16th > May > 2007 Archive

Oracle to get Agile with $495m deal

Oracle is buying product lifecycle management (PLM) specialist Agile Software in a deal likely to result in an overhaul of its existing PLM suite. The database giant, which has bought more than 30 companies in three years, is spending $495m, or $8.10 per share, for Agile. It hopes the purchase will squeeze SAP. The deal serves up Oracle 1,250 Agile PLM customers, with Agile expected to announce a 12 per cent increase in revenue to between $37m and $38m for its fourth quarter. Oracle president Charles Philips said in a statement Agile will serve as the foundation for Oracle's PLM offering while furthering the strategy of delivering industry specific enterprise applications. Oracle's existing PLM suite spans CAD, project collaboration, project management and sourcing, and is available through eBusiness Suite. The suite provides a unified data model for a single view of the product from inception through to design, delivery and service. Agile said in a statement that Oracle's embrace meant it could serve a wider audience and "accelerate the advance of enterprise PLM."®
Gavin Clarke, 16 May 2007
3

Cisco borgs ________

What's for dinner at Cisco in 2007? More small companies. The switch maker's appetite remains as voracious as ever. Chief Development Officer Charles Giancarlo told an audience today that Cisco plans to make about as many acquisitions in 2007 as it did in 2006, when it announced eight deals. "The temperature feels about the same," Giancarlo said at the Reuters Global Technology, Media and Telecoms Summit in New York. Most notably in 2006, Cisco closed the deal to acquire set-top-box maker Scientific Atlanta for $6.9bn. If Cisco's plan is to meet last year's quota, they don't have a long way to go. This year, they've already announced plans to gobble down processor tech company SpansLogic for an undisclosed amount, web conferencing company WebEx for $3.9bn, file storage management company NeoPath (another undisclosed amount), XML gateway provider Reactivity for $135m, social networking marketplace Five Across (undisclosed as well), and enterprise spam and spyware protection squasher IronPort for $830m. That's six companies, only five months into the year. In fact, if Cisco is aiming for 2006 levels, it needs to slow down and chew its food. You can check out Cisco's acquisition menu from 1993-2007 on its website. ®
Austin Modine, 16 May 2007

Wi-Fi group launches 802.11n compatibility brand

Wi-Fi overseer the Wi-Fi Alliance (WFA) will in June begin testing pre-standard next-generation 802.11n wireless networking kit to make sure the products all work with each other, the organisation said today.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
2

Motorola sharpens Razr

Motorola has sliced 2mm off the thickness of its original Razr handset and spliced in a raft of improvements - including an external display to match the quality of the main screen - to re-release the popular phone as the Razr², which made its debut last night.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
23

Teen embeds car in Edinburgh basement

We're obliged this morning to reader Paul Moran for sending us a snap of what happens when you try and park a Ford Focus at an inadvisably high speed: According to the Beeb, the car was stolen in Wallyford in East Lothian on Monday, and eventually ended its journey on the corner of Edinburgh's North Castle Street and Hill Street after the teenager at the wheel "saw a police car out on patrol, drove at high speed, and crashed into the basement". The 16-year-old miscreant suffered minor cuts in the crash and was later "seen being led away in handcuffs". The Focus was subsequently towed from the basement by a fire engine. ®
Lester Haines, 16 May 2007
5

IntelliContact hit by rebranding madness

LogoWatchLogoWatch It may be a "leading on-demand email marketing service", but that hasn't afforded IntelliContact immunity from infection by rebranding madness. As you can see, 5 June is the big day for IntelliContact iContact, and this redefinition on the company's brand frontage paradigm is accompanyed by trademark Strategy Boutique guff whiffing strongly of joss-sticks. The blurb explains: You Are the "i" The "i" within iContact represents not us, but you. It represents a human communicating - while utilising online software to communicate easily. We will be giving the "i" personality and life and holding customer contests to design the "i" that best represents you. Just imagine YouTube videos with intergalactic battles among the many various "i" characters! Ahem. There's more: the breathless iContact blog contains a link to a Word document which expands on the thinking behind the logo. Readers are advised not to read the file in one go unless they have had the necessary innoculations, and we accordingly offer the unprotected a couple of selected highlights: The two arching communication lines are used to represent all channels of online communication in a single iconic symbol. A slight reflection is used in the logo under the "i" character to allow for the slogan to be centered underneath the word "Contact" and to add an element of modernity and association with web 2.0 brands. And in case you reckon this nonsense would have iContact customers choking on their coffee, think again. As one emotional commentator puts it: "This sounds beautiful to me. There's much power in simplicity and clarity, isn't there..." ® Bootnote Thanks to Jason Paul Kazarian for the tip-off.
Lester Haines, 16 May 2007
4

French outwhine Brits in the workplace

The French have confirmed their position as the world's top workplace whiners, beating whinging Brits into second place on the international scale of dissatisfaction. Research group FDS probed 14,000 moaning employees in 23 countries and rated their overall "whinginess" on various factors, including "percentage of workers unhappy with pay, actual income relative to cost of living, percentage of workers who feel work impinges on private life, and average weekly working hours". Our Gallic cousins bellyached their way to top spot, leaving the UK sharing second spot with the Swedes, and the US putting in a good effort in fourth. Rather happier workers were found in The Netherlands, Thailand, and "least whingy" Ireland. While UK employees will doubtless bemoan at some length the loss of national prestige caused by French complaining, it's nonetheless an impressive performance. Specifically, 37 per cent of Brits moan they don't get enough holidays - the highest percentage in Europe. Forty per cent reckon they don't get paid enough, and a fifth believe "having to care for children, the time it takes to commute to work, and not enjoying the work they do are issues for them in the workplace". FDS managing director Charlotte Cornish offered: "After the French, British employees are the most likely to be dissatisfied with their work situation, despite their relative good fortune. It's also interesting to note that after France, Britain and Sweden, the world's biggest workplace whingers are Americans, despite their having by far the highest levels of income relative to their cost of living. "Compare them to Thai workers: while real levels of income are more than eight times higher in the States, more workers in the US feel their pay is a problem than in Thailand." The top 10 whiners worldwide are: 1 France, =2 UK, =2 Sweden, 4 USA, =5 Australia, =5 Portugal, =7 Canada, =7 Greece, 9 Poland, =10 Germany, =10 Spain. ®
Lester Haines, 16 May 2007
2

