18th > June > 2007 Archive

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7

NHS IT boss quits

The boss of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the huge government project to improve technology use within the National Health Service, is to leave his post in October.
John Oates, 18 Jun 2007
15

Humans, not tech, are the greatest security risk

The Department of Trade and Industry has made £4m available for four research projects aimed at reducing the IT risk created by human error. The programme, which is part of its Network Security Innovation Platform, reflects the fact that human error is by far the biggest risk to network security, the DTI said.
Kablenet, 18 Jun 2007
7

Mobile internet set for take-off?

The mobile internet is more toll road than superhighway, but the logjam could clear up. On the face of things there is little reason to be confident that mobile internet will ever fully catch on with consumers. It's expensive, awkward to use, and lacks the content and functionality of a traditional PC-based browser. While mobile internet may appear beset with obstacles, the people behind the dot-mobi (.mobi) domain, which was set up in part to help improve the quality of content available via the mobile web, feel the format is moving in the right direction. "We've done quite well given how long it's [mobile internet] been around," said Alexa Raad, vice president of marketing and business development at dot-mobi. The firm managing the domain worldwide has been based in Dublin since January 2006. Dot-mobi has seen adoption of the domain accelerate in recent months; a total of 500,000 domains have been registered under dot-mobi. "It took the internet 10 years to get to where we are now," said Raad. While the progress has quickened in recent months, barriers such as access costs remain. Raad said both businesses and consumers are suffering as a result of the high cost of usage. "The access costs affect everyone," she said. "Consumers are much less likely to return if they are charged heavily." There are moves being made by firms such as Three to offer pricing packages that are more reasonable to customer expectations. "We've recently seen a trend towards flat rate pricing," said Raad. She believes this move shows a greater confidence on the part of operators and will entice more consumers onto their mobile browser. "Three said it was like a walled garden starting to come down. It will do a lot more to help ease consumer fears about pricing," said Raad. "In the old days of the internet there was no flat rate but once it was brought in there was an explosion of interest from the public," she said. Raad is confident the greater availability of flat rate pricing will make more consumers want to use the mobile internet. However, access is only part of the cost of using mobile internet. Making payments through a mobile browser is considerably more expensive than on a standard PC connection. "Payments will only take off when commission rates fall in line with banks," said Donal McGuinness, head of mobile at m-payments firm Alphyra. "The commission charged when making payments with a phone vary from the high single digits to 35 per cent." He said high charges were due to the security costs associated with the mobile internet. "The potential for fraud is a lot higher for a mobile phone," explained McGuinness. There are, however, signs that the costs associated with making payments are becoming more attractive to consumers. "It's starting to come down," said McGuinness. Despite this potential improvement on the pricing front the format still faces usability problems that could turn users off. "People either don't know they can use the internet on their phones, or it just seems too complicated," said Oliver Cavanagh, co-founder of PLIBA. The Dublin-based firm was the first Irish website to use the dot-mobi domain, offering an online booking service for mobile phone users. Cavanagh, who set up the company with Frank Friel, said mobile operators and handset manufacturers held the key to improving usability. "This [usability] could be greatly helped if more phones were sold with internet access properly enabled and with a clear launch button," he said. "Knowing how to find the mobile site of a company you're interested in isn't easy enough today. People want to know where to go in order to avoid paying download fees for info that they can't even read on a small screen, and it's not obvious where to go for the mobile version of a site." Cavanagh said the lack of public knowledge on the mobile internet had a direct impact on his firm's marketing strategy. "I think you need to go straight to users who already know how to use the mobile internet, avoiding reaching out to the masses because they don't know how to access it on their phones," he said. The PLIBA co-founder feels new arrivals to the market could drive change and make the mobile internet more usable for consumers. "The AT&T iPhone might shake this up with Apple's genial simplicity," said Cavanagh. Getting consumers online via a mobile browser is tough enough, but keeping them there is an even greater challenge. Consumers want to be able to reach the content they seek with ease, something which proved a problem for pioneers of the internet. "The past doesn't necessarily have to repeat itself," said Raad. She said mobile content providers are reacting to the needs of the mobile internet user. "It's more consumer driven. The ingenuity and innovativeness is amazing." She said a phrasebook website had been set up by one firm to help people communicate while travelling abroad. "Content like this doesn't lend itself to a PC experience," said Raad. "People who truly understand mobile internet know it is about being useful to the customer. Those that recognise this will be successful," she said. © 2007 ENN
Emmet Ryan, 18 Jun 2007
14

