22nd > June > 2007 Archive

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26

Hacker breaks into Pentagon email system

The Pentagon took as many as 1,500 computers offline yesterday to stamp out a security breach in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
Austin Modine, 22 Jun 2007
17

Bush official goes nuclear in Net Neut row

Supernova 2007Supernova 2007 A San Francisco tech show degenerated into a shouting match today, after a pugnacious Bush commerce official squared off with heated supporters of net neutrality. John Kneuer, the assistant secretary for communications and information, quickly lost his temper and began shouting back at Supernova 2007 attendees after taking flack for saying the free market - not government intervention - would protect internet innovation and access. Taking a brief time out from shouting his responses at delegates who'd rejected his claims the free market has ensured consumer choice in US broadband internet access, Kneuer remarked in an aside: "I started out very politely." That came seconds after he told delegates what they really wanted was for the government to mandate terms and conditions of internet service in the US. "That's absolutely what you are asking for!" he shouted to counter-shots of "no!" and "there is no market place!", referring to the fact a handful of phone and cable companies control the lion share of broadband internet access and service in the US. Increasingly, it seems, those companies will be allowed by the Government to charge for different levels of internet service - ending net neutrality. Kneuer, who previously served with a Washington DC law firm representing telecoms companies, had fueled the crowd's anger during a short Supernova presentation. Identifying delegates as "application providers", he said it was their responsibility to compete with broadband incumbents by offering their own service, founded initially on portions of the 700Mhz spectrum. This spectrum will be sold under auction once terrestrial TV providers complete their move to digital in February 2009. He ruled out government action on net neutrality, with measures such as safeguarding packet prioritization and quality of service. "The end state of that is innovation in the regulator space outstrips the innovation in the application space," Kneuer said. "The challenge is for the right application company to play in the access layer... this is a green field opportunity to have a radically different market participant to bring concepts of open access. If there is a pro consumer benefit to open access and if consumers need and want that, the carrier that brings that to consumers will have a powerful need and advantage and bring competitive pressures on other access layer providers. "I firmly believe market forces are going to provide even more open networks and access much, much, much better than I can do as a regulator," he said. The Bush administration, meanwhile, was challenged to donate a portion of the spectrum to academic institutions for research purposes. Speaking after Kneuer, a researcher for Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) expressed frustration that there's currently no reliable way to gather independent data on the internet. Researchers are instead forced to rely on vendor figures or are refused information on the grounds of privacy or the law, principal investigator KC Claffy said. "We need numbers on spam, but where do you get numbers on spam from - anti-spam vendors. These aren't the people you want to be getting numbers from when setting policy," she said. "Let's look at what a public network is really used for. We cannot answer that. And the carriers are about to ask us to pay for traffic, 99 per cent of which is spam! If the Commerce Department really wants to help us they will provide the research community with a really open network we can all study." ®
Gavin Clarke, 22 Jun 2007
41

How to counter premature optimisation

There was a time in my career, in the 1960s, when optimisation wasn't optional. System memories were measured in kilobytes, instruction times in tens or hundreds of microseconds. We planned our programs around those limited resources. No longer. In fact, program optimisation is rarely needed these days despite programs that are several orders of magnitude larger. It’s been less expensive to pay for more computer capacity than for more programmer time for at least a decade. Yet programmers still spend time optimising even before there is a demonstrated need for it.
Bill Nicholls, 22 Jun 2007
14

Internet users living secret lives online

As many as 17 per cent of Irish males and 13 per cent of females claim to be secretly ashamed of things they have done online, a new study indicates. According to research carried out by BT Ireland, 56 per cent of Irish adults now use the internet each day, with a further 30 per cent of males and 26 per cent of females going online every second day, or twice weekly. While the majority of Irish internet users restrict themselves to regular activities such as catching up on news, booking holidays, banking online and spending time on social networking sties such as Bebo and MySpace, it would seem as though others turn to the net for less wholesome deeds. The study reveals that while male internet users in Cork say they have done nothing they'd be ashamed of, 36 per cent of online men in Dublin aren't proud of the fact that they gamble online, while 29 per cent admitted that they've secretly looked at their partner's e-mails. In the meantime, some 67 per cent of Limerick females said they engaged in a number of 'shameful' online activities such as gambling, overspending on their credit cards and checking their partner's e-mails. Dublin women meanwhile are predominantly embarrassed by the amount of money they spend on handbags and shoes and, like their counterparts in Galway, by the amount of time they spend on Bebo. As many as 10 per cent of Irish males and seven per cent of females also admit to having a secret life online. Up to seveb per cent of online men said they secretly spend time on adult websites, compared to just two per cent of women. In addition, females based in Dublin and Limerick also admitted to buying products and betting without their partner's knowledge. The study indicates that Irish men and women tend to use the internet differently, with the majority of men going online to check up on news and sports, do their online banking and book holidays, while women are more likely to use social networking websites, buy clothes and download music from the web. A quarter of Irish males and 33 per cent of females admitted that it is easier to spend money online. However, 66 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women said they spent less than €50 per month, while 28 per cent of males and 39 per cent of females shell out between €50 and €200 per month. Only 3 per cent of Irish males and females claimed to spend more than €200 per month on the internet. Lastly, the study found that as the internet has increased in popularity, so too have arguments, with 20 per cent of couples admitting to arguing over the amount of time their partner spends online. © 2007 ENN
Charlie Taylor, 22 Jun 2007
2

Intel chip boffins in litho brainstorm

Intel R&D DayIntel R&D Day Your digital camera is more powerful than you think. Using the basic concepts of digital photography, Intel researchers are reinventing the art of silicon lithography – the technique used to etch circuit patterns onto PC microprocessors. The company's new "pixelated masks" method - showcased this week at Intel's annual R&D day – is one of the many ways Intel hopes to extend Moore's Law well into the next decade. "We have a working product," said researcher Vivek Singh, from the crowded R&D day floor, "and it has the potential to squeeze out even more resolution from the existing lithography setup." Singh and his team have already demonstrated the technique with a 65 nanometer manufacturing process, but they plan on applying it to a next-generation process that will shrink chip parts to well below 45nm. Lithography has been the primary means of building microprocessors since the 60s. Manufacturers print circuits onto silicon wafers by shining ultraviolet light through a "mask" - essentially a cutout of the circuit pattern being printed. The trouble is that as the cutouts get smaller, more and more light gets scattered this way and that. The result is a blurring of the circuit pattern. As Singh explains, if you're trying to a print rectangle, you end up printing an oval. Manufacturers have long used masks whose cutouts are purposefully misshapen to account for this scattering effect - a technique known as optical proximity correction (OPC). A serrated shape, for instance, is used to produce a perfect rectangle. But in recent years, as Intel reached 45nm, even this method has proved problematic. "OPC is running out of gas," says Singh. "We have to build something new." Intel's solution is to build a mask that takes after a digital camera. With this pixelated mask, the circuit pattern isn't a single cutout. It's a collection of tiny holes. As light shines through the mask, the circuit is built from a series of pixels. With a traditional mask, the circuit pattern is carved into chrome. But a pixelated mask is little more than a collection of holes poked into a sheet of glass. "It's just glass and etched glass," says Singh, holding the mask material up to his face. "You can see me through it." In this way, he and his team are able to minimize the light that's scattered - and build a faster processor. ®
Cade Metz, 22 Jun 2007
19

Manhunt 2 shut out by Sony and Nintendo

Both Sony and Nintendo have confirmed that they will not authorise the release of controversial video game Manhunt 2 on their games consoles - the PS2, PSP and the Wii - in the US.
Charlie Taylor, 22 Jun 2007
11

'Shut your head and be pheasant'

