11th > June > 2007 Archive

IBM

IBM Jazzes up Eclipse

IBM expanding its backing for Eclipse with the release of an open source application lifecycle management (ALM) platform serving its Rational tools. IBM is today expected to throw open code to Jazz, a two-year internal IBM project geared towards improving collaboration between application development team members working in distributed environments.
Gavin Clarke, 11 Jun 2007
Adobe

Adobe turns Apollo into AIR

Adobe Systems today lets loose beta code for Apollo, a software developer platform that runs web applications such as Flash, HTML and Javascript on a browser and integrates them with applications running on a desktop PC. The outcome of this software mind-meld will be, what some commentators are already calling 'WebTop applications'. Adobe has a different name in mind. It is jettisoning the Apollo moniker in favor of a new official name: Adobe Integrated Runtime (AIR). This means that Apollo developers are all AIR-heads, and that can't be a bad thing.
Gavin Clarke, 11 Jun 2007
2

RIM's growth to 'outstrip Apple'

Reg Technology PanelReg Technology Panel A little while ago, a Reg Reader poll seemed to indicate that the Microsoft threat was going to clip the wings of RIM in the enterprise mobile messaging and applications space. At that time, RIM was still suffering the effects of a legal spat over alleged patent infringements, and we were picking up a lot of anecdotal feedback from various vendors and service providers supporting the view that RIM's dominance was coming to an end. Maybe some of this was wishful thinking on the part of those who complain about the BlackBerry business model, in which RIM has held its own with the mobile operator community and generally maintained its position at a premium price point across the market as a whole. However, as RIM continues to stride ahead off the back of a string of new product releases (see here, here and here), there are no indications of a slowdown in its business. In fact, in a research note we just received from TD Newcrest (a division of TD Securities Inc), financial analyst Chris Umiastowski said: "RIM's expected growth is far higher than Apple's. We are aware that many investors look to Apple as a comparable 'growth' company to RIM. Exhibit 2 shows that RIM appears to be outgrowing Apple significantly." Here is Chris' chart to illustrate the point: And there appears to be no shortage of evidence that the BlackBerry is still in demand – just look around you on any commuter train and there'll usually be someone tapping into a BlackBerry within a few rows of where you are sitting. With all this in mind, we thought it was time for another check of what's going in readers' organisations with regard to mobile email use, and other forms of mobile solutions. So, if you have a few minutes, we'd be grateful if you could let us know about your own activities and plans in our latest mobile barometer survey here. ®
Dale Vile, 11 Jun 2007
5

VMWare offers Windows-on-Mac tool at half price

VMWare's Windows-on-Mac application, Fusion, will go on sale in August, the virtualisation technology specialist announced today. Order it now and you'll get the software at half price, the company said.
Tony Smith, 11 Jun 2007
Linux
4

These LiPS are made for talking ... and texting ... and ...

Writing a software app for mobile phones can be an frustrating experience. What's sauce on one handset, may be poison on another. For compatability across phones, manufacturers and cellcos remains an elusive goal. Common mobile development was long the promise of Java, as well as Symbian. But the greater the freedom that handset manufacturers enjoy the less compatible the software will be. You can have a completely compatible set of APIs (application programming interfaces), but if every phone has a different screen size and processor speed then applications will still have to be ported between them.
Bill Ray, 11 Jun 2007
Redhat logo
3

Red Hat makes a security bundle with Symantec

Red Hat last week continued its appliance assault via a partnership with Symantec. The companies have crafted a pair of software bundles meant to give Linux customers easier access to high-end security features. Customers can pick from pre-tested packages that included Red Hat Enterprise Linux or the Red Hat Application Stack with Symantec Critical System Protection. As you might expect, the packages are aimed at small- to mid-sized business that could use some help securing their data centers with relative ease.
Ashlee Vance, 11 Jun 2007
channel
9

Supermicro knocks big boys with Superblades

Supermicro appears to have outclassed the Tier 1 server vendors with its latest blade design. Unveiled at Computex, the SuperBlade system holds 10 blades in a 7U chassis. That compares favorably with Sun Microsystems' latest blade chassis which boasts 10 blades in a 10U chassis. It also stacks up well against HP's c-Class chassis which can hold 8 full height and 16 half-height blades in 10U.
Ashlee Vance, 11 Jun 2007
36

C of E blasts 'sacrilegious' Sony shoot-'em-up

The Church of England has become rather hot under the dog collar after it learned that one of the locations aliens have chosen to launch their invasion of Earth in the PlayStation 3 shoot-'em-up Resistance: Fall of Man is modelled on Manchester Cathedral.
Tony Smith, 11 Jun 2007
7

