RealNetworks has patched a vulnerability in its RealPlayer and HelixPlayer software that made it possible for attackers to run arbitrary code on a victim's machine. The security hole affects applications running on Windows, Mac and Linux platforms.
Two months after releasing a "feature complete" third Windows Server 2008 beta, Microsoft has added new features to the planned operating system's code base. Microsoft today issued a Community Technology Preview (CTP), featuring the ability to run Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0 as a Server Core installation - a feature only announced at the start of June. Microsoft claimed 200,000 downloads for its third beta.
Electronic voting machines vendor Election Systems & Software Inc. has finally given in to demands by California's Secretary of State office that it submit the source code used in one of its products. But it made it abundantly clear it is unhappy about the requirement. ES&S complied with the demand in an overnight package that was received yesterday by the office of Secretary of State (SOS) Debra Bowen, about three months past due date. Of the four e-voting firms selling products to California counties, only ES&S failed to meet the deadline. Bowen's demand for the source code used in ES&S's InkaVote Plus Voting System stems from a "top-to-bottom" review of election system certified for use in California that was announced in February. Bowen based her review on a state law that mandates the SOS "review voting systems periodically to determine if they are defective, obsolete, or otherwise unacceptable". Lest Tuesday's overture appear to be a conciliatory gesture on ES&S's part, the Nebraska-based company wagged its finger at the whole process, questioning both its need and impartiality. "... there are serious concerns regarding the motivations and apparent personal agendas of a number of the currently proposed examiners," ES&S exec StevenPearson wrote in a letter agreeing to turn over the source code. "Please understand that ES&S will hold not only the examiners responsible, but the SOS as well, for any prohibited disclosure or use of ES&S' trade secrets and related confidential and proprietary information." The company noted that it had been approved by federally accredited independent testing authorities and certified for use in California. Over the past seven years, confidence in the US election system has been challenged by hanging chads and congested polling places. In the case last year in Florida's Sarasota County - which uses ES&S machines - huge voting anomalies have called into question the accuracy of results in the race for that state's 13th Congressional district. ®
Dell has been rumbling about "changing the economics" of data center storage for months, but little has slipped out, until now, in terms of a method for such madness. Many scratched their heads in May when Dell unfurled the Project Hybrid banner, declared it would reduce the cost and complexity of servers and storage; and then sent reporters on their way. But as game-time approaches, Dell's machinations are coming to light. Slowly, shrewdly, Dell is giving us a glimpse at their roadmap. Just a peek, mind you.
Blockbuster and Netflix have ended their patent litigation battle, Blockbuster revealed today. No terms have been announced, but in an SEC filing the video retailing giant said the settlement would not affect financial performance. Twelve months ago Blockbuster filed a counter-claim, accusing Netflix of using deceptive practices to obtain patents and monopolise the online rental business. Marshall Grossman, of Alschuler Grossman, Stein & Kahan, the firm representing Blockbuster, said at the time that Netflix claiming exclusive rights over subscription movie rentals was "like a fast-food restaurant trying to patent selling hamburgers through a drive-through window". Netflix, America's biggest online video retailer, had earlier sued Blockbuster for alleged infringement of its business method patent. Could the two rivals use their secret pact to stitch up others? According to the Associated Press, U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco, who dismissed the case yesterday at the companies' request, "refused to oversee the settlement because Netflix and Blockbuster wouldn't provide him with a copy of the agreement". Scott Kamber, a New York lawyer who is suing Netflix seperately over alleged patent abuse, thinks the accord could stifle competition. "We are very concerned," he told AP business writer Michael Lidtke. "One thing is for sure: This isn't going to be good for consumers if they don't want this settlement to see the light of the day." We shall find out soon enough if Blockbuster and Netflix are up to no good. In the meantime they are fighting tooth and nail for the North America online video rental market. Netflix dominates this market - it pulled in almost $1bn in revenues in 2006 and currently claims almost seven million customers. But margins are thin - around five per cent net. Blockbuster's arrival on the scene as a serious competitor will ensure that they won't get any fatter. From a standing start, Blockbuster is growing rapidly, gaining three million customers by the end of Q1 this year, on the back of cut-price deals for people who place their orders over the internet. But growth has come at a price and Blockbuster is feeling the strain. In its SEC filing today, the company said it is seeking to change a credit agreement so that it can get away with lower earnings requirements. In the first half of the year, it has spent a lot of money on its Total Access online video rentals program - and it wants to carry on spending to bring the customers in. According to reports, analysts had expected Blockbuster to raise online rental prices by now. But the company doesn't want to do this until the end of the year, when it will make changes to the "offering that it believes will strike the appropriate balance between continued subscriber growth and enhanced profitability". Netflix meanwhile can carry on not being bought by Amazon and figure out how it can turn a profit from video download rentals. ®
The Vodafone UK Foundation has got five million quid burning a hole in its pocket, and is looking for consortia of charities that can help 16-25 year olds who might be excluded from society; presumably not by giving them mobile phones or broadband. The funding programme is called Reach, and is open only to charities applying in groups, or at least pairs, in the hope that making them work together will help them work with those who need the help. The full criteria, and application process, is explained on the Reach web site.®
