23rd > July > 2007 Archive

VMware learns to measure itself

Not afraid to help itself while it helps others, VMware today rolled out a public version of its homegrown virtual server benchmarking tool. VMware has been shopping VMmark in beta form since last year and now feels confident enough to set the test suite free. Server makers and end users are expected to use VMmark as a way of gaging the performance of certain workloads - namely file serving, mail serving, databases, java applications and transaction processing - running inside of virtual machines. With any luck, VMmark will add some customer-friendly metrics to a market woefully lacking in vendor vs. vendor and application comparisons.
Ashlee Vance, 23 Jul 2007
30

Culture matters: Why i-mode failed

OpinionOpinion M-commerce service i-mode has been dropped by UK operator O2 and Australia's Telstra. So how did a service, which promised to bring mobile commerce to everyone, and which raked in more than 40 million customers, fail so badly outside its home market, Japan? i-mode seemed able to deliver the mobile revolution back when WAP was resolutely failing to generate any interest, let alone revenue, despite massive investments in infrastructure and promotion by mobile operators. After the WAP smoke cleared, Telstra launched its i-mode service in November 2004. It was so convinced it got an exclusive five year license for the technology. O2 followed about a year later, offering four i-mode handsets in September 2005, and spending £20m promoting the technology. Both companies were forced to maintain their existing WAP-based platforms - even though they had not yet proved profitable - so were forced to run two incompatible data networks. i-mode is certainly the more comprehensive technology. It incorporates a billing platform that allows third parties to micro-bill users for access to content, as well as speeding development of new applications. But it was the pretty pictures and sounds that really caught the eye of executives at a time when WAP still featured silent mono graphics. But the success of iMode in Japan can be attributed to architecture and geology rather than pretty graphics and billing systems: the way in which the Japanese live drives them towards mobile content in a way that just doesn't exist in the west. Japanese houses consist of spaces which are multi-functional depending on what the occupants are doing. Walls may be moved around during the day, and it's extremely unlikely that a child would have its own room. Entertaining at home is also unusual - socialising is done in restaurants, bars and coffee shops. This makes Japanese youths the perfect mobile consumers - they have no TV or computer in their bedroom because they have no bedroom of their own. In such a market it's unsurprising that internet access from a mobile phone has been so popular, and equally unsurprising that Western youth haven't proved so receptive to the idea. What is truly amazing is that the mobile industry seems to be making the same mistake with mobile broadcast TV. In Spain, where broadcast mobile TV has had some success, TVs in the bedroom are rare, and over 40 per cent of mobile TV viewing is being done in the home. In the UK, bedroom TVs are endemic, so those 40 per cent of viewers are unlikely to boot up their telephones to watch TV. I've attended many events on mobile TV, and seen presentations on expected markets and how the technology will expand, but I've never seen anyone talk about how many teenagers in those markets have TVs in their bedrooms. O2 and Telstra will be rueing an expensive mistake with i-mode. Half the money spent on a decent WAP billing platform would have given them all the important functionality, but they saw the success of i-mode in Japan and thought customers were buying a technology, when in reality they wanted an experience suited to their culture. ®
Bill Ray, 23 Jul 2007
Hitachi
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Hitachi goes global with vein recognition biometric

Retinal scans, finger prints or facial recognition get most of the attention but developers across the world are quietly labouring away at alternative types of biometrics. Recognition by the way someone walks (their gait) or the rhythm they make when they type and others have each been tried as potential biometrics. Hitachi is adding to this stock with the worldwide release this month of a finger vein identity authentication device.
John Leyden, 23 Jul 2007
1

AMD admits no 'substantial' Phenom output in '07

AMD is gearing up to launch its fastest dual-core Athlon 64 processor yet, it has been claimed. Such a product would be handy: last week, the chip maker admitted its Phenom won't appear in significant volumes until Q1 2008, later than previously thought.
Tony Smith, 23 Jul 2007
7

MS: Zune 2.0 to arrive in time for Xmas

Microsoft has confirmed it will detail its second-generation Zune media players in time for the Christmas sales season. Speculation as to what the software giant will announce currently centres on a higher capacity hard drive model and a cheaper, Flash-based Zune.
Tony Smith, 23 Jul 2007

Bradshaw assumes NPfIT minister's mantle

Ben Bradshaw MP is the new minister of state in charge of the NHS IT programme. His role as minister of state for health services was announced by the Department of Health (DoH) on 20 July. It sees him take over responsibility for Connecting for Health and the National Programme for IT (NPfIT) from Lord Philip Hunt, who moved to the Ministry of Justice in June. MP for Exeter, Bradshaw joined the DoH in the government's recent reshuffle. He was previously minister for local environment, marine and animal welfare at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), having initially joined Defra in June 2003 as nature conservation and fisheries minister. He was appointed parliamentary secretary for the Privy Council in May 2002 following his role as parliamentary under secretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Trained as a journalist, Bradshaw worked on the Express & Echo in Exeter before spending three years at BBC Radio Devon. In 1989 he was appointed the BBC's Berlin correspondent and in 1991 returned to Britain to work as a reporter and presenter for Radio 4's World at One and World This Weekend programmes. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 23 Jul 2007
2

