LogoWatchLogoWatch The Strategy Boutiques have evidently been busy down at Liverpool Victoria, the UK's biggest friendly society, which has spunked £2m in triumphantly transforming itself into LV=. The redefined brand frontage "draws on our heritage and our new look aims to present us in a more modern and vibrant way", according to the admirably restrained blurb. In case you're pondering the full significance of this paradigm-shifting graphic, well, "the letters L and V have evolved from our heritage as Liverpool Victoria" while "the equals sign is a contemporary expression of our mutuality". According to the Daily Telegraph (which signals its disapproval with the headline "160 years of tradition elbowed aside for LV="), LV='s big cheese Mike Rogers explained: "Although the existing identity had a great heritage, we only had 2pc spontaneous brand awareness. The new brand identity is a natural evolution of the Liverpool Victoria name." The bottom line is that the new name is intended to be "shorter and more memorable". It's certainly shorter, but we have a question: just how on God's Green Earth are you supposed to pronounce this £2m example of rebranding madness? Answers on a postcard to El-Vee-Equals, or El-Vee-Is or whatever. ® Bootnote A complimentary nose ajax-fuelled flipchart presentation to Matthew Duggan for the tip-off.
The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) raided two residential properties in Gloucestershire and Warwickshire and a business address in Banbury, where Oxfordshire-based software firm Torex Retail has its headquarters, as part of its investigation into the company.
Mozilla pushed out a minor update to its Firefox web browser on Wednesday, chiefly designed to address glitches with a more significant security update issued late last month. The latest update - Firefox 18.104.22.168 and Firefox 22.214.171.124 - also addresses a low-risk file transfer protocol (FTP) port-scanning security bug, as explained in an advisory from the Mozilla Foundation here. In related news, the Mozilla Foundation announced that no further security or stability updates will be made for Firefox 1.5 users after 24 April. Users are encouraged to upgrade to Firefox 2 before this date. ®
A BBC satisfaction survey has fingered white label provider Brightview as the UK's most customer-friendly broadband outfit. Brightview is behind three of the top four ISPs in the Watchdog survey, which polled 50,000 viewers. More than 90 per cent of Waitrose and Madasafish customers were satisfied or very satisfied by their Brightview-run service. The victorious Brightview brand Global cheered an impressive 95 per cent. Brightview CEO David Laurie said: "The results clearly prove that we are doing a great job for them. Good customer service means treating our users with respect by being honest and transparent and reacting quickly and effectively when anything does go wrong." The results confirm a run of good form for Brightview. In August a similar Which? survey also placed Global and Waitrose at the head of the pack. The final spot in the Watchdog top four was claimed by Zen Broadband, which also did well last year. Of the dominant players, Telewest came top, satisfying 85 per cent of respondents. The BBC said the survey was carried out too soon after the Virgin Media launch to count NTL, Virgin and Telewest results together. BT, meanwhile, delivered a mediocre lower mid-table 64 per cent satisfaction rating. Defunct small fry Biscit unsurprisingly came bottom. Even before its collapse last week, subscribers had endured a series of outages and billing cock-ups. Away from that debacle, however, the survey highlighted the better customer service often enjoyed by subscribers to the smaller ISPs which are being rapidly subsumed by the big firms. Orange's third bottom showing demonstrated this amply. It continued to stutter in its bid to offer packaged communications, as its latest technical glitch this week showed. It was only marginally behind TalkTalk, which still seems to be struggling to regain goodwill after incurring consumer wrath with its "free" offer and widespread connection delays endured by new subscribers. The full results of the survey are here. ®
As Registerfly fades into oblivion, ICANN has at last taken it upon itself to address many of the questions raised by the company's precipitous collapse. ICANN issued a statement on its website today detailing a variety of issues to be addressed at the upcoming ICANN conference in Lisbon. President and CEO of ICANN, Dr Paul Twomey, left no doubt as to the depth of the problems brought to light by the Registerfly fiasco, and to the amount of work to be done to ensure that it does not happen again. Registerfly, which currently controls about two million domains for 900,000 different users, recently lost its ICANN accreditation after a long-simmering scandal surrounding dodgy domain registration and hosting services erupted into the public eye in a nasty lawsuit between two of the founders. ICANN's hesitant response to the crisis - nothing quite like this had happened before, and ICANN was clearly unsure how to proceed - only fanned the flames as angry Registerfly customers barraged the ICANN blog with complaints about the company and ICANN's apparent impotence. Customers who had lost their businesses or personal websites took no solace in the fact that Registerfly itself was on the verge of collapse, and vented their frustrations mightily. Ultimately, ICANN yanked Registerfly's accreditation, giving it until 31 March to enable transfer of all domains. The larger picture, of course, involved ICANN's governance of the net itself, and led to the question - now what do we do? ICANN has now called for an overhaul of the entire registration and accreditation process, and given the first look at what the future of the relationship between ICANN, the registrars, and domain holders might look like. "What has happened to registrants with RegisterFly.com has made it clear there must be comprehensive review of the registrar accreditation process and the content of the RAA (Registrar Accreditation Agreement), Dr Twomey emphasized. "This is going to be a key debate at our Lisbon meeting scheduled for 26 March to 30 March 2007. There must be clear decisions made on changes. As a community we cannot put