After its online efforts to broker off-line television ads were spurned by the major cable networks, eBay is trying the same trick with radio ads. Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that the company was allowing more than 2,300 radio stations to sell ad time via the eBay Media Marketplace—the same marketplace where the company has struggled to grab a piece of the TV ad dollars. Arch-rival Google offers a similar online market, brokering radio ads on behalf of Clear Channel Communications, America’s largest radio station owner. The eBay Media Marketplace launched in March, and by April, the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau (CAB) announced that its members would not use the service. "We don't believe that eBay is going to get this right," Sean Cunningham, the bureau's president and chief executive told The New York Times. eBay didn't secure its first TV network until late last month, when Oxygen - a CAB member - announced that it would use the marketplace in spite of the edict. But eBay already has a bit more traction on the radio side of things. In partnering with Bid4Spots, a site that has brokered radio ads via the Web since 2005, the company has immediate access to over 2,300 radio stations in more than 300 major markets - including Clear Channel stations. Advertisers can auction their ads these stations using either the eBay Media Marketplace or Bid4Spots.com. In essence, eBay is supplying the big advertisers - including HomeDepot and HP - while Bidspot supplies the stations. "Since the middle of last year, I've been looking for an partner that had already attracted advertisers but was looking for someone who had access to lots and lots of radio stations," says David Newark, the president and CEO of Bid4Spots. "eBay was the perfect fit." After purchasing dMarc Broadcasting, a Bid4Spots competitor, Google is brokering radio ads through its AdWords service, and it plans to expand into other off-line advertising markets, including TV ads. ®
Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz may have let the cat out of the bag on Apple's plans for Mac OS 10.5 Leopard's file system. While showing off the Zettabyte File System in Sun's 'Thumper' hybrid storage/server platform at a company event in Washington today, Schwartz let it drop that Apple too has big plans for the open source file system.
Intel has followed Sun Microsystems by releasing development tools to optimize the performance of applications running on multi-core, multi-threaded chips. Fresh off promising more focus on software during last month's JavaOne Conference, the chip giant has updated its C++ Professional Edition and Fortran Compiler Professional Editions for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X.
The US House of Representatives on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation designed to protect PC users from spyware despite the strong objections of internet-based businesses that warned the measure could interfere with many legitimate online activities.
Brazilian boffins have developed a peer-to-peer grid computing system called OurGrid, which enables members to freely donate and use spare compute cycles.
Apple's Apple TV costs $299 in the US - and not much less to make, according to a price list of the parts that has been produced by market watcher iSuppli. The cost of materials and manufacturing: $237.
The ability to deliver usable applications to employees anywhere they happen to be will define the future of IT says Mark Templeton, chief executive officer of infrastructure software specialist Citrix. Kicking off Citrix's annual iForum event in Edinburgh, Templeton warned IT departments that they had to meet the challenge posed by a combination of new-style applications and a new generation of computer users who had grown up in the age of MySpace and YouTube:
Hitachi Global Storage Technologies has begun volume shipment of the Travelstar 7K200, a high-capacity, high-performance laptop hard drive with new optional data encryption technology. The new drive features up to 200GB capacity, a 22 per cent overall performance improvement over its predecessor, and improved shock tolerance, among other technical improvements. The 7200RPM Travelstar 7K200 has power consumption, heat emission, and acoustics comparable to its 5400RPM counterparts and features a Serial ATA 1.5GBps, 1.5GBps encrypted, or 3GBps interface.
Sony's PlayStation 3 is falling further behind Nintendo's Wii in the Japanese sales stakes, the latest figures from local market watcher Enterbrain have revealed.
The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) has appointed a new chief executive to lead its transformation agenda. It announced that Nigel Smith, president of Invensys Rail Systems, will take on the role.
