A quarter of Londoners living in the boroughs of Hackney, Lambeth and Haringey regularly tune into pirate radio stations, according to new research. Some 40 per cent of listeners told Ofcom, the media watchdog which conducted the study, that illegal radio broadcasts offered more to the community than its commercial and BBC equivalents. Radio pirates exploit the FM band to illegally broadcast shows, often from make-shift studios. Ofcom, which takes unlicenced stations off air, said it carried out over one thousand operations that led to 63 convictions last year. It said that illegal broadcasts can cause havoc with emergency service communication systems as well as interfering with legitimate radio stations. The research also found that two-thirds of people switch off their radio, or tune in to a different station when interference occurs. The regulator's chief executive Ed Richards said: "Ofcom's field force team works very hard to keep the radio spectrum free from interference for licensed users. "However, we recognise that there is demand for content provided by illegal broadcasters in some areas of the country. This research will help shape our thinking on how to tackle this serious issue in the future." ®
The Sun and the Daily Star are reporting that ICSTIS, the premium-rate regulator, will impose a £250K fine for irregularities in quizzes during the Richard & Judy show. But ICSTIS claims to know nothing about this and says it is still investigating. Channel 4 certainly earned a lot more than that from getting would-be participants to call in, even though the actual participants had already been selected. So it's not inconceivable that a fine of this size will be imposed. But no decision on any punishment has yet been reached; despite reports, so Eckoh, which ran the service, and Channel 4 still have a week or two to ponder how hard their slap on the wrist will be. ®
AnalysisAnalysis Can anyone afford to satisfy the demand for internet video?
Cable and Wireless says there is no evidence that credit card details were taken in a data breach that led to complaints from customers who received unsolicited marketing calls. A spokeswoman told The Reg the telco couldn't say what exactly had been stolen. The Guardian reported that unspecified information about 100,000 subscribers to Bulldog, the ISP which Cable and Wireless sold to Pipex last year, had been stolen. The Information Commissioner's Office told The Reg it had not received any complaints about the security breach. A spokeswoman for the government data watchdog said it will write to Bulldog to ask what data protection measures were in place. Information on your rights and how to complain is here. We pointed out that when the breach took place in 2005, Bulldog was part of Cable and Wireless, not its current owner Pipex. The spokeswoman said: "OK...I'll pass that information on because it's obviously quite important." Cable and Wireless said: "We are already taking appropriate legal action against the third parties that we believe may be responsible for this unauthorised use of our customer data." It appealed for Bulldog customers who think they might have been affected to get in touch to assist with legal proceedings. Pipex meanwhile said: "Our understanding is that following an external enquiry by Cable and Wireless it has become apparent that at some point in December 2005 Cable and Wireless had some of their customer contact details illegally obtained." ®
Medion has officially launched its debut device in the ultra-mobile PC arena: the UMPC RIM 1000, first seen at CES in Las Vegas earlier this year. At the same time the manufacturer announced its latest sat nav GPS device - the GoPal S2310.
Over one third of businesses do not monitor their employees' internet use, according to a survey carried out by an information security firm. The research found that companies are underestimating the data risk posed by so-called Web 2.0 sites. Websites based on user-generated content, blogging, or participation are frequently visited by office workers, but content security firm Clearswift's survey claims that firms are failing to see the risks of data leak posed by those sites. It found that 14.6 per cent of the 939 business surveyed are not aware of social media and have no policy on it, while 19 per cent of companies do not have a policy governing appropriate use of the internet by employees. The research found that 35 per cent of companies do not monitor employees' use of the internet, so would have no idea whether or not they were using social media sites and would not be able to trace the source of any leak on those sites. "It is clear that organisations don't equate employee use of social media sites with potential security breaches, which is a worrying sign," said Clearswift chief executive Jon Lee. "Recognising the threat is the first and foremost priority, and it is clear that education measures still have some way to go. "Research has shown that employees, particularly younger employees, are using these Web 2.0 technologies heavily at work, and the risk for potential loss of confidential information via these sites is very real. Organisations need to reassess their security policies and precautions in light of the growing popularity and business use of Web 2.0 technologies," he said. Earlier research by the company unveiled the scale of the use of collaborative websites by workers. A quarter of young office workers in the UK spent more than three hours a week on sites such as YouTube, MySpace or Bebo. It found that 42 per cent of those people discussed work on those sites. The survey showed that companies were worried about loss of confidential data, rating it the second most important security issue behind viruses, but were complacent about social media's role in that loss. Leaks from blogs, forums and instant messaging chats were all put right at the bottom of the list of threats ranked by importance. A second survey has claimed that a quarter of organisations do not police wireless internet security. The survey, conducted among 320 companies by conference organisers Infosecurity Europe, found that even though workers are increasingly using wireless networks in and out of the office, 26 per cent of companies do not enforce a wireless security policy. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Consumers and businesses harmed by cartels and other anti-competitive practices should be better placed to recover their losses, according to the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), which launched a consultation (pdf) on changing competition rules this week. The OFT has even pledged to give members of the public access to some of the evidence it gathers in its own investigations so they can launch their own actions. It will also allow consumers to take action in the aftermath of successful OFT cases. "Consumers and businesses suffering losses as a result of breaches of competition law should be able to recover compensation, both as claims for damages on a standalone basis as well as in follow-on actions brought after public enforcement," an OFT statement said. "To this end, representative actions should be more broadly available." The consultation, which the office calls "informal", is launched with a discussion paper, and is designed to help consumers gain access to redress against companies which they think have cheated them. However, the OFT is not advocating US-style class action lawsuits. "It is important to note at the outset that representative actions are not the same as class actions," says the OFT. "In a class action, a named claimant brings an action on behalf of a class to which he belongs and which is certified by the court. In a representative action, a body representing the interests of those harmed by an unlawful practice (the representative body) brings an action on behalf of those who have suffered loss. The key difference is that a representative action is brought by a body authorised to bring a representative claim based on pre-determined criteria." Under the current Competition Act, specified bodies are permitted to bring representative follow-on actions but only in the Competition Appeal Tribunal. There is currently no provision for representative follow-on actions to be brought on behalf of businesses. The OFT is also proposing that such actions could be pursued through the ordinary court system. The OFT further suggests a relaxation of the strict rules on solicitors' contingency fees for competition law cases. The OFT believes that its proposals would force companies to behave better. "A more effective private actions system would promote a greater culture of compliance with competition law and ensure that public enforcement and private actions work together to the best effect for business and consumers," said Philip Collins, chairman of the OFT. The OFT said that competition infringements took millions of pounds from consumers at a time, and that consumers needed to have some form of redress. "Strong competition regimes are essential for open, dynamic markets. They drive productivity and innovation and ensure the efficient allocation of resources, and are good for consumers and business," said the OFT statement. "Infringements of competition law cause significant harm to both consumers and businesses. Recent experience shows that harm to consumers may run into tens of millions of pounds in any given case. However, up until now consumers have recovered virtually no compensation. Businesses also find it difficult to recover losses and to remedy the competitive disadvantage they may have suffered from infringements of competition law." The consultation will act as the basis for recommendations which the OFT will make to Government to clear any barriers in the law to consumers suing firms. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
In these data uncertain times, it's reassuring to know that the Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council is doing everything possible to ensure that your personal details are locked down against abuse.
