19th > June > 2007 Archive

5

Google launches self-protection blog

A week after Privacy International ranked the privacy practices of 23 major web companies and put Google at the very bottom of the list, the Mountain View-based search giant has launched a brand new blog where it will regularly address matters of Internet privacy and other public policy issues, including copyright and trademark protection, online safety for children, content regulation, and patent reform. "Our hope is that this blog becomes a resource for policy makers," Google public policy spokesperson Adam Kovacevich told The Register. "We have a lot of interaction with policy makers at the federal, state, local, and international level who are working on all sorts of hot-button issues, and we want this to be a part of those debates and discussions." Google’s growing team of policy lobbyists has been blogging within the company since April, and these internal posts are now available to the web at large. The company also allowed comments on the blog, hoping to include its users in these discussions. "We're seeking to do public policy advocacy in a Googley way," said today’s post from Andrew McLaughlin, Google’s director of public policy and government affairs. "Yes, we're a multinational corporation that argues for our positions before officials, legislators, and opinion leaders. At the same time, we want our users to be part of the effort, to know what we're saying and why, and to help us refine and improve our policy positions and advocacy strategies. With input and ideas from our users, we'll surely do a better job of fighting for our common interests." Google’s public policy team now includes roughly twelve lobbyists scattered throughout the world, and all will be posting regularly to the blog. Kovacevich estimates that new posts will arrive roughly once a week. ®
Cade Metz, 19 Jun 2007
5

HP's Hurd can't dance, but he can preach BT

Technology ForumTechnology Forum To see HP CEO Mark Hurd speak in Las Vegas is to witness a contradiction. Hurd, after all, attended a deeply Texan college in Baylor University that had an unofficial ban on dancing until 1996. Sure, you could ogle the blonde, Baptist cheerleaders with the sweet Southern accents. You just couldn't lock hands with them and gyrate to music.
Ashlee Vance, 19 Jun 2007
7

South Korean robot officiates at marriage

Korean roboticists announced over the weekend that their industry had achieved yet another world first, as a droid officiated at a wedding south of Seoul. "Tiro" the robot priest/master-of-ceremonies joins an illustrious list of Korean machine pioneers, including the SGR-A1 sacrificial DMZ-guarding gun-bot and the new droid chaperones being deployed to curb adolescent lust in Korean schools. Now, South Koreans can be guarded from godless northern hordes, kept pure until marriage by robots and then actually joined in matrimony at the hands of a machine. According to AFP and Hanool Robotics, Tiro and an unspecified number of assistant machines were due to handle the wedding of Hanool engineer Seok Gyeong-jae and his lovely bride in Daejeon - a city 120km south of Seoul. The marriage-bot apparently speaks in a "sweet female voice" and is priced by Hanool at 200m won, or about £109,000. "Tiro will be upgraded so that it can be used for various purposes," according to Hanool's Kim Dae-hyun. Divorces, perhaps. The supporting robots were to act as ushers and "give performances," apparently. Hats off to Hanool Robotics and the happy couple - not to mention Tiro - for showing us that robots can do other things than spy on humans or mow them down like corn in an orgy of machine slaughter. There was no word of any picketing by irate priests or registrars, perhaps because the wedding will still have to be registered with the authorities to be legal. Coverage from AFP and the Taipei Times here. ®
Lewis Page, 19 Jun 2007
9

MPs under fire for £3bn IT consultancy bill

MPs and unions have lambasted the government for spending £3bn on external advice in areas such as IT. Parliament's all-party Public Accounts Committee has hit out at the government's "profligacy" for spending nearly £3bn on consultants, without a clear idea of the benefits. Spending on consultants has risen by a third to nearly £3bn over the last three years, with the NHS accounting for most of this increase, says the committee's report, published on 19 June 2007. Whitehall departments are repeatedly using consultants for core skills, including project and programme management and IT. "It is impossible to believe that the public are receiving anything like full value for money from this expenditure," said committee chair Edward Leigh. "Departments are often on the phone to consultants without first finding out whether their own in-house staff have the skills to do the job. Even worse, departments and the Office of Government Commerce do not know how much is being spent on consultancy." Since the committee last reported on the issue in 2002, the government has made only limited progress on its recommendations. Likewise, many of the recommendations from a report in 1994 by the Cabinet Office Efficiency Unit have not been fulfilled. Over the last three years IT consultancy and project management skills accounted for 54 per cent of total government spend on consultants. But consistently relying on external consultants for basic skills is expensive and, over a period of time, represents poor value for money, according to the MPs. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) has accused the government of cutting 100,000 civil and public service jobs and then making increasing use of consultants to plug the gaps, often at up to 10 times the cost. The union cited the "ludicrous situation" at HM Revenue and Customs, which sought to save £105m in the last year by cutting staff, yet spent £106m on management consultants who have often been doing the same work as civil servants. Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, said: "Rather than investing in its own workforce, the government have effectively given management consultants a licence to print money at the taxpayer's expense." Departments must identify core IT skills gaps and decide on the most cost-effective use of internal and external resources, planning recruitment and training accordingly, the report says. The report acknowledges that if consultants are used appropriately, they can provide considerable benefits. It gives the example of the Ministry of Defence's saving on procurement, after using consultants to help develop new buying methods. Overall, departments have to adopt a much more intelligent approach to the use of external consultants and be more commercially aware in procuring consultants, drawing up fixed price contracts or ones that include incentives. The committee's findings are based on a report by the National Audit Office published last year, as well as evidence from government buying agency, the Office of Government Commerce. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 19 Jun 2007
Warning Go