this off." Tough talk from an organization generally considered toothless. Dr Twomey's strongly worded statement continued: "ICANN introduced competition to the domain name market in 1998. Back then there was one registrar. There are now over 865. That's a good thing because it has made domain names cheaper and offered more choice. But the RAA was designed and signed when the domain name market was much smaller. The market now supports about 70 million generic TLD names and is growing. Registrants suffer most from weaknesses in the RAA and I want to make sure that ICANN's accreditation process and our agreement gives us the ability to respond more strongly and flexibly in the future." The announcement listed a plethora of problems with the current system, in which ICANN has little authority over a corrupt or derelict registrar other than to yank the accreditation. Proposals for what ICANN's role in organizing the structure of the internet should be, or if ICANN is the right group to do it at all, are legion, and could fill an entire conference on their own. Still, the list of options on the table for discussion shows that ICANN is tired of screwing around with Registerfly, and wants to institutionalize changes along the lines advocated by El Reg in the last few weeks. The most important issue - some kind of escrow system to hold data in trust in the event that there is a dispute about who the owner is - has apparently already been accepted as necessary by ICANN, and even bolder proposals, involving possibly even a new entity to address these disputes directly, are also on this impressive list of potential reforms. Purpose of Register Accreditation Policy and Agreement - What is the primary purpose of the Registration Accreditation Agreement? Is it a compliance tool? If so how can it be strengthened to protect registrants? Rating of Registrars - How should ICANN and/or the registrar constituency encourage a system that rates registrars according to customer service and performance and should this be available to registrants? Affiliated Registrars / Group ownership - Affiliated registrars have common ownership or control. What is the best mechanism for ICANN to hold affiliated registrars accountable for an affiliate's actions? Additional compliance enforcement tools - Stronger compliance tools need to be included in any reform to the RAA. What are those tools? Do they encompass liquidated damages? Should registrars be able to be suspended more readily? Are there other options? What are the mechanisms that allow such options to be enforced quickly? Transfer policy - What elements of the transfer policy need to be reformed? Should registrants have an alternative to their current registrar for the issuing of authcodes and the unlocking of them? Should ICANN or another entity be able to do this? Registrar operator skill testing - How is it possible to assess registrar skills and to train registrars to a common standard of performance upon which registrants can rely? Accreditation by purchase - It is possible for companies to "avoid" accreditation application process by buying a registrar. How can abuse of this loophole be stopped? Proxy registrations - There needs to be an examination of proxy registrations in light of difficulties faced in registrar data recovery. What is the balance between privacy and disclosure? Reseller liability under RAA - What tools are needed to ensure better accountability by resellers to registrants? Registrar data escrow - What data needs to be escrowed? If implementation needs to move faster, greater resource allocation is required. What level of resourcing is necessary? Clarification of ICANN's responsibilities and the options available to registrants - ICANN recently posted a guide for registrants on its website but additional consumer options (outside ICANN) should be identified for and provided to registrants. Is there a need for a new entity to assist customers and intervene on behalf of their concerns? The need to deal with disputes involving the domain registration system itself, such as who really owns a disputed domain or a domain unlawfully placed in redemption, promise to overshadow already important topics leaked to the press regarding privacy rights and the Whois registry. The battle between privacy advocates, principally from Europe where privacy laws are typically stronger, and property rights lawyers, primarily American, over just how much registrant data needs to be public knowledge, has reached a tentative truce, in which only the name and resident country of the registered domain holder will appear in the Whois registry. A third party contact will now be allowed. The current system, in which false proxies were used to obscure the registrant's personal details, has proven to be the worst of both worlds, as Dr Twomey argues. "What is presently happening with RegisterFly makes it clear that there are also some problems with proxy registrations. Specifically, proxy registrations are available as a choice, but people who have them have great difficulties getting access to their data and having their domain name transferred where a registrar is uncooperative or has other problems with transfer. ICANN has had difficulty accessing this data too. We need to expedite data escrow. There has been a long and detailed discussion and much interaction between ICANN staff and registrars on this issue. But we need to reach a conclusion. Recent events and the Lisbon meeting present that opportunity." That opportunity is long overdue, and El Reg will be covering the conference in full next week to see where it leads. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