Robots en route to Dublin car parks

Irish drivers could soon come face to face with powerful robots. There's no need to worry though, they only want to park your car. Sky Parks Projects has developed the Sky Parks Robotic Parking Systems (SRPS), a parking system that uses autonomous robots and lifts to park and retrieve cars. These car parks are designed to make parking a simpler procedure for drivers. SRPS uses robots to collect cars from a parking module before moving horizontally in each parking level and vertically using lifts until the car is delivered to a parking space. The same system is used to retrieve the vehicle and the car is always delivered facing the exit. Despite sounding like something out of an episode of the Jetsons, there is a practical motivation behind the development of SRPS. "The rationale behind it is to more effectively use space in car parking," said Tony Corcoran, managing director of Sky Parks. "The system can fit more than twice as many cars in the same space as a traditional car park." SRPS removes the need for driveways and ramps meaning the floor area and the volume of the parking station itself can be more efficiently used. Sky Parks has already fitted the system into car parks in Australia, Hungary and Scotland. Last month the system was fitted into the Cartier head office in Paris. The technology used by the SRPS has been around for 10 years and Corcoran told ENN the time is right for Irish developers to implement the system. "It is eminently suitable for many locations, particularly in Dublin where space is at a premium," he said. The new robotic system is designed to give car owners more peace of mind by providing extra security to their vehicles. There is no public access to cars and the risk of accidents such as fender benders and scraping is reduced. The SRPS can carry vehicles of up to three tonnes; meaning people carriers and other large vehicles can avail of the system. Sky Parks is a UK-based firm and the SRPS is a €20m development. SRPS was first designed by Swedish engineers at the beginning of the 1990s and the first pilot scheme of 124 spaces was built in Hallsberg, Sweden in 1991. After designing and building several more Sky Parks systems throughout the world, manufacturing moved from Sweden to the UK in 2001, and the latest systems have all been shipped from the UK. Sky Parks have recently opened offices in Dublin and Dubai. © 2007 ENN
Emmet Ryan, 11 Jun 2007
Warning Speed Camera

Quova tracks mobile net users

Mobile internet users can now prove their location to a website or remote network service, according to geolocation specialist Quova. Quova has developed downloadable applets which enable a laptop or smartphone to locate itself, for example by picking up the MAC addresses of local Wi-Fi APs, or the cellular base-stations in the area.
Bryan Betts, 11 Jun 2007
7

FCC's ban on 'fleeting expletives' ruled unconstitutional

US television regulator the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) may not have the right to police American airwaves, a court has ruled. The ruling is a blow to a George W Bush-led clampdown on on-air swearing. The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in New York has said that an indecency finding in 2006 against television network Fox Broadcasting over two separate live swearing incidents went too far. It also questioned the basis of a 2004 FCC policy revision targeting "fleeting" swearing. The FCC's policing of "indecent" speech stems from section 1464 of the United States Code which provides that: "[w]hoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both." The FCC's authority to regulate the broadcast medium is limited by the Communications Act, which prohibits the FCC from engaging in censorship, but it has authority to impose penalties for violations. The commission has long applied its own definition of indecent speech: "Indecent speech is language that describes, in terms patently offensive as measured by contemporary community standards for the broadcast medium, sexual or excretory activities and organs. Such indecent speech is actionable when broadcast at times of the day when there is a reasonable risk that children may be in the audience." However, it also had a policy that a "fleeting expletive" would not be actionable. Fleeting swearing is the one-off, brief use of swearing, usually in a live broadcast. That policy changed in 2004, after a speech by Bono at the Golden Globe Awards in 2002. Accepting an award, the U2 frontman said: "This is really, really, fucking brilliant. Really, really great." The expletive was not repeated, but the FCC took the view that it violated the rules on indecency. The FCC's policy change on swearing is seen in the US as a reflection of President Bush's views and the Court attacked its constitutional basis. The Court said that the FCC's "new policy sanctioning 'fleeting expletives' is arbitrary and capricious...we are doubtful that by merely proffering a reasoned analysis for its new approach to indecency and profanity, the FCC can adequately respond to the constitutional and statutory challenges raised by the networks". Fox was found to be in breach of the revised FCC rule in two incidents, one involving singer Cher, the other involving socialite turned TV personality Nicole Ritchie. Both incidents took place in live, music-related programmes. No penalty followed because the incidents predated the 2004 rule change. In her acceptance speech at the 2002 Billboard Music Awards, Cher had said: "People have been telling me I'm on the way out every year, right? So fuck 'em." When presenting the 2003 Billboard Music Awards, Richie had said: "Have you ever tried to get cow shit out of a Prada purse? It's not so fucking simple." Fox, backed by other networks, mounted a legal challenge to the FCC's decision, claiming that the FCC had breached the US Constitution's first amendment, which guarantees the right to free speech. The court said that it agreed that the action was unconstitutional, but its ruling was restricted to the specific FCC rule change, saying that that banning of "fleeting" swearing was against the law. The FCC is considering a Supreme Court appeal, and the constitutional element of the case makes acceptance of it by the Supreme Court more likely than it would be without any constitutional claim. "I'm disappointed in the court's ruling," FCC chairman Kevin Martin told the Washington Post. "I think the commission had done the right thing in trying to protect families from that kind of language, and I think it's unfortunate that the court in New York has said that this kind of language is appropriate on TV." The FCC has been clamping down on swearing on television more vigorously than previously in the past four years. Last year it requested that Congress increase the maximum fines it can levy for indecency more than tenfold. Congress acceded to the request to increase the maximum fine from $32,000 to $325,000. The Parents Television Council said that the ruling "cleared the way for networks to use the f-word and s-word in front of children at any time of the day". The Court addressed that claim in its ruling, though, saying that this had not been the case before the FCC changed its approach. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related links The UK's Broadcasting Code The UK's rules on offensive content in broadcasts
OUT-LAW.COM, 11 Jun 2007
3

