13th > August > 2007 Archive

1

Moto Razr² debuts in US... almost

US mobile phone networks have taken delivery of Motorola's latest Razr handset - the slightly-skinnier-than-the-original Razr² - the phone maker claimed late last week. Putting it on sale to punters may take a little longer.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007

Fujitsu Siemens to drop PDA, GPS gadgets

Fujitsu Siemens is to pull out of the PDA and GPS business by the end of the year to focus its mobile computing efforts on notebooks and tablets, the company admitted last week.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007

Intel cans last Pentium 4s, Ds

Intel has marked more of its old, pre-Core desktop processors for the chop, including the remaining, 65nm Pentium 4s and the last Pentium Ds.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007

Nvidia MCP73 'to debut 25 September'

Nvidia's anticipated next-gen Intel-oriented desktop chipsets - codenamed 'MCP73' - will debut on 25 September, it has been claimed by Far Eastern sources.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007
3

First two AMD 'Barcelonas' due 10 September?

AMD's first 'Barcelona' processors - a pair of chips for two-slot machines - will appear on 10 September, it has been alleged by server-maker sources. A further chip will be launched in October, they say.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007
27

Total world Wii sales close in on Xbox 360 tally

Nintendo's Wii is nearing the Xbox 360's cumulative sales total, despite the year-long availability advantage enjoyed by the Microsoft games consoles. New figures put the Wii at 10.10m units sold to date worldwide, just behind the 360's 10.32m.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007
7

Vodafone turns to eBay for handset supplies

Vodafone UK is hunting eBay for obsolete handsets that support its Textphone service for the deaf. British telephone companies are required to provide services for deaf customers, who generally use a keyboard to type text messages. Text- and instant messaging have mitigated the need to an extent, but seeing every key typed is a better communication experience, according to the RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf people). Vodafone's service uses software provided by the RNID running on Nokia's Communicator 9210. The problem is that Nokia doesn't make the 9210 any more. And while rival networks use two-device solutions, Vodafone is forced to source Communicators from anywhere they can, including eBay, until it comes up with something better. A Vodafone spokeswoman told us: "We buy Communicators secondhand from a variety of sources, including eBay, and clean them up for our customers." So what identity does Vodafone using when bidding? We invite our readers to spot the Vodafone agent: not easy amongst the hordes trying to get that year-2000 technology. ®
Bill Ray, 13 Aug 2007
9

Fujitsu creates readable, writeable 'nanohole' hard drive

Fujitsu's scheme to produce hard drives that can hold a terabyte of data in each square inch of recording surface has taken a step closer to realisation. It has made a 2.5in disk made of its proposed 'patterned medium' and verified the disc's read/write capability.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007
globalisation
6

IT bosses: directors don't take security seriously

Most IT managers believe that while their board-level superiors pay lip service to compliance and security, they don't really take it seriously, according to a survey carried out for software developer NetIQ.
Bryan Betts, 13 Aug 2007
Recycle sign
28

Council employs automatic PC shutdown

A council is expecting to save money and reduce carbon emissions after installing software that closes down PCs left on overnight. Peterborough City Council has deployed software to automatically turn off computers left on during evenings and weekends.
Kablenet, 13 Aug 2007
BT
16

Silent bandwidth battles at BT

ColumnColumn We could have a nice little fight building up (in a quasi military sense, too) between BT and the armed forces, because of BT's "secret" plans to close down its legacy ISDN digital network. The reason it's military, sort of, is that BT is still full of soldiers.
Guy Kewney, 13 Aug 2007
16

Halo 3 hits one million pre-orders

Halo 3 has reached one million pre-orders in North America alone, making it the fastest selling pre-ordered game in history. Over a month before it's set to hit shelves, the eagerly-awaited title has set a new precedent for the video games market, according to Microsoft.
Cian Ginty, 13 Aug 2007
channel
20

Net bride Aussie kidnapped in Mali

An Australian farmer who thought he'd found his perfect soulmate online got a nasty surprise when he travelled to Mali to meet his fiancée - a reception committee of "machete-armed bandits" who held him for almost two weeks demanding an AU$100,000 ransom.
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2007
5

Future looks bright for video ads

The revolution will be televised but you'll have to sit through the ads first.
Emmet Ryan, 13 Aug 2007
2

Virgin Media to mount French invasion

Virgin Media looks set to expand into continental Europe, despite difficulties with its UK operation. According to The Times, the Virgin Group, which controls the Virgin Media brand, is in talks with French cable company Numéricable to license the name. Numéricable is France's largest cable operator, covering about nine million households, and currently offers a triple-play of broadband, TV, and and fixed line phone. Virgin Mobile launched in France in 2005 using Orange's network and would presumably be rolled in to bundling deals. After its ritzy rebrand last year, the Branson halo effect on NTL:Telewest has been dimmed on this side of the Channel by continuing disappointing results, the dispute with BSkyB, and boardroom wrangling over a private equity sellout. An auction has been put on hold indefinitely over jitters in the debt markets which power private equity deals. The Virgin Group is staying schtum about its European plans. ®
Christopher Williams, 13 Aug 2007
64

Peterborough bloke warned over 'offensive' t-shirt

A Peterborough forklift driver who threatened to undermine law and order in the former Roman city by wearing a t-shirt declaring "Don't piss me off! I am running out of places to hide the bodies" has been warned he'll cop an 80 quid fine if caught again wearing the offending apparel. The suitably-monikered David Pratt was collared by street wardens as he and his missus waited for a bus, the BBC reports. They told him the shirt "could cause offence or incite violence", and issued a verbal warning. Pratt is having none of it, and is demanding a written apology. He said: "I really don't see how the wording on my t-shirt could incite violence - it's humour, that's all it is." Peterborough City Council countered with a statement which read: "The incident is the subject of an official complaint to the council and is currently under investigation. However, using offensive, abusive, or insulting language is an offence under the Public Order Act, which also applies to such language appearing in print. "In what was an amicable conversation, the street warden advised the gentleman concerned that his t-shirt could cause offence and if he was to wear it again he could run the risk of being issued an £80 on-the-spot fine from the police." ®
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2007
1