Digital rights activist, the Open Rights Group (ORG), says it will be sending 30 observers to monitor the UK's trial of electronic voting technologies in the May 2007 local elections. The team is meeting with the Electoral Commission this morning, where it says it expects its "observer status" will be accredited. The group is taking advantage of new legislation, the Electoral Administration Act 2006, that allows independent observers, provided they are accredited buy the Electoral Commission, to monitor elections in the UK. The team will be specifically watching for the impact of the new technologies on things like voter privacy, as well as watching them for their vulnerabilty to fraud and overall transparency. This is the first time the independent observer scheme will be used in the UK. Any organisation, or individual over 16, can apply to be accredited, the Electoral Commission says. The legislation gives observers automatic rights to attend any election in the UK without notice. These same rights do not extend to Scotland, but permission can still be sought from the returning officer. The ORG plans to send its observers to Bedford, Rushmoor, Sheffield, Shrewsbury and Atcham, South Bucks, Stratford, and Swindon. It also plans to send people to monitor the Scottish elections where electronic counting will be used for the first time. Jason Kitcat, e-voting coordinator for the Open Rights Group, said: "Our observation mission aims to provide an independent viewpoint on how these new technologies are used in our election systems." The group plans to publish a report based on its observations this June. It will also send its findings to the Department for Constitutional Affairs and the Electoral Commission. If you want to be an observer, or find out more about the process, point your browser here for a start. ®
Hardware distributor Bell Microproducts has said that preliminary Q1 2007 results show the company is in rude health. It expects to see record revenue that could top $1bn, up around 15 per cent on the same quarter a year ago. The firm also said the Nasdaq listing council has "stayed" its de-listing decision, and has given Bell until 29 June this year to submit restatements and SEC periodic reports.
American surgeons will carry out a realistic simulation of zero-gee robotic surgery next month, the Associated Press reports. The US Department of Defense (DoD) "Raven" robo-surgeon is being developed with the intention of treating injured soldiers on far-flung battlefields where no human doc may be available. It reportedly weighs no more than 50 pounds, and can be "dismantled, transported and set up by non-engineers". Naming a device designed to cut up wounded soldiers after a carrion-eating bird of ill omen seems like an odd call, but there you go. The mechanical scalpel-wielder lacks any Terminator-style detailed files on human anatomy, and can't carry out operations autonomously. Rather, it is controlled over an IP connection by a suitably-qualified human doctor, who thus needn't venture too far from the golf course or yacht. Raven has already carried out simulated warzone trials last year in California, with the comms link provided by an unmanned drone aircraft circling overhead. Next month's test, however, will be rather more involved. Surgeons in Seattle will hook up via a commercial internet connection to Key Largo in Florida, on the other side of the US. From there the signal will pass over a wireless link to a buoy out at sea, and then down a cable to a NASA "research pod" 60 feet beneath the waves. The underwater facility, known as the Aquarius Undersea Laboratory, is used by the space agency to simulate the effects of zero gravity. Two astronauts and a flight surgeon will be in the pod with Raven, but they will take no part in the test beyond setting the droid doc up and plugging it in. From there, the Seattle surgeons will take over. They will attempt to sew up a tear in a rubber tube, simulating a blood vessel, and "do a skill test used to judge student doctors". The Raven team think the biggest difficulty will be the expected one-second latency in the link between Seattle and the Florida seabed. However, they reckon the docs will be able to cope. The AP quotes Mitchell Lum, a researcher on the project, as saying that: "We think they will take longer to complete the tasks but we don't think it's undoable." Which is nice. NASA is paying for this latest test of the DoD's gear, as it thinks Raven might be handy in the event of an astronaut suffering a medical emergency of some sort while in space. The space agency will also, reportedly, trial other lightweight digi-docs for purposes of comparison. Even in the event of a successful test, however, it may still be some time before people routinely allow themselves to be cut open by robot arms tipped with gleaming surgical instruments. For one thing, the AP notes that none of NASA's candidate cutter-bots have yet been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use on humans. Other issues could be raised by the use of commercial IP to control the carving. Prospective patients would presumably want to see extremely strong authentication on that connection. Some kind of doc-in-the-middle attack might otherwise be on the cards. And a blackhat-controlled zombie bot-surgeon hacked for medical pranks or illegal experiments doesn't even bear thinking about. Insert your cut-and-paste jokes here. ®
