12th > January > 2007 Archive

O2 ties up with Gandalf

The stage show of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings opens in London on the 9th of May, and O2 has signed up for exclusive content including ringtones and O2-customer-preview nights. By all accounts the production is visually spectacular, though reviews from Canada were lacklustre, which bodes badly for a show which runs to almost 4 hours. O2 have sponsored a wide range of media events in the past, though this is their first excursion into theatre. The value of behind-the-scenes mobile blogs and advance booking is arguable, but if they can stage exclusive preview nights then that should enhance customer loyalty; assuming the sight of singing hobbits doesn’t just revolt the customers.
Bill Ray, 12 Jan 2007

Bill Gates: a man and his music devices

Will Head, 12 Jan 2007

CES 2007: all the stories, all the goodies

The Consumer Electronics Show (CES) brought a bumper harvest of gadgets and goodies to Las Vegas. Here are all of Reg Hardware's CES 2007 stories, brought together for your reading - and viewing; we've included our exclusive video reports - pleasure...
Register Hardware, 12 Jan 2007
hands waving dollar bills in the air

AMD stuffed in Christmas run-up

AMD’s CPU business took a slap in the fourth quarter as chip selling prices came in lower than expected, it revealed yesterday.
Joe Fay, 12 Jan 2007

Don't rush into Vista, schools told

A leading government advisory body has advised schools in Britain not to deploy Microsoft's latest operating system, Vista, for at least 12 months.
Charlie Taylor, 12 Jan 2007

Email marketing abuse is rife among top UK companies

A study of the UK's biggest companies has found 31 per cent of them breaking anti-spam laws by sending marketing emails without either prior consent or an existing customer relationship. CDMS, a data and marketing firm, examined compliance with the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications by the top 200 companies across 13 sectors, including banking, general insurance, retail and mobile telecoms. The companies were tested to see whether they consistently offered non-customers the opportunity to actively opt-in or otherwise consent to further marketing emails when their details were recorded as the result of a promotion or enquiry. These promotions appeared either on the company's own website, through a partner company's website, in a third party e-newsletter, or as part of an advertising or direct mail campaign. According to CDMS, 69 per cent of companies studied are compliant with the legislation, a modest improvement of three percentage points since its last survey in 2005. Ian Hubbard of CDMS said: "Companies who have not complied are putting their carefully built brands at risk, by putting out the message to consumers that they apparently don't care about legislation designed to protect their prospective customers' privacy." He added: "This effectively puts them in the category of junk emailers, and associating them with a rising tide of spam, and growing consumer concerns over the security of their personal records." The Regulations that implemented the EU Directive have been in force since December 2003. To date, there have been only two court rulings on their anti-spam provisions. The first was in 2005, when chartered engineer Nigel Roberts won £300 in damages in an undefended action against a Scottish marketing firm. The second was last December, when Microsoft won a summary judgment to stop an individual selling lists of email addresses to spammers. CDMS noted that non-compliant companies urgently need to put processes in place to limit their current risk. "In addition, there is a major forensic and clean-up job to be done on these companies' marketing databases," said Hubbard. Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.COM and a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons, said: "A lot of confusion continues to surround the rules on email marketing. Compliance is very important, but the rules are not as restrictive as many people think. There is a misconception that they demand opt-in marketing, which most people visualise as ticking a box. That's not what they say." Robertson continued, "The rules talk about the need for prior consent. One way of getting that is to have a tick box – but that is just one way. Others exist. And if you're emailing existing customers to promote similar products to those they bought before, and these are people whose contact details you obtained when selling or negotiating a sale, prior consent is not needed – provided you identify your company, give an opt-out on collection of the email address and include an unsubscribe option with each email sent." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related links Email marketing – when to use opt-in and when to use opt-out Microsoft wins ruling to ban spam list sales Microsoft sues British spammer for Hotmail breach Email marketing: prior consent does not mean opt-in How to sue a British spammer
OUT-LAW.COM, 12 Jan 2007

Gates Foundation launches investment review

Bill and Melinda Gates are reviewing policy at their philanthropic foundation after a newspaper investigation revealed it invested in corporations with questionable ethical records. The LA Times discovered cash ploughed into oil companies which have been implicated in environmental disasters in the developing world. The paper questioned the apparent contradiction between the Foundation's aims battling poverty and HIV, and its investments in pharmaceutical companies which have been accused of obstructing provision of low cost drugs to poor countries. In an interview with the Seattle Times, Gates Foundation chief Cheryl Scott said there would be a methodical review of the billions of dollars of shares it owns. She said the review would identify if "there are cases simply where the situation is so egregious it will cause us not to invest." The tobacco business is the only industry currently blacklisted by the gates Foundation. Scott denied the move was a response to the public criticism of the Foundation, adding: "This has been an issue that has been top of line for a long time and will continue to be." She said the Foundation tries to avoid ranking investments on their ethical record, preferring to focus on giving the money they make away. She said there would be room for much error and confusion in such judgments and "...divesting from companies would not have an effect commensurate with the resources we would divert to this activity." The Foundation can be assured the results of its latest investment review will be closely scrutinised. At the moment the financial and philanthropic sides of the Foundation have remained separate. Part of the plan is to formalise oversight by the Gates's of the $35bn endowment, which is set to near-double with billions more from Warren Buffet. Scott has posted a statement on the Foundation website here. ®
Christopher Williams, 12 Jan 2007
hands waving dollar bills in the air

SAP takes a tumble

SAP shares fell sharply after the software company admitted it had missed sales targets for 2006. Its shares on the New York Stock Exchange ended the day down ten per cent.
John Oates, 12 Jan 2007

The Reg is recruiting

The Register is looking for reporters and a sub-editor to join its London editorial team. The Register is the UK’s biggest technology and science news website. We’re also pretty big in the US, Canada, Europe and India. Reporters will need at least two years’ experience covering the technology, science or business sectors. Subs will need at least two years experience, preferably on a technology, science or business title. If you're interested, please email your application to cvs@theregister.co.uk by Friday, January 26.®
Team Register, 12 Jan 2007

