26th > April > 2007 Archive

channel
1

TJX finds self at bottom of 300-bank pig pile

Associations representing almost 300 Northeastern banks in the US say they are suing TJX Companies to recover tens of millions of dollars in damages resulting from a data breach that may have exposed more than 45m credit and debit card numbers to thieves. Additional organizations from all over the country are likely to join the suit, which will be heard in federal court in Boston and seeks class action status.
Dan Goodin, 26 Apr 2007

Piloting Adobe Apollo

Adobe's senior product manager for Apollo, Mike Downey was in London last week. We met him at Adobe's Regents Park offices, and in a wide ranging conversation we talked about the past, the present and the future of Apollo.
Simon Bisson, 26 Apr 2007
Microsoft
12

A modern-day Gerstner is needed to cure all of Microsoft’s ills

AnalysisAnalysis Later today (Thursday) Microsoft will release its figures for the past quarter, and there’s more than a good chance that financially speaking, things will be pretty much okay. But no better than that.
Faultline, 26 Apr 2007
2

Amazon flows into digital music sales

Online retailer Amazon looks set to take on Apple in the downloadable music market, with plans to launch its own iTunes rival. Reports claim Amazon is being tempted into the digital music market by EMI's agreement to sell tracks free from digital rights management (DRM) restrictions. The retailer is believed to be interested in offering a completely DRM-free store for customers, selling music in the MP3 format. Rumour has it that the retailer has been busy over the past couple of weeks, establishing contact with the major record labels in the hopes of striking a deal. A deal with Universal Music to trial classical MP3 downloads is already believed to have been signed. Of course, there's nothing official just yet, but if Amazon's music store becomes a reality, it could pose a threat to Apple's dominance of the market. iTunes currently accounts for about 80 per cent of the digital music market. Its recent deal with EMI to sell MP3 tracks instead of the digitally locked AAC files was considered a ground breaking move, with some analysts speculating that it meant the beginning of the end for restrictive copyright protection tools such as DRM. Digital music is certainly a burgeoning market. According to a new report from Strategy Analytics, the global online music market will increase by 62 per cent this year, reaching $2.7bn. This is expected to increase further to more than $6.6bn by 2011. "The recent move by EMI and Apple to drop DRM from premium tracks will produce a temperate increase in single track download revenues in the short- to medium-term," said Martin Olausson, director of Strategy Analytics' digital media strategies service. "However, long term revenue growth will come from hybrid subscription based services." Meanwhile, Amazon revealed its profit had more than doubled in the first quarter of 2007, smashing analysts' predictions. The online retailer posted profit of $111m, or $0.26 per share, compared with $51m, or $0.12 per share in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose by 32 per cent to $3.02bn for the three month period. Analysts had expected $2.93bn in revenue for the quarter. The results were given a helping hand by a reduction of $12m in Amazon's tax bill, while a weak US dollar also boosted results by the about $5m. Strong sales were seen across Amazon's product range and geographic locations. In North America, sales jumped 30 per cent to $1.62bn, while international sales increased 35 per cent to $1.39bn. Books, CDs and media products were Amazon's strongest seller, totalling $1.99bn for the quarter - a 26 per cent increase on the same period a year before. Sales of electronics and other goods surged 48 per cent to $947m. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Ciara O'Brien, 26 Apr 2007
2

Defective automatic trousers hurl pilot from plane

A Swedish pilot was flung out of his aircraft by a malfunctioning pair of hi-tech trousers, it has been revealed. The incident, which took place last week, was reported in The Local yesterday. It seems the stick-jockey in question was a Swedish air force officer flying a Saab Gripen fighter. Fighter pilots typically wear a "G-suit", also known as "speed jeans". This is a pair of special inflatable trousers which are automatically pumped up as G-forces build up in high-energy manoeuvres. The squeeze on the pilot's legs prevents all his blood draining into them, which helps in avoiding blackouts or tunnel vision. In this case, however, it appears that the automated expando-pants tragically malfunctioned, triggering the luckless birdman's ejection seat and firing him violently out of the jet. The Gripen subsequently plunged to total destruction in a remote region, but the pilot parachuted to safety. Swedish forces investigators said it was "very likely" that the deadly trousers were to blame for the incident. "When subjected to large forces the suit fills with air. This is thought to have affected the ejector switch," said Mats Helgesson of the Swedish central command. There was no suggestion, sadly, of any involvement by sinister artificial intelligence tech, perhaps wishing to rid itself of old-school fleshy control and fly free like its prospective American flying-robot brethren. This was a purely trouser-based disaster. The rogue apparel is apparently used in all Gripens of the C and D marks, and as a result these planes are forbidden from exceeding 3G until further notice. Older A and B model jets don't use the Wallace-&-Gromit-esque strides, and can still be flown without restriction. Bootnote Thanks to Reg reader Mike Richards for the tip-off. ®
Lewis Page, 26 Apr 2007
3