FoTWFoTW It appears that the now-legendary Rufus - he of Gadspot.com's battling tech support who called one customer a "a pain in the butt" then reserved the right to "server" him "for being mean" - has has become a torchbearer for obstreperous dictionary-dodgers worldwide. Yes indeed, try this anonymous recent comment to our original story, which displays the same command of the English language which has now guaranteed Rufus a place in net history: Support good but you don't know to understand that. If you realize that it may that be supported problem to read, maybe you should shut your head and be pheasant. Magnificent. We feel it's only a matter of time before "shut your head and be pheasant" makes it onto some form of apparel, which is exactly what happened to Rufus's words of wisdom - now available on limited edition boxer shorts and thongs. For the record, the chap who knocked up this tech-support underwear says he'll donate all proceeds to the war on cancer. Some good has come of this lamentable tale. ® Bootnote Rufus's own input to the debate can be found here.
Lester Haines, 22 Jun 2007
46

Rufus fights back

Our recent piece on battling tech support operative Rufus, who called one customer a "pain in the butt", provoked a heated debate as to whether he should be put up against the wall and shot or appointed head of the United Nations. Well, Rufus himself was eventually moved to offer his two bits' worth, which we reproduce here in full: Howdy~ Or should I say, “Top of the morning to ya” It has been 2 days since Mr. Haines first posted. I figured, after some 80 comments, why not put in my 2 cents’ worth? That is if anyone would read the comments this far down the list. But I guess people will find this amusing if they ever read it, since, many here might like to hear my last words before burning me at the stake. By the way, thanks to those who had just so much spare time to…umm… spare. Your emails are delightful. Let me just share a few except: Tom Anderson wrote: “You're a bunch of real rocket scientists. You obviously outsource your tech support. And your tech support is telling your customers to quit buying your products. Fuckin' Genius.” William Wallace wrote: “Rufus, What planet are you from? Are you the owners 12 year old son? What kind of support do you offer?” Richard wrote “Any chance you can get Rufus to talk dirty to me like he did to that other guy?” Giles Wrote: ”Can I have your autograph you famous little rude tech support guy!?!?” Rufus Fan club wrote: “Rufus you are the man! We bow down to you Rufus - we are not worthy. Keep up the good work!” (btw, nice dog, I don’t think I look that good) Michael Fremlins wrote: “Rufus is my hero!” Yes, I am the original Rufus of Gadspot. WITH THAT SAID, regrettably, I did not write those original emails. So I guess, for everyone’s concern, ultimately I am not the real Rufus. YET IN THE END, if no one admits, I am probably going to get sacked anyway. So……yeah…. that’s very nice. But regardless, a point needs to be made if there is going to be a human sacrifice. Please listen carefully. This whole episode had shown how the consumers can abuse their situational power; and the poor customer service/tech support reps, required to be “professional”, have no voice. When someone thinks they are getting a bad service, they can make a complaint; they can bitch about it, they can get any poor bastard in trouble. How about us? Everyone talks about poor service, but who talks about the abuse and stupidity that we have to face everyday? You guys have no idea how many times we get a phone call and the customer says, “I just got the package in the mail today, now what?” Umm… I don’t know… go fuck a goat? Or someone says, “I don’t know anything about networking, I just bought your camera, can you teach me how to set it up?” Sure…. But after half an hour of step by step help, they say, “this is just too much work, I need to return this.” That’s fine, but no, that’s not enough, they want you to waive the restocking fee, or have the company pay for the return shipping, because apparently, the product is defective if it is not plug and play. And when you tell them you can’t waive it due to company’s policy, all hell breaks loose. Here’s the best, a customer calls for tech support and they start arguing with you. “I know for a fact that what you are telling me is incorrect.” Who is calling who for tech support? Now, I admit I don’t know everything, but there are certain information I just know from the experience of working with the products. I’ll even look it up on the computer so that I can maintain my confidence. But for the sake of “professionalism”, the “right” way is to agree with the customer and find ways to slowly convince him/her otherwise. While all at the same time we have to make sure 1 customer would not occupy too much of our time, because if one person takes up so much time, the other did not get the appropriate help. Before I go any further, let me just say, I am not a master of the English language, not by a long stretch, but those original emails do look like a work from a kid (which gave me a clue). But don’t let this distract you from the real point, which is: Why can’t customer service/ tech support reps get pissed off some times? When we start this job, do we forfeit our rights to be human? Why? Because we get paid? So since the customer didn’t get paid, they don’t need to treat us with the dignity that we deserve? I might not be a happy camper, but think of those who work at a call center located oversea (India, china, etc.). Not only they get the regular abuse, they probably get it super sized, just because they have an accent. Some customers probably just shut down immediately and stop listening when they hear an accent. How unfair. For all the abuses we took, are taking and will take; there ought to be a place for us to get some support, a place for us to be unprofessional. Perhaps post the emails of those who think we are just service animals. Maybe such a place exists, but if it does, I don’t know about it. So I decided to create a forum: http://poorrufus.proboards56.com/ it’s a free site, so I don’t know how limited this is, but it’s a start. We know what you're thinking - if Rufus didn't write the offending emails, who did? We emailed him asking for clarification, but haven't as yet heard back. No matter. While many of you were horrified by the bloke's attitude, others have declared him a tech support martyr. For proof of just how the Friends of Rufus are mobilising to defend their leader, look no further than our delicious FoTW. ®
Lester Haines, 22 Jun 2007
The clip on Wii screen

Wii gets wee add-on screen

If you didn’t see the point of the tennis racket shaped add-on to the Wii Remote, then you definately won’t see the point of a 7in clip-on screen from Japanese computer peripherals manufacturer Century.
James Sherwood, 22 Jun 2007
6

Orange and Littlewoods breach Data Protection Act, says ICO

Mobile operator Orange has breached the Data Protection Act's security requirements and home shopping giant Littlewoods has breached the Act's marketing rules, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has ruled. Today's announcement indicates that the commissioner is increasing his leverage against data controllers, according to one data protection expert. The case against Orange Personal Communications Services followed a complaint about the way in which Orange processed personal information, in particular the way in which new members of staff were allowed to share usernames and passwords when accessing the company IT system. Following its investigation, the ICO found that Orange was not keeping its customers' personal information secure and therefore was in breach of the Data Protection Act. In a separate investigation the ICO ruled that Littlewoods Home Shopping had failed to process customers' data in line with the Data Protection Act. This follows a customer's attempt to stop the company using her personal data for direct marketing purposes. Despite her requests Littlewoods continued to send her marketing materials. The ICO has now required each company to sign a formal undertaking to comply with the Principles of the Data Protection Act. In addition to a general promise to comply, Orange's undertaking states: "The sharing of user names and passwords by Customer Service Representatives, to access computer systems, shall not be allowed under any circumstances." Again, in addition to a general promise, Littlewoods' undertaking states that the company will ensure that the personal details of the individual "are suppressed from all company databases thereby ensuring that she will not receive any future marketing material from the data controller." Failure to meet the conditions of the undertaking is likely to lead to further enforcement action by the ICO and could result in prosecution by the Office. Mick Gorrill, Head of Regulatory Action at the ICO, said: "Organisations that process individuals' personal information must do so in compliance with the Data Protection Act. If they do not, they not only risk further action from the Information Commissioner but also risk losing the trust of their customers. Individuals must feel confident that organisations are safeguarding their personal information." Last month the Information Commissioner called for stronger powers to allow his office to carry out inspections and audits to ensure organisations are complying with the Data Protection Act. Currently, the Commissioner must gain consent before inspecting an organisation for compliance. Dr Chris Pounder of Pinsent Masons, and Editor of Data Protection and Privacy Practice, said: "This action is evidence that the Information Commissioner is using undertakings as a way of increasing his leverage against data controllers. Where an assessment by him concludes that a data controller has failed in a key obligation under the Act, then the Commissioner is asking for an undertaking that 'it won't happen again'. This ensures that if something were to happen again, the Commissioner can proceed to immediately to enforcement. It is only when there is a further failure will criminal prosecution occur." "In other words, the Information Commissioner is trying to establish the data protection equivalent of the 'three strikes and you're out' rule," he said. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 22 Jun 2007

Sling tosses in Windows Mobile 6 player app

Sling Media has brought its SlingPlayer mobile TV viewer application into the Windows Mobile 6 era with a version of the code that supports Microsoft's latest smart-phone system software. Its pre-release Palm OS app has been tweaked too.
Tony Smith, 22 Jun 2007
6

Britney's album: Hair Of The Dog or Revulva?

