Intel Capital is the lead investor in a $20m funding round for Jajah, the internet telephony software firm. Intel is pumping in $15m to help Jajah in its goal to supplant Skype as the mass-market VoIP provider of choice, the company said today.
NASA has moved into extra-solar planetary weather forecasting. Well, mapping, but one has to start somewhere. Researchers using the agency's Spitzer infrared space telescope have mapped the weather patterns of two extremely hot, distant planets. The May 9th edition of Nature carries a description of the winds on the surface of a gas giant known as HD 189733b (ah, the romance) and the discovery that gas giant HD 149026b is the hottest ever discovered. In the interests of keeping your attention, we're going to rename the two planets Windy and Spicy, respectively, for the duration of the article. "We have mapped the temperature variations with longitude across the entire surface of a planet that is so far away, its light takes 60 years to reach us," said Heather Knutson of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, lead author of the paper describing Windy. The planet Windy is located 60 light-years away in the constellation Vulpecula. It orbits its host star in a speedy 2.2 days, happily passing between the star and the Earth, giving astronomers the best possible view. The researchers took roughly a quarter of a million measurements of the planet's face in the infrared, and built them up into a map of the entire surface. They discovered that the planet is a perfectly delightful 1,200 F on the dark side to 1,700 F on the sunlit side. (Yes, this is Windy, not Spicy.) The relatively small variation in temperature from one side of the planet to the other suggests that the atmosphere must be whipped around the planet on jet stream winds reaching as much as 6,000mph. Spicy, meanwhile, is even hotter, checking in at a seriously melting 3,700 F. The planet is located 279 light-years away in the constellation Hercules. It is the smallest and densest known transiting planet, with a size similar to Saturn's and a core suspected to be 70 to 90 times the mass of Earth. Joseph Harrington of the University of Central Florida said: "This planet is like a chunk of hot coal in space. We believe its heat is not being spread around. The day side is very hot, and the night side is probably much colder." Harrington added that the planet reflects virtually no starlight. This, he says, means that it is probably the blackest body ever found, as well as the hottest. ®
Software 2007Software 2007 Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer hawked Office Business Applications during his keynote at the Software 2007 conference, but conceded during a Q&A session that the company's best-known OBA, called Duet, has not made the progress desired, given the time invested in it.
JavaOneJavaOne Sun is seeking developers outside the "Java rank and file" to join the Java Community Process (JCP) standards body. The company is eying up content authors and scripting developers as JCP recruits to deliver feedback and drive platform and language changes.
ColumnColumn Harry the Rottweiler puts down his corporate-branded coffee cup next to his spiral-bound Book of Names and cheap plastic retractable (which also doubles as a sacrificial weapon in extreme management meetings). The stench of stale coffee wafts from beneath his snarling upper lip. Out of all the people in the room, he’s staring at you, and he wants to know why your plan said Feature X would be delivered last week, yet Feature X is still nowhere in sight. You know in advance that mere facts, like “The scope changed but the plan was already set” will impress this man about as much as handing him a bottle of Listerine.
The Government will ban television premium rate phone-ins if the industry cannot better regulate itself, broadcasting minister Shaun Woodward has warned. Woodward said the Government takes the spate of recent mistakes and breaches of regulators' codes "very seriously", and that it would ban the use of the numbers for TV quizzes if the industry and regulators could not effect change. "In the same way the advertising of children's junk food was banned, we would be prepared to do the same here, though of course I would much rather that it didn't come to that and that the broadcasters got their own house in order," Woodward said, addressing the Broadcasting Press Guild. Recent premium rate scandals have involved votes for programmes going uncounted, potential participants being encouraged to call expensive phone lines when finalists had been chosen and they had no chance of winning, and a child visiting a television studio pretending to be a winning telephone contestant. Quizzes and premium rate phone-ins, which can cost as much as £1.80 to call, are regulated by overall media regulator Ofcom and premium rate phone line regulator ICSTIS (Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of the Telephone Information Services). In response to the scandals, ICSTIS has changed its Code of Practice to put stricter obligations on TV companies using premium rate lines. Callers to programmes must now be told how many others are calling the programme so that they can assess their chances of getting on air to win prizes. Callers must also be told over the phone each time their spending reaches £10 in one day, and on-air announcers must remind viewers of the cost of calling at 10 minute intervals. “We believe these new measures, which are designed to address the concerns that have been raised recently, will go a long way to restoring consumer trust in this form of TV quiz," said ICSTIS chief executive George Kidd last week when the changes took effect. "We have worked closely with Ofcom, broadcasters, programme makers and telephone companies, who have all been supportive in making sure that the changes could be introduced as soon as possible.” Premium rate lines have become a vital lifeline for broadcasters who have faced falling advertising income in recent years. ITV has cancelled its ITV Play station, which was devoted to call in shows, despite the fact that it earned £26 million in its last six months. The quizzes ran into trouble, though, when it emerged that callers to Channel 4's Richard and Judy Show were being encouraged to call £1 a minute phone lines even after finalists – the only people in with a chance of winning – had been chosen. A rash of revelations followed, involving many of television's most popular programmes. X Factor, Dancing on Ice, I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and GMTV all discovered discrepancies or errors in their premium rate phone lines. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
'Electronic paper' developer E Ink yesterday paved the way for bigger, brighter displays for almost any handheld gadget you can think of - all consuming a tiny fraction of the power today's LCDs do and all able to continue showing information even when the power is cut.
Microsoft has posted a patch for Windows Vista that finally allows iPod owners to eject their music player from PCs running the new operating system without the risk that songs will be damaged.