ThirdForce acquisition gets green light

E-learning provider ThirdForce has received approval from shareholders to make a $18m acquisition of US firm MindLeaders. ThirdForce aims to use the purchase of the Ohio-based firm to grow its business in the US. The Dublin-based company expects annual revenues to grow to over €30m following the acquisition.
Emmet Ryan, 19 Jun 2007
11

TalkTalk slams slamming charges

TalkTalk has denied ISP industry allegations it is stealing thousands of customers from competitors every month. BT-owned outfit PlusNet has led other ISPs in accusing TalkTalk of "slamming" - migrating broadband lines to its network without permission from the subscriber. PlusNet estimated 2,500 broadband customers were being "stolen" by TalkTalk every month, and is preparing a formal complaint to regulators. A TalkTalk spokesman said: "Whether through a systems or human error...we can't say it never happens, but it's certainly not something we set out to do. "It's not seen as an ongoing problem at anywhere near the levels being bandied about by some people." TalkTalk said migration without a MAC code could have occurred because of its MPF full unbundling technology, where both the ADSL and voice line are transferred from BT. It said its policies mean the broadband should not be moved without express permission when it bags a new home phone line; voice only customers' ADSL should stay put. A statement from the Carphone Warehouse-owned telco added: "TalkTalk currently operates at significantly below the industry average for alleged incidents of this kind and we are working with our industry partners to address these concerns and will undertake a full investigation of any issues raised with us." ®
Christopher Williams, 19 Jun 2007

'Alu-mac' iMacs due next month?

We've got around a month to wait before Apple unveils the anticipated next-gen iMac design, it has been claimed. Expect to see the 20in and 24in machines on shop shelves between the middle of July and mid-August, moles maintain.
Tony Smith, 19 Jun 2007

APS aims at 'Windows' of SaaS

In much the same way that applications have, in the past, been developed to run on a known operating system – with Microsoft’s Windows being the not the least significant target example – so it is time for the same approach to start appearing at the next level of abstraction. This is the service provider level, which is going to be the new common ground through which users will have applications – and more specifically the services those applications generate – delivered to their PCs and laptops.
Martin Banks, 19 Jun 2007

Nokia turns on to Bluetooth cans

Nokia has launched a trio of Bluetooth headsets: a pair of standard mobile phone extensions and a full-size pair of wireless cans for music fans.
James Sherwood, 19 Jun 2007

Supremes back Wall Street on dot com era ladder deals

Disappointed US investors cannot use anti-trust laws to sue banks they accuse of fixing the price of initial public offerings (IPO) of some 900 companies in the late 1990s. The Supreme Court voted seven to one that such allegations should be ruled on by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The suit alleged that big banks worked with brokers to fix the price of IPOs to the detriment of the US public. They also used "laddering" - favoured clients who got first choice of newly issued shares also had to buy shares as the price rose. This helped produce the big price jumps seen in the early trading of newly listed public companies in the late 1990s. It became common practice for the banks to ensure share offerings were effectively underwritten in this way. The case also alleged banks paid unusually high commissions for these services. Finally, the banks were accused of "tying" - linking purchases of popular stocks with those of much less popular shares. But the Supremes ruled on Monday that the SEC is the correct body to deal with such complaints. Justice Stephen Breyer said such cases brought: "A substantial risk of injury to the securities markets." Breyer said the SEC is likely to do a better job. The decision said: "A fine, complex, detailed line separates activity that the SEC permits or encourages from activity that it forbids. And the SEC has the expertise to distinguish what is forbidden from what is allowed." It does not mean the issue is over - the SEC is still investigating several IPOs and could still rule in the investors' favour. But a victory under anti-trust legislation would have brought bigger fines and settlements for investors. The whole decision is available as a 30 page pdf here. ®
John Oates, 19 Jun 2007
1

AT&T not planning to buy Vodafone

AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson has told the Financial Times that despite speculation it's not planning to buy Vodafone. He said the firm will instead focus on smaller companies supplying big corporate customers with telephony services. AT&T certainly has international aspirations, and made an abortive bid for Telecom Italia back in April. But Randell, who started as chief executive two weeks ago, described that bid as "opportunistic", and has made it clear that ownership of any former European telecoms monopoly isn't on the cards. Big business contracts were worth over £5bn to AT&T in 2006, including the customers of the three domestic competitors it's bought in the last few years. Verizon and BT remain significant international competitors for that business, and both will be watching to see which smaller companies might attract AT&T's interest. ®
Bill Ray, 19 Jun 2007