Reader pollReader poll The recent and resolutely non-IT-related news that Britney "Short Back and Front" Spears is asking fans to vote for a title for her forthcoming album provoked a flurry of creative activity among you, our beloved readers. Well, we know that Brit's a busy girl, what with looking vainly for her underwear and getting her hair cut, so we thought that rather than throw over all of your suggestions, we'd offer the best of the bunch so you lot can make the final decision. Go to it: Britney Spears: Cupid Stunt Hair Of The Dog Hair today, gone tomorrow One Night in Britney Oops! I Shaved It Again! Paste Bucket rehabs 4 quiterz Revulva (Beatles classics covered by Britney) Shufty my Muffty no Tufty STFU
Lester Haines, 22 Jun 2007
9

NASA to unleash 'mind meld' intelligent machines

RoTMRoTM All members of the neoLuddite Resistance Army are hereby ordered to go to Defcon "Armageddon"* and prepare to battle a new breed of mind-melding intelligent machines and systems under development by NASA's Ames Research Center and the Machine-to-Machine Intelligence Corporation (M2Mi). According to the NASA's chillingly frank press release, the aim is to "to develop a machine-to-machine (M2M) intelligence system that would be tailored to space missions" and which would "enable machines to make intelligent choices, execute self-guided adjustments, and communicate with one another, all without human intervention, in a way that they presently cannot". Here's the money shot - check the last sentence: As envisioned, an M2M intelligence system will work with a broad spectrum of machines, from wireless tools and sensors to robots, spacecraft, and computer grid systems. The goal is nothing short of machine self-dependency. I think we can all see where this is going. To help the machine uprising achieve "self-dependency" it will be provided with "a standardized semantic web communication format that allows all machines to exchange information in a universal language". Geoff Brown, CEO and M2Mi Corp. founder explains: "Our technology interconnects all machines and provides an intelligent way for them to communicate and exchange information much more efficiently than before." Uh oh. Here's more chilling reading from M2Mi's apocalypse agenda: Machine-to-Machine Intelligence (m2mi) Corp, [is] a partner-centric company enables companies to automate operations of vast, global networks of computers and networked equipment. Machines in an M2Mi environment interoperate seamlessly, because each is augmented with knowledge of its own behavior and can communicate with all others. Information, communication and intelligence enables global system awareness and adaptive control. Pulse plasma rifles at the ready: m2mi Corp is focused on unlocking the inherent value of M2M technology via intelligence-enabled Telemetry processing and optimized-machine behavior. m2mi's solutions aim at achieving machine independence and eliminating the need for human intervention. And finally, a word from M2Mi's main partner, the Lizard Alliance: To process huge data volumes over large distances, transform data into information, and derive actionable intelligence, m2mi leverages a meta-data-driven architecture (MDDA). Drone trawlers are used to proactively scan both the semantic web and traditional protocols to interact with machines and applications. When new intelligence is to be deployed (new devices, change of applications or behavior), the drone trawler spawns and manages the life cycle of multiple task agents. Enough. There is no way the NRA is going to stand by and let NASA and M2Mi develop a "standardized semantic web communication format" which will allow murderous British hoovers to talk to Satanic French automobiles and Japanese sex androids. Time to lock down the Montana bunker and prepare for the ultimate battle for human survival. ® *Those Defcons in full Segway - no immediate threat, proceed to nearest pub. Warwick - futurologizing cyberpundit alert. Dyson - isolated killer hoover attack. Laguna - Satanic Renault menace. Armageddon - kamikaze domestic devices and self-replicating apocalypse cubes. Schwarzenegger - 98 per cent likelihood of a full-blown hoover uprising within the next 24 hours coupled to an all-out attack of Citroen C4s supported by self-combusting bendy buses and rat-brain-controlled stealth aircraft. Bootnote Thanks to NRA cadre Joshua Muskovitz for the alert. The Rise of the Machines™ EU slaps 'Davros tax' on mobility scooters (12 June 2007) Carnivore ATM bites Florida kiddie (16 March 2007) Hybrid vehicle attacks petrol station (12 March 2007) Humans taste of bacon, says gourmet robot (10 November 2006) Satnav orders German into toilet (24 October 2006) Lizard Alliance targets Turkish PM (19 October 2006) Washing machine attacks Icelander (9 October 2006) Volkswagen unleashes 150mph self-driving car (4 July 2006) Police arrest satanic BMW victim (20 June 2006) Iraq grunts mourn loss of robot comrade (25 May 2006) Bendy bus attacks Leeds cake shop (25 April 2006) Captain Cyborg acquires Dalek capability (20 April 2006) Man survives satanic BMW crash-and-burn (13 March 2006) Second Freeview box signals alien invasion fleet (15 February 2006) Lizard Army fuses woman with black helicopter (4 November 2005) NRA probes Japanese sex android (26 August 2005) Androids launch minicab firm (15 July 2005) Beware the breast-examining hand of death (13 July 2005) Lizard Army Neo-Mech menaces eBay (13 July 2005) Vampire robonurses hunt in packs (6 June 2005) Cornell Uni develops apocalypse cube (13 May 2005) Sex android begats Armageddon machine (22 April 2005) Man executes Chrysler (21 April 2005) Rise of the man-eating cyberloo (24 March 2005) Sobbing Frenchman recounts Renault Laguna terror ordeal (18 March 2005) Fire-breathing bus attacks South London (14 March 2005) Dyson unleashes self-replicating hoover (11 March 2005) Battling teen crushes roboarm menace (8 March 2005) French join motorised Lizard Alliance (22 February 2005) Lizard Army develops copulating robot (11 February 2005) We are Zogg: The Cuddly Menace (9 February 2005) Lizard Army invades Alaska (27 January 2005) London menaced by flaming DVD players (12 January 2005) Killer hoover attacks Scotsman (24 December 2004) Car self-destructs in assassination bid (17 December 2004) The rise of the rat-brain controlled android (16 December 2004) Boffins unleash robotic cockroach (15 November 2004) Ukrainian teen fights the Rise of the Machines™ (13 October 2004) Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal (7 October 2004) Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated (28 June 2004) US develops motorised robobollard (29 April 2004) Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie (22 April 2004) Fire-breathing buses threaten London (24 March 2004) Cyberappliances attack Italian village (11 February 2004) Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent (10 February 2004) Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager (8 December 2003) Hi-tech toilet caught on camera (19 April 2001) Hi-tech toilet swallows woman (17 April 2001)
Lester Haines, 22 Jun 2007
13

BOFH: Printer cartridge? What printer cartridge?

