A Florida data center serving the state's main website and 4,500 government employees has been restored after a failed air-conditioning chiller took down the system. The crisis began on Monday evening when workers discovered a leak in the massive chiller that cools the $30m, 1,200-server data center in Tallahassee. Administrators with the state's Department of Management Services decided to power down the network out of concern it would overheat, according to IDG News.
HP ProCurve has renewed its low-end stackable and chassis switches. Its range now starts at 50 quid with a fan-less, therefore silent, eight-port unmanaged Fast Ethernet switch, and runs up to chassis bundles that include a free chassis capable of hosting 188 Gigabit Ethernet ports at around £33 a port.
One of the interesting messages that normally comes out of discussions about SOA is that it gives developers and architects the environment in which they can transform the traditional "IT silo" infrastructure that is the norm in most enterprises.
House of CardsHouse of Cards America's online gambling purges continued at the state level today, as a major bust in the New York City area snared over 60 individuals, with more to come. According to Gambling911.com, the gambling ring operated in conjunction with Costa Rican online service provider 50ksports.com. The arrest list is a veritable who's who of American gambling habitues - it includes a former NYPD organized crime officer, a former NYPD vice officer who had already served time for protecting drug dealers, an employee at the postal service who placed bets for his postal service overlords, a Merrill Lynch trader (who among others was already under indictment for insider trading on internal "squak boxes" at esteemed New York financial houses), and a secretarial manager at a midtown law firm who midnighted as the owner of a New York strip club. Now that's an honor roll. Obviously, gambling appeals to a broad cross-section of Americans, including management in the federal postal system. Of course, the billions wagered online by Americans before the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) said a lot about the gambling habits of your average American. "When it comes to internet sports gambling rings operating in Queens County, all bets are off," the wry Queens DA Richard Brown said. "My office has zero tolerance for such illegal activity." Fifty thousand hours worth of taped conversation (and God only knows how many total man hours) later, defendants in this case are "squawking like canaries on crack", according to the report. Who really knows how many offshore operations use these kinds of runners? The more interesting issue now is whether other states will follow the New York lead or start to explore online gaming programs at the state level. New York, with its long history of powerful organized crime families, could well end up being fairly unique in its needs regarding gambling prosecutions. Of course, a more civil national policy on this would be constructive. But that still looks like a long shot. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Apple has updated its Boot Camp beta software to support Windows Vista. So much for claims that Mac OS X 10.5 would be delayed to ensure Vista compatibility.
Lisbon 2007Lisbon 2007 Without any fanfare, or even notice of an ongoing lawsuit against itself, ICANN posted another letter to RegisterFly on Wednesday giving it notice (again) of an intent to pursue legal action against the disintegrating registrar. This was not posted in the blog section, where one would expect to find it these days - it was buried in the correspondence page. The letter once again threatens legal consequences against the wayward registrar if it does not shape up. If it sounds like you've read this before, you have. Only two weeks ago, ICANN had its high-powered attorneys at Jones Day fire off a similar letter, which has led (if ICANN's much-touted new website is to be believed) to another...letter. It almost makes one wonder if ICANN is in such a sorry state it can only afford to have Jones Day do its correspondence, rather than its real legal work. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Why can't a computer be more like a brain? Jeff Hawkins asked at Emerging Technology this week. Hawkins is most familiar as founder of Palm and Handspring and creator of the handwriting recognition system Graffiti. His other long-term interest is neuroscience, and he believes he has the answer to that My Fair Lady question. Hawkins' starting point was the class of problems we have so far failed to build into successful machines: computer vision, adaptive behaviour, auditory perception, touch, languages, planning, and thinking. There are four reasons commonly given why computers fail at these simple human tasks: they aren't powerful enough; brains are too complex to understand; brains work on some unknown principle we haven't yet discovered; brains are magic (they have souls). Saying brains are too complex, Hawkins argued, just means we don't understand them. He believes, however, that he does understand enough. His latest company, Numenta, is attempting to build practical applications of the theories in his 2004 book On Intelligence. For the purposes of this discussion, intelligence is the memory-based ability to predict the future, and resides in the neocortex, which wraps around the rest of the brain like a thin sheet. Its densely packed cells are organised into increasingly abstract hierarchical layers that build models of the world by exposure to changing sensory patterns. Numenta copies this design in software it calls NuPIC (for Numenta Platform for Intelligent Computing), and reports some success in getting its program to recognise deformed versions of the pictures it already knows. Increasing the number of hierarchies should improve the complexity of the models it can handle. The key is these hierarchies. The company is working on improving the system's predictive ability by adding higher-order temporal knowledge. It's not sure what the next step after that will be; for one thing it isn't sure which other parts of the brain it might need to model and integrate. With the latest release, training the full network takes about 18 minutes. Each level of the network is trained on hundreds of thousands of iterations of the images – only a year ago this was taking days. Inference per image is down to about 10 milliseconds. A research version running on Linux or Mac OS X is available for free download and experimentation, along with white papers, learning algorithms, programmers' guides, and other documentation. A Windows version is in progress. The company also still isn't sure what applications might find this approach valuable, though they list a wide range. "It's like building the first computers," said Hawkins. "You knew it was an important idea, but you didn't have the CPU, compiler, or disk drive yet." He believes that: "We should be able to build machines that can become deeper experts than we are. I want to build machines that are really good thinkers." Humans become experts by long study; a machine that could emulate that process could work at things that humans are physically unsuited for, such as the physics of the very small or very large. "I want a machine that inherently thinks about physics better than humans do." ®
AMD has rolled out the notebook-centric version of its recently released 690 integrated chipset.
Chipset maker SiS has licensed Intel's 1333MHz frontside bus technology, allowing it not only offer product that supports the higher bus speed but also to support the chip giant's Core 2 Quad four-core processor.
Reg Reader WorkshopReg Reader Workshop The results are in. Following the resounding response from our recent Business Intelligence Reader Survey, we're proud to present the findings – via succulent, saturated Vulture Vision.
