30th > January > 2007 Archive

ICO approves council tax data share

The Information Commissioner's Office has given a green light to councils sharing council tax information. Launching new guidance named The use of personal information held for collecting and administrating council tax yesterday, the ICO said: "Council tax information, such as residents' names and addresses collected by councils, can be used for other purposes." The guidance outlines how this information can be used in line with the Data Protection Act. It includes making sure councils, which may use the information to populate a customer relationship management database, consider a number of questions. These include whether the information would be adequately protected from improper use or disclosure. Individuals must also be told exactly how the authority will use their personal information. ICO head of information sharing Iain Bourne said: "We have advised a large number of local authorities about the use of council tax information. This clear guidance will help local authorities to make the best use of the information they hold while protecting the people the information is about." The guidance was launched to coincide with the European Data Protection Day. 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, 30 Jan 2007

BeOS: the Mac OS X might-have-been

Forgotten TechForgotten Tech As World+Dog gets its head around Windows Vista, lets look back at an operating system that might have been a contender, very nearly becoming Apple's next-generation OS and, but for Linux, almost certainly the key alternative to Windows in the x86 world. Ladies and gentlemen, who remembers the Be OS?
Tony Smith, 30 Jan 2007

Boffins boot up shoe database

British scientists have scored another first in the battle to beat international crime, launching a database of shoe types. The UK’s Forensic Science Service’s Footwear Intelligence Tool will bring the same sort of techniques used in analysing DNA found at the scene of a crime to identifying the footprints at a scene of a crime, Reuters reports. Sort of CSI meets a load of cobblers, if you will. The database goes live on February 15, and will apparently be updated daily, as information comes in from shoe makers and crime scenes. The boffins already have 1,000 distinguishing marks for Nike’s range of training shoes alone. No doubt other favoured criminal footwear will be detailed in time, such as the winkelpicker, the sharpened stiletto, and of course, that old favourite, the concrete boot.®
Joe Fay, 30 Jan 2007

Paris: 'stop exposing me'

Paris Hilton is going after the website that is displaying possessions she forgot to reclaim from a storage lockup, saying she was “appalled” her personal items were being exploited for commercial gain. The parisexposed.com site includes personal photos and videos, as well as Hilton’s passport. It was launched last week by one Bardia Persa, who apparently paid $10m for the items. He bought them from two individuals who had bought them for a measly $2,775 when a storage firm sold off the contents of Hilton’s storage locker after bills went unpaid. According to AP, Hilton’s suit says that a removals firm was responsible for paying the bill for the storage locker. The items were in storage while Hilton and her sister were between houses following a burglary. Unsurprisingly, Hilton says that as well as being “appalled” she is “shocked and surprised” to find her personal knick knacks being commercially exploited. Clearly her pocket thesaurus was not amongst the items left in the lock-up. She is also concerned that the personal documents displayed on the site could be used for identity theft. There’s no word on when the case may be heard, so, any voyeurs willing to pay $39.97 to peruse the heiress’ medical records are safe for now.®
Joe Fay, 30 Jan 2007

AMD Fusion to target laptops at first

AMD's 'Fusion' processors, due to ship around two years from now, will initially target mobile machines as the chip maker pitches the product's superior performance-per-Watt characteristics, it revealed this week.
Tony Smith, 30 Jan 2007