In another clue that the great pre-election giveaway is well underway, the government has launched a voucher scheme for firms to "become more innovative". Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Micheal Martin implemented a recommendation of the Small Business Forum in the guise of a €10m fund to assist smaller enterprises become more innovative. In effect this means they can apply for a voucher - worth €5,000 and administered by Enterprise Ireland - which can be cashed in to buy in specialist, outside knowledge from public bodies such as universities and the regional Institutes of Technology. Minister Martin also outlined details of a network of Competence Centres designed to foster links between companies with high-level R&D spend and trained researchers. "Innovation Vouchers are the push that many small Irish companies need to explore what part they can play in building our knowledge-led economy," said Minister Martin. "This is a great opportunity for small companies to take part not only in the Irish pilot of this innovation creation exercise, but to be amongst the first small companies in Europe to take this step." The voucher scheme begins on Wednesday and companies with a business opportunity or problem they believe may be assisted by outside specialist advice must apply for one of the 200 freebies from Enterprise Ireland by 30 April. The scheme is modeled on a similar project in the Netherlands and it is hoped will open doors to the great repositories of academic research, particularly high-tech knowledge, to firms who would rarely spend more than €100,000 on research and design projects per annum. Any small company in Ireland, in any sector can apply for a voucher and Enterprise Ireland has set up a dedicated website where applications can be made. Meanwhile, the newly-announced Competence Centres will encourage dialogue between research-driven businesses and academic researchers. "There are clear benefits in bringing together companies that have similar research problems and teaming them with highly-qualified researchers to produce new technologies," said Minister Martin. "Through their collaborative research, Competence Centres will break through the technology barriers, bring their results to market and deliver a competitive advantage to Irish industry. "Not only will the companies participating in these centres benefit from the shared intellectual property and research produced, but Ireland's economy will benefit in terms of knowledge generated and retained in this country, knowledge that currently is generated overseas," he added. Minister Martin also highlighted the fact that the Competence Centre initiative is the first major research initiative that involves all the State industrial research and development agencies, working together under the auspices of Technology Ireland. "I am delighted to see the Competence Centres and Innovation Vouchers initiatives come to fruition as they are two key measures outlined in the Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation," the Minister concluded. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Intel has called on the rest of us to pick the compact PC with the best chance of beating Apple's Mac Mini - and net its designer a cool $1m.
Microsoft has denied claims that its Xbox Live online gaming network has played host to fraudsters. Neither has Bungie.net, it added.
A review into local government funding has said that council tax benefit should be renamed and the system fully automated. Launching the long awaited Lyons Inquiry report into the future role, function, and funding of local government, Sir Michael Lyons said: "Council tax benefit should be renamed as rebate" to end the stigma which sees £1.8bn go unclaimed, mainly by pensioners. "In the short term, we recommend, councils should share data with the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and in the longer term the system should be fully automated. DWP has done a lot of work in this area," he told GC. Nick Raynsford MP told GC: "Millions of pensioners are paying £1.8bn in council tax. An awareness take-up campaign won't be enough to help them. We need something radical, which is why the recommendation of changing the name may help." DWP has undertaken a pilot with 12 local authorities on data sharing. The results will be announced in the near future. A DWP spokesperson said: "A lot of work has been done to make council tax accessible to pensioners. If they are claiming pension credit, housing benefit or state pension they are most likely eligible for council tax benefit and all that can be determined through one phone call. "The Pension Service also makes 23,000 visits to pensioners raise awareness. As pensioners tend to be more static, work is underway to automate the system." Communities and Local Government said in a statement: "We will consider carefully what Sir Michael Lyons says about reducing the impact of council tax on pensioners, in particular through improvements to the way the interface with the benefit system works. "The government agrees that local authorities can do much more to encourage the take-up of council tax benefit and wants to work with local government to deliver further improvements in this measure. "We will consider the wider proposals on council tax benefit in the light of practicalities and affordability alongside priorities for the tax and benefit system as a whole." This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
There will be a fourth series of Doctor Who, writer/producer Russell T Davies has confirmed, although he refused to say whether David Tennant would continue in the lead role. Speaking at the London premiere of the third series, Davies declared: "Series four is officially existing. I'm very excited, but we have known for ages." Tennant refused to be drawn on his possible participation, telling the press: "Do you know how many times I have been asked that question? Do you know how many times I have answered it?" Series three kicks off on BBC One on 31 March. It features Freema Agyeman as the Doc's new assistant Martha Jones, replacing Billie Piper as Rose Tyler who decided to hang up her time-travelling boots. Agyeman said: "Billie did a tremendous job. I know no one likes change but the nature of the show is change and hopefully fans will be cool with that and give me a chance." Highlights of the new series are a Dalek two-parter and the Doctor "sharing a kiss" with Martha Jones in the first episode. Hot stuff. ®
Motorola has warned that it expects to see a first quarter loss after a downturn in sales of its mobile phones. It has scaled back its sales forecast by at least $1bn for the first quarter of 2007 with a new projection set at between $9.2bn and $9.3bn. The company also said it will accelerate its share buyback programme.
Malaysian DVD pirates have slapped a bounty on the heads of sniffer dogs which earlier this week helped seize around $3m* in fake DVDs, Reuters reports.
