6th > April > 2007 Archive

Pirates ahoy!

Autonomy drops ACID test for copyrighted media

Autonomy has criticized Silicon Valley's Web 2.0 obsession with tagging to classify data, while launching its own software to help media companies scan web sites for pirated content.
Gavin Clarke, 06 Apr 2007

Companies propose Ethernet/SAN love-in

A gaggle of top networking and storage vendors have submitted a new standards proposal that will allow Fibre Channel protocol over Ethernet networks.
Austin Modine, 06 Apr 2007
Microsoft excel teaser

Spreadsheet security? What spreadsheet security!

CommentComment I have written before, and will say again, that Microsoft Excel does not have security. It does actually have some security features but most users don't know about them and, if they do, they are frequently not implemented. In any case, as Microsoft has explicitly stated, the security features in Excel are not actually there to provide security but to make life simpler for users. For example, you can hide worksheets from users so as not to confuse them and you can apply what locking is available for the same reason: so that users just focus on what they need to do and not on other stuff.
Philip Howard, 06 Apr 2007

An alternative to going to camp. Previewing VMWare's Fusion

Apple's re-invigorated assault on the home network market has been partly thanks to its migration to Intel processors. With that move complete comes the opportunity to run Microsoft Windows on hardware that’s very close to that of a so-called "Wintel" PC. Following the work of some enterprising hackers, Apple released a beta product that supports dual booted systems called Boot Camp.
David Perry, 06 Apr 2007
Samsung YP-T9 mp3 player

Samsung YP-T9 MP3 player

ReviewReview Apple must really be feeling the heat by now. While the innovative design and user interface of the iPod will go down in history, they can also split public opinion like a Mac vs PC argument or an open source versus proprietary software flame war. You know, the sort of heated discussions you hear in pubs... and at trade shows just before someone gets glassed.
Scott Snowden, 06 Apr 2007

Reg called more balanced than Wired

LetterLetter Our recent story on government data mining in Singapore drew a letter form Dave Snowden, Founder and Chief Scientific Officer of Cognitive Edge, which is involved in the project. Says Dave: I have just been passed your article in The Register on Singapore's RAHS project, which is slightly more balanced that the Wired article, from which I assume you drew your material. Just for the record, I agree with more or less everything you say about data mining in terms of its effectiveness when compared to human beings with experience. The aspects of RAHS for which I was responsible assume that humans are the primary interpreters both at the raw data, and large pattern, levels, but also that technology can be used to augment their decision making capability. It's very easy to pick up on the original TIA project in the US (massive data mining) and forget that there was a parallel project (Genoa II), which assumed data mining was not the solution. I worked on that project, and took the ideas across to Singapore's RAHS. Technology can augment, but not replace, human decision makers. If you looked elsewhere on the blog you would have seen both a response to Wired, and also more recently a summary of the differences between computer and human cognitive processes. It is to the great credit of the Singapore Government that they have taken an approach based on diversity. Yes, they have data mining (but not TIA) capability from Petersen and others. They also have systems (from ourselves and others) that take a very different approach. Our software is being used (to take one example) to create living oral histories with indigenous people, based on the ideas of emergence (from complexity theory), avoiding crude categorisation or the static nature of many an oral history. It allows people to see patterns, to determine (as I demonstrated in Singapore) nuanced aspects of a government's intent. So instead of saying "The Iranian Government says X, has Y intent, and will do Z", you represent multiple fragments of public domain material about the Iranian Government as a fitness landscape, in which the unmovable aspects are visible, but the places where there is likely to be an opportunity for change, normally hidden by crude stereotyping, become visible. Such material allows senior decision makers to go from the "big picture" to the "raw data" without disintermediation, and to make better, more nuanced decisions as a result. It also allows them to see the same landscape from different cultural perspectives. At no stage does it attempt to predict a terrorist outrage. That (as you say) is beyond technology in the main. The knee jerk reaction of Poindexter-TIA-massive data mining-privacy etc. may make for a better story, but it is far from reality. We won't take issue with you Dave, except over the scurrilous implication that another tech journal could be less biased that this one. ®
Thomas C Greene, 06 Apr 2007

BOFH: What do you mean the system's being audited?

