4th > June > 2007 Archive

Sun
1

Sun explores parallel universe with Studio 12

Sun Microsystems today releases Sun Studio 12, its latest IDE (integrated development environment) for C, C++ and Fortran. It's freely available for Solaris and Linux software platforms and the update will be useful for developers building multi-core and multi-threaded applications, the company says.
Gavin Clarke, 04 Jun 2007
1

AccuRev streams ahead

Think streams, not files. That is the key concept of AccuRev, a source-code management system which is winning praise for its innovative and effective approach. "Streams are high-level objects almost like containers for versions of files, but they are the main objects in the system," says vice president of technology Brad Hart . "We don't introduce any overhead when it comes to branching." This last point is critical.
Tim Anderson, 04 Jun 2007
43

Orange simplifies data by capping at 30MB

Orange has launched its unmetered-mobile-data tariff for the UK - but unexpectedly capped it at 30MB a month. The tariff is available to pre-paid as well as contract customers, and costs a fiver for evening and weekend use, or £8 for anytime unmetered data access. Only it's not as unmetered as one might hope. When we covered the tariff last month we expected to see a fair-use limitation. although we couldn't confirm it at the time. We had anticipated a limit at around 1GB, as imposed by most of the competition. We didn't expect a deal so poor it would make Vodafone's £7.50-for-130MB/month offer look good. Orange confirmed the limit to us, and noted that it has other tariffs with greater "fair-use" limits. ®
Bill Ray, 04 Jun 2007
PC World
38

Not happy with PC World's customer service?

DSG employees are like one big happy family. In fact, when one of its retail operations lives next door to another - as is the case for PC World and Currys in sunny Crawley - it appears that it is not averse to sharing stock to get a sale.
Kelly Fiveash, 04 Jun 2007
Google
2

Google acquires Panoramio

Google continued its attempts to offer every service imaginable online by purchasing a Spanish photo-sharing website. Panoramio's technology allows user to pin pictures to Google's online maps to show where they were taken. The site boasts more than one million photos and more than 300,000 registered users.
Emmet Ryan, 04 Jun 2007
5

Raytheon inventions are programs and not patentable

The High Court has backed the Comptroller General of Patents in refusing a company a patent for inventions which were computer programs. The ruling in the appeal followed the lead of a recent landmark case. US defence giant Raytheon wanted to patent an inventory management system which used images as well as text to help someone identify what machinery was contained in a factory or facility. It applied for a patent for the system but was refused by the Comptroller. It appealed the case to the High Court, which also denied the patent but for slightly different reasons. Controversially, the High Court also allowed the Comptroller to introduce arguments that had not been made in the initial case. The whole case was postponed until after the Court of Appeal ruled in the Aerotel and Macrossan cases. In these cases, new steps were identified as the best way to determine whether or not an invention was patentable under one section of patent law. An invention cannot be patented, according to the Patents Act, if it is "a scheme, rule or method for performing a mental act, playing a game or doing business, or a program for a computer ... as such". The Aerotel and Macrossan judgment laid out how patentability should be assessed, and it is still in its early days as a precedent, having only been set in October 2006. It said that a four-stage test should be applied which should identify what the invention is; identify what the invention has added to human knowledge; ask whether all of the invention's parts are identified by the Act as unpatentable; and determine if the invention makes a technical contribution. Vivien Gray, a lawyer in the intellectual property group of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said the decision was purposely postponed until after the Court of Appeal had considered the Aerotel case. "It is interesting because it confirmed the application of the four stage test," she said. "Although Mr Justice Kitchin had no difficulty in applying the first two stages of the test to the invention, the patent application fell at the third stage [exclusion]." "This was because the contributions made by the invention were found to fall solely within the excluded subject matter set out in the Patents Act and the European Patent Convention," said Gray. Justice Kitchin said that patent law did not exclude inventions that could only be operated via a computer. It was inventions which were simply a computer program and involved no other innovation that could not be patented. "The objection does not apply just because the only practical way to implement the invention is to use a computer," wrote Kitchin in his ruling. "For these reasons I do not believe that this aspect of the invention can be said to be a computer program as such ... the hearing officer did not address this part of the contribution in his decision and in my judgment he fell into error in failing to do so." "Not all computer programs are automatically excluded just because they are computer programs," said Gray. "That is only the case if the patent application relates to the computer program as such. If the computer program makes a technical contribution then it is potentially still patentable." Kitchin also allowed the Comptroller to make arguments that had not been made initially. While this is unusual in an appeal, which is usually decided on the basis that a trial judge made a legal mistake, Kitchin said that it should be permitted because of the unusual position of the Comptroller. "[On appeal], the Comptroller is essentially seeking the guidance of the court rather than defending the decision of the hearing officer. His job is to reject patents which should not be granted and to grant patents which should. For this reason counsel acting for the Comptroller seeks to present matters in an objective and non partisan manner," said Kitchin. "If it appears to the Comptroller that he has failed to take a proper objection then I believe he has an obligation to seek to raise it on appeal consistent with his statutory duty to refuse applications which do not comply with the requirements of the Act," he said. "Similarly, the court must take into account the public interest in not allowing a defective application to proceed to grant." Kitchin also said that the new arguments had been made on paper last summer, so that Raytheon had had plenty time to prepare a case against them. "Kitchin found that the important thing here was to ensure that defective applications do not proceed to grant, even if objections are not raised in the most efficient way," said Gray. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related link The judgment
OUT-LAW.COM, 04 Jun 2007
11

