4th > September > 2007 Archive
UpdatedUpdated Eurostar will this morning try to set a new Paris-London time record during the inaugural run along the recently-completed British "High Speed 1" track to St Pancras International station, Reuters reports. Although the St Pancras terminal doesn't officially take over from Waterloo until 14 November, it will host the arrival of what Eurostar hopes will be a two-hour 15-minute jaunt for the 9.44am from Paris Gare du Nord - twenty minutes quicker than normal at speeds of up to 186mph on both sides of the Channel. The 68 miles of High Speed 1 have been a long time coming - 13 years since the first Eurostar service - but their completion comes at a "time of booming demand" for rail travel as tightened airport security makes flying an increasingly unpleasant experience. Travellers are also switching to rail due to increasing concerns about the environmental impact of aircraft, according to Eurostar. ® Update The jaunt finally ran to a snappy two hours, 3 minutes and 39 seconds. Reports that it then took the attendant UK hacks three hours to battle their way a couple of miles across London to their offices are unconfirmed.
IFA 07IFA 07 Watching your favourite film in high definition and on a monster screen is all well and good, but it still doesn't make the film leap out at you. Texas Instruments claims it's overcome this problem and has teamed up with Samsung to develop a 3D TV.
Astronomers working at the Palomar observatory have taken some of the clearest ever pictures of space. A US and UK team of stargazers have taken advantage of new adaptive optics technology to out-do even the Hubble Space Telescope for sharpness. The problem with taking pictures of stars from the ground is that the atmosphere gets in the way. One way round this is to put your camera in space. But the Cambridge Institute of Astronomy scientists have developed a technique that takes advantage of fluctuations in atmospheric haze to snap the sharpest possible image of the heavens. The boffins explain: "The camera works by recording the images produced by an adaptive optics front-end at 20 frames per second or more. Software then checks each one to pick the sharpest ones. Many are still quite significantly smeared but a good percentage are unaffected. These are combined to produce the image that astronomers want. We call the technique "Lucky Imaging" because it depends on the chance fluctuations in the atmosphere sorting themselves out." Adaptive optics has been used to resolve binary systems in the infrared where previously astronomers could only see smudges. The technology has sharpened up views of singles stars too, but the newly released pictures of the Cat's Eye nebula and the M13 globular cluster (above) are quite possibly the most stunning images produced yet. In the M13 globular cluster, the stars are crammed together as little as one light day apart. The adaptive optics allow us to see that separation for the first time, even though we are 25,000 light years away. (Although this is still a terrifyingly long way for a human to contemplate travelling, the nearest star to our own sun is a whopping four light years away.) More pics here. ®
PayForIt is another mobile wallet scheme, this time backed by all the major operators and launched with the limited aim of taking payments for ringtones, games, and other mobile content.
Apple will tomorrow unveil revamped iPods - the first without a hard drive - and iPod Nanos at an event to be held tomorrow, if the leaks and rumours of the last few weeks prove accurate.
Sources in Washington have indicated that the cyber attack last June which targeted the office of US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was conducted by the Chinese military.
Open source tool supplier Interface21 has recast its Spring framework to deliver web services applications based on the 'contract-first' approach to development. Under the name Spring Web Services 1.0, the updated framework will enable developers to build and deliver more flexible, loosely coupled web services applications, says the supplier.
Ask consumers which HD TV technology they think delivers the best picture quality and they'll put LCD and plasma on a par. Get them to try the two out first, and they quickly favour plasma. So claimed research company Synovate last week after conducting tests with punters across Europe.
Liverpool John Moores University has evidently opened its own department of the bleedin' obvious by revealing that rock and pop stars often die prematurely because of their penchant for a fast-track lifestyle fuelled by drugs and booze, The Daily Telegraph reports. The uni's study of 1,050 US and European artists discovered they are twice as likely to die early than the rest of the population. Specifically, "100 stars died between 1956 and 2005 with US stars dying at 42 on average and those from Europe at 35"*. Drink and narcotics accounted for a quarter of all celebrity clog-poppings. The Telegraph cites some famous examples of substance-driven oblivion, including Elvis Presley, Jim Morrison and Kurt Cobain. Tupac Shakur also merits a mention for not living long enough to drink and drug himself into the grave, since he was shot four times at the tender age of 25. NME's news editor Paul Stokes explained: "The problem is that rock stars often spend the first years of their careers struggling to get by and then get everything really quickly. There is no control mechanism and with a culture which often lauds excessive behaviour that spells problems." Researchers said their findings "should be looked at seriously by the music industry". The music industry responded with a BPI statement declaring: "A very small minority do encounter problems, which due to their fame and success are played out in the media and given a greater prominence than those of young people in other walks of life. Record labels always seek to support the minority of artists who experience difficulties of this kind." The latest talent to succumb to "excessive behaviour" is, of course, Amy Winehouse - hardly a shining example for the "one in 10 children in the UK aspiring to be a pop star", according to the researchers. Head researcher, professor Mark Bellis, commented: "Public health consideration needs to be given to preventing music icons promoting health-damaging behaviour among their emulators and fans. Stars could do more to actively promote positive health messages, but these need to be backed up by example." ® Bootnote *Given that this is the European average, we suspect the actual figure would be considerably lower if researchers had not added the Rolling Stones' combined ages (roughly 540 years, by our reckoning) into the equation.
