A cloud of confusion is surrounding i-mate today. One online source has claimed that the handset manufacturer has canned three of its forthcoming Ultimate Collection handsets, while another has reported that it has simply delayed manufacture until a later date.
From January 1998 to April 2004, Travelocity booked nearly 1,500 trips between the US and Cuba, violating a trade embargo first laid down by the American government at the height of the Cold War. The online travel site has agreed to pay a $182,750 fine to the US Treasury, but communism is still alive in the Western Hemisphere. Last week, with a statement posted to its website, the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that the Forth Worth, Texas company had agreed to settle "allegations" that it violated the 25 year-old Cuban Assets Control Regulations, making 1,458 Cuba-related travel arrangements without an official license. When contacted, a Travelocity spokesman acknowledged the violations, but blamed them on a technical malfunction - a technical malfunction that went unnoticed for six years. "The trips to Cuba were unintentionally permitted to be booked by consumers online because of some technical failures several years ago and it's just now being finally settled with OFAC," she said. "Again, this is a very old matter - most of the trips were purchased between six and seven years ago. In no way did the company intend to allow bookings for trips to Cuba and the company has fully cooperated with OFAC and implemented corrective measures." When pressed, the company refused to explain these technical failures. We have no way of knowing if the site was compromised by party members posing as capitalistic Travelocity employees. We also contacted the OFAC, but it wasn't any help either. Spokesman Molly Millerwise bounced all questions back to Travelocity. But she did say that those who have violated the Cuban trade embargo may face civil or criminal charges. And according the OFAC's original statement, Travelocity didn't voluntarily disclose its violation. Is the Cold War back on? Draw your own conclusions. ®
If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn't be. And what it wouldn't be, it would. You see? - Alice in Wonderland
Forgotten TechForgotten Tech The Compact Disc is 25 years old. Though the digital audio format's development stretches back many years before 17 August 1982, that was the date on which the world's first CD pressing plant punched out its very first disc.
Sony will next month allow US consumers to drop off unwanted Sony-branded electronics products for recycling. The service is free of charge, but many eco-conscious Americans will still have to drive big distances to drop-off sites.
Palm has confirmed its next-gen smartphone is to be called the Centro and that it's due to hit North American store shelves this coming autumn, initially courtesy of carrier Sprint.
TV-on-a-Mac specialist Elgato has released its first USB-connected tuner that also takes the heavy work of encoding analogue video away from the host computer.
Nintendo may not be able to boost Wii production as planned, it has been alleged - and it's all thanks to the industry-wide components shortage that appears to be hindering notebook production.
Colleges and universities have come under attack by Storm Worm botnets following attempts to detect infections through vulnerability scanning, a response centre for academic networks stated last week.
Fujitsu Services has won a major contract with Reuters worldwide. Under the 10-year deal, which is valued at around £500m, Fujitsu will provide IT services, such as desktop PC maintenance and email services, for 17,500 Reuters employees in more than 100 countries. In addition, more than 300 Reuters staff will transfer to Fujitsu.
The UK's Motorcycle News earlier this week contributed a cracking example to the "unfortunate juxtaposition of content and advertisement" genre with this piece on murdered biker Gerard Michael Tobin: Given that Tobin was riding a Harley-Davidson FXSTB Night Train when shot on the M40 on Sunday, it's hard to see how this could be bettered. Police, meanwhile, continue to probe the 35-year-old Canadian's death, and have asked anyone with info to call either Warwickshire Police's incident room on 01926 415581 or anonymously via CRIMESTOPPERS on 0800 555 111. ® Bootnote Thanks to Lee Ball for the tip-off.
The server technical analysts among you who could do with a bit of extra cash are directed forthwith to recruiting firm Elan, which is making an offer you really can't refuse: Crikey. We'll leave you to do the maths on the annual salary for this demanding post, but suffice it to say it exceeds even the extravagant paypacket of El Reg's VP of non-IT-related content. ® Bootnote Ta very much to Robert Davidson for alerting us to this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Microsoft Ireland has launched a scheme aimed at keeping PCs out of landfills and re-building them for use by schools and charities.
With the UK ban on driving with a mobile phone in your hand, hordes of manufacturers have rushed to fill car cigarette lighters with hands-free calling kits. Venturi is the latest, offering wireless Bluetooth music streaming from a mobile phone to your car stereo.
We're not quite sure what's going on down at Torquay Police Property Office, but it appears one of the Boys in Blue has taken exception to Remington's fine range of electrical hair care products: This admirable piece of straight-talking can be found on Bumblebee, the force's online fencing operation for unclaimed stolen goods. Should you be tempted to pitch for said Shite Straighteners, the current top bid stands at a modest £1, with fours days left to run on the auction. ® Bootnote The usual thanks very much to Joskyn for the tip-off.
