20th > December > 2006 Archive

Reg embeds hack in Second Life

NSFWNSFW We welcome freelancer Destiny Welles to Vulture Central. She will contribute an occasional column from within Second Life: thus we join our colleagues CNET and Reuters with a correspondent embedded in the popular online universe. As a budding young journo, Destiny has already earned a remarkable reputation for hard-thrusting investigative work - Ed. Writes Destiny: When The Register invited me to become their Second Life correspondent, I had no idea what I was getting into. But the concept seemed so totally next, I flung myself at the opportunity like it was a stripper's pole. I've been asked simply to be myself and report my experiences, so this column is to be my journal. That means I won't always identify myself as a reporter, so I can't use anything people say to me, even if it's news. Only conversations understood to be on the record by all parties will appear in print: nothing else will. It also means I'll never use anyone's name - not even their alias, unless they knowingly go on the record. This journal will be about my impressions and experiences. But still, you'll learn all about Second Life as I make my "pilgrim's progress" within it. If you're a newbie, you'll relate. If you've never been to Second Life, this column will offer a taste of what lies in store. And if you're already way ahead of me, feel free to meet me on the grid and offer a pointer toward an interesting future topic. Now for my first impressions. Whew, it definitely took me time to get the hang of Second Life, or "SL" as it's called by users (or "residents" as they're called by themselves). Still with me? lol. When I first logged in a few days ago, everything was a mystery. For example, you get clothes when you first configure your avatar, but I thought they made me look like a dork. And yet I saw all these ppl running around in totally fab outfits. I was sooo jealous! Fortunately, an older gentleman with piles of Linden Dollars (that's what there money is called) spotted me and took me into his care. Let's call him "Max". He was so helpful and patient; and as soon as I enthusiastically expressed my gratitude toward him, I was set for a major shopping spree. It must have been so boring for poor Max, lol, but he took me to the best shops and I tried on scores of custom outfits and scads of expensive jewellery. It's so cool; your bf just gives u the money and you click on what you like and try it on. Max spent a fortune on clothes, jewellery and accessories for me, but we made a pact that I wouldn't wear them for anyone else. So then I was stuck, needing to get decent outfits for banging around SL on my own. Fortunately, I met a young man with no Lindens who knew about getting by without money, and he took me to a fab shop called Free Dove where a girl can get a respectable wardrobe for nothing. You can see the result in my pic (sorry, that's all I can wear for you; only Max gets to see me totally iced out, lol). Everything I saw at Free Dove was so sexy, and the sales girls there are the best, always ready to help a noob without making u feel like a dork. Alot of the SL designers give away some clothes and accessories, basically to advertise there skillz and products, so it works out great for everyone. And guys, they have clothes for you too! Also, there are lots more places to explore for freebies, but personally I'm staying loyal to Free Dove cos the staff was so helpfull. Real-life companies could learn alot about customer service from the residents here in SL! Once you've got a wardrobe, well, you've just got to show it off, haven't you? Max took me dancing so I could do just that. Dressed in the wonderful things he'd bought me, I was teh hawtness. Everyone was IM'ing me. I couldn't keep up! There are dance clubs all over the grid with streaming music. They also have a variety of scripts set up in objects - spheres usually - that you just click on, and then your avatar begins to dance (or whatever, lol!) So there you are, and u can hear the music, and your dancing with all the others. You all chat and enjoy watching your avatars interact at the same time. It's like IRC on steroids. Many of these experiences are free. Plenty of dance clubs are open to all, and it's a great way to meet people. And of course, each person you make friends with will open up different avenues on the grid for you to explore. I am sooo looking forward to being shown more of it, now that I've had a taste! Still, just like in real life, some of the best experiences cost money. At least for you men, ha! (As for us girls, well, we just need to show our gratitude in the right way, lol.) Now, Max is stinking rich, so he's opened a quiet world of SL society to me. I'm not at liberty to discuss much of what happens on Max's island, but I can say that our time together involves such activities as shopping, gambling, sailing, and even dinner parties with the movers and shakers of this artificial universe. (And of course, he has some totally wild custom scripts for the things we do after hours!) Again, like in daily life, free experiences are often rather coarse. And even when they're good, they're confining: penniless residents simply can't access some of what SL offers. If you want real freedom here, you've got to pay, or offer something desirable in return (which I'm always happy to do, lol). It's sad to think there are poor people in the world, but it's not so bad in SL. Be that as it may, there are thousands of people to meet: you can certainly enjoy an active and varied social life without spending a cent. All your basic needs are free. You pay only for what you want. Unfortunately, there's often a difference in quality of experience between those with means and those without. This is especially evident in what passes for sex in SL, which I'll probe deeply in my next column. So, my most important first impression is, SL is way more fun than real life. I'm not saying 'better', just way more fun. I could go on and on, but I think I ought to look around some more, and see if this impression lasts. I'll get back to u soon! Meanwhile, gtg: I've got a date with Max, and after that I'll be free to wander. If I should pop into your corner of the grid, don't hesitate to wave. Byes! ®
Destiny Welles, 20 Dec 2006