House of CardsHouse of Cards The online payment processing industry took it in the chops again this week, as the Electronic Clearinghouse, Inc (ECHO) settled with the US government over allegations that it profited from online gaming transactions by supplying Neteller with payment processing services prior to the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) last October. Of course, since the UIGEA won't take effect until June 2007, that would appear to be self-evident. Nevertheless, the action is something of a letdown for the DOJ. ECHO noted that the only reason it settled was to benefit its own shareholders by sparing them the costs of expensive litigation. It established that the DOJ does indeed have the political leverage to extort money out of legitimate enterprises - a fact that most Reg readers are already well aware of. The $2.3m settlement represents all the profits the company supposedly made off Neteller transactions prior to the date the UIGEA was signed into law. The company caught flak from the DOJ for not "winding down" its operations quickly enough after the legislation was passed - though, of course, the UIGEA still has not even gone into effect. The main effect of the DOJ's actions was to scuttle a planned merger between ECHO and financial software powerhouse Intuit, which clearly did not want to buy into a potential lawsuit. Online gamblers, however, are not dismayed, as American retail monster Walmart is providing a safe and secure alternative to shady payment processing options. Moneygram is widely available at your local Walmart, and is currently accepted by Pokerstars.com, though it does require a very unWalmart-like hefty processing fee of $9.95 per transaction. Nevertheless, for those who want to play, Walmart is clearly the convenient place to go. Thanks, Sam. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
The European Commission "clearly breached" its obligations when it agreed a passenger data sharing scheme with the US, the European Parliament has been told. The opinion was given just as negotiations on a new deal are begun. It also emerged that the US does not believe that it needs a new data sharing deal in order to demand details on Europeans flying into the US. Passenger details, known as the passenger name record (PNR), are passed to US authorities by airlines in a deal brokered by the European Commission but long opposed by the European Parliament as a breach of European privacy and data protection rules. Spiros Simitis, a data protection expert which advises the commission, told a Parliament hearing this week that the commission has "clearly breached its obligations" in the deal it cut with the US over PNR. The law says that in order to obtain and process personal data, an authority must state an exact purpose for it. "Undefined terms like 'terrorism' and 'public interest' are completely counterproductive and inadmissible for any functioning data protection rules," he said. The current, temporary deal expires in July and negotiations between the commission and the US on a new, long-term deal have just started. One negotiator involved in the process, Hans Jurgen Forster, told the Parliament that "people expected the negotiations to be difficult and they are". He said the US is even beginning to refuse to concede the need for a deal at all. "The US doubt the need for a new PNR agreement. They even think a short extension of the existing interim agreement is unnecessary," he said. There is a possibility that an open skies agreement on transatlantic air travel, which has some security provisions, could be used by the US as a replacement deal to the PNR agreement, warned some MEPs. The Parliamentary session was a hearing of the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. That committee's chair, Greek MEP Stavros Lambrinidis, said he was concerned not only about the volume of data being passed to the US, but about what it is used for. "The transfer of PNR data has only been scrutinised by the Parliament once, and we were critical about it. We ask to evaluate a future agreement." Some MEPs said they wanted the new system to include greater controls over European data, including a switch of the data transfer system from being one in which the US has access to any of the data it wants to one which demands that it request any information. "This would include switching to a 'push' system, so that US officers should have to request data specifically required, case-by-case rather than simply being granted access to the full database and reducing the number of PNR data fields that they can check," said a Parliament statement. "The switch to the push procedure is urgent, this has been made absolutely clear to the Americans," said Forster. "The US government has indicated a willingness to discuss and draft a list of principles, to see whether additional restrictions to PNR transfer are desirable. The American side is expected to deliver a revised version on the undertakings before we start a second round of negotiations". Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
When I was a kid, I'd be lucky if an Easter Egg had a few Smarties inside. Offspring are more spoiled these days: now they find MP3 players inside their seasonal confections.
Honda's Asimo robot is living the high life right now. Not only is he wowing the crowds at consumer technology shows, he's also the star of several Honda TV adverts. But what if it all goes wrong? What if Honda dumps Asimo the way Sony ditched its QRIO humanoid robot when it decided to shift its R&D budget elsewhere? Thankfully, Asimo probably won't end up in the gutter: a wealth of career opportunities will be opening up to robots in the years ahead, from being a teacher or a nurse, through to fighting terrorists or playing up front for England. 1. Footballer Let's start with the obvious option, given England's shoddy performances recently in the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign. Asimo proved at CES this year that he's more than capable of playing a slick pass'n'move game. If - sorry, when - Michael Owen's much-anticipated comeback ends up in tears (the muscular kind), Steve McClaren could do worse than turn to Asimo, assuming the necessary passport documents can be forged found. And it might get us into the Robo World Cup. 2. Nurse Perhaps Asimo could ply his talents in a hospital instead – at least it would mean the UK could stop poaching nurses from the developing world where they're much needed. The EU-funded IWARD project is already working on robots capable of mopping up spillages, taking messages, guiding visitors to hospital beds, and distributing thermometers. If Honda can upgrade Asimo with an MRSA-detector attachment, he'd be pounding the wards alongside them. 3. Home entertainment companion Right now, Asimo's mainly about walking, running, going up and down stairs, and booting balls around. But let's face it, how hard would it be for Honda to stick a Blu-ray or HD DVD drive in his chest and let you use him as a walking projector? With the added bonus that you could send him down to Blockbuster to get the movies too...If it can be done with a pint-sized R2-D2 clone, it could work for Asimo. 4. Fireman Admittedly, Asimo has only graduated to walking up stairs at the moment, so ladders may be a bit of a stretch. Yet there's strong interest within the robotics industry in developing robots capable of taking on dangerous jobs like firefighting - check this site for proof. Assuming Honda can nail the ladder thing (well, and sliding down poles), Asimo could be rocking the big hose 'n' shiny helmet look within the next decade. 