ColumnColumn I have a useful hot air detector. It listens for two or three keywords and marks the output of anybody using them as suspect. For example, "video conferencing", or "artificial intelligence", or "cheap fusion power". So when the new managing director of BT Global started his presentation Q&A last week by waving his arms about excitedly and predicting that video conferencing would be one of the breakthroughs of the next decade, the hot air detector rang all its alarm bells. I'm not saying that video conferencing can't be done. It can. I've seen it done well, and it's not half bad. You have the chairman in Prague, the financial director in San Francisco, the sales team down the studio in London, and the studio manager attentively watching all the camera monitors and switching to people as they intervene in the discussion. It works. The problem is, it's also very pricey. To run a proper video conference system you need a skilled studio manager in an expensively-equipped galley, probably with at least one assistant. You need high-bandwidth full video links, good cameras, and people who know how to sit in front of them without walking out of frame. If you want to see just how bad it can be, watch any TV newscast using a videophone link. Typically, the reporter on the screen looks like a pixel storm, with the pixels the size of a face. It shifts vaguely about, sometimes showing two heads. With an effort of imagination, you can pretend to make out a darker area low down in the head area, which might be a sort of mouth; and by concentrating you can - almost - make yourself believe that it's moving in a way that implies speech. What you can't do is relate that movement to the sound track. The frame rate is pitiful, and the background only gets refreshed once every two or three seconds. And, more importantly, at the end of a two minute clip you haven't got the slightest idea what the reporter was saying. I used my first video mobile phone four years ago. It was awful. I used a video mobile phone last week. Still awful. Why? Well, same reason - bandwidth and power. The calculation isn't simple, but the rules are. You can get fast frame-rate with high resolution, but to get it, you need either high bandwidth comms or fast processing power. For human conversation you need low latency. We are very, very good at reading each other's faces, and reacting accordingly. A twitch of the eyebrows, a flicker of the pupils to point away from you, a slight protrusion of the bottom lip, all can alert us - long before a word can be formed - to the fact that the person we're talking to isn't convinced. We adjust our delivery. Or we see that they're getting angry. Again, we adjust what we're saying. It sometimes looks telepathic to an outsider. There's the classic story of two schoolboys: Tom Brown: Here's one: a man gets a raincoat and... Mike Smith: Well, his other leg... Tom Brown: That's it! They're telling jokes. And with all jokes, it's timing. It doesn't work in high latency comms like letters or email. It doesn't even work in relatively low latency instant messengers. We're talking about a human response of milliseconds. If it goes beyond that, it is more confusing than helpful. For example, you may have noticed that the major TV stations have stopped accepting delayed-feed reports from outside broadcast reporters, because although the delay is a second or so, the timing of the response leaves you utterly bewildered - and confused. Now, with a reporter in Baghdad sending a piece "to camera" it doesn't matter. The footage is shot. It gets compressed. It gets sent, packet by packet, and is re-assembled into a podcast format this end, and the studio say: "Now it's over to Tom Smith in Baghdad" and presses "play" and you get full frame video. With interactive video it's hopeless. To get the same frame rate, and a sufficiently short delay, even a satellite link is too slow in latency terms. And you need very high bandwidth. You can get around the bandwidth. A really big video compression system (top of range PC will do, mostly) can take full frame video and compress it in real time with an acceptable latency. It's not ideal, but if you're chatting to someone around the world it's not much worse. And so you can use an ordinary ADSL speed comms link, squeeze the video in, and then expand it the other end, and it's still within human response times. But the world is going mobile...more than half of all phone calls now start, or end, in a mobile number. And the processing power of a mobile phone is perhaps far greater than you realise - but you can only boost the ARM chip up to its impressive fastest for short bursts. For streaming video, at high definition, that sort of workload will flatten the tiny phone battery in minutes. So you build in latency, and cut the frame rate, and reduce the definition - and that's why you don't make video calls on your mobile. And if someone says "Oh, we'll have that sorted in five years", trigger your hot air detector. No, they won't. Even if batteries double in capacity and efficiency, even if mobile networks quadruple in bandwidth, the need of the human mind for low-latency, high resolution, high frame-rate when interacting with other human minds is still not going to be satisfied. ®
The coalition forces' HQ in Baghdad has decided not to let the opposition keep on grabbing all the internet-video eyeballs, and has started its own channel on popular upload portal YouTube. Called MNFIRAQ (Multi National Force Iraq), the channel pledges to offer "combat action" and "interaction between Coalition troops and the Iraqi populace", with the obvious message being that these are not always the same thing. The HQ media types assure the web-vid connoisseur they will provide a "boots on the ground perspective", and will show the action "as it appeared to personnel on the ground and in the air as it was shot". However, there won't be any "sexual content...overly graphic, disturbing or offensive material", or any "footage that mocks Coalition Forces, Iraqi Security Forces, or the citizens of Iraq". Which is probably fair enough considering this is the military's own channel. But the MNF guys also say they won't allow any profanity; and here they must really have taken a step too far down the sanitisation route. The idea that you can show American (or any other troops) in combat without including any swearing is wildly unrealistic. It seems unlikely that grunts in the thick of the action will remember not to curse because the webcam is switched on. The headline clip on MNFIRAQ at the time of writing was "Battle on Haifa Street", but it mainly featured relatively calm snipers who managed not to let their enthusiasm get the better of them. Unlike the infamous Juba, the US sniper-team cameramen refrained from showing any footage of the victims going down. This kind of thing may not take the internet by storm. Still, the military PR footage seems mildly popular, with an apparent 190,000 channel views since March. ®
Mobile content is set for a revolution, with gaming, music and TV all poised to transform the market in the next five years. With regulatory and competitive pressures pushing down the average consumer spend on voice and messaging, Screen Digest mobile analyst David McQueen advised mobile operators to look to new content offerings to deliver the business growth they've enjoyed over the past decade. "Screen Digest believes the revenue is out there - and operators should be looking to TV, music and games to deliver it." According to the research carried out by Screen Digest, mobile TV is set to be the winner in the battle of the services, generating €4.7bn in revenue from 140 million subscribers by 2011. This is despite the fact that mobile TV is currently only available in a handful of markets. The service has its detractors, with the principle grumble being the small size of the handsets, and the speculation that consumers won't be happy watching TV on miniature screens. However, the services have taken off in Japan and South Korea, where just under six million people watch broadcast mobile TV, and in Italy, where broadcast mobile TV services have already signed up close to half a million subscribers in only a few months. Meanwhile, Irish operators are also getting in on the act with Vodafone launching a mobile version of Sky channels on its 3G services, Three Ireland winning a licence for DVB-H broadcast mobile television service and O2 also trialling a similar service. Screen Digest said the revenue potential of mobile TV is also significantly greater than games or music, with simulcast channels - simultaneous broadcasts of conventional TV programming - expected to be a popular choice among viewers. However, it may throw up some new regulatory issues, with some debate over whether the new services will require users to purchase a separate TV licence to traditional broadcast equipment. Mobile music is also set to explode in popularity over the next five years, with global over-the-air full track music downloads expected to be worth €1.47bn by 2011. This represents an eight-fold increase from 2006. Screen Digest has identified the availability of subscription services that offer more than audio tracks as a major contributing factor to this growth. The digital music market in general is currently undergoing a revolution, with new services offering digital-rights-management-free music rumoured to be in the offing. How this will impact on the mobile music market remains to be seen. Meanwhile, Screen Digest says the mobile games market will be worth €2bn by 2011, up from the current €1.6bn. Although the market has been around the longest of the three, it is expected to grow slowly over the next five years, compared to its music and TV rivals. McQueen warned the mobile games market is at risk of stalling unless current business models change and adapt as operators concentrate on music and TV services. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Software upgrades and a redesigned e-portal have failed to convince the Public Accounts Committee that problems with tax credits can be solved. Parliament's Committee of Public Accounts said HM Revenue and Customs has failed to design the tax credits system to give proper protection against error and fraud. In a report (pdf) published on Wednesday the committee also said the department has no system to request information from the Home Office on migrant workers who claim tax credits. Tax credits have the highest rates of error and fraud in government, with losses from overpayments totalling £1.9bn. Software errors have contributed to overpayment. In October 2005 there were 199 software errors in the tax credit computer system. The system, introduced in 2003 to encourage low income families off benefits and into work, has been targeted by fraudsters who are estimated to have got away with £131m in 2005-06. As a result of these losses, the department closed its tax credit e-portal in December 2005 and claims to be making "significant improvements" to IT systems. Dawn Primarolo, the Paymaster General, said the e-portal has been secured and that it will reopen next year. According to the department, major software releases have been successfully implemented over the last two years, delivering improvements in back office processes and services to claimants. But this has not impressed the PAC. Committee chair Edward Leigh said: "Billions of pounds, far more than those who thought up the system ever envisaged, are still routinely overpaid to claimants. Very large amounts have to be written off. "Changes have been made to the system, but who will be confident that they will make any difference? HMRC seems incapable of mounting a credible and effective response to the flood of money being wasted in this way." Initially, the tax credit IT system was supplied by EDS. It was launched despite warnings that it had not been properly tested and was at risk of failure. A series of software problems followed and EDS lost the contract to Capgemini. EDS received penalties of more than £71m, but has only paid £26.5m because payment depends upon it winning future business from government. A National Audit Office report last year said there was no guarantee that EDS will win sufficient business to trigger full payment. 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.
For once here comes a digital protection technology designed to stop shoplifters rather than prevent consumers copying content. US-based Kestrel Wireless this week announced a plan to make DVDs, Blu-ray Discs and HD DVDs unplayable until they've been purchased.
Data centre firm Interxion is to invest up to €50m to expand its data centres across Europe. The company has seen a surge in demand for space across Europe, with the Irish business observing a similar trend.
Damages for patent infringement awarded by a UK court must not be paid back even if the patent is later declared invalid by the European Patent Office (EPO), the Court of Appeal has ruled. The court was addressing the question of which body has the final say in a patent case, a UK court or the EPO. It ruled that when the UK courts system is exhausted and an order is made that damages must be paid, that order cannot be overturned because of actions at the EPO. Lord Justice Jacob said in his ruling that his decision was based on the need for certainty in business. "First and foremost, the defendant has had a full and fair opportunity of attacking the validity of the patent in his own proceedings. Next there is a very very strong public interest in the finality of litigation. Finally a party who had lost would have a strong motive for finding further or better reasons for attacking a patent and getting some third party to do so, thereby undermining the first decision. It is much better that he knows that the first litigation about validity is the time and place for him to get his best case together – that he knows he will have no second chance," he said. "Now a purist may say: it is a nonsense, and moreover an unjust nonsense, for a man to have to pay for doing what, with hindsight, we know to have been lawful. But I think there are good and pragmatic reasons why the purist approach makes bad business sense. You cannot unravel everything without creating uncertainty. And where a final decision has been made on a fair contest between the parties, that should stand as the final answer between them." The case involved Unilin Beheer, which made flooring, and Berry Floor and B&Q, which were found to have made flooring which infringed a Unilin patent. Unilin's patent was granted by the European Patent Office, which entitled it to receive a UK patent. It sued Berry and B&Q in the UK and won the case and the resulting appeal. Meanwhile, Berry and B&Q started a separate procedure aimed at convincing the EPO to render the patent invalid. This process is called an "opposition" and is similar to revocation actions in national courts. When Unilin sought its damages, Berry and B&Q applied for a halt to that process pending the outcome of its opposition to the patent at the EPO, which had originally granted that patent. The Court of Appeal had to rule on whether or not the UK courts, which are still considering how much Unilin should be paid, must wait until the EPO process is complete to judge whether or not the damages should be paid at all. Jacob ruled that the UK court decision cannot be revisited because a separate process at the EPO has come up with a different result to it. "I am not sorry to reach that conclusion," he said. "It means that businessmen in this country know that they can use the rather speedy court system here to get a conclusion one way or the other. "If the patent is revoked, the way is cleared; if it is upheld and held infringed then compensation will be payable for past acts. And an injunction will run unless there is a later revocation by the EPO. Subject to that last point, the effect of all this is that one does not have to wait to find out who has won until the slowest horse in the race gets there." Jacob also said that the case was not a simple question of which court was superior, but of how to best operate an imperfect European patents system. "[It does not] help to ask whether a national court or the EPO is 'top'. It all depends on the circumstances, as the two following scenarios illustrate: the patent is still under opposition when a national court holds it valid and the EPO then revokes. So the EPO is 'top'. [Second,] the EPO holds the patent valid and a national court subsequently revokes it (there is no estoppel created by an EPO decision as to validity […]). So the national court is 'top'. "In truth asking which tribunal is 'top' is simply not helpful – there is just the untidy compromise inherent in the EPC and one which cannot be properly resolved unless and until a rational patent litigation system for Europe is created." After Jacob's judgment had been written the two sides in the case came to an agreement and settled their dispute, according to one of the other judges, Lord Justice Mummery. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Privacy workshopPrivacy workshop The Windows Indexing Service catalogues the contents of your hard disk, and even the contents of files, to make local searching faster. This service creates and later consults a number of small databases containing data about your disk's contents, including the actual contents of files, which can undermine the practice of good data hygiene. Indexing creates what amounts to a scattered secondary volume of your data, and your wipe utility might fail to erase all these related traces when it erases a file.