Child truancy alerts and virtual tour of colleges or universities for teenagers are among the most wanted online services, according to a survey commissioned by Directgov. The Central Office of Information said the study, which questioned more than 2,000 adults and a representative sample of 14 to 18-year-olds, will be used to help the assess the next stage of development for the central portal for government. Published yesterday, the survey also found that a guide to local services was top of the wish list for the over 50s, while motorists most wanted the ability to renew car tax online. Both services are already available on Directgov – with the latter having migrated from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's website – suggesting that work is still needed to communicate the availability of such services to the public. The top desire for disabled people was personalised journey planners mapped by accessibility. Staying connected with family and friends was a key theme revealed across all sample groups. In addition to receiving immediate online alerts if their child has failed to turn up for registration, parents wanted to be able to track children's movements outside of school for safety. Meanwhile, one in six over 50s most want to stay in better touch with friends and family via webcams and video conferencing. Teenagers, who often rely on social networking sites and instant messaging to keep in touch with friends, also see the internet as a tool for self-improvement. Almost a fifth of those surveyed wanted the chance to take virtual tours of colleges and universities, while the same proportion wanted to take virtual driving lessons. For motorists, responsible driving was the top priority. One in ten wanted to put their car through a virtual MOT, while one in seven wanted to be able to calculate the exact carbon emissions of their vehicle. For disabled people, the most desired future services are those which allow them more time and freedom, with one in seven 35 to 44-year-olds wanting to have face-to-face meetings, such as job interviews or benefit claims renewals, online. The results of the survey, conducted by ICM Research, are currently being analysed before Directgov decides on how they might be implemented into its website strategy. Commenting on the findings, the organisation's chief executive officer Jayne Nickalls said: "With 60 per cent of respondents saying they want more government services in one place online, all of the insights we gained will be taken into consideration as we plan the future of Directgov." Under the online streamlining programme, at least 551 government websites are being culled, with relevant information transferred to "supersites" like Directgov. 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.
Intel appears increasingly set to challenge AMD and Nvidia's dominance of the discrete desktop graphics chip arena with an alternative to ATI Radeon and GeForce GPUs.
A TV advert for the Toyota Prius has been banned for misleading viewers about the car's green credentials. The Saatchi and Saatchi-produced ad has been taken off air by regulators over its misleading claim to emit one tonne less CO2 than other cars. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld a complaint made about the ad's claims. It rejected Toyota's argument that the claim was legitimate because it said that the car emitted "up to" one tonne less CO2 than equivalent rivals. Toyota had given the ASA documentation which outlined the CO2 output of other cars and of the 1.5 litre engine Prius, and another which compared the Prius with previous versions of the car and another Toyota car. "We noted that none of the cars with 1.5 litre engines featured in the chart emitted one tonne more CO2 than the Prius and that less than half of those new cars that had engines of less than 1.8 litres emitted one tonne more CO2 than the Prius," said the ASA's ruling. "We noted that Toyota had qualified the claim by stating 'up to one tonne less CO2 per year' and that the Prius emitted significantly less CO2 than some other cars with greater engine capacity, but we did not consider their evidence demonstrated that it emitted one tonne less than equivalent vehicles with diesel engines," it said. The ASA said the advert breached its TV Advertising Standards Codes on misleading advertising, evidence, implications, environmental claims, and comparative advertising. The ruling came in response to one complaint, and the company was ordered not to broadcast the advert again in the same form. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Western Digital has rolled out a bus-powered pocket hard drive that provides a whopping 250GB - pretty big for a product of this kind.
Companies should order all employees not to smoke in any work vehicle and should follow the Scottish "no smoking" sign requirements because they are the most stringent when the English smoking ban comes into force one month from today. On 1 July all four UK nations will have anti-smoking laws in place, but businesses will face four different and often conflicting sets of laws and regulations regarding smoking. While a building only has to comply with one set of laws, vehicles could be used in all four UK nations, posing a problem for managers. According to a leading employment lawyer, it is possible to comply with all four sets of laws by adopting as company policy the strictest laws out of the four countries. Most cars are in fact exempt in Scotland, and the law varies in the other countries on what vehicles can be exempt. "If you are a company whereby your employees drive to each of the four jurisdictions within the UK my advice would be to introduce a policy that all company vehicles should be smoke free," said Sara Sawicki, an employment law partner at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "The signage that is included in the vehicle should be the international no smoking sign