The FCC has decreed that Americans will have the freedom to connect any device and any application to a prized portion of the country's wireless spectrum. But Google's still grumbling. Today, following the lead of Chairman Kevin Martin, the Federal Communications Commission attached an "open-access requirement" to a portion of the so-called 700-MHz wireless band, due to be auctioned off by the commission early next year. Under new FCC rules, the winner of the auction is required to treat 22 MHz of radio spectrum much like the attach-what-you-want wired internet. Joining forces with various public advocacy groups and companies like Skype, Google has spent the past several weeks urging the FCC to open up the 700-MHz band, a chunk of the U.S radio spectrum recently vacated by TV channels making the switch to digital transmission. Last week, the search giant even announced plans to bid in the upcoming auction, saying it would lay down $4.6bn if the FCC met all of its open-access requirements. Well, the FCC did not comply. Google was lobbying the commission to give users the ability to attach any device and any application to the band, and it's pleased that this requirement is now in place. But Google also demanded a "wholesale condition," which would require the auction winner to resell wireless bandwidth to other businesses, so that they too could offer access to end-users. This is not part of the new auction rules. "In Google's view, the FCC made real but incomplete progress this afternoon on behalf of consumers as it set the rules for the 700MHz auction," said Richard Whitt, Google's Washington telecom and media counsel, during a conference call with reporters. Google and its coalition of public advocates are working to provide consumers with more online choices, arguing that big name telecoms like AT&T and Verizon have too much control over the wireless spectrum as well as the broadband internet market. DSL and cable providers, they argue, control 96 per cent of the country's broadband access, and if the U.S. radio spectrum is opened up, it could give consumers a viable third option. They want an open-access requirement applied to the entire U.S. spectrum - not just the 22MHz portion alloted by the FCC - and they want a wholesale condition in place that can drive competition among providers. "The big opportunity was the wholesale condition," said Ben Scott, Washington policy director for Free Press, another coalition member. "What that would have done is create a wireless broadband market that looked like the dial-up market of the late 90s, where users had hundreds of vendors to choose from." Will Google still bid for the spectrum? With the FCC yet to release the full text for its new rules, the Mountain View outfit won't say one way or the other. "Under the current circumstances, we are going to need some time to carefully study the actual text of the FCC rules, which are due out n a few weeks, before we make any decision about our possible role in the auction," Whitt said. ®
Aussie breast cancer survivor, ex-Neighbours star, and pop princess Kylie Minogue has been comforting Doctor Who star David Tennant following the death of his mother from cancer. According to The Sun, Kylie reassured the cult TV show's current Time Lord by patting him on the back and saying: "I know how you are feeling." The pair had been on the set of the BBC series in Swansea, Wales, filming this year's Christmas special, Voyage Of The Damned in which Kylie appears as a waitress named Astrid. Filming had been delayed a week to give Tennant time to attend his 67-year-old mum's funeral in Scotland. A source on the set told The Sun that "David's mother's funeral was only a few days ago and he is understandably upset. "He needed sympathy on his return to work — and Kylie gave him that." Look, want a techie angle? There's a trailer of the Titantic-themed Christmas special on YouTube. ®
Looks like Google will have to wait at least until 2008, and possibly longer, before it gets search satisfaction from Microsoft on Windows Vista. Microsoft has said it plans nothing more than a beta for its first Windows Vista Services Pack (SP1) for the rest of 2007, and is not giving dates on a final release date.
The Ministry of Defence has announced the supplier for a project to boost its networking capabilities. General Dynamics UK has been selected as a preferred bidder for the assessment phase of the programme to deliver networked information systems to the UK's armed forces. The final contract will be awarded in September 2007.
Alcatel-Lucent released its second quarter financial results Tuesday, showing continuing losses as the telecoms firm struggles with merger costs and reduced sales.
Dublin-listed satellite TV and communications equipment firm Vislink has confirmed the acquisition of the US company Focus Communications for $5.5m.
AnalysisAnalysis Virtualization software will apparently cripple the low-end server market. Analysts and executives came out this week and declared that x86 server shipments will likely decline as VMware, Microsoft and a host of start-ups push their virtualization wares at speed. This thesis du jour centers on the notion that customers will buy fewer low-end systems, since they'll be running more software per box thanks to virtualization technology.
