9th > December > 2006 Archive

For Sale sign detail

US politicos demand cool servers

US politicians have joined the great call for energy-friendly data centers, as the Senate this week approved a bill that promotes low-power server technology.
Ashlee Vance, 09 Dec 2006
For Sale sign detail

New benchmark neuters storage vendors

The Storage Performance Council (SPC) has issued a second benchmark meant to save customers from vendor spin hell.
Ashlee Vance, 09 Dec 2006

Feds pony up $3.5m for robot race

After foraging through thousands of couches in Washington, the government has come up with $3.5m in prize money for the contestants in an upcoming robotic vehicle race. DARPA - the gadgety arm of the Defense Department - today revealed that contestants in the 2007 Urban Challenge will receive prize money after all. New legislation had blocked the agency from offering cash awards as it had in the past two Challenge events. Now, however, Ken Krieg, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, has approved the payoffs. The first place team stands to win $2m, followed by second place with $1m and third place with $500,000. The winning robotic vehicles must find their own way through a 60-mile urban course within 6 hours to stash the cash. DARPA's Challenge events remain popular with the geek set. Last year, a Stanford University team won the second running of the Grand Challenge by completing a 150-mile desert journey. Stanford's success helped redeem the Grand Challenge contest after a complete collapse by all participants during the first event in 2004. The most successful teams have largely relied on hefty equipment donations from vendors and have produced vehicles that cost well over $1m. Still, the cash prize is a nice incentive. The government takes the robotic vehicle contest very seriously as the US has set a mandate to have one-third of its military ground vehicles operate unmanned by 2015. The Feds turned to the Grand Challenge concept after military contractors were slow to show much progress with the technology. ®
Ashlee Vance, 09 Dec 2006

Cisco hires Santa to hawk video phone

Cisco Systems has done the near impossible and put Santa on its payroll. The vendor plans to connect hospitalized children in Canada, Germany and the US to Santa Claus via - what else - Internet video telephones. By hitting "a single button" the kids will gain a direct line to the Great Present Giver. With any luck, Santa will be wearing pants. "Children and their family members will gather in common areas in the hospitals where Cisco video telephony equipment will be set up for the calls," Cisco said. "In most of the hospitals, the video phone system will also be transported to patients' rooms so that children too sick to leave their rooms can participate in the program. Cisco and Mattel will be providing Christmas gifts for the children." To be honest, we never pegged Santa as a Cisco customer and pictured him more as a rotary laggard than a bleeding-edge video phone type. But that John Chambers can be very persuasive. Cisco has a funky video showing the Santa Session in action. The company plans to connect children with Santa at hospitals in New York; Charleston, South Carolina; Sacramento, California; Ottawa and Berlin. Parents in other cities are urged to contact Cisco's rivals for a competing service. ®
Ashlee Vance, 09 Dec 2006

