5th > December > 2006 Archive

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New Dell servers blow . . . cool

Dell today entered the green data center wars with a pair of PowerEdge servers tweaked for improved performance per watt. Customers can now purchase Energy Smart versions of Dell's two-socket 1950 and 2950 boxes. The systems include low voltage flavors of Intel's Xeon chip, more energy efficient power supplies and fans and some add-ons to improve air flow. At full rhetoric, the systems show 25 per cent better performance per watt and 24 per cent lower power consumption than regular versions of the PowerEdge iron. You will, however, have to pay for the power savings. Dell officially says that the Energy Smart systems start at $100 more than Energy Dumb PowerEdge 2950 (2U) and 1950 (1U) servers. In theory, that cost is offset by a $200 per year reduction in energy charges. The problem is that Dell's web site does not elaborate on the Energy Smart program in any detail, as of this writing, and the company doesn't like to talk to us about server matters. What we can tell you is that Dell currently charges $350 extra for the low voltage Xeons and does not present the new fans or power supplies as options on its web site. Web-savvy blogging powerhouse that it is, Dell is sure to correct the information vacuum shortly. Dell has vowed to keep pushing forward with its green computing agenda, as have rivals IBM, Sun Microsystems and HP. All of the hardware makers look to capitalize on rising energy costs by pitching themselves as environmentally sound sellers of plastic, metal and chemically-enhanced computing innards. We won't really be impressed until one of the vendors rolls out a corn-based bezel. ®
Ashlee Vance, 05 Dec 2006

Teen shot dead by police over stolen PS3

An 18-year-old North Carolina man, suspected of stealing two PlayStation 3 consoles, was shot dead by police executing a search warrant at his residence.
Thomas C Greene, 05 Dec 2006

Film pirate gets seven years

A man convicted of recording films using a camcorder in cinemas has been sentenced in the US to seven years in jail. The man was the first to be charged in a nationwide campaign against video piracy. "It is hoped the sentence will deter further unlawful conduct and protect the public," the judge in the case, Dean Pregerson, said. Johnny Ray Gasca was found guilty in 2005 of copyright infringement. He was also convicted of using a fake social security number and of fleeing his lawyer's custody while awaiting trial. He represented himself in his trial, which lasted a week. Gasca said he did not record the films for profit, but the prosecution case included diary excerpts in which Gasca wrote that he earned $4,000 a week through his actions. The resulting copies of films were sold in small shops or directly on the street, the prosecution said. Gasca was arrested three times for taking a camcorder into cinemas. The third time was when he was caught on tape by a camera designed to record the audience's reaction at a screening of the film Anger Management. Gasca was ordered by the judge to attend anger management classes on release. "This sentence marks the conclusion of a lengthy investigation and trial involving charges of copyright infringement, witness intimidation, and escape," Stephen Tidwell of the FBI told the Hollywood Reporter. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 05 Dec 2006

NASA outlines moon base construction plans

NASA has outlined its plans for a moon base. The space agency says it will start work on the project after it has started flying astronauts to our largest satellite again in 2020. After a wide-ranging international consultation, NASA decided the base should be solar powered, and most likely situated at one of the moon's poles. This maximises the amount of sunlight it will receive, and also puts the astronauts in one of the less-explored regions of the moon. The base would eventually be a staging post for further exploration of the solar system, but initially it would be a place where humanity could learn "to live off the land" the agency said in a press announcement. It would also be a research outpost. Building the base would be a long term project: NASA is planning an incremental build up with small crews making short visits to the moon, starting in 2020, while the moon base facilities are brought on line. After several seven day visits, the space agency says it will run longer missions, which will see crews stay on the moon for 180 days. This will help prepare for missions to Mars. All this would be preceded by robotic exploration missions that would survey the land and reduce the risk for a human mission. Reuters reports that funds for the moon base will be diverted from the Shuttle program, once the current fleet is retired in 2010. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Dec 2006

AMD debuts 65nm dual-core processors

AMD this morning rolled out its 65nm Athlon 64 X2 dual-core processors, as expected. The chips are pitched as "energy efficient" products, and come in at the same price as their 90nm equivalents.
Tony Smith, 05 Dec 2006

Toshiba intros 'world's most capacious' 1.8in HDD

Toshiba has unveiled what it claims is the world's most capacious 1.8in hard drive, a tiny unit that nonetheless packs in 100GB of unformatted storage space. To achieve that capacity, the company used perpendicular recording.
Tony Smith, 05 Dec 2006

Linux adoption - it's the ecology stupid!