Vodafone has announced a deal with TomTom to develop a co-branded product for avoiding traffic jams, just as Telmap launches version 3 of its software, with the needs of the pedestrian in mind. With less than half a dozen GPS-equipped handsets on sale in the UK we're clearly in the very early stages of any location-based revolution, and with operators mysteriously reluctant to embrace A-GPS (which requires network support, but is cheaper) the functionality is likely to remain the preserve of high-end devices for a while. But this hasn't prevented Telmap from launching its latest version with enhanced mapping for those walking, as well as the ability to send location information over SMS - to other Telmap users at least. Telmap has been trying to get operators interested in branding their own mapping services for a while, but with little success. Now it's selling through operator portals, to users who understand the value of location-based services even if their operators don't. Operators seem reluctant to embrace location services until a sufficient member of handsets support it, but the handsets won't come until the operators ask for them; leading to a chicken-and–egg situation which is going to need cracking. Once users have GPS they certainly use it. Oren Nissim, CEO of Telmap, reckons US networks have seen a 30 to 40 per cent activation rate on GPS-equipped handsets, and 40 per cent is normally the rate at which a technology is considered worth bundling into handsets as standard. That's certainly the kind of adoption rate Vodafone will be looking for before launching its service with Tom Tom. Scheduled for the first half of 2008, the details are vague but such a schedule could well be an indication that Vodafone is planning an A-GPS service, thus opening the way for cheaper location services in the UK, and applying pressure on the other operators to follow suit. Vodafone wasn't available for comment on the matter, at least not yet. ®
The current generation of "consumer robots" is driven mostly by robot-love: people enjoy things which move around on their own, especially if they can build or tinker with the gadgets themselves. That much became clear at a recent symposium on Robots, which I described here last month. The consumer robot business today is manned by avid tinkerers because there is neither a technology for autonomous gadgets, nor a business model to support them even if they did exist.
The Open Mobile Terminal Platform , a mobile-phone industry body which counts Orange, Vodafone, T-Mobile and 3 amongst its membership, has published guidance for network operators and handset manufacturers on provisioning and maintaining VoIP settings on new handsets.
Google Desktop - the company's downloadable application for searching your computer - has finally landed on Linux.
CommentComment It took the well-dressed businessmen hanging upside down from the rafters, the acrobats with iPAQs and the data center porn to mush the concept all over my brain. HP has unseated IBM as the agenda setter in the IT game. Or at least that's what HP believes.
The government's senior biometrics advisor says that the Home Office's biometric programmes have become bogged down in the face of bureaucracy's liking for manual processes.
Nintendo is to follow Microsoft's lead and offer a downloadable games programming package for its latest games console.
Intel has revised its four-core desktop processors, the 2.4GHz Core 2 Quad Q6600 and the 2.93GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6800, the chip giant warned its customers yesterday. The move had been expected.
JasperSoft has just released version 2.0 of its software, which makes this a good time not just to consider JasperSoft's latest capabilities, but also open-source business intelligence (BI) more generally.
The Press Complaints Commission has explicitly banned digital snooping by journalists in a change to its Code of Practice. The move comes in the wake of journalist Clive Goodman's conviction for eavesdropping on royal staff members' phone messages. Though the PCC said that the code previously banned such activity, it said that in the wake of the case its editors' committee wanted to make the ban explicit. The code is voluntary but adhered to by newspapers which sign up to it. It is enforced by the PCC. The new Code says that: "The press must not seek to obtain or publish material acquired by using hidden cameras or clandestine listening devices; or by intercepting private or mobile telephone calls, messages or emails; or by the unauthorized removal of documents, or photographs; or by accessing digitally held private information without consent." The new insertion is the last phrase about accessing digitally held private information without the consent of the owner, and is targeted at voicemail hacking. Most electronic eavesdropping on telephone activity is illegal, but the PCC is hoping its code is enforced internally by editors, cutting down on clandestine listening. Former News of the World royal editor Goodman was jailed after admitting accessing the voicemails of royal employees 487 times in just one eight-month spell. He was jailed for four months for breach of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act. Also jailed was former footballer turned private investigator Glenn Mulcaire, who worked for Goodman and the News of the World on a contract basis. Another change to the PCC Code in the aftermath of Mulcaire's conviction is designed to ensure that newspapers remain responsible for the activities of contractors as well as staff. "Engaging in misrepresentation or subterfuge, including by agents or intermediaries, can generally be justified only in the public interest, and then only when the material cannot be obtained by other means," the code states. The phrase including agents and intermediaries has just been added. "In Clause 10, we felt that, under the spirit of the code, as removal of documents or photographs without consent is already unacceptable, then hacking into computers to obtain such material must also be," said Les Hinton, chairman of the PCC's Code of Practice committee. Hinton is also executive chairman of News International, publisher of the News of the World. "Similarly, the use of third parties to gain information that would otherwise be protected by the code would also amount to a breach. In both cases, it would be better, for the avoidance of doubt, to state this specifically," he said. The code has also been changed to reflect the growing trend of user-generated content being posted to newspaper websites. The code now makes it clear that editors are only responsible for content their journalists create and control, not material sent in by readers. It has been amended to apply to "editorial material" only. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
No sooner did Toshiba announce a 4GB Micro SDHC memory card to match the one SanDisk put out just recently - reviewed here - but SanDisk took the lead again, this time announcing the first ever 6GB and 8GB Micro SDHC cards.
