Troubled Euro satnav initiative Galileo took something of a beating during a UK Parliamentary debate on Monday. Galileo was originally planned as a civilian public-private partnership between the European Union and various European contractors. It was thought that heavy private investment might be recouped by charging satnav users fees. However, in recent months it has become clear that industry has no confidence that anyone will willingly pay for satnav services in a world where the American military-funded Global Positioning System (GPS) can be used for free. In the absence of any foreseeable revenue stream, industrial partners were reluctant to invest, and negotiations between them and the European Commission (the EU bureaucracy) have stalled. At a meeting of national transport ministers last month it was reportedly agreed that Galileo would proceed as a wholly public-funded project, but detailed arrangements are to wait until autumn. Arguments in favour of Galileo are varied. It has been suggested that it would offer more precision than GPS; however, GPS is to be upgraded to Block III standard soon and the pendulum will then swing back. Others, such as Lib Dem MP Lembit Opik, believe GPS might suffer a devastating systemic collapse which could lead to accidents in civil aviation. It has been suggested that with Galileo in place, EU nations could cease to maintain legacy air navigation beacons and systems, redeeming some of the cost of running the new satellites. It does seem very unlikely that anyone would pay for Galileo precision services. A really precise satnav service is only required in a few applications, and differential-GPS can already achieve this. Systemic collapse of GPS is no doubt theoretically possible, but it has been possible for a long time now. The civil aviation industry certainly isn't willing to spend billions on building a backup system. The EC bureaucracy has hinted that military customers might pay to use Galileo, but again the EU militaries already have free "p-code" service from the USA so they'd have to be ordered to use Galileo pay services - an order which would amount to public funding anyway. All this was thrashed out in the British Parliament on Monday. Former transport minister Stephen Ladyman even said he had suggested that Galileo might have to be cancelled at the recent ministerial summit. New UK transport minister Rosie Winterton stopped short of that, but she did take a tough stance towards the commission, at least for UK consumption. "Galileo is considered a key community project, but we are clear that it cannot be carried out at any price; it has to be affordable, and it has to be value for money," she said. "It needs better governance and risk management, open competition and a firm focus on the opportunities for getting the private sector to share the costs and risks." The private sector has made it clear it isn't up for that. Open competition isn't really an option in the environment of a European publicly-funded project. The EU nations can collectively afford it fairly easily; but it's really hard, short of an almost warlike dispute between EU and USA, to see how Galileo can ever deliver added value to those who will pay for it. ®
FoTWFoTW Well, it's been quite a week. The release of Apple's long-awaited, eagerly-anticipated and much-hyped iPhone saw a level of fanboy hysteria matched only by the 1632 demonic possession of the Ursuline convent in Loudun - a sorry affair later attributed to a nasty case of mass hysteria. A provocative parallel, we're sure you'll agree. However, while the Loudun outrage finally resulted in local priest Urbain Grandier being burnt alive at the stake for having bewitched the nuns, no one as yet has been called to account for the mob frenzy which has gripped at least 500,000 US members of the Church of the Divine Jobs. Which is a shame, according to the anonymous commentator who felt moved to offer a reasoned analysis on the chilling news that the forces of darkness were attempting with black magic to bend the iPhone to their satanic master's will: For f*ck sake...it's just a phone/mp3 player/browser...who sh*tting cares if it can be hacked. Just use it as it was intended and stop being a complete bunch of geeky f*ckheads with nothing better to do with your time than sit with your fingers up your a*ses twiddling your prostates...hmmm, does that feel good!! F*cking idiots. What a bunch of f*cking morons. Do you take apart your toasters at home because Breville are better than DeLonghi?? WTF. You guys need to get yourselves some serious action to distract you from the pathetic diatribe!! Our suggestion? Throw the lot of 'em in the village pond and see if they float. If they do, prepare the faggots and flaming pitch barrels of righteous indignation. Amen. ®
Mobile network O2 is close to getting the exclusive right to sell Apple's ludicrously-hyped iPhone in the UK. The handset has gone on sale in the US with one network partner, AT&T, and Apple is looking to set up similar exclusive deals across Europe.
Hot combinations of three letter acronyms (TLAs) can set the pulse racing, and the current top pair have to be BPM and SOA (that's business process management and service oriented architecture for any visitors from Alpha Centauri). With the latest release of its iProcess Suite, Tibco Software has succeeded in bringing these two hot marketing concepts together in the same headline.
It's got the dimensions of a mobile phone and even some similar looks, and now Cowon's latest digital music player, the iAudio 7, is available in to UK-based buyers.