CommentComment Why should an operating system be important for a mobile phone? It shouldn't, but of course mobile phones are no longer simple voice communicators, they are smart devices capable of many methods of communication and other sophisticated applications. Capable and complex, with a high degree of variety required to meet different market and user needs. The handset manufacturers' need to get different types of products quickly to market makes the flexibility of an operating system platform particularly valuable. If they then make the platform visible for adaptation by mobile operators, other third parties, or even end users it has essentially become a general purpose mobile computing system. With this level of sophistication everything becomes more complex. Businesses have to deploy mobile phones with at least as much care and management as they apply to any other computing platforms and users are faced with some admin tasks and probably more training and manual reading to fully understand and use the device they are carrying. Small wonder that some mobile operating platforms are kept closed by the handset vendor and tailored specifically for their needs alone. This has become particularly noticeable with open platforms based on a Linux kernel. Based on industry measurements the number of mobile devices with Linux underpinnings is significant - worldwide it might have been as many as 26 per cent of smartphone shipments in the first quarter of 2006, according to Gartner. The key points are these - worldwide does not mean evenly spread, and mobile Linux does not refer to either a whole operating system, or a single consistent operating platform. Two mobile Linux devices from different handset vendors may be very different and not capable of sharing applications. While Symbian, Microsoft and even Palm smartphone platforms allow third parties to add applications and services in an open ecosystem, ironically many of the mobile devices based on Linux do not, and as a consequence lose out on the benefits of scale and volume. The mobile Linux devices community is split into too many separate parts, and detailed knowledge of one mobile Linux platform does not translate into detailed knowledge of another. Mobile Linux-based device shipments are uneven, with more interest thus far in Far Eastern and Asian markets where the emphasis has been on key features and time to market, not new or interoperable applications. This, coupled with the fact that more often Linux is hidden from the mobile application developer, has led to little impetus for a mobile Linux-based application ecosystem. One long-term contributor to the mobile Linux effort is Norwegian company Trolltech. Beyond the oddly named operation, presumably in respect of the legendary forest and hill Trolls of Norway, is a company with a broad deployment of embedded software platforms. It also has experience in the mobile Linux space that started off from providing the operating system to the Sharp Zaurus PDA. These days Trolltech provides a fair amount of core platform code to mobile device manufacturers, including Sony and Motorola, but as yet these still produce precious little interoperability of applications, and hence no real momentum, despite fairly decent numbers of mobile device with some flavour of Linux somewhere at the core. Now far be it from me to enter the quasi-religious debate about Linux per se - my philosophy is based on open pies rather than open source. In any market, especially one that is still young, it is far better for all players to expand the size of the overall market - the pie - and then take their enlarged slice, rather than trying to "own" a proprietary segment. This boils down to having an appropriate stack of common standards, ideally written down and officially endorsed - de jure - or if needs be, open and just widely used - de facto. Getting broad adoption of the right collection of standard pieces, whether de facto or de jure, is still a tough challenge. Big players can do it through deep marketing pockets and integrated developer programs, but the diversity of offerings and suppliers in the realm of Linux for mobile looks half baked. Into the mix, Trolltech has added a recipe of its own, the Qtopia Greensuite. Following on from the its earlier idea, the Greenphone developer platform launched in September, Greensuite is a packaged feature set based on a mobile Linux platform for handset manufacturers to build mobile phones that allow anyone to develop and deploy applications and create a larger market - a bigger pie. When most companies talk about "an ecosystem" they're thinking about food chains and generally their next meal, so perhaps this is one Troll that isn't just thinking of its own stomach. However, the proof will be in the impact it has on developers and, crucially, on mobile device manufacturers. They have to want to be part of a bigger pie too. In the meantime, the likes of Microsoft and Symbian will still keep adding their own sugar and spice. Copyright © 2006, Quocirca
Rob Bamforth, 05 Dec 2006

Swiss set back luxury Windows smart phone

Swiss phone maker Zenum will bring its Windows Mobile 5.0-based slimline BlackBerry-like handset, the Opus, to market in March 2007, having missed its planned November 2006 release window, the company has announced.
Tony Smith, 05 Dec 2006

HTC QWERTY candybar smart phone to ship as Vox?

HTC looks set to market its upcoming candybar smart phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard as the Vox, leaked roadmap slides reveal. The Taiwanese handset maker showed off the device in September as carrier UTStarcom's Libra.
Tony Smith, 05 Dec 2006

Sony exec says 'yes' to PS4

Panic ye not - you will have the opportunity to spend hours in the freezing cold queueing overnight to get your hands on a PlayStation 4, risking a cap in the a**, a Sony executive has revealed, but not before 2010. Just as well - Europeans haven't got their hands on the PS3 yet, let alone its successor, and won't until March 2007.
Tony Smith, 05 Dec 2006
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Social sites' insecurity increasingly worrisome

Personal web spaces on MySpace, videos on YouTube, and blogs - community sites hosting user-created content - have become increasingly popular.
Robert Lemos, 05 Dec 2006