Sony Ericsson's long-suffering smartphone users are spitting mad at a decision by the company not to issue any more firmware updates to their phones. The policy was confirmed on Tuesday, and affects owners of the P990i smartphone, M600i communicator and W950 music phone.
After months of pre-launch wrangling, legal jousting and clause tweaking, the Free Software Foundation is ready to launch the final version of the GNU GPL version 3. The champagne corks will officially pop at 12 noon, EDT, tomorrow, Friday June 29.
Century clearly hit the nail on the head when it dreamed up the Dolphin underwater MP3 player, because it's now not the only fish in the sea. Uk retailer Advanced MP3 Players is riding the wave with its own version - the SwiMP3.
The world's most developed economies will co-operate to uphold privacy laws in the face of increasing amounts of cross-border data transfer. The member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have agreed the plan. The new deal updates a 25-year-old agreement on the upholding of privacy laws. A new deal was needed in order to guard against the privacy risks of the increasing amounts of personal data currently being sent from country to country. "The initiative is motivated by a recognition that changes in the character and volume of cross-border data flows have elevated privacy risks for individuals and highlighted the need for better co-operation among the authorities charged with providing them protection," said a statement from the OECD. The OECD recommendation (pdf) outlines the ways in which member governments have agreed to help each other to protect privacy by increasing the amount of international co-operation on privacy laws. It also outlines how countries will assist one another in the enforcement of privacy laws. The Canadian Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart is behind the recommendations, which provide common methods by which countries can co-operate. Each country will produce a list of contacts who will co-ordinate any foreign requests for assistance in protecting privacy. They will also begin to use a standardised form when requesting assistance of another country. More than 25 years ago the OECD produced its Privacy Guidelines. Most countries adopted privacy laws after this, though, and the organisation says that the nature and function of cross-border data exchange have changed significantly in that time. "OECD work on privacy law enforcement co-operation was undertaken in the context of increasing concerns about the privacy risks associated with the changing character and growing volume of cross-border data flows," says the recommendation. "Globalisation, the emergence of 'follow the sun' business models, the growth of the internet and falling communication costs dramatically increase the amount of personal information flowing across borders. This increase in transborder information flows benefits both organisations and individuals by lowering costs, increasing efficiency and improving customer convenience. At the same time, these personal information flows elevate concerns about privacy, and present new challenges with respect to protecting individuals’ personal information." The OECD is an organisation comprising members from Europe, America and other developed economies. It aims to help these countries solve some of the problems created by increasing globalisation. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
BT wholesale chief Dr Paul Reynolds, who had been tipped as a possible successor to CEO Ben Verwaayen, has quit the firm to become boss of Telecom New Zealand. Reynolds has been at BT since graduating from university in 1983, and a board member since 2001. A recent shake up of the firm's structure saw responsibility for the next generation 21CN network backbone pass from Reynolds to Andy Green, another contender for the top executive job. The blow will be softened by news he'll trouser a basic salary of about £670,000 at Telecom NZ from September onwards, and about double that again in performance-related bonuses. Broader top-level changes at BT are expected later this year, when chairman Sir Christopher Bland will depart. Verwaayen has indicated he may not be far behind. Today he praised Reynold's contribution in leading the development of 21CN. BT shareholders will also be grateful for his role in the conception of Openreach, which stopped the giant being broken up by Ofcom. In other news, BT also said today that its 21CN all-IP voice trial would be stood down. It hailed the London-centric testing a success, as it prepares mass migrations to a converged voice/broadband IP infrastructure in South Wales trials.®