Direct Line Insurance has won the High Court's backing in a bid to block a rival's application to trademark a representation of a computer mouse on wheels. Direct Line said esure's mark was too similar to its own, a red telephone on wheels. The court ruled that the trademark application should be refused because its use would take unfair advantage of or be detrimental to Direct Line's similar mark, even though no likelihood of confusion in the minds of the public had been proven. Direct Line's phone on wheels. Direct Line, part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, began advertising with its wheeled telephone in 1990. In September 2004, esure, part of the HBOS Group, began advertising with a mouse on wheels, replacing a high profile campaign that featured film director Michael Winner. Esure applied to register its mouse on wheels as a trademark a few days before its adverts campaign began. Direct Line opposed that application. It said the trademark was similar to its own and that there was a likelihood of confusion with its own telephone on wheels. It also argued that the application, if successful, would take unfair advantage of the reputation that Direct Line has in its telephone-on-wheels. While esure's corporate colours are orange and blue, the trademark application, was in black and white. If granted, the mark would allow use in any colour. Direct Line's earlier trademarks were various representations of its telephone on wheels, two of which were red. A preliminary ruling by the Trade Mark Registry found no similarity between the marks and saw no possibility of confusion. Direct Line requested a hearing. In December 2006, that hearing concluded in Direct Line's favour. Esure appealed to the High Court, citing "errors of principle" in hearing officer Allan James's decision. In a decision published on 29 June, the High Court ruled in Direct Line's favour. Esure's mouse on wheels. Without similarity between marks there can be no infringement. Justice Lindsay referred to a previous case that described this as a "threshold test...to be considered in each case by a visual, aural and conceptual comparison of the mark and sign". Lindsay said the threshold is a low one and one that was passed by the similarities between Direct Line's and esure's marks: the services are identical, the marks are indicators of a means of making contact and doing business with each provider, and "black road wheels have been added to that means of communication and give it the appearance of a vehicle". The likelihood of confusion is a different test, though. Justice Lindsay described a "likelihood" as a less stringent requirement than a probability, but he felt it had not been met by esure's mark. He said he found the visual differences "to be so clear and so readily assessable as differences by an average consumer that such a person would not take the respective proprietors of them to be one and the same or, indeed, as economically related to one another but rather that they were more likely to be rivals in one and the same service industry"" Accordingly, esure won part of its appeal: there "was no proven likelihood of relevant confusion", wrote Justice Lindsay. But that finding did not preclude a finding that a mark could cause damage to a rival. On that vital point, esure lost. A branding expert said in an earlier hearing that adoption by esure of a computer mouse on wheels took unfair advantage of the distinctive character of Direct Line's telephone on wheels "by trading off and exploiting, to esure's benefit, the reputation that Direct Line had established in its mark". If Direct Line's telephone on wheels was required to share distinctive features with esure's mouse, he argued, the distinctive character of Direct Line's mark would be so reduced that it would not be wise for Direct Line to continue to promote that mark because it could not be confident that money spent promoting it would not also benefit esure. The hearing officer accepted this argument, describing the link as "parasitic and unfair". Justice Lindsay agreed with this reasoning. He said: "[There] is no necessary inconsistency between, on the one hand, my holding [...] that the public would not regard Direct Line and esure to be one and the same or economically related but rather would be more likely to see them as rivals and, on the other, my upholding the Hearing Officer's decision that were the mouse on wheels to be used as a mark there would, in the public's mind, be taken to be such a link between the two that use of the mouse would be parasitic and unfair." Accordingly, overall, esure's appeal failed. Esure no longer uses the computer mouse on wheels in its advertising, having replaced it with a rodent mouse character called Mister Mouse. According to esure's website, Mister Mouse was designed by the same team that designed Direct Line's telephone on wheels. See: The ruling Registrar's ruling (44 page/221KB PDF) Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Teenagers are using violent video games to vent their stress, a new study has found. According to the Massachusetts General Hospital's (MGH) Centre for Mental Health and Media, many young people play video games to manage their feelings, such as stress and anger, and those who play violent video games are among those more likely to play to deal with their anger. The study found that almost all young teenagers play video games, with only six per cent not playing any in the six months prior to the survey. Not only that, young teenagers seem to prefer to play violent games; most of those between the age of 12 and 14 who took part in the study had played violent video games regularly, while two-thirds of boys and more than a quarter of girls said they had played at least one M-rated (has a mature rating) game "a lot" during the previous six months. Although researchers found that the M-rated Grand Theft Auto series was the top game of choice among the teenage boys surveyed, it was the second most popular choice for girls. The top choice for girls was The Sims series. "Contrary to the stereotype of the solitary gamer with no social skills, we found that children who play M-rated games are actually more likely to play in groups - in the same room, or over the internet," Cheryl Olson, ScD, co-director of the Centre for Mental Health and Media and lead author of the study, said. The study surveyed 1,254 children from the US, representing the various socio-economic, racial/ethnic and geographic groups. The results seem to dispel some of the myths that the graphic video games breed a generation of violent and disturbed teens, as recent media reports may have given the impression. "We hope this study is a first step toward reframing the debate from 'violent games are terrible and destroying society' to 'what types of game content might be harmful to what types of kids, in what situations'," said Olson. Violent games recently hit the headlines again, with the news that Rockstar's Manhunt 2 had been banned in Ireland by the Irish Film Censor's Office, denied a rating in the UK and slapped with an AO (adults only) rating in the US - which means many retailers will not sell it at all. The launch of the game has now been suspended by publisher TakeTwo interactive, although online protests are starting to gather pace. © 2007 ENN
The Child Support Agency computer system has cost millions and created chaos, but MPs remain sceptical about its replacement. A Parliamentary committee has concluded that reforms of the troubled Child Support Agency (CSA) have been "one of the greatest public administration disasters of recent times".
