3rd > April > 2007 Archive

EC goes Apple hunting – reports

Not afraid of a challenge, the European Commission has decided to take on Apple and the major record labels at the same time.
Ashlee Vance, 03 Apr 2007
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Supreme Court rules on EPA's bad case of gas

Hippies have successfully harshed the US government's mellow by telling the Feds to get to work. A 5-4 Supreme Court decision today in Massachusetts v EPA rules the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to issue regulations aimed at reducing global climate change. The EPA was unsuccessful convincing the court such actions exceed its authority. The court's ruling stands as a major blow to the Bush administration. The decision was split between the court's liberal and conservative judges, with Justice Anthony Kenndey providing the swing vote. Starched shirts in 12 states lead by Massachusetts and 14 environmental groups first filed suit in 2003 claiming the EPA has avoided its responsibility given to the agency under the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gases. Massachusetts alleged that rising sea levels caused by global warming have caused and will continue to cause harm to the state. The majority's decision written by Justice John Stevens determined the complaint is valid. "The risk of catastrophic harm, though remote, is nevertheless real. That risk would be reduced to some extent if petitioners received the relief they seek." The ruling, however, merely orders the agency to "reconsider" its position on regulations. Whether the decision has any teeth is yet to be determined. Under the microscope is section 202 of the act which states: The [EPA] Administrator shall by regulation prescribe (and from time to time revise) in accordance with the provisions of this section, standards applicable to the emissions of any air pollutant from any class or classes of new motor vehicles or new motor vehicle engines, which in his judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare... The EPA had argued that because regulating greenhouse gases would have major economic and political repercussions Congress would have told them to act upon it specifically if the agency was supposed to address it. EPA followed that greenhouse gases should not even be considered "air pollutants." It reasoned that if carbon dioxide were an air pollutant, the only way to reduce tailpipe emissions would be increasing fuel economy — which has already been addressed by Congress — making any action superfluous. Finally, the EPA argued that a link between greenhouse gases and global warming "cannot be unequivocally established." Despite this argument, a Register investigation into the EPA Kids page (hey, balloons and clowns make things easier to understand) reveals a different story. "When Do You Send Greenhouse Gases into the Air? Whenever you... Watch TV Use the Air Conditioner Turn on a Light Use a Hair Dryer Ride a Car ... you are helping to send greenhouse gas into the air." It continues to teach children: ...if the greenhouse effect becomes stronger, it could make the Earth warmer than usual. Even a little extra warming may cause problems for humans, plants, and animals. Ten states and six automobile trade groups sided with EPA in the case. The court's dissenting opinion largely weighed the validly of Massachusetts's claims of damage in loss of coastal land. "The realities make it pure conjecture," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts, "to suppose that EPA regulation of new automobile emissions will likely prevent the loss of Massachusetts coastal land." ®
Austin Modine, 03 Apr 2007
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Sun to fry NetApp with FISH

Sun Microsystems has a near-term NetApp assault in store code-named 'FISHworks.' The FISH stands for “Fully Integrated Software and Hardware” and comes from work done by some of Sun's top software engineers over the past year.
Ashlee Vance, 03 Apr 2007
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New vulnerability strikes heart of Web 2.0

Whatever you think of "Web 2.0" (it's really not mandatory to release everything in permanent beta) you probably thought that this generic approach to mashups, Ajax and all that good stuff didn't change the usual coding "good practice" rules much.
David Norfolk, 03 Apr 2007

Virgin TV launches Freeview box

Virgin Media has announced Virgin Free TV - basically a Freeview set-top box with a Virgin sticker on the front and a Virgin-branded electronic programme guide (EPG) inside.
Bill Ray, 03 Apr 2007

iPod case features replaceable clickwheel covers

Accessory specialist Gear4's latest offering, this time for the second-gen iPod Nano, is the IceBox Rap. Daft name, perhaps, but the case has a novel feature: the clickwheel cover's replaceable so you can customise the look.
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2007

Transcend touts ExpressCard Flash disk

Want to do something useful with that unused ExpressCard 34 slot sitting there in your laptop? How about turning it into a Flash-based solid-state disk?
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2007

NHS delivers on X-ray specs

Connecting for Health has chalked up a success in the roll-out of its £12.5bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT). Every hospital in London and the South areas of NPfIT has installed the Picture Archive and Communications System (PACS) made available under the programme. Connecting for Health (CfH) pushed the boat out to explain how good this was for patients and hospital trusts. CfH wasn't so open that it was able to make direct cost comparisons between its PACS system and those being sold to trusts outside the programme by independent vendors. Neither could it say how much of the cost of a typical implementation was being shouldered by CfH and how much was being put by local trusts - a matter of some controversy for the programme in the past. Nevertheless, Dr Mary Barber, PACS programme head at CfH said the average time it took from hospital scans and x-rays being done to the time they were available for patient diagnosis had been halved on average. In the case of Salisbury Trust, time had been reduced from nine days to one day, though the typical time for such a procedure across all hospitals with PACS would now be somewhere between 2.9 and three days instead of six. Robin Evans, clinical radiologist at Mayday Trust in Croydon, said at a private press briefing hosted by CfH that before PACS 10 per cent of all images wouldn't be present at the time of treatment, which could lead to mistakes in diagnosis. They are now available around the country, whenever a doctor needs to see them. In one recent case, said Barber, a doctor in Nottingham was able to stop a child going through unnecessary surgery after using PACS to pull scans from the system in Derby where the child had last been seen. Forty-three hospitals already had PACS systems before CfH was given the job to install them across the UK in 2003, using a range of multinational and home-grown suppliers. The first system went in last March. Eighty-three trusts and 250 hospitals have been given PACS systems designed under NPfIT in London and the South. Another 46 trusts around the country have put in CfH-managed PACS systems developed by GE Healthcare. An unspecified number of trusts have opted to implement systems independent of CfH. Late already, PACS implementations will not now be completed in other regions until the end of the year. Delays were caused after CfH withdrew its contract to supply IT systems from Commedica, and by contractual differences with Fuji, said Barber. The total cost of the PACS to the NHS under NPfIT was estimated to be £200m to £250m, with the cost for each implementation being between £2m and £10m depending on the size of the hospital. It had cost Mayday Trust £2m, said Evans, which would be recovered in material and process savings over eight years, but he was unable to say how much of the capital cost had been put up by Connecting for Health and the Strategic Health Authority. ®
Mark Ballard, 03 Apr 2007