Supernova topples Pillars of Creation

The famous "Pillars of Creation", the subject of the best known of Hubble's images, have already been blown apart by a supernova. We won't see their destruction here on Earth for another thousand years, but the astronomers making the claim estimate that the massive, star-forming pillars that make up the Eagle Nebula were obliterated almost 6000 years ago. In the image, captured by NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, the green areas are the relatively cool dust that makes up most of the nebula. However, the red portion shows an area of much hotter gas. Astronomers suggest that the gas has been heated by a nearby supernova explosion, some 8,000 or 9,000 years ago, and around two thousand light years from the famous Pillars. The explosion might have been seen from Earth between one and two thousand years ago. From our perspective the edge of the shockwave has still to reach the pillars, but NASA says that when it hit, the wave would have crumbled the towers, exposing the newly born stars within them. The catastrophe most likely triggered the birth of new stars, as well. The area of heated dust was identified first in images from the European Space Agency's Infrared Space Observatory. NASA says Spitzer's longer wavelength observatory has been able to match the heating to a supernova event. Naturally not all stargazers concur: New Scientist.com reports that at the 209th meeting of the American Astronomical Society, some delegates proposed other reasons for the heating. Stephen Reynolds of North Carolina State University told the news site he thought it unlikely that a supernova event in the region would have gone unnoticed until now. He argues that super-heated stellar winds would be sufficient to explain the observations. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jan 2007

Kingston ships 1.2GHz DDR 2 DIMMs

Memory specialist Kingston Technology yesterday claimed to be the first company to ship DDR 2 memory modules clocked to 1.2GHz - aka PC2-9600. The firm also made available PC2-9200, 1.15GHz DIMMs.
Hard Reg, 12 Jan 2007

ECS touts top-of-the-line Nvidia graphics cards for Vista

Elitegroup (ECS) this week announced its latest flagship Nvidia-based graphics card, based on the GPU maker's GeForce 8800 GTX and equipped with 768MB of GDDR 3 video-buffer memory. It also unveiled a board based on the 8800 GTS.
Tony Smith, 12 Jan 2007

HP snoop cops a plea

The private detective facing charges over the HP snooping scandal is pleading guilty and will give evidence for the prosecution. Bryan Wagner, of Littleton, Colorado, is charged with identity theft and conspiracy. He is accused of getting hold of a reporter's Social Security number and using it to access their phone records. Wagner's lawyer told AP that he was told several times by people at HP that what he was doing was legal. Wagner is expected in court later today. More from AP here.
John Oates, 12 Jan 2007

Searching for consumers

As more developers find interesting ways of getting more applications and information into consumer devices of all types, the need for a database that can be embedded in consumer units becomes more pressing. To meet this need, Hitachi’s US-based Embedded Business Group is to provide its Entier Relational Database Management System with full support for two versions of Wind River’s Platform for Consumer Devices.
Martin Banks, 12 Jan 2007
For Sale sign detail

Contract killer spam scam hits the net

Scammers are posing as professional hit men in a bid to frighten punters into handing over large sums of money.
John Leyden, 12 Jan 2007

Abit KN9 SLI Socket AM2 motherboard

ReviewReview Built around Nvidia's nForce 570 SLI chipset for Socket AM2, the KN9 SLI generated a fair amount of pre-launch anticipation based, not only on the chipset, but also its clean layout, expected selling price and well-rounded spec sheet. Was that anticipation justified?
Wayne Brooker, 12 Jan 2007

You are f**king negative arsehole!!!

FoTWFoTW Surprise, surprise: our illuminating piece yesterday on possible uses for a dead iPhone provoked a supernova-strength explosion of indignation among the Macheads. Rudee kindly took time from cracking one off over his iPod to write: You are fucking negative arsehole!!! - Blog this Geny Gonzales, meanwhile, felt driven to comment: Why don't you showe VISTA and ZUNE up your shitty ass or shitty mouth. That's "shove", Geny. Get yourself a dictionary. And a life. ®
Lester Haines, 12 Jan 2007

Carphone celebrates bumper Christmas

Carphone Warehouse said it had a fat festive period, adding 7.3 per cent in like-for-like retail revenues for the third quarter According to a trading update issued Friday the outfit now has 2.2m residential broadband punters following the purchase of the AOL customer base in October for £370m. Only 413,000 are on unbundled lines however. Chairman Charles Dunstone said: "The completion of the AOL deal makes us the clear number three player...giving us the scale we need to deliver significant profitable growth in the medium term." The profitability of the TalkTalk "free" broadband offer is contingent on local loop unbundling, which is making encouraging progress according to the statement. The firm said it had improved its broadband service and was ready to begin another recruitment push. The Register is still receiving complaints about repeated delays to TalkTalk orders. ®
Christopher Williams, 12 Jan 2007
EU flag

EC throws money at OSS quality control

The European Commission is investing some of the final chunks of change in its Framework 6 Research and Development budget into four projects dedicated to defining and checking the quality of open source software. The total investment is in the region of €25m, and is being matched by money from industry.
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jan 2007
graph up

Bullseye of Oracle patches due Tuesday

Oracle has taken a leaf out of Microsoft's book by publishing a pre-alert of patches database admins can expect as part of its next patch release cycle.
John Leyden, 12 Jan 2007