Shuttle docks with ISS after 'almost flawless' launch

The Space Shuttle Atlantis has docked with the International Space Station (ISS) after an "almost flawless" launch last week. With the launch and delicate docking procedures out of the way, NASA has turned its attention to life aboard the ISS, and setting up for the first space walk. Atlantis, shortly after docking with the ISS. The shuttle carried with it a new truss section for the ISS, and a new crew member, Clayton Anderson, to replace Sunita Williams who has just completed a six month tour aboard the station. Anderson has now replaced Williams in the ISS's crew rotation schedule. Williams attracted plenty of attention during her stay on the ISS: she completed the Boston Marathon strapped to a treadmill, and set a new women's world record (22 hours, 27 minutes) for the most time spacewalking. The first spacewalk is scheduled for today (Monday). The main truss segment will be attached by the shuttle's robotic arm before astronauts John "Danny" Olivas and Jim Reilly go outside to sort out the details. The pair have spent the night in the airlock in preparation for the walk. Two further spacewalks are planned for Wednesday and Friday. A further walk may have to be added to fix a gap in the shuttle's thermal blanket. At a news conference shortly after the launch, NASA mission managers said a section of Atlantis' blanket had come loose during the launch, leaving a four inch gap in the protection it provides. However, the area that is exposed is not considered to pose a great risk to the Shuttle and its crew during re-entry. For one thing, it doesn't get as hot as other areas: "only" around 1,000 degrees. And according to the Houston Chronicle, thermal blankets have come unstitched on other shuttle flights, and thermal tiles have been lost in the same area without causing any problems. John Shannon, chairman of the mission management team, said at a news conference: "It's not a great deal of concern right now, but there's a lot of work to be done. Other than that, the vehicle is very clean." Engineers will now run simulations of the stresses of re-entry to determine whether or not the area needs to be repaired. The crew has a couple of options if it does: they can trim off any loose material and tuck it all back in under a tile, or they could glue a protective plate over the area. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 11 Jun 2007
10

HTC Touch Window Mobile 6 smart phone

ReviewReview Apple's iPhone: still unavailable but nonetheless casting an enormous shadow over the smart-phone business. How, rival manufacturers ask, can we possibly respond? If HTC's new flagship phone, the Windows Mobile 6-based Touch, is anything to go by, the answer is imitation, not innovation.
Tony Smith, 11 Jun 2007
2

AMD 'Bobcat' to challenge Intel next-gen UMPC platform

AMD will next year launch a processor specifically designed for ultra-mobile PCs (UMPCs), the chip maker revealed last week at the Computex show in Taipei.
Tony Smith, 11 Jun 2007
globalisation
1

Keep backup simple and do it well

CommentComment There is really nothing much to backing up data - or there shouldn't be. The trouble is there is so much of it to back up these days and, with 24/7 working, no longer an opportunity just to shut down until the job is finished. Then, for a large enterprise at least, there is the possibility of gathering data across a large network which includes WAN as well as LAN connection.
Peter Williams, 11 Jun 2007
3

Congressman seeks exemption for games that mix skill and chance

GIGSE 2007GIGSE 2007 Two more pieces of legislation designed to reform the American gaming market found their way into Congress last Thursday.
Burke Hansen, 11 Jun 2007
channel
13

Large-scale DOS attack menace continues to grow

You may or may not have picked up the news that Estonia came under cyber-attack in early May. Cyber attacks, usually consisting of multiple denial of service attacks, are pretty bloodless really. You don't see buildings reduced to piles of rubble or dead bodies strewn across the street. There's nothing to take photos of. There's only economic damage; websites that cannot be accessed and transactions that cannot take place.
Robin Bloor, 11 Jun 2007
2

Next-gen Palm Treo spied on web... twice

Pictures of what is claimed to be Palm's next-gen Treo smart phone have begun to appear on the web to reveal a device that looks a lot like Creative's Zen Vision:M media player.
Tony Smith, 11 Jun 2007
2

Iran releases detained telecoms workers

Iran has released three Nokia Siemens workers who were briefly detained by the country after they went on a fishing trip near a disputed island in the Arabian Gulf. The three Finnish nationals arrived safely back in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, where they live and work, after their weekend fishing trip strayed into Iran's territorial waters near the island of Abu Musa, which is claimed by both the UAE and Iran. Nokia Siemens spokesman Barry French said the men were treated well during their detention. The intervention of the Finnish government helped to secure the men's release, which was delayed due to poor weather in the region. "The men were released on Wednesday but were stuck on the island of Abu Musa because of a tropical storm," French told AP. Nokia Siemens declined to name the men, in line with their requests. Abu Musa has to be one of the most dangerous places in the world to go fishing or sailing. A British couple and an Australian man were held for 13 days last year after their sailing boat strayed into Iranian territorial waters in a similar incident. ®
John Leyden, 11 Jun 2007
30

Scotland ranked 'worst small country'

Scotland's life expectancy rate was "a major factor" in it being rated Western Europe's worst-performing small country, the BBC reports. That's according to the The Federation of Small Businesses' (FSB) annual Index of Wealth, which cast an eye over 10 countries - including Iceland, the Republic of Ireland, and Norway - with less that nine million citizens, assessing "economic performance, employment rates, health and education". FSB Scotland policy convener Andy Willox declared: "The index clearly shows that, on these indicators, Scotland is the worst small country in western Europe, and requires urgent action to improve both our life chances and life expectancy. Coming as it does so soon after the election of an SNP government, this year's index shows the new First Minister Alex Salmond will have his work cut out for him if he is to match reality with his aspiration of making Scotland healthier, wealthier, and fairer." Regarding Scots' tendency to pop their clogs earlier than the competition, Willcox said: "We are already far down the table of comparator countries, and on every count we are travelling in the wrong direction. Health, education, the employment rate, and economic performance are all interlinked. Improvements in health or education should help businesses recruit and retain healthy and highly skilled staff, thus boosting productivity and ultimately economic growth." The FSB fingered Glasgow as the "worst performing local authority area in Scotland", coming bottom in the areas of mortality, education, and employment. Willcox described the city's lamentable showing as "deeply troubling". A Scottish government spokeswoman admitted the country's performance was "disappointing", but said it "supports the new SNP administration's case for making the Scottish economy more dynamic and competitive". She concluded: "This government is determined that Scotland can and will do better. The policies we put in place with the powers of devolution will improve our performance, and with the fuller powers of independence we can give Scotland a clear competitive edge in achieving our overarching aim of strong, sustainable economic growth." The FSB Scotland report is available here. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2007
7

