15th > February > 2007 Archive
The sequel to the 2005 Linux mystery thriller concerning the identity of the Groklaw blogger going by the name Pamela Jones has hit the street, and despite some fresh intrigue, it's as rough a slog as the original.
Microsoft is crying foul against IBM in its campaign for fast-track approval of XML Office file formats as an international standard.
Firefox suffers from a flaw that allows attackers to manipulate the authentication cookies of virtually any website, a vulnerability Bugzilla has deemed severe. It's the second major security lapse for the open-source browser in as many days. The defect, which stems from the way Firefox writes to the "location.hostname" property of the document object model, can be exploited by a specially doctored script that sets variables that normally wouldn't be accepted when parsing a regular URL, according to researcher Michal Zalewski, who uncovered Monday's vulnerability as well. By injecting text string that includes "\x00," normal safeguards can be bypassed, allowing the browser to be fooled about the origin of a domain trying to set or modify a cookie. The sleight of hand makes a victim's browser appear to be talking to trustedbank.com when in fact it is receiving data from evilhackers.com. The attacker would also be able to change the document.domain accordingly. A demonstration of the vulnerability, which has been tested on version 188.8.131.52, is available here. ®
SAP OpenSAP Open A bored Andy Roddick clobbered Canadian Frank Dancevic during his opening match here at the SAP Open. Roddick rolled through the first set 7-5 in just thirty minutes and then put the finishing touches on an unmoving match with a 20-minute 6-1 drubbing in the second set. Both the American and Dancevic struggled early on to deal with the pace of the HP Pavilion's hard-court. Roddick, however, adjusted first to the quick concrete and then, having broken Dancevic's spirit, sent off the 96-ranked man. Players at this year's SAP Open requested that the court play faster than in the past, and organizers satisfied this plea. Officials claim the ball moves 50 per cent faster on this year's surface. As a result, neither Roddick nor Dancevic could muster much more than aces, service winners and unforced errors up to 6-5 in the first set. Roddick then needed only a flash of competence to take the set, breaking Dancevic with a shoulder-diving forehand and then a ripping backhand winner. "I was struggling out there early," Roddick said, during a press conference. "I wasn't making any shots. I was able to string two together that last game in the first set." Roddick described the SAP Open surface as one of the fastest he has faced in recent months and obviously much faster the than they clay he played on last week during a Davis Cup match with the Czechs. The cracked backhand at the end of the first set marked one of the few times that Roddick pulled out his two-hander during the match. He relied mostly on slice and his new attacking-style game. No one would confuse Roddick's hands with those of Sampras or Edberg, but he was decent enough today to put away a few volleys and dribble over a couple of nice drop shots. Most of Dancevic's success came off his serve, which was Roddick's equal through much of the first set. Dancevic, however, had no answers from the ground or the net in the second set. The SAP Open could provide a nice win for Roddick, who was demoralized by Roger Federer at the Australian Open. "Roger is not on my mind 24 hours a day," Roddick said. "Only three hours a day when you guys are asking about him." The SAP Open runs through Sunday and has stars such as Marat Safin, Andy Murray and James Blake. You can purchase access to online video of the matches here. ®
SAP OpenSAP Open James Blake pushed aside Russian Igor Kunitsyn during two uneventful sets tonight here at the SAP Open. The American used his all-court game, a strong serve and quick legs to dismantle Kunitsyn 6-3, 6-2 in just 52 minutes. The performance boosted the spirits of a weary Blake fresh off the plane after defeating the Czech Republic in a Davis Cup match. Equally fatigued teammate Andy Roddick also notched an easy win earlier Wednesday night. "I think I played pretty well," Blake said, during a press conference. He added that the SAP Open hard-court surface played very fast – a possible edge for both him and Roddick in the tournament. The SAP Open brings together a handful of the world's top men tennis players and a number of up-and-comers. Those of you not able to catch the Silicon Valley tournament live can watch the action on the web. The 84th ranked Kunitsyn displayed brief – very brief – flashes of brilliance. He hits one of the flattest, most powerful backhands you'll see and a forehand with just a touch of topspin. These flat strokes crumbled early and often with plenty of balls diving into the net at inopportune moments. You got the feeling that Kunitsyn could be a real menace on a perfect day with his deep, heavy shots. But, without such perfection Wednesday, the Russian made far too many errors to have a chance at pressuring a top player such as Blake. Following the match, Blake sported an icepack around his right wrist and complained of some tendonitis. The player, however, felt like the injury is improving. Catch choice bits from Blake's press conference Blake faces Ivo Karlovic on Thursday, while Roddick goes up against promising American youngster Sam Querrey. ®
3GSM3GSM Mobile games developer and publisher Glu has done a deal with Codemasters to get its games onto mobile phones. It is not the first collaboration between the two - last year Glu put Brian Lara cricket game on mobile phones. Titles will include Colin McRae Rally, TOCA Race Driver and LMA Manager, which will be the first game available in autmun 2007. Glu uses its own developers to recreate various games - from Monopoly to the rich graphics of games like Gotham Racing. A spokesman for Glu welcomed the deal and said it was a mistake to believe only certain types of games will work on mobile phones. "There are two billion phones out there, so of course there's room for everything from sudoku to more immersive, console-type games. As long as it's good quality, and people want to play it again, it can succeed. When people buy a console they're making a decision on the games they want to play but with phones the potential market is all ages and sexes." Glu is a private company but has filed an S-1 with the SEC as the first step to an initial public offering. ®
3GSM3GSM Mobile VoIP (voice over internet protocol) will not hit mobile telephony revenues, but will have more of an impact on fixed line services, according to T-Mobile International AG chief executive Hamid Akhavan. Akhavan said mobile VoIP would only take "a small share" of mobile revenues. He said takeup of the technology would be hampered by technical issues, the need for constant connections, and problems with emergency numbers. More from Computerworld here. His words may seem at odds with predictions from many at the 3GSM show in Barcelona, but they were supported by Thus, which questioned whether the technology is mature enough for business use. Mark Charlesworth, head of messaging, mobility and applications at Thus, said: "The overall user experience with VoFi phones has always been questionable. The more applications made available on the handsets the more electricity they require. VoFi handsets are notorious consumers of power and their battery life is much shorter than handsets launched for other specifications - a major practical drawback to using them for business applications. "The quality of the actual call has also been a consideration with Wi-Fi access. This is because the VoFi phone is sharing the available bandwidth with all other Wi-Fi traffic." ®
Our sun will probably look very much the same for the next few billion years, plodding happily along the main sequence, bathing our solar system in its friendly yellow rays. All very nice for us living on Earth, of course, but not terribly exciting. Happily for anyone who doesn't have a spare five billion years to wait for something interesting* to happen 'round here, we have Hubble. The space telescope has sent back a brand new picture of what our own sun is likely to look like at the end of its life, five billion years (give or take) from now. In the centre of the picture, you can see a tiny white dot - that is the remnant of this stellar cousin to our sun. The star, by this stage a white dwarf, is ending its life by shedding the layers of material that had surrounded its core. The gas it has expelled is glowing in the ultraviolet light shining out from the star. The material surrounding the star is called a planetary nebula. The phenomenon was misidentified by early astronomers, who thought they were witnessing the birth of a solar system, rather than its end. Its lobed structure, streaked with dark clouds of dust, indicates that material had been expelled by the star on several occasions, each time in a different direction. The picture was snapped by Hubble on 6 February. ® *Admittedly, in this case interesting is synonymous with horribly destructive and most likely fatal. Unless in the company of Dr Who.
