12th > April > 2007 Archive

12

Sony US yanks 20GB PlayStation 3

It's official: Sony has canned the 20GB PlayStation 3, a version of the console never seen in the UK, Europe and PAL territories, but released in the US and Japan.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007
3

Shuttle debuts firey hued, liquid cooled gaming PC

Small form-factor PC specialist Shuttle has introduced its first liquid-cooled system, launching the flame-coloured performance box in Japan as the limited edition SDXi 1337 series.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007
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11

Ebuyer caught pinching content again

Ebuyer has again been caught stealing content from rival websites. Once again, the site didn't even bother with a traditional cut and paste but left content to be hosted by the website it was stealing from.
John Oates, 12 Apr 2007

Orange unpeels Samsung BlackBerry-esque i600

Orange will be bringing Samsung's Windows Mobile-based BlackBerry-like i600 smart phone to the UK and France, the carrier's website has revealed. It'll arrive toward the end of this month, others have claimed.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007

Intel Core 2 Celerons benchmarked

Intel's upcoming Core 2-derived single-core 65nm Celeron 400 series looks set to give comparably clocked AMD Athlon 64 processors a run for their money, if pre-release benchmarks posted on the net are to be believed.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007
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Hitachi Consulting acquires Impact Plus

Hitachi Consulting has expanded its reach into the European services and solutions market with the acquisition of UK-based IT consulting firm Impact Plus.
Kelly Fiveash, 12 Apr 2007
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Finisar unwraps cure for SAN fabric blindness

Network test and measurement specialist Finisar has introduced a protocol analyser for 8Gig Fibre Channel, aimed both at SAN equipment developers and integrators, and large enterprise users.
Bryan Betts, 12 Apr 2007
20

Government predicts one third of people will resist ID checks

One in three people will resist identity checks according to Government figures. The just-released statistics predict a widespread revolt over identity cards, but the Home Office has dismissed the figures as irrelevant and out of date. In 2004 Mark Oaten, the then Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs, asked for figures to be published on the assumptions being made by Government about ID cards' use. The Government refused. Oaten's request was backed by the Information Commissioner and an Information Tribunal and the figures have now been released. The figures show that 30 per cent of people were predicted by the Government to refuse to co-operate with ID card checks. The papers, published by the Department for Work and Pensions, show that officials expected that 60 per cent of people would carry an ID card even if it became compulsory to own but not carry one. ID cards will be introduced next year on a voluntary basis, but the officials had operated on the assumption that they would be compulsory to have but not necessarily to carry by 2014. Even then, just 60 per cent of people would choose to carry a card, and a further 10 per cent would be happy to confirm their identity by a finger or eye-scan on the street, officials assumed. They also calculated, though, that 30 per cent of people would refuse to carry or show their card or to submit to a finger or eye scan to confirm their identity. The Home Office, the Government department in charge of ID cards, said the figures were "incredibly out of date", but did not indicate whether or not they still formed the basis of working assumptions forming the basis of Government plans. The figures show that the Government believed in 2004 that ID cards would cut some benefit frauds in half. They calculated that identity fraud in Income Support and Jobseekers Allowance benefits would drop from £50m a year to £25m. Plans for ID cards have faced widespread opposition, and Government plans to use a completely new, dedicated computer database as the basis for them have been scrapped. Several existing Government databases will now be used. The Government has also dropped plans to have an iris scan form part of every ID card. In a Strategic Action Plan published in December, iris scanning was listed as only an option and not a requirement. A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Daily Telegraph found that hundreds of thousands of UK citizens would refuse to sign up to a national identity register in the first place, even if it resulted in fines. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related links Government drops iris scan plan Citizens will face fine rather than sign up to ID card register MPs want to postpone ID Home Secretary will review ID card scheme
OUT-LAW.COM, 12 Apr 2007

Overlooking tradeoffs could kill your project

One of our readers, Bill Nicholls, has just written in with a comment on my "Housebuilding as a metaphor for software development" blog. He says: "Deadline, quality, functions - pick any two." In short, every project is a tradeoff. The above assumes that cost is fixed, but if that is a variable, the above line becomes: "Cost, deadline, quality, functions - pick any three."
David Norfolk, 12 Apr 2007
8

Trading Standards officers become copyright enforcers

Trading Standards officers are now empowered to enter premises and seize goods and documents they believe to be involved in copyright infringement, now that changes to the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act have come into force. The officers' existing powers of search and seizure are being extended to copyright offences in changes which were recommended in Andrew Gowers' Review of Intellectual Property, published last December. The Minister for Science and Innovation at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Malcolm Wicks, has put into force a section of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act which inserts new sections into the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act giving Trading Standards officers new powers. Those officers will now have a general responsibility of enforcement of copyright infringement, and gives them the right to make test purchases and seize goods and documents. The order came into force on 6th April. "The UK film, music and game industries are among the most creative and innovative in the world, but peddlers of counterfeits are costing those industries up to £9bn a year," said Wicks. "The taxpayer is also losing out to the tune of £300m. It's a serious offence, whether committed by small-scale hawkers or international crime organisations." The changes are backed by £5m in what the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) says is new funding for Trading Standards. The UKIPO is the new name for the UK Patent Office in what is the implementation of another Gowers recommendation. The new money will pay for the existing 4,500 Trading Standards officers to undertake the new duties. Despite Wicks previously saying that "there'll be an additional 4,500 pairs of Trading Standards eyes watching counterfeiters and pirates", the UKIPO has said that what was meant was that existing officers would be newly deployed to copyright duties. The Government says it hopes the development will have an impact on organised crime, which it claims is a beneficiary of organised piracy. "IP criminals should know that the UK is not a safe place," said Wicks. "Their risk of 10 years' imprisonment and unlimited fines is very real and from this date forward a markedly higher risk." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 12 Apr 2007

Nintendo upgrades Wii web browser

Nintendo has rolled out a smarter version of its Wii games console's Internet Channel, offering the application - based on the Opera web browser - to Net-connected Wii owners free of charge until 30 June.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007

Samsung 10.9mm skinny phone slips into Europe

Samsung has launched its Ultra Edition II 10.9 - more prosiacally also known as the SGH-U600 - in Europe - for a second time. It first showed the 10.9mm-thick slider phone back in February at the 3GSM show.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007

Dell and Adobe UK look for their calculators

Dell makes the channel feel good Good news for the channel, Dell had another bad week. As if being ticked off by Nasdaq for not handing in regulatory filings for its past fiscal year wasn't bad enough, the direct vendor also had a bad fourth quarter in laptop sales. Shipments fell 1.5 per cent from the third quarter to 3.52 million units.
Billy MacInnes, 12 Apr 2007
3