LaCie marries Firewire, USB for Huby designer hub

Will anyone buy Lacie's new designer USB hub - or is it destined to appear only as an on-shelf accessory in Ikea catalogues? It certainly looks the part, and wouldn't seem out of place next to an iMac. Styled by French designer Ora-Ito, the Huby provides an array of five USB and three Firewire plugs and sockets, along with a fan and a light for good measure, all on flexible cables.
Register Hardware, 05 Dec 2006

Qualcomm prepares for a cell-less future

Qualcomm has spent well in excess of $40m readying itself for a world beyond CDMA. The purchase of RF Micro Devices and Airgo Networks Inc gives Qualcomm experience and technology in cutting-edge Bluetooth and Wi-Fi communications, enabling it to compete in a world where phone handsets support a variety of radio technologies. Qualcomm is paying $39m for the Bluetooth assets of RF Micro Devices, which is conveniently located in San Diego (the home of Qualcomm itself), giving it rapid access to EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) implementations and the latest Bluetooth profiles. The cost of Airgo Networks isn't being revealed, but with its experience in 802.11n and MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) it is unlikely to have been cheap. Phone handsets from Nokia now sport seven different radios, so there is an imperative for Qualcomm to be able to offer the most important of those in a single package to manufacturers, and these purchases will give them the ability to do just that relatively quickly. While the ownership of key CDMA technologies has served Qualcomm well in the past, as GSM continues to dominate and applications become more network-agnostic they will need to innovate more aggressively if they are to maintain their position, and acquiring such cutting-edge technologies will work well in that regard. ®
Bill Ray, 05 Dec 2006

Antarctica's amazing disappearing, reappearing ice shelf

The Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica has melted and reformed many times in geologically recent history, scientists have found. A research team has spent the last few weeks drilling 600 metres down into the giant ice slab to extract and analyse samples from the seabed below the ice, the BBC reports. The long term goal of the project is to find out how stable the massive shelf of ice (which is the size of France) is. The clues are in the kinds of sediment they are finding, and they have already established that the shelf is far from a permanent feature. "When the ice sheet is there, the sediments you get under it are very rubbly. They are the sort of sediments that you would see at the front of [glaciers]," New Zealand Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences palaeoclimatologist Dr Tim Naish told the news organisation. "When the ice lifts a bit so water can flow underneath, and it becomes an ice shelf, you still get those rubbly bits but you also get sediments that tell you water was around, that water was flowing back and forth. "When the ice shelf disappears and you've got completely open water, then you've got a completely different situation where you have high biological productivity and a lot of microfossils preserved." The behaviour of the ice shelf is important for at least two reasons. The shelf acts to buttress the huge Western Antarctica ice sheet. Researchers think if the ice shelf collapses, the loss of ice from the continent of Antarctica would speed up as the glacial flow would have nothing to impede its journey to the ocean. By dating the sediments, the researchers are also keen to find out if there is a relationship between the coming and going of the ice shelf and fluctuations in the climate. This could help to predict future behaviour of the shelf, and therefore of the ice sheets themselves, and could be vital in predicting future sea-level changes. Earlier research has shown that fluctuations in the ice shelves are connected with a wobble of the Earth in its orbit around the sun. These so called Milankovitch cycles come approximately every 23,000, 41,000 and 100,000 years. The team notes that in the past the atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide had not risen above 300 parts per million, as they have today. The researchers speculate that this additional carbon in the atmosphere might make a difference to the behaviour of the shelves during the natural Milankovitch cycles. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Dec 2006
For Sale sign detail

Bogus anti-spyware firm fined $1m

A firm accused of marketing bogus anti-spyware software has paid $1m to settle a lawsuit brought by the US State of Washington. New York-based Secure Computer (not to be confused with legitimate security firm Secure Computing) is accused of using spamming and pop-ups in an aggressive and allegedly deceitful marketing campaign designed to promote sales of a product called Spyware Cleaner. The case against Secure Computer followed complaints that the firm and its marketing associates were punting software that falsely claimed computers were infected with spyware, before using scare tactics to push them into shelling out $50 for a product that did more harm than good. Washington State's investigation showed that users running so-called free scans using the software were always informed their PCs were infected even if their computers were clean. Even worse, Spyware Cleaner failed to detect some types of spyware. During the free scan, the software also surreptitiously erased a computer's Hosts file, which can be used to store web addresses that a user wants to block. The lawsuit alleged violations under Washington's 2005 Computer Spyware Act, federal and state spam laws, and the state Consumer Protection Act. An estimated 1,145 Washington residents who purchased Secure Computer's Spyware Cleaner software and, in some cases, Popup Padlock (a so-called upgrade that was actually a duplicate program) are eligible for refunds under the agreement filed in federal court. The case against Secure Computer and its affiliates is the first to be settled under Washington's newly enacted computer spyware laws. Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna said the successful conclusion of the case was a "victory" for Washington consumers and the online marketplace. "It sends a strong message to internet businesses that they must promote their products ethically and legally. We won't tolerate deceptive marketing such as 'scareware' that preys on consumers' fears about spyware and online threats," he added. Secure Computer stopped flogging Spyware Cleaner (previously marketed through sites including myspywarecleaner.com and checkforspyware.com) after the state filed its lawsuit back in January. Settlements with three other defendants in the case were agreed earlier this year. Under an agreement signed last week in Seattle by US District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez, Secure Computer and Paul Burke (its president) agreed to pay $200,000 in civil penalties, $75,000 in restitution for consumers, and $725,000 in state attorneys' fees and costs. The firm also agreed to be bound by an injunction that means it will face even heavier fines if it engages in similar marketing practices again. Secure Computer didn't admit to any wrongdoing in the case, but it did agree to send out email notices to all its customers in Washington State informing them of their right to receive refunds. "Customers" of the Spyware Cleaner and Popup Padlock in other states are not eligible to refunds. Washington consumers who believe they are eligible for refunds may file a complaint with the Attorney General's Office online at www.atg.wa.gov or call 1-800-551-4636 to request a form or additional information. Some of the emails punting Spyware Cleaner pose as messages from MSN Member Service with subject lines such as "Special Security Alert for MSN Members". Other messages arrive as pop-ups via Windows Messenger. These alleged tactics prompted Microsoft to file a federal lawsuit against Secure Computer alleging the firm used its trademarks without permission to suggest Microsoft recommended the ineffective software. Microsoft's case against Secure Computer remains pending. ®
John Leyden, 05 Dec 2006