Microsoft has joined a handful of US companies on a government program looking to overhaul financial reporting in the wake of the stock options scandal. The software giant's chief financial officer, Chris Liddell, was today named as a member of the Securities and Exchange Commission's (SEC) Advisory Committee to Financial Reporting, due to convene this Thursday.
There are two observations you can make about most new ideas in computing. Firstly, they usually originate at Xerox's legendary Palo Alto Research Centre (PARC). Secondly, they take 10 years to make the transition from the lab to the real world. Aspect-oriented software development (AOSD) fits the bill on both counts.
What's the best way to tell if you're being given duff whisky? Ask your mobile phone, of course. At least, it is if you're in South Korea. The Korea Times last week reported that the South Korean government intends to crack down on fraudulent whisky sales by making producers put Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) chips in premium bottles. "Starting next year, we plan to recommend local distillers incorporate RFID chips to their 21-year-old whiskey blends," Assistant Minister of Information and Communication Yang Jun-cheol told the Times. "Then people will easily be able to check through their cell phones whether or not any whiskey is genuine. Plus, the tag will show other data like the distiller and the production date," Yang added. This seems like lunacy at first, as the RFID chip would be attached to the bottle not the booze. Unscrupulous bartenders could still siphon off the good stuff and replace it with swill, and their luckless thirsty dupes' attempts to expose them using mobiles would be unavailing. Presumably some crooked retailers, in the habit of putting fake labels on bottles of cheap rotgut, might be frustrated by this ploy. That said, the scoundrels could always use mobiles to find empty tagged bottles in rubbish bins, fill them up again with cheap pop and fool phone-toting connoisseurs with impunity. To be fair to the Koreans, they don't actually seem all that bothered about people who'll buy top-end Scotch but need a mobile phone to tell them whether it's pukka. Twenty-year whisky is being pushed for tagging simply because it's expensive, and so the cost of the RFID tech might be worthwhile. As more chips get made, costs will fall and more products will become eligible. "An RFID chip sold for 2,000 won (£1) in 2004 and the price fell to as low as 300 won (15p) now. However, it is still too expensive to use broadly," Yang said. "The government looks to channel 311.9 billion won (£155m) to 16 RFID-related projects through 2012. This will prompt the shift to RFID," he added. This suggests worrying social implications for this technology. Say you're visiting a friend's house, and he pours you a large gold medal. For whatever reason, you don't see the bottle - perhaps he uses a decanter, perhaps the drinks get brought through from the kitchen. Do you sneakily use your phone to scan his house for RFID tags? Imagine the horror as you taste cheap blended crap in your glass but detect several bottles of aged single malt in the swine's drinks cabinet. And imagine the horrors of the future, once Yang's frightful government schemes have come to fruition and all kinds of stuff is tagged up. Intending merely to spy on your host's liquor supplies, you inadvertently scoop in full details of his afternoon purchases at the marital-aids emporium or the specialist lingerie supplier. Even the famously unbothered-about-privacy Koreans might find they've got a tiger economy by the tail here. The Korea Times report is here.®
The parliamentary committee set up to examine a proposed bill on embryo research recommends the government relax the current ban on hybrid embryos made up of both human and animal genetic material. The hybrid embryos would only be allowed to divide for 14 days for research purposes and not implanted into a womb. The report said it was one of the most contentious areas considered and "one in which many witnesses had opposing, deeply-held views". The Committee was set up to scrutinise the Human Tissue and Embryo (Draft) Bill. It was chaired by Phil Willis MP, and recommends that the current regulators are left to do their job rather than merged into one super regulator. It advises the government allow a free vote on inter-species embryos and that the HTA (Human Tissue Authority) and HFEA(Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority) be left to regulate the area. The bill proposes a merged regulator called the Regulatory Authority for Tissue and Embryos(RATE). The Royal Society, which has campaigned for the use of hybrid embryos for research welcomed the report. Sir Richard Gardner, Chair of the Society's stem cell working group, said: "It is excellent news that the joint committee shares our view that the HFEA and HTA should be kept separate – a merger risks diminishing the expertise to the detriment of both authorities." The Committee also recommends a free vote on the issue of whether birth certificates should include information on whether the birth was due to sperm or egg donation. The report says that since the authorities are likely involved in such an assisted conception they are effectively "colluding in a deception" if that information is not included on certificates. It asks the government to look again at this issue. Gardener said: "It is essential that both the House of Commons and House of Lords are informed of all aspects of the debate on the creation of human-animal embryos prior to the proposed free-vote. Evidence from science organisations, research groups, patient groups and public opinion will be crucial to construct sound legislation." The Committee's report further calls for Parliament set up a joint committee on bioethics to advise politicians in future. On the question of where the public stands on these issues the Committee said: "we are concerned by the unsubstantiated claims made about public opinion and public support and by the lack of evidence provided. Where organisations claim to speak on behalf of the public, they should have a proper research basis to do so that is capable of scrutiny." There's more from the Committee here. ®
A man described as "one of Europe's most notorious music pirates" has pleaded guilty to selling bootlegged recordings of Led Zeppelin gigs after a Glasgow court heard evidence for legendary guitarist Jimmy Page.