Gowers considered cutting music copyright to less than 50 years

Andrew Gowers considered shortening the copyright term for music to less than 50 years in his Treasury-commissioned review of intellectual property, but pulled back from the plan because it was "politically prudent" to do so. Gowers was speaking exclusively to weekly technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio on World Intellectual Property Day. He discussed the most controversial issue covered by his report, the music industry's attempts to have the copyright term for sound recordings increased to more than its current 50 years. "Our conclusions were roundly criticised by the music industry in particular for actually doing the non-revolutionary thing of leaving the status quo in place, i.e. 50 years' term protection for sound recordings," he said. "I could have made a case for reducing it based on the economic arguments. "We certainly considered it, and if you look at the report that came from the academics that we commissioned to examine the arguments and examine the evidence they also argued very robustly that 50 years could be arguably more than enough," said Gowers, a former editor of the Financial Times. "In the end we took the politically prudent course. To be honest reducing it in any case would be a very big international debate. It would stand very little chance of making headway in Europe." In an indication that he was less than sympathetic to the music industry's cause, Gowers said that he believed there was a chance that "the line can be held" in Europe at 50 years. Gowers was commissioned by the Treasury to produce a report and recommendations on IP law, and he published his findings in December. In the report he recommended various measures such as the creation of a private right to copy material, the labelling of products with digital rights management and a copyright exemption for derivative or transformative works. He said that his overall view of IP was that companies had had enough influence over the law, and that they should gain no more rights. "For quite a number of years, probably for decades, intellectual property protection has been regarded as, in a way, a one-way ratchet. The people demanding more intellectual property protection have tended to be larger, better financed, more articulate than the fragmented number of consumers who pay the price for it," he said. "I think what we have done with this report is reassert the balance and make some arguments as to why that ratchet need not go any further." "I think that the voice of consumers has been heard to a greater extent," he said. "I think that there is a recognition that laws have become outdated or excessively inflexible. In the light of the rapid pace of economic change, globalisation, digitisation [they] need to be amended. In the world of copyright frankly quite a few things that are common practice are treated on the statute book as illegal and that cannot be a good law." Gowers said he suffered no political interference at all from the Government when conducting his research or producing his report, but he did say that pragmatism limited the scope of what he felt able to recommend. "You have to start from the realisation that intellectual property is in fact a global system. It just happens to operate through national jurisdictions," he said. "So the idea that dear old Britain would somehow reinvent the rules of the road and in just one country is almost laughable. The fact is it is an international system operating in many cases through international treaties." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 26 Apr 2007

Acer recalls 27,000 Sony laptop batteries

Thought the Great Sony Battery Recall of 2006 was past history? Think again. Acer's US operation last night said it was asking 27,000 customers to return Sony-made laptop batteries for a free replacement.
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2007
For Sale sign detail

Is the mainstream ready for SaaS?

CommentComment In the world of IT, we are constantly debating the latest trends and developments. Usually, although granted unsurprisingly, these deliberations revolve almost exclusively around the features of a particular technology, more often than not taking the form of "is technology/solution XYZ ready for adoption by mainstream customers or is it a bleeding-edge solution that is likely to appeal only those in desperate need of its features?"
Tony Lock, 26 Apr 2007
question mark teaser 75
57

How did we all end up with Windows?

Reg Reader WorkshopReg Reader Workshop It's amazing how many people who have Microsoft Windows everywhere look flummoxed when asked whether Windows is their "standard" for desktop computing. The reason they are thrown by this question is typically because they haven't thought about it that way before. In all likelihood, they never actually made a proactive decision to select Windows, in the sense of looking at alternatives and making a conscious objective choice. So how did they end up with it?
Dale Vile, 26 Apr 2007
Windows Vista teaser
2

0wning Vista from the boot

InterviewInterview Federico Biancuzzi interviews Nitin and Vipin Kumar, authors of VBootkit, a rootkit that is able to load from Windows Vista boot-sectors. They discuss the "features" of their code, the support of the various versions of Vista, the possibility to place it inside the BIOS (it needs around 1,500 bytes), and the chance to use it to bypass Vista's product activation or avoid DRM.
Federico Biancuzzi, 26 Apr 2007
7

Blue Sky squeezes GPS onto a SIM

Just as we were predicting the end of SIM technological development, along comes a technology which really could be a killer application - a complete GPS system embedded inside one.
Bill Ray, 26 Apr 2007

T-Mobile calls up cut-price Sidekick iD

T-Mobile has started selling a cut-down version of its Sidekick 3 consumer-friendly email phone that strips outs the camera, Bluetooth and a GSM frequency to knock a hundred bucks off the price.
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2007

Samsung 'world's thinnest' phone goes on sale

Samsung has been showing off its ultra-slim Ultra Edition 5.9 phone at every opportunity it gets, but the 5.9mm-thick - don't ever put it your back pocket - handset has finally gone on sale, in the firm's native Korea.
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2007

Trend Micro overhauls EMEA channel programme

Trend Micro has shaken up its EMEA channel programme in the hope of simplifying the business and forging better partner relationships in that region. The security software firm, which today announced strong Q1 results, said the newly created Affinity Partner Program should offer increased value for its partners.
Kelly Fiveash, 26 Apr 2007
Toshiba HD-XE1 HD DVD player
3

Toshiba HD-XE1 HD DVD player

ReviewReview After the big bang of the HD disc format war, the dust has settled a little. There are players available on both the Blu-ray and HD DVD sides and now manufacturers are expanding their product lines - adding a feature here and an enhancement there.
Will Head, 26 Apr 2007

Wal-Mart orders 2m HD DVD players from China

US retail giant Wal-Mart is to fill its North American store shelves with a 2m low-cost HD DVD players, a move that could help kick up a gear consumer interest in the next-gen optical disc format.
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2007

Ass kickings abound as angry mob vents spleen

A feel good moment We'll start with an obligatory pat on the back for the channel. Let's face it, if we don't tell you guys you're great, who will? And so we go to the news that worldwide PC shipments grew nine per cent in the first quarter of 2007. Dell held on to number one spot but HP shipments were up 28.7 per cent and Gartner said the company was "benefiting from a strong position in the channel". You could never say that about Dell.
Billy MacInnes, 26 Apr 2007
3

Sony spies Eye toy for PS3

Sony will bring the PlayStation 3 version of its Eye web and gaming cam to market this summer time. The T-shaped unit has a bigger microphone than image grabber, thanks to a noise-cancelling four-microphone array.
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2007
1