How the 'true blue' political maverick gave the senate to the donkeys

Also in this week's column: Can blind people see in their dreams? What is selective mutism and is it for real? How the 'true blue' political maverick gave the senate to the donkeys The 2006 US Congressional elections saw a change in the political balance in Washington that promises to shape history. The House of Representatives shifted from Republican elephant red to Democrat donkey blue by a healthy majority. The US Senate shifted the same way, but by only one seat. Six of seven tight Senate races went to the Democrats, including Montana. In that state, Republican incumbent Senator Conrad Burns was defeated by Democrat Jon Tester. The winning margin was only 2,565 votes (0.6 per cent). But there was a third name on the ballot - Stan Jones - the Libertarian Party candidate. Jones received 10,324 votes (2.6 per cent). This was far beyond Tester's winning margin. It is generally regarded by political pundits that if Jones had not run, most of his votes would have gone to Burns. Burns would have won re-election. The Senate would have numbered 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Vice president Dick Cheney would have wielded the critical, deciding, tie-breaking vote, and the Senate would have stayed Republican instead of Democrat. The role of Stan Jones in this historical event is pivotal. Jones did to Burns in Montana in 2006 what Ralph Nader did nationally to Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. Jones is a "true blue" political maverick -ironic in Montana, a state known for its cattle and cattle ranches. "Maverick" comes to us from Samuel A Maverick (died 1870) an American pioneer famous for not branding his cattle. "Maverick" originally referred to any unbranded range animal, especially a motherless calf. Now its most common usage is its political meaning. "Maverick" refers to an independent individual who does not go along with a party, a faction, a group. And that is certainly true of Stan Jones. Among the many, shall we say, iconoclastic views of Jones, he believes that an international communist conspiracy centered in Europe and North America seeks to establish a one-world government. He believes that the US dollar will be appropriated and devalued by the Mexican peso and become something called the Amero. He supports the death penalty, bans on abortion, bans on gay marriage, and bans on the requirement that a social security number must be presented to acquire a Montana hunting or fishing license. What will be very interesting to fans of this column is that Stan Jones also suffers from argyria. Argyria is a weird body condition caused by the ingestion of silver. It can be acquired through breathing in silver dust, silver compounds, or taking some silver-laden folk medicines. Argyria is from the Greek argyros meaning "silver". It was once common among silver miners, but is relatively rare today. The most dramatic effect of argyria is that the skin and sometimes the eyes turn blue or bluish-grey. Most odd of all, once the effect occurs, it is permanent and irreversible. In 2000, Jones acquired argyria by drinking a home-made colloidal silver solution. He manufactured it himself in his kitchen by electrically charging two silver wires in a glass of water. There is a view among some alternative therapies advocates, that colloidal silver can boost the immune system - something Jones desired. Jones was also motivated by the fear that antibiotics would soon become unavailable world wide due to an international conspiracy of pharmaceutical firms and by a belief that colloidal silver is also a treatment against the bioterrorism disease of anthrax. Jones claims that his permanently blue skin is genuine and as such is certainly no political stunt. He also admits to being somewhat embarrassed by his blue skin, while never enough to blush pink, but not enough to refrain from running for public office. In any case, history will note that in 2006, Stan Jones became the agryrian candidate - the "true blue" political maverick responsible for turning the US Senate Democrat, donkey, and "true blue" too. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 09 Dec 2006
2

Can blind people see in their dreams?

Also in this week's column: How the 'true blue' political maverick gave the senate to the donkeys What is selective mutism and is it for real? Can blind people see in their dreams? Asked by Cindy Webster of Palmerston North, New Zealand Most researchers believe that people who are blind from birth or who become blind in infancy do not see in their dreams. They do not retain visual imagery because it was never acquired in the first place. However, those blinded in childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, or afterwards usually do see in their dreams. "They often retain visual imagery in their waking life and in their dreams," according to Drs Nancy Kerr of the Department of Psychology at Oglethorpe University and G. William Domhoff of the Department of Psychology at the University of California at Santa Cruz. They write in the December 2004 issue of Dreaming that "individuals blinded before the age of about five report no visual imagery in dreams as adults, whereas those blinded after about the age of seven are likely to retain visual imagery in dreaming". This conclusion is based upon four sleep laboratory studies conducted between 1966 and 1999. According to the Royal National Institute of the Blind in London: "Dreams are experienced in the same way as life is lived. If someone loses their sight, they will dream of events during the days when sight was available in visual terms. If dreams are about recent events when sight was not used, sensations will be in terms of sound, smell, texture, and so on." A person dreams as they live. Can people have the same dream at the same time? It is called simultaneous dreaming. This occurs when two or more people have the same dream. The dream need not occur at the same time to qualify as a simultaneous dream. But sometimes this happens too. There are no scientific studies of simultaneous dreaming. However, there are a few anecdotal reports of simultaneous dreaming on the internet. It is usually mentioned in relationship to lucid dreaming. Lucid dreaming is the conscious perception of one's state while dreaming with the intended effect of having clearer dreams and to be able to control, focus, and utilise dreams to improve one's life. Are humans the only animals that dream? Besides humans, other animals probably dream too. According to Dr Allan Hobson, a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, writing in the August 2003 issue of Discover: "Although it cannot be proved, it is reasonable to suppose that many animals see, hear, feel, and run in their sleep just as we do." Most researchers agree that brain activity during dreaming functions to help keep body temperature stable during sleep. Body temperature stability during sleep is also necessary in mammals besides humans. There is also evidence that dreaming helps solidify memories. This would have a survival advantage in both humans and non-human animals. For these and other reasons, Dr Hobson concludes that it is logical to conclude that at least some animals probably do dream. Too bad they cannot tell us and remove all doubt. Perhaps they might some day? Dream on! Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 09 Dec 2006
1

What is selective mutism and is it for real?

