ColumnColumn The Agile Manifesto was put together in 2001 by a group of agilists, as they later became known, on top of a mountain in Utah. I sometimes wonder if the high altitude had something to do with the outcome. At the resultant website, the following four “agile values” are emblazoned across the front page, in letters of fire 80ft tall: Individuals and interactions OVER processes and tools Working software OVER comprehensive documentation Customer collaboration OVER contract negotiation Responding to change OVER following a plan (Okay okay, I’ve messed with the type face to make a point. Kept me amused at 2AM, anyhow)… “That is,” the website cheerily explains, “while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.” It’s great to know that such a mind-bending corruption of software development values can be tossed off so casually, without further explanation. It's beguiling stuff; the reader is left hanging, seduced, desperate to know why the values on the left should be more important than the ones on the right. For a project or an organization to be considered agile, it must (as Scott Ambler tells us in Refactoring Databases: Evolutionary Database Design) hold these four values to heart. For example (also from Ambler’s book), regarding “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”: “The most important factors that you need to consider are the people and how they work together; if you do not get that right, the best tools and processes will not be of any use.” (Of course, before the list of agile values was produced, we never valued individuals or our interactions with them; we never cared about our customers; and “working software” was just the stuff of far-fetched, utopian science fiction). Taken at face value, the four agile values suggest that processes and tools are second-class citizens – that as long as you have high-quality people working on your project, the order in which they do things doesn’t matter quite as much. For example (being tongue-in-cheek here), it wouldn’t matter as much if the team were to launch straight into coding without first eliciting some requirements from the customer. (This would, of course, be a recipe for disaster, quality staff or not). In Agile Development with ICONIX Process (which I co-authored with Doug Rosenberg and Mark Collins-Cope), we proposed an alternative wording for the Agile Manifesto: To get individuals interacting effectively, you need flexible processes and tools. To communicate unambiguously, you need minimal but sufficient documentation. To gain customer collaboration, you need to negotiate a contract first. To know when to change and to recognize that your project is changing, you need a plan. It doesn’t have quite the satisfying symmetry that the original list has; and it also goes beyond a simple refactoring of the four values, as it changes the meaning – placing a different emphasis on and creating a caveat for each value. Plus of course, they’re no longer really values, they’re statements about values. Note also that the alternative list doesn’t mention working software; it just seemed too damn obvious for such a high-level list. Of course we want working software! However, I feel that the alternative list goes much further towards “hitting the nub” of agile development values. For example, looking at the first item: While it is important to use quality staff in your project, the need for a process remains paramount. What does need to be avoided is the canonization of a particular process as being “THE way we shall all adhere to”. The process needs to be flexible; if the process isn’t optimal, then the people need to be able to fix it. To put it another way: There’s not much point having a set of “best practices” if your programmers can’t program; but equally, there’s not much point having quality staff if there’s no leadership and no-one knows what they’re meant to be doing. In this sense, a flexible process and set of tools is easily as important a factor as the staff who monitor and tailor the process. (We explore all four “refactored agile values” in the book). The upshot is that it should be possible to be people-focussed and to define flexible working practices, without implying that anyone who “isn’t agile” isn’t also customer-focused (etc), and without demoting important concepts – processes, tools, documentation, contract negotiation, and following a plan – into second-class citizens. ®
ReviewReview Research in Motion has proved it's possible to pull off a consumer-pleasing candybar handset that still has business-friendly features. The SPL follows in those footsteps, and for once you won't be embarrassed pulling it out of your pocket.
Innovate or die was the stark warning issued to SMEs by a University of Limerick (UL) professor at a conference in the city on Friday. Professor Eamonn Murphy told attendees at the symposium of Collaborating European SMEs that Irish SMEs risk going out of business if they fail to invest in research and development (R&D). Representatives of a number of Ireland's largest manufacturing firms along with SMEs and leading researchers from all over Europe attended the event "Innovation and R&D are central to the operation and competitive success of every Irish SME," Professor Murphy told those in attendance. "The length of time and resources that indigenous companies invest in R&D dictates whether they remain competitive and gain new markets. Therefore, it is imperative that the indigenous business sector is supported and encouraged to participate in such activity, which is pivotal to the survival and success of the sector." Professor Murphy said the government and other bodies such as Enterprise Ireland had created an environment for SME where there were incentives for SMEs to invest in R&D. "Ultimately, however, it comes down to the companies themselves to pick up the innovation ball and run with it," he said. "Irish SMEs have traditionally always had significant innovation and R&D challenges, as they possessed limited resources to invest in new and improved products, skills and technologies. However, in 2007, there are increased resources available to small businesses that wish to develop into medium sized enterprises including various courses and programmes that the third level educational sector is now providing." Attendees at the event were told that the launch of the European Commission's €54bn seventh Framework Programme (FP7) would give Irish SMEs access to funds for R&D that were not previously available. Irish firms received €45m under the last framework programme but Liam Brown, marketing chairman of Supply Network Shannon, estimates that €200m will be available to Irish firms under FP7. "Previously, undercapitalised companies who sought to undertake research and development and invest in new technologies ran a serious risk of destroying the wealth they already had instead of generating it," said Brown. "The EU Framework Programme, however, complements the existing R&D and innovation strategies of SMEs, large organisations, third level institutions, and research institutes. The key difference between national and EU programmes is that of scale. National projects are typically of the order of magnitude of hundreds of thousands of euro, while EU projects are typically multi-million euro projects," he said. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Kevlin Henney raised an interesting point (here) about the view of eXtreme Programming in the revision to Myers' Art of Software Testing. I didn't pick up on this in my review, probably because it never occurs to me to adopt normative development processes without also applying common sense – methodology (and why not call it method) should be a guide, not a master. Departing from the standard method will have consequences; if all of these are adequately addressed and the overall results are "better" (which implies that this only really works in a mature organisation with metrics behind "better"), then the departure is going to be OK. Besides, as far as I know, there is no definitive statement of what XP actually is (and can't be, as an XP precept is "if XP is broke you're allowed to fix it" AIUI).