Tech industry most trusted in Ireland: survey

Would you buy a used car from this man (right)? You would if he worked in the technology sector, according to a new survey. Technology is the most trusted industry in Ireland according to the Edelman Trust Barometer, an annual global survey of opinion formers. The survey found 72 per cent of Irish opinion leaders expressed a positive opinion about the tech sector. Perhaps, unsurprisingly, the insurance industry came last with just 35 per cent of participants placing their trust in the source of insurance salesmen. "The research findings are reflective of the benefits that technology has brought to the Irish economy and society in general. The level of trust in the sector can, in part, be put down to the number and quality of jobs that companies like Google, HP, and Microsoft have created," said Mark Cahalane, managing director of Edelman Dublin. Individually, financial or industry analysts are the most trusted spokespersons with 54 per cent approval. Doctors also fare well on 45 per cent, but lawyers and public relations executives were in poor health: scoring 30 per cent and 21 per cent respectively. The least-trusted spokespersons are athletes and entertainers with a meagre 12 per cent of participants expressing their support. This was the first time the annual survey included Irish views. A total of 3,100 people were surveyed worldwide, including 150 in Ireland. Participants in the survey were college-educated, aged between 35 and 64, and ranked in the top quartile of household incomes in Ireland. In order to be eligible for selection as opinion leaders, those questioned had to express an interest in media, current affairs, and politics. There were also sectoral requirements; they had to be employed by either multinationals, SMEs, professional services, media, or related industries. The survey also analysed the level of trust Irish people place in companies and goods from other countries. Sweden comes out on top with 65 per cent of participants' support while Mexico and Russia were at the bottom of the pile with 21 per cent and 20 per cent trust ratings. The Netherlands has the highest opinion of Irish goods with 71 per cent of participants saying they trust Irish goods. India has the least faith in Irish business with a trust rating of just 44 per cent. Outside of industry, the survey found that Al Gore may have more sway than local politicians with Irish opinion leaders. Global warming, an issue on which Gore highlighted in his documentary An Inconvenient Truth, is seen as the most important issue for companies to address, with 65 per cent of those questioned placing it as the highest priority. Meanwhile, with the general election fast approaching, the Irish government could only garner the trust of 37 per cent of those surveyed. However, the Taoiseach and his chums can take some comfort in the fact that the Church fared even worse. Only 29 per cent of participants said they trust religious institutions. Amnesty International and Greenpeace were among the top performers in the survey with 73 per cent of participants expressing trust in these organisations. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Emmet Ryan, 30 Jan 2007
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Outsourcing won't save you money

Although the outsourcing market has matured rapidly in the last couple of years, we still encounter many companies that see outsourcing as a cost-saving exercise. These companies are often the ones who then lay blame at the outsourcing provider's door, saying the savings weren't big enough (if they existed at all), that the outsourcing company was inflexible, that it didn't respond to the company's needs and so forth.
Clive Longbottom, 30 Jan 2007

EU Parliament votes today on new IP laws

UpdatedUpdated The European Parliament's committee for legal affairs meets today to vote on proposals for criminal penalties to be imposed on those who infringe intellectual property (IP) rights. The vote today will determine whether or not a person who downloads a single unlicensed track of music could be sent to jail. The scope of the directive has been the subject of much debate, with an array of amendments being tabled to either limit or broaden the remit of the proposed legislation. The level of penalties set out has also caused division between groups of MEPs. For example, while the proposal refers to all kinds of IP rights, some MEPs want patents specifically excluded from the directive, arguing that most European states have sufficient civil remedies for such infringements. Others go even further and argue that the directive should be restricted to cover only copyright and trademark violations, leaving aside database rights, geographical indications, and trade names. The more liberal MEPs have also called for copies made for personal use to be specifically excluded. Those calling for harsher penalties for infringers, including Dutch MEP Toine Manders, say they want personal copies included in the directive, up to and including downloaded files. Manders and his supporters also want penalties for infringement to include the seizure and destruction of all counterfeit material, and all equipment used to carry out the infringement. ® Update: The vote has been postponed until February 26. The delay was requested by the EPP group, to give them time to get their new MEPs (post mid-terms) up to speed on the issues.
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Jan 2007
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Hubble's main camera dies a death

Hubble's main camera, the Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACFS), has shut down following an electrical failure. The camera went offline last year after a problem with its power supply. That was eventually resolved, but this time most of the the damage looks permanent: NASA says only one of the ACFS's three sub-cameras is likely to be restored. A power failure on Saturday sent the whole observatory into safe mode. NASA engineers managed to reboot the telescope, but without its ACFS functions. The ACFS was installed during a 2002 servicing mission. Its three cameras saw into space in the visible, ultraviolet, and infrared spectra, and its installation effectively doubled Hubble's field of view. The camera's three channels took in wide field and high-resolution pictures, as well as a dedicated channel for probing our own solar system. NASA speculates that it will be able to reboot this last channel - the solar blind - but says the wide field and high resolution channels are almost certain to remain offline. Since its installation, the camera has sent back some truly stunning images, and has made a great contribution to science. It has been the most in demand instrument on the observatory, NASA says. Hubble is long overdue its next service, and is scheduled to be attended by astronauts in September 2008. The mission will install the new Wide Field Camera-3, and the Cosmic Origins Spectrograph (COS), and carry out repairs to the Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph. The crew will also install new batteries and gyroscopes. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Jan 2007
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Firefox 2.0: happier browsing, but secure?