Most new technology goes through a number of cycles as its use evolves - the novelty of invention, the feature explosion of differentiation, then hopefully the robustness of consolidation. The third stage is generally too slow to arrive, as new features are often seen as the way to stay ahead. In the early 1990s arms race in word processing tools this led to the jibe, "who needs nine ways to do 'bold'?" Arguably, nine different people might each have their own preference and choice, on the face of it, is a good thing but leads to confusion and inefficient dithering. This is particularly apparent with modern communications, where an avalanche of "incoming" messages arrive across our diverse sets of phone numbers, inboxes and contact routes - fixed phones, mobile phones, Skype handles, text messages, emails, instant messages. So, the question now might be, "who needs nine ways to be put 'on hold'?" While any of these "incoming" messages or calls might be important or urgent, the likelihood is that most won't be and as it's generally impossible to tell (even with "urgent" flags on email and caller ID on phone calls) each one will be a distraction or diversion from the current task in hand. Traditional good time management practice says that distractions slow productivity as most people work most rapidly if they can focus on one task until completion. So what can an individual do, and how can they be supported by their organisation to reduce the impact that communication overload has on their ability to be productive? A great deal of communication may be spurious or relatively low value, simply confirmation or checking, and so in many cases redundant. "Did you get my email?", "Are we still meeting later?", "Hello, I'm on the train". The ability to make and receive phone calls while travelling (where legally permitted), and access emails while in some boring meeting may simply be generating increased activity rather than productivity. Sometimes it's not "good to talk", at least when there's nothing to say. With so many communications channel options there is nothing to control the sequencing or interaction between different channels. A voicemail sent after an email may be listened to first, as there is no knowledge of order between communication systems. Troublesome for an individual, but potentially disastrous from an auditing perspective, where actions triggered by one message are not countermanded by another message through an alternative route. Policies that define suitable and unsuitable paths for different types of communication are worthy of investigation, supported by tools for auditing. Instant communications is not always the most appropriate path. In an environment where being responsive and available are the key metrics, there is always the danger that these measurements will mask the real priorities - adding value or reducing cost for the organisation. There are some roles where a response is always expected - call centres, emergency services response - but not everyone, everywhere. On most occasions a measured, well informed, well judged decision is going to win out over the snap instant response. Time management has formed part of background skills development for many employees, but the growth in communication channels means this skill needs widening. It is more than defining an etiquette for one form of communication or another (ie use a spelling checker, BUT NOT PERMANENT CAPITALS in email), and requires that individuals understand the different pros and cons of alternate modes of communication, how to select, and how to escalate from one to another. The environment, both management and technology, has to provide support. Defining "urgent" and "important" should be an integral part of the management process, just like setting and measuring objectives. Where individuals are offered the opportunity to work from home or while mobile, expectations of responsiveness and availability are vital for both manager and employee, and may need to be negotiated now that work is rarely 9-5 at a fixed desk. Technology can offer some direction and support, perhaps through a broader use and understanding of "presence" and "context", so that communication channels can be managed, but ultimately since individuals naturally communicate, they need to take responsibility for how and when. Being "too busy" or being constantly overloaded is often only a matter of setting and acting on personal and organisational priorities. Setting them should be a priority in itself, so that everyone can regain control and make best use of their working time. Copyright © 2007, Quocirca
Motorola will next week take the wraps off a phone capable of showing "full-motion" Hollywood movies, the company's chief said yesterday, though he went some way from promising a true personal media player experience.
As always, we'll begin with the good news, not because we're people who like to look on the bright side of life, but because it's quicker to get it out of the way now. HP upped its sales and profits forecast for the second quarter, revealing it would add another billion dollars in sales, and earnings per share would be up seven cents to 64-65 cents.
The sounds of the planet are to be linked to Google Earth to enable users to hear what a place sounds like, as well as what it used to sound like. Bernie Krause has spent 40 years collecting the sounds, and his company Wild Sanctuary has accumulated over 3,500 hours of recordings, covering everything from the cracking of glaciers to midnight in the jungle.
Complaints about online adverts in the UK rose by 33 per cent in 2006, according to an annual report from the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). It found that internet adverts were second only to national press as the most complained about non-broadcast format, and said this reflected a need for tighter regulation of web-based campaigns.
It's the ideal games console for anyone who's too kack-handed to be any good at games: Microsoft's Homer Simpson-styled limited edition Xbox 360 Pro, announced today to tie in with this summer's The Simpsons Movie.