5. Litter-picker Assuming Boy George and Naomi Campbell don't get the taste for community service and switch careers, we're always going to need street cleaners. Asimo's near-perfect balance and nimble fingers would be ideal for picking up litter, assuming he can boot out the rival Figla robot, which uses a combination of infrared, gyro, and ultrasonic sensors to rid the streets of chip packets, used condoms, and collapsed binge drinkers. 6. Childminder Adults are a bit scared of robots, mainly because we've read and/or seen too much sci-fi suggesting they're going to take over the world violently. Kids have no such qualms – they've grown up with friendly robo-toys (or AIBOs, if their parents are stinking-rich). In the US, Asimo already works with kids as part of his educational tours, which Honda runs in schools. But his chirpy demeanour would be as suited to childminding within the home. At least he looks less silly than the Anty "huggy" robot that's been designed to cheer kids up. 7. Urban soldier Asimo can walk, run, climb stairs, and wisecrack. All he needs now is the ability to fire explosive weapons and he'd be the ideal soldier. Although, Honda might want to give him a camouflage makeover: that white exterior would stand out in an urban warfare zone. He'd at least be in with a shout of winning the Singapore Government's TechX Challenge, which plans to award £330,000 to the best street-fighting robot scientists can come up with. Or Honda could just stick tank treads on Asimo and make him clear mines, of course. 8. Teacher Back to the kids for a moment though. If Asimo could keep them entertained in the home, couldn't he also make them informed in the classroom? A Wi-Fi connection into Wikipedia would ensure he'd never be caught out by cheeky questions about obscure historical figures, while he could be easily reconfigured to speak seven or eight different languages – bots like iRobiQ are already being used to teach Japanese children English, for example. Even better, if you combined these features from those in Number 7, Asimo wouldn't have to worry about being intimidated by unruly children – a problem for human teachers. 9. Home security guard Let's say at some point you buy an Asimo and keep him in the house. Why not make use of his connected features to protect your home while you're at work? The idea of bots as security guards isn't new. Chinese researchers have already created the aptly-named Security Guard Robot, while the French-developed Spyke is more of a sneaky home-spy, using his Wi-Fi, camera, and microphone to snoop on any burglars who break in while you're away. The downside of using Asimo as a home security bot would be his high price: any robber worth their salt would ignore your TV and hi-fi in favour of walking off with your robot. 10. Fiery trade unionist Whatever jobs Asimo ends up doing, don't expect him to put up with any old tasks just because he's been created by human scientists to be obedient. A report by the UK Government has suggested that once we put robots to work, they might eventually get uppity and start to demand all manner of rights, including income support, housing, and even healthcare. Asimo's humanoid appearance and way with a punchline would make him the perfect robo-spokesman – can't you see him bringing the house down at the TUC conference? ®
A Blackpool family has created a "fitting memorial" to deceased dad Mick Egan - by converting him into a synthetic diamond, the BBC reports. Egan died last year of a brain haemorrhage and his wife Susan decided on a novel way of preserving his memory. A US company extracted carbon from Egan's ashes, heated it to create graphite and then compressed the result to create a rough diamond which was then cut to the family's specifications. Susan Egan was evidently delighted with the result, enthusing: "We had to have a blue one because my husband's eyes are blue. I never visualised that it would be so beautiful until it arrived. He is my diamond geezer now. "It was the right thing to do and it just brings me so much comfort that I've got it now to last forever. He loved being the centre of attention. He could light a room up when he walked in it. In some respects the diamond lights up, which is a memory of how he was." The memorial arrived the day before daughter Celeste's wedding, allowing dad to accompany her down the aisle. She said: "It was emotional but it was nice emotion because I was pleased that it had happened and that I could have something of my Dad to take down the aisle with me. It seemed like the right thing to do for us as a family and for my Dad - we think he would have loved the idea." ®
A coalition of security companies and organisations announced a plan this week to create assessment tests that would certify programmers' knowledge of secure-coding practices.
Hot on the heels of our Dell story yesterday, the computer maker has announced plans to release PCs and laptops that ship with the Linux operating system.
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has been accused of working to prevent co-operation between the free and proprietary software sectors, thanks to new terms in the latest draft version of the GNU GPL.
The US has slipped down the rankings of technology nations, falling from the top spot to number seven in the latest rankings from the World Economic Forum. In 2005-2006, the US was number one followed by Singapore, Denmark, and Iceland. But this year's Global Information Technology Report puts the US in seventh place. The UK manages to crawl up one place - from tenth last year to ninth this year. The report looks at 122 countries and judges their infrastructure according to 67 variables. It judges network readiness in three ways: a conducive environment in terms of regulation and hard and soft infrastructure; the level of readiness among individuals, businesses and government; and the actual use of information and communication technology by those three groups. Denmark won the top spot this year, and all Nordic countries except Iceland moved up the list. China makes it into the top 20 for the first time - at joint thirteenth along with Taiwan.* Irene Mia, a co-author of the report and senior economist at the World Economic Forum, told the Reg: "It's not really such a big fall for the US - when you're in the top 10 little differences in scores can mean a big fall in position. But the regulatory environment was seen as less favourable and usage fell - not in actual terms but against other countries which have gained more. The US is still number one in many ways - for venture capital, for innovation - in terms of patents." Mia said ICT was also starting to make a real impact on the developing world and sub-Saharan Africa. Mia said: "It's extremely important, not just for productivity and competitiveness, but also for everyday life. The impact of mobile phones for access to markets and education or even just keeping in touch with people. Latin America is also making progress, slower than parts of Asia but it is making progress." Go here for more details - there's even a stuttery Google video to watch. *Bootnote: An observant reader pointed out: Mainland China is at 59th place. It's Taiwan, China at 13th place.®
Nokia introduced a trio of colourful, consumer-friendly handsets today, connecting its XpressMusic line to 3G networks and its L'Amour - urgh - phones to CDMA carriers. But what caught our eye was the budget, voice-centric 5070.