CES in five minutes

Will Head, 12 Jan 2007

UK to review school fingerprinting

The Department for Education and Skills is to reconsider the fingerprinting of school children after a four year campaign by parents. Jim Knight, schools minister, told Greg Mulholland, campaigning LibDem MP for Leeds North West, in a letter sent on 12 December, that he would "update the guidance on the use of biometric technologies" by schools. The letter said that the DfES had called for help on the guidelines from BECTA, the technology procurement quango, and the Information Commissioner. A spokesman for Mullholland said that the DfES had persistently said in answer to Parliamentary questions that school fingerprinting would not be reviewed. But now, he said: "This is a U-turn." The DfES today issued a statement saying: "This is not a U-turn," and that it was always revising and improving its guidance, after The Sun today published an article saying the government had done a u-turn on school fingerprinting and started to draw up some guidance. Knight, The Sun claimed, had "agreed to draw up strict guidelines with watchdogs", and that he understood parents' concerns. The Sun's report was wrong, said the DfES, and Jim Knight himself had said so. The anti-school fingerprinting campaign bus had all but reached the gates of Westminster anyway. Pippa King, a lead campaigner against school fingerprinting, and David Clouter, who runs the group Leave Them Kids Alone, have meetings scheduled next week with the Libdem MP Sarah Tether, Conservative MP Nick Gibb and Labour MP Tom Watson. Terry Dowty, spokeswoman for Action on Rights for Children, said the government needed to do more to reassure parents than merely issue guidelines about the non-consensual fingerprinting of school children. "Guidelines are just not good enough," she said, "The whole thing needs a much fuller debate. Given that parents have strong feelings about this, you can't just say, we've done a review and decided that these are the rules. There must be a proper debate." Simon Davies, a director of campaign group Privacy International, said it had taken four years to get the government to budge on school fingerprinting. "When we first broke the story to The Times in 2002, the Information Commissioner refused to recognise it had a responsibility and schools just went into collaboration with industry," he said. The DfES said in a statement: "Schools have always had to comply with human rights, data protection and confidentiality laws in collecting data on their pupils." "We already provide specific guidance to schools on handling all pupil information under the Data Protection Act," it added.®
Mark Ballard, 12 Jan 2007

iPhone frenzy, Vista ahoy and SAP

Fly your iPhone to the moon Saving the environment is at the forefront of most people’s minds at the moment, with companies going to great lengths to get themselves seen as green. And in true tree-hugging style, we’ve come up with some great ways to dispose of your iPhone – Steve Job’s latest toy to hit the market – after it has died. If you’ve never fired an iPhone at the moon, then you’ve not really lived, we reckon, but putting your iPhone in the blender is a sure winner for disposing of the toy. Once your tool for gassing with your gran has kicked the bucket, we found even more inventive ways of destroying these little suckers… The iPhone launch this week has raised more than a few eyebrows around the world. Networking giant Cisco lifted its corporate handbag after taking offence to Apple taking the iPhone name, which it already had, and is now attempting to sue the company. Cisco attorneys have vocalized the company’s feelings, while Apple has so far kept very tight-lipped. Now you would think Apple would have learned a lesson or two from previous showdowns over copyright. But apparently not. Other than shenanigans with Cisco, Apple has also used a voicemail application name Citrix came up with. We say come on, think different kids... Get to the back of the class, Vista! Microsoft suffered a setback this week when a leading educational body told schools to avoid buying Windows Vista for at least a year. Becta, the governement’s e-learning partner, published a report that said costs of widespread Vista deployment are likely to be around £160m while the benefits are unclear – no shock there then. The agency calculated that it would cost in the region of £4,000 for a typical primary school to deploy Vista and as much as £25,000 for a secondary school – money which could instead buy you a massive bag of cola cubes and a wicked skateboard. Spammers – one and all Big UK companies are apparently spamming the poor folk of this fair island with unsolicited junk email about how great they are. Some 200 companies in banking, insurance, retail and mobile telecoms were surveyed for breaking European spam regulations. Most companies are behaving themselves but a large proportion is failing to keep up with the rest. Lawyers say that companies are confused by spam legislation – so that should drum up some business for them then, shouldn’t it? SAP shares sapped Business processes can’t be working that well for SAP – the value in its shares dropped 10 per cent after it admitted missing 2006 sales targets. The harsh market reaction to the failure, which the company flagged late in the year, could mean a strategy rethink – and no free biscuits for a few months. Iris examinations fail tests Border-controlling iris scanners have failed official UK tests to work properly. The Home Office has insisted iris scanners be put into airports around the country, but results of an evaluation of the technology found it “pretty much fails”, according to an MP. Apparently results of the test were not widely publicised but placed in the House of Commons library in late December. They apparently reveal that Project Iris "failed half its assessments." HP private eye charged for snooping It wouldn’t be a proper week of news without the HP snooping scandal making a headline or two. This week it’s the private detective hired to spy on the company’s board members who’s been dragged into the spotlight. As it stands Bryan Wagner has been charged with identity theft and conspiracy. Five other people including HP's ex-chairwoman Patricia Dunn and ethics officer Kevin Hunsaker also face charges. Dunn has said she started the investigation but denies any wrongdoing. IBM wins gay friendly award IBM is one of the best places to work for gay people, a poll has suggested. The gay lobby group Stonewall has rated the company number one following a survey that looked into: how it engages with gay customers, commitment to diversity training, monitoring of staff sexual orientation, support for gay staff, and the presence of openly gay, bisexual or lesbian board members. Spammers go for Holy Grail Creativity is key to being successful. So it’s good to see that spam scammers are still as persistent as ever in dreaming up new ways to steal your cash. This time it’s Holy Grail mumbo jumbo monkey business under the guise of the much publicised Priory of Sion – an organization – fake or real, who knows or really cares – linked to the Knights Templar and the cup Jesus Christ himself allegedly drank from, reports suggest. Spam and general bad stuff on the web – drops off… Spamming and scams have been around for long enough now that anyone with a computer and half a brain cell knows not to reply. Perhaps this is the reason why spam levels are reported to suddenly dropped 30 per cent last week. However, security experts think otherwise and that it’s down to nerdy reasons, such as a "broken" botnet. SoftScan is still investigating the cause of the drop but says hackers have temporarily lost control of a “significant network of compromised machines.” Patchtastic Tuesday It's that time of the month again - Microsoft's patch Tuesday. This month was a little different - Microsoft issued half the number of fixes that were expected. But msome observers welcomed the change as evidence that the company was testing patches more carefully. Better no patch than a dodgy patch. Car spying petitions swamp Downing Street Fears over government plans to track all cars and tax them according to mileage have sparked masses of people to sign petitions aimed at blocking the move. The e-petitions web site, launched by the Prime Minister last November, has attracted 152,628 signatories opposing the move, almost nine times more than the second most popular plea, to ditch the hunting ban. Calling all hacks – we want you… And finally – El Reg is looking to hire some new blood – we want reporters and a sub-editor to join the team, so get scribbling if you want in or you know of anyone who would be interested. ®
Team Register, 12 Jan 2007