European and Russian space agencies have confirmed they will be working more closely together in their exploration of our solar system. After a meeting in Moscow yesterday, the two sides said the future would hold more collaboration on missions and on development of new technologies, as well as a greater sharing of research. The Head of the Federal Space Agency of the Russian Federation (Roscosmos) Anatoly Perminov, European Space Agency (ESA) director general Jean-Jacques Dordain, and European Commission director general Heinz Zourek met yesterday in Moscow to discuss how the two agencies could increase their cooperation. The two agencies, ESA and Roscosmos, already work closely on launches. Many European missions blast off from the Roscosmos space base at Baikonur in Kazakhstan. The agency also depends on the Russian Soyuz launchers for many of its missions, even those that launch from French Guiana. Following the meeting in Moscow, the agencies said we can expect more collaboration in developing new launcher technologies. Mr Dordain said: "The cooperation between Europe and Russia in the area of launchers should serve as a model for cooperation in other areas such as exploration, space science, and space applications. If the two sides pool their resources, the result will be even more outstanding than it is today." The increased closeness is already starting to show in some projects: BepiColombo, ESA's planned mission to study Mercury, will carry a Russian gamma ray and neutron spectrometer instrument. ESA has also invited contributions from Russian scientists to its new "Cosmic Vision", a plan for its work between 2015 and 2025. The two agencies are also in discussions about developing a new crew vehicle to compete with the Shuttle's replacement, Orion. The question of funding for this project is scheduled to go before ESA's ministerial council in 2008. In addition, the European Commission has promised to give Russian space scientists access to the space related results of its Framework 7 science funding cycle. ®
It was a bit quiet yesterday lunchtime down at Vulture Central, so we retired en masse to the local boozer to verify Aberdeen University's Gaussian probability distribution darts theory. During the course of our essential scientific research, a certain amount of beer was taken and, as a result, someone rather brilliantly suggested we run an online poll and competition for our beloved readers' all-time fave El Reg headline. Yes we know - self indulgent tomfoolery, but that's what happens when you sup 16 pints of Thrupplethorpe's "Crafty Cockney" strong ale between stepping up to the oche. Here's how it works: send us five nominations for what, in your opinion, represent the very best in eye-catching Register headlines. We'll take the top ten most nominated, and present them as an online poll for you lot to make the final selection. If your original pick correctly matches the final top five, you'll go into a draw for one of our Cash'n'Carrion goodie bags. Alternatively, if you can't be arsed to pick five, or only have one or two top picks, throw them over anyway. Oh yes, and the hack who secures the overall top headline crown will get a bottle of scotch and an all-expenses-paid trip to a detox clinic. Simple as that. The deadline for nominations is midnight GMT, Thursday 29 March. Send them directly to me (lester dot haines @ theregister.co.uk, or click on my byline at the top of this story to submit via our marvellous reader response form), marking the subject "Black Cocks". The online poll will run for a week from Friday 30 March. Get to it. ® Rules The nomination process is closed to Reg hacks. And their mums. Multiple nominations entries are permitted. The nominated headlines must come from The Register, Reg Hardware, Reg Developer or Channel Register, so sadly "Stick it up your Junta" is inadmissible. Emails which begin "I don't have a favourite headline but the worst one ever is..." will be binned (until we do a "Worst Headline" poll). Your statutory rights are probably affected. May contain traces of nuts.
So what do women really want from technology? That it should be easy to use? That it should work straight out of the box? That it should be, dare I say it, useful? Not at all, says Philips, we want it to sparkle.
Yesterday's accident in which two sailors were killed aboard the Royal Navy submarine Tireless did not involve any of the submarine's machinery or installed systems, it has emerged. According to US and British naval sources, the explosion instead involved an oxygen candle. Some news sources have said oxygen candles are "equipment" which is "fitted" in submarines, giving a misleading impression of what they are. Oxygen candles are consumable items not unlike large marine flares in construction and use. When lit or initiated, they give off oxygen rather than regular combustion products. They are carried for use in an emergency, where the normal atmosphere equipment is unserviceable or inaccessible (perhaps flooded) and the submarine cannot surface. In such a situation, sailors may need to replenish local oxygen levels while awaiting rescue or a chance to escape – hence the candles. They are normally stowed in the escape compartments forward and aft. Escape compartments are pressure-tight airlocks where submariners can retreat in the event of a disaster. From there, depending on the situation, they may be able to escape to the sea surface using specialised breathing sets. But in some circumstances – if the sub is too deep, or if the sailors have been under too much atmospheric pressure for too long – it may be better for them to wait until rescuers can reach the scene. Like any oxidising material, oxygen candles present a fire and explosion hazard – the more so in a confined space. All submarines, and indeed surface fleet units, are full of things like this. Emergency breathing apparatus, diving sets, smoke markers, flares, munitions, medical gases … the list goes on. Every warship is a highly dangerous industrial facility, full of hazmat. Tireless has suffered a relatively normal industrial accident. All defence sources so far have stressed that the sub's reactor wasn't involved, with the explosion reportedly taking place in the forward escape compartment. Of course, the forward end of the ship is where the weapons are, but there isn't a good place for an explosion in a warship. Anyway, the energy potential of oxygen candles isn't enough on its own to have any effect through watertight bulkheads. The Royal Navy's sub fleet has suffered other troubles over recent years. Reactor-safety scares took most attack boats out of service for long periods at the turn of the century; Tireless herself had to tie up at Gibraltar for almost a year while precautionary work went on. With training and operations severely curtailed, morale in the submarine service suffered and many ambitious junior officers left. Embarrassingly, Tireless' sister ship Triumph inadvertently glanced off the sea bed during this period, when she was the only sub (apart from the Trident boats) cleared for use. Subsequently, HMSM Trafalgar suffered a more serious grounding in 2002, though her pressure hull was unbreached. In recent years there has also been a lot of internal debate - almost amounting to mutiny at one stage, when the Trafalgar went back to sea - over safety and maintenance issues. Some have alleged that vital precautions have been dropped to save money: others saw the moves as a reasonable attempt to rein in the ever-burgeoning nuclear safety bureaucracy, which has pushed the costs of operating naval nuclear reactors to incredible levels. Yesterday's incident will be subject to a navy board of inquiry in due course. ®