Novatel Wireless preps 'smallest' HSUPA modem

Data-over-cellular specialist Novatel Wireless last week unveiled what it claims is the "world's smallest" USB-connected HSUPA modem, a slimline stick that allows a computer to connect to next-gen 3G phone networks.
Tony Smith, 23 Jul 2007
9

Conservapedia too pinko? Try Metapedia

Those among you who feel that Conservapedia - the "conservative encyclopedia you can trust" dedicated to countering liberal bias - is not sufficiently tough on Marxist-Leninist dogma are directed forthwith to Metapedia, the "alternative encyclopedia dedicated to the pro-European cultural struggle".
Lester Haines, 23 Jul 2007
9

Web radio firms cry foul over DRM proposal

Internet radio broadcasters have claimed that a last-minute record company deal offered to them is a ruse to force them to use digital rights management (DRM) technology. The webcasters' industry association has called the demands "unreasonable [and] unworkable" in a dispute that internet radio companies claim could put them out of business. Webcasters have been in dispute with SoundExchange, which acts for rights holders and record companies, over the fees they should pay for the right to webcast music. The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB), a part of the US Library of Congress, has set higher fees for using music which were due to come into force on 15 July. Webcasters claimed the fees would be too high for most stations, and that in many cases they were higher than the total revenues earned by companies. SoundExchange offered webcasters a last minute deal. The body said it would not impose the new fees, but would negotiate further with webcasters. It has emerged, though, that SoundExchange's offer was to reduce fees only for firms which actively prevented the pirating of the webcasts. "Under the new proposal…SoundExchange has offered to cap the $500 per channel minimum fee at $50,000 per year for webcasters who agree to provide more detailed reporting of the music that they play and work to stop users from engaging in ‘streamripping’ – turning internet radio performances into a digital music library," said a SoundExchange statement. The Digital Media Association (DiMA), which represents a number of the biggest webcasters including Pandora, Napster, and Yahoo!, said this qualification to the deal is a "disappointing turn". "SoundExchange has demanded enforceable technology mandates that are unreasonable, unworkable and way off-topic," said Jonathan Potter, executive director of DiMA. "They seek to leverage this absurd fee to impose mandates that they have unsuccessfully sought elsewhere." "DiMA companies are prepared to set a time to meet with the SoundExchange Board to negotiate the royalty rates for the 2006-2010 CRB term. At that time, we can also discuss the establishment of working groups that would address other technical industry concerns,"; he said. DiMA claims that the fixed fee which SoundExchange would cap in return for copy protection is excessive and has opposed that fee. "The uncapped $500-per-channel minimum fee generates more than $1bn annually for what the CRB determined are supposed to cover SoundExchange's administrative costs," said Potter. "This is far more money than needed to administer a mere $20m in internet radio royalties." The deal from SoundExchange is only available to smaller web radio operators. "We do expect commercial webcasters like Yahoo! and AOL to pay the new royalty rates set by the CRB due 15 July," said SoundExchange executive director John Simson. "It is essential that recording artists and content owners receive full and fair compensation from the webcasters making use of their creative works." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 23 Jul 2007
2

Take a secure hotspot home with you

For anyone fed up with support calls from users trying to connect into the corporate network from home, or set up security on their home wireless router, roaming specialist iPass reckons it has a solution.
Bryan Betts, 23 Jul 2007
29

Brainless civil servant amazes doctors

A French man whose skull was mostly occupied by a "huge fluid-filled chamber" was able to operate perfectly well as a civil servant - despite having "little more than a thin sheet of actual brain tissue", Reuters reports. The 44-year-old's condition was revealed when he went to hospital suffering from mild weakness in his left leg. A probe of his medical history revealed he'd had a shunt inserted into his skull as an infant to relieve hydrocephalus, which was removed when he was 14. Doctors were "amazed" when computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging scans showed "massive enlargement" of his lateral ventricles, "usually tiny chambers that hold the cerebrospinal fluid that cushions the brain". Dr Lionel Feuillet and colleagues at the Universite de la Mediterranee in Marseille explained in a letter to The Lancet: "He was a married father of two children, and worked as a civil servant." Tests revealed the chap's IQ as 75, below average but evidently no impediment to leading a normal life. Dr Max Muenke, a paediatric brain defect specialist at the National Human Genome Research Institute, said: "What I find amazing to this day is how the brain can deal with something which you think should not be compatible with life. If something happens very slowly over quite some time, maybe over decades, the different parts of the brain take up functions that would normally be done by the part that is pushed to the side." ®
Lester Haines, 23 Jul 2007
5