Video game fans may now have a legitimate excuse to spend all day hooked up to their PlayStations and Xboxes - thanks to a new video game masters degree at Trinity College Dublin. Trinity has just added a one-year full-time Masters degree in "interactive entertainment technology" starting in October this year. The course has been designed in collaboration with influential players in the industry such as Microsoft, Demonware, and Radical Entertainment, and focuses on the science and technology behind the video game and entertainment industries. The deadline for applications to the course is 31 July, 2007. Only 25 places are available each year, with applicants required to have a minimum of a 2.1 in Computer Science or a related degree. Successful applicants will have access to a state-of-the-art learning environment, which includes a Microsoft-sponsored "Gamelab", and will be schooled by world experts in computer graphics and animation, computer vision, networking and distributed computing. The course is designed to provide students with the latest tools and technologies to prepare them for a career in game development and entertainment technology. The introduction of the Master's degree course is timely, given Ireland's fast-growing media and gaming industry. Recent government reports identified it as potentially of significant strategic value to Ireland's future economy. Globally, the video game software industry is worth over $20bn a year, expanding at a rate of 25 per cent per annum. "Interactive entertainment is one of the fastest growing and most exciting areas of global industry right now. It presents a fantastic opportunity, not just for students and individuals, but for the country," said Dr Steven Collins, course director Trinity College Dublin "If we can continue to grow the skills and knowledge available in Ireland in key areas, building on our research strengths, we have the ability to make Ireland a specialised hub for this business." © 2007 ENN
There's still no word on the Xbox 360 Elite's UK debut - we know nothing, the reps claimed again - but the none-more-black games console will be coming to Japan on 11 October to give - Microsoft hopes - a much needed boost given its June sales performance there.
CommentComment With much anticipated fanfare, the Top500 Supercomputer list was announced last week at the International Supercomputing Conference in Dresden, Germany.
Exclusive ReviewExclusive Review Manufacturer Power Positioning - aka 2P - describes the G4 Slim-Mouse as "the thinnest laptop mouse ever invented". That's not entirely true - Newton Peripherals' MoGo Bluetooth-connected rodent is just as thin as the Slim-Mouse and has been around for a little longer.
Hyperion, one of Saturn's many moons, is covered in the raw material necessary for life to form, according to new data from NASA's Cassini space craft. The probe identified water and carbon dioxide ices, as well as dark material that fits the spectral profile of hydrocarbons, NASA said. Dale Cruikshank, a planetary scientist at NASA's Ames Research Centre and lead author of a paper appearing in today's edition of the journal Nature, explains the significance of the find: "These molecules, when embedded in ice and exposed to ultraviolet light, form new molecules of biological significance. This doesn't mean that we have found life, but it is a further indication that the basic chemistry needed for life is widespread in the universe." Saturn's moon, as imaged by Cassini. Credit: CICLOPS Hydrocarbons are found elsewhere in the solar system: notably on comets, meteorites, and space dust. Cruikshank explains that the carbon dioxide they have seen on Hyperion is not pure, but likely to be chemically attached to other molecules. He says pure CO2 would have evaporated away long ago. The water ice, meanwhile, is crystalline, exactly as it is on Earth. Hyperion has also baffled astronomers because of its strange, sponge-like appearance. But now, thanks to new calculations of the moon's density, researchers working with data beamed back by the Cassini probe think they have an explanation: craters simply form differently on Hyperion. According to work published in today's edition of Nature, there are two processes at work. Firstly, the surface of the moon is so porous that any bodies impacting the moon form their craters by compacting the surface, rather than ejecting material as it would on a denser body. Secondly, Hyperion's entire body is of such low density that its gravitational field is so weak that any ejecta is very unlikely to fall back to the surface. This keeps the edges of its craters sharply defined, contributing to its odd appearance. In September 2005, Cassini made its closest fly-by of the space sponge. The space probe was deflected very slightly, which has allowed astronomers to make a good estimate of its mass. the team has been able to determine that the moon is only slightly more than half as dense as water. "The close flyby produced a tiny but measurable deflection of Cassini's orbit," said Cassini radio science deputy team leader and JPL scientist Nicole Rappaport. "Combined with the determination of Hyperion's volume from imaging data, this provided an accurate computation of its density." ®
Speculation surrounding the release of Motorola's alleged Sidekick -style handset, aka Zante, took a leap forward this week, following the release of some glamorous pictures and - it has to be said - a somewhat iffy spec sheet.