The Pirate Bay plans to buy Sealand

Swedish file-sharing website The Pirate Bay is planning to buy the 550 square metre principality of Sealand, a former British naval platform in the North Sea that has been designated a 'micronation'. The group has set up a campaign to raise money to buy the self-declared sovereign nation. Outside the jurisdiction of the UK or any other country, The Pirate Bays believes it could safely run the world's largest 'bit torrent tracker'. Last year the Pirate Bay was closed down after raids by the Swedish police, and although it returned to a new Swedish server after a short stay in the Netherlands, the Motion Picture Ass. of America, the Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau and the US government have all lobbied for The Pirate Bay's closure. Sealand's royal family, Prince Roy and Princess Joan Bates and their son Prince Michael, Prince Regent, who set up the principality 40 years ago, are willing to sell the platform for £65m. "If we do not get enough money required to buy the micronation of Sealand, we will try to buy another small island somwhere and claim it as our own country (prices start from $50,000)," the Swedish organisation says. It is also looking at Ladonia, situated at the edge of the Scandinavian Peninsula, once ruled by King Ladon, and declared independent in 1996. ®
Jan Libbenga, 12 Jan 2007

iPhone locked down, Apple confirms

It's a good job Apple's amazing new gadget beats as it sweeps as it cleans - and allows you to leap over tall buildings with one bound. Because it's beginning to look somewhat Dead On Arrival as a competitive smartphone. As several readers have pointed out, the lack of 3G makes the first iteration a hard sell in Europe and Asia. Particularly in Europe, where without many EDGE networks, it's using 2001 GPRS data. But a more serious blow to the iPhone as a next generation software platform has emerged. Apple has confirmed it's a closed device, and only Apple will be releasing software for the iPhone. "There is no opportunity right now for third party development," Apple's Greg Joswiak has told Macworld UK. "Right now the opportunities are limited to the accessory market." Google and Yahoo! have developed software for the first cut of the iPhone, but the policy crushes hopes of a burgeoning third-party applications market. One reader wrote to us this week, hoping to see the following: [This is the] first smartphone to have a large existing ISV ecosystem for general purpose applications (I do not count the Palm as its platform was anything but general purpose). I suspect that all it takes to get an OSX app to get running on this is to recompile it for the right CPU. That is not the case with all the crap mobile OS environments out there. Alas, it's not going to happen just yet. Distraught developers may console themselves with two thoughts. Firstly, this is how network operators like it - and it's their network. Secondly, this is what Symbian's founding CEO (1998-2002) Colly Myers told us a couple of years ago. Symbian was founded as the phone industry's answer to Microsoft, and one of the goals was to create a market for third party applications - ... there is not a mass consumer market for C++ applications, with the emphasis on consumer and C++. My theory is that any really successful C++ application will become a signature application and will end up being built into the phone. Opera is a perfect example. So there will be a large market for C++ applications but the market will be to ODMs [Original Device Manufacturers] and handset manufacturers, and possibly, in time, network operators. Time has proved this prediction correct. The S60 platform accounts for vast majority of the 100m or so Symbian smartphones sold so far - and that market doesn't exactly look vibrant these days. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jan 2007

Free Vista test

Concerned that all the effort you are putting in to develop upgraded applications to run on Microsoft Vista may bring client systems around the company network to a grinding halt? Well, there is a simple way to check those client systems out in advance. Touchstone Software has come up with a free online test system called Vista Agent that may be able to help. Users simply log on here and follow the instructions. The agent then loads an ActiveX control to scan the computer and identify the weak points in its current specification and recommend solutions – which unsurprisingly include spending money on bigger disks, memory and the like. According to Touchstone the scan is carried out to Microsoft’s recently published hardware requirements. The ActiveX control may cause some business networks to baulk at the firewall, but for all that the idea is a sound one. There is no point in putting in the development effort if the client desktop systems are all too skimpy to cope; and standard Murphy’s Law predictions suggest this will most likely be the case. ®
Martin Banks, 12 Jan 2007

BOFH: It's a funny old world isn't it?