which should be at least 75 millimetres in diameter, which would meet the size requirement in Wales and Northern Ireland, but also to adopt the Scottish requirement as to wording," said Sawicki. The Scottish law has no minimum size requirement for signs, but is the only law to say that there must be text along with the no smoking symbol, and that the sign must also carry the details of an owner or manager to whom complaints about smoking can be addressed. There are a number of other differences between the laws in place across the UK. In Wales and Northern Ireland, signs must be 75 millimetres in diameter or larger. In England they only have to be 70mm across. Signs must be visible in all vehicles used for business. Vehicles used primarily for private purposes are exempt, but business vehicles must carry no smoking signs even when they are not being used for work. The legislation in England says that cars must be "smoke free", meaning that smoking never takes place in them. However, if only one person uses a particular car in England, the smoking ban does not apply. The differences in national laws throw up curious potential legal problems. An employee driving a work car in Scotland could have a cigarette legally in the car and extinguish it. If that employee then drives to England he has committed no offence, but the vehicle is no longer a smoke free vehicle, which is an offence in England. Other potential problems could arise, one company director with vehicles travelling to all four countries told OUT-LAW.COM. He said that if an employee in Scotland legally smoked in a work car there, that car would be the subject of an offence in England even if driven there purely for leisure purposes. "A car used for work in Scotland could be liable in England even if not used for work in England," said the company director, who asked not to be identified. "That is my interpretation of it, because the law in England says that it applies to a no smoke vehicle used for work purposes, it doesn't say a vehicle used for work in England." "The problem with these regulations is that we don't know how people will interpret those grey areas," said the director. "The fact that you have lit a cigarette in Scotland; does that now become a smoking premises? I think it would be difficult to run that argument if somebody was stopped," said Sawicki. " But who knows? When you look into the regulations in the various different jurisdictions there are an awful lot of grey areas." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related links The Scottish law: Prohibition of Smoking in Certain Premises (Scotland) Regulations 2006 The English law: The Smoke-free (Exemptions and Vehicles) Regulations 2007 and the Health Act 2006 The Welsh law: Smoke-free premises, etc (Wales) regulations 2007 (pdf) The Northern Irish law: The Smoking (Northern Ireland) Order 2006 (pdf)
Dell has brought its carbon-confounding Plant a Tree For Me scheme to Europe, allowing buyers to make a small donation to help counter the emissions arising from keeping their computers powered up.
Children are becoming tech-savvy from a younger age, a new study has discovered. While most adults long suspect their children could programme a DVD recorder more easily than them, this latest research appears to back it up. According to the study from NPD, children begin using consumer electronic devices at the average age of 6.7 years, falling from 8.1 years in 2005. Children are exposed to televisions and desktop computers even younger, as young as four or five years of age, with satellite radios and portable digital media players (PDMPs) at the opposite end of the scale, at nine years old for the average initial exposure. However, despite the findings, the average number of consumer electronic devices owned and used by children has fallen slightly compared to previous reports, with almost a quarter of households surveyed said they hadn't bought any electronics devices during the past 12 months. Of those who had bought consumer electronic devices in the past year, mobile phones, digital cameras and PDMPs topped the list. Newer devices are also creeping onto the shopping list, with technologies such as TV-to-computer video devices and satellite radios recording high levels of household purchasing, and older devices such as film cameras and karaoke systems making the list. The biggest rise in ownership for children has been seen in PDMPs, portable video games and digital cameras, while mobile phones and portable DVD players also proving popular with kids. "Kids are drawn to the latest and greatest digital devices just as their parents are," said Anita Frazier, industry analyst with the NPD Group. "They appear to have no fear of technology and adopt it easily and without fanfare, making these devices a part of their everyday lives." The report also found that children use electronic devices about three days a week. Topping the list were non-portable televisions, which showed 5.8 days of use, while mobile phones average 4.3 days and digital video recorders 4.1 days. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Nearly a third of medium-sized companies in the UK have no IT strategy and a further third work to an "informal loose plan". That's according to a survey released Tuesday by market research firm Dynamic Markets, which was commissioned by IT service management firm Partners in IT.
Samsung has turned to one of the world's leading - apparently - industrial designers to remould its latest handset as a "pragmatic work of art" rather than a run-of-the-mill candybar.
ActiveX controls - so often the source of Internet Explorer flaws - are the font of two newly discovered flaws in Yahoo! Messenger. Buffer overflow-related security bugs in the Yahoo! Webcam Upload (ywcupl.dll) ActiveX control and Webcam Viewer (ywcvwr.dll) ActiveX control allow hackers to inject malware onto Windows PCs running the popular instant messenging software.