DARPA scramjet nudges Mach 10

Australia's Woomera Test Facility last Friday hosted the successful launch and firing of a scramjet engine which reached speeds of "up to Mach 10", the country's Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) has announced. The HyCAUSE vehicle - a joint project between DSTO, the US's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Australian Hypersonics Initiative (AHI)- took off atop a TALOS rocket and reached a heady 530km before firing its way to around 11,000km/h (6,800mph), according to Oz's parliamentary secretary to the Minister for Defence, Peter Lindsay. Lindsay trumpeted: "This research is a major boost to Australian and international scramjet technology research. Australia is a world leader in hypersonics research." DARPA's deputy director of the Tactical Technology Office, Dr Steven Walker, said: "This test has obtained the first ever flight data on the inward-turning scramjet* engine design. DARPA will compare this flight data to ground test data measured on the same engine configuration in the US. We are pleased with this joint effort between the US and Australia and believe that a hypersonic airplane could be a reality in the not too distant future." DSTO boffin Dr Warren Harch explained that "hypersonic propulsion using supersonic combustion ramjet (scramjet) technology offered the possibility of very high speeds and fuel efficiencies". He added: "This technology has the potential to put numerous defence and civilian aerospace applications within our reach during the next couple of decades." The principal advantage of the scramjet is that it contains relatively few moving parts. To qualify for the scramjet title, the engine must mix atmospheric air with fuel (hydrogen) and ignite it while flow throughout the engine remains at supersonic speeds. This last requisite points to the scramjet's main disadvantage - it has to be going pretty fast before it can be fired up, meaning it has to be brought to operational speed by, for example, a good old-fashioned rocket. The latest test of the tech follows last year's acceleration of a HyShot III scramjet to an estimated 9,000km/h (5,600mph) as part of a joint project with the UK's Qinetic. DSTO last year signed the AU$74m "Hypersonics International Flight Research Experimentation (HiFire) Agreement" with the United States Air Force, which will see 10 "hypersonic flight experiments" at Woomera over the next five years. ® Bootnote *The difference between an inward-turning scramjet and, for example, NASA's X-43, is that the latter has a box-shaped combustion chamber in which "the large surface areas created by rectangular designs generate tremendous heat transfer into a vehicle, requiring extra fuel loads just to cool areas around the engine chamber", as DefenceTalk puts it. The former boasts a funnel-shaped combustion chamber "where air comes in through a circular opening, increases in pressure as it passes through, then leaves with more thrust and less heating than through a rectangular design".
Lester Haines, 18 Jun 2007
6

HP hails Print 2.0

At Hewlett-Packard's annual Imaging and Printing Conference recently, the company unveiled "Print 2.0" and described how it would seek to capture a significant share of the 53 trillion digital pages estimated to be printed in 2010, an opportunity valued at more than $296+ billion.
Clay Ryder, 18 Jun 2007
Handcuffs
6

Anti-hacking laws 'can hobble net security'

Jeremiah Grossman has long stopped looking for vulnerabilities in specific websites, and even if he suspects a site to have a critical flaw that could be compromised by an attacker, he's decided to keep quiet.
Robert Lemos, 18 Jun 2007
3

Queen honours civil liberties and astro-boffins

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, has been nominated for a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) in the Queen's birthday honours list. She is being recognised for her services to human rights. It is always fun to try to read things into the birthday honours list: to use it as a lens to peer into the personality of the Queen - or rather, the committee which actually puts the list together. And when someone like Chakrabarti makes the list (and with a CBE, no less) it is tempting to interpret it as a subtle message from one corner of the establishment to Blair and his ID card loving set. Chakrabarti issued a statement saying "I hope it will send a timely signal that far from being disloyalty, democratic dissent is a positive civic duty. I take it as an invitation to protest even more in the future." As well as civil liberties, another of El Reg's favourite topics gets some royal recognition, as two astronomers make the list. Radio astronomer Jocelyn Bell Burnell is to be made a Dame in recognition of her 1967 discovery of pulsars. Bell made the discovery during her doctoral research at Cambridge. She and her doctoral adviser initially tagged the signal "LGM" for little green men, suspecting that the signal could be from another world. As we know now, pulsars are in fact small, but extremely dense, fast-spinning neutron stars. Some are thought to be remnants of the explosive death throes of a star at least eight times as massive as our own sun. In general, a pulsar is about the same mass as our sun, but is a mere 20km or so across. When they are born, they tend to spin very rapidly, courtesy of conservation of angular momentum, but they slow down over the course of a hundred thousand years or so. Less glamourous than little green men, perhaps, but still an active and interesting area of astronomical research, 40 years later. Dr Heather Couper, the TV stargazer from the 1980s, is up for a CBE for her work on the Millennium Commission. Couper's web page says that "although a scientist by training, she has spent the last 20 years working entirely in the media". This is not Couper's first honour. In 1999 the International Astronomical Union named asteroid 3922 "Heather", after her. Tim Berners-Lee, knighted in 2004, is up for a British Order of Merit. Salman Rusdhie is also on the list, as is Barry Humphries (better known as Dame Edna). What we should read into this, we are not sure. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jun 2007
6

Anam introduces SMS payments

Anam Mobile and TR2 Communications have launched a service allowing cash payments over SMS, but you'll have to wait until network operators implement it before chucking the cheques. The system is certainly simple: the user just sends a text message in the form "#cash xxx.xx" to the person they want to send money to. The SMSC (which routes SMS messages) then intercepts and processes the request (including making a quick call back to the sender to confirm the details) and the money is transferred from one phone bill to another. PayPal Mobile, the nearest comparable service, requires an SMS message to be sent to a short code in the format "send xxx.xx to xxxxxxxxxxx", though that does require the sender to have a PayPal account (and the recipient to set one up). Anam claims that with #cash neither party will need to be pre-registered with the service. Using SMS to pay for things isn't a new idea; we managed to pay for a restaurant meal over SMS back in 2002, but Anam is betting that people still find it too complicated to pay by text, and if it can make it simple enough people will use it. Most network operators have already flirted with the idea of becoming banks, and Anam will need them to get involved with #cash as they control the SMSCs needed to intercept the messages. ®
Bill Ray, 18 Jun 2007
17

Sony apologies over virtual cathedral firefight

Sony has gone down upon penitent knee and apologised to the Church of England for including Manchester Cathedral as a location for a brutal gun battle in its Resistance: Fall of Man video game.
Tony Smith, 18 Jun 2007
14

Microsoft versus BlackBerry versus, er, BlackBerry?

