A curious geopolitical video game developer arms race has entered the next stage with a group of Iranian students unveiling a game that depicts the rescuing of Iranian nuclear scientists from the clutches of US and Israeli troops. The new title is described by its creators as a response to a game by US-based episodic game developer, Kuma Reality Games, whose game "Assault on Iran" has American Special Forces soldiers attacking an Iranian nuclear facility and destroying its centrifuges. "This is our defense against the enemy's cultural onslaught," said Mohammad Taqi Fakhrian, a leader of the hard-lined student group, Union of Students Islamic Association, according to an AP report. "Rescue Nuke Scientist" depicts Iranian Special Forces led by fictional Commander Bahman in their mission to rescue a husband-and-wife pair of nuclear engineers kidnapped by US troops during a pilgrimage to Karbala in Iraq. The Associated Press reports the game requires players to enter Israel to rescue the duo, kill US and Israeli troops and seize their laptops containing secret information. Last year when Kuma heard of the development of Rescue Nuke Scientist, they responded by creating a follow-up to their game titled "Assault on Iran, Pt. 3: Payback in Iraq." Kuma said the game picks up where they understand their Iranian counterpart will leave off. In Payback, Commander Bahman discovers that the scientists he rescued weren't really captured by US soldiers — but defected instead. Whoopsie-daisy. Screenshot from "Payback in Iraq" Kuma said they don't intend for Payback to be seen as a — er — payback, but rather hope to establish a "serious political dialog." Because Kuma develops episodic content for an established game engine, Payback had a significantly faster turnover than Rescue. While Payback was released in 2006, the Iranian student group said Rescue has taken three years to develop. The group said it first plans to market the video game in Iran and other Muslim countries, and looks to bring the game to Western countries later on. The AP reports the game is from the same student group behind the "World Without Zionism" conference in 2005, where Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be "wiped off the map," so you can probably venture to guess which way the game leans. "It is an entirely Iranian product in response to the U.S. cyber war against Iran," group leader Ali Masaeli told the newswire. ®
Computer giant IBM is handing over a portfolio of intellectual property to any other developers that want to use it in the name of furthering interoperability and open standards. The firm will grant "universal and perpetual access" to IP related to over 150 open standards. Open standards are technical agreements that help people writing software to ensure that it works with other software.
Considered by many to once upon a time represent the epitome of clubbing culture, the Ministry of Sound has launched its latest digital music player, pitching it against the epitome of MP3 gadgets, the iPod.
Former vampire James Marsters has joined Kylie Minogue among the burgeoning roster of foreign thespos selected to appear in Doctor Who and its spin-offs, the BBC has announced. Marsters, who played Spike in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and subsequently Angel, will appear in the first episode of the next series of Torchwood, and has declared himself "really excited" at the prospect. He teasingly said of his character: "I can't say too much about him, except he is naughty and a bit of a psychopath." Also joining Torchwood is former Neighbours actor Alan Dale, who dutifully admitted he was "thrilled" to appear. He offered the traditional: "I am a huge fan of Doctor Who and Torchwood so it was me who knocked on their door. I am thrilled to be working on Torchwood - I am a huge fan of British television drama." Dale and Marsters will be rubbing shoulders with all the Torchwood regulars, as well as Freema Agyeman, aka Martha Jones, who's been temporarily seconded to the show. During her absence from the first half of series four of Doctor Who, the Time Lord will be accompanied by Catherine Tate, reprising her role as The Runaway Bride - a casting choice which has provoked a certain amount of agitated waving of sonic screwdrivers among Who fans. Torchwood will return to UK screens in 2008. ®
Intel has followed the launch of its first mobile Core 2 Extreme processor with a handful of desktop CPUs that support the chip giant's 1333MHz frontside bus upgrade.
A pair of John Lennon's trademark specs, given by the Beatle to a Japanese TV producer back in 1966 and up for sale on 991.com, have reportedly attracted bids as high as $1.5m, Reuters reports. The wire-framed glasses came into the possession of Junishi Yore when he was acting as interpreter for the band. The splendidly breathless blurb explains: Tokyo. Late June/early July, in the eye of the storm holed-up in the Hilton with cigarettes for company, fancy guitars sprawled across beds and guns keeping the masses at bay, Lennon strikes up a friendship with his translator, Junishi Yore - a guy who finds himself imprisoned with Lennon and the band for the duration of the high security tour Budokan centred Tour. By the time the Beatles depart Tokyo, John and Junishi have gotten close, they exchange gifts, with John bequeathing Junishi his trademark circular sunglasses, immortalised by Bob Whitaker's portraits and the blaze of media...but then, perhaps Lennon has seen the future. December 1980. John Lennon is shot four times by Mark Chapman. A devastated Junishi, honouring Japanese tradition, pushes the dark lenses out of the frames with his thumbs so that, in death, Lennon can see. A powerful lament, an incredible treasure; Lennon's life and death radiate from these sunglasses. A hand written note validates the provenance of these legendary spectacles: 'sunglass no lense, given to my self Producer Nippon T.V. Network, at time translator for Beatles At Tokyo Hilton John Lennon wore same glasses at Budokan for shows had silver glass too he gave me this I gave copper cups to him very nice man lenses removed whe he die (black) as I/we feel he see us after death in Japan Regards Junishi Yore Producer NTV Tokyo Japan Nippon Television 1984' 991.com sales marketing director John Warner refused to confirm the current top bid on the auction, due to end on 31 July, but admitted the sale "has created a bit of a stir". ®
StobStob 'What if,' said a friend down the pub the other day, when the conversation was circling uneasily for take off at that tricky third round mark, 'what if those old Greek philosophers - you know, the ones that used to sit around all day gassing - what if they had had the benefit of modern social website software, like Facebook? Would it have made a difference to Western civilisation?' Well, duh.