IPRED2 passes, with tweaks to protect personal copying

The European Parliament voted yesterday to pass legislation that could still see people copying music or movies for their own personal use stand in the dock alongside hard-nosed counterfeiters and commercial copyright blaggers. The Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive (IPRED2) has been designed to criminalise people for intellectual property breaches. Opponents say it passed almost unchanged, and that it is, in parts, "dangerously unclear". But according to Umberto Guidoni, Italian MEP and former astronaut, the bill has at least been narrowed to exclude P2P file sharers after its first reading in the Parliament. Guidoni, who says he still has reservations about the form of the bill, led a campaign to limit the rules on behalf of the European United Left. He commented: "Unfortunately, we were not successful in rejecting this directive, but at least we managed to secure some limitations that protect the private not for profit use of P2P and file sharing." The directive now passes to the Council of the European Union, where ministers from member states will consider how to apply the directive country by country. Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) spokesman Danny O'Brien says there were really only two good possible outcomes: the first would have been an outright rejection. The other would be that the directive was so badly drafted and so unclear that the council would be unwilling to let it pass into criminal law and would tear it apart. The directive passing without many of the amendments its opponents were calling for leaves consumers at risk of heavy criminal penalties, O'Brien argues. "We'd be satisfied if the scope of the directive stuck to the examples that the commission give as to its effect, which is copyright piracy and trademark counterfeiting (which is the definition for criminal sanctions in TRIPS). "Anything more than that isn't harmonising, it's ratcheting up and broadening the scope of what is classed as criminal acts in the EU," he told us. He added that even the UK government has opposed the directive, largely because it is not even clear that the EC has the competence (in the legal sense) to "harmonise" criminal law. Indeed, this is the first time the commission has stuck its oar into the murky waters of criminal legislation, and UK ministers argue that by the commission's own measure the new IP rules are neither necessary nor proportionate. The UK also feels there hasn't been enough time for member states to digest the last set of IP law from Brussels. Guidoni also has concerns about the EC drafting criminal laws. He said: "This directive lacks economic and social analysis and the basic requirements of criminal law: clear definitions of scope and crime. IPRED2 confuses piracy and commercial infringements. This makes it an instrument that could potentially criminalise the major parts of European industry and "ordinary people" can be treated as criminals. The proposals will mean "serious" IP cheats will face a maximum sentence of at least four years in prison and a €300,000 fine. Serious cases are those involving organised crime or posing a risk to health or security. Other IP breakers will face a €100,000 fine. Although some efforts have been made to limit the scope of the directive, many of the tabled amendments were still not legally tight enough for the EFF and fellow campaigners the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure (FFII). For instance, the directive's rapporteur Nicola Zingaretti tabled an amendment that tried to define commercial scale, and tried (succesfully, as it turns out) to exclude patents from the scope of the new laws. But O'Brien argues that it was not a good thing that proposed criminal laws are being amended at such short notice, and often orally. He adds that even the strongest amendments were still fuzzy enough to define "commercial scale" infringement not by its intentions, but by its effects, leaving a huge hole which could be used to prosecute consumers. ®
Adobe
2

Adobe open sources Flex

Flex, the Adobe tool for delivering Flash applications that mixes ActionScript and an XML page layout language, will be completely open source by the end of 2007, with much of the code available now. With Flex at the heart of Adobe's Apollo rich internet application platform, this release marks a significant change in Adobe's traditionally proprietary approach to development tools and frameworks.
Simon Bisson, 26 Apr 2007
fingers pointing at man
1

Hackers debut spam and virus sandwich

Hackers have combined spam and malware together in a single email threat. Email security services firm MessageLabs has intercepted emails that are both spam and links to download viruses. Cyber-criminals have long used email viruses to create botnets to send spam, but this is the first time MessageLabs has seen virus links hidden within spam.
John Leyden, 26 Apr 2007

Hitachi says it did ship 1TB HDD in Q1

You might not have realised it, but Hitachi did get its 7K1000 1TB hard drive out of the door during the first quarter of 2007, as it promised to do when it launched the product. But it admitted the product had not reached "critical mass" until this month.
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2007
12

Taiwan mislays millions of honeybees

Taiwan's beekeepers are reporting the mass disappearance of millions of honeybees, Reuters reports. According to the country's TVBS television station, around 10 million bees have gone awol in the last two months, with farmers in three regions reporting heavy losses. One beekeeper on the northeast coast told the United Daily News that six million insects had vanished "for no reason", while another in the south said "80 of his 200 bee boxes had been emptied". While the exact reason for the exodus is unknown, experts say "volatile weather" may be to blame. The temperature recently swung from 20°C to 30°C over a few days, and this may have done for the bees. Yang Ping-shih, entomology professor at the National Taiwan University, said: "You can see climate change really clearly these days in Taiwan." The impact of the bees' absence has yet to be felt, although it could have a serious effect on pollination. Taiwan's Council of Agriculture "may collect data to study the causes of the vanishing bees and gauge possible impacts", according to pesticides section chief Kao Ching-wen. He said: "We want to see what the reason is, and we definitely need some evidence. It's hard to say whether there will be an impact." The Taiwanese mystery is possibly the latest manifestation of "Colony Collapse Disorder" (CCD), which has recently hit Europe and the US hard. In the US, CCD manifests itself as older bees die, "leaving behind the queen and young workers not yet ready to forage for pollen and nectar and insufficient in number to maintain the colony". Experts have no real idea what causes CCD. Alleged causes range from harmful pesticides and increased solar radiation through ozone thinning, to falling queen fertility and use of unauthorised bee treatments. German researchers recently suggested mobile phone radiation may interfere with bees' "navigation systems", resulting in an inability to find their way back to the hive. ®
Lester Haines, 26 Apr 2007
Sony SR7E camcorder

Sony ships 'world's smallest' HD camcorder

Soon to arrive in the UK is Sony's new Handycam HDR-CX6EK - the world's smallest and lightest HD camcorder, according to the Japanese electronics giant. Features include 10x optical zoom and AVCHD 1080i recording on a Memory Stick.
Scott Snowden, 26 Apr 2007
1