ReviewReview It's long past time to bother telling anyone how much better than IE Firefox is. Faster, smaller, more responsive, with tabbed browsing and useful extensions galore. It's also lot more secure than IE, partly because it's open source, and particularly because it's not integrated with the underlying OS. Firefox's security bugs involve the browser only, and can be fixed quickly and without much fuss. On the other hand, because of its integration with the OS, IE's bugs can involve the system overall, and may need weeks or months to sort out.
Thomas C Greene, 30 Jan 2007
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'Hobbit' islanders given species claim boost

Another salvo has been fired in the row over whether the remains of the Indonesian "Hobbit" people actually represent a separate species, or just malformed Homo sapiens. The bones, unearthed from the Liang Bua limestone cave on the island of Flores caused a sensation when they were first revealed to the world in 2004, but have since been the source of much scientific tit-for-tat with research published arguing both cases. At the time, the team which made the discovery said when combined with their primitive anatomical features, the advanced stone tools associated with the fossil cache suggested they had developed in isolation on Flores. A population of Homo erectus - one of our own ancestors - may have evolved into small island dwellers. Later work by separate groups of researchers in 2006, however, said the three-footers may have been pygmys suffering from the rare congenital condition microcephaly, which retards the growth of the brain. Now, a study of the skull of the only complete individual, a female known as LB1, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences yesterday evening, says otherwise. CT scanning mapped the LB1's brain cavity, and was used to create a 3D model of the brain (pictured), which was around the same size as a chimpanzee and around a quarter of our own. Modern microcephalic, left and LB1, right Dean Falk at the University of Florida and colleagues argue their new data shows the Flores people's brains did not have the characteristic traits of a microcephalic human. They compared the Flores skull to nine modern cases of microcephaly, and normal skulls. They concluded not only did LB1 not have microcephaly, but was dissimilar enough to Homo sapiens to support its "new species" tag. Professor Falk told the BBC: "People refused to believe that someone with that small of a brain could make the tools...[but] LB1 has a highly evolved brain. It didn't get bigger, it got rewired and reorganised, and that's very interesting." The contention looks set to continue, however. Answers have been slow in coming; a part of the problem has been a bureaucratic tussle over rights to the bones and to further excavate the Liang Bua cave system. The Australian reports a team now investigating a new chamber are hunting DNA from the Flores people, who are thought to have survived to as recently as 12,000 years ago. Numerous animal bones "showing evidence of butchery" have already been found at the bottom of the 430m2 chamber "in pristine condition", according to team leader Dr Mike Gagan of the Australian National University. An expedition to the remote caves this June will look for remains of their hunters. Standard DNA profiling techniques should prove conclusively whether the so-called hobbits were human or a separate species. ®
Christopher Williams, 30 Jan 2007

Verizon turned down iPhone's advances

Verizon Wireless was the first company offered exclusive access to the iPhone, but turned Apple away because of problems with the proposed business model. Cingular had no such reservations, and will be selling Steve Jobs' "revolution" later this year.
Bill Ray, 30 Jan 2007

Intel to take axe to Core 2 Quad pricing on 22 April?

Intel is set to slash the price it charges for its quad-core processor, the Core 2 Quad Q6600, on 22 April, Asian industry moles have claimed. The April quarter should also see the arrival of further Core 2 Duo and Core 2-derived Pentium processors.
Tony Smith, 30 Jan 2007

Sapphire unveils AMD's unannounced X1950 GT

AMD's anticipated ATI Radeon X1950 GT graphics chip has come to market on a board built by Sapphire, announced yesterday. AMD has itself yet to formally signal the part's arrival.
Hard Reg, 30 Jan 2007