CommentComment Open source moves at a different speed to commercial software. This has become apparent over the last decade as Linux and its open source fellow travellers (Apache, Open Office, MySQL, Firefox ,et al) gradually established their position in the software world. It may have been frustrating for the open source activists, more vocal than numerous, who had been hoping for more instant gratification than the software market delivered. Nevertheless, Linux and many of its associated open source products continued their forward march.
BriefBrief After a week of hmm-ing and haa-ing, NASA has elected not to repair the hole in the Shuttle Endeavour before it returns to Earth. Mission chief John Shannon said the decision had not been unanimous, but had been "pretty overwhelming", according to the Houston Chronicle. Mission controllers were worried that the three and a half inch gash in the thermal tiles on the underside of the craft could expose the shuttle to serious damage during the firestorm of re-entry. Extensive testing since the hole was spotted has shown that the structure will hold up, NASA says. In 2003, a weakness in the thermal protection on Columbia led to the shuttle breaking up in the atmosphere, with the loss of all seven astronauts on board. NASA says it was never worried that the damage to Endeavour was likely to lead to a similar catastrophe. Instead, the problem was the the aluminium frame might be damaged by the heat, and would need extensive and expensive repairs once it arrived back on Earth. Mission controllers told the crew, commanded by Scott Kelly, that there would be no need for an additional spacewalk, adding: "It's great we finally have a decision and we can press forward." ®
Hull-based telco and IT firm Kingston Communications Group has decided it doesn't want to be so closely associated with East Yorkshire, and whipped out the joss-sticks to reimagine itself as KCom Group.
It turns out that my co-author Doug Rosenberg has a few things to say on the subject of use case style. So this week I'm going to leap in the back of the Dodge Ram pick-up truck and let him drive.
The world's 'first' portable media player (PMP) with DAB digital radio will hit UK shelves later this month. The Cowon iAudio D2 portable media player (PMP) player is also set to feature a meaty multimedia line-up inside its slim-line casing.
Two German scientists claim to have broken the speed of light with a tunnelling photon, a pair of prisms and a gap of about three feet. According to New Scientist, Günter Nimtz and Alfons Stahlhofen from the University of Koblenz claim to have made the photon jump "instantaneously" across a barrier ranging from a few millimetres to three feet. They started with a pair of prisms sandwiched together to make a 40cm cube. Then, they shone microwaves with a wavelength of 33cm through the prism. As they gradually moved the prisms apart, the microwaves, which had passed straight through, began to be refracted. Some of the microwave photons, however, tunnelled across the gap. So far, so good. All in line with our expectations. But Nimtz and Stahlhofen say the refracted photons and the tunnelling photons arrived at their respective detectors at the same time, regardless of the size of the gap. This, they claim, suggests that the tunnelling photons have jumped the gap much faster than the speed of light. Nimtz told the magazine that the results were a violation of Einstein's theory of special relativity. But not everyone is convinced the pair have interpreted their results correctly. Some argue that what the scientists have observed can be explained by the so-called Hartman Effect. This predicts that "the tunneling (sic) time becomes independent of barrier length for thick enough barriers, ultimately resulting in unbounded tunneling (sic) velocities". What this means is that single photons can appear to travel faster than the speed of light. But researchers suggest that tunnelling time should not be considered as a transit time, but rather as a "cavity lifetime". Herbert G Winful from the University of Michigan explains in this paper that anomolously short delays in barrier tunnelling "should not be linked to a velocity since evanescent waves do not propagate". So, Einstein is off the hook, and thus restored to his rightful place as top boffin. ®
Episode 29Episode 29 "What's the timeframe on the install of that videoconferencing device?" the Boss asks, bowling into Mission Control, dressed, as the saying goes, like a pox doctor's clerk. "Yeah, good," the PFY says looking up from the assorted pieces of hardware on his desk. "No, I wanted the timeframe till it's in place, not a status." "Oh right. Well I guess it'll be sorted inside of a week" "A week?! But I was told it'd arrived yesterday!" "Yep, so it'll be all installed and configured in a week." "But you told me that it was a turnkey device, all you'd need to do is give it a network address?" "Uh-huh, and we'll do that when we rack it up." "Can't you rack it up now?" "Not really. I mean it's going to take at least a day to put it back together." "Put it back together?!" the Boss gasps. "Why? What was wrong with it?" "Nothing," the PFY says. "We just wanted to see how it works. It's quite good too - it boots off >tap< >tap< this hard drive here, but it's also got a slot for a flash card if you want to make it truly solid state. The kernel's a tiny Linux jobby that does a stack of sanity checking before handing off to the application. You can also set a jumper on this >tap< IO Card to tell the box to silently encode all conferences to one of the two drives in this >tap< >tap< media bay. AND it's got three NICs with inbuilt spike suppression, truly redundant power and the ability to battery backup to RAM >tap< here to hibernate the device should you wish to move it and boot it quickly in a portable configuration!" "You... took it to bits?!" The Boss