ESA greenlights Sentinel-1 deal, inks agreements with NASA

It's all go this week for the European Space Agency, ESA. The agency has ordered the first satellites for its Global Monitoring for Environment and Security programme, and finalised details of how it will work with NASA on two massive projects: the James Webb Space Telescope and the LISA Pathfinder mission. Sentinel-1, expected to be launched in 2011, is the first of five satellites that will monitor changes in the Earth's oceans, land, weather and climate. The agency signed the €229m deal with Thales Alenia Space on Monday, at the Paris International Air Show. The craft will carry a synthetic aperture radar system that allows it to collect images of the Earth's surface regardless of the levels of light. It will be able to track waves as they travel across the seas and monitor the surface movement of the land. The science programme accompanying the hardware will have a particular focus on improving our understanding of climate change, ESA said. The agency added that the satellites had other uses as well: Sentinel-1 is capable of capturing details down to a resolution of five metres, so will provide useful information for those co-ordinating a humanitarian response in the aftermath of natural disasters. Meanwhile, ESA has also agreed terms with NASA on how the two agencies will share the work involved in readying the James Webb Space Telescope, Hubble's replacement, for space. According to the two agencies, NASA has overall responsibility for the construction, management and operation of the JWST, while ESA is providing some of the instruments and the Ariane 5 ECA rocket that will take the telescope into space. They have also agreed who will provide what for the LISA (Laser Interferometer Space Antenna) pathfinder mission. LISA Pathfinder is designed to test drive technologies for a future LISA mission that will detect gravitational waves in space, testing the predictions of the theory of general relativity. On LISA, ESA takes the lead, holding responsibility for the design development and launch of whole mission. The science packages on board will come from a European consortium, while NASA is providing a Disturbance Reduction System Package that "consists of thrusters that produce a minute level of force, combined with control systems and software", the agencies said. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Jun 2007

Samsung parades designer sliders

Samsung today unveiled a trio of designer slider-phones, one of which - for the first time - slaps a Yahoo! key right on the front, part of a smart backlit touch-sensitive control panel, for all to see.
Tony Smith, 19 Jun 2007
Warning: biohazard
1

Text bug blights Trillian

Users of the popular Trillian instant messaging client need to update their software following the discovery of a serious security bug. The multi-protocol chat application from Cerulean Studios is subject to a heap overflow vulnerability because of programming errors involving the word-wrapping of UTF-8 text.
John Leyden, 19 Jun 2007
2

Toshiba laptop goes up in smoke

Toshiba has no doubt left Sony feeling a little hot under the collar after announcing that yet another of the laptop battery packs made by its Japanese rival has burst into flames, nuking the notebook good and proper.
James Sherwood, 19 Jun 2007
24

German teen unplugs pensioner's 'noisy' life support machine

Police in Southern Germany are quizzing a 17-year-old car crash victim who turned off a fellow hospital patient's life-support machine because it was keeping him awake. Frederik Moelner wound up in intensive care recovering from the accident, reports Ananova, but his attempts to have a bit of recuperative kip were stymied by the noisy life support machine keeping the 76-year-old in the neighbouring bed breathing. Rather than take a sedative, the 17-year-old took matters into his own hands, pulling the plug on the offending piece of medical technology, thus ensuring shut-eye himself and, potentially, the big sleep for his unfortunate neighbour. Luckily medical staff quickly realised what had happened, and reconnected the lucky pensioner. They then connected the sleep deprived 17-year-old with the local police. Sadly, it is not clear whether the machine in question was one that went bing. ®
Joe Fay, 19 Jun 2007
43

Investigators find secret White House email accounts

The Committee of Oversight and Government Reform has released its initial findings after investigating the use of parallel email accounts by officials in Bush's White House. According to the Presidential Records Act, White House officials are obliged to keep and preserve all communications which they send on official government business. But some 88 Bush officials ignored this law. Instead, they used addresses supplied by the Republican National Committee (RNC), which raises funds and promotes the Republican Party. It also appears that White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales knew officials were using these accounts for official communications but did nothing about it. The committee first learnt of the parallel email system when investigating which White House officials had contact with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Karl Rove's PA, Susan Ralston, sent an email to Abramoff's associate Todd Boulanger, which said: "I now have an RNC BlackBerry which you can use to email me at any time. No security issues like my WH email." In March 2007, the White House said only a handful of officials had such accounts. That number has now risen to 88. Many of these emails have been destroyed. The RNC has no emails for 51 of the accounts, although it has saved over 140,000 emails sent or received by Karl Rove. But there are big gaps - only 130 emails to or from Rove exist from the first Presidential term - the first Rove email the RNC preserved dates from November 2003. For many other officials there are no emails dated before autumn 2006. In total the RNC has preserved 674,367 emails of which 36 per cent were sent or received from .gov addresses - suggesting the mails related to government business. The committee also dismissed the claim that officials acted out of ignorance. White House Counsel issued "clear written policies" in February 2001 that White House staff should only use the official White House email system for official communications. Named officials included Andrew Card, former White House chief of staff, Ken Mehlman, former director of political affairs, and Scott Jennings, special assistant to the President. The White House spokesman yesterday said the accounts were set up to avoid violations of the Hatch Act - designed to stop officials using government systems for party political purposes. The next step in the investigation is to discover whether other copies of these missing mails exist. The committee has written to 25 government agencies to see if they have copies, and initial responses are encouraging. It is also asking the White House for more information on why these emails were not preserved. And it is considering taking further action against the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign which is refusing to identify the full list of officials with RNC email addresses. The committee said of the campaign's refusal: "This recalcitrance is an unwarranted obstacle to the committee's inquiry into potential violations of the Presidential Records Act." A great clip of Bush talking about "The Google" and why he doesn't send or receive emails is available here. The report, with names of all 88 officials, is available as a pdf here. ®
John Oates, 19 Jun 2007
11