Episode 2Episode 2 It's a funny old world isn't it? Strange the way things pan out. Take for instance the New Year's truce forged between the PFY and myself. On one hand we reached a landmark accord which allowed us to work in harmony with each other and the users and on the other hand I'm now locked in a dark basement room that the PFY tricked me into visiting by saying that the PR people's expensive new kit had been misdelivered there - all because he found out that I'd arranged for people to harass him mercilessly on the first day. I'd have explained to the PFY that this was all organised before the truce between us had been struck, only I was in a bit of a hurry to get my hands on the 25-inch LCD monitors that the PFY had said had just appeared in the basement... The newly installed large electronic lock on the door of the room should have been a dead giveaway but the PFY had also mentioned in passing that he thought the monitors came with 5.1 surround satellite speakers and I may have been a little overexcited - which goes to show that I just don't learn from my mistakes. George Santayana would be ashamed of me. The dodgy lighting in the room - which failed once the door slammed shut - also should have rung alarm bells but in my rush to the supposed new kit I didn't think about it. So now I'm trapped in a room which is almost certainly been hand-picked by the PFY for the density of the concrete and remoteness from human contact... What would MacGyver do? Unfortunately I don't have the couple of rubber bands, alarm clock and six feet of galvanised drainpipe which he'd use to create a working masonry drill so I'm going to have to switch into geek mode. Hmm... It's dark, I'm in a basement... ... >ADVENTURE MODE ON!< It's pitch dark, and you can't see a thing. > I You have: a small bag, a half consumed chocolate bar. The bag contains: a lifebook p1000 ultraportable, a Philips head screwdriver, a flat blade screwdriver, a piece of wire. What I wouldn't give for a shiny brass lamp.... Hmmm... > OPEN BAG The bag is open. > TAKE LIFEBOOK I don't know what that is. > TAKE P1000 Taken. > TURN P1000 ON I don't know how to do that. > P1000 ON The laptop turns powers up and floods part of the room in light. You have 6 hours of battery life remaining. > EXAMINE DOOR The door is made of solid wood with steel reinforcing. The steel looks new. The backplate of a large electronic lock is embedded in the wood. > UNSCREW BACKPLATE The backplate cannot be unscrewed. > EXAMINE HINGES The hinges are the high security, autoclosing welded pin type. The bloody PFY thinks of everything... > LOOK You are in a small room with concrete walls, floor and roof. There are some empty wooden computer crates here. You have 5.45 hours of battery life remaining. > EXAMINE WALLS The walls are made of steel reinforced concrete and are very thick. > EXAMINE FLOOR The floor is made of steel reinforced concrete and is very thick > EXAMINE ROOF The roof is made of steel reinforced concrete and is very thick. There is a thermal fire detector on the roof. > HIT DETECTOR You can't reach! > STACK CRATES The crates are now stacked in an easily climbable pile. > U You are at roof level. There is a thermal fire detector here. > HIT DETECTOR With what? > HIT DETECTOR WITH P1000 You hit the detector with your lifebook, partly to damage it and partly because getting a battery and recovery disks for it is proving to be such a royal pain to do. The detector breaks and you feel slightly better about running XP on a machine with only 128M of memory. > WAIT Time passes. You have 4.5 hours of battery time remaining. > WAIT Time passes. You have 7 hours of battery life remaining. > WAIT Your P1000 switches off - possibly because the battery life has never worked properly with a dud battery or possibly because you used it as a hammer. It's pitch dark, and you can't see a thing. > WAIT It's pitch dark, and you can't see a thing. You hear sounds outside the door. > BANG ON DOOR The sounds outside the door get much louder, as if someone were hitting it with a large axe. > WAIT The door is open, there is a fireman here. > QUIT "That was a lucky call," the fireman says to me as I exit through the wreckage of the door. Ordinarily we don't respond to sensor faults, but the monitoring company said that they'd had someone tampering with your company's config this morning so they wanted to be on the safe side." "And I'm so pleased they did!" I say. "Yeah, apparently the person who did the tampering did reset the service-mode switch, which trips an alarm after 4 hours." "The service-mode switch you say?" I ask. "And how does one reset that then - not that I'd ever need to use it to isolate a room which I would subsequently lock my assistant into." "Pardon?" "Nothing, thanks again, and if you'll just excuse me I have to go and see my assistant..." >F.E.A.R MODE ON!< BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 12 Jan 2007

Mobile operators lose millions to SIM boxes

If you're getting poor quality on calls to mobile phones at home or abroad, it's probably because of the operator's poor business strategy, not the quality of its wireless network. That's according to Conrad Tuytte, the CEO of network testing specialist Meucci Solutions. He claimed that mobile operators across Europe could be losing call revenue worth millions - and earning themselves an undeserved reputation for poor line quality into the bargain - because they insist on setting their interconnect fees too high. "A big part of the problem is mobile operators are charging too much for connections from other networks," he said. "They concentrate on offering cheap on-net calls instead - including free minutes, or in some countries, flat rate voice calls - so clever people use those to bypass the interconnect fees." They do this using devices called SIM boxes, or GSM gateways - essentially two phones on different networks, rigged so that a call arriving on one is routed out again on the other. To the networks involved - which can be mobile or fixed - each call appears to start and end on its own network, so no interconnect fee is payable. Tuytte said that Meucci detected 50,000 SIM boxes around Europe last year, and claimed that each box could represent as much as €3500 in lost interconnect revenue. On some mobile networks, calls through SIM boxes could be as much as three percent of the total traffic, he added. These gateways are run by third-party carriers who sell their services on to mobile and fixed line operators, offering them connections to other networks for less than the usual interconnect fee. "Most of them are poor line quality - you have a large concentration of modems and SIM cards in one location, and the networks aren't designed to handle that, plus with a SIM box you never get caller-ID," Tuytte said. Other uses of the technology include adding a SIM box to a PBX or VOIP system to cut the cost of calling out to mobiles. This presents less of a quality issue because it's less of a concentration of lines and SIMs, Tuytte claimed. Belgium-based Meucci detects SIM boxes using its own SIM-equipped probes which it connects to the various telcos in each country. These continually dial each other and measure the call quality to determine how the call was delivered. It's not the only way to detect SIM boxes, though. Others on the trail include US company Sevis Systems, which analyses network usage data to detect SIM boxes via on their characteristic usage patterns. Tuytte said that SIM boxes are legal in most (though not all) countries - they are legal in the UK for one's own use, but not for providing commercial services, for example - so they are really a business issue for the mobile operators which they can best deal with by cutting their interconnect rates to more realistic levels. "There is potentially a business deal in this - the mobile operators need to make a deal, or call the other network and offer them a better rate," he said.
Bryan Betts, 12 Jan 2007

Gay sheep face neutral net censorship plot

LettersLetters It would be wrong to run letters without some kind of reference to that new phone thingey some company or other launched this week. As soon as Apple debuted the iPhone, Cisco unleashed the legal hounds to hunt down and retrieve a the name. To help Apple out, you thought up some alternative names for the handset. And told us why you love to love and hate it, all at the same time:
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jan 2007