Apple's iPhone available on June 29

Apple has announced that its much-anticipated iPhone product will launch on 29 June in the US. The date was given in a series of television adverts broadcast on Sunday, and was later officially supported in a statement by a spokesman for the California-based company.
Scott Snowden, 04 Jun 2007
73

Killer Wi-Fi panics London's chattering classes

Recent revelations that Wi-Fi may provoke spontaneous abortions in cattle, raise storms and tempests, curdle milk and fry children's brains have had the desired effect among London's chattering classes, with panicked parents mobilising to contain the wireless menace. According to The Independent, London-based Scooter Computer's call-out service has recently received "hundreds" of calls from concerned users in the wake of a chilling Panorama special last month which highlighted the possible risks of going wires-free. The company's Will Foot explained: "I have never seen such a reaction. It's completely out of the blue. More than 50 per cent of enquiries were from people worried about Wi-Fi access." Foot said Scooter Computer had already sent in tinfoil-clad suppression units to remove 25 systems, amid a flurry of Wi-Fi-busting vigilante action. Nicola Hart, of north London's Dartmouth Park, was apparently "so concerned about the radiation emitted from the systems that she removed Wi-Fi from her home, and persuaded her neighbours and her daughter's school to do the same". She claimed to have suffered "a lot of funny symptoms" at the hands of Wi-Fi, which she put down to "an early menopause". She explained: "We put the system in about four months ago because my 17-year-old son wanted to have access to the internet at the same time as us. I did not really think about any effects it might have." Once the Wi-Fi was shown the door, Hart "began sleeping and feeling better", and this prompted her to persuade her six-year-old daughter's school in leafy Belsize Park to can its system. She noted: "A lot of the parents were very pleased, and a lot of my friends are very keen to have it taken out of their children's schools." Sinead Griffiths, a researcher from Walthamstow, likewise binned Wi-Fi, mainly "to protect her children", although she admitted to suffering "headaches and lethargy". She said: "There is not enough information available on the subject. I don't want to take any risks. You just don't know what all this technology in the home is doing to us." And to reinforce just how Wi-Fi might upset your ying-yang balance and provoke inauspicious feng shui, "The Independent's Green Goddess columnist Julia Stephenson reported last week that she too had disconnected her Wi-Fi, on the advice of her naturopath". ® Bootnote Thanks to Arthur Pewtey for the heads-up.
Lester Haines, 04 Jun 2007
2

Boffins reveal yet more of Titan's secrets

Scientists were dismayed when, as they watched the Huygens probe fall to the surface on Saturn's moon Titan, one of its key experiments failed. At the time, it looked like vital science would be lost, but now, after two years of painstaking reconstruction, the teams have been able to piece together an astonishingly detailed picture of the moon, its surface, and atmosphere. The latest reconstruction of Titan's surface The additional information gleaned from the data has allowed researchers to build more accurate computer models of the world. For instance, the latest model of the winds reveals that the atmosphere behaves like a giant conveyor belt, circulating its gas from the south pole to the north pole and back again. Although the probe could only be heard for around four hours after entering Titan's atmosphere, the researchers say the data it sent back is so rich they still have not squeezed all the information from it. Professor John Zarnecki of The Open University led the Surface Science Package (SSP) on Huygens: "Huygens has provided us with a rich seam of data to mine – and we shall be digging through it for some time to come. The Surface Science Package returned immediate information about Titan about the landing Huygens made but it is also a part of the longer term picture, piecing together the whole environment on Titan." The analysis has also turned up some suggestive data: researchers have tentatively identified an extremely low frequency (ELF) radio wave. This has all the planetary scientists particularly excited. If it is confirmed as a natural phenomenon, it will give them a way to probe into the moon's subsurface, to search for things like underground oceans. Even the failed instruments have added to the gold mine of raw data. The Doppler Wind Experiment is a good example of this kind of emergency scientific analysis. When the radio channel that should have sent back that data failed, the researchers hunted for another way to track the signal. It transpired that it could still be picked up from Earth, and teams were still able to build a useful wind profile and put many of the probe's images of the alien world into their correct context. Now, they have even been able to refine their picture of the moon's atmosphere by using data from other instruments to add to the knowledge from the emergency version of the DWE. The Huygens research team at ESA (European Space Agency) used measurements from the other instruments, such as the temperature and pressure data the Huygens Atmosphere Structure Instrument (HASI) collected on the descent, as well as data from the SSP, to flesh out the sketch they had already drawn of probe's descent through Titan's atmosphere. The SSP, for instance, revealed a particularly turbulent atmospheric layer between 20 and 30 kilometres from the surface. By comparing the motions in this layer with those recorded on terrestrial balloons, Ralph Lorenz, of the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, and his SSP colleagues suggest the turbulence may have been associated with clouds. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jun 2007
24