Thailand sacks randy sniffer dogs

Two "ace" sniffer dogs who have performed sterling service combating drug trafficking in Thailand's Chiang Rai airport have been given their marching orders for urinating on luggage and "sexually harassing" female passengers, the Bangkok Post reports. Mok and Lai had apparently been "plucked from obscurity" as part of a cunning King Bhumibol Adulyadej plan to use strays as police dogs. They were deployed at said airport close to the border with Laos and Myanmar, but quickly attracted numerous complaints from the public due to their uninhibited behaviour. Mok's former handler, Police Lieutenant Colonel Jakapop Kamhon, explained: "Both were just as good as foreign dogs trained for use in drug missions. But they were stray dogs, so their manners were worse than those of foreign breeds. "He [Mok] liked to pee on luggage while searching for drugs inside. He also liked to hold on to women's legs." Mok and Lai have been reassigned to farm duties, including "herding chickens and pigs", the Bangkok Post confirms. ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2007
3

Chinese reporter targets Yahoo! from prison cell

The mother of Shi Tao, the Chinese journalist and democracy campaigner who was jailed after Yahoo! handed over server logs to authorities, has joined a US court action against the internet firm. Shi Tao was locked up for 10 years in 2005 when Beijing accused him of leaking state secrets to foreigners. Yahoo! provided crucial data which damned him, later claiming it would have faced prosecution itself if it had refused to cooperate. Yahoo!'s UK boss Glen Drury told The Register that he would have been targeted anyway, and the firm's involvment in the arrest garnered it more worldwide media attention than it would have merited otherwise. Shi's challenge has been added to an earlier suit brought by the World Organisation for Human Rights in a US District Court against Yahoo! Inc, its subsidiary in Hong Kong, and Alibaba.com, which runs Yahoo! China. Wang Xiaoning, who was jailed in 2003 for "incitement to subvert state power" through his postings on Yahoo! Groups, is also represented on the plaintiff roster. At a press conference in Hong Kong, AP reports that Shi's mother Gao Qingsheng said: "I believe my son is innocent. We will fight until the end. We sue Yahoo...not for Shi Tao, but to avoid any more innocent people from being prosecuted in the future." Yahoo! has denied its Hong Kong tentacle played any part in his arrest, but Albert Ho, a lawmaker in the former British protectorate, is pursuing it for privacy violations. In related news, Yahoo! shareholders have a chance to voice their objections to collusion with tyrannical governments tomorrow at the firm's AGM. A resolution brought by New York pension funds calls on the board to institute better policies on freedom of speech and resist data mining by governments. More info here from the New York Comptroller. An identical move was rejected at Google's AGM in May. ®
Christopher Williams, 11 Jun 2007
9

BrainAcademy 2007: are you smart enough?

BrainAcademy, the competition that hands out bursaries to promising computer science students, is kicking off again this summer. Last year the challenge proved too tough for the entrants: no one managed to survive all three elimination rounds to claim the prize.
Lucy Sherriff, 11 Jun 2007
18

eBay jewellery store fined $400,000 for shill bidding

A jewellery company which allegedly bid on its own eBay auctions to "illegally drive up prices by as much as 20 per cent" will pay $400,000 (£204,000) in "restitution and penalties", Reuters reports. The New York state attorney general's office said Ezra Dweck of EMH Group and his employees made over 232,000 bids on auctions in the company's Jewellery by Ezra eBay store. The store regularly held no-reserve auctions, but Dweck "ensured his employees knew of which auctions to bid at along with a predetermined price". In around a year, these bids totalled some $5m, the attorney general's office claimed. Attorney general Andrew Cuomo said: "This scam highlights the growing vulnerability of online auction shoppers. Consumers should not have to surf with sharks." Dweck and EMH deny the claims, and a lawyer for the company said it had agreed to cough up the cash "only to avoid an interminable, costly battle with the AG's office". He explained: "EMH and Mr Dweck did not intentionally encourage any fraudulent bidding. A buyback program, which was vetted by two attorneys, was created to give winning bidders an incentive to sell back to EMH certain items." The attorney general's office was alerted to the alleged scam by eBay, which "helped in the investigation over several months". eBay spokeswoman Nichola Sharpe said: "We do not tolerate criminal activity and proactively assist law enforcement to prosecute any individual who may try to defraud our users." Cuomo's office added that Dweck and EMH Group have also been "banned from the online auction industry for four years under the terms of the settlement agreed to by the parties". ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2007
1

Divine Essex pebble aids Venezuelan kiddies

It's hardly an image of Our Lord in a Romanian wardrobe door, but one eBayer is punting what he believes is the UK's mineralogical equivalent to the sheet metal Messiah - the Essex God pebble. The seller's rather hopeful pitch explains: "This pebble was found at Thorpe Bay beach, near to Southend. It actually says "GOD" on it!!! The rock is a black/grey colour on the top and the letters are marked a light brown colour! I can guarantee this a actually natural markings!! If your not religous then you can ignore the smaller "o" and it says "GD" ...SMS/email/IM for "GOOD"!!" Hmmmm. Despite our initial suspicion that this auction was merely an attempt to prey upon the gullible fundamentalist Christian geologist demographic, it turns out there's a worthy cause behind the sale. The vendor elaborates: The item is being sold to raise funds for Venezuelan Children. On 20th July I'm going to a remote village in Mérida State, called El Tizure. Ive raised £3500 for the trip, but require a few more quid for resources to teach English and small gifts to take." Good show. We're sure Golden Palace Casino can spare a few quid to add to its holy curios portfolio. ® Bootnote Thanks to Mike Gibson for the tip-off.
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2007
arrow pointing up
1

Can intelligence really help business get out of a hole?