The OW2 Consortium - formed in January 2007 from the merger of the ObjectWeb and OrientWare open source communities - has added comprehensive, dynamic clustering support and a new batch of administration tools to support distributed applications in the latest version of its JOnAS application server, Version 4.8 Enterprise Edition. "The new release provides high scale availability in a clustered environment so an application running on top of Jonas can survive even when machines go down. It keeps the process alive and replicated," OW2 Consortium chairman Jean Pierre Laisné, said. "At the same time there are lots of new admin tools to improve operation in distributed environments. We have also worked on integration of things like workflow and Enterprise Java Beans." JOnAS 4.8 EE, which has been under development for around six years, is an ideal foundation for building new wave Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) applications. "It provides innovative, enterprise class J2EE-based solutions and will help enterprises get the maximum benefit from new technologies like SOA." It also includes a Thread Management Framework (for thread monitoring and control) and a rather grandly titled Fractal Deployment Framework to deploy JOnAS software. Further features to support clustering management and monitoring are under development in the OW2 JASMINe project. Laisné says another important development for OW2 is the expansion of the JOnAS development community to include contributors from emerging technology hotspots such as China and Brazil. OW2 claims it now has some 100 or so organisations with 6,000 developers working on more than 100 open source projects under its wing. "We are particularly excited about the involvement of developers from China and Brazil where open source solutions are really taking off," Laisné says. JOnAS training and support services are available from Bull under the terms of Bull's Open Energy offer. ®
Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion It's been a while, but we're delighted to announce today the immediate availability of some all-new, geek-magnet El Reg apparel.
Stop the merry-go-round "Riding along on a carousel, trying to catch up to you, riding along on a carousel, will I catch up to you?" sang The Hollies way back when. Now the government is doing its best to catch up to those trying to use computer chips and mobile phones for carousel fraud. To combat the practice, which Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimates cost British taxpayers as much as £3bn last year, the products will only have their VAT accounted for at the end of the supply chain from 1 June this year.
Yahoo! and Google are taking action to counter click fraud. Yahoo! is appointing a click-fraud Czar and Google is trialing changes to its AdWords scheme. Click fraud occurs when someone deliberately hits adverts on a website to rack up charges for a rival company. It is not clear how big the problem is, but many companies claim, and receive, refunds for dodgy clicks. Advertisers fear that bills are being wrongly inflated and the search engines hold all the cards - it is all but impossible to know whether clicks on your adverts are genuine potential sales leads or not. In response, Yahoo! is promoting company attorney Reggie Davis to the postion of VP of marketplace quality, with the job of reducing click fraud and ensuring customers trust the results they get. Davis told Reuters that between 12 and 15 per cent of Yahoo! clicks are rejected and not charged for. But not all of these are actually fraudulent clicks. Google, meanwhile, is beta testing a new way for US companies to pay for adverts. "Pay-for-action" allows advertisers to specify an action - like signing up to a newsletter, entering a competition, or even making a purchase - and pay Google on the basis of that action rather than just paying for a click-through to a website. The search giant said the change would give advertisers more choice. The new scheme is designed to complement its current cost-per-click and cost-per-impression pricing models. ®
IBM likes the novel technqiue it's come up with for cooling chips so much that it's announced the breakthrough twice: back in October 2006 and, almost five months to the day, in March 2007.
The music label tentacle of coffee house monolith Starbucks has signed Paul McCartney as its first major artist, the BBC reports. Hear Music, which has to date punted "albums of licensed songs", last week announced that it would seek out original material from new and established artists, and appears to have pulled off a significant coup in securing the services of the former Beatle. McCartney said he was "impressed with Hear Music's plan to use Starbucks' 13,500 retail outlets to sell the album", and told the company's annual meeting he expected a new album to hit the shops in early June. He enthused: "For me, the great thing is the commitment and the passion and the love of music, which as an artist is good to see." Hear Music's multi-pronged marketing strategy includes releasing McCartney's material music via online download sites and in Hear Music coffee houses where caffeine-fuelled fans can burn tracks onto CDs. Glen Barros, prez of Concord Music Group - Starbucks' partner in Hear Music - declared: "This is a pretty powerful new platform, when you can reach 44 million customers per week through Starbucks stores." McCartney's previous recordings are not included in the new deal, the BBC notes. ®
Site NewsSite News It's been a while, but we're delighted to announce today the immediate availability of some all-new, geek-magnet El Reg apparel, including the splendid Hard Wear line, presented in three choices of colour on black. Pick from: Hot Pink, Lime Green, and Silver-Grey.
