25th > April > 2007 Archive

1

Hitachi's server HDDs get debigulated

Hitachi has entered the server-quality 2.5-inch HDD market, offering a 147GB drive as a part of a trio of disk drives introduced to its glam rock band-sounding Ultrastar line. The Ultrastar C10K147 is a small form-factor 147GB drive made to cater to low-power server setups. The drive has a speed of 10,000 RPMs with a 3Gbit/sec SAS interface and 16MB buffer.
Austin Modine, 25 Apr 2007
fingers pointing at man

SAP and Microsoft play Duet in Office love-in

SapphireSapphire SAP and Microsoft executives have embraced warmly and expressed respect for each other's applications while neatly side-stepping looming competition.
Gavin Clarke, 25 Apr 2007
homeless man with sign
8

Head of DrinkorDie cops to copyright charges

The kingpin for one the world's oldest and best-known piracy groups has pleaded guilty to software piracy charges, bringing a close to an international cat-and-mouse game that took more than five years to play out.
Dan Goodin, 25 Apr 2007
4

QuickTime, not Safari, to blame for MacBook vuln

UpdatedUpdated The zero-day vulnerability that allowed a hacker to commandeer a brand new MacBook Pro late last week resides in a flaw in Apple's QuickTime media player, the exploit's author says. The revelation corrects descriptions given last Friday that the exploit targeted Safari.
Dan Goodin, 25 Apr 2007
1

Green Bar of Shangri-La

The Agile IconoclastThe Agile Iconoclast How often have you encountered variations on this comment: “I’ve made a small change to the code; now I run the tests… green bar!
Matt Stephens, 25 Apr 2007

Nvidia updates multi-GPU SLI box for DirectX 10 era

Nvidia has updated its graphics-cards-in-a-box Quadro Plex VCS rendering unit to include workstation-class GPUs derived from the GeForce 8800 family.
Tony Smith, 25 Apr 2007
3

Tesco punts anti-Tesco diatribe

Those among you who fret at the inexorable rise of the supermarket leviathan - whose tentacles threaten to choke the life out of traditional town centres while sucking profit from poverty-striken suppliers and crushing rivals with irresistable two-for-one-while-stocks-last deals - are directed to Andrew Simms' book Tescopoly: How One Shop Came Out on Top and Why it Matters. Here's a summary: The book shows how the supermarkets - and Tesco in particular - have brought: Banality - homogenized high streets full of clone stores; Ghost towns - superstores have drained the life from our town centres and communities; a Supermarket State - this new commercial nanny state that knows more about you than you think; profits from poverty - shelves full of global plunder, produced for a pittance; and global food domination - as the superstores expand overseas. Sounds good. If you fancy a copy of Tescopoly and simply don't have time to nip down to the local bookshop, why not buy it online?: Yup, you even get 20 per cent off down at Tesco, without having to leave the comfort of your PC. While many among will probably be thinking that Tesco has made a terrible error here in stocking what is a direct attack on its methodology, there is an alternative analysis: Tesco is so confident of its position that it does not feel the need to indulge in the sort of childish behaviour which recently saw British Airways edit Richard Branson from inflight versions of Casino Royale because, let's face it, it would rather make its fleet available to al-Qaeda kamikaze pilots than give publicity to Virgin Airlines. ® Bootnote Ta very much to Seamus O'Brien for the e-commerce heads-up.
Lester Haines, 25 Apr 2007
13

Cloud Jesus floats over Mount Sinai

Jesus, unlike mere mortals, has omnipresence capabilities, which is why he can be simultaneously found atop a Ugandan mobile phone mast, on a Romanian wardrobe door, and in a Sussex hawthorn bush.
Lester Haines, 25 Apr 2007
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LG brings Google phone to Europe

LG rolled out its latest 'super 3G' handset this week, pitching its Symbian-based slider phone, the KS10, as a web-browsing wonder: it has Google pre-installed.
Tony Smith, 25 Apr 2007

Samsung sends S60 slider phone West

Samsung's new i400 slider phone may not set the world alight with its technical details, but with its curvy styling and Nokia-designed S60 software it sure is a looker.
Tony Smith, 25 Apr 2007
2

Strategy Boutiques brainstorm to 50th birthday

We here at Vulture Central would like to wish a very happy birthday today to all you Strategy Boutiques out there doing so much to redefine the world's brand frontage paradigms and evolve the value proposition your clients represent to their constituents. Indeed, it was today in 1957 that Chemical and Engineering News first proposed the use of the word "brainstorming" as "group-oriented, uninhibited thinking - a problem-oriented 'bull session'" - although we don't think the magazine quite realised how accurate the description "bull session" would become to describe the kind of PowerPoint and whalesong-driven synergistic insanity where nose-Ajax-crazed ying-yang realignment executives discuss the implications on the corporate feng-shui of kicking a product-set deep dive over the fence and seeing if the neighbour throws it back before taking it offline to the nearest wine bar. But hold on a minute... According to a bit more digging, Strategy Boutiques were actually born in 1938, when Alex Osborn of (you guessed it) advertising agency Batten, Barton, Durstine and Osborn developed the concept of "the brainstorm session, or group brainstorming". In 1955, Business Week gave its stamp of approval, describing brainstorming as "free-wheeling sessions that encourage wild ideas but prohibit any evaluation or discussion until the session is over". The etymologists among you will, of course, wish to point out that the original meaning of brainstorm was "a sudden, violent disturbance of the mind" - with which thought we'll leave the Strategy Boutiques to hoover up some Bolivian marching powder, pop the lid on a chilled continental lager and celebrate an undefined number of years solutionising sweet spots and incubating mission-critical users. ®
Lester Haines, 25 Apr 2007
1

What the hell is an information delivery strategy anyway?