House of CardsHouse of Cards Although the Chinese government recently announced a purifying moratorium on internet cafes – the same week the Communist Youth League penned a contract with leading gaming developer Playtech to provide software for large scale internet-based gambling tournaments – the cadres in Beijing know that internet cafes are only an embodiment of something much larger and more threatening, according to the Financial Times.
The European Commission has relaxed the rules on advertising for the audiovisual sector in response to the growth of media services such as video-on-demand. The commission is modernising its "Television without Frontiers" directive with the intention of creating a new "Audiovisual without Frontiers". The aim is to create a level playing field in Europe for emerging audiovisual services such as mobile TV. Brussels intends to use the new directive to ensure audiovisual media service providers (other than regular TV broadcasters) such as providers of video-on-demand or providers of downloadable audiovisual content for mobiles, will have to comply only with communications legislation of the country where they are established - not with differing national legal systems of all 27 member states. Rules on TV advertising are to be less detailed than under the current directive. The decision on how and when to interrupt free-to-air TV programmes by advertising will be left to broadcasters and filmmakers and not predetermined in Brussels. Limitations to advertising will still apply though, and the overall quantity of advertising remains limited to 12 minutes in any given hour. Films, children's programmes, current affairs programmes, and news are not to be interrupted by adverts more than once every 30 minutes. "New forms of commercial such as product placement have the potential to provide significant revenues for TV broadcasters and the audiovisual industry as a whole," said Viviane Reding, Information Society and Media Commissioner. "I appreciate that both the European Parliament and the Council have supported the commission's view that here, we need to support the competitiveness of European film, while at the same time clearly excluding product placement from children's programmes, news, documentaries, and current affairs programmes." Copyright © 2007, ENN
The UK's independent ISP market just keeps on shrinking, with Pipex hawking itself around looking for a buyer. Weekend reports said Chairman Peter Dubens has appointed bankers UBS to find a buyer for the firm, however the company itself is refusing to comment. Dubens announced a review of business in January to decide the best way forward. Pipex confirmed the reports this morning, saying the bankers were examining a number of strategic options, including a possible sale. Pipex shares are down almost two per cent today, but enjoyed a big rally last week. The company has a market cap of £335m and claims over half a million broadband customers. Independent ISPs are struggling to compete with the big brands like Virgin, Sky, and the various mobile companies who offer a bundle of services. With mobile and cable operators chasing each other to add strings to their triple or quadruple-play strategies, there should be no shortage of bidders. Several companies have upset customers by buying into the broadband market without an adequate technology partner. We would normally include some financial filler at this point, but the investors section of Pipex's website seems a little tired at this point.®
Intel's Core 2 Duo-derived Pentium E2000 series will debut on 3 June, it has been claimed. So too will the Celeron 400 series, the Core 2-based budget processor line.
This is a blastingly good deal for Hyperion shareholders. Hyperion's share price went up from $43 to $52 overnight, so shareholders gained 20 per cent. Since Godfrey Sullivan became CEO in 2004 he has done an excellent job of putting in place a first class management team and this is the opportunity to cash in. But what about Oracle shareholders?
Just how much is Intel planning to charge for its revamped Core 2 Duo desktop processors, due Q3? Not as much as you might expect, it would seem, if the latest information coming from motherboard-maker moles is to be believed.
British military intelligence satellite SkyNet5 blasted off into space this weekend from Kourou in French Guiana. The launch was originally scheduled for Saturday, but a small glitch in ground equipment prompted a 24 hour delay. Once established in orbit, the satellite will form part of a three-part constellation passing data between miltary command centres. It is the first of the three satellites to be launched: its companions are scheduled to join it in 2008. Patrick Wood, head of Skynet spacecraft development at EADS Astrium, told the BBC: "We've already received telemetry from it. In fact, we had a ground station see it just 10 minutes after separation. We've even sent commands to SkyNet. It's behaving itself perfectly." The satellite took to the skies atop an Ariane 5 rocket. Wood said the launch itself was "incredibly nerve-wracking", but an amazing experience. The new constellation will provide five times as much bandwidth for the military as the current SkyNet 4 system. Its capacity can be deployed where needed, thanks to four steerable antennae. It has an advanced receive antenna designed to filter out signals sent to jam it, and has been designed to defend against attempts to disable it, or eavesdrop on its signals. The satellites have been provided as part of a £3.6bn private finance initiative deal, signed in October 2003. They are owned and operated, not by the military, but by a company called Paridigm Secure Communications, a subsidiary of EADS Astrium, which leases them to the military. As well as its regular fee for access to and service of the satellites, Paridigm will be able to sell excess bandwidth to friendly powers. ®
T-Mobile UK has made its BlackBerry-like MDA Mail smart phone available to buyers, pitching the quad-band, QWERTY keyboard equipped handset with its Web'n'Walk data tariff for no more than £70.
