30th > March > 2007 Archive

Exploit for latest Windows vuln already animated

A vulnerability in the way Windows handles animated cursors puts users at risk of being pwnd, and several nefarious websites are already trying to exploit the flaw, according to the SANS Internet Storm Center. The flaw is present on virtually the entire line of Windows OSes, including Vista, which has been held up as Redmond's poster child for safe computing.
Dan Goodin, 30 Mar 2007
BEA logo

BEA unveils cubefarm 2.0 trio

BEA Systems has been stoking up the hype for a trio of long-promised technologies that add Web 2.0 capabilities to its middleware. The middleware vendor used an emerging technology event in Southern California to unveil AquaLogic Ensemble, AquaLogic Pages and AquaLogic Pathways - previously known as projects Runner, Builder and Graffiti respectively, which have been in development since at least late 2005.
Gavin Clarke, 30 Mar 2007
Warning: aircraft

SugarCRM aims big with developers

Developers will feature big in SugarCRM's plan to penetrate the enterprise, through greater customization capabilities and scalability for its software. The hosted and on-site customer relationship management (CRM) start-up promises a major upgrade, version 5.0, this summer. Due in beta next month, SugarCRM 5.0 will scale to implementations of 5,000 seats, up from roughly 2,000.
Gavin Clarke, 30 Mar 2007
1

ICANN ready to shut up and move on

ICANN LisbonICANN Lisbon "Turistas, if you cannot respect the silence of the Portuguese, go to Spain" - graffiti spotted at the entrance to the midieval Alfama neighborhood of Lisbon
Burke Hansen, 30 Mar 2007
4

Dead dinos no help to emerging mammals

The triumphant rise of the mammals had nothing to do with the extinction of the dinosaurs, according to new research, published in the journal Nature. The paper's co-author, Kate Jones, told BBC Radio 4: "The meteor impact that killed off the dinosaurs has traditionally been thought to have given mammals the edge they needed." The text book theory goes that with the dinosaurs gone, the mammals suddenly had an embarrassment of ecological niches to exploit and roles to evolve into. But with the new family tree, this conventional wisdom is being called into question. Boffins at the Zoological society in London, including Jones, have rebuilt a mammalian family "supertree", showing when and where various groupings of mammals emerged. Their evidence, which draws on several peer reviewed studies, shows that mammals had begun to diversify long before the extinction of the dinosaurs. The work shows that the major subgroupings of placental mammals emerged 93 million years ago, some 28 million years before the impact thought most likely to have killed off the giant lizards. They remained quite static in their existence, the rate of evolution falling back, until 10 million years or so after the dinosaurs left the building. The beginning of this epoch, called the Eocene, was characterised by a period of extremely fast warming: geological evidence suggests the global temperature rose by six degrees in a thousand years or less. However, Dr Rob Asher, an expert on mammalian phylogeny at the University of Cambridge, told the BBC that the idea of a sudden extinction of dinosaurs and subsequent flourishing of mammals is something of a straw man. "Palaeontologists have known for over a hundred years that not all modern placental mammal groups appear right after the K-T boundary. Most orders of placental mammals - what I mean by that is cats and bats and whales and people - appear at the Eocene. On the flipside, not all dinosaurs disappear at the end of the Cretaceous," he said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Mar 2007
4

Boeing to test fuel-cell powered publicity plane

Boeing's European research centre has developed an experimental fuel-cell-powered manned aircraft, which is about to begin testing. The US aerospace giant's Madrid-based Boeing Research & Technology Europe (BR&TE) business unit has been working on the "Fuel Cell Demonstrator Airplane" (FCDA) project since 2001. A clutch of European companies and universities have provided most of the technology, and flight tests will be conducted this year in Spain. The demonstrator is actually a modified glider rather than a conventional powered airframe, unsurprisingly considering the low output offered by current fuel-cell technology. Even with a glider's lessened thrust requirement, and only a single pilot aboard, the FCDA cannot take off or climb on fuel-cell power alone. It has a battery pack, which supplies extra power to the electrically-driven propeller to get it off the ground. The programme isn't intended to be a real fuel-cell aircraft, but it "will demonstrate for the first time that a manned airplane can maintain a straight level flight with fuel cells as the only power source". That isn't exactly a massive achievement for the fuel cell. It's actually rather less than the performance that can be achieved using the pilot's muscles: a human-powered aircraft took off without supplementary energy sources and flew across the English Channel as long ago as 1979. Even this relatively unimpressive milestone hasn't been easy to reach. Flight tests were originally scheduled for 2004. That slipped to "late 2004 or early 2005", and then to this year. Six years of development to arrive with less capability than a late-'70s flying pedalo doesn't seem like a brilliant deal for Boeing's shareholders. But the company isn't worried. "The participating companies...are sharing the project research costs," according to Boeing. And anyway, these costs aren't large. Michael Friend, BR&TE programs eirector, estimated $1.5m in 2003. This sort of cash is peanuts to Boeing; it'd happily pay that much just for the headlines this project has earned, and the slight tinge of eco-friendliness thereby added to the company's otherwise not-exactly-green reputation. And it is a pretty faint tinge of green, actually. "Fuel cells are emission-free and quieter than hydrocarbon fuel-powered engines. They save fuel and are cleaner for the environment," says the Boeing release, and of course this is true. But hydrogen for fuel cells has to be made using energy. Hydrogen-powered engines merely shift the emissions/waste problems to the fuel plant; they don't eliminate them. There will never be enough solar or wind power even to supply existing electricity demand, let alone even more to make hydrogen with. Useful fuel-cell planes – even if they could be built – wouldn't allow the human race to get by without hydrocarbon or nuclear power. Anyway, Boeing admits outright that "fuel cells and electric motors will not replace jet engines on commercial transports". In other words, they will have no significant environmental impact on the aviation industry. The most the company really hopes for the technology is that it might replace the present Auxiliary Power Units (APUs) fitted in airliners. The APU is a small extra jet engine, usually mounted in the tail, which can provide electric power to the aircraft's systems, either in an emergency or when the main engines are shut down on the ground. Even that's a long way off. So much for Boeing's new green credentials. But the company is probably looking for other PR benefits from the FCDA. In particular, Boeing would like to generate a bit of goodwill outside the US. "It's about establishing relationships with companies and universities, especially in Europe," said Friend. Or perhaps more accurately, it's about chumming up to European governments who have a lot of influence over airlines - Boeing's main customers. A lot of European national airlines operate Boeing planes, and Boeing would like this to continue. But Boeing don't expect to unseat the likes of Airbus and EADS in European affections. It'll happily put on sideshows like this one in Europe. But when Boeing has a genuine big-budget hi-tech demonstrator to build, which it thinks might actually lead somewhere important, it won't give the job to BR&TE in Madrid. The X-37 hypersonic spaceplane, for instance, seems more likely to be put together at the Phantom Works in America. If Boeing really believed in fuel-cell planes, it'd be doing the same thing with those. But it doesn't – it's admitted as much. ®
Lewis Page, 30 Mar 2007

