofas, ancient libraries and the air of long-faded wealth. Somewhere in between sits Asus' latest leather-covered laptop, the W6Fp...
The Hardware Widow, 27 Nov 2006

Evesham blends Alqemi LCD HDTV line

Evesham today unveiled its Alqemi HD Ready TV line-up, five screens all equipped with HDMI ports, four with integrated Freeview digital TV tuners. Every telly in the range has an analogue tuner too.
Tony Smith, 27 Nov 2006
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Bell Micro rings brand changes

Bell Micro is doing away with its current three brands to embrace a unified future. From New Year's Day the names of Ideal Hardware and OpenPSL will be no more. Bell bought OpenPSL, a server specialist, in 2004. Bell also operates under the name Ideal Hardware in the UK but in the rest of Europe it is known as Bell Microproducts. The news may bring a tear of nostalgia to the eyes of some channel veterans. Ideal's origins are lost in the mists of time - or at least the mists of before the internet. But, under founder and MD James Wickes, it's safe to say the firm was about as interesting as a storage distributor could hope to be. Under Wickes, Ideal hit the stock market in the early 90s, then made forays into the worlds of TV broadcasting and internet publishing, before reinventing itself as a procurement software vendor, InterX, with a hardware distributor attached. Whether this was a smart move depends on your point of view. Either way, Bell hoovered up the distribution business, still named Ideal Hardware, back in 2000 for $27.5m. Bell made revenues of $792m for the quarter ended 30 September.®
John Oates, 27 Nov 2006

Heathrow kicks off 'fingerprint fast-track' security checks

The Telegraph reveals that the UK government is plotting fingerprinting of air passengers as a matter of routine, to check the identity of departing passengers and to tighten up border controls for incoming. Which, given the firmness of the regime's plans for ID cards, is scarcely news in the long term - but in the interim, turkeys are apparently being asked to volunteer for Christmas, now. A trial at Terminal 3 of Heathrow Airport was announced in August, but the moisturisers of death panic kind of wiped it off the front pages. miSense is being run for Heathrow flights with Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong or Emirates to Dubai, and is voluntary, the intention being to "simplify your journey through the airport while maintaining high standards of security." Passengers scan their passport photo page and give a single fingerprint at the miSense check-in kiosk, and this data is used for identity verification during travel. It's not immediately obvious what the basic miSense system simplifies for the traveller. After entering the data you can use the kiosk to check in, as you might do with any 'normal' automated check-in kiosk, and then just before you get to security control you can use your fingerprint to go through the "miSense automatic security gate", after which you can go to, er, "airport security as normal." But presumably the miSense security gate is a priority lane. On boarding, again you get to go to a special desk to be fingerprinted, but at least you get priority boarding. Is it the apparent pointlessness of this process that has induced the organisations involved to crack straight on with miSenseplus? This enhanced version started on 6th November, just weeks after the basic miSense kicked off, and links immigration in the UK, Hong Kong and the UAE to produce "an international automated fast track passport control service." Essentially, it's an experimental pre-vetting system that is intended to use biometrics to nail down the ID of travellers the system 'knows' are safe, and it overlaps with, or more likely is, Project Iris, an iris-recognition pilot being run for frequent fliers in the UK, and intended to have been rolled out to ten airports by December. Ah, but who's in charge here? miSense, the "collaboration between airport authorities, immigration services and industry", or UK immigration? At the miSenseplus enrolment office "an immigration officer will check your passport and direct you to the miSenseplus enrolment area", where you will sign a consent "for your personal and biometric details to be used to conduct criminality checks." miSenseplus collects ten fingerprints, facial image and iris scans of both eyes, whereas as Project Iris was intended to confine itself to iris, but it would be entirely unsurprising if it turned out that Project Iris' (voluntary) take-up had been negligible, and that miSenseplus had been co-opted in order to produce a reasonable data set. For what it's worth, Project Iris was intended to be evaulated after the full roll out had been completed in December, whereas the miSenseplus pilot runs until 31st January. The carrot for the upgraded service is more tempting - fast track clearance on entry and exit. And the stick? Bizarrely, despite collecting all that other biometric data, miSenseplus still only seems to use right index finger for recognition, as with the basic service. So the rest is for...? Practice collecting the complete set of biometrics the UK currently wants (apparently we don't want gait - yet) will be helpful for the Home Office, as will practice checking the data against police and government records. The data gathered "will be held in confidence and stored securely by the UK Immigration Service for the duration of the trial", and only "officers of the border control agencies of the United Kingdom and named employees of the technical maintenance businesses operating miSense and miSenseplus will have access to this database." Except to the extent that "the data you provide may be checked against databases held by other UK Government departments and agencies for evidence of criminality. The results of searches against these databases may affect your ability to continue to participate in the trial but will not affect your right to travel." Yum. Furthermore the data "may also be disclosed to other government departments and agencies, local authorities and law enforcement bodies to enable them to carry out their functions, including the prevention and detection of crime." So what was that about only border control officers and miSense techies having access? And isn't it a bit weird that the border control people in Hong Kong and Dubai aren't mentioned? What are they supposed to be checking the prints against? If significant amounts of data sharing with other agencies does take place, then it's difficult to see how it could all be retrieved in order for miSense to honour its commitment to destroy all personal information gathered at the end of the trial period. However, given that that the UK's capabilities for performing fast checks of biometrics against records are extremely limited (they could be checked against police fingerprint records, asylum seeker records and biometric visa records, but probably not at any great velocity), there probably won't be any systematic checking in this pilot. Nor, given the shortness of the trial period (6th November to 31st January) is it likely that the pilot will generate any credible data for security purposes. How many people will be flying to Hong Kong or Dubai more than once in that period? Some, certainly, but not many will be making the trip enough times to make it worth the bother of signing up. So what's the point of the pilot? As we said at the outset, it's certainly not news that the UK government intends to check everybody's biometrics on the way in and out, so the point isn't to gather data to decide whether or not it's a good idea, but to hone the collection and reading processes and to get travellers used to them. Of course, if you're going to present this kind of exercise as a simplification and speeding up of processes for the passenger's benefit, then it would make a certain amount of sense to run a pilot for long enough for more than a handful of people to actually benefit. But in the long run it doesn't matter, because in the long run you have no choice. The group running miSense consists of Accenture, BAA, Cathay-Pacific, Emirates, the Home Office, IER (airport ticketing), Raytheon Systems, Sagem Défense Sécurité, and SITA, and the list of associate members adds further to the heavyweights piling into a very small pilot. Raytheon is providing programme management and technical oversight, and proudly boasts that along with Accenture, it was responsible for the US-VISIT programme. Former UK government CIO Ian Watmore, who now heads the Prime minister's delivery unit, and Identity & Passport Service chief executive James Hall, are both ex-Accenture. ®
John Lettice, 27 Nov 2006