BestTreatments.co.uk goes private

The website recommended by nhs.uk is no longer free at point of delivery. BestTreatments, a website for patients linked to extensively by the NHS's core site, has imposed charges following the end of government funding. BestTreatments.co.uk, which is run by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), is charging users £14.99 plus VAT for annual access to the whole site, £9.99 plus VAT for a month's access, or £3 plus VAT for a month's access to pages on a single condition, operation or test. Its pages currently appear prominently in search results produced by the central nhs.uk website, which is run by Connecting for Health (CfH) using Google's search technology. BestTreatments pages appear first on searches for "smoking" and "AIDS", in both cases as highlighted "suggested links" which are chosen by CfH, and second on searches for "asthma" and "cancer". CfH did not provide an immediate response as to whether it would change this. The BMJ said it was forced to end free access to the site, which it said has received nearly 1 million page views each month. "We are very disappointed by this situation," said its editor Cherrill Hicks. "The government recognises that people need high quality health information to help them feel more in control and enable them to make informed decisions with their doctor. "The Department of Health (DoH) should be prepared to pay for people to have access to such information. Instead, through the information prescription scheme, they are relying on voluntary organisations to provide information that cannot claim the same level of rigour as BMJ BestTreatments." The DoH turned down the BMJ's application for continued funding earlier this year. "It didn't have a far enough reach and was duplicating information that was available in other places," said a spokesperson. The department announced the "information prescription" scheme on 27 March, under which patients in pilot areas will be provided with addresses of relevant websites, telephone support lines and groups for their conditions. A sister site for medical professionals, ClinicalEvidence.com – whose pages also appear within nhs.uk searches, although not as prominently – has also ended free access, with the BMJ imposing an annual charge of £129, although discounts apply for British Medical Association members, nurses, and students. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 03 Apr 2007
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iPod owners want radio in next player - survey

Size, it seems, no longer matters. Or rather it doesn't matter as much as a built-in radio. Yes, we're talking what consumers want from future iPods - at least what rock-centric radio station listeners demand, according to a new poll.
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2007
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Bill Gates's Corbis loses battle for corbis.net

Stock photography company Corbis has lost its battle to gain control of the domain corbis.net. The company's claims that the small web design firm that owns the name registered it in bad faith were rejected. The case was heard by a panellist of the World Intellectual Property Organisation, which rules on domain name disputes. In order for an address to be transferred under WIPO's rules, the challenger must prove that the domain is identical or similar to something which it has rights over, that the other party has no rights to the term in the domain, and that the current holder of the domain has acted in bad faith. The WIPO panellist said that Corbis's claims that Corbis Internet had tried to profit from the domain's associations with Corbis were not proved. Corbis Internet appears to be a business registered in Malaysia but run by John Pickworth of Lancashire, England. "Under the policy, the burden of proof rests on the complainant to prove bad faith registration and use," said the ruling. "The circumstance in this case that the website corbis.net in the past contained links to websites of third parties is not as such evidence that [Corbis Internet] sought to intentionally profit from a likelihood of confusion with the [Corbis] to direct internet traffic to his website under the disputed domain name." "As [Corbis Internet] has explained, the relevant websites are those of some of its customers. This is confirmed by the evidence, submitted by [Corbis], of correspondence with one of these customers," it said. Corbis referred to a part of the policy governing disputes that says that holders of domain names cannot create a deliberate likelihood of confusion with a company holding rights to the term. But the panel found in favour of Corbis Internet, which said that it had never offered products or services on its site that would compete with Corbis. "[Corbis Internet] contends that the disputed domain name does not create a likelihood of confusion with [Corbis]'s trademark since he has never offered anything remotely similar to the services or products offered by them," said the ruling. "[He] further states that he has never engaged in online promotions or advertising activities, nor has he used or joined an affiliate or click-thru scheme under the disputed domain name." Pickworth said he has been known by the name Corbis since his teenage years when he used the name as a nickname. He provided a print-out of his school website and photocopies of technical drawings signed by "Corbis" in 1979. Corbis claimed that Corbis Internet was holding the domain without using it, which is known as passive holding and is often a characteristic of cybersquatting. But the WIPO panellist said: "The fact that the website has been offline for short periods of time due to apparent technical problems does not constitute compelling evidence of passive holding." Corbis Internet made a counter-claim for reverse domain hijacking, claiming that Corbis was using the WIPO process to gain control of corbis.net in bad faith. The panel rejected that claim. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 03 Apr 2007
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Griffin Elevator laptop lift

