The Humane Society has its sights set on Amazon.com's cocks...again. After suing the web retailer in February, in an attempt to crack down on the sale of cockfighting magazines, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has amended the suit. It claims that Amazon violates a second federal law as it continues to sell such titles as "The Feathered Warrior". HSUS's original suit accused Amazon of violating the Animal Welfare Act, but the retailer refused to stop selling the magazines, filing federal papers that insist it has a legal right to do so. The Humane Society’s amendment, filed yesterday, claims that the company has also run afoul [Sorry - Ed] of the new Animal Fighting Prohibition Act, signed into law by President Bush on May 3. "Amazon's decision to peddle illegal animal fighting paraphernalia is bad enough, but its decision to disobey and attempt to nullify a key provision of the federal Animal Welfare Act is patently outrageous," read a statement from Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO. "There is no constitutional right to engage in criminal activity, and Amazon should stop being the exclusive online vendor for an industry that perpetrates such blatant animal cruelty." The Animal Fighting Prohibition Act prohibits the use of "any interstate instrumentality for commercial speech for purposes of promoting or in any other manner furthering an animal fighting venture."®
AnalysisAnalysis The most critical battle in the wireless world is to take the reins of the mobile internet as it evolves, and that means all the majors are trying to create a software platform that will make the web even more usable on a small device than it is on a PC, and so drive new applications and revenue streams.
SAP has doled out a handful of details on A1S, its eagerly anticipated mid-market on-demand suite, while promising to be better than Salesforce.com. After months of teasing SAP watchers at numerous trade shows with screen shots and little else, SAP today revealed A1S would be "closer" to SAP's existing All-In-One suite, rather than Business One or SAP CRM ondemand.
TechEdTechEd Visual Studio 2008 (codename Orcas, available now as beta 1 and shipping sometime before the end of 2007) will come with Visual Studio Tools for Office 3.0, which finally adds a ribbon designer so you can easily integrate your Office add-ons with the new-look interface.
Paris Hilton will later today appear before the judge who sentenced her to 23 days' jail for violating probation on a drink-drive rap at a hearing to decide whether she should indeed be allowed to do the remainder of her sentence under house arrest. Hilton was released yesterday from Century Regional Detention Centre in Lynwood, California, for unspecified "medical reasons", having completed just three days of her stretch. She is currently sporting a GPS ankle bracelet and is confined to within 2,000 to 3,000 feet of her Hollywood pad. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore explained yesterday: "After extensive consultation with medical personnel, it was decided this reassignment should be done." Whitmore added that Hilton would be confined to quarters for 40 days, after which she will have "fulfilled her debt to society". Reaction to the highly-talented heiress's uncaging has been predictable enough. Civil rights leader Rev Al Sharpton slammed the move as demonstrating the US legal system's "double standards". He said: "This early release gives all of the appearances of economic and racial favouritism that is constantly cited by poor people and people of colour. There are any number of cases of people who handle being incarcerated badly and even have health conditions that are not released." New York civil liberties lawyer E Christopher Murray, however, reckoned "house arrest was a more appropriate sentence for a celebrity". He offered: "Sentencing Paris to jail for an extended period of time was an example of a celebrity being treated more harshly than an average person." Harsh or not, the office of the Los Angeles City Attorney is evidently none too impressed with Hilton's release. It yesterday filed a petition "demanding LA's Superior Court to show why Sheriff Lee Baca should not be held in contempt of court for releasing Ms Hilton". Jeffrey Isaacs, head of the office's Criminal Branch, said: "The decision whether or not Ms Hilton should be released early and placed on electronic monitoring should be made by Judge Sauer, and not the Sheriff's Department." Hilton is due to appear before Judge Sauer at 9am local (4pm GMT) today. He will doubtless decide how best to help Hilton "reflect on her life, to see what she can do to make the world better", as her lawyer put it after her tearful first night in chokey. ®
GIGSE 2007GIGSE 2007 The Tuesday morning session at the Global Interactive Gaming Summit and Expo (GIGSE) brought the focus back to the most important and dynamic gaming market in the world right now: the EU, where a series of decisions by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) and liberalizing efforts by some member states have catalyzed a rapidly growing gambling sector. The inevitable growth of the gaming market in an increasingly interconnected world has been most apparent in the EU, where certain member states have fought tooth and nail to protect local gambling monopolies. Unlike the US, where publicly controlled gaming consists basically of lotteries, the patchwork of gambling law in the EU monopoly states has been a mixture of lotteries, horse racing, sportsbooking, and even casino games. This eclectic mix has made for a history of back and forth rulings by the ECJ on the extent to which EU member states can claim public health and welfare as rationales for restricting gaming licenses to public monopolies. It has also shone a bright light on some rather uncomfortable facts about how and why those monopolies operate. Although the Gambelli and Placanica cases brought some welcome clarity to the position of the ECJ itself, some member states - notably Denmark, France, Finland and Hungary - continue to insist that public welfare requires that they maintain a government monopoly on gambling services. If public welfare means feathering the nest of the government or government-favored groups, that might even be true. Of course, the reality is rather darker. The ongoing suit by Ladbrokes against the Danish Ministry of Taxation encapsulates this problem nicely. Ostensibly created to reduce problem gambling, as well as provide a tightly regulated outlet for limited gambling and money for charitable organizations, the Danish monopoly, Danske Spil, markets its products aggressively. According to Henrik Hoffman, a gaming attorney from Danders and More, recent surveys show that Danske Spil is responsible for 65 per cent of a gambling marketing in the country, and that 85 per cent of Danske Spil outlets sell lottery games to kids, some as young as eleven. Ladbrokes sued to be allowed to market its lotteries there and lost, of course; the case is now before the European Commission, which has issued a reasoned opinion to Denmark on the matter. Unfortunately, Denmark has refused to make public either the reasoned opinion or any other official documents exchanged on the matter for reasons of - ahem - national security. Such a Bush-like response will probably meet with disfavor at the EC, and a lawsuit at the ECJ against Denmark seems inevitable. The last of the Norwegians Denmark's neighbor to the north, Norway, has been involved in litigation with Ladbrokes as well, over similar issues - and last week it lost. Although Norway - which is not a member of the EU - lost in the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court, the EFTA Court ruled against Norway on the same grounds as in Placanica - namely that public welfare schemes are acceptable as long they are genuinely designed to reduce gambling and proportional. In fact, the court cited both Gambelli and Placanica in rendering its decision. Although the EFTA only encompasses Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Luxembourg, the spread of ECJ thinking on this matter is impossible to ignore. It will take time, but Europe is tentatively finding its way through the moral complexities of the online gambling industry.® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
The UK government is looking to make wiretap evidence admissible in court as part of its latest review of anti-terrorism legislation. The UK courts currently do not allow it, though the practice is commonly accepted in most Western countries. As part of plans to review anti-terrorism legislation, outgoing Home Secretary John Reid announced a review "into the potential ramifications of allowing intercept to be used in terrorism court cases". The government is also pushing for police to be given the power for longer pre-charge detention, beyond the current 28 day limit. Government plans to push this limit to three months - a move critics describe as equivalent to internment - previously floundered and are highly controversial. The latest anti-terrorism review will also consider giving police enhanced powers to "stop and question" suspects, and courts the ability to allow the support of terrorism to be considered as an aggravating factor when imposing sentences for general offences, such as credit card fraud. Reid announced the consultation in Parliament on Thursday. The government intends to allow Parliament greater time to debate the proposed changes in legislation, a decision that reflects the enhanced status for parliamentary deliberations favoured by Prime Minister-elect Gordon Brown, as well as previous failures to fast-track longer detention of terror suspects past MPs and peers. Lawful interception firm SS8 Networks welcomed the consultation. MI5 has been reluctant to allow wiretap evidence to be admitted in court fearing it would expose interception techniques. SS8 said concerns that the move might compromise the effectiveness of police and security services operations are misplaced. "The use of wiretapping information as evidence in US court systems has been going on for decades and has not jeopardised the techniques and usefulness of this information," said Stephen Gleave, marketing VP at SS8 Networks. "Wiretapping and the use of wiretaps is a technique familiar to almost every adult on the planet. How it is done is fairly common knowledge or can be readily obtained and has not proven to reduce its effectiveness. "Since the introduction of wiretapping legislation and the standards that support it, law enforcement agencies – with the proper legal authorisation and the cooperation of service providers - can now execute wiretaps using standards-based, off the shelf solutions. These solutions leverage wiretapping capabilities that are now commonly built into most telecommunications and data communications equipment to facilitate lawful intercept – itself typically a condition of license for service providers." SS8 added that, contrary to movie myths, the call data information (who called who, when did they talk, where were they, how long did they talk etc.) is often much more useful in the investigation of crimes than the actual content of conversations. In the US, the vast majority of real-time intercepts are for call data only (130,000 per year) while intercepts that include voice number less than 3,000, it added. Gleave said: "Even if law enforcement is concerned with the sensitive nature of lawful intercept technology and revealing their methods, the most basic of information, readily available off just about any switching equipment, proves to be by far the most relevant and useful." ®
The task of migrating or upsizing Microsoft Access databases is a common one, particularly for small businesses that are growing well and feel a real need to move. Microsoft's SSMA (SQL Server Migration Assistant) is an obvious candidate, but here is an alternative that compares well.