ReviewReview Spiritual successor to Motorola's budget C113 handset, the new 'Motofone' F3 has clearly been designed with developing markets and the more technophobic among us in mind. All you get is a very basic phone that does nothing other than make and take calls and texts, and work as an alarm clock. That's it. No, really, that is it.
When Alan Watt's website Cutting Through the Matrix went offline in February, he knew it was because someone "at the top" decided he was getting too close to the truth.
High Performance Computing (HPC) may for many developers reside at the far distant end of their everyday event horizon, but both the hardware and software technologies involved continue to creep into the mainstream of information processing.
NASA scientists have poured cold water on the theory that a plane en route to New Zealand narrowly avoided a collision with flaming Russian space junk. The pilot of the Chilean commercial jetliner reported seeing the debris as they entered Kiwi airspace. Australian reports suggested that pieces of a Russian satellite could be to blame, but NASA says this is unlikely. Nicholas Johnson, a chief scientist at NASA's Johnson Space Centre, told AP that although there was some Russian debris expected to fall back to Earth, it was not due until 12 hours after the pilot spotted "incandescent material" falling past his plane. "Unless someone has their times wrong, there appears to be no correlation," he said. Russian authorities also maintain that the cargo ship Progress M-58 had fallen to Earth when it was expected to. It says that at the time the pilot reported the near-miss, the cargo ship was still attached to the International Space Station. In the absence of a retired, burning spaceship to explain the sighting, the most likely explanation is that the pilot witnessed a meteor on its way through the atmosphere. Around 50 hit the atmosphere everyday, but most burn up before they hit the ground. ®
Cisco has updated its Unified CallManager and Presence Server software following the discovery of flaws that might be used to crash vulnerable systems.
The European Commission has reiterated its determination to see the remaining closed telecoms networks broken open to broadband competition. In an interview with the Financial Times, telecoms commissioner Viviane Reding pointed to the type of separation of equipment from business functions enforced upon BT in the UK by Ofcom. She said: "The functional separation model is a very interesting remedy for the access problem in this market." A commission review due for release in July could recommend extending such a scheme across Europe. Ofcom is not finished with BT, however, and today said it would introduce a series of binding separation date targets for the telco aimed at further levelling the playing field. Deutsche Telekom has strongly resisted a push to open access to its network. Last month, German politicians capitulated, and agreed to allow the telco to exempt newly installed superfast internet connections from open access to competitors. The original version of the laws would have seen broadband competition on all lines. The German government could now be set for a High Court showdown with commission regulators in Brussels in May. BT's current setup resulted when it swerved a plot to break it up in 2005 by establishing Openreach. The commission believes the separate division, which is designed to guarantee equal attention to BT's ISP competitors, has contributed to putting the UK second top among broadband nations in Europe through increased competition and lower pricing. The commission's annual survey of the telecoms market will reveal today that Germany lags behind the UK for broadband penetration. It only just bests the EU average, which includes entrants from the former Eastern Bloc. The Netherlands leads the field with broadband installed in almost 30 per cent of households. ®
Google dreams of a world where hundreds of languages can be simultaneously translated by machines which compare texts using statistics rather than applying grammatical rules. Statistical machine translation uses a computer to compare two documents - one in the original language and one translated by a human. It finds patterns and links between the two and uses them to create its own future translations. Google has used documents from the European Commission and United Nations to feed its machines. Franz Och, who runs Google's translation team, told Reuters that early efforts impressed people with experience of machine-run translation systems. Och said: "The more we feed into the system the better it gets." Google already offers statistical translation of Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Other language translations are provided by third parties. Och repeated the Google mantra that the focus was on improving the software and that once it was working well they would look at making money from it. Dr Miles Osborne, a lecturer at the University of Edinburgh who spent last year on sabbatical at Mountain View working on the system, told the Reg: "This is quite a recent move by Google - they hired Franz Och one of leading lights in statistical translation. What you see with this system is what an academic would make if they had lots of money, support, and access to lots of machines. They have one of the world's best translators, especially for Arabic and Mandarin." Osborne said the development was important for Google because documents on the web are increasingly in languages other than English. To continue to improve its core search engine, Google would need translation software. Asked why Arabic and Mandarin were the first languages chosen, Osborne said it was down to US paranoia and homeland security. He said the US military put cash into research for translating languages from areas they considered a threat. Osborne said the US Army preferred computer-based systems because they distrusted human translators. Reuters' story is here. Google's language tools are here. ®
BAE Systems this week unveiled its underwater mine-clearance robot, the "revolutionary" Talisman M. In a Tuesday release, Andy Tonge, project manager for Talisman, is quoted as saying his baby can "can perform the type of dangerous roles currently performed by service men and women throughout the world - locate, identify and neutralise mines in one single mission without the need for human intervention". This would certainly be revolutionary stuff, if true. Current naval minehunting techniques involve the use of sonar deployed in surface ships or lowered from helicopters to scan the sea bed. This typically produces a profusion of blips which could be mines; but normally many of them will be rocks, sunken debris, old fridges, oil drums, etc. Each sonar contact must then be positively confirmed as mine or non-mine by human eyeball. Originally this would always be done by divers, but in recent decades the trend has been to send down a remotely-operated vehicle (ROV) with a video camera instead. If the camera picture shows a mine, the ROV can lay a destruction charge next to it before recovering to its mother ship. Then the charge can be detonated by acoustic signal, taking the mine with it. Serious navies still employ mine-clearance divers, however, as there remain some situations in which they have advantages. Divers can operate from small boats or mini-subs, less conspicuous close