Paris Hilton goes down for 23 days

Paris Hilton yesterday began her 23 day sentence for violating probation on a drink-drive rap, the BBC reports. The highly-talented "heiress-turned-pop singer" presented herself at Century Regional Detention Centre in Lynwood, California, shortly after bidding a temporary farewell to her public at the MTV Movie Awards. She admitted to reporters: "I'm definitely scared, but I'm ready to face my sentence," adding: "Even though this is a really hard time, I have my family, my friends and my fans to support me, and that's really helpful." Hilton said she'd been offered the chance to go to a "pay jail", but had declined. She said: "I'm going to do the time and I am going to do it the right way. I'm using it in a positive way and when I come out, I can't wait to start my new life and be even stronger than I am now." Hilton will spend her time at Lynwood separated from most of the other inmates in a special block reserved for "celebrities, public officials, police officers, and other high-profile inmates". When she's not blowing forlornly on a harmonica, she'll be allowed "at least an hour out of her cell each day to shower, watch TV, take part in outdoor recreation, or use the phone". ®
Lester Haines, 04 Jun 2007
3

Computer Associates - has the worm turned?

Computer Associates (CA) have had a pretty miserable time over the past few years. I guess they felt like the underpaid and overworked airport staff at New York's JFK airport as I came through on a flying visit to catch up on their latest news.
Nigel Stanley, 04 Jun 2007

All you need to know to get agile

Book reviewBook review In the last couple of articles I wrote about the problems addressed by agile planning, and the sometimes problematic nature of the approach itself. Perhaps it's not so surprising that for such a relatively new subject, much has been written about it.
Matt Stephens, 04 Jun 2007
24

Space elevator business plan crashes to Earth

Today we bring you the surprising news that space elevators are not yet a viable business concern, as the Department of Financial Institutions Securities Division (DFISD) in the state of Washington issued a cease and desist order against LiftPort. The LiftPort Group (motto: Change the world or go home) was founded in 2003 with the specific goal of building a space elevator; a common piece of equipment in science fiction universes that is proving more difficult to construct in the real world. The simplest description of the elevator is that it is a long, extremely strong cable suspended from a geostationary satellite, and fixed to a "spaceport" of some kind on Earth. The idea is that we could use gravitational potential energy to lift equipment and people out of our gravity well. This would be far cheaper than fighting our way into space on rockets, and could potentially transform the way we could explore and exploit our solar system. But turning the idea into reality is proving tough for LiftPort. The firm's founder, Michael Laine, recently told The Space Show back in May that he wasn't sure the firm's new venture "Tethered Towers" could survive on its own as a going concern, but that it would be unethical for him to ask for more cash from his investors. And in its filing against the firm, the DFISD says: The Statement of Charges alleges that Respondents raised at least $117,000 from at least 85 investors, nine of whom are Washington residents, by offering and selling unregistered securities in LiftPort, Inc., a company formed for the purpose of developing a space elevator. The Securities Division alleged that the Respondents acted as an unregistered broker-dealer and/or securities salesperson. The Division also alleged that the offer and sale of securities by the Respondents violated the anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of Washington. The Securities Division ordered the Respondents to cease and desist from violating the securities registration, broker-dealer and/or securities salesperson registration, and anti-fraud provisions of the Securities Act of Washington. The Securities Division gave notice of its intent to collect fines and charge costs. The Respondents have a right to request a hearing on the Statement of Charges. What this all means, according to SpaceElevator.com, is that after four years of research and development, LiftPort and Tethered Towers have until September this year to start generating revenues of $25,000 per month, or it will be time to go home. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jun 2007

PartyGaming talks to US Dept of Justice

Online poker firm PartyGaming is in talks with the US Department of Justice (DoJ). The firm stopped taking bets from US citizens when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) came into force in 2006. This cost PartyGaming almost three quarters of its customers and knocked 60 per cent off the price of its shares. A statement on PartyGaming's website says the company is responding voluntarily to a request for information from the DOJ. PartyGaming initiated the discussions because of uncertainty as to how the US authorities view online gambling before the UIGEA was enforced. Earlier this year US authorities arrested former executives of Neteller, apparently pertaining to events which pre-dated the outlawing of online gaming in the US. Neteller, based on the Isle of Man, is a payment service which focused primarily on gambling. Several executives from online gambling firms, such as David Carruthers of BetonSports and Peter Dicks of SportingBet, were arrested in the US before the UIGEA came into force. The State of Louisiana later dropped all charges against Dicks, while BetonSports last month pleaded guilty to racketeering charges. The European Union's internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy described US actions as restrictive and said he was considering taking the issue to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Antigua, hit by an earlier US ban of non-US firms operating in the US gaming and gambling markets, is also complaining to the WTO. PartyGaming shares were down very slightly on the news at 41p, down from a year high of 120p. The whole PartyGaming statement is available here (pdf). ®
John Oates, 04 Jun 2007
Flag China
10