Student Emily Parr was this morning removed from the Big Brother house for using a "racially offensive word" to a fellow housemate, the BBC reports. The 19-year-old from Bristol got her marching orders at 3.30am BST after saying "Are you pushing it out, you nigger?" to Charley Uchea "while they were dancing in the living room on Wednesday evening". Channel 4 said the offending word was "not broadcast in the programme during a live stream, and was immediately reported to senior production staff". Angela Jain, head of the Big Brother commissioning team, said the decision to eject Parr "had been taken in the wake of the alleged racist bullying of Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on Celebrity Big Brother earlier this year". She explained: "The word nigger is clearly racially offensive and there was no justification for its use. She [Emily] understands why her involvement has come to an end and she very much regrets what she said." Jain continued: "I think people watching the show tonight will agree that Emily spoke carelessly rather than maliciously - certainly Charley and Nicky, the two housemates most directly involved in the conversation with her, seemed to accept that she did." Channel 4's response to the latest controversy is in stark contrast to its handling of the Shilpa Shetty incident. The broadcaster dismissed the Bollywood star's treatment at the hands of Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd and Jo O'Meara as "girly rivalry". Ofcom disagreed, and recently ordered the channel to transmit an apology. ®
Google has added to calls for immigration authorities to allow more skilled foreign labour into the US, as the Mountain View firm struggles to keep pace with its own expansion. The Googleplex despatched Laszlo Bock, its VP of People Operations (HR manager), to a congressional hearing on Wednesday to plead for more H1-B visas. The federal government caps the number of H1-B visas annually to 65,000. In the early 2000s it was as high as 195,000. Bock said the restrictions had meant it had been unable to get work rights for 70 overseas candidates in the last year, and that it wouldn't have achieved its global dominance in search without significant input from immigrants, including co-founder Sergey Brin. There's video of the testimony at Google's official blog here. The issue has been a tech industry cause célebrè for a while now: in his congressional testimony in 2005, Bill Gates called for the cap on H1-B visas to be removed altogether. He said: "You can't imagine how tough it is to plan as a company where we say, 'let's have this engineering group and staff it'...we'll have Canadians waiting at the border until some bureaucratic thing happens where a few more [visa spots] get opened up. That's just wounding us in this global competition." Recent surveys have shown that both US and UK graduates are queuing up for a spell in the Goolag, rating the ad broker at the top or near the top of their ideal employer lists. ®
Centrinet is claiming zero-carbon energy emissions and military-grade security for its Smartbunker underground managed hosting service.
A Worcestershire builder's bride-to-be looks likely to be walking up the aisle alone after her other half was jailed for two months for jumping naked into a fountain during a drunken stag night in Slovakia. Stephen Mallone, 25, flew into Bratislava on 25 May determined to make merry with his chums. According to the Telegraph, "they spent the following day drinking heavily before Mr Mallone peeled off his clothes and jumped into a fountain by the American embassy". Two coppers duly dragged him from the water feature and slapped on the cuffs. Police apparently told him he'd be released the following day once he'd sobered up. However, within hours he'd been "fast-tracked" through the courts and hit with a two-month jail sentence. Mallone has already lodged an appeal, but since he may have to wait ten days for a hearing, it seems probable the wedding is off. His fiancée Kerry Stokes lamented: "I miss him so much and just wish he was right here by my side. It's absolutely mind-boggling. I am struggling to take it all in and it has made an already stressful time even worse. He was just messing about by the sounds of things, it's such a shame. We're supposed to be getting married next Friday but we still don't know if it's going ahead or not." Mallone's parents Susan and Chris have flown to Slovakia to mount a rescue operation. The Foreign Office and his MP confirmed they were "offering assistance", but a FO spokesman said although British consulate representative "had visited Mr Mallone to offer advice and support", there was pretty much nothing they could do. The planned nuptials, due to take place at Tenbury Church, Worcestershire, have cost the couple a cool £20k, with 250 guests expected from across Europe. Stokes, 22, put a brave face of things, vowing to hit the town this weekend for her hen night. She said: "I stayed here, I think it's for the best. I've still got wedding arrangements to make. We've planned a huge wedding and I'm determined it will go ahead, either on June 15 or later." ®
Retail giant DSG has poached Tesco's operations development boss John Browett who is to join the firm as its new group chief executive. He will fill the hole left by John Clare who announced last week that he will be retiring in September after 22 years with the retailer, which owns Currys and PC World.
The US patent system is set for a thorough review, according to reports, with the aim of improving the quality of patents awarded, and thus reducing the number of patent lawsuits. The New York Times says the Bush administration wants better information from applicants, and is considering opening patent applications to public scrutiny.
Richard Granger, the director general of NHS IT, is warning iSoft and CSC that if they don't sort out their differences he will consider ripping up contracts and finding alternative suppliers. Regardless of how possible this would be, the comments will increase pressure on the two to get talks settled quickly.