Chinese tuck into Texas turtles

Conservation groups have warned that Texas's unprotected turtle species are at risk from unrestricted collection of snappers destined for Chinese gourmets, Reuters reports. According to figures from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), "an average of 94,442 turtles per year are taken by dealers" - mostly for export. Chris Jones, an environmental lawyer who has "lobbied for turtle protection" said that, according to US Fish and Wildlife Service figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, "267,000 wild turtles were exported to Hong Kong from Dallas from 2002 to 2005". Lee Fitzgerald, an associate professor of herpetology at Texas A&M University who's published research on the Texas turtle trade, explained: "Turtles need protection from overharvesting because they are slow to mature and their young have a high mortality rate. Their population can't take the removal of adults. If it continues, the population will collapse." The TPWD in May approved a "measure to prohibit the collection of wild turtles on public land", but even when it becomes law, will still allow collectors to snare "three varieties of turtles on private land; the red-eared slider, the common snapping turtle, and five types of soft-shell turtles". Texas's largest exporter of turtles to Asia, Bob Popplewell, aka "BayouBob", said the proposed law won't affect his business since he gets 99 per cent of his harvest from private lakes. He claimed there are "plenty of turtles" in Texas, which bother ranchers by "overcrowding" their lakes and ponds and gorging on fish eggs and birds. Popplewell elaborated: "People tell me they don't want one nasty, stinking turtle in their lake. I've seen a decent-sized snapper pull down a full-grown goose. They are trained, stealthy predators." While Fitzgerald described the TPWD measure as "a step in the right direction", conservation groups want "a total ban on commercial turtle collection", Reuters notes. ®
Lester Haines, 23 Jul 2007
7

Belgian ISP will appeal order to block file-sharing

Belgian ISP Scarlet has appealed against a surprise court ruling forcing it to filter customers' traffic for unlawful file sharing. The Belgian ISP Association says the trial judge did not examine the law closely enough. Scarlet, formerly a wing of Italy's Tiscali, was ordered earlier this month to use Audible Magic software to scan peer-to-peer (P2P) network traffic and block files identified as unauthorised copyrighted material. It was the first time in Europe that an ISP was held responsible for the content of its subscribers' traffic. ISPs are protected by laws deriving from the E-Commerce Directive, which protect such "mere conduits" from liability for the content of their traffic. The Belgian court's ruling challenges the limits of that protection. Laws emanating from another EU Directive, the Copyright Directive, in some circumstances run counter to the E-Commerce Directive by giving copyright owners certain powers over intermediaries whose services are used for piracy. Geert Somers is the head of the legal work group at the Belgian ISP Association (ISPA). He told weekly technology law podcast OUT-LAW Radio that he believes the E-Commerce Directive's protection for ISPs must take precedence over other directives. "The E-Commerce Directive needs to be seen as prevailing over the Copyright Directive," he said. "As a matter of fact I think that the relationship between various directives – the E-Commerce Directive, the Copyright Directive and the Intellectual Property Rights Enforcement Directive – will have to be further examined by the Court of Appeals." "As a matter of fact the implementing legislation in Belgium at the moment is not entirely clear and I strongly believe the judge did not examine this relationship sufficiently," said Somers. The E-Commerce and Copyright Directives were framed at around the same time and were not intended to conflict with one another, but technology lawyer Struan Robertson of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM, says a clash was always a possibility. "The E-Commerce Directive was passed first. It said that intermediaries acting as mere conduits were protected and it prohibited any general obligation to monitor. The Copyright Directive came along next and it said that copyright owners should be able to get court orders against intermediaries if their services are used for piracy," said Robertson. "The two laws were meant to complement each other but a clash was always possible and it's really always been for a court to decide how exactly we should balance the protection that exists in the E-Commerce Directive and the powers given to copyright owners in the Copyright Directive," he said. "The Belgian court took the view that there is no clash," said Robertson. "The court claimed that its injunction does not require Scarlet to 'monitor' its network – it tried to distinguish monitoring from filtering; and it also claimed that the mere conduit defence was not lost." The court said that the E-commerce Directive "does not affect the judge's power of injunction and does not limit the measures that can be taken by the latter vis-à-vis the provider". It said that the mere conduit defence was irrelevant to the case. It also said the technical solutions "are limited to blocking or filtering certain information transmitted on the Scarlet network; they do not constitute a general obligation to monitor the network". It compared blocking software to anti-virus and anti-spam software, describing it as "a simple technical instrument which as such does not perform any activities involving the identification of internet users". There are fears that the ruling could affect other ISP businesses in Belgium and could even prompt a re-evaluation of laws elsewhere in Europe. Belgium had not implemented the Copyright Directive into its own laws at the time of the case, so the court focused on the wording of the Directives, which makes the case more significant for other EU countries. However, one of Belgium's biggest ISPs, Belgacom, rejected the suggestion that the ruling will automatically apply to it. "The Belgian legal system cannot be compared to legal system in England where you have precedents," said Belgacom spokesman Jean Margot. "It doesn't work that way here; every case has to come up with a different result, a judge could make a different result from another judge in a new case, it is not always the same." "Probably the next judge will not follow the first judge, there are good arguments, we will have to wait and see," said Margot. The authors' rights group which brought the court action, SABAM, has already written to Belgium's main ISPs asking them to fall into line with the Scarlet judgment. "A couple of days ago we addressed the main Belgian access providers to draw their attention to the legal decision that has been made in the case," said Thierry Dachelet, spokesman for SABAM. "Before starting any legal proceedings to impose this decision on all other Belgian access providers on pain of penalty we wished to check whether they are ready to make an agreement or not." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 23 Jul 2007
2