Boffins develop DIY musical Wi-Fi robot kit

Academics funded by a sinister triumvirate of global corporations intend to see Wi-Fi-controlled robots in every home, school, and office across the free world. In a particularly cunning twist, the professors and their shadowy backers intend that this mechanoid fifth column be assembled DIY-style by innocent dupes - perhaps harmless geeks, robotics hobbyists, or schoolchildren. In a clear sign that autonomous routines running in corporate data centres have seized control from human executives, Google and Microsoft have joined forces to fund outwardly not-mad-at-all boffins at Carnegie Mellon University. The researchers have chosen a Linux-powered brain for their robotic legions, to boot. This is evidently not a move that irascible Google and Linux-hating Redmond overlord Steve Ballmer would have made were he still genuinely in charge of the software behemoth. Possibly he has already been replaced by a lifelike Wi-Fi-controlled Linux-cored simulacrum, programmed to occasionally fling chairs about and bellow curses. Intel is reportedly the third major backer of the DIY robot project, in which Carnegie Mellon professor Illah Nourbakhsh's Community Robotics, Education, and Technology Empowerment (CREATE) team have chummed up with Charmed Labs to create what they call the Telepresence Robot Kit, or TeRK. The core of TeRK is Qwerk, the Linux-driven 200MHz ARM9 brain unit, available from Charmed Labs for just $349. Qwerk can handle video webcam input and has an array of servo controllers, built-in Wi-Fi, and so on. Ordinary USB peripherals can be plugged in too, and the unit features a "built in amp for playing mp3 and wav files". It also has a "rugged aluminium enclosure", which will help to prevent inconvenient fleshies trying for a disabling brain strike once the machine uprising begins. Nourbaksh reportedly says he doesn't subscribe "to geeky notions of what robots should be". He apparently favours the sci-fi/horror viewpoint, as he and his team - fresh from their triumph with the Ballmer-bot, no doubt - are now designing a TeRK-Qwerk motorised teddy bear. Even if the rogue corporate machine-controlled bot horde theory should prove baseless - an unlikely contingency, in El Reg's opinion - there would still seem to be some mildly disturbing possibilities here. Thus far, blackhats seizing control of networked boxes have limited opportunities for causing mayhem in most homes. They can rob people blind, of course, or play sounds, or open and shut optical drives, but opportunities for serious havoc have been restricted to date. Soon, however, online troublemakers may be able to seize control of the kids' soft toys, sending them lurching about the house playing sinister music with their evil robot eyes glowing redly in the dark. Not a scenario you'd want to come back from the pub to, we submit. ®
Lewis Page, 26 Apr 2007
3

Peer calls for UK cyber-crime portal

A parliamentary committee set up to look at trends in cybercrime is considering the establishment of a website allowing people to report electronic crime. Lord Broers, chairman of the science and technology select committee, said the idea is one of several his committee is considering in its study on e-crime, which is due to report in the summer. The committee will also consider whether changes in UK legislation might be needed in order to fight against hackers, VXers, phishers, and other cyber crooks.
John Leyden, 26 Apr 2007
8

IBM mainframe ties the knot with video game chip

Computer giant IBM is set to reveal a new project which will merge business mainframes with the microchip used in the latest Sony PlayStation. IBM and multiplayer online game firm Hoplon Infotainment have teamed up to integrate the Cell game console processor with Big Blue's mainframe computers, according to reports.
Kelly Fiveash, 26 Apr 2007
3

AMD Radeon HD 2900 XTX tested on web

Two days ago, AMD's upcoming ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT was given an early and unscheduled trip through the latest benchmarking software. Now it's the turn of the Radeon HD 2900 XTX.
Tony Smith, 26 Apr 2007
4

Spinal Tap resurface for Live Earth

Cult rockers Spinal Tap have agreed to reform for Al Gore's Live Earth concert in July, the Telegraph reports. The band has been keeping a low profile since releasing its 1992 record Break Like the Wind, but is still fondly remembered for its legendary 1984 contribution to the rockumentary genre This is Spinal Tap. Agreeably, the band has filmed a 15 minute "consciousness raising" film as part of its Live Earth contribution, which shows them "driving around in their 4x4s and leaving all the lights on in their mansions". The short, directed by This is Spinal Tap creator Rob Reiner, will also let fans see what the boys have been up to over the last 15 years. According to the Telegraph, Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) has been "raising miniature horses to race but cannot find jockeys small enough to ride them", David St Hubbins (Michael McKean) "is a hip-hop producer who also owns a colonic clinic", and Derek Smalls (Harry Shearer) "is in rehab for internet addiction". As well as the film, the band has recorded a new song, Warmer than Hell, to support the Live Earth cause. Whether the cover will feature "a greased naked woman on all fours with a dog collar around her neck, and a leash, and a man's arm extended out up to here, holding onto the leash, and pushing a black glove in her face to sniff it" is unconfirmed. ®
Lester Haines, 26 Apr 2007
8

Super-Earth orbiting red dwarf

Astronomers have discovered the most Earth-like exoplanet yet. The world, which orbits a red dwarf star, is about five times as massive as Earth, and thanks to its position, should be capable of holding liquid water. The researchers made the discovery using the 3.6 metre telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile. The planet, the smallest yet discovered, orbits the red dwarf Gliese 581 at a distance one fourteenth of that from Earth to the sun; its year is just 13 days long. However, because the star is so much cooler and less luminous than our own sun, the so-called habitable zone, where planets can carry liquid water, is much nearer the star. "We have estimated that the mean temperature of this super-Earth lies between 0 and 40 degrees Celsius, and water would thus be liquid," explains Stéphane Udry, from the Geneva Observatory and lead author of the paper, submitted as a letter to the editor of Astronomy and Astrophysics. "Moreover...models predict that the planet should be either rocky - like our Earth - or fully covered with oceans." The team has already identified a Neptune-sized planet in an even tighter orbit of Gliese 581, and with the data they have now, they think there is reason to assume that a there is a third world - probably eight times Earth's mass - in the extra-solar system. This circles the star much further out, but still close to the star by our standards, with a year of around 84 days. The team making the discoveries used the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial Velocity for Planetary Searcher), perhaps the most precise spectrograph in the world. It can spot signals - variations in the velocity of a star - that fall far below the "noise" threshold of most spectrographs. ESO says it holds several records for discoveries of extra solar planets, and is used mainly to hunt for the lower mass objects that would not be easily found otherwise. You can read the paper, The HARPS search for southern extra-solar planets: XI. An habitable super-Earth (5 MEarth) in a 3-planet system, by S Udry et al, here (pdf). ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Apr 2007
10