Nanotechnology will be the next industrial revolution, and if the UK wants a piece of the action, it has to move now to fund research in the subject. So say academics from the University of Surrey, which has formed a nanotechnology taskforce, to develop a "coherent strategy for funding nanotechnology research". The university says it was driven to act by the government's failure to do so, a failure it says is contributing to the erosion of the UK's technological leadership. The researchers behind the taskforce argue that better communication is needed between academia and industry. This will help to identify the areas in which the UK could be a world leader, so that government funding can be focused where it will deliver the best possible results. Chairman Dr Ian Gibson MP, said: "Nanotechnology will be the next Industrial Revolution, but if the UK wants to be a major part of it, the government needs to demonstrate its commitment to science." The taskforce's stated goals include encouraging informed public debate about the technology, promoting its benefits, and addressing concerns about safety and ethical issues raised by the research. Professor Ravi Silva, director of the Advanced Technology Institute at the University of Surrey, commented: "The work of UK scientists and technologists has demonstrated the case for the widespread potential benefits that nanotechnology can offer to society and industry. What is now needed is a co-ordinated effort supported by strategic funding from the government, to turn this potential into real benefits." Bootnote Dr Gibson, Labour MP for Norwich North, in among his more sensible comments on the subject, suggests that the 2012 Olympics will be the ideal place to showcase our skills in nanotechnology. We're not quite sure what he means. Is he suggesting augmenting our athletes with muscle-building nanobots? Or perhaps referring to the very small medals haul we're likely to secure? If the current downward trend continues, we might well need nano machines to help us find and count the gold atoms Team GB brings home. Either way, Gibson must surely be given some kind of award for least likely association of two subjects. Well done, sir. ®
Residents of the western UK and Irish coasts have been warned to expect an invasion by a vast flotilla of ghostly, immortal albino plastic ducks, according to reports. The tale of the floating, whitened bird-simulacra migration is a strange one, dating back many years. It seems that the plastic bathtime companions were originally made in China. They were on their way to America in 1992 when a terrible storm struck their vessel in mid-Pacific, and shipping containers holding 30,000 of the hapless playthings were washed overboard. A majority of the ducks - at that stage still tinted a healthy yellow - headed south, many of them reportedly finishing up in Australia, where they were doubtless accorded the traditional hostile reception. Ten thousand of the plastic anatidaens, however, went north, embarking on an endless odyssey across the world's oceans. Like the legendary Captain Vanderdecken in his ill-omened ghost ship the Flying Dutchman, the flocks of plastic kiddy-pals seemed doomed to roam the oceans for eternity. The luckless fleet of cursed, wandering sea-going toys - Flying Duckmen, perhaps - circled the northern Pacific for some years before a fresh horror befell them as they drifted into the Arctic. Here they became frozen into the pack ice, suffering untold torment in their icy prison as they slowly transited past Greenland into the Atlantic. Bleached pale by their hellish polar ordeal, the doomed ducks drifted onward. Thawed-out plastic voyagers have landed since the turn of the century in New England, Iceland and Canada, and one may have been found in the western Hebrides in 2003. A retired American oceanographer named Curtis Ebbesmeyer has monitored the ducks' progress for the past 15 years, and it's his prediction that the plastic playthings' perpetual peregrination may now be headed this way. Ebbesmeyer briefed the Evening Standard yesterday, saying that "We're getting reports of ducks being washed up on America's eastern seaboard. "It is now inevitable that they will get caught up in the Atlantic currents and will turn up on English beaches. "Cornwall and the South-West will probably get the first wave of them." The Times claims that the globe-trotting bath toys have become collectors' items, and sell for £500. If true, this could mean another greed-crazed beachcomber salvage flotsam bonanza frenzy, with hordes of opportunists descending on Cornish beaches hoping to get rich on the sea's pale, plastic bounty. We say: bad luck will surely come to those who seek to profit from the Flying Duckmen. Interfere with their eternal voyage at your peril.®
Hot from serving a jail term for drink-driving-related offences, Paris Hilton has promised to be a better person and said she learned a lot from her "traumatic experience" behind bars. The hotel heiress told CNN's Larry King that she had been "confined for three-and-a-half weeks in a little cell" and that is was "just overwhelming to be out and to be free again". It's hard to imagine how difficult it must have been for the Simple Life star to go without basics such as her Blackberry and mobile phone, but luckily she did have the Bible to read. She told King: "I feel like God does make everything happen for a reason. It gave me time out in life to find out what was really important and figure out who I am." Jailbird Hilton had been shacked up in an 8x12 cell containing a metal bunk bed, toilet and desk