Samsung spotlights 'first' five-megapixel camera phone

Samsung has rolled out its first five-megapixel, autofocus camera phone, a 1.5cm-thick slider that also packs in a large, 2.2in, 320 x 240, 16m-colour display and a TV connector.
Tony Smith, 23 Jul 2007

Read about the last British computer company - in the bath

Last month, we published something unusual for us: a long feature about the consumer electronics pioneer Psion. It's full of previously untold stories: the plucky outfit could have been the British Sony. But we know that reading long pieces on the web is a pain. So as promised, we're making it available as a PDF download. Our technical wizards have been preparing for this moment for years and have devised the most sophisticated DRM technology ever attempted. Taking a cue from the music business, our USB dongle will spray a corrosive coating of hydrochloric acid over your PC - followed by a sarcastic sprinkling of chappati flour - if you attempt to so much as open the PDF. Unfortunately, this dongle wasn't ready in time (and we're too mean to take on any more disfigurement lawsuits). So we're simply making the PDF available if you click the button below, that leads to PayPal. This gets you a beautifully designed document that's optimised for reading on the train home, or in the bath - and contains exclusive material you won't find on the web version. Clickers will also be the first to hear about updates. Oh, and you get a free Epoc Word format version thrown in. All for around the price of a pint of posh lager. Happy reading.
Team Register, 23 Jul 2007
5

Add a dash of Wi-Fi and sprinkle with data services

With such a range of potential options in terms of devices and functions, one could say we are spoilt for choice. Or is it a Hobson's choice – plenty of options, but none really cut the mustard? When we asked you this question in our recent survey, the jury looked very much to be out, with responses equally spread across the board. When we took things down a level, however, some clear groupings became visible: notably, between the two groups of laptop lovers and PDA pundits. Taking notebook users first, virtually all (95 per cent) specified some kind of need for mobile access. We can take that with a pinch of salt perhaps – those that weren't that interested may have been less inclined to fill in the survey (or perhaps they couldn't work out a way to get to it). Of this proportion, however, about a quarter indicated they were quite happy with their cellular-only access, and a slightly smaller proportion said they were content for Wi-Fi connectivity from hotspots alone. With barely a pause to note the implication – that high-speed cellular access is ahead of Wi-Fi in the stakes – it doesn't take a mathematician to surmise that the remainder, roughly half, see both cellular and Wi-Fi access as required elements in the ideal mobile package (mathematicians would surmise 48.45 per cent, for what it's worth). Meanwhile, we have the handheld community. For this group the differences were even more pronounced – respondents requiring only one kind of access were less than 30 per cent, meaning that over two-thirds required some kind of combination of functions. Of these: Sixteen per cent wanted to use data services on the handheld, and have Wi-Fi for their notebook, Sixteen per cent wanted to use data services on the handheld, and have cellular access for their notebook, Twenty-nine per cent wanted all three – handheld data and cellular/Wi-Fi on the notebook. What this tells us is, while it is difficult to come up with a one size fits all, there's a clear desire to combine services into a single package. Equally, and as we have seen in the comments to previous articles in this series, is that mobile users fall into these two, very distinct camps. This could be for reasons of "user provenance" – once a computer user, always a computer user and vice versa – or it could be down to usage scenarios. Perhaps road warriors, sales execs and service engineers only have minutes to grab those messages and move on, whereas roving project managers can afford a more sedentary existence. We'll be picking this thread up in the coming weeks. ®
Jon Collins, 23 Jul 2007
15