inshore than a ship with ROVs, and divers can work in shallower waters than ROVs can. When clearing the way up to a beach for an amphibious assault, these things may be essential. Even during normal ship-based operations, divers remain a useful option. If underwater visibility is poor, an ROV camera will be unable to distinguish mines from rocks. But a diver can do this by touch. Occasionally it may be necessary to do something with the mine other than immediately blow it up, such as moving it away from a pipeline or cable, or even recovering it intact for analysis. Finally, most present-day minewarfare captains occasionally find their diving team useful for recovering lost or broken ROVs. The Talisman M, however, is meant to be a step forward. It can be launched from a ship safely over the horizon and navigate its way in to a target coastline underwater, avoiding notice from the shore. It can then sweep a designated area with its sonar and pick out mine-like contacts, still entirely without operator input. At this point the contacts need checking out visually. The Talisman M carries four BAE Archerfish, small one-shot ROVs with cameras and destruction warheads. It can deploy these and control them via fibre-optic cable. The quote "identify and neutralise mines...without the need for human intervention", seems to imply that the Talisman can autonomously examine Archerfish video and decide for itself whether or not to blow up contacts, which would be a really amazing leap forward in artificial intelligence. However, when contacted today, Tonge was quick to correct this. "The press release is wrong," he said, with refreshing candour. It seems that in fact the Talisman does need human input at this stage, and so it must communicate with its mother ship. BAE's description of the craft specifies that "communications to and from the vehicle are via WiFi or Iridium SatCom whilst surfaced, or acoustic communications when submerged". When asked how on Earth an Archerfish video picture could be carried by acoustic communications from the submerged Talisman to the human operator, Tonge freely admitted that it can't. The Talisman needs to surface before it can deploy Archerfish. Those familiar with Iridium satcomms won't be hugely surprised to hear that "line-of-sight UHF" is currently required back to the human operator according to Tonge, suggesting that the mother ship may not quite be hidden over the horizon after all. The shipborne operator handles the Archerfish in relatively conventional fashion. Tonge points out, however, that the surfaced Talisman has a low freeboard and is hard to spot compared to a conventional minehunting ship. So the Talisman M isn't quite as revolutionary as BAE is making out. It's more of a convergence device, bringing together several existing technologies. A human brain is still necessary to positively identify sea mines. Given the severe limitations of underwater communications, if you want to work secretly without anything showing on the surface it will be necessary to place a human brain underwater in the minefield as of old. Thus, the only totally secret way to tackle an inshore minefield is to send in divers mounted on suitably-equipped underwater vehicles (swimming in from over the horizon wouldn't be very practical). The frogmen could then place charges on all the mines, which could then be detonated by acoustic signals just before the amphibious assault arrived. But it's fair to say that you don't really need that level of secrecy most times. The first wave of an amphibious assault generally goes in by helicopter, as last seen on the Al Faw peninsula in 2003, so observers on shore aren't always a show-stopper. Furthermore, the Talisman M really can do the first part of the task – the sonar sweep – completely covertly and autonomously, according to Tonge. You might buy it for that purpose alone. And its secondary ability to operate as a surface Archerfish platform certainly reduces the level of risk for its operators, and lowers the profile of the operation somewhat. Talisman M won't be cheap, of course, but neither is running dedicated minehunting ships: and Talisman can apparently be based aboard a wide range of vessels, possibly making minehunters unnecessary. Even once you look at what it can really do rather than the inflated hype in the release, Talisman M could be worthwhile. The Special Boat Service (the maritime counterpart of the SAS) is said to be operating a different version already, optimised for covert beach-recce missions. BAE has got overly carried away on the publicity here. Even so, if Tonge's amended description is correct, the company may have produced a potentially worthwhile piece of kit. Given its involvement in other projects such as Nimrod, Eurofighter, the Tornado F3 et inglorious cetera, that would be worth noting. ® Lewis Page is a former Royal Navy minewarfare officer with extensive experience of both diving and ROV clearance operations. He spent seven years in minehunters. His book Lions, Donkeys and Dinosaurs: Waste and Blundering in the Military is out next month in paperback, with a new afterword. You should definitely buy that rather than a second-hand copy of the original edition.
A new set of rules aimed at VoIP operators in the UK was unveiled by Ofcom today, which could lead to UK internet telephone users winning rights to access emergency services. A public consultation last year echoed international concerns that VoIP users were often unable to contact emergency services and were unaware of the fact until they tried to to make the call. Ofcom's new code of practice requires VoIP operators to make accessibility to 999 calls clear, and a further investigation later this year will determine whether they should be compelled to furnish connections. VoIP operators would have to pay physical network owners like BT to complete calls. The delay will provide breathing space for industry lobby group ITSPA, which complained that Ofcom "red tape" would restrict VoIP growth if its members were forced to provide access to emergency services. Such a move by Norwegian regulators in 2005 led to Skype temporarily cutting off connections to the country's traditional telephone network. The eBay-owned outfit has since repeatedly mumbled it is "not a replacement telphony service". Vonage bowed to similar pressure in the US by cutting a deal with Verizon to route emergency calls. Ofcom said networks operating in the UK will also have to explain to consumers that - unlike with traditional lines - it's likely they'll be cut off in a power outage. The bugbear of number switching will be tackled too: VoIP operators won't be forced to offer it if customers jump ship, but they will be expected to have said they wouldn't when the contract was first signed. The code will come into force this June, and means VoIP firms will have to be more up front about other limitations of their services. The availability of features standard among traditional operators like call itemisation and directory assistance will need to be made clear from the outset. An executive summary of the rules is here. ®
Dimension Data has integrated Microsoft's end-to-end service management system into its Global Services Operating Architecture (GSOA). The IT infrastructure providers beta-tested Microsoft's System Centre Operations Manager 2007 for six months before fully integrating the service into its GSOA.