Reg Reader WorkshopReg Reader Workshop OK, you got us thinking on this one. In a recent reader survey, about three quarters of you said you had an overall information delivery strategy or were putting one in place for things like business performance management or more general management information requirements. Since then, we've been trying to figure out what you actually mean by this, so rather than keep guessing, we thought we'd ask you for a bit of clarification. If you have a couple of minutes, we'd appreciate you enlightening us a little further in our poll below. As usual, we'll report back at the end of the week.
Dale Vile, 25 Apr 2007
2

Air of desperation encircles SIM Summit

The SIM industry has been gathering around Prague for Informa's annual SIM Summit, with various luminaries from the industry presenting their plans for how the SIM is going to develop over the next few years - and the answer seems to be away from mobile phones, if anywhere at all. The Subscriber Identity Module (SIM), used in every GSM phone and allowing customers to change handset without talking to their operator, has been a key driver for the success of GSM, as well as enabling the bewildering speed of handset development. The SIM creates a secure (enough) connection between subscriber and network, and stores a few SMS messages and phone numbers too. But the technology has moved on. It's now possible to store several hundred kilobytes on a SIM, and talk to it at high speeds. So customers could, in theory, store music, videos, and applications on the SIM. The problem is that customers haven't shown much enthusiasm for doing so, so this year's SIM Summit was largely filled with presentations expounding what might be possible if only those fickle users would agree to pay for it. Secure banking The SIM is a security module, but not secure enough for banking. The GSM security is based on a single secret, with copies stored on the SIM and the Authentication Server at the network operator: if the SIM is going to support secure banking then the bank will have to have access to that secret, or the SIM will have to evolve a more complex security model. Given that operators are more likely to cut off then own feet than hand over their cryptographic secrets, this is going to mean a more expensive SIM, and handsets to support it. However, today's handsets can already run a Java application using SSL to speak to a bank's servers: which may well prove secure enough for mobile banking without needing any new SIM technology. Near field communications NFC is a very short range radio technology aimed at proximity shopping (waving your phone at a reader to pay for bus tickets and the like). The adoption of USB as the high-speed SIM interface leaves a connection free, which could be used to connect the SIM to an NFC antenna and allow it a new channel to the outside world. The alternative is to use a secure module on the handset to manage NFC: storing pre-paid balances and such inside the phone. This is the approach appearing on the first NFC handsets, and is certainly in the interests of the handset manufacturers - tying the customer to the handset, not the SIM, so unless network operators rapidly push for ownership on the SIM they're likely to let this one slip through their fingers. Trial content The most obvious application for a high-capacity SIM is to stick some content on it, either limited-function trials or some free content to encourage customers to get the hang of personalising. The problem here is that in order help the customer discover the content they need to have an easy-to-use interface, which must be pre-installed on their phone. But if the application is being pre-installed into the phone memory, then there's no reason not to install the content there too: removing the need to support new SIM standards. The SIM abroad More surprising is the suggestion that it's time for the SIM to move out of the mobile phone - acting as a secure module in everything from UMPCs to wrist watches. These applications may well have nothing to do with mobile telephones, just levering the security and utility of the SIM for payment and authentication services. Desktop computers could really do with a secure module: though the Secure Computing Environment should fulfil many of the roles proposed for the in-computer SIM. Here at the SIM Summit, Laks (maker of posh watches) showed a couple of proximity-payment watches with SIMs fitted inside, and Orange talked of a SIM held in a wrist watch using skin conductance to talk to the phone handset. But none of these is the SIM as we now recognise it, or offers the billions of sales manufacturers would like to generate. A solution looking for a problem SIMs are great. They have been fantastic for the mobile phone business, and continue to provide secure communications in most of the world. In developing markets current SIM technology has been used for banking and payment applications where the operator is willing to work closely with the bank in a trusted relationship. This year saw a break-away event, the SIMposium, organised in Berlin by the SIM Alliance, an industry group of SIM manufacturers, on exactly the same dates as Informa's get together. Some have interpreted this to mean that the SIM industry is thriving, on the verge of creating new and profitable markets and businesses. The alternative is to see an industry unwilling to see its product reduced to a commodity status and desperately thrashing around trying to find a killer application that will convince network operators that every SIM needs replacing, not to mention finding a home for all those cool technologies that look so good on PowerPoint slides. ®
Bill Ray, 25 Apr 2007

Website prompts sex offender arrests

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) has claimed some early successes for its Most Wanted website. It said in the past five months postings on the site had led to the arrests of five sex offenders who had failed to notify the authorities of their whereabouts. They were tracked down after public sightings in the UK and overseas. CEOP also said the site has registered over 12 million hits from people in 130 countries since it went live last November. "Most Wanted is going from strength to strength," said CEOP chief executive officer Jim Gamble. "It was designed in association with Crimestoppers to engage with the public to help find individuals who mistakenly believe they can skip registration and hide from the authorities. "Five months on, 12 million hits and five located offenders is proof it is achieving just that. We have been overwhelmed by the strength of support we have received, not just in the UK but throughout Europe. "This initiative demonstrates the positive impact of an initiative which enables members of the public to work alongside the police in a responsible approach to tracking missing offenders." Police are now asking for the public's help in finding three offenders who are new to the site: Andrew Jeremy Eden, Stephen Lionel Gordon, and Daniel Mark Joslin. 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, 25 Apr 2007
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Battling Swiss woman starts petition against Adobe

More than 7,000 angry users have signed an online petition protesting against Adobe Systems' price hikes for European customers. Direct from Adobe before tax, an upgrade to the company's new Creative Suite 3 software bundle will cost Europeans anywhere from 89 per cent more (Germany, Premium version) to a brutal 106 per cent more (UK, Standard version).
Lewis Page, 25 Apr 2007
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1

Northgate swallows another payroll firm

Payroll software giant Northgate HR has continued its acquisition strategy with the purchase of Confidential Payroll. In a deal understood to be worth more than €1.5m, the acquisition follows the recent buy-outs of Irish time and attendance (T&A) software firm Engage Technology, and Link HR Systems.
Maxim Kelly, 25 Apr 2007
homeless man with sign
3

Optical link hacking unsheathed

Optical links are not as secure as might be assumed. Techniques for extracting data flowing over fibre optic links are evolving to make the technique easier to apply.
John Leyden, 25 Apr 2007
Pound Sterling

Iona misses forecast, expects better results in Q2

Software giant Iona said it missed its quarterly revenue expectations on Tuesday because of a "very complex transaction". The Dublin-headquartered company reported a $15.6m turnover for its first financial quarter - below its $17m expectation.
Maxim Kelly, 25 Apr 2007