Episode 13Episode 13 "So let me get this straight," I say to the PFY. "You want me to give you a reasonable amount of time to make a suave first impression - and engage her in some meaningful conversation about one of her interest topics - then bust in with some huge problem that only you can fix which will make you look like someone pretty bloody important?" "Yes - a problem that I need to go offsite for so that I can arrange to meet up with her later to continue the conversation over a couple of drinks, yes." "No problems - but are you sure she's worth the spadework?" "Positive. You remember the temp from PR a couple of months back?" "Oh yeah," I sigh happily. "A two bag special in comparison." "I find that rather difficult to believe..." "True story," the PFY says, grabbing some office install disks and exiting. "She's a stunner, so just remember - 20 minutes then emergency time." ... Ten minutes later I'm still trying to think of the right emergency that would require the PFY to go offsite. Then it comes to me, Core LAN switching problem. In a telco network - that's affecting emergency services - and they need the PFY because of...the paper he once presented on...repairing core LAN switching problems in Telco environments...where emergency services are affected... True, it's not my best work and about as believable as the old weapons-of-mass-destruction chestnut, but we're talking about a user who can't even install her own copy of Office, so I don't think we need to go into too much back-story. ...Five minutes later... >CRASH!< "There you are," I gasp, muttering excuses as I turn to... "What is it?" the PFY asks an indeterminate amount of time later. "Is something the matter?" the PFY's companion - an absolute vision of radiance - asks. The mental tyres are spinning in sand as I realise that the PFY had understated her beauty somewhat and that it was a bit like calling Michaelango a painting contractor. "You have some emergency - for me?" the PFY prompts "Something important that only I can fix?" "I...uh...yes," I say, still a little gobstruck but mentally turning over options. Bingo! "Your wife called and said her water's broken and she needs you to come home and take care of the triplets while she drives herself to hospital again...And she said that if you're not home in 20 minutes she's going to burn your porn and flush your viagra down the toilet." That last bit was just a touch cruel but I figured that the PFY still had a bit of credibility from "sharing the parental workload" and all... "I...I'd better go then," the PFY says, uncommonly subdued now he knows the death blow has been dealt. "I...can you finish the install?" he says, feigning distraction. "Course I can," I say. "What stage are we at?" "I...haven't actually got around to putting the install CD in yet," the PFY says. The sly dog, dragging out the install so he'd need to come back repeatedly - one of my favourite ruses, it has to be admitted. "Ok then, I guess I'll do that and get started as soon as," I say, slapping the CD in the drive as the PFY exits. "Sorry, I suppose I should introduce myself - the name's Simon." "Katherine," she says in sweet melodic tones. "And you're new here?" "Yes, a mutual friend suggested I apply for this position," she says. "Oh really, someone who works here?" "Yes, he works in HR and noticed the vacancy." "Partner?" I ask. "Sorry?" "Your partner?" I ask pretending to be too deeply immersed in setting the install options to be probing for details of her private life. "Goodness no," she says. "No, I just know him from dancing." "Ah, you mean like ceroc?" I ask having kept vaguely abreast of social trends. "Wha, oh, no no, line dancing." "Line dancing?" I gasp. "Yes yes, I know what you're going to say, but there's nothing nerdish about it at all - it's great fun. I was put onto it by some friends in my D&D group." "D&D Group?" "Yeah, I got into it when I was a student. One of the people in my book group was a D&D-er." "Book Group!?!" I say, surreptitiously prodding feverishly at my cellphone keypad. "Yes, we read the classics - you know the Bronte sisters, Solze..." >BEEP< >BEEP< "Excuse me," I say, drawing my phone into the open and pretending to read a text message. "Oh no! There's been a...core lan switching problem - at the Telephone Centre and...half of London is affected. I have to go!" "Oh, that's a shame - would you like to perhaps meet up later - there's always room for another at the book club!" "I'd like to but there's no telling how long this will take!" >Dash< "WHAT A GEEK!" the PFY gasps as soon as I get back to Mission Control. "I know." "Did she show you her photos?" "What, line dancing, D&D, or book club?" "What a waste," the PFY says. "And so sad too. So, what's up now?" "Well, I thought I'd spend the rest of the afternoon playing Stalker, get 10 pints in at the pub, a quick curry chaser, then fall asleep in the tube and wake up in Snaresbrook five minutes after the last train." "Now THAT's a hobby!" the PFY says. BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
A Toronto family has been left traumatised after a software translation error led to the dark brown upholstery of their new sofa being labelled "nigger brown", AP reports. Doris Moore explained that it was her seven-year-old daughter who first spotted the offending tag. She recounted: "My daughter saw the label and she knew the colour brown, but didn't know what the other word meant. She asked, 'Mommy, what colour is that?' I was stunned. I didn't know what to say. I never thought that's how she'd learn of that word." Moore duly complained to Vanaik Furniture, the store which supplied the couch. The company denied responsibility, fingering the wholesaler, Cosmos Furniture in Toronto. Cosmos's Paul Kumar said: "It's not my fault. It's not the manufacturers' fault." The blame, it eventually turned out, lay with Kingsoft Corporation - a Beijing-based software company. Huang Luoyi, a product manager for its translation software, told AP the problem lay with an old version of its translation engine: "I know this is a very bad word. We got the definition from a Chinese-English dictionary. We've been using the dictionary for 10 years. Maybe the dictionary was updated, but we probably didn't follow suit." Kingsoft described the sorry affair as a "regrettable error", but this cut little ice with Moore. She said the matter had "taken a toll on her family", and is accordingly seeking compensation. She is reportedly consulting lawyers and last week "filed a report with the Ontario Human Rights Commission". She said: "Something more has to be done. We don't just need a personal apology, but someone needs to own up to where these labels were made, and someone needs to apologise to all people of colour. I had friends over from St Lucia yesterday and they wouldn't sit on the couch." ® Bootnote Romesh Vanaik of Vanaik Furniture described the sofa in question as a "best seller". He said he'd checked the rest of his stock, but hadn't found any similarly-offensive labels. Apparently, the whole mix-up might be the result of a mis-spelling/mistranslation of "Niger Brown" - a term for a dark, chocolate colour, although not much used these days. Thanks to those readers who pointed this out. Oh yes, and thanks to El Reg's old chum Chris Winpenny for the heads-up.