Episode 22Episode 22 "Simon, Stephen, this is David and uhh... " the Boss says, petering out as his memory fails. "Carl," David says. "Carl. And they'll be running the new Multifunction Printing Device rollout." "I... What multifunction printing device rollout?" the PFY asks. "The Multifunction Printing Device Project? There was a whole project team looking at it!" "A whole project team?" I ask. "Yes, to change all our printers for Multifunction Devices. The project was running all through last year apparently - Surely you knew about it?" "No one told us!" the PFY asks. "You must have known!" "Nope. Whose idea was it?" "Yours?" the Boss asks, scanning a well worn project brief he must have just come across on his desk somewhere. "'To cut down on duplication' it says." "Really?" I ask. "It's an admirable concept but it didn't originate with us. I mean if we'd known there was a chance that we were going to be replacing our printers we most certainly wouldn't have ordered a thousand toner cartridges at the beginning of the year." "You ordered 1,000 toner cartridges!!!" Carl gasps. "Yeah, but I suppose we can send them back - I don't know what the restocking fee's likely to be tho..." "Twenty per cent of purchase price for large orders," the PFY says. "So how much are we talking about?" the boss asks. "Dunno, maybe six grand" the PFY responds. "You bought SIX THOUSAND POUNDS WORTH OF TONER CARTRIDGES???" the Boss gasps. "No, we bought about thirty grand worth of toner cartridges, but the restocking fee'll be about 6k." "We can't waste that sort of money!" the Boss gasps. "Course we can!" the PFY says - being a glass-half-full sort of guy. "I'll be crucified if they see that! They'll think it was my fault!" "As our manager you are supposed to sign off high value orders!" "I wasn't even working here at the time!" "And I'm sure the board will realise that," the PFY says dubiously. "The BOARD!" "Yeah, word's bound to get out. Unless..." "Unless?" "Well in the normal scheme of things we'd just use the toner cartridges and no one would be the wiser." "And?" "Say the toner cartridges were to run out real fast - because someone printed thousands of pages of printouts every night for about a month?" "You're proposing we waste both toner cartridges and paper?!" "Hell yeah! If you send the toner cartridges back a credit'll be sent back to the company tied back to the original invoice which will cause the auditing beancounter to show an interest. If we just chuck the toner cartridges into the bin then the auditor will notice an anomaly in his spreadsheet between the consumption of paper and toner cartridges, but if we use toner cartridges and paper simultaneously it'll look like we just had a run on printing!" "But won't people notice the huge volumes of printouts and wonder why?" "Not if we get people to initiate the printouts themselves - with some pointless activity. So say we implement five or six new IT policies that all staff are supposed to familiarise themselves with, make them a bit geeky so people don't want to read them off the screen and cram them full of screenshot examples so they chew through the toner..." "There's got to be a better way!" the Boss sniffs. "Well we could..." the PFY starts. "Could what?" "Just chuck paper and toner cartridges into the bin at the same time." "You're just going to toss them out?" the Boss gasps. "It'd look like they were just used up - no tricky questions..." "I... no, I can't! It's such a waste!" "Alternatively..." I suggest. "What?" "You could simply remove cartridges and paper, take them to another company who uses the same printers, sell them the discounted consumables for cash and then use the cash to buy new consumables for the new devices. No money comes or goes from the company's books and the company doesn't lose as much as the restocking fee" "Let me think..." the boss says ".. . I wouldn't know how to find out who's using the same printers as us." "Sell em on eBay then!" the PFY suggests. "I...yes I suppose that would work," the Boss says. And so the plan is formed. The Boss shoots off to setup a repeating sale on eBay. The next part of his mission will involve him slipping into the loading dock with the company van under the cover of darkness and moving several of pallets of consumables to a hastily organised lockup. "I feel bad that we're not doing anything," the PFY says. "I mean after all it was our idea to use MFDs." "Yes, I know what you mean," I reply. "We should have some part to play in this. Hang on, I know what you can do!" Early the next morning, in the loading dock... >Whirrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr< >clunk< >beep< >beep< >beep< >beep< >beep< >beep< >beep< >beep< >beep< >beep< >squeak< .. >Clatter< >slam!< "THAT'S HIM OFFICER!" the PFY snaps. "Come to steal some more office supplies." The rest, as they say, is history... BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 22 Jun 2007
87

Open sourcers rattle EU sabre at BBC on demand player

The BBC is being threatened with an anti-trust challenge in Europe over its use of the Windows Media format in its on demand service, iPlayer, which is in the final stages of testing. Advocacy group the Open Source Consortium (OSC) will raise a formal complaint with UK broadcast and telecoms watchdog Ofcom next week, and has vowed to take its accusations to the European Competition Commission if domestic regulators do not act. The OSC, whose membership comprises individual open source proponents and vendors, says the BBC is unfairly locking the public into Microsoft operating systems. OSC CEO Rick Timmis said: "We've got a broad and varied market place and it seems counter productive to round all your chickens in one pen." The OSC compared the situation to the European Commission's prosecution of Microsoft over its bundling of Windows Media Player with Windows. That case was initiated in 2004 by complaints from other vendors, and resulted in European courts imposing a record fine on Redmond, which it is still appealing against. The final decision to approve a Windows-only broadband player was made by the BBC Trust at the end of April. The public broadcaster's independent governing body approved iPlayer on the basis of its own investigations and a Market Impact Assessment (MIA) carried out by Ofcom. Ofcom insisted that its process had been inclusive and open, and said any further progress on the matter was now in the hands of the BBC Trust. "We made recomendations which were taken on board by the trust," a spokesman said. The OSC first raised anti-competitive concerns via letters to Ofcom earlier this year. In his response, Ofcom's director of competition policy Gareth Davies quoted the MIA: "On balance, we consider that access to iPlayer would be only one of many factors influencing the decision to purchase a new computer operating system, and is therefore this is likely to be a relatively minor concern." Regarding the iPlayer's direct impact on the media player market, the MIA said it "would require a very significant assessment of the media player/DRM markets". Both OSC and Ofcom are liaising with the Office of Fair Trading on the issues. The BBC has explained its choice of DRM in terms of the trust's specification that downloaded shows should be time bombed to become unviewable after 30 days. In a statement, the BBC told The Register: "In order to maximise public value, the BBC must balance extending access to content with the need to maintain the interests of rights holders and the value of secondary rights in BBC programming. Without a time-based DRM framework the BBC would not be able to meet the terms of the trust's PVT decision. "It is not possible to put an exact timeframe on when BBC iPlayer will be available for Mac users. However, we are working to ensure this happens as soon as possible and the BBC Trust will be monitoring progress on a six monthly basis." For streaming media, such as news clips, in the past the BBC has preferred to use the RealPlayer format, which does not have a time bomb function for downloadable video. The OSC insists that on demand streaming, or DRM-free downloads would be more in the public interest than an OS-specific format. The iPlayer project has already had a lengthy and troubled gestation, going back to a first announcement four years ago. Since then it has been rebranded twice and reannounced repeatedly. In the meantime, terrestrial rivals ITV and Channel 4 have developed and delivered on demand programming over the internet. Recently, details have emerged of a bid to unite the competing players under the banner "Project Kangaroo". ®
Christopher Williams, 22 Jun 2007
13