ExclusiveExclusive Evesham Technology's founder and chairman Richard Austin became director of a newly created firm with links to TimeUK late last month, The Register has learned.
ReviewReview One word can describe the Alienware Area-51 m9750: big. It's as if the person designing it thought they were in Burger King and decided to Go Large at every opportunity. It's got two hard drives, two graphics cards, two processor cores and a whopping 17in screen. There's another thing that's big about the m9750 - its price.
Atos Origin's UK arm is a drag on the firm’s recovery, interim results released today show.
A faction within NASA are proposing a disaster-movie-esque manned space mission to an asteroid on a trajectory close to Earth, it has been revealed. Space.com reports that the new generation of "Constellation" manned spacecraft, with which NASA plans to replace the venerable space shuttle fleet, could be used. Constellation represents a return to old-school stacked rocket boosters, not unlike the famous Apollo craft which took men to the Moon in the 1960s and 70s. Constellation, with its Orion crew module, is currently planned to lift astronauts to the International Space Station and then to the Moon again. Following that, President Bush has said America should send humans to Mars. But, apparently, there are those at NASA who feel that the jump from Moon to Mars is too big to make in a oner. They suggest that the space agency should first attempt an easier and shorter trip, to a so-called Near Earth Object (NEO). This would be between the Moon and Mars missions in length and technical difficulty, giving NASA a chance to learn on the job. The scheme was advocated publicly by NASA's Paul Abell earlier this year. The plan might also confer other benefits. NEOs are seen as a potential threat to humanity. If a sufficiently large one should appear on an orbit intersecting that of Earth, the potential exists for an Armageddon or Deep Impact style disaster - even the extinction of the human race. At present, there are no NEOs known to present a threat. However, some contend that it makes sense to learn about them now. This could, of course, be done with robotic probes, but given that NASA plans to send people to Mars anyway it could make sense to use an NEO-probe mission as a stepping stone. The spacecraft could also conduct research which might be of use in future attempts to deal with dangerous emergent NEOs, killing two stones with one bird as it were. Harrison Schmitt, former Apollo astronaut and chairman of the NASA Advisory Council, spoke to Space.com's Leonard David. "I think examination of a NEO mission and the development of the stand-by monitoring systems, plans, protocols and procedures for the diversion of a potentially Earth-impacting asteroid would be very prudent activity for the US to undertake," he said. Schmitt also suggested that Earth defence would be the primary motivation for the mission; asteroids were interesting scientifically, of course, but not that interesting. There is also the argument that asteroids could be a useful source of materials and resources for future space platforms and colonies. Hauling stuff up out of Earth's gravity is prohibitively expensive for most purposes at present, and may never become cheap. It could make sense for astronauts of the future to start mining their own fuel and materials as soon as possible, in order to save on transport costs. Again, however, this may have to wait. But a killer asteroid or comet strike may not be something that can be put off. NASA chief Mike Griffin said last year: "Our species hasn't been around long enough to have experienced a cataclysmic extinction event. But they will occur again, whether we are ready for them or not." As it stands, NASA's Constellation/Orion wouldn't be up to a Bruce Willis or Robert Duvall style NEO-busting visit. It would need more propulsion and living space. Lockheed Martin, builders of the Constellation system, reckon this could be accomplished with "block upgrades" in future, but didn't go into costs. It has to be noted, however, that NASA has no mandate to carry out asteroid defence. Under President Bush's "vision for space exploration", it is largely limited to a research role. The space agency's Washington rivals for government cash might well resist anything that might be seen as NASA pushing for a budget increase. Perhaps aptly, NASA advocates of a manned NEO mission are dubbed "NEOphytes" by Space.com, whose writeup is here. ®
A US man who sent out pornographic spam while driving around Venice, California, has escaped imprisonment for his misdeeds.