Next generation business intelligence

Various research projects have shown that business intelligence (BI) continues to be one of the top investment priorities for CIOs. But what is changing is its shift in focus from complex tools for a few users to more flexible, affordable and accessible tools for a larger audience.
Louella Fernandes, 13 Aug 2007
19

Spammers debut FDF spam

Spammers have begun experimenting with a new file format as part of their ongoing quest to slip their tiresome messages past junk mail filters.
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2007
17

iPhone thumb trim hoax gets online media buy-in

Claims that Thomas Martel, 28, of Bonnie Brae had his over-sized thumbs "whittled" to make using his iPhone easier have turned out to be a marvellous hoax perpetrated by the North Denver News, though one that fooled many online news sources. Despite the story being littered with clues - references to muscle alterations in the thumb, despite there being no muscles in the tip, and the fact that such surgery would take longer than the iPhone has been around - it hasn't stopped speculation on the motives and stupidity of the fictional Mr Martel, and widespread reporting of the story. It's true that the QWERTY keyboard is an abomination which should have gone the way of the washboard decades ago - but for the conservative nature of computer users it would have done, and to see it reproduced in miniature on a touch-screen when so many better alternatives exist, beggars belief - but as far as we are aware no human has yet modified themselves to be able to use one. We'll let you know if we hear of such a thing, but for the moment thumbs up to the North Denver News for such a believable fantasy. We wish we'd thought of it first. ®
Bill Ray, 13 Aug 2007
25

Cops taser crap-smeared Oz clubber

An Oz clubber who decided it was a really bright idea to smear himself with faeces and blood in protest at being ejected from a Gold Coast nightclub earned himself a solid tasering for his trouble, the Sydney Morning Herald reports. The unnamed 34-year-old Brisbane man was thrown out of the establishment in Surfers Paradise in the early hours of Sunday morning. Bouncers alerted the cops when he allegedly assaulted a security guard, but by the time the Boys in Blue showed up he'd stripped and launched his dirty protest. When he refused to co-operate, officers shocked him into submission. He's now due to appear before the beak on 27 August on bodily harm and obstructing police raps. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2007
9

Boots, House of Fraser not renewing IT director posts

CommentComment Initial reaction to the fact that two sizable retailers are not renewing their outgoing IT director posts could easily be "short sighted mistake". It's easy to see why they might be doing this though. The retail refresh cycle has seen many retailers catching up on 15 years of under investment. Many may have little appetite for much more, and so a sense of "thanks we'll take it from here/use what we have/try to keep a lid on costs by giving overall responsibility to the CFO", is not surprising.
Martin Atherton, 13 Aug 2007
14

NASA examining Shuttle's dings, extending mission

Mission controllers at NASA are inspecting some damage to the shuttle Endeavour's heat shield sustained during the "flawless" launch last week. Before docking with the International Space Station (ISS), the shuttle performed a now-routine flip to allow the ground crew at mission control to inspect the craft for damage. The eagle-eyed boffins spotted five dings in the insulating tiles. Damage to Endeavour's heat shield. Credit: NASA Four of the five have been deemed unlikely to pose a threat to the shuttle during re-entry, but one is suspect. Now Endeavour's crew is taking a closer look to determine the exact size of the void. This data will be used to work out whether or not the shuttle can withstand the furious heat of reentry without undergoing repairs. NASA says nine pieces of foam broke away from the fuel tanks as the shuttle launched. Managers think one of these may have hit the tiles as it fell away, causing the damage. NASA has also elected to extend Endeavour's mission to 14 days, only possible because the shuttle has been drawing power from the space station for the last five days. The extra time means the crew will be able to add a fourth spacewalk to their schedule (not including any possible excursion for repairs). The astronauts will install equipment used to stow the Orbiter Boom Sensor System at the station between shuttle flights. Mission specialists Rick Mastracchio and Dave Williams are scheduled to take the second space walk of the mission today (10:30am, CDT), during which they will replace a control moment gyroscope that was shut down when it failed in October last year. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Aug 2007
2

Blue Note label to offer downloads'n'social on web

Jazz and blues record label Blue Note plans to revamp its website from later this month, transforming it from a regular corporate front window to a combined social network and music download shop. The move could be seen as flying in the face of conventional marketing wisdom. Jazz fanciers are assumed to spend their music-buying time grubbing for vinyl in backstreet shops, getting dust all over their berets and corduroy jackets with elbow patches. But Blue Note says it isn't so. Perhaps theorising that many jazz buffs have now been bought iPods by their children, they want to see the hardware brought into play: rather than lying unused in a drawer while the 78 LPs spin on the whirl'n'crackle. "[Wrinkly technophobes] need to be brought into the fold," Blue Note general manager Zach Hochkeppel told Reuters on Friday. And Blue Note, the record label that's old-school as opposed to old-skool, reckons it's the one to do it. Its current website has a "Buy" option for a lot of the Blue Note catalogue, but this merely directs you to Amazon to buy a CD. But soon you'll be able to get paid downloads, not to mention unspecified "social networking" features. Blue Note wants to push this hard. "No marketing and no attention is usually paid to an older demographic," according to Hochkeppel. "They're sort of ignored and neglected by media in general. Youth is always the first and foremost target." But those pesky kids don't have any money, whereas lifespan-challenged aficionados of mellow funk have loads, apparently. And having got a bit old for other beatnik consumer goods - high-tar French cigs, absinthe, etc - the grey goatee mob like spending it on music. "It's a tiny fraction [of digital music buyers], but they're people who buy a massive amount of music," Hochkeppel said. Still, there's some risk that if the oldsters realise they could simply rip their existing vast collections of records and CDs to hard disk, they might just do that - rather than buying all their music yet again. That generation has in some cases bought a lot of its music on three different formats already. But Blue Note isn't alone in hoping to mulct the wrinklies yet again. As Reuters notes, Universal Music has been doing this since January. ®
Lewis Page, 13 Aug 2007
51