As the UK's political class tots up Tony Blair's scorecard, there's one area where New Labour hasn't made much progress: Whitehall still feels compelled to organise summits to ask how we can all turn the UK into the world's greatest knowledge econonmy. The earache has all stemmed from the Lisbon Agenda, which in 2000 held the EU to the goal of becoming the "most dynamic and competitive knowledge-based economy in the world by 2010". The Information Age Partnership, a DTI/industry forum published yesterday, outlined the UK's contribution to an offshoot of Lisbon called the i2010 initiative, which concerns itself solely with what ICT might do to make Europe great. The report found - to its surprise, it said - that the success of both strategies, for Britain and Europe, hung on education. In fact, unless more and better people went to work in the ICT sector, we were all stuffed, it said. By way of solution, it proposed a bit of tinkering. School children ought to be encouraged to take an interest in ICT, and persuaded to continue it into further education. The proposals drew on ideas already employed by campaigners trying to get more women into the male-dominated ICT industry - role models, for example, might persuade students that there was "excitement and opportunity" in ICT. Employers had also been given a lead role in designing ICT curriculums. Nigel Payne, a manager at e-skills, the sector's human resource quango, said the ICT diploma, which is currently under construction, was being designed by employers. The prominent role employers had been given in the i2010 Working Group and in the programming of young British minds was curious, to say the least. It all gave the impression that the goal of i2010 was to maintain Britain's position as an adjunct to the US economy and its ICT sector as a adjunct to the US IT industry. Microsoft, a US multi-national, led the working group on how the British ICT sector ought to contribute to the lion's share of the economy. Cisco, another US multi-national, was the only other employer present on the publication of the i2010 findings. Aside from US multi-national IBM, there are two British firms on the Working Group: ARM, the Cambridge chip designer, and BT, the former public utility. There is, however, a growing sense that an entrepreneurial, homegrown software industry might have broader horizons than one in service to a US multi-national. Microsoft UK managing director Gordon Frazer told The Register how he spent yesterday morning lobbying MPs about the important contribution his firm makes to the UK economy. He told MPs how 30,000 British firms were providing IT services to the rest of the economy using Microsoft software. Did they know that the Microsoft software on which they designed much of these services - Navision - had once been a Danish firm? Did investment in ICT inevitably lead to the resultant IP being sold to a US multi-national? It is, said Dr Mike Rodd, director of the British Computer Society, a "complex issue". The UK "leads the world" in ICT research, he claimed, "but there's a pipeline problem - the research is drying up". Companies like Microsoft and Intel were helping fund the research gap in British universities, which sounds a little like artificial insemination. But Rodd reckoned that the savvy firms were refusing to sell their IP to big fish like Microsoft and licensing it instead - no surrogates they. But what of the i2010 initiative to make Britain and Europe great when the age of China dawns? A bit of tinkering might help. Perhaps perversely, the lack of education funding to achieve this end might play into the hands of the ICT industry. Margaret Hodge, MP for Barking and Minister of State for Industry and the regions at the DTI, said students were taking vocational degrees so they had a chance of paying back their student debts. Yet according to e-skills UK, only about three in 10 IT graduates took IT jobs. Which leads us back to the question: hhow we can all turn the UK into the world's greatest knowledge econonmy?®
Clearly influenced by the styles of modern sci-fi, NASA has released a movie-style trailer promoting the next Moon missions.
A second LCD TV for the bedroom, sir? With this little 'un from Evesham you won't be stuck for stuff to watch. There's a Freeview digital tuner. And a DVD player. And a Flash drive-friendly USB port. And a three-in-one memory card reader.
The US Air Force has announced it has ordered a further quartet of MQ-9 'Reapers', worth $59m, to supplement its initial fleet of seven. A decision on full-rate production is expected in 2009. Meanwhile, the head of the Royal Air Force said last week that the UK will also deploy its first fully-armed Reapers "later this year". The MQ-9 is the most formidable killer robot currently in operation. It's a big beast, 36 feet long with an 86-foot wingspan. It can fly for 14 hours without refuelling, going at a maximum speed of 300mph and as high as 50,000 feet - nine and a half miles up. The US Air Force describes it as an "unmanned hunter/killer weapon system". This term might perhaps have been coined by a fan of the classic Terminator movies, in which dystopian future battlegrounds are overflown by murderous Flying-HK death-droids intent on wiping out the last vestiges of human resistance to the machine overlords. The real-world flying HK is at least as deadly as the ones in the movies, able to lift a hefty 3,750 pounds of munitions. This can equate to 14 laser-guided Hellfire missiles, a smaller number of Paveway smartbombs, or GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs) with their own satnav/inertial guidance. All these weapons have already notched up kills against hapless fleshies. The Hellfire missile has been used previously by the Israelis to blow up an elderly Hamas man in his wheelchair. The CIA has also fired it from a smaller "Predator" flying robot over Yemen, to kill prominent al-Qaeda honcho Qa'ed Sunyan al-Harethi in 2002 - after remotely programming his cellphone to switch on without his knowledge so that he could be targeted (details from the Times lower down this page). Meanwhile, the USAF has used GBU-38 JDAMs to vapourise Abu Musab al Zarqawi, thought to be head of al-Qaeda in Iraq (not to mention levelling the building he was in at the time). Not only is it difficult to run from the Reaper, it's also pretty hard to hide from it - at least in the open, anyway*. The aerial kill-bot's Lynx radar can sweep 60 square kilometres a minute, picking out any moving target larger than one metre and if necessary swivelling its all-seeing eye for a closer look with resolution down to 10cm. There is also a "multi-spectral targeting system", allowing operators to use all kinds of nightsights and thermal options as well. The droid can almost smell your fear. And all this for just $15m each, a tiny fraction of the cost of purchasing a conventional strike jet with a human pilot. The RAF's new Eurofighters, by comparison, will cost the taxpayers anywhere from £86m to £140m per jet, depending how many are actually used - 11 to 18 times as much as a Reaper. And a Eurofighter requires a human pilot to actually fly over hostile territory, too, rather than staying comfortably at a control station somewhere nice and safe (thus far, operators handling Reapers and Predators over Iraq and Afghanistan have typically worked from Nellis airforce base, just outside Las Vegas). In a chilling but wholly predictable move, there are moves afoot to dispense with human control altogether. The US Army's forthcoming "Warrior" drone - another Predator variant - won't need a trained pilot at all, as it will be able to land and take off autonomously. "Manual control will be possible," according to the manufacturer (General Atomics of San Diego), but this is scarcely reassuring. It seems pretty obvious that Judgement Day (in the cheesy sci-fi sense rather than the scriptural one) can't be far off. ® *Don't think you're safe underground or indoors, either. The robots will follow you there, too.
Many of the child abuse download suspects snared in Operation Ore may have been innocent victims of credit card fraud, according to a BBC investigation. Operation Ore, the UK's biggest ever child pornography investigation, involved the prosecution of 2,000 suspects among 7,000 Brits whose credit cards were used to pay for access to images of child abuse via a US-based portal run by Landslide Inc. Nearly half a million people worldwide paid to access the depraved material.
Google Mobile Maps is now available to UK users for route planning and local searching. The service, integrated with Google Earth for showing satellite images, has been available as a Java application for a while. But with the UK launch Google has enhanced the route-planning capability, as well as adding searches for local businesses and traffic information. Route planning works well, and searching for a local pizza or hotel offers useful information and a "call" button for getting in touch, as well as directions and other contact information. Traffic information is currently unavailable, and Google couldn't say when it would be added, or where it's going to come from. However, it did say it's on the roadmap, and on the menu. But the Achilles heel of the application is the amount of data sent and received. Anyone using Google Maps without an unlimited tariff might quickly find that taking a taxi would have been cheaper - though that's hardly Google's fault. It is indicative of the importance of unlimited tariffs in driving mobile-data applications. Anyone with unlimited tariff, or a flagrant disregard for their expenses, can download a copy of the new version from Google here. ®
IBM is expected to announce a $1bn per year plan to double the worldwide computing capacity of its data centres by 2010 without increasing power consumption. An article on the New York Times' website suggests that Big Blue engineers will use a range of technologies to rein in electricity-guzzling computer facilities.