finally gasps. "Yeah, but we take all new kit to bits!" "But it says 'no user serviceable parts inside'!" the Boss says, pointing at a small label on the lid. "Yeah, that's just what they tell you to keep you stupid," the PFY responds. "Besides, we're not users." "But you've voided the warranty!" "Nah, they'll never know we've been in there, we'll rivet the case back up when we're done." "Rivet?" "Yeah, we drilled the original rivets out - they tried to make it tamperproof." "They'll know you drilled it out!" "No they won't, it'll look mint!" the PFY says, brushing some metal shavings off the case. "There's a great big gouge out of the side!" "Yeah, I sent a complaint in to the vendor saying it came like that. That way if it claps out we'll just claim it was damaged in transit." "They'll check the box!" "This box?" the PFY asks, pointing at a box with a large number of boot marks in it. "But they'll still know you opened the machine!" "Nah they won't. The final assembly work is performed in Leeds - probably so that the company can bypass some import tariff or the other - so all we have to do is make it look like the last person who had it open was from Leeds." "And how do you propose to accomplish that?" "Smear the lid with lardy fingerprints and drop a couple of chips and some pork scratchings inside the case." "I..." "Oh, I almost forgot. I'll slip a bootleg of some blurry porn into the DVD drive." "Uh... why?" "That way they'll know it's been inspected by quality control." "You can't seriously believe..." . . . A week later . . . "And so we took it out of the box and it's a complete DOA," the PFY says to the engineer, as the Boss looks on nervously. "Let's just have a look at it then," the engineer says. "It's probably just a power supply fault." >rattle< "Have you opened this case?" he asks suspiciously. "You can open it?" the PFY says. "How?" "No, no, you can't open it, it must have got damaged in transit," the engineer says. The PFY points to the Box and the engineer nods. "It's the shipping agent we use in the factory up north," he says, shaking his head. "Used to be a baggage handler at Heathrow. Okay, lets just open her up." . . . a couple of drillings later . . . "Ah, it's the daughterboard," he says, pointing. "It's plugged in one row of pins to the left of when it should be." "What's that for?" the PFY asks, pointing at a chip laying in the case. "I... uhhh, that's just some packing," the engineer bluffs. "It looks like a potato chip." "Yeah, but it's not. It's one of those enviro carbon things. They're made out of... biomass and hexofibre - good for the atmosphere. And there's another one." He dumps the food into his pocket, shuts the lid and plugs the unit into a tiny debug console he's brought with him. "Righty-ho," he says. "Let's see how she goes." >click< >whirrrrr< An image promptly appears on the debug device and a self test starts. "All looks ok," the engineer said. "So how did it get out of the factory like that?" the PFY says. "Isn't there supposed to be some form of testing?" "Yeah well, there should be, but it's possible this one got overl..." He stops abruptly as a flabby backside wobbles its way across the screen... "...might have just been damaged in transit," he says, pushing the eject button hurriedly. "So we're all sorted then?" the Boss asks. "Yep, all up and running." "Can I get you a coffee?" the Boss asks, as the device is powered down. "Why not?" our engineer says. . . . "So have you learnt a lesson today?" I ask the PFY once they've both gone. "I have," the PFY says. "Engineers get the best toys. That debug device of his is fantastic." "It is," I say. "How do you think it works?" "Only one way to find out!" he snaps, reaching for the drill... BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
NSFWNSFW During a recent Vulture Central editorial brainstorm it was reluctantly decided that, in the face of mounting reader criticism that El Reg was becoming the IT equivalent of the Sunday Sport, we should forthwith return to our core news values and never more darken the internet with tales of Bulgarian airbags, black cocks, and people having sex with goats. Accordingly, this hack was dispatched back to his keyboard with explicit instructions to dig up something on Europe's Waste Electronic and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) directive and deliver a proper news analysis entirely free of cheap innuendo and quippery. Six hours later, and having got no further than the headline ("How seriously are you taking the WEEE?"), I began to seriously regret not taking that job doing the small ads for the Basingstoke Thunderer. However, they say it's always darkest just before the dawn, and the stygian gloom was suddenly pierced by an enlightening email from UK sex toy outfit LoveHoney announcing "the world's first ever sex toy recycling scheme": Marvellous. Here's the background: LoveHoney is extending environmental awareness to the bedroom by encouraging people to send in their overloved rabbit vibrators so that they can be recycled and treated in an ecologically sound manner, rather than being dumped in landfill sites. For each rabbit received through the scheme, LoveHoney is donating £1 to the World Land Trust and offering customers the opportunity to buy a clean, green rabbit for half price. Well, the WEEE directive covers all electrical goods, but since we seriously doubt many people will be going into Currys and slapping a 12-inch Throbbing Stallion dildo on the counter and saying "Here you go mate, recycle that", we applaud LoveHoney for this initiative. ® Bootnote For the record, scurrilous suggestions that LoveHoney's ongoing affair with El Reg is due entirely to its PR department performing sexual favours for our editorial staff are entirely unfounded. Our journos rarely have time for sex, but firms who do desperately need their product flogged are directed to our tariff.