The results of our latest Reg panel survey (completed last week) confirm that many organisations have already selected a solution for mobile email.
Dale Vile, 18 Jun 2007
27

ISPs accuse TalkTalk of hijacking customers

PlusNet has called on Ofcom to investigate claims that the BT-owned ISP’s customers are being unwittingly switched to TalkTalk services in violation of industry codes. Several other ISPs are reporting the same "slamming" behaviour from TalkTalk, part of the Carphone Warehouse group. In a post on its community site, PlusNet said it had noticed an increase in calls in the last few weeks from customers complaining that their connection had stopped working. No faults were found on the lines, and with further investigation the Sheffield-based outfit discovered that it no longer owned them in BT's systems. The common factor was that the dozens of missing subscribers had all recently switched their home phone away from BT to TalkTalk's phone package, but had not authorised broadband migration. PlusNet told The Reg it had confirmed 20 instances in June so far. Business specialist ISP Zen said it had traced a few missing lines to TalkTalk in recent weeks. PlusNet estimates that TalkTalk is slamming 2,500 customers a month from other ISPs. While noting that new home phone customers will be unable to get broadband from anyone else via its local loop unbundling (LLU) equipment, TalkTalk's terms and conditions state: Unless you have agreed previously to take our Broadband Service, we will seek your express consent before transferring you to our LLU network if you take a broadband service from another provider on the same telephone line at the time of transfer. PlusNet's charge is that TalkTalk is not obeying the rules, and so mis-selling its services. In a second charge, PlusNet claims TalkTalk sales agents punting the telecom's broadband service are telling callers they do not need a Migration Authorisation Code (MAC). One agent we spoke to on Friday did request a MAC, however. PlusNet's community scribe wrote: "I can't personally believe, in this day and age, that Ofcom are allowing this to happen without any consumer-driven processes (i.e. the MAC key process) to take place. This is really unfair-play if you ask me. Not to mention the impact this is having on customers." PlusNet told us it had been in informal discussions with Ofcom over the last month, and was now preparing an official complaint against TalkTalk. A spokesman for the regulator said it would consider a formal dispute as and when it was brought. TalkTalk has made huge gains in broadband since launching its "free" offer last year. It struggled to cope with demand for the deal, and was widely lambasted for poor service, but has recently claimed the problems are behind it and that it expects subscriber numbers to continue to grow. It had not responded to the slamming accusations at time of writing.®
Christopher Williams, 18 Jun 2007
3

Atlantis readies for departure after ISS computer repairs

The computers on the International Space Station (ISS) are all fixed, and the crew of the shuttle Atlantis have completed their final spacewalk and are now preparing for the journey home. The guidance system is due for a final test today. The astronauts had a busy weekend, completing two spacewalks as well as reviving the computer system in the Russian section of the ISS. On their spacewalks, NASA's mission specialists stitched together a torn section of insulation on the space shuttle, and finished installing the new solar power unit. Another day, another space walk. Credit: NASA TV On Sunday, astronauts Patrick Forrester and Steven Swanson went outside to finish off the installation of the space station's new starboard sections three and four (S3/S4). Most of the work was involved with activating the section's rotary joint, which lets the panels track the sun. It is the new power unit that is thought to have triggered the computer crash which took out the ISS's guidance system and environmental controls. While the computers were down, the shuttle has been providing attitude control with its thrusters. ESA's cargo module, due to be delivered and installed on the next mission to the ISS, has the same computer system as the Russian section of the ISS. As you might imagine, it is now going through some fairly rigorous tests to make sure it is not similarly vulnerable. You might, earlier in the weekend, have seen the footage of astronaut John "Danny" Olivas fixing the hole in the thermal blanket. If not, check it out in NASA's video gallery. Mostly it is fairly dull: a man in thick gloves tries to complete a fiddly task using a medical stapler. But every now and then, the cameras give you a glimpse of the world below hurtling by at 17,500mph. And that is truly astonishing. As well as all that, astronaut Sunita Williams has added to her collection of records by becoming the woman with the longest continuous flight in space. She pipped previous record holder Shannon Lucid, who logged 188 days and four hours in 1996. During the mission, she has also taken the record for the longest time a woman has spent spacewalking, and for the first ever marathon competed in orbit. Williams will join the departing NASA astronauts when they leave the station. The departure is scheduled for 6:23 pm EDT, but NASA is ready to extend the mission by another day if the test of the ISS's guidance system does not go well. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jun 2007
Patchlink logo

PatchLink snaps up whitelist firm SecureWave

Vulnerability management firm PatchLink has agreed a deal to acquire endpoint security firm SecureWave. Subject to the approval SecureWave shareholders, the all stock merger is expected to complete within a month. Financial terms of the deal, announced Monday, were not released.
John Leyden, 18 Jun 2007
3

Beyond the valley of the drolls

StobStob There's another of those lists of supposedly amusing/sage/cute adages going around, bouncing from blog to email, accumulating fresh contributions and occasional edits and doing all the meme-ish things that memes do. This one differs from all the others that you have deleted irritably from your email inbox in that it includes a contribution taken from this very column.
Verity Stob, 18 Jun 2007