HP slaps 'sold' sticker on DIY design service

HP is bidding to make sure small businesses keep haemorrhaging high priced ink and toner by snaffling a Utah firm which produces logos and other graphic design work.
Joe Fay, 25 Apr 2007
1

Another 419 scam ring nicked

Amsterdam police this week arrested another 419 cell and confiscated computers, fake travel documents, and bogus banking documents. The five suspects are being held pending extradition to the US, where they could face up to 20 years in prison.
Jan Libbenga, 25 Apr 2007
2

Privacy activists attempt block of Google's purchase of DoubleClick

Privacy groups have lodged a complaint (pdf) with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over Google's proposed acquisition of online advertising company DoubleClick. The merger will give the combined company unprecedented power, they argue. Three groups have asked the FTC to halt the deal until it receives assurances about privacy protection. Google said the complaint fails to identify any activity undertaken by it that falls short of accepted privacy standards. The Electronic Privacy Information Centre, the Centre for Digital Democracy and the US Public Interest Research Group have filed the complaint, alleging that the concentration of information about users that would be controlled by the combined company could lead to dangerous privacy breaches. "Google's proposed acquisition of DoubleClick will give one company access to more information about the internet activities of consumers than any other company in the world," said the complaint. "Moreover, Google will operate with virtually no legal obligation to ensure the privacy, security, and accuracy of the personal data that it collects." The complaint claims that Google violates the Federal Trade Commission Act by engaging in deceptive and unfair trade practices. "Upon arriving at the Google homepage, a Google user is not informed of Google's data collection practices until he or she clicks through four links," says the section of the complaint which details Google's alleged deceptive trade practices. "Most users will not reach this page. In truth and in fact, Google collects user search terms in connection with his or her IP address without adequate notice to the user. Therefore, Google's representations concerning its data retention practices were, and are, deceptive practices. "As a result of Google's failure to detail its data retention policies until four levels down within its website, its users are unaware that their activities are being monitored," says the complaint in the section alleging unfair trade practices. "Furthermore, Google does not provide any 'opt-out' option to its users who do not want Google to store their search terms. Google's collection of information about its users without compliance with Fair Information Practices, such as the OECD Privacy Guidelines, is likely to cause substantial injury to consumers, which is not reasonably avoidable by consumers and not outweighed by countervailing benefits to consumers or competition, and therefore is an unfair practice." Google retains search terms and links them to the internet addresses of the people who made the search. This could lead to the identification of users, which the activists say runs against the expectations of users. Google has rejected the allegations that it has broken any law in its practices. "Google believes the complaint is unsupported by the facts or the law," Google counsel Peter Fleischer told reporters. "When we have a chance to explain to the FTC why we keep this information, I think there is zero chance that the FTC will order us to delete it at the end of a session." In Europe, companies such as Google will soon have to retain IP addresses for between six months and two years to comply with the Data Retention Directive. Member states must pass that into national law by the end of this year. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 25 Apr 2007
5

Open Wi-Fi proves no defence in child porn case

A man has been found guilty of possessing child pornography despite arguing that his open wireless internet network meant the case against him could not be proved. The case was triggered by an explicit image of a child which was sent over Yahoo!'s instant messaging network. The internet protocol (IP) address was traced to Javier Perez. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) searched Perez's residence under warrant and discovered several CDs in his room that carried images of child porn. It was the only room of the house that was searched. It soon transpired that the Yahoo! account used to send the original image belonged to someone listed as Rob Ram. Perez shared his residence with Robert Ramos and operated an open wireless internet (Wi-Fi) connection. Perez argued that his open connection meant that anybody within 200 feet could have used his internet connection, meaning that it could not be conclusively proved that the original instant message came from him. This in turn meant that the search warrant was issued in error and the evidence on the CDs gathered illegally. That evidence should be disregarded and the conviction based on it quashed, Perez argued. The US Court of Appeal for the Fifth Circuit has rejected Perez's case, saying that the evidence should not be disregarded. "In this case it is clear that there was a substantial basis to conclude that evidence of criminal activity would be found at [the address]," the judge wrote. "[T]hough it was possible that the transmissions originated outside of the residence to which the IP address was assigned, it remained likely that the source of the transmissions was inside that residence." Some people involved in unlawful activity such as music and film file sharing have reportedly begun opening up their wireless networks as a pre-emptive court defence. They argue that it could not be subsequently proved that they were behind the file sharing if their network was open and, theoretically, anyone in the vicinity could have used their network for any purpose they liked. OUT-LAW last year reported the case of Tammie Marson, a US resident who argued that her open Wi-Fi network meant that it could not be proved that she engaged in file sharing. Marson had been accused by record labels Virgin, Sony BMG, Arista, Universal, and Warner Brothers of illegally sharing copyrighted music files. Marson's lawyer Seyamack Kouretchian of Coast Law Group told OUT-LAW Radio that evidence that Marson's connection was used was not enough. "The best that they could do, the absolute best was prove that the music was on a computer that had accessed the internet through her internet connection," he said. "You had neighbours who would have had access to her internet connection over a wireless router so it could have been anybody." The record labels backed down from their case against Marson. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 25 Apr 2007
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Lawyer says accused 'sharers' should resist legal claims