IBM has taken the wraps off a new version of its mainframe operating system, which has been designed to make it easier to port Unix applications onto Big Iron servers. The upgrade also includes scalability and security improvements.
Warner Bros has announced it will remake 1973 Kung Fu classic Enter the Dragon, AP chillingly reports. The rehash - cunningly entitled Awaken the Dragon - will be directed by The Shield's Kurt Sutter and will feature "an FBI agent who investigates a Shaolin monk and underground kung fu fight clubs", according to Warner Bros publicist Laura Kim. Casting details are not forthcoming, but we'd like to suggest remake specialist Sly Stallone as the spook, Jude Law to play a suitably metrosexual and 21st-century monk, and cameo roles for Harold Shand and Nicolas Cage as proprietors of a sinister floating Kung Fu cruise liner which is rather excitingly upended by a large wave. Yup, we reckon that just about covers it. ®
Virtual servers virtually take over the world Server virtualisation was bigger than big this week - or at any rate there were those readying for bigness. Citrix splashed out half a billion to acquire virtualisation firm XenSource, which it plans to team with Redmond's upcoming virtual server code-named Viridian. This combo will be unleashed against market leader VMware, whose Tuesday IPO wasn't so much a case of floating as one of going ballistic. And what's good for VMware is good for SteelEye. The virtualisation cluster specialist outfit snared a LinuxWorld gong for its VMware-targeted LifeKeeper Protection Suite. On a similar note, Overstock boss Patrick Byrne extolled the virtues of data backup powerhouse Teradata in a moving tribute to its 2005 rescue of his operation from an overhasty Oracle rollout. Intel's virtual security Intel was also using virtualisation tech - in its case to develop security "appliances" which would run on chips, below the level of the operating system. Under the hood, as it were - which is appropriate as the name of the Intel programme is Project Hood. The processor colossus also unveiled new four-core server kit, in a blow to rival AMD. But the upstart chipsters fired back, punting its "Light Weight Profiling" spec. AMD reckons this could make it easier to write multi-threaded parallel code in future, and so get the best out of the new generation of hardware. Cash for kids to study science That might take a while, though - and by then there may not be any developers or tech people worth hiring, according to UK fatcat club the CBI. The bosses' collective want government incentives to get kids to study science and maths in school. Teach the little blighters to read and write first, we say - otherwise they won't even be able to use a word processor, let alone write code. Star Office goes free, Apple gets upgrade Speaking of which, there were changes among the productivity suites: Apple finally cut off life support for its AppleWorks bundleware office suite, shifting fully to iWork 08. Meanwhile, Google and Sun joined forces to offer full bells-and-whistles StarOffice as part of the free-to-download Google Pack software portfolio. OpenOffice was already free, of course, but the full-on StarOffice has clipart, extra fonts, and tools for migration from MS Office. Spam stress worsens Free tools might lift productivity, but, as ever, there's bad news along with the good. It seems that massive amounts of corporate email is stressing people out and wasting their time. Even more than ever, a lot of the inbox dross will be spam, generated by new Trojans which can set up webmail accounts on their own, regardless of Captcha anti-bot safeguards. The actual payload of the spam, according to an F-Secure analysis, is more and more likely to be an FDF (Forms Data Format) file, rather than PDF or an image. Still, not to worry. A lot of people may not even be reading their emails because they're too busy watching telly on their computers or - at Telstra, anyway - indulging in bathtime bonkathons. Kumar finally starts his porridge Some former IT types, though, will only be able to watch TV in communal rooms. Disgraced former CA chieftain Sanjay Kumar tucked into a 12 year supply of porridge in the federal slammer. Kumar would have been doing even more bird if not for a deal struck last year with prosecutors in which he copped to the infamous, $2.2bn 35 day month accounting fraud. Land Registry insists it's fraud free There's no fraud at the UK Land Registry, though, if