If you have ever thought anything about HTML – good, bad or indifferent – and if you work as a web designer, applications developer, or a browser vendor, then here is your chance to make the next iteration more like the scripting language you'd like to use. The chance arises because W3C is re-chartering the XHTML 2 Working Group and is seeking the active participation of individuals working in the HTML field and those already using it, as well as any nominees that come from the usual interested parties. The charter has been specifically re-organised to accommodate participation from individuals working in the field, as well as vendor members. XHTML 2.0 has already moved the technology along from the original HTML by reusing applicable XML standards, including XForms, XML Base, and XML Events. W3C aims to have the re-chartered Working Group continue such development, as well as move towards a re-branding of the technology to emphasise its differences. So, go here if you want to get involved in the next development of web presentation technology. You could be part of XHTML 3 (if it scanned, it could be poetry – Ed).
Quocirca's changing channelsQuocirca's changing channels It is easy to be cynical about many of the so-called Web 2.0 technologies – blogs, wikis, etc – and dismiss them as just another way for employees to be distracted and waste time. For resellers, this cynicism will run deeper as on the surface this is more free stuff with no opportunity for product margins and little for service revenue. But a closer look reveals that there are some real benefits for businesses who embrace these technologies for the right reasons. And these benefits do involve buying products and services.
RoTMRoTM The driver of a Toyota Prius had a narrow escape recently when his vehicle decided to do away with its human master by ploughing into a Tacoma petrol station "narrowly missing a clerk and sparking a fire". Shaken victim Art Robinson of DuPont told KING5.com he'd just bought the hybrid on the morning of 6 March, but "only after he was absolutely sure it was safe to drive". Two different dealers passed it as posing no threat to mankind, and one even "certified" it. Pretty soon, however, the car "began to act strangely". Robinson, evidently oblivious to the activities of killer Renault Lagunas, decided to take it back to the dealers. The Prius evidently sensed the plan, because it "began accelerating even though [Robinson] applied the brakes and the emergency brake". Robinson recounted: "I could not stop the car. Because of its design I couldn't shift into neutral. It happened so fast I didn't have time to be scared then. I'm scared now." And with good reason, because the satanic Japanese motor decided to launch a kamikaze-style assault on the Hosmer Food Store and 76 gas station, where clerk Linda Kinard was innocently putting away groceries. Kinard said of the impact: "There was just an explosion. To me it sounded like a bomb and things were just flying all over." Kinard found herself pinned behind the counter by the impact, which quickly provoked a fire. She later admitted: "It was very scary." Petrol station attendant Art Smith, who'd been pumping gas at the time of the attack, told KING5.com: "I was at the gas pump and I heard this 'whooshing' go by me and the next thing I know, this car's in the building and at first I was shocked, of course. I didn't know what to think." Smith quickly advised Robinson to vacate the Prius, and was then able to extricate Kinard from the wreckage before firefighters arrived to bring the blaze under control. A "team of Toyota experts" subsequently arrived to remove the vehicle. Smith later consoled Robsinson with: "You can replace a car, you can replace a building, you can't replace a person ever." Robinson, clearly unaware of the implications of the incident, said he was indeed "going to try to make the dealership replace the car". ® Bootnote Thanks to local NRA cadre member Greg Gilbraith for the tip-off. Stay vigilant. The Rise of the Machines™ Humans taste of bacon, says gourmet robot (10 November 2006) Satnav orders German into toilet (24 October 2006) Lizard Alliance targets Turkish PM (19 October 2006) Washing machine attacks Icelander (9 October 2006) Volkswagen unleashes 150mph self-driving car (4 July 2006) Police arrest satanic BMW victim (20 June 2006) Iraq grunts mourn loss of robot comrade (25 May 2006) Bendy bus attacks Leeds cake shop (25 April 2006) Captain Cyborg acquires Dalek capability (20 April 2006) Man survives satanic BMW crash-and-burn (13 March 2006) Second Freeview box signals alien invasion fleet (15 February 2006) Lizard Army fuses woman with black helicopter (4 November 2005) NRA probes Japanese sex android (26 August 2005) Androids launch minicab firm (15 July 2005) Beware the breast-examining hand of death (13 July 2005) Lizard Army Neo-Mech menaces eBay (13 July 2005) Vampire robonurses hunt in packs (6 June 2005) Cornell Uni develops apocalypse cube (13 May 2005) Sex android begats Armageddon machine (22 April 2005) Man executes Chrysler (21 April 2005) Rise of the man-eating cyberloo (24 March 2005) Sobbing Frenchman recounts Renault Laguna terror ordeal (18 March 2005) Fire-breathing bus attacks South London (14 March 2005) Dyson unleashes self-replicating hoover (11 March 2005) Battling teen crushes roboarm menace (8 March 2005) French join motorised Lizard Alliance (22 February 2005) Lizard Army develops copulating robot (11 February 2005) We are Zogg: The Cuddly Menace (9 February 2005) Lizard Army invades Alaska (27 January 2005) London menaced by flaming DVD players (12 January 2005) Killer hoover attacks Scotsman (24 December 2004) Car self-destructs in assassination bid (17 December 2004) The rise of the rat-brain controlled android (16 December 2004) Boffins unleash robotic cockroach (15 November 2004) Ukrainian teen fights the Rise of the Machines™ (13 October 2004) Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal (7 October 2004) Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated (28 June 2004) US develops motorised robobollard (29 April 2004) Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie (22 April 2004) Fire-breathing buses threaten London (24 March 2004) Cyberappliances attack Italian village (11 February 2004) Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent (10 February 2004) Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager (8 December 2003) Hi-tech toilet caught on camera (19 April 2001) Hi-tech toilet swallows woman (17 April 2001)