Alerts issued by the Joint Border Operations Centre (JBOC) have resulted in more than 1,000 arrests. The Home Office said the JBOC, set up in January 2005 to fight illegal immigration, terrorism and other crimes, has issued 12,044 alerts to relevant agencies, resulting in 1,047 arrests and other interventions. Information supplied to carriers is collected before people board flights and sent on to UK Border Control. Their details can then be checked against watch lists and the databases of the Border Immigration Agency, the police and HM Revenue and Customs. A Home Office spokesperson told GC News airlines could choose when to provide the information, for example at check-in or when a ticket is purchased. He added: "The information sent across has to be sufficient to positively identify a person. It would include travel document information such as name, date of birth, nationality, document type, gender, date of issue, and date of expiry." In most instances, agencies will decide to take action once someone lands. However, in certain cases such as terrorism, passengers will be detained before they board. Some 56 carriers have signed up to the scheme, which is part of the e-borders pilot Project Semaphore. Information is captured at 99 non-UK arrival or departure points and more than 27 million passenger journeys have been monitored since the scheme began. The JBOC now also collects data from some maritime carriers, such as ferry operators and cruise liners. This month, alerts resulted in a murder suspect being detained at Heathrow and the location of a hostile witness in a kidnap case leaving the UK before trial. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
UK customers of BT's IPTV service will be able to avail of cut-price access to English Premier League football matches for the coming season. The BT Vision Sport standard service costs £4 a month and will provide subscribers with access to delayed coverage of 242 games from the Barclays Premier League. A pay-per-view option is also available, allowing users to pay £1.99 to watch individual games. The channel is part of the telecoms firm's BT Vision service, which can be accessed by BT Total Broadband customers in the UK who live in an area with access to Freeview digital television. The service can be viewed on the user's television set. In addition to the Premier League games, users of the service will have access to 125 Coca Cola League (the second, third and fourth tiers of English football) and Carling Cup matches. Live games will be available through the service for a higher price. An alternative package, BT Vision Setanta Sports, costs £9.99 a month. This provides Setanta's coverage of 46 live English Premier League games and 60 matches from the Scottish Premier League, as well as a variety of other sporting events covered by Setanta. The Setanta pack does not carry the content of the standard pack, but a combined package is available for £12 a month. While Irish-owned firm Setanta is providing content through the service, BT Ireland was unable to comment at the time of publication on whether the firm has any plans to roll out the service in Ireland. BT is launching a marketing campaign to support the introduction of the service, which will include national TV and press advertising in the UK. "This is a great day for sports fans. Fans can now follow their team for less than a pound a week," said Ian Livingston, chief executive of BT Retail in the UK. BT Vision chief executive Dan Marks said the service would appeal to football fans who felt the cost of watching football was too high. "Millions of fans have resisted subscription services to date and so we feel there's a substantial gap in the market," said Marks. "Highlights on Match of The Day are fine but many fans want more, particularly those who follow teams that aren't often featured live. BT's unique mix of live and on-demand sport means there is something for everyone, at prices people can afford and on the terms they choose." The BT Vision Sport service will be presented by football pundit James Richardson, formerly Channel 4's Gazzetta Football Italia host. The first 19 live matches to be screened on BT Vision from Setanta Sports will include Roy Keane's return to Old Trafford as Sunderland visit Manchester United on 1 September. © 2007 ENN
A stricter, more author-friendly copyright regime does not guarantee higher pay for authors, according to a new study which surveyed the earnings of 25,000 writers. In fact, it found that copyright law could exacerbate risk for authors. Writers in Germany earned less than those in the UK, despite the fact the country's copyright regime is more beneficial to authors, according to a study by the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy and Management at Bournemouth Law School. "There are some real surprises. A legal framework that is ostensibly more author friendly, Germany, does not deliver wealthier authors," said Martin Kretschmer, joint director of the centre. In 2004 to 2005, UK authors earned around 50 per cent more than their German counterparts. UK authors earned an average of £12,330, while the Germans earned an average of £8,280. The survey was based on professional authors, meaning those who allocate more than half of their time to writing. Pay for authors is very far from consistent, though, because much of the money paid overall is earned by a small number of extremely successful writers. That pay imbalance is more pronounced in the UK than in Germany, the study found. It revealed that the top 10 per cent of authors earn 60 per cent of all the money earned in the UK, but just 41 per cent of that in Germany. The bottom 10 per cent in the UK earn just eight per cent of the money paid, but they earn 12 per cent in Germany. "This may reflect a more regulated environment for copyright contracts in Germany. It may also reflect the globalised nature of English language markets," said Kretschmer. The research was conducted by the centre on behalf of the Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the UK's collection and authors' rights agency. It asked the centre to undertake the study of authors' income in two countries with similarly sized publishing industries, but significant differences in their copyright frameworks. The study also found that copyright law could actually make writing riskier. It found that income was even less evenly distributed when it only took account of income relating to actual use of copyright material. This part of the study excluded income which was paid regardless of the usage of work, such as that from contractual writing or from advances. The income related to pure usage was even less evenly distributed than that of writing overall. The Gini Coefficient measures income distribution on a scale between zero and one, with distribution becoming more unequal the closer it gets to one. The score for ALCS payments to professional writers in the UK is 0.78 rather than 0.63 for writing as a whole. In Germany, the score for payments to German collecting society VG Wort is 0.67 rather than 0.52 for writing as a whole. "This suggests that copyright law may exacerbate risk," Kretschmer said. The study also found that, despite hopes of an internet-prompted resurgence in interest in writing, writers have not benefited from the growth of the internet as a medium. "Increased exploitation and use of copyright works through the internet has not translated into increased earnings of writers," said Kretschmer. "The typical earnings of authors have deteriorated since 2000, both in the UK and Germany." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Asus wants to connect ExpressCard-equipped laptops to 3G networks, and to that end this week launched the T500, an add-in card with cellular connectivity capable of downloading data at up to 3.6Mbps.