People who claim they have been wrongly accused of illegally sharing computer games on P2P networks should stand up to their accusers, a legal expert said today. The comments came as Davenport Lyons, the law firm taking action for games publisher Zuxxez, continues to chase 500 British people it claims illegally shared the game Dream Pinball 3D. Dai Davis, a solicitor with Brooke North LLP, who has been representing people in intellectual property cases for 20 years, spoke up for the accused after being told that Davenport had refused to entertain their claims of innocence. Davenport accepts that some users may have had their machines hijacked or used without their knowledge but says they should still pay £300 to £600 to settle its claims or face arguing their case in court. "The security of your computer and internet connection is your responsibility," it told them. Davis disagreed, however: "Are you responsible for the criminal acts of others if someone hacks into your wireless network? No you're not. There's no legal requirement for someone to have a secure network. "Ultimately Davenport will continue to try to bully [people] into settling, but if [people] push it and push it, they'll go away. They can't be held responsible for the criminal act of a third party," he said. Davis' scepticism of Davenport's threats echoed the instinctive reaction of many Register readers who said that if someone stole your car and used it to knock over an old granny, you couldn't be blamed. Davis explained that someone else may have hacked the machine and used it as a zombie to share files, or someone else in the household, or even a visitor might have done the sharing without the knowledge of the computer owner. That might make it difficult for Davenport to pin the case on any individual, he said. "They'll bully people into paying, I suspect. But if it goes to court there's no right or wrong answer and Davenport will have difficulty proving it, particularly where there's more than one person using a computer," he said. "Ultimately, it's for the court to decide on the balance of probabilities if someone's done it." Davis also said that Davenport appeared to be working on the assumption that its evidence of file sharing activity was flawless, which was not necessarily true. He predicted that if a lot of people refused to roll over Davenport would take its strongest test case to court and then use that to "scare" other people into paying up. Both Davenport and Zuxxez have told The Register they were using the swoop on alleged Pinball 3D sharers as a test before deciding whether to use the same tactics to pursue file sharers of other copyrighted software. Davenport is thinking of setting up a specialist practice to represent copyright holders against file sharers. As a "volume" business, it has directed enquiries from the accused file sharers through a nameless telephone service. The firm did not say whether this had anything to do with keeping costs down, but did say it was worried about receiving abusive phone calls. Davenport was not available to comment. ®
Mark Ballard, 25 Apr 2007
1

Vonage gets injunction stay made permanent

The US Court of Appeal has granted an indefinite stay on the injunction which threatened to prevent Vonage signing up new customers while its patent row with Verizon drags on - meaning the company might just remain viable. Vonage has agreed to pay a 5.5 per cent royalty payment into escrow, as well as posting a $66m bond, which should cover its liability to Verizon if the case goes against it. "We believe the original verdict was based on an erroneous claim construction - meaning the patents in this case were defined in an overly broad and legally unprecedented way," said Sharon O'Leary, Vonage's executive vice president, chief legal officer, and secretary. An extension to the stay was essential if the company wasn't going to be driven out of business before the patent spat was over. VoIP services suffer very high churn rates, and if Vonage wasn't able to sign up new customers, there would be little left to sue by the time the case was settled. ®
Bill Ray, 25 Apr 2007
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Dell to fit laptops with Flash drives

Dell has begun allowing anyone buying its Latitude D420 sub-notebook to kit out the machine not with a regular hard disk but one of SanDisk's 32GB Flash drives.
Tony Smith, 25 Apr 2007
6

Ads police say 128Kbps AAC is CD quality

Nokia - unlike Creative - has been allowed by UK advertising watchdog the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) to claim that its Nokia 5300 Xpress Music phone can deliver CD quality sound from compressed, lossy audio formats.
Tony Smith, 25 Apr 2007
7

Robo-rights speculation rubbished by researchers

UK robotics boffins this week pooh-poohed the notion of evolving machine intelligence and the possibility of that old sci-fi staple, a future robot-rights movement. Academic droid-fanciers instead suggested that issues around robots in the near future would be primarily human ones. Government-sponsored futurologists predicted in December that "calls may be made for human rights to be extended to robots", within 21-50 years. The Horizon Scanning Centre at the Office of Science and Innovation also hinted that "this may be balanced with citizen responsibilities (e.g. voting, paying tax)", or even "compulsory military service". Regular Reg readers will be well aware that there are, in fact, many robots in the military already. But they tend to be purpose-built for their jobs, rather than draftees. The armed forces seem unlikely to bother with press-ganging ordinary civilian robots into service, the more so as they tend to be specialised too. A Red Dwarf Talkie Toaster is never going to make a deadly machine of war, no matter how you reprogram it. But the government fortune-tellers didn't stop there. "Robots' rights would invariably clash with the property rights of their owners," they warned. They also said that "the extension of rights to robotic beings could be manipulated through programming and mechanical abilities at faster rates of reproduction than humans", seeming to hint at armies of new robot citizens outbreeding the fleshies and coded to vote at the behest of manipulative human masters. Forget about illegal immigrants: robots are the enemy within. But heavyweight boffins contacted by the Guardian for an article published yesterday had the cold water ready. "[This report] is certainly not based on science," said Owen Holland, a noted machine-consciousness man at Essex University. Noel Sharkey of Sheffield Uni said it was "a fairy tale". That said, the academics had a few interesting notions of their own. "It would be great if all the military were robots and they could fight each other," said Sharkey. Presumably, once one side's war-bots had overcome the other's, the losing human and civ-bot population would meekly submit to the victorious droid army without bloodshed. But Sharkey felt that this utopia was unlikely. Instead, he worried about governments starting an excessive number of robotised conflicts. "If you don't have body bags coming home, you can start a war much more easily," he said, suggesting that human soldiers are actually a restraining factor in warfare. Mr Sharkey was also concerned about robot policing, which is of course already a reality (sort of). He feared the coming of mobile robot CCTV patrolmen and brutal droid crowd-control systems (again, already on the drawing boards). "Imagine the miners' strike with robots armed with water cannon," he told the Guardian, though there was no word on how this would be worse than what actually happened. Of course, if the government ball-gazers are right, in future it might be the robots on strike - perhaps objecting to being conscripted for an endless, unreported robot war overseas, or cheesed off at being made to pay taxes. Or, just possibly, annoyed at being required to service the filthy lustful desires of cruel human owners: Mr Sharkey reportedly suggested that "vibrating sex-robots would be available soon for those bored with blow-up dolls". Deep waters, these. But one thing seems certain - the money paid to fund the Office of Science and Innovation and the nation's university robotics departments is certainly not wasted. Not when you consider the entertainment benefits, anyway. ®
Lewis Page, 25 Apr 2007
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Hackers debut malware loaded USB ruse

Malware purveyors deliberately left USB sticks loaded with a Trojan in a London car park in a bid to trick users into getting infected. The attack was designed to propagate Trojan banking software that swiped users' login credentials from compromised machines.
John Leyden, 25 Apr 2007
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EDS vet eBays 10 year service award pin

Here at El Reg, it's traditional for management to reward long service with lavish gifts and extended paid leave in sun-kissed tropical locations.
Lester Haines, 25 Apr 2007
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Irish kids' literacy hit by txts

