Yesterday, Michael VandeMar tried to go eighteen hours without visiting the big five search engines. Taking up a challenge from search engine guru Charles Knight, he’d resolved to avoid Google, Yahoo!, MSN, Ask.com, and AOL from 6am to midnight. By 9:53, he’d given up. “Bah!” he wrote to Knight’s Alt Search Engines blog. “I blew it.”
When not threatening to sue Linux makers, Microsoft can't help itself from partnering with them. Redmond today announced a buddy-buddy deal with desktop Linux maker Linspire. We'd call it a stretch to say that anyone cares about the technical details behind the Microsoft-Linspire tie-up, but that would send a handful of Linspire zealots into seizures. Instead, we'll note that Microsoft and Linspire have pledged to work on a wide range of areas including the following:
OGCbuying.solutions has set up a legal services framework for IT business. It announced the new arrangement as part of a wider framework of legal services. It projected that the categories would be worth £240m over their four year lifetime.
Gingerism in the workplace could form the basis of formal grievances or constructive dismissal cases, an employment lawyer has warned. The news comes in the wake of one Newcastle family having to move house because of abuse about its members' red hair. The Chapman family has moved home three times in three years in the Newcastle area because of abuse directed at its six red-haired members. Kevin Chapman told reporters that his 11-year-old son even attempted suicide after becoming depressed following years of abuse. The story has led to speculation about whether insults over red hair could have the same legal status as insults regarding a person's race or gender. Catherine Barker, an employment law specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, said that though abuse related to hair colour was not afforded special status, it could still be the basis of a legal dispute. "In the UK, anti-discrimination legislation prohibits only less favourable treatment on certain grounds – currently sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief and, in employment, age," said Barker. "Less favourable treatment on the grounds of hair colour or appearance, except where it is linked to race, isn't specifically prohibited and name calling of someone with red hair won't amount to unlawful discrimination." "It could however amount to bullying," she said. "In the workplace, if an employee feels that they are being bullied or harassed for any reason, for example because of their hair colour or appearance, they could lodge a grievance and ultimately could even take the fairly drastic step of resigning and claim constructive dismissal if they could show that their employer failed to intervene to prevent the bullying or harassment concerned." The practice of picking on people with red hair is thought to be a particularly British trait. Though it can sound trivial to others, years of abuse at school and then also at work can leave the bullied person feeling extremely distressed. Employers do have a duty of care towards employees, and the law says they should make sure that their workplaces are places where they are not subjected to harassment. "A much better way [to deal with the problem] is for employers to ensure that the workplace culture is one of respect and equality so that bullying or harassment of any description, on any grounds, is simply not tolerated," said Barker. "Employees and co-workers also have a responsibility to ensure that bullying of any description, even if on a minor scale, is stamped out. Telling a work colleague that their teasing of a colleague just isn't funny can go a long way to preventing harm being done in the first place," she said. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Those of you with a need for speed may be interested in this eBay auction which is offering "for the price of a sports motorcycle" a jet-powered go-kart guaranteed to attract all the right kind of attention: UNIQUE OPPORTUNITY - A GAS TURBINE (JET ENGINE) POWERED GO KART WITH AFTERBURNER/REHEAT. This kart is the result of several thousands of pounds and many, many man hours of work and was designed, constructed and operated by a qualified aircraft engineer. Fitted with a MILITARY spec JFS-100 jet engine normally used as a jet fuel starter for the US Navy A7 corsair carrier aircraft. Additionally, and possibly uniquely, it is fitted with a superb AFTERBURNER unit creating extra thrust, noise and spectacular fire and smoke effects. Perfect for shows! Push one button to inject fuel, then push the other to ignite! Full autostart system means easy starting, NO airbottles needed, comes with its own 24v starting unit. Excellent instrumentation fitted including EGT gauge to monitor engine running and a digital % RPM gauge too. The kart sits very,very low and handles like it's on rails, totally rocksteady at speed. Everywhere this kart goes it draws large crowds and could be a show winner or suitable for sponsorship. Top speed is unknown, and I have no figures for 0-60 or quarter mile speeds. And so on. What worries us slightly is that last sentence, coupled with the fact that none of the snaps show the beast fired up. We're not saying it doesn't work, rather that it quite likely works rather too well. Mind you, the idea of giving a speed camera the finger while doing Mach 0.6 round the M25 is rather appealing... ® Bootnote Thanks to Foxdie for the high-speed tip-off.