The Top 20 Weirdest gadgets of 2006

It's been one of those years when technology came on in leaps and bounds. Around the world, thousands of pointy-headed scientists and product designers beavered away in high-security laboratories, investing time, money and effort to create... more silly USB gadgets.
Tech Digest, 20 Dec 2006

Nintendo faces Wii Remote wrist-strap class action lawsuit

US law firm Green Welling (GW) has filed a class action lawsuit against Nintendo, alleging the videogames pioneer breached its own product warranty by shipping its Wii games console with a Remote wrist-strap that breaks even when used as directed.
Tony Smith, 20 Dec 2006

CMDB implementation? What do you think

Reg Technology PanelReg Technology Panel If you've had any encounters recently with vendors who sell service management solutions, you'll undoubtedly have had the acronyms "ITIL" and "CMDB" thrown at you on quite a few occasions. ITIL is the best practice framework that basically tells you how to deliver IT services effectively and efficiently, and one of the basic principles behind it is if you don't know what's in your IT infrastructure and how all the pieces hang together, you stand a snowflake in Hell's chance of extending it, maintaining it and supporting it successfully. This is where Configuration Management Databases, aka CMDBs come in. The idea is to build a repository or set of linked repositories that hold details of not just IT assets, but how they relate to both each other and the higher level services they enable – i.e. all of the configuration and dependency related information. This is obviously pretty handy for all kinds of things, from troubleshooting issues when they arise in a help desk context, to figuring out the impact of a proposed system change or new system rollout so all of the necessary preparations can be made. The same repository keeps track of how things change over time, which has advantages in compliance terms as well as from an operational management perspective. CMDBs are a great idea in principle and if most IT departments could wave a magic wand and have one magically appear, pre-populated with all of the details of their infrastructure, systems and services, they would probably embrace the whole concept immediately. Back in the real world, however, it ain't that easy, and the attractive sounding CMDB idea soon translates to a bunch of complex and difficult questions such as: How many CMDBs do we actually need or want? One big central repository, or multiple repositories that coordinate with each other? If the latter, how do we keep them synchronised? Then there is the question of whether CMDBs compliment or conflict with more traditional asset management systems or other ways in which configuration management information is held, e.g. within systems monitoring and management software suites. And when it comes to implementation, should we start by sucking all of our asset information into the CMDB first then building up the higher level view of logical systems and services from that, or should we start by defining the services that are most important to the business, then pull in the details of the components they are dependent on more selectively? Tales of CMDB implementations crashing and burning because of problems with the implementation approach are all too common, and while various gurus and advisors all have an opinion on what works and what doesn't, there is no better means of hammering out the right and wrong way than to ask lots of people who have "been there, done that" for their experiences. So, if you have experience of, or even just an opinion on, some of the questions we have raised above, we need your input into the latest Reg survey. There are some traditional tick and bash multiple choice questions in there, but also a chance to express yourself freely, so get across there now and let us know what you know. As usual, we'll then pull everything together and feed back the results for the collective benefit of the broader Reg Reader community.®
Dale Vile, 20 Dec 2006