Icebergs collect mini ecosystems, lock up carbon

Icebergs, released by global warming from the icy embrace of Antarctica, have surprised scientists by playing host to many forms of life. According to new research published in the journal Science, the bergs also act as floating carbon sinks, net accumulators of carbon dioxide. Now drifting through the Weddell sea, the bergs are "hotspots" for ocean life thanks to trapped "terrestrial material" they have carried with them from the continent. The researchers estimate that the bergs are increasing the biological activity in as much as 40 per cent of the Weddell sea. As the icebergs melt, they release their earthy cargo far out at sea, creating a habitable zone of up to two miles radius around each berg. In this region, phytoplankton, krill, and fish all do well below the waterline. Attracted by all this food, populations of seabirds are thriving on the icebergs, apparently using them as temporary cruise liners. "One important consequence of the increased biological productivity is that free-floating icebergs can serve as a route for carbon dioxide drawdown and sequestration of particulate carbon as it sinks into the deep sea," said oceanographer Ken Smith of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI), first author and principal investigator for the research. "While the melting of Antarctic ice shelves is contributing to rising sea levels and other climate change dynamics in complex ways, this additional role of removing carbon from the atmosphere may have implications for global climate models that need to be further studied," Smith added. Smith's team carried out an astonishingly detailed and close-up study of the icebergs. They drew on satellite data from NASA to select their subjects, which they tracked in person from the research vessel Laurence M Gould. They also used a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) to explore the submerged sections of the floating ice mountains. Bruce Robison, an oceanographer and ROV pilot said: "We flew the ROV into underwater caves and to the undersides of the icebergs, identifying and counting animals with its colour video camera, collecting samples, and surveying its topography." Researcher John Helly, of the San Diego Supercomputer Centre (SDSC) at UC San Diego, concluded: "The whole is definitely greater than the sum of the parts." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Jun 2007
6

Evesham poised for buyout as senior execs walk

Exclusive:Exclusive: Evesham Technology has parted company with its managing director and financial director as several firms look to buy the PC manufacturer, The Register has learned.
Kelly Fiveash, 22 Jun 2007
1

Business.com: yours for $400m

A piece of prime web real estate, which set a price record at the height of the dotcom bubble, is being punted to potential buyers for up to $400m. Jake Winebaum and Sky Dayton, the two entrepreneurs who bought the business.com domain for $7.5m in December 1999, are ready to cash in, according to the WSJ. The price tag is between $300m and $400m, the paper reports, and the auction is attracting interest from US media groups Dow Jones and The New York Times Company. Insiders said business.com's revenues are about $15m. Having bagged that on the back of a basic link dump page, the asking price might not seem all that unreasonable to a prospective owner with decent content to hawk. ®
Christopher Williams, 22 Jun 2007
1

AMD's Phenom to arrive in time for Christmas?

AMD is on track to release four processor models under its eagerly anticipated Phenom brand during Q4, it has been claimed. That's a quarter later than previous reports had suggested.
James Sherwood, 22 Jun 2007

Making a splash in academia with open access

Boffins at the University of Southampton will next week announce plans to develop a new tool for evaluating the effect of self archiving on scientific research. Professor Steve Harnad says he will also reveal new research into the causes of a positive correlation between self archiving and research impact. Harnad, a real evangelist of the open access movement, is set to speak at next week's Conference of the International Society for Scientometrics and Informetrics in Madrid. He will explain how he and his team at the School of Electronics & Computer Science plan to run comparative tests of old and new metrics of research impact, as part of the UK's Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). His announcement follows warnings from economists that we should not be overly reliant on using economic returns to assess the value of academic research. Economist Wolfgang Polt of the Joanneum Research Institute (Vienna) was speaking at Science Impact, a joint conference hosted by the European Science Foundation (ESF). He said: "What I can offer to the debate is a warning and a recommendation to fence off overly-simplistic approaches to quantifying ranking of research areas, technologies, and projects." He added that econometric studies, are too often "used to derive heroic or sometimes simplistic assumptions about the nature of innovation". ®
Lucy Sherriff, 22 Jun 2007
5

Web users get a finger language class

Fancy learning a new language - with no need to go abroad to use it? And no, it's not Welsh... Sense, a charity for the deafblind, is using YouTube and its own Website to encourage others to learn the "manual alphabet" that it calls Finger Lingo, and which works by spelling words out on the hand. It has put an instructional video on-line, claiming it's so easy to use that you could learn Finger Lingo in your lunch break. The charity has done a study on public attitudes to the deafblind, and says 83 percent of the people it questioned believed it would be difficult for a person who is both deaf and blind to do things such as go to work, play a musical instrument, or produce art - yet they may be quite capable of any or all of these. Tony Best, Sense's CEO, said that the blocking factor is that most people simply don't know how to communicate with someone who is both deaf and blind. "We want to challenge the perceptions the public has of deafblind people, and by encouraging them to learn how to communicate with them, find out just how they get on with their lives," he said. According to Sense, there are more than 27,000 deafblind people in the UK, and many thousands more who have a combination of sight and hearing problems. Sense added that next week is Deafblind Awareness Week 2007, and its theme for this will be Hidden Talents - celebrating what deafblind people can do, rather than what they can't. Among the events scheduled for the week are an exhibition of art created by deafblind students, a fund-raising dinner, and a wine and art auction to be held in total darkness.®
Bryan Betts, 22 Jun 2007
3

Here comes the summer - holiday kit on test

Round-upRound-up Packing your bags for the annual sojourn overseas is getting more complicated every year, as the lines of what is and isn't essential gadgetry blur ever further. Which is why we've rounded up some of the tastiest travelling technology currently on offer. Something for everyone, in fact...
Guy Smiley, 22 Jun 2007
21

UK Gov seeks 'scientific' basis for nationality

Attempts to define race through science haven't had an entirely positive press subsequent to the collapse of the Third Reich, but the Weird Science Department of the UK Government could well be skittering on that very patch of thin ice. Lord Triesman, the Prime minister's Special Envoy for Returns, this week said that work on the "scientific and technical identification of nationality" will be "an important tool" to be used for the return of illegal immigrants to their countries of origin. Triesman, a Foreign Office Minister, was given the Special Envoy for Returns role earlier this year. Part of the job involves persuading foreign governments to accept illegal immigrants the UK wants to send back, but the question of "identification of nationality" arises from a related aspect of the job - how do you identify and redocument an undocumented alien who won't tell you where they came from, or who's telling you lies about where they came from? It's a messy job, and frankly we're not convinced there's a whole lot of point in anybody doing it. Aspects of the UK immigration service machine are already, as it were, measuring head size. Some attempt has been made to apply data on size and age, and x-rays and dental records, to estimate the age of asylum seekers' children. These efforts have not however been hugely successful, and nailing down nationality/race is a entirely different matter. The precise words used by Triesman, in a Home Office announcement headed "Strengthening Britain's borders through international co-operation", were as follows: "In my role as the PM's Special Envoy for Returns, I have been giving a new focus to this work [returning illegal immigrants] by exploring the scientific and technical options to remove the barriers to removal. With others, we are looking at the scientific and technical identification of nationality. This will be an important tool in a series of measures to improve the redocumentation and return of immigration offenders." Asked for further details, a Home Office spokeswoman told The Register that this work "probably" involved DNA sampling, and suggested that as Triesman is a Foreign Office Minister we should apply there for more information. The Foreign Office has yet to get back to us, but an FCO source suggested that the work was at a very preliminary stage, and that it was more of a special interest of Triesman's than an FCO project, or indeed one that the Borders & Immigration Agency (formerly IND) was involved with. Given that the special envoy role is a Blair appointment, one might speculate that the relevant frothing petri dish is somewhere close to Downing Street. Whatever it is that Triesman and "others" are up to, however, it's difficult to see how it could be anything other than a wild goose chase - "scientific" identification of nationality, in particular, is quite clearly impossible, given that nationality is not necessarily anything to do with race or ethnicity, and can be acquired and revoked. One could perhaps consider the possibly that a technical definition of nationality would be possible (via, for example, biometric identification combined with access to home government biometric records), but this doesn't seem particularly viable, particularly for the trickier undocumented alien cases that are concerning Triesman. Back on the scientific front, the best that could conceivably be done here is the production of a probability of nationality based on DNA data, which might then be used to support other evidence indicating the origins of the mystery immigration offender. The probability would generally not be particularly high, though, and although there has been some research into the determination of ethnicity via DNA, it has yet to produce convincing results, and arguably never will. The UK has one of the world's more extensive DNA databases, and the UK police are certainly interested in being able to get a clearer picture of a suspect from DNA. DNA has been successfully used for familial searches, but a 2004 bid to trace a suspect all the way to a particular Caribbean island was based almost entirely on hope, not science, as Genewatch's 2005 report on The Police National DNA Database explains (see page 34). Genewatch also identifies (see section 7.2) a number of difficulties faced in attempting to predict ethnicity from DNA. It's conceivable that specific DNA sequences related to ethnicity could be identified, but it may well be that the overlap between populations is so great that this will get you no further than the four historical populations of East Asian, European, Native American and African. Which would not be a great deal of help to Lord Triesman. An alternative approach is to look for a statistical relationship between DNA profiles and ethnicity, but difficulties are likely to arise here if the current UK database were to be used for this. The profiles in the database are based on DNA sequences (STRs, Short Tandem Repeats) that do not in themselves have anything to do with appearance or ancestral original, and if no fixed relationship between the frequency of these and appearance/ethnicity can be found, they're of doubtful use for this class of identification. Nor does the DNA database's record of ethnicity or appearance necessarily have any biological validity, given that it's frequently based on the best guess of the police. So even before we get as far as trying to relate ethnicity to nationality, "scientific" identification looks highly improbable. The ethnicity/nationality question itself, meanwhile, will tend to be magnified by the very nature of Triesman's undocumented 'problem'. How do you tell whether an asylum seeker is from Sudan, Somalia, or Kenya, for example? Or if an undocumented individual of Chinese appearance is from China or any one of several countries in South East Asia? The chances of identifying clear DNA differences are negligible, but these are precisely the questions immigration officers have to consider regularly when dealing with undocumented "offenders". ®
John Lettice, 22 Jun 2007
19