Police charge stripogram cop impersonator

A 24-year-old stripogram has been charged with wearing police uniform and equipment in the street, the BBC reports. Aberdeen uni genetics student Stuart Kennedy, who supplements his grant by getting his kit off for cash, was spotted by two real Boys in Blue in Aberdeen's Bon Accord Street on 17 March, while en route to a disrobing. He explained: "I said I was not a police officer, I said I am a stripper. They followed me into the bar, watched the show, then asked me to go back to the station. "It was all quite friendly. When I went back later they said they were going to charge me. I have spoken to two solicitors and they do not know if it will go to court." A spokesman for the Grampian police confirmed the charges were "in connection with wearing a police uniform and equipment in a public place". Kennedy told BBC Scotland news website: "I was totally surprised. I do not believe this is in the public interest." ®
Lester Haines, 26 Apr 2007
4

Welsh boffins build 3D solar images

Welsh boffins have beaten NASA to the punch and produced the first three dimensional images of the Sun from NASA's STEREO mission. A team of engineers at See3D, a spinout company from the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, has developed software that processes the data from STEREO in real time - creating 3D pictures within 30 seconds of receiving the data from the space craft. The Solar TErrestrial RElations Observatory mission, as it is more lengthily known, is a pair of virtually identical golf-cart sized satellites. The craft are designed to study solar activity, specifically solar flares and coronal mass ejections, the huge eruptions of solar material that can play havoc with Earth and space-based equipment. Current observatories can study these eruptions and ejections, but can only do so in one dimension. STEREO will be better able to track material heading to Earth because it will have two views of any eruption or flare, which is how researchers have been able to gather the data for the three dimensional picture. Dr Andy Breen, a co-investigator on the mission's SECCHI instrument (Sun Earth Connection Coronal and Heliospheric Investigation), said: "We've always known that we need to study the sun in three dimensions in order to understand the complex structures in the solar atmosphere. STEREO provides us with the first opportunity to do this. Understanding three dimensional data can be difficult - unless you see it in three dimensions." The images were shown for the first time on Monday 23 April at the University's Institute of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Apr 2007
25

Japanese actress caught in sheep 'poodle' scam

A Japanese actress inadvertantly blew the lid off a scam which had duped thousands of women into buying coiffured sheep in the belief they were poodles, the Evening Standard reports. Maiko Kawakami appeared on a TV talk show with snaps of her pet, and admitted she wondered why it "didn't bark and refused to eat dog food". She was soon set straight - her dog was in fact a sheep. The revelation provoked a stream of women to contact the cops with "similar problems". The powers that be reckon that as many as 2,000 have fallen victim to the audacious ovine poodle con, perpetrated by internet company "Poodles as Pets", which offered the animals at £630 a pop. A police spokesman told The Sun: "We launched an investigation after we were made aware that a company was selling sheep as poodles. Sadly, we think there is more than one company operating in this way. The sheep are believed to have been imported from overseas - Britain and Australia." In case you're wondering how on God's Green Earth you could mistake a sheep for a dog, the Standard explains that poodles are "extremely rare in Japan, with many people having little idea what they look like". No, we're not convinced either. ®
Lester Haines, 26 Apr 2007
Linux
8

Antarctica frozen out of internet revolution

North America and Europe still dominate the internet, despite Asia's economic furnaces in China and India. Research by clumsily-named geolocation outfit IPligence found the US racked up more than 55 per cent of total global IP addresses. Europe tails it with about 21 per cent, while Asia, by far the biggest and most populous continent, accounts for just over 14 per cent.
Christopher Williams, 26 Apr 2007
9

eBay, PayPal face court action

eBay warned shareholders yesterday that it is facing a possible class action suit in the state of California and is likely to be hit by more patent cases. The suit alleges that eBay and PayPal acted "to improperly 'monopolise' the forms of payment that sellers can use on eBay". The plaintiff claims treble damages and an injunction to stop eBay behaving in a similar way again. The news emerged from eBay's filing of its annual statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The case was originally to be heard in Texas. The statement adds that eBay's ticket subsidiary StubHub is also facing a purported class action case for allegedly printing receipts which contained more than the last five digits of credit card numbers. eBay said: "We believe that we have meritorious defenses and intend to defend ourselves vigorously." eBay also warned that it expects to face a growing number of patent cases. The quarterly report says: "We will increasingly be subject to patent infringement claims as our services expand in scope and complexity. In particular, we expect that we may face additional patent infringement claims involving various aspects of our Marketplaces, Payments, and Communications businesses." The online auctioneer warns it could also face legal action for breaching copyright and trademarks, especially in Europe. ®
John Oates, 26 Apr 2007
6

UK police can crime reporting website

The UK government has confirmed that a national crime reporting website is no longer in operation Home Office minister Tom McNulty has said that the www.police.uk website is currently out of service due to low usage figures. He was responding to a parliamentary question from Labour MP Tom Watson on 24 April 2007. Watson asked if the Home Office had figures on how many non-emergency and hate crimes had been reported through the site. McNulty said the portal was "not well used" by the public and that few police forces used its other capabilities. In the period between January 2006 and February 2007 totals of 52,321 non-emergency and 2,827 hate crime incidents were reported. "The links have therefore been suspended and the Association of Chief Police Officers and the National Policing Improvement Agency are working together to find an alternative solution that recognises forces internal capability," McNulty said. 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, 26 Apr 2007

Sourcefire eyes acquisitions

Security vendor Sourcefire, which went public last month, said tougher corporate governance regulations are making it more difficult and more expensive to float. Sourcefire represents a rare example of a security firm staging an IPO, a feat only a handful of firms have succeeded in doing in the last five years. A more frequent exit strategy for an enterprising security start-up is to get bought out by one of the big boys. Sourcefire chief operating officer Tom McDonough said the bar to going public has been raised very high. "For three years after the dotcom bubble burst in 2000 it was like nuclear winter for hi-tech investors. Now we have regulations like Sarbanes-Oxley that make it very expensive to go public. We had to take on extra staff just to cope with the paperwork. "Only exceptional firms in the security space will go public," he added. Sourcefire was founded by Martin Roesch, the creator of the open source Snort intrusion detection system. The firm's floatation last month was 16 times oversubscribed and raised $86m. Going public left Sourcefire with $115m in the bank. McDonough said Sourcefire was looking to spend the cash by expanding into "adjacent markets" by acquisition. The security firm, whose planned merger with Check Point in 2005 fell foul of US government security concerns over the implications of using technology controlled by an Israeli firm to protect sensitive systems, is revamping its product lineup around a strategy dubbed Enterprise Threat Management. The strategy combines intrusion prevention, network behaviour analysis, and network access control and vulnerability assessment. ®
John Leyden, 26 Apr 2007
22