The fatal attraction between Irish young 'uns and mobile phones poses "a significant threat to writing standards in English", according to the chief examiner of Eire's Department of Education. The problem was highlighted in a review of standards in last year's Junior Cert, The Irish Times reports. The anonymous examiner expressed concern that "text messaging, with its use of phonetic spelling and little or no punctuation seems to pose a threat to traditional conventions in writing". The examiner elaborated that kids were "choosing to answer sparingly, even minimally, rather than seeing questions as invitations to explore the territory they had studied and to express the breadth and depth of their learning and understanding". Regarding a peruse of higher-level or honours papers, he said "the frequency of errors of grammar, punctuation, idiomatic usage, and appropriateness of register was of concern". The examiner concluded: "The emergence of the mobile phone and the rise of text messaging as a popular means of communication would appear to have impacted on standards of writing as evidenced in the responses of candidates. Expertise in text messaging and email in particular would appear to have affected spelling and punctuation." It's not all linguistic doom and gloom, however. The Irish Times notes that research indicates "literacy standards among Irish 15-year-olds compares [sic] well with those across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)", and that "Irish teenagers were among the top three performers in an international league table on literacy standards compiled by the organisation four years ago". ®
Lester Haines, 25 Apr 2007

AMD aids Dell tree-planting fund

Cash-strapped AMD has given Dell $16,000 to plant trees. That's just $1 for each of the chip maker's $16,000 employees. Well, times are hard for the chip maker at the moment...
Tony Smith, 25 Apr 2007

Sun re-resellers launch OFT complaint

An alliance of resellers has launched an official complaint against Sun Microsystems in the UK, alleging that the manufacturer is unfairly stifling the trade in used Sun products. The Association of Service and Computer Dealers International (ASCDI) filed its members' grievance with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on Monday. A summary of the complaint is available here.
Lewis Page, 25 Apr 2007
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WMG settles with Bertelsmann over Napster

Warner Music Group (WMG) has settled a long-running dispute with media giant Bertelsmann over the latter's relationship with Napster. Both firms have resolved legal claims relating to WMG's recorded music and music publishing businesses. According to a US Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Bertelsmann will cough up $110m to WMG. In a statement issued by WMG, it said that Bertelsmann "admits no liability in making this settlement". In separate lawsuits by several music publishers including WMG, Universal, and EMI Group, Bertelsmann had been accused of profiting illegally from Napster's music service from 2000 to 2001, but the German-based company had always insisted that its investment in Napster only happened after the P2P website went legit. A settlement was reached with Universal to the tune of $60m in June 2006 and with EMI Group in March this year in an undisclosed deal. ®
Kelly Fiveash, 25 Apr 2007
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SAP swears off buying binge

SapphireSapphire SAP has assured investors and competitors it can achieve double-digit revenue growth without succumbing to an M&A rampage. Chief executive Henning Kagermann told media attending his company's customer and partner event that SAP would reap success by making it easier for customers to consume enterprise services, not by purchasing customers through consolidation.
Gavin Clarke, 25 Apr 2007

Collabnet fills its boots

Collabnet has acquired VA Software's Sourceforge enterprise edition business. As part of the deal, announced yesterday, VA Software has gained an equity ownership stake in Collabnet. VA is the firm behind the slashdot.org website, amongst others.
Kelly Fiveash, 25 Apr 2007
1

Anti-Apple lawsuit cites 20-year-old patent

Apple is facing a jury trial over allegations it ripped off a US patent filed by Xerox way back in 1987. At issue: Mac OS X 10.4's use of tabs and other UI elements to flip between different panels within a single window.
Tony Smith, 25 Apr 2007
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ISPs to 'strengthen ties' with UK government

ISPA, the internet service providers' trade association, is calling on its members to provide law enforcement agencies with a 24-hour contact point. A new "best practice" document says ISPs should make information available for current investigations as quickly as possible, and ideally be on call at any time. ISPA says the industry needs to strengthen ties with police and other government agencies tracking spammers and peer-to-peer networking. Providers should hand over customer details more readily, ISPA reckons. The non-mandatory policy states: "ISPA members should make available contact details of a named individual or other contact point (e.g. general phone/fax number or email address) for these purposes." ISPA council chair Jessica Hendrie-Liaño said: "ISPA already has excellent relations with the Home Office, Government officials, and law enforcement agencies. This document aims to strengthen these ties." Clearly, a compulsory 24 hour hotline is not feasible for the "one man band" outfits that battle it out at the bottom end of the ISP game. An ISPA spokesman said an email address or some other point of contact would be more practical in such circumstances. The new best practice document is here. Bootnote Orange broadband customers can disregard the article above. We revealed yesterday its converged customers aren't covered by ISPA's industry standard codes of practice.
Christopher Williams, 25 Apr 2007
3

Aliens exoskeletons for Japanese old-timers

Designers in Japan have developed a working Aliens-style powered exoskeleton, and intend to market it next year. The Japan Times reports that Yoshiyuki Sankai, a professor at the University of Tsukuba, has teamed up with Daiwa House Industry Co to manufacture "400 to 500 suits annually", from 2008. The motorised exoskeleton, a little disappointingly, is not actually intended for space crews battling murderous acid-blooded interstellar monsters: nor even for mundane heavy-lifting tasks. Professor Sankai and his industry colleagues are looking more at the medical and elderly-care market. The exoskeleton is intended to enable people with walking difficulties to get about without assistance. A machine will apparently lease for 70,000 yen "plus maintenance fee", or just under £300 per month. More expensive than a Zimmer frame, then, but potentially a lot more fun. According to the Japan Times, the suit doesn't necessarily require limb function to operate: it works by "reading signals from the brain", so even those with spinal problems could find it useful. Prof Sankai's motor-muscle suit is just one of a range of automated technologies that the Japanese government wants to see implemented in coming years. The idea is that sophisticated robotic gear will look after the large numbers of old-timers expected to be inhabiting Japan soon. The New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organisation, a state-funded entity pushing such developments, wants to see a full range of robotised assistance options for the old. They'd like the gerontobotics gear available 20 years from now when the baby boom generation enter their 80s. This is to prevent the few remaining youngsters becoming overwhelmed by the demanding requirements of the burgeoning wrinkly hordes. "We want to make it available when the aging of society becomes serious," an official told the Japan Times. There are already, apparently, mechanical arms which will spoon up food when a switch is touched by a user's jaw; and computer human-interface kit operated by eyeball movements. It remains to be seen just how kindly the ageing Japanese generation will take to robot nurses and motorised brain-reading walker machines. It's possible to speculate that a few testy curmudgeons at least will resist being handed over to the droids when they turn 80, obstinately beating off nurse-bots with old-school walking sticks and insisting on milky tea made by human hands. ®
Lewis Page, 25 Apr 2007
1

Do Microsoft's EULAs have any real legal basis?