you believe the management. They'd no doubt contend they're already in full compliance with the new official guidelines for organisations holding personally-linked information. But anti-ID card group NO2ID disagrees, claiming that the Land Registry offers information online for a small fee which could be used to steal homeowners' identities. ID theft hits the Old Bill The boom in ID fraud is bad news for the police. Like Sanjay Kumar, they already have quite enough on their plates as it is; and now it appears the forensic information they use to deal with ID theft may itself have been stolen. British plods were left scratching their heads over the matter of a stolen server containing forensic data used in police investigations. The machine was lifted from the secret offices of FTS, provider of phone usage data to cops, prosecutors and HM Customs. Still, at least the FTS headquarters was more secure than that of eccentric Siberian UFO lover Yuri Lavbin, who claimed that a three ton meterorite had been stolen from his. Ubuntu loses servers Rather more conventional online server burglaries were thought to have taken place at Ubuntu, where five of eight community-hosted production machines had to be shut down. The servers had been compromised to such an extent that they were becoming a source of attacks against other systems. It was reported that, among other problems, security patches had not been carried out. Bumper Patch Tuesday That's probably going to be the case for a lot of Microsoft computers too, after another bumper Patch Tuesday in which Redmond pumped out no less than 14 fixes for Internet Explorer, Excel, and Windows components - nine of which were "critical". If past form is anything to go by, the patches will take time to spread through the installed base. Open sauces embrace MS Problems for both sides in the open source versus proprietary war, then; and not just security patches. But it seemed that some large operations were drifting more into the Redmond camp, with the Beeb taking flak for the new iPlayer's reliance on Windows and its DRM - even as MySQL appeared to shift away from the open software model, too. The Beeb and MySQL may have been part of a trend, as the mood at LinuxWorld seemed to indicate a new willingness on the part of the OSS biz community to cooperate with Microsoft in a mixed-source environment. Novell chief Ron Hovsepian - whose company, according to the judge, definitely does own Unix after all - was of that opinion, anyway. But Microsoft certainly didn't get things all its own way, with news breaking that ATI Vista drivers contain a vuln which can get malware into the very kernel itself. Security issues just aren't going away for anyone, no matter how IT professionals of every stripe try to eliminate them. Germany evicts hackers The great, uninformed mass of users out there have no idea what the answer is, that's for sure. In Germany, the remorselessly efficient squareheads reckon harsher laws against hackers are the way ahead - perhaps guaranteeing they will have few competent white hats to turn to in future. Biz-chummy British Tories, on the other hand, say they would bin the data protection regs altogether. Most company board members, according to a survey, couldn't care less about IT security. HP inks good quarter World stock markets might be in meltdown, but it's not worrying HP. The company saw revenue grow 16 per cent to $25bn and profits grew by almost a third to $1.8bn for the third quarter. Chief exec Mark Hurd said it was the firm's best quarter since the bubble days of 2000. Asked if recent economic problems would hurt HP, he said he had seen no evidence of a knock-on effect. Sun wins IBM for server help Sun has finally found a top rank player to back its server operating system Solaris X86. IBM will offer the software on its own servers. The two companies have previously been bitter rivals with IBM punting AIX - it's own unix operating system. Quite what happens to AIX now is not clear. Other news Also this week: BBC and Microsoft's shenanigans on iPlayer, the UK's highest paid IT post, and Happy Birthday to the CD - it's 25 years old today. ®
If a small form factor PC is still too large for your liking or offers more functionality than you need, then one designer has created a more manageable solution. Uni is a PC concept where operating units are designed as separate white-box units which can then be connected together via three-pin plugs, as and when required.