LG is next major to take a licence to Intertrust DRM

LG Electronics has licensed Intertrust's patents for its mobile voice and data products. The patents will allow LG rights for a number of digital rights management systems supported on its products. In February, Intertrust announced a new cut price licensing program for its patents, the most important of which relate to how keys are securely managed in a DRM, how to support a domain of related devices with DRM, and how to interoperate between different DRM systems. This move broke the deadlock which had existed around the OMA patent pool that was being put together by the MPEG LA, but which also had ContentGuard as a key member. By bypassing that patent pool Intertrust was saying "you might want to license our patents, as long as you don't think you need the ContentGuard patents". Contentguard feels it holds essential patents in regard to how rights are expressed, using a rights expression language (REL), though this is coming more and more into question, as there are other, simpler ways of expressing rights, for instance defining a prior domain through registering a family's or a business's devices and limiting acquired rights to these. Since then Telefonica has taken a trial to Intertrust Marlin DRM technology, and now LG has taken a license to its patents to go with the sole license it had sold to Vodafone in November 2005. Perhaps an Intertrust backed OMA DRM will come to dominate mobile handsets after all. Copyright © 2007, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 30 Mar 2007

AMD updates Catalyst graphics software

AMD has posted the latest version of its ATI Catalyst graphics chip driver package. The new release, 7.3, allows OpenGL applications to run in CrossFire mode under Windows Vista whatever ATI Radeon X1000-series graphics cards they're working with.
Hard Reg, 30 Mar 2007

Orange puts the Beeb in your pocket

L'Orange has done a deal to put selected BBC content onto some of its handsets. Orange customers who sign up to a mobile telly package get access to BBC1, BBC3, and BBC News24. They will also be able to listen to streams of eight radio stations: Radio1, 1Xtra, Radio2, Radio3, Radio4, 6 Music, BBC7, and the Asian Network. All programmes will be on handsets and ordinary telly at the same time. The service starts in April, with prices starting at £5 a month. Orange TV is available on five handsets and includes content from Disney, ITN, Channel4, Sky, and Bloomberg. Richard Halton, controller of business strategy at the BBC, said: "Mobile content is an important part of the broadcasting landscape and the BBC is looking at ways in which mobile devices will shape services of the future for licence fee payers. "To this end, the BBC will be undertaking extensive and unique research into consumer behaviour and experience throughout the 3G mobile syndication trial. There's been relatively little consumer research done into this area, and it will provide us with a detailed insight into consumer behaviour." ®
John Oates, 30 Mar 2007

Expect a wave of Apple TV imitators waving Atheros chips

CommentComment All the talk this week about Apple TV has been highly entertaining. Will it or won't it create a new genre for watching TV wirelessly? But there are two problems with all the talk. Firstly, most of it is about the wrong product and, secondly, much of it is about the wrong company.
Faultline, 30 Mar 2007
1

Spend £100k+ and save £0.02!

Those of you who'd been thinking of splashing out a few quid on albums or books could have availed yourselves yesterday of a sensational offer which wowed customers down at the UK tentacle of etailer Amazon: Remarkable. Thanks very much to all those who wrote to selflessly share this once-in-a-lifetime offer with other readers. Sadly, it had already been withdrawn from much of Amazon's site by late afternoon yesterday, doubtless due to the stampede of punters wishing to take the opportunity to save what one correspondent calculated as a hefty 0.00002 per cent saving. ®
Lester Haines, 30 Mar 2007

Forget WiMax, Stockholm's got cable to spare

ColumnColumn You could not think of a better place to demonstrate the wonders of WiMAX. A district, 84 kilometers across, divided into 24,000 plots of land with open, deep water between each plot. It's the Stockholm archipelago, East of Sweden, and almost every island is inhabited. Intel, Cisco and Stockholm Cable (Stokab) have turned this into the biggest showcase of WiMAX wireless you will find.
Guy Kewney, 30 Mar 2007
6

What's the quickest route from California to Stockholm?

Google Maps seems to have got itself a sense of humour, if its recommended route from Stanford, California, to Stockholm is anything to go by. The entire journey is estimated at 7,826 miles (about 31 days 18 hours), but that calculation doesn't appear to take into account step 33: Spendid. For the record, back in 1969 Brit John Fairfax rowed from the Canary Islands to Florida, an epic feat which took him 180 days. Accordingly, you might want to factor in an extra six months before setting out from the US of A. ® Bootnote Thanks to Alex Munroe for the directions, and to those of you who wrote to point out that this tomfoolery also pops up in the suggested route from New York to London (see step 23) and a raft of other Transatlantic trips.
Lester Haines, 30 Mar 2007

Government may back down on 'neutering' of FOI

The government has stepped back from controversial plans to change the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. It has launched a supplementary consultation (pdf) that could result in a U-turn on some of its widely-opposed plans. Following a government-commissioned report which identified journalists as a likely source of the most expensive FOI requests, the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) said that it was "minded" to lower the cost threshold above which public authorities could refuse requests. Crucially, it also increased the number of activities which could be charged for in the calculation of costs, putting most complicated requests beyond the threshold and eligible for refusal on cost grounds. The DCA has now launched a supplementary consultation, asking for views on the plans and for alternative suggestions of how it could balance openness and the need to keep costs to the public purse down. "It is entirely right a reasonable amount of money and time is spent dealing with requests for information," said information rights minister Baroness Catherine Ashton. "But public money is limited and it is the government's responsibility to ensure it is not unduly diverted from supporting the delivery of frontline services. "We would like to hear all views and ensure people have the opportunity to comment fully, so we have today published a supplementary paper on the consultation, inviting further comments," she said. The consultation seeks alternatives to the government's proposals. "Do you consider that the draft regulations would succeed in dealing with the problem? If not do you have any other suggestions for dealing with disproportionately burdensome requests?" it asks. The move was welcomed by the Campaign for Freedom of Information, which had opposed the proposed changes. "This raises the strong possibility that the government will eventually decide to leave the current arrangements untouched," said Maurice Frankel, the campaign's director. "If it does decide to make any changes they are likely to be far more limited than the highly damaging restrictions which had been proposed." "The decision will now be deferred until after Tony Blair stands down," said Frankel. "It is extremely unlikely that Gordon Brown, who is promising to 'renew' the government, would attempt to do so by neutering the FOI Act in the way that had been proposed." Public authorities are allowed to add up the cost of finding and extracting information which is requested, charged at a fixed £25 an hour. If that cost comes in under the threshold, which is £450 for local authorities and £600 for central government, then the information must be handed over. The new proposals allowed authorities to charge for more of the activity involved, such as reading documents and consulting other staff. More controversially, it allowed an authority to conflate requests from different employees of one organisation. If an organisation's requests broke the cost barrier it was banned from making another request for three months under a plan which would have thwarted the efforts of newspapers and broadcasters to use the Act to obtain information. "I'm particularly concerned that responsible media use of the FOI Act is the target for this," Liberal Democrat MP Alan Beith told OUT-LAW when the proposals were first published. Last summer, Beith chaired a Commons Committee which reported on the progress of the FOI Act's use. "They occasionally cite abuses of this, some of which are by individuals rather than media organisations, some of which can be dealt with by existing powers and none of which require this sort of draconian measure," said Beith. The consultation is open until 21st June. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 30 Mar 2007
Sony PlayStation 3