US researchers have isolated a compound in turmeric - commonly used in the UK's national dish chicken tikka masala and other more deadly curry concoctions - which "may help stimulate immune system cells that gobble up the brain-clogging proteins that mark Alzheimer's disease", Reuters reports. Dr Milan Fiala of the University of California Los Angeles and colleagues note in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they'd already shown that curcumin "may affect the brain cells of Alzheimer's patients", but wanted to pinpoint the "precise factor" responsible. They eventually fingered bisdemethoxycurcumin, and blood samples from Alzheimer's patients demonstrated that it "boosted immune cells called macrophages to clear a protein called amyloid beta, which clogs the brains of Alzheimer's patients and kills brain cells". But before you set out a platter of steaming phal in front of grandad, note that the researchers are not certain if it's possible to eat enough curcumin to kick off a positive reaction, despite previous studies indicating that robust curry consumption can combat Alzheimer's. They did, however, suggest that "bisdemethoxycurcumin was active at a level that could easily be achieved by infusion". The team concluded: "Our results may provide an entirely different direction to therapeutic opportunities in Alzheimer's disease through the repair of the functional and transcriptional deficits of Alzheimer's disease macrophages by curcuminoids." ® Bootnote Curcumin - the principal curcuminoid (a polyphenolic compound) in turmeric - appears to be a bit of a winner. Researchers have also found that, in rats at least, it can also help prevent the formation of tumours. Oregon State Uni has a detailed analysis of the compound and its possible uses here.
Iowa State Fair has jumped firmly on the JK Rowling bandwagon in the run-up to this week's release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by announcing an audacious butter sculpture of the boy wizard, the Des Moines Register reports. Sculptor Sarah Pratt, who apparently took the helm as the fair's lead butter sculptress last year "after more than a decade as Norma 'Duffy' Lyon's apprentice", will hew a likeness of Potter destined for "a place of honour next to the cow inside the Agriculture Building's refrigerated glass case". Special education teacher Pratt, 30, explained: "The marketing department at the fair and I were looking for something that would be a timely pop-culture thing to do, and with the new movie and new book coming out, it seemed appropriate." In case you think that knocking out a Harry Potter butter sculpture is just a matter of whipping out a knife and a few thousand packs of Kerrygold, think again. Pratt intends to have the lad astride his Quidditch broom, which presents a few technical challenges. She admitted: "To try to balance it in some sort of way is the challenging part. I won't really know the weight of butter or how to balance it or get the frame just right to get the look of flying." ® Bootnote We were going to add something disparaging about the hype surrounding the launch of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but decided it was the about the only event big enough to kill the ongoing iPhone frenzy. For the record, we read an online spoiler yesterday which claims the book will see Hogwarts acquired by Microsoft and Potter chained to a desk tasked with debugging Vista. We shall see.
Considering the technical complexity of modern commercial aircraft and the operational complexities of running any airline service, it may seem surprising - especially to anyone steeped in the ways of business and/or operational automation - to consider the level to which a commitment to paper is maintained. Most of the documentation associated with getting a modern jet off the deck and safely back down again is still based on paper. There are some very good reasons for this, not least that paper-based operational procedures are still remarkably robust in terms of auditing adherence to procedures that can make the difference between life and death. But automation and online "paperless" operations are now at last starting to creep in to the process.
UpdatedUpdated Nintendo has pulled its new Wii console game Mario Party 8 from UK shops just days after its release and during a massive TV advertising campaign for the title.