Apple will ship 15.4in widescreen MacBooks next quarter, Taiwanese notebook-manufacturer moles have claimed, stating the new models will fill the gap between the 13.3in MacBooks and the 15.4in MacBook Pros.
Business letters can be protected by copyright and forwarding them to others can be an infringement, the High Court has ruled. The decision could have implications for email communication because the same principles will apply. In a dispute over roofing slates, the High Court said that a business letter can qualify for copyright protection. Experts say the protection will as easily apply to business emails, which could change the way email is used in business forever. Struan Robertson, editor of OUT-LAW.COM and a technology lawyer with Pinsent Masons, said: "Emails can be protected by copyright too. Just because it's easier to forward an email than a letter does nothing to weaken that protection." Not every letter or email will enjoy copyright protection, which is reserved for works which involve original skill or labour and which do not involve copying the work of another person. Originality in this context does not require the work to be an original or inventive thought; it only requires originality in the execution or expression of the thought. However, where existing subject matter is used by an author, independent skill must be applied to justify copyright protection for a resulting work. In a dispute over the quality of roofing slates provided by a Danish company Dansk Eternit Holding and its UK subsidiary Cembrit Blunn, Justice Kitchin said a letter produced by Dansk's executive vice president Karl Jorgensen qualified for copyright protection. "In the light of the evidence and having compared the letter to the earlier works upon which it was based, I have no doubt that its production did involve a substantial degree of independent skill and labour and that it does justify the subsistence of copyright," said Kitchin in his judgment. "The effort expended by Mr Jorgensen was clearly significantly more than trivial." The letter was passed on to the roofing contractor which was the defendant in the action for breach of copyright and misuse of confidential information. Dansk said that roofing contractor Apex's circulation of the letter was an act of infringement. Apex claimed that the letter was simply a re-statement of information contained in previous documents, but the judge found that enough was added that was new to qualify the letter for protection as a literary work. "A comparison of the letter with the documents to which I have referred shows that there are significant differences between them. Moreover, and importantly, the letter sets out Mr Jorgensen's views about Apex," said Kitchin. That meant that it qualified for protection, Kitchin said. Robertson said the ruling serves as a reminder to companies about their use of email. "This doesn't create new law, but it may make a few people think twice before hitting the 'forward' button," he said. "We're not going to see a flood of cases over emails that have been forwarded without permission. If nothing else, even if it is established that a particular business email qualifies for copyright protection, it may be difficult or impossible to quantify any financial loss, meaning that somebody could sue, win a finding of copyright infringement and receive zero damages." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The European Parliament has recommended that the only logical way to stop US anti-terrorist investigators from illegally snooping on European financial transactions is to get the firm handling them to remove its data from US shores. Investigators at the US Treasury have been poring over private European finances since a little after 9/11 by placing subpoenas on the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), which has an effective monopoly on the exchange of the messages that facilitate Europeans' international transactions. But since the secret programme was exposed by the New York Times last June, European privacy watchdogs have been impotent to stop it, despite calling it illegal. They can't order banks to stop using Swift because that would stop international business dead. Neither can they stop the US from snooping on European data. The only solution the European Parliament could see in a resolution it adopted today, was for Swift to stop storing data in the US. "The natural consequence would be for SWIFT to be obliged to stop its current practice of mirroring all data concerning EU citizens and enterprises in its US site or to move its alternative database site outside US jurisdiction," the resolution said. They implied that the same precaution might apply also for telecoms and other types of financial firms, like insurers, which were exempted from the Safe Harbour Agreement that protected data they held on US soil. Swift got into trouble with EU authorities for giving US authorities access to data it handled on behalf of central and private banks not only in Europe, but among 8,000 institutions around the world. Its messages contained information about what was being paid by who, to whom. Its system is so crucial to the operation of worldwide finance that the European Central Bank, which has been officially reprimanded for keeping schtum about the transfers, said last month that "no feasible alternatives are available". Swift keeps a data centre in the US, where it is trying to build a business, that acts as a mirror for its main European data centre, and where all its messages are stored. US law obliged Swift to hand its data over to investigators because it was stored on US soil - even that data, according to the resolution, that "did not concern US citizens" and was not "generated on US territory". The firm was caught in a Catch-22 - unable to resist US demands to see its data and unable to do so without breaking European data protection laws. Now the European authorities are caught in a Catch-22 of their own. They will have to rely on Swift to help them out. It's just as well, then, that the Belgian authorities, after finding Swift at fault last year, decided not to prosecute. Europe might not get anywhere fast by pursuing a political solution. Though it has agreed that the US investigation has offended European data protection, human and fundamental rights, it cannot get oversight of US Treasury's subpoenas on Swift until it forms an overarching, transatlantic privacy and data sharing agreement. The challenges it faces in forming such an agreement were also outlined in the resolution. The European council has been dragging its feet over the matter, while the financial institutions, led by the ECB have dug their heels right in. The ECB said in a response to Parliament last month that its obligation to keep its economic business secret trumped any responsibility it had to fess up when the institutions in its charge broke these other laws. This doesn't appear to have dampened the Parliament's resolve to get financiers to consider principles other than righteous economics. It has instructed the European Commission to find out if the international payment system might be hijacked for the purposes of "economic and business" espionage. And it expressed official concern for all those "US branches of European banks, insurance companies, social security institutions and providers of telecoms services" who were as vulnerable to US subpoenas on their data as Swift was. ®