WhitepaperWhitepaper Business Intelligence (or BI) is often promoted as a “get out of gaol free” card – surely, intelligence in business is a good thing (although perhaps we wouldn’t know, we haven’t met much of it), so paying lots of money for a BI package is a no-brainer?
Martin Banks, 11 Jun 2007
13

Privacy International accuses Google of smear campaign

Privacy International's (PI) research into privacy practises at internet service companies put Google in last place. However, the search giant hit back by briefing journalists that PI was in the pocket of Microsoft. The figures are a preliminary view, with the full research due to be released in September. Results are colour-coded from green, "privacy-friendly and privacy enhancing", to black, which describes companies as having "comprehensive consumer surveillance and entrenched hostility to privacy". Only Google acheived the black ranking. Also on the list was Microsoft, which was accused of "serious lapses" around Windows Genuine Advantage and Passport. AOL, Apple, Facebook, Hi5, and Reunion.com were all labelled red, posing a "substantial threat" to users' privacy. Other companies on the list include eBay, Friendster, LiveJournal, MySpace, Orkut, Skype, and Wikipedia. Much of the criticism of Google centred on its lack of transparency - PI described its data retention policy as "unclear" and its privacy policy as "vague, incomplete and possibly deceptive". A blog from one Google staffer noted that the search giant was not credited for refusing to hand over user data to the US government, that it didn't leak users' search queries like AOL had, and that it now promises to anonymise search queries after 18 months. The row might have disappeared over the weekend, but Privacy International claimed Google was besmirching its good name. In an open letter to Google's CEO Eric Schmidt, Privacy International accused the search giant of launching a smear campaign. PI said: "Two European journalists have independently told us that Google representatives have contacted them with the claim that 'Privacy International has a conflict of interest regarding Microsoft'." The letter said no company had made a similar accusation in the 17 years Privacy International has existed. The letter accuses Google of naming a member of PI's 70 strong advisory panel as a Microsoft employee. Simon Davies, of PI, said the person in question had worked for PI for six years and was described as "an exceptionally skilled IT and security expert". Furthermore, the letter said: "He is a decent, skilled, and honourable man who upon his appointment with Microsoft offered us his resignation. We refused to accept it, and he continues to serve on the board in a private capacity." The letter ends: "I believe an apology from you is in order, but if you cannot deliver this then I think you should reflect carefully on the actions of your representatives before embarking on what I believe amounts to a smear campaign. As with Microsoft, eBay and any other organisation we are more than happy to work with you to help resolve the many privacy challenges for Google that our report has highlighted." Privacy International looked at 23 companies and measured 20 parameters, such as whether a company had a privacy department, what kinds of information it collects, and how data is retained. Privacy International's Privacy Rankings are here. The Google staffer blog is here, and Simon Davies' letter to Eric Schmidt is here. ®
John Oates, 11 Jun 2007
7

Skype goes out to mobile phones

Skype Pro customers can now make international calls from their mobiles or any other phone at Skype Out rates, provided they've pre-registered the numbers they want to call. When an international number is registered with the newly-launched Skype To Go service, a local number is provided as a proxy. The user can call that number from any phone and is connected to the international number they registered, with the cost of the call being billed to their Skype Out account. Obviously, the call is routed over the internet, with associated quality issues, though for a cellular call the difference may not be noticed and the cost-saving should be considerable. This is a response to competitors who are already providing VoIP services on mobile phones, and Skype's inability to launch the Symbian client it's been promising for so long, but the solution will work on any mobile, or any phone, and has more in common with Jajah than end-to-end VoIP services such as TruPhone. In addition to the Skype Out rate for the call, Skype will get the termination fee from the local call - users will still have to pay their usual provider for that local call, so it's in their interest to promote the service, but getting users to pre-register numbers they intend to call won't be easy. There are also security issues; once a proxy number has been issued, anyone could call it and incur charges on the owner's account as no password or PIN is necessary. It's not easy to see how that could present a security problem, but we're sure there are people already working on it. ®
Bill Ray, 11 Jun 2007
12

Puddles on Mars, aerospace boffin claims

Pictures taken two years ago by Mars rover Opportunity might show puddles of liquid water on the Martian surface, according to New Scientist. The possibility was raised in a report, not yet seen by El Reg, detailing a fresh analysis of the images. Along with Michael Hecht from NASA's Jet Propopulsion Laboratory, Ron Levin, a physicist who works in advanced image processing at Lockheed Martin in Arizona, proposes that micro-environments might exist on the Martian surface that would allow water to remain liquid. This is a bold claim. The Martian atmosphere is not much more substantial than a hard vacuum. In such an environment, liquid water would evaporate or sublime away. But Levin and his colleagues are convinced that friendlier places might exist on the red planet. Levin told New Scientist that he thought safe zones could exist inside natural depressions, such as a crater. During Martian summer with the sun at its zenith, the temperature could sustain liquid water, and he argues that briny water would be even more robust. While it was exploring the Endurance crater, a region that would meet Levin's hypothetical safe zone criteria, Opportunity sent back pictures of what look like puddles. "The surface is incredibly smooth, and the edges are in a plane and all at the same altitude. If they were ice or some other material, they'd show wear and tear over the surface, there would be rubble or sand or something," Levin said, describing the images. Phil Christensen of Arizona State University, developer of the Mars rovers' mini-Thermal Emission Spectrometers, told the publication that although very specific conditions could allow for it, he thought it unlikely that liquid water would exist on the surface. The ideal conditions would be if there were absolutely no wind. This might allow a layer of vapour to build above the puddles, stopping them from subliming or evaporating too quickly, he said. "The problem is, there are winds on Mars… In the real world, I think it's virtually impossible." Levin is undaunted. He says a simple drill test would settle the question one way or another. New Scientist has pictures here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 11 Jun 2007
1