The Chinese government's weather-control programme, more accustomed to bringing down rains on parched crops, has announced a new and ambitious mission. The People's Republic is due to host the Summer Olympics next year, and if the weather dares to defy the commies it will be brought into line by force. The Asia Times reports that Zhang Qiang, "the top weather-modification bureaucrat in Beijing", has said her office has been experimenting for the past two years with methods of ensuring a blue sky for the Chinese capital in August '08. China's normal rain-bringer forces operate on lines not unlike the British Territorial Army or US National Guard. Chinese farmers turn out part-time to shoot silver-iodide shells and rockets into passing clouds, which supposedly makes them turn into rain. The People's rainmakers number 32,000 nationwide, and they have a formidable arsenal of 7,100 anti-aircraft guns, 4,991 "special rocket launchers", and 30 aircraft. "Ours is the largest artificial weather program in the world in terms of equipment, size, and budget," Wang Guanghe, director of the Weather Modification Department, told the Asia Times. The communist cloud-punching weekend warriors have an annual budget between US$60m and $90m, apparently. Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, says 250 billion tonnes of rain was artificially created between 1999 and 2006. Of course, there's a price to be paid. Despite the fact that the part-time precipitation peasantry undergo "intensive training, lasting several weeks, before they are let loose on the artillery", the Asia Times reports that "cloud-seeding shells and rockets have sometimes gone astray, damaging homes and injuring inhabitants. Only last year a passer-by in the municipality of Chongqing was killed..." Presumably, the cloud-busting cannonade will be delivered well upwind of the actual Olympic facilities next year, minimising the chances of the athletes and spectators being mown down by stray rounds in an inadvertent silver-iodide barrage. Anyway, the commies say the accident rate is way down over the last few years. Zhang says that normally there would be a 50 per cent chance of "drizzle" in Beijing next August, but she's quietly confident that her crack force of regional rain-busters can eliminate that. But the commissar of the clouds warns that even the People's Republic isn't infallible. "A heavy downpour will be impossible to combat," she said. "We try our best, but there are no guarantees of success." Much more from the Asia Times here. ®
Editors' BlogEditors' Blog I'm just contemplating my notes from a roundtable hosted by Trolltech product director Naren Karattup, entitled Unleashing the creative power of the developer – you unleash wild animals, don't you? I think I'm bit nervous. What's interesting about Trolltech, apart from its cross-platform development tools, is its dual-licensing approach to open source software development.
Apple will release a second-generation, lower cost iPhone in September for an iPod-like price of $249-299 - if a Chinese-language newspaper report citing Taiwanese industry moles is to be believed, that is.
Residents downstream of China's controversial Three Gorges Dam in Hunan province have responded in traditional fashion to a plague of two billion rats forced into farmland by rising water levels - by offering them to restaurants in neighbouring Guangdong province, the home of "if it's edible, we'll eat it" Cantonese cuisine. The rat invasion was provoked by the dam authority's release of a large amount of Yangtze River water "to control flooding in the face of the annual rainy season", the Telegraph reports. The rising water below the structure evicted the rodents from the banks of Dongting Lake, "a series of wetlands and lakes", into neighbouring farmland, where they quickly decimated 6,000 square miles of crops. Desperate farmers at first deployed poison, but that simply killed the cats and dogs "traditionally use to combat the menace", while doing nothing to reduce rat numbers. However, they soon realised there was another, money-making solution to the crisis - a "major uptake in supply and demand for rat meat", reported by live food traders in Changde at the western edge of the lake. One dealer told local media: "People there [Guangdong] are rich and like to eat exotic things, so business is very good." The economics are as follows: farmers pocket around six to ten yuan a kilogram (20 to 35 pence a pound in old money, the Telegraph helpfully adds), while Cantonese restaurants knock it out as delicious rat stew for up to four quid a pound. But while the solution to the problem may lie in part in Guangdong's saucepans, the reasons behind the rat plague are rather more complex than a simple rise in water level. Initially, the Three Gorges Dam held back enough water from Dongting Lake's "marshy banks" to create an improved environment for the animals and provoke a sharp population rise. Simultaneously, a "sudden fashion" for snake meat in Hunan - with residents of the capital Changsha working their way through ten tons of reptile flesh a day, according to local environmental groups - has done for the rats' main predator. The whole sorry state of affairs is, these groups claim, fulfillment of their dire predictions about the environmental effects of the Three Gorges Dam project. Professor Deng Xuejian, from Hunan University's school of life sciences, said: "Damage to the overall local ecology is the most important reason for the Dongting rat disaster." ® Breaking news According to a Reuters report just in, the authorities have moved quickly to deny the Guangdong rat trade allegations. He Huaxian, a "disease control official in Hunan's plague-afflicted Yueyang county", today told China Daily: "It is difficult to catch rats alive, and it is even more difficult to catch them alive in such great numbers." Wang Fan, a Guangzhou food safety official, also denied the reports and claimed "an inspection of a local market had found no evidence of rats for sale".
A German bus driver demonstrated exemplary concern for his passengers' safety when he ordered a 20-year-old sales clerk to shift her mammary assets or vacate the vehicle, Bild reports. A shocked Debora C of Lindau recounted: "Suddenly he stopped the bus. He opened the door and shouted at me 'Your cleavage is distracting me every time I look into my mirror and I can't concentrate on the traffic. If you don't sit somewhere else, I'm going to have to throw you off the bus.'" Debora duly relocated her jubs to a less life-threatening location, but admitted she'd been "humiliated" by the ordeal. The bus company, meanwhile, defended its employee, offering: "The bus driver is allowed to do that and he did the right thing. A bus driver cannot be distracted because it's a danger to the safety of all the passengers." Readers can judge for themselves just how distracting Debora's breasts are here. ® Bootnote It appears that some of you are having trouble accessing the snap of Debora - pic is showing in IE7 and Firefox, but not Mozilla. It appears to be a pop-up related problem.
Apple's online AppleStore - it's US incarnation, at least - has temporarily shut its doors to customers pending an update. This typically happens when the Mac maker's just about to announce new products.