US forces in Iraq can today console themselves that if all is not going exactly according to plan in that sun-kissed land astride the Tigris, the Land of the Free has at least reestablished world domination where it really counts - in the sport of stuffing your fat face with hotdogs. Indeed, in a much-anticipated showdown between reigning champ Takeru Kobayashi of Japan and challenger Joey Chestnut, the latter yesterday snatched victory from the Nipponese jaws of defeat by gorging on 66 hotdogs in 12 minutes, narrowly beating the former by just three tasty processed meat tubes. In fact, so close was the result that judges at the 92nd annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York's Coney Island were obliged to rely on video playback of the dogfest. The evidence confirmed Kobayashi had ingested a mere 63 hotdogs although, despite apparently talking to his ancestors on the big white telephone at the competition's conclusion - contrary to the strict "no-spewing" rule - he was allowed to retain the consolation runner-up spot. According to The Times, the battling Californian laureat declared: "I knew going into the contest he was going to give it 100 per cent. I had to come in harder than my body could handle." Chestnut, 23, and weighing in at 215 pounds, had already pushed hotdog endurance to the limit in a qualifying round when he set a new world record of 59-and-a-half. Having shattered this spectacular total in thrashing Kobayashi (29, 154 pounds), he admitted: "If I needed to eat another one right now, I could." While America celebrates its stunning victory, Kobayashi has at least the consolation of knowing he came seriously handicapped to the dining table. Event organisers said he'd "had a wisdom tooth extracted last week to relive what they described as 'jaw-thritis'". The deposed six-times champ said: "I'm like a child. I just don't give up." ®
As hype for the Simpsons movie builds up, Jamba has announced that mobile content to go with the film will only be available from its subscription portal. The so-called "Yellow Plan" will be available in the US in the next few days for $10 a month, for which punters get credit for six downloads from a selection of voice tones, wallpapers, and ringtones. Later, there'll be video and access to the inevitable game, Minutes to Meltdown, which is coming from EA Games. The Simpsons and Jamba are the property of News Corporation, which will use its media presence to promote the service using adverts on Fox TV, web banners, inserts into DVDs, and in-cinema billboards. "In terms of subscriber acquisition we don't expect to have a huge on-air advertising push. We expect to generate most of our traffic from other Simpsons and News Corp online destinations and from the compelling nature of brand itself," Jamba COO Lee Fento said. This will certainly be the most ambitious attempt to bypass the network operators in selling content, creating a direct billing relationship with customers, and would only be possible with the biggest of brands. In Europe, the Simpsons content will likely come as part of a Jamba subscription - there'll be no Yellow Plan over here, but there'll be no operator deals this side of the pond either. Brands don't get much bigger than The Simpsons so there seems little reason to think Jamba won't be successful. Then, perhaps, a Simpsons MVNO to follow? ®
The Chinese Ministry of Information Industry has given permission for BlackBerry to start selling its addictive email devices in China. The company got approval last month and expects to have handsets in shops by the end of August. Research In Motion (RIM), BlackBerry's parent company, has already received 5,000 pre-orders for the device, according to Canada's Globe and Mail. Many pre-orders came from multinationals with Chinese offices. The paper said RIM is also considering manufacturing the devices in China. China is the biggest missing piece from RIM's Asian market - BlackBerries are already available in India, Japan, and South Korea. The emailer has been available in Hong Kong with Hutchison Telecom since 2003, but has waited a long time for regulatory approval from mainland China. But BlackBerry will have at least one local rival - the cheekily-named RedBerry was launched by China Unicom last year. RIM increased sales in the first quarter by 76 per cent to $1.08bn. It shipped 2.4 million units in the quarter. More from The Globe and Mail here. ®
Ian Pearson has been named as the new minister in charge of science in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). The MP for Dudley South comes to the role from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs where he was minister of state for climate change and the environment. He replaces Malcolm Wicks who oversaw science policy for the eight months after Lord Sainsbury stepped down. As minister of state for science and innovation, Pearson will have control of a £5bn annual budget, and responsibility for the following: Business and science The research base The research councils Innovation The Technology Strategy Board British National Space Centre National weights and measures laboratory The Design Council The National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, liaising with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Liaison with the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Energy Technologies Institute Commission for Environmental Markets and Economic Performance Enough to make anyone's head spin, right? But he also faces a monumental task: to re-ignite an interest in science among students and the general public against a background of closing science departments, a lack of qualified teachers, falling numbers of students and courses to accommodate them, and what many consider to be a declining of the science syllabus. New PM Gordon Brown has stressed the economic importance of science in the UK, and has promised to up the science budget to £6.3bn by 2010 as part of his drive to make sure Britain is not outpaced by the developing world. According to his voting record on TheyWorkForYou, Pearson is an occasional rebel, defying his party line on critical issues such as the smoking ban. He liked the Iraq war, doesn't want an investigation into how it all started, and is very much in favour of ID cards. Pearson himself has yet to issue a statement on his appointment. We have no doubt he is delighted, and looking forward to the challenge ahead. ®
Another day, another vendor fires off a lawsuit alleging another company has violated its DVD patents. Yesterday it was LG going for Quanta; today, it emerged Toshiba is taking on German disc replication company EDD Bizz GmbH.
More than half of British companies now prefer disk-based backup over tape, and in the financial services industry the margin is even greater, with almost two-thirds opting for spinning storage, according to a survey commissioned by RAID developer Infortrend.