McCain wants Ballmer as ambassador to China

Irascible chair-flinging corporate tyrant Steve Ballmer could be in the running for a top government job, it was revealed last week. Presidential hopeful John McCain, speaking at the D: All Things Digital conference, announced plans to co-opt various tech industry luminaries in the event of reaching the White House. According to the Seattle Times, McCain first mentioned Cisco boss John Chambers and Fred Smith, founder of FedEx, in off-the-cuff remarks.
Lewis Page, 04 Jun 2007
2

Flying car sells for $505k

One of the cars built for 1968 kids' fave Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has sold for a cool $505,000 (£255,000), the BBC reports. Florida resident Ralph Spencer, who already owns a Batmobile, snapped up the vehicle at an auction in Indiana. It had previously been displayed in a Chicago restaurant and subsequently kept in storage. Spencer admitted: "I've always liked this car. I was a fan of the movie." Two other film veteran Chitty Chitty Bang Bangs live at the Cars of the Stars motor museum in Keswick, UK. Blighty also boasts a third example, albeit a replica, built on a Land Rover chassis by Nick Pointing. The Daily Mail has some nice snaps of the project here. ®
Lester Haines, 04 Jun 2007
iSoft logo

iSoft sets lawyers on CSC

iSoft said today it has started legal action over CSC's refusal to consent to its takeover by Aussie health provider IBA Health. CSC, as the main contractor installing iSoft's products, had the right to object to management changes at iSoft, but iSoft believes its objections are unreasonable.
John Oates, 04 Jun 2007
Oracle

Oracle extends lawsuit against SAP

Oracle has amended its theft lawsuit against SAP to include claims of infringed copyrights and breached contracts. In March, the database giant sued Texas-based SAP subsidiary Tomorrow Now, alleging the firm had illegally copied thousands of its customer support documents from a password-protected website.
Kelly Fiveash, 04 Jun 2007
3

Vita Audio R2 DAB/FM stereo radio

ReviewReview The concept of DAB in the UK has been dogged a little by new entrants into the radio sector introducing some indifferent products looking to cash in on an expanding market. The Vita R2 is a genuinely good product with a sensible and simple approach to design, but with a few surprises up its sleeve as well.
Lewis Caliburn, 04 Jun 2007
1

Astronomer traces Zodiac's time and place of birth

An astronomer has traced the origins of the earliest known descriptions of what would become the constellations of today's Zodiac to the region which once held the Assyrian cities of Ninova and Asur. The descriptions, which include more than 200 astronomical observations, are written in cuneiform on a collection of clay tablets, known as MUL.APIN. The tablets are known to have been made in Babylon in around 687 BC, but archaeologists believe they are only transcriptions of much earlier records. Now Brad Schaefer, an astronomer at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, thinks he knows just how much older the information on the tablets is. Using modern astronomical techniques, he has dated the observations to 1,370 BC, give or take 100 years. He also says the observations were made within 100km of 35.1° N. The tablets record the day of the year that certain groups of stars, constellations, appear in the sky at dawn. These constellations are widely thought to be the precursors of the modern Signs of the Zodiac. These dates change over time thanks to precession, a slight wobble in the Earth's axis, and in combination with other information, such as when the constellations appeared directly overhead, can be used to pinpoint the time the information was recorded. Schaefer double checked his technique by calculating when and where he was, using the same astronomical measurements. Nature.com reports that he was able to calculate the date and place more precisely with his own observations, although he is not sure why this is so. We'll refrain from any jokes about diaries and maps, on the basis that this would detract from a very cool piece of historical detective work. Nature.com has a picture of the tablets here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jun 2007
1

Google feasts on FeedBurner

Hot on the heels of its purchase of photo-sharing website Panoramio, Google has bought FeedBurner for an undisclosed amount. FeedBurner allows bloggers, or anyone else with a website, to better manage RSS feeds. As well as offering ways to get blogs more widely read, FeedBurner provides statistical tools so you can see where your content is going. FeedBurner claims 431,171 publishers. On its company blog, FeedBurner said combining its stats tools with Google's ad-serving and counting technology would give publishers better ways to promote content and make money off it. Feedburner hopes the Google deal will allow it to offer improved services more quickly to its users. The Chicago-based company is privately owned and funded by a group of five venture capitalists. Nielsen/Net Ratings reckons FeedBurner traffic grew by 385 per cent last year. The deal had been rumoured for some time, and the likely purchase price estimated at close to $100m. FeedBurner's blog is here. Google's blog is here. ®
John Oates, 04 Jun 2007
19