US negotiators in Brussels expect to reach agreement with the European Union within a week regarding cooperative use of the American Global Positioning System (GPS) and the EU's proposed Galileo sat-nav constellations.
Symantec has updated its anti-virus definition files after a duff update falsely identified two open source packages as adware.
T-Mobile will be forced to connect calls to Truphone numbers, by court injunction granted yesterday. However, the spat between the companies is far from over as T-Mobile will be paying a rate which makes Truphone's business unsustainable. T-Mobile has been refusing to connect calls made to Truphone numbers starting 079788 as Truphone has asked for a termination fee based on the calls being routed to a mobile phone, even if the call is actually sent over its VoIP network. If the Truphone user isn't connected to VoIP, that reflects the real cost of the call, as it is forwarded to the mobile network. But if the user is connected to VoIP, there is no termination fee to pay and Truphone takes the fee as profit. T-Mobile claims that Truphone is operating as a fixed-line provider, so it will only pay a fixed-line termination fee, which would see Truphone lose money when calls are forwarded over the mobile networks. The injunction forces T-Mobile to start connecting calls, but only at the reduced rate - leaving Truphone out of pocket until it can force (or convince) T-Mobile to accept its higher rate. It'll be filing papers on Friday to start the process, claiming that T-Mobile is abusing its monopoly position regarding access to its customers. Ofcom, the telecommunications regulator, is trying to avoid getting involved in the spat claiming that it's a commercial dispute. According to Ofcom, only BT is obliged to connect to every phone number. Other operators are at liberty to pick and choose to whom they route calls - though that's rarely happened. Proving abuse of monopoly won't be easy for Truphone, but losing this case would fatally undermine its business model. Other operators will be watching with interest to see how the arguments are played out, and the eventual ruling, which will have an enormous impact on telecommunications services in the UK whatever the courts decide. ®
O2 has hit the red button on its i-mode service less than two years after it brought the Japanese mobile web technology to Europe. The Spanish-owned telco says "a limited range of devices has restricted its growth and we don't see that changing". It will support the service for another couple of years, but won't launch any more handsets. Those with working medium term memories may remember the excitement over i-mode around the turn of the century, with Western telco execs breathlessly detailing how exciting it was to watch Japanese commuters check email, download manga, and groom their tamagotchis. Striking a Zen-like stance yesterday, O2 declared: "i-mode is part of the evolution of the mobile internet but not the end point." Perhaps it wishes it had concluded this before striking a long term alliance with NTT DoCoMo to bring the service to the UK in 2005, and then, according to The Guardian, spending £10m to pull in just 250,000 users. Analysts at Ovum declared today that i-mode was running against the trend in the mobile data market, as "regular users of the internet on mobiles will become increasingly dissatisfied with 'having the meter running' while they surf, and the trend is already moving in favour of flat-rate data tariffs". At the same time, Ovum points out, customers don't need their hands held while they access the web from their phones. "As AOL discovered in the fixed world, the more internet-savvy users get, the less interested they are in getting access, content, and services in the same package from the same provider." Let's hope O2's experience with a "next big thing" starting with an i doesn't put it off the rumoured deal to launch Apple's iPhone over here. ®
The Forum Nokia Open C Challenge, which offers $20,000 in prizes for the best application developed using Nokia's Open C libraries for Series 60 programming, along with POSIX for the Symbian bits, is now open to registrations.
Fasthosts, the UK's largest web hosting company, suffered a four hour outage to its service yesterday evening. However, the web-hosting firm was being a little coy about answering the phone this morning to explain what had happened.
MPs have called on the government to give the lead to the UK's space industry and expand its vision to include funding launches and even manned spaceflight. The Science and Technology Select Committee, in a report amusingly entitled Space 2007: A Space Policy, says: "We have been impressed and often surprised during the course of this inquiry by the range of activities undertaken in the space sector in the UK." At the same time, it says, there is a funding gap in the UK, a lack of strategic leadership from government, and the potential for a "skills shortage" in the sector. Perhaps they'll need to follow other sectors and import aliens to fill the gap. The agency notes that the UK does not fund launchers to any significant degree or get involved in manned space programmes. The committee calls on the government to adopt a more flexible approach "to ensure the best science can be funded, whether that be undertaken by manned or robotic exploration". It also calls for "appropriate regulation for the space tourism industry", and says there should be no "in principle" block on funding the development of launches in future. It is not clear whether this is a subtle suggestion that tourism be used to underwrite genuine research. The full report is available here. ®
Google is ramping up its assault on the mobile internet with tests of its AdSense service and rumours of product search aimed at the mobile phone screen. AdSense allows websites to allocate space to Google, which then provides context-sensitive advertisements and splits the revenue those ads generate with the site owner. Providing the same service to mobile websites might seem an obvious step, but the fact that Google thinks it's worth doing demonstrates that there are a significant number of sites providing content specifically for the mobile user. Mobile AdSense is very similar to the desktop counterpart, with a few extra rules on content and layout. Product search is just a rumour at the moment, but the Wall Street Journal reports that Google will offer searches for mobile-specific content such as games or ringtones, with companies able to pay for better placement in the list. Meanwhile, the search giant has launched a hosted search service for small businesses. For $100 a year for 5,000 pages to $500 per year for $50,000, Google will index a businesses site. Google said the service will deliver much quicker, and ad-free results to visitors navigating small businesses.®
Sometimes you suddenly come to your senses and ask yourself what in the world you are doing. This happened to me today, as I was taking pictures of a bikini-clad beauty who was brandishing a mobile phone while standing up to her knees in a swimming pool on the roof of a nine-storey building in central Tokyo.