Vodafone this morning rejected calls for changes to its debt structure and holdings in Verizon Wireless from rebel investors. A rebel shareholder group led by John Mayo (formerly of Marconi), calling itself Efficient Capital Structures (ECS) and representing 210,000 ordinary shares, called on Vodafone to change its debt arrangements in order to return money to shareholders.
The European Parliament has approved draft proposals for a biometric database to prevent people who are refused a visa by one Schengen country from applying to other member states. The proposals, approved on 7 June 2007, are aimed at preventing the practice, known as "visa shopping", through the establishment of the Visa Information System (VIS) aimed at improving the implementation of a "common visa policy" in Europe. The system is also aimed at fighting fraud and facilitating checks at external borders, helping to identify those not meeting conditions for entry, stay, or residence in Schengen Member States and preventing terrorist threats and other serious crimes. The VIS will be the world's largest biometric database with 70 million sets of fingerprints. Managed by a permanent EU funded authority, the system will allow supervised access by police and the European police agency Europol. Personal data from visa applications stored in the VIS will include biometric photographs and fingerprints, as well as written information, such as the name, address and occupation of the applicant, and date and place of the application. It will also include any decision taken by the member state responsible to issue, refuse, annul, revoke or extend the visa. According to the new rules, biometrics will be used under controlled circumstances, by first using the visa sticker number for verification, along with fingerprints, with fall-back procedures also in place. Strong data protection safeguards were a key goal for the Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson, Baroness Sarah Ludford MEP, who drafted two reports on the system. "I am confident we have built the legal framework for a visa system, which will increase EU border security but also facilitate travel and ensure respect for individual rights," she said. "We cannot afford to take risks with big biometric schemes like this, as the potential consequences for misuse or abuse would deeply undermine civil liberties. The European Parliament must be closely involved, in liaison with national MPs, in any further proposals to interlink border or immigration databases, create new ones, or allow police access." Only authorised staff of the relevant national visa, border control, immigration, asylum and internal security authorities will be granted access to the system. Other data protection provisions include the training of specialised staff to deal with data, and mandatory scrutiny by national data protection authorities. There are currently 15 Schengen member states: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Greece, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Norway and Iceland. Although not a Schengen member, the UK government wishes to opt in to the VIS ruling, subject to agreement by the member states and Council of Ministers. The proposals still need to be approved by the Council of Ministers and European Parliament before they become law. 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.
Parallels has released an major update to its Parallels Desktop 3.0 Windows-on-Mac application, a year on from the software's original release. The new version promises better integration between Windows and Mac apps.
Redstone, the long-time loss-making fixed-line telecoms firm,has morphed into a new age IT and telephony hybrid with a positive bank balance after a year of financial restructuring and acquisitions.
A wheelchair user in Michigan admitted to enjoying "quite a ride" after being accidentally attached to the front grille of a lorry and taken on a 50mph white-knuckle jaunt down the state's Red Arrow Highway, the BBC reports. The unnamed 21-year-old was passing in front of the truck as it left a petrol station in Paw Paw when his chair's handle bars "became tangled" in the grille. The driver set off for a local trucking company depot oblivious to his passenger, although passing motorists quickly advised police. When the truck arrived at the depot, officers informed the driver that he had a disabled bloke attached to his vehicle, although he not unreasonably "refused to believe there was a man in a wheelchair stuck to the front of his truck until he saw it for himself".* Police said the reluctant hitchhiker was none the worse for wear as a result of his ordeal, saying "it was quite a ride", but bemoaning the fact he'd spilled his soda. ® Bootnote * And since seeing is believing, the Beeb has a pic of the front-end wheelchair accessory here.
BT has claimed its revised strategy for London is helping to get the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) back on track in acute trusts. The Commons Health Select Committee heard yesterday that BT's revised strategy to deliver services under the NPfIT to acute hospitals is "proving a success". BT is the national programme's local service provider for London. Although it has made reasonable progress in some areas, particularly primary care trusts and mental health trusts, delivery to acute hospitals had fallen behind schedule. To remedy this, the company agreed with Connecting for Health, the agency responsible for delivering the programme, to make changes to its subcontractors. This included the replacement of IDX with the Cerner Millennium solution. BT said that half of all London's mental health trusts now had new IT systems installed. Newham and Homerton trusts upgraded to Cerner systems late last year and there are plans to go live at Barnet and Chase Farm this summer. Two further deployments are planned later this year. A key element of BT's revised strategy has been to install products initially as "standalone" deployments and then to integrate them with the cluster-wide solution. Patrick O'Connell, managing director of BT health, told the MPs: "We try to make sure that the needs of trusts are understood early on. In London we have changed the programme to suit the needs of the trusts and London communities." Witnesses from the medical research community told the MPs of the need to capitalise on NPfIT, especially the e-patient record, to support their work. Professor Carol Dezateux of the Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics said that being able to create links between e-records to investigate the relationship between pesticides and eye defects in children, for example, was essential. "We need infrastructures such as those in the Nordic countries," she said. "There is now a recognition in Connecting for Health that use of NPfIT systems for research does matter." The MPs got a less sanguine view of the programme from Professor Naomi Fulop of King's College London. Fulop, co-author of a study on the implementation of NPfIT published last month in the British Medical Journal, said the e-patient record had been deeply problematic and is seriously behind schedule. "The detailed record is now two and a half years late. By next year it will be three and a half years late," she said. There was a growing risk to patients' safety associated with delays to the programme, according to Fulop. Also, local NHS managers are unable to prioritise implementation of the NPfIT because of competing financial priorities and uncertainties about the programme. 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.
Apple's anticipated iMac revision is set to see the revamp of the consumer desktop machine to incorporate a pro-Mac style aluminium casing, it has been claimed.
Sony has confirmed it intends to cut jobs at its Computer Entertainment Unit in the US, just two months after it announced plans to slash eight per cent of its European workforce.
More than one in four employees in the UK works longer than 48 hours each week. According to a study published today by the International Labour Organisation, more of the UK's workforce put in "excessive hours" than in any other developed country. The ILO estimates that 22 per cent of workers around the world – or over 600 million people – are working excessively long hours, i.e. more than 48 hours a week. Among those countries with the highest incidence of long working hours for 2004-5 (defined as more than 48 hours per week), Peru topped the list at 50.9 per cent of workers, followed by the Republic of Korea (49.5 per cent), Thailand (46.7 per cent) and Pakistan (44.4 per cent). In developed countries, where working hours are typically shorter, the UK stood at 25.7 per cent, Israel at 25.5 per cent, Australia at 20.4 per cent, Switzerland at 19.2 per cent, and the US at 18.1 per cent. The ILO report noted that laws and policies on working time have a limited influence on actual working hours in developing economies. But the same appears to be true in the UK. The Working Time Regulations implement the EU's Working Time Directive in the UK. The directive provides that workers in all sectors, public or private, must not work longer than 48 hours a week, including overtime. The directive also specifies requirements for rest periods, breaks and no less than four weeks' paid holiday per year. Its aim is to protect workers from the health and safety consequences of overworking. However, in 1993, the UK negotiated an opt-out which allows member states not to apply the limit to working hours under certain conditions: prior agreement of the individual; no negative fall-out from refusing to opt-out; and records kept of working hours of those that have opted out. Robyn McIlroy, an employment law specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said: "There is no doubt that the right to ask employees to opt-out of the 48-hour limit on average weekly working time affords employers more flexibility, particularly during periods of heavy demand. "Despite that there is increasingly a recognition that perpetuation of a long-hours culture will ultimately be counter-productive, particularly with an ageing working population, and compared to even five years ago more firms than ever before genuinely would prefer that their employees enjoy work-life balance," she said. In February 2006, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) responded to reports at the time which said that more people work over 48 hours in the UK than in other EU countries. The CIPD said a far greater proportion of the UK workforce works less than 30 hours a week than on the continent. It also said that the average working hours for full-time workers in the UK are falling. Its survey, Working Time Regulations: Calling Time on Working Time, claimed that three-quarters of long-hours workers do so out of choice. According to the CIPD, removing the opt-out clause from the UK Regulations would increase moonlighting, as employees may be forced to take up a second job if overtime is curtailed. In June 2006, at a meeting of the EU Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs Council, the UK and other members states defended their right to retain the opt-out. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
AV technology is gradually dying and being replaced by far more effective IT security technology based on whitelisting. You could view this as an inevitable development, given the horrible inadequacies of AV technology, or you might want to pin the credit on the AVID (Anti-Virus Is Dead) campaign which has repeatedly drawn attention to the inadequacy of AV technology and championed whitelisting technology that actually works. Actually it doesn't matter much either way. It's happening.