Mark your diaries now for some shooting stars this weekend, as the annual Lyrid meteor shower is coming to town. The Lyrids are one of the oldest known meteor showers, with records going back to 687BC (thank you ancient Chinese astronomers). The number of meteors in any shower has diminished over the years, but it could still be worth staying up late for. There is no suggestion that this will happen this year, but in 1982 everyone got a bit of a shock when the display reached peak rates of around 200 shooting stars per hour. The show should be at its best on Sunday night through into Monday morning, with a peak rate of around 10-20 meteors per hour. The light from the waxing moon will be less of a distraction after midnight. But even now the showers should provide good entertainment for stargazers, insomniacs, and parents of teething children with up to six meteors burning up in the atmosphere every hour. ®
Researchers from Kasetsart University in Thailand and the US Department of Agriculture Research Service have rather agreeably found that alcohol boosts the antioxidant properties of some fruit, the BBC reports. While investigating ways of keeping fruit fresh during storage, the scientists found that "treating strawberries with alcohol enhanced...the fruit's power to neutralise destructive molecules called free radicals - by a third". They also discovered that blackberries were similarly improved by the treatment. Dr Frankie Phillips of the British Dietetic Association explained: "It's well known that some preparation of fruit and veg can enhance the availability of nutrients and other plant chemicals including antioxidants. For example, cooking tomatoes or stir frying pepper facilitates availability of the lycopene and beta-carotene they contain. That's why the five-a-day message states to include a variety of fruit and veg as fresh, frozen, juice, dried and canned, and encourages different preparations." So far so good, but readers will have spotted the fatal flaw in the cunning "give me a large scotch with a strawberry" eternal life plan. Phillips cautioned: "Whilst this study suggests that consuming strawberries with alcohol increases the antioxidant capacity, there are clearly detrimental effects of consuming alcohol in terms of cell damage. "So any potential antioxidant benefits may be cancelled out by the potential liver damage caused by too much alcohol. Our advice is to enjoy summer berries but don't expect a panacea in the form of a strawberry daiquiri." Blast. ® Bootnote A pint with a slice of guava for our informant Mike Richards.
Reg Reader WorkshopReg Reader Workshop Well, if ever there was any doubt that what's going on with the desktop is a hot topic among IT professionals, put it to one side. We had an overwhelming response to our reader poll in this area with over 4,800 of you participating, so thanks to those who took the time.
Online banking customers logging onto the Lloyds TSB website on Friday morning were confronted by potentially confusing warnings about a security certificate. Consumers were greeted with a "website certified by an unknown authority" pop-up message for *.clickshift.com after accessing online.lloydstsb.co.uk.
Oracle has slammed a window in Microsoft's face, by ensuring that a new enterprise data integrity checking scheme for mission-critical applications will run only on Linux. The database company has linked up with Emulex, LSI, and Seagate to standardise the way that their technologies check for data corruption.
Australian air and sea rescue services are searching for the three man crew of a "ghost yacht" found adrift off the North Queensland coast, the BBC reports. The 12 metre catamaran - thought to have set sail for Townsville from Airlie Beach* on Sunday - was spotted from the air on Wednesday. However, rescuers could only reach the vessel on Friday, and found it abandoned. Queensland's Emergency Management office spokesman Jon Hall described the encounter as "a bit strange", elaborating: "The engine was running, the computers were running, there was a laptop set up on the table which was running, the radio was working...and there was food and utensils set on the table ready to eat." To add to the mystery, the yacht's sails were up, although one was "badly shredded", and all the lifejackets were still aboard. Hall said the ship's GPS might give rescuers clues as to the wherabaouts of the crew, currently being sought by 12 aircraft. He said: "That will now enable us to track backwards where this yacht has actually been in the last few days, and we're hoping that can pinpoint the search area for the missing crew." ® Bootnote * A trip of around 140 nautical miles by our reckoning. You can find Townsville and Airlie beach on Google Earth here and here, respectively.
Russian civil servants are touting a colossal infrastructure project in which Alaska and Siberia would be linked by the world's longest undersea tunnel. A widely-reported "pre-feasibility" study by the Russian Academy of Sciences is to be considered by Kremlin, US, and Canadian bigwigs at a conference next week. The centrepiece of the proposals is a 60-mile tunnel beneath the freezing waters of the Bering Strait, which would surface twice on the Diomede islands and join Russia's Chukotsky Peninsula to the United States. The tunnel, however, is only a small part of the whole plan. On its own, the sub-sea link would be somewhat pointless, as it would connect a pair of isolated wilderness locations with no other significant transport links. The majority of the mooted £32bn project cost would go on building rail and pipe lines from the ends of the tunnel. At least 3,700 miles of railway would be needed to join Yakutsk in Siberia to Fort Nelson in Canada's British Columbia, the two major railheads nearest to the Bering Strait. Such a hookup could give the Russian Far East a direct freight connection to the huge markets of North America, permitting the largely untapped mineral resources of the region to be developed and consumed by the ever-hungry US economy. The proposals also offer options for oil and gas pipelines, comms fibre and electric power conduits to run from Russia to America. Suggestions have been floated for massive Siberian tidal plants which could power the new railways and flog gigawatts to the North American electricity grid. All this would, of course, be a very tasty bit of business for the Kremlin, which to date hasn't managed to fully exploit its eastern possessions – though plans such as this one have been floated ever since the Czars were in charge. The Muscovite hierarchy seems as keen as ever, though. Viktor Razbegin, deputy head of industrial research at the Russian Economy Ministry, said on Wednesday that "this is one of the very few projects that can cardinally change the development of Russia's far east". He told reporters in Moscow that "the chance for the implementation now is pretty good". There was scepticism in some quarters, however. Mr Razbegin's baby would need approval not just from Moscow politicians, but also ones in Washington DC – and, as Alaska has access to the rest of the US only across Canadian soil, others in Ottawa too. It isn't clear how keen Americans and Canadians really are to develop a big European-style dependency on resources controlled by an increasingly confrontational Kremlin. And it really isn't clear how keen they will be to pay for the infrastructure that could put them in the Russians' pocket. Thus far, nobody's saying who would fund the tunnel and all the rest of it, but the analysts' consensus seems to suggest that it won't be the North American private or public sectors. The Russian government would no doubt be happy to contribute some of the cost, but perhaps not the entire £30bn-plus. The rest might have to be made up by private Russian investors, and some big names are apparently interested, but even here there is a fair degree of scepticism. Yevgeny Nadorshin, chief economist at Moscow's Trust Investment Bank, poured scorn on the idea. "We're going to send oil to Alaska," he said. "What, Alaska doesn't have oil?" He suggested that Siberia could be better developed by building sea ports and overland links to China's rapidly-expanding economy. Of course, some would say that Vladimir Putin would prefer to have influence over America than clout with the Chinese. "For all we know, the US doesn't want to make Alaska a transport hub," added Mr Nadorshin, perhaps putting his finger on the problem. ®