Some users, albeit far from a majority, are happily reporting they're now able to successfully reconnect to Skype following a problem which earlier this week floored the VoIP service. The company is keen to stress that their servers didn't crash, and that there's no security issue, just an error in their client software which is preventing customers connecting to the network. The exact details of the problem, and why it has surfaced now, aren't known. We'll have to wait until normal communications are restored before we can start pointing fingers. One thing we do know is that the traditional phone companies are falling about this afternoon while chanting "I told you so" to anyone who'll listen. They've long been saying that a start-up like Skype didn't have the experience or knowledge to run a dependable network, and this outage would appear to prove them right. Skype is going to have to come up with a very convincing explanation of how they're going to prevent this ever happening again if they're going to regain any kind of trust in the industry.®
Diebold has re-branded its electronic voting subsidiary as "Premier Election Solutions" after attempts to offload the business failed. The firm also had to rein in its performance predictions, as uncertainty about the security of the machines starts to bite. The firm said: "Efforts to sell this company... have proven unsuccessful due in part to the rapidly evolving political uncertainties and controversies surrounding state and jurisdiction purchases of electronic voting systems". It also noted that large orders it was expecting in 2007 have moved into "2008 and beyond", and so needs to reduce its full year revenue forecast by around $120m. That is more than half: the business had expected to report revenue of up to $215m for the period. Thomas Swidarski, Diebold's president and CEO said: "While we plan to fully support this business for the foreseeable future, we feel a more independent structure should allow it to operate more effectively." He added that although the market is uncertain now, the US government is likely to pump more cash into voting technology at some point. The implication being that is worth hanging around to see what happens. The news follows California's decision to decertify the voting machines made by the four biggest vendors, including Diebold. The move by California Secretary of State Debra Bowen placed tough new restrictions on the use of machines of three of the manufacturers - Diebold Election Systems, Sequoia Voting Systems and Hart InterCivic, after security testers found serious vulnerabilities in machines from all three firms. A fourth manufacturer, Election Systems and Software, could still be re-certified, having lost its stamp of approval for failing to turn over its source code in time for the review. ®
With the UK launch of Microsoft's Xbox 360 Elite (previously codenamed "Zephyr") only days away now, the general mood in most of the high street stores seems to be one of...somewhat reserved excitement.
As DJs opt for more increasingly sophisticated equipment for their ‘sets’, it’s no surprise to see manufacturers adopting their hardware to suit. Denon is the latest manufacturer to have a spin with a PC and Mac compatible USB MIDI/audio interface and controller, designed for computer-backed performances by club and mobile DJs.
Nokia has requested that the US International Trade Commission (ITC) investigate Qualcomm's importing of products infringing Nokia patents, with a view to getting such imports banned. Qualcomm is already banned from importing, to the US, chips (or handsets containing chips) which infringe a patent owned by Broadcom. The company has been working to find ways around that patent, while still contesting the infringement. Nokia reckons Qualcomm is infringing five of its patents, and is looking to get a similar import ban imposed. "We are seeking the same remedies Qualcomm has sought against Nokia in multiple venues around the world," Nokia chief financial officer Rick Simonson said. Qualcomm is still in dispute with Nokia about various patent infringements, including chip designs as well as Qualcomm's MediaFLO and BREW products. The ITC started investigating the Broadcom infringement in June 2005, but the eventual ban didn't come until two years later. This makes Nokia's request a long-term move which reaffirms that it is in for the duration, and puts additional pressure on Qualcomm to settle early. ®
Patientline, which provides telephone and TV services to patients in UK hospitals, is looking for ways to ease the burden of its £80m debt pile. Given the current credit crisis in world markets, this may prove difficult. Patientline today released an Interim Management Statement for the period from 1 April 2007 to 17 August 2007 ahead of the company's Annual General Meeting on 27 September. The statement says management are still looking for ways to sort out the company's debts. It has decided that a sale of assets to NHS Trusts or the Department of Health is "unlikely to result in material reductions to the company's bank debt. Other ideas for the reconstruction of this debt are being explored". The company raised its charges in April 2007, but adverse publicity forced it to reduce prices in August. Outgoing calls went up to 26 pence a minute, this was cut back to 10 pence a minute in August. But incoming phone calls are still charged at an eye-watering 49 pence a minute. Revenues to 27 July, the first four months of Patientline's financial year, fell 21 per cent, which it blamed on adverse publicity from its price rises. Revenues from patients fell from 75 pence per day in 2006 to 71 pence per day in the same four months of 2007. Revenues from friends and family (incoming call revenue) fell from 88 pence in 2006 to 61 pence in 2007. The statement ends: "The board is continuing to work to reduce the cost base of the business. The board remains confident that these cost savings and the sales initiatives will result in positive cash flow for the year." Patientline shares rose today to 1.8 pence, down from a year high of 9.5 pence. ®