ReviewReview Griffin calls the Elevator a "space-saving laptop stand". I'm not sure about "space-saving", but it's unquestionably something you might very well want to sit your notebook on, particularly if your neck's giving you grief.
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2007

US to consider evoting reform

US Senator Bill Nelson met yesterday with election supervisors to discuss his new election reform bill, the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act" and look for funding for his plan. Also known as HR 811, the Act is an amendment to the 2002 Help America Vote Act, and proposes that a voter-verified ballot paper should be required as a record of any vote that has been cast electronically. The paper record would then be the record of the vote to be used in any recount. Nelson is asking for $300m in federal funding to make the changes his bill would require. The bill allows the use of optical scanners, but bans voting machines from being connected to the internet or containing wireless networking kit. It requires that notices reminding people to check their vote be displayed prominently in the polling stations and requires an automatic audit if there is a higher than three per cent difference between electronic record and paper ballots. Lastly, the bill mandates that the source code used in the machines be made public. While this kind of content will cheer critics of evoting immensely, the states that have forked out millions to equip themselves with evoting machines that meet the current legal minimums are not so happy. Boone County in Florida has already said it thinks the bill is too specific and will mean the equipment they currently use, only bought last year, will be obsolete. They particularly object to the requirement to use high quality paper to print the record of the vote because their machines can't handle it. Other states have raised concerns about potential conflict with local laws. South Dakota, for example, says an election may be certified within seven days. Under HR 811, this process could take longer. Still others have raised concerns about the quality of the print-outs and the likelihood of voters actually remembering to check their vote. Representative Rush Holt has signed on as lead sponsor to shepherd it through congress. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Apr 2007
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Aaardman signs three year deal with Sony

Aaardman Features has signed a three year deal with Sony Pictures Entertainment which will bring together "Aardman's unique and hugely successful animation expertise and SPE's global production, marketing and distribution operation", the company has announced. The new relationship comes in the wake of Aardman's January divorce from Dreamworks which saw the two part company split after just three films of a five-picture deal, reportedly because of "different business goals". It was widely believed, however, that the split was a result of poor showings for Curse of the Were-Rabbit and Flushed Away. Stephen Moore, COO of Aardman and head of Aardman Features, explained: "Over the past 18 months we have worked hard to create a new vision for Aardman Features. This includes an expanded development slate, increased production and plans to introduce new technical capabilities at our facility in Bristol. This agreement with Sony Pictures is very much at the heart of our new vision as they passionately support both Aardman's existing core creative values and enthusiastically support our creative ambitions for the future." Amy Pascal, co-chairman of Sony Pictures Entertainment, duly enthused: "We have been huge fans of Aardman films for a long time and this deal greatly expands Sony's commitment to animation in the worldwide marketplace. Aardman makes movies with lively humour, great stories, and fun distinctive visuals. They have boundless creative energy and a passion for animation that is hard to resist. We couldn't be more excited about working with the entire Aardman team." Contributing to the corporate love-in, David Sproxton, Aardman co-founder and exectutive chairman, offered: "We know from experience that we create our best work when we do it from our home base here in Bristol, using first class talent from the nation and around the world. It is Aardman's intention to expand this community to produce more world class animated feature films. Pete [Lord], Nick [Park] and I are delighted to find a partner in Sony that shares our vision and believes in our core values, who will support and encourage us to produce our finest work. We are all very excited by the potential and have a number of projects we are keen to bring to fruition with this new relationship." ®
Lester Haines, 03 Apr 2007
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Intelligent machines expert heads for the hills

A senior lecturer in Intelligent Autonomous Systems is conducting an experiment to see how, and if, humanity will survive once the oil runs out. Dr Dylan Evans, formerly at the University of the West of England, is heading to the Highlands of Scotland for his Utopia project, where he will build a self-sufficient community within 18 months. His scenario for the end of the world involves running out of oil rather than intelligent machines running amok, but the result will be much the same with starving citizens reduced to learning acoustic guitar and perhaps even talking to each other for entertainment. He is currently looking for volunteers with practical survival skills - from fields as diverse as computer maintenance to jewellery making - to spend a few months living in Mongolian yurts on the Black Isle (ironically near where they used to build oil rigs). Dr Evans goes to lengths to point out that this is not a reality TV project, and says the aim is to find out if self-sufficiency is possible - rather than being an attempt to live that way for an extended period of time. "I don't want this to be seen as a bunch of nutters isolating themselves," he told the Ross-Shire Journal. Far be it for us to suggest anything so controversial - just save us space in the yurt when the end comes. ®
Bill Ray, 03 Apr 2007
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McKinnon loses fight against extradition

UpdatedUpdated Gary McKinnon, the alleged Pentagon hacker, has lost his appeal against extradition to the US on hacking charges.
John Leyden, 03 Apr 2007
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French claim fastest train title