The US is to issue stamps marking three decades of Star Wars films. Darth Vader, Han Solo, and Yoda are among the set of 15 characters featuring in a set of Star Wars-themed stamps. All 15 stamps, each costing 41 cents, go on sale from 25 May, shortly after the US postage rate is increased to 41 cents. The US Postal Service launched the stamps at an event this week in Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, where the first Star Wars movie opened nearly 30 years ago. A first-day-of-issue ceremony marking the launch of the stamps will be held on Friday 25 May at Star Wars Celebration IV, the biggest Star Wars event in the galaxy, at the Los Angeles Convention Centre. The stamps will also be issued as a stamp sheet (picture here), with members of the public asked to vote for their favourite. The victor of an online poll will be issued as a separate stamp this summer. US Postal Service bosses reckon the success of the stamps might eclipse the success of Elvis-themed stamps, issued in 1973, the most successful novelty stamp issue to date. "Because of the movies' popularity, we believe these stamps have the potential of reaching the blockbuster status of the Elvis stamp, a milestone only the Force could attempt to surpass," said David Failor, executive director of stamp services at the US Postal Service. The stamps represent the latest Star Wars and US Postal Service collaboration. Earlier this month, 400 postboxes were decorated to look like R2-D2. The postal service is also offering customers the chance of entering a sweepstake by solving six different challenges about postal service products and services featuring a Star Wars theme. The winner earns an all expenses paid trip for four to the Star Wars convention in LA in May. ®
AnalysisAnalysis The Government's efforts to spot and intercept potential criminals during childhood, which first broke surface last summer, have come into sharper focus with the publication of this week's policy review, Building on Progress: Security, Crime and Justice,. "Universal checks throughout a child's development," says the review, will "help service providers to identify those most at risk of offending." These checks, effectively a series of 'spot the teen crim' tripwires, "should piggyback on existing contact points such as the transition to secondary school." This however should be seen in the context of the Government drive for increased data exchange among agencies dealing with children (via, for example, the Information Sharing Index), and on ever-increasing statutory requirements on professionals dealing with children to gather and record information. Overall, therefore, the system being constructed will increasingly 'crim-check' children whenever they come into contact with authority, agencies and services, not simply when they leave one school for another. The policy review would have us believe that sound science underpins its proposals. "Early intervention can be highly effective in preventing future crime", it tells us, and "individuals can move in and out of risk." So far, so uncontroversial. "However, by using intelligence on risk factors (such as conduct disorder or living in very low income families), high risk individuals can be identified early and specific, tailored interventions used. The availability of this kind of intelligence is increasing, meaning that a more systematic approach can be taken both in identifying which interventions work best and in applying them." If you thought you could spot a transition from stating the bleeding obvious to voodoo social science there, you would not be entirely wrong. "There is strong evidence that," the review adds, "when targeted effectively, early intervention and prevention can have a significant impact and be cost-effective... Agencies are increasingly able to identify those with significant problems and at risk of future offending early in their life." This increased ability on the part of Government agencies is at the very least debatable - what is it that they are finding out now that they didn't know already? And some of the evidence cited by the review is perhaps a little less than earth-shattering. It points to US studies and initiatives, including Nurse-Family Partnership and Perry Preschool, and to an earlier Strategy Unit document*, Predicting adult life outcomes from earlier signals, by Leon Feinstein and Ricardo Sabates. The general data from the first two is however not particularly controversial. Children who start disadvantaged through poverty, single and/or inadequate parenthood, in families with a history of crime, drug abuse, tend to do worse in later life, and tend to be more likely themselves to continue the cycle of crime and disadvantage. By giving such families more and better targeted support early on, however, it is possible to reduce the incidence of criminality and disadvantage in the child's later life. That's essentially what the Nurse-Family and Perry Preschool data tells us, and frankly one really does not need to go all the way to the United States in order to obtain this kind of information. The party currently in Government believes as an article of faith (and in the shape of a well known slogan, "tough on the causes of crime") that deprivation, crime and disadvantage breed deprivation, crime and disadvantage, and if the state itself did not at least to some extent agree, then we would not feel the need for social workers, check? So maybe there's less to all this than meets the eye. Social services, probation officers, health services all focus on these areas already, and all are at least intended to make an effective contribution to breaking the cycle. But there are a couple of problems here. The review presents predictable and unremarkable study data as a new and increasing body of evidence, and rather than proposing better support for the core systems and organisations dealing with the problems, it favours more in the way of "targeted crime prevention programmes such as Youth Inclusion and Support Panels (YISPs) and Youth Inclusion Programmes (YIPs)," adding that "there is scope to go even further by intervening earlier in a child's life." Meaning another series of organisations and programmes to add to the throng of agencies and professionals already crowding around the hapless child? Probably. Feinstein and Sabates highlight a second problem: "In our view," it says, "it would be irresponsible and socially and economically inefficient to ignore this very high level of capacity to identify early on those at risk of high cost, high harm outcomes." And, while it notes that there are issues "about the ethics and legality of access to data and about data linking and about the use of the data in the targeting of interventions... information is regularly gathered in schools, doctors' surgeries and elsewhere that in fact might be considerably more predictive for adult outcomes than that collected in the datasets investigated in this research study. Moreover, teachers, social workers and other practitioners routinely form assessments and perceptions of children that can be remarkably accurate about their level of risk." And it's Feinstein and Sabates report that favours monitoring from birth: "It seems likely, therefore, that the most useful framework for developmental measurement and assessment would start from birth with indicators of childhood health and development, together with measurement of family income, education, parenting skill and social ties to the neighbourhood or in terms of wider social and familial networks." There are a few trade-offs to be considered here. Professionals who're dealing with a child on a regular basis should quite clearly be in a position to form accurate assessments of them, and should be able to some extent to make a positive intervention where necessary. There may be some benefit to be gained by making such assessments more widely available among other professionals involved with the child, or who could become involved with the child, but on the other hand, by spreading the net wider one might find that the assessments became more cautious, less informed, and their quality degraded. And scoring systems, although they can be useful tools, can also contribute to this degradation if in deployment they effectively deskill assessments through automation. Nor is it inevitably the case that the more organisations and systems involved, the better the outcome. Organisations peripheral to the case of a particular child will nevertheless, when presented with a statutory box to check, check it, in part for reasons of arse-covering and in part because that's what organisations do. Clouds of doubtful and marginal data static will build up around the individual, possibly resulting in more, but less effective, intervention, with outcomes less favourable (or at the very least, less cost-effective) than the ones you started out with. Feinstein and Sabates favour "a system of risk monitoring at which certain levels of risk would trigger greater monitoring and assessment, and ultimately, if judged appropriate, intervention. This is the same process as