I've just had an anonymous comment added to an irrelevent topic with the excuse: "The Drink or die thread seems to be closed so let's continue this here." Well, I can't find this "Drink or die" thread anyway - it's this one, perhaps. However, I'm posting the orphan comment as a blog entry so you can all comment. It's all about what you actually buy when you buy software: [comment starts here] "Nope. [I, the software vendor] didn't sell you any goods. You have bought a license to use Windows." What license is that? [our correspondent, Mr Alfred Nonymous asks] The end user license agreement [that] shows *after* the sale? I refer you to the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Regulations 1999. Terms not individually negotiated in a consumer contract are unfair and hence non-binding. You [the software vendor] did not at the purchase negotiate any such agreement with me.
David Norfolk, 25 Apr 2007
Linux
2

UK spooks offered 10Gig wire-speed processor

Specialist hardware developer Bivio Networks is now targeting UK spooks and service providers with its latest 10Gbit/s programmable deep packet inspection (DPI) engines. The Linux-based Bivio 7000 boxes sport multiple PowerPC processors, and Bivio claims they can be turned to just about any DPI purpose, from security onwards.
Bryan Betts, 25 Apr 2007

BT drives unified comms downmarket with upmarket chef

BT mounted its big push this week to drive uptake of wholly-IP-based voice and IT communications downmarket, to small and medium sized businesses.
Christopher Williams, 25 Apr 2007
3

US to fund 'man-made lightning' raygun tech

The US Navy will put nearly $10m into development of "man-made lightning" blaster weapons. In a release dated yesterday, Arizona-based company Ionatron announced that it had won a contract worth $9,839,094 to develop its Laser Induced Plasma Channel™ (LIPC) technology. The funds were supplied by the Naval Surface Warfare Centre, Crane division. NSW-Crane is well-known as a supplier of gadgets and weapons to the elite, secretive Navy SEALs among others. Ionatron describes LIPC as "man-made lightning". It notes that electrical air-gap spark discharges are nothing new, but until now it has been very hard to make them travel any distance or point them at a target. But the firm's engineers reckon they've potentially got the problem cracked, using precursor laser pulses to burn a conductive tunnel through the air down which an electrical charge can easily jump. The technology could be applied in a number of ways, perhaps most obviously as an improvement on existing Taser cattle-prod dartguns, used by police to electrocute malefactors into submission as opposed to simply shooting them. Ionatron reckon their lightning zappers could "replace guns as the weapon of choice in close-range defense." But there'll be no need for plods or soldiers of the future to give up on killing people altogether. "Lethal configurations are also available," the company assures us. Of course, electrical pulse weapons could well be more effective against electronics-based targets than human ones. Ionatron has previously been involved in efforts to use vehicle-mounted LIPC blasters to fry the circuitry of roadside bombs or landmines in Iraq. But in the end the US Army turned the kit down, reportedly disliking the carrying platforms rather than the ray-guns themselves. That said, the idea of pouring a high-voltage electric current into a bomb's firing circuit seems pretty much certain to risk detonating it; and if that's all you want to achieve, there are simpler ways of doing it. The phrase "we have become the terrorist, haven't we sir," oft-heard from critical training staff in bomb-disposal schools, springs to mind. With this most recent injection of funds, however, it seems that LIPC zap-beam technology certainly hasn't died off. US forces may yet take the field packing directed lightning blasters to supplement their fearful array of flying disco dazzle-cannon, crowd-griddling microwave-oven guns and vomit-ray phasers. Never a dull moment with the American weapons boffins. ®
Lewis Page, 25 Apr 2007
fingers pointing at man

Lumeta mines routers for network discovery

High-end network discovery developer Lumeta has opened up in Europe, citing security needs as the biggest driver today for finding out what's really on your network. The company said its UK office will support existing multinational users, as well as pushing its IPsonar software through European resellers and partners.
Bryan Betts, 25 Apr 2007
chart
1

Cryoserver back from the dead

Email archiving system Cryoserver is back, and now it's an appliance. The software has been bought up by Dublin-based developer FCS (Forensics & Compliance Systems) which has used it to build a tamper-proof sealed system able to archive all one's messaging, both for regulatory compliance and for storage management.
Bryan Betts, 25 Apr 2007
MySQL

IBM lines up MySQL blue corner against rivals

IBM has teamed with database rival MySQL in a deal illustrating how far it's prepared to go to reach open source developers and stuff Oracle and Microsoft. IBM will re-sell MySQL subscriptions through its massive reseller network, ensuring MySQL slips into IBM shops and channel partners, serving ISVs that need a low-cost, small-footprint embedded database for their applications.
Gavin Clarke, 25 Apr 2007
cable