Acquisition-happy payroll software maker Sage (UK) has moved into the HR biz with the launch of a new system aimed at SMBs. The software, which is available now, can be used by firms to manage, update, access and analyse employee details and has a starting price tag of £250.
Business software provider Oracle has acquired Dublin-based Netsure Telecom. Netsure provides network intelligence and analytics software to communications service providers. The firm's clients include Vodafone, Cable & Wireless and Eircom.
The availability of gore and violence on the internet has prompted the UK Government to consider backing a campaign to encourage wider awareness and use of net-filtering software. Gordon Brown has ordered ministers to work with ISPs and media watchdog Ofcom to devise a strategy to regulate access to smut and violence online. Early ideas include plans to educate parents about the use of net-filtering software (aka censorware). Ofcom has been asked to develop a kite-mark scheme to certify net-filtering products, The Sun reports. There will also be a review on whether new rules are needed about the marketing of some products to youngsters. "We will be looking to see what can be done to help regulate access to inappropriate material," Prime Minster Brown said in a speech to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations in London on Monday. The scheme is likely to play well in Middle England. However, the idea that net-filtering software can act as a panacea is surely mistaken. Use of the software is highly political and often more attuned to the sensibilities of Bible Belt America than European values. Leaving aside questions of the effectiveness of net-nanny software, of which there are many, UK kids might be restricted from accessing sexual health websites or campaigning groups such as Amnesty International as well as violent content. The Sun suggests that the availability of everything from happy-slapping videos to beheading in Iraq has spurred the net violence crackdown initiative. The review is part of Brown's wider citizens' jury plans. Citizens' jury involve groups of ordinary punters thrashing out specific issues and passing on findings to government departments. This might sound like a focus group - but it isn't - though how the scheme would work in practice is still a bit vague, at least judging from the responses of the prime minister's spokesman to reporters. The first citizens' jury will meet later this week on the "subject of children", which will certainly give the participants plenty to discuss. Helping to keep inappropriate material away from sensitive eyes is expected to form part of this discussion. ®
A survey from Carphone Warehouse reveals that those in the North East of England are the most callous about their animals; with the loss of their pet upsetting only 57 per cent, while 73 per cent of those living in the South West care most - must be all those retirees. Quite why the rest of the population keeps pets isn't clear: some form of emotional attachment to the animals we keep around our houses is traditional; without it a pet is surely just a parasite. But the purpose of the survey is to demonstrate how much people care about losing their mobile phone, and how much they would benefit from better insurance. Forty per cent of Scots apparently wouldn't be upset if they did lose their phone - which might just mean they already have insurance, or that they know how cheap phones are to replace. Those in the Midlands care most about losing their phones, but are almost equally emotional about losing their pets: 73 per cent and 72 per cent respectively, which suggests they are a more emotional people, but at least they care for their cats.