Gosh darn it, there are no puddles on Mars after all. The researcher responsible for announcing the discovery of standing water on the Martian surface has retracted his claims (see full piece on New Scientist's news blog), after readers of the August publication pointed out that the spot the "water" was standing on was not flat, but part of a sloping crater. Rob Levin had based his analysis of the image on the assumption that the region was flat, or at least horizontal. He then identified the substance in the channels as water, based on the fact that all the edges of the surface are "in a plane and all at the same altitude". But put the surface on a slope, and the analysis falls apart. Levin says "I am sorry we made such a large mistake". New Scientist, for its part, has decided to retract the original story. Space editor Maggie McKee writes: "We work extremely hard to publish accurate, timely, and interesting stories, so we regret the confusion this story has caused". Say it isn't so, NS. The scientist's error is not the journalist's mistake. What was reported was accurate: boffin claims to have seen water on Mars, scientific community is sceptical. That is all still true, isn't it? ®
Got lots of memory cards you need to connect to your computer? Sony's new MRW62E S1/171 - what a mouthful - lets you plug in 17 different types of memory card, including all of its Memory Stick varieties.
Intel's next Core 2 Extreme quad-core gaming processor, the QX6850, may be expected to make its entrance in Q3, but the chip giant's roadmap has apparently begun showing the new product's 45nm successor.
Popular UK-based free ads website Adzooks is inadvertently helping fraudsters by failing to properly screen job offers for obvious cons, anti-fraud activists have warned. Ads which offer easy money working from home are often actually attempts to recruiting phishing mules, says Early Warning.
Chipmaker Qualcomm has appealed against a ban that could block over four million phones from entering the US market. The ban was announced by the International Trade Commission (ITC) and is the result of a long running patent dispute. The ITC said it was banning the import of phones which use Qualcomm chips that it said infringe a patent held by Broadcom. Broadcom has been in a long running dispute with Qualcomm over the chips, while Qualcomm has also been engaged in a protracted patent fight with phone maker Nokia. Nokia, the biggest mobile phone maker in the world, filed a new counter-suit against Qualcomm in a Texas court, alleging that the company's technology infringes a Nokia patent. The ITC decision comes after an ITC administrative judge ruled last year that Qualcomm had violated a Broadcom patent covering power-saving in a phone's battery. Qualcomm said it has now filed a request for a stay on the import ban, which took effect on 7 June. Broadcom had filed a suit with the ITC asking for a ban on all high speed wireless phones carrying Qualcomm chips. The judge agreed that one patent had been infringed but rejected two of Broadcom's claims. The ITC is a government agency and its decisions can be appealed through the court system. Research firm iSuppli Corp has said the ban could affect 11 phone models totalling some 4.2 million phones. Nokia's counter-suit follows a patent infringement suit filed by Qualcomm against Nokia in April alleging that Nokia's software download technology infringed its patents. Nokia said not only does it believe that its technology does not infringe the patents, but the patents are invalid because others published or patented the technology first. The ITC ban and Nokia counter-suit are the latest twists in a series of lengthy legal battles over mobile phone patents. In 2005, Nokia, Broadcom and others complained to the European Commission that Qualcomm had fallen foul of anti-trust regulations in relation to patents for 3G technology. A week later Qualcomm sued Nokia over 12 alleged patent violations. A patent agreement between the two firms ran out in April this year and has not been replaced by another agreement. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Travelling to Japan with your ExpressCard-equipped notebook? Then you may care to sample the delights of the nation's bizarre - by Western standards - telly programming with local supplier Sanwa's new ExpressCard 34 digital TV tuners.