ISPs hijack BBC in tiered services push

Cash-strapped ISPs have begun a campaign to use the launch of the BBC's iPlayer on demand service to squeeze more cash from web TV viewers. The iPlayer is still in beta and due to be fully launched in autumn. It expects to have 500,000 users before the big marketing push. Tiscali seems to have been appointed mouthpiece for the ISPs' opening gambit, with comments in Sunday's Independent and the Financial Times today. Chief exec Mary Turner said: "The internet was not set up with a view to distributing video. We have been improving our capacity, but the bandwidth we have is not infinite." BT and Carphone Warehouse have also been named as part of the gang. It's the same old argument used by internet carriers who don't like carrying new internet services, but margins are tighter than ever and the stakes are higher. The BBC is a less elusive and TV a more mainstream fillip than newsgroups, BitTorrent, or VoIP. The certain outcry if the BBC started paying carriers direct means the play for industry is to raise the spectre of being forced to tightly control access to video to stay solvent. ISPs can then create the impression of adding value with premium video packages and make their businesses slightly more viable. The twin ISP marketing conceits of higher speeds and falling price have been looking increasingly anachronistic, and harmed the industry's reputation in the last year. The move is among the first public attempts in the UK by carriers to corral subscribers into this kind of bandwidth protection pen. Traffic shaping hardware makes it possible for ISPs to deprioritise the hybrid peer-to-peer/streaming distribution systems that iPlayer, Joost, 4OD, and other new services rely on to be anywhere near watchable. The BBC is maintaining that it is working closely with ISPs to ensure a smooth roll-out for iPlayer. It is limiting how many beta testers are able to access the service while it monitors network performance.®
Christopher Williams, 13 Aug 2007

Build up to UK Xbox 360 Elite launch...

Register Hardware presents a round-up of all the recent news and events related to the imminent UK launch of the Xbox 360 Elite on Friday 24 August...
Register Hardware, 13 Aug 2007
Warning: two way

Game shares bounce as competition probe launches

Game saw its share price fall by more than 15 per cent last Friday following a watchdog's decision to probe the video game retailer's purchase of Gamestation. By this morning, however, Game's fortunes had revived after Goldman Sachs recommended the stock to investors, though it revised its target price for the shares, down 0.11p to 219p.
Kelly Fiveash, 13 Aug 2007
25

Drunken German joyrider totals 300 chickens

A 17-year-old German joyrider faces a legal plucking after provoking the death of 300 chickens by crashing a van into their Kassel abode, Reuters reports. The unnamed perp apparently took the vehicle from a fairground where he was staying and piled it into the nearby chicken shed containing 1,000 birds. A police spokesman explained: "Apparently some of the chickens were so desperate to get away that they ran into the wall and died. Others suffered heart attacks." The youth was later arrested back at the fairground, presumably on TDA and poultrycide raps. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2007
1

Veoh files pre-emptive copyright lawsuit

Video sharing site Veoh Networks has filed a pre-emptive lawsuit against Universal Music Group (UMG), requesting that the courts prevent UMG from suing it for copyright infringement. Veoh has copyright infringing material aplenty on its site, but argues that it's entitled to "safe harbour" provisions because it doesn't encourage infringement (although it hardly needs to) and it helps monitor infringement (but not very well). UMG, the world's biggest record company, struck a deal with Google's YouTube service last year after first threatening to sue it. Google has said YouTube will introduce software that identifies copyright infringement next month. AT&T has vowed to fight infringement too, using deep packet inspection to root out P2P sharers. All are moves which weaken the "safe harbour" defence - hence Veoh's desire to see the principle (which doesn't really apply in many jurisdictions outside the US) strengthened. However, even in the land of the frivolous lawsuit, the courts are unlikely to favour a case that restricts the enforcement of property rights. And lawyers, who can rarely agree on anything, will be united in their view that more lawsuits are undoubtedly a good thing for everyone. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Aug 2007
10

US punters gobbling up mobile data

The US is consuming vast amounts of mobile data and, unlike Europe, it's not all SMS messaging, according to a report from consultants Chetan Sharma. Between April and June this year, the US wireless business made $5.85bn from data, an increase of seven per cent on the same period last year, and contributing nearly 17 per cent to total revenues. In the UK, operators like data to be about 20 per cent of revenue, with some aiming for 25 per cent, but they always include SMS revenues in that figure, making it hard to establish just how many punters are really using the whiz-bang mobile data services. In the US, around half of the data revenue is coming from new data services. T-Mobile, for example, is getting 53 per cent of its data revenue from non-messaging services. The increase in data revenue is essential as voice is basically static in developed markets - you can encourage customers to make more calls, but as rates drop you don't generally make more money. In the US, voice ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) is up only one per cent since last year, while data has increased by eight per cent. The US has long been seen to be lagging behind Europe in mobile, and in many areas that's still true, but these figures indicate that any lead Europe still maintains isn't going to last long. ®
Bill Ray, 13 Aug 2007
8