Falling margins spell doom for carrier diversification

Telecom carriers are spending billions investing in IP technology but more than half will fail to establish new lines of business over the next four years, according to analyst group Gartner. Mobile broadband, Internet Protocol (IP) technology and the desire to become content providers are increasingly driving telecom carrier strategies. But in attempting to tap into new markets carriers run the risk of over-investing in immature technologies. Gartner reckons carriers need to adopt to a world with lower margins, rather than hoping that unproven business models and new technology promise a sure bet for future profits. Historically, carriers have been able to depend on high revenue growth from broadband or mobile services, but this is changing. Gartner predicts that year-on-year growth of telecom services (80 per cent of total global telecoms market size) will shrink to just 1.7 per cent by 2010. By that reckoning, telecom services revenues will rise from $1.3tn in 2006 to $1.5tn in 2010. Gartner reckons carriers need to be more realistic about future revenues, adapting to a world where they need to be profitable on lower margins and concentrate on making the most of their core businesses. Many carriers are attempt to invest in new markets, such as content provision or IT services, to compensate for revenue losses in traditional telecom services like voice calls. For example, Telecom Italia recently reinvented itself as a media company after signing deals with Fox, MGM and Sony to distribute content over high-speed fixed-broadband connections. Meanwhile BT Global Services and HP have teamed up in IT service integration, particularly in the areas of hosting and application delivery. In Asia, SK Telecoms has acquired Korea’s largest music recording label, YBM Seoul Records. But more than half of these initiatives are doomed to failure because many carriers have a limited knowledge of their existing subscriber base and weak understanding of new business models, Gartner warns. It cites a number of failed business ventures - sports channel ESPN's abandoned investment in mobile services, the failure of Germany telecoms firm E-Plus with content portal iMode - in support of its argument that carriers should concentrate on core areas such as connectivity or service aggregation. "The synergies between the different business models and markets are very limited," said Martin Gutberlet, research vice president at Gartner. "This type of diversification carries a high risk of losing focus on today’s core business priorities such as customer retention and cost cutting, with no guarantee of increased revenue growth in the long-term." "It will take more than just hiring a few media or IT executives for carriers to succeed in these new markets," Gutberlet concluded. Those carriers who do decide to diversify are likely to do so by acquisition. Gartner predicts more partnerships between carriers and media or IT service firms, which will lead to heightened competition and greater pricing pressures, particularly for businesses targeting consumers. Due to the high risk of failure, Gartner is advising carriers to think through risk mitigation and potential exit strategies such as separate network access and new non-telecom service units into individual companies, which might be more easily disposed up if projections run aground. ®
John Leyden, 12 Jan 2007

Comet McNaught prepares show for Soho

Those of us who live behind the almost permacloud that has covered the south of the UK for the last umpteen days will not have noticed, but apparently there is a comet currently gracing our skies. Comet McNaught has been tearing up the twilight for a little while now, and is even visible with just ordinary eyeballs. NASA's Picture of the Day site has it here. But it is about to fly into the sights of the SOHO solar observatory, where it will be the brightest comet the observatory has ever seen. It will pass within a fifth of the distance between the Earth and the Sun, getting brighter and brighter the closer it gets to the Sun. "This might become the brightest comet SOHO has ever seen," says Bernhard Fleck, SOHO Project Scientist. Researchers Karl Battams and Jeff Morrill at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, DC are planning colour filter observations of the comet's double tail as it passes its closest point to the sun, this Sunday. "Close to the Sun the ion and dust tails move apart, a phenomenon that is often difficult to observe from the Earth. By measuring the ion-tail angle we can get information about the solar wind speed very close to the Sun," Morrill notes. The comet's path is also set to carry it through a point where a change in the magnetic properties of the solar wind could cause the ion tail to fragment - a very rare occurrence. Here at Vulture Central, we're just pleased that there is a comet called McNaught. It makes us think McNaught should be a TV detective who wanders around solving utterly baffling crimes and wearing a grubby mac. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Jan 2007

'We've reinvented the phone ... as a wheelbarrow'