3GSM3GSM Demonstrations of proximity payment systems, allowing users to pay for products with wave of the phone, have been around for years, and every year we're promised that this time it's really going to happen. Developments at 3GSM this week might show more progress in that direction, but there's still a long road to be travelled. Fourteen mobile operators around the world have teamed up to create a standard payment system using Near Field Communications (NFC). To be called "Pay-Buy Mobile", the standard is backed by AT&T and China Mobile, among others, and should lead to interoperability between suppliers' equipment and financial companies. The NFC Forum takes care of the radio communications standards necessary to facilitate mobile payment, but doesn't get involved in the logistical structure of managing financial transactions. The GSMA has recently mapped out how that structure might look, through various white papers and guidance to members. Proximity payment enthusiasts often point to the FeliCa system, operating successfully in Japan, which allows customers to install the EDY payment system onto their phones, enabling them to pay for small purchases, and (critically) public transport, with a wave of their handset. FeliCa handsets are now sold by all the Japanese networks, though NTT DoCoMo was the driving force behind it. As an investor in BitWallet, which owns and runs the EDY system, and FeliCa itself, NTT DoCoMo has a real interest in promoting the system, and with its expansion into banking it has also established a revenue stream. And it is the revenue stream which is still causing problems for operators elsewhere - they are going to have to pay for the hardware through handset subsidy, and so far their opportunity to recoup that investment is hard to pin down. At 3GSM Nokia demonstrated the Nokia 6131 NFC, a handset featuring integrated NFC and applications to manage them. We'll be getting a couple at Vulture Central and will let you know what we think. But even when handsets do come along (and the NFC Forum were promising several manufacturers would have integrated handsets by the end of 2008), network operators are going to have to believe they can make money out of NFC, and proximity payments, if the technology is going to go anywhere. ®
Nvidia inadvertently - we hope - yesterday told its customers they will have to wait until 6PM Pacific Time on 30 December for a crucial Windows Vista driver update for its GeForce line of GPUs. Reg Hardware readers looking for the software last night were presented with the following screen...
NSFWNSFW YouTube has moved to protect kiddies from "potentially offensive" footage of a UK sawbones performing breast and testicular examinations, The Sun reports. Two videos of Dr Chris Steele - as seen on ITV's This Morning and host of TheFamilyGP.com - have been rated "adults-only" lest wide-eyed innocents stumble across their graphic content. TheFamilyGP.com posted the Live breast examination and Live testicular examination films in the hope they'd "help in the fight against cancer". Dr Steele told El Reg: "These are videos that I have produced at my own expense to help educate the public. I know for a fact that people find this material very helpful, as they are often provided with minimal support information when they enquire about these procedures." Well, Dr Steele's videos make no bones about providing all the support information you need, thanks to two very game volunteers: Given that YouTube is currently awash with footage of Mexican drug cartels blowing each others heads off, we can't help but feel the Google tentacle has rather more potentially-offensive footage to address. ®
The European Parliament is demanding a say on the computerized front of the US anti-terror war and pressing for a global agreement on inter-government data sharing. The Parliament has adopted a resolution that conceded governments should do what they could to prevent terrorists attacking their people, yet stressed that anti-terrorist bloodhounds should be put on a leash. "The fight against terrorism and crime must have proper democratic legitimacy, meaning that data-sharing programmes must at all times be subject to parliamentary scrutiny and judicial review," it said. The Parliament expressed its official "reservations" about US schemes to suck up data about foreigners to check if any were terrorists. Under the spotlight was the US Automated Targeting System (ATS), which builds complex profiles of people by examining their backgrounds, behaviour, associations, purchases, address, and so on. It also criticised the controversial US system of capturing information about people travelling from Europe to the US - passenger name record (PNR or ATS-lite) - and US anti-terror investigators' snooping on Europe's international financial transactions by fingering the Belgian co-operative, the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift). These systems were implemented by "US requirements...without any involvement of the European Parliament," it said, and constituted a "violation of community as well as national legislation". The Parliament also proposed a transatlantic data-sharing agreement with privacy protections to prevent governments prying unnecessarily or over-zealously into the private affairs of ordinary people. "A future agreement must have more democratic legitimacy," it said. It should be based on evidence and, once it was set up, it ought to be reviewed by the Parliament - and perhaps Congress - regularly. Such a statement appeared to recognise the growing fear among civil liberties campaigners that the technologies of surveillance and law enforcement are becoming so powerful so quickly that society is not getting an opportunity to absorb them safely. The EU concluded that the improvements the US had made to its own privacy laws were still "insufficient". While the EU might have had little hope of civilising the war on terror in recent years, things have been looking up since the Democrats took control of the US Congress. The European Parliament and Congress have already started working together on privacy and security, and discussions are on the agenda for the next EU-US summit on 30 April. They also propose sitting in on one another's sessions. Yet the European Parliament might need all the help it can get. European member states are debating the lack of a cohesive privacy law to govern security. However, some member states, backed by security hawks in Brussels, have plans for computerised security that are similar to those of the US - subjecting not only their own citizens to the systems, but those outside the EU as well. The Parliament also stressed the need to broaden its own data protection laws to cover police activities at home and then stretch them further into an overarching global agreement.®