Spammers dump images, switch to PDF files

Foiled by increasingly accurate corporate spam filters, spammers have dumped pictures for PDFs in their bulk emailings, according to the latest data from security firms. Image spam, which at the beginning of the year accounted for nearly 60 per cent of all junk email, has plummeted and now accounts for only about 15 per cent of spam.
Robert Lemos, 23 Jul 2007
toy soldier
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US service personnel at risk of ID theft

Personal details of over half a million US service personnel and their relatives may have been compromised by a Pentagon contractor.
Lewis Page, 23 Jul 2007

LG spins 6x speed Blu-ray Disc burner

LG is preparing a internal optical drive capable of reading both Blu-ray Discs and HD DVD media, it has been claimed. The South Korean giant is also readying a BD writer capable of 6x burn speeds.
Tony Smith, 23 Jul 2007
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Transformers, MP3 players in disguise

The phrase ‘milking it’ comes to mind, but we weren’t really that surprised to hear that the Transformers characters, about to morph themselves onto the big-screen, have been reborn by a selection of vendors as MP3 players and accessories.
James Sherwood, 23 Jul 2007
15

The search for alien life

The parachutes deploy perfectly, and gradually, swinging gently through the tenuous atmosphere, the little probe falls to the ground. Minutes later it jerks slightly as it unfurls its solar panels. Like a butterfly newly emerged from a chrysalis, it soaks in the rays of the sun.
Lucy Sherriff, 23 Jul 2007
Facebook
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Facebook buys Firefox startup

Facebook, the ubiquitous, in-your-face social [cough] networking website, has acquired Parakey, a startup run by the co-founders of Mozilla Firefox. Financial terms of the deal, which was announced on 19 July, were not disclosed.
Kelly Fiveash, 23 Jul 2007
channel
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MPack developer on automated infection kit

InterviewInterview In June 2006, three Russian programmers started testing a collection of PHP scripts and exploit code to automate the compromise of computers that visit malicious websites. A year later, the MPack kit has become an increasingly popular tool, allowing data thieves and bot masters to take control of victims' systems and steal personal information.
Robert Lemos, 23 Jul 2007
29

Dubai claims world's tallest building title

Dubai declared on Saturday it now boasts the world's tallest building, with the Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower) scraping the sky at 512.1m (1,680ft) a year before its slated completion. The Burj Dubai, built by South Korea's Samsung, now stands at 141 storeys, outstripping Taiwan's Taipei 101 which rises a modest 508m (1,667ft). Developer Emaar Properties is keeping tight-lipped on the $1bn structure's final vital stats, but says it will eventually be "more than" 700m (2,296ft) tall and have "more than" 160 storeys. This reluctance to divulge the full facts may be a response to rival local developer Nakheel, which has announced it will build the equally inspirationally-titled "Al-Burj" (The Tower) - "whose projected height also remains a closely guarded secret", as the Gulf Times puts it. The Burj Dubai is the centrepiece of a $20bn complex comprising "30,000 apartments and the world's largest shopping mall" - suitably dubbed "Downtown Burj Dubai". ® Bootnote For those among you interested in such things, here are same more record-breaking Burj Dubai facts, courtesy of Emaar: When completed, Burj Dubai will have consumed 330,000 cubic metres of concrete, 39,000 metric tonnes of steel rebar and 142,000 square metres of glass – and 22 million man hours. The tower will have 56 elevators travelling at 1.75 to 10 metres/sec and double-decker observatory elevators that can carry 42 people at a time. More than 313,700 cubic metres of reinforced concrete and 62,200 tonnes of reinforcing steel have been used in the tower's construction so far. Burj Dubai has already set a new world record for vertical concrete pumping for a building by pumping to over 460 metres (1,509 ft). The previous record of 448 metres (1,470 ft) was held by Taipei 101.
Lester Haines, 23 Jul 2007
25

OLPC project goes into production

The One Laptop per Child project has started production, with the first children in the developing world expected to receive their computers in October this year.
Bill Ray, 23 Jul 2007
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Fasthosts hit by severe floods

UpdatedUpdated Fasthosts, which last week suffered a major system outage, saw its woes continue today, with its headquarters hit by the floods in Gloucester. Several Fasthosts customers contacted El Reg alerting us to the downtime, with the service, for some, remaining unavailable for the entire morning.
Kelly Fiveash, 23 Jul 2007
13