The French today claimed the world's fastest "train on rails" title by accelerating a modified TGV to a white-knuckle 574.8km/h (356mph), the BBC reports. The previous record of 515km/h (320mph) was set in 1990, although a Japanese Maglev managed to reach a cool 581km/h (361mph) back in 2003. The high-speed dash was made at 1114 GMT (1314 local) on a section of track between Paris and Strasbourg. The "V150" vehicle boasted "larger wheels than usual and the engine [pulled] three double-decker cars", the BBC notes, and had already hit 559km/h in "unofficial trials", according to state rail outfit SNCF. SNCF and the train's manufacturer Alstom claim the record attempt represented "a test on the infrastructure in extreme conditions, which is impossible to carry out in the laboratory", although we suspect national pride may have played a part in it. According to the triumphant Alstom press release, Hubert du Mesnil, President of Réseau Ferré de France, declared: "The speed record that has been set today evidences French excellence and expertise in the domain of very high speed, which enables the quality of the railway system to be improved to the benefit of passenger comfort and safety." Anne-Marie Idrac, SNCF CEO, chipped in with: "This speed record represents a major technological and human achievement. The results of tests conducted on board the V150 trainset enable us to envisage a highly promising future in the domain of very high-speed rail transport, based around 4 priority areas: life on board, safety & performance, journey and environment." ® Bootnote You can find footage of today's record here on YouTube. For the trainspotters among you, the V150 "is made up of 2 TGV™ POS power cars, 3 TGV™ Duplex (double-decker) coaches and 2 latest-generation very high-speed train motorized bogies developed by Alstom: the AGVTM. In total, this system develops an output of 19.6MW (25,000 horsepower)".
Lester Haines, 03 Apr 2007

Plusnet servers stuffed by spam

Plusnet's servers are spluttering again, with many of the BT-owned ISP's subscribers unable to access their email since yesterday morning. The whole system had to be taken down for about an hour on Monday after "a couple of hundred" mail accounts with particularly large inboxes were putting too much strain on it. Plusnet product development director Neil Armstrong said all the undelivered mail was safe and it was working to distribute it as soon as possible by adding extra mail collection server capacity. The overload could have been caused by repeated spam attacks. "We saw some of these few very large accounts growing very quickly, though there may be a combination of factors," said Armstrong. He added that the problems would be fixed within 24 hours. Following the universal downtime, service has been patchy, with intermittent outages affecting smaller groups of subscribers throughout Monday and continuing into today. The Sheffield-based outfit is in the process of migrating email to a new £250,000 server platform, but said its current issues were unrelated to the work, which should be completed within two weeks. Plusnet's support page for the fault is here. ®
Christopher Williams, 03 Apr 2007
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US Navy ponders robot carrier planes

The killer-robot takeover in the American military continues to gather pace with news over the weekend that the US Navy has received concrete proposals for unmanned carrier planes. This story isn't an April Fool; the billion-dollar Unmanned Combat Air System Demonstrator (UCAS-D) competition has been brewing for some time. But the bids are now in. According to the budget justification, "the Navy UCAS-D is comprised of a low-observable planform air vehicle". It will "be designed for autonomous launch and recovery as well as operations in the Carrier Control Area". At this stage, the USN merely wants to see if flying robots can cut it in the world of carrier operations, generally considered a very severe test for human pilots. It's already been proven that killer droids can drop missiles and bombs perfectly well, but can they do deck landings? According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, "some officers in the Navy still remain skeptical about operating unmanned vehicles in the challenging carrier environment". Nonetheless, the US military-industrial complex seems quietly confident. A Northrop Grumman/Lockheed alliance reportedly intends to offer a modified version of their earlier X-47, and Boeing – the other major American defence player – intends to redesign its X-45C. Both these aircraft are substantial pieces of kit: the X-47 weighs almost 20 tonnes and has a 60-foot wingspan. If the problem of autonomous deck landing can be cracked, the robot jets may be able to do a lot more than the Navy is actually asking for at the moment – perhaps moving on to fly combat missions much sooner than anticipated, as happened with the land-based Predator series. The X-47 demonstrator in particular will be able to carry 3,000lb of ordnance straight away and fly for seven hours without refuelling. It will be able to refuel from tanker aircraft in mid-air, too, raising the possibility of very long flights indeed – limited only by requirements for maintenance inspections. The Boeing contender seems to be less well defined – the single X-45C prototype has not yet flown. However, the earlier X-45A has carried out "64 mishap-free, unmanned combat flights", according to Boeing. And the Lockheed/Northrop coalition has had its problems in the past. Lockheed's "Polecat" demo droid, unveiled at last year's Farnborough air show, reportedly pranged itself last December after only three flights. But overall, robot combat aircraft would seem to be a matter not of if, but when – even for carrier operations. The technology has been within reach for some time: it's merely a question of willingness by the military to commit to it. With the various air forces and branches typically run by former pilots, this willingness has been slow in coming. Indeed, some senior pilots still seem to assume that there will always be aircrew, even in cases where you really wouldn't want them. The Evening Standard reports that air vice marshal David Walker, commander of the RAF's fast-jet fleet, has discussed scenarios where his people might need to sacrifice their lives to get the job done. He speculated that they might have to crash their planes onto a car holding a vital al-Qaeda commander, or into a terrorist-controlled aircraft being flown towards a British city – perhaps after running out of ammo or suffering a weapons malfunction. An RAF spokesman later told the Standard: "These are decisions which, however unlikely and dreadful, service people may have to make, and it is one of the many reasons why the British people hold them in such high esteem." One would hope that at least in the case of the threatened British city the pilots of the RAF would know what to do – though modern ejection seats would seem to offer at least some chance of survival even then. And in fact, to some degree the air vice marshal is already living in the past. RAF pilots handling Predator aircraft in combat over Iraq and Afghanistan are sometimes not in the theatre of war at all, but in a comfortable base just outside Vegas. No very great degree of courage would be required to crash one's Predator drone onto an al-Qaeda chief's car in this situation: no medal would really be in order. Nor, ultimately, would flying pay. And it could be that this kind of serviceman at least – one who operates killer robots for a living – might forfeit some of the high esteem traditionally accorded to those who risk their lives for their country. Not to mention some of the glamour of the old-school fighter pilot. Could it be that the Top Guns of today are the last of a dying breed? ®
Lewis Page, 03 Apr 2007