MP questions police computer policy

An MP has said police forces need to be more consistent in handling requests for removal of records from the Police National Computer (PNC). Stephen Crabb, Conservative member for Pembrokeshire, said figures provided by the Home Office suggest that not enough cases are being removed from the system, even when the people affected have proved they are innocent of any crime. In answer to a parliamentary question, he was told by Home Office minister Tom McNulty that since March of last year 80 cases have been removed from the PNC with another 69 in the process of removal. This covers the period since the publication of the Association of Chief Police Officers' Retention Guidelines for Nominal Records on the Police National Computer (pdf). "I think there should be more," Crabb told GC News. "The purpose of the guidelines was that there should be conformity across the board, but it appears that in different parts of the country, with different chief constables, there are different results. "Different practices are going on and the Home Office should be pushed on it." He said his concerns were initially prompted by the case of constituent who had been wrongfully arrested and received an apology from the local chief constable, but whose details have remained on the PNC. 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, 16 May 2007
clock teaser

The MiFID opportunity

You can say one thing for a business disaster these days: it's usually a lucrative "opportunity" for IT people. The next such opportunity is going to be MiFID – the EU Markets in Financial Instruments Directive, which goes live in November 2007. MiFID affects only a subset of UK companies, those in financial services (check out the FSA web pages at the above link), although some that are affected may not realise it yet – some will be coming under regulation for the first time – and it will have a major impact on those affected.
David Norfolk, 16 May 2007

Motorola remasters Rokr music phone

Not content with simply revamping its Razr, Motorola has updated its Rokr handset - the original iTunes phone - this time bringing it more in tune with the latest Moto look.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
cloud

Evesham plots rocky road back from HCI havoc

Evesham Technology, one of the UK's last remaining PC manufacturers, is clawing its way back to profit after Gordon Brown's overnight closure of the Home Computer Initiative (HCI) left it with a £30m hole in its accounts.
Mark Ballard, 16 May 2007
6

Fujitsu claims 'world's smallest Vista PC' title

Fujitsu has taken the wraps off what it claims is the world's smallest Windows Vista PC: a tablet PC-styled "microminiature" machine with a 5.6in display and weighing just 580g.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
Dell
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Dell faces fraud case

Dell is facing a lawsuit from Andrew Cuomo, the New York Attorney General, on behalf of consumers in the state. The computer maker, and its finance wing, are accused of fraud, false advertising, and failing to honour warranties and service contracts.
John Oates, 16 May 2007
Sony
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Sony posts big Q4 loss, blames PS3

Sony today reported widening losses for Q4, blaming reduced sales of its last-generation PS2 games console and costs associated with the launch of the PS3.
Lewis Page, 16 May 2007
6

Former Grateful Dead muso sues YouTube

A mandolin player who once recorded with The Grateful Dead has joined the growing queue looking to give YouTube a legal shoeing. According to AP, David "Dawg" Grisman filed a copyright infringement lawsuit in federal court in San Francisco on 10 May, and is seeking "an unspecified amount" for illegal postings of his videos. Grisman and business partner Craig Miller, who together run the Acoustic Disc studio in San Rafael, say the action is aimed at "helping independent musicians whose music is distributed without authorisation by YouTube's owner, Google Inc". Their lawsuit specifically states that YouTube and Google "deliberately refuse to take meaningful steps to deter the rampant infringing activity readily apparent on YouTube". Miller explained to AP: "We are looking out for ourselves and all the other people like us - musicians and independent publishers." Those among you who may recall The Grateful Dead's fairly relaxed attitude to bootleg tapes of its shows should note Miller's explanation that there's "a difference between fan bootlegs and the global distribution of Google". He concluded: "No one's looking out for the little guy." ®
Lester Haines, 16 May 2007
2

Elgato add-on takes axe to Apple TV, PSP video conversion times

Tired of waiting for your Mac to convert your videos into an Apple TV-friendly format? AV add-on specialist Elgato claims it has the answer: a plug-in video transcode accelerator.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007

Spoken revelation from Genesys

Alcatel-Lucent's contact centre software subsidiary, Genesys Telecommunication Laboratories, says companies can now afford to build their own voice-based, self service applications with its VoiceXML Sandbox.
Phil Manchester, 16 May 2007
4

Spaniard buys flat complete with mummy

A Spanish man has described himself as "shocked" on discovering the mummified corpse of the previous owner sitting on the sofa of his new flat, the BBC reports. Jordi Giro bought the property in the Costa Brava resort of Rosas sight unseen at auction. However, Maria Luisa Zamora had failed to leave the flat when he arrived to take possession - on the grounds that she'd been dead since 2001. Coroners later said she'd died of natural causes, and the body's preservation was put down to the "salty sea air". The flat came under the hammer when Zamora failed to keep up the mortgage payments on her holiday home. Neighbours told AFP that "when the garden grew over they assumed she had simply stayed away". As a rather sad footnote, "questions are being asked" as to why Zamora wasn't missed. Police said "neither her estranged husband nor her children in Madrid registered a missing persons report for the 55-year-old". ®
Lester Haines, 16 May 2007
7

MS names Halo 3 day

Halo 3 will go on sale in the US on 25 September, Microsoft proclaimed last night, two months ahead of the US holiday buying season, when it hopes to sell a lot more Xbox 360 consoles on the back of the game.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
19