The South African justice committee is considering making foreign travellers register their name, passport number, and address with a local provider before being allowed to use the local GSM services. The requirement is part of the "Regulation of Interception of Communication Amendment Bill". The bill also requires anyone buying a phone in South Africa to prove who they are and where they live. Most countries make some attempt to find out who you are when you buy a phone; with different levels of legislation, enforcement, and effect. In the UK, customers routinely hand over their personal details, but is still possible, and legal, to refuse. Most of Europe requires buyers to produce some form of ID, though there is little attempt to control the resale of connections. Gabriel Solomon, director of Government and Regulatory Affairs at the GSMA, described the move as "unprecedented and impractical", adding that it would make the South African government a laughing stock come the 2010 Fifa World Cup when the world's journalists can't call home. Local operators in South Africa are also complaining that long queues will develop as visitors try to register. But it seems more likely that fans on a short visit just won't bother, and thus be unable to incur the exorbitant roaming fees those operators depend on for a significant portion of their revenue. ®
Elton John is once again taking some stick from true believers in the run-up to his planned 16 June charity gig in Ukraine's capital Kiev, Pravda reports. Sir Elton will tickle the ivories in support of local kids suffering from HIV/AIDS, but this generous gesture has not stopped Orthodox Ukrainians slamming the concert as "blasphemous". Union of Orthodox Ukrainians big cheese Valery Kaurov declared: "Orthodox people have no respect to people with untraditional sexual orientation, including Elton John because such people are directly associated with HIV/AIDS." Kaurov then explained how the Elton John menace would, if not adequately contained, eventually lead to the complete destruction of humanity: "All normal countries, including Russia do their best to ban such events as gay pride parades and other congregations of people of untraditional sexual orientation because they destruct the society. If all people in the world become homosexuals, mankind will become extinct." We suggest Kaurov get together with Archdeacon Philip Isaac - defender of Tobago against homosexuality. Those of you who've been following our quite spectacularly non-IT-related "musical Friend of Dorothy versus The Church" strand will recall that said bible basher earlier this year tried to get John pulled from the Caribbean island's Plymouth Jazz Festival, mercifully without success. Back in the real world, meanwhile, Ukraine has the highest incidence of HIV in Eastern Europe, Pravda claims, with 128.4 per 100,000 individuals infected. Kaurov's alternative Elton John-free plan to tackle this crisis is not noted. ®
Forgotten TechForgotten Tech There's nothing new under the sun, some folk say, and that's certainly true of Palm's recently announced Foleo. It's the palmtop reborn in a slightly sexier, slightly larger form. Even its name is reminiscent of that bygone arena - it's rather like the Atari Portfolio, the world's first palmtop PC, released in June 1989.
Dell is looking more and more like David Cameron's Tories. Like the Tories, Dell used to be popular but has recently been in the doldrums, and CEO Michael Dell is busy ripping up some of the direct seller's articles of faith (just like Dave and his recent pronouncements on grammar schools) to get back in everybody's good books.
CA has updated its anti-virus software to guard against a brace of flaws that created a means for hackers to turn the security protection software against its users.
Vodafone is telling customers that VoIP services are insecure - even as Sky News is reporting that VoIP calls threaten our war on terror because such calls can't be intercepted. Several El Reg readers have been in communication with Vodafone about their VoIP policy, and one sent us a received email from Vodafone Customer Services. This explains that VoIP is an expensive and unsafe way to communicate. "Expensive" is certainly true, depending on the data tariff, "unsafe" should really be justified, especially with Sky News whipping up a storm about terrorists using VoIP to evade detection. According to Sky, "police and intelligence agencies are putting huge investment into trying to crack these sorts of communications, but the challenge is formidable". Which comes as a surprise to VoIP operators such as Truphone which, like every other telecommunications company in the UK, is required to comply with the Interception of Communications Act 1985. Of course, "terrorists might be using the internet to communicate" stories always go down well, but real terrorists have been using decent encryption for decades, and the security services know there are better ways of getting information. In related news, Vodafone Australia is selling the Nokia N95 unrestricted, but its UK incarnation still considers the VoIP capabilities of that model too confusing for UK customers. ®
Google UK has extended its ban on adverts from gambling sites to include non-cash games and gambling tutorials. Casinos were always banned from bidding for AdWords but this policy now applies to fun sites which offer gambling type games for no money and those offering other gambling-related content. The search behemoth sent us the following statement: Google has always prohibited the advertising of things like bingo, poker and online casinos. However having looked at this issue very carefully and considered the views of our users, we have decided to extend our policy. We will no longer take ads for sites that promote gambling related content or gambling tutorials or whose primary purpose is `playing for fun', gambling or casino games of skill. While we respect people's differing views on gambling - and support freedom of expression - we believe that this new policy is simpler for everyone to understand and more in tune with users' wishes. The policy is currently being rolled out - advertisers hit by the ban have been sent an email explaining the change. ®
Paris Hilton has been released from chokey after just three days of her 23-day sentence for violating probation on a drink-drive rap, TMZ.com reports. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore told a press conference the early uncaging was due to medical reasons, but declined to elaborate on the "health-related details due to confidentiality laws". He said she remained under house arrest and has been fitted with a GPS ankle bracelet. Hilton will be confined to within roughly 3,000-4,000 feet of her West Hollywood home for 40 days, after which she will have "fulfilled her debt to society". She technically remains in custody, Whitmore stressed, following her "reassignment". ®
Hackers have been able to load malware onto the official Mercury music awards site, as well as hundreds of other sites, after breaking into the systems of US-based hosting firm DreamHost. DreamHost blamed a security flaw in its web control panel software for an attack that allowed hackers to compromise a "very small subset" of user accounts. Affected customers have been notified by email. DreamHost said only web content - not credit card or billing information - was compromised.