Sony hints at 80GB PS3

Sony is to introduce an 80GB version of the PlayStation 3, documents filed earlier this month with the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reveal.
Tony Smith, 30 Mar 2007
1

ICANN rejects .xxx

ICANN LisbonICANN Lisbon In an unusual open board meeting today, ICANN once again rejected the establishment of a .xxx top level domain (TLD). The vote was 8-4 with a single abstention, that of CEO Paul Twomey. The open meeting provided an opportunity to hear a debate that in the past had been conducted behind closed doors. The debate seemed to follow attitudes hardened by years of politics surrounding the issuance of the domain. The debate raged largely around the phony issue of whether a .xxx domain would put ICANN in the content regulation business, when rejecting the domain is itself a content regulation decision. Those opposed to the domain repeatedly issued proclamations about the supposed lack of proof that it would provide a "responsible" forum for adult entertainment. The dissenters pointed out the ludicrous hypocrisy of this position, particularly in light of the fact that ICANN had previously approved the contract, and emphasised over the course of the week that promoting competition in the TLD business has become its central mission. They said what ICANN really needs is a truly content-neutral TLD approval process, one with clear standards that apply equally for all TLD applicants. Standards such as meeting the technical and financial requirements, which are black and white and are not subject to political pressure from government or government-connected moralizers. The opponents of .xxx went to great pains to emphasize that political pressure had nothing to do with their decision, although the only other rational explanation were the qualms board members felt over the concept of the .xxx domain - although they practically tripped over themselves claiming that they were voting to keep ICANN out of the content regulation business. ICANN should only reject domains for moral reasons in the rare circumstance that they are universally opposed - that would truly promote competition in the TLD racket, and once and for all get ICANN out of the content regulation business. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Burke Hansen, 30 Mar 2007
4

Google rebuilds New Orleans

Google has casued a bit of a kerfuffle down in New Orleans by apparently rebuilding the city overnight and removing post-Katrina satellite images from both Google Maps and Google Earth, according to an Associated Press report.
Lester Haines, 30 Mar 2007

Bluetooth 2.1 promises painless pairing

A new version of the Bluetooth short-range wireless connectivity standard has been published. The update promises to boost battery life and make pairing gadgets a doddle.
Tony Smith, 30 Mar 2007

Brown blames foreigners for small.biz tax hikes

Chancellor Gordon Brown blamed pesky foreigners for the increased tax burden imposed on small businesses in the Budget, when speaking to the House of Commons Treasury Committee yesterday. Brown was asked about the benefits of immigration by the committee, which was meeting to discuss the Budget. Brown quoted Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, who said immigration contributed 0.25 per cent of US economic growth. Asked why the tax burden for small businesses had increased, Brown claimed that large numbers of immigrants from eastern Europe were being encouraged to register as managed services companies in order to reduce tax. He said people were registering before even arriving in the UK. "It is a problem we are determined to solve without penalising the company which is investing in the future." Brown said the UK has 4.4 million businesses of which 3.2 million are not incorporated so pay income tax and national insurance in the normal way. Of the 1.3 million* which are incorporated, 400,000 pay no tax so will not be effected by the changes. Some of the remaining 900,000 firms are registered only for purposes of tax avoidance. Her Majesty's Customs and Excise issued a pre-Budget report on tackling managed services companies. There's video footage of the committee meeting on this page of parliamentlive.tv. ® * We know these numbers don't add up. Blame Gordon.
John Oates, 30 Mar 2007

Payday delayed for 400,000

Nearly half a million people will not be paid their salary today due to a spectacular cock-up with the UK's key banking processing system. The Association for Payment Clearing Services (Apacs), which is the industry body for payment systems in the UK, said: "The entire banking and payments industry is extremely sorry that this has happened and we are working to resolve the issue and limit the impact on individual customers." Apacs said up to 400,000 customers will be affected by the computer glitch, leaving many out-of-pocket this weekend. It said salaries will be automatically processed through the central clearing house (BACS) tomorrow, which represents about 1.6 per cent of the total 30 million payments made daily through the BACS system. All banks have already been alerted to the problem, according to Apacs, and it hopes that anyone affected by the computer glitch will be paid by Monday 2 April at the latest. Apacs said: "Our clear priority is to ensure that customers are not out-of-pocket and that any customers affected will not miss any payments being made (like monthly mortgage payments) or suffer any charges for being overdrawn, where this has been caused by the missed salary payment." It also said some customers could have problems withdrawing money from their current accounts and cash machines over the weekend. A call into Apacs' press office unsurprisingly revealed "a big list of people" trying to find out why the problem had occurred. According to the Financial Times, the BACS system was running slower than usual on Wednesday afternoon which led to some payments being delayed. The system is now believed to be running normally and Apacs said it is "confident" that everyone will be paid by Monday. Just as well this isn't the Easter weekend then. ®
Kelly Fiveash, 30 Mar 2007
1

Retailer sues registrars in $12m domain tasting suit

US retailer Neiman Marcus is suing two domain name registrars for more than $12m over their registration of names containing variations of its brand. The two linked companies are accused of improperly registering more than 40 domain names. The case takes Name.com and Spot Domains to task over the relatively new phenomenon of "domain tasting". This is the practice of registering domains for five days then cancelling those that do not attract enough traffic. Taking advantage of a five day cancellation period, that practice costs the registering party nothing. Within that five day period, adverts are published on the pages, and any page that receives enough hits to earn more than the $6 per year domain name registration fee is kept and paid for. Often the pages involved are slight misspellings of famous names or trademarks which attract people who incorrectly type addresses into their computers. The case accuses the companies of cybersquatting, trademark infringement, false designation of origin, and unfair competition in the District Court for the District of Colorado. It says some of the domain names registered and offered for sale by the registrars were "confusingly similar" to trademarks that belonged to Neiman Marcus. The suit also says the sites were used to display adverts for competitors to Neiman Marcus. It says the registrars had no legitimate or fair use of the domain names and did not trade under any name similar to the domains it registered, which included neimancmarcus.com and neimanmarcucs.com. "Neiman Marcus allege[s] that Defendants' acts are willful and malicious, and intended to injure and cause harm to Neiman Marcus," said the court documents lodged by the firm. It claims damages of $100,000 per domain name registered, which means that the total requested damages amount to more than $4m. The suit goes on to say that because the alleged behaviour of the two registrars was wilful, Neiman Marcus is entitled to have its damages trebled, to over $12m. In addition to those damages, it says the company will ask for damages relating to trademark dilution and infringement, the amounts of which will be determined at trial. Neiman Marcus has already taken a successful case against another registrar, Dotster Inc, which that company settled by promising not to register any domains connected to Neiman Marcus or its subsidiary retail chain Bergdorf Goodman. The practice of domain tasting is said to be increasingly widespread because companies can set up automated systems to register hundreds or even thousands of domains and de-register them automatically. Reports claim that up to six million domains are tied up in tasting systems at any one time. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 30 Mar 2007
10