MPs cosy up with Sir Cliff on copyright term

Like Sir Cliff Richard, its biggest cheerleader and biggest embarrassment, the record industry campaign to extend copyright term on sound recordings refuses to die. A report released today by the Commons Culture, Media, and Sport Select Committee attempts to torpedo the recommendations of last year's wide-ranging intellectual property report for the Treasury by Andrew Gowers, the former editor of the Financial Times. Citing economic analysis from Cambridge University, he recommended no change to the status quo, where copyright owners are paid royalties on sound recordings for 50 years before the work enters the public domain. The record industry, fearing losing grip on its cash cow 1960s catalogue, lobbied hard and unsuccessfully to take the term to 70 years. Releasing its counter arguments in "New Media and the Creative Industries", the select committee said Gowers had failed to give proper weight to the "moral right" of Sir Cliff to retain ownership of his 1958 performance on Move It. The committee is chaired by Conservative John Whittingdale, who has acted as a spokesman for record industry trade body the BPI in the past on its battle with digital music trends. Since releasing his report in December, Andrew Gowers has said that rather than extending the term, his analysis erred on the side of reducing it, but that it would have been politically impossible. As we reported when the labels lost their fight to sway Gowers, the next lobbying target will be the EU. Welcoming the select committee's rolling over, BPI boss Geoff Taylor said: "We urge the Government to respond positively to the select committee and now make the case in Europe for fair copyright protection for British performers and record companies." Away from copyright term, the report scores some easy points with music fans by adding to calls from Gowers, the Institute for Public Policy Research think tank, and the BPI itself for the government to remove the pointless restrictions on home copying. It also goes on to grind the BPI axe against Google and ISPs, demanding the industry funds a body "to examine claims that unlicensed material is being made available on a website" without delay. MPs clearly think that by campaigning on major labels' behalf they will appear as the defenders of artistic heritage, a sure-fire hit with voters. Seventy-five have put their names to a motion proposed by Labour MP Michael Connarty, which states: "This House notes that 50 years ago Lonnie Donegan's Cumberland Gap was No. 1 in the charts for five weeks; is concerned that due to the present law governing payments for use of audio recordings this track will go out of copyright at the end of 2007 and that the family of Lonnie Donegan, who would have been 76 on 29 April, and the other performers will no longer receive any royalties, nor have any say in how this recording is used". The parliamentary moves to reanimate the debate have drawn consternation from the Open Rights Group, among others. It has a list of the MPs who have signed the motion here. This one ain't over. ®
Christopher Williams, 16 May 2007

Panasonic previews next-gen Blu-ray players

Panasonic has revamped its Blu-ray Disc player line, with new models targeting consumers in the US and Japan.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
13

Argentinian commuters fight back

Argentinian commuters have expressed dissatisfaction at their country's privatised rail services, by last night indulging in "arson, looting and fighting" following rush-hour delays at Buenos Aires's Constituçion station. According to The Guardian, enraged passengers "shattered windows, set fire to a ticket sales area, looted shops, and ripped payphones from walls", and were treated to police retaliation in the form of rubber bullets and teargas when the anarchy "spilled out to the street". Youths also torched a motorcycle and used metal poles in an attempt to "break down wooden doors to a security office in the station". Police commissioner Ricardo Falana said 100 officers had faced a "hail of rocks" and cuffed 16 people, including two minors, during the fracas. Train operator spokesman Fernando Jantus explained that the service was interrupted "because a train broke down just outside the station, preventing other trains from leaving". He correctly observed: "The problem happened at the worst moment." The riot did little to improve services between Constituçion and Buenos Aires's "poor southern suburbs" - the ongoing cause of passengers' discontent - since it meant the cancellation of all trains from the station. This is the second time customers have chosen to vent their spleen at Constituçion, The Guardian notes. A cancelled train last September provoked the incineration of three carriages, resulting in seven arrests. ®
Lester Haines, 16 May 2007
2

MPs must act on runaway ID project

The London School of Economics has called for Parliament to intervene in the government's identity card scheme to find out if it is "getting out of control". In its response to the government's six-monthly report on costs of the ID scheme, which said last week that estimates had risen by nearly £1bn since October 2006, the LSE noted how the reports were supposed to help MPs keep abreast of the scheme, but a lack of information to support the figures made independent assessment of the numbers difficult. The report therefore suggests that "independent Parliamentary oversight is urgently needed, to re-evaluate the goals and directions of the scheme and, if necessary, directly intervene in the running of the scheme,". The LSE report questioned the "credibility" of numbers supplied by the Home Office and called for them to be scrutinised independently. It said the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) might not have considered the cost implications of Cabinet Office guidance of the proposed biometric immigration card, of handling ID "refuseniks", of fraudulent ID holders, and contingencies to a breached security system. The LSE report noted also how the government's radical cost-cutting redesign of the ID system last December - the Strategic Action Plan - was intended to drastically cut costs by using existing government databases instead of creating a new identity system from scratch, and dropping iris images from the cards. Why then, it asked, had there been no noticeable fall in the cost estimate? Had the redesign had no effect, or had the government downplayed its original estimates? In either case, how could the present estimates be trusted? The full cost implications of the Strategic Action Plan had not been scoped out, it claimed. Existing government databases were not designed to deal with a workload of 60 million biometric identity records. There might yet be cost implications of contract changes with existing IT suppliers to those departments. In addition, the government ought, in the spirit of transparency, to keep Parliament abreast of what the ID scheme would cost other departments. These costs are being removed from the scheme, and the Identity Card Bill placed no requirement on the IPS to report them. Yet the IPS' cost report last week gave some indication of the charges that other departments might be obliged to pay to link to the scheme. £510m costs had been split away from the ID scheme and shunted onto the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO). It did not report how these costs were derived and why they were deemed the FCO's responsibility. The LSE also questioned the basis of the technology. It asked how reliable the system would be at confirming people's identities, and questioned how reliable it would be at the scene of a crime. The LSE report is available as a Pdf here. In other ID news Colin Langham-Fitt, acting chief constable of Suffolk Constabulary told ZDNet his concerns about the ID card project. He said it would not stop criminals who would pay "whatever it costs" to "subvert" the scheme, while the idea that it would stop terrorists was "fatuous". "This scheme is convenient for government, but not for citizens," he said and described how non-convicted suspects might become stigmatised by having their details retained on criminal databases. More fromZDNet ®
Mark Ballard, 16 May 2007
22