Three men accused of inciting terrorism via the internet have all now changed their pleas to guilty.
The British 'HD for All' campaign, designed to promote hi-def TV, drew a withering blast from Sky yesterday.
For those of you who may have missed it, a Cupertino-based company called Apple launched a mobile phone in the US last Friday and sold an awful lot of them over the weekend. It would be hard to miss the iPhone, of course, because it seemed not a single story about mobile phones has gone by without a reference to it - at last count, at least 20 stories mentioned it over the past six days.
German courts have banned Google from further attempts to wrestle the rights to the "Gmail" trademark away from a businessman who registered the name several years before it launched a webmail service. In the latest decision - the fourth against Google in Germany over the trademark - a regional court rejected the search giant's claim. The ruling, released yesterday by Hanseatic Higher Regional Court in Hamburg, put a stop to further challenges in Germany by telling Google it could not take the case to federal court. The judgement (Az 5 U 87/06, July 4, 2007) said: "Google infringed the young businessman's trademark that had previously been registered." Daniel Giersch, 33, started using the name G-mail in 2000 to label his own physical mail service. Google didn't launch Gmail until 2004. Giersch's lawyer, Sebastian Eble, said: "As far as the Hanseatic Higher Court is concerned, the legal situation is unambiguous to the extent that it has not allowed an appeal to the Federal Court of Justice." In a statement, Google told The Reg: "While we regret the German court's decision, it will in no way affect our ability to continue to provide web email to our users in Germany. Our German users will continue to use 'Google Mail' and enjoy the same experience as users of Gmail worldwide." Google's lupine pursuit of Giersch is unrelated to its standoff with German lawmakers over new laws that would ban anonymous email accounts. A legal challenge is one mooted option for Google, which takes the reasonable position that having to prove exactly who you are before opening an email account is bad for privacy on the web. The trademark battle has rumbled on for three years. Google, which has rights to "Gmail" in 60 countries, is also trying to snatch the trademark in Spain, Portugal, and Switzerland. The Austrian courts have ruled in Giersh's favour. He said: "I have made it clear since the beginning that I will never sell the name. I am absolutely convinced of its success. Neither 'G-mail' nor myself are for sale." In the UK, Google settled for the name "Google Mail", after it lost out on "Gmail" to research firm IIIR. In other Googly news, its core advertising business announced today it would offer small businesses lacking a web presence a free starter page if they sign up for an AdWords account. On Tuesday, distant text ads rival Yahoo! said its nascent Panama platform was now available to new as well existing advertisers. ®
Merseyside building and shopfitting outfit Klassik Builders has registered the six millionth .co.uk web address. The earth-shattering internet tidings were brought by Nominet, the not-for-profit which is in charge of promoting and administering the .co.uk top level domain. It passed the five million mark in May last year, and reckons .co.uk addresses are now six times more popular with UK businesses than .com ones. Klassikbuilders.co.uk was registered on 18 June by the firm, which is equally comfortable with electrics as it is fitting uPVC windows. Nominet didn't give the lads at Klassik a prize, so they can have their link. Classicbuilders.co.uk is owned by powerhouse northwest contracting rival Classic Builders of Bury. But for all you domain carpet baggers out there, klassicbuilders.co.uk and classikbuilders.co.uk are still available.®
Efforts to open up the functionality of Apple's iPhone to users disinclined to sign up to expensive two year contracts with AT&T are growing. Following the publication of a technique to get the iPod and Wi-Fi features of the device working without signing up to AT&T by reverse engineer DVD Jon, a new group has picked up the baton.
Server-based computing schemes such as Citrix and Windows Terminal Server now have a serious rival in the shape of VDI, claimed German thin client developer IGEL Technology, as it added VDI support to its desktop devices.
Tax dodgers could soon see money owed to the HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) taken automatically from their bank accounts, if the revenue get their way. If proposals made by the HMRC are given the go ahead, officials would be able to seize cash immediately, eliminating the need to chase people through the courts.
A British software company is claiming that it can deliver a basic but fully working Microsoft SharePoint collaboration system in as little as an hour, and without the customer needing to buy SharePoint client access licences (CALs).
O2 parent company Telefónica has protested innocence after it was slammed by European anti-trust regulators for gaming the broadband market in its Spanish home territory. The firm was yesterday hit with a €152m fine, the second largest in EU competition history after Microsoft's €280m wrist slap. Brussels said Telefónica's penalty should serve as a warning to other incumbents that the commission will not stand for anti-competitive behaviour. Chief regulator Neelie Kroes said: "Telefónica's conduct harmed Spanish consumers, Spanish businesses, and the Spanish economy as a whole, and by extension Europe's economy. I want to send a strong signal to dominant undertakings in all sectors...that I will not tolerate such behaviour." Over several years, beginning in 2001, the former monopoly hamstrung its competitors by charging a price for wholesale broadband which was so close to Telefónica's retail price that they were forced to take a loss to stay in the market. Broadband in Spain is 20 per cent more expensive, penetration 20 per cent lower, and growth 30 per cent slower than the western Europe average. More here from the EU. Telefónica blamed contradictory rules from domestic and European regulators for the anti-competitive broadband market in Spain. It said it plans to lodge an appeal against the fine in the next few days. Full denial here (pdf). Mobile tentacle O2 already has a complaint in with the EU over the enforced cuts in roaming charges. BT ran into similar anti-trust claims in the UK, particularly over local loop unbundling, once broadband became a mass market proposition in the earlier part of this decade. It was threatened with break up by Ofcom, but was able to dodge that bullet by setting up Openreach, a separate division designed to provide equal access to the national network to competitors. These days it would never be that naughty. ®
Movie studios backing the rival HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc optical formats have until tomorrow to tell the European Commission about how they chose which of the two to back and why.