Carphone Warehouse has tapped sports broadcasting upstart Setanta in an attempt to kybosh BT's big Premiership football push for its Vision IPTV service. Throughout August, new and existing TalkTalk broadband customers are offered a free Freeview box with two months' free Setanta subscription, after which it costs £9.99 per month on an 18-month contract. The Irish broadcaster has rights to 46 live English Premiership, and 60 Scottish Premier League matches this season. Until now, Carphone Warehouse has pooh-poohed other broadband providers' charge into TV. This is the first time it has become embroiled in content delivery, and a spokesman did not rule out more deals in future. BT is setting the pace among the big three ISPs, retaking the subscriber lead from Virgin and beating the drum for providing services on top of the basic broadband line, in contrast to Carphone's bargain basement "free" strategy. It has begun a big football-based marketing push for Vision, in the knowledge that rights to Premiership football played a big part in the eventual success of satellite broadcasting. As well as the same £9.99 Setanta package as TalkTalk, BT's standard £4 per month Vision Sports package includes 242 "near live" Premiership games (or £1.99 a pop on pay-per-view). BT's current TV advertising campaign for Vision Sports again features that boss-eyed stringbean off My Family and his very modern domestic setup. They're like the Gold Blend couple for the new millennium, but with divorce, kids who have two dads, and ADSL. ®
Private equity group Terra Firma has succeeded in its bid to buy music giant EMI after 90.3 per cent of shareholders backed its £2.4bn offer. Terra Firma was granted a series of deadlines, the fifth of which expired today at 1pm (GMT), to achieve the 90 per cent shareholder threshold required to secure the deal. Shareholders accepted an offer of 265 pence a share to allow Terra Firma to bag the music firm, which has the likes of Coldplay, Joss Stone, and Lilly Allen on its books. EMI first agreed an offer from Guy Hands, who heads up the British private equity firm, on 21 May when rival Warner Music Group (WMG) was still in the picture as a likely bidder for the firm. However, following its long-term desire to swallow up EMI, WMG finally backed out last month declaring that it could not justify a hefty counter bid against Terra Firma to stay in the race. EMI was said to have always preferred being bought out by a private equity company rather than by one of the other so-called Big Four music firms. Terra Firma will undoubtedly be keen to turn the prospects of the troubled music giant around. EMI has been in financial free fall reporting a £265m loss in May this year, citing disappointing album sales. ®
A British company is aiming to stake a claim on some of the New World of online video's unexplored territory with Selfcast, a website and application that allow people to broadcast live to an unlimited audience using a bog standard broadband connection.
In the supermarket game, one-upmanship is common and anything one chain does is invariably imitated by others. So following the launch of a Medion 17in dual-core notebook at Sainsbury’s stores, Tesco has begun offering a Medion desktop PC for around the same price.
Symantec is rolling out its next generation of storage resource management software today, with Veritas CommandCentral 5.0. The company says the update is a key component of its Storage United initiative and vision of running storage as a service. The Veritas CommandCentral 5.0 line includes CommandCentral Storage 5.0, CommandCentral Enterprise Reporter 5.0 and Veritas Process Automation Manager 5.0. If you aren't following the pattern, it's all 5.0.
Dreamweaver CS3 is the first release of the powerful web design program since Adobe acquired Macromedia. It now forms part of the larger Creative Suite package and offers a host of new features as well as promising to increase efficiency in all areas of website development. Of course, with the release of a new edition of software, with its improvements and never-before seen features, you're going to want the low-down on how to get the best out of your application quickly.
UpdatedUpdated Nvidia is gaining market share on both AMD and Intel within the graphics market, according to analyst firm Jon Peddie Research (JPR). However, all three vendors maintained their dominance to remain at the top of the tree during the second quarter of 2007.