Google is not bound by the Data Retention Directive when it comes to search engine logs, Europe's data protection committee has said. Google has used the Directive to justify keeping data, but OUT-LAW has learned that the law does not apply. Google has come under increasing pressure in Europe to anonymise its server data, but the company says that it will wait until 18–24 months have passed before anonymising. Among its reasons for this was the Data Retention Directive. However, a senior European data protection official told OUT-LAW today that Google cannot rely on that law as justification for its retention. "The Data Retention Directive applies only to providers of publicly available electronic communications services or of public communication networks and not to search engine systems," said Philippos Mitletton. Mitletton works for the European Commission's Data Protection Unit, which itself is represented on the Article 29 Working Party, the committee of Europe's data protection authorities. "Accordingly, Google is not subject to this Directive as far as it concerns the search engine part of its applications and has no obligations thereof," he said. Google offers other services that will be caught by the Directive – notably its email service, Gmail, and its internet telephony service, Google Talk. If Google's search function were caught by the Directive, it could alarm operators of any site with a search function – i.e. most large websites – because potentially they would be similarly caught and therefore need to store details of every search conducted and the addresses of the computers that instruct each search. The Working Party had taken issue with Google's policy of only anonymising data after 18–24 months. Google this week conceded some ground, saying that it would anonymise data after 18 months, but could extend that back to 24 months if laws anywhere in the world required them to do that. Google had argued that the Retention Directive required it to keep the data for up to two years. "The Data Retention Directive requires all EU Member States to pass data retention laws by 2009 with retention for periods between 6 and 24 months," said Google global privacy counsel Peter Fleischer in a letter to the Working Party this week. "Google is therefore potentially subject (both inside and outside the EU) to legal requirements to retain data for a certain period. Since not many member states have implemented the Directive thus far, it is too early to know the final retention time periods, the jurisdictional impact, and the scope of applicability. Because Google may be subject to the requirements of the Directive in some member states, under the principle of legality, we have no choice but to be prepared to retain log server data for up to 24 months," said Fleischer. The news that European data protection officials do not consider search queries to be covered by the legislation undermines one of Google's main justifications for keeping the data. The company said that the information is useful to it in a business sense. It said that other people's search queries allow it to help a user refine their search and fix spelling errors. It also said that logs helped it guard against fraud. "We believe that our decision to anonymize our server logs after 18 to 24 months complies with data protection law, and at the same time allows us to fulfill other critical interests, such as maintaining our ability to continue to improve the quality of our search services; protecting our systems and our users from fraud and abuse, and complying with possible data retention requirements," said Fleischer's letter. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related links Google's letter to the Working Party (pdf) The Article 29 Working Party letter to Google (pdf)
CommentComment Service oriented architectures, or SOAs, have been positioned as the great leap forwards in how IT will finally come to be the major facilitator to the business. However, uptake around the world remains mixed, and the levels of understanding that Quocirca finds in organisations as to what constitutes an SOA remains relatively low, especially within the business community. Discussions with vendors in the SOA space show that they also find getting the SOA message across is difficult.
The deadline for the biggest ever synchronised release of open software is looming. On 29 June, the long-awaited Europarelease from the Eclipse Foundation will see updates in 20 categories of Eclipse open software. The unprecedented release covers around 30 separate components - with several making their public début.
A southern Chinese teenager killed his mother with a kitchen knife after being refused cash to go to a net cafe, Reuters reports. The youth, named only as Wang and described as "heavily addicted" to the internet, stabbed his mother during "a heated argument" in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, according to the Beijing Youth Daily. When his father came home, Wang also attacked him. The paper explains: "After his father got home, Wang hacked at him causing serious injury. Seeing what he had done, Wang went to his room and sat on his bed." Wang's father escaped bleeding to his brother's house, who alerted the police. The Beijing Youth Daily describes Wang as "less than 16" and a school drop-out who spent his time in cybercafes when not working with his father "who made a living selling barbecue food in their neighbourhood". He apparently "dreamed of being an outstanding politician or economist and believed his parents were stifling his development". Accordingly, Wang had already planned to kill them a month prior to the incident, having "once prepared to kill his father with an iron bar" and recently bought sleeping tablets. ®
Chipmakers have fired off a warning that they expect to see the semiconductor industry slow with a predicted sales growth of less than two per cent this year. The grave assessment issued by the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) has been pushed down from an original forecast of 10 per cent microchip sales growth for 2007.
Costa Rica-based scientists from the Ad Astra Rocket Company have run a Variable Specific Impulse Magnetoplasma Rocket (VASIMR) engine continuously for over four hours, thereby setting a new record for the tech. The company, headed by Costa Rica-born former NASA astronaut Franklin Chang-Diaz, told Reuters yesterday it hopes the engines can be used to stabilise space stations "in a few years" and power a Mars jaunt within 20. Chang-Diaz's brother Ronald, who is Ad Astra's executive director, said: "The first objective is to move small spacecraft in low orbit by 2010." For those of you not au fait with VASIMR, the company's website explains: The system encompasses three linked magnetic cells. The "Plasma Source" cell involves the main injection of neutral gas (typically hydrogen, or other light gases) to be turned into plasma and the ionisation subsystem. The "RF Booster" cell acts as an amplifier to further energize the plasma to the desired temperature using electromagnetic waves. The "Magnetic Nozzle" cell converts the energy of the plasma into directed motion and ultimately useful thrust. Ad Astra ran an earlier test on its VASIMR engine last December, but managed just two minutes before overheating forced a shut-down. Since then, the scientists have been working on an improved cooling system. The company's Costa Rica branch focuses on endurance, while another lab in Houston conducts tests "aimed at boosting the engine's overall power". ®
UpdatedUpdated Mobo maker Biostar has launched what it claims is the first Nvidia GeForce 8600 GTS-based graphics cards fitted with 512MB of GDDR 3 memory. Interesting, particularly since Nvidia states the 8600 GTS only supports 256MB of memory...