A memo reaches Vulture Towers from Oxford University Library Services (OULS) warning that the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment(WEEE) regulations are soon to come into force. D-Day for the WEEE regulations is 1 July and will govern how we can dispose of all types of electrical hardware. But this is more than a heads-up on new legislation and more a call to action. The memo starts: "Have you any old bits of electrical equipment lying about your department?" "If so, now is the time to dispose of any old or surplus or electronic and electrical equipment because after 1 July 2007 it becomes unlawful to dispose of non-hazardous equipment in normal waste streams." We can see what the university is doing here, but it is not really in the spirit of the time - this week is Recycling Now Week. We appreciate that even the ivory towers of Oxford have budget restrictions, but wasn't there a better way to deal with this? Especially because the WEEE rules put a lot of responsibility for recycling on the producers of equipment. For anyone who's missed the meaning of this missive, the final line makes it clear: "The message is - get rid of any unwanted electrical and electronic equipment before the end of June 2007." For any Reg readers in the Oxford area, we recommend you steer clear of any university library bins and the river Isis in the near future. You can see the whole memo here (Word doc). A spokesman for University Services said we'd misunderstood the letter and there was a university-wide policy for responsible rubbishing of electronic equipment. He pointed us to this page on getting rid of electronic equipment and this page which details the university's specific computer disposal policy. OULS is responsible for all the university's libraries, including the Bodleian. Let us know how you are dealing with the changing regulations by clicking on the byline at the top of the story, or let the world know by posting a Reader Comment below. ® Bootnote Thank you to the Reg reader who passed us the email.
Researchers in the US have demonstrated an experimental wireless energy transfer system that could pave the way for truly wireless computing. The team has already successfully made a 60W light bulb light up from a distance of 2 metres. This might be very early days, but the work has been described as "truly pioneering" by Professor Moti Segev of the Israel Institute of Technology. The group of researchers, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), outlined their ideas in a paper in 2006. But this experiment (the details of which have been published in the Journal Science), is the first time it has been made to work. The experiment exploits the phenomenon of resonant coupling. It involves two copper coils of two feet in diameter. One, the transmitter, is connected to a power source and the other is connected to a light bulb. The two coils are set up two metres apart, and when the transmitter is switched on, the light bulb (attached to the receiver) lights up. MIT explains how resonant coupling can add energy to a system by drawing a parallel with a child on a swing. The child can, by pumping his or her legs at the resonant frequency of the swing, add energy to the system and swing higher. Similarly, an opera singer can, by sustaining a powerful enough note for long enough, cause a wine glass to shatter, so long as the note matches the resonant frequency of the glass. In the experiment, the transmitter generates a non-radiative magnetic field oscillating at MHz frequencies. This field mediates the power exchange with the other coil, which has been specifically designed to resonate with it. The researchers explain that the crucial advantage of using the non-radiative field lies in the fact that most of the power not picked up by the receiving coil remains bound to the vicinity of the sending unit, instead of being radiated into the environment and lost. This design does limit the range of the power transfer, but is much more efficient. The team adds that it is about a million times more efficient than non-resonance based induction. "We had a strong faith in our theory but experiments are the ultimate test," said assistant professor Marin Soljacic, who worked on the research. "So we went ahead and sure enough we were successful, the experiments behave very much like the theory." Happily for lovers of neologisms everywhere, they have dubbed their discovery: WiTricity. Nikola Tesla, who first proposed radiant energy around the turn of the last century, would be proud, we are sure. The team suggests the system could be modified to create power hotspots for laptops so mobile users wouldn't need to run down their batteries when they are out and about. The wider scientific community is keen to stress the safety of using magnetic fields and resonance to transfer power. "The body really responds strongly to electric fields, which is why you can cook a chicken in a microwave," Professor Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London told the BBC. "But it doesn't respond to magnetic fields. As far as we know the body has almost zero response to magnetic fields in terms of the amount of power it absorbs." This, we are sure, will not stop someone from claiming that their WiTricity has given them a headache/nausea/caused them to be bed ridden. A friend of El Reg recently reported meeting someone who claimed her LCD screen made her sneeze. We'll make no further comment. ®
The Worcestershire builder cuffed for jumping naked into a fountain in Bratislava during drunken stag night revels and subsequently slapped with a two-month jail sentence for his trouble has been released, the BBC reports. Stephen Mallone, 25, was arrested on 26 May, and looked likely to miss his 15 June wedding to 22-year-old Kerry Stokes following his "fast-tracking" into chokey. His parents Susan and Chris quickly flew to Slovakia, while the Foreign Office and his MP Bill Wiggin confirmed they were "offering assistance". In the end, it was an FO-appointed legal team which secured Mallone's release, and Wiggin praised their efforts and described himself as "delighted" at the news. He added: "I have spoken to him and he is over the moon. The whole family are drained, but they are all very relieved." Mallone's dad, meanwhile, was tasked with apologising for his son's behaviour. He said the escapade was "in good humour but was a stupid act", stressing that the family "unreservedly apologise for any distress or offence caused by Stephen to the people of Bratislava". He did, however, deny that "any sexual or lewd act" took place in the water feature - a reference to local news reports that Mallone was cracking one off when the boys in blue intervened. He also bemoaned the fact that his son had "been denied legal representation and access to a phone". ®
TerraTec has extended its Noxon internet radio line with a new model that has an iPod dock and can grab and play Mac- and PC-hosted music collections.