Brit uploaders teach Yanks man-hug techniques

CultureCulture British web-vid upload site VideoJug launched yesterday in the States, offering a striking example of reverse cultural colonisation. VideoJug is a sort of how-to version of YouTube, offering short instructional clips on diverse topics such as tying a Windsor knot and coping with cancer. But, as Reuters tech hacks in New York were quick to spot, the most noteworthy vid on the site, made apparently by Brits, describes "How to Give a Great Man to Man Hug." The tongue-in-cheek production is now - following the US VideoJug launch - in something of a how-to-suck-eggs-for-the-elderly position. America is, after all, the home of the inappropriate emotional display. But the film isn't just unnecessary - it's a vile slur on modern British manhood. Even the mongrelised cultural traitors who made it are aware of the intrinsic wrongness of men hugging; they warn of the danger of "nuzzling", for instance, and suggest a few jocular punches afterward to cleanse the soul. (As if one could ever feel clean again.) It's noticeable, too, that the actors take care to avoid any groin contact. The vid can be watched here. Despite their efforts, however, the touchy-feely filmsters have totally failed to sell the concept to the Reg gents' etiquette desk. Vulture Central consensus suggest that there are very few situations between British gentlemen which cannot be marked by some kind of fraternal gesture delivered safely from arm's length, ideally involving the infliction of a mild injury. A (single) arm might be placed across a compadre's shoulders in a few specific scenarios, for instance when extremely drunk, unable to stand unaided and singing snatches of coarse doggerel. Closer body contact than this, we submit, should be reserved only for desperate situations, as when a chum has sustained a disabling gunshot wound and there are no taxis in the vicinity. In this case a fireman's lift may be given without compromising either party. In general, however, happy occurrences should normally marked by an offer to purchase cheerful drinks such as beer (a favoured team has won a routine match) or champagne (a friend is getting married voluntarily). Sad events are best acknowledged by "a slight compression of the lips and silently throwing one's cigarette into the fireplace," as Dorothy L Sayers would say.* Followed, of course, by an immediate offer of mournful drinks such as straight vodka. Mano-a-mano clinches are strictly for Americans and decadent French dukes, we say. But we may not be in tune with the upload-auteur zeitgeist. Depressingly, a search of the VideoJug site for "stiff upper lip" produced nothing but some kind of girly lip-plumping awfulness. Reuters report here.® *In the introduction to this book. Search for "cigarette".
Lewis Page, 04 Jun 2007
122

2012 Olympics logo debuts to whalesong

LogoWatchLogoWatch Olympics minister Tessa Jowell clearly spent too much time in the chill-out room absorbing whalesong from her iPod at the "star-studded" launch of the 2012 Olympics logo in London's Roundhouse earlier today, since she described the rather frightening graphic as both "an invitation and an inspiration" as VIPs battled to verbally out joss-stick each other. According to the official blurb, the logo is "modern and will be dynamic, evolving in the years between now and 2012" and furthermore "symbolises the Olympic spirit and the ability of the Games to inspire people to take part - not just as spectators, but as volunteers, in the Cultural Olympiad and more". Seb Coe warmed up the crowd with: "London 2012 will be 'Everyone's Games', everyone's 2012. This is the vision at the very heart of our brand. It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world. It is an invitation to take part and be involved." According to the BBC, International Olympic Committee prez Jacques Rogge quickly upped the ante with: "This is a truly innovative brand logo that graphically captures the essence of the London 2012 Olympic Games - namely to inspire young people around the world through sport and the Olympic values. Each edition of the Olympic Games brings its own flavour and touch to what is now well over a century of modern Olympic history; the brand launched today by London 2012 is, I believe, an early indication of the dynamism, modernity and inclusiveness with which London 2012 will leave its Olympic mark." Not to be outdone, Tony Blair weighed in with: "We want London 2012 not just to be about elite sporting success. When people see the new brand, we want them to be inspired to make a positive change in their life. London 2012 will be a great sporting summer but will also allow Britain to showcase itself to the world." Finally, and evidently well fired up on cetacean mood music, Jowell flourished: "This is an iconic brand that sums up what London 2012 is all about - an inclusive, welcoming and diverse Games that involves the whole country. It takes our values to the world beyond our shores, acting both as an invitation and an inspiration. This is not just a marketing logo, but a symbol that will become familiar, instantly recognisable and associated with our Games in so many ways during the next five years." For the record, the logo was designed by Wolff Ollins, which works in the "reinvention business". The company's previous notable reinventions include BT's infamous trumpet bloke - a rebrand which cost a paltry £50m and was eventually dumped for a £5m rehash of the BT Openworld brand frontage. Regarding the 2012 Olympics paradigm shift, Wolff Ollins is keeping tactfully schtum on what it might actually represent. A quick straw poll at Vulture Central quickly revealed that most hacks consider it a pretty graphic representation of the state of London's transport infrastructure following its complete collapse on day one of the games. We shall see. ®
Lester Haines, 04 Jun 2007
9