Google primes DoubleClick bum rush

Google is preparing a spoiler to slap down Microsoft's bid to acquire online advertising broker DoubleClick, according to reports. Tuesday's Wall Street Journal cites the trusty "people familiar with" the sell-off talks, and links Google with a $2bn-plus swoop on the private equity-owned outfit. Google has been competing with DoubleClick since it started brokering banners, as well as its core text ads, in 2005. Google never comments publicly on acquisition talks, but it would perhaps be more surprising if it didn't have a seat at the table. Last week the paper said Microsoft was exploring coughing the cash for DoubleClick, which netted revenues of $150m last year, as were Yahoo! and AOL. Assimilating DoubleClick would make Google's lead in online ads nigh-impregnable. It would also provide a convenient boot to stomp the embryonic buzz surrounding Yahoo!'s new Panama contextual ad platform, which the firm's boss Terry Semel has been talking up ahead of delivering its first results. The Wall Street Journal's source said bidding had reached $2.6bn on Friday, which would hardly trouble Google's accountants...or Microsoft's, for that matter. ®
Christopher Williams, 03 Apr 2007
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China reveals nuclear lunar rover

China is planning to send a nuclear powered rover to the moon in 2012 on its first unmanned mission to our natural satellite. Several technology institutes across the country are competing to develop the vehicle, although there is no word on when the official selection will be made. In what seems to be a bid to get the edge on their competitors, engineers at the Shanghai Institute demonstrated their prototype to the press this week. The vehicle, as yet unnamed, will roll over the lunar surface on six wheels. Shanghai Daily reports that the rover is 1.5 metres tall and weighs in at 200kg. The paper adds that it should be able to transmit video in real time, dig, collect, and analyse soil samples, and produce 3D images of the lunar surface. Shanghai Institute director Luo Jian says: "We want it to be better than the early US rovers," according to reports. The rover will be able to roll at a top speed of 100 metres per hour, and will be equipped with sensors to stop it crashing into things. Researchers say they still need to refine the rover's ability to withstand the rigours of the lunar environment: low gravity, extreme temperatures, and exposure to cosmic rays are all engineering challenges. Although the notion of strapping nuclear material to a rocket and hoping it doesn't explode on its way to space sounds a bit risky, it isn't a new idea. The first nuclear powered satellite, Transit 4A, was launched in 1961 and until the Columbia disaster in 2003, NASA had been pushing hard to expand the use of nuclear power in space. The space agency estimated that the chance of something going wrong on a nuclear satellite launch hovered at around one in 230. In the event of an explosion, people downwind of the launch site for up to 60 miles could be affected by nuclear material, the most serious risk from inhalation of "small quantities of radionuclides". Once in space, away from handy plug-in chargers, the options for power are fairly limited. If solar won't do it, the only realistic alternative is a nuclear power source. Advocates argue that nuclear power in space is vital for long term exploration projects. The idea of a nuclear stage for launch rockets was also considered seriously for a while. The numbers never quite stacked, however, and the idea was abandoned. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Apr 2007

Make your own mobile network

Ever dreamed of setting up your own Mobile Virtual Network Operator (MVNO)? US start-up Sonopia is offering just that. The company says it takes just 10 minutes to set up your own MVNO, and you receive about five per cent of the revenue your customers generate. MVNOs set up through Sonopia are carried on Verizon's network, and while the range of handsets and tariffs they offer is pretty narrow, Sonopia does provide a content management system, templates to create content, and allows you to manage user-generated content in a social network Web 2.0 fashion. The service is aimed at small organisations such as bands, sports teams, or (suggests Sonopia) churches. The basic idea is that anyone can create their own mobile network, differentiate it by providing unique content, and make money on every call made or received by their customers. Customers signing up to a Sonopia service get access to that content and the knowledge that some of their bill is going to support the service they've signed up to. However, most people only have one mobile phone account, so signing up users could prove tricky. Creating your own MVNO is so easy that many will be tempted to give it a go, but long-term the prospects are more difficult to predict - few users choose their mobile phone provider on the basis of content or branding. In Europe it is still handset, then tariff, which drives customers to change networks, so we may not see a service like Sonopia succeed over here for a while. ®
Bill Ray, 03 Apr 2007
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Serenity beats Star Wars in sci-fi movie poll