Nokia pitches 3G at the mainstream

Nokia has introduced a pair of mid-range 3G handsets - a clamshell and a candybar - it hopes will drive mainstream interest in video-calling and faster downloads. It also launched a third hansdet, this time a budget 2.5G model.
Tony Smith, 18 Jun 2007
11

Mugabe gets email snooping green light

Zimbabwean despot "laughing" Bob Mugabe's government has rubber-stamped new laws granting his cronies free reign to snoop on communications in the impoverished state. The Harare harlequin's "Interception of Communications Bill", which was proposed last year, was waved through by his parliament last week. It hands the communications minister powers to dish out warrants for raiding post, emails, web browsing, and phone lines. Calls were already heavily monitored by the regime at the behest of its increasingly powerless judiciary, so the bill basically cuts out the middle man and acknowledges the internet age. It compels ISPs to install bugging equipment and make it available to the government at their own expense. Reports say China will offer the hardware. Mugabe's defenders claim the laws are no different to anti-terror legislation in the US and UK. ®
Christopher Williams, 18 Jun 2007
Warning Go

CSC opens gate to iSoft takeover

CSC is no longer blocking the takeover of iSoft by Aussie firm IBA Health.
John Oates, 18 Jun 2007
1

New regs for US tech export to China now online

Draft texts of the new US rules for export of technology to China are now available online. They will be officially published in the Federal Register this week. The new "Final Rule", which will form the basis of US regulations in future, is available here (large, technical pdf). There is a Q&A, suitable for those familiar with the existing regs, here (pdf). The rules are produced by the US Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security. They establish new categories of items which could formerly be exported to the People's Republic, but now require a licence if "the exporter has knowledge...that such items are destined for 'military end-use'...in [China] or is informed that such items are destined for such an end-use". Particular kinds of high-powered computers, lasers, specialist software* and so on are all on the list, added to more obvious kit such as tanks, missiles, night-vision goggles, etc. An earlier, broader list was cut back in the consultation stage after industry protests. Some in the USA have argued that the cut-down controls are still overly restrictive, and will hurt American trade as other advanced countries step in to fulfil Chinese demands for advanced tech. The London Financial Times quotes Donald Weadon and Carol Kalinoski, Washington-based export control consultants, as saying that the rule is "flawed". They also suggested that the rule would "anger the Chinese, our allies, and US industry at one time". US legislators concerned about advanced technology making its way into threatening military-industrial complexes overseas have more than just their own industry's direct dealings to fret over, as many kinds of kit might be sold or resold by US-allied nations. In particular the UK, a close chum of America, is often suspected of re-exporting key US tech which it has gained access to in collaborative military-industrial programmes. Add in the murky factor of US industrial protectionism against other high-tech nations (in both its own domestic and world export markets) and you have a fine, thick political stew. The new US regs are described as "final", however, so this stage of the debate would seem to be over. ® Bootnote *Be especially wary if you're into near-real-time apps.
Lewis Page, 18 Jun 2007
7

Chip tech holder sues Nintendo

Super Mario and friends are facing legal action from a US-based semiconductor intellectual property company over an alleged patent infringement - potentially within the Wii games console.
James Sherwood, 18 Jun 2007
YouTube
2

YouTube offers online editing

YouTube users can now edit and improve their clips using an online tool from Adobe. The tool, called Remixer, is based on Adobe's Premiere product. It allows users to upload video, add clips together, add subtitles, captions and music, and include clip-art.
John Oates, 18 Jun 2007
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8

Fancy some hot buttered storage?

CompetitionCompetition It is a Monday, and we're all looking at another five days of miserable toil before the glory of the weekend beckons once more. We can't do much about that, but how's this for a way to ease the pain of a new week? Reg reader Alan Howlett sent us word of a very silly tech prank, and we've decided to turn it into a competition. As you read on, keep in mind that there will be a test at the end.
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jun 2007
15

German Flickr censorship causes web outcry

Flickr's introduction of content filters in Germany last week has provoked protests in blogs and web forums globally. While in most countries the photo sharing site's "SafeSearch" function can be turned off by users interested in seeing all the photos available on Flickr, that option has been axed in Germany due to "stricter legislation and penalties in that country", parent company Yahoo! said in a statement. Yahoo! says it isn't about censorship and that it is trying to improve the use of filters while still complying with German law. The limitations were introduced because German law requires websites to verify that visitors are old enough to see potentially sensitive content, such as erotic photos. Users are now calling for boycotts. One group, Against Censorship at the Flick, even created a pool of images that German users are not allowed to see. The reactions have surprised both Flickr and Yahoo!. "We apologise that this happened in the first place, and we'd like to have more to say: there's almost nothing in the world that I'd enjoy doing less than deciding what grown-up Germans are or are not allowed to look at," one Flickr staff member said. Flickr encountered similar criticism when some of its photos were blocked in the United Arab Emirates and China. ®
Jan Libbenga, 18 Jun 2007

Ladybird speakers set to wow Beatles fans?