Romanian traffic cops in the seaside town of Constanta were rather surprised to discover that the driver of a BMW they pulled for zigzagging across the road had no licence, no hands, no clothes, and was figuratively legless, evz.ro reports. Aurel Olteanu, 23, tested positive for twice the drink-drive limit, and put his lack of clothes down to a trip to a local nudist beach, which he'd left in a bit of a hurry. The reason for Olteanu's amputated hands is not noted, but the Beemer was an automatic, which must have made things a bit easier for him. According to Ananova, police sub-inspector Marius Ghita said: "He had no licence, but told us he had developed his own special way of driving." Olteanu has been charged with drunk driving and driving without a licence, having apparently avoided a public decency rap. ® Bootnote The first person to post a "how did they cuff him if he had no hands?" comment is banned from reading El Reg for a month.
ReviewReview Intel is getting ready to move to a new generation of processors on a 45nm fabrication process, but that hasn't stopped it from squeezing some more performance out of its existing, 65nm chips. So, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome the 3GHz Core 2 Extreme QX6850 with the chip giant's brand new 1333MHz frontside bus.
Domain name scammers are once again targeting UK firms. Typically, the scam, which is still under investigation, starts with calls to domain owners warning them that a variant of the domain they own has been bought by a third party. Prospective marks are invited to outbid these third parties by placing higher bids with domain registration entities that falsely claim to be partners with Nominet, the UK registrar.
The European Court of First Instance has confirmed it will deliver its verdict on the Microsoft case on 17 September. The verdict will be delivered in the Grande Salle of the Court of Justice at 9.30am.
It may not be the most attractive portable device on the market, but the Linux-based Pepper Pad 3 internet tablet has been given a technical makeover that includes faster Wi-Fi connectivity and a much needed slimmer body.
US death-tech'n'airliners giant Boeing has carried out a spy-fi-esque demonstration of military surveillance technology. During tests in Oregon, flying robot mini-planes stalked suspect vehicles from above without human input, took orders via a mobile phone, and sent video back to the mobile as well. Then they fingered the luckless driver for violent death at the hands of strike aircraft.
ColumnColumn Earlier this month, Universal Music Group (UMG) - the world's largest record company with acts like U2 and Jay-Z - decided not to renew its contract with Apple's iTunes music store. Universal will continue to supply iTunes its vast catalogue but may cancel that supply at any time. In the company's own words, "Universal Music Group will now market its music to iTunes in an 'at will' capacity, as it does with its other retail partners."
Does anyone really care about who will win this years' UK version of Big Brother? Well, apparently enough of you do to warrant a new website that combines the latest reality TV gossip with betting. Popbet.com blends reality TV show forums with detailed historical and current voting and betting odds about the housemates. The website is a joint venture between celebrity gossipers Popbitch and odds comparison website ChickenDinner and is propped up by a deal with online betting firm Betfair. A Betfair link is provided for saddo reality TV fans to lay bets on evictions and winners. Advertising revenue will be divvied up between Popbitch and ChickenDinner and each will also take a cut from bets placed on Betfair via the new website, according to The Guardian. Although Popbet is currently knee-deep in Big Brother 8 shenanigans, it also has plans to extend its reach into other reality TV fare, including I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here! and X-Factor. Oh Goodie. ®
Security shortcomings in the design of Apple's iPhone might make it easier to mount phishing and cross-site scripting attacks. The iPhone's email client only displays the first few characters of a weblink, a factor researchers at Fortify Software warn makes it easier to hide a fraudulent URL at the end of a link without arousing suspicion.
Cable and Wireless (C&W) said it is trading in line with expectations and that it is on track to increase annual profit to between 16 and 24 per cent. The British telecoms firm said it hoped to see group earnings before interest, tax, deprecation and amortisation (EBITDA) for its current financial year to 31 March 2008 of between £573m and £608m. Bracknell-based C&W added that its four year agreement with Virgin Media as its sole unbundled local loop (LLU) network provider had helped boost expectations at the firm. C&W also said that deals with Tiscali and Inuk Networks as well as the announcement of the 25 year sale and leaseback of nine UK properties for which it received £88m had further bolstered its financial outlook in the UK. C&W chairman Richard Lapthorne said: "We have made a pleasing start to the financial year with both business units making good progress in continuing to execute on their strategic plans." However, on the international front, the firm said that there had been "some weakness" in the Jamaican market and that plans were afoot to get trading back on course in that area. ®
Samsung's anticipated i620 Windows Mobile smartphone - a skinny slider phone with a drop-down BlackBerry-style QWERTY keypad - is to go on sale in the UK through Vodafone.
NEC and Stratus promised you new, beefy fault tolerant servers would ship in June. But the boxes ended up shipping in July. We'll forgive the vendors a wee, one-month lapse, especially since they've tossed out some new, low-end additions as well. As of this week, customers will find a two-socket box centered on Intel's quad-core Xeon 5300 (Clovertown) chip. NEC and Stratus share their fault-tolerant server work thanks to a deal announced in late 2005, so you'll see the same basic box sold as the NEC Express 5800/320Fc and Stratus ftServer 6200 systems. Neither company has a particular gift for product names.