NASA says it will not set a date for the next Shuttle launch until it has properly assessed the damage to the fuel tank. The shuttle Atlantis was supposed to blast off last week, but the fuel tank's foam covering was damaged by "golf ball sized" hailstones as it sat on the launch pad during a storm in late February. NASA says the foam has thousands of dings in it, and it is not yet clear whether the dings can be repaired or whether the tank will have to be replaced in its entirety. Some can be sanded out, but around 1600 would have to be filled, engineers say. NASA associate administrator for space operations Bill Gerstenmaier said the agency was planning more analysis. "Then we will have enough data to make a good decision." The delay means one of the five planned launches for 2007 has had to be bumped into 2008. The agency says it hopes to catch up with its launch schedule by the middle of next year. The foam is designed to prevent a build up of ice on the rocket ahead of a launch. Any ice that builds up can fall off, potentially damaging the Shuttle's insulation. Damaged foam is also more likely to fall off, as with the Columbia. NASA, understandably, does not want to risk a similar incident in the future. The company that makes the tanks is trying out ways of applying a new layer of foam on a mock up of the launcher. According to reports, the company has also asked for time to test the heat resistance of the new foam. If the tests are successful and the tank can be repaired, Atlantis could still be ready for a launch in May. If things slip further, for instance if it has to be swapped out for a new tank, there is no chance of a launch before June. The current launch window closes on 21 May, and another does not open until 8 June. NASA's head of all things shuttle related, Wayne Hale, said: "The goal is to have a good tank." ®
Japanese technology giant Fujitsu Limited has told its UK-based subsidiary Fujitsu Services that it must drop its long-stated ambition to spin out on the stock exchange. The services arm will instead become the "pillar" of a global services business, the firm said this week.
Telephone systems hackers have established a thriving black market in reselling stolen VoIP minutes. Hackers are breaking into gateway servers used to connect a carrier's phone network to the internet and reselling this access to smaller, unscrupulous operators, sometimes via web-based wholesale minutes markets. Wholesale purchasers of the purloined access are often small telco operations who resell access to ordinary punters via printed phone cards. These telephone phreakers steal 200m minutes a month, worth $26m, estimates New York telecom firm Stealth Communications. Telecoms fraud is a well known, if under-reported problem, that pre-dates the internet by years. It is a multimillion-dollar business, with estimates of direct damages resulting from fraud varying from $35bn to $40bn a year. This fraud comes in many guises of which the growing trade in VoIP phreaking is just one relatively small but growing component. Newsweek reports that uncovering the perpetrators of this illicit trade is extremely difficult, if not impossible. A Panamanian telco that recently lost $110,000 as a result of VoIP fraud hired Hong Kong consultancy TSTF to track down the phreakers involved. The trail led through Bulgaria, Canada, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, and the US before going cold. Phreaker trails are far too complex to track successfully, Emmanuel Gadaix, head of TSTF, told Newsweek. ®
US Marines in Iraq staged an elaborate fake gunfight to foil an overhead surveillance drone and cover up a murder, according to court testimony.
Intel's upcoming ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) processor will be fabbed at 45nm and should power portable systems later this year, a company executive revealed this week.
Microsoft this week extended the Xbox Live network to the Windows PC platform, as it launched a Windows Vista version of the Halo 2 game.
CommentComment One of the most dramatic battles in the war over the mobile internet could arise in the US from current lobbying over future use of the "white space" spectrum (the idle channels between the TV bands between 54MHz and 862MHz, set up to avoid interference, but now possibly to be used for internet access).