Major changes are in store for Britain's £91bn gambling industry after new gambling laws came into force on 1st September. The Gambling Act 2005 replaces legislation dating as far back as 1845 and governs nearly all forms of gambling. The legislation aims to protect children and vulnerable people, cut crime and keep games fair. Operators will have to prove they can meet tough new laws aimed at making gambling more socially responsible. But critics have voiced fears that the result of the biggest overhaul of regulations for decades could be a rise in problem gambling. The Act covers gaming in arcades and adult gaming centres, betting, bingo, casinos, gambling in clubs and pubs, lotteries (except the National Lottery) and remote gambling. In theory, free draws and prize competitions are free from statutory control under the Gambling Act 2005. However, there are important changes that affect operators of such events. For example, the Act changes the "skill" test that can distinguish a legal competition from an illegal lottery. (Pinsent Masons is running free OUT-LAW Breakfast Seminars on the new regime for promotions in October. See the link below.) Perhaps the biggest change under the Act is that casinos, bookmakers and online betting sites will be able to advertise their services on TV and radio in the UK for the first time. The changes also open the door for the first £1m bingo prize and lift restrictions on casinos, such as the requirement for customers to be members. The Act came into force in stages. The first stage created the Gambling Commission, established in October 2005, which took on many of the existing responsibilities of its predecessor, the Gaming Board of Great Britain. In addition, the Commission will now regulate British-based remote gambling operators, arcades and the betting industry. As one of the most powerful gambling regulators in the world, the Commission will be able to levy unlimited fines, withdraw licences, bring prosecutions, enter premises, seize goods and suspend and void bets. The Act also gives a new role to local authorities, empowering more than 1,500 licensing officers (alongside 50 specialist Gambling Commission compliance officers) to inspect gambling premises to enforce the new laws. As of 1st September, British-based operators who wish to provide gambling must have a Gambling Commission licence. More than 2,500 existing operators completed their application ahead of the April deadline to ensure continuation under the new arrangements. All operators must abide by the Licence Conditions and Codes of Practice – which includes requirements to ensure all operators promote socially responsible gambling. According to the Department for Culture, Media & Sport, which has responsibility for gambling, key changes to the industry's regulation include: For the first time, betting shops and remote gambling sites based in the UK will be governed by a dedicated regulator, the Gambling Commission. Local authorities will be able to impose sanctions on operators, including limiting opening hours and reducing numbers of gaming machines. Local people will be able to object to new gambling licences and seek reviews of existing ones. New codes governing advertising come into force, requiring ads to be socially responsible and banning the use of models under 25 or linking gambling to sexual success. Adverts from outside Europe that fail to meet the UK’s strict regulatory requirements will be banned. TV advertisements will be allowed for the first time, but subject to a voluntary 9pm watershed (with the exemption of betting ads during sports events). The membership requirement on casinos is lifted. Bingo clubs will be able to offer rollover jackpots. Questions on phone-in quizzes on TV and radio must be harder. This is to prevent pay-to-enter phone quizzes that are too easy operating as if they were lotteries and therefore evading limits on stakes and prizes and the legal requirement for licensed lotteries to give 20 per cent of profits to charity. Gambling operators will be required to display prominently information about responsible gambling and how to get help for problems. They will also have to work proactively to prevent underage gambling and contribute to problem gambling treatment and research, education and public awareness. Betting cheats, including sportspeople, will face a two-year jail sentence. UK-based betting operators will be required to pass information to sports bodies to prevent cheating. Gambling debts will become legally enforceable, helping to ensure those who win get paid. Gerry Sutcliffe, minister with responsibility for gambling, said: “Many people like to gamble, and for the vast majority it’s harmless fun. This has and always will be the case. But what has changed is the way people gamble. "It used to be that you had to leave the house to place a bet, but advances in technology have changed that – TVs, home computers and mobile phones have become the digital equivalent of a betting slip and casino chip. “The government brought in the Gambling Act because most of our laws were nearly 40 years old and these developments were going unchecked and unregulated. "The new Gambling Act will give the Gambling Commission and local authorities unprecedented powers to ensure gambling is conducted fairly, children and vulnerable people are protected and crime is kept out.” The new regulations, however, have met with some criticism. The Salvation Army said the new laws allowed for a general increase in the number of gambling premises, particularly betting shops. "Gambling is not a normal leisure activity," said a spokesman for the organisation. "Whilst some people enjoy a flutter or bet from time to time, gambling can become addictive and cause many problems. The results can be devastating on the individual, their friends, family, and on society." Meanwhile, the charity GamCare has called on the government to make changes to the new regulations to force bookmakers, casinos and some online operators to include its helpline number in advertisements. GamCare staff are gearing up for a rise in the volume of calls in the wake of the changes. A spokeswoman said: "An increase in gambling equates to an increase in whatever small proportion of individuals who gamble who get into difficulty." Gambling Commission chairman, Peter Dean, said: “We are a nation of gamblers, even if some who admit to the occasional flutter would shy away from that description. "Parliament has set the basic rules about what gambling is permitted. The Gambling Commission’s task is to ensure that gambling is crime-free, fair and safe. It is a cause of great satisfaction to me that we now have the proper tools to do this within a modern system of gambling regulation which is second to none in the world.” Free seminar on the new regime for promotions: Pinsent Masons is running a series of free, one-hour OUT-LAW Breakfast Seminars on Promotions: the new regime for prize draws and competitions at its offices across Britain in October. See: OUT-LAW Breakfast Seminars Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
ReviewReview The one-box home cinema system business reached saturation point some time ago, particularly at the cheaper end of the market. So companies who, like LG, target the mainstream have to work pretty hard to make their products stand out. LG has certainly put in some effort into the J10HD.
Iogear is gearing up for the new school season and aiming to clean up the desktop in one foul swoop. It has created a wireless mouse that not only claims to deliver optimal, err, scrolling in all situations, but which is also coated with a specialist anti-bacterial coating.