The European Space Agency (ESA) has asked aerospace company Astrium to design a moon landing mission dubbed "MoonTwins". The mission would put two landers on the moon, one at each pole. There they would conduct experiments and try out technologies that might later be used in ESA's planned missions to Mars. Speaking to the BBC, Mike Healy, director of space science at Astrium, said: "A Mars sample return mission would be very challenging and MoonTwins would help us understand some of the technology elements that would be needed." In classic space-exploring style, the team behind MoonTwins has worked really hard to make the name work as an acronym. It officially stands for: Moon Technological Walk-through and In-situ Network Science. Nothing forced about that, oh no siree. The agency would like the probes to travel to the moon on a demonstrator mission planned for some time between 2015 and 2018. They would piggyback another mission to get into space, and from lunar orbit make their own way to the moon's surface. Although there is still a lot of flexibility in the design, the core goals of the mission are clear: each craft will need to be able to make a soft, controlled landing at a precise location. They won't be rovers, but might be able to do short ascents, allowing them to "hop" to a new location. They will most likely carry seismometers, and possibly other instruments. The target landing zones are those most likely to hold water, or at least hydrogen, and as such are the most likely places for later human exploitation. ®
BlackBerry Pearl users can now transfer handwritten notes into their handhelds using a digital pen and paper. The technology is aimed at uses such as form-filling - write on the form, tick a box and the written data is sent first to the BlackBerry's screen for you to check, and then back to base over the mobile network.
God alone knows it's going to be difficult, but we promise we will keep an absolutely straight face as we report that Dutch escort agency Society Service has set up a special service for geek virgins looking for that elusive first sexual encounter. Sociology student Zoe Vialet set up the agency last year, Ananova reports, and admits she's had "a lot of demand from virgins" - most of them from the IT sector. She explained to De Telegraaf: "They are very sweet but are afraid of seeking contact with other people. They mean it very well but are very scared." Zoe has a crack team of five girls "specially trained" to pop geeks' cherries. However, those readers tempted to avail themselves of their charms are warned it's not just a case of stump up the cash, insert your floppy in the drive, eject and then off for a pizza. Au contraire, you'll be expected to hone your skills over a extended period, as Vialet insisted: "Every booking lasts three hours minimum. Longer is possible, shorter not. We take the time to take a bath together, do a massage and explore each others body. When the date is over, you will have had a fantastic experience, and you will be able to pleasure a woman." And just in case you thought you might just try and get a real squeeze for a bit of mutual body-exploration, think again. Vialet warned: "You better practise before having a girlfriend. Woman expect men older than 30 having had some experience. Some men need a little bit of help. But it makes them happy and they are glowing .There is nothing more terrible than dying as a virgin." ® Bootnote No, not this time - we promised to report this one straight and that's the way it's going to be.
Incidents of click fraud have escalated despite the attempts of search engine giants such as Google and Yahoo! to stymie the growth of the problem.
AnalysisAnalysis Intel's ultra-mobility chief, Anand Chandrasekher, when questioned by Register Hardware this week, was suspiciously unwilling to say how long machines based on the firm's new Ultra Mobile Platform (UMP) will run between battery charges. How long you can use UMPCs for is as crucial to their success as the ability to run a standard operating system.
Valve blows a data gasket Several reminders about the importance of data protection this week, from either side of the Pond. In the UK, the TV company behind such hit series' as Grange Hill, Brookside, and that cipher for modern despair Hollyoaks, was revealed to be exposing the CVs of thousands of job applicants going back years. It denied it, we had proof. The Information Commissioner "expressed concern"...so that's all right then. Cable and Wireless, meanwhile, seems to have lost at least the phone numbers of 100,000 Bulldog ISP subscribers. Legal action is underway against the ne'er-do-wells who're using the numbers to make irritating direct marketing calls, and the Information Commissioner says it hasn't received any complaints from aggrieved Bulldog customers, but it's taking a keen interest in the case...sort of. Firms might in future be able to avoid the wrath of the Information Commissioner's feared letter writing department, however. According to the Court of Appeal, the selection and collation of information from several files held on a person does not necessarily count as processing of personal data. In the US, Valve, the developer of hit online shoot fests Half Life and Counter Strike, could be in some real data bother. A hacker claims to have broken into its management system for cyber cafe owners, bagging thousands of credit card numbers on the way. He's threatening to publish them if Valve doesn't cop to poor security. No public response from the firm yet. It should be careful - users don't go back to sites that have been hacked, according to research. If that doesn't scare you, it should, according to Cisco. Its survey said malware collywobbles are soooo 2006, and data theft is now the top reason for sleepless nights among IT chiefs. I-D-F-off An exciting week in chip land, which has relocated to Beijing. Yep, Intel Developer Forum (IDF) time. Again. Already. In a festival of profoundly silly codenamery, Intel said it's going to build WiMax into laptops next year, outlined its contribution to the "Geneseo" plan to update PCI Express, and talked up sales forecasts for the next generation of Centrino chipsets. Centrino for Ultra Mobile PCs, or "Stealy", was unveiled, as was its replacement "Siverthorne", the first CPU Intel has designed from ground up specifically for such devices. Benchmarks for new dual and quad-core "Penryn" chips were looking tasty, which is nice, because Intel relly wants you to play with its parts. You can see grizzled IDF veteran Ashlee Vance's IDF photo diary here. He caused a panic in