Serenity has outstripped Star Wars as the best sci-fi movie of all time in a poll of 3,000 fans by SFX magazine. The 2005 movie spin-off of acclaimed but cancelled series Firefly picked up 61 per cent of the vote, relegating George Lucas's magnum opus to second place (with 28 per cent of votes). Blade Runner picked up third place in the poll. Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind Serenity, Firefly, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, conceded that Star Wars had an "enormous influence" on Serenity, the BBC reports. SFX editor Dave Bradley expressed surprise that Serenity bettered Star Wars in the poll, but acknowledged the elements of the film that made it so enjoyable to fans. "The TV show may have been cancelled, yet the Serenity universe clearly struck a chord with fans, thanks to its likable characters, witty dialogue and amazing special effects," he said. Top sci-fi movies, according to SFX readers Serenity Star Wars Blade Runner Planet of the Apes The Matrix Alien Forbidden Planet 2001: A Space Odyssey The Terminator Back to the Future ®
John Leyden, 03 Apr 2007
Computacenter

Computacenter reels in Allnet

Box shifting behemoth Computacenter PLC has acquired Allnet Ltd, the in-premises cabling division of Cable and Wireless. Computacenter said the acquisition would have no "financial impact" on the firm's turnover, but instead it is hoped the buy-out will lead to steady business growth in converged IP-based networks.
Kelly Fiveash, 03 Apr 2007

Free music has never looked so cheap

AnalysisAnalysis For the major record labels, yesterday's deal between EMI and Apple doesn't herald a new beginning, but the beginning of the end.
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Apr 2007

Sony US cuts PSP Core Pack price

Sony has formally announced its plan to knock $30 off the price of the basic PlayStation Portable package in the US. The PSP Core Pack will now retail for $170.
Tony Smith, 03 Apr 2007
Dalek
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Robot Cop ends tense Massachusetts siege

The long-anticipated robot police are in action at last. Old-fashioned fleshy cops in Hingham, Massachusetts, were forced to call in mechanised assistance on Saturday as a tense siege situation spiralled out of control.
Lewis Page, 03 Apr 2007

EU needles Apple, EMI

A day can be like a lifetime in politics and perhaps the same adage can also be extended to the man with a penchant for black roll-neck sweaters, Apple boss Steve Jobs. In the space of 24 hours Apple has gone from announcing an all-singing, all-dancing DRM-free deal with EMI, to facing the possibility of being slapped by EU fines of up to 10 per cent of the firm's worldwide annual turnover.
Kelly Fiveash, 03 Apr 2007

Magnet supports give way at LHC

A routine test of the almost-complete Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN ended in near disaster last week when the structure supporting the particle accelerator's key magnets failed. The so-called magnet assembly was made by FermiLab, the US department of energy's particle accelerator lab and chief rival to CERN in the hunt for the very small. Despite this rather obvious conspiracy theorist magnet, the researchers at CERN insist there are "no recriminations". The structure that failed was holding up the accelerator's "triple magnets". These focus the accelerating proton beams whizzing around the LHC's 27 kilometre tunnel at four points. When they are switched on, they exert a considerable force, and at this point in the test they failed. Ex-fermilab scientist Peter Limon, now firmly ensconced at CERN, told New Scientist that people were disappointed the supports were not up to the job. He added that there was still uncertainty as to the extent of the damage to nearby equipment. No information is available yet about whether the failure will mean a delay to the switch on date for the accelerator. ® CERN and FermiLab have issued a lengthy statement on the situation. Edited for brevity, this is what they had to say: "On Tuesday, March 27,  a Fermilab-built quadrupole magnet, one of an “inner triplet” of three focusing magnets, failed a high-pressure test at Point 5 in the tunnel of the LHC accelerator at CERN. The asymmetric force generated by the pressure of the test broke the supports in magnet Q1 that hold the magnet’s cold mass inside the cryostat, which also resulted in damage to the electrical connections. Computer-aided engineering calculations... show that the support structure in the magnets was inadequate to withstand the associated longitudinal forces. This is an intrinsic design flaw that must be addressed in all triplet magnets assembled at Fermilab. Review of engineering design documentation reveals that the longitudinal force generated by asymmetric loading was not included in the engineering design or identified as an issue in the four design reviews that were carried out. The immediate goal is to have a repaired triplet in another sector of the accelerator ready to participate in a pressure test scheduled for June 1."
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Apr 2007
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Microsoft hits Middle East pirates

Microsoft is taking legal action against several companies it accuses of selling academic copies of Office to ordinary punters. Schools and colleges can get cut-price software from Microsoft, but Microsoft says some resellers, in Jordan and elsewhere, have been selling the software on to companies and consumers in the US.
John Oates, 03 Apr 2007

Giant pirate dumps cartoon lover on MySpace

LettersLetters We recently went to a party thrown by a typography firm. It was great, there was a limitless supply of barbecued beef and everything, so we won't hear a word against the industry. We were therefore very upset to learn that small businesses are harbouring pirated fonts, we even cried hot, inky tears. You were less sympathetic:
Christopher Williams, 03 Apr 2007

JavaScript hijacking - a new exploit, or not?