Boffins build miniature robot Jesus

American boffins report that they have developed the necessary technology for robots which can walk on water. A team from Carnegie Mellon University, led by assistant prof Metin Sitti, took for their inspiration the well known water-strider insect, or "Jesus Bug", which makes use of surface tension to stand and walk on water without sinking. Mitti and his acolytes, originally enough, dubbed their robo test platform STRIDER, for Surface Tension based Robotic Insect Dynamic ExploreR (a clear example of a well-known syndrome: Contrived Unsuitable Technical Names for Projects with the Acronym as Sole Target for the Effort, or CUTNPASTE naming). The Carnegie Mellon insecto-bots can walk on water just like the real critters, though rather slower. According to an article in last week's Scientific American, the diminutive god-bots can stroll across water on their teflon-coated legs at a mere "several inches per second", rather than the feet per second that real water-bugs can achieve. Teflon coated legs are all very well, but Mitti reckons that truly impressive water-walking machines need to have lots of microscopic hairs on their legs instead, to trap air and increase their water-repelling properties. For reasons not made clear by Scientific American, he's apparently looking to augment his tiny god-droids with hairs harvested "from geckos' feet". Presumably, the terrible costs of this research - potentially hundreds of bald-footed geckos, skidding helplessly about and falling off walls, a laughingstock among their friends - is justified by possible benefits to humanity in future. Anyway, for all we know, gecko foot hair grows back just as a sheep's fleece does. In fact, if Mitti's efforts towards "microfabrication of synthetic hairs" come to nothing, there could one day be a large population of farmed geckos, bred for the adhesiveness and luxuriance of their foot hair like so many lizardoid hobbits. Each year they would be shorn smooth to supply the insatiable demands of the miniature-robot-Jesus industry. Getting back to the divinely-capable droids themselves, they'll need a lot of work before they're up to proper Biblical levels: [25] "But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary." [26] "And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea." (King James Bible, Matthew 14) Which seems to suggest ability to walk on the actual sea during a storm, not just across a flat pond or something. Just how much funding there might be available to achieve this is open to question. Apart from the obvious miniature-robot-Jesus market, uses for this tech could be a trifle sparse. Scientific American suggests "environmental monitoring of still-water ecosystems... and opening up a whole new form of bugging." Full coverage from Scientific American is here, and an abstract of the underlying academic paper is here. ®
Lewis Page, 23 Jul 2007
5

ICSTIS tells sex lines to clean up their act

UK premium-rate regulator ICSTIS has told sex lines to clean up their act by 31 August or face sanction. The warning comes in response to complaints from the public that some services are launching directly into salacious content, without the required warnings, while others are leaving frustrated punters on hold. Recorded sex lines must remind callers to be over 18, and that the service name will appear on their phone bill. Live sex lines additionally need to say how much the call costs, the name of the company running the service, as well as stating that all calls are recorded. Companies have until the end of August to make sure those warnings are in place, and no more: some services have been using lengthy warnings to keep punters waiting, while pretending it's their legal responsibility. Quite why sex lines deserve such a warning when breaches could be addressed immediately is unclear. ICSTIS couldn't be reached for comment. ®
Bill Ray, 23 Jul 2007
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Autonomy reports big jump in pre-tax profits

Cambridge-based business software firm Autonomy said it has seen its pre-tax profits rocket by 89 per cent for the first half of the year. The unaudited pre-tax profit results for the six months to June were said to be up from $21.3m in the same period last year to $40.3m.
Kelly Fiveash, 23 Jul 2007
Zend
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PHP takes aim at Radar

PHP is wildly popular in the open source community, but less so in the enterprise. These things are hard to measure, but one indicator is job vacancies. According to ITjobswatch, there are nearly four times as many jobs for ASP.NET developers as for PHP, and even more for Java. PHP sponsor Zend Technologies wants to change that.
Tim Anderson, 23 Jul 2007
6

Amp'd shuts up shop

Amp'd, the US mobile virtual network operator, is shutting up shop tomorrow having failed to find a buyer to take on its urban-early-adopter demographic. Assuming there's no last-minute buyout, customers will be cut off tomorrow, after which there will be no customer services or, indeed, network. However, the company's FAQ makes it clear that customers with outstanding bills will still be required to pay them. Those with outstanding credit are less well served, though they can make a claim against the company if they wish. Handsets and numbers can be moved to another network, though Amp'd handsets will only operate on other CDMA networks. The good news is that there won't be an early termination penalty for those part-way through their contracts. ®
Bill Ray, 23 Jul 2007
6

Laser-sight gun grip targets Wii gamers

Wii warriors awaiting the arrival of Nintendo's Wii Zapper gun-style Remote holder don't need to go into virtual combat unarmed. US retailer DealExtreme is offering a pair of products designed to give players a more realistic experience.
Tony Smith, 23 Jul 2007
Nasa teaser logo
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NASA seeks inflight comms for sky marshals