Also in this week's column: How the 'true blue' political maverick gave the senate to the donkeys Can blind people see in their dreams? What is selective mutism and is it for real? Asked by Vikki de Melendez of Clifton Park, New York Selective mutism (SM) is a well-established psychological disorder. It is a social anxiety condition in which a person is capable of speech only with a very few people and only in a very few situations. Many have thought SM is not genuine because the SM sufferer is fully capable of speech. The unsympathetic often believe the SM sufferer is faking the speechlessness. But they can and do speak when the people around them and the occasion itself is "safe" for them. Perhaps that person may be a parent, a sibling, or a partner. Perhaps they will only speak inside their own home and nowhere else. A convenient way to think of SM is to imagine someone with a phobia of, say, lightning (astraphobia) and thunder (brontophobia). They are perfectly fine in fine weather, but comes a storm and they collapse into panic. Five factors characterise SM. There is: Consistent failure to speak in specific social situations in which there is an expectation of speaking. It is often first detected when the child is in school. An interference with educational and occupational achievement. The duration must last more than one month. Failure to speak is unrelated to lack of knowledge of or comfort with the language to be spoken. Another communicative disorder (such as stuttering) is not present. The diagnosis of SM has been around for more than 100 years. It was known by its earlier name, elective mutism. SM is relatively rare. Between one and seven per 1,000 people suffer from SM. Slightly more females suffer from it than males. No single cause has so far been found to account for SM. Drs William Sharp and colleagues from the University of Mississippi in Oxford and the DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware write in the Journal of Anxiety Disorders(30 August 2006) that: "Although well documented, SM is still not clearly understood, and debate continues regarding its classification and etiology." They add that in the past and sometimes even today, an SM sufferer was dismissed as merely being defiant, manipulative, dominating, negative, stubborn, aggressive, or a combination of these. major myth surrounding SM is that the sufferer chooses to whom they speak, and where, and when. Not so, say researchers - and they say it to one and all. Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au
Stephen Juan, 09 Dec 2006

Americans unaware of nanotechnology

A report published in the December issue of the journal Nature Nanotechnology highlights the fact that 69 per cent of Americans have heard little or nothing about nanotechnology, despite the fact that this Christmas there are over 350 nanotechnology-based products on the shelves. The report, entitled What drives public acceptance of nanotechnology?, highlights the author's concerns that the US will accept the technology without informed review. Neal Lane, one of the authors and former science advisor to Bill Clinton, said: "More young people are seeing nanotechnology in advertisements for MP3 players than are learning about nanotechnology in schools." But while few people know what nanotechnology is, they aren't much concerned about the health risks which might be associated with it. US consumers were found to be perfectly happy to see nanotechnology used in products such as drugs, cosmetics, and car tyres as long as there were significant benefits; even with some health and safety risk. And before any UK readers start getting cocky, the last survey in the UK found that only 19 per cent of people could give a definition of nanotechnology - accurate or not. The report recommends a three phased approach: more research into the health implications, greater education in schools, and a massive program of public education to allow informed choice. ®
Bill Ray, 09 Dec 2006
cloud

SAS is storming SCSI, claims array maker

Serial-attached SCSI (SAS) is fast taking over from parallel SCSI, claimed LSI Logic as it launched a range of SAS-only storage systems aimed at small and mid-sized businesses (SMBs). "We expect to ship more SAS silicon this quarter than SCSI," said LSI product marketeer Rip Wilson.
Bryan Betts, 09 Dec 2006