Technobullies on the rise in school yard stripping games

Canadian researchers studying online bullying have found that teenagers are happily exploiting emerging technologies, such as texting, emails, and social networking sites in their playground power struggles. The ease with which a bully can hide his or her identity is also changing the game. According to Professor Faye Mishna, cyber bullies are "forcing" friends to strip for their webcams, and are then sending the images to all and sundry. This, she says, is particularly true between girls and their boyfriends, and even more so when a couple breaks up. She told Reuters: "Girls might send [a topless picture] to their boyfriend and she is pressured to do it thinking he's just going to see it. So she gives in and the next thing you know it's all over [the place]." Mishna is basing her research - which will be completed this summer and published in autumn - on focus group interviews with 47 students in grades five to 12 (roughly between the ages of 10 and 18). She said the bullying was often going unreported because the students were scared their parents would restrict their access to the computer to keep them safe. The ability of bullies to remain anonymous was another factor, with some saying reporting the bullying was pointless if the culprits could not be tracked down. Mishna says she sees a trend for the traditional victims of bullying - the computer geeks - to turn the tables in the online world. "Traditional bullying is a power differential," she told the news agency. "The power before could have been age, size, smartness, popularity, ability. Now it's the perceived anonymous nature." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Mar 2007

Visa takes a punt on m-payments

Visa is pushing for closer collaboration between the wireless and credit card industries and has invested in the Dublin-based dotMobi domain registry. The world's leading payment card company is taking active steps to ensure that it remains at the forefront of cashless payments solutions by launching a mobile phone platform and flirting with companies operating in the wireless space. In a keynote speech delivered at the CTIA Wireless conference in Orlando, Florida on Wednesday, Visa USA chief executive John Philip Coghlan said mobile payment is at a critical moment in its development, and to realise its full potential requires close collaboration between the wireless and payment card industries. The credit card giant is looking at teaming up with mobile phone companies to enable cashless transactions with a handset, known as m-payment, or m-commerce. "Given the striking similarities in the paths our two industries have travelled, it is only natural we have arrived at a moment of convergence," said Coghlan. "In fact, the convergence of payments and mobile communications is not just logical - it is inevitable." Coghlan emphasised Visa's commitment to mobile payments by discussing the firm's recently launched mobile phone platform and announced a number of new strategic alliances with the likes of mobile software provider Ecrio, handset manufacturer Kyocera Wireless, digital infrastructure firm Verisign, and dotMobi. The Dublin-based domain registration firm is behind the first and only internet address designed specifically for mobile phones. Since its launch last September, more than 450,000 dot-mobi (.mobi) domains have been registered with the company which is backed leading mobile operators, network and device manufacturers, and internet content providers, such as Ericsson, Hutchison Three, Microsoft, Nokia, T-Mobile, Telefonica Moviles, and Vodafone. "Visa is committed to working with technology leaders, large and small, that together can unlock the enormous value inherent in our respective networks," said Coghlan. "Our strategic investments and partnerships underscore our commitment to laying the foundation for secure and ubiquitous electronic payment on mobile devices." Coghlan also released the results of a recent online survey that looked at consumer attitudes toward mobile payment. According to the study, 57 per cent of those surveyed expressed interest in getting a phone with a payment application included. The vast majority of these individuals are also prepared to pay more for a mobile device with this payment feature. In addition, 64 per cent of consumers in the survey aged 18 to 42 years said they would consider switching mobile operators from one that does not offer mobile payment options to one that does, while 58 per cent said they'd consider switching financial institutions to gain access to mobile payment services. Lastly, most respondents said they would prefer mobile purchases to pass through a credit or debit card network and appear on their card statement instead of appearing on a wireless bill. "These numbers show me that younger consumers want the best of both worlds - they want the freedom and functionality of a mobile phone with the security, convenience, and ease of use of their debit or credit card," concluded Coghlan. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Charlie Taylor, 30 Mar 2007

In-car iPod handling hinders driving ability - study

A US university has proved what most of us realised already: using an iPod while driving makes you more likely to have an accident. According to a study conducted by Philadelphia's Drexel University, it's as dangerous as handling a mobile phone.
Tony Smith, 30 Mar 2007
1

British blogger wins dismissal case

The English woman sacked for blogging by the accountants she worked for in Paris has won her case for unfair dismissal. Catherine Sanderson ran what she considered an anonymous blog while working in Paris for accountancy firm Dixon Wilson. When the beancounters were told of her blog she was sacked for gross misconduct. Sanderson believed the firm could not be identified from her blog while the accountants believed that a picture of her on the blog was enough to identify them. The blog did mention Sanderson's work, without identifying the firm, but was mostly about her life as a separated mother of one living in Paris. Ms Sanderson was awarded a year's salary plus costs. On her blog she said the verdict was a relief and she would go out and paint the town red if only she could get a babysitter for her daughter. Dixon Wilson still has a month to appeal the decision. The firm declined to comment on the result. As a result of the row Sanderson has landed herself a book deal. More from the Telegraph here. Or visit La Petite Anglaise herself. ®
John Oates, 30 Mar 2007
12