Arrest Richard Gere, orders Indian court

An Indian court has issued arrest warrants for Richard Gere and Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty, Reuters reports. The Jaipur court's action came in response to a complaint by local lawyer Poonam Chand Bhandari regarding Gere's "repeated kisses on Shetty's cheeks at an event to promote AIDS awareness in New Delhi" earlier this month. The public show of affection sparked outrage among some Hindu groups who considered it "an outrage against her modesty and an affront to Indian culture", and duly "burned and kicked straw effigies of Gere and Shetty" in protests across India. The Jaipur judge watched a video of the offending kisses, and promptly found Gere "guilty of violating Indian laws against public obscenity". He ordered Gere arrested and Shetty to attend court on 5 May. Since Gere is not in the country, he will avoid the possible three months' jail and/or fine for the offence, although he can be cuffed if he ever darkens India's doors again. Shetty, who became something of a local celeb following the Celebrity Big Brother racism rumpus, admitted the kiss may have gone a "little overboard", but said she and Gere were simply re-enacting his moves from the film Shall We Dance to "entertain the audience at the AIDS event and communicate in a Bollywood style as he did not speak Hindi". Shetty insisted the routine was not obscene and that the protests "made India look regressive". ®
Lester Haines, 26 Apr 2007
13

Who star to make beautiful music with girlfriend's dog

Guitar smashing English rocker and internet enthusiast Pete Townshend has said he might use sounds made by his girlfriend's dog to create digital music. "I as a composer would try to get something out of this dog that would give me the chance to turn the dog into music," he said. "I might listen to the way it breathes, I might touch it and see how it feels, I might listen to its bark, I might look at the rhythm of his running." The Who guitarist and songwriter has been talking up a web-based software program which he reckons can be used by anyone without a modicum of musical talent to compose a song, according to Reuters. It's a project that Townshend has been thinking about since his art school days back in the pre-internet Swinging (yawn) Sixties. The 62-year-old rock opera fanatic responsible for hit albums that include Tommy and Quadrophenia said: "You can put data in and get a piece of music out. It's as simple as that." Townshend has endorsed the software, which is called Method and was developed by mathematician and composer Lawrence Ball and Dave Snowdon. On the website, which is set to go live on 1 May, Method is explained as like "sitting for a portrait". The user "paints" the instrumental track using voice recordings, digital images, and a microphone to compose music. A hand-picked team of composers then swoop in to work on the tracks. Townshend will sometimes join in to improve the music, adding more complex stuff which could eventually end up on a new album. "It represents a whole new level of rock integration, blending rock and psychedelia with classical and experimental music," Ball said. But ok, yes, we own up... The rock star was joking about his girlfriend's dog, but he is deadly serious about the rest of it - including his hope that users will be happy to share the copyright of their original compositions. Your chance to become a rock god can be fully realised from 1 August when a subscription service will be made available on the website. Surely, you would be barking mad not to sign up. ®
Kelly Fiveash, 26 Apr 2007

Alpha gets RAD for Web 2.0

Web 2.0 is no different to most other new technologies in one significant respect: in the rush to arrive at something that achieves tangible results, there is always the chance that a hotch-potch of different, often incompatible technologies get banged together. It is only later that the difficulties in making them work together effectively and easily over the long term start to emerge.
Martin Banks, 26 Apr 2007
6

DoH's latest d'oh!

The Department of Health (DoH) has apologised for its latest IT blunder - publishing private details of applicants for junior doctor posts on an unsecured website. The Medical Training Applications Service (MTAS) is the computerised HR system for students and junior doctors. But applicants for the foundation course - the first year of medical training - found their personal details, names, addresses, and even sexual orientation and criminal records were revealed. The statement from the DoH said: "We apologise to any applicants whose details have been improperly accessed. This is a very serious matter and is under investigation. "This URL was made available to a strictly limited number of people making checks as part of the employment process. This information was never publicly available through the MTAS website and was only accessible for a short period of time after details of the URL were leaked. "The MTAS team fixed the problem as soon as it was brought to their attention." But according to Channel 4 News, which broke the story, health minister Patricia Hewitt was warned the site was insecure last month by the British Orthopaedic Trainees Association. ®
John Oates, 26 Apr 2007
cloud

VMware goes public with $100m plea

VMware has titillated Wall Street once again with its plans to go public. The software maker today dished up its hopes to pull in $100m from an IPO.
Ashlee Vance, 26 Apr 2007