US Customs gets kill-droids for Caribbean

The US Customs service has announced plans to acquire a fleet of five tonne flying death droids, to supplement its already terrifying arsenal of all-seeing "Eye of Sauron" Wi-Fi radar towers, handheld puke rayguns, and airport mind-probes. Flight International reported on Saturday that the American bag-rummagers would acquire two "Predator-B" robot aircraft. The Predator-B is already in service with the US Air Force, under the perhaps more accurate name "Reaper". The Reaper is designated as an "unmanned hunter/killer system". It can lift almost two tonnes of ordnance - which can mean up to 14 Hellfire missiles, each capable of blasting a booze-cruise minibus full of illicit cheap plonk to wreckage. To be fair, there are no indications that US Customs plans to take any such firm line with any huddled masses, recreational-chemicals importers, etc. It's probably more interested in using its new Predator-Bs as an eye in the sky. Reaper radars can scan 60 square km each minute, picking out any moving object larger than a metre. Moving targets can then get a closer stare at 10cm resolution, or be imaged using the "multi-spectral" scopes. That could make life very hard for would-be Americans south of the Mexican border. And the Customs lads have plans for the Caribbean, as well. They intend to trial a maritime Predator, able to sweep the sea for Miami Vice style speedboats. Once the smugglers, terrorists, or general bad people have been fingered robotically from on high, ordinary customs or coastguard operatives can step in and snap the bracelets on them, perhaps after a judicious puke-raying. All this might seem a bit extreme for common or garden border bag-rummagers and booze'n'cig-duties folk, but the US Customs is different. CBP Air and Marine has over 500 pilots and 250 aircraft - "the largest federal law enforcement air force in the world", as its chief proudly notes - as well as more than 200 vessels. The American Customs boys could probably take on a small country on their own. Read the Flight report here. ®
Lewis Page, 13 Aug 2007
30

Tories aim to ditch data protection laws

A Conservative government would tear up Britain's commitments on data protection and other regulations in a bid to create a more competitive economy. A wide-ranging policy review set to be published this Friday will make the recommendations, which were backed today by shadow chancellor George Osborne in an interview with the Financial Times. The Tories reckon they can slash £14bn in red tape. Also for the chop would be the UK's adherence to the Working Time Directive that imposes a 48-hour limit on the working week. Osborne vowed to "pick a fight" with Brussels over the laws. The review will also recommend that five specialist regulators, including Ofcom, be subsumed into the competition watchdog. Redundancy regulations should be relaxed, say the authors, to allow employers to make cuts more easily. Leader David Cameron has been under pressure from party faithful who fear he has neglected traditional right-wing hot buttons such as low taxation, deregulation and euroscepticism. ®
Christopher Williams, 13 Aug 2007
Flag United Nations
4

Hacktivists attack UN.org

The United Nations website came under attack by hacktivists over the weekend. Unidentified peace activists turned hackers replaced speeches by secretary-general Ban Ki-Moon with pacifist messages. The attack on UN.org was more subtle than a straightforward front page defacement.
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2007

PlayStation 3 a-plenty...

In light of the forthcoming UK launch of the Xbox 360 Elite games console, Register Hardware presents a round-up of all the recent coverage - both news and reviews, of the rival console platform, the PlayStation 3...
Register Hardware, 13 Aug 2007
Eco_Media_Player_SM
19

Trevor Baylis cranks multimedia up a notch

Sitting down at the beginning of a long train journey to discover that you’ve forgotten to charge up your media player will soon be a thing of the past. Inventor Trevor Baylis back and this time he has turned his wind-up hand to the portable multimedia device.
James Sherwood, 13 Aug 2007
USB_oil_burner
1

Brando sniffs out USB new agers

While most would agree that pouring liquids onto anything electrical is a bad idea, Brando seems to have smelt a profit in it. The company has begun selling a thumb-sized USB fragrance oil burner designed to help you plug in and relax, literally.
Register Hardware, 13 Aug 2007

All you wanted to know about Wii

In light of the forthcoming UK launch of the Xbox 360 Elite games console, Register Hardware presents a round-up of all the recent coverage - both news and reviews, of the rival console platform, the Nintendo Wii...
Register Hardware, 13 Aug 2007

Smart radios still too dumb

More than three years ago, your reporter got a good taste of how miserable technology utopians can be. It was at Intel's Developer Forum in San Francisco, and the debate was about liberating analog TV spectrum for exciting new digital uses. The analog switchover is slated for February 2009. On behalf of Microsoft, Google, and Intel, the technology evangelists argued that smart radios were here, but the evil regulator the FCC wouldn't permit them to deploy the technologies. Broadcasters countered that these experimental new technologies caused interference with their signals (see Abolish Free TV - Intel). In the hallways afterwards, one delegate and deregulation evangelist couldn't understand why the FCC couldn't just confiscate the spectrum from the TV broadcasters and be done with it? "Why do the broadcasters need any spectrum at all?" she asked. Because free TV is one of the few pleasures some Americans can afford, perhaps. A slightly less arrogant and more technically adept argument was advanced instead, which claimed that the space between allocated TV channels was "beachfront property". Instead, the regulator copped it - it was all the fault of the FCC's "command and control" outlook. (The deregulation fanatics want a spectrum free-for-all and dream of the FCC being scrapped. The FCC is permitting fixed WSDs (white space devices) from 2009, but the industry wants mobile handheld WSDs to be permitted too.) Now, agile radio has been tested and found to be not quite so agile as its proponents touted. Hiss, crackle At the end of July, the FCC's engineering office published two sets of results from a four month trial of agile radio equipment submitted by the "White Space Coalition", which includes Microsoft, Google, Intel, Dell, and HP. "Depending on the effectiveness of shielding of a TV receiver's tuner, emissions within a broadcast white space (i.e., within an unused broadcast channel) could potentially cause co-channel interference to a TV receiver tuned to a digital cable channel that overlaps the spectrum of the white-space device emission," the FCC noted. The lab found that the spectrum sensing of the equipment it tested couldn't detect the white space with sufficient accuracy. For one prototype sensor, "the results of the bench test for determining the baseline minimum detection sensitivity demonstrates that the device will not meet the manufacturer-specified threshold of -114 dBm (or the IEEE 802.22 proposed threshold of -116 dBm for fixed devices) and in fact, fails to meet both of the thresholds by about 20 dB. The results of the field tests also demonstrate inconsistent performance", noted the FCC. The manufacturer may have misread the spec, it suggests. The sensor also failed to detect the presence of a wireless microphone at all. A second prototype sensor performed to the 114 dBM but got confused when a second DTV channel was turned on - the manufacturer asked it be excluded from more real-world tests. This prototype also failed to pick up a wireless mic, except on the two lowest channels. Both were also severely hampered by the microphones themselves. Tests of a prototype transmitter also demonstrated interference, and generated some skepticism from engineers whether the filtering required to avoid knocking out TV signals can be implemented in a real product. So smart radios have a long way to go, and this white space looks less like a "beachfront property" and more like a Cambodian minefield. Microsoft told the Washington Post today that it had given the FCC a successful demonstration last week - and insisted it will all work out in the end. As soon as it's got the pesky physics sorted out. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Aug 2007
15