Episode 12Episode 12 "So if we go to your website and build this software, download and deploy it through a group policy over our domain - the machines will all report on the OS, software and version information that they have installed?" the PFY asks. "Yes," Sonya, our friendly root-of-all-evil sales rep says, with the Boss nodding happily in the background. "And the information will be stashed in a database so that we can get pretty reports for our managers - and no one else?" "No one," evil says. "And you're not going to use it to just have a peek to see if we're violating our software licenses for your products?" "Never!" "Not even so that you can tell how many people are using someone else's software instead of yours?" "No." "Not even to tell which software you should be developing in the future?" "Not even then." "Not even to tell which companies you should be buying in the future?" "No." "Not even if it saved your company millions and millions - and millions - of dollars?" "No, it's a client service," our rep says - in the same tone of voice the proctologist uses when he tells you that you'll hardly notice the maglite and tree felling wedges he'll be using in the next procedure. "Not even if Beelzebub himself asks for it?" "Still no," our rep says. "...Liar, liar pants on fire!" the PFY responds. "Look," the Boss snaps, wading into the argument. "This is a fantastic opportunity for you to offload some of your more onerous tasks. They're doing it to help you! You can install this program and then when we need information about what software we're running, what we should be buying, and what needs upgrading, we can just go to their website and look - and it's all up to date!!" "It's a waste of time. And an invasion of our privacy," the PFY says defensively. "I think you're just exaggerating - it's a wonderful opportunity for us, and I'd like you to at least trial it. If we don't like it we can just uninstall it later. We'll take a look at it and see if the information it provides us is worth the effort." ...half an hour later when Mission Control empties... "This is bad!" the PFY mumbles, pacing about the place. "Really bad!" "What do you mean bad?" I ask. "We'll deploy the app, it'll come back and tell us that we have about 600 machines and maybe we'll discover that we need to get a few licenses for stuff which shouldn't in theory be running." "What about if it came back and told us that we had about 2,000 machines?" "No, it doesn't look at license keys issued, it looks at actual machines." "That's what I mean," the PFY says, looking around furtively. "What do you mean?" "Well, you know when that bloke from across the road needed some help in setting up their domain a couple of years ago?" "I...vaguely." "And you know how I did most of the donkey work for him..." "Uhhmm, if you say so." "You know, bought and installed the domain controllers, bought the client licenses, bought and installed the CALs for all their office prod..." "You didn't!" I gasp. "I...." "You joined them to our domain with the site license." "Yes." "And DIDN'T SHARE THE CASH!?" "I...think we have bigger problems." "What do you bloody mean, WE? WE implies some form of partnership - consultation - profit sharing." "Well if this is just about the money..." the PFY begins. "That's right," I nod. "And not about the harsh personal consequences that might befall you as the signatory of the site license documents and chief administrator of the systems concerned..." "You bastard! You had this all worked out didn't you?" "No, no, it was just luck that you were the one doing the signing this year. As opposed to the planning that went into ensuring that the ownership of the OU concerned was you - which will probably show up when I click the deploy button," the PFY says, finger hovering over his mouse. "Okay, okay. Truce," I say. "It's a simple problem - deploy the app tonight, then drag a DC over to their building early tomorrow. Isolate them from the world and tell them there's been a network outage and they won't get the software or show up on the scan." "That'll only buy us a couple of hours - we need at least four hours apparently." "If you need an extra couple of hours, set a skip bin on fire and fan the smoke into the ventilation system - then break a stack of sprinkler heads inside after everyone evacuates," I say, recalling an old favourite. "I suppose it's a plan." ...the next evening... "Did you see the place across the road had a full blown evacuation today?" the Boss asks as the PFY enters Mission Control, pausing momentarily upon seeing Sonya back in the office. "Really?" I say. "I was out collecting some gear from offsite." "Bid scene," the Boss burbles. "Anyway back to the review - so we're pretty much A-OK for licenses and our software's mostly up to date. There was just the one problem." "Problem?" the PFY asks. "Yes, a bit of...well...piracy going on." "Piracy? I thought the tool wasn't going to be used as a stick to beat us with?" then PFY snaps. "It's not," the Boss says. "I called Sonya in because someone's installed a stack of games on a couple of machines and Simon suggested she could tell me if she could help me track them down." "YOU suggested?" the PFY says, looking to me. "Well yes," I say innocently. "Because of course piracy is everyone's problem." "Piracy?" "Yes," the Boss says. "Sonya was able to find out that the license keys used were ones available on a pirate website." "But the good news is," I say. "That they're not work machines - they are personal machines, and shouldn't even be plugged into the network. These machines in fact." I point to a box with a couple of portable gaming rigs which look as impressive now as they did when I stole them from the PFY's front room this morning. "And we were just discussing that since the machines have no identifiable owners there's no one to be referred for prosecution." "Oh," the PFY says, masking a measure of relief. "And as there's no identifiable owner Simon felt that perhaps Sonya's company might want to clean the machines up and donate them and some software to a suitable charity..." "Did he?" the PFY seethes. "And he suggested that you might be able to donate some of your time to helping erase them..." "I don't thi..." "Hey - why don't we check with the hardware vendor to see if the warranty card was filled out?" I suggest. "Oh I suppose I can do it now," the PFY says. "Isn't it great when everybody wins?" I ask. BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 06 Apr 2007