Apple GPS System rumoured to debut in Mercedes cars

Apple is secretly working on a GPS unit for cars with Mercedes owners likely to get hold the technology long before lesser drivers, a German magazine has claimed.
Jan Libbenga, 19 Jun 2007
3

US Army funds hydrogen-fuelled drone aircraft

Fuelled by a seemingly inexhaustible stream of federal military/security research cash, the US flying-robot industry seems to produce fresh wonders every day. We've seen Terminator-esque Flying HKs, droid gunships, and self-piloting special-forces whisper-copters. Today's robot-related news reveals yet another new twist: the US Army Space and Missile Defense Command has put $6.2m into the "Orion" High Altitude, Long Loiter (HALL) aircraft. The Orion's special sauce is its hydrogen-powered engine, which gives it the ability to operate at 65,000 feet - some 12 miles up - and stay there for better than four days. The Orion high-altitude hydrogen fuelled sky-bot According to Flight International, the engine itself is no more than a supercharged Ford car engine modified to burn hydrogen. Presumably, the problems of cryogenic liquid hydrogen boiling off and escaping from the tank are somewhat eased up in the sub-zero heights of the stratosphere. Orion can only carry about 180kg of payload, however, so it could struggle as an eye in the sky. The US Army are probably more interested in using it intially as a relay for line-of-sight comms links. But the American soldiery are also interested in long-endurance, super-high-flying air platforms which could lurk far above overseas battlefields and perhaps sniff out incoming enemy cruise missiles or other threats which would be below the horizon. They have plans* to deploy Orion-type robot HALL planes in concert with the American droid airships which are under development. You didn't know about the robo-airships? They're being built by the Missile Defence Agency (not the same as Army Space & Missile Defence) and - of course - the Pentagon mad scientists (pdf) at DARPA. The DARPA ship will be especially amazing, if it works - able to sit in the sky without refuelling for over a year, and track individual people walking about on the ground from 300km away. The comparatively dull winged, hydrogen-fuelled Orion is being developed by Aurora Flight Sciences in cooperation with Boeing's "Phantom Works," and there is also a plan for the two companies to build a bigger twin-engined job which could stay at 65,000 feet for 10 days. ® *The relevant Army pdf factsheet seems to be unavailable as of writing, but you can check the Google html cache here. It's a bit rich in staff-college acronyms.
Lewis Page, 19 Jun 2007
6

Vyke moves VoIP battle to SMS

VoIP provider Vyke has added text messaging to its mobile phone client, enabling its customers to text each other for free and charging just over a penny to text anyone else. The UK based company reckons it's 10 times cheaper for NASA to get messages back from the Hubble space telescope than for you to text your mate - byte for byte - and anyone exceeding their bundled text messages will know how the cost of compulsive texting can add up. Vyke already offers a Jajah-like service, using a Java client to configure a call which is then received as incoming by both parties, but extending that to text requires some mechanism to enable the receiving phone to wake up and get the message. Truphone, which also recently announced the addition of text to its services, uses a memory-resident client and forwards the text over the GSM network if that client isn't connected. But not many devices will support a memory-resident client, so Vyke uses JSR120 (the Java Messaging API) which triggers their Java client to run on receipt of an appropriately formatted message. Both solutions use the data channel to send text messages, breaching the terms and conditions for data bundles - such as Vodafone UK's, which explicitly excludes "text messaging clients". Vyke CEO Kjetil Bohn is forthright in his defence of the company's right to provide such services: "Like the other companies in this area we are looking at if it's legal for operators to limit services...we don't want to, but somewhere down the road we will have to take the fight [to the operators] legally." If the public embraces applications of this kind, network operators are going to have a hard time maintaining their income. With European roaming getting capped and text messaging under attack, two of the biggest mobile cash cows are looking decidedly unwell. ®
Bill Ray, 19 Jun 2007
11