EU poised for vote on roaming cap

The EU committee on Industry, Research and Energy is to vote this morning on a proposal to cap the amount network operators can charge for roaming within the EU, potentially reducing the cost of roaming by 70 per cent. The committee found that international roaming costs between 10 per cent and 20 per cent more than in-country use, but current charges are often 100 per cent more, or worse, justifying the need for legislation. The idea is to cap the amount operators can charge for wholesale access to their network, and then cap the amount that operators can charge their customers to 130 per cent of that. This approach has the benefit of simplicity and will automatically be applied to all EU mobile phone users if the vote goes through. The alternative, offering a fixed-price Euro tariff to all customers, has been rejected as it requires customers to opt-in and thus be educated as to its existence. The vote is very likely to go though. Even the GSMA, which represents the mobile industry, seems to accept that some form of cap is inevitable and has reduced itself to lobbying on the amounts concerned. Proposals to date have talked about prices as low as €0.15 for receiving a call, and €0.40 for making one, while the GSMA reckons its members can't make money charging less than €0.35 for incoming and €0.65 for outgoing calls. Some operators have shown themselves more than willing to be flexible on European roaming, especially where the company operates in more than one country. In the UK most operators offer some form of cheap roaming tariff, though this hasn't been enough to deter regulators who are also threatening to legislate on SMS and data charges unless the industry reduces prices markedly in the next few months. Assuming the committee approves the measure, it will be up to the European Parliament to vote it into legislation in May. The hope is to have the tariff in operation by the summer, though the proposal itself accepts that it will take at least three months, and even up to a year, depending on legal challenges. ®
Bill Ray, 12 Apr 2007
6

ATM blagger cuffed after artificial leg falls off

A would-be ATM blagger was cuffed after losing his artificial leg during a police pursuit - thereby depriving him of the full complement of limbs required to show officers a clean set of heels. According to AP, 48-year-old Gregory Daniels and an accomplice drove up to Pomona Ranch Market, California, last Tuesday at 3am, smashed a window and attached a chain from their pickup truck to an ATM. They ripped the machine from its mountings, loaded it onto the truck and made off with their prize. Police duly chased the vehicle into a dead-end street in a residential neighbourhood, where Daniels' chum successfully legged it. Daniels, though, was quickly apprehended, as Sergeant E Vazquez explained: "Daniels was on the ground near the vehicle in an attempt to flee from officers. However, he was unsuccessful, as his prosthetic leg fell off." The ATM was recovered, AP notes. Whether Pomona law enforcement pre-empted a possible jailbreak by confiscating Daniels' tin leg - a technique perfected by wartime German authorities when faced with the escape-prone Douglas Bader - is not reported. ®
Lester Haines, 12 Apr 2007
3

NHS patient site set for summer launch

A new patient choice website, including patient reviews of hospitals, has been announced by health secretary Patricia Hewitt. She announced that NHS Choices will go live during the summer. It is being developed by Dr Foster Intelligence, LBi and Sapient, following an invitation to tender in January. "Patients will soon be able to choose, with the click of a button, where they want to have their treatment," said Hewitt. "Our new choice website will allow the public and clinicians to access a range of information through one super site that will act as a gateway to navigate NHS services." In addition, from 11 April around 30 libraries in 10 local authority areas will run pilots in which library staff will help patients to choose hospitals for treatments online. The Choices website will include: "searchable comprehensive directories e.g. on hospitals, GPs and care homes; comparative data on hospital waiting times, cleanliness and readmission rates; (and) individual and family health risk assessments based on age, sex and location," according to the Department of Health. The site will also have a range of multimedia content, and a function for patients to comment on their hospital treatment. Paul Hodgkin, chief executive of Patient Opinion – which already provides a patient review service for the NHS – says his organisation may help provide this aspect of NHS Choices. "The Department of Health would like us to be involved in the patient feedback bit of the site, and all other things being equal we would like that too," he said, adding that it would make sense for Patient Opinion's experience to be drawn upon. However, Hodgkin said issues such as the location of the personal data need to be resolved. "Our view is that these sorts of sites are better drawn from a civil society base, rather than government, but that's not where it's coming from," he said. The opening of the Choices website will be accompanied by patients gaining the ability to choose any provider in the country for orthopaedic and hip replacement treatments. "Free" choice will to apply to all treatments from April 2008, but has been brought forward for these procedures. "The BMA welcomes putting patients at the centre of everything," British Medical Association chairman James Johnson said in a statement. "While this website is likely to have a lot of useful information, we need to make sure the information is accurate and that patients are able to use it meaningfully. For that reason it must not be presented in technical jargon." The libraries involved in the patient choice pilot are in seven London boroughs, Derbyshire, Gloucestershire and Suffolk. 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, 12 Apr 2007

Big Blue boffins build 3D chip stack tech

IBM is bidding to become the NCP of semiconductors with a multi-storey chip technology that it hopes will allow CPUs to be stacked with memory, specialised processing cores and other components one on top of the other.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007
4

Thai king pardons spray-painting Swiss man

Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej has pardoned the Swiss man sentenced to 10 years' jail for defacing images of the revered monarch, the BBC reports. Oliver Jufer was recently sentenced to a lengthy spell in chokey for spray-painting over images of Adulyadej in the city of Chiang Mai last December. He'd apparently been refused alcohol on the king's 79th birthday and took out his sobriety on portraits of Adulyadej. Chiang Mai police Colonel Prachuab Wongsuk told AP: "The king in his kindness has granted him a pardon and he has been transferred from prison and is in the process of being deported from the country." Thailand may have shown mercy to Jufer, but it's still pretty hacked off with YouTube. The country earlier this month blocked all access to the site after one wag posted a video deemed offensive to Thai Buddhists. The offending clip rather sensationally showed Adulyadej compromised by "the juxtaposition of a pair of woman's feet, the lowest part of the body, above his head, the highest part of the body". Thailand asked YouTube to remove the clip, the request was denied, and the plug duly pulled. Although the poster later voluntarily pulled the vid, Thailand continued to block the site "as two images deemed offensive remained". YouTube last week said it would "not take down material that did not violate policies but would show authorities how to block individual items", the BBC reports. The site's global communications supremo, Julie Supan, said: "It's up to the Thailand government to decide whether to block specific videos, but we would rather that than have them block the entire site." ®
Lester Haines, 12 Apr 2007
5