Small companies should try to answer data protection queries in the normal course of business rather than treat them as formal requests, according to advice published by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). The ICO has issued guidelines (PDF) to help small companies deal with requests for information under the Data Protection Act (DPA). Aware that small companies can often feel overwhelmed by such requests and the complexity of the Act, the ICO has advised that as many requests as possible be treated informally. "Individuals have a right under the Act to make a request in writing for a copy of the information you hold about them on computer and in some manual filing systems," explains the advice. "This is called a subject access request. They are also entitled to be given a description of the information, what you use it for, who you might pass it on to, and any information you have about the source of the information. "Where you are happy to provide the information requested it often makes sense to do so as part of your normal course of business, rather than treating any written request for personal information as a formal request under the Act." That informal process involves simply giving out the information, such as a guarantee number for a fridge or simple information related to a service that a company provides to an individual. More complicated requests which are made formal can involve more data and can trigger some fixed rules. If you charge a fee for processing information, which can only be up to £10, you must provide the information within 40 days of receiving that fee, for example. The guidance also says that any codes used in the data held by a company must be fully explained so that the person receiving the information is able to make full sense of it. Companies must also be careful when providing information that involves a third party. Unless it has the explicit permission of a third party to pass on data to the requester, the company must black out that information, while providing as full a disclosure as it can to the person who made the request. "The Data Protection Act gives us all important rights, enabling us to check the personal information that is held about us and to correct that information where necessary," said David Smith, the Deputy Information Commissioner. "This guidance sets out clear advice for small and medium sized businesses to help them deal with requests from individuals for access to information an SME might keep about them." The guidance says a company that is confused about exactly what an individual wants from a request should seek clarification, and that it should ensure that its staff are trained to recognise a subject access request when they see one. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Reader ReviewReader Review When Reg Hardware covered the no-show and then the late appearance of Nokia's free navigation software, Smart2Go, we invited readers to download the code and give it a test drive. Rather a lot of you did, and here's a selection of some of your experiences with the app on a range of handsets...
Gary McKinnon, the hobby hacker who is fighting against a US extradition order, has pulled a legal wild card on his accusers in bid to face trial at home. In the court of appeal yesterday, McKinnon's lawyers made reference to discussions that have been kept secret since 2003 when a plea bargain was considered, said Karen Todner, McKinnon's lawyer. "We went for a plea bargain," said Todner, "The Americans said, if he pleaded guilty and didn't oppose the extradition he would get a much shorter sentence of three or four years - as opposed to ten or twelve - and he would come home within six to twelve months to serve the rest of his sentence." McKinnon was adamant that he wanted to face trial in the UK and refused the bargain, yet agreed with the US that the deal should be kept secret and never drawn out and used in any subsequent court hearing. However, said Todner, US prosecutors exhumed the plea bargain and put it before judges during his extradition hearing last year. So as far as the defence was concerned, it was fair game to use the bargain in his appeal. The plea bargain is useful for McKinnon's appeal, said Todner, because of Cobb v. U.S.A., which in 2001 found that coercing someone into extradition would infringe their human rights. The US bargainers had done just that, Todner told The Register: "They said, 'if you don't go voluntarily we'll go for the maximum sentence and you won't be repatriated. That, we argued, is a breach of his human rights." McKinnon has been feeling the pressure of the trial and stayed away from yesterday's appeal hearing due to illness. His blog quoted a ZDNet story that reported heart palpitations and a hospital visit. "It's been going on for five years now," said Todner, "If he'd been sentenced here he'd be out by now. It's had a traumatic effect on his life, with the pressure of facing a phenomenal sentence in the US." Lords Justice Goldring and Kay will pronounce judgement on McKinnon's appeal against extradition next week.®
No time to go barking in Barca this week? Don't worry, El Reg was there in force, battling flakey networks, congested cells, and aggressive locals to give you the broadest coverage possible. And, just to make your life even easier, we've collected our collective output together, to help you relive the tears, the laughter, and even the keynote speeches. Enjoy: GSMA endorses wireless mobile payments Demonstrations of proximity payment systems, allowing users to pay for products with wave of the phone, have been around for years, and every year we're promised that this time it's really going to happen. Developments at 3GSM this week might show more progress in that direction, but there's still a long road to be travelled. T-Mobile says mobile VoIP will not hit revenues Mobile VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) will not hit mobile telephony revenues, but will have more of an impact on fixed line services, according to T-Mobile International AG chief executive Hamid Akhavan. Glu and Codemasters get stuck in Mobile games developer and publisher Glu has done a deal with Codemasters to get its games onto mobile phones. Warner chooses Telenor for mobile content deals Warner Music Group (WMG) will deliver music content to mobiles in both Europe and Asia in a deal with Norwegian mobile operator, Telenor. 3GSM 2007: all the stories, all the goodies 3GSM brought a bumper crop of handsets and hype to Barcelona. Here are all of Reg Hardware's 3GSM 2007 stories, brought together for your reading pleasure... Slingbox shrugs off video on demand The folks behind the Slingbox aren't worried by traditional broadcasters getting into video on demand because, they claim, their boxes offer a far more personalised experience. Ringtones will always be bigger than mobile smut Ringtones and music will always take a bigger slice of the mobile content market than games or erotica, according to an adult content aggregator. Mobile anti-radiation - a telecoms 'inflight life-jacket'? A cynic's first response to the offer of a magic device to protect phone users from radiation is to laugh and go find someone else to talk to. Don't. You may believe that the Exradia chip will never save a single life, or even prevent a single disease, but that doesn't mean they won't sell them. Bristol TV trial proves 3G won't interfere with 3G IP Wireless has announced the successful end of its Bristol-based broadcast TV trial, which has been running for the last few months in conjunction with Vodafone, Telefonica, Orange, and 3. Japanese cabbies take mobile drink drive test Japanese transport firms are using mobile phone technology to prevent drunk drivers from starting their shifts. HTC quietly launches classic-style PDA phone Smart-phone maker HTC