Desperate Kiwi farmers, struggling for ways to get rid of poisonous dairy waste products, have found a way to turn them into biofuel. Stuff.co.nz reports today that New Zealand oil firm Gull has launched it's "Force 10" fuel, a blend of ordinary petrol and 10 per cent "ethanol made from milk". The ethanol in Force 10 is produced by Anchor Ethanol, a subsidiary of dairy colossus Fonterra. "We are serious about providing motorists with real choice and leading the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions," NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark was quoted as saying. Gull manager Dave Bodger told Stuff: "If there's no downside for the choice, middle New Zealand will go for the green option." Gull Petroleum chief executive Wayne Ferrell apparently added that petrol with the bio-ethanol additive would not only lower greenhouse gas emissions but would give motorists more power and a higher performance. All that seems a wee bit counter-intuitive. There are those who'd argue that even bio-ethanol made from plants doesn't actually reduce carbon emissions overall. And cattle are usually thought to be a serious carbon burden. Using cows to turn biomass into milk and then making ethanol out of the milk seems extremely unlikely to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, however, that isn't what's happening. No new dairy herds will appear as a result of the Kiwi latte-petrol push. According to the New Zealand Institute of Chemistry (pdf), Anchor Ethanol produces its alcohol from whey, a troublesome byproduct of the dairy industry. The dairy industry is huge in New Zealand, and Anchor Ethanol's parent company Fonterra is always trying to make it huger. It invented "Riccocino, the world's first microwaveable frothed-milk coffee", for instance, after Fonterra scientists "noticed that overheating chocolate ice cream resulted in a foamy, hot liquid". Fonterra also proudly takes credit for "Chesdale chocolate cheese slices". All this cutting-edge dairy goodness results in a lot of whey. "The disposal of whey is a worldwide problem," say the NZ chemistry boffins. "Large quantities of whey are produced as a by-product... this must be disposed of or processed in an environmentally acceptable way... [It] can quickly deplete oxygen levels in natural water systems..." Just pouring the stuff into rivers or oceans won't do: all the fish would die. So the Kiwi cow-boffins brought in new technology. "The technology to process deproteinated whey into ethyl alcohol was developed in Europe about 20 years ago," apparently, "and was purchased from Ireland by the Anchor Ethanol Company in the late 1970s... New Zealand now produces much more ethanol than is needed." This is despite some amazing ingenuity in fobbing the stuff off on people. New Zealand industry can turn milk and cheese byproduct into meths, white spirit, deodorant, hairspray, cosmetics, paint, ink, industrial solvent and - of course - beverages, including "vodka, rum etc". Oh, and "top quality perfume". But even with the Kiwis and "markets as diverse as Sri Lanka and Japan" using as much cheese-based perfume and rum as they could stand, it seems there was still ethanol left over. So now they're burning the stuff in their cars. It's fairly hard to say, as NZ Prime Minister Clark does, that this is a case of New Zealand "leading the way in reducing greenhouse gas emissions", the more so as the whey distilleries use quite a lot of hot steam, presumably generated by burning fossil fuel as in other biofuel plants worldwide. It probably wouldn't have sounded as good, though, for Clark to say that Kiwis are clearing up the poisonous slurry produced by their booming chocolate-cheese-slice industry. ®
If you’re sitting at your desk, staring out of the window and wishing you were running around in the sun, spare a thought for one Microsoft employee who will soon be doing just that. Permanently. The japester appears to have used an internal Microsoft website to direct, well, just about anyone to this re-reinterpretation of Steve Ballmer’s infamous monkeyboy dance. Or is it a re-reinterpetation of Apple's iPod advertising campaign? In these mashed-up days, it's hard to tell. As our informant says, “Who says Microsoft "ain't down" with the web2.0 kids.” Well, the Web 2.0 kids for a start probably. Just for added August-ness, the same page throws up this: Which should be a joke, but feels just a little too real for our comfort. ® Bootnote Thanks to Reg reader Richard for the tip off.
The NFC Forum, responsible for the Near Field Communications standard, has released specifications for the four different kinds of tag making up the NFC standard, and three of them might seem strangely familiar.
Working outside of a‘normal’ comfy office can be risky for a laptop, with lots of potential dangers to consider. Manufacturer Getac takes this possibility seriously and has unveiled a ruggedized tablet PC, which it claims can withstand the rigours of even extreme environments.
DefconDefcon It's almost time for Defcon, the most bacchanal of security conferences and perhaps the single largest gathering of technically adept pranksters. Now is the perfect time to map out a strategy for keeping emails private and making sure your system doesn't get ransacked by the scowling kid with the nose ring and jet-black hair.