US military tests ground-penetrating monster bomb

The US military's effort to build what may become the largest conventional bomb ever used is making progress. Boeing announced on Monday that its Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP) demo weapon had successfully completed a "static tunnel lethality test" at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The MOP, which also goes under the names "Big BLU" and "Direct Hard Target Strike Weapon", is a 30,000-pound brute, intended for delivery by B-52 Stratofortresses or B-2 stealth bombers against deeply buried or heavily protected targets. It's being developed under the auspices of the US military's interestingly-named Threat Reduction Agency, which normally does things like verifying nuke disposals. The MOP is intended to reduce the threats faced by the USA only, of course, by pulverising them. From the viewpoint of other countries the new bomb could be described more as a threat enhancement. Even so, to some the MOP seems like a relatively delicate tool. The US originally had a plan to deal with enemy bunkers, WMD facilities or whatnot using a special ground-penetrating nuke. The "Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator" programme was axed by the Senate in 2005, however, leaving the MOP as America's last best hope for taking out difficult targets. Bomb spotters may care to note that the MOP won't be the heaviest conventional bomb ever made by the US. The 1940s era T-12, at almost 44,000lb, was a substantially bigger brute. The T-12 was one of the final developments of the World War II Allies' "earthquake bomb" programmes, developed to knock out German V-weapon sites and U-boat pens. Famed British bomb boffin Barnes Wallis, inventor of the dam-busting "bouncing bomb", was an early innovator, designing the "Tallboy" and "Grand Slam" penetrators. The T-12 didn't arrive in time for wartime use, and is now obsolete. The US does have some pretty hefty ordnance in current service, most famously the 21,700-lb GBU-43B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) job – perhaps better known under its media nickname "Mother Of All Bombs". The MOAB isn't any good for knocking out bunkers, however. It's a pure blast weapon, essentially a massive lump of explosive without penetrating abilities. It was developed to replace the old 15,000lb "Daisy Cutters" which US forces used to flatten jungle and create helicopter landing zones in Vietnam. The MOP, however, should be just the ticket for deep bunkers. Most of its weight is actually in the hardened metal casing, which will strike the earth at several times the speed of sound after falling from high altitude. This should enable the MOP to drill a long way down before exploding. There must be a lot of planners at the Pentagon scratching their heads right now over the Iranian nuke facility at Natanz, parts of which are said to be 75 feet underground and covered by metres of reinforced concrete. They'll be very keen to see the MOP ready for use. ®
Lewis Page, 30 Mar 2007
Microsoft

MS dangles desktop-like browsing for mobiles

Microsoft has taken the wraps off a prototype version of a browser for mobile devices that it claims will make it easier and faster to view full-fat web pages on a small screen. The Deepfish browser displays thumbnails on a web page as a point of reference. Users can then highlight a section of a page and zoom in or out as required to view the page in detail, as explained in a demo video here.
John Leyden, 30 Mar 2007

Asus auctions unique red laptop for Comic Relief

There's literally only one red Asus S6F laptop on the planet, and if you want to avail yourself of the opportunity to win it - and do some good into the bargain - visit eBay or Harrods this weekend.
Tony Smith, 30 Mar 2007
9

Show me the way to go home: GPS on test

Group TestGroup Test Gone are the days of thumbing through your dog-eared 1988 AA route map while trying to navigate the fast lane of the M25 in search of your pal's new London pad. For now is the time of satellite navigation.
Duncan Madden, 30 Mar 2007
3

Chinese space force developing fast, Congress told

China is developing impressive high-tech military capabilities, according to analysis given to an American congressional commission. And, unsportingly, the inscrutable communists refuse to tell anyone what they're up to. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission heard testimony from a variety of officials and analysts yesterday, covering such areas as "irregular forms of warfare", "modernisation of the People's Liberation Army", and the balance of power in the Taiwan Strait. Today the panel will move on to look at "Information Warfare, Missile Warfare, Cyber Operations", and the Chinese forces' objectives in space. US airforce general James Cartwright said China's recent successful test of a satellite-killing missile had come impressively quickly, and "should be a wake-up call". The sat-buster was only one weapon in China's space arsenal, he said. Cartwright also told the commission that the Chinese forces had a well-organised cyber-warfare programme, to which they were firmly committed. "It will pay off," he said. "Other nations are doing likewise, but I do not believe any have demonstrated the scale or the financial commitment to move in the direction that China has." Other analysts disagreed over China's future military plans. William Schneider of the conservative-leaning Hudson Institute characterised the ongoing conventional buildup by the People's Republic as "consistent with global aspirations" and "excessive in relation to China's regional security needs". He also complained of communist secretiveness, saying that "China has not responded to requests for greater transparency". But others cast doubt on the idea that the Chinese are bent on world domination. According to Andrew Erickson of the US Naval War College, Beijing is focused more on dominating Taiwan. The island state is effectively independent of mainland China, but the People's Republic has always claimed sovereignty over it. "There is little evidence to show that the People's Liberation Army (Navy) is developing the capabilities necessary to extend its ability to project power much beyond China's claimed territorial waters," according to Erickson. He thought the PLA(N) would like to be able to prevent US carrier fleets from intervening in any dispute with the Taiwanese, but doesn't yet aspire to challenge American control of the world's oceans. The hearings continue. ®
Lewis Page, 30 Mar 2007