Intel's codenaming bunker by pointing out that "Gesher", the 32nm next generation technology, had slight Zionist connotations. Happy days for Intel though, with AMD chalking up a quarterly loss of $611m. Intel's profits were $1.61bn. You can browse our extensive IDF coverage here. Google: has the skills to pay the bills investors (rhyming now banned) Google was a busy bunny too. After ending last week with a $3.1bn swoop on online ads broker DoubleClick from under Microsoft's nose, Redmond threw its rattle out of the pram this week, calling on regulators to investigate the merger as anti-competitive. And Microsoft should know - it's still counting the cost of its own anti-competitive behaviour, this week forking ut $180m to Iowans. Google CEO Eric Schmidt took time out from rebuffing pitches from desperate social media start-ups at the Web 2.0 Expo to rubbish the claims. He also showcased the last piece in the Google's Apps jigsaw: a presentations add-on for Docs and Spreadsheets. It's definitely NOT a competitor to PowerPoint though. OK? Good. PowerPoint presentations don't even work anyway, if you believe Guy Kewney. We marked the final completion of Google's inevitable corporate sense of humour bypass by mourning the death of Froogle. If your firm has something similarly embarrassing which is still indexed by Google, Mountain View deigned to give webmasters an easy route to removing old content from the search engine and cache. The firm closed out the week by delivering earnings which beat even the most Google-loving Wall Street analysts' expectations. Schmidt said he was "ecstatic". Contrast that with Yahoo! boss Terry Semel, who had talked up the performance of its new Panama ads platform...prior to revealing yet another set of disappointing numbers. Yahoo!'s starting to look short of Google-catching ideas. You got served An attempt to disrupt a similarly ingrained hegemony crashed and burned this week. The Reg exclusively revealed that server start-up Fabric7 shut down. Despite impressive technology and affable executives, the firm managed less than two years in the server bearpit. Fabric7, we barely knew ye. Ubuntu bangs the bongos The investment required to build an enterprise hardware business from scratch is always going to make it a risky, er, enterprise. "Serial entrepreneur" Peter Dawe apparently knows this, so is sticking to repackaging something free: Linux. His new distribution BabelLinux is aimed at those who fear the kernel; i.e. their idea of a fun weekend doesn't involve having 100 shell windows open, a copy of Linux Device Drivers, and a large bag of cheese Doritos. It's ready to go straight away. We're sure we've heard that one before...oh yeah we have...Um Bongo Ubuntu. The Congolese's preferred flavour of Linux got a big release this week. The addition of virtualisation support meant "Feisty Fawn", or version 7.04, had fans all in a tizz. So much so that they crashed the download servers. More fuel for the open source fire came from researchers putting a number on how much its patent woes cost licensees: $21.50 per user. Ouch. High fibre Britain Peter Dawe must be following the travails of one of his previous start-ups with some sadness. ISP Pipex, having failed so far to find a buyer, delivered some pretty depressing results, and then laid off a bunch of customer support staff. One of Pipex's rumoured ex-suitors, BT, is busying itself with its next generation network 21CN. The good people of Swansea will be the lucky pups who'll act as guinea pigs for nationwide migration to the £10bn technology. BT's calling the trial the "on the night" network, as in "it'll be all right". They hope. The theoretical maximum for 21CN broadband is 24Mbits/s. Which is nice, but if you go along with the Broadband Stakeholders Group, it ain't good enough. For British business to compete, Ofcom needs to find a way of getting industry to invest in laying fibre to homes and businesses, ditching copper wires end-to-end. We ran a wide-ranging interview with Ofcom chief Ed Richards here. No word on any plans for supercharging our interweb though. The VoIP wars kick off We hope Ofcom's following the controversy over mobile operators crippling new phones so they can't run VoIP software. The money-saving technology has been blocked on Nokia's new flagship, the N95, by Orange and Vodafone. It's not been done to protect voice revenues, honest. It's for your own good, said Vodafone. The technology's just not mature enough, you see, might not be a "solid end-to-end customer experience". DO YOU SEE? The boss of VoIP outfit Truphone doesn't. He says the operators are breaking EU law. Expect this one to run and run. Is it wrong to expose your holes? What do you do when someone exposes your network vulnerabilities? If you're ISP Be* you slap them with the threat of legal action. The hole-exposing antics of London student Sid Karunaratne drew both anger and praise from Reg readers. See here for a heated debate. It was with a sad inevitability we noted that malware authors jumped on the Virginia Tech tragedy. Apple plugged 25 holes in its OS this week, so get updating if you use it. A salient reminder of how exploits can have a butterfly effect came from the US State Department, which said a MS Word zero-day attack on it began when a single email was opened in Asia. It led to the government losing unspecified data, a Congressional hearing heard. Very clever, we're sure. But as it turns out, all you need to get someone's password is chocolate and a smile. Borland lands some Texan land An eerily quiet week in the normally razzle-dazzle world of big software. Oracle bought the intellectual property of AppForge, which it's reckoned will be used for the firm's mobile applications and portal strategy for developers on Microsoft's Visual Studio IDE. Elsewhere though, Oracle shut Redmond out of its data integrity drive, going all open source. Borland upped sticks, moving from California to Austin. The most interesting thing we can say about that is that they might be able to pick up some cheap Texan real estate from Dell sometime soon. The PC builder's woes were highlighted again by Gartner's Q1 figures, which showed the market is buoyant...except for Dell. The corporate executive most likely to... awards How well do you know your finance chief? Shifty, is he? We only ask because the money men topped a survey this week of executives most likely to commit fraud. Somehow, we weren't surprised. That's the lot for another week. And remember, alcohol increases the health benefits of fruit. Get to it. ®
Nokia looks set to bring high-speed downloading to the masses with a low-cost phone equipped with the latest 3G High-Speed Downlink Packet Access (HSDPA) technology. It can pull down songs and videos at up to 3.6Mbps.
A cheesed-off American IT worker was seized by an FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force on Wednesday for attacking the Californian electric power grid. Lonnie Charles Denison, of Sacramento, allegedly meddled with computers at the California Independent System Operator (ISO) agency. He is also accused of making a malicious bomb threat against the organisation. ISO controls the state's power transmission lines and runs its energy trading markets.
French IT giant Bull plans to turn software development into an industrial process with its software factory announced earlier this month. The factory approach combines Bull's Novaforge development toolkit with its network of service centres to create a framework for distributed development.