Marks & Sparks to sell iPod suit this weekend

Retailer Marks & Spencer will be bringing suit-maker Bagir's iPod-friendly executive outfit this coming weekend to celebrate Father's Day, it has emerged.
Tony Smith, 11 Jun 2007
64

Virgin Media tech support goes premium rate

Virgin Media will slap a 25 pence per minute charge on calls to its broadband technical support line from 1 July because it says it gets too many off-topic questions. The firm angered its investors last month by posting a shaky-looking first set of financial results. Customer care MD Steve Stewart said: "Over half the calls we receive are general enquiries about using the internet or another company's software, rather than the broadband connection we supply, so we can't sustain our award-winning service with the existing local rate charges. "We remain committed to offering the option of phone support, but we also provide a free status line, free email support and extensive information on our website." Which is perhaps not much use if your internet access is down. The troubled cable monopoly said the charges would encourage calls seeking technical advice on broadband and allow it to continue to offer "best-in-class service". Calls to bundle rival Sky's support line are charged at eight pence per minute. In other news, Virgin announced today that it would launch its own entertainment TV channel as a response to losing Sky One. Virgin 1 will go live on freeview in autumn, and is designed to give the firm "more muscle to acquire and commission the very best US and UK programming". ®
Christopher Williams, 11 Jun 2007
1

Sony brings bold colours to latest laptops

Sony has rolled out a range of laptops based on Intel's latest 'Santa Rosa' Centrino Duo technology, sheathed in a range of "bold... eye-popping... fashion-forward" (eh?) colours and equipped with a "pulsating" light that shines through the chassis to tell you what the machine's up to.
The Hardware Widow, 11 Jun 2007

MPs to cast closer eye on broadband ripoffs

InterviewInterview
Ofcomwatch, 11 Jun 2007
4

Anti-spam sites weather DDoS assault

Prominent anti-spam services came under a sustained denial of service attack late last week. The assault targeted Spamhaus, Spam URI Realtime Blocklists (SURBL), and Realtime URI Blacklist (URIBL).
John Leyden, 11 Jun 2007
9

UK importing Army spy-drones to replace losses

The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has moved to rapidly acquire more surveillance drones, placing an urgent order for Hermes 450 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) from Israel. The robot aircraft are needed for ongoing operations in southwest Asia. The Hermes 450 drone aircraft. The Hermes 450 is a large, capable 450 kg spy drone manufactured by Elbit Systems of Israel. Able to stay airborne for a maximum of 20 hours, it has a 10.5 metre wingspan and is 6.1 metres long. It can carry a variety of different surveillance packages, including the CoMPASS (Compact Multi-Purpose Advanced Stabilised System), which is a combined laser marker and infrared scanner. Elbit also offer Hermes with the AN/ZPQ-1 TESAR (Tactical Endurance Synthetic Aperture Radar) from Northrop Grumman of the US, a ground-sweeping radar which can detect objects as small as one foot in size and pick out those which are moving from those which aren't. Radars of this type are essential for full bad weather capability, and help a lot with scanning large areas of terrain. Electro-optical scanners such as CoMPASS tend to offer a "drink-straw" view of only small areas in detail. The TESAR is the same radar used in the hugely successful "Predator" drone, in service for several years now with the US forces. The MoD has a long-running plan to duplicate at least some of the Israeli drone-manufacturing industrial base in the UK, under the British Army's "Watchkeeper" plan. This has seen the establishment of joint-venture companies in the UK co-owned by Elbit and Thales UK, the French-owned part of the onshore British defence industry. Thales is lead contractor for Watchkeeper. The idea is that ultimately Watchkeeper will see the creation of 2,100 "high-quality" industrial jobs in Britain, as Brits learn to make and support Watchkeeper-branded Hermes-450 drones. Watchkeeper workshare outside Israel is also being boosted by the substitution of Thales' new "I-MASTER" ground-scan radars instead of the proven American TESAR. Thales says "I-MASTER builds upon Thales' radar expertise that exists in depth in both the UK and France." Various other UK/European solutions will be integrated into Watchkeeper, replacing the Israeli choices. This will include datalinks, network integration, ground support vehicles, training, and certification. Based on previous experience of the UK buying foreign platforms and fiddling with them in order to channel MoD pork to UK companies, the Watchkeeper programme can be expected to take some time and cost a lot more than just buying Hermes drones off the shelf from Israel. Though there may be some increase in performance and spec, as occurred with the UK assembly of Apache gunships, it's unlikely to justify the price increase (the Apaches more than tripled in cost as a result of being assembled in the UK, and even their biggest fans concede that they aren't three times as good). Looking at the omens, UK taxpayers and troops can expect lamentable value for money and long delays from Watchkeeper. A £700m contract was announced in 2005, and the MoD expects to spend £100m more on "government furnished equipment and infrastructure". Just how many Watchkeepers the taxpayers get for that sum is being kept under wraps. "The platform numbers will not be released for operational reasons," says the MoD. The rebadged, europeanised drones aren't expected in service until 2010 - a date which has already slipped several times. By way of comparison, the US forces currently expect to pay no more than £8m per bird for MQ-9 "Reaper"/Predator-B aircraft, with full spares and ground equipment. The RAF also expects to field a number of such aircraft this year, and already operates them jointly with the US. The Reaper is much bigger and more capable than Watchkeeper will be: it has Lynx moving-target radar with 10cm resolution and can carry 14 Hellfire missiles itself, rather than merely pointing out targets for others. If the UK gets 100 Watchkeepers for its £800m, they will have cost the same as hugely more capable Reapers and arrived much later. It wouldn't be surprising if, in fact, a smaller number were delivered. In any case, going back to current events, it would appear the British Army can't wait until 2010 or whenever for its Watchkeepers. An unspecified number of unambiguously Israeli Hermes-450s will be bought off the shelf for US$110m, it was announced last week (pdf). This pressing need isn't at all surprising, with the UK MoD revealing last month that it has lost or wrecked more than 70 drones in Iraq alone just since 2003. A high proportion of these are believed to have been the ill-fated British Phoenix, a machine with a terrible reputation. A significant number of Phoenixes are believed to have been previously lost or smashed up in Kosovo, too, and others have been cannibalised for spares. As less than 200 were delivered, it seems likely that 32 Regiment (the Army's drone-operations unit) could run out of things to fly well in advance of the possible 2010 arrival of Watchkeeper. Hence last week's hasty import from Israel. Just what Watchkeeper will eventually offer that the new Hermes 450s don't already do isn't at all clear, with Thales and Elbit understandably declining to comment and the MoD contact unreachable as of going to press. Thales suggested that the Hermes 450 for the UK was "single payload," hinting that it may not have a scanning radar, but refused to confirm this. The Elbit website says the 450 airframe is "multi payload," however. Interestingly, 32 Regiment's website says the Hermes 450 will be "operational from mid-2007" and "it will greatly enhance our ISTAR capabilities." This might refer merely to target designation - an ability the Phoenix is said to lack - but it could equally well refer to a radar moving-target indicator. There's a pic of British soldiers training to use Hermes 450s somewhere hot and sandy - perhaps Israel.®
Lewis Page, 11 Jun 2007