Since western businesses have already lost an estimated five billion working hours to Google Maps' Street View facility, as employees eschew their duties to scour the US's highways and byways for hot Las Vegas babes and fag-puffing lawyers, it should come as no surprise that it didn't take them long to find the first evidence of the headless zombie menace threatening San Francisco: As those of you who've seen 1978 bloodfest Dawn of the Dead will recall, a head-shot is the only sure way to stop the undead in their tracks. In this case, however, an alternative plan is clearly required. ®
The first ever system designed specifically to measure the acid levels in the oceans was launched this week. The project, funded by the US's National Science Foundation (NSF), aims to determine how much CO2 the Pacific Ocean absorbs each year. Steven Emerson of the University of Washington, the project's lead scientist, commented: "This is the first system specifically designed to monitor ocean acidification. The instruments will measure the air-sea exchange of carbon dioxide, oxygen, and nitrogen gas in addition to the pH, a measure of ocean acidity, of the surface waters." A ten-foot diameter buoy carrying all the instruments is now anchored in water nearly 5,000 metres deep in the Gulf of Alaska. According to the NSF, as soon as it hit water, the buoy started transmitting data via satellite. Seas become more acidic as they absorb carbon dioxide. The interest in oceanic pH lies partly in the fact that an increase in their acidity, or fall in pH, suggests an increase in the levels of these gases in the atmosphere. But the pH of the oceans is also vital to the health of marine life, and scientists see acidification as a growing threat to the health of our marine systems. In 2005, the Royal Society (RS) reported that evidence indicated the overall pH of the oceans' surface had fallen by 0.1 units over the last 200 years as they have absorbed around half of all man-made CO2 emissions. The pH could fall a further 0.5 units by 2100, the RS said. The phenomenon is also essentially irreversible in our lifetimes. The Royal Society says it will take tens of thousands of years for the oceans to return to their pre-industrial state. Fred Lipschultz, programme director in NSF's division of ocean sciences, said: "Information from this buoy will lead to a better understanding of ocean acidification by helping scientists determine exactly how physical and biological processes affect carbon dioxide in the north Pacific Ocean." Last month, scientists at the British Antarctic Survey voiced concerns that the southern ocean is reaching saturation point, and reported a recent release of stored CO2. ®
Eco-warriors planning to head down to the Glastonbury mud festival - sorry, music festival - later this month will be able to re-charge their mobile phones in an almost entirely carbon-neutral fashion.
Acer has scaled back its expectations in the PC market after an optimistic forecast earlier this year. It blamed Microsoft for failing to push up demand for its latest operating system, Vista.
MusicStation, the service that aims to give unlimited mobile access to music worldwide for a small weekly fee, finally went live today. The success of the venture, from British start-up Omnifone, will tell us a lot about whether punters are prepared to pay for digital music, rather than scoop it up for free. MusicStation is a Rhapsody-like service customised for mobiles: there are no extra data charges over the £1.99 weekly subscription, which goes on your mobile bill, and "file sharing" is encouraged - at least with other MusicStation users. Omnifone has signed up the big four labels, made inroads into the indie sector, and has 30 carriers around the world. Today sees Norwegian-based Telenor, with 80 million subscribers, push MusicStation out first. Founder and CEO Rob Lewis said the aim was simply giving people a service they can't do legitimately today: "Customers are forced to do this illegally now. We're trying to give very easy access that's intuitive, doesn't need credit cards or wires, so they can discover and recommend music among themselves," he said. "And artists get paid." Lewis said he'd agreed on main menu direct access to the player with all the major manufacturers - Nokia, Samsung, LG, and Sony Ericsson. He also crowed that he'd beaten Apple to the stores: "We've beaten them to market globally, and by many months in Europe - unless you count very dodgy eBay purchases," he said, referring to the iPhone. The hard work was getting global licensing deals in place; music services have had to strike deals territory by territory. "It's the first time over-the-air mobile price points have been made available from such a wide range of labels, globally," he said. MusicStation will give curious punters a week's free service, and then subscriptions are £1.99 a week for the basic service, or £2.99 for a premium service with a PC or Mac based player. Radio or virtual music collection? But will it fly? There's little doubt that Lewis has looked at the current mobile services and correctly concluded that they're "crap" - and he's not flinched from the much tougher job of trying to build something better. The service is offered on most mid-range phones, not just a select few smartphones; there are no hidden data charges; it's really easy to use; sharing songs and playlists is easy, too. And if you lose your phone, MusicStation just loads up the replacement with all your tracks and playlists. The player also caches tunes you've downloaded so you can play them offline. Amazingly, rivals have neglected one or more of these fundamentals. But subscription services that lose your music when you unsubscribe are a hard sell. Wasn't this an