A man who went to a Moroccan internet cafe to surf terrorist websites blew himself up when the owner's son refused him access, Morocco's official MAP news agency reports. Two men entered the cafe in Casablanca's Sidi Moumen district yesterday at 10pm. According to the Surete Nationale police, they wanted to view terrorist websites, but the firm refusal provoked one of the men to detonate explosives strapped to his body. The cafe owner's son and two others were "slightly injured" in the blast. The bomber's companion, also slightly injured, fled the scene and was later arrested, MAP said. ®
Swisscom, the former state telecommunications monopoly, has announced plans to acquire Italy's second-largest broadband operator, Fastweb, in a deal valued at €3.7bn ($4.9bn). The all-cash friendly takeover offer values Fastweb at €47 per share ($61.70), a premium of more than 10 per cent on €42.02 on their current price. In a statement, the Fastweb board gave the proposed offer the thumbs up saying it provided "good development opportunities" for Italy's second-largest telecoms firm, AP reports. Fastweb boasts 1.1 million subscribers and was the first firm in Italy to offer a package combining voice, data and video services over high-speed broadband connections. Swisscom is looking to expand overseas in a bid to escape the confines of a moribund domestic telecoms markets, Reuters adds. Swisscom made a bid for the Republic of Ireland's Eircom in 2005 but this bid was blocked by the Swiss government. Now the former Swiss telecoms monopoly is casting its eye over the Alps for possible expansion. Swisscom's interest in Fastweb emerged on Monday after two potential rival suitors - Vodafone and Sky Italia - indicated they weren't interested in tying the knot with Fastweb. ®
Turkey lifted its ban on YouTube late on Friday after the video clip insulting Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the country's modern founder, was removed. The site was banned on Wednesday for showing a video which the court decided insulted "Turkishness" and Ataturk - both serious crimes in Turkey. But a court in Istanbul lifted the ban and state telco Turk Telecom immediately renewed access to the site. The video had already garnered dozens of vituperative responses. According to some reports, the video was posted by "an English hacker" who got access to the Greek YouTube user's account details. An opinion piece in the Turkish Daily News criticised the banning as "trying to solve the problems of the 21st century with the methods of the 20th". It pointed out that the ban created a worldwide news story and resulted in the video collecting far more attention than if it had been ignored. ®
ColumnColumn Lights don't turn themselves on.
Having received something of a pasting from developers at last week's EclipseCon in Santa Clara for being overly complicated, particularly in terms of the UI presented to developers, the Eclipse applications development environment now looks as though it may be getting some help.
Four years ago, Asus introduced what it claimed was the world's thinnest PDA, the MyPal A620. The company has just launched the device's successor in all but name: the A626, an "exceptionally thin" model with Wi-Fi wireless connectivity.
The online presence of The Bookseller is running its annual poll to determine which of six splendidly-titled tomes should receive the 2007 "Oddest Titles" prize. The magazine's deputy editor, Joel Rickett, told the BBC: "It continues to celebrate the bizarre, the strange, and the simply odd. This year's shortlist shows that despite publishers cutting back their lists, literary diversity continues to flourish." He appears to be right. Said shortlist "compiled from entries that caught the eye of publishers, booksellers and librarians across the world" is as follows: Tattooed Mountain Women and Spoon Boxes of Daghestan How Green Were the Nazis? D. Di Mascio's Delicious Ice Cream: D. Di Mascio of Coventry? An Ice Cream Company of Repute, with an Interesting and Varied Fleet of Ice Cream Vans The Stray Shopping Carts of Eastern North America: A Guide to Field Identification Proceedings of the Eighteenth International Seaweed Symposium Better Never To Have Been: The Harm of Coming Into Existence The winner of the Oddest Titles laureat will be announced on 13 April, and can toast the triumph with the traditional bottle of champage. Vote here for your own particular fave. ®
The European Union's Bulgarian 'commissioner for consumers', Meglena Kuneva, has hit out at the Balkanised world of digital music.
Intel will update its four-core Core 2 Extreme line-up sooner than expected, if the latest roadmap reports coming out of Asia are to be believed. They claim the successor to the 2.66GHz QX6700 will ship in Q3.
UpdatedUpdated Nigerian scammers have launched a fake London Metropolitan Police website, which includes a fake anti-terrorist hotline number.