A week of bots, Blunkett and rotting teeth

EMC's RSA hangover A relatively quiet week on the acquisition front, with Cisco the only one of the big boys to make a swoop. It coughed an undisclosed sum for IP networking chip start-up SpansLogic. Perhaps everyone was given pause for thought by EMC CEO Joe Tucci's admission that he paid well over the odds when he splurged $2.1bn on security vendor RSA last year. There was talk that Microsoft might hit back at Google's transgressions on its desktop software territory by buying $2bn web advertising firm DoubleClick, but skepticism was instant given Redmond already owns ad serving business Atlas GMT. Show us the money Even without a Microsoft cash injection, DoubleClick's future looks pretty rosy. Research showed that for the first time last year, online ads attracted more money in the UK than national newspapers, which is nice. Even better, the number suggested advertisers are understanding that pop-up marketing is rude, with the proportion of pork directed at them plummeting more than 35 per cent. Unlimited bullsh*t Questionable advertising practices provided a target for the latest online petition to garner attention on the Downing Street website. Unhappy broadband users reckon they've been duped by campaigns flogging "unlimited" services. More than 3,000 people are calling on the government, the Advertising Standards Authority, or Ofcom to make a stand. Ofcommentary If Ofcom does act, it was never going to be this week: the communications watchdog was a busy puppy. First up, it imposed lower limits on what mobile operators can charge for carrying calls from other networks. Orange, Vodafone, O2, and T-Mobile will get 5.1 pence per minute as of 1 April. Hutchison's 3G-only outfit 3 will get 5.9 pence, reining it in for the first time by 45 per cent. The mainstream press mostly reported it as a victory for consumers, but BT isn't happy. It says Ofcom is effectively subsidising mobile operators by letting them recoup too much of the billions they spent on 3G licences at the height of the tech boom in 2000. The European Commission is poring over Ofcom's 400-page report to see if it agrees. The regulators' next target was VoIP operators, who'll have to adhere to a new code of conduct from June. They'll be forced to be more up front with customers about the limitations of VoIP compared to traditional lines, particularly in terms of emergency calling problems and losing connections in a powercut. Predictably, VoIP industry association ITSPA is fuming, but it'll be incandescent if Ofcom decides to force the industry to pay for connections to 999 call centres when it returns to the issue later this year. Elsewhere in VoIP, the Verizon vs Vonage spat got an interesting postscript. After awarding damages earlier, the judge granted Verizon an injuction to stop Vonage using its patented technology, even if it pays licensing fees. It's not just about the money, see? Finally in our regulatory round-up, Ofcom's treatment of BT in the last couple of years drew indirect praise from European telecoms commisioner Viviane Reding. She's mulling instructing other national regulators to force their telcos to open up networks to broadband rivals. As if to celebrate, Ofcom decided to set BT date targets to further separate Openreach, the division designed to give fair access to competition, from the rest of its business. Pipex: who wants some? One competitor BT may not have to worry about for much longer is Pipex. Reports said the telco had been given the green light to bid for the ISP, which it'll welcome after being shut out of the AOL carve-up last year. Pipex's broker UBS remained tight-lipped on who'll eventually pick up the various limbs of the firm. Due Delligence Tricky, this money shunting lark, it seems. Dell became the latest this week to mutter to the SEC that something had gone wrong with its numbers, and it might have to restate results. Not good news for the PC builder, since its financial performance is already terrible. Dell won't be helped either by news that it has been flogging PCs with RAID controllers that can't talk to Windows Vista. Vista bug shocker Problems with Vista hard drive control aren't all Dell's fault, however. One of the juiciest bugs in the new OS so far meant Microsoft took a hammering in user forums. The glitch means machines can stall when copying, moving, and deleting files, which as one grumbler noted is "the most basic of features". Spamalot HP and Oracle have been dishing up spam to the world, after bots commandeered machines on their domains. The two giants maintained an undignified silence on the issue, but kudos to Best Buy, which was also implicated in punting Viagra and penny shares. The retailer 'fessed up and got to cleansing its systems immediately. Oracle and HP should just ditch their old datacentres and throw one of Rackable's me-too shipping containers on the pick-up. They better hope their compromised servers haven't been spamming all over MySpace. The News Corp empire this week moved to spank "King of Spammers" Sanford Wallace in court. He's accused of setting up 11,000 false accounts and spamming thousands of MySpace users to line his pockets. Meanwhile, spam itself is getting fatter. Image spam is contributing to bumping up the size of the average junk mail to 11.76Kb. Yahoo! for webmail Thank the God of exclamation marks for Yahoo!, then. It stepped in this week with unlimited inboxes for its webmail services - non-commercial use only however, and not if you're in Japan or China. Presumably Yahoo! doesn't fancy the admin headache of snitching to Beijing on unlimited quantities of dissident email. Translate this: !*%@ off! Over at rival Google, it was revealed it's working on statistical translation software so that all the information online is available to everyone. Everywhere. Forever! Futuristic stuff, but a misty eyed reminder of more innocent days came this week when media giant Bertelsmann settled with the record companies over its investment in naughty Napster. Remember them? Happy days. Looks like video game file sharers are next for the legal treatment. Blunkett gets porked This week has left us looking forward to our flabby retirement in the technology consulting racket. Look at David Blunkett: cause a fuss by beating the drum for ID cards in political office, depart under a cloud, then park your behind at a firm which could be bidding for the contract. Lovely. In fact, all the ideals we held dear came crashing down around us. Not even Ribena is sacred, with two New Zealand schoolgirls revealing the local version doesn't have any vitamin C in it after all, which explains why we kept getting scurvy at school. ®
Christopher Williams, 30 Mar 2007

Grum worm poses as IE7 beta

Hackers are trying to trick prospective marks into loading malware that poses as a "beta" version of Internet Explorer 7. Widely circulated emails, which pose as messages from admin@microsoft.com and feature subject lines such as "Internet Explorer 7 Downloads", display an image which invites gullible users to download beta 2 of Internet Explorer 7. Users who click on the authentic-looking image download a file called ie7.0.exe infected by the Grum-A worm.
John Leyden, 30 Mar 2007
Flag France

Busy day at DSG HQ

Electrical retailing giant DSG said it has identified "a significant fraud operation" at its Paris-based Fotovista warehouse. French police are investigating what DSG has described as "an isolated incident", and several arrests at the warehouse have already been made.
Kelly Fiveash, 30 Mar 2007
3

Vote now for your fave Reg headline

PollPoll Well, you've had plenty of time to nominate your all-time fave Reg headline in our "Black Cocks" awards and the time has come for you, our beloved readers, to decide the winner. First up though, our goodie bag goes to Sven, who most closely predicted the top picks. We had so many suggestions that we decided to offer 20 alternatives, but excluded the shameless "NZ finds Black Cocks hard to swallow" since the awards' title clearly offered this an advantage. So, without further ado, here are your nominations for the best-ever Reg headline: Virgin goes down on clients Droopy hardware makes bankers flaccid (1 August 2000) Come on punk, spoil my day Intel and AMD piss on each other's chips (6 November 2000) Woman gets mobile phone stuck up back orifice Ring my ring game goes horribly wrong (14 February 2001) My Internet love is a corpse-hoarding granny The dangers of online dating were never so clear (22 February 2001) Buy an Entrepreneur Wife on eBay Wife auction goes titsup (14 December 2001) Man burns penis with laptop Yes, yes, but what make? (22 November 2002) Oktoberfest nurse in fairground porn shoot outrage 'Sociological experiment' ends in the cells (27 September 2005) God fails to save idiot in lion enclosure Dutch heron drowns bunny - World Cup omen? (11 June 2006) Welshman in 12 pint cider binge goat death ride Kid-napping ends in tragedy (10 August 2006) Witchdoctor orders Serb to have sex with hedgehog Sonic pin ball (15 September 2006) HP's CEO: 'I'm so sorry' that this got out Dunny flushed (22 September 2006) Mobile snap nails dog sex man Wife catches hubby with pit bull terrier (23 October 2006) Psychedelic toad licking dog in rehab Owners tell of amphibian addiction hell (30 October 2006) Underpaid aliens bond over donkey sex Collision mangles Bugatti, vapourises planet (6 March 2007) New Yorkers get an eyeful of beaver It's been a while (23 Feb 2007) Yahoo! red-faced! over! curry! blog! ripoff! Blames its out-saucer (9 March 2007) Rare flaw sighted in OpenBSD kernel Thar she overflows (15 March 2007) Plastic surgeon sucks out belly dancer's buttock £12,000 damages for half-arsed liposuction (16 March 2007) The SANS of Mars Imaging the Red Planet at 2GB a time (23 March 2007) Image spam fattens junk mail Does my bum look big in this? (26 March 2007)
Lester Haines, 30 Mar 2007

The Lizard People are after your Linux distro

LettersLetters We hope you are all sitting down, for this first page is all about Linux. See, we told you. Take a seat.
Lucy Sherriff, 30 Mar 2007