Intel once again increased its lead over arch-rival AMD during Q1, as its share of world x86 chip sales rose above 80 per cent - the first quarter it's done so since Q3 2005.
IT firms agreed with unions and governments to root exploitation out of their global supply chains after an historic meeting of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Geneva this week. The ILO has never tackled the IT industry before, but its size, the relocation of its manufacturing base to Asia, and emerging stories of worker exploitation have caught its attention. It called a meeting of manufacturers, industry bodies, governments, and unions, who spent two days hammering out a compromise between corporate need and human dignity, the result of which was an ambiguous text that describes how manufacturers care about their people, but that their people ought to understand how tough it is to compete in a global industry. Bonnie Nixon, a Hewlett Packard supply chain boss who negotiated on behalf of employers, said the text "formalised our commitment to social dialogue". Employers wanted to improve labour standards and make sure they were adopted throughout their supply chain, she said. But employees had to understand that labour standards had to be viable in the context of a firm's long-term competitiveness. "If a company goes out of business because its uncompetitive, then everyone loses," she said. Robert Steiert, a director of the International Metalworkers Federation (IMF), who negotiated for workers, was concerned employers had been reluctant to stick their necks out for workers. "The problem for me is how far companies are bound by what their employers' representatives have been deciding. And what of the companies who were not there?" he said. Apple, which was criticised last year for working conditions at the factory subcontracted to manufacture its iPods, was present at the meeting. Foxconn, its subcontractor, was also present. Elcoteq, one of the world's top 10 contract manufacturers and which serves Nokia, was also absent. Big brands already operate voluntary codes of conduct, but Steiert said these are weak in comparison to the international framework agreements - also voluntary - that unions have negotiated in other sectors. "IT companies have not been prepared to talk to us about international framework agreements," he said. The IMF had negotiated 50 framework agreements with multinationals in other sectors, holding employers to the fundamental human rights set out in the "core labour standards" of the ILO. Steiert was pleased to have got a mention of frameworks in the Geneva text, but disappointed that employers had not committed to forming one. And there's the sand in the oyster - Steiert said IT firms fall back on national law, which is often inadequate. The US, for example, has not ratified the ILO's core labour standards. The text, however, appears to commit them - voluntarily - to international standards, not national protectorates: "In countries in which the fundamental ILO core Conventions are not complied with, all parties should refer to them for guidance in their social policy." Two of these standards were explicitly supported in the text: the rights to freedom of association and collective bargaining. The other three of the five were not - prohibition of child or forced labour, and discrimination in the workplace. Manufacturers who contributed to the text at the meeting included Cisco, Dell, Intel, Lenovo, Microsoft, Philips, Selectron, Sony, ST Micro, and Xerox. That's a start, at least. ®
BT is buying itself a bigger footprint in the fast-growing Latin American market by purchasing network provider Comsat International. BT says the acquisition will help it extend its 21st Century Network (21CN) services portfolio into the region.
A new study published in the latest edition of Accident Analysis & Prevention has found that talking to passengers in the car is less dangerous than talking on a hands-free phone. The study is a follow-up to one published two years ago that established that drivers chatting on the phone were more than four times more likely to have an accident than those driving in silence - but that study made no comparison with talking to passengers in the car. Now researchers at The George Institute for International Health, Sydney Australia, have filled that gap by talking to 274 drivers attending hospital in Perth, and asking them what they were doing just before their accident. The results show that driving with two or more passengers more than doubles the chances of having an accident, but using a mobile phone increases the chances of having an accident by a factor of more than four. The effect of trying to get directions on the phone while being screamed at by two children wasn't established, but it's probably worth taking extra care over the weekend. ®
A UK-based hi-tech firm that's become the victim of "industrial espionage" is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for stealing its computer hardware.
ReviewReview The manifest destiny of VoIP phones is surely the ability to use one wireless handset to make and receive calls via either the internet or a regular landline with the very minimum of fuss, bother and, more importantly, without a PC poking its nose into the equation.
LettersLetters Lots to get through this week - so let's get right to it and address the burning issues of your day. First up, the old "risky business" attack on open source, as brought up in an article on software compliance:
Research in Motion (RIM) has issued a statement explaining that its network failure earlier this week was down to the introduction of an improved caching system, which shouldn't have impacted regular operation, and the failure of its backup systems. Only users of the Canadian Network Operations Centre were affected by Tuesday's failure - BlackBerry addicts in Europe, Africa and the Middle East use a second NOC located in the UK, so could still get their fix of 24-hour communications. The system was back up and running by Wednesday morning, but emails were trickled out over the next 24 hours, probably to prevent overloading other systems. RIM will no doubt take some stick for the failure, but customers will generally tolerate one slip-up of this type, as long as there's no reoccurrence. ®
O2's owner Telefonica has flogged emergency services radio outfit O2 Airwave to the Australian banking and telco group Macquarie - and the new owner has promptly pissed off Airwave's staff so much that some are threatening to strike. A strike at Airwave would interrupt the push-to-talk radio systems used by the police and other emergency services. They could use mobile phones instead, but when major incidents have occurred - such as the 7/7 bombings in London - Airwave has coped when the mobile networks have not. Macquarie's gaffe was to shutter Airwave's final-salary pension scheme, less than one hour after closing its £1.9bn purchase from the Spanish mobile operator. It said it would transfer workers - Airwave has around 800 staff - to a new 'defined contribution' plan. In response, Airwave staff claimed that the bank deliberately misled them during the acquisition talks, and the deputy general secretary of the Communication Workers Union, Jeannie Drake, described Macquarie's action as "outrageous and disrespectful" and said it would "enrage workers and generate real concerns over the new owners of their company."®
OpenOffice users who've locked their files and forgotten the password - or who have a document but not the password for it - can now crack their way in, thanks to a toolkit from a Russian developer specialising in password recovery.
AnalysisAnalysis The usual trouble with politics is that the people the process is supposed to defend are usually the ones to suffer most at the hands of those manipulating the political process. It looks as though this is the case in the arm-wrestling that is still going on between Microsoft and IBM and the standardization of OpenMXL and Open Document Format (ODF). While the two main protagonists push and shove in their attempts to gain dominance (oops, probably a legally untenable word in this particular context) of the desktop office productivity tools market through gaining international standardisation ratification, the users are the ones who are likely to suffer.