Episode 20Episode 20 The world is full of great duos focused on a common goal - Hillary and Norgay, Armstrong and Aldrin, Sooty and Sweep - and so is the world of computing. There's nothing like having a good backup guy, and for me the PFY was that man. My go-to guy, the PFY could be trusted to know what I was looking for almost before I did myself and have it ready and waiting when I got there. I could send him off on a task in the full knowledge that he'll see it through to completion with no hitches or questions. And so it was a bit of a wrench when PFY forsook the comfort of the home pitch to play for another team - made worse by the two-month reemployment stand-down period which the department apparently has on contractors for some reason. This all means that in the meantime I don't have the ability to delegate those run-of-the-mill everyday functions that plague the life of a systems professional - in turn meaning that I end up having to do them myself... ... "What's the spade for?" the Boss asks wandering into Mission Control. "I...uh...gardening," I reply, scanning the helldesk database for a recent complaint. "And this...uh...sack of...whatisit, lime?" "Gardening again," I repeat. "Great for...uh...composting." "The roll of old carpet?" "Still gardening." "What do you use carpet for?" he asks dubiously. "Flip it upside down and use it as weed matting," I say, having prepared for this question earlier. "Ah right, of course. You know I used to be a keen gardener," the Boss burbles, setting himself up for one of those directionless monologues that seems to plague the social interaction of so many members of middle management. "I used to have brassicas, and leeks." "Speaking of which, I'm busting for one myself," I add, getting out of the room before I get a run down on the basics of fertiliser application in small gardens... ... When I get back from the visiting the Gents the situation is even worse. The head of IT and the Boss are engaged in a conversation about the benefits of crop rotation to avoid systemic plant illnesses. "Riveting as this is, I have work to do, what with my assistant being away and all," I say, pointing at the screen. "So if you'd just move on I could get down to the problem at hand. >clickety< Ah, here we are...the complainant was...M Easton." "We could lend you a hand to catch up on your work if you need," the Boss suggests, much to the Head's surprise. "And we could chat about gardening at the same time." !!! I blame the PFY. Had he not left in the pursuit of career advancement none of this would have been happening - M Easton, whoever the hell he is, would be safely wrapped in carpet in the back of a van speeding towards a disused allotment in the middle of nowhere and I'd be deleting a complaint about the speed of our data recoveries from the helldesk system. >clickety< >DELETE!< "I'm sure we could give you a hand," the Head agrees. "Could you?" I ask. "I need a bit of help digging a hole." "What sort of hole?" "I dunno, six feet by two feet by, uh.. six feet deep." "You mean like a grave?" the boss asks, then pauses anxiously. "Sort of - I'm using the deep-cache method of liming." "Deep-cache? I don't think I've heard of that?" "It's a new-age Biodynamic thing," I say. "Quite new but showing some good results." "Oh yes," the Boss asks dubiously. "How does it work?" "Well, you dig a large hole, line it with a large quantity of lime, then a layer of compostable matter, then lime. The groundwater will seep up through the cache and distribute lime through the upper water table of the land as the compostable material breaks down." "And what compostable matter were you going to use?" the Boss asks, interested now. "Oh, just anything biodegradable I found laying around the office - foodscraps, newspaper...M Easton." "You're not going to get US helping you with THAT," the Head of IT snaps. "Yes well, an alternative I have been considering recently is a deeper hole with several layers of lime and compostable matter. Three maybe, depending." "Depending?" "On how many old carpets we have in the basement and whether the van's being used tonight - you won't be missed will you?" "Look what's the real problem?" the Head asks, attempting to defuse the situation. "The real issue - this moment - is that I'm recovering some data for this M Easton character as fast as I can change tapes and he's complaining about how slack we are." "So the real issue is the lack of an assistant." "That's part of it, yes." "So what if we agreed to waive the stand-down period in this case?" "That would certainly help yes." "And you'll abandon this...uh...several layers...option." "Yes." "And leave this M Easton person alone?" "Sure." "No retaliation at all?" "None." "Ok then," the Boss sighs, easing towards the door with the Head of IT. "We'll get that sorted straight away." ...three hours later... "Ahhh," the PFY says, plopping down into his chair. "Back in the saddle." "Indeed." "What's the spade, lime and carpet for?" "One of the users, M Easton, called you a tosser." "Right. I'll book the van!" See, it's like magic having an assistant! BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Things are looking tough for Sony: redundancies, missed shipment targets and poor financial results. So what's a giant mega-corporation to do? Take advice from bloggers, of course...
Copier giant Xerox is reaching out to its customers in a touchy-feely approach with the launch of a new global partner programme. As we reported yesterday, the firm has changed its business strategy by dipping its toes into the so-called solutions marketplace by touting its HTML-based software, EIP (Extensible Interface Platform), which it hopes will ease SMB customer "pain points".
eBayers have so far failed to bite an amazing penis-shaped crisp which the seller claims will bestow great riches upon the lucky winning bidder. Sadly, the top bid currently stands at a limp £4.70, despite the come-on: During a dull lunch time sandwich, the amazing penis crisp was revealed from a normal packet of walkers crisps. (as part of an otherwise normal boots meal deal.) Heralded as a cure for male potency problems* and possibly a source of immense good fortune*, the amazing penis crisp is the crisp product everyone wants. Probably. The amazing penis crisp will be carefully boxed in some sort of anti-crisp damage box (having a bit of trouble finding such a thing at the moment) and sent first class post to the lucky lucky winner. The length of the amazing penis crisp is 3.2 inches and it has a 1 inch girth. HAPPY BIDDING PEOPLE!!! MAY THE LUCK OF THE CRISP PENIS SHINE ON YOU!!!! Please feel free to ask any penis crisp related questions. *unsubstantiated. Hmmm. While the amazing penis-shaped crisp may be of some interest to Golden Palace Casino, we can't help feeling the vendor might have attracted more public interest with an astounding El Reg vulture potato-based snack simulacrum. Bootnote Thanks to Mohin Miah for the tip-off.
Babelgum, another peer-to-peer telly service, opens up for new beta testers from today. Like Joost the service requires a downloaded client, but then gives users ad-supported viewing of various niche channels. While Joost is backed by venture capitalists, Babelgum is backed by Italian telco magnate Silvio Scaglia. The service uses peer-to-peer technology to distribute video content. Limited numbers of the new version of the client software are available to download each day. Downloads were proceeding slowly at the time of writing. Video content is professionally created rather than user generated and is divided into nine themed channels. Users can also create their own "smart" channels to sort content according to their preferences. For content owners, Babelgum promises access to the web market without users getting access to downloaded content. Cash will be generated by targeting advertising, revenue from which will be split 50:50 between content owners and Babelgum. Until the end of this year Babelgum is guaranteeing content owners at least $5 per 1,000 video views. Babelgum promises: "We do not accept offensive, hateful, or pornographic material that is not suitable for general viewing." The company has headquarters in Ireland and offices in the UK, US, and France. More from Babelgum. ®
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) has called for a ban on fishing for North Sea cod, The BBC reports. The organisation's scientists have assessed stocks of this and other fish and concluded that while "saithe and haddock stocks are in good condition and can be the continued basis for sustainable fisheries...other important stocks like cod, whiting and herring are suffering from reduced reproduction in recent years." Accordingly, ICES wants a "complete moratorium" on cod fishing. Its call comes before annual EU talks to decide quotas, which last year set the 2007 cod quota at 20,000 tonnes - a reduction of 14 per cent over the previous year but clearly 20,000 tonnes too many for ICES. ICES's proposals also include a reduction in the plaice quota for 2008 from 50,261 tonnes (2007) to 26,000 tonnes and a cut in the whiting quota from 23,800 tonnes to 5,000 tonnes. All the organisation's latest advice is available here and you can enjoy its PowerPoint presentation aimed at the European Parliament here. ®