Audible.com's Don Katz wasn't gloating when he visited London recently - but he had a very good reason to feel pleased with himself. The spoken books company was crucified by investors when, two years ago, it announced it was launching a UK operation, knocking a third off the value of the business. Now two years on from the June 2005 launch, the UK business has turned a profit. The Anglophile CEO's hunch that the British liked to hear books read was born out in 2004 by the strong data following a partnership with iTunes UK. Today it turns a profit even with the Apple excluded. Audible.com was founded an eternity ago, in 1995, and is one of a handful of internet dotcoms to go public during the first bubble, and yet survive. "I started the business too early," he jokes now. Katz's view is that the potential market that demands printed matter in audible form is vast - people can consume the material while driving, jogging, or gardening - but they find the immersive experience attractive. "When text appeared the Greeks thought it was basically very suspect, and the true intellectual facilities would be atrophied by writing stuff down," he says. "Text was the 'disruptive technology' of the moment and it's had a great run - but there are other ways of creating powerful words." So who's getting into Audible, we wondered? "Half of our customers had never been fans of audio books because they'd never been exposed to them," he told us. "But they moved to other material we had to offer - comedy, erotica, and also educational applications." Self-improvement books are also popular, he says, with older subscribers returning to books in an audible form. Katz has used the vast potential of the market to justify his decision to invest heavily in R&D to support new platforms. Audible.com isn't run as a cash cow for shareholders, although it has returned to within a whisker of break-even in the most recent quarter [Q2 earnings statement and transcript]. For example, 15 to 25 new devices appear each quarter, he says, with some surprising consequences - onboard SatNav players have been one of the biggest successes. "Garmin and TomTom have given us the highest conversion rate of new customers we've ever seen," he says. "It isn't obvious, but the implementation of Audible on these is high profile and very easy to use." What did he make of Kevin Kelly's contention that the book would disappear, dissolving into a (no kidding) "liquid fabric" (and prompting a Reg reader competition)? At around the same time bloggers were complaining of "burn out". Were the two related? "There's something going on that touches on the future of reading. If you watch teenagers and acquire a sense of their culture, you see that silent reading is becoming a challenge: multi-sensory acquisition and input and assimilation is changing," Katz notes. "But there is something primitively Freudian about the immersive experience." ®
CommentsComments Friday is here again, and we begin on a pious note. Good news for the ostentatiously religious among you: Gold River Productions has come out with a Christian ringtones service. Fellow commuters can be treated to a reading of a bible verse or a Christian rock ditty, among other choices, and you might want to hold off answering the call so they can get the full benefit. Answering "HELLO? I'M ON THE ARK. NO, THE ARK!" is discouraged.
Outsourcing clients have caught the green bug big time, and will force the faceless global omnicorps they employ to clean up their act or slide into oblivion. That's according to a report sexily entitled The Black Book of Outsourcing. Outsourcing consultancy Brown-Wilson Group reckons the vogue for mincing around a yurt with an organic hemp manbag full of dolphin-free jossticks means industry will have to offer greened up contracts.
ReviewReview 'Wireless' is a wonderful word that creates beautiful images in the minds of the gadget-obsessed masses. We imagine headphones and MP3 players working together in cable-free harmony, or desktop peripherals resting comfortably with our PCs, without constantly being pulled out of place by connection cords.
Admins with the Gentoo Project say they have disconnected major parts of its website a week after discovering it could be vulnerable to a command injection attack that allows bad guys to remotely execute code on the machine. At time of writing, users trying to access Gentoo Archives and at least seven other areas of Gentoo.org got a message saying they were unavailable. Gentoo pulled the server hosting the sections "to prevent further exploitation and to allow for forensic analysis," according to Gentoo's homepage.