AWOL satnav system leads to ambulance joyride

Two ambulance drivers' unswerving obedience to their satnav system ended up turning a 30 minute hospital transfer into an eight hour, 430 mile wild goose chase. The crew were supposed to be moving a male mental patient from King George hospital in Ilford to Mascalls Park hospital near Brentwood, a 12 mile journey, but a faulty satnav system directed the London Ambulance crew 200 miles off course - and they ended up in Warley, Manchester. According to paramedic.org.uk, the newish crew, who reportedly had not done this trip before, left King George hospital at 3am and were noticed missing by control at 7am, who queried if everything was okay. The crew then fessed up that they " appeared to be a little bit lost". A spokesman for the ambulance service told the Manchester Evening News that: "We believe that the crew, who had not been to this particular hospital before, followed the directions given by the navigation system, without manually confirming their destination. We understand that they reached the outskirts of Manchester before realising they were heading to the wrong destination. "The patient was in a comfortable condition at all times while in our care and he arrived safely at Mascalls Park Hospital early that afternoon. "The problem with the navigation database is also now being fixed." Which is good news. A sat nav system wreaked similar havoc back in May when an ambulance took almost 90 minutes to take an injured girl to hospital, in what should have been a 10 minute journey. A recent head-to-head trial between satnavs and conventional maps found that a traditional atlas was the quickest way to navigate, as reported by The Daily Express. The test by consumer group Which? found that two people using an atlas could reach their destination eight per cent faster than those relying on a satnav. ®
Tracey Cooper, 05 Dec 2006

Handhelds beat shirt cuffs in cheating stakes

Mobile phones can replace anything these days: diary, address book, TV, and radio, and now they are substituting for the scrawled notes on the inside of the cuff which have been so important to a generation of students. A new study commissioned by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, and carried out by Nottingham Trent University, remains ambivalent as to whether cheating is actually increasing, but does identify the methods students are using, and what might be done about it. For course work (essays and projects submitted during the course) plagiarism is still the most popular way to higher marks. But where submissions are electronic, specialist software can be used to cross-reference internet sources, as well as previously submitted work, to check for unreasonable similarities. In exam situations the low-tech exists alongside the latest SMS and WAP utilisation - copying from the person next door, looking over the shoulder of the person in front, or arranging for someone else to sit the exam for you, all remain popular. New developments include using SMS to communicate with other students sitting the same exam, or with someone on the outside with access to reference material. Direct access to the internet has also been cited as a problem, though the cheater will need to exercise discretion given the quality of information found there. Various techniques have been considered for addressing these problems, including mandatory fingerprinting of all students, and encasing exam rooms in Faraday cages - both rejected on cost and logistical grounds. The use of mobile phone detectors is also mooted, and the report suggests these can cost as little as £100, though one teacher known to El Reg already uses a £5 phone-detecting-pen-top to achieve the same result. But Faraday cages and phone jamming only help if a connection is being used, and the majority of cheating is just loading up notes onto the phone for reference during the exam - the modern version of the upturned cuff. Stopping that requires smaller exam groups, and greater effort by invigilators, both of which are costly. The report concludes that clear guidance on acceptable behaviour must be made available, and that fear of reprisal should be used to prevent cheating, as well as basic security to make it non-trivial to cheat. A recent survey, quoted in the report, places cheating among UK students between four per cent and seven per cent. Phones and PDAs make life easier for the cheater, but they add nothing new to an age-old problem. ®
Bill Ray, 05 Dec 2006