Goodbye ICSTIS, hello PhonePayPlus

The watchdog formerly known as ICSTIS has rebranded itself PhonePayPlus and promised to come down harder on TV shows, after a series of rip-off scandals in the last year garnered it widespread criticism. Bravely joining the crusade against spaces, and in favour of mid-word capitalisation, PhonePayPlus aims to be a bit more proactive than ICTSIS was during the brouhaha over Richard and Judy, Big Brother, and X Factor, even though at the time chairman Sir Alistair Graham denied it lacked teeth. Sir Alistair did signal that ICSTIS felt its name had been poisoned by the battering the industry as a whole took last year. He said something better might "stick in the mind of consumers as the place to complain about problems in the premium rate industry". Parool Patel, head of communications at ICSTIS (not PhonePayPlus yet, apparently) today rattled the newly-forged sabre: "We have the power to shut down businesses, issue sanctions, bar access to services, and impose large financial penalties. Broadcasters, production companies, and telephony service providers are now warned that we are monitoring programming output. "Premium rate services like phone in competitions and voting should not be used a form of stealth tax for television viewers." Rebranding buffs will be interested to hear that ICSTIS' PhonePayPlus' bespoke public frontage paradigm will be defined by Paratus Communications, which won the six month contract by "beating off a short-list of eight other agencies". We'll leave it to you to judge the wisdom of including the phrase "beating off" in an announcement about premium rate phone lines. ®
Christopher Williams, 19 Jun 2007
78

Manhunt 2 banned

Rockstar Games' Manhunt 2 has been to all intents and purposes banned in the UK after the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) refused to certify the PS2 and Wii title. Without a BBFC certificate, the game can't legally be sold here.
Tony Smith, 19 Jun 2007
Ubuntu teaser
19

Ubuntu chief mua muas Microsoft

Leader of the Ubuntu tribe Mark Shuttleworth has no plans to invite dirty uncle Microsoft over for patent protection talks. Canonical's CEO this weekend spanked rumor mongers for suggesting that his company may go the way of Linspire, Xandros and Novell. All of these software makers have formed recent deals with Microsoft around patent "protection." Microsoft, some of you might have heard, has grumbled that Linux and related software could probably – wink, nod – infringe on its patents.
Ashlee Vance, 19 Jun 2007
26

Minister: ID cards 'another Great British Institution'

Sometimes the Reg likes to think it casts a satirical eye over the day's news. And sometimes government ministers are so out of touch with reality that they do our job for us. Thank you then to Liam Byrne, the Home Office minister who is a dead ringer for Otto Flick from 'Allo 'Allo, for today's offering. Speaking at Chatham House Byrne said the gov's beloved ID card scheme will soon be another great British institution: "Like the railways in the 19th century or the national grid last century, the national identity system will soon become part of the fabric of British life." No mention of our fine Victorian sewers then. And given the state of the railways under this government this metaphor is a hostage to fortune all on its own. But there's more - Byrne said the identity terror "challenge" was already being met by various private companies. He said: "Manufacturers are working on fingerprint technology locks that would make stolen phones and MP3 players instantly worthless." We're still not clear which manufacturers he is talking about - if your company is making a fingerprint-activated mobile phone or MP3 player please do get in touch. Byrne said we should be reassured because: "My party has always been suspicious of growth in unregulated and unaccountable power and the risk of new inequalities." A statement which is absolutely true provided you ignore the Labour government's concerted attack on our civil liberties including the right to silence, the right of peaceful protest, the right to trial by jury, rights of peaceful assembly and the assumption of innocence. If you can take any more, Byrne's speech is here.®
John Oates, 19 Jun 2007

Samsung grows stick-phone line

Samsung today extended its family of stick-like music phone, the F series, with a pair of lower cost models designed to broaden the range's appeal as an alternative to cheap Flash-based MP3 players.
Tony Smith, 19 Jun 2007
2

Business getting clever about IP?

In the West, litigation is so last century. These days, intellectual property is all about the value and the strategy. So says a new report from consultants at Pricewaterhouse Coopers (PwC). But in the emerging economies, protecting intellectual property is a battle on the most basic levels: warehouses are being raided to supply the black market.
Lucy Sherriff, 19 Jun 2007
4

Too busy to read this?

Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies It won't have escaped your attention that the IT management space is quite a hot topic right now - or at least it is if you listen to IT vendors. Given that we don't like just taking their word for it, we'd like to find out from you guys some down to earth stuff about the current state of play when it comes to managing IT. Are you all excited about best practice? Do you think there is an uber console waiting in the wings to solve everything? Or, as we suspect, are you just too busy doing all this stuff to care? And what's keeping you so busy? What are the bug bears and headaches taking up inappropriate amounts of your time? What practical ways around these issues are there? Take a few minutes of your day and tell us what's on your mind, so we can discover the real, up to date "state of play" as you see things, and then see if we can build some sensible bridges between what we're hearing from you guys in the real world, and what the vendors are telling us. To get started, simply click here. ®
Team Register, 19 Jun 2007
24

TVonics DVR-250 Freeview Playback DVR

ReviewReview The biggest obstacle on the path to mass-market adoption of digital video recorders (DVRs), or personal video recorders (PVRs) - is that many don't know what they actually are. Sure, some know they are a bit like Sky+, but many Sky+ owners don't know what that box does either. To the PC-literate, the notion of the hard drive-based media recorder is pretty simple. Try explaining it to your Gran though.
Alun Taylor, 19 Jun 2007
18

F-22 superjets could act as flying Wi-Fi hotspots

US defence contractors have carried out the first flight tests in which America's latest cutting-edge fighter targeting radars have been put to novel use - as high-capacity wireless datalinks. This crafty use of existing hardware has the potential to ease military bandwidth bottlenecks, and could offer a chance for expensive superfighters to be of use even in the absence of serious aerial opposition. The most expensive Wi-Fi hotspot in the world? The latest generation of US military aircraft carry so-called Active Electronically Scanned Array* (AESA) radars, which are made up of many separate transmit-receive elements. AESA radars have long been heralded as miraculous multi-tasking kit, capable of acting as electronic-warfare scanners, jammers, or even electromagnetic weapons capable of frying enemy circuitry from afar. There have also been ground trials in which the radar from America's ultra-advanced, hyper-expensive F-22 "Raptor" stealth superfighter has been used as a kind of Wi-Fi card on steroids, able to transmit data at a blistering 548 Mbit/sec and receive it at Gigabit speed. This is important, because at present most US and allied aircraft have to exchange information using a system called Link 16, which tops out at a shade over 1 Mbit/sec. That's quite adequate for reporting positions and speeds of enemy planes, but it's terrible for passing big modern data streams. A modern drone aircraft needs to send several Mbit/sec of bandwidth back to its masters in order to operate effectively, for instance. The latest flying robots can pilot themselves, but they still need to send video and synthetic radar imagery back so targeting decisions can be taken and intelligence acted on. At the moment, drone bandwidth often has to be provided using scarce satellite capacity. Watchkeeper surveillance drones due in UK service from 2010 may need to be sent up in pairs, so that one can relay data from the other over a dedicated line-of-sight datalink. Meanwhile, in typical modern conflicts, vastly expensive superfighters like the Raptor have tended to scrabble for employment - enemy superfighters being scarce. But now an alliance of Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and L-3 Communications has duplicated the AESA ground tests in the air, using a Raptor radar mounted in a BAC 1-11 test plane to exchange data with a ground station at 274 Mbit/sec, "fully duplex". AESA radars are well able to handle two simultaneous information streams, apparently. All you need is an "off-the-shelf, L-3 programmable modem". "Synthetic aperture radar map imagery and streaming video were relayed," according to Northrop Grumman. "This will allow pilots to relay important combat information to the global information grid (GIG) in seconds." Of course, that information might come from the Raptor's own sensors, or from other manned aircraft. Most commentators have seen the AESA datalink as being a tool for high-tech air battle with the Raptor fully engaged, and they could well be right. But the mighty nine-figure superjet with its human pilot is scarcely the first choice in a counter-insurgency war. A relatively unobtrusive, self-piloting combat drone such as the Warrior, costing about one per cent what a Raptor does, would normally be more likely to head into harm's way. Tomorrow's fighter pilot could well find himself effectively driving an airborne Wi-Fi access point for the robot warriors of the future. It might not just be Raptors - other US jets have AESA radars too. Northrop Grumman's release is here. ® Bootnote We went with the Wi-Fi comparison rather than 3G as it's closer to 274 Mbit/sec. *Some prefer Active Electronically Steered Array
Lewis Page, 19 Jun 2007
1

Toshiba names new HD DVD laptops

Toshiba has re-iterated its plan to build HD DVD drives into a range of laptops - well, three at least. And you'll have to wait a while to get your hands on one: they're not due to go on sale until the back-to-school sales period in Q3 - think August.
Tony Smith, 19 Jun 2007
EMC

DATAllegro: an update on Version 3

When DATAllegro announced earlier this year that it had partnered with Dell to provide node processing capabilities and EMC to be its disk provider I was not particularly impressed.
Philip Howard, 19 Jun 2007
IBM
6

Blade PC start-up manages to nail IBM, ClearCube and Verari

Okay, okay. You've heard this before. The world is ready for a blade PC revolution. This time, however, the revolution may well be computerized thanks to a Canadian start-up called Teradici. The small firm emerged this week with some big customers, namely IBM, ClearCube, Devon IT and Verari. These companies will use Teradici's new "PC over IP" technology as the basis of their various blade PC attacks.
Ashlee Vance, 19 Jun 2007
1

HP buys web security firm SPI

Two weeks ago, Hewlett-Packard stared jealously across the street as IBM pulled into the driveway with a brand new web application security specialist company. Not to be outclassed by a neighbor, HP has bought one too.
Austin Modine, 19 Jun 2007
11