Computer maker Fujitsu Siemens (FSC) has said it plans a series of channel roadshows in the UK for its Primergy servers. The firm said sales of its Primergy range had risen strongly over the past three months off the back of a heavy channel marketing campaign. Events are scheduled for Birmingham, London, Edinburgh and Bolton in May and June this year to drive up reseller interest in the UK market.
Joost; the peer-to-peer video service developed by those behind Skype, has raised $45m from Index Ventures, Sequoia Capital and the Li Ka Shing Foundation, to "...accelerate product development, global expansion, localization, and service offerings". Index Ventures are old mates from Skype, while Sequoia Capital are new to the table. The Li Ka Shing Foundation is based out of Hong Kong and their inclusion reflects the increasing importance of Asian markets for internet businesses. Joost is technically impressive, but for a service still in beta-testing to describe itself as "...the world's first broadcast-quality Internet television service" seems a little arrogant, especially when the recent expansion of the beta has demonstrated some scaling problems and their current content offering is less than impressive. Episodes of "Fat Actress", "Beavis and Butthead" and "CSI" (everywhere) might make the service attractive to some, but Joost are going to have to tie up some deals for better content than that if they're going to get enough users to pay off the investment; unless the service can be sold off before that happens.®
ReviewReview Portable TVs are hardly a new idea. Neither for that matter are portable DVD players. However, put the two together, add a host of other features and then you do have something that feels like it's breaking new ground.
East German historians have employed the help of a computer program to reconstruct 16,000 sacks of shredded paper that once documented the snooping of the Stasi police. The job was previously done by hand, with a team of 30 workers piecing together 350 sacks of shreds since 1991, The Guardian reports. The team estimated that at that rate it would take 400 to 800 years to finish the job. E-Puzzler, a software program designed by Berlin's Fraunhofer Institute for Design Technology, was employed to reconstruct what remained of the 600 million shreds from 45 million documents, which recorded the lives of six million people watched by the Stasi. It reconstructed the originals by examining the type of paper as well as the nature of the script. The program had already been used to help reconstruct broken figures from China's Terracotta Army and "hundreds of thousands of bank notes shredded by a mother in an attempt to block her estranged daughter from her inheritance". Other countries that had suffered under military dictatorship and the tyranny of secret police had apparently approached the institute to help reconstruct their shreds of history as well. Stasi boss Erich Mielke apparently ordered the files to be shredded and burned after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989. But the shredders were in such a hurry to get away they left the sacks in the basement of their Berlin headquarters. The operation was proposed by the institute in 2003. ®
Bank customers wanting to make international transactions are being asked to sign a waiver to allow their personal details and financial records to be scanned by US anti-terror investigators. The waivers put customers in the same Catch-22 European data protection officials found themselves in after it emerged that the US had been snooping on the world's international financial transactions in the hope of picking up some transnational insurgents. According to reports received by The Register, people wanting to make international money transfers using the Belgian-based international banking co-operative Swift (as most do), have been asked to sign a form giving their approval for details of their transaction to be disclosed "to any Government entity, regulatory authority or to any person we reasonably think necessary for these purposes". These purposes being "fighting crime and terrorism" and "any applicable laws". The disclaimer warns: "This may mean that personal information will be transferred outside the EEA to countries, which do not provide the same level of data protection as the UK." This is illegal under EU law, which says data should not be sent to countries that don't give people the same data protection rights. Yet if customers don't sign away their privacy rights to foreign governments in the name of the "war on terror", they will find it very difficult to make international payments. This was the same dilemma faced by the EU data protection authorities when they investigated the Swift situation earlier this year. The US was going to take Swift's records no matter what the EU authorities thought about their comparatively inferior data protection laws. And as there was no alternative to Swift, the only solution was for Swift to pull its US servers back onto European soil. The US and EU are presently trying to harmonise their data protection laws to make such waivers unnecessary. EU law requires police to have good reason for going into people's private records. But proposals are being passed that might water these protections down. ®
Painstaking academic research indicates that promiscuous oral sex can carry a higher risk of throat cancer than smoking or boozing. A report based on a hospital study of 100 oropharyngeal cancer sufferers and 200 controls, carried out by Johns Hopkins scientists, appeared today in the New England Journal of Medicine. In it, the splendidly-named Dr Gypsyamber D'Souza and her co-authors make some noteworthy conclusions. "A high lifetime number of vaginal-sex partners (26 or more) was associated with oropharyngeal cancer," the boffins wrote. It's hard to say what that really means in terms of rumpy-associated risk; but El Reg suggests that it does offer at least one piece of concrete info. Namely, that if you are a Johns Hopkins scientist, chances are you have done it with significantly less than 26 people. According to the scientists, oral sex is a vastly more dangerous business than plain-vanilla rogering, with just six or more partners required to increase the danger of throat cancer. Again it seemed that the Johns Hopkins crew had perhaps led relatively quiet lives, as they considered that half-a-dozen was a "high" final score. The increased multipartner-jigjig throat cancer risk was due to the likelihood of becoming infected with human papillomavirus (HPV), thought to be implicated in various kinds of cancer including the cervical variety. The study appeared to suggest that throat-cancer risks from booze and cigs were insignificant compared to those from getting too frisky. Of course, that doesn't mean that drink and baccy are safer than the other things you might - in this context - put in your mouth. Oral sex doesn't (as far we as we know) cause liver failure or lung cancer. So don't log off that swingers' site and rush out for a sixpack or 20 Bensons just yet. On the face of it, however, this really is excellent news for cigar fanciers, who seldom breathe the fumes of their chosen weed into their lungs and so avoid many of the risks faced by aficionados of the smaller, more economical paper-wrapped smoke. One of cigar-lovers' primary risks is that of cancer in the throat or mouth; and it now appears that this danger is actually insignificant. Of course, certain circumstances leap to mind in which this might not be true. It seems possible that former US President Bill Clinton may be reading the New England Journal of Medicine with close attention this afternoon. ®