NASA is looking into a wireless system which would give undercover sky marshals aboard airliners the ability to communicate with colleagues on the ground, according to reports.
Lewis Page, 23 Jul 2007
Thomson DTI 6300-16 TopUp TV Anytime +
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Thomson DTI 6300-16 TopUp TV Anytime DVR

ReviewReview Bit of an odd turbot this new TopUP TV service - not a selection of extra Freeview channels like the original TopUp TV offering, nor a full video on-demand system either. Bit of an odd review too, as it's difficult to come to a final conclusion on the hardware without some reference to the associated broadcast service, and that's highly subjective.
Alun Taylor, 23 Jul 2007
Western Digital Scorpio 120GB HDD
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Western Digital channel in a spin over new green HDD

Western Digital (WD) has launched a range of "green" 3.5in hard-disk drive (HDD), but has decided not to disclose any speed or cache specifications. At a European channel partner-focused, media-light event in Reykjavik, Iceland, WD said spin speed and disk cache were no longer the key-overriding factors in the storage industry.
Kelly Fiveash, 23 Jul 2007
12

TomTom bids €1.8bn for map provider

TomTom has put a €1.8bn cash bid on the table for Tele Atlas, the company that supplies map data to the sat nav firm's 10 million GPS devices. The idea is that social-networking type information can be integrated into the mapping data to create a more dynamic service for TomTom users.
Bill Ray, 23 Jul 2007
Flag United States
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US wants trucks mounted with frikkin' laser beams

US arms and aerospace manufacturer Boeing announced on Friday that it had landed a contract to develop truck-mounted laser cannons for the US Army.
Lewis Page, 23 Jul 2007
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Logitech plugs in 'world's smallest' cordless mouse dongle

Peripheral manufacturer Logitech has revealed what it claims is the world's smallest USB transceiver for a cordless input device, a tiny unit that sticks less than a centimeter from the edge of the port it's plugged into.
Tony Smith, 23 Jul 2007
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HP bids $1.6bn on Opsware, $214m on Neoware

Deep in the bowels of Hewlett-Packard's financial department, the person in charge of the company's checkbook has writer's cramp. The hardware maker has announced today the proposed purchase of not one, but two companies. Grabbing the spotlight is HP's $1.6bn bid on data center software company Opsware, followed by the somewhat overshadowed $241m bid on thin-client vendor Neoware. HP bids $1.6bn for Opsware Hewlett-Packard plans to strengthen its software arm by reaching down, lifting out its massive wallet and removing $1.6bn to purchase software company, Opsware. HP will pay $14.25 per share of Opsware, a 39 per cent premium from the closing price of $10.28 on Friday. The deal is expected to close by the end of HP's fourth quarter in October. Opsware was co-founded by internet entrepreneur Marc Andreesen, who in a previous life co-founded the usurped web browser company, Netscape. His latest venture makes software for automating data center administration tasks, such as the booting of operating systems and applications from bare metal to a running stack. The Opsware code can also reconfigure servers and apply patches to applications. According to Andreesen's blog, there are 550 employees on the Opsware payroll. The company has more than 350 customers including Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Microsoft, Comcast, Tivo and the US Department of Defense. Opsware was founded in 1999 as Loudcloud, which focused on internet hosting management. When the business got stale, the company sold the operations-side of the business to service provider Electronic Data Systems. Loudcloud was retooled, then reborn as Opsware. The company's CEO Ben Horowitz is full of piss and vinegar about the deal. "We are about to see one of the biggest application and infrastructure build-outs in history. The addition to Opsware to the HP Software portfolio will make HP the obvious choice for powering the next generation of data centers to come." Whether or not the acquisition will truly be forever scorched into the pages of history, destined to be recanted by generations of school children or relived through the strumming of wandering bards and masterful storytellers remains in the air, frankly. But the move does follow the trend of hardware vendors such as HP and IBM expanding into the more lucrative software market to appeal to data center managers and company stockholders. HP said the bid follows last year's $4.5bn purchase of Mercury Interactive in its software-strengthening strategy. Opsware will be absorbed into HP's software business after the deal closes. HP said it will appoint Horowitz to lead its Business Technology Optimization organization, reporting to Thomas Hogan, the senior veep of HP Software. Ayche Pea purchases Neoware for $214m HP has also signed the check today to acquire thin-client specialist Neoware for $214m. The company will be purchased at the price of $16.24 per share, approximately a 7 per cent premium to Neoware's closing price of $15.24 on Friday. The deal will add Neoware's Linux thin-client software to HP's virtualization stable, which is currently based on Windows XP Embedded and Windows CE. The company is playing the ol' green computing chestnut, touting the technology as an effort to reduce its environmental footprint through reduced noise, power and packaging versus desktop PCs. "Our objective is to become the preferred brand of thin-clients and software for virtualized client computing," said HP exec Kevin Frost in a statement. "Thin clients are an important component in today's overall computing strategy and play a critical role in HP's virtualization strategy. Acquiring Neoware confirms our commitment to thin-client computing and client virtualization solutions." HP already sells a number of thin client and blade PC products. The sale is expected to close in the company's fourth quarter of this calendar year. When that happens, Neoware will be integrated into the Business Desktop Unit of HP's Personal Systems Group. ®
Austin Modine, 23 Jul 2007
Google
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Microsoft and Yahoo! trumpet anti-Google privacy policies