Thinktank kicks off robotic civil rights debate

A wide-ranging government-sponsored futurology effort has fingered a campaign for robots' rights as a policy headache for 2056. The conclusion comes from one of 270 papers commissioned by the Office of Science and Technology's Foresight Centre in a bid to anticipate the major social and technological trends of the next 50 years. The heavyweight philosophical missive behind robots' rights is brought to you by Outsights, a management consultancy, and Ipsos MORI, the opinion poll organisation, the Financial Times reports. According to the authors: "If granted full rights, states will be obligated to provide full social benefits to them, including income support, housing, and possibly robo-healthcare to fix the machines over time." According to the report, would-be machine citizens shouldn't require a robotic Emmeline Pankhurst - they'll be given the vote. However, with rights come responsibilities, so the roboplebs will also be subject to Franklin's certainty principle: death and taxes, in the form of military service and income levies. Explaining the research process, Outsights' Richard O Brien said: "In developing the scans, we have started by referencing leading authoritative sources of evidence on existing trends, but have also drawn on a range of alternative material." The "alternative material" in question includes journals, interviews with "leading thinkers" [you know who you are, Captain] and blogs. The "Horizon Scan" is the brainchild of Sir David King, the government's chief scientific advisor. He said: "The scans look at what new issues may arise and what events may surprise us - and the possible implications for us individually and collectively." Other, perhaps more prescient puzzlers covered by Foresight include energy policy, environmental meltdown, demographic change, and stem cell research. The exercise has already made an impact on policy making; the Health and Safety Executive has used its findings to support its cash claim for next year's Comprehensive Spending Review. ®
Christopher Williams, 20 Dec 2006

Virgin foxes Firefox?

Anyone planning to collect a picture message sent by a Virgin Mobile subscriber will need to have a range of web browsers available, as the operator's site compatibility seems to be changing daily. We were first alerted to the problem with the Virgin GetMessage site yesterday morning when a reader informed us that the site wasn't working with Internet Explorer, though it worked fine in Firefox, despite the warning: You are using another browser that is not Internet Explorer 6.0 or above. With the browser that you are using we cannot guarantee the full functionality of this website We contacted Virgin for comment on this Firefox-friendly policy, but were kept waiting for several hours. By the end of the day the site was working fine in both browsers. We took another look this morning and found the problem has transferred itself from Internet Explorer to Firefox, which today cannot access the site at all. So right now the site works fine with Internet Explorer, and Opera, though the latter gives a warning that it's not compatible. So if you're planning to download a picture message sent from a Virgin Mobile subscriber, you might want to download a few new browsers first, just to be on the safe side. Lynx anyone? ®
Bill Ray, 20 Dec 2006

Do you have a mature testing process?

How mature is your testing? Do you slip in a few tests if you have time after the final compile, or are your requirements each defined by a set of tests before you start? Do you review the quality of what you delivered afterwards with a view to doing better next time – or avoid such post-mortems, in case they provide a further opportunity for promoting the guilty and sacking the innocent? At a roundtable on testing run by Compuware earlier this year (see the blog entry here), I was most interested in the TMMi testing maturity model, and it's about time for an update.
David Norfolk, 20 Dec 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Ericsson buys Redback to challenge Cisco

Ericsson has agreed to buy multi-service router firm Redback Networks for around $1.9bn in cash. The deal, announced Wednesday, values Redback's stock at $25 per share, a tidy 60 per cent premium on its average price over the last three months, and is expected to close in February 2007, subject to the approval of Redback's shareholders and regulators.
John Leyden, 20 Dec 2006

Swiss roll over for mobile music service

Social networking service Phling has published usage figures from the first 30 days since the launch of its service on Swisscom's mobile network. The Phling service allows mobile users to listen to music streamed from their home computer onto their mobile phone, but also embodies all the social-networking features which are so popular these days including profiles, lists of friends and comment boards. Users can also share their music, allowing a limited number of friends access to their collection, streamed from their home PC. The legality of this last feature may be open to question, but given that the music streamed is quite well protected, Phling sees the service as encouraging music discovery rather than negating the need to purchase. Phling users are listening to an average of 22 minutes of music every day, with even the most active user only averaging 15 tracks a day. A poll of Boston students found that just 27 per cent were prepared to actively create a play list, with the rest listening at random or selecting by artist. Though Phling hasn't published figures of how many tracks have been shared or if anyone ended up adding a track to their own collection after sharing it from a mate, it will be interesting to see how the service develops and if the rights holders agree with Phling's interpretation of copyright law. ®
Bill Ray, 20 Dec 2006
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All I want for Christmas...