Sex.com thief released from prison

In yet another twist in the extraordinary tale of Sex.com, the con-man who stole the world's most valuable domain has been released from jail - in order to locate the millions of dollars he owes the original owner. Stephen Michael Cohen has been ordered to hand Gary Kremen $65m by a US court but despite years of intense fighting has yet to hand over one cent. On Tuesday morning, after 14 months in jail for civil contempt, Cohen was released by Judge James Ware, because Kremen's lawyers had been unable to chase down his offshore bank accounts. Cohen claims he is only able to get the details of his various accounts - held in Lithuania, Liechtenstein and the Isle of Man - in person and outside jail, and is due back in court in San Jose on 26 February to tell the judge how that search has gone. But in a chilling turn of events, one of the few people with access to Cohen's estimated countless millions, Mexican lawyer Gustavo Cortés Carvajal, known locally as El Sapo or "The Toad", was the target of an assassination attempt in Tijuana at 5pm on the day of Cohen's release. Cortes was in a Mercedes van being driven by fellow lawyer Jose Luis Alamillo, when it was blocked in by two trucks in central Tijuana. Alamillo managed to break free and, chased by the trucks, get to the local police station but had been shot several times in his left flank during the attack. A four-year-old boy in a car at the scene when the shooting broke out was shot in the head and is an unknown state, while Cortes himself escaped unharmed. There is nothing to link Cohen to Cortes' attempted murder. Follow the money The shooting is the latest twist in an extraordinary case that started on 17 October 1995 when Stephen Cohen hacked the computer system used to store all dotcom registrant details and change ownership of Sex.com into his name. Cohen later covered his tracks by forging a letter, purportedly from Kremen's company, handing over the domain in recognition of non-existent trademark rights Cohen had in the name "sex.com". That theft was the start of an epic legal battle that finally ended in April 2001 with Kremen was handed back the domain and awarded $65m: $40m covering the money Cohen had made from the prestigious domain in the intervening six years, and $25m as punitive damages. But rather than pay, Cohen fled across the Mexican border and remained a fugitive from justice for four years until he was finally arrested on 27 October 2005 in Tijuana and transported the short distance across the border. Despite dozens of hours of subsequent interviews in jail, Cohen has failed to provide a single piece of information that has led to the discovery of any of his money. Following a long series of court appearances, Judge Ware felt his hands were tied by the civil contempt laws and said he had no option but to release Cohen. "Cohen has been incarcerated for more than one year," read Ware's ruling, "during which time Kremen has failed to locate evidence of hidden bank accounts or other assets. Under these circumstances, the only purpose of Cohen's continued incarceration would be punitive - an impermissible purpose for civil contempt sanctions." Kremen and his lawyers are uncertain if Cohen will turn up at all on 26 February. If he doesn't he will be held in contempt of court and another order for his arrest will be issued. But Cohen has adequately demonstrated he is more than capable of staying out of the law's clutches. But it is very possible that Cohen will make the date because if he turns up and persuades Judge Ware he is unable to find any information on his bank accounts, Ware would have little choice but to free him from his contempt order, leaving Cohen free to do as he wishes. That possibility is very likely to appeal to Cohen, thanks to the extraordinarily personal battle between himself and Kremen (Kremen currently lives in Cohen's old mansion in the exclusive San Diego neighbourhood of Rancho Santa Fe). If Cohen has the contempt lifted, he will have succeeded in thwarting Kremen and his army of lawyers and investigators. But at the same time, Kremen remains determined to extract some form of concession out of his nemesis. His lawyers are already working on a range of tactics to have Cohen re-arrested in February if he doesn't supply real details of existing bank accounts. The extraordinary battle of wills and the game of gambles that the two men have been playing for over a decade may well be on its final hand. ® Kieren McCarthy has written a book about the brutal battle for Sex.com, to be published in May 2007. More information can be found at www.sexdotcom.info.
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Dec 2006

Apple discontinues UK mail-in repair service

In a manoeuvre distinguished by both its stealth and audacity, Apple UK has discontinued its mail-in repair service without notifying its customers or, it appears, its resellers. The move came to Ping Wales' attention when regular contributor and resident Mac guru David Chisnall contacted Apple to schedule a repair for a PowerBook which has been registered with the vendor's AppleCare Protection Plan, a service that extends the warranty on Apple products from the statutory requirement of one year to three. It also extends telephone support from the standard 90 days after purchase to three years.