LettersLetters Bill Ray had the pleasure of being able to say "I told you so" this week, having correctly predicted the go-to-market strategy and price of Apple's first phone. Here's the response to his post-launch verdict, and a few of other iPhone articles this week: You are coming at this from the current cell phone market paradigm. Apple is trying to radically alter that paradigm to shift power from the utility provider to the device manufacturers. Apple is banking on the phone becoming a phenomenon like the iPod. I believe Steve even said something along the lines of "think of it a an iPod". Customer demand will drive the networks to Apple, on Apple's terms. Until WiMax comes along, bringing with it the ISP model, and devices matter and just use the "pipes". Michael Puskar Now there's an optimist. Here's another, moved to write by the shifting paradigms around him: To be perfectly honest I think you are completely missing the point. This is a revolution. The is a replacement laptop . I m a photographer I will definately buy one to show images to my clients. I am sick to the back teeth of carrying around a couple of devices neither of which work very well. The iPhone is perfect! I could never see the point of 3G as there is always a handy WiFi point ( often free) As long as it runs skype I'm happy sms and voice mail and my music it's the perfect device for me John For this reader, the paradigm hasn't so much shifted, but registered a Force 8 on the Paradigm Richter Scale: There ARE still question marks such as ability to load 3rd-party scripts, widgets or apps, the usability of the virtual keyboard for real typing, etc. But I think that the iPhone qualifies as a first-class "paradigm shift" of a phone, rather than a pretty but troublesome toy. Why the petulance? Walt French Based on the actual iPhone announcement from Apple, your original article (published prior to the announcement) was spot on in terms of the expected distribution strategy (exclusive to one carrier per territory) and even their retail price point (£330/$499). This shows your knowledge and insight on today's telecom market. The danger however is when you assumed there are/will be competing devices that offer 'better' functionality at a lower cost. If by 'better' you refer to ease of use and efficacy there is generally no better candidate than Apple in terms of design and execution. In fact the company thrives on a premium product strategy (e.g. Mac, iPod). The only question is whether the device's consumer appeal is correctly priced at a $150-350 premium compared to competing products in the same class (e.g. Nokia E62, SonyEricsson M600 etc) Given Apple's track record in product segmentation and marketing, I'm gonna go with a 'yes'. Lie To your point about the iPhone needing 3G and MMS in order to succeed in the UK & Europe, I disagree. The mobile operators want recoup their investment any way they can right now. Get their money back first, worry about building on the brand spanking new infrastructure later. And they'll want to pursue any possible avenue to get that money, regardless of whether it has 3G or MMS. The iPhone could be a mobile resuable ice cream cone for all the likes of Vodaphone and O2 care, if it gets signs up punters in their hordes who provide shiny new pound sterling or euros then quite frankly, they couldn't care less. I think your article thus was waaaay too cautious, a quality that might alienate you from the rest of the (usually) gung ho and cavalier el Reg staff! I'd advise you to buck your ideas up and be a little more outrageous! Kind regards, Peter iBling doesn't impress this reader: Having watched both iPods in our household being disposed of as basically unreliable and flaky, plus having to assist both owners to cope with the effects of said unreliability and flakiness, I am highly sceptical about the desirability of any similar product emanating from Apple. The word "Bargepole" would figure in an assessment of my feelings. John Kirkwood Bill, I agree with everything you said. I do not need this phone. However, I do want it and will buy it even though Cingular has a mediocre reputation for call quality. I want it because it will be the first phone that will allow me to locate, understand and use (if I choose) the multitude of features on a cell phone. Jim Hartneady I am not buying one right away. As in most tech toys, I have learned the hard way to take a wait and see approach. Waiting for the bugs to be worked out of version 1 and buying version 2 has saved me thousands in recent years. Prior to that I was a buy the latest and greates and then watch it sit on the shelf because it doesnt work kind of guy. Thank for your time, Peter Tomasi Here's the Angry Brigade, though. Your N93 can do everything the ihone can huh?? lolololol Fool. Do your research. How the FUCK did you get a job in journalism?? Tim Nice to meet you too, Tim. "The iPhone is a good-looking piece of kit: it does nothing my Nokia N93 can't do already, but it looks a great deal prettier and looks will sell." Not entirely accurate. Random access to voicemail is a features not to be found in any phone. I presume making this happen at the network-level is the R&D done by Cingular (mentioned in the Keynote.) Shekhar But the news that there's no third party development, except unless it's approved by Apple, appears to settle it for now. I've had a long debate with friends if this phone would be a killer or a dud. Without enabling other apps to run the whole debate is IMHO over. Well done, it IS after all a market first. A NON-smart phone. A duh-phone.." Peter ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jan 2007

Cisco on brink of losing iPhone name in Europe

Cisco could be on the brink of losing the rights to the iPhone trade mark in Europe, according to trade mark experts. Apple could end up with European rights to iPhone, in contrast to reports around the world suggesting that Cisco's rights were absolute.
OUT-LAW.COM, 12 Jan 2007

Spods find God ... in Sadville

Two items of interest for those of you who collect Really Stupid Things People Say About Technology. The BBC indulged Newsnight reporter Paul Mason long enough for him to float this thought our way - We've tended to see heavy internet use as a kind of addiction, or even psychosis. But may be all those people are living richer and somehow more human lives than old those sad people who've never killed an online dragon. Apart from the obligatory picture of what someone with a richer and more human life than you or me looks like - - we'll leave the punchline to you, dear readers, so send your thoughts along here [mailto]. You can find the 11-minute video here (click on 'THE PEARLY GATES OF CYBERSPACE') and a two-part article based on the video here (Pt.1) and here (Pt.2). [ WARNING: the video contains footage of a "MetaVerse Evangelist" with very bad acne. ] Meanwhile, another landmark. We've heard what we think is the first plea for corporate welfare from a Sadville serf. Over at The Guardian, leader writer Vic Keegan confesses that he's spent £100 on making his Sadville garden look like his real garden, and wonders if "such worlds could evolve into major economies providing employment for thousands, if not millions, of people." A note of caution creeps in at the end. "There is of course a danger that the company behind SL (or the others) could crash, causing hundreds of thousands to lose money and thereby generating a political furore," writes Vic. "But I'm sure Gordon Brown has a contingency plan for that." Over at Vulture Central, we also think Gordon Brown should compensate unlucky entrepreneurs of the equestrian arts. We put a wedge down on the 1.20 at Kempton on a hot tip at 33/1 - and the bleeding nag hobbled in last! Come on Gordon - pay up. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Jan 2007