Miles Flint, president of Sony Ericsson, has stepped down to spend more time with his money; to be replaced by Dick Komiyama, current chairman of the board at Sony Electronics, USA. When Flint took the helm at SE, in June 2004, the company had sold 27.2 million units during the previous year, compared to the 74.8 million it managed in 2006: making it the world's fourth-largest phone manufacturer. He oversaw the reintroduction of the Walkman brand to mobiles and used Sony's Cyber-shot brand to legitimise camera phones. He's going to hang around until the end of the year to help the company's transition to Komiyama, who takes up the role of president on November 1st. According to a statement, Flint is then going to "take a short career break" before going on to "develop new personal and business opportunities". Given what he's achieved at SE, it's hard to imagine an appropriate challenge, and Mr. Komiyama is going to find him a hard act to follow.
Basking in four times the radiation its sister craft, Mars Express, receives, Venus Express is celebrating its 500th day around, and 500th orbit of, our twin planet. Although most of the one terabit of data that has been sent back is still being written up (brace yourselves for a flurry of papers some time fairly soon), there have been some startling discoveries. For one, the planet's atmosphere is much more changeable than scientists expected. Recent images collected by the Visible and Near-Infrared Mapping Spectrometer (VIRTIS) have shown the atmospheric structure changes almost daily, although there are some clear patterns. Giuseppe Piccioni, co-principal investigator for VIRTIS on board Venus Express, says: "It seems that the mid latitudes form a sort of transition region with mostly laminar flow. Moving equatorward, there is more convective flow in the atmosphere, whereas the polar region is dominated by huge vortices." (Laminar flow describes how parallel layers of a fluid or a gas may flow past one another with no real disruption between the layers.) The vortices at the poles are fascinating for astro-meteorologists. The giant double storms, spanning 2000km, have been seen at both north and south poles. As with other regions of the atmosphere, the vortices are not fixed, as astronomers have observed changes in the polar weather systems on sequential orbital passes. Venus Express is doing all its science in an incredibly harsh environment, but the modifications to the Mars Express design on which it was based have worked well. Engineers say the craft is stable. The biggest challenge facing researchers is the speed at which data can be transmitted back to Earth. Last month, Venus and Earth swung past each other in the orbits around the sun. Venus Express was on the nearside, and could send data back at maximum speed. But when Venus is on the other side of the sun, the fastest data rate available will be 22kbps. And you thought your broadband connection was a bit wonky. ®
The trouble with batteries is that there never seems to be a power socket in sight when you want to charge them up. Thankfully, one manufacturer has developed a battery that should be slightly easier to recharge, thanks to its ability to run off a variety of liquids, including water and urine.
Any bosses among you who are wondering why your male employees' productivity has declined of late are directed to a highly suspect survey by moneysupermarket.com, which claims they're probably ogling some quality internet pornography rather than knuckling down to that mission-critical PowerPoint presentation. According to The Sun, the study demonstrated that "eight percent of people who view adult content online do so at work", while of those who do indulge in "wacking", 43 percent are at it on average twice a day. So far so plausible-ish. However, the report continues that 20 per cent of chaps "admit to being aroused from a download, compared to just two per cent of women". Quite what these ne'er-do-wells are downloading, rather than simply having a quick shufti at a virtual fleshfest, is not forthcoming. Moneysupermarket.com's Jason Lloyd offered: "Our research reveals people's appetite for downloading and viewing content online has grown and is now an everyday occurrence. I was shocked to see so many people are taking risks by viewing and downloading adult content at work." Regarding downloading specifically, the survey also showed that "over half the population (55 per cent)" spent an "average 172 hours" of their spare time extracting stuff from the net. How much time the eight per cent who wack at work spend downloading at their employer's expense is not noted, but the leisure stats exceed the "78 hours men spend playing or watching football or the 194 hours a year women spend shopping". In the downloading rankings, music is the most popular, with "69 per cent of people having downloaded at least one tune", followed by software (60 per cent) and games (37 per cent). Again, quite what percentage of your workforce is currently aroused having spent the entire morning downloading OpenOffice is unavailable, but the overall figures suggest a serious threat to the British economy at the hands of foreign companies whose workers, as we all know, have never even heard the word MILF, let alone enjoyed a quick .wmv of 46-year-old Amy from Florida entertaining the plumber. Accordingly, Lloyd advised: "There are numerous safeguards employers can put in place, but I would recommend simply looking at productivity levels, especially amongst the male workforce." ® Bootnote A quick straw poll among a boisterous young crowd of office workers at Vulture Central's local boozer this lunchtime revealed that a staggering 98 per cent spent more than 30 hours last week viewing internet pornography, but that not one of them found the experience remotely arousing. It was only after a few more liveners that they admitted they worked for something called milfapocalypse.com.