One for the summer, this - and perhaps for the more horticulturally inclined iPod owner. It's a ladybird-alike* speaker ready to bring your music to lazy sunny afternoons in the garden, picnics etc.
Tony Smith, 18 Jun 2007
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1

MySpace to make friends with eBay

MySpace founder Chris DeWolfe has hinted the Murdoch-owned social network will bring in eBay to provide it with ecommerce features.
Christopher Williams, 18 Jun 2007
5

Texas arrests seven MySpace sex offenders

Just weeks after social network MySpace asked for advice on how to legally hand over information about sex offenders using its pages, law enforcement authorities have started to make arrests. In Texas, a total of seven convicted sex offenders have been taken into custody. Six were registered sex offenders, arrested for parole violation. All six had MySpace profiles, despite the terms of their probation barring them from using the internet. A seventh man was arrested for failing to register as an offender after his profile turned up on the social networking site. None of the six men arrested has been charged with any new sexual offences, but between them have convictions ranging from aggravated sexual assault, to molestation of a child, and indecency with a child by exposure. The youngest victim was just four. The Texas attorney general issued a press release giving details of the arrests. "Texans will not tolerate criminals who prey on our children," Attorney General Abbott said in the announcement. "These convicted sex predators established online identities on a website that is popular with teenagers and children. The Cyber Crimes Unit will continue its aggressive crackdown on sex predators who threaten our kids." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jun 2007
10

Rocket hiccup puts US spy sats in wrong orbit

In an expensive technical mishap, a brace of top-secret American spy satellites was fired into incorrect orbits last Friday. According to a report in Aviation Week and Space Technology, the two spacecraft in question were ultra-classified ocean surveillance jobs, described as "critical to tracking ships that may conceal al Qaeda terrorists...[or] Iranian and Chinese sea-based military operations". Perhaps vessels from other nations, too. The North Korean ship So San, seized with a hidden cargo of Scud missiles in the Indian Ocean during 2002, was said to have been tracked by US intelligence since leaving home (the ship was later allowed to proceed to Yemen, after US officials acknowledged that the Yemenis were allowed to buy Scuds concealed under bags of cement if they felt like it). Whatever it is the US National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) does with its secret spy sats, these two will apparently struggle. According to Aviation Week and Space Technology, the Centaur second stage of the Atlas V launcher failed to make its second positioning burn correctly. The two surveillance birds reached an orbit, but not the intended one. It seems the two spacecraft may have to use a significant proportion of their manoeuvring fuel to get into a useful position, which would seriously affect their service life. Spy satellites need to change track over the Earth's surface fairly frequently in order to get a good look at areas of interest. Aviation Week and Space Technology quotes an unnamed official as saying that "the Atlas V people have a lot of explaining to do". The Atlas launch programme is managed by United Launch Alliance, and this was the first use of the Atlas V Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle to position secret NRO satellites. The Centaur upper stage, which was apparently at fault, comes from Lockheed Martin and uses a Pratt & Whitney rocket engine. More from Aviation Week and Space Technology here. ®
Lewis Page, 18 Jun 2007
12

US and allies lay global foundation for biometric border checks

The UK has proposed a transatlantic arrangement for sharing biometric data about travellers as US coalition countries in the "war on terror" push for a global system to control migration. The initiative officially lays the first brick in a concerted effort to establish a common border. Launching the UK's borders and immigration strategy in Washington today, Home Secretary John Reid said the UK and US should "routinely share information about travellers of interest", as well as people caught with fake passports, or those trying to side-step immigration controls. He proposed greater co-operation between coalition countries because, he said, the UK couldn't protect its borders "by operating in a bubble". "Today we are undertaking to improve that co-operation through better exchange of immigration data and working together to tackle the reasons for migration," he said in a statement. The UK Borders and Immigration Agency's Strategy to build stronger international alliances to manage migration, published today, proposes establishing the international legal basis to share biometric immigration data. It said the UK would "rapidly" bring forward plans to use other technologies to pick undesirables out of queues at UK borders. It proposed "voice analysis" as one example. New technologies would be used for the "scientific and technical identification of nationality" and to "fix people's identities". The report, endorsed by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office as well as the Home Office, described how "allied countries" were working to make their immigration systems "interoperable and compatible" so they could "systematically" share data about travellers. The UK, US, Australia, and "some European countries" had already made steps in this direction. "We will build on the commitment of the Four Country Conference of the UK, USA, Canada and Australia in April 2007 to develop projects that will underpin a framework for systematic exchange of data," said the report. Similar arrangements were being promoted in Europe. The UK would also seek to share more immigration data with foreign security agencies to help prevent criminals from coming to the UK. It would explore an "international data exchange agreement" to provide the legal basis for this to happen. Many such arrangements are already being thrashed out, with Europe pushing ahead with an arrangement to share DNA and biometric records between police forces, a common European biometric immigration database steaming ahead, and a wider agreement to allow more liberal sharing of data between European police forces. US demands for information about European travellers have led to some tension with the EU, but as talks to find a solution progress toward a possible Passenger Name Record agreement on 30 June, the two sides are also exploring a wider initiative that might allow them to share police and immigration data. The UK is already collecting passenger information to feed its border computers, while from tomorrow passengers travelling to Spain must supply personal details in advance of their journey. The UK strategy noted its participation this summer in Biodev II, a proof of concept trial for a shared, external biometric border with other European states, while it has already set out its plans for "offshore border checks". From 2008, all UK visa applicants will have to supply their biometrics and all non-EEA nationals will be obliged to carry biometric identity cards. ®
Mark Ballard, 18 Jun 2007