Football hooligans to get data protection rights

Police across Europe are being urged to respect the civil liberties of suspected football hooligans when they stalk them over the run-up to the 2008 European Championship in Austria and Switzerland. European police forces were given the remit to share intelligence about football fans in 2002. The Austrians, wanting more intelligence on "risk supporters", are pushing through an update on the old framework. MEPs this week voted to put some limiters on the law, ensuring that police respected their quarries' rights to data protection. The Austrian proposal involves the collection of "personal data on risk supporters" and "football information points". "The information points shall produce and circulate, for the benefit of other national football information points regular, generic and /or thematic national football disorder assessments," said an EU description of the proposal. The legislation is being spurred on by a fear of football violence across Europe, with the death of a policeman in Italy, rubber bullets fired at rioting fans in Madrid, and a scrap between Arsenal and Chelsea players. The idea is to nip disturbances in the bud, but it is not clear to what extent the police will be using controversial database profiling techniques to predict which fans are likely to misbehave. The parliament believes that without recourse to data protection law the police might get out of hand with their information gathering. Giusto Catania, the green socialist MEP who proposed the data protection measures said the intelligence gathering should contain "protection for human rights and individual freedoms". That involved making sure the intelligence was only used in relation to international football matches and was not used to populate other police and civil databases. The amendment should not be necessary because there are efforts to broaden European data protection law into police and judicial matters, where it does not yet apply. But there is some doubt among Parliamentarians that the protection will be adequate. ®
Mark Ballard, 30 Mar 2007

Scart issue: transforming the Apple TV

Register HardwareRegister Hardware Register Hardware - it's just like The Register, only harder - brings you the hottest personal technology news and reviews every day. The gadgets that grabbed the headlines this week:
Register Hardware, 30 Mar 2007

Brits pay 73% more for a PS3 than Hong Kong buyers do

Where's the best place to purchase a PlayStation 3? Hong Kong, according to the Wall Street Journal. No prizes for guessing the worst: London.
Tony Smith, 30 Mar 2007
globalisation

Woolies enters home software market

Woolworths, the UK-based family and entertainment retail behemoth, is set to release its own range of home PC software.
Kelly Fiveash, 30 Mar 2007
8

Fifty foot Michael Jackson robot to stalk Vegas

Michael Jackson is considering the construction of a 50 foot robot replica of himself, it has been reported. The idea is for the droid colossus to promote concerts Jackson might give in Las Vegas. "It would be in the desert sands," Mike Luckman of Luckman Van Pier, a consultant company to large entertainment firms, told the New York Daily News. "Laser beams would shoot out of it...Michael's looked at the sketches and likes them." Luckman Van Pier says it is also planning "a giant audience-interactive video game with human cyborgs", for use during Vegas shows featuring the occasionally-troubled megastar. The potential implications of these plans are quite literally staggering. Now that Jacko is tooling up with laser-toting battle-mechs and a cyborg army – the Vegas show is clearly no more than a flimsy cover story – it surely can't be long until other stars follow suit. It can only be a matter of time until news of the Ozzy-bot breaks. If every singer has a 50 foot mechanised alter ego, the implications are terrifying. Imagine the havoc on the nation's highways as they attempt to hoover up the white lines, while throwing tantrums because some flunky didn't take all the yellow ones out of their bowl of weather balloon-sized M&Ms. Have no fear though. El Reg's technical experts are working on a possible solution, which will probably involve a 50 foot genetically-enhanced pair of blond groupie twins.®
Lewis Page, 30 Mar 2007
globalisation

Secpoint touts Portable Penetrator

The spirit of Frankie Howerd lives on in the marketing department of Danish security appliance vendor Secpoint.
John Leyden, 30 Mar 2007
CD

DVD copier scales to thousands

There's a new reason to fear the chief executive's annual pep-talk to the company – being sent away with a CD, or better yet a DVD, of the event so you can enjoy it again at home.
Bryan Betts, 30 Mar 2007
13

Swarm of file sharers spurred UK crackdown

Pinball game publisher Zuxxez decided to chase down British file sharers after discovering that illegal downloads of its best-selling Earth 2160 outstripped its retail sales 35 times, clocking up nearly one million Jolly Rogers. Zuxxez found 891,414 people who had attempted to download Earth 2160 between its release on 1 June 2005 and 18 December 2006. The firm has sold 25,000 units of Earth 2160 in the UK, a volume that got it to number four in the games charts. The trawl found 10,000 UK uploaders. Zuxxez sales director Dirk Hassinger said he wanted to clamp down on file sharers but was daunted by the potential costs of going after 10,000 people, so he opted to try it out on the less popular game, Pinball 3D. Five hundred sharers of the Zuxxez game Dream Pinball 3D are being pursued by law firm Davenport Lyons on the publisher's behalf. This is small fry compared to those Zuxxez nabbed in Germany. Schutt-Waetke, another law firm, swooped on 18,000 German file sharers of Earth 2160, 8,000 of whom have already signed agreements to stop file sharing and paid a penalty. "In the UK, pirates are lucky because we get the address from the ISPs," said Hassinger, "In Germany we have to request with the police - and the state prosecutors go after them immediately." He said Zuxxez had no intention of making a business out of pursuing file sharers, an accusation that was made after the German crackdown. But he refused to say how much money the firm made out of legit sales of Earth 2160 other than it had turned a profit. The game has sold half a million units across Europe but has been on budget sale in Germany. Neither was he certain that file sharers lost him business: "Normally, if you discuss this with file sharers, they say they wouldn't have bought the game anyway," he said. But he added, you might as well say, "I never would have bought a Ferrari if I hadn't pinched one". It cost a firm £3m to £10m to develop an A-list game, he said. If you're lucky, its a good game and if the marketing's right, you might just make a margin on it. ®
Mark Ballard, 30 Mar 2007

Solar-powered cell phones are on the horizon

TI has developed an ultra-low-voltage DC/DC booster chip that could lead to mobile phones and other electronic devices that never need recharging.
Bryan Betts, 30 Mar 2007

MoD announces air-to-ground upgrade for Eurofighter

The Eurofighter Typhoon combat jet is to receive a major update, gaining the ability to effectively attack ground targets – a thing it currently cannot do. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced today that the governments of Britain, Spain, Italy and Germany have agreed to pay the Eurofighter consortium £830m to sort out the controversial wonder-plane. “The MoD has taken another significant step to equip the Royal Air Force with the capability it requires by signing a contract to transform RAF Typhoon fighters,” says the MoD, tacitly admitting that the Eurofighter is not what the RAF requires. Current Eurofighters – when they finally go operational later this year – will be pure air-superiority platforms, good only for fighting other aircraft using advanced missiles such as AMRAAM. They have taken 22 years to develop. The MoD anticipates a final UK procurement cost of £20bn based on 232 planes for the RAF, which would work out at £86m per airframe. However, the RAF only plans to establish seven Typhoon squadrons, which would mean an operational fleet of 140-odd. The remaining 90-plus aircraft would have to be mothballed if 232 were bought. This has already happened in the past with other RAF planes ordered in excessive numbers, such as the Tornado F3 and the Nimrod MR1. If all 232 are delivered, the cost to the taxpayer per Typhoon in RAF service would be an eye-watering £140m. Understandably, there is speculation that the partner nations may decide to cancel the third tranche of orders. That would result in the UK getting 144 jets and save perhaps £2bn from the total British bill, leaving individual Typhoons price-tagged at £125m each. No matter how you look at it, the Eurofighter is a very expensive piece of kit and will need to work hard to justify its cost. But air-to-air combat doesn’t crop up all that often nowadays. Military jets spend most of their operational time blowing up targets on the ground. With British troops in Afghanistan calling for airstrikes on an almost daily basis, the RAF will be keen to make sure that its latest toy can get in on the action. The UK’s share of the upgrade bill is reportedly £325m, which puts the cost of fixing up each plane at a mere million or two quid, a snip compared to the cost of buying it in the first place. This enhancement will certainly make the Eurofighter more useful, but it’s questionable if anything can make it cost-effective. As a comparison, the UK plans to buy US-made F-35 Lightning II strike planes as well. These planes aren’t as manoeuvrable as a Eurofighter, but they can carry AMRAAMs perfectly well. In many ways they’re much better than the European super-jet: they’ll have stealth, for instance, and probably vertical-landing jump-jet capability too. The price of a Lightning II? Currently estimated below £55m per plane, less than half the likely price of a Eurofighter. Against competition like this, it'll take more than an upgrade to make the Typhoon look like a good deal. ®
Lewis Page, 30 Mar 2007
1