Corn shortages pushed the price of corn to such a high in Mexico last month that thousands marched in protest. Now, the price soaring of corn feed means the US might just find itself on an enforced diet too, as the farm industry reports a second significant fall in the output of beef and chicken. Last year, the US petrol industry switched from using an additive called MTBE to using ethanol. Both chemicals are added in a bid to reduce smog, but MTBE is not well tolerated by humans, and instances of it seeping into the grounds prompted the switch. The ethanol fuel industry now takes a substantial share of the corn crop: it is forecast to use 2.15 billion bushels of the 2006 crop and 3.2 billion bushels of what is grown in 2007. Since then, the price of corn feed has doubled, according to the US Department for Agriculture (USDA). "The decline in beef carcass weights reflects several factors, including higher feed costs, harsh winter weather, and higher-than-expected first quarter beef slaughter," said USDA. To save on feed, farmers will keep their cattle on grass for longer, taking fewer animals to the slaughter houses, it added. For similar reasons, fewer chicks are being hatched. The result is that 60 million pounds of beef and 163 million pounds of chicken will not be making their way onto supermarket shelves. The USDA also noted that both Brazil and Argentina are growing what look likely to be record crops of corn. ®
The Israeli ambassador to the sun-kissed Central American paradise of El Salvador is for the high jump after being found "in a street, drunk, wearing only bondage gear", the BBC reports. Tzuriel Refael - on his first ambassadorial assignment following elevation from "a foreign ministry position" - was apparently discovered by police on the streets of the capital San Salvador two weeks ago in a rather more uncomfortable position, viz: inebriated, with his hands tied and gagged with a rubber ball in his mouth. An Israeli foreign ministry official told AFP: "Our ambassador has been recalled immediately. During the 60 years of the State of Israel, some of our diplomats have caused us embarrassment, as happens in every country. But an ambassador behaving indecently on a public thoroughfare, that has never happened before." Whatever his fate, Refael can consider himself lucky. In El Salvador's darker days, people who turned up on the country's streets with their hands tied were normally minus their heads - the work of death squads attached to fun-loving former prez Roberto D'Aubuisson. Good to see things have moved on in that troubled land. ®
Battling supermodel Naomi Campbell last Saturday did the first of two anger management classes she was ordered to attend as part of the punishment for chucking a mobile phone at housekeeper Ana Scolavino, the New York Post reports. In January, 36-year-old Campbell pleaded guilty in a New York Court to a reckless assault rap and was duly sentenced to do five days' community service, pay Scolavino's medical expenses of $363, and learn to control her temper. Suitably repentant, she told the class's fellow angry people: "I was angry. I was angry all day really, and then it just got to be too much. I threw my cell phone at a person, a person who worked for me. I don't know why I did that. I was angry, so angry, but I realise that is not an excuse for what I've done." Campbell further pledged: "I do honestly feel very sorry. I don't know if people will believe that. I mean I cannot believe I am sitting here. And, I have said it before, but this time I truly mean it. I feel sorry and I am really going to learn from my mistakes." Accordingly, it is with heavy hearts that we at El Reg announce the indefinite suspension of our "When Supermodels Attack" thread. With the Streatham clotheshorse on the straight and narrow, and no current rival coming close to the level of anger required to step into her Jimmy Choos, it appears the world's housekeepers can take off their crash helmets and get on with their dusting in peace. ®
A leading Indian technology college is switching off internet access to try and get its students involved in a bit of real-world socialising. The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in Mumbai (Bombay) will turn off hostel students' free internet access from 11pm until 12.30pm. Authorities hope the decision will get students talking to each other again. Mumbai has 13 undergraduate hostels. Dean of student affairs Prakash Gopalan told Reuters: "The old hostel culture of camaraderie and socialising among students is gone. This is not healthy in our opinion." Gopalan said there had been a decline in academic performance as well as other activities like sport, cultural events, and general socialising. The dean said students in hostels did not even know the person two doors away from them. University authorities hope the ban will lead to earlier nights for some students as well as more chit-chat. All night internet access is being blamed for poor attendance at morning lectures as well as creating a generation of friendless students. There are seven IITs across India and their alumni include many of the country's most famous entrepreneurs and engineers. Comments on student blogs make the obvious point that there are other reasons for students to stay up late and sleep through lectures than the internet. Others complained that regulation was the wrong way to tackle the problem, and one noted that a similar policy at IIT Madras led to students downloading films and watching them until internet access was restored. More words of wisdom from Youth Curry here. ®
Six months after the government announced it would review whether data protection laws were a "barrier" to its information sharing plans, it is still not ready to share its views on the matter. In September, government announced its Information Sharing Vision Statement - plans to share information across different government databases in order to formulate more rounded identities of individual citizens. These data doubles would then be used to direct government intervention in the lives of people they thought needed help because they were a risk to themselves or others. It asked the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) to consider how the Data Protection Act, which is designed in part to prevent people becoming victim of the mishandling of official information, might be watered down to remove "barriers" to its information sharing plans. The Register has asked the DCA to explain what these barriers might be and how far they might need dismantling a number of times, but it has not been prepared to comment. Data protection lawyers were expecting to get some insight into this at a conference in London today when Sonali Parek, head of data sharing workstream at the DCA, was to present the DCA's views on "the impact of wider data sharing on data protection". However, this morning it emerged that Parek has withdrawn from the conference. We'll have to wait until the findings of the DCA study are published in a month or so. Now that's information sharing for you. ®
A global road map of the riskiest and safest places to surf online found Russian and Romanian sites among the top-level domains most commonly hosting malicious downloads, browser exploits, and scams.