World's 'first' solar-powered mobile phone unveiled

Danny Boyle's film Sunshine informed us earlier this year that "if the sun dies, so do we". And now that palpable statement could also ring true for your mobile - should you live in China, that is.
James Sherwood, 18 Jun 2007
9

Special-forces robot whisper-copter enters flight test

Flight tests of a revolutionary new robot helicopter have begun, according to the maker, US Aerospace giant Boeing. Of course, robot helicopters are nothing new. Remotely-piloted types have been possible for decades, and in recent years various craft have emerged which can fly pre-planned routes and even land themselves without human input. Auto landing removes the requirement for a high-bandwidth low-latency comms link over which to pilot the craft. The Boeing Hummingbird. Curiously, not black. In the case of the A160T "Hummingbird" programme, however, it's not so much the robot which is the new deal as the helicopter itself. The Hummingbird is intended as a platform for two new kinds of tech which together could make for a more capable whirlybird. The first of these is "unique optimum speed rotor technology". Existing helicopters tend to maintain a constant rate of rotor revs, in part to control vibration. The Hummingbird uses an, er, revolutionary rotor system which can vary its speed through a much wider range. This should offer a helicopter that "can reach higher altitudes, hover for longer periods of time, go greater distances and operate much more quietly". There has also been a plan to use heavier fuels in the Hummingbird, as opposed to conventional aviation juice. "The program also provides a platform for integration and testing of highly efficient heavy fuel engine technologies. These technologies can further advance current range and endurance," according to DARPA, the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. Previous test-bed versions of the Hummingbird have flown, but thus far all have had piston engines. The newer A160T turbine-powered job carried out preliminary hover trials last Friday in California. "The aircraft used during the tests is the first of 10 A160Ts [Phantom Works] is building for the DARPA and the US Special Operations Command," says Boeing. Hummingbird choppers will "eventually will fly more than 140 knots with a ceiling of 25,000 to 30,000 ft (high hover capability up to 15,000 ft) for up to 20 hours". The American special forces are thought to be interested in using the very long-ranging, stealthy helicopters for various missions, including "direct action," "precision resupply" and perhaps the recovery of personnel from deep in enemy territory. The US Navy is another potential customer. Hummingbird was developed and the DARPA contract won by Frontier Systems of California, which was bought by Boeing in 2005. Boeing's release is here. ®
Lewis Page, 18 Jun 2007
1

Malware targets computer forensics tool

Virus writers have created a proof-of-concept virus that targets a widely-used computer forensics tool. Vred-A infects WinHex scripts, preventing these additions to forensics and data recovery tools from doing anything except infecting other scripts. The virus has not been seen in the wild, and probably never will be.
John Leyden, 18 Jun 2007

Blockbuster puts its money on Blu-ray

Blu-ray Disc adoption took a leap forward today following video and games rental chain Blockbuster's decision to roll out the format to 1,700 of its US stores from July.
James Sherwood, 18 Jun 2007
13

Cops smash paedophile ring

A detailed investigation by British police has led to the collapse of a paedophile ring involving 700 people, 200 of them in the UK. The 10 month investigation involved police forces in 35 countries. Investigators have already rescued 31 children from abuse. Police investigations continue against 200 British suspects. Timothy David Martyn Cox, a 27-year-old man from Buxhall, Suffolk, has been convicted of nine offences of Possession or Distribution of Indecent Images of Children. He awaits sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court. Cox hosted an internet chatroom, called "Kids the Light of Our Lives!" from his home, which was used to trade images and videos of children being assaulted. The operation was led the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). CEOP was first alerted by Canadian police and arrested Cox on 28 September, 2006. Undercover officers from CEOP and the Toronto Police then posed as Cox, using his online identity of Son_of_god, for 10 days to gather evidence against others using his site. Cox's computer contained almost 76,000 illegal images, as well as evidence that he had traded over 11,000 images. CEOP CEO Jim Gamble said: "From the apparent 'safety' of his home, Cox spent hours each day planning, promoting and encouraging the abuse and exploitation of innocent young victims. In doing so he provided a service to hundreds of like minded individuals, enabling those with a sexual interest in children to share indecent images and discuss further plans for abuse. "Any individual who thinks they carry out such horrific activities undetected is in for a very rude awakening." The full CEOP statement is here. ®
John Oates, 18 Jun 2007

Dell audit probe almost over

Computer maker Dell told the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) late last week that it has nearly completed its internal accounts probe. Dell faces investigation from the SEC over alleged accounting problems. It has delayed filing results for the last quarter until it can be certain the figures are correct.
John Oates, 18 Jun 2007
16