Intelligent Design comes to Blighty

More from that lovely bunch of people who we like to think of as creationists-with-a-website. Yes, the Intelligent Designers are back. Having had their bottoms soundly birched in the US, they are now determined to "educate" England's schoolkids about their utterly unscientific counter "theory" to evolution. For those who have missed all the fun, Intelligent Design holds that life on earth is too complex to have evolved on its own, without an intelligent entity guiding its path. This intelligent entity is not specified as being God, largely because of the US insistence on the separation of church and state, but it is hard to think of another candidate for the job. The Guardian reports that the group Truth in Science has sent out "information packs" to all the heads of science at secondary schools in the country. Almost 90 sent feedback to the organisation, with 59 responding positively, saying they thought the pack, which includes a DVD and printed teaching materials, would be a useful teaching aid. One of those who welcomed the unscientific teaching pack was Nick Cowan, head of chemistry at Bluecoat school in Liverpool. He told The Guardian: "Just because it takes a negative look at Darwinism doesn't mean it is not science. I think to critique Darwinism is quite appropriate." It certainly is sensible and desirable to debate Darwinism, the theory of evolution and the merits of the notion of survival of the fittest. The question is, is it relevant to bring pseudo-religious philosophies into the science classroom? Lib Dem MP Phil Willis certainly doesn't think so. He said he is flabbergasted that any science teacher would give the creationist theory any credence. "Treating it as an alternative centralist theory alongside Darwinism in science lessons is deeply worrying," he told the Graun. The idea also runs counter to government policy. Jim Knight, a minister at the Department for Education and Skills said in written answers to questions that: "Neither intelligent design nor creationism are recognised scientific theories and they are not included in the science curriculum, the Truth in Science information pack is therefore not an appropriate resource to support the science curriculum." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Nov 2006
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UN call to tackle landfill Africa

A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) meeting this week will discuss the growing threat from toxic electronic waste being dumped on developing countries.
Christopher Williams, 27 Nov 2006
fingers pointing at man

OpenSUSE 10.2 RC1 out and about

Novell is releasing Basilisk Lizard, its codename for Release Candidate 1 (RC1) of openSUSE 10.2. RC1 is intended to help Novell fix "shipment blockers" and is, says, the last development build before v10.2 of the Linux distro hits the streets in its final version. A list of download sites and hardware requirements is available here. The launch of 10.2 will provide some useful impetus for OpenSUSE at a time when Novell, its chief sponsor, is under fire from rival Linux distros for sleeping with the enemy. This month, Microsoft ponyed up $348m to Novell, in a cross-selling and patent-protection deal. Critics slammed Novell for effectively accepting the concept of closed-source patents in open source, and so giving Microsoft a legal toehold against other open source and Linux vendors. Novell's response is here. Last week, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu Linux, set the cat among the pigeons, by using OpenSUSE's mailing list, to encourage developers to defect to Ubuntu. Cheeky Monkey. For his temerity, he got a dressing down for from ArsTechnica. The online tech pub quotes approvingly the "admirable tolerance" of Novell SUSE's Andreas Jaeger, who called for co-operation between the distros. In his blog, he writes: "Mark, I’d like to invite you to discuss what possibilities we have to work together against the domination of Microsoft on the desktops and servers - instead of fighting against each other." Which is nice. But it is not Ubuntu that's climbed into bed with Microsoft, is it? ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Nov 2006