Unable to keep up with Google's market share, the other big search engines are determined to top its privacy policies. Last week, Ask.com announced new software that keeps web searches completely anonymous - a first among major search engines - and now Microsoft and Yahoo! have unveiled their own brand-spanking-new privacy principles.
Cade Metz, 23 Jul 2007
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San Francisco's proposed Wi-Fi network facing angry mobs

The city-wide Wi-Fi network being pushed by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom faces two important hearings this week as a motley band of critics mount a series of challenges to the project, which would be jointly operated by Google and Earthlink. The concerns include the health effects of antennas, whether proposed terms would jeopardize the privacy and free speech of those who use the network, and the appropriateness of the city entering into an exclusive contract that some say amounts to a giveaway of public resources. A meeting scheduled for Tuesday before the city's Board of Supervisors will discuss whether officials must conduct an environmental review of the proposed network before it could go into place. In April, San Francisco's planning commission said the network was exempt from such a requirement, but a grassroots group has since challenged the decision. San Francisco is part of a growing number of cities grappling with the challenge of providing its citizens with dependable and affordable access to the internet. Under an agreement Newsom reached in January, Earthlink would pay the city $2m over four years in exchange for the right to build, own and operate a wireless network. Newsom has made the proposal a centerpiece of his administration, arguing that it will help bridge the digital divide without saddling taxpayers with exorbitant costs. Others have been considerably less sanguine, complaining - among other things - that the proposal is based on antiquated and unreliable technology. A vote requiring the review could prove fatal to the proposed network, which is becoming an increasingly contentious issue between Newsom and his critics. Environmental reviews can take as long as a year to complete, a sizable delay that could ultimately cool enthusiasm for the project. It would also provide ammunition for the San Francisco Neighborhood Antenna-Free Union (SNAFU), which warns that the blanketing of access points on city light poles could harm residents' health. The group - which has been active in the past in protesting the introduction of cellular phone antennas - says studies suggest the microwave radiation that would be generated by more than 2,000 access points throughout the city could cause headaches, lowered immune responses and even cancer, according to this YouTube video. A second battlefront will open on Wednesday, when the city's Budget and Finance Committee is scheduled to vote whether to approve the proposal. Critics including the American Civil Liberties Union are urging residents to show up en masse to speak out against terms that the group says threaten user privacy. Specifically, they say, under the terms negotiated by Newsom, Earthlink and Google are free to track who users are, where they are geographically located and what sites they browse and to store that information for an indefinite period of time. Critics have challenged other details of the plan, including speed requirements, which call for only 300KBPS for a free service and 1MBPS for service that will cost about $20 per month, and the decision to give Earthlink the right to use city light poles for 16 years. Aaron Peskin, the Board of Supervisors President, has recently sought to address many of the complaints by pushing for changes in the plan. Among other things, he wants to boost the speed of the free version to 500KBPS and tighten information Earthlink and Google can collect and store about users. He's also proposed cutting the term of the contract in half, to 8 years. Peskin has emerged as the self-appointed peacemaker between supervisors who have thrown their weight behind the plan and several who have said they won't vote in favor of the plan unless substantial changes are made. "He wants there to be free wireless internet, but he also doesn't want Earthlink and Google to have a monopoly," said Nick Butson-Wedewer, an aide to Peskin. This week promises to be do-or-die time for Peskin. ®
Dan Goodin, 23 Jul 2007
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XenSource ropes Symantec into storage OEM deal

Looking to strengthen its virtualization wares, XenSource has formed an intriguing alliance with Symantec. Announced today, the partnership will see XenSource insert Symantec's Veritas Storage Foundation software into a future version of its core XenEnterprise product. Storage Foundation includes the popular Veritas file system and volume manager, although it's just the volume manager that XenSource is after with the OEM arrangement. The software should give XenSource customers a top-class storage management product to complement XenEnterprise's server slicing functions.
Ashlee Vance, 23 Jul 2007
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Isilon gets thin with phat storage app

Storage vendor Isilon Systems has hopped aboard the thin-provisioning express that's chugging through the industry, adding the sought-after technology to its clustered storage products as a part of today's hardware and software revamp.
Austin Modine, 23 Jul 2007