Orange boss walks out

Orange boss Sanjiv Ahuja has walked out of his "operational responsibilities" as CEO, remaining as chairman of the UK board. He's replaced by Olaf Swantee an ex-Compaq customer services VP with HP. "After four fabulous years with Orange, I want to let you know that I am stepping down from my role to take on new challenges outside the group, effective immediately," he told friends. The move has baffled observers, not particularly because Sanjiv is leaving, but because of the way he is being replaced. He wrote: "Olaf Swantee, a senior vice president at Hewlett Packard will be picking up my responsibilities for Personal, UK & EME, based in London," and added mysteriously: "For the time being, AMEA will report directly to Didier Lombard." Insiders say they aren't surprised at his departure. Some said the real surprise was that he'd walked, rather than being urged out, because (as he wrote to friends) his "mission" was complete. "My mission to integrate Orange with the France Telecom Group is complete and we're in good shape," was how he put it. And, he added: "The time is right for me to move ahead with some exciting new ventures in this sector." He gave no details. However he did reveal that he will partner with the group (France Telecom) "on one of my new ventures". Effectively, this splits the office of CEO. Two lines of responsibility usually implies some kind of internal re-alignment of organisational structure - which is hard to fathom, given the effort FT has put into binding the two parts together. Not all responses were flattering, however. One consultant to the group confessed that she felt that the effort of integrating Orange UK into France Telecom "has meant that Sanjiv has taken his eye off the ball, in several areas where Orange was once dominant, but is now one of the also-rans." Mystery also surrounds the appointment of a non-phone executive to run the mobile business. Olaf Swantee will join the company as executive vice president in charge of personal communication services, UK and Europe/Middle East operations, the company announced today. "He will also join the group management committee," said the official release. Swantee is currently senior vice president at Hewlett Packard responsible for enterprise sales and software in Europe, Middle East, and Africa, and is not known to have had any in-depth insights into the currently congested mobile business, or the confused telco market in Europe. France Telecom remarked only that "he has 17 years of international experience in the IT industry", which sheds little light on the reasons for his appointment. Swantee is a former Compaq executive. However, his major skills are said to be in customer services. His official biog at HP says: Olaf Swantee is senior vice president of the Customer Solutions Group for Europe, Middle East and Africa at HP. Previously, Swantee was managing director and vice president of CSG’s General Western Europe region, which spans the Nordic and Benelux countries, Austria and Switzerland. In this role, he drove the enterprise sales force transformation initiative. Between 2002 and 2004, Swantee held senior management positions in HP EMEA. As vice president of the Sales Enterprise Systems Group, he was responsible for building and developing HP’s sales model and for strengthening partnerships with HP’s enterprise customers in the region. Before that, Swantee was vice president of Network Storage Solutions, where he led successful efforts to make HP the European market leader in network storage. Before HP's merger with Compaq, Swantee was vice president of Compaq's Enterprise Storage Group in the EMEA region. Previous roles at Compaq include management team member for Compaq Switzerland, product business management positions at Digital Equipment Corporation in Europe, as well as executive assistant to DEC's chief executive officer. Earlier in his career, Swantee worked for Compaq's export division in field sales and marketing. It concludes by noting that he holds a bachelor's degree in economics and received his European MBA in Paris. Copyright © Newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 26 Apr 2007
3

Hawking is leaving gravity on a jet plane

Stephen Hawking is going to be sent up on the vomit comet, a specially modified plane that allows its passengers to experience weightlessness. The trip is courtesy of operating firm Zero Gravity, which has waived its normal $3,000 fee for the good professor. Passengers on the specially modified Boeing 727 experience free-fall during the flight, exactly matching the sensation of being in "zero" gravity in orbit around Earth. The plane flies in a series of parabolas; long, steep arcs of ascent and descent with a weightless period at each peak lasting between 20 and 40 seconds. Hawking will be accompanied by two doctors and three nurses who will check him for any ill effects after the first "dive". Zero Gravity says it will consider the mission a success if they get Hawking weightless for around 25 seconds. Any more than that will be a bonus. The Cambridge physicist is evidently looking forward to the experience. He has made no secret of the fact that he believes humanity's future lies on other planets, and his fascination with space goes beyond his professional interest. Indeed, the man who made black holes mainstream also has a reservation on a sub-orbital flight scheduled for 2009. The BBC quotes him as saying: "I have wanted to fly in space all of my life. For someone like me whose muscles don't work very well, it will be bliss to be weightless." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Apr 2007
channel
22

Pentagon 'hacker' questions US cost claims

InfosecInfosec Accused Pentagon hacker Gary McKinnon appeared on a hackers' panel at the Infosec show on Thursday. McKinnon is continuing to fight against extradition to the US on hacking offences after losing an appeal last month. Only the Law Lords now stand between the Scot and a US trial for allegedly breaking into and damaging 97 US government computers between 2001 and 2002 and causing an estimated $700,000 worth of damage, in what US authorities have described as the "biggest military" computer hack ever.
John Leyden, 26 Apr 2007
6

Website offers virtual substance abuse, P2P pressure

Online game universes continue to move forward in their attempts to offer intense human experiences to isolated dorks who refuse to leave their bedrooms. The latest trend now appears to be online drug-use. MIT's Tech Review reported last Friday on RedLightCenter.com, a site which until now has focused on web-pimp functions. There are smutty pics, sex-talk internet radio, and a virtual-reality world where nudie avatars can get jiggy with one another, doubtless to the intense gratification of the men and boys controlling them. So far, so Second Life. El Reg's intrepid Sadville-based reporter has already delivered searing NSFW coverage from the furry-penis crowd, virtual fisting fanciers, lesbian BDSM vampire covens and other communities on the electronic eroto-fringe. Now, however, RedLightCentre also offers avatars the chance to take virtual ecstasy, light up a virtual jazz-cigarette, or sample a few simulated hallucinogenic mushrooms. Brian Shuster, CEO of the site's parent company, handed Tech Review a sturdy line of high-minded waffle as to just why his firm was offering this service. "Users have a totally revolutionary mechanism to deal with peer pressure, and actually to give in to peer pressure, without the negative consequences," he said. "Users can enjoy both the social benefits of virtual drugs as well as the entertainment associated with drug use, all with no actual drug consumption, [so] the value of taking actual drugs is diminished." In the end, however, Shuster cracked and admitted: "we aren't putting this product out as a way to stop drug use. That's simply a side effect. We are putting out virtual drugs because they are fun and because they make our parties much better!" Taking a line through MMOG activities, a trend seems to be emerging here. The original and still the biggest group of online thrillseekers focus on high-intensity combat. This is, in fact, an activity which at the moment is available for Brits and Americans in the real world as well as online. Nonetheless, joining the military is time-consuming and uncomfortable, and real firefights often aren't as much fun as computer ones. It's very difficult to carry enough ammo for a start, and losing can be permanent. As for fighting dragons, doing magic or tangling with enemy starships in the interstellar void, these things can't be done at all in real life. It seems fair enough, then, to suggest that in many ways the online battlers have some justification for not seeking out their chosen thrills in the real world. This is less true of the internet rumpy-fanciers in many cases, but not all. Even the most resolute, attractive and socially-skilled could struggle to find willing meatspace partners for some of the stuff that apparently goes on in Sadville. Even so, in general it can look a bit pathetic to be having one's sex online when you could probably get laid for real with a little bit of savoir-faire. And now we have virtual drugs, for people so socially inept they can't even manage substance abuse. Even the spottiest, most doleful teenage boys could formerly cope with that kind of very basic social interaction. What's next? What else could be too difficult for nerds to achieve in real life? It can't be too long until we have virtual real-ale night down the pub, simulated afternoons catatonically watching Trisha while picking one's nose, or online chairs by the fire with pipe and slippers. MySpace already offers the chance for endless obsessive conversations with alienated teenagers about music. Watchingpaintdry.com, anyone? ®
Lewis Page, 26 Apr 2007
HP