announced a trio of new devices this week... or did it? In fact, it launched four products, but for some strange reason only mentioned three of them in its document. Would you welcome, then, the 'missing' HTC 3GSM device, the P3400. Moto's banana beats Nokia's brick The surprise of the 3GSM show so far has turned up in the gadget porn department. Nokia's new communicator, the E90, was one of the most eagerly anticipated launches in a long time. But rather like Apple's iPhone, it's somewhat less spectacular once the reality sinks in. Samsung 3GSM gallery Samsung announced a handful of new handsets at 3GSM this year and showed off a host more. Cameraphones focus on liquid lenses The quality of autofocus lenses on cameraphones are set to get a boost with technology from Varioptic, a firm that makes its lenses out of oil and water, rather than using traditional mechanical lenses. Nokia 3GSM gallery Nokia announced six new handsets at 3GSM this year. Check out our gallery. Nokia turns on N series TV phone Nokia has introduced its latest digital telly friendly mobile phone: N series member the N77. Ready for viewing, it's equipped with a 2.4in, 320 x 240 display capable of rendering 16m colours. There's a pair of stereo speakers too. Money transfers go mobile for migrant workers The GSM Association has teamed up with Mastercard to launch a pilot programme to make it easier for international migrant workers to send money home. HTC slides in slide-out-keyboard communicators HTC has unwrapped a trio of smart phones, including the eagerly anticipated Advantage X7500 - the UMPC-like successor to the manufacturer's Universal 3G handset. It also rolled out its first candybar form-factor phone with a slide-out QWERTY keyboard. Orange takes the cloak off Super SIM Orange has announced the availability of its much-anticipated Super SIM supplied by Sagem Orga. The Super SIM has 128MB of storage and, when inserted into a Super SIM supporting handset, automatically installs "the Orange Homescreen, Packet Video player, F-Secure anti-virus client, and a whole series of Orange branded wallpapers and themes". Motorola 3GSM Gallery Motorola announced eight handsets at 3GSM this year. We have them here, for your viewing pleasure. SanDisk readies 4GB MicroSD card Here's the world's highest capacity MicroSD card, according to SanDisk that is. The solid-state memory specialist today announced the product, though it would only say the 4GB unit will ship "later in 2007". It hasn't worked out the pricing yet, either. Mobile malware menace hits high - McAfee Malware attacks across mobile networks have reached an all-time high, if figures aired by McAfee today are anything to go by. Free Nokia route-planning app fails to show Nokia has clearly been so busy making multiple announcements at 3GSM, it forgot to upload the free route-planning software and maps it promised us last week. Then, it said the code would be available to download on "Saturday, February 10th". Alas, it wasn't. Users turn their noses up at mobile TV It's not just the slow uptake of video services that should worry network operators, it seems that more than half of European users who've tried TV on the move decided it wasn't worth the effort. This data comes from a survey of 22,000 European users, commissioned by Tellabs and carried out by M:Metrics. Parents demand mobile restrictions for kids Parents are demanding more control over what their children are doing with their mobiles, but phone operators are lagging in providing such services. Nokia raves about new E-series phones Nokia today officially announced the E61i, E65 and E90 Communicator handsets, all aimed primarily at the business user but with some consumer-friendly features too. The launch confirmed images and speculation on features which began to appear on the web about a week ago, as we reported. Nokia Siemens Networks backs IP everywhere Technology roadmaps for the future Nokia and Siemens Networks were laid out to delegates attending the 3GSM Conference on Monday. Samsung shows 'world's slimmest' handset Samsung may have used this week's 3GSM show in Barcelona to re-announce a heap of handsets it launched around the world during the latter half of 2006, but it also showed off its Ultra Edition II line: two skinny sliders, an equally narrow-hipped clamshell, and the thinnest phone in the world, Samsung claimed. Nokia revamps business range with added e Nokia said business use of mobile phones and internet access still has a long way to go as it unwrapped a slew of high-end business phones today at 3GSM. Motorola RIZR slider becomes 'fit-to-face' banana-phone Motorola today announced a heap of tweaks for its more stylish handsets, SLVR, KRZR and RIZR - the latter, for example, employs a new, curved and spring-loaded slider mechanism that creates what the company called a "fit-to-face profile". Nokia predicts mainstream mobile TV Nokia president and CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo opened this year's 3GSM conference in Barcelona with a number of consumer announcements, including the prediction that four billion mobile phones would be sold in 2010, a billion more than current sales figures. Vodafone adds Google Maps in web services blitz In its fourth deal in a week to bring popular online services to mobile, Vodafone announced it would develop a downloadable Java application for accessing Google Maps. Motorola launches 3G Q smart phone After apparently canning a GSM version of its Q BlackBerry-like smartphone back in February 2006, Motorola has now said the handset will come to market during the second half of 2007. The 3G Q believed to have played a part in nixing the GSM model - and originally due Q4 2006 - will ship sooner, the company said. 3G gamers opt for simple gaming Puzzles and card games are the most popular mobile phone games as users fill in time waiting for a bus or sitting on the tube, according to new research. HP talks up voice-centric iPaq smart phone HP today brought its iPaq brand into phone territory, announcing a candybar-format smartphone pitched primarily at voice usage - including not only GSM, but VoIP too. It's also the company's first Windows Mobile 6 device. RIM releases Pearl-esque BlackBerry 8800 Research in Motion has unveiled the eagerly anticipated BlackBerry 8800 - the first of the company's full QWERTY keyboard devices to sport a trackball-centric design based on its Pearl handset. Among the new features: integrated GPS and MicroSD memory expansion. Consumer demand will drive UWB regulation The European regulatory confusion surrounding Ultra Wide Band, and thus Wireless USB, will be solved by pressure from consumers once they see what the Americans, Chinese, and Japanese can do with the technology, members of the consortium said today. Unlimited mobile music for £1.99 a week In what may prove to be the most far-reaching digital music launch since iTunes, Omnifone today took the wraps off its MusicStation service. SIPphone community goes bananas over Microsoft Windows Mobile 6.0 Windows Mobile 6.0 is out! Well, at the least, the secret of WM 6 is out. Microsoft was today frantically trying to deny its heroic efforts to keep the next generation Windows smartphone hidden from NewsWireless - but the cat was out of the bag even before the Tribune newspaper blew the embargo, because of the enthusiasm in VoIP circles for the new OS.