Mark Rasch takes a step back and offers his holiday and New Year's wish list of all things security - items that should exist, be made available and be easy to use for everyone over the coming year.
Mark Rasch, 20 Dec 2006

Irish company aims to free eBay's flow

Irish firm Freeflow has teamed up with eBay in a deal that will see it offer pre and post-auction business services to the e-commerce site. Under the agreement, Freeflow will provide sales and administrative services to eBay, while gaining the advantage of the company's private marketplace. Freeflow helps clients liquidate stock, and sells on their surplus product. Clients include Apple, 3Com, Creative Labs and SanDisk. "Customers want to reach the broadest possible market for their at-risk inventory while minimising expenses in technology and management overheads," said chief executive and Freeflow founder Alan Scroope. It is hoped the deal with eBay will facilitate this service for Freeflow. eBay's Private Marketplaces offers enterprise-level, private label markets, which can be customised to fit the customer's brand, and a private environment for liquidation of excess inventory to a certain group of buyers. At present, eBay does not get involved in after sales and logistics, but the deal with Freeflow would solve this issue. Speaking to ENN, Scroope said Freeflow could potentially double its growth in the next year as a result of the deal. "It's a win-win all round," he said, adding that the new agreement would open up a "whole world that eBay couldn't play in". "eBay's Private Marketplace group is committed to helping large, enterprise customers maximise their recovery rates on excess inventory with our various 'off-eBay' marketplace solutions," said Howard Rosenberg, director of eBay's Private Marketplaces group, in a statement. "FreeFlow's comprehensive pre and post-auction services allow us to extend an even greater range of support to our customers." FreeFlow currently has its headquarters in San Jose, California, with offices in Tralee, Co Kerry and Hong Kong. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Ciara O'Brien, 20 Dec 2006

Home Office to register biometrics of foreign nationals in UK

The Home Office is considering the possibility of compelling foreign nationals in the UK to register their biometrics. It said the power would be introduced on a rolling basis and would build on biometric IDs for foreign nationals, which will be introduced from 2008. The policy would target groups such as migrant workers seeking to extend their stay in the UK. A Home Office spokesperson told GC News that, under regulations due to come into full effect by 2008, a biometric ID is required for people who are applying for a visa to enter the UK, and those living in the country who are applying for further leave to stay. The Home Office is considering extending the requirement to those who have a permanent right of residence. This would require further legislation in Parliament if the Home Office decides to go ahead. Biometric ID visas are currently issued at 42 posts overseas. It is planned that by 2008 the process will be in place for everyone outside the Euopean Economic Area nations who are coming to the UK to work, study or stay for longer than six months, plus anyone visiting from the 108 visa nations. Immigration minister Liam Byrne said: "We're determined that Britain won't be a soft touch for illegal immigration. Compulsory biometric identity for foreign nationals will help us secure our borders, shut down access to the illegal jobs, which we know attracts illegal immigrants, and help fight foreign criminals. "The technology is already making a difference, stopping illegal immigrants returning to Britain once they've been deported, helping trusted travellers pass securely through our borders and cutting down abuse of the asylum system." The announcement was made along with the publication of the Borders, Immigration and Identity Action Plan. 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, 20 Dec 2006
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Christmas comes early for IT supplier

Profits from its contract with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) are providing Capgemini with an early Christmas present, according to a member of the Committee of Public Accounts
Kablenet, 20 Dec 2006
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How fat is my DRM?