I've had an email comment on my JavaScript Hijacking piece to the effect that everyone knows that you do your input validation on the server and that data you send down in JavaScript or in HTML is unsafe - so this really isn't a new exploit. Well, that first part is true enough, but I disagree with the second. However, Brian Chess is about to put up a JavaScript Hijacking FAQ in the Fortify Software site, so I thought (in the best journalistic tradition) I'd nick his comment on this point.
David Norfolk, 03 Apr 2007
cloud

Xerox makes $1.5bn document management buy

Printing and copying giant Xerox has announced its intention to run off 1.5 billion crisp dollar bills to buy document management firm Global Imaging Systems (GIS). The deal is expected to close in mid-May and values GIS at $29 per share.
Christopher Williams, 03 Apr 2007
chart

Expansys set to float

Updated:Updated: Gadget website Expansys is gearing up to float on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
John Oates, 03 Apr 2007

HP ProCurve recruits allies for war on Cisco

HP ProCurve has announced an alliance scheme to take on Cisco, and signed up its first four allies, namely Mitel, AirWave Wireless, DVTel and ShoreTel. The companies will work together to test and promote each others' gear, said ProCurve's EMEA solutions boss Gejs Zantvoort. He said that while it's not joint sales, it will enable the partners to propose verified and standards-based alternatives to Cisco in key areas where buyers need more than just a LAN infrastructure.
Bryan Betts, 03 Apr 2007
channel
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Homeland Security grabs for net's master keys

The US Department of Homeland Security is pushing to get hold of the master keys for a proposed revision of the internet's domain name system.
John Leyden, 03 Apr 2007
SGI logo hardware close-up

Renting elastic servers

So, it seems that the early adopters of the move towards rentable hosted services are not the bleeding edge, state-of-the-art businesses that the likes of Sun Microsystems had hoped to target with its Grid computing service. Instead, it has been applications developers that have latched on to the technology, particularly as a means of testing new developments on large installations without actually having to buy them.
Martin Banks, 03 Apr 2007
For Sale sign detail
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Trash-talking Texas sues RadioShack

RadioShack is being sued in Texas for allegedly exposing its customers to ID theft. The lawsuit follows allegations that it carelessly discarded sensitive records outside one of its stores.
John Leyden, 03 Apr 2007
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Slammed by the WTO, slammed at home

AnalysisAnalysis As Alberto Gonzalez, loyal Bushie par excellence, stares up at his own sword of Damocles, his record of mediocrity has sharpened into focus. Memos advocating what the civilized peoples of the world consider torture, a misplaced priority on public morals prosecutions at home, suspension of habeas corpus rights, FBI investigations run amok, politicization of the US Attorney’s Office – his failings as Attorney General are as numerous as they are dispiriting. Gonzalez is wriggling like a fish on a line trying to explain to Congress his apparent ignorance of what went on behind the scenes at the DOJ when 8 US Attorneys got canned for not towing the administration’s political line enough, and his office is at a crossroads. The official release of the latest WTO ruling on the trade dispute between Antigua and the United States over online gambling services last week only sets the hook harder. Although the US Attorney’s Office (USAO) leaked the gist of the decision to the press over a month ago, and those familiar with the case knew all along that the US would lose, the US could not have been body-slammed any harder. The US lost, and lost big. The moralistic zeal that has characterized the Gonzalez DOJ has expressed itself most clearly in the international sphere in its relentless, overbearing prosecutions of the internet gambling industry. Although the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) last year devastated the online gambling industry around the world (though it has yet even to take effect) tiny Antigua has felt the wrath of the DOJ more than any other country. Online gambling is more important to the Antiguan economy than it is to the UK, for example, where most of the publicly traded companies are listed, and after Antigua took the US to the WTO over its online gambling policies the DOJ took a special interest in Antiguan providers. The WTO compliance panel report focused on a narrow, Kafkaesque question appropriate to this Kafkaesque DOJ – namely, could the US bring itself into compliance with a prior WTO ruling to open its market to Antiguan gambling services without doing anything at all to bring itself into compliance? The answer was as resounding as it was self-evident: no. Although the answer was obvious, the question was important enough for the Europeans, Japanese and Chinese to weigh in against the US at the WTO panel. After all, what good is the WTO as an organization if a member country can simply refuse to comply with its decisions? In fact, the WTO panel was insulted enough by the American approach to expand its inquiry to issues that it had initially refused to consider due to inadequate information. The initial ruling limited its scope to the most obvious American violation of WTO rules, which involved remote interstate gambling on horse racing. The essence of WTO jurisprudence is that a member country cannot treat domestic suppliers more favorably than foreign ones, and since the US allows online gambling on horseracing by domestic suppliers, while prohibiting it by foreign suppliers, the WTO ruled against the US on the issue. The WTO initially refused to consider whether individual state laws covering remote wagering also violated America’s WTO commitments due to a paucity of information on the issue supplied by the Antiguans. The stalling by the US on bringing its laws into compliance that forced the panel to convene in the first place allowed the WTO the opportunity to revisit this issue. Once again, the US got hammered. 6.121 It is not disputed that the Wire Act prohibits remote wagering from jurisdictions outside the United States, such as Antigua. It is also undisputed that the Wire Act does not prohibit remote wagering within the United States to the extent that it is not in interstate or foreign commerce. Antigua's submissions in this compliance proceeding show that there are at least 18 State laws (laws outside the Panel's terms of reference) that expressly authorize wagering by wire within the United States, including on a wholly intrastate basis. Most of these State laws authorize remote wagering on horse racing, some of them expressly in accordance with the IHA.182 The simultaneous prohibition of cross-border supply of remote wagering services, on the one hand, and the lack of a prohibition of some domestic supply of remote wagering services, on the other hand, afford different treatment.183 As the US comes into compliance with WTO rules on internet gambling services, as it eventually must, the prosecutorial emphasis on internet gambling will fade. Of course, the moralistic streak that typifies the Gonzalez DOJ will not go away so easily, and is one that will continue to inspire questionable compliance at best. It’s a characteristic that has provoked debate both within and without the DOJ. One notable parallel occurred in South Florida back in 2005, when the Gonzalez DOJ, prodded by the same social conservatives that pushed the UIGEA through Congress, decided to put public morals at the top of the prosecutorial agenda. When FBI supervisors in Miami met with new interim U.S. Attorney Alex Acosta last month, they wondered what the top enforcement priority for Acosta and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would be. Would it be terrorism? Organized crime? Narcotics trafficking? Immigration? Or maybe public corruption? The agents were stunned to learn that a top prosecutorial priority of Acosta and the Department of Justice was none of the above. Instead, Acosta told them, it's obscenity. Not pornography involving children, but pornographic material featuring consenting adults. Acosta's stated goal of prosecuting distributors of adult porn has angered federal and local law enforcement officials, as well as prosecutors in his own office. They say there are far more important issues in a high-crime area like South Florida, which is an international hub at risk for terrorism, money laundering and other dangerous activities. Although the DOJ will have to reorder its priorities somewhat, the moralistic streak that permeates the current DOJ leads many to suspect that the Bush administration will continually reinterpret the law to suit its Christian conservative constiuency, as it has done so often with other laws it dislikes. Of course, as far as questionable legal judgment by the Bush administration goes, internet gambling is not a weighty moral issue like the suspension of the right of habeas corpus (possibly the most fundamental principle in all of Western jurisprudence, habeas corpus prevents the Kafkaesque situation of unchallenged and indeterminate detention), the debate about internet gambling touches on issues that really are important, such as the projection of American power and jurisdiction over the internet. Gonzalez, who once dismissed the Geneva conventions as quaint, may soon be obsolete himself. The one silver lining of his tenure is that he bungled his job so badly that he will never be on the Supreme Court, as had been speculated. The combination of pressure from our international trading partners and regime change at home may be the only way the DOJ gets its priorities in order. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Burke Hansen, 03 Apr 2007
Business Objects