A microscopic animal has shown its ability to evolve without reproduction, thereby refuting "the idea that sex is necessary for diversification into evolutionary species', the Times reports. That's according to an international team of researchers, including experts from Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge, and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who studied exclusively-female bdelloid rotifers and discovered that although they'd not had sex for 100 million years, they had "diversified under pressure of natural selection". Specifically, two sister specimens were identified living in close proximity on a water louse's body - one around the host's legs, the other near the chest. Genetic analysis and the shape of the animals' jaws showed they were different species, but, as Tim Barraclough of Imperial College explained, they "almost certainly arrived on the louse as one species and later evolved to take better advantage of the environment". While "asexual" species don't usually last long in evolutionary terms (they can evolve through mutations "into another species, but only into one species and at the cost of its original form", the Times clarifies), the bdelloid rotifers have rather cleverly diversified into various species. This ability "may explain why they have survived so long" - so long, in fact, that one example was trapped in amber 40 million years ago, while DNA analysis points to their having survived 100 million years without a shag. Barraclough summed it up with: "These really are amazing creatures, whose very existence calls into question scientific understanding." The team's research is published in PLoS Biology. ®
The 20-year-old Wisconsin man last year charged with having sex with a dead deer has been sentenced to probation and evaluation as a sex offender, Yahoo! reports. Bryan James Hathaway was cuffed on a "a misdemeanour charge of sexual gratification with an animal". The court case raised some interesting legal issues, since according to the defence, the relevant "crimes against sexual morality" statute prohibits sex with animals, but fails to mention carcasses. Hathaway's attorney Fredric Anderson filed a motion which argued "because the deer was dead, it was not considered an animal and the charge should be dismissed". He insisted: "The statute does not prohibit one from having sex with a carcass." This audacious interpretation of the law clearly cut little ice with the courts, because Hathaway earlier this month pleaded no contest to a charge of "misdemeanour mistreatment of an animal". Judge Michael Lucci sentenced him to six months' probabation and ordered him to be "evaluated as a sex offender and treated at the Institute for Psychological and Sexual Health in Duluth, Minnesota". The judge admitted: "The type of behaviour is disturbing. It's disturbing to the public. It's disturbing to the court." Hathaway had previously been convicted of a related offence in April 2005, when he pleaded "no contest to one felony charge of mistreatment of an animal for the shooting death of Bambrick, a 26-year-old horse, to have sex with the animal". Although he received just probation for his latest escapade, local animals can sleep sound in their beds since he attracted a nine-month jail sentence back in February for violating the extended supervision order slapped on him for his equicide outrage. ®
Criminal sanctions for copyright infringement moved a step closer to reality in Europe this week, as the European Commission's committee for legal affairs voted to pass a draft of a directive affectionally known as IPRED 2.
Security firm Sophos will offer sysadmins the ability to block users from online virtual world Second Life from next month. The application control features of Sophos Anti-virus 6 will also be expanded to block Everquest, Lineage, Runescape, and Station Launch Pad from 3 April. Sophos software already allows harassed network managers to stamp on a long list of online games. It includes notable bandwidth and productivity hogs such as Internet Backgammon and Hearts, both distributed by Microsoft, arch-enemy of biz IT. (In a further insult to the corporate work ethic, the MSN Hearts page includes a link titled "15 Excuses for calling in sick", at the time of writing. Number five: broken leg snowboarding off roof while drunk.) There are also facilities to stifle VoIP and filesharing services. It would seem simple enough for competent sysadmins to cut off games themselves by denying access to MMOG servers or blocking ports, but there's no denying that it would be easier to have Sophos do it for you. The security firm doesn't charge extra for the service. Furthermore, Sophos' Carole Theriault says admins can prevent rogue users from using Second Life and the other apps on company laptops away from the corporate network. She also noted that users and groups can be granted gaming privileges selectively if this fits in with the company's strategy - a useful feature for organisations such as Reuters, CNet, and the Swedish diplomatic service. Second Life is always a headline grabber, partly due to the salacious electronic doings of some users (NSFW). But, in fact, the furry-penis and virtual fisting communities are a fairly insignificant online presence, according to analysts Screen Digest. A recent report covering virtual world use by Europeans and North Americans, said the real titan of the online gaming universe was Blizzard's World of Warcraft (WoW). The Western virtual-space market is now worth more than $1bn, according to Screen Digest's Piers Harding-Rolls. But conventional subscription-based platforms like WoW accounted for 87 per cent of that, with Blizzard alone taking over half of all virtual-fun revenue. Thus far, it seems that most gamers prefer to kill monstrous creatures rather than have sex with them. There might be some overlap, however, as both recreational communities enjoy shopping for nonexistent stuff. Unsurprisingly, Warcraft has been blocked by Sophos from the start. ®
European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes believes Microsoft is still benefiting from abusing its dominant position in workgroup servers. Kroes told the European Parliament that Microsoft was continuing to gain market share despite being found guilty by the European Court three years ago.
Hitachi is shutting its hard drive plant in Mexico and is to delete 4,500 jobs. The plant in Guadalajara will be purged by the middle of next year with production transfered to plants in the Philippines, China and Thailand. Hitachi expects to save $300m in costs with the division reformat.
You know what you look like to me, with your good bag and your cheap shoes? You look like a rube. A well scrubbed, hustling rube with a little taste. Good nutrition has given you some length of bone, but you're not more than one generation from poor white trash, are you Agent Starling? And that accent you've tried so desperately to shed? Pure West Virginia. What's your father, dear? Is he a coal miner? Does he stink of the lamp? You know how quickly the boys found you... all those tedious sticky fumblings in the back seats of cars...while you could only dream of getting out... getting anywhere... getting all the way to the FBI – Hannibal Lecter North Carolina's generous handouts to companies looking to set up shop in the state have again found criticism: this time via a new dissection of the state's package that lured Dell to set up a PC manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem.
Changes in US government purchasing policies due to come into effect this summer could have a huge effect on computer security, particularly for Windows desktops.