T-Mobile terminates Truphone

T-Mobile has stopped connecting its customers when they call someone using Truphone, saying the VoIP operator is overcharging for interconnection. Instead, T-Mobile customers get a recorded announcement saying they must have misdialed. T-Mobile says its objection is that the termination rate Truphone is asking for is about the same as it pays the other mobile network operators, while Truphone has no mobile network to support. "Other operators have invested huge amounts of money into their networks," T-Mobile corporate communications head Simon Marks said. "Truphone has no network to maintain." The termination fee is an amount paid to the receiving network when a call is made to a customer of that network, and the rates charged by different networks are public information. Truphone is asking for reasonable rates by mobile network standards, but if it is a fixed-network it should, arguably, be receiving a lot less. Marks said: "It's not up to us to decide what kind of network Truphone is." Numbers issued by Truphone start "07", so are clearly identifiable as mobile-rated by customers, and are billed as such by other operators. If the Truphone customer is outside a data connection then incoming calls are forwarded to their normal mobile number, on their GSM network, and this requires Truphone to pay a termination fee to that network. Truphone can't afford to back down, as that would make all forwarded calls loss-making and its business unsustainable, but T-Mobile isn't going to either. UK telecoms regulator Ofcom requires phone companies to interconnect, and Truphone reckons T-Mobile is in breach of Ofcom rules by refusing to accept its rates. However, its rates are only reasonable if Truphone is a mobile operator, so it seems likely Ofcom will be required to rule on the mobility of Truphone. Ofcom was unavailable for comment at time of writing. With Truphone customers not receiving calls, and those making them unsure why, Ofcom is going to have to act quickly. ® Bootnote Ofcom has been in touch to say they consider the whole thing to be a commercial dispute, and as long as it's not BT who are refusing to connect then they don't want to get involved. Meanwhile T-Mobile are still not connecting Truphone numbers starting 07978, though developments are expected soon.
Bill Ray, 18 Jun 2007
Warning: slippery road

Not quite got to grips with Agile?

BooksBooks Considering that one of the principles of software agility is "less is more" (as in minimal, low-ceremony software processes), you could spend a lifetime reading about even niche aspects of agility. So here's the second part of our pick of the crop of agile planning books:
Matt Stephens, 18 Jun 2007
15

Washington backing for Brit arms biz coming unstuck

The US authorities are definitely investigating allegations of corrupt practice by UK-based arms colossus BAE Systems, according to reports. The Guardian, the paper which has probed British arms sales to Saudi Arabia for over a decade, reports that a US investigation into BAE's conduct is imminent - along with the news that Britain's attorney general is to be grilled by MPs over his decision to scuttle the UK's investigation. But the LA Times reported on Friday that the Department of Justice and FBI have started work already. The LA Times's anonymous informants said that the American probe would not be limited to deals in Saudi Arabia, which have been the centrepiece of allegations thus far. "It's not just Saudi payments that are an issue here," said the Times source. The feds were reportedly "looking broadly; it's a companywide thing." This wide-ranging investigation could signal that America is willing to hang BAE - and, by extension, the British government - out to dry on this issue. The Saudi allegations have been widely reported, and are thought to be a prosecutor's nightmare. Winning convictions in Western courts would be difficult, as the Saudi principals would be unlikely to accept any wrongdoing on their part. This has been a major part of the justification offered by the British attorney-general, Lord Goldsmith, for dropping the UK probe. The British Serious Fraud Office (SFO) still has files open on BAE's dealings in other countries, however, where it may be possible to get useful government cooperation. If the Times is right, the US federales will also be able to pursue BAE's dealings in these places. That permission, combined with American diplomatic clout, could lead to successful US indictments, potentially very bad news for BAE. The arms giant is engaged at present in a drive to place much of its capital investment in the USA, having sold out of the European civil-aircraft game. In particular, BAE needs US government approval for its planned buy of Armor Group. If the upper levels of the US government were planning to let that deal through on the nod, as they have in the past, they might well have prevented or limited the scope of any federal investigation of BAE. It now appears that there may be no such top-level Washington protection in place for the Armor deal, or indeed for the UK arms trade in general. That would be bad news for BAE; and perhaps bad news for the UK government. The British Ministry of Defence, and in particular its Defence Export Sales Organisation (DESO), the government-funded and government-run arms sales bureau, are heavily implicated in all UK overseas weapons deals*. The OECD international corruption watchdog, dismayed by the axing of the SFO's Saudi probe, is now very interested in the UK arms biz and its relationships with DESO and British ministers. The UK has already made efforts to restrain and impede the OECD, but it may not be able to shrug off international finger-pointing by its own efforts. If the full weight of US influence were behind Britain, however, the British government would have little to fear. But support from Washington may be a trifle lukewarm on this issue, it now appears.® *Interestingly, DESO now appears no longer to be regarded as quite such a great idea. Today's Financial Times reported that there are moves afoot to slash DESO's budget and personnel.
Lewis Page, 18 Jun 2007

i-mate unveils 'skinny' Windows phone

Windows Mobile handset specialist i-mate is setting the sales forecasts for its new Jama pocket PC almost entirely on physical dimensions, but we can't see what all the fuss is about.
James Sherwood, 18 Jun 2007
31

Dutch police arrest 111 West Africans in 419 clampdown

Dutch police have arrested 111 suspected 419 scammers. The arrests on Saturday follow the end of a seven-month investigation - dubbed Operation Apollo, AFP reports. Eight of those detained were carrying false papers. Many others among the group of West African (mainly Nigerian) suspects are reckoned to have entered the Netherlands illegally or to have overstayed their permitted stay. The alleged scammers are suspected of running a series of lottery-based (AKA 419-lite) scams. Prospective victims of these frauds are first informed by email that they have won fictitious lottery prizes. Victims are then tricked into handing over money-up front to cover processing fees or other fictitious expenses. The promised windfalls never materialise and dupes are left nursing their losses. Investigators in the Netherlands estimate that 2,000 internet con-men are active in the country. ®
John Leyden, 18 Jun 2007
Flag China