Texan researchers cheer tera-op chip endurance test

The University of Texas plans next week to wow processor aficionados with a new chip that can chew through software at an unprecedented clip. The easily excited, however, will want to temper their enthusiasm, since the so-called TRIPS (Tera-op Reliable Intelligently adaptive Processing System) project seems to move at an un-lubed snail's pace.* So far, UT researchers have crafted a two-core chip where each core can handle 16 out-of-order integer or floating point operations. All told, the TRIPS chip can stomach 1,024 instructions at the same time. Such a chip should speed up consumer, business and high performance computing workloads with no changes needed to current software, according to the researchers. The UT crowd has been hammering away at the technology for seven years and once predicted a product capable of one trillion calculations per second (a tera-op) would arrive by 2010. Now, the group has pegged 2012 for its tera-op part. Seven years ago it looked like Intel and AMD would just keep plugging away at high GHz chips that handled single software threads well, while consuming tons of energy. Over the past three years, however, all of the major chipmakers have shifted strategies to focus on multi-core designs that combine slower individual processor cores together to make overall chips able to push through multi-threaded software at a solid rate. Intel is one company hoping to take this technology to the extreme. It's already demonstrating an 80-core processor that has reached 2 teraflops of performance. The company plans to start showing off a similar processor that uses its popular x86 instruction set next year – obviously well ahead of the UT crowd. But the TRIPS researchers claim Intel and other mainstream chip makers may have overshot the mainstream market with their multi-core designs. “They have made a big gamble that people writing software will figure out a way to write software that can use those processors with parallel programming,” said Steve Keckler, an associate professor at UT who has worked on TRIPS in conjunction with Doug Burger and Kathryn McKinley. “I think we will see a big wall as they try to go from 8 cores to 16 cores.” To Keckler's point, software makers have already started to gripe about the multi-core chips from Intel and AMD. Such products require the coders to embrace multi-threaded software programming, which is quite different from what they're used to in the single thread world. Start-ups such as PeakStream and RapidMind have stepped in to solve this problem with code that allows single-threaded software to run very fast on multi-core processors, but it remains unclear if the software industry as a whole will move at pace to the new designs. “So, while we recognize that there is a need for parallel programming, we would like to build the most powerful uniprocessor that we can,” Keckler said. IBM, which has been helping out with the TRIPS project, reckons that the big technology breakthrough here revolves around “block-oriented execution.” “Instead of operating on only a few computations at a time, the TRIPS processor operates on large blocks of computations mapped to an array of execution units on the chip,” IBM said in a 2003 statement. “This approach allows many more instructions to execute in parallel, thus offering higher performance.” The prototype motherboard to be shown next week contains four 366MHz TRIPS chips, along with 8GB of memory. (The architecture can support up to 32 chips and 64GB of memory.) This test system should reach 45 gigaflops. “The processor core is composed of multiple copies of five different types of tiles interconnected via microarchitectural networks,” UT says on its website. “Each core may be configured in a single threaded mode or in a 4-thread multithreaded mode in which instructions from multiple threads may execute simultaneously. A TRIPS processor core is fundamentally distributed for technology scalability and to provide high bandwidth to the instruction cache, data cache, and register file through partitioning and replication.” The researchers plan to follow the motherboard release by filling a rack with 8 systems linked together - a setup that should reach 375 gigaflops. One always needs to approach these research projects with a healthy amount of caution. Academia – even when backed by $11m in Defense Department funding and IBM – tends to move very, very slow, and the bright ideas of researchers often fail to pan out. Less cynical types who really want to see the future now, can travel over to the TRIPS web site. “I believe there is a strong need for very capable, high performance uniprocessor cores,” Keckler said. “Will they look exactly like TRIPS? That's a good question. I think we have a very credible case.” In the coming years, the TRIPS group hopes to convince a commercial partner to pull the technology out of the labs.® *Bootnote Ashlee, I enjoyed our discussion today. However, I'm not sure how you came up with this statement: "The easily excited, however, will want to temper their enthusiasm, since the so-called TRIPS (Tera-op Reliable Intelligently adaptive Processing System) project seems to move at an un-lubed snail's pace." Those familiar with the semiconductor industry would recognize that the industrial design cycle for a leading-edge microprocessor is 3-4 years, and that's given the fact that the instruction set architecture is already in place and that the company already has substantial experience building several previous generations. The TRIPS research cycle has been: 3 years for research concepts and early proof of concept (not part of industry design cycle), 3 years of implementation/fabrication of a never-before-built processor with a newly invented instruction set, and 6 months of silicon bringup and system implementation. Also along the way, we developed a new compiler for the new ISA. Thus the time from research concept to prototype has actually been quite un-snail-like given what we set out to accomplish. The early projections of a Tera-OP by 2010 made some assumptions about clock rate scaling (10GHz) and better device scaling than actually came to pass. That said, 8 slightly modified TRIPS cores could easily fit on a current generation 65nm chip, which running at 3GHz would achieve a peak performance of 768 billion instructions per second. Thus it is not unreasonable to expect the technology to support a trillion instructions per second in 2010. Cheers, Steve Keckler Associate Professor Computer Architecture and Technology Lab The University of Texas at Austin http://www.cs.utexas.edu/
Ashlee Vance, 25 Apr 2007
2

Phishers add call forwarding to their arsenal

The folks at SecureWorks have observed a new phishing technique that uses call forwarding to route a victim's incoming phone calls to a number controlled by the attacker. Victims are told to confirm their phone number with their bank by dialing *72 followed by a series of numbers. In the US, the sequence will cause most phones to forward all incoming calls. Once completed, the victim hears a message saying the confirmation has been successful. The call-forwarding ruse is included in a more traditional phishing email that attempts to dupe victims into divulging credit card information and personal identification details. Successful phishing attempts allow the attackers to use the victim's credit card, then provide the victim's identification credentials in the event a banking representative calls to confirm the transaction. ®
Dan Goodin, 25 Apr 2007
3