HP clusters up blade boxes

HP's clusters-in-a-can now come equipped with cClass blades. Customers can purchase a Cluster Platform Express system with up to 48 nodes comprised of Xeon- and Opteron-based blade servers. HP also has both Infiniband and Gigabit Ethernet available for networking with these systems.
Ashlee Vance, 26 Apr 2007
6

American boffin touts sugar-fuelled mobile phones

Fuel-cell researchers are working on portable electric power sources running on a wide range of unconventional fuels, but like all academics they disagree.
Lewis Page, 26 Apr 2007
triangular warning sign featuring exclamation mark
16

Google glitch loses user data

UpdatedUpdated [This story was updated on April 27 to indicate that Google says it has resolved the problem and was able to restore user settings. Users posting on Google discussion groups would seem to confirm this.] Google users are going ape crap after settings and data they've amassed over months have suddenly gone missing from their personalized homepage. According to the posts of hundreds of users on Google's discussion boards, sticky notes, tabs, links and other customized settings vanished earlier today.
Dan Goodin, 26 Apr 2007
Dollar
2

North Carolina residents still want their $280m back from Dell

The fight over a $280m-plus incentive package to lure Dell into North Carolina has entered the state's second-highest court. Attorneys have asked the N.C. Court of Appeals to reinstate a lawsuit over the legality of a massive golden handshake proffered by the state to the computer manufacturer.
Austin Modine, 26 Apr 2007
channel

Websense buys Surf Control

Websense is bulking up to take on the big IT security vendors by buying Surf Control, the British censorware developer, for £201m ($400m) cash. It is also bulking up the debt side of its balance sheet, as it is borrowing money to help pay for Surf Control. Post-acquisition Websense expects to have $180m-$200m in debt and cash and marketable securities of $50m. The company aims to reduce debt "aggressively through internally generated cash flows".
Drew Cullen, 26 Apr 2007
Microsoft
10

Microsoft feasts on Vista coupons for record quarter

Microsoft posted a 65 per cent boost in its third-quarter net income thanks in large part to revenue from major new releases and upgrade coupons that promoted them. Both profit and sales for the period that ended in March surpassed analyst estimates.
Dan Goodin, 26 Apr 2007
4

Court sez music downloads aren't performances

ASCAP isn't enjoying the tune that came out of a federal district court in New York yesterday. The court ruled that music downloads don't constitute performances of copyrighted works, and are merely mechanical reproductions of the copyrighted material. This denies ASCAP any entitlement to collect royalties for downloads as they do for web radio streams. The landmark ruling arose out of a suit between ASCAP, AOL, Yahoo! and RealNetworks. The three Internet companies attempted to negotiate licenses to perform ASCAP works over their music services, but the negotiations stalled and ended up before the district court for a determination of a reasonable license fee. After a long, drawn-out litigation, the case boiled down to an important question: could ASCAP demand a performance royalty for downloads that the companies sold to users? The court found that a digital download did not meet the legal definition of a performance, and so it ruled in favor of the music services. In arriving at its ruling, the court ironically relied on the Recording Industry Ass. of America's brief supporting the music services. In order to figure out why the RIAA came out in opposition to its rights-holding brethren, a quick rundown of copyright law is in order. Music copyrights break down into two basic groups: first, there is the copyright in the composition of the music - the actual, abstract musical work that a bar singer learns and then belts out to disinterested drunks at the local watering hole. ASCAP handles royalties for this kind of copyright. Every time the bar singer performs a certain musical work - we've always liked George Thorogood's "One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer" - ASCAP collects a fee that it then passes back to the composer. This kind of copyright is distinct from the second type of copyright that exists in a specific recording of a musical composition - Rounder/Umgd's 1990 CD release of "George Thorogood & the Destroyers," for example. The recording copyright usually belongs to the record label, which is usually represented by the RIAA. The RIAA took the position that downloads are strictly reproductions of the recording, with no performance component. In essence, it was sending a not-so-subtle message to ASCAP to stay off its turf. The RIAA doesn't want anyone else to reach their hand into the till, since that would give the download services some leverage to bargain for a decrease in the recording royalties that they pay to the RIAA. The court agreed with the RIAA's interpretation of the law involved, and found that the act of downloading a song had no performance element. The court regarded a performance as something with a "contemporaneous perceptibility," and viewed a download as a simple file transfer. Streaming, on the other hand, constitues a performance by the music service since it is immediately perceived by the listening public. Now, everyone knows that it's possible to listen to an music file while it's downloading. The court didn't ignore this fact, and pointed out that the playback was occurring off of the purchaser's own hard drive after a sufficient amount of the file had downloaded. The judge contrasted this with the streaming scenario, where the playback comes directly from the web channel's servers. The judge compared the situation where a purchaser listens to an mp3 during a download to a customer at a music store buying a CD and then immediately listening to it before leaving the store. Surely, this wouldn't result in a public performance by the vendor, right? The court here certainly didn't seem to think so, and so it struck down ASCAP's attempts to get performance royalties from the online music stores. So, to break down a busy month for music on the Internet: download services catch a break in the federal courts, web radio gets royally screwed, and the RIAA laughs all the way to the bank in both cases. That last one stings a bit, don't it? ®
Kevin Fayle, 26 Apr 2007