Boffins simulate plasma-eating dusty 'life-forms'

Physicists have discovered that charged particles of dust can form themselves into life-like structures that appear to be capable of reproducing and passing information along, behaviour reminiscent of life on Earth. The researchers, (led by V N Tsytovich of the General Physics Institute, Russian Academy of Science, in Moscow, along with boffins from the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany, and the University of Sydney) have developed a computer model to help them understand "the behaviour of complex mixtures of inorganic materials in a plasma". Although convention dictates that there would be very little organisation in a system of such particles, the researchers demonstrated that under the right conditions, order could emerge. As the plasma becomes polarised, the model shows microscopic strands of particles twisting into helical, or corkscrew structures. The simulation suggests that the dusty corkscrews have two stable configurations - a large spiral and a small spiral. Each helix could contain various sequences of these two states, the researchers say, which raises the possibility that they could store information. The team reports that the structures can divide, form copies (transmit their stored information information), interact with neighbouring spirals, and even induce changes in other spirals. More speculatively, they suggest these changes could evolve as less stable structures break down. So, are there corkscrew-shaped dust-aliens floating about in interstellar space? Gregor Morfill of the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics in Germany is not prepared to go quite that far. He told New Scientist: "It has a lot of the hallmarks for how we define life at present, but we have not simulated life. To us, they're just a special form of plasma crystal." However, Tsytovich is prepared to be a bit more flexible on his definition of what might constitute life, saying that the spirals "exhibit all the necessary properties to qualify them as candidates for inorganic living matter. They are autonomous, they reproduce, and they evolve". The next step is to go hunting for a real environment where such structures could have emerged. Morfill suggests that planetary rings would be the best place to start the search. The research is reported in the 14 August edition of the New Journal of Physics, and New Scientist has a more extensive write up here. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Aug 2007
49

Chav-hunting toffs cop some flack

A group of toffs, apparently from Scotland's private Glenalmond College, have ruffled feathers with a wizard YouTube "chav-hunting" vid which showed them purging the British countryside of the Burberry-capped underclass with rod, hound, and gun. The offending flick - entitled Class Wars - featured the chaps variously fishing a chav from a river then beating him with a stick, hunting a pack of fleeing chavs (see pic) and dispatching chavs with a shotgun. Pretty harmless nonsense you might think, but local Scottish Nationalist Party MSP Roseanna Cunningham decried to the Sunday Times: "I suppose this video could be billed as the revenge of Monty Python's upper-class twits. Doubtless it is intended as humour and irony, but it comes across as brash, crass, and arrogant. "Is that really what their parents are paying for when they send their privileged offspring to an exclusive school like Glenalmond?" Glenalmond College has refused to comment on the outrage, and the vid was earlier today pulled from YouTube. Reports that pupils are planning Class Wars II - which will see them sweeping the UK on horseback in search of swan-roasting Albanian illegals and shoplifting single mothers - remain unconfirmed. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2007
Warning: roundabout
18

VAT fraudsters 'laughing all the way to their offshore tax haven'

Carousel fraud accounted for 87 per cent of the total fraud cases reported in the UK for the first half of 2007. According to research figures published by accounting firm BDO Stoy Hayward, there were 141 business frauds (reflecting a 42 per cent jump) over £50,000 in value at a cost of £538m, of which £468m was from major VAT and tax frauds.
Kelly Fiveash, 13 Aug 2007
Samsung_fuel_cell_SM
3

Samsung powers ahead with fuel cell tech

If you're worried about potentially flammable notebook batteries, or perhaps if you aren't, then have you considered a fuel cell-powered laptop? Samsung has unveiled its latest prototype 'battery', which it claims can run for up to eight hours a day for one month, without any recharge.
James Sherwood, 13 Aug 2007
Exit arrow
14

Welch on renewables deal, UK government told

The British government has been advised by the civil service to find a way to get out of renewable energy targets Tony Blair committed to earlier this year.
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Aug 2007
Flag Germany
25

Germany enacts 'anti-hacker' law

Germany has introduced draconian anti-hacker measures that criminalise the creation or possession of dual-use security tools.
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2007
6