Italian police raid 'major pirate' P2P site

Discotequezone, a big Italian file-sharing site, has shut down in the wake of police raids this week. Some 600,000 allegedly pirated tracks were swapped daily through the P2P network, resulting in $1m-plus losses to copyright holders, the IFPI, the international lobby group for record companies, claimed. Police targeted five servers and four heavy uploaders. Their haul inlcuded 16 computers, 27 external hard disks and more than 1000 DVD-Rs and CD-Rs. Eleven people have been charged with copyright infringement. ®
Drew Cullen, 30 Mar 2007

Will the RIAA kill net radio?

AnalysisAnalysis If this movie looks familiar - it's because it is.
Kevin Fayle, 30 Mar 2007

Can Big Telco do Perestroika?

AnalysisAnalysis While the CTIA Wireless jamboree took place in Florida this week, European telcos were drawn in a huddle in London at one of the most intriguing events of the telecoms calendar.
Andrew Orlowski, 30 Mar 2007

Your song's in the cloud

Mercora, the P2P internet radio service, is borrowing a trick from MP3Tunes. The service already allows users to access their music collections from any web browser, a feature offered by Sling Media and Orb. Within the next month, Mercora will begin to upload music that users play directly to Mercora servers. "Once we have catalogued your music, and you've started listening, with your permission the content will be moved up to the cloud, explains Mercora CEO Srivats Sampath. "So if you want to listen and you forgot to turn on your PC that morning, you'll still be able to hear it." Mercora, Sling, Orb and MP3Tunes all play to different strengths, but each enable digital access from any device capable of running a web browser and a streaming media player. They're disintermediating the iPod, in other words - there's no need to carry around a dedicated replica of your song collection. It's not a new idea. Michael Robertson, founder of MP3Tunes, attempted to do this several years ago with a former venture of his, MP3.com. The start-up introduced a service, MyMP3.com, which took a copy of a legally-acquired CD the user had bought, and made a copy on MP3.com's servers. The user could then access it anywhere. Robertson won himself an RIAA lawsuit for his troubles. Users will also be able to deep browse other user's record collections - a feature of the old Napster. (Apple's iTunes offers the ability to browser other iTunes' libraries - but only on the same LAN.) Mercora is also ramping up its mobile efforts. After a tentative roll-out of a Windows Mobile client last autumn, a revamped version is now available, to be followed "within the next 45 days" by a Symbian version, then a Linux client. BREW will follow that - but there's no Java version planned. Mercora makes money from mobile subscriptions - $5 a month or $60 a year. This opens up P2P radio, streaming access to 100,000 internet radio stations, as well as access to your own music on the move. The company launched with a PC subscription model, but later abandoned this scheme in favour of advertising-supported revenue. Both internet radio and streaming make Mercora liable for webcasting royalties. But interestingly, the CEO told us he wasn't too concerned about the Copyright Board's latest schedules, which propose hefty royalty increases for webcasters. "We're not worried because it's a replay of what happened so many years ago, when the royalty judges pulled a similar thing," Sampath tells us. "They proposed an egregious pricing model and everyone was up in arms." "If it stands there will not be any internet radio - financially, it's impossible, as they demand 600 per cent of your revenue just to beam something over the air. But it will be negotiated down, and it will be reasonable, and everyone goes back to business," he predicts. "We've seen this movie before." ®
Andrew Orlowski, 30 Mar 2007
channel

Brocade readies 10Gbit/s warchest

Brocade is confident their regime in the storage switch market assures a place as a leader in the upcoming 10Gbit/s Ethernet push. Despite the chest thumping prediction at an analyst meeting in San Jose, Thursday, Brocade CEO Michael Klayko conceded the company won't be ready to share a clear strategy for the new technology until the second half of 2007 and looks to sell the gear for revenue in 2008. The company recently borged the Ethernet tech from startup Silverback earlier this year.
Austin Modine, 30 Mar 2007

California's $1.4bn IT boondoggle

California, with its booming computer industry and an economy that ranks among the world's top 10, has wasted almost $1.4bn over the past decade because it can't build a statewide network to administer child support payments. Besides the tremendous drain on tax dollars, the inability to implement the federally mandated system has prevented untold numbers of low-income children from getting financial support from absentee parents. With 48 states having succeeded in meeting the federal requirement to build a single automated child support system, California shares this dubious distinction with South Carolina, according to an exhaustively researched article on SignOnSanDiego.com. The tab includes penalties of $1.2bn for failing to meet federal guidelines that first set a deadline of 1995 for bringing the system online. California also shelled out $111m on a troubled computer system contracted to Lockheed Martin that the state ultimately walked away from. After a protracted court battle in which each party sued the other, the state was ordered to pay Lockheed $46m. California's debacle with the child support system isn't the only failed attempt at building a state government computer system. A $50m system for the Department of Motor Vehicles had to be scrapped after administrators deemed it unworkable. And in 2002, a $95m no-bid contract with Oracle was canceled after critics contended it would require the state to pay for software it didn't need. (El Reg is always hungry for tips from whistleblowers with knowledge of burocratic incompetence or waste. Please contact your reporter at the link above. Anonymity is assured.) At the moment California has 117 IT projects under way with a projected price tag of about $5bn. ®
Dan Goodin, 30 Mar 2007
Symantec

Symantec Backup Exec gets Vista-tized

Symantec Backup Exec users waiting patiently for Vista compatibility can now brick their systems while enjoying the style of Window's Aero glass effect. The finger of blame for the long wait falls partly on Microsoft, who's latest OS offering shot out of the stable with all the speed and grace of a three-legged horse. Vista's numerous delays made Symantec exclude its support in Backup Exec version 11d, released in November. Now Symantec's Vista-ready back up software arrives tardy, but more...supportive.
Austin Modine, 30 Mar 2007