iPhone demand in the UK is 'soft', survey finds

The UK's largest iPhone survey undertaken by iPhone blog iphonic.tv has found that while interest in Apple's upcoming mobile is very high, even Apple die-hards won't invest in the handset unless it is competitively priced and available on their network. While 72 per cent of the 487 respondents (74 per cent of which already own Apple hardware) are considering buying an iPhone, only 7.6 per cent said they would definitely purchase one. The clear sticking point appears to be price with only 14 per cent of respondents saying they would pay more than £250 to own an iPhone. Potential iPhone buyers were also reluctant to switch networks to own a model with only 26 per cent saying they would leave their current provider. Just 12 per cent said they would break contract to get an iPhone. "I think the research underlines that Apple is now entering what is a much more complex market than computers or music players," says iphonic.tv editor Andy Merrett. "Apple's exclusivity on the hardware and software front (though criticised) is, I believe, a good idea. Its exclusivity with retail and network partners is a bad idea. Not only does it alienate people on other networks that don't want to switch - even for an iPhone - but it keeps the price high and choice low." The research also found that the design and touch screen are considered to be the phone's best features, while price and battery life rate as its biggest weaknesses. Finally, only 28 per cent of respondents said they were likely to buy another iPod after the iPhone launched in the UK. A more detailed account of the survey is here. ®
Tech Digest, 16 May 2007
19

MySpace stands firm on paedophile data pressure

MySpace has refused to act on demands from eight US states that it hand over user data which they say will help catch predatory paedophiles. Citing federal privacy laws, MySpace said the attorneys general who made the demand had not followed proper legal process. Security chief Hemanshu Nigam told AP: "We're truly disheartened that the attorney generals chose to send out a letter...when there was an existing legal process that could have been followed." In the letter on Monday, North Carolina, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Pennsylvania asked MySpace to provide information about registered sex offenders who use the site. MySpace's legal department said a letter won't cut it, and under the Electronic Communications Privacy Act the attorney generals need to pony up with subpoenas, court orders, or search warrants if they want data. Nigam said a recent trawl meant MySpace had "removed every registered sex offender that we identified out of our more than 175 million profiles". In December, it hired Sentinel Tech Holding to track its sex offender users, after a run of bad press over incidents involving the site. "Everybody needs to get together and delete online predators," Nigam said. "The attorneys general's concerns and our concerns are exactly the same." ®
Christopher Williams, 16 May 2007
14

New North Korean missile tested in Iran

Reports are emerging that a new North Korean ballistic missile may have been test-fired from a site in Iran. The new weapon, reportedly dubbed 'Musudan' by intelligence analysts, after the well-known North Korean missile facility, was first seen during a military parade in North Korea last month. No photography was allowed at the parade, but media reports have suggested that US spy satellites spotted a previously unknown rocket, perhaps with a range of 5,000 km. Now it appears that the new intermediate-range missile has been tested from Iranian territory, rather than North Korean. The two countries are believed to have been cooperating on missile technology for some time. The new Musudan weapon is believed to be longer-ranging than North Korea's Taepodong-1, and could hit American territory at Guam, but wouldn't be able to reach the continental US. The triple-stage version of the Taepodong-2 was assessed by the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency in January as much more dangerous, with a potential range of 15,000km. This would put US homeland territory firmly under the North Korean footprint. However, the most recent Taepodong-2 test, in May last year, was a failure. If the reports are correct, this latest test doesn't indicate any major new threat. The new Musudan missile isn't exceptionally capable, and there isn't any firm indication that it can carry a nuclear warhead yet, supposing one were available. Nonetheless, these reports do serve to confirm the strength of the cooperative weapons-research axis between Iran and North Korea. ®
Lewis Page, 16 May 2007
Sony Vaio SZ4 series notebook
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Sony Vaio SZ4 slimline laptop

ReviewReview Sony's slender Vaio SZ4 is geared to folk who don't like their laptops to weigh them down. It's not the most compact of models, but at very portable 1.7kg, the SZ4 is eminently suited not only to the portability-over-performance crowd but also to those who want their laptop to be a looker.
Leo Waldock, 16 May 2007
23

PlusNet shuts down webmail indefinitely

The spam crisis at PlusNet has taken its webmail service offline indefinitely after security auditors found unpatchable flaws in software provided by @Mail. It has announced that it is replacing the offending software and has apologised to customers. A service update (posted here) tells customers the emergency measures have been taken to guard against "minor vulnerabilities" which have not yet been exploited. PlusNet said it would provide details of plans to restore the service later today. The closure follows a hacking attack on the BT-owned ISP, which saw customers' addresses and contacts bombarded with drug marketing. When PlusNet became aware of the attack last week, the webmail servers were immediately take offline, but returned to service after 90 minutes. Neil Armstrong, product development director, told The Reg that PlusNet was working with police to trace the spammers, and will release more details of the investigation on Friday. The firm would not provide any details of the exploits which the attackers used, saying they were previously unknown, and it is working with @Mail. The @Mail webmail client is a white label POP3/IMAP software package for UNIX and Windows-based servers, popular with ISPs. Some information around events which have caused the latest in a long run of email crises at PlusNet is beginning to emerge. An attack was launched last Wednesday which exploited a vulnerability in one of six webmail servers to load a botnet onto subscriber machines. The hole also allowed the hackers access to a list of customer email addresses and their contacts. PlusNet said it could not provide a figure for how many addresses had been stolen, but promised no other data had been taken. Armstrong pointed to a legacy of underinvestment at the firm, which it copped to earlier this year on its BT-backed relaunch. He said: "That has changed now and it's worth knowing that this is a new vulnerability in a piece of third party software." ®
Christopher Williams, 16 May 2007
1

Foxconn first to forge Intel P35-based mobo?