In what appears to be the first known case of its kind, the RIAA has been ordered to pay a defendant nearly $70,000 in attorney fees and costs after unsuccessfully suing for copyright infringement. According to court documents, the Recording Industry Association of America first contacted Oklahoma resident Deborah Foster by phone in 2004. An RIAA settlement representative accused her of downloading copyrighted material off the file-sharing program, Kazaa, using the screen name "fllygirl11," and demanded a payment of $5,000. Foster refused, claiming she did not download any songs from the internet. The settlement representative responded by offering to go down as far as $3,750, but Foster again refused to pay. (RIAA watchdog Recording Industry vs. The People have been following the paperwork.) In response, the RIAA filed suit against Deborah Foster in November 2004. Her adult daughter Amanda was added to the complaint in July 2005 when it was indicated that she had access to the internet account. Because Amanda failed to defend herself against the complaint, the RIAA won the case against her by default. The ruling against Deborah was then amended to allege she "contributorily and/or vicariously" infringed on copyrighted recordings. The RIAA continued its lawsuit against Deborah Foster, claiming she was liable as the owner of the internet account responsible for the copyright infringement. Foster refused to settle with the RIAA outside of court, and as the case dragged on, her litigation investment became considerable. On July 13, 2006 the Oklahoma court ordered the RIAA's claims against Foster be dismissed with prejudice and ruled she was eligible to be awarded attorneys fees. The court was skeptical that "an internet-illiterate parent, who does not know Kazaa from a kazoo" could be liable for copyright infringement committed by someone else using her internet account. Foster first requested $105,680.75 in attorney fees, but the RIAA objected to this, claiming the figure was unreasonable and that she was not entitled to fees for work that could have been avoided "had she assisted the RIAA or acceded to settlement." The court eventually whittled the award down to $68,685.23 in a 14-page document which itemized her expenses. A RIAA representative would not talk to us about the case, and said she did not know if it was the first time attorneys' fees were rewarded to a defendant in similar RIAA copyright lawsuits. The organization has gained notoriety for its fight against copyright infringement through blind pursuit of improbable offenders and gross intimidation. Last month, an unemployed single mom renewed a legal challenge against the RIAA, accusing the organization of contacting her 10-year-old daughter at school by impersonating the girl's grandmother on the phone. The organization claims it has been successful in a recent campaign of blanketing colleges with threatening legal letters, and offering to absolve students guilty or otherwise if they pay a settlement at an RIAA website (major credit cards accepted.) "My thoughts are that this award, together with some interesting interim decisions against the RIAA in other cases, will be incentive for more defendants to vigorously fight the RIAA, and of course where successful, demand attorneys' fees," said Leonard Rubin, an attorney at Chicago-based Reed Smith Sachnoff & Weaver. Rubin does not, however, believe the case will serve as a deterrent to the RIAA in its lawsuit campaign. "The RIAA is in a headlong rush to discourage downloaders, many of them college students, from unlawfully copying copyrighted music, and the RIAA apparently doesn't care how much it costs them — they do not file these cases for the sake of collecting either settlement money or monetary judgments."®
Microsoft's product groups are quietly distancing themselves from next February's big-bang major launch event, unveiled by COO Kevin Turner last week. While paying lip service to Turner's Feb. 27, 2008 planned Los Angeles launch for Visual Studio 2008, Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008, various Microsoft teams have started to scatter, handing out their own, hoped for product ship dates.
iTV ConiTV Con With his opening keynote at iTV Con, a trade conference dedicated to, yes, internet television, Google’s head of boob tube technology Vincent Dureau told industry players and reporters that traditional television is pretty close to dead. Of course, he’s confident that the latest internet technologies can drive a new breed of TV to unprecedented heights. No one was surprised. "On the surface, television as we know it looks dead. But the future of television is actually pretty bright," he said, dabbling in paradox. Television, he explained, is experiencing an identity crisis. There's been an explosion of content, with cable and satellite TV introducing more and more channels. And with the advent of DVRs, viewers have more freedom to pick and choose what content they watch - not to mention the power to skip ads. On one level, this creates new problems for content producers and advertisers, as they struggle to reach an audience that has so many options. But, as Dureau pointed out, the same sort of challenges have already been faced on the Web. With a little internet know-how, the TV industry can ensure a brighter future. According to Google. "A lot of the recipes and lessons that work on the web can actually apply to TV," Dureau said. Judging from what's happened on the net, he believes, things like audience fragmentation and ad skipping can actually boost the television industry. [Just like Google Video and YouTube "borrowing" from TV networks helps the industry-Ed?] If the audience is more fragmented, he explained, it's easier for advertisers to reach the people they're after. "Audience fragmentation is a good thing for advertising, not a bad thing. You can make your audience more specialized," Dureau said. "With more specialized channels, you can actually insert more relevant content that's more likely to reach the intended audience." "You can actually make more money, because you can increase the relevancy of your ads," he continued. "You can cut down on the number of ads - and still reach more people. At the end of the day, you're changing the attitude of the consumer. They've reached a point where they expect the ad to be relevant and they're more likely to watch it." That may or may not be true, but the logic is absolutely brilliant. In similar fashion, he argued that ad skipping was a godsend. If advertisers can determine which ads are being skipped and which aren't, he said, they can do a better job of getting their ads in front of the people who will actually watch them. The key, he continued, is building web-based technologies into TV set-top boxes that can track such information. He even went so far as to say that Google's search traffic can be used to measure the success of TV advertising campaigns. That's right, if viewers see a TV ad for a particular product and then Google that product, you know the ad was a success. But there's more. Dureau believes that the web is also an important means of finding new TV talent, pointing to television channels like CurrentTV and the UK-based MTV Flux that broadcast user-generated internet content. And he backs the net as a TV promotion tool. Google has been posting CBS TV to the web, and this has noticeably boosted the ratings of certain shows. "What that tells us is that users are discovering shows on the web and then watching them on TV," Dureau said. "The web is not there to hurt television. It's actually there to promote it." To sum up, the web's biggest name thinks the web can help television. Go figure.® Bootnote Dureau's keynote was followed by a second speech from Sling Media CTO Bhupen Shah, who spent 45 minutes telling the room that Sling was going to make it easier for confused consumers to deal with the bizillions of TV options staring them in the face. The only highlight was the photo of Jeff Bridges as Jeffery "The Dude" Lebowski that kept popping up in Shah's PowerPoint slides. We think The Dude was meant to represent the confused consumer - but he's also a good stand-in for dozens of uninterested iTV Con attendees listening to drivel about Sling.