away from her fellow inmates for 23 hours a day. Responding to criticism that the she had received preferential treatment, Hilton said, "I was treated like every other inmate, no better no worse." At one point, holding back the tears, our Paris read from a journal she had written while banged up. We'll spare you the full gory details, but titbits included describing her life as "a process, a gift and a journey". Gawd bless her. The tortured starlet said she struggled to enjoy the "jail slop" food served up. Apparently the baloney sandwiches she was given for lunch contained "mystery meat" which she described as "really scary". Alas, her jail term is over now, and the 26-year-old blonde star, who admitted to King that she had "been a little immature in the past", now plans to "raise awareness for many great causes" including breasts and kids. Hilton, who is "not much of a drinker", said she was overwhelmed by the support she received from young female fans around the world. "I'm an adult and I have to just grow up and be a good role model for these girls." But, not wanting to leave the men out of her big comeback chat, Hilton added that the husband of her dreams "is out there somewhere". Meanwhile, one journalist has taken a stance against reporting on the trials and tribulations of Paris. But, not wanting to let the side down, we at El Reg will continue with all the Paris coverage you could possibly need. ®
When Google paid $1.65bn for YouTube many questioned what the site's business model was and if it could continue to grow its audience. Well so far the answer is yes. Site visits to YouTube.com grew by 70 per cent between January and May 2007. To put this in context, site visits to 64 other video-sharing websites grew by just eight per cent in the same period. In fact, YouTube had 50 per cent more site visits than all 64 other sites combined. YouTube has 60.02 per cent of market share of US visits to video sites. Next is MySpace with 16.08 per cent, Google Video has still got 7.81 per cent, then there is a sharp drop off. Yahoo! Video gets 2.77 per cent of site visits, MSN gets 2.09 per cent, Break.com gets 1.33 per cent followed by Daily Motion with 1.13 per cent. Bringing up the rear are MetaCafe (1.07 per cent), AOL Media (0.94 per cent) and Veoh in tenth place with 0.86 per cent. But search engines still account for 20 per cent of traffic to video-sharing websites - suggesting either an increasing appetite for video content or that people struggle to find what they want on the sites themselves. Figures from Hitwise show that the number of surfers leaving search engines to go to video sites has also increased by some 300 per cent over a year from May 2006 to May 2007. There's more on the Hitwise blog here.®
Morse has shaken up things at the top with a number of board changes including the appointment of Kevin Alcock as its new chief executive.
DARPA*, the US military's occasionally eccentric death-tech hothouse, is often lauded as having created the internet. Under its old name ARPA, the agency oversaw development of the so-called Arpanet, forerunner of today's IP net. Now, however, DARPA reckons the internet needs to be reinvented.
Rumour has it that TJX, the embattled US retailer trying to recover its reputation following the loss of 45 million credit and debit card details, is dishing out free ice creams to entice shoppers back in to their stores in major US cities.
Do not be tempted into opening an email with the subject line: "Microsoft Security Bulletin MS07-0065" because it is no such thing.
The US Senate has issued subpoenas demanding the White House hand over documents relating to its policy of snooping on US citizens without getting warrants or other legal clearance.
Despite Britain being pelted by record rainfall over the past few days, there was a lot more Sun about than usual. Not that it was all bright. There was the 'shock departure' - that's what it said in The Reg, so it must be true - of UK president Trudy Norris-Grey and the appointment of Kim Jones as her successor. According to Sun senior EMEA vice-president, Peter Ryan, Norris-Grey left after two years at the helm to "pursue other interests".
Google is getting its ducks in a row for its push into medical information. The advertising broker has rounded up a herd of healthcare policy-types to advise it on medical matters.
The endless cycle of iPod accessory creation continues to churn on relentlessly, with the latest being an iPod docking station for your bike.
When Apple's iPhone goes on sale tomorrow evening, buyers will only be allowed to take home two of the "revolutionary" mobile telephones, the Mac maker said today. That's twice as many as AT&T, the only carrier offering the iPhone for the immediate future, will allow.
As Apple begins handing out its wunderkind one can't help but be reminded of its last foray into mobile computing: the Apple Newton.
ReviewReview We've waited a long time for AMD's ATI Radeon HD 2400 and 2600 graphics chips. Although they were launched in May alongside the HD 2900 XT - reviewed here - it's only now that these budget and mid-range parts have gone on sale.