The Bastard and the IT training budget

Episode 41Episode 41 "I... what?" the PFY sniffles, reading through his email. "Hmm?" I ask. "My attendance at a Linux forum has been canceled because.. the IT Training budget for this quarter has been exceeded?!" "That's ridiculous," I counter. "It's about 10 grand a quarter and we haven't used any of it!" "Well that's what it says," The PFY replies, tapping his screen. "Let's just have a little look, then," I say, using the DBA credentials to rifle through our financials database. >clickety< "Hmmm, how much was your course worth?" "108 quid plus VAT," The PFY says ">clickety< Ah, well in that case they're right, there isn't sufficient funds to pay for it." "Why?" The PFY asks, getting a little whiny. "Because... 9972 quid was spent on a.. >clickety<..... >clickety clickety<..... >clickety<, >tap< >tap<.. >clickety< Hierarchical Storage and Collocated Data Expo." "A what?" "Hierarchical Storage and Collocated Data Expo." "You're going to an Expo?" The PFY asks. "No." "Who else could manage to slip a 10 grand junket past the Head of IT?" "Ahmm, let's see... >clickety< Ah. The Boss. Oh! AND the Head of IT!" "So they've wangled themselves a top-shelf junket?" "It would appear so." "Where is it?" ">Clickety< Where isn't it would be the better question," I say. "It's a cruise ship, stopping in The Hague, Paris, Lisbon, Morocco..." "A cruise ship, stopping in... Paris?" the PFY says, dubiously. "That's what it says!" I say, tapping the query results. "Who's running it?" the PFY asks. "Let's see. The company's called... Can you pronounce that?" "I can't even read it, it's 8-bit characters!" "Look it up on the web?" The PFY suggests. And no sooner suggested than done. The 'course' is just a top-shelf junket complete with bus tours, hotels, drinks and meals included. "It's good," the PFY says, looking over my shoulder. "Looks to be completely content free - as if they just pasted photos of Disk Devices and Tape Libraries from Vendor websites to make it legit." "Hmmm," I concur. "And I'm guessing that the technical content of it will come in a faux leather folder at the end of the tour." "Just a show bag to prove you went..." The PFY nods. "Indeed." "I'm a little surprised The Boss invited The Head of IT, though" "Nothing's more likely to get a junket approved than getting your boss to go as well - to 'familiarise themselves with the technology'." "But why would The Head of IT want to spend a week in the company of The Boss?!" "I'm betting he doesn't. I think he's got a cunning plan to create an unexpected vacancy just before the ship sails - a vacancy which can be filled by Natasha, his new PA. and her even newer fake tan." "When does it leave??" The PFY asks, looking over my shoulder. "Tomorrow." "Ah," The PFY nods. "So a particularly vigorous case of salmonella...." "Would really upset The Boss's holiday plans. However, The Boss has been spending rather a lot of time in the company of the secretary, so I'd also take a bet that he has his own cunning plan which would see the Head of IT unable to attend." "So whatever happens my Linux forum's a goner?" "Perhaps you could always WIN the 108 quid in a small wager?" "How?" "By correctly guessing the junket-goer." "Okay, 108 quid says it'll be The Boss!" "True, he's sneaky, but perhaps you forget that the Head of IT was handing out homemade savoury nibbles earlier this morning..." "*I* had some of those!" The PFY gasps, downing several glasses of water from the cooler in an effort to wash away the germs. "Yeah I know," I chuckle. "I would've too if you hadn't pushed to the front of the line." "I.... Okay, I've changed my mind, it's The Head of IT who'll be going." "You're sure now? After all, it was The Boss who changed the bottle on the water cooler this morning - when the old one was still half full." "But I just bloody drank some of that!!" "Yeah, I know," I smirk. "So it's The Boss - or the Head of IT...tell me now, quickly, before you go and get your stomach pumped." "The Boss" The PFY gasps. . . . The next day. . . "So that will be 108 quid you owe me," I say to the PFY from my cellphone as I scan the small crowd beside the ship for a familiar face. "The Boss was taken distressingly ill on the Tube on his way home last night. It broke my heart to have to pass on his apologies to the secretary." "So it was the Head of IT!" "As it happened he came down with a nasty case of Giardia - much the same as you, I'm guessing - before he'd left the building." "So no one's going?" "Well that's what I was ringing about. It would be a shame to just waste the trip, and an even bigger shame if Natasha were unable to exercise that new tan of hers, so I guess I'll bring you back some brochures." "You Ba.." the PFY says, as I ring off, just as Natasha appears. Stunning tan. BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 09 Dec 2006