Motorola unveils iTunes-less ROKR

Motorola will ship its latest ROKR music phone later this month, the company announced this week. It entirely failed to mention Apple's iTunes, the software the original ROKR was launched to support, pushing instead the handset's PDA-like styling and functionality.
Tony Smith, 05 Dec 2006

Philips loses interest in navigation

Philips has gone into reverse on plans to enter the market for personal navigation devices because of fears the sector is getting too crowded.
Jan Libbenga, 05 Dec 2006

Britney wallops Shakira in search tussle

Talent-lite genitalia-flasher and mother-of-two Britney Spears has topped Yahoo's list of the year's most popular search terms. The demure Ms Spears beat nearest rival, Columbian pop she-devil Shakira, to the 2006 crown. Spears, who released not one note of music this year, bolstered her campaign by birthing a celebresprog and getting divorced from her unbelievably-less-talented-than-her comedy hip-hop ratfink husband Kevin Federline. Oh yeah, and a genius last ditch spate of vaginal exposure which threatened to bring down the internet with its sheer PR brilliance. The Iraq War put in a pathetic performance, not even making the top news story position, which was a battle between the deaths of Steve Irwin and Anna Nicole Smith's son. Murmurs the internet remains the single-handed surfing dominion of male singletons were comprehensively squashed, however, by the presence of intellectual colossi Jessica Simpson, Paris Hilton, Beyonce Knowles, Pamela Anderson, and Lindsay Lohan in the top 10. And World Wrestling Entertainment. ®
Christopher Williams, 05 Dec 2006

Sony to ship major PS3 firmware update next March

The Sony PlayStation 3 European debut - due to take place in March 2007 - will be accompanied by a major firmware update, a senior Sony Computer Entertainment (SCE) Europe executive has revealed.
Hard Reg, 05 Dec 2006
sony ericsson z310

Sony Ericsson reflects upon mirror-finish phone

Sony Ericsson today launched its latest clamshell handset hoping to pull in the punters with the phone's mirror-finish casing, its choice of black, bronze or pink hues, and ability to colour-code contacts with lighting effects.
Hard Reg, 05 Dec 2006
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SAP goes modular on ERP

SAP has released its first incremental update to its application suite under a rewritten roadmap that will not see another major update to its ERP until 2010.
Gavin Clarke, 05 Dec 2006

Virtual and Mac worlds turn fiery wrath on El Reg

LettersLetters An anti-poverty campaign has set up its stall in Second Life, the online virtual world game that is so popular with so many. Our short, and somewhat cheeky, story on this collision of the most and least real of places to live (poverty vs. Second Life, for those only on coffee no. 1) has provoked quite a storm:
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Dec 2006
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Sage brings compliance software inhouse

Newcastle-based business software firm Sage has bought compliance and document tracking technology from Virginia developer VerticalFalls Software.
Christopher Williams, 05 Dec 2006