Sprint helps fuel parental panic

Sprint has launched FamilyWatchdog Mobile, a latest family-friendly offering, allows US parents to check out maps showing where registered sex offenders live and work, and download photographs and conviction details. Concerned parents can even receive text alerts when an offender moves into the neighbourhood. Mobile access to such information was launched by FamilyWatchdog last month, in conjunction with the Sprint Family Locator service, which uses the GPS capability of children's handsets to track them throughout the day. Family Locator costs $10 a month to track four handsets - you can even schedule regular reporting times to receive updates. Checking for local offenders is free after normal data charges, but as Sprint isn't running the service it would be perverse to charge for it - the information comes from the FamilyWatchdog site, which gathers data from public records about where sex offenders live and work. Sprint isn't just using a free service to promote Family Locator, it is also sponsoring America's Most Wanted Safety Centre, a site where concerned parents can submit questions about the safety of their children by text message. ®
Bill Ray, 13 Aug 2007
25

BT rubbishes BBC bandwidth throttling reports

Swift denialSwift denial BT has denied reports that it is working with other ISPs to pressurise the BBC or consumers into paying extra for delivery of iPlayer on demand TV shows. Chief press officer Adam Liversage contacted The Reg this afternoon to distance the telco from a predictable net neutrality row. He countered reports citing unnamed BT sources in The Independent on Sunday, Financial Times, and Mail on Sunday that link the telco with comments from Tiscali boss Mary Turner. She said the bandwidth demands of the iPlayer may be too much for ISPs to bear. Liversage wrote: "Whilst we've been fingered as 'part of the gang' in certain press reports, BT is not complaining about or discussing the implications of iPlayer with the BBC." The IOS story had quoted a "senior insider": "It is certainly a live debate between ISPs and the BBC. If the BBC gets the numbers it wants for iPlayer then network capacity could become an issue." The paper reported that BT had made its feelings known to the Beeb's new media chief Ashley Highfield. Liversage rebuffed the claims: "We're not up in arms about iPlayer, we're not complaining to the BBC or discussing it with them." He wrote that BT's only concern over iPlayer was that people would be unaware that the Kontiki P2P distribution system which runs in the background would be eating into their monthly GB usage allowance even when they are not viewing or downloading. So there you have it. ®
Christopher Williams, 13 Aug 2007
Shuttle_SM

Blu-ray meets tiny PC

The use of Blu-ray on the desktop is expanding and the high definition format is starting to find its way into small form factor (SFF) PCs. Shuttle has launched its XPC G5 3201M model, a custom-build PC available with either a Blu-ray writer or combo drive crammed into its tiny frame.
James Sherwood, 13 Aug 2007
6

Gull triphibiandroid sold to Welsh gov

Most types of aircraft that one can imagine have been robotised over the last decade or so. We've seen aerial attack birds, droid-copters, stealth drones, hydrogen-powered strato-platforms, robot blimps - even dalek-style flying dustbins. It has often seemed that everything that could possibly fly has been automated. But in fact there was one left: the seaplane. Flight International reports today that the "Gull" amphibian drone has secured it's first order, from the partly-government, partly-industry funded Autonomous Systems Technology Related Airborne Evaluation & Assessment (ASTRAEA) body. ASTRAEA is looking to "secure the future of unmanned flight" (for the UK and its aerospace industry) by cooperatively sorting out air-traffic and other regulatory issues. The Gull triphibiandroid. The Gull ordered by ASTRAEA, made by transatlantic company Warrior Aero-Marine, is unusual in a number of ways. It can be used as much in the role of robot speedboat as in the air, and it can mount retractable wheels too. Warrior say it is neither an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) nor an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV), but a UXV. We say: triphibiandroid. The ASTRAEA job will have 4m wingspan and be driven by a 160cc two-cylinder engine, and will use Blue Bear autopilot and instrumentation. Warrior say that the Gull provides "high cruise efficiency in relation to helicopters and surface vehicles ... The GULL can serve long endurance missions with the ability to hold position on water for sustained periods, performing persistent surveillance and detection roles." They also suggest that "the ability to land offshore and approach hostile situations stealthily, and with less noise and minimal radar signature in relation to rotorcraft [will mean that] covert operations can be significantly more effective and successful." One of the main weaknesses of traditional seaplanes and flying boats is that they struggle to land, take off or even stay afloat in rough seas. The Gull, however, is supposed to be something new in this regard. The company says that it has "wave piercing capability" to cope with short, choppy seas - this is a gambit being used more and more to let small craft travel at high speed through rough seas. Examples include the Very Slender Vessel sliver-speedboats used by the UK Special Boat Service (SBS) and US Navy SEALs. When it comes to really large swells, Warrior say that the Gull actually use the waves to assist it's takeoff: somewhat like a Harrier jump-jet taking off from the ski-jump ramp on a carrier. "These wave capability claims," say the makers, "are achieved by accelerating only when there is a clear distance to take-off. The GULL is aided by its high lift capacity, high thrust-weight ratio and exceptional features maintaining control authority in the severe turbulence encountered over such rough water." Another snag with seaplanes operating from ships at sea is the matter of launch and recovery. Using a normal crane or davit can, again, be very tricky in rough conditions, and often restricts the mother ship's manoeuvrability while in use. These factors have meant that fixed-wing planes disappeared from ordinary warships as soon as helicopters came in. Nowadays, every frigate or destoyer has a helicopter pad, and most have seen the future of flying robots at sea as being chopper-based. But Warrior have a trick up their sleeve. They propose the use of a Launch & Recovery Sled (LARS), which could be towed behind a ship under way. The Gull would simply taxi into the sled, and once safely docked the whole unit could be recovered on board. The company notes that one large-size Gull or four small ones can be stowed in docking sleds, taking up the same space as a Pacific 24 rigid inflatable - the standard sea boat aboard Royal Navy warships. Flight notes that a prototype LARS is under development, funded by the UK government and provisionally named "Warrior Fisher." The initial Gull for ASTRAEA will be used in formation-flying trials aimed at integration of unmanned aircraft into controlled airspace. ASTRAEA's funding "is around £32m, half of which has come from industry, and half from government authorities - £5m from the DTI and £11 million from regional bodies." A good deal of that latter £11m is from the Welsh Assembly, and Wales would like to be a leader in the UK robo-bird industry. The trials will, of course take place in Wales. It remains to be seen whether the Gull will ever be more than a government-funded clever idea. It could well be that naval vessels of the future will prefer to use drone helicopters rather than triphibiandroids; it could be that the Gull's potential for rough-seas use has been overstated. On the other hand, four robo-seaplanes slotted into a boat bay sounds pretty good. A lot of seagoing organisations might like to have that, especially on vessels too small for a regular helicopter. Customs, Coastguards, small warships, the SBS - we may be seeing the Gull again.®
Lewis Page, 13 Aug 2007
31