Some CD buyers in Texas and California can claim up to $175 each from record company Sony BMG as a result of a legal settlement this week. Both states took action against the music giant over its "rootkit-style" DRM, designed to prevent PC users from copying music CDs to their hard drives.
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Dec 2006
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Hackers call on Skype to spread Trojan

Malware authors are using Skype to help spread a pair of Trojan packages. The malware does not exploit flaws in Skype as such, as a computer worm might do, but spreads by tricking users into agreeing to run hostile code, which poses as a "cool program" from one of their contacts.
John Leyden, 20 Dec 2006
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Parcelforce: we'll deliver before Christmas

Parcelforce has put a stop to ad-hoc collections in the face of unprecedented demand in the run-up to Christmas. The Royal Mail's package courier has pledged to honour all existing collection arrangements and have them delivered by the big day.
Christopher Williams, 20 Dec 2006
cloud

Citrix gets Ardence

Citrix is snaffling up provisioning vendor Ardence Inc for an undisclosed amount. Ardence, which has just 100 employees, has two divisions covering on-demand provisioning and real-time operating systems respectively. Citrix bumf announcing the acquisitions concentrates on how Massachusetts-based Ardence will bolster its provisioning capability right across its product line, including provisioning desktops, server images and SOA objects.
Joe Fay, 20 Dec 2006

Wikipedia semen shortage filled by User Generated Content

NSFWNSFW Who can fail to love the can-do spirit and have-a-go enthusiasm of Wikipedia? When the site found itself in need of copyright-free illustrations, one user simply generated his own. We were alerted to this cockle-warming tale via a Something Awful forum, where member Stick_Fig, sets the scene like this: A group of users has decided that because these promotional photos, which were previously allowed, are copyrighted, they need to be replaced with copyright-free images. Like, images taken by nerds for nerds. The argument is that, since the person is alive, by God, a photo can be taken, so we MUST remove the old, perfectly-fine-minus-a-little-copyright photo now. Readers poured forth with heroic hand-crafted illustrations, such as this one: Which indeed looks like a "retarded Bruce Willis", as one SA-er puts it. It was only when it was discovered that the site's entry for "semen" was in need of copyright-free illustration that one member heroically rose to the challenge. Or rather the member's member did. The illustration remains, here. [NSFW] And what a splendid contribution it is. So no more gags about Wiki-Fiddling, please. This is truly an example of "User Generated Content" at its most spontaneous. "There's been a surge of recent editorial activity," observes one Tim Bray, "with super-energetic (and apparently well-informed) new contributors trimming and tweaking and growing the articles, often several times per day. In general, while I haven't been convinced that 100 per cent of the changes are improvements, the quality of the articles as a whole is definitely trending up." Quite so, sir. How can Britannica possibly compete? The SA thread can still be found here. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Dec 2006

Palm's earnings slide

Palm this week reported revenue and profits lower than a year ago. The smartphone and PDA manufacturer grossed $392.9m in Q2 2007, down from $446.3m a year ago. However, the intense competition in the communicator business was reflected in a profits squeeze: Palm reported $12.8m net income ($17.6m non-GAAP) for the quarter - down from $24.4m (non-GAAP) a year ago.
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Dec 2006

Ireland overrun with HSDPA networks

3 Ireland's recent announcement that it would be deploying the country's first HSDPA network next year was met with a swift and curt response from Vodafone, pointing out that it's had the technology deployed for over a month and just because no-one is using it doesn't mean it's not there. Vodafone made its intentions clear back in January when Teresa Elder, chief executive of Vodafone Ireland, said the company would have HSDPA deployed by the end of 2006. So on November it very quietly switched on coverage for Dublin, and since then has expanded to cover 59 per cent of the population offering speeds of up to 1.4Mb/sec, according to TeleGeography. Vodafone's launch has been decidedly low-profile, and even it is only claiming to have 5,000 connected devices, which is hardly a significant proportion of its customer base. 3's launch has been of a different magnitude, with lots of in-shop promotion already in Dublin and a rapid roll-out of applications to take advantage of its promised 3Mb/sec connectivity. It seems that technically Vodafone was first to support HSDPA, though as a consumer product offering 3 are clearly first in the shops with handsets and services. The competition to be the first to offer wireless broadband in Ireland has been fierce, and it's unsurprising that the result comes down to a definition of terms. If you want to be remembered for being first, it's best to tell as many people as possible, and be clear as to what you are first to do, so history notices. ®
Bill Ray, 20 Dec 2006
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Outsourcing Scrooges consolidate Christmas