Apple pushed out a raft of security updates for its much hyped iPhone on Tuesday. Availability of the first iPhone patches comes just ahead of a planned presentation of problems with the phone's software due to take place at the Black Hat conference in Vegas on Thursday. Apple also updated its desktop software.
The days when folk owned HD displays but didn’t make much use of them, because of expensive peripherals or satellite subscription costs... could be over. Hauppauge Digital has created an HD TV tuner card that picks up free-to-air HD channels.
The US government has tapped 29 companies to be eligible for a $50bn, 10-year grab-bag of information technology contracts. The deal, known as Alliant, is a government-wide acquisition contract that provides agencies with a pool of IT providers to choose from. It's now up to the 29 contractors to compete amongst themselves to win individual contracts. Agencies will submit orders to the Alliant program, and the vendors can bid on them. Alliant contractors can be removed or added to the list over the 10-year course.
An AOL sportsbook? Watch out, NBA. The slow encroachment of American internet behemoths on the European gambling market crept onward again last week, with a partnership between German gambling company FLUXX and AOL to market a sportsbook in the UK. The two companies already have a similar arrangement offering lotteries in Germany, which dates from 2003 and which apparently is one of the most successful ecommerce products offered by AOL Germany. Many in the European igaming industry bemoaned the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) as much for its long term impact as a weapon of American economic domination as for its hypocrisy and short term impact on operations, travel, revenue, etc. It was widely viewed as a kind of Trojan horse that would allow American gambling giants such as MGM-Mirage to engorge themselves on undervalued and financially weakened European competitors. The actual fallout has been somewhat different. Sands did partner up with Cantor, but the real Trojan horse seems to be the powerhouse portals such as Yahoo! and AOL, which at least have the potential to leverage enormous site traffic, deep pockets and established casual gaming platforms with nearly universal brand recognition into dominant positions in an overly fragmented internet gambling market. Yahoo! has been offering money poker games on its UK website for several months now. AOL is taking it one step further. Debates about poker and skill gaming aside, the one form of gambling explicitly verboten under the Wire Act is bookmaking, that old standby of the American mob. As such, the new partnership will not take action from American players. But it is clear that major American media companies see online gaming in all its guises as a lucrative new frontier, albeit one they don't broadcast to stateside media. The Cheney administration will not be around forever, and everyone wants a discreet foothold. Sportsbooks have their own unique skill sets and ethical issues, which is why AOL chose to partner up with an experienced handicapper. Unlike roulette or slots, where the house knows that over the long term it will collect a certain percentage as rake, if a sportsbook makes an error in judgment, it can take a serious hit. Sportsbooks haven't really changed from the green visor era - it really is people in a back room going over past statistics, as it always was. As the NBA is painfully aware, problems with the human element may extend to the game itself. It could well be that media conglomerates have more to offer the online gambling world than "bricks and mortar" casinos do. Partnerships can turn into acquisitions once a company feels it has sufficient expertise in a new endeavor, and the online gambling industry is ripe for consolidation. Of course, this is AOL we're talking about, the company that squandered $200bn in market capitalization after its last tie-up. Maybe the European gambling firms don't have much to worry about after all.® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Action Engine: self-styled leaders in the On-Device Portal business, has squeezed their investors for another $20m, bringing the total to $75m the past seven years. Quite how Baker Capital, Northwest Venture Associates and The Spangler Group intend to make back their investment isn't clear, but company CEO Scott Silk must have had a pretty compelling story to tell. Action Engine makes software for adding branding to mobile phones: local applications which give users quick access to premium content and present a prettier interface than would be possible with HTML, or even AJAX. Customers include MSNBC and TiVo, but the field is competitive with companies such as Surf Kitchen, Abaxia, Cibenix, Onskreen and even Qualcomm offering similar products to the same small group of customers. The latest investment round should see the company funded for another 12 months, so it is likely that it expects a big win during that time; perhaps a revenue-share model with an operator which would take time to pay off. The on-device portal business is overcrowded with too many suppliers chasing too few customers; it seems unlikely that everyone is going to survive the next few years. Action Engine has worked hard to raise its profile in the industry, so failure could easily knock confidence in the whole business model. ®
A bungled upgrade at UK payment processing firm Protx left thousands of online merchants unable to take payments on Wednesday. Reg readers reported that they've being unable to process payments since 0600 BST at a result of the SNAFU. Two report being unable to reach the firm by either phone or email in an attempt to resolve the problem.