Man learns bombs not best way to raise tech stocks

Manners suggest when corresponding with a financial firm regarding sagging tech stock prices, it's best to avoid threatening a senior officer with his fiery end at the hands of the Prince of Darkness. More importantly, sending a disarmed pipe bomb to emphasize your point is — while often compelling — frowned upon in high society. John Tomkins, a machinist in a Dubuque, Iowa manufacturing company, has been arrested today for ignoring these basic rules of charm school. Federal agents believe they have apprehended the so-called "Bishop Bomber," who has mailed more than a dozen threatening letters to financial institutions since 2005. The Bishop's uncouth investment proposals usually involved references to heaven and hell and demanding stocks be adjusted to his wacky satisfaction. In January, the Bishop had sent parcels to investment firms Janas Small Cap and American Century. Each package was booby-trapped with a pipe bomb intentionally disarmed by disconnected wire to the firing circuit, but otherwise fully functional. Inside each package was a typewritten letter containing the message "BANG!! YOU"RE DEAD." The Bishop's apparent strategy: having suitably grabbed the recipient's attention, tell the investors further along the letter there would be a rally over three consecutive days in early February in technology and entertainment company Navarre Corp stock. Sixteen other letters were sent to investment companies since May 2005 postmarked from a suburb in Chicago and in Milwaukee. Several of these demanded the stock of computer networking company 3Com be raised to $6.66. On Oct. 25, 2005, a letter to an investment company executive contained a picture of the exec's house with the words "DO YOU KNOW WHO LIVES HERE? I DO" and "REMEMBER COMS 6.66 10/31/2005" written on it. 3Com's third quarter results had shares trading at $3.82, suggesting The Bishop wasn't thinking critically about this. Perhaps a bit eccentrically, one could venture. Reports obtained by the US Securities and Exchange Commission identified Tomkins as the only individual investor holding interests in 3Com and Navarre that would have increased in value had the securities moved in the Biblical direction demanded. The US Attorney of the Northern District of Illinois reports on April 11, agents conducting surveillance of Tomkins in Dubuque observed him driving a red 1993 Chevrolet Lumina with an interior matching what was visible in the photograph of the investment executive's home. The complaint also lists handwriting samples from Tomkins bank signature card, mortgage, and employment documents that allegedly match handwriting on envelopes from The Bishop. Sales records show PVC pipes and caps consistent with materials used in the pipe bombs were purchased using Tomkins' credit card. Tomkins was charged today with one count of mailing a threatening communications with intent to extort and once count of possession of an unregistered destructive device. He will appear before US Magistrate Judge Sidney Schenkier in the District Court in Chicago. The first charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and the second a maximum of 10 years. Both carry a maximum fine of $250,000. So remember your good manners, readers. Always be polite and register your pipe bomb before sending it to your favorite tech company. ®
Austin Modine, 25 Apr 2007
Sun
1

Sun throws new switch and three racks of metal at video

At long last, Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim's super secret switch has become not so secret. Sun Microsystems today unveiled the x4950 streaming switch – the crucial component to a new video serving system.
Ashlee Vance, 25 Apr 2007
1

RegisterFly fire sale at hand?

Could troubled domain registrar RegisterFly be up for sale? The Register has seen a copy of a letter of intent from Cogit, a technology-focused consulting group based in New Jersey, offering to buy out RegisterFly’s CEO and sole shareholder Kevin Medina for $1.15 mil. Whether or not Medina has indicated any interest in selling is another matter, and there is a continuing cloud of litigation over the struggling company that could hamper any attempted sale. A federal court in California recently ordered RegisterFly to turn over all its registrant data to ICANN, the California nonprofit responsible for the accreditation of domain registrars worldwide. ICANN and RegisterFly are involved in an ongoing dispute over whether or not RegisterFly has lived up to the terms of its registrar agreement. ICANN recently revoked RegisterFly’s accreditation in response to an avalanche of customer complaints, and the two parties are currently in arbitration over RegisterFly’s status. The letter of intent makes the sale contingent on Medina personally assuming liability for the company’s debts and liabilities, giving the Cogit Group a fresh start as owner. Paragraph 5 of the letter states: “Buyer shall not be obligated to assume any debts or liabilities of the Company.” Medina lives in Florida, which allows an unlimited asset exemption for equity in a primary residence; one can only assume that under this scenario Medina would be looking into bankruptcy protection, and $1.15 mil would be enough for a nice residential property, even in Miami Beach. As of publication, calls to Cogit seeking comment had not been returned. All of this could well be halted by court order, but sale of the registrar might not be such a bad thing for RegisterFly’s long-suffering customers. It could inject some welcome professionalism into the operation of the woefully mismanaged company, and possibly prevent its complete dissolution. Of course, the deal would have to move fast - the company would be worth less after it loses its accreditation, if that is the direction the arbitrator chooses to go. Ironically, it would also provide backdoor accreditation to yet another owner after ICANN has publicly cited accreditation through purchase as a principal cause of the RegisterFly debacle. The Register has been somewhat skeptical of that assertion - it seems self-serving of ICANN to claim that if only it could have rejected RegisterFly’s application in the first place this would never have happened, when it took ICANN over a year to address the problem in any meaningful way, and even then only grudgingly after scathing public criticism. More meaningful reform would be to allow registrants to sue registrars individually as third party beneficiaries of ICANN’s Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). That, combined with a stronger RAA, would provide the protection that registrants deserve.® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Burke Hansen, 25 Apr 2007
1

Frank plots US Internet gambling ban repeal

House of CardsHouse of Cards U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank's press office has confirmed that Thursday at 10am Frank will introduce legislation to repeal the controversial Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Frank's opposition to the UIGEA has been public ever since socially conservative Republicans snuck the legislation through on the back of an unrelated port security bill, but this is the first concrete step taken to undo the legislation itself. Whether the legislation has the votes to pass through Congress and survive a potential Bush veto is another question entirely. Nonetheless, Frank’s maneuver is certainly good news for the online gambling industry, which went into free fall after the passage of the act. The publicly traded companies, listed primarily on the London Stock Exchange, lost about half of their value in the days after the act passed. The act, which prohibits American financial institutions from processing internet gambling transactions, does not even take effect until June 2007, and might never spring in to life if Frank can push the legislation through. That would put major online gambling groups like Sportingbet (which flogged its American operations for $1) in the awkward position of having lost enormous shareholder value due to a law that never came to be. The UIGEA galvanized gaming proponents of various stripes, and led to the creation of the Poker Player’s Alliance, which has picked up 350,000 members in the few months since its inception and has been pushing Congress to exempt poker from the law. Some in Congress believe that online gambling should be legalized on libertarian principles; others resent the way the law was rushed through after midnight without any debate on its merits. It remains to be seen if they have the votes necessary to repeal the UIGEA. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Burke Hansen, 25 Apr 2007
1

Apple board backs Jobs against ex-CFO allegations shock

Apple's Board of Directors is backing CEO Steve Jobs after former CFO Fred Anderson accused Jobs approving the company's stock option backdating. Anderson settled civil charges against him Tuesday without admitting any guilt, but agreeing to pay back approximately $3.5m to make up for personal gains in the scandal.
Austin Modine, 25 Apr 2007