The Electro-pulse of Doom that threatens America

Be afraid. The recent election removed a stalwart defender of the United States against one demonical menace among many, the electromagnetic pulse attack, the one that will fry our electronics. The spiritual leader of the cause, Republican Congressman Curt Weldon, was endorsed by Frank Gaffney, right wing defender of the faith in national security and pundit for the pages of the Washington Times, two days before Weldon's political career was terminated. "No one has done more than Curt Weldon to warn the nation against the potentially 'catastrophic' threat of electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack . . " wrote Gaffney. "[Weldon] has sought another closed-session of the House to apprise his colleagues, who remain largely uninformed of this megathreat, and to rouse them to the sort of decisive action they previously took on missile defense." Weldon went down anyway, the megathreat being not as compelling as the perception of crookedness, if the FBI is investigating you for influence peddling. While this is dancing on the man's grave, consider the observer's fun factor lost when the electromagnetic pulse threat advocacy lobby's loss of Weldon took one in the shorts on November 7th. "The nightmare scenario is this: A rogue nation like North Korea or a stateless terrorist like Bin Laden gets hold of a nuclear weapon and decides not to drive it into a large city but rather to launch it on a Scud-type missile straight into the atmosphere from a barge off the East Coast," claimed Gaffney. Keep in mind that when talking about electromagnetic attack, anything goes. It's old but immortal Fortress American paranoid voodoo, crap - in other words, a threat which can be glued on anyone: teen hackers, Russia, Cuba, China, North Korea, Iran, al Qaeda, even Saddam Hussein and a half dozen enemies we haven't found, like maybe you. If someone doesn't have the bomb quite yet, such as Iran, let alone the multi-megaton one to be notionally used to induce a scorching atmospheric electromagnetic wave, it's no obstacle. Suspend disbelief. Common sense, after all, is a handicap to outside-the-box thinking. "There is reason to believe the Iranian regime is working toward [an EMP] capability that could destroy America as we know it," wrote Gaffney, again attributing Curt Weldon, last February. This linked piece conveniently contains a graphic, showing Jesusland would suffer more, so buy gold now. And if one is conceptually skeptical of Iran, North Korea or terrorists with a multi-megaton thermonuclear device, that's no impediment to crushing the Great Satan. "In an instant, the world's superpower could become a candle-powered 19th-century museum," wrote one brilliant theoretician at Slate recently. "The worse news is that EMP weapons don't require a nuclear detonation - there are other ways to achieve the same effect." What other ways? Not important. Take it from me, they exist, just like N-rays and phlogiston. Electromagnetic pulse attack is so nefarious, even journalists feel compelled to bug Homeland Security about it. In a talk in June entitled "Fact or Fiction in the War on Terror" - this is not made up - HS director Michael Chertoff was jokily cryptic with a DC news audience that had watched Jack Bauer's adventures on "24." "[I]s electromagnetic pulse fact or fiction?" asked the moderator of the event. "Well, let me say first of all that it is true that technology always surprises us," said Chertoff, adding a little later, "As far as electromagnetic pulsating, I don't know if it would shut the entire country down." Jack Bauer, as you may know, fought an electromagnetic pulse bomb that employed "other ways" than a thermonuclear blast to black out Los Angeles. DD, however, prefers the electromagnetic pulse bomb in "Medusa's Child," a made for TV movie that runs once a month or so on cable in which a downsized Pentagon scientist makes a four megaton H-bomb in his work shack behind the house. While Weldon won't be available to kick around anymore, the EMP lobby still has supporters. Arizona GOP Senator John Kyl and Rep. Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland. Kyl believes the EMP attack could come from the al Qaeda freighter navy, a 60-strong fleet that could park off the coast and lob bombs, like Trident submarines. And a potential reinforcement exists in Newt Gingrich, presidential candidate. Gingrich has been traveling the country, talking about "Word War III," the one Americans are fighting for the rest of you shabby lot. "If we didn't have the threat of nuclear weapons, electromagnetic pulse weapons... this would not be a global threat," said Gingrich in July at a Republican rally in Palm Springs. The news on electromagnetic pulse weapons also goes from bad to worse. Not only do the enemies of freedom have the technology, we apparently do not, with research into electromagnetic artillery shells and such still stumbling along, like it has been for the last fifteen years or so. There is, one suspects, an electromagnetic pulse gap. "US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (ARDEC) is researching high-power microwave (HPM) weapon that could be launched by mortar or artillery piece; previous HPM concepts involved electromagnetic pulse to short-circuit electronics of weapons systems," wrote Jane's Defense Weekly forlornly in a 58-word announcement in August. Now, before you raise your hand and point to a book on Amazon, or a website selling shock pulse generators alongside the anti-gravity thrusters, or news stories that implied we used the electromagnetic pulse against Saddam or someone else. Yes - yes, I know all about it. As GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow, I was asked by AP's editor in charge of sending the news agency's reporting team to Iraq if the journalists should put their cell phones and laptops in microwave ovens to protect the equipment from American e-bomb barrage. The idea was, you know, that microwave ovens can keep electromagnetic rays in, so they ought to be able to keep them out. At the time, I felt microwave ovens were for cooking food and still do. A German TV news team also asked me about this, inquiring if the US had a death ray - it had been mentioned in news prior to Iraqi Freedom - and if the air force would employ it in Baghdad. I told them Americans didn't have a death ray. At the time, they might not have believed me. ® George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.

No let up in Big Blue's software buying spree

The year may be coming to a close, but IBM keeps the acquisitions coming with this week's purchase of risk management specialist Consul. IBM said the acquisition of privately held Consul would strengthen its service management initiative by adding capabilities in data governance, compliance monitoring, auditing, and reporting in mainframe and distributed environments. The deal is intended to help IBM assist customers in creating infrastructures serving Sarbanes-Oxley and HIPPA. Dutch-based Consul's trick is to consolidate and analyse data such as user activity and security logs, and to deliver alerts on who's using information. Consul will be folded into IBM's Tivoli software management unit. Aside from improving IBM's risk management and compliance capabilities, the deal also delivers IBM a customer list of 350 organisations, spanning Ford, Kroger, Office Depot, Hanes, and Fidelity Bank. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. ®
Gavin Clarke, 05 Dec 2006