Opera brings 'speed dial' to browsers

BriefBrief Browser maker Opera has added a "speed dial" feature to the latest version of its browser, allowing surfers to gain ready access to their favourite sites more easily. Speed Dial allows surfers to nominate their top nine sites as visual favourites that are immediately available in any new tab. The feature, explained here, debuted in Opera 9.20 this week. Opera 9.20 with Speed Dial is available for Windows, Mac and Linux flavours at no charge. The browser supports 31 languages. In other browser related news, Opera released a version of its software for Nintendo Wii gaming devices on Tuesday. ®
John Leyden, 12 Apr 2007

Update opens 'hidden' GPS on HTC P3600

HTC's P3600 PDA phone has a secret: it's got a built-in GPS receiver. And thanks to a newly posted system software update, this previously hidden facility been activated.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007
Warning Go

LeftHand takes iSCSI to 10Gig

LeftHand Networks has IP-based SANs running over 10Gig Ethernet and is touting these as proof that iSCSI is finally ready for large enterprises to use.
Bryan Betts, 12 Apr 2007
1

EU data protection chief slams police data sharing treaty

The European Commission, pushed by the European Council, neglected its statutory obligation to ensure its initiatives are democratically accountable, transparent, and planned wisely, when considering plans for police data sharing the European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) said yesterday. The EDPS took the unusual step of speaking out of turn on the Treaty of Prüm, a legislative measure designed to give European police forces a legal basis for sharing data with one another. There's nothing wrong with sharing data to catch baddies, but the framework has been knocked up in such a hurry since the treaty was signed in May 2005 that the EDPS is worried it pays scant regard to the liberties of ordinary people. Moreover, the EDPS has criticised the "democratic legitimacy" of the initiative and even raised questions about its legal basis. "One could argue that the Prüm convention breaches the law of the European Union, for the reasons mentioned above," said the EDPS in the opinion. But, it added, as it's all about introducing European law into an area where it has minimal jurisdiction anyway, it's "mainly theoretical". The EDPS's problem stemmed from the way in which Prüm was established. European police wanted to share data, but the law restricted them. An EU framework that would allow them to share is working through the Brussels mangle, but is likely to take a long time. So a coterie of seven member states broke away from the EU and met in Prüm to establish the basis for their own data sharing arrangement. As there were only seven and not eight states in Prüm they were able to sketch out their treaty without any recourse to the EDPS, which is supposed to make sure that data sharing is done with respect to civil rights. Hence, the EDPS's opinion today includes some serious reservations about the credentials of the treaty - and not only because it wasn't invited to the party. This might become more of a problem as the Prüm lot appear to have queue jumped their way through the EU legislative process. Another eight member states have agreed to join the Prüm seven, while some of the originals have already ratified the treaty into national law. They are now presenting this for a vote in the council, where the treaty must be unanimously accepted, but it has effectively been presented as a fait accompli. "As a result, other member states are denied a real say in the choice of rules," the EDPS said. "It denies all need for a democratic and transparent legislative process since it does not even respect the already very limited prerogatives under the third pillar" (The third pillar being the area of police and judicial matters over which the EU has so little influence). The EDPS said there had been no time to assess how well Prüm helped police work, except for some hasty results thrown out of tentative links between Germany and Austria in December. Prüm was only supposed to be a "test lab" anyway. Neither had it tested the consequences for civil liberties. And then there were a raft of data protection failures in the legislation, such as its limp description of how DNA might be collected and what use might be made of hearsay. As the EDPS put it, Prüm might not adhere to the principles of "necessity and proportionality". ®
Mark Ballard, 12 Apr 2007
11

US border patrol tests 98-foot networked radar towers

American border guards will soon deploy 98-foot-tall radar surveillance masts with built-in wireless networking in a bid to prevent the Land of the Free being overrun by huddled masses of Mexicans (and perhaps Canadians) intent on entering the US illegally and working hard for very little money. Boeing, prime contractor for the Secure Border Initiative (SBI), recently announced a successful test of the first "integrated mobile sensor tower". According to SBI Monthly (pdf), the towers will provide information to the Common Operating Picture, or COP, a networked computer map showing where all the pesky huddled masses are. SBI Monthly lays out a typical scenario showing how COP works: A group of individuals has just entered the US illegally and is on foot. As they make their way across the desert, they are picked up on radar...A Sector Enforcement Specialist identifies the location...[and] zooms in to get a visual on what triggered the radar. The Specialist then notifies Border Patrol Agents in the vicinity through voice communications. The responding Agent is then relayed the coordinates of the illegal aliens to their Mobile COP, displayed on their laptop computer mounted in their vehicle...the Agent goes to intercept...Moments later, the Agent locates the illegal aliens and makes the apprehensions. Assuming flat desert terrain, a 98-foot mast will have line of sight range out to approximately 12 miles, so each tower could sweep a circle of territory 24 miles across with its all-seeing eye. The US' southern border is a smidgeon under 2,000 miles long. Deputy commissioner Deborah Spero of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), who chairs the SBI steering committee, said: "Technology and tactical infrastructure are essential...This is the most aggressive program ever attempted to secure our nation's borders. I am confident that the men and women of CBP will be successful in executing this critical mission," as reported by SBI Monthly. No more affordable, illegal childminders and maids for the American middle classes if Spero and the CBP have anything to say about it, clearly. And Bluecollar Joe Lunchbox will be able to compete for business against his Chinese or Korean counterpart while staying on a decent salary with full pension, free doughnuts, health and dental. There was no word on the SBI's ability to prevent investment moving overseas, but this capability surely can't be long in coming. At any rate, those blasted terrorists won't be able to get in (except by airline. Or by underhandedly being born American, like Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh, still lying in the number-two spot behind the 9/11 crew for US soil atrocity deathtoll). Ignoring for now the complexities of global capital and labour and the imponderables of terror risk, there are still a few Americans worried about the SBI on plain old value for money grounds. Various other big-budget federal border-control programmes have cost vast sums and failed to realistically achieve much. Examples include the Coast Guard's Deepwater project, and a 1990s initiative by the Immigration and Naturalisation Service to plant all kinds of ritzy sensors around the south western border. Govexec.com reports that the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general estimates the final cost of SBI at $8bn to $30bn, though Boeing has no contracts of that magnitude just yet. That could be seen as a hell of a lot of money just to drive up the number of attempts it takes to get across the border. And there isn't a lot of reason to suppose that the SBI can do much more than that. A substantial proportion of illegal entrants turned away at US borders simply keep trying, and no barrier system is perfect. Supposing the coyotes and their Canadian counterparts show a bit of technical flair, it might not be impossible to defeat the SBI – or at least give the men and women of "Sector Enforcement" a run for their money. The COP plot will be accessible from many nodes via different forms of communication – otherwise it won't be a whole lot of use. It's far from impossible to imagine talented black hats in the employ of people and drug-smuggling gangs gaining access to the COP and perhaps inserting spoof huddled masses or deleting real ones. Simpler techniques might be useful, too. Radar-reflective chaff and decoys aren't hard to make. They could fairly easily be deployed from portable home-built launchers or mortars of the type the Provisional IRA were making from plumbing materials decades ago. Today's coyotes aren't at this level, but considering the powerful financial incentives they'll have to beat SBI technology there's no reason why they wouldn't raise their game. Cameras can be blinded by lasers and flares, perhaps from safety across the border. Comms can be jammed. Simplest of all, once the available CBP agents are all tasked the ability to track further incursions won't be all that useful. Of course, Boeing would ask for nothing more than such a battle of technical wits with the smugglers. With billions of taxpayer dollars to spend and expertise acquired working for the Pentagon, they ought to come out on top without too much difficulty - though their bills would no doubt get bigger. The CBP would no doubt be happy to hire all the agents American taxpayers will pay for, too. But the rebuffed illegals will probably just turn round and try again; they don't have anything better to do. ®
Lewis Page, 12 Apr 2007
1