Foxconn has become one of the first mobo makers to tell the world it's about to bring a board based on Intel's next-gen P35 chipset to market.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
4

Norway endorses ODF

Norway is considering whether to make the use of the Open Document Format (ODF) compulsory in its government agencies. The Ministry of Government Administration and Reform will make a final decision later in the year after recommendations from the Norwegian Standards Association committee. Several European countries are also evaluating open file formats as an alternative to Microsoft Office. The French Prime Minister recommended earlier this year that all government documents should be made available in ODF and have asked other European nations to do the same. The Danish Ministry of Science, Technology, and Innovation already makes its online publications and other written communication available in ODF. According to the Rambøll-report, Danish state government could save 550 million kroner ($90m) by migrating to OpenOffice.org and ODF. Similar moves are afoot in the US: the state of Massachusetts has begun using OpenDocument as the default document format, but it will be sticking with MS Office in the near term; Oregon is mooting the use of open source format documents for state agencies; and California is contemplating making ODF its required standard. Microsoft, of course, is promoting the Open XML format, which may be approved by standards bodies such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). However, if ODF is accepted as the default file format in Norway and orther countries, it could mean fewer government agencies will continue to use MS Office. ®
Jan Libbenga, 16 May 2007
iSoft logo

Aussie bid for iSoft approved

The board at peaky NHS software provider iSoft has approved an offer to buy the firm by Australian healthcare specialist IBA. The deal values iSoft at 58.1 pence per share, about £140m total. Because of its role in the trouble National Programme for IT, iSoft needs sign-off from the NHS as well as investors.
Christopher Williams, 16 May 2007
Flag United States
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US 'war czar' to attack internet safe havens

The White House has at last managed to find a general willing to become "war czar". The administration had been having difficulty filling its new post, formally titled "assistant to the president and deputy national security adviser for Iraq and Afghanistan policy and implementation."
Lewis Page, 16 May 2007
Symantec
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Symantec pursues $55m copyright damages

Symantec is seeking $55m in damages against eight US and Canadian firms for selling illegal copies of its software. It has filed civil lawsuits for trademark and copyright infringement, fraud, unfair competition, counterfeit documentation, trafficking, and false advertising.
Mark Ballard, 16 May 2007

Suspect in case that helped sell Iraq war cleared, again

"An Algerian who was branded a terror suspect after being acquitted in the ricin plot trial, was yesterday cleared of being a threat to Britain's national security, reported the Guardian this week. "Mr Justice Mitting, chairing the special immigration appeals commission (SIAC), ruled that there were no national security grounds to deport Mouloud Sihali back to Algeria as there was no 'evidence or intelligence that he has ever been a principled Islamist extremist.'" "[In 2005 an] Old Bailey jury cleared Mr Sihali, 30, of taking part in an alleged terrorist conspiracy to spread the poison ricin in London. But at the end of the case he was re-arrested and has lived under virtual house arrest since." Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow consulted with an expert for the defense of the 'ricin ring' in the original trial. During the long case it became clear the alleged London ricin ring, said to be connected to al Qaeda, was a fantasy. All the British anti-terror operation had done was round up a lot of people, some guilty of - at best - petty dishonesty, and one bad loner, Kamel Bourgass, who was sent away for life. At the time of the ricin ring arrests, called Operation Springbourne, news was sensational. The US government, with the lamentable presentation of Colin Powell before the UN Security Council, implicated the fictitious ring in a web of al Qaeda operations it said stretched from Iraq to London. However, a British jury found the UK government's case against the alleged conspirators to be preposterous and freed them, with the exception of lone bad man, Kamel Bourgass. (Bourgass an Algerian, was convicted of the murder of a British constable, a slaying that took place while he was being apprehended, in a separate trial.) No ricin was ever found, just a handful of castor seeds in a jewelry tin, a paper laden with cherry stones - part of a cracked, impossible plan to make cyanide, and a couple of foolish recipes on poison making, copied to paper from servers on Yahoo. Nevertheless, no one in the US government has ever answered the question: "Who put the bogus information on the London ricin ring into Powell's presentation?" When it came time for the US newsmedia to report on the trial, it was caught napping and still largely in compliance with the Bush administration's story line on the war in Iraq. No US news sources had attended the trial. As a consequence, they simply went to London police sources, who repeated all the rumors and innuendo that hadn't been allowed. Like stenographers to power, instead of reporting what actually had happened, they reported only what British authorities wished them to pass on. The result was an appearance, in the States,* that a rogue jury had allowed al Qaeda operatives to go free. But they did not go free. The British government immediately turned around and slapped them with control orders, an action that made them prisoners in their own homes, awaiting deportation. The same preposterous evidence that a jury had rejected was used to justify these antics. The men were said to be threats to British national security, the reasons too sensitive to disclose. "At the time of the ricin trial, [Mr. Sihali] admitted two counts of possessing false passports and received 15 months imprisonment in Belmarsh maximum security prison, continued the Guardian. "But he was cleared of charges connecting him with the ricin plot and was released soon after, as he had already served the time on remand." "The SIAC judges ruled yesterday that he had used false names and documents, fraudulently opened several bank and credit card accounts and falsely claimed state benefits and lied about them at the Old Bailey trial. But they added there was nothing in the evidence to suggest he knew that those he helped were terrorists. "The judges said they were satisfied that although he was unprincipled, he did not engage in anything beyond petty dishonesty. 'Whatever the risk to national security he may have posed in 2002, the risk now is insignificant,' they concluded." "Mr Sihali's lawyer, Natalia Garcia, said he had had to endure years of imprisonment in Belmarsh and control order-style restrictions on the basis of faulty intelligence and political spin. 'Having cleared his name once in front of a jury... he had to face the sheer injustice of the same evidence being used against him by the government to try to deport him as a risk to national security..." The result of the London ricin trial and the immediate effort by the UK government to overturn the results of it through subterfuge greatly damaged the reputation of the Blair government. And it created great suspicion with Britain's Muslim community toward British anti-terror efforts. While not addressed in the United States, or even acknowledged in the US mainstream media, the London ricin trial came to be seen in the UK as part of an effort to fabricate evidence for invading Iraq. It also certainly contributed to the decided lack of enthusiasm for the Bush adminstration flavor of the so-called "global war against terror" among the polity. The net result of this, as well as the perceived lack of proper justice and fairness, was absolutely damaging to national security interests in both countries. ["Mr. Sihali's lawyer] said the deportation proceedings had been brought to 'save face' after the ricin plot acquittals, a plot that she claimed had been used to justify the invasion of Iraq," reported the Guardian. (original here). The first report of the trial, and still the only accurate material on it published in the United States, can be read here, while Botching it provides some explanation of how the US newsmedia ignored or misrepresented the results from the trial. * Editor's note The UK media's adherence to the spun version did not differ visibly from US reporting. After the verdict The Sunday Telegraph produced ludicrous claims of a plan to poison the Heathrow Express, and quoted a "senior police officer" as saying: "This was going to be our September 11, our Madrid. There is no doubt about it, if this had come off this would have been one of al-Qaeda's biggest strikes." One former senior police officer, ex Met Commissioner Lord Stevens, wrote some months later that "we were amazed and dismayed when, in April, a jury at the Old Bailey cleared eight of the men charged with involvement in the ricin plot". His amazement was apparently undiminished by the jury's actually having only cleared four, following the discrediting of much of the Met's evidence against them. Charges against the others were dropped. And it continues. In a widely-reported speech delivered two full years after the trial verdict, current Met terror head Peter Clarke described the ricin case as "the first real indication since 9/11 of operational terrorist activity here in the UK - recipes for ricin and other poisons... This was the first time, in my experience, that the police service had been accused of exaggerating the threat posed by terrorists", he says. Good heavens, we wonder why? ® This column first appeared at Dick Destiny. George Smith is a Senior Fellow at GlobalSecurity.org, a defense affairs think tank and public information group. At Dick Destiny, he blogs his way through chemical, biological and nuclear terror hysteria, often by way of the contents of neighborhood hardware stores.
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1