Professional services firm Morse today reported a 13 per cent group profit fall and said its continued drive away from the IT infrastructure market had put a dent in its financial figures. Revenue from continuing operations was down £40m to £256.5m for the year-on-year period ended 30 June 2007.
In the Irish Sea off Wales this week, a new kind of robot is taking to the waves. For once, this is not a military kill-droid, nor a securo-pork powered surveillance machine. Instead, we are seeing the debut of the fully-autonomous sailboat, which uses its own software to navigate out at sea. For now the uninhabited windjammers will stay relatively close to home, but next year their successors will race across the Atlantic. "Roboat" of Austria: victor in '06 and frontrunner in '07. The salty tech challenge event is called Microtransat, and it was conceived by boffins Yves Briere of the Ensica engineering institute in Toulouse and Mark Neal of Aberystwyth Uni. There was an inaugural 2006 meet in France, and this year teams from Wales, Toulouse, Canada and Austria are competing. A Portuguese vessel couldn't get ready in time. The 2007 rules are still relatively relaxed, allowing entrants to use vessels remotely controlled by a computer over a comms link or even just a remote-controlled boat; though these options lose a lot of points. The idea is to produce a vessel no longer than 4m (ordinary sailing dinghy size*). The boat should be able to sail itself around waypoints without human input using no primary power other than sun and wind, though batteries may be carried. Ultimately, the goal is to produce oceanographic survey platforms that could operate at sea for up to six months, probably sailing themselves out to areas of interest. They would send data back using satellite communications, and return periodically for repairs if possible; but their cost would be low enough that losses wouldn't be catastrophic. Existing, disposable oceanography buoys can cost $10,000 and last only a year or so before going out of service, apparently. Races were carried out yesterday around triangular virtual courses off Aberystwyth, but most competitors were bedevilled by rough weather and technical snags. Dr Neal told the Reg that the Austrian entry "performed flawlessly," but the other windjammer-bots all succumbed to problems and had to be retrieved by chase boats. The French "iBoat" contenders were particularly handicapped by arriving very late, after which it was found that their boat's GPS would only work correctly when east of the Greenwich zero meridian. It should be noted, though, that even superfighter jets costing hundreds of millions are occasionally subject to this sort of snag. Here's some Flash video of the iBoat in trials: Tomorrow is the day of the "impress the judges" event, but details thus far are scanty. Neal says that "just surviving" in tough offshore conditions in the Irish Sea will represent a good effort, but adds that the Austrian front-runners may have a few surprises in store. "They're playing it close to their chests so far," he said. A high failure rate in relatively short duration race like this might not bode well for next year's transatlantic voyage, but Neal at least is undaunted. "We'll definitely enter something from Aberystwyth," he says. Apparently the Welsh ocean-going sail-bot in 2008 will be based on a Topper dinghy, equipped with GPS, wind sensors and actuators for rudder and sails. There will be an Iridium satcomms modem allowing a two-way datalink, but its power requirements mean it will only be activated every few days. Neal is confident overall regarding electrical power, saying that he plans to use flexible solar panels bonded to the decks for peak output of 60W and an average of 6W. The total power requirements should be only 3-4W, so there should be adequate juice: though it seems there are sometimes problems with seagull droppings covering the cells. The main snags are mechanical failures in moving parts, and the risk of the tiny craft being mown down by inattentive big ships out at sea. Regarding the latter problem, says Neal, "there isn't much you can do that isn't incredibly power hungry," though the boats will carry radar reflectors. How confident is Neal that the Aberystwyth robo-boat will actually make it to the Caribbean next year? "Not terribly," he says frankly. "Fifty-fifty?"® *Or in approved Reg units, as long as a pair of young adult moose standing arse to antler.
Following on from our offers on the latest Dreamweaver CS3 and Photoshop CS3 titles, we thought we couldn't look at those exciting new releases without at least visiting Flash CS3, another part of the Adobe CS3 software dynasty. As usual we've taken a look at what is out there and whittled it down to bring you a selection of the best new titles on the market (all at 40 per cent off*, we might add), which we're sure will help you design that killer website you've got planned. So have a look at the books below and allow some of the best experts in the world to give you an introduction to the next generation of Flash.
An appeal court has quashed an $11m judgment against anti-spam organisation Spamhaus in favour of controversial email marketing outfit e360 Insight. The US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit also lifted an injunction, imposed last September, that barred Spamhaus from listing either e360 Insight or its principal David Linhardt as a source of spam.
You know the way your phone shows a full battery for ages and ages, then as soon as you make or take a call it throws a double six and shuts down? Or the way your mp3 player drops towards empty while playing, then suddenly climbs up to almost-full again as soon as you press stop?
Toshiba today unveiled its latest widescreen projector. The TLP-WX2200U model features a palm-sized control panel that allows users to assign a password to prevent unauthorised access to the projector – so presumably no one will be able to mess with your slides before that important presentation.