Filling the Goolag Google can't find enough big-brained types to populate the expanding Googleplex Stateside. It made representations to Congress for the number of visas available to foreign IT workers to be boosted. Bill Gates has been beating the drum for years. As if to foreshadow how hungry Google is for new input, we had exclusively spotted its left-field acquisition of multi-core server start-up PeakStream. Ashlee Vance, the man with the scoop, said it shows that the Googlers are willing to buy in any expertise they think they might need in the future, even if it might have been destined for great things on a broader basis. Perhaps there's undiscovered talent in China that can't be hired because of government internet repression. Google, along with MS and Yahoo!, didn't want to participate in Amnesty International's worldwide debate on the subject, however. Pop-ups to beat pop-ups They could probably learn a thing or two from Beijing about impenetrability. With vulnerabilities stacking up, our own Dan Goodin asked whether Google was heading for Windows 95-style depths of security buffoonery. Yahoo! was scrambling to fix ActiveX security holes in its instant messenger software, and Redmond's attempts to protect older versions of Office from Trojans were flagged as useless. One Chinese user reckons Symantec's anti-virus updates are so inept they need suing. Unfortunately for Liu Shihui, legal experts think he's got no chance. In their wisdom, US politicians passed an act to tackle another prong of the malware fork: spyware. Along with new penalties, the Spy Act aims to tackle those irritating pop-ups which collect personal information with...a compulsory pop-up which tells you they're about to do it. You couldn't make it up. Unless you were a politician, because then it would be your job. EU maybe screwed An equally incisive cohort of politicos and legal types in Brussels said they might have a verdict in Microsoft's appeal against anti-trust allegations against its server and media player software. If it loses, Redmond faces a record-breaking fine. We'll definitely know either way by 17 September, but John Oates' contacts around the case are indicating we could get a nod as early as July. Away from past opposition-crushing glories, Microsoft added Linux distibutor Xandros to its roster of buddies in the open source sector, with a Novell-style agreement not to sue for patent infringement, and work on interoperability. Big Blue bullet dodged IBM could have come off much worse in its own long-running spat with regulators. The SEC told it to stop committing fraud. The firm said it hadn't committed any fraud, but would stop doing it anyway. IBM celebrated by acquiring Watchfire, a security firm specialising in web application development tools. Party! IBM's rival in storage, EMC, bought Verid, another security firm, which does knowledge-based authentication. The award for biggest acquisition of the week goes to private equity outfit Silverlake Partners, which agreed to buy networking firm Avaya for $8.2bn, from under the nose of its rivals at Nortel. Pipexcellence Pipex debuted a new website which allowed ex-subscribers to access their accounts again, raising data protection issues. BT told us that broadband users don't want any more speed than the theoretical 24Mbit/s maximum it's set to deliver in 2010/11. It's tried to declare an end to the speed wars, so it can concentrate on pumping more services down the pipes. Siemens obviously didn't get the memo. It trumpeted a record-breaking 1Gbit/s IPTV data stream over plastic fibre, which is many times faster than the fibre being rolled out in the US, Europe, and the Far East, but which BT has so far refused to commit to. At least it won't face competition from the mobile industry for a while. Orange got heat this week when we revealed its new data tariffs are capped at a measly 30MB per month. National program for bickering Fibre's an issue for "UK PLC", according to BT. If there is such a company, it got a new boss this week. The Office of Government Commerce appointed rail suit Nigel Smith as chief executive, just in time to witness the controversy over the office shredding documents related to big money public IT projects. The saga around iSoft, the software outfit at the centre of the daddy of all big money public IT projects, the NHS' NPfIT, is nowhere near done it seems. After CSC tried to block a rescue of the troubled firm last week, iSoft responded on Monday by setting its lawyers on CSC. NHS IT chief Richard Granger told the quarrelsome pair to sort it out or risk losing their fat contracts. Apples need Sun The week in servers got off to a stormy start with Cray raising its revenue alarm. It blamed shipping delays, which in turn kicked off a rumpus over AMD's much speculated-upon Barcelona chips, due in summer. Cray's comments prompted a swift clarification from AMD, who blamed a misunderstanding by a newswire reporter. Barcelona's still on track, we're promised. On a more prosaic note, Sun finally got around to launching some proper mainstream blades. It did manage to get Apple fanboys in a tizz the following day, however, when CEO Jonathan Schwartz let slip during an event for Sun's "Thumper" hybrid storage/server platform that the next OSX would run his Zettabyte File System. And finally... Apparently, UK companies have no IT strategy. In entirely unrelated news, by far the most commented on article ever on The Register touched down on Wednesday. Do you want to get this email from a .co.uk or a .com address? It's vital stuff, and 500 readers have voiced a view so far. Go here to toss your two pence. Or go to the pub instead - ours is a line of powdered lime Bacardi Breezer. More next week. ®
AnalysisAnalysis The long-smouldering debate around allegations of corrupt British arms deals with Saudi Arabia reignited yesterday, as both the Guardian and the Beeb published the results of new investigations.
There may be multiple political/managerial reasons behind a decision to move from Hyperion's Essbase to Microsoft's Analysis Services – not least of which might be the recent purchase of Hyperion by Oracle. Whatever the reason, from a developer's viewpoint, moving a set of multi-dimensional databases from one engine to another is non-trivial. What are your options?
Canadian sawbones performing surgery on a man's legs had a bit of a Star Trek moment when he began oozing "dark greenish-black" blood, the BBC reports. The being in question had developed "compartment syndrome" - "localised tissue/nerve damage because of restricted blood flow", according to The Lancet - in both lower legs, after falling asleep in a sitting position. This necessitated "urgent fasciotomies, limb-saving procedures which involve making surgical incisions to relieve pressure and swelling". The surgeons did not, however, have to consult the Enterprise's computer database to bone up on Vulcan physiology, since the cause of the green blood was found to be high doses of anti-migraine drug sumatriptan. The chap had been taking 200mg of the stuff a day, and this had provoked "sulfhaemoglobinaemia", where sulphur is incorporated into the red blood cells' haemoglobin. The surgery went ahead successfully, and once Mr Spock ditched the sumatriptan, his blood returned to normal. Dr Alana Flexman of St Paul's Hospital in Vancouver explained in The Lancet: "The patient recovered uneventfully, and stopped taking sumatriptan after discharge. When seen five weeks after his last dose, he was found to have no sulfhaemoglobin in his blood." ® Bootnote Thanks to Alan Fitzsimmons for the heads-up.
Group TestGroup Test The desktop PC is a truly versatile animal, capable of running both our business and personal lives as well as entertaining us like nothing else since the television entered our world. Whether you want an all-encompassing budget marvel or a high-end gaming beast, there's a system out there to suit you. It's just a question of finding it...
Phishing kits are helping to dumb down the process of creating fraudulent websites. Back in the day, setting up a bogus facsimile of a banking site required a modicum of programming skills. No more.
Sir Sean Connery will not play Indiana Jones's dad in the forthcoming fourth film of the series, the actor has confirmed. Steven Spielberg is at the helm of the latest installment - slated for a 2008 release - which stars Harrison Ford, Ray Winstone, Cate Blanchett, and John Hurt. Connery, however, says in a statement on his website: "If anything could have pulled me out of retirement, it would have been an Indiana Jones film. But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun." Connery appeared in 1989 in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and last graced the silver screen in 2003's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Since he's been keeping a low profile of late, the thespo thought it better to "make an announcement", the BBC notes. The statement adds: "I love working with Steven and George [Lucas], and it goes without saying that it is an honour to have Harrison as my son. I, do however, have one bit of advice for Junior. Demand that the critters be digital, the cliffs be low, and for goodness sake keep that whip by your side at all times in case you need to escape from the stunt coordinator!" Connery concludes: "This is a remarkable cast, and I can only say, 'Break a leg, everyone'." ®
Convicted cyberstalker Felicity Jane Lowde was arrested in a cybercafe in London's Brick Lane this week after two months on the run. Lowde was convicted, in absentia, by Stratford Magistrate's Court of harassing blogger Rachel North on 2 April this year. A warrant was issued for her arrest, and since then she has been in hiding. North is a survivor of the London bombings of July 2005, and runs a blog where she campaigns for an independent inquiry into the attack. Lowde began her campaign of harassment against North in January 2006. She has variously accused North of exploiting her survivor status to make money and of "deserting the dying". She also left threatening and obscene messages on North's blog and answering machine, and began her own blog where she made defamatory and false allegations against North. After her conviction, Lowde, 41, from Jackson Road in Cutteslowe, Oxford, continued to post false statements, attacking North in her blog. In her blog, North writes about Lowde's arrest: "I don't want to be reminded of Lowde, or associated with her in any way, and all I have ever wanted is for me, my family and friends to be left in peace and for the harassment to end." Police were tipped off about Lowde's whereabouts after North asked bloggers to keep their eyes peeled for her online. According to local paper The Oxford Mail, Lowde was traced via posts she made to the newspaper's comments section. The paper says: "Police have been trying to trace Lowde through her internet usage and asked the Oxford Mail for IP addresses of computers she was believed to be using to post messages on the newspaper's website, www.oxfordmail.net. It is understood someone began communicating with Lowde over the internet this week, allowing officers to trace her to the cybercafe and arrest her." Lowde appeared at Thames Magistrates Court yesterday (Thursday). The Judge noted that she thought it unlikely Lowde would appear if she was granted bail, so remanded her into custody until 28 June, when she will be sentenced at the same court. Lowde faces up to six months behind bars, or a fine of up to £5,000. ®