If you're staring blankly at your monitor reliving recent Christmas party-induced humiliation in an atmosphere of ambient contempt, spare a thought for the poor souls of Atos Origin. The French outsourcing firm's UK staff didn't get a festive knees-up at all.
Christopher Williams, 20 Dec 2006
sgh_z560_sm

Samsung SGH-Z560 'super 3G' phone

ReviewReview HSDPA can deliver broadband to your mobile phone, and Samsung's SGH Z560 – enabled by T-Mobile's Web'n'Walk service – is leading the way. A two megapixel camera and some thoughtful features make the Z560 a one-stop-shop mobile multimedia prospect. But is the experience any good?
Sean Ashcroft, 20 Dec 2006
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Month of Apple bugs planned for January

Security researchers plan to release details of previously undisclosed Mac OS X or Apple application security bugs every day in January. The Month of Apple Bugs project is the brainchild of Kevin Finisterre and the folks behind November's Month of Kernel Bugs (MoKB) project.
John Leyden, 20 Dec 2006

CNET interviewer assaulted by flying wang

Airborne penises this week attacked CNET reporter and Second Life publicist Daniel Sadville, causing an unprecedented although not insurmountable interview interruption. Daniel Sadville looked to continue his groundbreaking work hyping the Second Life online game by interviewing alleged virtual millionaire Ailin Graef (aka Anshe Chung). Sadville had invited Graef to CNET's Second Life office - a building Sadville convinced CNET to purchase by writing a flood of stories about Second Life - when all hell broke loose. We'll let the publicist explain. On Monday, Graef visited CNET's Second Life bureau for a discussion about her business, how best to set up businesses in Second Life and the nature of competition there. Unfortunately, as the interview was commencing, the event was attacked by a "griefer," someone intent on disrupting the proceedings. The griefer managed to assault the CNET theater for 15 minutes with--well, there's no way to say this delicately--animated flying penises. Chung refused to continue the interview in the CNET theater but agreed to go on in her own space. Once restarted, the interview was attacked again, and the protester even managed to crash the entire server on which Chung's theater is held. But after restarting and bringing back the audience, Chung talked with CNET News.com for nearly three hours. Noble perseverance and excellent follow through. Of course, Sadville could have saved some time and avoided the penis assault by, say, picking up a phone. But maybe he's not into phones. We're still waiting for some reporter to document Second Life's Molestation Grove. Won't it be something when an IBM virtual event is crippled by these sick creatures. ®
Ashlee Vance, 20 Dec 2006
Broken CD with wrench

Cable to bind US and China closer

Verizon Business has joined with China Telecom and China Netcom to build a next-generation fibre optic link between China and the US. The Trans-Pacific Express will feature over 11,000 miles of cable and boast 60 times the capacity of the existing connection: initially carrying 1.23 Tb/sec (terabits per second) then ramping up to 5.12 Tb/sec over time. More importantly it is indicative of the increased importance attributed to the Chinese digital economy. "This state-of-the-art cable ... further recognizes the emergence of China as a diverse communications hub for Asia, and reflects our company’s commitment to help U.S. and other global companies compete worldwide." said Fred Briggs, Verizon Business executive vice president of operations and technology. Other investors in the $500m project are China Unicom, Korea Telecom and Chunghwa Telecom (Taiwan), who share the belief that faster Pacific links will be vital to both sides in the coming years. The cable will land on the US West Coast at Nedonna Beach, Oregon, and on the China mainland at Qingdao and Chongming, when it is completed around the end of 2008.®
Bill Ray, 20 Dec 2006
fingers pointing at man

Sysadmin 'tried to boobytrap' drug firm database

A former sys admin at Medco Health Solutions, one of the US's prescription drug management firms, has been charged over a failed attempt to to destroy its systems using a "logic bomb" computer virus.
John Leyden, 20 Dec 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

'Unprecedented' Rackable makes sense - CEO

InterviewInterview Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that Rackable Systems should have flopped. The company's motors kicked in post-bubble just as the server market started to contract. Two of the largest x86 server makers - Compaq and HP - merged, shrinking the x86 realm even more. The only start-ups thought to have a chance in such a climate were R&D heavy players such as blade server specialists RLX and Egenera. They could mine a niche not yet served by the Tier Ones.
Ashlee Vance, 20 Dec 2006