Clean (read green) technology is the new investment hot spot, according to a report on US venture capitalist spending in 2006. The sector is benefiting from a better awareness of environmental issues, changes in policy, as well as rising fuel costs.
EU member states have approved the introduction of the Euro tariff for mobile roaming. The decision follows a year of wrangling and discussion, and numerous committee examinations and rounds of voting. Network operators have three months to implement the tariff, from 12 July. For anyone too bored to work it out, SimplySwitch has put together a nice table of how much you can expect to save on calls if you postpone your holiday until October. ®
Amnesty International is asking web surfers to get involved in monitoring genocide in Darfur by checking images of villages taken by satellite cameras. Google Earth has already been cited as providing evidence of gun running to Sudan, where the government is accused of supporting Janjaweed militias in their attacks on towns and villages in the Darfur region. Google Earth and the US Holocaust Memorial Museum launched a project in April to map the devastation and keep it in the public eye in order to keep pressure on the Sudanese government. Amnesty International has chosen 12 villages in Sudan and eastern Chad it believes to be most at risk of attack. New images will be added regularly so attacks can be monitored. The project includes an archive showing the thousands of homes already destroyed. The group has an online petition to sign and is also asking the public to either email Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the Sudanese president, or print out a letter or fax. You can do either from this page, or visit the Eyes on Darfur website. Amnesty worked with the American Association for the Advancement of Science on the project. The images can record objects on the ground as small as two feet across. In other news, Amnesty and five other organisations have released a list of 39 people they believe are still being held in secret CIA prisons. It is calling on the US government to end the use of secret imprisonment and make public the fate of people already taken. ®
Xerox has climbed on board the crowded Web 2.0 ship with the introduction of solutions-based document management for its customers. Coming very late to the party, the photocopier giant has finally created its own HTML web-based, "IT friendly" product for office users.
Bank of Scotland (HBOS) is telling 62,000 customers they could be at risk of identity theft after it stuck an unencrypted disc in the ordinary post, which was subsequently lost.
We're not sure who found it first, but a patent has been issued in the US (numbered 20070123309), which highlights just how Sony might allow the PlayStation Portable to become a cellular handset.
The US Navy has recently affirmed support for open source software, in pursuit of "an interoperable net-centric environment...which will improve the warfighter's effectiveness through seamless access to critical information".
CommentComment The Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA) report makes fascinating reading every year, mostly because it points to the sheer scale of the industry, but also because it highlights just how big the trends we have been following have already become and how big they are likely to become in a few more years, projecting out to 2010.