Don't forget the ‘C’ in Objective-C

Part OnePart One Nowadays, it’s all too easy to take today’s fast processors for granted. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, I get the impression that a lot of developers do just that. This devil-may-care attitude is not, in my opinion, the result of complacency but far more likely due to inexperience or even – dare I say it? – ignorance.
Dave Jewell, 06 Apr 2007

Plenty of Sun users to skip Fujitsu march

A large chunk of Sun Microsystems customers may skip right over the upcoming SPARC experiment with Fujitsu, according to server chief John Fowler.
Ashlee Vance, 06 Apr 2007

Too many users fending for themselves on BI

Reg Reader WorkshopReg Reader Workshop Recent feedback gathered through reader surveys and workshops tells us that the need for direct information access by end users is increasing. Around one in five organisations already view business intelligence as something that is relevant to a broad audience rather than just a select few senior managers, analysts and other power users. Beyond this, a further 52% see the need for such broader access, even though they might not have got there yet (view chart). The question is how much organisations are prepared to meet such evolving demands.
Dale Vile, 06 Apr 2007

Court bars Vonage from signing up new customers

Vonage is not allowed to sign up new customers while it appeals a court ruling that it infringed three Verizon patents. This is the price the VoiP telephony provider must pay for gaining some breathing space in its appeal against an injunction from using technology "owned" by Verizon. Vonage asked the trial judge to reconsider the ban. Vonage lawyer Roger Warin said the ruling is "like cutting off oxygen as opposed to a bullet in the head [which would] in effect slowly strangle Vonage," he said, Bloomberg reports. The firm is certain to appeal this ruling, the newswire says. Last month, a federal jury in Alexandria, Virginia found that Vonage should pay $58m and 5.5 per cent royalties to Verizon for infringing its patents. U.S. District Judge Claude Hilton issued a permanent injunction against Vonage, agreeing with Verizon that its business would suffer irreperable harm, if Vonage was allowed to conduct business as usual. Vonage says it used "open-standard, off-the-shelf technology when developing its service" and that the court evidence failed to prove otherwise. ®
Drew Cullen, 06 Apr 2007

Verisign wastes no time jacking up domain prices

Verisign yesterday announced in a press release that it will raise its registry fees for .com and/or .net domain names by seven per cent to $6.42 on October 15, 2007, as provided for in a controversial contract inked last March between the company and ICANN. Although domain registration fees for the industry as a whole are on the downswing, the deal with Verisign provided for increases of seven per cent in four of any six years of the agreement. However, the deal also provides that in any year when the seven per cent rate increase clause is not exercised, under Section 7.3(d) of the contract Verisign will still be able to raise its prices by seven per cent that year if any of several contingencies are met, such as a “threat of attack on the Security or Stability of the DNS.” One of the more controversial clauses in the contract, Section 4.2, also provided for default renewal of the .com contract with Verisign, unless a court or arbitrator rules that Verisign is in material breach of the contract. This should be quite a cash cow for Verisign – it will be worth $24m in just the first year - and with compounded interest, will add 31 per cent to the costs of registration in the first four years alone. Nothing in the contract explains what a sufficient “threat of attack” is to justify an additional seven per cent price raise, but we expect the good folks at Verisign to clear that up for us in year five. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Burke Hansen, 06 Apr 2007
acer logo

Acer up, Dell down in laptop sales

Acer has long let it be known that it is gunning for Lenovo's third place in the global PC market. In Q4 last year, it picked off an easier target, overtaking Toshiba to become the world's third best selling notebook PC maker.
Drew Cullen, 06 Apr 2007
arrow pointing up

NetAppX rebrandsX TopioX

NetApp is repackaging Topio's borged flagship data replication software into something a little more Flash Gordon. Topio's Data Protection Suite has now become NetApp ReplicatorX. Beware, defenders of earth!
Austin Modine, 06 Apr 2007
Warning: biohazard

ANI takers for Asus website virus?