A bill extending wiretapping provisions to cell phones and covering a wider range of crimes - including kidnaping, human trafficking and money laundering - has been approved by the Texas Senate. Only murder, drug-related crimes and child pornography investigations are covered by existing lawful interception laws in Texas, AP reports. Wiretaps authorised by the proposed laws could be used to authorise the tracking of suspect's mobile, land line and online activities in multiple locations; unlike current laws which are location specific. The draft Homeland Security legislation also places tighter controls on the sale of prepaid phones. Retailers will be asked to keep records of customers in a move that means prepaid phones can no longer be bought over the counter without ID. Customers will have to supply their name and address, date of birth or Social Security number, while sales would be limited to five prepaid cell phones at a time. Police in Texas were also given the legislative go-ahead to use CCTV footage at toll booths to prosecute crime. Sen. John Carona, the architect of the bill, argued that the legislation would help police to fight organised crime and terrorism in the state. Critics said the measures extended crimes labeled as homeland security issues too far. One Democrat senator voiced concerns over whether the bill infringed Texans' civil liberties, particular the friends and relatives of suspects, but the proposals ultimately received the unanimous approval of the state's upper house. The bill was passed down to the House of Representatives in Texas for further consideration. ®
ReviewReview The CF-Y5 sits at the executive end of its Toughbook range, which if you're actually a stubble-sporting, rugged type, is realistically nearer the bottom of any table of toughness. So you won't be able to drop it down a crevice in the Antarctic and still expect to send an email.
Nokia increased its share of the global mobile handset in the first quarter of 2007 but growth in the industry has slowed considerably. A total of 252 million handsets were shipped worldwide in the quarter, up 12 per cent on the same period in 2006 according to Strategy Analytics. This was the first quarter in almost two years that year-on-year growth has been below the 20 per cent mark, the analyst firm notes. It blamed slower progress on a build-up of inventory in the fourth quarter of 2006 with Motorola accounting for much of the stockpile. The study found that Nokia is the market leader with 36 per cent global share, up from 33 pe rcent for the same period last year. This is the highest share the Finnish manufacturer has held since Strategy Analytics began tracking the market. Nokia's gain came largely at the expense of Motorola. With a total of 45 million handsets sold, Motorola saw its share of the market drop to 18 per cent, down from 22 per cent a year ago. Third-placed Samsung had record sales in the quarters with 35 million handsets shipped worldwide giving it a 13 per cent share of the market, the firm's highest for two years. Sony Ericsson is in fourth with a nine per cent share, having shipped 22 million units. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Profits were down at global mobile phone giant Nokia yesterday although quarterly sales remained strong. First quarter financial results for the Finnish giant show net profits stood at €979m, down seven per cent on close to €1.05bn last year. This is despite a four per cent increase in sales compared to last year with overall turnover reaching just below €9.9bn compared to €9.5bn last year. Nokia said increasing sales of low-end models in emerging markets deflated its unit average selling price (ASP) with the Middle East & Africa, China and Asia-Pacific regions all recording strong year-on-year increases of between 31 and 44 per cent. The average selling price of Nokia's handsets was €89 - the same as the final quarter of 2006, but down a noticeable 14 per cent from €103 one year ago. Nokia said the decline was slightly offset by improving sales of its high-spec multimedia devices, but still beat forecasts by €1. In total, Nokia sold 253 million mobile devices during the three months ending 31 March, an 18 per cent increase year-on-year. Nokia is expecting a slight increase in the current quarter, and the company expects the handset market to keep on growing by an estimated 10 percent throughout 2007. Even so, Nokia executicves will be keeping a close eye on its market share in North America, with handset volumes falling more than 40 per cent to under five million units. Diluted earnings per share (EPS) stood at €0.25 for the quarter - the same as last year. On Thursday evening Nokia shares rose €0.61 to €18.16 in Helsinki. Nokia chief executive Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo was pleased with the results, particularly with operating margins at 14.4 per cent compared to 12.9 per cent last year. "We also saw good year-on-year device volume growth that led to an increase in our market share, further solidifying our number one position in the industry," he said. "Our Multimedia business group achieved record net sales and operating margin in a seasonally challenging environment. Multimedia continues to lead in the convergence space, with close to eight million Nokia Nseries devices shipped during the quarter, including the ground-breaking Nokia N95 multimedia computer. "Our Enterprise Solutions business group showed improved results, bolstered by sales of the new Nokia E65, and we are targeting breakeven for Enterprise Solutions in the second quarter 2007. "Mobile phones mid-range portfolio was strengthened by the Nokia 6300, which began initial shipments in the first quarter." Kallasvuo also expects the new Nokia Siemens Networks joint venture, which began joint operations on 1 April, to "assume a leading position in the communications infrastructure market". Analysts are predicting a rake of job cuts in the new joint venture to achieve operational efficiency. In total, the Espoo, Finland-based company employed just over 68,000 people worldwide on 31 March. Copyright © 2007, ENN
CanSecWestCanSecWest A pair of hackers have demonstrated a way to spoof travel information messages displayed on satellite navigation systems used by Italian drivers to bypass accidents, traffic jams and plot the most efficient routes from one point to another.
Dell is to once again offer Windows XP on new systems, responding to online customer complaints. The decision reverses a Vista-only policy the PC seller has moved to since the release of Microsoft's latest OS. The move is a reaction to online complaints at Dell's recently-launched Ideastorm website.
A New York-based security researcher spent less than 12 hours to identify and exploit a zero-day vulnerability in Apple's Safari browser that allowed him to remotely gain full user rights to the hacked machine. The feat came during the second and final day of the CanSecWest "pwn-2-own" contest in which participants are able to walk away with a fully-patched MacBook Pro if they are first able to hack it.
Overland Storage is to eliminate 14 per cent of its workforce to reduce costs. The move, announced today, will see 54 jobs go in a re-org which includes other spending cuts still to be formulated. Reductions are being made across all functions of the San Diego-based data storage company.