Print is dead, long live the printer

CommentComment Hi, Annabel Fancy here. A time-slip mailing - I haven't got time to start this company here in the second decade of the millennium, so I thought you might like to try it. It's an internet printing business. You can use it; just mark me down for one per cent of share equity in exchange for royalty-free use. Here's how it works. It's 2012, London. You leave home in the morning, in something of a hurry, and at some point, you walk past a newsagent. But, of course, you don't buy anything there, because - well, why would you? The newspapers are targeted at rednecks and tree-huggers. The magazines are aimed at teenage boys of 28 with a toy fetish and an endless appetite for chest cleavage. And you don't smoke. Instead, you head to the ticket office at the station. Or the car fuel station. Or the coffee stall. "Hello, Ms Fancy!" says the concessionaire. "Your latte, and your paper!" The paper is made of paper - A3 size, colour. Front page headline: "Fancy A Winner at Levy's Heel Bar!" - story says that Ms Fancy can have a free shoe-shine at the heel bar inside the station. Next story: "Agenda for this morning's pre-meeting" - an email from your boss. On the next page, an in-depth analysis of education reforms, aimed at the specialist training manager. That's your job. Well, it's pretty much what you'd expect - the RSS feed from www.specialist-training.tv is one of your top priority syndics. Below that, a list of five URLs from a search you did on the web last night, with one-par summaries. All are new stories since your last search. There's a photo-sequence from the Pakistan-vs-Australia women's hockey match that was played in Melbourne last night and a five-par summary of the game (you're hockey mad, but didn't want to stay up). Also, below that, an error message from your personal video recorder saying it ran out of disc space before recording the game. Inside, a hot-off-press analyst report from your boss for the team. Next to that, new blog entries from your colleagues. The Sudoko game you half-finished at the PC last night is there, with your entries in grey, and the "given" numbers in black. There's a quarter-page advert from Amazon, listing books you didn't know you were interested in. There's also a note from your dentist offering a cancellation appointment and a 25% off "white filling replacement" offer for that amalgam which was looking dodgy last appointment. And finally, a selection of your favourite columnists and bloggers on news of the day in subjects you are most interested in. "No, thanks," you say. "I'll pick it up at the supermarket." The interesting points: 1) the paper was printed in the 30 seconds it took once you walked around the corner into the street with the kiosk. Location information from your cellphone and historical data on your purchases (using the phone for small amount micropayments) and Adsense data on your personal interests came together to pick the content and collect it into one 16-page publication. 2) you don't have to have an e-Page device (a tablet with e-paper display). Oh sure, this is 2010, and there are several rather nice 100-Euro pads on the market, but you don't like carrying yours around in public. Your colleagues think paper is messy. You prefer it. 3) The cost of producing the tabloid is low enough that the vendor could print it on a chance. He gets to include a free advert for his services towards the cost of the ink 4) It's just as well the syndicate which set this business up had it financed, deployed, and earning before now. Trying to revive a paper industry product now that e-paper is so cheap and such good quality, would challenge the resources of even the slickest venture-capital firm. 5) You don't care about the free Lottery ticket you'd have got if you'd accepted the copy. But the syndicate does; they get 10 per cent of the winnings of any readers towards their costs; which includes their share of the Lottery electronic network used to funnel all the data around. 6) Yes, you're an eco-fan, but the paper used isn't an issue. Compared with the amount of junk mail you used to get for pizza parlours (you're allergic to wheat) and other irrelevant rubbish, the newspaper is a tiny amount - and it's all based on data from your shopping habits, your reading preferences, your music fetishes, your credit card details, your loyalty card records, and your surfing secrets. 7) Privacy? Intact. The system knows you, better than your mother does - but no human gets to see the data which tracks you. It's all done on heuristics. 8) No moving pictures? Well, no. Doesn't matter: you'll walk past a dozen Adshell booths before you get to work, and each one will display stuff of interest to you, as you come into view. That'll probably include things like the goal in the hockey match... and an advert targeted at you and your tastes, of course. 9) Is this a Rupert Murdoch operation? Probably. It might have been co-owned by a different bunch of startups, had they spotted this Register piece back in 2007, but sadly, they had utterly swallowed the rubbish about "print is dead". Print isn't dead. It just needs re-inventing to live with the Internet age. ®
Guy Kewney, 12 Jan 2007

Confering developers

Here’s a long range heads-up on a couple of conferences that should tickle the interest of many developers.
Martin Banks, 12 Jan 2007
homeless man with sign

Man-in-the-Middle phishing kit netted

A new kit for sale in the digital underground makes it easier for fraudsters to run more sophisticated phishing fraud attacks.
John Leyden, 12 Jan 2007

EMC's Insignia brand here to stay, despite layoffs

Contrary to rival propaganda, EMC's Insignia line of products will continue to live on as the preferred gear for small- and medium-sized businesses. That is until EMC kills the brand.
Ashlee Vance, 12 Jan 2007

AT&T razes the Cingular brand

AT&T is consigning the Cingular name to the dustbin of history. Its wireless operator will now also be known as AT&T. The telco kicks off a "transitioning" ad campaign on Monday and will also begin changing the livery on company buildings and vehicles. It's not saying how much this all costs, but the bill will easily run into tens of millions of dollars. Time for a quote from Ed Whitacre, chairman and CEO of AT&T. "AT&T, BellSouth and Cingular are now one company, and going to market with our services under one brand is the right thing to do." Press release is here. ®
Drew Cullen, 12 Jan 2007

SGI hermit crabs over to Sunnyvale

After once dominating the Silicon Valley suburb of Mountain View, SGI has packed up and moved to Sunnyvale - the latest shift in the company's resurrection agenda. Not too long ago, SGI owned numerous, massive complexes on either side of the central Mountain View artery Shoreline Boulevard. Those buildings have since been turned over to various organizations such as the Computer History Museum, Google and a host of start-ups. The purple coloring favored by SGI still coats a number of the structures. Last month, SGI closed the last of its Mountain View offices - a space it shared with start-ups - and moved to 1140 E. Arques Avenue in Sunnyvale. We're told the new single story building is a nice space with a gym and plenty of room to move. SGI shifted to Sunnyvale as yet another cost saving measure taken since it emerged from bankruptcy. The hardware maker is in the midst of shifting its business to focus on the broader corporate data center market rather than just high-end graphics customers. Mountain View has claimed many stars over the years, starting with the original Shockley Labs - considered by many to be the birthplace of Silicon Valley. The likes of Netscape, Verisign, Fairchild Semiconductor, Veritas and PayPal have called or still do call Mountain View home. SGI was by far the most aggressive Mountain View resident, crawling into so many flashy buildings. Many of the old SGI structures are marked by space age facades and that damn purple. Now, however, Google is the unquestioned king of The View. So, City Hall won't be suffering to much from SGI's departure. ®
Ashlee Vance, 12 Jan 2007
For Sale sign detail

Feds scrutinize backdated options awarded Steve Jobs

If Steve Jobs is indeed able to defy gravity at times, as the New York Times suggested today, backdated stock options given to the larger-than-life Apple CEO may prove to be the tractor beam that brings him crashing back to earth.
Dan Goodin, 12 Jan 2007

Dell accused of selling defective notebooks - again

A lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court alleges that Dell notebooks suffer from design defects that cause premature failure of the motherboard due to overheating.
Dan Goodin, 12 Jan 2007