Asus.com.tw, the website of Taiwanese motherboard maker Asustek, has been spraying visitors with the .ANI virus, security software makers confirmed today. Which is not nice.
Drew Cullen, 06 Apr 2007

Our patents are bigger than yours, Nokia tells Qualcomm

AnalysisAnalysis This week Nokia puts $20m of patent royalties into the pot for Qualcomm for the coming quarter, in the hope of mitigating any damages that might be awarded against it in a patent dispute with Qualcomm over UMTS patents. It triggered this payment to Qualcomm just hours after the US wireless intellectual property giant filed yet more patent abuse cases against Nokia in the US. In all Qualcomm filed two new cases, one in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division over two patents and another in the Western District of Wisconsin for infringement of three patents. The first case relates to the downloading of applications and other digital content over a GPRS/EDGE wireless data network and the other to speech encoders used in certain models of GSM cellphones. Qualcomm is trying to get Nokia phones off the shelves immediately by applying for an injunction. There are already similar cases pending in the UK, France, Germany, Italy and China. The problem is just how much Qualcomm charges for its patents, and its charging practices were thrown into sharp relief in its legal actions against Broadcom. In fact it might be said that the company settled with Broadcom so that the harsh light of day would not be shone onto its habit of charging more for its patents that other essential patent holders feel they can sensibly charge for theirs. The Nokia payment is an amount that Nokia thinks is fair, not the old royalty amount that it pays under the agreement with Qualcomm that ends this week, and until a trial says otherwise, it's pretty unlikely that any judge will punish Nokia with an injunction, when it is prepared to pay money to Qualcomm to continue its use of patents. Nokia said that the payment announced this week does not extend, and is not related to, the old agreement, rather, it is based on the licenses that Qualcomm has agreed and provided through the European Telecommunication Standardization Institute (ETSI). "As we continue to negotiate the new cross-license agreement, Nokia views this payment as fair and reasonable compensation for the use of relevant Qualcomm essential patents in Nokia UMTS handsets during the second quarter of 2007. Nokia believes that Qualcomm's patent portfolio is concentrated in the United States, and that it has few or no alleged UMTS patents in many of the countries in which Nokia has substantial UMTS handset sales. When Qualcomm's early patents become paid-up and royalty-free on April 9, 2007 Qualcomm's share of all patents relevant to Nokia UMTS handsets will significantly decrease", said Rick Simonson, chief financial officer, Nokia. Nokia intends to make similar payments in the future and will announce such payments when they are made. The whole point from the Nokia point of view is that its patents are at least as essential for running a UMTS cellular network as Qualcomm’s and it doesn’t see why it should pay anything at all, and that the payments should be offset. As a result it wants a legal battle and it wants it to be as public as possible. If Qualcomm fails to settle before that happens it is likely that any settlement in Nokia’s favor, even if it is just some of what Nokia wants, will almost automatically extend to Qualcomm’s other 140 licensees. Qualcomm has hinted that it may separate out its intellectual property into a separate company, and focus on chip design and chip sales, something that it appears to have no peers at in CDMA wireless technology. The Nokia statement also had a veiled threat from the big Finnish handset maker, saying that it retains the right to ask Qualcomm, and its customers, to respect Nokia's patents rights, which have significant value. "It is important to note that as of April 9, 2007, Qualcomm's entire chipset business becomes exposed to Nokia's extensive GSM, WCDMA and CDMA patent portfolios and Nokia will use all rights from those portfolios when defending itself against any new Qualcomm litigation", a Nokia statement said. ®
Faultline, 06 Apr 2007