Intel said to have Extreme-brand laptop CPU in the pipeline

Intel is said to be preparing a pair of dual-core Core 2 Extreme processors specifically developed for gamer-friendly notebooks, the first coming in Q2/Q3, the second arriving as a follow-up in Q4.
Tony Smith, 30 Jan 2007

Swedes to open embassy in Second Life

Sweden has announced its intention to be the first nation to have an embassy in Second Life, Reuters reports. The virtual consulate - based on the country's new embassy in Washington - will be rather brilliantly known as the "House of Sweden". Olle Wastberg, general director of the Swedish Institute, explained: "It will have answers to questions on all aspects of Sweden." The House of Sweden will open for business in a couple of weeks, so start queuing now if you're desperate to have your meatball queries handled by experts. ®
Lester Haines, 30 Jan 2007

Apple colours iPod Shuffle line-up

Apple has released its iPod Shuffle in four more colours. There's no change to the specifications - they're all still 1GB models offering up to 12 hours' music playback time and retailing for $79/£55/€79. Now, though, they match the iPod Nano line-up... almost. Where there's a black Nano, there's an orange Shuffle.
Tony Smith, 30 Jan 2007
Evesham Core 2 Duo Solar Storm PC

Evesham Solar Storm Windows Vista PC

ReviewReview By current standards the Solar Storm is very conventional and uses a Core 2 Duo processor, as Intel's silicon offers both superb dual-core performance as well as value for money. In this case it's an E6400 model that runs at 2.13GHz on a 1,066MHz FSB. There are two 512MB PC2-5300U modules to give 1GB of dual-channel memory, and a Foxconn P9657AA-8EKRS2H motherboard to tie it all together.
Leo Waldock, 30 Jan 2007
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Microsoft researcher Jim Gray lost at sea

California coastguards are searching for Microsoft researcher Jim Gray, who was reported missing at 8.30pm on Sunday after failing to return from a solo boat trip. An experienced yachtsman, Gray sailed early Sunday from a marina near Fort Mason in San Francisco, The San Jose Mercury News reports. He had told family he planned to scatter his mother's ashes on the Farallon Islands, 27 miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. He called home at 10.30am, saying he would soon be passing out of cell phone range. Coastguards were alerted when he did not make a promised call when back in range, and a dispatched a spotter to search a 4,000 square mile area. Coastguard Lieutenant Amy Marrs said: "There has been no sightings of Jim Gray or the vessel. Based on his experience and the reports of the good condition of his boat, we have no clues." The sailing conditions around San Francisco were reportedly good. Gray, 63, founded and managed Microsoft's Bay Area Research Centre. In 1998 he bagged the Turing Prize for his work on databases and transaction processing. Microsoft spokesman Doug Free said: "Our thoughts are with Jim and his family as we hope for his safe return." More on the search here, and you can read Reg Developer's interview with Gray from last year here. ®
Christopher Williams, 30 Jan 2007

My big, fat, lily-white Second Life

NSFW ColumnNSFW Column Roleplay in Second Life begins with the creation of one's avatar, or one's primary character. For many residents, the avatar, while certainly a character, also reflects something of the owner's real-life self. Sometimes this will involve a desire or a curiosity for which real life offers no route to satisfaction or exploration.
Destiny Welles, 30 Jan 2007

Apple posts $2 802.11n Wi-Fi patch

Apple has posted software that will allow Macs with 802.11n-capable Wi-Fi adaptors to support the latest incarnation of the as yet non-standard next-generation wireless networking technology. And yes, the company wants $1.99 or £1.25 for it, depending on your location.
Tony Smith, 30 Jan 2007

Acquiring Code Craft

Book reviewBook review Books on programming language x, technology y, and methodology z are 10 a penny. Bookshop shelves groan under the weight of books promising to teach programming x, y or z in 21 days, 7 days, 24 hours, 10 minutes, 30 seconds...
Dr Pan Pantziarka, 30 Jan 2007
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Vista launches to muted applause

Vista has been delayed so many times that the audience didn't seem surprised that the start time slipped back by twenty minutes. About two hundred journalists and Microsoft partners gathered at the British Library conference centre for the launch event this morning. Bill Gates finally arrived on stage looking surprisingly dapper in a dark pinstripe suit and burgundy spotted tie - maybe the delay was down to him getting fitted for the suit which didn't look like it came from a catalogue.
John Oates, 30 Jan 2007