is followed in relation to medical practice." Well, up to a point... They also note that "it may not be appropriate to respond to these signals of risk... if there were no appropriate interventions." In fairness, we should be clear that they are alive to the importance of the quality of the assessment and the validity of the intervention. But will the system be? One might doubt whether an agency, presented with an amber or red signal on a child's file, would be prepared to do nothing on the basis that there was nothing worthwhile that could be done, and risk accusations of negligence a couple of years down the line. Once the data exists, it will multiply, and it will produce pressure for more and more intervention, whether or not it is appropriate. Other effects of the drive for data collection and matching have also been noted. Individuals and families who might be viewed as being at risk have begun to withhold information from care workers, on the basis that they know that such information will be passed on, resulting in multiple interventions from multiple agencies. Mention a slight problem and - depending on who you are - you get at least one social worker. And related to this effect we have a tendency for intervention to cluster around easier and more easily identifiable cases and 'issues', while those most in need are less likely to get support, partially because they're difficult to identify, and partially because they know who they are, fear (with some justification) the consequences, and therefore take steps to avoid identification. As the Government pushes for more data and more sharing in this and other areas, we're likely to see this effect magnify. ® * Leon Feinstein, co-author with Ricardo Sabates, is director of the Centre for Research on the Wider Benefits of Learning, and keeps a fascinating CV there. His PhD is in economics, and he lists an impressive series of research funding wins, largely in the field of education. The DfES contributed in excess of £1.3 million between 2001 and 2004, while funding has also been forthcoming from the Treasury, the Cabinet Office and the Smith Institute, which is one of those think tanks the media satirically refers to as "left-leaning". We're jolly impressed, doubly so considering that we're the sort of shifty characters who could never bring ourselves to be so commendably open about money.
Web driver's licence please One thing you can say about fraud, there's a lot of it about. A study sponsored by the government found more than one in 10 people had experienced online fraud with an average loss of £875. Many wanted some kind of web surfing driver's licence to help them understand security better.
Bought a single from iTunes? Want to buy the rest of the album? Well, you always could, just by buying all the other tracks one after the other, but Apple has finally added a button to do it with a single click.
MPs have voted in favour of a government proposal to give each of them £10,000 to spend on websites to give the public more of an idea of what goes on in Parliament, the BBC reports. House of Commons leader Jack Straw told MPs: "The purpose of this allowance is to contribute to better public understanding of what this Parliament is about and what it does. It's important for the health of our democracy for the public to know more about what we do." He said MPs had previously set up websites which broke rules by carrying party political content. The BBC reports that Mr Straw said websites funded by the extra £10,000 must not promote a party or politician, or raise funds, and must carry a message saying they are publicly paid for. The £10,000 limit was set by the Members Estimate Committee, which said MPs needed to do more to communicate with the public. But some are not enamoured with the idea, calling it "an exercise in shameless self-promotion" that would benefit incumbent MPs for no clearly stated purpose. MPs got nearly £86.8m in expenses last year, a rise of £6m from the year before. This is an encouraging development, though - it shows that the embers are still burning under that old firebrand idea of industrial democracy. We may all be voting to set our own salaries yet. ®
It seems that Vodafone's email service is still not working for everyone. Anyone using Firefox as their internet browser is continuing to experience intermittent problems with Vodafone.net which, as we reported last week, had been down for at least five days due to "a simultaneous hardware and software failure". For some people who type http://www.vodafone.net into their Firefox location bar, an error pops up that says "the connection was interrupted". Lots of Reg readers have contacted us to say they're currently unable to access their email accounts via the increasingly popular Firefox browser. It seems Vodafone is yet to resolve browser-specific issues for its free email service. In the meantime its users can't gain access to their mail unless they fiddle around with security settings or opt for another browser such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer. One reader told us, "I had been having problems getting to vodafone.net with Opera and Firefox. However, when I turned on all of the insecure protocols in Opera, I could access the site." When asked if there was a browser-specific problem, a Vodafone spokesperson confirmed: "We are aware of a problem with access to Vodafone.net via FireFox 2.0. We are in the process of sourcing a remedy and in the mean time we recommend customers use an alternative browser. We apologise for any inconvenience caused." Elsewhere on planet Vodafone, part of the company's voice network went down this morning. The spokesperson told El Reg that "a very small proportion of our pay as you talk customers may have experienced problems making a call this morning. This problem has been rectified," and once again that increasingly popular Vodafone phrase was used, "we apologise for any inconvenience caused". Good timing then that it may be considering a re-pricing structure on some of its data tariffs if one person's "two out of 10 customer survey" story turns out to be true (read here). Vodafone, however, remained tight-lipped on the matter and said: "We review our tariffs and offers on a regular basis but can not confirm any specific changes." ®
Breaking up might have been hard to do when Neil Sedaka sang about it, but thanks to Sir Tim Berners Lee, it is now as easy for teenagers to break up with each other as it is for them to microwave a junk food sausage. Yes, the latest thing to do is to break up with your beau on his or her MySpace page. It is a far cry from the heady days we at El Reg can remember, when people would break up with each other by text message. So cosy, so personal. So old hat. Danah Boyd, a doctoral candidate in the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, is studying online teen behaviour. She says teenagers are now all too aware that any kind of recorded message can be manipulated to mean something beyond its original intent. They also know that people can lie about private conversations, and so choose to break up in public so everyone knows their side of the story. Boyd writes: "By breaking up through MySpace comments, the heartbreaker is attempting to assert their view for everyone else to see so that they cannot be accused of saying something else in private." The risk, of course, is that the ex will simply delete you from their list of friends, thus condemning all your hard crafted, bile drenched words of parting to cyberspace oblivion. Boyd ponders the very public nature of teenage relationships here in a blog entry about her research. She concludes that although the lack of privacy bothers older people, for teens, public displays make all the sense in the world: "Although the mall and movie theatre are still desired outings for teen couples, many have far greater access to networked publics like MySpace than they do to unmediated publics. Thus, it's natural that the primary plumage display takes place in these forums," she concludes. ®
Chinese police are warning mobile users to think again before sending pornographic pictures or text messages from their phones. Anyone caught sending explicit messages could face a fine of 3,000 yuan ($388) and up to two weeks in prison. If you are caught selling mucky mobile content you could spend up to three years in prison. This month, 19 secondhand phone dealers have been arrested for selling porn for phones. Beijing police told China Daily the problem was growing: "The sending of pornographic text messages is becoming more prevalent in the capital and there is evidence that a growing number of mobile-phone dealers are getting involved." The police notice also warned people not to download dirty content from the internet or forward it on to friends. More from China Daily here. According to the CIA's World Fact Book, China has about 438 million mobile phones in use. ®
Would-be Apple TV buyers looking to hook the iPod-style set-top-box to a standard-definition telly will be pleased to hear one of best ways of hooking the two up together is now rather cheaper.