ReviewReview Packaged in a very nice, neat, little tin box – which could no doubt find a dozen different uses around the home after the contents are removed – the Xploder PS 2 HDTV Player certainly looks like it means business. You may remember we previewed it back in August 2006, well now we've got our hands on one...
The battle for the hearts and minds of American school children took another turn this week. The infamous Kansas school board that voted to banish Darwin from the science curriculum has welcomed him back with open arms, spurning instead the language of intelligent design. The school board has voted, 6-4, to remove the language of intelligent design from the curriculum: science teachers will no longer have to say that the central ideas of evolution are controversial in scientific circles. The explanation of the "nature of science" has also been reworded. It is now described as the pursuit of rational explanations for things that happen in the Universe. "Today the Kansas Board of Education returned its curriculum standards to mainstream science," said board chairman, Dr Bill Wagnon. "This assures that Kansas children are appropriately educated for the 21st century." But while the change should be seen as significant, it is the fourth shift in policy in Kansas in the last eight years, and is unlikely to be the last. The ID camp is very well organised: a day after the new standards were announced, the Intelligent Design Network presented the school board with a petition protesting the changes. It contained the signatures of almost 4,000 parents. For anyone new to this long-running debate, here's a re-cap. In 1987 the supreme court in the US ruled that teaching creationism in science classes was unconstitutional. Since then, creationists have given their backing to an idea called intelligent design (ID). This takes God out of the equation, at least explicitly. Instead of insisting on a six-days-to-make-the-world story, it argues that life is too complex to have evolved without the input of some intelligent designer. The implication is that this designer is God, although there are those who would argue that it could be very clever aliens, too. We'll not dwell on that, except to direct your attention to the web page of a man called Rael, and his "Raelien" followers. Drawing conclusions is left as an exercise for the reader. The proponents of the ID "theory" have argued very strongly, and with some successes, that ID should be taught as a counter to the theory of evolution in science classes. The most notable win for the ID camp was in Kansas, while Pennsylvania has been the scene of a hard won victory for the scientists. California, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Ohio, Nevada, and South Carolina have all also seen either high profile debates or legal wrangling over evolution's place in schools. School board member Sue Gamble said the changes were important for Kansas if it was "to have an educated populace". But ID supporters say the changes undermine families who reject the morality of materialism. The new guidelines in Kansas supersede the old ones with immediate effect, and the poor school kids of Kansas will have to adjust to a new set of rules ahead of tests in the next school year. You can read the old and new science standards here. ®
ALK Technologies will next month ship the latest incarnation of its CoPilot Live navigation software for Windows Mobile-based handhelds and handsets, the company announced this week. The app's key addition: support for social networking-style community services.
Japanese whaling ship the Nisshin Maru - currently in Antarctica's Ross Sea - has been partially evacuated following a fire, the BBC reports. Around 120 crew members of the 8,000-tonne processing ship were moved to other vessels just before dawn today, while 30 stayed on board to fight the blaze in the ship's engine rooms. One crewman is unaccounted for. New Zealand maritime authorities ruled out the involvement of "Sea Shepherd" anti-whaling protestors whose vessels have been harassing the Japanese fleet in an attempt to scupper its plans to hunt 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales. The activists' own fleet was "at least two or three days' sailing distance away from the whalers when the fire occurred", the BBC notes. Sea Shepherd supremo Paul Watson told Australian TV: "We haven't had contact with the vessel for about three days now and have been heading back to port because we are short of fuel." New Zealand conservation minister Chris Carter expressed concerns for the Nisshin Maru's crew, but added: "We are also gravely concerned about the environmental risk to Antarctica's pristine environment if the ship is sufficiently damaged to begin leaking oil." Japan is committed to a resumption of commercial whaling, and this week joined its supporters at a three-day shindig in Tokyo in accusing anti-whaling nations within the International Whaling Commission of "refusing to enter into a good-faith debate on the issue of lifting a moratorium on commercial whaling". The conference summary declared: "Imposing moral and ethical judgements that affect our right to use resources in spite of scientific evidence is imperialism." ®
Amazon.co.uk disappointed eager buyers today when its pledge to begin offering its entire launch allocation of 60GB PlayStation 3 consolea to pre-order customers first thing this morning went awry. The firm was supposed to start taking advance orders for the PS3 from 9am this morning, but the sale didn't commence until 1:35pm.
3GSM3GSM Mobile carriers risk been leapfrogged by new entrants unless they work together to speed up the development of technologies such as mobile payments, according to Vodafone chief exec Arun Sarin. "It takes us too long to deliver a new service. We have been talking about things like mobile payments for years...it's time to start delivering," he said during a keynote presentation at the 3GSM Congress in Barcelona this week. Sarin added that next-generation telecoms systems, such as 4G, are still going through standards bodies, while technology alternatives such as WiMax are commercially available. Sarin said WiMax technology, which can reach distances of up to 50km, had its appeal but downplayed the competitive challenge it posed to operators of 3G networks, such as Vodafone, by describing the technology as "not ready for prime time". Other mobile carriers are taking a different line - embracing WiMax rather than treating it as a potential business risk. Sprint Nextel, for example, recently invested $1bn in WiMax network development in association with Motorola, Nokia, and Intel. The system involves the development of multimode CDMA and WiMax handsets by Motorola. Andy McKinnon, a WiMax marketing exec at Motorola, said WiMax allowed operators to have one infrastructure to deliver both fixed and mobile networks. McKinnon said the technology allows mobile operators to compete with fixed line players or fixed line telcos to offer mobile services. "WiMax complements - rather than competes with 3G," he added. ®
Quality management often looks very different from the perspective of the pointy haired manager who sees it as a noble edifice like an East Anglian church, gleaming in the early morning sunlight under a spring sky. Whereas the Dilbertia/Dilbert in charge of actually making it work feels as tough s/he's lost in the wilds of East Anglia – the church is visible on the horizon but the land in between is a wilderness of ditches and fens (OK, when I lived in East Anglia, you could still bum a drink off Hereward the Wake – these days it's mainly fields of Birds-Eye peas and dangerous turkeys).