IBM loves to put a new spin on the mainframe to keep the legacy platform looking fresh and the doomsayers at bay. And now-a-days nothing makes a technology look brand-new than a fresh coat of green. In the first move since announcing the $1bn Project Big Green initiative in May, IBM plans to make good on its eco-friendly promise by replacing a fleet of small servers with a mere flotilla of refrigerator-sized mainframes.
Microsoft will test a free, "ad-funded" version of its Works productivity suite with selected PC manufacturers this year, in another attempt to size up on-demand services. The pilot program will rollout during the next few months and continue into the middle of next year, Microsoft told The Register.
Within ten years, virtual worlds will be bigger than the Web itself. So says Philip Rosedale, the man who invented Second Life. Speaking at the Stanford Summit, an annual tech industry conference, the Linden Lab CEO predicted that a completely-open virtual world architecture – much like the one he’s touting for Second Life - would result in an online alternate universe several times larger than today’s internet. ”In ten years, virtual access will be more prevalent than web access,” he said, evangelizing alongside several other virtual world mavens, including the godfather of alternate reality, Berkeley scholar-in-residence Jaron Lanier. Considering the massive amounts of computing power required by these 3D worlds, Rosedale’s future virtual landscape would sit atop a hardware infrastructure that makes Google’s network of servers look piddling. “Google now has about 100 thousand machines,” he said. “In ten years, virtual worlds will have hundreds of millions.” But that was hardly the boldest prediction of the morning. Craig Sherman, CEO of Gaia Online, said that within “two or three years,” an alternative online universe like Second Life would provide real-time 3D graphics rivaling the digital effects in today’s Hollywood blockbusters. “You’ll see the kinda stuff that Transformers is doing today,” he said. Meanwhile, IBM vice president Irving Wladawsky-Berger and Sun Microsystem’s in-house virtual world guru, chief gaming officer Chris Melissinos, lauded Second Life as an important tool not only for consumers but for big business, as Sun and IBM have said for for months now. Then he pointed out that his home is equipped with 42 gaming consoles. [Wow, Wladawsky-Berger, Mellissinos and Rosedale in one room. I feel less productive just reading about the event - Ed] As you might expect, Lanier is no less bullish about the future of Second Life and other virtual worlds. He’s spent the past twenty years talking up alternate realities. “I still believe all the ridiculous stuff I said so long ago,” he explained. But when he asked Mellissinos and Wladawsky-Berger how companies like IBM and Sun could actually generate money from Second Life, they couldn’t give him much of an answer. Wladawsky-Berger said that, just like the web of the mid 90s, virtual worlds would boost IBM revenue by “significantly expanding” the number of people who use IT. “The more people who use IT, the more money we make,” he said. Lanier was quick with an attempt to paraphrase this argument: “So if more people use software, it’s more likely it is to break, and they’re more likely to need consultants like IBM?” In the end, all Lanier could do was cling to the notion that the world’s population – that’s the real world - could support itself by selling computer graphics. “In 25 years, robotics will be so good, we’ll have no more manufacturing jobs. Software will be so good, there will be no more consulting jobs. But we will all get rich buying and selling virtual goods.” Pointing to his fellow speakers, he added: “In my opinion, all of you are saving civilization.” Gulp. ®
Supercomputing start-up SiCortex has bought PathScale's compiler business - software and people included - from QLogic. SiCortex will be unfamiliar to many of you. It's a start-up putting out a novel high performance computing design that combines close to 6,000 MIPS cores in a single system. The company has placed a major emphasis on lower power consumption while improving the internal communications of its box. Software, of course, stands as a key component of the SiCortex systems, and now the company has acquired one of the best compiler suites. PathScale used to rely on its compiler line to pay the bills before the company was purchased by QLogic, which appears content with selling PathScale's networking gear rather than code. SiCortex will gain access to PathScale's C, C++ and Fortran 95 compilers aimed at 64-bit Linux-based boxes. The compilers have optimizations for x86 and MIPS64 chips. The SiCortex systems run on a modified version of Gentoo Linux. It looks like SiCortex will let the PathScale team keep working on the x86-focused software, which is especially good news for AMD. Customers today need to pick from GCC, PGI, Intel, Sun or Pathscale compilers for Opteron-based boxes. SiCortex is expected to announce the delivery of its first commercial systems any day now. ®