A US retailer has dropped (pdf) a suit against Google which challenged the trademark policy of its keyword advertising system, AdWords. American Blinds & Wallpaper Factory (ABWF) has withdrawn its long-running action against Google. ABWF had claimed the fact that Google sold the right to advertise beside search results related to its name constituted trademark infringement. Google disputed this and a court ruling could have settled the contentious issue. The case will not now go to a full jury trial, which was due in November after four years of litigation. Google has not changed its policies or paid ABWF any money, and each side will pay its own costs, according to company statements. The retreat will be seen as a victory for Google and its profitable AdWords system, which has been challenged by several trademark holders to date. Google sells advertising based on the exact search term entered by a user of its search engine. It provides the search engine results and, beside those, adverts. Advertisers pay to have their ad displayed when specific terms are typed into the search engine. ABWF argued that it was wrong for other companies' ads to appear when a user searched for its name. It said that activity infringed its trademarks. David Rammelt of US law firm Kelley Drye represented ABWF in the action. He told OUT-LAW Radio last May that Google violated its rights. "Google had been for some period of time both allowing the sale of our trademarks as keywords to competitors, as well as promoting that sale," said Rammelt. "Google has felt it is free to […] trample over those intellectual property rights and you’re seeing it in not just the trademark context but you’re seeing it in the copyright context, you are seeing it in the patent context." Google said that the decision of ABWF to drop its case vindicated its claims. "From the start, we've said that American Blind & Wallpaper Factory's claims were baseless, and that Google's trademark policies are perfectly reasonable and lawful," a Google spokesperson told OUT-LAW. "Now, with a trial approaching, ABWF decided to withdraw all of its claims. We are very pleased with this outcome and to note that Google has not paid and will not be paying any settlement fee, our trademark policies remain unchanged, and we've made no special exceptions for American Blind." The agreement (pdf) between the two parties confirmed that Google would not be changing its policies in relation to AdWords, and that it has not made any form of payment to it to drop the suit. "ABWF expressly acknowledges that Google has not made and has not agreed to make any payment to ABWF of any kind whatsoever," it said. The agreement also indicated that Google was free to retain its policy and that ABWF would not sue it again over its practices. "So long as Google does not make a material change in its AdWords trademark policy that adversely affects ABWF, ABWF covenants not to sue Google, any direct or indirect subsidiary of Google," it said. The case would have been the first keyword-related case to proceed to a jury trial. The most significant ruling to date was a victory for Google. In a decision of December 2004, when a Virginia court ruled that the sale of insurance firm GEICO's trademarks as keywords was not unlawful because there was insufficient evidence of consumer confusion. Last month, American Airlines became the latest trademark owner to sue Google over AdWords. It also seeks a jury trial. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
The UK's fertility regulator is expected to give its seal of approval to research on human-animal hybrids in the UK. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) published its consultation on the proposed draft Human Tissue and Embryos Bill yesterday, in which it said most people consulted were at ease with the creation of hybrid embryos. The consultation began back in May this year. The aim was to clarify any contentious areas, and seek expert advice on definitions of the terminology involved (gamete, hybrid, embryo). It also wanted suggestions as to how research into hybrids would be regulated and overseen. The Bill paves the way for the creation of embryos composed of 99.9 per cent human, 0.1 per cent animal DNA. It prohibits "true" human-animal hybrids, but allows for so-called chimeras and cytoplasmic hybrid embryos. Any hybrid embryos would be allowed to divide for 14 days before being destroyed, and would not be allowed to be implanted into a womb. The hope is that by using hybrid embryos, researchers can hone the techniques they need for research that requires human embryos, such as growing viable lines of stem cells. The proposed legislation, which also covers sex selection of embryos, is proving highly controversial. Critics suggest that the creation of hybrid embryos creates confusion about the boundaries and definition of humanity. Others are concerned about the moral implications of research on any embryos at all: that the proposed research subjects are part animal, part human just compounds an already untenable position. However, the HFEA's statement released yesterday said that although plenty of people have raised concerns, their fears have been easy to allay: "When further factual information was provided and further discussion took place, the majority of participants became more at ease with the idea," the report says. Last month, the parliamentary committee set up to examine the Bill gave its approval, recommending that the government relax the current ban on creating hybrid embryos. It recommended a free vote on the Bill, and said that the HFEA and the Human Tissue Authority (HTA) should regulate the research. The Royal Society, which has been part of a campaign supporting the Bill, issued a statement welcoming the HFEA's report. President Martin Rees is quoted as saying: "It is heartening that the wider public agree with the scientific community that human-animal embryos offer the potential to better understand incurable illnesses such as Parkinson's and Motor Neurone Disease." ®
Worldwide sales of semiconductors totalled $20.6bn for the month of July, a jump of 2.2 per cent on the previous year, according to new figures. The numbers were released by the Semiconductor Industry Association, which said the sector was on track to achieve its target of 1.8 per cent annual growth in 2007, despite severe competition in the early part of the year.