Battered Dell has moved to get its act together by drafing in a tech manufacturing veteran to oversee its global operations. The vendor has had a terrible year, what with exploding laptops, service complaints, HP taking the number one PC spot, and Michael Dell having to jump back into the CEO seat.
T-Mobile has cut by more than half charges for business customers who transmit data over its mobile networks in countries where it operates its own network. Sending and receiving data over a T-Mobile network would now cost £3 per megabyte of data transmitted instead of £7.50, the firm said in a statement. Business travellers in Austria, Czech Republic, Croatia, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia and the UK get the cut, it said. In the small print, the firm said "Officelink customers, customers using BlackBerry e-mail or Sidekick devices" would not get the price cut. Max Miller, head of carrier services at T-Mobile, said that the price cuts had been possible because of the volume of data it was handling across its own networks, but refused to say how much that was. Its own country operations had negotiated the price cuts among one another and it was now talking to other carriers to get reductions for business travellers outside of T-Mobile's footprint. The firm said in the statement that it planned to make similar reductions for consumers.®
The name HouseParty III may call to mind iffy sequels to naff teen comedies, but iPod accessory specialist Gear4 wants you to think home speaker system, 30W amplification and good times to be had by all. The set comes in at £80, which buys you retractable ipod dock connectivity, an FM radio, a remote control, a USB port for data and a line-in socket for other devices. And less the glare of LED light clash with your Ikea-furnished habitat, the set's display is "hidden" behind the speaker grille.
3GSM3GSM Much has been written about malware capable of infecting mobile phones, but infected PCs spewing regular malware over 3G connections might be a more serious problem.
Legendary Turkish hacker iskorpitx has turned his attention Down Under with an attack that grounded the websites of nearly 600 Kiwi businesses and about 300 international sites hosted by the same US-based web server. As stuff.co.nz reports, "in each case the content of a site's homepage was replaced with an animated medieval knight, Turkish pop music, and a cryptic Turkish message".
Workplace smoking bans may be good for workers' health, but could open the back door to hackers.
3GSM3GSM It must be a little galling if you go all the way to Barcelona to present a shiny new range of phones, many with music players, only to be asked questions about a competitor who has yet to show anyone an actual product. But that is just what most of the handset makers faced at the 3GSM show. Nokia's chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo looked peeved when asked what he thought of the iPhone. Admittedly Nokia has had a difficult time in the US but it also knows a bit about making devices which are usable and well-liked by their users. Next up was Samsung which introduced four phones in very different form factors including the world's thinnest phone. And if Apple is also given credit for its marketing and advertising you can't critcise Samsung for not trying. It wrapped the 16-storey Rey Juan Carlos Hotel in an enormous poster of its new phones along with a good proportion of Barcelona's trams and buses. But still one of the first questions after the presentation was "what about the iPhone". The answer was: "You see our products as they are. It is traditional for Samsung not to talk too much about competitors." - which might be Korean for "These are real bloody phones! And who the hell is this upstart, Apple?" ®
Still using the default password that came with that nice broadband router you installed at home? Time to get off your butt and change it: visiting the wrong website is enough to have key settings changed on the most popular models.
HP today gave its Unix business the big squeeze with a new release of HP-UX and a pair of compact Itanium-based servers.
A tiny Russian software piracy case that ended up pitting Mikhail Gorbachev and Vladimir Putin against Bill Gates has been thrown out of court.
AAASAAAS Yet more evidence of liquid erosion on Mars from the high resolution camera aboard the Reconnaissance Orbiter has further bullet-proofed claims that there was once water on Mars. The findings, released on Thursday, reveal patterns of light and dark minerals around fractures in 3km-deep bedrock exposed to the surface of the Valles Marinaris by wind erosion. The Valles Marinaris extends the length of the US and is almost seven times deeper than the Grand Canyon in places. The light "halo" areas on the exposed canyon walls were identified by the Orbiter's HiRISE camera, which can identify features 30cm across. Geologists working on the images, which will be published tomorrow in the journal Science, interpret them as evidence that minerals in the bedrock have been "bleached" away by chemical reactions with liquids, most likely water, as in apparently similar fractures on Earth. The University of Arizona's Chris Obuko, who led the team, said the 2km-deep fractures were found in many other places on Mars too and were hundreds of millions, and possibly billions, of years old. Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in San Francisco, he said: "They are glimpses of surfaces that used to be underground." They add context to the strong case for water on the ancient Martian surface provided by the several other strands of evidence. News that water may interact with Martian rocks in this way could provide an energy source for life underground on the now freezing and inhospitable planet. Hydrogen release in similar Earthbound processes is used by unusual bacteria to effectively live off energy stored in rocks. NASA Mars Orbiter scientist David Des Marais said: "We're finding so many different evidence for water in so many different places we need to come up with new discriminators to decide which are the most exciting [in terms of the life question]." Rather than just a "follow the water" strategy, the hunt for life on Mars is moving on to a more complex "follow the energy too" campaign. NASA astrobiologist Tori Hoehler said the challenge now was to undrstand how the planet itself might support life without access to sunlight. Obuko's team plan to back up their visual interpretation with measurements of the mineral composition by spectrography. Ideally, Mars Opportunity Rover, which is currently on the other side of the Victoria crater to one of the regions, would make the long journey to the other side to provide measurements at the highest resolution possible. Alternatively, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter could again be used to target the regions to make collect more HiRISE images and spectrographic data using its CRISM instrument simultaneously. In a symposium at the meeting on Friday, Mars scientists will discuss the new image's implications for the habitability of Mars. ®
Just when the world thought it was safe to resume use of Microsoft Office, there's word that a new zero-day attack may be targeting the popular productivity package. Like so many of the others, it's capable of all kinds of mischief, including the execution of malicious code on a victim's machine.