NASA plans mission to sweep away cloud mysteries

NASA is planning a new mission to probe mysterious ice clouds that hover around our atmosphere at the edge of space. The Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) spacecraft aims to help researchers understand how the clouds form and explain recent changes in their formation patterns. The craft, slated to launch on 25 April, will carry three instruments for three experiments: the Solar Occultation for Ice Experiment; the Cloud Imaging and Particle Size Experiment; and the Cosmic Dust Experiment. The instruments will collect data on air pressure and temperature, moisture content, and cloud dimensions. Polar mesospheric clouds are so-called because they form over the poles at an altitude of around 50km in the "mesosphere", the region just above the stratosphere. They can only be seen from the ground at night, a phenomenon known as noctilucence. This is because the need to be illuminated by sunlight that isn't also striking the surface of the earth. The clouds seem to be a relatively recent phenomenon, with the first recorded report of them dating to the late 19th century, shortly after the volcanic eruption on the Indonesian island of Krakatoa. In recent years they have been forming at lower altitude, and appear brighter. They are also more prevalent than they used to be, and some researchers suggest this might be the result of climate change, since an increase in atmospheric CO2 actually causes a cooling in the mesosphere. "These clouds are indicators of conditions in the upper reaches of the Earth's atmosphere and are an important link in the chain of processes that result in the deposition of solar energy into Earth's atmosphere," said Mary Mellott, AIM program scientist for NASA. "The occurrence of these clouds at the edge of space and what causes them to vary is not understood," AIM principal investigator James Russell III, from Hampton University, said. "One theory is that the cloud particles grow on 'seeds' of meteoric dust or dust lofted up from below. AIM will provide the comprehensive data needed to test current theories for cloud formation or develop new ones, and allow researchers to build tools to predict how they will change in the future." What is known is that the brightest of the clouds are formed primarily of water ice. Scientists also know that the clouds vary seasonally, controlled by the interactions of temperature, water vapour, solar activity, atmospheric chemistry, and the small "seed particles" on which the cloud crystals form. The clouds form during polar summers, so between May and August in the north and November and March in the south. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Apr 2007

Enormo remote ends lost-under-sofa misery

And now the ultimate remote control not only for folk fed up with having to use different ones for all their audio-visual kit, but also for anyone who's ever lost one. Enter the Jumbo Remote, a control that's takes up more space than a sheet of paper.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007