Computer maker Acer is looking into the possibility of a Chinese acquisition following its decision to buy US-based Gateway. Acer chief executive, Wang Jen-tang, said in an interview with the Financial Times that such a deal could boost the PC vendor's market share in China, he also hit back at investors who have criticised the firm’s motives for expansion.
Market analyst iSuppli (no relation) reports that the iPhone captured 1.8 per cent of US handset sales in July, outselling all other models of smartphone during its launch month. The study also reports that nearly a quarter of iPhone buyers were not AT&T customers. When an AT&T customer buys an iPhone Apple gets a cut of $3 a month, but when someone switches to AT&T then Apple's cut rises to $11 a month. So Apple makes a lot more on switchers than loyal AT&T customers; which suits both companies. Raking in $11 a month on a quarter of iPhone users in addition to the margin on the hardware has got to be good for Apple. It's hard to predict future sales on the basis of the launch month, but iSuppli does: reckoning Apple will shift 4.5 million iPhones during 2007, rising to 30 million in 2011. This seems optimistic, but will depend on how they develop the product. ®
The University of Glasgow is smashing a champagne bottle off the side of a new electronics design centre today. The £5m facility is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and has been designed to fill a gap in British electronics research. The university says it will be at the forefront of breakthroughs in drug development, communications systems and homeland security.
Is it a portable media player? Is it a mobile phone? Well, if Internet rumours are true, then yes – it’s the Samsung Croix. A device that’s uncannily similar looking to Apple’s iPhone and that is thought to sport a touch-sensitive screen and which has recently won a design award.
The US aviation regulator has selected ITT Corp to provide a new generation of GPS satnav-based air traffic control equipment, awarding a $207m, three-year initial contract. Current air traffic control systems worldwide use radar to detect and track aircraft: either "primary," in which radio pulses from the radar reflect back from the plane's skin, or "secondary," where a transponder emits a code or "squawk" in response to the radar transmission. In either case, the controller's picture updates only as fast as the radar antenna can spin round, which typically means every six seconds or so. During that time a jet can travel a mile, and usually the radar location info isn't very precise either, which means that, in congested airspace, a substantial margin of error must be maintained. This in turn means fewer planes can move through a given amount of airspace, leading to delays. Now, however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) intends to move to a system called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B), which will lay the groundwork for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen. Under ADS-B, each plane is fitted with GPS satellite navigation, and thus knows its own location precisely. This information will then be broadcast in real time to a ground network, updating every second. Controllers will have a much more accurate idea where all the aircraft are, which could potentially allow them to move planes through bottlenecks more quickly. “This signals a new era of air traffic control,” according to FAA number-two, Bobby Sturgell. “ADS-B - and, in turn, NextGen - will attack the delay problem head on by dramatically increasing air traffic efficiency.” ADS-B will also be a two-way street, allowing pilots to see full information on all the planes in the sky around them, just as controllers do. At the moment, most aircraft don't have a proper radar of their own, though they may have proximity warning systems or weather radars. For monitoring other planes, today's pilots are mostly dependent on ground controllers - or the limited capabilities of the naked eye. "Along with air traffic displays, ADS-B will also give pilots graphical weather information, terrain maps and flight information... ADS-B is nearly 10 times more accurate than radar," according to the FAA release. ADS-B will be especially useful where there aren't any ground radars or controllers, which is the case across much of the world's airspace. "The ITT Team is proud to have been selected... for the transformation of the air transportation system," said ITT bigwig Steve Gaffney. "ITT and its premier team of industry partners are committed to working with the FAA to ensure this NextGen cornerstone program delivers its full potential." ITT's partners are AT&T, Thales North America, WSI, SAIC, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Aerospace Engineering, Sunhillo, Comsearch, MCS of Tampa, Pragmatics, Washington Consulting Group, Aviation Communications and Surveillance Systems (ACSS), Sandia Aerospace and NCR Corporation. Under the contract, ITT will be responsible for overall system integration and engineering. There are options included, too, for ITT to operate and maintain the system after deployment until 2025. With all options exercised, the deal could be worth up to $1.86bn. ADS-B trials have been carried out among light-aircraft aviators in Alaska and heavier operators in Ohio. There is a not dissimilar international system in use for seagoing ships, too, called AIS. However, AIS works much more on the ship-to-ship model, as shipping traffic isn't commonly controlled outside rivers and harbours - certainly not to the level that aircraft are. One criticism that has been levelled at AIS is that of security. It has been alleged that modern-day pirates and other miscreants make use of AIS transmissions to locate, track and target ships - especially where AIS data is disseminated over the internet. Such concerns might apply to