Latest Artix model grows flexibility

Iona's recent acquisitions of C24 and Logicblaze has already borne fruit with the arrival of the latest version of its SOA infrastructure suite, Artix 5. According to the company's chief scientist, Sean Baker: "This is the closest yet that the company has come to producing a suite, yet remains totally technology neutral. It is an open, extensible collection of tools that users can choose from as required."
Martin Banks, 11 Jun 2007
Warning Stop
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US gov rejects Google's Microsoft complaint

The US Justice Department has urged state authorities to reject Google's anti-trust claim against Microsoft. Google complained to regulators that Microsoft's Vista operating system discouraged use of Google search.
John Oates, 11 Jun 2007
7

Robot gender-bending reptile is a lover, not a fighter

New Zealand boffins have deployed an undercover robotic reptile into the wild in order to boost the success of gender-bending creature breeding programmes, it has emerged. The National Geographic reports that the tuatara lizard-like reptiles, a prehistoric species which is the sole survivor of a family dating back 200 million years, may be on the verge of extinction. Unusually, the creatures' sex appears to be determined by the local temperature experienced by their eggs. This has led Geographic writers to describe them as "gender benders" in the past, and to suggest that global warming may wipe them out. But plucky New Zealand postdoctoral student Jennifer Moore reckons that captive breeding or relocation programmes might save the tuatara, if she can work out "how male tuatara establish dominance - how they attract and keep females". Apparently, tuatara chaps aren't very ardent lovers. "These are animals that spend perhaps 95 per cent of their time sitting motionless. So if they are forced to do something that requires big bursts of energy, then that's really costly," Moore told the Geographic. The couch-potato male reptiles will go to any lengths to avoid physical exertion, and have seemingly evolved a complex system of exchanging insults by gaping their mouths at each other in order to avoid fighting over females. On rare occasions, however, this bad mouthing will escalate. "If one doesn't back down, it degenerates into full-on fighting and rolling," according to Moore. "They often lose tails in fights, and [growing a new one] can be a big cost, too." The Geographic notes that "just 25 per cent of the males produce all of Stephen Island's young. Typically, these are the biggest individuals ..." Alternative strategies used by smaller or weaker human males to win female attention don't cut it among the tuatara. There is seemingly no equivalent of sparkling wit, political power, or enormous wealth. Prowess in reptile mayhem is the surest route to success with the lady lizardoids. Moore's research is aimed at getting "an idea of who is winning the fights; who's getting the ladies, who's fathering the children - who is more successful, generally". To that end she has deployed "Robo-Ollie", a lifelike polyurethane simulacrum of a dead male tuatara named Ollie. The deceased lizardoid's corpse was apparently used to create a silicone mould, which in turn enabled the creation of an animatronic replica reptile. The work was done by WETA, the noted NZ rubber-creature studio most famous for its work on the Rings trilogy. Apparently, the reptile Gollum can't move anything except its head, but this is fairly normal behaviour for the lackadaisical lizardoids and has passed unnoticed. There were some initial hiccups, in which "Robo-Ollie" indvertently exhibited feminine behaviour rather than the roaring studliness appropriate to his appearance, but these have since been ironed out. Robotic surveillance of the reptiles' bedroom habits has been slow going, perhaps understandably given their lack of drive. Moore has apparently spent five weeks in the field with "Robo-Ollie" and his accompanying remote cameras, but made relatively little progress so far. "It's complex," she told the Geographic. Full report here. ®
Lewis Page, 11 Jun 2007
EU flag
2

Euro patent workers have no faith in their masters

European Patent Office (EPO) staff have "worryingly low" levels of trust in the organisation's highest governing bodies, according to a leaked internal document entitled Governance of the EPO: a staff perspective.
Lucy Sherriff, 11 Jun 2007