SXSW NSFWSXSW NSFW The computational dildo liberation army (CDLA) has called out device makers for creating boring old kit that just doesn't get the job done. The dildo patrol want to see more creative devices and an influx of open source effort around sex toys. Attendees at the SXSW conference here listened for over an hour on Sunday as so-called teledildonics experts went on a journey through "Sex and Computational Technology". A couple of the panelists reckoned that a company akin to the Microsoft of Dildos exists, which closed off its teledildonics patent stash from competitors. The end result is a bunch of clunky, latex filled gear that leaves the operator and her virtual partner feel like they're mating with an outboard motor through a fax machine. "It's like trying to fuck your printer driver," said Kyle Machulis, a teledildonics expert, employee of Linden Lab, and editor of Slashdong.org, about the state of computerized dildos' software interfaces. Machulis proved the most entertaining panelist by some margin, as he waved around a bowling pin-sized vibrator and then later tossed out disposable vaginas with "tight" and "tighter" settings to members of the audience. He also stood out as the most aggressive critic of current devices. For example, Machulis went after the Talking Head Vibrator from My Little Secret, which plants an MP3 player inside of the vibrator. You can make your own sound recordings for the device or pick from My Little Secret's rather sad list of MP3s. Here we have a MP3 of Bergen the German Mountain Man's dulcet tones. Or perhaps you prefer Wild Will and Tough Tony. Cleary, not the stuff of which dreams are made. Thankfully, open source types have cracked into the teledildonics field with new entries such as the Drmn' Trance Vibrator. This is an almost, er, pocket-sized device with an open software interface. "The Drmn' Trance Vibrator is a USB-controlled vibrator designed for use with Rez, an audiovisual shooter game for the PlayStation 2," you're told. " If you have some experience with C/C++ (or any computer language you can use to access a computer's USB port), you can write your own vibrator control application." Machulis has some curious and frankly near incomprehensible ideas about other avenues for open source masturbation. At the moment, he's exploring the idea that you can "use waves to get patterns to get you off". Horny programmers would then also create "obfuscated macros" of sounds that satisfy them. They could upload these sounds onto their inhouse teledildonics gear and then a remote user could trigger the sounds. "Then you can get off with the other person without them knowing what you like," Machulis said. People could also combine their sounds to try and find some manner of erotic, musical middle ground. Bowling for Teledildonics On a more clinical note, panelist and sex educator Cory Silverberg hopes that sex technology will advance to the point where scientists can study intercourse remotely with the help of sensors and feedback systems. "Everything we know about how sex works is from a very small group of people who have sex in a lab," he said. "While this is good, it's also highly problematic." The union of two people inside a MRI machine is a bit too forced for Silverberg's tastes. So, he's looking for people to go home, smack sensors all over their genitals and then go at it underneath the humming comfort of a wireless network. "I can't even conceive of how much richer that information would be," he said. The low point of came near the end of the panel when an audience member asked if we'll soon be banging our PCs. People love their cars and iPods, so why not cram your taco spreader into a USB drive, the fella wondered. "Yes, it's going to happen," Machulis said. Machulis should know, as he's on the frontlines of the Sadville sex scene. "Anything you can think of, some of the things you can't and some of the things you don't want to think of are all happening in Second Life right now," he said. Researcher Johanna Brewer, while seemingly bright enough, pushed the creepiest, flimsiest ideas about using devices such as cell phones to create "more meaningful" relationships with strangers. For example, she touted a bullet-sized vibrator that women or men can insert in an orifice. They can then go about their daily business and receive a buzz whenever someone text messages them or they come near an approved contact with a Bluetooth device in range of the panty pounder. Apparently, this is all part of the "continuum of intimacy." Brewer also advocated the idea of following cute people you see on the subway, if that helps you build a lasting fantasy. With any luck, your lustful gaze will turn into a vibrating text message one day. Do we hold out hope that the open source crew can develop new and improved ways of masturbating with Hello Kitty USB storage sticks? Sure, why not. Your gratification is just one massive, overdone KDE versus GNOME debate away. ®
SXSWSXSW Professional bloggers have demanded to be taken still more seriously by mainstream media and have current measures of their blog-induced fame reassessed. In a session at SXSW entitled "The Rise of Blogebrity", a panel including Valleywag's fired gossip funnel Nick Douglas and self-confessed "die hard feminist" and ex-Rocketboomer Amanda Congdon mused on what it is like to be mildly well known in the internet era. Blog advertising broker Henry Copeland, who sells sponsorship for 100 million page impressions per month Hollywood gossip blog PerezHilton.com, complained the recent Forbes magazine Web Celeb 25 took less heed of audience figures, and more of who has access to friends in traditional media. As Douglas sardonically pointed out though, fame in most forms is not necessarily related to achievements. He said: "How many people have actually seen any media involving Anna Nicole Smith and yet how many of us heard the news for a week when she died. If we're going to have fairness in the ranking of blogebrities then that would already be a one-up on normal celebrities." Congdon, one of the few fortunates to have enjoyed extensive coverage of their ascent, railed against a persistant "stigma in Hollywood" surrounding online content, despite having signed on to produce online video for Disney-owned ABC. Similarly, having parted company with the blog which made his name, Douglas set up his own geek lifestyle video show Look Shiny. He said: "[At ValleyWag] I could bore thousands of people a day. That's what I'm shooting for." All four bloggers on the panel expressed resentment at being identified with one blog product, rather than as a public figure in their own right. The question remains though as to why anyone should feel the need to deploy the abortion of a neologism that is "blogebrity". Actors aren't known as "pretendebrities", nor musicians as "tunebrities". In pushing for fair treatment in areas of legitimacy, top bloggers may also have to be willing to give up special treatment in terms of buzzwords and desperate-to-get-it magazine pieces from the likes of Time and Forbes. ®
BenQ is clearly putting the BenQ Mobile bankruptcy debacle behind it if it's willing to put out a new handset under the BenQ-Siemens brand. Enter the E81, described as an "sleek, ultra-compact [and] affordable" 3G handset.