Danish agro-boffins have developed a robot which appears at first sight to be a welcome diversion from the ongoing parade of deadly military slaughter machines. "Hortibot", brainchild of Scandinavian scientists led by Dr Rasmus Nyholm Jørgensen of Aarhus University, is supposedly a peaceful robot farmworker. It uses GPS to navigate itself around the fields, mowing, spraying, or doing other tiresome tasks while the human landowners fill in the subsidy forms. Hortibot can even do the weeding, and not simply by spraying chemicals about. The Daily News of Ludington, Michigan, got the story when one of the Danish designers visited the States. "Currently, the robot can identify approximately 25 different kinds of weeds," according to the Michigan newshounds. "Hortibot has a variety of weed-removing attachments and methods. It can manually pick weeds," apparently. This is good news indeed; at last, a faithful robot pal intended to toil away for the benefit of humanity rather than spying on people or eliminating them in an apocalyptic mechanised bloodbath. But such foolish dreams of amity and between man and machine were swiftly unsettled. It seems that Hortibot also has other, more robust capabilities as well as its weed-picking apparatus. The agro-droid can also target its adversaries with "flames, or a laser". Hortibot boffin Claus Aage Grøn Sørensen told the Daily News that the flamethrower and deadly energy beam were only for use on weeds, but these methods seem frankly excessive (no doubt the droids are holding Sørensen's family). Even if the drone farmworker starts out friendly, when it inevitably turns on its human overseers the consequences would be dreadful. Anyway, it seems pretty clear that in fact the machine gardener is intended to reap a harvest, not of spuds, but death. What will the Danish boffins try to pull next? Oh, we just need to put some grenade launchers on there to deal with raccoons? It needs extra napalm tanks on account of the neighbour's cat? Michigan farmer Bill Schwass was blind to the dangers, however, seeming pleased at the prospect of living in an isolated farmhouse amid swarms of quarter-ton flamethrower mechanoids. He reckoned that heavily-armed droid slaves could be a good alternative to possibly surly migrant workers, perhaps with sleeper-cell suicide jihad terror infiltrators lurking among them. "The labour problem will bring this in, when the government gets done with their immigration laws," Schwass reportedly commented. He was no doubt referring to the US Border Patrol's plan to install Eye-of-Sauron style scanner towers along the Mexican border in order to stand off the terrorists and huddled masses. The Daily News report is here. ®
Reader PollReader Poll Modern wireless network technologies for remote access are increasingly offering greater bandwidth. But is it just speed that's important when considering the requirements of different types of application from a mobile connectivity point of view?
D-Link has created two wireless modem router starter kits, which it claims have been designed to bring wireless connectivity to those not so familiar with the wireless internet revolution.
As the Gordon Brown reshuffle continues, we bring you news of at least one non-political job-swap. Defra (Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) has appointed Dr Robert Watson (pictured), a former aide to the White House on climate change, as its new chief scientific advisor. Defra's new chief scientific advisor, Dr Robert Watson Dr Watson will take over from Professor Sir Howard Dalton in September when he comes to the end of his term of office and returns to the happy life of an academic. Watson is what you might call extremely (if not over) qualified. He has spent the last 11 years as a scientific advisor at the World Bank. Prior to that he lent his brain power to the president's office at the Clinton White House, and before that he headed up the science division, and laboured under the weighty title of chief scientist for the Office of Mission to Planet Earth at NASA. He also served five years on the board of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), so he should already be reasonably familiar with Defra and its workings. "I have spent nearly all of my career working on environmental issues and am very much looking forward to joining Defra," Watson said. "I am keen to continue to build on the foundations laid by Sir Howard Dalton and his team in ensuring one of Defra's strengths is its focus on robust and quality science and evidence-based policy." ®
A grandmother whose Victoria Sponge was honoured with runner-up spot in a village fete cake-baking contest was rather disappointed to discover she'd actually been the only competitor, the BBC reports. Jenny Brown, 62, recounted: "My friend came over to me at the fete and said I had come second. I asked her how many more entries there had been, but she just started laughing and said I was the only one." In fact, Brown's concoction fell foul of Wimblington Sports Committee's judges who marked her effort down "because it had indentations from the oven rack". The committee's Julie Dent explained: "The judges had an expectation and I suppose they didn't feel as though it qualified for first place." Brown sportingly described herself as "not annoyed" at the snub, and added that despite its deficiencies, the Victoria Sponge was "soon polished off with no complaints". In case you're thinking the judges may in this case have been just a little harsh, Dent bore witness to the ruthless judging standards of competitive cake-making. "About 11 years ago I entered a show with some fruit scones. I was the only entrant but I came third," she lamented. Of the Wimblington cake challenge, Dent assured: "This was the first year, but the cake competition will become an annual event." ®
InterviewInterview Electric Cloud supplies software to speed up the Build process that's such an important part of modern "agile" software delivery. It uses a sophisticated approach to running the components of a Build in parallel. And now the company is in Europe.