The scheduled launch of the space shuttle Atlantis (at 23:38pm, GMT) is looking more likely to go ahead as the weather in Florida has slightly improved. The clouds started to clear as NASA technicians were making the last of the pre-flight checks in the final full day before the launch. The Shuttle is loaded with parts for the the International Space Station where it will continue the construction work. This mission will see NASA's astronauts install a new solar array and a rotary joint that will allow the photon-gathering wing to track the sun. Atlantis was originally due to fly in mid-March, but a massive hail storm damaged the external insulation on the fuel tanks, meaning the launch could not go ahead. The insulation prevents ice - a potential launch hazard - from building up on the cryogenic tanks ahead of take off. Engineers counted more than 4,000 dings in the foam insulation, 1,600 of which were so bad they needed to be filled, rather than just sanded out. NASA still has 15 Shuttle missions to fly to the ISS before the craft is retired in 2010. The three month delay caused by the storm damage is a set back, but NASA says it is confident it can still get everything done in time. Despite this being the first Shuttle launch of the year, NASA has not had a quiet 2007, thanks largely to its employees. Firstly, astronaut Lisa Nowak was arrested a charged with attempted kidnapping, after allegedly driving 1,000 miles in a space-nappy to confront a rival in a love-triangle; then a contract employee fatally shot a colleague and held another hostage at the Johnson Space Centre, before finally shooting himself. And let us not forget the train derailment that saw parts of the shuttle's solid rocket boosters take a spill. Against that kind of complexity, dealing with a few dings in some foam insulation must seem like easy work. Wayne Hale, NASA's shuttle program director commented: "Life is full of unexpected events. The real key is having the flexibility to deal with it and the resilience to buck up to adversity and keep going." As well as delivering parts and a construction team, Atlantis will collect Sunita Williams and drop off Clayton Anderson, who will stay aboard for the next six months. He will catch a ride home with the crew of the Shuttle that delivers the European Space Agency's Columbus module in December. ®
Rwanda yesterday unveiled a 250-kilowatt solar plant which ups the nation's 'leccy-producing capacity to 50 megawatts, Reuters reports. The German-backed project, said to be the largest in Africa, makes a modest contribution to the 100 megawatts the country needs "to meet soaring demand that has triggered regular blackouts". Rwanda's hydroelectric plants have struggled to cope, and many businesses get their juice from diesel generators. Energy State Minister Albert Butare declared the solar plant "reliable and very cheap to maintain", adding: "This new installation does not only increase the generation capacity but is also one of the cleanest energy sources. It is the biggest such project in Africa. There is no comparison on record." Rwanda's energy strategy includes rolling out more solar energy in remote rural areas, and using large methane deposits under Lake Kivu to turn on the lights. A gas-driven four megawatt pilot plant is nearly ready to roll, to be followed by a 25-megawatt facility. Some experts reckon the lake's reserves might one day provide 700 megawatts, Reuters notes. ®
Controversial Euro satnav project Galileo should receive more taxpayer cash to get it moving again, European ministers have concluded. But lengthy wrangles over funding channels and control lie ahead. Reuters reports that the European Union's current German presidency revealed the decision earlier today. Galileo was originally supposed to be funded in large part by private-sector firms, who would recoup their investment by charging for paid location services. But the corporate sponsors had grave doubts over whether anyone would pay Galileo fees when the American defense department's Global Positioning System (GPS) can be used for free. The European Commission (EC), the hardcore permanent structure of the European Union, has suggested that EU member-state armed forces would pay for the higher precision and better signal that Galileo could offer. This has appeared doubtful to many, as high-precision military "p-code" GPS is routinely offered by the US to its NATO allies. Thus, most EU forces already have military-grade satnav without paying a penny. As for civilian customers, most are quite happy with the free GPS signal, in some cases augmented using so-called Differential-GPS ground stations to reduce the error. There was originally an expectation that civil aviation would pay large sums for Galileo-driven precise-nav solutions, but for various reasons this market hasn't appeared. Corporate Galileo partners have also mooted the idea of EU states forcing emergency services to use paid Galileo, but the idea proved unpopular. Galileo really only makes sense to Europeans who critically need satnav and who also want the ability to operate without US approval. That could include a future independent EU military, a basis for which exists at present in embryonic form. As it happens, the EU Military Staff is to conduct its second-ever military exercise, MILEX 07, next week (pdf). It's no surprise, then, that the EC is pushing hard for Galileo's taxpayer-funded forward progress. Great-power status in today's troubled world requires a nuclear industry, a space-rocket industry and, seemingly, independent satnav. The US and Russia have all those things, and the EC doesn't want a future United Europe left in fourth place behind China. Equally predictably, the more Atlanticist EU nations - according to Reuters' sources - while agreeing to public Galileo funds, are manoeuvring against the eurocrats at the commission. The wire service says "Britain, Germany and the Netherlands wanted individual states to help plug the shortfall by making contributions to the European Space Agency budget - an option they believe would limit Commission influence on the project and broaden the scope for industrial applications." The UK and its allies would no doubt like to see Galileo tied in closely with the existing GPS, cementing NATO together rather than pulling it apart. As Reuters says, this would make civilian applications easier as existing GPS architecture could be re-used. The EC - and France - might well have military independence from the USA as the primary consideration. Concrete plans for Galileo's path ahead can't be expected until autumn, apparently. The Reuters report is here. ®
Microsoft has bought data management firm Stratature to provide improvements to its SQL server, business intelligence, and SharePoint products. The Georgia-based company makes "Master Data Management" products to improve business databases. It collects company data from different places and puts it into one standardised system to make accessing information easier.
The world's tigers face "ecological extinction" due to a combination of "increased poaching, habitat destruction, and poor conservation efforts by governments", Reuters reports. That's according to a report entitled "The Fate of Wild Tigers" in the June issue of BioScience. The gloomy reading notes that loss of habitat and "persistent killing" of the cats had "left areas such as the Caspian region and the Indonesian islands of Bali and Java devoid of tigers". In India, isolated populations now occupy just seven per cent of the territory they enjoyed a century ago. The country, in common with others, was "inadequately implementing conservation policies and mismanaging funds set aside for the survival of the big cats", the report notes. It warns: "While the tiger as a wild species will most likely not go extinct within the next half-century, its current trajectory is catastrophic. If this trend continues, the current range will shrink even further, and wild populations will disappear from many more places, or dwindle to the point of ecological extinction." The biggest threat to the world's tigers may be China's appetite for exotic cat, the report states. The country plans to lift its 1993 ban on the domestic trade of tiger parts, a move "sure to re-ignite interest among more than a billion consumers in emerging economies". Part of the solution is, says the report's co-author, WWF-International's chief scientist Eric Dinerstein, to "link the small, isolated tiger areas by protected corridors, to allow for more space, movement and breeding of the animals". The report also calls for Asian countries to covene a "tiger summit" with a view to "securing a global pledge to protect the wild heritage of Asia". While tigers struggle for survival, other cats are faring no better. As we reported in April, hunters in Russia's Far East killed one of just seven female Amur leopards remaining in the wild, reducing the entire population to just 25 to 34 individuals. On a brighter note, the WWF in the same month announced that the Siberian tiger population had "finally stabilised", up to an estimated 480 to 520 cats from a 1940s low of 40-odd individuals. ®
Morse has confirmed details of its demerger and the separate listing of its mobile banking business Monitise on London's Alternative Investment Market (AIM).
Sailors could soon be able to call home from the middle of the ocean on an ordinary GSM mobile phone, thanks to a tie-up between Blue Ocean Wireless (BOW) and Inmarsat-reseller Stratos Comms. The companies have linked up with an as-yet unnamed GSM operator to put small GSM basestations, called picocells, onto merchant ships. Calls to or from the crew are backhauled over the ship's existing satellite connection - via Inmarsat, in this case. The system will also support SMS and data, the companies said. Sailors will need to buy a pre-paid SIM to use the on-board network, according to Dublin-based BOW. The current plan is that the picocell will automatically turn itself off if it detects a land-based network, at which point the seafarers will need to swap back to their existing SIM cards. There's no word yet on what calls and text messages sent from mid-ocean might cost, but a BOW spokesman hinted that they might not be as expensive as the public GSM networks that are already available on some ferries, for example. He said that with good seafarers in short supply, systems such as this are installed by shipowners not to make a profit - like the ferry-based ones - but to keep the crew happy and improve staff retention. "Crew are more picky now," he said. "They won't sail on a vessel that doesn't have email access, for example." It also cuts the cost of running today's satphone-based crew calling schemes, and enables the shipping company and its customers to keep in touch with its cargo, he said. Most containers already have GPRS-capable RFID tags attached. As well as location reporting, these can issue alarms if the container doors are opened, say, or if refrigerated goods don't stay refrigerated. Currently, the tags simply 'go dark' at sea, but with a GSM cell on board, they could provide reports anywhere. The system is based on a picocell and gateway device from another Irish company, Altobridge, and has already been trialled on two container ships. Blue Ocean said it hopes to sell similar systems to the owners of luxury yachts and other sea-going ships, as well.®
Distributed software development specialist CollabNet has released what it claims is the first distributed development platform for the Eclipse integrated development environment (IDE). California-based CollabNet says its Desktop Eclipse Edition brings enterprise quality management tools to open source distributed development.