Those with stuff they just have to get off their chests now have a new venue: Friction.tv. The site has been running in public beta, but had its official launch this week. The site's creators, Omar Shaikh and Andy West, hope to make the site a virtual Speaker's Corner, where anyone can speak freely about the things that matter most to them. "The idea came last summer when I was walking through Hyde Park, Shaikh told us. "I passed Speaker's Corner and it seemed very quiet. I thought there could be a way to hook into this lack of open debate in real life, with user generated content and opening debate online." He points to YouTube and MySpace as a good example of how people are happier to air their views via video on the web, but argues that it is "reasonably trivial" stuff that is being discussed. "Would my mum post a video on YouTube airing her views on the Labour party? Probably not," he says. "But would she text into Question Time? Yes, now that I've bought her a phone and taught her how to text." But it is not a silver surfer service he hopes to set up. Rather, a forum for people who share their musical tastes on MySpace, and watch the funny vids on YouTube, but then want to discuss how music royalties for videos on YouTube should work. The site has been set up to work as simply as possible, Shaikh says. Friction.tv itself provides some of the content, almost starting points for debates. But anyone can upload a video of themselves nattering away on any subject they like. There is no editorial agenda, Shaikh says, and Friction.tv staff do not moderate content before it goes up. The range of content going up is certainly broad: a swift search of the front page turned up posts on 4x4s, why VSO is a stupid idea, (followed by why it isn't) why bombing Iran would be a good or bad idea, and the lunacy of new bin regulation, to cite just a few. Parenthetically, some posts are more interesting that others: it will be interesting to see how the "um...er..." quotient drops off over time as people get better at framing their views for broadcast. West notes anything that is defamatory, or in breach of the law is swiftly removed. There are lawyers on the Friction.tv team, and West says "we defer to their expertise": in deciding whether or not to remove any posting. "We've had a couple of possibly defamatory comments that we took straight down," he says. "But no videos that have breached any laws." The site is backed by a couple of private individuals, and Shaikh and West outline several possible streams of revenue: banner and button advertising, content syndication, sponsorship deals, white label offering (ie, providing their technology to other sites which would then say they are "powered by friction.tv") and offering access to their user base for market research. The site already claims 250,000 unique users, and the owners say it received 2m page impressions during its beta phase. By the end of the year, Shaikh wants a million unique users per month, and five million page impressions. "The goal is simple," he told us. "We want to own debate online." ®
Hackers rather than an inside job are being blamed for an attack on an Illinois state agency's server that left thousands of property market workers potentially exposed to identity theft.
Israeli boffins may be on the road to building artificial, living human brains which can function without a body to support them. Honest. According to an article in yesterday's Scientific American, Tel Aviv university researchers led by biophysicist Eshel ben-Jacob have manipulated cultured human brain cells so as to "imprint persisting multiple memories" on them. The research was revealed in a paper published last month by the American Physical Society, titled "Towards [a] Neuro-memory-chip: Imprinting multiple memories in cultured neural networks" (abstract here). Ben-Jacob and his fellow boffins apparently mounted their artificially-cultured brain tissue on "a polymer panel studded with electrodes." (Won't be long before they start using full-size brains in jars of bubbling transparent fluid, we reckon.) The scientists then injected the hapless culture with "picrotoxin, a cocktail of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)." Apparently, "the cells on the electrode array came from the cortex, the outermost layer of the brain known for its role in memory formation," though it wasn't clear whose cortex or how they got the slime out of the donor's head. Just for information, ben-Jacob's assistant is apparently called Itay Baruchi - not Igor. The injection of picrotoxic gamma acid enabled the neurons, essentially, to start behaving persistently in an organised way - or to put it another way, BROUGHT A DEAD BRAIN TO LIFE. Fortunately, the scientists had not installed their vat-grown cortex in a huge, powerful body assembled from corpse parts and thus it was unable to do anything. But there are hints that they plan in future to install artificial brains-in-jars in machinery of various kinds. Scientific American reckons the synthetic brain tech "could be paired with computer hardware to create cyborglike machines." The science-magazine hacks played down the dangers, suggesting that the results might be useful for "such tasks as detecting dangerous toxins in the air, allowing the blind to see or helping someone who is paralyzed regain some if not all muscle use." El Reg takes a more pessimistic view. The current killer-robot takeover in the US military is almost bound to draw in the Israeli bottled-brain tech, we submit, especially as US war-boffins are already brewing an unholy marriage of living flesh and machinery - albeit only a tiny one. It can be only a matter of time until artificial brains in armoured plexiglass tanks - probably, for some obscure reason, harvested from condemned homicidal maniacs - are placed in control of droid gunships, "Reaper" aerial hunter-killers or crawling pint-sized cyber-assassins. There are other heavily-armed death machines entering Israeli service just now, as it happens. We'll just have to hope that the good citizens of Tel Aviv come to their senses and get down to the university with pitchforks and flaming torches. More from Scientific American here.®
Yes, Amazon already offers a movie download service, but that won’t stop the world’s most famous web retailer from buying NetFlix, the movies-through-the-mail company that recently built an online service of its own. At least, that’s what the Associated Press is reporting. According to the AP, a Jackson Securities analyst named Brian Bolan has "heard buyout speculation from industry contacts." With Blockbuster turning up the heat on NetFlix and Amazon shares trading higher in recent weeks, Bolan believes the rumor makes perfect sense. "[Amazon has] excess currency, if you will. Netflix, on the other hand, has been facing stiff competition from Blockbuster and everyone else, so they've seen their stock go lower," the AP quotes Bolan as saying. Word is that NetFlix could grab more than $1.5bn from Amazon - but this comes from Bolan too. NetFlix made its name with an online movie-rental service that sends DVDs through the mail. But early this year, the company launched a video-on-demand service, dubbed Watch Now, that streams movies straight from the Web. Amazon's Unbox site also offers movies and tv from the web, but it requires downloads. Meanwhile, Blockbuster is moving in on NetFlix's through-the-mail business. With Blockbuster’s Total Access service, renters have the option of either ordering discs through the mail, but they can also rent from the company's nationwide network of retail stores.®
The majority of European IT professionals say that a failure to finish projects on time would not pose a risk to their job. Under a quarter of IT workers in the US felt safe enough to say the same.