Chocolate is not just (possibly) good for your brain, it can ward off strokes, dementia, heart disease and cancer. Marvellous news, indeed. But as before, it has been brought to you by a scientist partially funded by Mars. The chocolate company. Such a shame, because until then we were quite enjoying the thought of heart disease being prevented by a high fat snack. The research was conducted by Professor Norman Hollenberg from Harvard Medical School. He spent some years studying the Kuna, a tribe native to central America. This group consumes an unusually large quantity of cocoa and suffers lower rates of stroke, cancer, heart failure and diabetes than people on mainland Panama. But a closer examination reveals (sadly) that it is not in fact chocolate that even might do you good, but epicatechin, a substance found in unprocessed cocoa beans, tea, some fruits, and vegetables. There is also some suggestion that the protection against disease the Kuna enjoy is in fact genetic, not cocoa related, since they seem to stay healthy even when they move to the mainland. Along with the fact that epicatechin is removed during the production of chocolate, this rather spoils the picture of the Mars bar as a health aid. But for all our scorn, Hollenberg says the flavanol could be incredibly important to diet, and argues for its development into a supplement. This kind of thing arguably falls under the heading of nutritionism, a trend much loathed by Dr Ben Goldacre, The Guardian's Bad Science columnist, and lamented in the New York Times not long ago by Michael Pollan. In his aricle, Pollan predicts that this will be the year of the fatty acid as "wonder nutrient". And he is not proving wrong, so far. Today on his blog, the excellent BadScience, Dr Goldacre notes that a startling piece of research is about to take the nation by storm. A very small sample group (four children aged from 8 to 13) were fed fish oil supplements, encouraged to eat more fruit and veg, and do more exercise. Within three months, their brains showed marked increases in, wait for it: a biochemical indicator of brain growth. That sounds good, until you realise (or Goldacre points out) that this is not actually anything substantial. It is an indicator of growth, not actual, measured growth. Which doesn't actually tell you a whole lot about the effect of the pills on the four kids in question, but makes for a lovely scientific sounding headline. Further, all the press release's claims of one of the boys in the research group discovering a new love of reading and declaring himself "bored of television" wither somewhat when you discover that this research is not published anywhere, and is as impartial as, for example, chocolate-company-funded research into health benefits of chocolate. Goldacre writes: "This experiment is part of the promotional activity for a Channel Five documentary on children and diet later this week, it is unpublished, and was funded by the production company Endemol." Endemol referred us to Channel Five when we called them to get more info on the research. So far, Channel Five has not returned our call. ®
TelecityRedbus's colocation centre on Marsh Wall in London's Docklands has apparently suffered a power failure and back-up generators have not kicked in. Telecity is refusing to comment, but The Reg has been contacted by several irritated customers. The problems seem to have started at about lunchtime today - as one Reg reader pointed out, "peak time for many websites.". If you know any more, please email us at the usual address. ®
The pilot of a passenger plane who flew fives miles off course in bad weather to "show his co-pilot the scenery" has been sacked, the Daily Telegraph reports. Captain Roger Old, 61, was flying from Aberdeen to Shetland's Sumburgh Airport with 17 passengers aboard a Dornier 328-100 when he took the unscheduled detour. He ignored an automatic warning system which told him to pull up, asking the rattled co-pilot to switch it off. So concerned was the co-pilot that he "considered wresting the controls from Captain Old", but decided against it because "he thought that to attempt to do so whilst the aircraft was manoeuvring at low level might place the aircraft in a more hazardous situation". The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) report, released yesterday, elaborates: "The aircraft encountered worsening weather and inadvertently flew into close proximity with the terrain. The commander went further to the west than was necessary, in order to show the co-pilot some of the local terrain features. The crew were alerted to the situation by on-board equipment, but the commander did not respond to the 'Pull Up' warnings it generated. "The co-pilot was alarmed by the situation and considered taking control from the commander. However, he thought that to attempt to do so whilst the aircraft was manoeuvring at low level might place the aircraft in a more hazardous situation, especially as communication between the two pilots was being hindered by the warning sounds. "The co-pilot reported that he could not see the airport as it was obscured by cloud, but could see high ground ahead and to the right. As the aircraft descended below the selected altitude the altitude alert sounded, and the commander asked the co-pilot to silence the alert." City Star Airlines parted company with Old following the incident, which ended with a safe landing. The airline's flight safety officer, Captain Alan Chalmers, said: "His actions were inexcusable. We think it was something to do with his personality rather than any operating procedures in place at the time. Thankfully, these kind of incidents are less common than they were because safety equipment is more reliable with not as many nuisance warnings." The AAIB ordered City Star Airlines to "improve training and carry out a safety audit". The Civil Aviation Authority confirmed ex-Captain Old would not fly again "since he had decided to surrender his pilot's licence before it was revoked". ®
IBM and Cisco are expanding their Global Services Alliance, er globally.
UpdatedUpdated Intel has become the latest chip maker to offer a Flash-based solid-state hard drive, though it's pitching the part not as a replacement for magnetic hard disk storage but as an adjunct to it.
The SEC today threw the book at four former Nortel execs for cooking the books. Frank Dunn, ex-CFO and CEO at the Canadian telecoms equipment maker, Douglas Beatty, ex-controller and CFO, Michael Gollogy, ex-controller, and MaryAnne Pahaphil, ex-assistant controller, are accused of manipulating secret cash reserves and recognizing revenues earlier than they should have done to meet Wall Street expectations and to line their own pockets.