YouTube acknowledges foreign countries

UpdatedUpdated Last week, it was Flickr. This week, it’s YouTube. Following in the footsteps of Yahoo!’s Web 2.0 poster-child, which just announced versions of its photo-sharing service in seven new languages, Google’s video-sharing outfit has unveiled localized versions in nine new countries, including Brazil, France, Ireland, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, Poland, Spain, and the UK. "Video is universal, and the incredible variety of the international content that we see on YouTube confirms just that!" exclaims Sakina Arsiwala, YouTube’s international manager, in a post to the YouTube blog. "In the spirit of serving our communities better, we are tailoring the YouTube experience to speak your language." On each of these new YouTube sites, she explains, all content is translated into the local tongue. We weren't quite sure what that meant for the Ireland and UK, so we asked the company for clarification. "Ireland and UK users will both see English-language versions of YouTube," said a company spokesperson. The sites also include country-specific video rankings, search functions, user comments, and browse pages. “We're extremely excited to be offering YouTube in the languages of so many of our users, since it allows people to express themselves and unite around interesting, relevant videos,” Arswala continues. “We're looking forward to seeing communities develop between people in their local communities as well as among people around the world.” The company would not say how many people are using YouTube in the nine countries where these new sites have been launched.®
Cade Metz, 19 Jun 2007
10

Google gets into green transport policy

Noted bot-vs-bot information nexus Google has joined Prince Charles in swerving away from core business to offer environment strategies. The internet ad-men have had a scratch of their heads, and reckon they've got the answers to green transportation and energy use. To be specific, the Google flavour of green involves plug-in hybrid cars, rooftop solar panels and smarter power grids. A plug-in hybrid, as opposed to a normal hybrid car like the successful Toyota Prius, has a bigger battery pack able to store more electrical power - and this larger battery can be plugged into a power socket to charge up. The plug-in hybrid operates "primarily on electricity for the first 20-40 miles ... and since more than 70 per cent of Americans drive less than 33 miles per day, many will not use any gasoline in their daily commutes," according to Google. Longer trips would still be possible, drawing on the car's combustion engine. "Integration of hybrid cars with the electric power grid could reduce gasoline consumption by 85 billion gallons per year," the company adds. "That’s equal to a 27 per cent reduction in total U.S. greenhouse gases, 52 per cent displacement potential of U.S. oil imports, and $270 billion avoided in gasoline expenses." Of course, it might throw a bit of a load on the electricity grid, which could easily translate to increased carbon emissions from power plants. Google reckon that there won't be a need for any new plants, though. "Even without adding any new power plants, the existing U.S. electrical grid has sufficient capacity to fully fuel three quarters of the nation’s 217 million passenger vehicles, assuming the average car drives 33 miles per day," say the ad-men. This would be because plug-in hybrids would be charged up mainly at night, when demand for electricity is low and existing powerplants have spare capacity. Google also reckons that "Vehicle to Grid," (V2G) tech would be a good idea. The firm said that plug-in hybrids parked with juice in their batteries at times of high demand could sell power back into the grid, and utility companies wouldn't need to fire up dirty standby generation plants. They think that plug-in hybrid owners might make $2-3,000 a year like this, though they'd presumably have to drive home from work burning petrol because their batteries were flat. In fact, on the face of it V2G would appear to transfer workday peak burden from utility-company standby generators out of town to car engines in the cities, at least in the case of daily commuters. The standby power would have to be pretty dirty for that to make sense. Maybe the Googlers are on about cars which do an average of ten miles or less each day, and would be able to spare some juice as well as do the day's work. In that case, though, why not just leave your spare battery capacity at home rather than lugging it back and forth every day? It's all very puzzling. Google are also very proud of their rooftop solar panels, which deliver "30 per cent of Google's peak electricity demand in our solar powered buildings at our Mountain View, CA headquarters." Much more from Google here.®
Lewis Page, 19 Jun 2007
Handcuffs
12

Feds told they need warrants for webmail

A federal appeals court has upheld a lower court's ruling against warrantless seizures of email. Law enforcement agents need to obtain a warrant before looking at a user's email even if it is stored online, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeal ruled on Wednesday.
John Leyden, 19 Jun 2007
23

Opera tries to out-do the iPhone

Opera has launched a beta of its mobile browser, Opera Mini: version 4 supports smooth zooming around web pages and server-based page optimisation, giving Opera claim to deliver the whole internet ahead of Apple's much-anticipated iPhone. Version 4 of the Java-based browser also makes greater use of the keypad for navigation, freeing up directional keys for control of an on-screen pointer, but it is the zoom function which grabs the attention. Newly loaded pages are presented in their entirety; complete but impossible to read, and Opera Mini tries to guess which part of the page you actually want to look at. Focus is shifted to that area, though you can use the directional keys to change it, and a smooth zoom then renders the content in a readable size. Opera has produced a, slightly arrogant, video comparing its product with the iPhone. It highlights cross-phone compatibility and low cost compared to Apple's baby. It might seem odd to compare a downloadable web browser to a phone handset, but if the iPhone is being sold on the premise that it's the first time the web has been truly navigable then it's fair for Opera to compare when it believes its product achieves the same thing. Readers can try the beta of Opera Mini for themselves, those wanting to compare it to the iPhone will have to wait until the end of the month. ®
Bill Ray, 19 Jun 2007
Dollar
1