A US judge has sided with online publishers and other lobbyists by ruling a controversial law designed to shield children from internet porn unconstitutional. District Judge Lowell Reed has permanently blocked prosecutors from enforcing the Child Online Protection Act (COPA), saying it violates Americans' first-amendment right to freedom of expression. The law, backed by the Bush administration and pro-family groups, was "impermissibly vague and overbroad" according to Reed, who ruled it would "undoubtedly chill a substantial amount of constitutionally protected speech for adults." COPA, which has been bouncing around the US legal system since being passed in 1998, threatened fines of $50,000 and six months in prison for commercial web sites that put up material considered "harmful to minors." Nearly 10-years old, COPA has yet to be enforced. In an 84-page document, the judge ruled filtering products are "quite effective and accurate" at blocking porn, noting products have less than a 10 per cent underblocking rate while being sufficiently resistant to tampering from curious young minds and eager, little techie fingers. The case against COPA was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with backing form a coalition of plaintiffs spanning the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Salon.com, ObyGyn.net and Philadelphia Gay News. The case burst back into life from its legal limbo in January 2006, when the US Government ordered Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL to turn over millions of web addresses and search records in a bid to trawl for evidence in support of the law. Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL caved in, while Google held out but was finally ordered by a San Jose court to hand over a relatively limited one million random queries and URLs. The Government acted after the US Supreme Court backed an earlier injunction from Reed’s court saying the law was unconstitutional. COPA has seen support from the American Family Association and Family Research Council. After nearly 10-years, today's ruling is unlikely to be the COPA case's last breath. The Department of Justice and US attorney general Alberto Gonzales must now decided whether to appeal.®
YouTube has a fight on its hands with News Corp. and NBC today announcing plans to create a premium online video distribution site well-backed by major media players. The yet-unnamed service has initial content suppliers, MSN, Yahoo!, Time Warner/AOL and Myspace on its side of the ring, all itching for a piece of the pie currently dominated by the 'Tube. Each site will have its own embedded player displaying the video content. Shows such as "Heroes," "House," "24" and movies such as "Borat" and "Little Miss Sunshine" will be featured on the service when it rolls out. And users will be able to upload their own videos as well. The service is set to debut this summer with initial advertisers Cadbury Schweppes, Cisco, Esurance, Intel and General Motors paying the bills. The new video network may be a titillating prospect to media gloms eager to get content online but wary of YouTube's reputation of hosting unlicensed clips. The 'Tube was recently sued by Viacom for $1bn in damages over copyright infringement claims. The fresh service would also mark an attempt by some very large, very powerful companies to wrestle online content control away from YouTube owner Google. (Hence the appearance of Yahoo!, Microsoft and others.) The new site may face an uphill battle, however, to steal the hearts and minds of the immense YouTube clan. Market researcher Hitwise lists the service as the 12th most trafficked site on the internet. “Anyone who believes in the value of ubiquitous distribution will find this announcement incredibly exciting,” said Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC Universal. “This venture supercharges our distribution of protected, quality content to fans everywhere. Consumers get a hugely attractive aggregation of a wide range of content, and marketers get a novel way to connect with a large and highly engaged audience.” A transitional management team for the new LA and New York-based company will be lead by NBCU's chief digital officer George Kliavkoff for the launch. The site's permanent management team will be announced shortly. ®
Proof that notebooks are the future comes in a new IDC forecast which predicts that laptops will surpass desktops to become the most popular type of PC by 2011. According to IDC, bulky beige boxes are out and slick, shiny new notebooks are in as far as consumers are concerned, and it's a trend that's likely to continue to grow going forward.
Server and storage maker Rackable Systems has picked up a hardware veteran as its new chief of sales. The company this week announced Carl Boisvert, former CEO of bladed PC maker ClearCube, as its new EVP in charge of sales and worldwide marketing. Boisvert replaces Thomas Gallivan, who resigned with little explanation in January. Before ClearCube, Boisvert served as an SVP at fault-tolerant server maker Stratus.
Cisco picked up a convenient free agent on Thursday, hiring former US FCC (Federal Communications Commission) chief Michael Powell for its board.
Cisco Systems appears to have made the most out of FTC scrutiny surrounding the union between Brocade and McData. Data released by market analysts at Dell'Oro Group shows Cisco gaining steady ground in the storage area network switch market over the last year and sales of McData, a recent acquisition of SAN switch market leader Brocade, dropping. From 2005 to 2006, Cisco's share of the switch and HBA market rose 2.2 per cent, while McData's dropped 2.6 per cent.
Oracle sued SAP, alleging employees with the German firm passed themselves off as Oracle customers so they could engage in the wholesale theft of proprietary Oracle support materials. Over a five-month period starting last September, the employees allegedly gained access to Oracle's password-protected support site by using the log-in credentials of Oracle customers whose service contracts had, or were about to, expire, according to the complaint (PDF). Once inside, they made more than 10,000 unauthorized downloads of documents relating to hundreds of different Oracle programs. Oracle said there are "indications that this number may go significantly higher if traced further back in time."
Ecademy - the MySpace 'for professionals' - wants more software developers to build on its Web 2.0 platform. Coinciding with the recent launch of a bunch of new member tools and services, Ecademy's chief technical officer Julian Bond told Reg Developer that he was keen to see development 'on the edge' of the Ecademy platform.