Blogosphere threatened by Google downtime

Google's Blogger.com has been offline this year more than any of the top 20 most popular websites. The self-publishing platform, beloved of spammers and Reg staffers, had taken 21 hours and 11 minutes holiday as of May 15, according to stats from uptime monitoring outfit Pingdom.
Christopher Williams, 16 May 2007
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1

Think thin, says EqualLogic

EqualLogic is the latest storage vendor to adopt thin provisioning, but unlike HDS which offers it on high-end Fibre Channel storage, EqualLogic is adding it to its midrange PS-series iSCSI arrays.
Bryan Betts, 16 May 2007
3

Powerpoint is the big Army bandwidth hog, not YouTube

AnalysisAnalysis The US forces' apparent moves to block frontline troops from accessing online media have been strongly criticised, and not just on free-speech grounds.
Lewis Page, 16 May 2007
Flag Germany

Lancom targets UK with high-end Wi-Fi

German networking company Lancom Systems has opened up in the UK with the aim of recruiting up to 50 resellers by the end of the year, and has already signed up TechstoreUK as a distributor.
Bryan Betts, 16 May 2007
4

ID scheme not failing, just shifting

The Identity and Passport Service has claimed its identity card scheme is not "out of control", as the London School of Economics claims, but is being built on "uncertain" sands. In an argument for "common sense" criticism of complex government IT projects, the IPS claimed that its cost estimates were likely to change with time. But the department has failed to respond to the other significant criticism of the IPS report - that there was a lack of information and lack of transparency that was an affront to democratic control of such a large and controversial project. "With any cost estimates covering a ten year forward period there are uncertainties," said the IPS in a statement. "The estimates in the report are therefore subject to change in the light of new information or assumptions and there is a significant probability that the estimates will change in the light of further experience. That is just common sense, and we committed to keeping Parliament updated". It did not answer specific criticisms levelled by the LSE about the lack of information published about the scheme, such as the lack of information to explain the costings the IPS had produced, and the changes that had occurred in the last 12 months. However, the IPS said: "It is simply not true though to claim that the Scheme is 'out of control': we are introducing the scheme incrementally, building on existing programmes to introduce more secure passports and immigration documents." The scheme would be self-financing, it said, while it was becoming more essential for the state, businesses and individuals to prove people's identities more surely. Anyway, it said, the LSE's past analysis had contained weak assumptions.®
Mark Ballard, 16 May 2007

DLO debuts Nano-like iPod wireless remote

There are iPod docks with remote controls, but there aren't many with remote controls that let you choose your music without getting up close to the music player's diminutive display. DLO's new HomeDock Music Remote is one of them.
Tony Smith, 16 May 2007
40