The Department of Work and Pensions' latest bid to salvage a viable system from the Child Support Agency catastrophe, the Child Maintenance and Enforcement Commission (CMEC), adds several extra and potentially draconian sticks to beat recalcitrant parents with. We have a 'name and shame' web site, credit blacklisting,* monitored curfews (possible including tagging), and confiscation of passport and/or ID card. Which is a particularly interesting one, from a joined-up government point of view. The Child Maintenance & Other Payments Bill, published this week, includes powers for the CMEC to disqualify an individual from "holding or obtaining travel authorisation", with a travel authorisation being defined as a UK passport or as "an ID card... that... has been issued to a British citizen." The definition itself is taken from the ID Cards Act. Register readers are bound to have already spotted the loopholes here that will allow defaulting parents who happen not to be British citizens and/or who are members of the armed forces to carry on clubbing in Ibiza. And no doubt the government (and possibly the Daily Mail will spot these in the fullness of time. But you'll also have spotted the snag with confiscating an ID card simply in order to block overseas travel; an ID card will be used, the government tells us, "in daily life" - it will "simplify the process of proving your identity, making day-to-day transactions easier and safer". And it will also be pretty well compulsory for a broad range of day to day activities if the government gets its way, not least of these being getting health care. So although this is by no means the first instance of the government blocking travel as punishment/coercion (CMEC will also have powers to remove driving licences), it will probably be one of the first examples of the government switching your life off as part of the deal. In some cases this will probably be deliberate, but in this case it's more likely collateral damage. The Bill is also notable for the extent to which it attempts to claw back the costs of the enforcement from the defaulter. There are numerous provisions governing this at the various stages of enforcement, the ones governing curfews being a particularly interesting example. Here, a regime of a similar look and feel to a tagged/monitored community sentence or early release would be financed by the target individual, and the government is in a sense following the innovative lead of China by making the victim 'buy their own bullets'. This quite possibly will not work, however, given that if one is being punished for not paying child support, one might as well not pay for the punishment while one's about it. Back on the joined up government front, if it is the case that the government's planned secure borders programme actually works, keeping a tally of everybody who's coming into the country and everybody who's leaving, confiscation of the "travel authorisation" is entirely unnecessary, because the system knows that the target individual has had his or her right to travel withdrawn. Right? The Home Office this week showed similarly thunderous confidence in its own roadmaps by announcing plans for a 'sex-offenders style register' for convicted terrorists. Aside from being a big help to tabloid editors short of an outraged headline ('Poison bomb fiend housed yards from school gate!), and to pitchfork-toting mobs strapped for recreational activity, this list is intended to make it possible to block travel after the individual has been released from prison. But if e-borders works, then you don't need this list either, do you? We assume the terrorist offender list will not cover Northern Ireland retrospectively, and therefore is unlikely to bear a disturbing resemblance to the Stormont internal phone directory. * According to Work & Pensions Secretary John Hutton, "If you're not paying maintenance for your kids as you should be doing, it's going to affect your credit rating so you won't get the credit card, you won't get the loan, you're not going to find it easy to get the mortgage." The connection between the CMEC and your credit rating is not however as direct as the spin might be understood to mean. Effectively the individual's credit rating would be affected by an adverse County Court Judgment (as is already the case), and failure to pay to CMEC would commence a process which could result in a CCJ. There is some wording in the Bill that appears to be intended to make this process somewhat easier for CMEC, but essentially the regime appears one that today's habitual debtor/bankrupt will be entirely familiar with. ®
Mac accessory and upgrade specialist Newer Technology has rolled out a battery conditioner designed to re-tune MacBook and MacBook Pro power packs.
The UK government has made a statement offering cautious and qualified support for the adoption of open standards for government documents, but warns that there is no such thing as a document storage panacea. The statement forms part of Number 10's response to a petition calling on the government to promote the use of Open Document Format within its ranks.
Friday again, folks, and you, our very own chattering masses, have been pressing enter like crazy. We'll start with an issue that seemed to unite us all for a few days. The London 2012 Olympics logo was launched on Monday to universal derision. Opinions were divided over what it was meant to be and what it actually looks like, but not whether it is a load of rubbish: Does anyone else see the logo as an abstract representation of a big haired woman (possibly Macy Gray) giving someone a blow job? ian Probably the most popular choice (albeit with some variation in who is performing the service), perhaps unsurprisingly given where all your minds immediately tend to go. Shame on you all. It looks like a picture of vomit, as rendered by Picasso. Parmesan If you squint it looks like a fat man with an afro (on the right) squatting to give 'hand relief' to a thinner man on the left. censored I'll go for random bird poo .... (even if a bit more colourful). James Clearly this depicts London taking it up the arse from a man with the Olympic logo on his head. This probably refers to the fact that Londoners will be paying for the Olympics for a generation. Ashley Stevens It's a dog with one leg cocked up. Peeing on the folks that paid. Keith Turner And we'll finish this one up with some good old fashioned ranting: another piece of crap winds up earning the creator a tidy sum, All because the jerk who commisioned it and the assholes invited to the unveiling are afraid to speak their minds and tell it like it is. This Wolff Olins mob should have been told "it's shite, do it again" but no lets make up some flowery speech so nobody get offended, hey maybe someone will like it. Bah!!! I am offended by this eyesore and looking at it, it means absolutely fuck all to me. Have we become so used to lies and political correctness we simply can't see what's right and true anymore? Campbell Without a doubt the single worst logo I think I have ever seen. It it desperately wanting to be 'hip' or 'street' or 'urban' becos dat's wat da kidz wan. Innit? It's embarrassing. If this is what they've come up with (especially after the older one which was perfectly fine), I dread to think what's going to happen at the opening ceremony. Shallow, infantile, out-of-date nonsense. Why can't our capital city warrant a capital "L" for heaven's sake. Utter, utter toss. Simon Oxlade Google Maps' new Street View feature continues to delight and inform, leading presumably to considerably reduced productivity. We're all together in the search for that elusive nipple snap: I think this is uber funny! It's made my day. Forget reality t.v, the world will be hooked on their streets, watching their neighbours.. hmm maybe this is not such a great idea after all. Emma Yes we are all doing it now... no more looking for blackhawk helicopters we are looking for the best whale tail on the block Andrew Dodd A company owned by the founders of The Pirate Bay is hosting a site that defends paedophilia. A lively and pleasantly restrained debate resulted over the morality and legality of this: I haven't seen this site, and I am not inclined to. The hosts are however right that if it is only a place of discussion and no illegal material is allowed it should be allowed. If we are going to learn how to deal with this issue, we are going to have to start looking for the root causes, and encourage people to seek help. But this won't happen as long as the ignorant masses want to bring back public lynching. N1AK First off, there is no mention of actual pornographic images being hosted, as I'm sure the moment that happened, PRQ would drop the site like a hot potato and probably report them. Second, there's the idea that by hosting their website, there is in essence a repository of identities of people who would be watched carefully, thus potentially preventing actual instances of child abuse. It is also completely within the realm of plausibility that their commentaries on the websites fall under free speech. As long as they are expressing opinions (as loathsome an opinion as that may be), they are not breaking any laws. If PRQ wants to maintain an image of being an impartial host, they have to permit this sort of thing - and then they can point out that Pirate Bay isn't as bad as this one other site they're hosting, and the cops aren't on their backs about the other site... Michael Martin A British builder was sentenced to two months for celebrating his upcoming marriage in the traditional way, by cavorting naked in a fountain in Slovakia, outside an American embassy. Or maybe that's just the tradition here at Vulture Central. At any rate, raucous drunken stag dos are apparently a pet peeve for a number of you, as your comments indicated: And a damn good thing too. Perhaps we can have some of the same laws over here? Neil Barnes Can't say I have a lot of sympathy. If someone came to the UK on a stag, got slaughtered and then got arrested for dancing nude in Trafalgar Square, Mr Plod and the chattering classes would have them off to the nearest HMP, before they had sobbered up! Rules is rules, no matter how unreasonable they may seem they are still somebody else's and you need to remember that when you are under their jurisdiction! George Johnson Do I have any sympathy? Nope... Comes from the same gene pool as the idiot who decided to dance on my car roof "for fun" duing the last world cup... Mark "Stokes, 22, put a brave face of things, vowing to hit the town this weekend for her hen night." Perhaps she'll get 2 months too. Problem solved. But don't fret, folks. The wedding will go ahead as planned, for our plucky builder has been released following a paternal apology and timely Foreign Office intervention. It seems we still have some of that diplomatic muscle left. A bunch of Dutch whizz-kids (yes, we're surprised too) have cooked up something the world has missed for far too long: powdered alcohol. Alcoholic powder? So what happens if you snort it? Adrian Jones I'm sure someone'll try it quite quickly. We'll probably run something on the results, if they're amusingly painful enough. I'm no scientist or anything, but am I right in assuming you can bung two, three or more sachets into the same glass of water to increase the strength? Gavin Morgan Ditto. Not everyone approved though: That's all we need, another vehicle to help more hysterical adolescent junkies get their alcohol fix. It would seem that the main interest in this new product is that is contains a popular drug and not that it tastes particularly good. Unsurprising, I suppose, in societies in cultural decline. Anon Oi! We're not adolescents. Well, we're convinced. We've put in an order for 60 cases of the stuff for the upcoming Reg Omnihack Wilderness Survival Corporate Team-Building Strategy Bender (coming soon to a desert near you). But until then we'll have to settle for the old-fashioned liquid kind. Things aren't so bad really. See you next week. ®
IBM/Serco is at the centre of a row over Bradford Council's plans to axe more than 400 jobs. Public services union Unison said the council had made the decision as a result of "spiralling" computer systems costs.