Yahoo! today reported a slight drop in quarterly profits from last year, but a figure in line with previously lowered expectations. The company's second quarter results are the first dose of earnings to arrive since co-founder Jerry Yang replaced Terry Semel as CEO. Yahoo!'s net Q2 income was $161m, matching market estimates but falling short of the $164m the company earned a year ago. Sales reached $1.7bn for the quarter, up 8 per cent from the same period last year. Excluding payments made to advertising partners, Yahoo!'s sales were at $1.24bn. The results complete six straight quarters of declining profits for the portal. "I am focused on doing everything we need to do to strengthen our business, capture long-term growth opportunities and create increased value for our shareholders." CEO Jerry Yang said in a statement. "By sharpening our focus, speeding execution, building our technology and talent, and investing in key growth areas, we can put Yahoo! on a clear path to fulfill its potential as an Internet leader.” Yahoo! is still recovering from an executive shuffle performed last month under pressure from unhappy shareholders to catch up with Google in the search advertisement market. Including usurping Semel as CEO, Yahoo! lost Wenda Millard, the company's longtime chief sales officer. Earlier this month, Yahoo! unveiled a new banner ad platform called SmartAds that allows marketers to target web surfers according to their online behavior. In February, the company introduced Project Panama, an advertising program designed to make text ads more relevant to searches. The company claims the new software is boosting results. "Over the last several months, we have made considerable progress driving much tighter focus within our core operations to drive growth," said Yahoo president, Susan Decker. "This will take time and continued investment, but we are operating with a great sense of urgency." Yahoo forecasts third quarter revenue of $1.17bn to $1.2bn. For end of year results, the company expects revenue of $4.89bn to $5.19bn. ®
Strong notebook and server chip sales carried Intel to a second quarter that neared the high end of previous forecasts. Investors, however, seemed unmoved by the results, as Intel noted strong pricing competition in the desktop market and a reliance on cost-cutting measures to gloss its results.
Microsoft Xbox division chief Peter Moore will be leaving his position in Redmond to join game developer Electronic Arts as president of the EA Sports label. Moore's position as vice president of Microsoft's Entertainment and Devices division will be filled by Don Mattrick, a former president at Electronic Arts who more recently worked with Moore as an external adviser for Microsoft. Moore begins his new job in Sept. and will report to EA CEO John Riccitiello. Congratulations go out to Microsoft and EA for such a well-orchestrated "dance of the press release" to announce these moves almost simultaneously. The companies appeared to have statements in standby mode after rumors of Moore's departure began circulating around the net. Before joining Microsoft in 2003, Moore was president and COO of Sega of America during the run of the ill-fated (but well-regarded) Dreamcast game system. He also served in a pivotal role as the company transitioned into a platform agnostic game developer. Before Sega, Moore was senior vice president of marketing at shoemaker, Reebok International. "Peter Moore's proven record of leadership in games and sports makes him a terrific fit for heading up EA sports," Riccitiello in a statement. "As a partner at Microsoft and earlier, as a competitor, we've learned to respect his vision and leadership." Peter Moore The combo game-sports experience is just the type of thing Cisco and Nabisco should consider. The acquisition of Moore is a part of the EA's recent reorganization of the company's four divisions; EA Games, EA Sports, EA Casual Entertainment and the Sims units. Last month, the company took aboard former Activision publishing division president, Kathy Vrabeck. Don Mattrick, was the founder of auto racing specialists Distinctive Software from 1982 until its merger with EA in 1991. Mattrick held various executive positions at EA before becoming president of Electronics Arts Worldwide and heir apparent to then-CEO Larry Probs. In 2005, Mattrick resigned from his position after concluding he "was not interested in running a public company." Mattrick now joins an extremely public company which is currently shoulders-deep in a console war with Nintendo and Sony. Microsoft's console division was recently fronted with a $1bn bill to cover a warranty extension due to excessive failure rates in the Xbox 360. ®