Informatica wins $25m, maybe more, from Business Objects

Business Objects may have to shell out at least $25m to data integration specialist Informatica, after losing a long-running patent infringement battle.
Gavin Clarke, 03 Apr 2007
Xen logo

XenSource caters to Windows 2000 laggards

Like a titanium-wired bra, XenSource has become more supportive. The software maker this week patted itself on the back for releasing Version 3.2 of XenEnterprise. The software adds support for Windows 2000 guests. So, stragglers can now run the OS alongside the already supported Windows Server 2003 and Windows XP. Users of Microsoft's fresher operating systems will also now discover SMP support that lets them use servers with up to eight processors rather than a single CPU, as had been the case.
Ashlee Vance, 03 Apr 2007

Imagine, it's Cup time

Here’s a question, what do they put in the water in Hull that makes the students there keep winning the UK heat of Microsoft’s annual Imagine Cup?
Martin Banks, 03 Apr 2007
Microsoft
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Windows Vista license change tackles virtualization

Microsoft has updated Windows Vista licensing for centralized and thin-client computing, as virtualization offers users a chance to cut their software and hardware costs. Customers using Windows Vista Enterprise Edition, and paying through Microsoft’s Software Assurance (SA) maintenance program, now have two new license options.
Gavin Clarke, 03 Apr 2007

Napster purrs over Q4 sales

Napster has warmed the hearts of investors by upping its fourth quarter revenue forecast. The song renter sees Q4 sales reaching $28m – a $2m hike over a previous forecast dished out in February. Those looking for any profit guidance were disappointed as Napster remained tight-lipped on that front. It reported a $10m loss in the third quarter. Investors pushed Napster's stock up 5 per cent to $4.37 per share on the fresh Q4 prediction. Napster's Q4 closed on March 31, and the company will report full results on May 16. “Napster concludes our fiscal year 2007 with over 830,000 paid subscribers.” said CEO Chris Gorog. “We also enjoyed healthy organic growth adding another 40,000 net paid subscribers during the quarter.” The legal Napster remains trapped in a non-iPod world and has enjoyed limited success with its subscription/rental model. For example, Napster has given away tunes to hundreds of thousands of college students but only turned 45,000 of them into paying customers. ®
Ashlee Vance, 03 Apr 2007
graph up

Data Domain readies de-duping IPO

Storage start-up Data Domain filed a registration statement with the SEC for an initial public offering late Friday. Data Domain listed a proposed maximum offering of $100m but has not revealed a target share price or share number. It will seek a Nasdaq listing under the ticker DDUP.
Austin Modine, 03 Apr 2007
homeless man with sign

Marvell gets [SIC] on Sun's NIC

Sun Microsystems's new chip unit has wasted no time picking up a customer. The company today revealed that Marvell will craft a set of products built around one of Sun's networking chip designs.
Ashlee Vance, 03 Apr 2007
Flag Russia
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Cisco инвестирует в России

Cisco announced today the launch of a venture capital initiative aimed at Russia's burgeoning tech industry. The first to grab Cisco's rubles is e-tailer Ozon.ru, Russia's largest online retailer. The site is the most highly-trafficked Russian-language online store, specializing in books, music, movies and electronics.
Austin Modine, 03 Apr 2007