Christmas gifts for geeks

Site offerSite offer Christmas is coming and even geeks leave their machines, indulge in a little turkey, maybe a mince pie or two, and rejoice in the euphoria created by a few appropriately chosen pressies. Computers, games, and other such fun are the order of the day and the titles below will appeal to any geek who has taken the Christmas period off from writing the next big thing – they might even appeal to you as well. Especially with a 40 per cent discount! So check out the books below and grab a gift or two that will be sure to keep your favourite geek happy on Christmas day. Greetings in Jesus Name!: The Scambaiter Letters Letters asking us for money for orphans, for victims of hurricanes, letters telling us we've won the Spanish lottery, letters telling us we have been contacted because we are known to be of good integrity and could be trusted to bank 30 million in our saving's account, for a generous fee of 10 per cent of the sum. To most of us the letters are an irritant. To Michael Berry they are a call to arms. How to Label a Goat Have you ever thrown your arms up in despair while trying to complete an official form and asked yourself "Just what is the point of this?" You're not alone. Red tape in Britain has reached epidemic proportions and this book offers just a glimpse of all the rules and regulations. The Bumper Book of Government Waste Welcome to the world of waste. You are about to enter a twilight zone of crazy spending, political correctness, utter incompetence, and fantastic jollies all funded by the British taxpayer - and by taxpayer, we mean you. Colossus: Bletchley Park's Greatest Secret Using recently declassified information, this is the greatest untold story of Bletchley Park: a gripping account of the invention of the world's first true computer, Colossus, and the crucial part it played in winning the war. The Encyclopedia of Game Machines: Consoles, Handhelds & Home Computers 1972-2005 More than 450 dream machines, from million-dollar sellers to exotic variants, are celebrated in this exhaustive reference to video gaming systems. On the Edge: The Spectacular Rise & Fall of Commodore Filled with first-hand accounts of ambition, greed, and inspired engineering, this history of the personal computer revolution takes readers inside the cutthroat world of Commodore. The Cult of Mac There is no product on the planet that enjoys the devotion of a Macintosh computer. Apple's machines have legions of loyal, sometimes demented fans. The Cult of Mac surveys the devoted following that has grown up around Macintosh computers. The Cult of iPod The Cult of iPod includes the exclusive back story of the iPod's development; looks at the many ways iPod's users pay homage to their devices; and investigates the quirkier aspects of iPod culture, such as iPod-jacking (strangers plugging into each other's iPods to discover new music), as well as the growing legions of MP3Js (regular folks who use their iPods to become DJs). Inside the Machine Computers perform countless tasks ranging from the business critical to the recreational, but regardless of how differently they may look and behave, they're all amazingly similar in basic function. Once you understand how the microprocessor - or central processing unit (CPU) - works, you'll have a firm grasp of the fundamental concepts at the heart of all modern computing. ®
Team Register, 05 Dec 2006
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Database in depth

Book reviewBook review Readers have probably noticed that I was a DBA (Database Administrator) in a former life and I'm an enthusiast for the Relational Model.
David Norfolk, 05 Dec 2006
cloud

Phishing worm hooks MySpace users

In BriefIn Brief A worm exploiting Javascript support within Apple's embedded QuickTime player has spread across the MySpace network. The worm is being used in conjunction with a MySpace vulnerability recently reported on a security mailing list to replace legitimate links on a user's MySpace profile with links pointing towards a phishing site. The attack attempts to trick users into handing over MySpace login credentials and to trick users into visiting a pornographic website contaminated with Zango adware, FaceTime Security reports. Once a user's MySpace profile is infected (which happens when they view a malicious embedded QuickTime video) their links are doctored and a copy of the malicious QuickTime video is embedded into the user's site, web security firm WebSense said. Other users who visit an infected profile may then pass on the infection. An infected profile can be identified by the presence of an empty QuickTime video or modified links in the MySpace header section, it adds. ®
John Leyden, 05 Dec 2006
channel

Malware wars: Are hackers on top?