In a clear shot at rival SWsoft, VMware has started hyping a new pricing model for its VMware Infrastructure software suite aimed at hosting service providers.
IBM and HP are neck-and-neck for the second place position in the external disk storage market but remain well behind EMC for top billing, according to the latest report by research house IDC. EMC leads the pack, ringing in $912m worth of sales during the first quarter and taking 21.2 per cent of the market. Although EMC continues to run the show with over $300m greater revenue than its closest competitor, the company's external storage sales only expanded by 0.1 per cent from last year.
A Best Buy lawyer has admitted to falsifying court documents in the longstanding racketeering case against Microsoft and Best Buy, which recently reached a Superior Court in Seattle. A nationwide class-action suit, filed in 2003, accuses the two companies of conspiring to secretly register thousands of Best Buy customers for Microsoft’s MSN online service. As reported by the Associated Press, a lawyer with the Minneapolis firm representing Best Buy admitted to altering emails and a paper memo before turning them over to the suit's plaintiffs - though he claims to have acted alone, without the knowledge of either Best Buy or his firm.
Vietnam telecom officials estimate it will take at least a month and cost over $5.84m to fix damaged undersea fiber-optic cables stolen by fishermen for salvage.
There was good news on the jobs front this week for Northern Ireland, with the announcement that Fujitsu Services is to create 400 new jobs in Derry and Belfast.
Microsoft is to issue four critical security fixes for this month's Patch Tuesday. Three of these affect either Windows Vista or Internet Explorer 7, which the software maker holds out as a paragon of its conversion to secure computing. In all, Microsoft will push six high-priority updates this Tuesday, the company announced today.
Ultra-fancy chip start-up PA Semi today revealed a rather predictable customer - Mercury Computer Systems. Mercury loves to experiment with cutting-edge silicon, as evidenced by its hearty push around Cell-based servers. The company enjoys a unique relationship with IBM that lets it sell blades and other boxes using the multi-core processor most famous for its role in Sony's Playstation gaming console.
GraphOn, the Santa Cruz, CA software maker has filed a lawsuit against Juniper Networks, alleging infringement of three patents related to firewall technology.
The US International Trade Commission has barred the import of new cell phones that use chips made Qualcomm, following a legal determination they infringe a patent held by competitor Broadcom. The ban includes the import of Qualcomm chips and chipsets, but doesn't affect handsets and PDAs on the market prior to today's ruling, according to a news release issued by the federal agency. The chips at issue are used in a variety of 3G phones such as those operating on networks run by Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T. The White House now has 60 days to approve or overturn the ruling, according to the Associated Press. Qualcomm could settle the patent dispute with Broadcom or could appeal today's decision to a federal court. Qualcomm representatives didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. If lawyers among Qualcomm's intellectual property ranks have glum faces there is good reason. Most recently, a federal jury awarded Broadcom $19.6m after finding Qualcomm chip designs infringed three patents. That judgment could be tripled to almost $60m under patent rules that provide for stiff penalties when the infringement is deemed to be willful. Not to be outdone, Nokia, Texas Instruments, NEC, Panasonic and Ericsson have all filed complaints with the European Commission, accusing Qualcomm of violating competition law through its licensing practices. Today's action represents a compromise between remedies proposed by Broadcom, which had sought a ban on all devices that use the infringing chips regardless of when they were put on the market, and an ITC administrative judge, who favored blocking only the chips and chipsets themselves. In taking the middle ground, a majority of the commission determined that barring only new phones would reduce burdens that otherwise would have been imposed on third parties while still "affording meaningful relief to the patent holder". The ban stems from a June, 2005 investigation the ITC commenced in response to a complaint Broadcom filed alleging a patent it held for mobile device capabilities and power management was infringed by Qualcomm. In October 2006, an administrative law judge ruled in favor of Broadcom and recommended an import ban of Qualcomm chips into the US. ®