Star Wars creator George Lucas has slammed Spider-Man 3 as vacuous. The latest instalment of the franchise has received mixed reviews from critics, although it's fared slightly better with cinema goers (rating 6.7 on IMDb compared to 7.8 for Spider-Man 2). But it's tempting to think the bearded one's outburst has more to do with the fact that Lucas's Industrial Light and Magic wasn't involved in creating the special effects for Spider-Man 3 rather then stemming from an objective evaluation. Whatever the cause Lucas certainly doesn't mince his words. Commenting on Spidey's third outing, Lucas said: "It's silly. It's a silly movie. There just isn't much there. Once you take it all apart, there's not much story, is there?" Ouch. "People thought Star Wars was silly, too," said Lucas. Heaven forbid. "But it wasn't," he added. Here's a point George, whose genius lies in creating franchises rather than than his efforts as a hack director, ought to consider: Spider-Man 3 took $59.8m on its opening day in the US breaking the previous record of $55.8m set by Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest last year. Raiders of the lost franchise Separately, the franchise marketing pioneer talked about his plans to further milk the Star Wars cash cow. A new Clone Wars animated series is scheduled to air in 2008, with two new hour-long straight-to-TV live action Star Wars adventures - set between Episodes III and IV - due to arrive in 2009. Before then we'll have the fourth Indiana Jones film, whose plot Lucas and co-creator have managed to keep under wraps. Lucas is bracing himself for details of the plot to leak out. "Steven [Spielberg] thinks we can keep the whole thing a secret. I explained to him that it's impossible nowadays," he added. ®
A Google shareholder has called for the search giant to clean up its act, a move that's been welcomed by Amnesty International. An advisor to five public pension funds in New York has filed a shareholder proposal calling on Google to adopt a stronger anti-censorship stance. Google has been widely criticised for bowing to pressure from Chinese authorities to remove websites deemed "political" by the Chinese government. The proposal calls on Google to resist attempts at censorship, tell people when it is censoring search results, and tell people what data it is retaining. Google's board of directors has recommended that shareholders vote against the proposal at the company's AGM today. Amnesty International UK campaigns director Tim Hancock said: "It's really important that companies are held to account for their actions overseas - especially when their activities are in such stark contrast with their principles. "Google can't claim on the one hand that freedom of expression is central to its mission, and on the other provide a censored product in order to increase its earnings and prominence in the Chinese marketplace." ®
Storage vendor Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) has taken on a new UK sales boss with the aim of increasing its stake in the indirect channel market. Neil Evans, who previously ran his own technology consultancy business, SolutionsMTD Limited, will head up all indirect business in the UK, which includes value-added distributors and resellers.
The government's cost estimate for its identity card scheme has risen at least £600m in the six months since its last disclosure. According to the May 2007 Identity Cards Scheme Cost report, at last count the project was going to cost £4.9bn between October 2006 and October 2016 (although we reported the estimate was £5.4bn). But the Identity and Passport Service said it would have to spend more money than anticipated on people to implement the scheme, people to vet passport and identity card applications, and counter fraud measures. The total cost is now expected to be £5.5bn. The revised figure doesn't include a further £510m of costs incurred by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office "in running consular services abroad", said the report. These could be recovered as a surcharge on the passport fee, so had been deducted. Another £200m estimated cost of giving "Biometric Immigration Documents" to "foreign nationals" would be recovered by charging them directly. However, the report said the costs did not include the expenses incurred by other government departments that wanted to use the cards. Neither did they include IPS's income from fees. Phil Booth, national coordinator of anti-ID campaign group No2ID, said in a statement: "In effect, this report says that the total cost to British citizens has gone up by over a billion pounds in six months." As well as shunting £510m of the costs onto the Foreign Office, said a No2ID statement, the estimate "fails to quantify the additional cost to the Department for Work and Pensions - whose Citizen Information Service database must now be upgraded to form a key part of the National Identity Register". The cost report noted how the IPS had concluded that it could use the DWP's CIS database as the foundation of the National Identity Register without breaking the law. This was expected to have saved the government the cost of doing it from scratch. Writing in The Guardian newspaper today, home secretary John Reid said identity cards were needed to help people protect their identities from criminals and terrorists. In "a modern society", he said, people needed to prove their identity when they applied for jobs, allowing "businesses to vet new employees more effectively". A modern society also required people to prove their identities when they crossed borders, and when they opened a bank account. "Our own, unique, identity is inexorably becoming our most precious possession. But when so much of this is now done remotely, how can we be sure who we are interacting with?" He said identity cards would make people "feel" safe. "This is not about control, Big Brother, or the loss of liberty." ®
JavaOneJavaOne It's a tough job. Convincing Java developers that any hardware vendor - let alone Intel in the wake of roadmap set backs - has any immediate relevance. It's an even harder task sidestepping Intel's thorny heritage with Sun Microsystems over its 64-bit Itanium chipset.
Microsoft's first-ever BI Conference kicked off this morning in Seattle with a keynote that promised the next version of SQL Server will hit the streets sometime next year. Jeff Raikes, president of the Microsoft Business Division outlined/reiterated Microsoft's strategy for "delivering pervasive BI and performance management" to the surprisingly huge audience. Estimates vary but there are probably at least 2,600 people here - mostly Americans - but there are also representatives of 65 countries.
First shown at CeBIT, as we reported a couple of months back, Mio's new satnavs, the C320, C520 and C520t are now available in the UK along with a new variation, the C320t. All of them sport a 4.3in widescreen display and split-screen view.
SummitSummit Red Hat confused world+dog yesterday by dishing out two, new desktop visions, while trying to catch both projects with the same glove. So, let's try and clean up the mess. On the visionary front, Red Hat has started discussing something called the Online Desktop. Red Hat claims that this software will rewrite the client market by creating tighter bonds between server-based applications such as Google Docs or Flickr and the operating system. While some elements of the Online Desktop will appear via contributions to Fedora 8, the OS as Red Hat envisions it won't really ship anytime soon.