Kelway has acquired rival UK reseller Elcom ITG for an undisclosed sum. Elcom will operate as a separate brand under Kelway, which expects to see a group turnover of more than £100m post-acquisition.
Shares of Infinera gained 52 per cent during its first trading day, giving the optical-networking gear maker the best tech IPO debut in 2007. The Sunnyvale-based company's stock closed yesterday at $19.71, a 51.6 per cent leap from the $13 per share initial public offering price. Approximately 14 million shares were sold during the trading day.
Paris Hilton has been sent packing back to jail to complete her stint in chokey for violating probation on a drink-drive rap. The heiress was not initially in Los Angeles County Superior Court this morning to face Judge Sauer, having apparently decided to "appear by phone". Sauer, who originally handed down the sentence and ordered that Hilton do the full stretch, was having none of it, and demanded her presence in the courtroom. Cue much pandemonium, with Hilton cuffed and led to an awaiting vehicle to carry her to her dateline with destiny amid shameless scenes of press frenzy as TV helicopters and paparazzi battled to record the historic moment for posterity. According to Reuters, once she finally got herself before the beak, she was rapidly sent back to the can, exiting the court in cuffs shouting "Mom, mom, it's not right". For those of you who may have missed the highly-entertaining rumpus, Hilton was released on Thursday from Century Regional Detention Centre in Lynwood, California, for unspecified "medical reasons", having completed just three days of her stretch. She was fitted with a GPS ankle bracelet and confined to within 2,000 to 3,000 feet of her West Hollywood home. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department spokesman Steve Whitmore explained : "After extensive consultation with medical personnel, it was decided this reassignment should be done." He added that Hilton would be confined to quarters for 40 days, after which she would have "fulfilled her debt to society". However, the Los Angeles City Attorney was none too impressed with Hilton's release, and filed a petition "demanding LA's Superior Court to show why Sheriff Lee Baca should not be held in contempt of court for releasing Ms Hilton". Jeffrey Isaacs, head of the office's Criminal Branch, said: "The decision whether or not Ms Hilton should be released early and placed on electronic monitoring should be made by Judge Sauer, and not the Sheriff's Department." Hilton was duly ordered back to court for Judge Sauer's verdict on her "reassignment". Sadly for the lachrymose socialite, Sauer decided to "dereassign" her back to the slammer. ®
The European Parliament has fashioned a wreath of caveats it hopes will brighten up legislative measures designed to raise biometric borders and erect a network of biometric controls for police across the continent. The elected chamber is celebrating at least one certain success today: the official ratification of a compromise it struck with the German Presidency and member states in the European Council over the Visa Information System, which promises to create the world's largest biometric database to monitor flows of immigrants into Europe. MEPs also gave their approval for two sets of proposed amendments to legislation over which they have no authority, but on which the council has asked for their tuppenny's: the Prüm mechanism for European police forces to share DNA, fingerprints, and other data, and the proposal to give the police much broader authority to share data in police and judicial matters. These two proposals are so closely related they have turned into a bit of a hash that has left countries such as the UK feeling a bit sore and confused. The data protection bag has been gathering dust since 2005 because, according to British MPs, member states have been so excited about the potential for technology to improve policing that they've neglected fundamental human rights. Hence Prüm, the dubious democratic legitimacy of which has also ruffled a few feathers. Taking their lead from the European Data Protection Supervisor, MEPs are pressing the council to make sure the Prüm initiative respects the "basic principles of law and fundamental rights". MEP Fausto Correia, rapporteur for the consultation, recommended the legislation should be trimmed to exclude the sharing of data about people's "racial and ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, party or trade union membership, sexual orientation or health" - with the vague exception when it is "absolutely necessary". It is also proposed that police delete data they've got from another country's force no later than two years beyond its useful shelf-life. But it does not - indeed cannot - do anything about the charges against the legitimacy of Prüm, nor suggestions its implications and uses haven't been thought out properly. And, bizarrely, the same goes for the proposed data protection legislation, which is supposed to make police data plans respect fundamental human rights. As they stand, they don't. MEP Martine Roure has issued a raft of proposals aimed at improving police data protections. These have previously fallen on deaf ears. The extent of Roure's proposals shows just how feeble the measure is in its current form. She wants criminal sanctions for police who break data protection laws, oversight of data sharing by independent authorities, the right of redress for people who become the subjects of police databases, a record kept of the reliability of intelligence collected for police purposes, independent control of data sharing about people not deemed a security risk, regular verification of data, and a prohibition on the collection of data about people's "racial or ethnic origin, political opinions, religious or philosophical beliefs, trade union membership and health or sex life." Phew. And that's just an excerpt. At least the VIS legislation, for which a compromise has already been agreed, is now a shoe-in. It awaits just the vote of the council in a fortnight's time before the European Commission can pull the modesty screens back on the system it has already been busy building in the anticipation that the legislation would indeed be a shoe-in. ®
LettersLetters My recent article 'Why Microsoft innovation is only Surface deep' prompted a number of Reg readers to pick up their keyboards in anger. I had anticipated knee-jerk claims of gratuitous "MS bashing", but these aside, the feedback has mostly been supportive.
Mix one hint from Google's Eric Schmidt with a two-word non-denial from Apple's Steve Jobs, and what do you get? A prediction from Wired blogger Fred Vogelstein that Jobs will announce a partnership between the two companies at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco next week.
Yahoo! bug crushers have plugged a serious hole in Yahoo! Messenger that made it possible for bad guys to remotely take control of a user's machine. The update became available less than 24 hours after an anonymous hacker posted proof-of-concept code that demonstrated how the vulnerability could be exploited.
The row continues between eBay and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. As the world awaits the seventh and final Potter tome, the Indian Express reports that eBay has filed papers with the High Court in New Delhi, claiming that Rowling and her representatives are causing the company "immense humiliation and harassment." The two parties have long been at odds over the sale of pirated Potter e-books on eBay India, the auction site formerly known as Baazee.com. In the fall of 2004, after spotting auction listings for unauthorized e-books, Rowling’s representatives filed a civil suit against eBay and four book sellers. eBay promptly removed the listings, but three years later, the court has yet to resolve the case. With its recent court application, eBay claims the Rowling camp has misrepresented the case in continued conversations with the media. In essence, Rowling says that the court issued an injunction against eBay, but eBay says otherwise. "J K Rowling and her representatives are spreading misinformation about two stay orders," reads the court application. "The distorted manner in which wide publicity is given in the media - print and electronic - has caused immense harassment and humiliation to eBay and also damaged its goodwill and reputation." Update On May 31, the High Court in New Delhi issued an order that side-stepped eBay's application. In the 15-page order, Judge A.K. Sikri acknowledged eBay's complaint, but said he would not rule on such matters until the case goes to trial. "It is not necessary for me to deal with other arguments," he said, referring to eBay's complaint and other side-squabbles between the company and Rowling's representatives. "I refrain from making much comments on the other arguments as the matter will have to be finally gone into after the evidence is led by both the parties." "He has denied the application by eBay simply by side-stepping it," says Todd Bonder, an IP lawyer with the international law firm Rosenfeld, Meyer, and Susman. Rowling's counsel did not respond to requests for comment.®