obstacle? "Our view is a bold view: the reason music is sold at all is that the music industry could ONLY monetise music by selling a piece of vinyl, a tape, or a CD. Consumers are increasingly fickle - their trends and listening habits change on a very regular basis. So I don't think a small weekly fee for unrestricted access to music is much to ask," he told us. Lewis argues that with Omnifone being a global service, you can even emigrate and pick up your music where you left off. He wants to make MusicStation a kind of "dial tone" for music, and has been trying to persuade the network operators to think the same way. "Airlines once saw their key differentiator as building their own airplanes. They didn't think of flying as a global service. Once they did, the business took off," he told us. A store it isn't, but if Omnifone can persuade people that it's an on-demand radio service with extra features, rather than a store, it's well-placed to succeed. With the backing of the operators and the handset guys, it might become the "Symbian" of mobile music. ®
The Twitter generation can now go beyond telling the world what they're doing, and can now tell the world where they're doing it - though whether the world cares is open to question. Plazes provides the kind of short-message updates familiar to Twitter users, but also links them to a specific place, allowing other Plazes users to browse by location as well as contacts. The service is available world-wide, for anyone who can think of a use for it. TwitterVision provides some of the same functionality, but Plazes takes the concept further by linking to locations rather than just where the sender happens to be. Plazes provides functionality much closer to Jaiku, though with the addition of forward planning ("I'm planning to be in this plaze at this time") but lacking the mobile phone integration; Jaiki is newly available as a Symbian Series 60 Widset or, in beta form, as a native S60 application. Such services provide a useful outlet for the massively-egotistical-but-too-lazy-to-write-a-blog demographic - no doubt popular with advertisers of comfortable chairs and canned soft drinks. These people believe the world wants to know they're "drinking beer and having fun" or "attending a conference", but don't want to have to go through the bother of writing full sentences. In common with other such services, Plazes has no revenue stream or recognisable business model, it's just hoping to hang around long enough, and grab enough customers, to find a way of making money before the bubble bursts. ®
Intel has recaptured all the market share it lost to AMD last year during the two rival chip makers' battle for supremacy in the Windows workstation arena, the latest market stats show.
We start this week in a green frame mind. Some people - Kermit the Frog, Van Morrison and Frank Sinatra think "it's not easy being green" - but the computer industry is doing its best to get us all involved. Intel and Google unveiled the Climate Savers Computing Initiative and got a wide range of hardware and software vendors to join in, including IBM, Microsoft, Sun Microsystems, AMD, Canonical, Yahoo! and EDS.
The UK's terrestrial broadcasters are reportedly in talks to establish a single platform for on-demand TV to broadband devices. The BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 are said to be aiming to create a "one-stop shop", open to other channels too, which would allow legal broadband viewing from one programme.
Caterpillars of the oak procession moth are attempting to gain a foothold in London, the Telegraph reports. As we recently reported, the Belgian army is battling a horde of the Thaumetopoea processionea caterpillars in the country's eastern province of Limburg. The species has spread in recent years from its origins in central and southern Europe due to climate change, and last year appeared on several oak trees in West London, including in Kew's Royal Botanic Gardens. It's suspected they entered the country on imported trees. The procession moth caterpillar, so called for its habit of advancing in column, deploys toxic hairs which can cause "severe skin irritation, breathing difficulties, and even anaphylactic shock". It can also completely defoliate trees, so Kew has moved quickly to contain the threat. A spokesman explained: "About 30-35 oak trees had been affected and we have been exterminating the caterpillars as fast as they emerge but I am afraid this is not a problem that is going to disappear quickly. Our oaks have resisted many other diseases and we hope they are strong enough to resist this." In Belgium, the army is tackling the irritating insects by burning the little blighters with "super-size blowtorches". UK operatives' method on dispatching them to the hereafter is not noted, but they have wisely donned protective clothing for their caterpillar-busting work. The oak procession moth is, once established, extremely difficult to eradicate. Christine Tilbury, of the Forestry Commission's agency, Forest Research, admitted: "We are obviously concerned about it. The caterpillars stimulate a severe allergenic reaction in susceptible people. Where it has occurred on the Continent it has caused a severe skin rash and respiratory tract irritation. We would advise anyone in contact with it to get immediate medical advice." Tilbury concluded by conceding that measures to contain or eliminate the oak procession moth might prove fruitless. She offered: "It could fly in or come in as eggs on plants. I do not know how you keep it out." ®
Casual use of file sharing by the spouse of an unnamed Pfizer worker has been blamed for leaking personal information on more than 17,000 current and former employees at the pharmaceutical giant.