OGC shreds identity scheme documents

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has taken to treating its "Gateway" reviews of government IT projects like classified official documents as pressure mounts to have them opened to public scrutiny. The OGC, HM Treasury's procurement sheriff, has ordered civil servants to "securely destroy" all copies of Gateway reviews of the politically sensitive and much criticised National Identity Scheme (NIS) and National Programme for IT (NPfIT), according to Computer Weekly.
Mark Ballard, 04 Jun 2007
Warning Go

Computerland hires new exec

Computerland has appointed Keith Edward Wilson executive director. It is hoped that Wilson will push up sales as well as "maximise the growth potential" at the IT managed services firm.
Kelly Fiveash, 04 Jun 2007
9

Command Windows with Powershell

BooksBooks Microsoft has finally answered the prayers of system administrators and developers everywhere with the introduction of Windows PowerShell, a new scripting technology that enables the automation of system management tasks and the creation of system management tools. PowerShell runs on Windows XP, 2003, and Vista.
Register Books, 04 Jun 2007
10

No Zune in Europe until 2008

Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer told German business and economics magazine Wirtschafts Woche in an interview that the Seattle-based behemoth will delay the European launch of its moderately-awaited Zune MP3 player until next year.
Scott Snowden, 04 Jun 2007
56

BT declares ceasefire in broadband speed wars

BT is aiming to push access speed down the broadband agenda as the copper wires which carry data into homes swiftly approach their technological limits. The firm, which announced record profits last month, is maintaining its party line on fibre to the home, that it is a "UK PLC issue", rather than a matter for the national telecoms network owner alone. Instead, it will push broadband as an "application driven" service, which it reckons will help it compete with rivals who have unbundled the local loop (LLU) in exchanges to give them cheaper access. Angus Flett, BT Wholesale's director of product management, said: "I think the speed wars didn't provide value for customers...as long as the service works [they] don't give two hoots about speed." BT's success in rolling out IPTV over its network shows that "application driven" service is more important than raw pace. Critics have charged that BT is under-investing compared to telcos in South Korea and on the continent, who are rolling out fibre optics to the home, offering up to 100Mbit/s access. BT denies the claims, but has published no plans to offer beyond 24Mbit/s ADSL2+ over its new 21CN backbone. Flett said: "If you do VDSL2 [a technology which offers up to 100Mbit/s without upgrading the 'last mile' copper wire], then you have to do fibre to the cabinet, and if you do that then the economics mean you might as well do fibre to the home." Recent controversies over bandwidth throttling have highlighted how access to the broadband network is more complex than many consumers appreciate, particularly as greater strain is placed on the infrastructure by the growing popularity of video and other bandwidth-hungry applications. BT plotted its change in tack back in 2005, but it's been gradually nudging the rest of the ADSL market to jump on board. It has announced it will bin its range of fixed speed wholesale broadband products, and offer only its "Max" service, which is currently theoretically capable of 8Mbit/s, but is highly variable based on environmental and network conditions. BT calls the management technology "smart broadband", and says the stability of the service it offers distinguishes it from LLU providers like TalkTalk and Sky. Flett said: "Am I going to be the cheapest? No. Regulation makes sure I don't kill LLU." BT recently lost out on one of the biggest potential wholesale contracts when Virgin Media signed to Cable and Wireless' LLU service to allow it to offer service to regions outside the cable network, but Flett reckons the quality of BT lines will be key as homes become more reliant on IP-based communications. BT Wholesale has recently launched an effort to bag more broadband resellers keen to offer a fuller range of services, but without the investment in content and infrastructure investment that BT Retail's rivals at Sky and Virgin can match. It has signed up Vodafone and the Post Office as early big names for its white label managed services venture, which offers the functions of a triple-play ISP without the tricky deal brokering and engineering. The play fits well with the attempted hushing of the speed debate: if BT can get punters to think in terms of the services their broadband can deliver, rather than the speed of the pipe they come down, it'll be able to flog more Vision boxes, more Fusion Wi-Fi mobile handsets, and it might not have to spend billions upgrading copper wires. ®
Christopher Williams, 04 Jun 2007
EMC

EMC swallows security firm Verid

Software glutton EMC today announced its latest toy as Florida-based security outfit Verid. Privately-held Verid makes authentication software to run on top of another EMC acquisition: $2.1bn RSA. Financial details of the much smaller Verid deal will be kept under wraps.
Christopher Williams, 04 Jun 2007
8

Brit gamer shot in armed robbery out of hospital

Adam Mapleson, the British gamer who was shot after intervening to help security guards facing armed robbers, has been released from hospital. A spokeswoman for Southend Hospital told The Reg that Mapleson returned home today after a week of treatment. Mapleson was on his way to work in IT support on Friday 25 May when he saw two men struggling with security guards outside Rayleigh railway station. He stepped in to help, but was shot in the chest. The two men got away with the cash box. Loomis, the security firm previously known as Securitas, is offering a £25,000 reward for information leading to the capture of the thieves. An online Get Well Soon card on gamers forum Pure Pwnage now runs to 14 pages. Mapleson was a keen player of first person shoot 'em up CounterStrike. British Transport Police are still investigating and have released e-fit pictures of the two suspects, available here. ®
John Oates, 04 Jun 2007
17