Loose mouth and loose change - $5 tip leads to terror finance rap

In the terror case against Hassan Abujihaad, formerly known as Paul R. Hall - sailor on the destroyer Benfold, the US government has another mangy cat in the GWOT. "Material support of terrorism and disclosing previously classified information" are the beefs in the indictment against Abujihaad, according to a government press release from March. It sounds serious and the newsmedia did its usual listless job in reporting on it. "Hassan Abujihaad, 31, is accused of supporting terrorism by disclosing secret information about the location of Navy ships and the best ways to attack them," wrote Associated Press. "Investigators say he provided those secrets, in classified documents, to a suspected terrorism financier." If one looks at the indictment and evidentiary exhibits logged against Abujihaad, it's thinner cloth. Abujihaad bought videos from Azzam Publications and Babar Ahmad*, a London computer programmer locked up since 2004 and awaiting extradition for trial to the US, for running a website that promoted Islamic fighters in Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan, according to the press. As for sending classified documents to Ahmad, what Abujihaad did do, and we'll get to it in detail in a bit, is send rash e-mail, including video orders from the Benfold, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer upon which he served. Among these communications was one in which Abujihaad generally addressed the time of the movement of the Benfold's surface action group through the Strait of Hormuz. This was sensitive information, says the government and it is reasonable to believe it. In the e-mail, he also described a very general vulnerability of an asset in the group. In the government indictment, prosecutors misrepresent it slightly in attempting to polish the case against him. Abujihaad's primary sin is extremely poor judgment. He corresponded with Babar Ahmad, a man the US government has been trying to get to trial in this country very badly. Abujihaad also called the government of the United States "scary pussies" in mail to Ahmad. Once this was recovered from a diskette in Ahmad's possession in London in 2004, its inflammatory content insured lawmen would pursue Abujihaad. It appears from the indictment the US has been nursing the case for years. Assuredly, as soon as Abujihaad's e-mails were uncovered in London in 2004, it knew where he was. At that point, what appears to have transpired was the recruitment of a snitch to get close. The objective - to determine if there was a terror plot. Apparently, no plot. Abujihaad received an honorable discharge from the Navy in 2002 and wound up in Arizona, perhaps an unhappy young man, eventually acutely aware that he might be in trouble for his e-mails to Azzam. However, when the US government argues that Abujihaad gave material assistance to Ahmad, one expects not to see the equivalent of mail order of three videos reclassified as terrorist activity. Yet this is exactly what is meant. In recovered e-mail in 2001, prior to 9/11, Abujihaad writes: "I'm wondering did you guise [sic] receive my two separate orders [sic] the first one was Russian Hell 2000. I ordered Chechnya From the Ashes at a later date. If you have any info please e-mail back." In July of that year, now writing from the Benfold, Abujihaad thanks Ahmad for the quality of the jihad videos, although apparently Azzam Publications had sent him a different title than requested. "It is my first time viewing my first CD, Russian Hell Pt. 2 ... I thought it was Russian Hell 2000 Pt. 1." Abujihaad gives the port mail address for his ship, requests the title he doesn't have, Russian Hell 2000 Pt. 1, and writes, "Keep up the great work [sic] it is very well appreciated." In August, Abujihaad sends Ahmad thirty dollars for another video, Bosnian War. In this order, he has overspent by five dollars. Ahmad writes "Please tell us what you want done with the remaining $5." "Dear Brothers, you guys can keep the remaining $5.00 and [add it] to the funds that you Brothers are spending in the way of Allah and the great Websites .. Azzam Pub." Material assistance to terror groups is, you read right, ordering three videos, overpaying slightly and telling the seller to keep the change. "By stating that he watched the video, [Abujihaad] demonstrated that he knew Azzam supported acts of terrorism." Hmmm, maybe, but logically it seem to indicate many people not normally considered terrorists must now be included in the definition, too. The more serious matter is Abujihaad telling Ahmad when the Benfold's surface action group was transiting the Strait of Hormuz prior to Iraqi Freedom. He writes Azzam, informing his battle group is "to hold up [UN] sanctions against Iraq ... There is the possibility that [the group] will carry out a strike against Afghanistan: Main targets: Usama and the Mujahideen, Taliban, etc ... The [battle group] will be going through the straits of Hormuz on April 29, 2001 at night." The serviceman then includes some general information, which may appear sensitive to laymen, on his ship group. However, the same can be found in many open source public information websites on the US military. In the affidavit, the prosecution draws attention to the statement, "Weakness: They have nothing to stop a small craft with RPG etc except their Seals' Stinger missiles." In the complaint, it's presented slightly out of context, seeming to indicate Abujihaad is revealing something secret, like how to attack the battlegroup's large ships. Actually, he's indicating SEALs in boarding party boats don't have big heavy weapons, which constitutes more functional open source information, no matter the context. "Please destroy message," he writes. In a longer mail in July of 2001, Abujihaad rants to Ahmad that he's been in the Middle East for three months on his ship. "...it shall be noted before Usama's latest video by massive people all over the world, that psychological anxiety had set in on [America's] forces everywhere." This relates to the bombing of the Cole, a ship similar to the one on which he is serving. "...the top brass and american officials were running around like headless chickens, very afraid wondering if there is a possible threat." Abujihaad then refers to sailors on the Benfold reading an article by the New York Times' Tom Friedman entitled, according to him, "what it takes to make Americans turn tail, run." "Most of the sailors said it was so true about the American government, and they feel like they are working for a bunch of scary pussies." He signs off "a Brother serving a Kuffar nation." However, throughout the indictment and affidavit materials, there is nothing except indication that Abujihaad's basically a grumbling serviceman, impolitic and without common sense, as well as a buyer of video tapes on the wars in Chechnya and Bosnia. Apparently, the case languished but was not forgotten until sometime last year when the government began to think it had a more compelling story to tell. Homeland Security and the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force have a network of informants, one of whom was able to get a Chicago man, Derrick Shareef, entangled in a terror sting by volunteering to sell him hand grenades for throwing into a shopping mall. When Shareef tried to buy the grenades, he was arrested. Subsequent interrogation revealed Shareef and Abujihaad had, in the past, been acquaintances. At this point, investigators instruct the informant to contact Abujihaad with news about Shareef so the FBI can record the conversations. Abujihaad, understandably, freaks out. At this point he knows the government is near. And on March 7 he was arrested. It is a tale, and a bit of a sad one, in which someone which the book against, so far, does not show any serious involvement in terrorism. It is the story of a man who ordered videos and had loose lips when he should have kept his virtual mouth shut, a case of extraordinarily bad timing just prior to 9/11. But since there is no shortage of experts who can be called upon by the government to insist, true or not, that Azzam Publications was allied with al Qaeda for the courts, Abujihaad's fate looks grim. ® * Editor's note By strange coincidence (?), Ahmad featured prominently in Peter Taylor's "The new al Qaeda," the UK-made precursor to "Jihad.com," covered in George's column last month. The Ahmad component of Taylor's ouevre included a number of highly inflated allegations which many might conclude would have the net effect of bolstering the US government's efforts to extradite him. The Ahmad campaign's initial reaction can be found here, while Ahmad himself remains unextradited, although his remaining avenues of appeal seem narrow. George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.
3

Kurt Vonnegut dies at 84

Writer Kurt Vonnegut died yesterday at 84 as a result of brain injuries suffered in a fall at his Manhattan home, news agencies report. Vonnegut was born in 1922 in Indianapolis, the son of third-generation German-Americans. His first forays into writing came at high schol and university. During a spell at Cornell during 1941-2, he was involved in campus publication the Cornell Daily Sun, although the war intervened to cut short his academic career. He enlisted in the US army, and was subsequently captured during the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944. Moved to Germany, he survived the destruction of Dresden between 13-15 February 1945 by taking shelter with fellow POWs in underground meat store "Slaughterhouse 5". His experiences of the carnage wreaked by the allied airforces were later to heavily influence his work, notably his 1967 novel Slaughterhouse-Five. His post-war wriiting career kicked off in earnest with the publication of a short story in Collier's in 1950. It subsequently included his first novel Player Piano (1960), Cat's Cradle (1963) and Breakfast Of Champions (1973). Although many of his works contained science fiction elements, Vonnegut himself rejected the sci-fi tag. Time travel features as an experimental plot device in the celebrated Slaughterhouse-Five, possibly best remembered for the line "So it goes" - used repeatedly as an ironic dismissal of death and eagerly adopted by anti-Vietnam war protestors. Vonnegut married twice - to childhood sweetheart Jane Marie Cox (divorced 1970), and photographer Jill Krementz. He had seven children: three with his first wife, three adopted from his sister Alice after she died of cancer and another adopted child, Lily. His later life was marked by a self-confessed loss of the "compulsion to write" and an attempted suicide in 1984. He was a heavy smoker, and once quipped: "I'm suing a cigarette company because on the package they promised to kill me, and yet here I am." Vonnegut came out of semi-retirement last year to publish A Man Without A Country (subtitled A Memoir Of Life In George W Bush's America). He said he'd drawn energy to pen the collection of essays from "my contempt for our president". ®
Lester Haines, 12 Apr 2007
1