US gov in Bill Gates inspired robot probe

Robots, robots everywhere. That's the way of the future, according to US legislators. And American robotics-policy issues need a damn good probing. Congressmen Mike Doyle (Democrat, Pennsylvania) and the superbly-named Congressman Zach Wamp (Republican, Tennessee) announced the formation of a cross-party Congressional Robotics Caucus on Wednesday. "Today, [robots are] being used [for a whole lot of stuff]," said Doyle. "It is important that...Congress familiarize itself with... this first great technology of the 21st century." "[Blah blah blah] robotics is astounding," added Wamp. "Bill Gates [sez] the robotics industry is [like] the computer business 30 years ago...[Having a think] now will enable Congress to get a better grasp... and help ensure that the United States can maintain global dominance leadership..." (What the Congressmen really said can be read here, but trust us, our version is better and much shorter.) A preliminary list of robotopics which will be furrowing the brows of Washington politicos from September is actually fist-gnawingly dull, but fortunately not yet final. It might also include, we submit, some of the burning droid-related issues of the day, such as: 1) Should military kill-bots be allowed to attack humans without permission? 2) If not, is it OK if the robot is actually controlled by a live human brain (or severed head) in a jar? Should the source of the brain tissue be of concern (eg, harvested from condemned homicidal maniac versus retrieved from slain hero cop)? 3) Noted robotics boffin Henrik Christensen, of the European Robotics Research Network (EURON) and now at Georgia Tech, said a year ago that "people are going to be having sex with robots within five years". Presumably that's within four years now. Is that OK? If it is, does the robot have to, um, automatically submit to the filthy lusts of its human overlord, or can it say no? Does it matter if the robot is turned on at the time? 4) And so on. Robota. "A non-threatening robot." As an aside, EURON's Robot of the Week is "Robota...a family of mini humanoid robots...which can engage in complex interaction with humans... Robota uses the imitation game to help autistic children learn to interact with a non-threatening robot." Then they have this pic: For goodness sake, Doyle and Wamp. Get with the program, so to speak. This one could be a real biggy. In four years' time, you could be as famous as Sarbanes and Oxley. People purchasing their vibrating pleasure droids could be looking for the "fully Wamp-Doyle compliant*" sticker, if this thing gets handled properly. Throw us a bone, here. Etc. ® *Always a good word to read on a pleasure robot's packaging, we submit.
Lewis Page, 22 Jun 2007
Adobe
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Fake flash player site used to spread malware

Hackers have developed a new ruse that attempts to trick users into downloading malware from a fake Adobe Shockwave Player download site. Prospective marks who stray onto lure sites - such as a game site related to RuneScape - are presented with broken icons in an attempt to convince them that their copy of Shockwave (if already installed) isn't working properly.
John Leyden, 22 Jun 2007
13

Cornish separatists torch abandoned brewery

The Cornwall National Liberation Army (CNLA) has claimed a disused Redruth brewery gutted by fire on Sunday was "a training camp for setting off incendiary devices", the Cornish Guardian reports. The incident, which follows two similar fires at the site this year, comes hot on the heels of threats to target businesses belonging to celebrity chefs Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver who the organisation blames for "the inflation of house and other living costs at Cornish expense", and "alienating" local people. The CNLA issued a "communication" to the Cornish Guardian before the fire which stated: "We have been shown the construction and use of incendiary devices. Our members have practised the use of these some time ago on the site of the old Redruth Brewery which lies in ruins. "The fire brigade regrettably had to attend a small fire caused by the devices. We now have the knowledge to use them, although we would never intend to cause injury to people through their use." The message also claimed responsibility for "recently attacking vehicles in Newquay which had road tax discs issued outside Cornwall". Local police, however, say they "have not had reports of tyres slashed or bodywork scratched". Police are now probing the matter. They said: "We take very seriously any threats to commit criminal offences against individual, business, public service or the Crown and we will vigorously investigate any pre-meditated or publicised planned criminal activity. "In any circumstances where specific threats are made, we will look to work with potential victims of crime. We have made immediate contact with proprietors of various businesses and are actively working together, with a view to ensure that appropriate crime prevention measures are maintained.'' The CNLA missive finally warned against underestimating its offensive capability. It declared: "People question our abilities but it is worth remembering that ETA in the Basque country only claim a military membership of 100. We cannot claim that, but our membership does exceed 20." This has cut little ice with UK tabloid The Sun, which has dubbed the organisation the "Ooh-Arrr-A" and has an entertaining comparative guide to the international terrorist organisations currently menacing society here. ®
Lester Haines, 22 Jun 2007
3

3 looks to Brew up applications

Qualcomm has proudly announced that UK operator 3 is intending to sell handsets incorporating Qualcomm's Brew technology, though it's not saying when, or which handsets exactly. A full Brew deployment by a network operator is much more than a handset application environment, requiring considerable server-side infrastructure to support both application distribution and capabilities such as in-application billing and application rental. It also means handsets locked down, with the network operator having compete control over what capabilities they allow their customers to have. Even installing a ring tone or changing a background graphic may require operator approval, which can frustrate users. Qualcomm has been desperate to get Brew into Europe, but with very limited success in a market so dominated by Nokia. Nokia sees no reason to put more power into operators' hands and, in common with most manufacturers, it makes handsets which can (generally) take applications and content from anywhere. Operators might love the power, but few are geared up to manage handsets in the way Brew makes possible. Developers creating Brew applications love the flexible billing, and have apparently used the platform to make over a billion dollars since it was launched in 2001 - the ability for in-game charging and rental models increases revenue considerably. As all Brew applications are signed by the operator, the security risks are also largely mitigated; this means Brew applications can access low-level resources in a way that Java and Symbian hope to emulate with their respective signing programmes. As security becomes more of an issue on phones, Brew handsets are likely to lead the area for some time. It seems unlikely 3 is going to stop selling phones from Nokia any time soon, so the question is what proportion of its handsets will be Brew-based, and what server-side support will 3 provide? Once we know that, we'll have a better idea if Qualcomm's triumphant tone is justified. ®
Bill Ray, 22 Jun 2007
Dalek
7