Three years after its last major reorganization, Nokia has announced another one, as new CEO Olli-Pekka Kallasvuo seeks to stamp his mark further on the firm and accelerate the push towards being a mobile internet company, his stated objective. This time, Nokia is to recombine all its handset activities into one unit, called Devices, having previously split them into three (Mobile Phones or basic handsets, Multimedia and Enterprise) at the start of 2004. In addition, there will also be two other business units - Software and Services, which will spearhead the mobile internet push and is poised to stride out on the acquisitions trail; and Markets, which will house all sales, marketing, logistics and manufacturing operations. In a bid to streamline its world-class supply chain and simplify financial reporting, Nokia will integrate all three divisions, and has appointed Mary McDowell, formerly head of the Enterprise unit, as the overall chief development officer. Financially, it will report just two operations - the three new units combined under the label Devices and Services, plus the Nokia Siemens infrastructure joint venture. Some analysts complain that this will reduce Nokia's level of visibility. The reorganization highlights several key elements of Kallasvuo's strategy, notably the shift to software architectures and mobile internet models, the continuing quest to set efficiency benchmarks, and the need to chase emerging markets without sacrificing too much margin. This last task relies on driving the characteristics of the high-end E-Series enterprise and N-Series multimedia internet handsets rapidly into mid-range models that can then be targeted at volume markets and at the more affluent sectors of emerging economies - generating aspirational spending and eroding margin more gradually than chasing the ultra-low cost sector too aggressively. Kallasvuo's evolving strategy differentiates from that of his predecessor Jorma Olilla - contrary to some analysts' fears that, as a Nokia veteran, the new CEO would not be sufficiently radical in his thinking to break away from Olilla's powerful legacy when required. In fact, Kallasvuo has taken the seeds of mobile internet thinking planted under Olilla and has explicitly made it the centerpiece of his growth strategy, while seeking to build and improve further on Nokia's existing advantages over its rivals in terms of supply-chain efficiency, purchasing weight and strong process control - as much elements of its success as cool handset designs. A longer version of this report can be found in our sister service Wireless Watch this week, email me if you would like to see a copy. Copyright © 2007, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
The US and UK Governments have drawn up a treaty that will give Britain easier access to American military technology, but no rights to resell it. Currently, US exports of weapons or military technology to Britain are subject to the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR). Getting ITAR clearances is a cumbersome and difficult process, and causes much disquiet on the part of the overseas buyer. It can often take weeks to get approval even for relatively simple US purchases, such as bullets or rifle sights. The UK was promised a special ITAR waiver by the Clinton administration, but this has never been delivered - in large part due to the concerns of certain American congressmen. Plain speaking has been noticeably absent during the resulting debate, with British politicos often wilfully misrepresenting the issues. Essentially, however, America is more than happy to let Britain have advanced military kit and tech knowledge for its own use. But the UK has so far insisted on being allowed to resell these things to third countries, and this has not been acceptable to Americans worried about the spread of weapons tech around the world. Thus no ITAR waiver has been forthcoming. It appears, however, that Britain may now have climbed down. When contacted by the Reg, a UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) spokesmen confirmed that the draft treaty requires US approval for any third-country dealings by Britain. "The treaty only applies to items for US/UK Government end use," according to the MoD. "The current arrangements will continue to apply if UK companies wish to sell US technologies to a third party." This concession is bad news for the British arms industry, who would dearly love to resell advanced American death-tech to their customers in Arabia, Indonesia and elsewhere. (This is a noticeable part of their business at the moment, despite ITAR.) It's potentially excellent news, however, for British taxpayers and servicemen. The British forces should now be able, if they so choose, to buy American kit off the shelf without wading through mountains of bumf. Tech support and parts should be similarly easy to arrange. In fact, wherever possible, British politicians will try to channel MoD pork via British firms even when buying American gear. But at least those firms will now be able to get that gear more easily and cheaply. And, helpfully, the UK weapons biz won't be able to use ITAR as an excuse for setting up hugely-expensive (and lucrative, for them) development programmes to reinvent each new American wheel - often in partnership with European firms, which typically pushes up the price and widens British dependency. As an example, it's now fairly hard to see the point in continuing with the MoD's "Taranis" project to build a flying stealth-robot demonstrator. If Blighty needs such tech, we can just buy it in from America. If builders BAE want to sell that kind of thing to suspect overseas governments, they can pay for its development themselves. And then the MoD could spend that £124m on half-a-dozen new Chinook helicopters from America, which might give our lads in Afghanistan a bit more of a fighting chance. This happy future isn't guaranteed, however. The deal has cunningly been framed as a treaty, which means that the potentially troublesome US Congress doesn't get a look-in. But the text will still need to be ratified by the Senate; and there it could face some stiff opposition. The treaty is two-way, for one thing. It will potentially allow Brit firms to get involved in US projects more easily, perhaps taking work from Americans. More significantly, there will be those in Washington who don't trust the Brits to keep US secrets to themselves. Here we are giving the Limeys stealth as part of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, they might say to themselves. (There's already a special UK-US tech agreement on the F-35, signed last year). Then, right after we give them that, the Brits suddenly announce they've got this "Taranis" thing, in which they reckon to build a working stealth-plane almost from scratch* in a few years for just £124m, even though it took America decades and billions to achieve the same thing. Coincidence? Maybe not, some Senators might be thinking. Looks a bit like perfidious Albion repackaging US stealth knowhow. Which could well give them pause for thought, on Capitol Hill. The UK and US executives are trying to make the deal look good for America: they've suggested that Blighty will hand over its hard-won Northern Irish expertise on countering insurgent bombs, for instance, which would be useful for American forces in Iraq. Also, the Yanks aren't letting Britain have absolutely everything. "A very small amount of sensitive [US] technologies will remain under existing export control arrangements," the MoD told the Reg. Whether all this can win over the Senate remains to be seen.® *BAE and the MoD had collaborated on various drone demonstrators beforehand, for example the Corax. Details are sketchy, but there's no indication that serious Stealth development was involved.