G-Wiz electro-car fracas leaves Top Gear blubbing

Motoring buffs and greens have gone head to head during the past week as green-hating petrolhead Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear henchmen tangled with bicycling mediatart Boris Johnson. The vehicle at the centre of the brouhaha was the G-Wiz electric "car." The quotes aren't El Reg taking a position, as you'll see. Back on April 27, Clarkson's crew got hold of a G-Wiz and had test agency TRL fire it into a barrier at 40mph. Unsurprisingly, the flimsy vehicle crumpled up like wet tissue paper, mangling the test dummies inside. The safety trial, conducted to EU standards, had been comprehensively failed. The Beeb petrolheads reckoned they had a major scoop on their hands. They knew full well that the G-Wiz wasn't required to pass their test to be road legal, as it is small and light enough to be classified as a "quadricycle" rather than a car. Quadricycles can be as flimsy as you like. So the G Wiz wasn't guilty of any regulatory failure. But the G Wiz is marketed as "the nippy electric car," by its UK importers GoinGreen. Furthermore, various parts of the UK government offer serious incentives for people to purchase one. The G-Wiz is exempt from the London congestion charge, and can be parked for free at most meters. There are tax breaks, too. The petrolheads sat back, chuckling, as they prepared to unleash their "scoop" to a storm of predictable applause from the tabloids. The government would be left writhing on the media spit. But the authorities must have had a spy in Clarkson's entourage. "In the end, the story was broken not by us, but by the Department for Transport, which says it carried out a near-identical crash test on a G-Wiz three days before, only it won't say where," grumbled the Top Gear chaps on their blog. "It [the DfT] is not planning to release pictures or details for another month or so, but felt the need to scoop itself (or scoop us) by releasing details to two national newspapers early ... The DfT is claiming it wants the laws on quadricycles changed, a change that could render the G-Wiz illegal." Drat those sneaky government types, ruining a brilliant when-oh-when-will-the-authorities-act Top Gear consumer crusade. Beaten to the punch! And then it got worse. Clarkson and Co typically like to project a red-meat, cigar-chomping, tough guy image, standing in splendid isolation among the right-on Beeb hordes. But media scallywag Boris Johnson was on the story like a rat up a drainpipe, hijacking the muscular libertarian angle before the Top Gear lads could get a look-in. "Come off it," he wrote. "Are we men or mice in this country? "Transport minister Stephen Ladyman yesterday denounced the G-Wiz, and said it was not in conformity with EU regulations ... he wants Brussels to kick it off our streets. "Well, folks, how pathetic is that? It's as though we have got into some weird S & M relationship with the EU, in which ministers go around asking for correction. After years of ritual humiliation at the hands of Madame de Bruxelles, the fabled dominatrix, the man in Whitehall has become addicted to discipline. "Oooh, yes, they say. Tell us we've been naughty. Tell us we were wrong to let it on our streets ... Madame de Bruxelles will obligingly crack her whip. "Mr Ladyman - Girly-man, more like! - should stop this drivelling appeal to Brussels to ban a brilliant invention. "It's about treating people like grown-ups, and letting them take their own risks ... You have only to take one look at the plucky little G-Wiz to see that is no less (and no more) dangerous than a bicycle. We don't need the Department of Transport to tell us that, and we certainly don't need Brussels." Or Top Gear, either. Ouch. Made to appear as submissive nerds who enjoy being whipped by Belgian dominatrices, the disconsolate petrolheads sniffed: "Fine Boris, but ... nobody knew [the G-Wiz's] level of risk." Sure, sure. You weren't mounting an attack on "hippies and communists," (as Clarkson prefers to characterise advocates of green motoring) by having fun smashing up a battery car. It was all about safety. Though in that case, you could just as soon have fired a milk float into a barrier, or run it over with a bus or something. But it's a lot harder to look butch when you're up against a milkman, as opposed to a hippy. And let's face it, when you've been publicly bitch-slapped by Boris Johnson, you do need to worry about how butch you are.®
Lewis Page, 16 May 2007

Warner sues Imeem

When Imeem launched last year, it appeared to be yet another pastel-coloured Web 2.0 technology looking for an application. Who needed a web-based IM service, we wondered? But by stealth, Imeem has quietly transformed itself into a music sharing network boasting 16m users. Although it signed a partnership with SNOCAP in March to use the latter's digital song registry, Imeem failed to land any licensing deals. Now it's attracted the inevitable lawsuit. The Warner Music Group filed suit yesterday in a District Court in California, claiming copyright infringement. Imeem warns users not to upload copyright material, but Warner isn't impressed: "Imeem is no innocent infringer. It invites Imeem's millions of users to flock to its website to copy, adapt, distribute and perform unlicensed sound recordings and music videos," claims the suit. Imeem has yet to issue a statement on the action. Warner lawyers may add that not every plucky start-up launches a music sharing service and then waits for a lawsuit. Mercora and Sonific are just two who cut what licensing deals they could first. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 May 2007
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Amazon plans iTunes rival

Amazon.com is prepping an MP3 music download store, offering DRM-free songs from EMI and 12,000 other labels. The e-tailer will open shop "later this year". In the meantime it is not commenting on pricing. But according to WebProNews, Amazon is said to be offering "full album downloads retailing at $4.99 to $8.99 and individual tracks ranging from $.89-$.99". Bruce Houghton, the author of the WebProNews story, appears to have the inside gen on launch time too. He cites unnamed sources who says that "Amazon is pushing for an 'as soon as possible' launch that is primarily being held up by technology and data issues. June or July would seem a likely launch time frame as Amazon is anxious to beat competitors to the inevitable rush of DRM free product". Speculation was rife last month that EMI's agreement to sell DRM-free music would tempt Amazon, the internet's top seller of physical format music, into launching its own iTunes rival. EMI announced its first venture into DRM-free downloads, through a deal with Apple. ®
Austin Modine, 16 May 2007
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Swedish rock band for sale on eBay

Is it a publicity stunt? Or are they seriously looking for a new investment? Swedish band Rednex are up for sale at eBay for $1.5m. The new owner gets the trademark, the record releases, the contracts and all the shares of the Swedish company Rednex AB, according to a website devoted to the sale of band and its assets. Rednex is the brainchild of a group of Swedish producers with several gold selling Top 10 hits, including Cotton Eye Joe, which entered the charts in 1994. The band - a loosely run creative team of performers, actors, art designers and programmers - claims to have sold 10 million records. The eurodance pop outfit is still active. Recently they were going to take part in the pre-selection for the Eurovision Songfestival, but were disqualified when the judges discovered that their song had been published and performed as early as 2001. They are also record holders for the world's longest song title (The Sad But True Story Of Ray Mingus, The Lumberjack Of Bulk Rock City, And His Never Slacking Stribe In Exploiting The So Far Undiscovered Areas Of The Intention To Bodily Intercourse From The Opposite Species Of His Kind, During Intake Of All The Mental Condition That Could Be Derived From Fermentation). "Buying a pop band opens up opportunities to make a hayload of money and peek behind the scenes of an exclusive branch," the site claims. Oh yes, and they are debt-free too. As yet there have been no bids for the band. The auction will end May 19. ®
Jan Libbenga, 16 May 2007
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16