Microsoft looks for Chinese remote control

Seattle-based software behemoth Microsoft has bought a chunk of the Chinese television market in a deal with TV maker Sichuan Changhong Electric said to be worth 94.1m yuan ($12.32m).
Kelly Fiveash, 18 Jun 2007
Pacman

Kelway CEO reviews future of Elcom staff

Kelway, which acquired the veteran reseller Elcom from administration on 8 June, said the firm is weighing up its strategy and was unable to comment on the future of some 80 workers based at two UK sites.
Kelly Fiveash, 18 Jun 2007
15

Apple toughens iPhone screen, boosts battery life

Apple has upped its claim for the iPhone's battery life, now saying the touchscreen smart phone will offer an eight-hour talk time. It's also decided to ship the machine with a glass front in a bid to beat the scratches spotted by so many early iPod Nano buyers.
Tony Smith, 18 Jun 2007
1

Semel resigns as Yahoo! CEO

Yahoo! CEO Terry Semel has resigned in the face of ongoing criticism from stock holders. He will be replaced by Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, with former CFO Susan Decker taking over as president of the company. Last week, at Yahoo!’s annual meeting, Semel weathered several angry questions from shareholders, but an effort to restructure his $71.7m compensation package was voted down. Yahoo!’s stock price has dropped 10 percent in the past year, and the company continues to trail Google in the ever-important Web search market. According to the latest figures from Hitwise.com, Yahoo! accounts for only 21 per cent of Web searches, with Google at 65 per cent. After six years in the CEO job, Semel will remain with the company as a non-executive chairman. In a statement released by the company, the former Warner Brothers CEO said that his decision to resign came out of ongoing discussions with the Yahoo! board about "the importance of ensuring a smooth succession in Yahoo!'s senior leadership." "As we discussed my future goals and plans, I was clear in telling the Board of my desire to take a step back sooner rather than later," he said. "I believe Jerry and Sue, with their superb talents and intense dedication to Yahoo! and its people, are the perfect combination to carry us forward. This is the time for new executive leadership, with different skills and strengths, to step in and drive the company to realize its full potential - it is the right thing to do, and the right time is now." Yahoo!'s stock price is up five percent in after-hours trading.®
Cade Metz, 18 Jun 2007
10

Cyber crooks hijack 10,000 websites

More than 10,000 websites have been infected by a sophisticated and fast-acting Trojan downloader that attempts to install malware on visiting PCs. At least one security firm, Trend Micro, is working with the FBI to contain the damage and track down the perpetrators.
Dan Goodin, 18 Jun 2007
hands waving dollar bills in the air
2

100Gb/s Ethernet talks break down

The fickle finger of an IEEE committee may be goading along a death rattle for the organization's goal of reaching a 100 Gb/s Ethernet standard.
Austin Modine, 18 Jun 2007
Flag Germany
5

Zwei lawsuits for German ink vendor

Hewlett-Packard has filed a second lawsuit against Germany-based Pelikan Hardcopy Deutschland GmbH over an ink cartridge who-dun-it.
Austin Modine, 18 Jun 2007
60

AT&T sued by poor man's Formula 1

Eager to promote its re-branded wireless network, AT&T has upped the ante in a legal battle with NASCAR, the American auto racing association inspired by the law-defying exploits of hard-driving whiskey bootleggers. Yesterday, in Atlanta, Georgia, NASCAR filed a $100m suit against AT&T, decrying the company's sponsorship deal with stock car speedster Jeff Burton; and this morning, AT&T responded by extending the deal for another three years. NASCAR's premier racing series is sponsored by Nextel, an AT&T rival. In 2004, when NASCAR signed its $700m Nextel agreement, Jeff Burton and his Richard Childress Racing Team had an existing deal with Cingular, and NASCAR officials gave a free pass to the enormous Cingular sponsorship logos painted on Burton’s No. 31 car. But after AT&T's recent acquisition of Cingular, NASCAR wouldn't allow Burton to change the logos. In March, AT&T sued NASCAR, and a U.S. District Judge issued a preliminary injunction that gave the go-ahead to a new paint job. Yesterday, NASCAR counter-sued, claiming that the paint job was a $100m slap-in-the-face. "Cingular's refusal to follow NASCAR rules and accept NASCAR's denial of this paint scheme [has] undermined NASCAR's authority as the sanctioning body of stock car auto racing," said the suit. But a day later, Burton and AT&T announced a three-year extension to their marketing agreement. "As long-time supporters of racing and its fans, we are very pleased to continue our involvement with the sport as a team sponsor in the wireless category," read a statement from Dave Garver, executive director of high growth segments and sponsorships for the wireless division at AT&T. "We’re looking ahead, planning even more engaging ways to bring the latest in wireless technology to fans." This sort of sponsorship row is common in the world of sport. "It happens all the time," explains Ethan Horwitz, an intellectual property lawyer with the international firm King & Spalding. "It not unusual to have, say, a ballpark that’s sponsored by Coke and a guy on the team that’s sponsored by Pepsi." But it is unusual for such a disagreement to reach the courts. "Coke and Pepsi long ago learned how to work these things out," Horwitz says. "The beer companies have learned. The Nikes and Adidases have learned. But the parties in this case still have some learning to do."®
Cade Metz, 18 Jun 2007