Microsoft shows its hand to stay in the mobile web war

AnalysisAnalysis Microsoft had its hand forced this week into unveiling just a little of its arsenal in the war to win the browser battle on the mobile phone. Microsoft clearly won the PC browser war by giving away and bundling its Internet Explorer, and then by creating a rich, open platform which along with the Visual Studio tools allowed developers to get the best out of browser based applications. Today it is clearly lagging in browser penetration in handsets and there is an argument that says it is so much the enemy of all the major handset makers that a browser from Microsoft will never be allowed sufficient access to the hardware architecture to be viable. Repeatedly it has been asked of Microsoft, why not throw away Windows Mobile and build a new generation of software on top of the prevalent smart phone operating systems – Symbian and Linux, or add Windows Mobile only as an afterthought? But while operators couldn’t give two hoots about whether Microsoft has control of the device they buy into, handset makers like Nokia are just never going to co-operate, so Microsoft is constantly forced back into developing only for its own platform, with no access to the bulk of the market. So far Nokia, with its browser strategy embracing both Apple’s Safari and Opera, has been ahead of the game in trying to promote a standard and intuitive way to browse web pages on a handset. Nokia also sits with Series 60 in the development role that Microsoft occupies on PCs with Visual Studio, and also Nokia and Apple embrace AJAX and Widgets, the browser development environment and prefabricated applets. There are perhaps three ways, one of which has been seen not to work, of making web pages look okay on a small screen. The first way, to insist that the web developer also builds a specialist handset version of its pages, just doesn’t work, as earlier version of WAP showed us. That leaves two more possibilities, either we have the browser behave so intelligently that it can fluidly re-lay out the page, using some underlying understanding of how big text and graphics have to be on this particular sized screen for humans to be comfortable with it, or we can change the way the browser functions. And while the former approach is exemplified by the Apple iPhone and Nokia’s efforts, the latter is the approach that Microsoft is experimenting with in its Deepfish browser, issued for controlled download earlier this week. The Deepfish principle is simple. The web page downloads as a thumbnail, which is fairly impossible to view properly but acts as a navigation aid, and then the consumer is forced into the extra step of having to zoom in to the particular part of the web page that has the data or graphics that he or she wants to view. The application is now available in a limited private beta from Microsoft and it has already exceeded the number of controlled copies that the company is happy issuing. There are no clues to when the browser may be offered as a completed piece of software. Of course Deepfish is only aimed at Windows Mobile at present, for all the reasons we said before, but if Microsoft can precipitate a new paradigm in browser usage (locate and zoom) then it will have the intellectual property to invade the rest of the mobile market, potentially through patent royalties or partnerships. One of the reasons that some analysts see for Deepfish arriving now is the fact that the Mozilla based Minimo project also went into free beta this week, offering a replacement for the Windows Mobile browser This browser supports both JavaScript and AJAX, has tab browsing, RSS support, and its own security tools and support for widgets. In other words the open source community is attempting to invade the small area of mobile turf that Microsoft has preserved for itself. Perhaps the answer was to have Microsoft Live Labs give a preview of Deepfish, before the rival caught on. Deepfish still does not have support for ActiveX controls, AJAX, cookies, Javascript, and HTTP POST. Microsoft Labs described Deepfish's goal as "preserving the rich layout and full form of documents on mobile devices, while providing novel ways of effectively navigating that content on small screens." We might describe it as preserving Microsoft’s (slim) chance of building a surviving handset software platform for the next huge mobile war, the battle for control of the mobile web. 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, 06 Apr 2007

(Agence) France(-Press) surrenders to Google

News agency Agence France-Presse entered a ménage à deux today with Google en lieu of a $17.5m lawsuit over its news stories appearing on Google News. Google will pay to use AFP content that drives online traffic to AFP affiliates. Financial details of the dénouement were not disclosed. The contretemps began in March, 2005 when AFP filed suit against Google for using headlines, photographs and news summaries without permission. Google made a similar concordat with the Associated Press in August. However, AP content has not been used in Google's news aggregator yet. The announcement at the time suggested that AP content will be applied in a future Google product. AFP's director for strategic planning, Eric Scherer, told Business Week that Google will make use of AFP news in "novel ways" in the future. However, he would not reveal any details of their sleeping arrangements. Which is one way of saving up a scoop for the future. ®
Austin Modine, 06 Apr 2007