How to fix your kids' education for $200m

AnalysisAnalysis Let's start with this sweeping statement: You can consider the money and time spent hyping internet-enabled education a failure. We all know that you can find ample information on just about anything via the Web. This information glut, however, does little to solve very basic problems such as the digital divide, where students miss out on the latest in technology, or the cost of obtaining a first-rate education, as evidenced by the exorbitant fees charged by textbook makers. Despite many efforts, we've yet to provide any muscular, consistent structure around aiding the education of youngsters through technology.
Ashlee Vance, 16 May 2007
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8

Microsoft satisfaction rates slip

Microsoft's satisfaction rating among the American public slipped in the first three months of 2007 - during which it launched Windows Vista and Office 2007.
Gavin Clarke, 16 May 2007
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'Gay or straight?' ruling looks bad for all US social networking sites

AnalysisAnalysis The world just got a little scarier for social network providers. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals just determined that Roommates.com - a networking site for people looking for, well, roommates - did not deserve immunity under Section 230 of the US Communications Decency Act for information that users of the site provide on questionnaires during registration. Section 230 of the CDA gives providers of an interactive computer service, such as a website, immunity from lawsuits relating to the publication of information on the site by a person other than the site's provider. Thus, information posted to a blog's comments or on an online forum won't put the site provider on the hook for damages if the publication of the content happens to break the law someplace. Someone who, in whole or in part, creates or develops the published information, however, qualifies as a "content provider," and falls outside the bounds of the immunity. The Ninth Circuit panel determined that Roommates.com, by filtering the kind of information that visitors to the site would see, had developed the information provided, and could not claim immunity for the publication of the information. This could have wide-ranging repercussions, and knock scores of websites outside the safe, comfortable realm of Section 230 immunity that they've come to enjoy. This could then make them liable for claims relating to third-party publication, such as the posting of defamatory information on their website. The current suit, brought by the Fair Housing Councils of San Fernando Valley and San Diego, alleged that Roommates.com violated the Fair Housing Act by encouraging discrimination in the selection of roommates. The lower court initially determined that Roommates.com qualified for the Section 230 immunity and entered judgment for the website. The Councils appealed, and a divided Ninth Circuit panel ruled that the immunity actually did not apply. Because of how the site operated, the panel concluded, the information was not totally provided by someone other than the website, thus the lower court now has to conduct a trial over whether the information on the site does in fact violate the Fair Housing Act. Roommates.com requires people looking for roommates to fill out forms with personal information about themselves, as well as their preferences for their roommates. Through drop-down menus, registrants can state a desire to live with only straight males with no children, or with only lesbians with children, or several other similar combinations. Registrants can also fill in a free-text "Additional Comments" section, which many use to further refine their roommate preferences. User profiles are then published and distributed using the above information. What raised the ire of the court was the fact that Roommates.com channels visitors to certain profiles based on the information provided during registration. For example, a straight male seeking a room could only search profiles of those users who had indicated during registration that they would live with a straight male. By categorizing, channeling and limiting the availability of profile information, the court argued, Roommates.com had added an additional layer of information that made them a content provider that could not claim the Section 230 immunity. But where would this test end? Would Google's search results, which channel information to users based on queries they provide at Google's prompting, contain this additional layer of information? Would a search on MySpace for single females in New York have it? If so, Google could become liable for, um, every piece of defamatory content on the Internet, and MySpace could find itself in hot water over defamatory comments and/or sexual predators lurking on the site. MySpace has already used Section 230 to shield itself from liability for the sexual assault of a minor by a predator who used the site to connect with his victim. This new decision - which applies to a different jurisdiction, but carries more precedential weight - throws that decision into question when the issue comes up again. Plus, it could add more pressure on the site to release information that states want to use to investigate pedophiles. So far, MySpace has steadfastly refused to give up the data. Of course, it's completely possible that the decision could be overturned before it comes to all that. Roommates.com could appeal to the Ninth Circuit to conduct an en banc review (that's fancy lawyer-talk for "a decision from the entire court, rather than just from a rinky-dink three-judge panel), and even if that fails, there's always the Supreme Court, although that's a long-shot. But given that the panel's majority opinion was written by Judge Kozinski, the Ninth Circuit as a whole might view the situation a little differently, making Supreme Court review unnecessary. Judge Kozinski recently went on a tirade against blogs while participating in a discussion at the Santa Clara University School of Law where he called the darlings of Web 2.0 "hateful," "self-indulgent," and "annoying". He may be right. But it does show that he has a certain attitude about Internet content that probably influenced the decision a wee bit. Once some new eyes read over the record of the case, look for the outcome to shift back in favor of website providers. But in the meantime, also watch for the coming flood of social networking websuits. After this decision, it's bound to happen. ®
Kevin Fayle, 16 May 2007
Hitachi

Hitachi fiscal loss goes nuclear

Hitachi fell into deep red during fiscal 2006, posting a net loss of 32.8bn yen ($271.6m), compared with a profit of 37.32bn yen ($309m) a year earlier. Japan's biggest electronics conglom attributes the money dive to the cost of nuclear reactor turbine repairs and the poor performance of its hard drive and flat panel TV operations.
Austin Modine, 16 May 2007
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Printers and PCs power HP's second quarter

A jovial Mark Hurd today celebrated a second quarter in which HP posted a double-digit rise in revenue. HP reported revenue of $26bn for the quarter, notching a 13 per cent year-over-year jump. Revenue increased 10 per cent year-over-year in constant currency. PCs, printers and x86 servers all did their part during the quarter with sales and profits elevating in all three areas.
Ashlee Vance, 16 May 2007
Sun
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Sun climbs buyback mountain

Sun Microsystems will appease investors with a whopping $3bn share buyback. Investors and analysts have long wondered when Sun would direct some of its close to $6bn in cash toward repurchasing shares. Well, they've got an answer of sorts now with Sun committing to the $3bn figure but failing to provide a buyback roadmap.
Ashlee Vance, 16 May 2007