CommentComment Retired US Admiral and convicted felon John Poindexter has been a busy man since Congress scrapped his Total Information Awareness (TIA) system and punctured his Orwellian dream of linking every government database imaginable in pursuit of evildoers, as Wired News reports.
Enterasys has added an uprated set of Distributed Flow Engine (DFE) blades to its Matrix N-Series secure chassis switches, with the aim of selling the devices into core networks within large enterprises.
Amazon today pushed the boat out - a nanometer or two - with this outstanding offer for UK customers: At time of writing, the promo appears to have been pulled. But our thanks to the 20 readers who tipped us off. ®
An Indiana man bought some counterfeit Rockwell Automation software on eBay, set up the CD-duplicator and sold the disks on, you guessed it, eBay.
Sprint Nextel was the big loser in the $20bn telecomms contract dished out today by the US government. AT&T, Verizon Business and Qwest all won a slice of the humongous deal, the biggest telco contract ever. But Sprint was notably excluded from getting to make cash angels in the executive lounge today. Agency spending is estimated at $20bn but could go as high as $48bn. It replaces less gracefully named FTS2001 contract expiring this year, held by MCI and Sprint Nextel. The carrier had been the federal government's telecom provider for 18 years. Sprint Nextel was last seen kicking a can down the street, hand in pockets, head drooped. The new Networx Universal contract runs for 10 years and provides wireless voice, video and data services to 135 federal agency across 191 countries. The U.S. General Services Administration announced the winners of the contract at a press conference in Washington D.C., this morning. The "x" in Networx shows that someone in the U.S. federal government totally down with those x-treme kidZ these days — what, with their radical 360 sk8board moves, slamming Mountain Dews in their baggy pants while they surf the myspace internets. It's street cred that's been sorely lacking from government contracts these days. The three companies have assembled consortiums to compete for individual contracts with the 135 agencies. AT&T's crew: Cingular Wireless, Northrop Grumman, Electronic Data Systems, Global Crossing and SRA International In Qwest's crib: Alcatel-Lucent, Science Applications International Corp., Akamai Technologies and Bearing Point Verizon's posse: HP, WilTel Communications, Verizon Wireless, G2 Satellite Solutions, and Comtech Telecommunications. But Sprint Nextel may not be completely kicked to the curb. On the horizon is the less lucrative portion of the deal; the Networx Enterprise contract for establishing secure, IP and managed network services to the gov'ment. The contract is intended for smaller providers but quoth the wise man, "money is money". Winners of the Network Enterprise contract will be announced in May. ®
Intel will stash away an “extra” $275m this quarter after settling with the IRS. The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) sent Intel a note this week, saying it has closed the books on an audit for the chip maker's 1999 to 2002 tax returns. As a result, Intel will fork over $275m less in tax payments than it had planned. In addition, Intel now says that its 2007 tax rate should end up below a previous forecast of 30 per cent.
Confused about how the emerging identity standards and systems fit together and which to work with? You're not alone. There's a lot of talk – and quite a few demos – of interoperable identity systems, but how do you know how well they really fit together?
While the methodology wars continue to flourish, and advocates of this process versus that process slug it out to show that they alone are following the one true path, there is one technique that all seem to agree on: the use case.
TJX has taken the crown for presiding over the largest credit card heist ever, with a tally of 45.6m numbers lost to unknown thieves who intruded on the US-based retailing giant's networks over a span of 17 months. Personal information, often including social security numbers, for at least 451,000 was also lifted.
Dell says an audit committee convened to probe its bookkeeping has found evidence of misconduct and accounting errors that may result in restatements to previous financial results. The preliminary finding, which also disclosed potential deficiencies in the company's financial controls, is the latest announcement to raise doubts about the accounting of the cut-rate PC maker.
Server seller Supermicro has endured a most modest IPO. The vendor offered up 8 million shares of common stock at $8 per share. By the end of the day's trading, Supermicro's stock (SMCI) rose 9.5 per cent to close at $8.76. That's a healthy enough IPO for a hardware vendor but hardly the stuff of which dreams are made.
Wall St Linux darling Red Hat was down in after hours trading Thursday after reporting a sharp drop in income on sales that grew less than expected for the fourth quarter.
Security watchers are calling on net governance body ICANN to adopt a new top level domain name to be used exclusively by registered banks and financial organisations. A .safe or .sure domain name would give consumers increased piece of mind that they are dealing with a legitimate financial institution while potentially making it easier to identify rogue sites.