Video games, TV ruin Best Buy's profits

Best Buy, the largest US consumer-electronics chain ,reported a net income drop of 18 per cent to $192m (39 cents per share), despite strong sales in the first quarter.
Austin Modine, 19 Jun 2007
Java

Start-up forced to admit that Sun invented Java

Sun Microsystems and start-up Azul Systems have settled their patent spat. Neither company will say squat about the settlement, leaving you wondering who came out the victor in this exercise.
Ashlee Vance, 19 Jun 2007
Microsoft Office logo
41

Say goodbye to Office 2003, Microsoft tells PC builders

Microsoft is making Office 2007 its default productivity suite for system builders, less than five months after the suite's full-scale launch.
Gavin Clarke, 19 Jun 2007
5

FCC chairman says ‘broadband for all!’

Appearing via satellite at the annual NXTcomm conference in Chicago, U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin urged telecom leaders to provide the entire country with broadband access. In an effort to promote investment in broadband infrastructure, the FCC has worked to deregulate both cable and DSL services, so that providers are no longer required to lease their lines to competitors. "I think that our policies have been a success," Martin said, Ars Technica reports. "Most importantly, we're seeing broadband adoption across all demographics. It's critical that we make sure that everyone in the country can take advantage of the broadband revolution.” After direct pressure from the FCC, AT&T is playing a particularly conspicuous part in this broadband-for-everyone push. In December, as a way of gaining FCC approval for its merger with BellSouth, AT&T agreed to offer 768Kbps DSL for only $10, and this low-speed service is now available to new customers. AT&T is required to offer the service for at least 30 months. In his video speech, Martin also addressed the issue of "net neutrality," which would prevent broadband providers from blocking access to competitors' content. He said that the FCC must work "to ensure that consumers will be able to access all of the content on the Internet and attach their own devices to the network as long as they do not damage the network." But he acknowledged that providers should have the power to make money from their broadband lines. Some net neutrality advocates seek to prevent providers from using “tiered service models,” where surfers pay different prices for different speeds and different types of content, but Martin isn’t one of them. “It's crucial to ensure that people are able to recoup some of the cost of their investments," he said. “[Providers] should have the flexibility to offer various tiers of service.” As part of its merger with BellSouth, AT&T also pledged to maintain “a neutral network and neutral routing in its wire-line broadband Internet access service" for at least two years - or until Congress passes a net neutrality law. ®
Cade Metz, 19 Jun 2007
DVD it in many colours
6

Google cookie cuts $600m data center in Iowa

Google will build yet another backwoods data center for $600m – this time in Iowa. Iowa's Governor Chet Culver – you can't make a name like that up – bragged today about his state's good fortune. Google will set up shop in Council Bluffs, Iowa on a 55-acre site. The data center announcement follows similar recent deals in North Carolina, South Carolina and Oklahoma for Google centers. And, when we say "similar," we mean it. Google seems to have picked $600m as it default data center figure to hand to the press. That price, according to information provided by the company, includes the cost of the land, the construction of the building and the purchase of all the computer gear. Google has handed out the same $600m figure in all four states, which seems odd since it's creating new buildings in some locations, while retrofitting buildings in others. In addition, Google always says it will hire 200 people to staff the data centers. Google expects the Iowa workers to receive $50,000 on average – a couple grand more than the schlubs in Okie. And, wouldn't you know it, "Last month, Gov. Culver signed a bill upgrading Iowa’s tax system related to sales tax, use tax, and property tax for computer related businesses," the governor's office said. "The state legislature's work exempts the electricity and capital investment necessary for this kind of a facility from sales tax, as is common in the manufacturing sector." Oklahoma afforded Google an exemption from reporting its electricity usage. Google will pay Iowa $65m in property taxes over the next 15 years and shell out $6m in sales taxes in the next two years. We wonder if these massive data centers will be used to power Google's existing services such as search, video delivery and e-mail or if the company is gearing up for a more massive assault on the software as a service concept. The Iowa data center goes live in 2009. Will a Google PC over the wire arrive at the same time? ®
Ashlee Vance, 19 Jun 2007
MS Windows Vista logo
15

Microsoft 'tweaks Vista' for Google desktop search goodness

Microsoft is changing Vista to level the desktop search playing field for Google and other third parties, Reuters is reporting. The rivals are to file a joint report on the proposed changes in federal court today, according to an anonymous source cited by the newswire.
Drew Cullen, 19 Jun 2007