Research conducted by Screen Digest for Microsoft suggests that there is a target audience of around 230 million people that might consider buying into IPTV or another pay TV service in seven top TV countries, and the software giant reckons that 75 million of them say they would switch TV suppliers if they have the right features and channels, especially those features, such as the DVR, which help people get back control of viewing times in their busy lives. This is not exactly rocket science, but the point of phoning 5,000 TV literate consumers in seven countries is to establish for Microsoft's IPTV operators that dropping price is not the only way to attract customers for their shiny new services. The other options are to make the service work the way consumers like it and to buy in the right content. On the content side this isn't exactly a secret, given that bartering of live sports rights have formed the basis of pay TV wars for the past 20 years at least. But it is true that in US surveys, notably those carried out by Parks Associates, the main reason for buying into a triple play bundle has usually involved the saving of $20 or more per month, and that’s perhaps what Microsoft is trying to get away from. Screen Digest concludes that more than 60 per cent of consumers in seven developed countries would consider switching TV service providers to obtain the features and content they want, at current market prices or higher. The research was a combination of online and phone surveys of 5,000 "entertainment-oriented" consumers in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States. An additional 2,000 people were surveyed in urban China and India. When these countries are included, the global audience for advanced TV services increases to 380 million, with 200 million willing to switch and pay for a new TV service if it does the right things. Consumers were also allowed to create their "ideal" TV service from a number of different features. Consumers are willing to create and pay for lifestyle-based packages, rather than simply price and channels. Those lifestyle packages range from basic TV control and management, to family-oriented packages, to packages that enable communications, commerce and connections between the TV, PC and mobile devices. Over 50 per cent of consumers willing to pay for new TV services said they would like these advanced capabilities beyond basic TV control and management. The people most likely to switch are those who are time-constrained, with 43 per cent actually watching less TV than the average household. So it’s not the people that already watch an inordinate amount of TV that telcos should target, it's the people that are currently too busy to watch the programs they prefer. The Screen Digest report also suggests that China and India have the highest percentage of high-potential IPTV households, but the penetration of broadband lines in these two countries as a percentage of total households is too low right now, so Screen Digest suggests that a bundle of TV-plus-phone package, without the internet access is the right way to go in these countries. Copyright © 2007, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
SummitSummit Red Hat has, at long last, rolled out a broad partner program around bringing better support for business software running on its operating system. The software maker today turned on RHX (Red Hat Exchange). At its most basic level, RHX is a web site that lists partner software, product details and customer feedback. Looking at the bigger picture, RHX helps Red Hat and the larger open source world redefine their support strategy around business software.
Joost and Babelgum are two new start-ups that deliver TV-quality streaming to broadband-connected PCs. They're so similar it's hard not to think of them as Tweedlegum and Tweedlejoost. But already there are signs which one has the better prospects of success. While Joost came out in a blaze of New Age Web 2.0 gwana-gwana * - in an interview with The Register, Frederick de Wahl, the CEO, constantly referred to his "Long Tail servers" - Babelgum is taking a more shrewd approach to market. The company is eschewing the vogue for user-generated novelty and signing up real talent. The latest name to be revealed is movie director Spike Lee, who will make an exclusive video called Jesus Children of America for Babelgum. When the two services launched, we suspected that the real impact of the new delivery systems was to free independent producers from the commissioning gatekeepers at channels. Babelgum appears to think so, too. Joost this week signed up for $45m more investment from Sequoia Capital and others; Babelgum meanwhile is backed by Silvio Scaglia, the billionaire founder of Italian telco Fastweb. Question marks remain about both of the services: they require a fair bit of faffing around, and make even today's multichannel digital TV services look straightforward. But Babelgum clearly thinks that 'Content is King'. This sounds a better prospect for success than 'media revolutions' that require cats to fall down stairs. Now the hypesters behind "user generated content" appear to realize the game is up. In the UK, they're lobbying for a £100m public handout to commission new "UGC". This is a sure sign that the case for a cat-powered business model has been found wanting. ®
DW BlogDW Blog With release 3.1 of its Celona migration tool, Celona Technologies claims to be a step nearer providing complete automation of data migration projects. At the same time, it plans to extend its patent migration technology to a broader business market.
Horizon Technology, the Irish-owned reseller, expects 2007 results to be in line with market expectations. Speaking at the company's annual general meeting on Thursday, chairman Samir Naji told shareholders that the board was pleased with the group's performance during the first quarter.
Hewlett-Packard sort of announced its data warehouse appliance (if that is the right term—see later) last autumn. The company refers to this as a soft launch in the sense that they didn't talk much about it except to a few beta clients. Well, now it has had its hard launch (which is officially version 2.0) and the company is going to be talking about it much more widely.
Lenovo will pay up to $1.3bn over the next year to pre-install Microsoft software on its computers. Of course, it is not really doing the paying: it is a Microsoft OEM and so is reselling passing the costs on, along with a little margin for itself, to its customers. So the more it pays Microsoft, the more it is making in PC sales and Office apps sell-throughs.
NEC is rolling out a line of modular storage arrays that scale from gigabytes to a petabyte without going offline.
Acer is suing a posse of suppliers to share the pain of patent infringement suits filed by rival PC maker Hewlett-Packard. The company confirmed today its US subsidiary has filed complaints against electronics contract manufacturer Hon Hai, notebook maker Quanta and Acer's former manufacturing arm, Wistron, to jointly face HP's wrath.
Viridian has gone on the Redmond Diet with Microsoft today ripping some of its most exciting planned features out of the virtualization software. In April, Microsoft's GM in charge of Viridian Mike Neil revealed that the company would have to delay the software's beta release from the first half of 2007 to the second half. The reason for the delay? Well, Microsoft wanted to add in things such as support for 64 processors – "something no other vendor's product supports" – and on-the-fly addition of processors, memory, disk and networking. Such technology was needed so that Microsoft could "(meet) our internal goals for performance and scalability."
SummitSummit Red Hat couldn't resist jabbing Oracle during its Summit user conference. The software maker today announced a deal with Sybase to create so-called database appliances. Think not of typical "server appliances" here where simple software is wrapped around near commodity hardware. In the Red Hat/Sybase case, we're talking about a Xen-based virtual machine that has Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5 and Sybase's Adaptive Server Enterprise (ASE) database bundled together. Customers can then roll out that single virtual machine image across a large number of physical servers, theoretically cutting back on their management burden.
iPods have joined late-opening restaurants and children playing on old people's lawns on the list of things that can make pacemakers go haywire.