The RIAA has been slapped by a class action lawsuit, filed by Tanya Anderson, a single mom from Oregon who claims the organization's goons impersonated her 10-year-old daughter's grandmother over the phone to extract evidence. Charges filed against the RIAA include — deep breath now — counts of negligence, fraud and misrepresentation, racketeering and corruption, abuse of the legal process, malicious prosecution, outrage and intention to inflict emotional distress, computer fraud and abuse, trespass, invasion of privacy, libel and slander, deceptive business practices, misuse of copyright laws, and civil conspiracy. The case was spotted by the ever-watchful folks at The Recording Industry vs The People. You can grab a copy of the complaint at their website. The lawsuit fingers the RIAA, a number of record labels under the organization's umbrella, and MediaSentry - a firm the RIAA uses to sniff out individuals suspected of illegally swapping copyrighted music. Anderson claims the non-profit RIAA engages in a coordinated enterprise scheme of threatening and intimidating litigation to maintain a music distribution monopoly. The suit alleges MediaSentry "conducts illegal, flawed and negligent investigations for the RIAA and its controlled member companies." It goes on to say that for years the group has entered a secret agreement targeting private citizens. From the filing: MediaSentry and the RIAA know that their investigations are illegal and flawed. MediaSentry is not licensed or registered to conduct private investigation of private US citizens. Moreover, in a March 2004 sworn deposition MediaSentry's then president admitted to various serious flaws in the investigative scheme which all Defendants know result in misidentification of individuals. The process The lawsuit describes the RIAA's sinister machine, which it alleges clogs and abuses the federal court with baseless lawsuits. First, the RIAA and controlled members file information farming suits against anonymous "John Doe" parties to coerce internet service providers into identifying the users behind particular IP addresses. Because no specific parties are named, the lawsuit claims those targeted are often deprived of due process and never know the RIAA is harvesting their private information. After the information is gathered, the anonymous suits are typically dismissed immediately before the individuals know they have been "secretly sued," robbing them of the opportunity to appear in court to protect their identities. The RIAA's next step is sending "threatening and misleading letters," that contain false allegations and omissions. The letters are confusing, claiming the recipient has both "already been sued," and "have not yet been named as a defendant." The letters tell the recipient that all the necessary evidence has been secured and the recipient has 10 days to make contact with the RIAA before a federal lawsuit is filed against them. The class action suit claims 10 days does not provide the letter recipient with any meaningful time to investigate the allegations. The letter also conveniently neglects to inform the recipient that they were the subject of a private "illegal" investigation, or that there is a known possibility for error or mistaken identity. "With its legal expertise, the RIAA has a heightened duty to act reasonably, responsibility, and legally to avoid foreseeable harm...," the suit claims. Despite knowing the nature of the investigations, it has acted negligently when it conspired and coordinated with MediaSentry. The RIAA has used the information gathered on a "campaign of threat and extortion." If the complaint is certified for class action, it could pave the way for others harassed by the RIAA to join the lawsuit. Such a confrontation was bound to happen given the organization's notorious tactics, and should it fail, more would doubtlessly find their way to court. ®
Yet another trademark owner has gone to war over Google's keyword advertising. But this time it's a name everyone knows: American Airlines. Yesterday, the world's largest airline slapped a federal suit on the world's largest search engine, claiming that Google's cash-cow of an ad system infringes on American's rather extensive trademark portfolio. "Some individuals and entities attempt to take advantage of consumers by marketing their products or services using the brands of others," reads a filing with the US District for the Northern District of Texas. "This lawsuit involves exactly such a situation - efforts by certain companies to free ride on American Airlines' brands through use of Google technology." Google is to blame, the suit argues, because it allows third-party businesses to piggy-back their ads on search engine keywords that violate American Airlines trademarks - like "American Airlines," "AA," and "A A." Close to a dozen companies have filled similar suits against Google, including Geico and American Blinds, but none can match the profile of an American Airlines. "Geico is a pretty well known brand," Santa Clara University law professor and tech law blogger Eric Goldman told The Reg, "but American Airlines is one of those highest-echelon brands, one of the brands that almost everyone is familiar with." And American Airlines has lots of money to pay its lawyers. American's argument is, shall we say, multi-faceted. On one level, the airline claims that Google is "directly" infringing its trademarks, that the search engine is using intellectual property owned by American Airlines to rake in cold, hard cash. "The law doesn't really distinguish between me slapping a competitor's brand on my knock-off good and Google offering the ability to make a keyword match on its database," Goldman told us. "The fact that Google is taking money for having made an association on someone's trademark could, in theory, meet the trademark statute standards" - i.e. break the law. What's more, the suit argues, Google is actually suggesting that advertisers purchase keywords that violate American Airlines trademarks. "Google has a sandbox where it suggests what keywords [advertisers] should buy and it will routinely suggests third-party trademarks," Goldman explained. "If you go onto the site and say 'Hey, I'm thinking about advertising in the travel business,' it will say 'Have you considered the following keywords' - and American Airlines trademarks may be on that list." The airline makes a boatload of additional claims - with some holding more water than others. At one point, it gets huffy because Google doesn't allow keyword matches on its own trademark, and it complains that when you click on links related to American Airlines trademarks, you're taken to sites that sell both American Airlines tickets and tickets from competitors. You might as well complain that your local grocery store is selling both Coke and Pepsi even though it ran a Pepsi ad in the local paper. So far, no such suit has actually gone to jury trial, but the American Blinds case is headed that way, and Google ended up settling with Geico. Basically, US courts are in disagreement over whether keyword advertising actually violates trademarks. "About half the courts who've opined on the question have said 'Yes, it does,' and about half have said 'No,'" Goldman said. Goldman believes the American Airlines suit is doomed to fail, but you can bet the company will take it the distance. This is the word from those well-paid lawyers: "American Airlines does not bring this lawsuit lightly." ®