Peak perfects retractable USB Flash drive

Sick of losing the caps of the end of your USB Flash drives? Peripheral maker Peak has the answer: a drive with a slide-over cover.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007
11

Amazon pushes sex toys to random punters

A pre-Easter email from marketing bods at Amazon.co.uk raised the hackles of one Reg reader with its subject line: "Bonking like a Spring Bunny? Rampant Rabbits from £17.50 at Amazon.co.uk." The Rampant Rabbit is not, we are reliably informed, an actual Easter Bunny. The email arrived complete with eye-watering pictures of "Spring Bunnies of a different sort", love eggs, clitoral stimulators, butt plugs, and a range of goods called "male pleasure sleeves". The Reg reader, who denies ever purchasing such products, and certainly not from Amazon, was not impressed. He told us by email: "This email was fully illustrated with all manner of 'exotic' devices normally found in Sex Shops and not in my inbox." He did receive an apology from Amazon blaming a "technical error" and promised the mistake would not be repeated. You can see the email here, but it's probably not safe for work. Amazon.co.uk would not tell us how many customers received the mail, or detail the nature of the "technical error", but did send us the following statement: Amazon.co.uk promotional mailings are based on previous purchases and should only go to customers who have previously purchased items from a particular store. We are aware, however, that a 'Sex & Sensuality' promotional mail was erroneously sent to a small number of customers who have never purchased anything from our 'Sex and Sensuality' store. We sincerely apologise to any customer who has received this promotional mail in error and for any offence it may have caused. We trust that the customers in question will continue to use Amazon.co.uk for their online shopping needs. We hope so too. ®
John Oates, 12 Apr 2007
Sage

Sage buys Swiss biz management firm

Geordie accounts specialist Sage is paying £7.5m in cash for a Swiss enterprise management company. Sage is buying Pro-Concept SA, which specialises in mid-market enterprise resource planning software. The company is the largest such vendor in French-speaking Switzerland - how many rivals it has for that crown is not clear.
John Oates, 12 Apr 2007

Ofcom consults on unlicensed radio

UK telecommunications regulator Ofcom has published a consultation document which suggests expanding the use of unlicensed spectrum in frequencies over 40GHz, and for low-power technologies including ultra-wideband, and is looking for feedback before 21 June. The UK already has the most unregulated radio market in Europe, and some claim that it's getting too unregulated. Ofcom, however, has always felt uncomfortable saying what people should use spectrum for and tried to reduce the regulatory burden wherever possible. The proposal includes removing all license requirements from 59-64 GHz and 102-105 GHz bands, as well as devices operating within the UWB standard. Really high frequencies are unlikely to get congested for a while at least thanks to their short range and poor propagation, while the very-low-power technologies such as UWB offer equally short range and are unlikely to interfere with anything other than each other. In addition to the proposal itself, Ofcom has published an executive summary and plain-English explanation (perhaps more suitable for executives) of the proposals, as well as a guide for those wanting to comment before the 21 June deadline. ®
Bill Ray, 12 Apr 2007
2

EFF takes up arms against Euro copyright move

The European wing of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has taken on the might of the European Commission by beginning its opposition to IPRED2, the proposed new directive that aims to harmonise European copyright laws. The organisation has launched a web-based petition here that it wants you to sign up to. The EFF is concerned about several things in the draft of the Criminal Measures IP Directive that will come before parliament this month. It argues that the legislators have failed to define their terms clearly enough (a common enough accusation against EC policy makers) and that they have introduced new offences that will harm legitimate businesses. Their new site says: IPRED2's new crime of "aiding, abetting and inciting" infringement again takes aim at innovators, including open source coders, media-sharing sites like YouTube, and ISPs that refuse to block P2P services. "With the new directive, music labels and Hollywood studios will push for the criminal prosecution of these innovators in Europe, saying their products 'incite' piracy - with EU taxpayers covering the costs." Rapporteur Nicola Zingaretti has made sure a number of safeguards did make their way into the draft, however. For example, the draft specifically excludes commercial rights that are patent protected, and excludes personal use from the criminal sanctions of the bill. In article 2, part b, the draft defines "commercial scale" infringement as "any infringement of an intellectual property right committed to obtain a commercial advantage; this would exclude acts carried out by private users for personal and not for profits purposes". However, the EFF is concerned that this definition is not tight enough, and that lack of clarity over what constitutes personal and private use leaves the way open for all our digital freedoms to be restricted. Parliament will vote on the draft on 24 April. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 12 Apr 2007
Sony Walkman Video MP3 NW-A800
4

Sony Walkman NW-A800 media player

ReviewReview Sony used to be synonymous with portable entertainment: its Walkman range was the brand that all products aspired to. After losing ground with the digital generation Sony is out to mount a comeback with the NW-A800 - its first Walkman that can handle both audio and video playback on the go.
Will Head, 12 Apr 2007
5

Naomi Campbell MTV 'Minion' show canned

There is growing confusion surrounding a planned Naomi Campbell MTV show called The Minion in which the battling Streatham clotheshorse was to have sought out a new personal assistant. According to some news reports, it was MTV which bitchslapped the project because Ms Campbell wouldn't return its calls. A source said: "Producers were on the phone with her all the time, setting up the show with her and her manager - but then last week MTV stopped getting their calls returned. The show is pulped. They don't understand why Naomi won't call back." However, while another MTV insider declared elsewhere that "the show is still in production", the feisty supermodel's rep countered: "That is not true. There is no show." Sadly, then, it appears we may never know quite how Naomi selects her minions. The word on the street is that the ability to search for Calvin Klein jeans while wearing 60lbs of Kevlar body armour and with a sharp eye out for flying mobile devices is a required skill. Accordingly, we suggest Ms Campbell places a small ad in mercenaries' required reading Soldier of Fortune magazine, although we can't help feeling many of its subscribers might prefer a year guarding the Iraqi parliament's cafeteria to assisting Sarf London's most celebrated hotspot. ®
Lester Haines, 12 Apr 2007

T-Mobile 'all white' with blanched BlackBerry Pearl

T-Mobile UK is about to add Research in Motion's white BlackBerry Pearl to its roster of smart phones, the carrier announced today.
Tony Smith, 12 Apr 2007
8

HP claims latest printer a record-breaker

Ink-based printers are now capable of matching the fast throughput speeds of colour laser printers as HP adds the Edgeline range to its portfolio.
Eric Doyle, 12 Apr 2007
2