Researchers at Oxfordshire's Diamond Light Source Synchrotron have signed on to collaborate on research with colleagues at the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory. The deal, the latest in a series of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) between the two groups, paves the way for joint research projects and technical development. Isabelle Boscara-Clarke, a spokeswoman for the Diamond Light facility told us: "It is an overarching agreement that will enable us to share information in an open manner. It is more about exchange of people, and fostering collaboration." For example, she says, Diamond Light's staff have returned from a trip to Brazil. "Now, some of the scientists have forged relationships that we hope will be cultivated over the next few years. Hopefully the Brazilian team will visit us. But you can't have that kind of open collaboration without this agreement to kickstart it." The deal sets out exactly how intellectual property can be shared, both in terms of research, but also the design and functioning of the facilities. A synchrotron uses magnets to accelerate electrons to almost the speed of light, and focuses them into very precise beams of synchrotron light. The Diamond Light Source is some 10,000 times brighter than other facilities in the UK. Professor Gerhard Materlik, chief executive of Diamond Light Source, commented: "Synchrotron science has developed rapidly in the past 20 years thanks to a very open, collaborative spirit among the community. It is a very positive move for us to be able to sign this MoU with the Brazilian Synchrotron Light Laboratory. "It will enable us to combine expertise to accomplish significant scientific goals, develop common specialised knowledge and effective use of facilities and increase co-operation and mutual support between the two organisations." Boscara-Clarke says that there are no specific scientific projects flagged for collaboration yet, but that there will be a workshop in September where those details will start to be hammered out. The Oxfordshire facility switched on in January this year (2007). So far it has been open to the academic community. Researchers have used the facility to study proteins that are linked to cancer, the structure and composition of the Santa Catherina meteorite, and for several studies of magnetism. ®
Microsoft has changed its mind on changing its UK broadline distributors.
ICANN San Juan 2007ICANN San Juan 2007 The Tuesday ICANN extravaganza continued with the ritualized slaughter of individual privacy rights in the holiest of holies for American trademark attorneys: ICANN's Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) triannual meeting, wherein they flog their misrepresentations of American trademark law on an unsuspecting, powerless and almost entirely ignorant internet community. These overpaid mouthpieces for American corporate dominion over the internet get a new rallying cry with every extension of the internet, and the current expansion of top level domains (TLDs) is no exception. The dispute is never about whether the corporations they represent have some rights in a certain trademark - they always do. The question is where those rights are to be honored and to what extent the trademark in which they do have rights becomes subject to consumer confusion. Whether or not the mark has suffered any actual diminution of value, and what actual damages are suffered, is an extension of this seemingly simple concept. The basic premise of American trademark law is that a violating mark be confusingly similar to an existing mark, but the analysis runs deeper than that. The resolution of whether or not a potentially violating mark is "confusing" involves a contextual analysis of both geography and the nature of the market. The recently resolved dispute between Apple, Inc. (nee Apple Computer) and Beatles' label Apple Records is a good example of the market-based analysis - once Apple started making a lot of money off of music, Apple Records had a strong enough trademark case to force a settlement. Simple geography can be problematic as well - a famous brand in America, such as farm equipment manufacturer Caterpillar, may be considerably less famous, even unknown, in India, China or Kazahkstan. For such a brand, they may have no trademark rights whatsoever in remote locations where the brand is either not famous or almost unknown. So why should they have rights there over an unrelated internet brand? Why in the world should the scorched earth tactics of a particular American lobby in any way impact some small business in a region where they would otherwise have potentially no rights whatsoever? In other words, is .apple at the TLD level really a potentially analogous situation to the Apple Records situation outlined above? It's true that there are many legitimate cases of infringement out there, but extending those rights to TLDs - essentially creating universal trademark rights where none existed before - is a gross hand-out to companies not in need of any such sort of corporate welfare. American corporations have been extremely aggressive in protecting perceived snubs of their trademarks, but the internet is an international medium of communication, and it is not at all clear that many American trademarks have much value beyond American borders. The main concern of the attorneys, of course, is money: any proposed system that requires them to do any additional work to determine who owns a potentially offending website provokes endless howling and gnashing of teeth. The refrain heard at their meetings is not the wail of the morally wronged; it's always, why should the trademark community bear the cost of this? Never mind that the relative cost to the individual registrant defending such a suit is typically absurdly higher than the relative cost would be to a major American corporation. So how is it that American trademark attorneys wield such power with the de facto government of the internet, ICANN? Well, the IPC, which should represent the entire IP community of providers - and potentially even consumers, though they don't even merit a mention at the meetings - has been co-opted by a relatively narrow interest group, namely the one doing everything it can to extend lucrative