Telstra sex romp woman back on the job

A female Telstra employee who was sacked for having sex in a bath with two male colleagues while "embarassed women co-workers cringed just metres away" has won compensation and her job back, The Australian reports. Carlie Streeter - from the company's retail outlet at Westfield Shopping Town in Miranda, Sydney - indulged in the aquatic rumpy-pumpy following a "belated Christmas party" on 25 February, organised by Testra employee Daniela Hyett. The festivities kicked off at a nearby pub before moving onto a restaurant and eventually to the Rydges hotel, where four staff were booked into one room for the night. Three of Streeter's female colleagues, including Hyett, hit the sack at around 1am, but were quickly awoken by the arrival of "two male employees and a former Miranda employee" (presumably Streeter), who promptly "got in the bath together". Streeter then came into the room, apparently "very drunk", as a witness explained to the Industrial Relations Commission hearing. The shocked trio went back to sleep, but one was shortly thereafter awoken again to find Streeter getting her end away with fellow shop employee Aakash Sharma. Hyett testified she subsequently got up to use the loo, but found the bathroom door locked. When Streeter let her in, she discovered Sharma naked in the bath with store manager Steve Hatzistergos. Streeter then hopped back into the tub, leaving Hyett to take a public leak. She decribed herself as "very embarrassed" and suffering from "stage fright" as the three revellers were watching. Telstra subsequently investigated the incident, and sacked Streeter for reasons "including that she sexually harassed the female employees by having sex in the room and being in the bath with the two males, and failing to treat Ms Hyett with respect by being present while she urinated". However, the Commission last Friday decided Streeter had been "unjustly sacked". It ruled that "while the employees were upset by Ms Streeter's conduct, the commission found it was not enough to constitute sexual harassment". Specifically, the Commission found: "The sexual conduct took place in a hotel room, with the lights out, in the early hours of the morning, when Ms Streeter thought the other employees were asleep...Most of the conduct occurred well away from the workplace, after rather than during a work function, and in a hotel room that was booked and paid for privately." The Commission duly ordered Telstra to "re-employ Ms Streeter at another retail outlet and pay compensation equal to any remuneration lost as a result of her sacking". ®
Lester Haines, 13 Aug 2007
28

NASA inks deal for Shuttle replacements

NASA has signed a $1.8 billion contract with Utah-based Alliant Techsystems (ATK) for "design, development, testing, and evaluation of the first stage of the Ares I and Ares V launch vehicles." Ares I and V will replace the Space Shuttle fleet as NASA's primary means of getting people and stuff into earth orbit. The deal, announced on Friday, includes delivery of five ground static test motors, two ground vibration test articles and four flight test stages. NASA doesn't get any boosters to use under this deal: the operational rockets will be subject to a seperate contract. ATK was seen by NASA as the only company which could develop of the first stage of the Ares I crew launch vehicle. Ares I will use solid-fuel rockets to launch humans into orbit, and the current space shuttle strap-on booster is the only solid rocket made in America rated for firing people rather than just kit. The first stage of the Ares I astronaut-carrying launcher will be a five-segment solid rocket booster based on the four-segment design used for the shuttle. The second stage will be a J-2X liquid-oxygen, liquid-hydrogen engine with a new upper stage fuel tank. The Orion crew exploration vehicle will ride to low Earth orbit with as many as six astronauts atop this stack. The planned Ares V bulk lifter will deliver machinery and spaceships into orbit, including the vessels which will take people back to the Moon and on to Mars under current plans. Ares V's mighty first stage will mount five RS-68 liquid-oxygen, liquid-hydrogen engines mounted below a larger version of the shuttle's external tank, with two five-segment, solid-propellant rocket boosters strapped on for extra poke. The upper stage will use the same J-2X engine as the Ares I. NASA says a return to throwaway rocket stacks will be more reliable, affordable and flexible than the Shuttles, whose orbiter spaceplane segment is re-usable but expensive to maintain and often plagued by technical and safety problems. Others have characterised the move as a retrograde step for launch technology, saying that NASA should move forward with some blue-sky, truly reusable scheme such as rocket/scramjet spaceplanes.®
Lewis Page, 13 Aug 2007
Facebook
4

Facebook quells fears over code leak snafu

Server configuration errors led to a leak of a portion the code used by social networking site Facebook over the weekend.
John Leyden, 13 Aug 2007
Citrix
4

Citrix set to snatch XenSource

Citrix is set to buy virtualization software maker XenSource, according to industry chatter. Analysts at Credit Suisse last week issued a research note saying that Citrix is - or at least should be - in the market for hypervisor software key to virtualizing both PCs and servers. Either XenSource or Virtual Iron - developers of the open source Xen hypervisor - would stand as attractive buys for Citrix, according to the analysts. They reckon such software could help Citrix as it looks to expand a software empire based on the flexible use of server-side code.
Ashlee Vance, 13 Aug 2007
Intel_xeon_SM
7