House of CardsHouse of Cards The biggest betting day of the year - Super Bowl Sunday - has come and gone, and the numbers are in. Legal wagers in the State of Nevada totaled $93.1m, down slightly from last year's figure of $94.5m. The Super Bowl is the holy of holies for sports books, and the real money was pulled in by the online and back alley bookie crowd. Overall wagering was estimated at $8bn this year, up from between $6-7bn last year, which leaves an illicit windfall of just over $7.9bn in the pockets of those in the unregulated part of the business. The local bookie looks like the big winner in this year's event - and even those guys have migrated online, if anecdotal evidence in the Wall Street Journal is to be believed. "The likely impact is that people who previously wagered on legal, regulated sites ... will now call a local bookie or bet on an unregulated site," as Alan Feldman, a spokesman for casino giant MGM Mirage, noted. Take that, Department of Justice. Antes up, panties down Paddypowerpoker.com decided it was time to repair those relationships shattered by the male instinct to gamble himself into oblivion. Variable reinforcement - the brainwashing technique beloved of animal trainers and casino operators alike - has sundered many a relationship, and these guys decided to throw a lifeline to those still hanging on. In the week leading up to Valentine's Day they offered their "antes up, panties down" promotion, a daily freeroll poker tournament in which a $200 lingerie gift certificate was up for grabs. Whether or not the "win her knickers" concept will succeed depends on whether the lady in question resents the days obsessively spent playing poker in the run up to Valentine's Day more than she appreciates the gift of knickers on the day itself. This appears to be a sucker's bet, but we give them credit for trying. Going Dutch The Dutch government last week announced a three-year licensing deal with Cryptologic, the leading software provider to the online gaming market, to provide online gaming services to the Dutch market. The deal does nothing to eliminate the government monopoly on gaming services, and in fact entrenches it by marketing an online version of the government- owned Holland Casino. Whether or not this will play with the European Commission is another question entirely. The Dutch government is only two years removed from a lawsuit against British provider Ladbrokes, which has since been banned from marketing itself in the Netherlands. Ladbrokes never had a license to operate in the Netherlands, and Dutch Lotto sued the company successfully on those grounds. Just how the Dutch government plans to offer online gaming services without opening its market to foreign competitors remains to be seen. It should provide ample ammunition to those seeking more transparent, competitive markets. It's official...Macau overtakes the Strip The official 2006 numbers are in, and the former Portuguese colony has beaten out the Strip in Las Vegas in overall gaming revenue. The 23 casinos in Macau posted $6.87bn in revenue last year, compared with $6.69bn put up by the 39 casinos on Vegas’ legendary Strip. No surprise there, and it underscores the importance of Asia to the future of the gaming industry. Of course, those numbers still pale in comparison to the estimated $240bn the Japanese pump into pachinko machines annually. Bonkers for bingo For whatever reason, gambling by playing bingo has been associated more with old ladies and church charities than with traditional casinos, which are peopled in the popular imagination by hordes of degenerate gambling zombies. Whether or not bingo should be treated differently than poker is debatable, but according to Pressbot.org, the phenomenal growth in online bingo has as much to do with keeping seniors mentally healthy as it does with the excitement of winning cold, hard cash. For those who have played this ancient Roman game in a smoke – filled room full of overweight octogenarians this might come as a surprise, but they do have some empirical evidence on their side. Best-online-bingo.com recently completed a study of 1000 online bingo players, and found that players do play as much for fun as for money. To buttress their case, bingo enthusiasts cite the work of Julie Winstone, of the Centre for Visual Cognition at Southampton University’s Psychology Department, who conducted a study of bingo in 2002. Her study revealed that the game of bingo can advance the speed and precision of short-term memory and delay the mental decay associated with aging. Primarily due to the time constraints of the game, those who play bingo regularly show higher concentration abilities and a higher level of short-term memory than individuals that complete crosswords or play backgammon, chess and bridge. PartyGaming parties on Despite bailing on the US market last October after the passage of the UIGEA, Gibraltar – based PartyGaming PLC announced that its online division expects to post a profit of $140m for fiscal year 2006. Paradise Poker gets bossed around At the other end of the spectrum, Sportingbet.com has abandoned its proprietary software used in its Paradise Poker room for the more profitable Boss Media platform. Once the largest online poker lounge around, its player numbers never recovered from the pullout from the American market. Liquidity is the name of the game for poker rooms, and merging its platforms should provide increased liquidity for players. Sportingbet PLC will have to eat about $110m worth of software to do it, but they obviously feel it’s worth it in the long run. 'Not a chance in hell' Those were the words of American Gaming Association President Frank Fahrenkopf, when asked by the Las Vegas Sun last week about the odds of getting poker classed by Congress as a game of skill, rather than one of chance. Such a classification would exempt poker from the purview of the UIGEA, and has been seen by some players as the first step toward a rationalization of American gaming laws. Poker tournaments have become wildly popular on television in the US, and it does seem strange that American players aren’t allowed to play online. Fahrenkopf sees more hope for progress at the state level than at the federal, though it’s hard to see the feds ceding their jurisdictional ambitions on this issue to the states. That would be the legislative equivalent of pulling a straight flush. ®
In an apparent acknowledgment of the plummeting standard of public scientific education in the West, the UN's nuclear tentacle today unveiled a new danger sign for radiation which must approach the nadir of literalism. The International Atomic Energy Authority said its new sign, developed in collaboration with the International Organization for Standardization should be taken up worldwide ASAP. Spokeswoman Caroline MacKenzie summed up the new stance against Darwinian natural selection, and in favour of Homer Simpson: "We can't teach the world about radiation, but we can warn people about dangerous sources for the price of sticker." So, as well as the traditional exclamation mark trefoil, a skull and crossbones is there to belt and braces the fact that radiation isn't nice. Any dunderheads then unsure of what to do in such circumstances are further helped out by the addition of the image of a running stick man. Bureaucratic waste watchers will be pleased to hear the daring new corporate identity for ionizing radiation is the result of just five years of research and testing on 1,650 individuals in 11 countries. ®