The money made from malware is eclipsing the revenue of anti-virus vendors, a leading net security vendor claims. Raimund Genes, CTO of anti-malware at Trend Micro, cites FBI figures that IT security problems cost the economy $62bn last year against IDC estimates that the anti-malware market was worth $26bn in 2005. The FBI figures include the cost of clean-up operations, not just the profits accrued by the bad guys. Even taking this into account Genes reckons cyber-crooks are raking it in, but we're skeptical. Losses from phishing in the US last year were estimated at $650m, only a tiny fraction of the income of security vendors. Perhaps this figure underestimates malware losses. Placing a figure on malware losses is a notoriously inexact science and the same problems would appear to apply to putting a value on the black economy. Secondly security vendors have a vested interest in talking up IT security problems. This doesn't mean that they don't have a valuable insight into the problem even though opinions on threats sometimes differ between vendors. Crystal ball Looking ahead, Genes reckons click fraud, more sophisticated phishing attacks and the use of VoIP calls to trick punters into handing over sensitive security information will become a growing problem. Tricking users into visiting websites that exploit security vulnerabilities rather than mass mailing worms has become the preferred delivery route for malware. Compromised machines infected by malware and under the control of hackers will continue to be a problem, according to Genes. Trend Micro reckons there are around 5m zombie PCs clients on the net at any one time. Access to these PCs to either send spam or conduct denial of service attacks is sold in the digital underground. That much is common ground among security vendors, but Trend differs from rival vendors such as McAfee in assessing the likely impact of mobile malware. Genes thinks there's easier ways to make money whereas McAfee, for example, lists mobile phone attacks as among its top 10 threats for 2007. Future imperfect Looking ahead, McAfee also predicts that adware will go mainstream and that parasitic malware, or viruses that modify existing files on a disk, will make a comeback. Software vulnerabilities will continue to cause concern fueled by the underground market for vulnerabilities, McAfee predicts. It reckons malware production has become more "professional" with automated testing against security packages becoming part and parcel of the release cycle of malign code. Never one to be left out of such debates, Symantec has also come up with its own predictions for 2007, alongside its review of this year's security landscape. In the first half of 2006, Symantec detected close to 900 unique phishing messages a day - an increase from nearly 500 per day over the previous 6 month period. Symantec also notes that attacks against unpatched security vulnerabilities remain a problem. From January to June 2006, the average time to develop a patch was 31 days. However, the average time to develop exploit code was three days, leaving a 28 day window of exposure. Rootkit technology - malware designed to hide itself from detection by users and security programs - undertook more mainstream adoption by attackers in 2006. Trojan supermarkets UK-based net security filtering firm MessageLabs meanwhile reports evidence of spammers employing spyware to make their campaigns more effective. It reckons 85 per cent of all email traffic is now junk. Spam and targeted malware attacks have become the main battleground for MessageLabs, with mass mailing worms becoming less and less of a problem. Highly targeted Trojan attacks, specifically designed to steal intellectual property from businesses and organisations, increased from one a week to one a day this year, it reports. Like other vendors, MessageLabs notes a big increase in image spam, which it expects to become even more prevalent next year, largely due to the inability of traditional spam filter software to detect minute changes in the image email. The growing involvement of organised crime in malware production will see sites selling customised malware - so-called Trojan supermarkets - become better known. Often based in Russia, these outlets allow crooks to order a customised Trojan for as little as $250, which will be altered to their needs. Price deflation and increased automation on this market is expected, MessageLabs predicts. ®
John Leyden, 05 Dec 2006
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Concerns mount over missing SCO web admin

Our SCO cluster watch has officially shifted from threat level "amusement" to "concern." It's day five of the SCO High Availability Clusters link fiasco, and there are no signs of life from the Unix vendor. SCO's homepage link to the HA Clusters software remains down, despite our plea for the company simply to add "ing" to the URL to fix the situation. It seems clear that demand for SCO's clustering software is running pretty low, since the company has failed to notice its broken link. It also seems clear that SCO's web staff has taken on skeleton crew status. Our heart goes out to the great IP defender from Utah, which has struggled to find a few good men to help out with its IT operations. The company's job page - like its cluster site - has languished for months. The three positions currently up for grabs have been available since May 15. SCO might have better luck finding software developers, if it tweaks the job disclaimer. "This job description in no way states or implies that these are the only duties to be performed by the incumbent," SCO warns. "Incumbent will be required to follow any other job-related instructions and to perform any other job-related duties requested by any person authorized to give instructions or assignments. "Some requirements may exclude individuals who pose a direct threat or significant risk to the health or safety of themselves or others." On a more positive note, SCO's shares are only down 5 per cent today, breaking a two-day double-digit dip run. ®
Ashlee Vance, 05 Dec 2006
channel

IBM plumps up blades for telcos

An eager IBM has fired up some new blade servers and complementary bits and pieces for the teclo set. Leading IBM's charge is the fresh BladeCenter HT chassis. The case has stretched to 12U from the standard 9U BladeCenter chassis in order to gear the system more for the teclo marketplace. In addition, IBM has shifted the power supplies and switches to the front of the unit for easier access and added some of the ruggedized features required by carrier customers. The new chassis stands as IBM's flagship product in a telco attack centered on high-bandwith gear. The hardware maker hopes to cater to carriers rolling out Internet Protocol TV, VoIP and advanced security services over the next year. Along those lines, IBM also revealed that a Nortel (Blade Network) 10Gb Ethernet switch will slot into its new chassis. With the switch and new chassis, customers can expect to see overall throughput rise from 4Gb to 40Gb per blade and 1.2Tb across the BladeCenter HT backplane. In addition, IBM announced the 4 x 1 AdvancedMC Carrier Blade, which is a server that can hold up to four line cards that support legacy telco protocols. The AMC cards can help out with WAN I/O transport, media gateway and signaling internetworking applications. Lastly, IBM plans to chuck out something it's calling an NGN Gateway Blade. This box eliminates one of the processor sockets from a standard blade and replaces it with a slot for daughter cards that can handle firewall and other specialized tasks. The idea is to filter Ethernet traffic through the blade, clean it up and then send the data back onto the network. Sadly, IBM will not release any of this gear until the middle of next year and has yet to provide pricing on the hardware. The company is telling you about it now because telcos apparently require longer lead times than regular server customers. ®
Ashlee Vance, 05 Dec 2006