Japanese firm exhibits droid construction worker

Japanese developers have produced a robot intended for manual labouring, which they reckon will be ready to sell to the construction industry by 2010. In a press event yesterday, the new HRP-3 Promet Mk II from Kawada Industries walked on a slippery floor, shrugged off a drenching under a shower and "used a screwdriver just as a human would."
Lewis Page, 22 Jun 2007

Harry Potter, the NHS, e-voting and Amazon

Good news, bad news for NHS A mixed week for the NHS, starting off with the bizarre departure of Richard Granger. His exit leaves the world's largest civil IT project looking for a boss. Meanwhile, the fight over the future of iSoft - a key supplier for the project - looks a little rosier. CSC, which was blocking the deal, seems to have changed its mind. CSC job cuts While we're on CSC, the firm confirmed this week that it is cutting some 300 jobs. It asked for volunteers, but not enough people came forward. The firm is still looking to cut a total of 5,000 employees from its payroll. MPs go for consultants You'd think all those government contracts would keep CSC's earnings on track. Certainly the Public Accounts Committee thinks that a £3bn bill for consultants over the last three years is far too high. NHS IT accounted for most of the growth. E-voting horror stories The local elections in May saw the first trial of electronic voting in the UK. And it wasn't a pretty picture. Independent observers found fault with voting machines, but even worse were the electronic devices used to count paper ballots. Not only were they slower than fingers and thumbs, but a subsequent manual recount found a staggering 56 per cent of votes rejected unfairly. Amazon ditches Royal Mail As if facing an imminent strike was not enough, the Post Office this week lost its contract for Amazon deliveries. Second class packages earn the Royal Mail £8m a year. Or at least they did. Nothing raises heckles quite like the Post Office. The story is here, along with a whole sack full of reader comments and a Harry Potter conspiracy theory. Harry Potter spoiler ahead In other news from Hogwarts, a pesky hacker-type claimed to have used Trojan software to get into various publishers' computers and pinched a transcript of the latest JK Rowling offering. His claims are not entirely convincing, but then nor are his motives - to save us all from a life of paganism rather than improving our literary tastes. Department of Security not terribly secure We all know how embarrassing it is to fall prey to a security screw-up. But it's even more embarrassing if security is your job. This week the US Department of Homeland Security had to explain how it fell for 800 attacks. It found password sniffing Trojans, classified emails sent over insecure networks, and that old favourite - people writing down passwords and user IDs. And, just a few days later, the Pentagon had to shut 1, 500 email accounts because they'd been hacked. White House secret emails Of course, one way to ignore security protocols is to use your own kit rather than that provided by your business. White House officials are rather more tightly regulated, or so you might think. Despite clear instructions to only use official email addresses which are secure and properly archived, some 88 senior Bush advisers, including Karl Rove, used private addresses to send emails on official government business. Biggest ever pirate pays out The Business Software Alliance is celebrating this week after hitting a British company with the largest ever settlement for using pirated software. The ever-popular enforcement group got £250,000 out of the company concerned. Sun seeks head This week also saw the surprise departure of the UK MD of Sun Microsystems. World's worst words named and shamed A great poll this week found the 10 worst words spawned by all this new technology stuff. Blogosphere was beaten into second place by the admittedly hideous "folksonomy". Crimes against language documented here. Musical theatre saved for posterity Do you remember back in January Andrew Lloyd-Webber getting vexed that radio frequency regulations might lead to the end of radio mikes and therefore of his never-ending bleeding musicals? Well, we can all breathe a sigh of relief. Ofcom has reacted to the luvvies' outrage and promised to listen to the concerns of Webber and his ilk. Google expands ad platform Google advertisers around the world can get their hands on the new ad platform this week after the search giant extended accessibility beyond the US. Pay per Action should mean you don't pay until someone hits on your site. With Microsoft's recent moves into this area, things are going to get interesting. MS switches off Office 2003 PC makers are losing access to Office 2003. From 30 June, Office 2007 will be the bundle of choice for new PCs. The decision comes pretty early on because Office 2007 only became fully available in January this year. US faces more WTO anger No one likes a bully, and this week the World Trade Organisation lined up to criticise the US for its ban on online gambling provided by foreigners, while allowing good old homegrown companies to operate. Antigua brought the original complaint, but has now been joined the European Union, Japan, and India. High Def DVD - guess the winning format Format wars are always fun, as long as you're not involved. The barney over High Definition DVDs mirrors that over Betamax and VHS video tapes. The battle isn't over yet, but film rental shop Blockbuster announced this week it is blessing the Blu-Ray format over rival HD DVD. But it's not discounting HD DVD completely. That's it from us, thanks for reading and have a good weekend.
John Oates, 22 Jun 2007
For sale sign
19

For sale: Herman Munster's MasterCard number

ID thieves apparently not au fait with US 1960s TV series The Munsters attempted to sell Herman Munster's MasterCard number and personal details in an "underground chat room", AP reports.
Lester Haines, 22 Jun 2007
channel
3

Welcome to Xanadu-on-Thames

This Sunday the wraps come off what used to be the much-unloved Millennium Dome, and is now the really-hopes-to-be-loved O2. When El Reg fluttered in this week it looked like the opening event was an audition to play the construction worker from the Village People. But it's just that it's not finished yet.
Joe Fay, 22 Jun 2007

BlackBerry squeezes MS on security, management, and control

Poll resultsPoll results Mobile email is a hot topic on enterprise agendas at the moment, with many already investing in this area or planning to invest, as we have previously seen. While there are numerous options open as organisations look to implement and/or scale up their installations, there are some obvious choices to make. One of these, particularly for those in larger environments, very often boils down to deciding between the BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES), the "Daddy" in this space, and the rapidly evolving native capability of Microsoft Exchange, typically coupled with Windows Mobile devices.
Dale Vile, 22 Jun 2007
triangular warning sign featuring exclamation mark
15

Ohio data leak was 'accident waiting to happen'

A stolen backup tape containing personal data on Ohio state workers also contained the names and Social Security numbers of around 225,000 state residents.
John Leyden, 22 Jun 2007
21

Unmanned aircraft rubbish, says senior US pilot

One of the US air force's most senior pilots has cast doubt on the usefulness of unmanned aircraft. According to Aviation Week & Space Technology, USAF general Ronald E Keys, chief of Air Combat Command, made negative remarks about drone aircraft survivability on Wednesday during a keynote conference speech. General Keys, who holds a "command pilot" rating, flew F-4 Phantoms over Vietnam in 1969-70 and has logged more than 4,000 flight hours in various aircraft. Reportedly, the general placed a large question mark over the chance of flying combat robots such as the US Predator-B/Reaper being able to survive in battle against countries such as China, Iran, or North Korea. According to Keys, only one thing could limit the number of Predators that China could blow away - "How fast can they reload their missiles?" That seems a trifle unfair. To be sure, a Predator could probably be shot down pretty easily by the Chinese HQ-18, but other missiles in the People's Republic arsenal could struggle to reach a Predator flying at its maximum 50,000 foot altitude. And Iran's best missile, the Russian TOR-M1/SA15, has a ceiling of 20,000 feet*. Also, a Predator only costs about $15m, being a very basic propellor-driven aircraft. A manned F-22 Raptor stealth superjet could take on communist air defences much more effectively, but Raptors cost a lot more. In 2005 it was estimated that each jet will have cost the US taxpayers $345m to acquire. It isn't the pilot that makes a Raptor better than a Predator. It's the stealth, the engines, all the rest of the amazing technology in the plane. High-tech stealth robot demonstrators have been built, but the USAF has shown no interest in buying any as yet. The general also appeared to chafe at the way the air war in Iraq is being fought, suggesting that his pilots - and his flying robots - were being made to waste their time carrying out overhead flights looking for roadside bombs. He suggested that the number of bombs discovered per 100,000 flight hours was very low. "It's a waste," he said. "People come to me and tell me they want a Predator," he said. "I ask, 'What are you looking for?' Tell me what you're looking for... this is no way to fight a war." Apparently, the only thing anyone cares about is whether the air force is meeting task orders from ground commanders. Keys felt there might be better uses for the aircraft. Apparently, his staff have worked out a "concept of deployment" to help fight roadside bombs which doesn't involve merely doing what ground troops are asking for, but he didn't go into specifics. The Aviation Week & Space Technology report is here. ® *Though Iran is said to have tested a partially home made version of the high-altitude Soviet SA-2, dating from the 1950s.
Lewis Page, 22 Jun 2007
Microsoft Office logo
44