Panic over: America survived Sunday's onslaught of Daylight Saving Time (DST) on Sunday unscathed. For a while, Bug-watchers thought that GoDaddy, the domain registrar, might have mismanaged the time-change, after customers reported outages. But a good old-fashioned DDOS attack was the culprit.
US authorities have charged three Indian nationals for an elaborate pump-and-dump scheme that used hijacked brokerage accounts to manipulate the prices of 14 securities including Sun Microsystems and put options for Google. The men were charged criminally in a 23-count indictment for conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and computer fraud. They were also sued in civil court in connection with the alleged conspiracy, which netted the perpetrators $121,500 in profit and cost victims a combined $875,000. Each count for wire fraud and securities fraud carries a maximum of 25 years in prison. Counts for conspiracy and computer fraud carry sentences of up to five years each. The civil action seeks preliminary and permanent injunctions, disgorgement of proceeds and monetary penalties. This is the fourth account-intrusion case the Securities and Exchange commission has brought since December, each involving defendants based in overseas locations including Estonia and Latvia and now Hong Kong and Malaysia. The computers used in the most recent scheme, which lasted from February to December, 2006, were based in Thailand and India. According to court documents, Jaisankar Marimuthu, 32, Chockalingam Ramanathan, 33, and Thirugnanam Ramanathan, 34, repeatedly hijacked the online brokerage accounts of unwitting investors and purchased at least 14 securities at above-market prices. Having driven up the stock prices, the men then sold positions of the same securities, which had been purchased with their own online accounts prior to the intrusions. Two men were were arrested in Hong Kong in December and January. Chockalingam Ramanathan remains at large. In one instance, Marimuthu used his own E*Trade account to buy almost 23,000 shares of Sun at prices of $4.99 to $5.01 each during after-hours trading on Aug. 31. The following morning, one of more of the defendants used compromised accounts to make unauthorized purchases of about 24,000 shares. Minutes later, Marimuthu sold the 23,000 shares purchased with his E*Trade account, netting him a little more than $1,000 in ill-gotten gains. The trio manipulated Google put options and 12 other thinly traded securities in a similar manner, according to the criminal and civil complaints. The alleged scheme not only victimized investors, it also harmed the holders of the accounts that were breached. In one instance an account holder who left for five-day fishing trip to Alaska with $180,000 in his online purse returned to a $200,000 deficit. ®
SXSWSXSW Grizzled Texan newsman Dan Rather received the warmest of welcomes from the grand blog felch that helped end his CBS career, during a speech today here at the SXSW conference and festival. The blogger nation found Rather's call for better US journalism inspirational, particularly when he chastised the candy ass reporters covering the White House. "The journalism craft has degenerated into what I consider to be a very perilous state," Rather said. "We have lost the sense, for example, that . . . a patriotic journalist will be on his or her feet asking the tough questions." Rather harped on what many of you already know, which is that so-called mainstream media have become obsessed with access to officials in power. Reporters will hold back from charging after subjects in certain stories, if they think criticism now will hurt the chances of a fluffy interview later. Similarly, journalists will go easy on the criticism out of fear that their stories might make life difficult on the large conglomerates that own their publications or networks. "Increasingly, journalists try to play it safe," Rather said. They think, "I know that this is true, but it's tough stuff, and, if I run this, I am going to pay a price for it. So maybe, I should just water it down a tad." These problems affect technology journalism just as much as political journalism with many IT publications claiming the "fair and balanced" highroad while delivering bland, spineless goop. The SXSW crowd loved Rather's tough talk even though they're blogging-mad and Rather has become the poster boy for angry bloggers' ability to destroy a person in power through their venom. The veteran journalist unceremoniously left CBS after the blog nation tormented him for presenting forged "Killian" documents that undermined President Bush's "service" in the US National Guard. Rather called for journalists to liven their copy by calling out disingenuous subjects with firm language when the situation warrants it. Such an approach might result in a reporter stating flat out that someone is lying, if they've backed up that claim with fact. "I think that kind of direct language might be preferable to the kind of sideways dance is so often done," he said. We shall take that under advisement. ® Bootnote The bloggers greeted Rather with a standing ovation, deciding ahead of time that they'd forgiven his transgressions before he opened his mouth.
CNET today turned from newsgather to newsmaker when it got a lawsuit accusing it of anti-competitive behavior. The complainant, a fellow Californian company, called Etilize Inc, produces online catalogs for resellers to incorporate into their websites – as does CNET through its CNET Channel subsidiary. This enables computer dealers to provide up-to-date and accurate pricing and stock information to their customers.
SXSWSXSW Those web designers obsessed with their mashed up, CSS, AJAX injections may want to book a trip to Las Vegas and learn some lessons from fat people chowing down in the all-you-can-eat buffet. San Francisco-based web designer Dan Saffer has turned to Vegas in its all its brilliance and blandness as a model for fixing up websites. Developers can find inspiration in the diverse nature of casino complexes. They can also learn to cater to different crowds by studying Vegas's mix of the sublime and slime, the desginer said during a speech here at SXSW.
In the latest episode of The Laptop Infernos, a MacBook user is reporting his laptop came close to burning his house down after the battery exploded and burst into flames. The MacBook, which was less than a year-old, was charging with the lid shut when it spontaneously ignited at about three in the morning while the user and his girlfriend slumbered.
The Greening of Wal-Mart, America's least popular popular retailer, continues apace. This time it is putting the squeeze on consumer electronics suppliers, with a scorecard to assess the "sustainability of their products".