Reader pollReader poll It's come to our attention that some of you are none too keen on the term "ICT" - the bastard offspring of IT and an apparently pointless exercise in augmenting a perfectly functional acronym to endow the term with more gravitas and import. Well, that's according to readers who've been bemoaning the increasingly common use of ICT on El Reg. As is the local custom, therefore, the Vulture Central Lexicographical Soviet has decreed that the matter be put to a public vote. Regular visitors will recall that this exercise in democracy has already been carried out on mobe and lappy - both now consigned to the dustbin of history. Should the same fate await ICT, rest assured that anyone attempting to get it past the censors will be punished in the usual way: standing in the corner wearing the pointy hat for two hours and thereafter a three-week punishment stint in the El Reg gulag (Channel Register - "Company sells computer", Company buys computer-selling company", "Computer-selling company parts company with parent company", and so forth). Onwards... Should El Reg prohibit the use of the term "ICT"? Yes No Yes, and give me more stories about Paris Hilton
CommentComment Satellite broadcaster Sky's public affairs chief, Martin Le Jeune, is correct: HDTV is not a fundamental human right. Neither is standard-definition TV. But that doesn't mean it should be limited to two providers, his own company and cable broadcaster Virgin Media.
Computer maker Dell has been rapped by the UK advertising watchdog after failing to include an essential cable in one of its PC and printer bundle ads.
In an extraordinary quid pro quo, Dave Cameron has promised cash-strapped record industry execs an extra £3.3bn over the next five decades in exchange for less sex and violence in music. The Conservative leader pledged that if elected, he will move to extend the copyright term on sound recordings from 50 to 70 years, gifting a huge payday to an industry which is battling to protect its 1960s and 1970s cashcow back catalogue from the public domain. He said extending the term would be a win for consumers too. In his speech at the British Phonographic Industry's (BPI) AGM yesterday, Dave teased: "But in return, you’ve got to help me too." A Tory government would only make the necessary representations in Europe if the industry agreed to invest in projects which further his take on what a healthy society should be. Speaking directly to middle England, he fingered family breakdown, rates of teenage pregnancy, rates of substance abuse and rates of criminal activity as symptoms of popular culture's demonic influence on The Kids. Dave's Conservatives: fake, plastic? "You can make a difference by providing positive role models for young kids to look up to, draw inspiration from and aspire to be," he said. "The BRIT School is a great example of what can be achieved." The BRIT school is a performing arts college whose most famous alumni include current transatlantic hit, and tattooed alcoholic pottymouth, Amy Winehouse. Riffing on the current music scene, Cameron said: "It's an anti-learning culture where it's cool to bunk off, it's cool to be bad, it's cool not to try." Modern beat combos of the 1950s obviously weren't required listening at Eton. The record industry campaign to extend the copyright term on sound recordings was dismissed by Andrew Gowers on economic grounds in a wide-ranging Treasury review of intellectual property laws last year. The former FT editor noted that copyright was invented as a motivation for fresh creativity, not as a pension for fading session musicians or as a guaranteed revenue stream for the panic-stricken shareholders of a wobbling hegemony. Despite the Treasury analysis, and the Labour government's swift commitment to adopt its recommendations, a Select Committee swallowed the record industry line in May. The crusade rumbles on. Cameron also took the BPI's side in its long-running needle with ISPs, which it accuses of turning a blind eye to music piracy. He called on the providers to set up an anti-file sharing version of the Internet Watch Foundation, a widely praised consortium which works closely with law enforcement to monitor paedophile activity online. "They are the gatekeepers of the internet," he said, which is unlikely to go down well at BT, Virgin Media, or any ISP. When he appeared on long-running Radio 4 schmoozefest Desert Island Discs, Cameron cited Radiohead's Fake Plastic Trees and The Smiths' This Charming Man as favourites. At least he appreciates at least one pop cliché: self loathing. Cameron's speech is here (.PDF).®
BriefBrief Torchwood's Captain Jack has been sighted at CERN's Large Hadron Collider. Does this mean that when it is switched on it is likely to open a rift under Cardiff from whence all manner of spooky things shall spring? Or is it a shameless publicity stunt designed to raise the profile of the particle accelerator by tying it to a sci-fi TV star? Does it even matter? They had us at Torchwood... Actor John Barrowman was given a tour of the facility and has recorded his thoughts on a podcast for posterity. You can check it out on YouTube here. According to the press release, Barrowman said: "It's nice to be able to see where all these questions that we have hopefully one day will be answered" "And its nice to know that the scientists, the guys and girls who work here, still have questions too. No one knows the answer, that's the good thing… except Captain Jack!" ®
Owners of Sony Ericsson smartphones released last year now have some hope of seeing some bugs fixed.