Dutch boffins tout green petri-dish synthetic meat

Dutch bio-boffins are seeking to sate modern consumer lust for animal flesh by growing artificial pig tissue from stem cells. According to a Reuters report, academics at Utrecht University reckon that vat-grown synthi-pork would benefit the environment and involve less cruelty than current methods. In particular, methane greenhouse gas emissions from pig farts would become a thing of the past. "Keeping animals just to eat them is in fact not so good for the environment," said the leader of the artificial meat team, Bernard Roelen. "Animals need to grow, and animals produce many things that you do not eat." There's no arguing with that. Roelen's team starts out by isolating pigs' muscle stem cells, which divide and multiply into tasty masses of porcine meaty goodness. The cultured carno-treat is fed with unspecified "nutrients" and "exercised" with "electric current", apparently. It doesn't sound totally cruelty-free, but presumably muscles grown without nerves can feel no pain. Asked about the possible gastronomic compromises involved in the adoption of synthetic pig flesh, Roelen admitted that "some people will have problems with it". "People might think it is artificial," he went on. "But some people might not realise that some part of the meat they eat is artificial." Depending on the level of their pig-based handheld snack consumption, perhaps; and/or how much Spam™ (non-IT variety) they eat. Perhaps coincidentally, the "chopped pork and ham" tinned luncheon meat passed its 60th anniversary just a few days ago. It's "89 per cent pork", and "two per cent ham" apparently: could be a niche there for Professor Roelen's synthiflesh. That said, the pork-tech isn't fully developed yet. The Dutch pig-culture pioneers can currently produce only thin layers of meat. Such meat-sheets may need to be laminated to form bricks of product, in a process akin to making plywood or formica, "since meat grown in petri dishes lacks the blood vessels needed to deliver nutrients through thick muscle fibers", according to Reuters. There may be obstacles ahead before Prof Roelen can bring his methane-neutral vat grown piggy to market. Reuters' report is here. ®
Lewis Page, 04 Jun 2007
1

Staring at the surface of an alien star

Scientists have taken the first ever pictures of the surface of an alien Sol-like sun. The team, led by astronomers at the University of Michigan, made the observations of the relatively nearby (15 light years away) star Altair. They used four of the six telescopes at Georgia State University's Centre for High Angular Resolution Astronomy (CHARA) interferometric array on Mount Wilson, California. Astronomers already knew Altair was oddly shaped: the star is 22 per cent wider than it is tall, thanks to the speed of its rotation. At its equator it is spinning 638,000mph, roughly 60 times faster than our our sun. "It's really whipping around and that's why, of course, it's spread out like a twirling ball of pizza dough," said Monnier, an assistant professor of astronomy at the University of Michigan. In 1924 astronomer Hugo von Zeipel predicted that rapidly spinning stars would bulge. He also speculated that their equators would be much cooler than their poles, by virtue of the greater distance from the heat of the solar core. The new images are the first that confirm the idea, but also reveal more about this predicted variation in temperature across the surface: the bulge is much cooler than standard models had predicted. "This image can only be made with a telescope the size of a football arena. I dare say that we may never create a single telescope mirror this large, but we can do this today with interferometry (a technique to resolve an image using multiple beams)," said Monnier. The image has been made possible by recent advances in fibre optics. This allows the researchers to combine the images from each telescope in such a way as to clean up some of the distortion from the Earth's atmosphere. Optical interferometry has been used recently to discover details on the surface of much larger stars: helium burning red giants, for example. But this is the first time anyone has produced images of the surface of a hydrogen burning star like our own. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 04 Jun 2007
9

Sirius and XM's star-crossed merger

CommentComment One man's "merger of equals" is another man's "merger of disasters." In the case of XM and Sirius, US regulators need to figure out just what kind of men they are. And nothing less than your rights to, well, sound will hinge on their decision.
Austin Modine, 04 Jun 2007

No goat sex at the Olympics, rules BBC

The Web 2.0-tastic BBC just loves "user generated content". So when London's Olympic team unveiled its logo for the 2012 games to much mockery earlier today, what could be better than unleashing the Wisdom of the Crowd? After all, anyone can do better than the official expensive design disaster. One entry, submitted by "Sean Stayte", won the approval of the BBC sitekeepers and was published as one of the twelve best submissions. In Sean's words: "Here is my design for the Olympic logo. It is very simple and so memorable. The hands represent Britain pulling together to reveal the Olympics." Indeed so. Olympic.cx? The now-withdrawn logo submission However, it also represents one of the most iconic and notorious shock pictures on the Web, which was originally hosted at goats.cx. Sean's splendid contribution has now been replaced - without comment from the BBC. Sean's original is still hosted here. Wikipedia, which once again proves that it's the undisputed champ of documenting anal-related web trivia, wasted no time in updating this important page,and has a screen grab here. Get there before some joker replaces it with the real goats.cx picture. Sean, we salute you. ® Update Sean's contribution made it to TV too, click the grab for the YouTube proof. While the creator's B3ta page is here.
Andrew Orlowski, 04 Jun 2007
Linux
9