Intel guns one four-core Xeon, cools another

Intel has pumped out a pair of fresh server chips meant to give AMD fits. Customers will now find the Xeon X5365 and L5335 four-core processors. The higher-end X5365 runs at 3.0GHz while eating up a max of 120W. Meanwhile, energy conscious types will want to check out the L5335 that runs at 2.0GHz while consuming just 50W.
Ashlee Vance, 13 Aug 2007
Firefox
16

Firefox leak could divulge sensitive info

A security researcher has discovered a vulnerability in Firefox that could allow criminals to remotely siphon private information stored in plugins and call sensitive functions. According to an entry on the 0x000000 blog, Firefox generously enumerates all variables and registered objects that are present inside javascript files and on runtime and even allows the calling of certain functions.
Dan Goodin, 13 Aug 2007
SCO logo 75
33

SCO 'disappointed' as shares plunge 70 per cent

Mimicking a scene from Monty Python's The Holy Grail, the SCO Group has issued a statement declaring that it's not dead yet. Last week, a judge dealt a devastating blow to SCO's legal actions against both Novell and IBM. He ruled that Novell does in fact own the copyrights to Unix and Unixware. In addition, the judge gave Novell the go ahead to tell SCO to drop its claims against IBM and said Novell is owed some money from SCO's licensing deals.
Ashlee Vance, 13 Aug 2007
19

Microsoft sent FCC defective wireless prototype

Why did the FCC give a failing grade to a controversial Microsoft prototype that sends high-speed Internet signals over unused television airwaves? It was broken. At least, that's the word from Microsoft. As we reported earlier today, on July 31 the Federal Communications Commission released an 85-page report saying that Microsoft's "white space" prototype was unable to detect unused TV spectrum and that it interfered with other wireless devices. But after discussions with the commission, Redmond is now claiming that the device tested by the FCC was defective. As if we didn't already know that. "During meetings with FCC engineers last week, Microsoft determined that the prototype device tested by the Commission was working improperly and an internal component was broken. This accounted for the FCC's aberrant test results," said Jack Krumholtz, Microsoft's managing director for federal government affairs. "We remain confident that the unused channels in the television spectrum band can successfully be used without harmful interference to incumbent licensees such as television and wireless microphone services." When contacted, the FCC declined to comment - that's typically way it works with ongoing investigations like this one - but Chairman Kevin Martin is on record as saying the commission hopes to find a way of transmitting Internet service over "white spaces," portions of television spectrum that go unused by local TV channels. Just this afternoon, the commission's office of engineering announced that it plans to discuss the matter with "interested parties" on Thursday. Microsoft's prototype is also backed by big-name tech companies like Dell, Google, Intel, and Philips. (Yes, Microsoft and Google are working together.) Meanwhile, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), the trade association that serves more than 8,300 local radio and television stations, was more than happy to toss us a comment. Spokesman Dennis Wharton believes that Microsoft's prototype - broken or not - deserves no airtime. "The FCC performed rigorous tests on the Microsoft devices," he said, "and we are confident that its finding that these devices cause interference to television reception is accurate." By definition, Redmond's prototype would use local television spectrum that stations do not use, but the NAB still sees Microsoft as a gun-wielding egocentric: "Nearly a decade ago, broadcasters and government launched the historic public-private partnership that is bringing the next generation of television to American consumers. Now that the [digital TV] transition is near completion, up steps Microsoft and its allies to jeopardize all that has been accomplished. By continuing to press its self-serving agenda, Microsoft is playing Russian Roulette with America's access to interference free TV reception." As you might have noticed from Google's efforts to convince the FCC that it should give consumers open access to the 700-MHz band, the portion of the wireless band no longer used by TV stations who've made the switch to digital transmission, the big web players hope to establish a means of broadband access that's outside the control of big telcos like AT&T and Verizon. If approved by the FCC, mobile devices such as the Microsoft white-space prototype would enable consumers to connect directly to the net - without an OK from wireless carriers. That's pretty much what the commission has allowed with a portion of the 700-MHz band, but white spaces represent a much larger chunk of bandwidth. Evidently, Microsoft had submitted two white-space prototypes to the FCC for testing: the one that failed the FCC's test, and a "spare" that was never used. According to Microsoft, once they got the spare back into their own lab, it worked pretty well - but it seems that certain functions needed a little tweaking. "Microsoft's testing of the spare prototype device it had previously submitted to the FCC revealed that in the FCC's laboratory, the spare device was able to detect digital television signals at the power level that we had stated," Krumholtz said. "And with some adjustments, this device detected wireless microphone signals as we had indicated that it would." The company also wants it known that one of its partners, Philips, submitted a second white-space prototype and that it worked just fine. Of course, Microsoft failing a test is bigger news that Philips passing one. ®
Cade Metz, 13 Aug 2007
4

Blu-ray 300 outsells HD DVD version 2:1

A small, relatively insignificant strip of road in Greece twixt mountains and ocean has become the latest bloody battleground in the titanic uncompromising clash of next-generation optical disc formats: HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc...
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007
2

SteelEye gets pat on the back for virtual clustering

Clustering software specialist SteelEye's move into the virtual realm appears to have been a success. At last week's LinuxWorld conference, we caught the company in mid-celebration after its LifeKeeper Protection Suite for VMware nabbed the Best Clustering Solution award.
Austin Modine, 13 Aug 2007

AMD posts Catalyst 7.8

AMD has posted the latest version of its Catalyst driver package for ATI-branded graphics chips. The Windows Vista and XP release enhances games' scope to overclock Radeon HD 2400 and 2600 series GPUs. It also patches the Purple Pill vulnerability.
Tony Smith, 13 Aug 2007