India tests intermediate-range missile

The Indian government claims it has significantly increased its nuclear delivery capability, with a successful test today of the uprated Agni-III ballistic missile. According to the India Daily, defence officials said today's launch was successful, and that Agni-III would offer a range of 3,000km. That would put the main cities of China firmly under the Indian nuclear footprint; not to mention Iran and the former-Soviet 'Stans. Much of Pakistan is already within India's reach. The two-stage Agni missiles have been under development for a long time, with the first launch taking place back in 1989. Initially, the Indian government preferred to describe the system as a "technology demonstrator project", exploiting work done in the country's civil space programme. Under US pressure, New Delhi actually announced it was cancelling Agni in 1995. At that time India was unwilling to publicly admit that it had aspirations toward nuclear weapons, and the Agni rockets made little sense without atomic warheads. Time's moved on and subsequent generations of New Delhi politicians were avowedly pro-nuclear. Successful atom-bomb tests were carried out, and the Agni missile programme moved forward. The first trial for Agni-III took place in July last year, but was unsuccessful. Now it appears that India will soon be able to menace its most powerful neighbours, though in fact relations with both Pakistan and China have grown significantly chummier in recent times. Some analysts would suggest that in the absence of a standoff with any regional power, the primary usefulness of the Agni-III might be to enhance India's global status. Many in India feel that their nation should have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, like the UK, US, France, China, and Russia. Today's announcement may strengthen this lobby somewhat. However, purely in terms of weapons technology, a nuclear-tipped Agni-III isn't quite top-table stuff. The permanent five all deploy the gold standard of atomic deterrents: triple-stage intercontinental rockets ranging beyond 5,000km, launched from invulnerable nuclear-propelled submarines. That said, Indians might point out that the UK has no indigenous rocket industry of its own and has to buy its missiles from America. British chauvinists would no doubt counter by pointing out that India hasn't yet built nuclear submarines, arguably an equally complex technology. However, some reports indicate that India might have home-grown nuclear boats at sea as soon as 2010. Such arguments might be rendered somewhat irrelevant by the Security Council's typical paralysis on any given issue (due, perhaps, to the existing big five being unable ever to agree). The level of genuine national benefit conferred by a permanent UNSC seat is a matter of opinion, and there can't be a lot of doubt that it would become less valuable if more countries had one. It's also possible to suggest that awards of enhanced UN status as a result of weapons tests might send the wrong message to other aspirant nations. None of that will dampen a certain sense of satisfaction in New Delhi today. ®
Lewis Page, 12 Apr 2007

Phew! Tila Tequila isn't the future of music

Reg readers, like Reg writers, can rarely agree on anything. But one thing that probably unites us all is the future of the big record company. They're doomed...and good riddance is the consensus view. For the past 30 years, the major labels have served up mediocre manufactured fare, and screwed artists and consumers alike. Their lavish cost base is no longer sustainable, and cheap product and distribution methods enabled by the internet make the major an anachronism. Last year, Peter Jenner explained how in vivid detail. What's to disagree with? So we're sorry to bring you a tale that should gladden the heart of the most beleagured pigopolist: the story of pinup model Tila Tequila. Getting to the truth here is not straightforward, but the kernel of the story is simple. As little as two months ago, Tila Tequila, born Tila Nguyen, was being hailed as the future of music. The performer had used social networks to amass a fanbase of more than 1.8 million MySpace friends. She'd also generated huge mainstream publicity, and with four years of pinup modelling behind her, was no stranger to the public. She rejected large record company advances to retain total control over her output. She would instead make her single available for digital download through Apple's iTunes store. In short, she'd bypassed the system and looked like the first artist to achieve a global breakthrough digitally, without major label backing. It all looks rather different, today. Tequila's iTunes single sold only 13,000 copies, netting her around $8,500. It failed to crack the iTunes own Top 50. That's not bad for a single, but it's a poor return on the efforts, and nowhere near what she might be enjoying with the advance from a major label. With no advance to fritter, her chance at the big time might now have passed. So here's where we must add the important qualifications hinted at earlier. Tila Tequila is firmly in the novelty bimbo category - she has the greatest difficult keeping her clothes on, as you can see from her NSFW MySpace page. Tequila had already featured as a pin-up model. Then there's the backstage help she received, which suggests anything but grassroots support. In the words of HecklerSpray blog's Stuart Heritage: "Being the feisty little rebel she is, Tila Tequila is doing it completely by herself. Completely. Except for the bit where she got giant global production company Endemol to help her out. And the bit where she got represented by the talent agency in charge of Harrison Ford and Johnny Depp. And the bit where she's included on the roster of the Universal Music Group's MySpace page. Those aside, Tila Tequila is doing this completely by herself." So the DIY myth is simply that, a myth. And it could simply be that even by the standards of bimbo popstars, Tequila's I Love U isn't very good. But since when has quality ever been an obstacle to a major label before? The Tequila saga certainly lends weight to the view that digital, on its own, is not a challenge to the global marketing operations of the majors just yet. In other words, the major record company isn't quite as undead as we'd like to think. So where does this leave the rest of us? It's worth having a look at the misleadingly named "Long Tail". This is typically drawn as a curve. Music sales actually resemble something that looks like an "L" - with a tall, very thin stem, and a very long even thinner arm. While the Long Tail supposes that sales from the "tail" aggregate to larger volumes than the "head", this is true only in certain situations. Sales from iTunes actually increase the "head" at the expense of the "tail". It takes quite an investment in curatorial talent to boost sales of the "tail" - eMusic being the best example. While the big label model is almost certainly doomed, as discussed here recently, the global marketing function of the labels doesn't look like it's going away any time soon. It serves both a demand and a supply. The demand is people who buy only two CDs a year - perhaps from a Tesco petrol station: the vast market of people who don't like music very much. The supply is from Bono-sized egos, who need global brand-style marketing to feel like they have a place in the world. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 12 Apr 2007
fingers pointing at man
11

Microsoft begins virtualization software delays

Microsoft has delayed the beta release of its future server virtualization software. But fear not, intrepid server administrators, the final release of the software – code-named “Viridian” - remains on schedule for release in an update to Longhorn Server.
Ashlee Vance, 12 Apr 2007
1