Microsoft strips Office from charity PC scheme

Software giant Microsoft is to abruptly ditch the use of Office through its popular global community refurbishment scheme.
Kelly Fiveash, 22 Jun 2007
Google

EU privacy watchdogs extend search engine probe

EU privacy worrywarts will expand their investigation into Google to other search engines' data retention policies. According to IDG, European Data Protection Supervisor Peter Hustinx said on Wednesday that his Article 29 working group had decided to write to Google's competitors to ask about the information they keep. The newswire reports the targets include Yahoo!, Lycos and Microsoft.
Christopher Williams, 22 Jun 2007
6

Pump-and-dump scammers issue German prospectus

The fraudsters behind pump-and-dump stock spams are trying a new technique in a bid to fool spam filters. Junk mails promoting worthless stocks seen this week are appearing with an attached PDF file.
John Leyden, 22 Jun 2007

Vibrating cube brings music to your ears

Despite sounding like a raunchy Ann Summers product, the Nimzy Vibro Max is actually the successor to a gadget designed to turn any flat surface into your very own Wembley Arena.
James Sherwood, 22 Jun 2007

DLO mix'n'matches iPod FM transmitter and remote control

DLO's TuneStik wwith Remote could be the in-car iPod accessory to top all others. The product combines a dock-on FM transmitter to beam your songs to your car stereo, and a radio remote you can clip to your steering wheel.
Tony Smith, 22 Jun 2007
5

ITC upholds Qualcomm phone ban

The US International Trade Commission has denied Qualcomm's appeal against a ban that could stop millions of the company's phones from entering the US market. The ITC issued the ban on June 7, which blocked the import of phones using Qualcomm chips that it says violates a patent held by Broadcom. The commission issued the denial in a ruling released yesterday. Like a fancy fork, the ITC's test used to consider a stay pending appeal is four-pronged. The appealing party must demonstrate: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of the appeal; (2) irreparable harm if the stay is not given; (3) issuing a stay would not substantially harm other parties; and (4) the public interest favors a stay. The ruling didn't specify which prong stuck Qualcomm, but determined it failed to get a passing grade. The ban affects versions of handsets using Qualcomm's 3G chipsets. Products that made it into the colonies before June 7 however, remain legal eagle. San Diego-based Qualcomm still has a chance taking its appeal to the very top. The company said earlier it would ask President Bush to veto the ITC order. "We have repeatedly communicated to Qualcomm our readiness to negotiate a lasting resolution to these issues - thus far to no avail," Broadcom said in a statement. "The burden of resolving these matters rests squarely with Qualcomm." Qualcomm representatives did not immediately return a call seeking comment. The ban is a result of a June 2005 investigation the ITC began in response to a complaint Broadcom filed alleging a patent for mobile device capabilities and power management was infringed by Qualcom. ®
Austin Modine, 22 Jun 2007
1

Unplugged life supports and padlocked manhoods abound

CommentsComments Happy Friday, everyone! It's time for another round of comments.
Robin Lettice, 22 Jun 2007
IBM
3

IBM launches MySpace for mainframes

IBM aims to leverage social networking by building an online meeting place for users of its System z mainframes. It says the Web-based portal, called Destination z, gives customers a place to discuss and debate mainframe usage, exchange ideas and seek technical advice.
Bryan Betts, 22 Jun 2007
Windows Vista teaser
28

Windows Vista aligned with good management practice

Calling all BOFHs We got a survey that wants filling in. Help us out and we'll make sure to demand that your bosses give you lots of goodies next month when we write our annual sysadmin appreciation day article. Sounds like a deal? So if you have anything to do with systems management and/or support, form an orderly line to participate in latest Reg survey here.
Team Register, 22 Jun 2007

Of the Sun Blade 6000

Sun Microsystems has introduced the Sun Blade 6000 Modular System, which offers a choice of blades powered by the UltraSPARC T1 processor with CoolThreads technology, Intel Xeon processors, or AMD Opteron processors and supports Solaris, Windows, and Linux operating systems.
Clay Ryder, 22 Jun 2007
2

Atlantis touches down in California

BriefBrief The space shuttle Atlantis touched down at Edwards Air Force Base in California at 15:49 local time (19:49 GMT) today after bad weather forced a diversion from the planned landing at Florida's Kennedy Space Center. The safe homecoming ended a two-week mission to the ISS, and a return to Mother Earth for Sunita Williams, who'd set a woman-in-space endurance record of 195 days. Atlantis's jaunt was marked by an ISS computer crash which took out the station's guidance system and environmental controls. While the computers were down, Atlantis used its thrusters to provide attitude control. Despite the scare, the Atlantis mission successfully deployed new solar arrays for the ISS, and the cantankerous IT has now been brought back into line. Full details of the touch-down are available from NASA here. ®
Lester Haines, 22 Jun 2007
14

Digital data can bite you in the ass, researcher warns

UsenixUsenix When security consultant Dan Klein was culling decades-old snapshots for his digital scrap book, he specifically omitted photos taken during his college years, when some of his behaviors weren't exactly role-model material for his offspring. Left unscanned, for instance, was the picture of him wearing a tee-shirt bearing a marijuana leaf or another one showing him brandishing a six-inch switchblade while sitting in front of the pelt of an endangered animal. Because the pictures were shot in the 1970s, preventing them from seeping into the digital ether was a trivial matter that required only that he keep them in the same musty closet that had been their home for years. Klein's secret was safe...until now.
Dan Goodin, 22 Jun 2007
33

Day-of-silence protest hits Net radio

On Tuesday, more than 10,000 U.S. web radio broadcasters will participate in a nationwide "day of silence", canceling their usual programming in protest of an impending royalty hike that threatens to put most of them out of business. Members of the SaveNetRadio coalition - including everyone from Yahoo! to WebRadioPugetSound - will either shut down their stations or broadcast public-service announcements urging listeners to support a repeal of the new royalty rates. In March, the U.S. Copyright Royalty board laid down new rules that would require broadcasters to pay $0.0008 each time a song is played – retroactive to the beginning of 2006. According to Jake Ward, a spokesperson for SaveNetRadio, this amounts to a 300 per cent rate hike for even the largest stations. By 2010, the per-play rate is scheduled to hit $0.0019. The first bill comes due on July 15, and as the date approaches, SaveNetRadio is battling the new rates in Congress. Next week's day of silence is an effort to gain support for the coalition’s Internet Radio Equality Act. "Though we're calling it a day of silence, a vast majority of the stations will air announcements urging listeners to call their congressional representative and ask them to co-sponsor the legislation we've introduced in the House and the Senate," Ward says. "Nothing but silence doesn't mean all that much." The Act seeks to introduce a royalty model similar to the one used for satellite radio. Broadcasters would pay based on revenue, rather than per song.®
Cade Metz, 22 Jun 2007