Microsoft makes another Linux friend in Xandros

Xandros has become the latest Linux distro to hop into bed with Microsoft, announcing a five-year deal for joint development. The oddball duo will collaborate on systems management, office suite, and server interoperability. Xandros will get protection from Redmond's legal high command, and support for its sales and marketing efforts, Novell-style.
Christopher Williams, 04 Jun 2007
chart

Logicalis buys NC HP reseller

Logicalis, the Anglo-South African reseller, has bought another US computer dealerahip, this time an HP specialist in North Carolina. Terms are undisclosed
Drew Cullen, 04 Jun 2007
channel
4

Superstar multi-core start-up MIA

Server, software and chip darling PeakStream appears to have entered the start-up protection program.
Ashlee Vance, 04 Jun 2007
Dollar
4

Four-core Opteron box fiasco crushes Cray's 2007

Cray has blamed delayed shipments of Opteron-based servers for a likely massive fall in 2007 revenue. The supercomputer maker today warned that its midpoint forecast for 2007 revenue has been lowered to $200m from previous guidance last month of $230m. The revenue drop comes as a result of delayed XT4 system shipments and could result in Cray posting a loss for the year. Cray had hoped to get upgraded XT4 systems using AMD's upcoming four-core version of Opteron out the door at a quick clip.
Ashlee Vance, 04 Jun 2007
Gavel
5

US Patent Office returns to Microsoft-Eolas fray

Microsoft is getting another chance to prove to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that the disputed Eolas patent for browser plug-ins is invalid.
Austin Modine, 04 Jun 2007
fingers pointing at man

Private equity firms trump Nortel for Avaya's hand

Avaya is close to selling itself to private equity firms Silver Lake partners and Texas Pacific Group for more than $8bn, bumping Nortel as top bidder.
Austin Modine, 04 Jun 2007
34

Book publisher steals Google laptops

Angered by Google's attempts to copy their works, publishers have decided to strike back against the ad broker by stealing its technology. Late last week, at New York City’s BookExpo America, the CEO of Macmillan Publishers pilfered two laptops from a booth where Google was promoting its Book Search service, part of an effort to convert the world’s books into digital format. "There [was] no sign saying 'please do not steal the computers,'" Richard Charkin wrote on his blog. "I confess that a colleague and I simply picked [them] up." After the heist, Charkin and his accomplice waited patiently beside the Google booth. More than an hour later, when booth workers noticed that the laptops were missing, Charkin explained that he was merely giving Google a taste of its own medicine. The booth workers were speechless. With Book Search and its accompanying Library Project, Google is attempting to digitize the book collections held by many of the world’s leading libraries and serve them up to Web users. But in the fall of 2005—after the company began scanning collections at the University of Michigan, Harvard University, the New York Public Library, and others—the Association of American Publishers and The Author’s Guild filed suit against the company, claiming that the project infringed on the copyrights of publishers and authors. In many cases, Google won’t refrain from scanning a copyrighted book unless it receives a specific request from the copyright owner. "If you don't want Google to digitize your books, you must tell them not to do it," Charkin told The Register. "With our heist, we were merely doing to Google what they're doing to us." ®
Cade Metz, 04 Jun 2007

Private investment firm greases Palm

Struggling to regain its edge in the smartphone market, Palm has reached an agreement to sell a quarter of the company to a private equity firm and to place a former iPod guru in an executive seat. Elevation Partners will pay a special distribution of $8.50 per share, or about $940m of convertible preferred Palm stock, to take its stake. The company also agreed to invest $325m into the company. As a part of the deal, Jon Rubinstein, the former Apple executive behind its iPod division, will join Palm as its executive chairman of the board. Managing directors at Elevation Fred Anderson and Roger McNamee will also take board seats. Anderson, the former CFO at Apple, recently settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission on charges related to stock option backdating. He agreed to pay back approximately $3.5m without admitting guilt to make up for personal gains in the scandal. "As a result of this transaction, we will strengthen the Palm leadership team and create a more effective capital structure, which puts us in a great position to attract new talent, significantly strengthen our execution capabilities and deliver long-term shareholder value," Palm CEO Ed Colligan said. Palm is best known for its Treo line of smartphones. The company began its latest revitalization attempt last week with the announcement of a "smartphone companion product," the Foleo. Elevation's investment — the $1.9bn private equity firm's largest to date — will help Palm fight against competitors in the smartphone game with deeper pockets. Mobile phone makers are currently bracing themselves for the potential impact of Apple's iPhone due out on June 29. ® Bootnote Notably among Elevation's five partners is Bono, lead singer of U2. The Register ventures to guess he doesn't sit in on too many board meetings.
Austin Modine, 04 Jun 2007