We're not sure how many important documents with fit into the 12.3cm maw of Hong Kong-based Brando's latest USB gadget, a handheld electric paper shredder, but it'll do fold magazine covers if a video on the firm's website is anything to go by.
UpdatedUpdated Ladies and gentlemen, will you please welcome the O2 Cocoon, the mobile phone network's latest 3G media phone with a stylish white clamshell casing that manages to look cool without aping the iPod.
Specsavers, the retail chain of opticians, is putting the finishing touches to an IT refit of its UK operation that has seen it move a third of its applications to open source software.
The International Space Station (ISS) has an attitude problem. A computer system wipe-out means the space station is currently depending on the docked space shuttle Atlantis to keep it pointing in the right direction. More worryingly, in the long term, the dead computers also control the station's altitude, oxygen, and water supplies. Russian flight controllers are hard at work trying to fix the malfunctioning systems, as speculation grows as to the cause of the glitch. According to reports, the problems with the computers began shortly after the new truss segment was installed on Monday. On Tuesday, four of the Russian's six computers went offline, leaving just one guidance machine and one command-and-control machine. By Wednesday, these had crashed as well, leaving the space station effectively adrift in space. Mike Suffredini, manager of the space station programme at the Johnson Space Centre in Houston, told reporters he thought the idea of all six Russian machines having a hardware failure at the same time was unlikely. "It appears to me that something has changed in the environment, either something in the (space) environment or the source of power to these computers is different coming from S3/S4 for reasons we do not understand," he said. He added that the Russians have suggested switching off the power from the new S3/S4 truss segment and trying to bring the systems back online using only the internal power systems. However, the Russian section is not self sufficient in power terms and needs the power from the S3/S4 truss. If the new segment is the problem, it will still have to be solved. The computer crash could mean Atlantis stays at the ISS for another day, to allow the Russian team more time to correct the problem. But managers are hopeful that the problem will be resolved within a few days. If not, the astronauts might all have to return to Earth. The Shuttle crew would fly back in Atlantis, and the rest of the ISS personnel would have to travel in a Soyuz spacecraft. ®
Samsung has launched a skinny, stick-like digital music player that squeezes in touch-sensitive controls, 128 x 64 OLED screen and a retractable slimline USB connector.
The takeover of iSoft by Aussie firm IBA Health is likely to go ahead. IBA Health today released a Scheme of Arrangement detailing how the takeover would happen.
A Louisiana town council has unanimously passed an ordinance aimed at tackling the public decency menace of low-slung trousers. Delcambre Mayor Carol Broussard, earlier this week confirmed he will sign the proposal "to make wearing saggy trousers an act of indecent exposure", the BBC reports. He said: "If you expose your private parts, you'll get a fine." To absolutely clarify his position on the matter, he said of trouser low-riders: "They're better off taking the pants off and just wearing a dress." The possible penalty is US$500 (£254), and offenders really letting it all hang out could face six months' jail. Town attorney Ted Ayo explained that the ordinance "expands on the existing state indecent exposure law by adding underwear to the list of forbidden exposures". He elaborated: "This is a new ordinance that deals specifically with sagging pants. It's about showing off your underwear in public." Unsurprisingly, some residents have complained the clampdown is aimed at black citizens, since " low-slung trousers are fashionable among hip hop fans". Broussard dismissed the claim with: "White people wear sagging pants, too." ®
The killer-robot revolution, that 21st-century military phenomenon*, has so far been centred mainly in America, with other industrial nations like the UK trailing behind. But continental Europe is determined not to be left out, and the French-led flying-killbot demonstrator project has just passed an important milestone. Two days ago, France's defense procurement agency, Delegation Generale pour l'Armement (DGA), announced that the Neuron Unmanned** Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) would move from feasibility studies to a Project Definition phase, funded to the tune of €130m. The definition phase is expected to last until 2009, and will firm up details of the Neuron's design. Provided that approval to proceed continues