Technorati stung by ad-friendly vibe

Technorati has announced its first acquisition in a deal giving publishers and advertisers fresh ways to make money from social networks and media. Technorati, which claims to track 72 million blogs, has purchased news and content aggregation and ranking start-up The Personal Bee. Berkeley, California-based Personal Bee will be integrated with Technorati during the coming months. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Personal Bee accurately tracks trends in the blogosphere and - importantly - the "traditional" media, going beyond Technorati's blog and podcast domain. The deal potentially takes Technorati in the direction of advertisers by becoming more useful to those tracking trends. Despite being considered a top blog registration and catchment area, Technorati has come up short on powerful search tools for the reader. Searches tend to return a mixed bag of results, varying from random to woefully unhelpful. This has led some to question Technorati's value. Personal Bee founder and chief executive Ted Shelton joins Technorati as vice president of business development and will report to founder and chief executive David Sifry. Shelton said one option now would be for advertisers to accurately identify trends across the entire media landscape, including blogs, and associate brands with them via micro sites. Shelton said today's deal would accelerate Technorati's previous attempt to improve conversation search and tracking with Where's the Fire? "Technorati has historically been a research tool heavily used by bloggers. Over the last year, there's been increasing focus on creating a destination for readers. Personal Bee helps accelerate that development of the site," he said. The secret to Personal Bee is a set of filters devised by Shelton. Filters aggregate content from any source and use patent-pending algorithms to scan key words and phrases to identify and track hot subjects in the blogosphere and mainstream media. Filters also track what readers are consuming and tagging to provide a ranking, while Personal Bee users can promote or demote subjects. ®
Gavin Clarke, 12 Apr 2007
Warning Speed Camera
11

Woman claims Geek Squader tried to film her in the shower

An engineer from Geek Squad apparently managed to leave his mobile phone in the bathroom while his customer took a shower, and would have got away with it if she hadn't spotted the handset blinking at her from the basin.
Bill Ray, 12 Apr 2007
3

How much do security breaches cost anyway?

Information security breaches cost anywhere between $90 to $305 per lost record, according to a new study by Forrester Research. Forrester bases its figures, which it has the good grace to say are difficult to be sure about, on a survey of 28 companies who had some sort of data breach. The estimate covers the cost of legal fees, call centers costs, lost employee productivity, regulatory fines, loss of investor confidence and customer losses. Senior analyst Khalid Kark describes its figures from costs as an "educated estimate". He admitted the auditing costs associated with security breaches is an inexact science (much like working out the damages resulting from malware infestations, we'd add).
John Leyden, 12 Apr 2007
Redhat logo

Red Hat fattens pork pie

Red Hat has sealed a potentially lucrative marketing and technology deal that could see its open source and Linux software land in more government and defense locations.
Gavin Clarke, 12 Apr 2007
3

Demo neuters antiphishing measure

In the unlikely event readers needed another reason to doubt the efficacy of the sitekeys that Bank of America, Yahoo! and others claim make their sites more secure, a muck-raking hacker has demonstrated a simple means of thwarting the measure. The demo comes courtesy of Christopher Soghoian, the Indiana University graduate student whose online generator for spoofed airline boarding passes attracted considerable attention from the FBI.
Dan Goodin, 12 Apr 2007
14

Apple delays Leopard for your own good

Apple Computer has delayed the highly anticipated release of Leopard - aka Mac OS X 10.5 - by four months so it can devote developers and QA resources to its other labor of love, the iPhone. That slates the unleashing of Leopard for October instead of early June at Apple's developers conference.
Dan Goodin, 12 Apr 2007
7

Kepler telescope primed to search for earth-like planets

Space: It's huge. It's a lot of other things, but mostly huge. If you lose your keys in it, you're pretty much screwed. NASA has a lot of ground to cover in its search for alien life. The agency made some progress recently by successfully demonstrating in the laboratory the technology behind its next space telescope designed to find planets similar to home sweet home. A panel of NASA scientists shared the news today at a press meeting at the SETI Institute in Mountain View. Scientists currently have a census of over 200 Jupiter-sized planets orbiting near stars, but no real idea how common Earth-size planets are. NASA Ames's Jack Lissauer explains the focus on the big boys isn't because gas giants are the most common but because they're most easily detectable with today's equipment. "It would be like looking from a distance at a street light at night and concluding most of the insects in the area are moths. There could be far more gnats flying around but you couldn't know." And, if we want to search for life, we need to stick to where we think it can flourish. Life as we know it is picky. To sustain it, a planet must orbit within a narrow band of distance from a star where water won't be permanently frozen or evaporated called the habitable zone. Size also counts. If a planet is too small, it won't be able to hold an atmosphere well. The larger a planet, the higher its gravitational field; attracting more celestial bodies to itself and also affecting its ability to regulate atmospheric CO2. Earth might have won the galactic lottery being the right size, material and position to sustain life — or maybe it's as common as snot. Kepler will essentially be humanity's first scan of the cosmos' housing market. It won't send back beautiful Hubble-like pictures, and it won't detect other lifeforms — but it can tell us if we're surrounded by potential Earths or mostly alone. Here's where the science comes in: The best way to detect a small, earth-like planet outside our solar system is to catch it when the planet crosses the path of its parent star. By detecting the minute light disparity from the star when this occurs, we can calculate the planet's size and distance. Because a distant planet is 10 billion times fainter than the star, this is no easy endeavor. There's also no telling whether a planet will even orbit in front of the star from the angle we are viewing. Kepler's secret sauce is its ability to watch a large piece of infinity at once. The space telescope will scan the same plot of cosmic real-estate with around 100,000 stars for four years. The Kepler team hopes the results will justify further funding to extend the time to six years. Although most working on the Kepler project hope to find several Earth-like planets, there's certainly no guarantee. "One of the most interesting things we could find is zero," NASA scientist William Boruki said. "That could mean we are alone in the universe." NASA estimates the project will cost $600m. It's planned to launch in November of 2008, but, as space agency observers keeping score will note, that date is subject to change. Even the scientists at the meeting were skeptical. "Let's just say I haven't bought the plane ticket yet," senior research scientist at McDonald Observatory William Cochran said. The team sees Kepler as an important step in the search for alien life. Before NASA can take a closer look, it needs perspective — and there's a lot of perspective to be had in space. The agency will need to know how far they have to look and how many stars it will have to search before it can expect to find an Earth-like planet to further investigate. Just don't piss off any Cylons. Okay guys? ®
Austin Modine, 12 Apr 2007
Warning Stop
43

Wanna copy of Windows XP next year? Forget it

Microsoft is sticking to its timetable for withdrawing Windows XP, despite mounting proof most users are postponing their Windows Vista upgrade. The company confirmed OEMs and retailers won't be able to purchase any more Windows XP licenses from the end of January 2008, based on guidelines issued last year.
Gavin Clarke, 12 Apr 2007