South Korea collars 'spam' duo

Two computer programmers have been arrested in South Korea on suspicion of unleashing a torrent of spam on the country between September and December last year. Police allege that the two men - a 20-year-old and 26-year-old - sent some 1.6 billion unsolicited emails aimed at obtaining financial information for resale to loan companies. Authorities said the pair flogged 12,000 South Korean's details, netting them around $106,400. A Sophos survey last week ranked South Korea third in a world league of shame of the worst countries for spam relay, behind the US and China. Reuters reports a police spokesman said: "This kind of spam mailing is causing enormous problems in South Korea and we think these two are responsible for some of the biggest abuses." ®
Christopher Williams, 30 Jan 2007
Flag United Kingdom

UK procurement contract review drags on

The government has broadened its review of contractual terms that it recommends are used by public sector buyers when implementing IT projects.
Mark Ballard, 30 Jan 2007

Smut, trademarks and Orville's lament

LettersLetters Last week, Microsoft confused us all by announcing it had no incompatibilities in its shiny new OS, except the ones it put there itself, that weren't there at all, but were still a grave threat to us all. Still with us? No? Not surprising. Was it all about content? Oh we give up. Over to you:
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Jan 2007
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Vista and British Library put da Vinci online

Microsoft and the British Library have digitised two of Leonardo da Vincis' notebooks. British Library CEO Lynne Brindley said to celebrate the consumer launch of Vista it would offer free access to two da Vinci notebooks - one owned by the library, and one from Gates's private collection. The British Library has created an updated version of its application called "Turning the Pages" which allows people to browse parts of its 150 million piece collection via a web browser. We heard how this works better using Vista. Gates paid $30.8m for the Codex Leicester in 1994. He said his wife wasn't very impressed when he said he'd bought a notebook - until he told her it was one of da Vinci's. The British Library owns a second notebook called Codex Arundel. Both books will be freely available at the British Library website for the next six months. The "Turning the Pages" software allows you to move and turn the pages as well as zoom in and rotate them. It also allows you to make notes - either for yourself or make them public. Brindley said this would be of interest to the general public as well as offering new opportunities for scholars. Referring to a da Vinci riddle "Feathers shall raise men, as they do birds, toward heaven - that is by letters written using quills," she said: "We hope to let the ideas of Leonardo take wing as never before." Some Leonardo pages, but not the Codex Leicester, are available to non-Windows users in a Shockwave version. ®
John Oates, 30 Jan 2007
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Surfcontrol finding channel waters choppy

Silicon Valley/Congleton/wherever-based net security firm Surfcontrol said its plan to become a channel-led services outfit was on track as it announced its Q2 numbers on Thursday, despite registering a $400,000 loss - the same as a year ago. Revenues were up 26 per cent to $31.6m and channel billings now make up 79 per cent of its sales take, up from 68 per cent in the three months to December 2005.
Christopher Williams, 30 Jan 2007

Samsung unveils spin-screen camera-cum-media player

Samsung has launched a digital camera that's as much a portable media player as it is a picture taker. Dubbed the i7, the snapper has a screen that can rotate to choose which of the device's features you want. It'll even double up as a guide book for your travels.
Hard Reg, 30 Jan 2007
Flag India

Getronics hands apps development to India

Dutch IT services giant Getronics has handed its software application business over to an Indian outsourcer, allowing it to move its developers into its expanding consulting division.
Mark Ballard, 30 Jan 2007
SCO logo 75

You'll have SCO to kick around for another year

The SCO Group has promised to stick around for at least another year. The Unix software maker this week dished out a year-end filing to the US Securities and Exchange Commission detailing its financial state. Things continue to look grim for SCO as it burns through cash and suffers from dwindling software sales. Still, SCO thinks it can maintain a fine financial line, despite claims from rival Novell that bankruptcy is near.
Ashlee Vance, 30 Jan 2007
MySQL

MySQL bites Oracle before Oracle bites it

In a pre-emptive strike against Oracle, database vendor MySQL has launched its first site-wide license and support package, pricing it the same as a single Oracle CPU database license.
Gavin Clarke, 30 Jan 2007