to be forthcoming, the Gallic killbot will fly in 2011 and drop a laser-guided smartbomb in 2012. That, for the moment, is as far as anyone plans for Neuron to go. No country has expressed firm interest in buying a fleet of such UCAVs, and as yet even the US military is unsure whether and/or how it wants to proceed. The US Air Force is quite happy to use low-powered flying robots such as the Reaper for dull tasks such as surveillance and even guided-weapons ground attack ("tank-plinking" as swaggering fighter jockeys called such duties in 2003). The US has also funded tech demonstrations, which seem to show that bigger, jet-powered stealth UCAVs could take over more advanced duties such as battling enemy ground defences. But the ruling generals of the USAF - sometimes known as the "fighter mafia" - have so far shown no desire to proceed any further. For now, they're quite happy with their snazzy new F-22 manned*** jet. Europe's Neuron may very well get no further than the American X-45 and X-47 have thus far. The stated purpose of the Neuron programme isn't to arm the air forces of France and its partners (Sweden, Italy, Greece, Switzerland and Spain), but rather to develop technologies and maintain design skills. Following completion of the Eurofighter and Rafale combat jets, the design offices of the continent might otherwise have become rather sleepy places by now. Furthermore, Neuron is a Stealth plane; its development will give European designers who haven't any access with the USA an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of radar-invisibility. Automating a jet fighter has been possible for a long time. Remote-piloting it, though, calls for a lot of bandwidth, which in a combat context may be more difficult to provide than a human driver - and then you still have to train the pilot anyway. A new day, however, may be dawning. The latest UCAV demonstrators seem to offer genuine killer robots, which can often interpret data and make decisions themselves. They might not need much bandwidth at all, and their operators might need no piloting skills. It still remains to be seen whether air forces run by pilots will find these ideas appealing. ® Bootnotes *Easy. There have been lots of military robots, drones etc in the 20th century, of course. But their widespread use as weapons platforms in their own right - killer robots - is more recent. **Sorry - that should be Uninhabited, of course. Women have gained entry to combat piloting, perhaps just in time to have their jobs stolen by computers. ***Inhabited, that is.
London's economic frothiness has won it the title of Wi-Fi capital of the world, in news which is sure to terrify Notting Hill's designer tinfoil hat Earth mother brigade. For the first time, London has overtaken New York for hotspot numbers, according to RSA's annual survey. The UK capital clocked up 7,130 Wi-Fi networks in 2007, compared to 2,747 last year. As well as seeing its crown as global financial hub float away across the Atlantic last year, the Big Apple has to contend with just 6,371 brain-frying access points. There's been a slight improvement in the proportion of business networks which are unsecured on both sides of the pond; it's dropped to about 18 per cent from 23 per cent. Happily for internet-loving francophobes the world over, Paris sauntered in with a lacadaisical 825 hotspots (though to be fair it is much smaller, and the tinfoil beret is yet to come into vogue across the channel). ®
HP has delivered a much needed refresh to its blade PC product line, upgrading the hardware and graphics performance of the systems. HP released its last batch of Consolidated Client Infrastructure (CCI) gear way back in Nov. of 2005. The big transition taking place then was a shift from Transmeta-based systems to Athlon-based systems.
InterviewInterview In the bad old days we used to progress from "current physical" to "current logical" models. We then used to transform the "current logical" to the "new logical" – and about then the deadline cut in and we scurried about hacking the code for the new system which is about as "new physical" as you can get. No wonder the agile people noticed that it made more sense to devote your time and intelligence to the "new physical", which wasn't going to be thrown away soon after you finished. And yet, I remember that modelling the current physical and logical models of, in particular, the data we were processing was how I convinced my business users that I understood their needs. And I found many potential errors in the process of modelling the new logical, which could be addressed relatively cheaply just by redrawing the model. So, was the implementation of process back then wrong, rather than the process itself? Do physical and logical models – and, specifically, physical and logical data models – have a place in development today?