American trademark protections around the globe, whether merited or not. The privacy battles over personal information in the "whois" database are legendary and longstanding, but the idea that a common dictionary term used as a TLD could infringe a trademark took front seat at this event. I defy anyone to find an internet user so unsophisticated as to assume that a TLD is the sole domain of one company. The standard for infringement is "likely to lead to confusion", and it's ludicrous, for example, to claim that a hypothetical internet user will assume that .cat refers to the Caterpillar company, when a) the vast majority of world inhabitants have never heard of the company, and b) absolutely none of those consumers have experienced a TLD used in that fashion. Ultimately, restricting trademarks to a very narrow group of current rights holders is bad for the entire economy, inasmuch as it restricts both competition and innovation. It also is, cynically, bad business for the trademark lobby, because they eventually will have fewer potential clients and defendants. It's a lobby that should be very careful what it asks for - it just might get it. Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
The Motion Picture Ass. of America (MPAA) has filed lawsuits against YouTV.com and Peekvid.com, claiming the sites' "sole purpose... is to disseminate content that has been illegally reproduced and distributed". Civil lawsuits were filed against YouTVpc and Peekvid in US District Court in Los Angeles for "damages and injunctive relief" for violations under the United States Copyright Act of 1976. The MPAA alleges that the two sites "contribute to and profit from massive copyright infringement by identifying, posting, organizing and indexing links to infringing content found on the internet". They also profit "handsomely" from this nefarious trade, thanks to "a seemingly endless stream of third-party advertising", the MPAA says. In addition to this income, YouTV.com has a "donate here"-type button, where users can contribute to the upkeep of the pages. John Malcolm, director of worldwide anti-piracy operations for the MPAA, said: "These lawsuits should serve as a warning to other aspiring movie theft ‘entrepreneurs’ that they are not above the law and will face serious consequences for their activities." "Profiting from the theft of other people’s creative works is illegal and must be stopped,” he added. Still maintaining that it is possible to say with certainty that each illegal download is a lost sale, the MPAA says internet piracy has cost the industry $7bn in 2005. Presumably, it is still counting the cost of 2006. ®
One of Gordon Brown's first acts as Prime Minister has been the abolition of the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI). In an announcement this afternoon, the new premier outlined significant changes to the UK's machinery of government. The former DTI's role in boosting and regulating the British economy now passes to the newly formed Department for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform (DBERR).
Alienware has unveiled its latest high-end laptop, the Area-51 m9750, a monster 16in machine with a dual-core Intel processor and - if you fancy it - a pair of Nvidia SLI GPUs.
The Federal Trade Commission has cautioned against regulations that would ensure telecom providers treat all internet traffic the same way. In a report released late Wednesday, the FTC's Internet Access Task Force accepted arguments posed by cable and phone companies that government intervention in Net Neutrality is unnecessary, as competition would prevent internet providers from taking advantage of customers.
AnalysisAnalysis The debate over who in the Linux camp will next get into bed with Microsoft is back on, after Red Hat's chief executive admitted to holding patent talks. The only question is over what terms and at what point.
An open source version of Microsoft's potential Adobe Flash challenger, Silverlight, has been developed within two months of being unveiled as a beta. Miguel de Icaza and a team of dedicated open source coders have hacked together an implementation of Silverlight they are calling Moonlight, for Linux and Unix.
The Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comment on whether it should uphold a 1997 decision that bars satellite radio rivals Sirius and XM from merging. When the commission awarded broadcast licenses to Sirius and XM, it sought to assure competition in the market by stipulated that neither company was permitted to acquire the other's license. The satellite radio providers dispute the import of clause. They say it is only a policy statement - rather than a binding rule - because it was not officially codified in the Code of Federal Regulations. According to Sirius and XM, the FCC should ignore or alter the prohibition because a merger will serve the public interest. In an SEC filing in March, Sirius said the rule policy whatever is unnecessary "because the preservation of two separate satellite radio licensees is no longer required to help assure sufficient continuing competition". The deal is currently being reviewed by the FCC and the Justice Department. To gauge the public's temperature, the FCC is accepting comments on the proposed merger. Interested parties can give the FCC what-for in a 30 day-period after the FCC's rules appear in the Federal Register. The FCC did not specify when that publication will occur. Comments can be filed online or by snail mail. ®
Data Domain stock soared 66 per cent to $24.95 on its first day of trading as a public company, Wednesday. The network storage and disk backup firm offered 7.39m shares at $15 a piece in the IPO. Data Domain beat its own expectations to grab a cool $94.2m, raising about $111m in the offering.
On the way back from a popular Palo Alto coffee house, Adam Riggs - also known as Nicodemus - stops at his car to show off a new raccoon suit. Sporting a furry blue headpiece, the Silicon Valley computer programmer begins to wave like an amusement park mascot.
A prominent software developer with a reputation for making waves in coding circles is doing it again - this time warning that Intel's celebrated Core 2 Duo is vulnerable to security attacks that target known bugs in the processor.