Big Blue buys Swedish software firm

IBM is buying Sweden's Telelogic for $747m, further boosting the Rational business it bought five years ago. The software company, based in Malmo in the South of Sweden, primarily serves the aerospace and defense, telecommunications, and automotive industries.
Jan Libbenga, 11 Jun 2007

CITES bans international trade in sawfish

A meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in the Hague has banned the international trade in sawfish - threatened by demand for their attractive snouts, or rostra, and fins. According to the BBC, the rostra are used as novelty items, in traditional medicine, and (animal lovers look away now) to make cockfighting spurs in Latin America. They go for anything up to $1,500 (£750) a pop and, as Dorothy Nyingi from the National Museums of Kenya told delegates, any Kenyan fisherman lucky enough to catch one might well be able to retire on the proceeds. This trade has reduced populations of the seven sawfish species to 10 per cent of their historic levels, with the animal now gone "from waters stretching from the east coast of the US to southeast Asia". The CITES blurb elaborates: "Species of Pristidae are generally tropical marine and estuarine elasmobranchs that have a circumtropical distribution. Their distribution was presumably once continuous in suitable habitat, but is now severely fragmented with many populations extirpated from large parts of their former ranges and with remaining populations seriously depleted." Accordingly, CITES delegates agreed to add sawfish to its Appendix 1, which "includes species threatened with extinction". CITES explains: Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances." Australia managed to get a limited sawfish trade exemption for "allowing live exports for aquaria" of Pristis microdon, the freshwater Largetooth Sawfish, the argument being that sticking the creatures on public display was the best way to educate the public. Oz's delegate Kerry Smith said: "It's universally recognised that the threat to sawfish comes from the trade in fins and rostra. Northern Australia has robust populations of Pristis microdon occurring in large and remote areas which have not been subject to destructive harvesting." Greenpeace was having none of it. The organisation's Carroll Muffett said: "Australia is putting the very survival of these magnificent animals at risk to protect an industry worth less than £100,000." The WWF was generally pleased with the result, although its Sue Lieberman "expressed frustration that delegates had on Friday rejected proposals to protect two other sharks, the porbeagle and spiny dogfish". ®
Lester Haines, 11 Jun 2007
Citrix
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Citrix eats dead NAC vendor assets

Citrix will scavenge the carcass of belly-up vendor Caymas Systems, purchasing assets of the NAC (network access control) start-up for an undisclosed sum. San Jose-based Caymas has been shopping around for a company to pick its bones since closing its Petaluma offices in March.
Austin Modine, 11 Jun 2007
35

Google Maps aids terrorists, NY lawmaker warns

Adding to the chorus of critics who say detailed images on Google Earth can aid and abet terrorists and snoops, a New York state lawmaker is calling on the company to blur potential terrorist targets. The plea from Assemblyman Mike Gianaris follows the alleged discovery earlier this month of a plot by a Muslim terrorist cell to blow up fuel tanks and a jet fuel pipeline at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Some of the suspects planning the attack had used Google-produced images clearly depicting airport infrastructure after surveillance video they secured proved inadequate, according to an indictment in the case. "It's only a matter of time before someone uses the information Google Earth provides to do this country harm," Gianaris was quoted as saying in an article in the New York Post. He objects to the satellite images carried on Google Earth and Google Maps that gives detailed views of skyscrapers, airports and other potential terror targets. Gianaris is only the latest individual to criticize Google for making available images that have the potential to violate national security, privacy or other vital interests. In addition to officials in the US, Australia, India and South Korea complaining about sensitive facilities being clearly visible in online mapping services, other critics warn the rich detail could trample civil liberties. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California recently took issue with Google's new Street View feature, which the group said raises "privacy concerns for individuals who are unwittingly captured by Google’s candid cameras." The service, which is detailed enough to show license plate numbers and the faces of people entering and exiting doctor's offices, could be the end of public anonymity as we know it, the ACLU and others worry. Google says it takes concerns about security and privacy seriously and is always willing to discuss them with public agencies and officials. But it goes on to note that the same satellite and mapping data it puts on our desktops for free has long been available elsewhere, mainly through commercial services and government agencies. "Accordingly, we expect security concerns to be addressed primarily by the companies and governmental agencies that gather and distribute the images," a Google spokeswoman says. Google also allows users to alert the company of inappropriate images so they can be taken down. Plenty of nuclear power plants, military bases and other sensitive sites are blurred on Google Maps. The spokeswoman says such censoring is made by the third parties providing the images prior to it being turned over to Google. The only modifications Google makes, she said, is the occasional color correction or other cosmetic enhancement. Not everyone outside of Google is a critic of the company's imaging practices. Among them is New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is quoted in the New York Sun as saying: "Given the number of satellites that can read your license plate from the sky, I think at this point [Google is] not necessarily where a terrorist would go." And while we're playing Devil's Advocate, it's important to remind readers that plenty of other sites are providing the same granular level of map and satellite imagery that Google does. According to a recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle, a competing online map offered by Microsoft recently offered a bird's-eye view of a nuclear power plant in Perry, Ohio even though the same facility was blurred out on Google. ®
Dan Goodin, 11 Jun 2007
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One billion PCs in use in 2008

There will be over one billion PCs in use worldwide by the end of 2008, according to a new report by Forrester Research. And with PC adoption in emerging markets growing fast, there will be more than two billion PCs in use by 2015, Forrester predicts.
ENN, 11 Jun 2007
Java
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IBM's beefy Power6 boxes slaughter Java

Pop quiz. You're in desperate need of making Java fly and have the coin to prove it. Do you shell out on IBM's new 4.7GHz Power6 eye candy or keep on replacing Unix kit with x86 systems?
Ashlee Vance, 11 Jun 2007