Wireless networks almost trebled in London over the last 12 months with more, but not all organisations, realizing the importance of running secure networks. Wi-Fi networks in London have increased by 160 per cent from 2006, out pacing the rate of increase in other financial centres such as New York (49 per cent) and Paris (44 per cent). The surge put London (7,130) ahead of New York (6,371) in the number of access points, according to a survey commissioned by RSA, the security division of infrastructure giant EMC. Public hot spots continue to proliferate in the many places where people seek connectivity, such as coffee shops, airports and hotels. London's hot spot numbers increased from 364 to 471, an increase of 27 per cent. But the density of public access hot spots remains lower in London than in other financial hubs. In New York the annual growth rate was 17 percent, with 15 per cent of all wireless access points located in hotshots – by far the highest percentage across the three cities. In Paris, hot spots represented 11 percent of all access points. RSA points out that the geographically proximity of unsecured hot spots close to unsecured business networks creates additional works from workers connected to unknown (possibly rogue) wireless networks by mistake. Wi-Fi.biz Looking only at business access points, London also leads, with a 180 per cent increase from 2006, compared to jumps of 57 per cent and 45 per cent in New York and Paris, respectively. The UK's capital city experienced notable improvement in the security of wireless networks over the last year; 81 per cent of surveyed business networks used either advanced encryption or Wired Equivalent Privacy (WEP), compared to 74 per cent in 2006. By contrast security levels in New York and Paris improved only incrementally. The used of secure Wi-Fi networks in New York increased from 75 per cent in 2006 to 76 per cent in 2007. Meanwhile, in Paris, there was an increase of two percentage points, from 78 per cent in 2006 to 80 per cent in 2007. The sixth annual survey by RSA concerns about the continued use of WEP, despite awareness of its manifest flaws, but use of more advanced encryption options is increasing as measured by the roll-out of 802.11i and Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA). In London, 48 per cent of the secured business access points had implemented advanced forms of encryption. In Paris the figure was lower, at 41 per cent, and New York slightly higher than London at 49 per cent. "It is encouraging that almost half of all secured business access points are now using advanced forms of encryption, and we expect to see these numbers increase as awareness grows around the perils of operating inadequately secured wireless networks," said Christopher Young, VP of consumer and access solutions at RSA. Hack out of the box RSA's study also looked at the number of wireless networks still configured according to default, out-of-the-box settings, which make them easier to attack. In London, 30 per cent of access points still had default settings – a big slide backwards from 22 per cent recorded last year. New York fared better, with 24 per cent of access points using default settings, down from last year’s 28 per cent. Parisian businesses and consumers were least at risk, with 13 per cent of access points displaying default manufacturer settings, down from 21 per cent last year. The study, commissioned by RSA, was carried out by an independent security researcher using a laptop computer and commercial software. The laptop and software scanner detected both broadcasting and non-broadcasting APs in the 802.11a, b and g frequencies. When devices were detected the software identified the channel, service set identifier (SSID) and other network information before disconnecting from that source. A complete run-down of findings from the survey can be found here. ®
A West Coast scientist who believes it may be possible to transmit information backwards through time has been funded by individual donations after established mad-scientist groups refused to cough up. John Cramer, a physicist at the University of Washington, reckons that "quantum retrocausality" could "involve signalling, or communication, in reverse time." The El Reg science desk passed this one over to us at the engineering-degree-a-long-time-ago desk, and all we really know about quantum is that it's pretty wild stuff. We do know about DARPA, though, the US military's famously wacky research bureau. DARPA has happily funded all kinds of crazy stunts, including Terminator cyborg moths, mind-reading electrode hats, terror casinos - you name it. "Mad scientists are good scientists" is almost the DARPA motto. But DARPA wouldn't fund Cramer. It said his planned experiment was "too weird". Coming from them, this does seem unfair. All Cramer wants to start with is a few lasers, prisms, splitters, fibre-optics, and suchlike doodads. He's not asking for a beautiful girl strapped to a table, living brains in bubbling jars, lightning, dead bodies, enormous monkeys, fossilized dinosaur DNA, or anything seriously outre. "I'm not crazy," he told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. "I don't know if this experiment will work, but I can't see why it won't. People are skeptical about this, but I think we can learn something, even if it fails." Others think so too. A diverse collection of private donors has apparently chipped in $35,000+ to get Cramer's experiments underway. They include a Vegas music-biz exec, a biotech scientist, and Richard Miller, an artist and photographer based in Washington state. "I would say the predicted failure of this project is probably a good omen," Miller told the Post-Intelligencer. "Most predictions are wrong." "Artists have experienced non-local space all along, we just can't prove it," he added mysteriously. Cramer plans to attempt some basic instantaneous faster-than-light communication next month with his donation-funded rig. If that's successful, he reckons that mainstream funding will arrive and he can have a crack at sending information back though time. It does seem a trifle odd, if the theory is sound, that Cramer hasn't already received advance notification of his success. Perhaps he has, and is keeping it secret. If one dons one's tinfoil hat, this line of thinking might easily lead to an explanation for DARPA's otherwise unaccountable lack of interest, too. More from the Post-Intelligencer here. ®
IBM later this year plans to dish out a "desktop" blade box for small- to medium-sized businesses.
Tonight in Boston, home to eBay's annual seller conference, revolutionary-minded Google employees had planned on throwing an alcohol-fueled anti-eBay bash at a location sure to raise eyebrows on both sides of the Atlantic.
Intel will apparently keep selling the Itanium processor through at least four more code-names. Yes, world, the company today revealed the follow-on chip to Montvale, Tukwila and Poulson. Say hello to Kittson.
Three days after unleashing a bug-infested beta version of its Safari browser on Windows users, Apple has released an update plugging three serious holes that could allow miscreants to commandeer a user's machine.