ADS-B, too. At the strategic level, heavier reliance on GPS arguably makes the USA more vulnerable to anti-satellite attacks of the sort that China, for instance, is known to be able to mount. That said, GPS is already fairly critical. It's also possible to suggest that ADS-B would be easier to spoof than old-time radar systems. Persons of ill intent might tinker with ADS-B rigs to send false information, perhaps causing disruption. Aircraft might even be able to escape notice, if the existing radars were - in time - removed; though military air-defence kit would no doubt remain in place. Many of the same criticisms could also be made regarding existing air-band voice radios, though, or squawk transmitters. (For instance, it's especially important when setting a code on an old-time squawk box not to set the one which means "I have been hijacked" by accident. Even more so these days, if you don't want to get shot down.) Some might be pleased with ADS-B/NextGen, as it could be a step along the road to a "synthetic vision"-type infrastructure, which might allow suitably automated small aircraft to be handled by largely untrained pilots. Such systems would be necessary if our flying cars - for which we've been waiting bloody forever - are to become practical and affordable - though it's scarcely the only hurdle to be cleared. Air-traffic controllers' spokesmen were predictably sceptical about ADS-B, suggesting that it would be better to have more airports and hire more controllers. It's unlikely that ADS-B and NextGen would ever completely automate controllers out of a job, in the same way that pilots probably won't disappear from the flight deck. But the controllers could see their numbers cut very severely by automation in times to come. "This program and what it represents is not the answer to flight delays and the congestion that has choked the whole air traffic system," said Doug Church of the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, quoted in a GovExec.com report. "It's a start, but it's a long-term concept, and in our view, it's FAA's way of waving a smoke screen. The real problem is understaffed, overscheduled airports."®
MetroPCS wants to buy Leap Wireless, intent on creating one big we-don't-do-contacts wireless carrier. And it wants the world to know it wants to buy Leap Wireless. But there's no telling what Leap wants. This morning, the Texas-based MetroPCS sent a letter to Leap's board of directors, offering to purchase its San Diego-based competitor for more than $5bn in stock. Then it slapped the letter into a press release, flirting with stockholders everywhere. "We believe a combination of Leap Wireless and MetroPCS is compelling and would yield substantial immediate benefits to the shareholders of both companies," the letter reads. "Institutional shareholders of both of our companies as well as the Wall Street research community repeatedly have articulated their desire to see a business combination between our two companies announced before the end of 2007." With MetroPCS offering to exchange 2.75 of its shares for each share of Leap stock - and the average MetroPCS share price hovering around $28 - the deal would be worth close to $5.5bn. Plus, MetroPCS would assume or refinance approximately $2bn in Leap debt. According MetroPCS, the merger would create a new national wireless carrier covering each of the country's top 200 markets. "Such a combination would significantly expand the network service area available to the subscribers of both companies and would better position the combined company to more aggressively compete with the other national wireless carriers," the very open letter continues. It's hard to argue that the two companies are anything less than a natural fit. Both MetroPCs and Leap charge flat monthly fees for unlimited cell calls - rather than chaining customers to longterm contracts a la Verizon or AT&T. MetroPCS is sure that a merger of the two like-minded operations would only make them more efficient. "Based on our preliminary analysis, we believe that the combined company would achieve significant operating cost savings through a combination of market-level operating efficiencies and corporate overhead reductions," the MetroPCS says. "MetroPCS' and Leap's existing market operations are complementary, and we believe that the combined company, as a result of the expanded service area, would likely benefit from incremental improvements in customer penetration and retention." The PCSers think this could save two companies as much as $2.5bn. What do the Leapers think? Who knows. The company won't respond to our requests for comment. ®
Sony is prepping an update to remove rootkit-like technology that shipped with a range of USB storage devices featuring fingerprint authentication. The Sony MicroVault USM-F fingerprint reader software that comes bundled with the USB stick installs a hidden directory under Windows. Files in the directory might be hidden from some antivirus scanners, potentially creating a hiding place for malware that virus authors could seek to exploit.
Virtual Iron has put out a new release of its server virtualization software, chipping away at the gap between VMware Virtual Infrastructure 3 — at a price palatable to the low end of the market. Version 4.0 of the company's software builds from the latest version of XenSource's hypervisor, adds support for SLES 10 kernel and drivers, and features new management and migration capabilities.
Dell is adding more power to its high-end line of mobile workstations with the debut of the Precision M6300, a 17" notebook geared at engineers, developers, video editors and others who need to tote around some serious silicon. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in workstation marketplace, Dell is aiming for the system as not so much a complement to a PC, but a complete desktop replacement.