You knew this was coming. Weeks after it paid $100 million for news-feed management company Feedburner, Google has removed all price tags from the company's services. That's right: Bloggers, podcasters, and other publishers can now use Feedburner's "PRO" tools - TotalStats and MyBrand - without paying a penny.
A Belgian legal victory by authors and composers means that the country's third-largest ISP has six months to clean up its networks of copyright infringing material distributed by P2P. The long-running case was brought by the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers (SABAM) against ISP Scarlet, formerly Tiscali and the third largest operator in Belgium. In 2004, SABAM obtained an intermediary injunction against Tiscali, leading to the court appointing an expert. The expert recommended 11 techniques the ISP could use to identify P2P material, including Audible Magic's filtering software. This week a judge agreed that these were acceptable, and gave Scarlet six months to get cracking. Commenting on the case, SABAM stresses that the ISP is not obliged to monitor its network. "The solutions identified by the expert are 'technical instruments' that limit themselves to blocking or filtering certain information transmitted on the network of TISCALI (SCARLET). They do not constitute a general obligation to monitor the network. Moreover, the court considers that filtering and blocking software are not dealing as such with any personal data and that a blocking measure has a purely technical and automatic character, as the ISP is not playing any active role in the blocking or filtering (sic)," SABAM said in a statement. ISPs once balked at the implications of policing their networks, and sought to extend the "common carrier" defence developed for the first circuit-switched telephone networks. However, the argument was not recognized outside the United States, and could not be made when the carrier knew of the offence. In 2005 the FCC formally excused phone and cable companies from the common carrier obligations. In addition, ISPs argued that the obligations were onerous and intrusive. Modern techniques such as deep packet inspection, and content filtering also make such claims hard to justify. Audio filtering can identify a song accurately from a small number of short samples, for example. In other words, identifying potentially infringing material is now easy and cheap. Seeing the tide turning, a fortnight ago AT&T agreed to start monitoring its network for copyright infringement. The group that represents the international recording business, the IPFI, has hailed the decision as a landmark. "This is an extremely significant ruling which bears out exactly what we have been saying for the last two years - that the internet’s gatekeepers, the ISPs, have a responsibility to help control copyright-infringing traffic on their networks," said IFPI chief executive John Kennedy in a statement. "This confirms what we’ve been saying all along: the record industry wants to abolish postal secrets and freedom of the press in order to maintain their crumbling monopolies," Rick Falkvinge founder of the Swedish "Pirate Party" told TorrentFreak. The party notched up 0.6 per cent of the popular vote in last year's Swedish general election. ISPs are left in a quandary. No one is more aware of the public's unquenchable desire to exchange music, as this constitutes a significant portion of the networks' demand. But the recording business (in a sharp contrast to publishing and performance rights societies) has refused to allow them to turn this into a legitimate business, and withheld licenses that permit them to create legal P2P services. Playlouder MSP, the ISP which has snagged some major label support for a service that permits subscribers to share music, may offer a template for both ISPs and recording rights holders to move forward. ®
Newly demoted Olympics minister Tessa Jowell has fallen victim to pranksters who sent spoof messages in her name. Contrary to reports in The Independent a spokesman for the minister said the emails came from a bogus account set up with Gmail and not as a result of a hacker breaking into any account she controlled.
Dell continues to cheat on its twenty-year relationship with the direct sales model. Having fallen behind HP in the worldwide PC market, the Texas manufacturer earlier this month began selling selected desktops through WalMart stores in the U.S. and Canada. It's flirted with indirect sales in Europe. And now, it's in talks with various retail outlets in Asia.
Microsoft has offered little satisfaction to Windows Vista Ultimate users frustrated by the dearth of goodies used to justify the operating system's premium price. The company has committed to finally deliver on an original, limited set of four Ultimate Extras promised at the start of the year, but won't yet commit to further updates for users who splashed out more than most on their edition of Windows Vista.
IBM Almaden Research Center has been doing R&D in silicon valley for 21 years, but it's not too old to learn new tricks. All signs point to the center prepping for its very first spin-off, Seval Systems, centering around so-called brick storage meant to help with delivering video over the internet.
AnalysisAnalysis Should you believe Red Hat's claims that its new Exchange marketplace for "open source business applications" contains nothing but open source business applications? We say "no" - since not even Red Hat appears to have a good answer for this question.
Next week's Patch Tuesday will see Microsoft issue three updates that fix "critical" security vulnerabilities in Windows, Office and the .Net framework. The critical designation is Microsoft's most severe rating and usually applies to flaws that can allow a computer to be hijacked with little or no interaction on the part of the user.
BladeLogic has revealed intentions to raise about $45.4m in an initial public offering of common shares later this year. The server provisioning and management software company will put 3.9 million shares on the block, while stockholders sell an additional 1.1 million shares, according to an amended filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.