7th > September > 2007 Archive
The US Department of Justice is badmouthing net neutrality. In a recent filing with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the Justice Department said that certain net neutrality efforts could "prevent, rather than promote, optimal investment and innovation in the Internet, with significant negative effects for the economy and consumers." In the other words, the DoJ has no problem with AT&T and Verizon charging extra for certain types of online content. "Consumers and the economy are benefiting from the innovative and dynamic nature of the Internet," said Thomas O. Barnett, Assistant Attorney General in charge of the department's antitrust division. "Regulators should be careful not to impose regulations that could limit consumer choice and investment in broadband facilities." When he says regulators, he means the FCC. This is a case of the feds telling the feds what to do. More feds weighed in this summer. The FCC is tracking an ongoing debate between net service providers and big-name content providers like Google and Yahoo! The Googles and the Yahoo!s are calling for "net neutrality" regulations that would prevent the AT&Ts and the Verizons from building a "tiered" internet - a place where they can demand more dough when delivering certain stuff. Last year, as the FCC approved AT&T's merger with BellSouth, the communications giant agreed to maintain net neutrality on its high-speed traffic for two years. The clock is ticking. ®
Thalys will introduce broadband internet access to passengers travelling between Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne by 2008, the company announced today. It will be the first international high-speed train to provide this service across European borders.
The newspapers were full of stories during 2004 about how Microsoft or RealNetworks or Napster were going to knock Apple's iTunes off its perch, and time and time again, nothing really happened. Now we have the reverse.
DNA sequences we share with mice might not be as important as researchers previously thought. A series of experiments on mice at Berkeley have cast doubt on the notion that these so-called ultraconserved elements of DNA are indispensable, after test mice with sequences snipped out managed to grow up just fine. Ultraconserved elements are sections of DNA discovered three years ago, that we have in common with mice and rats. The sections are exactly alike, meaning that they are inherited from our last common ancestor over 85m years ago, and have been conserved since then without mutation. Researchers speculate that they have stayed perfectly intact because they are vital to our function as living beings, possibly playing a key role in reproduction or fertility. But these findings, reported in the September, 2007 issue of PLoS Biology, undermine that hypothesis. Nadav Ahituv of Berkeley Lab's Genomics Division, a human geneticist who led the experiment, said that the results were a complete surprise. "We fully expected to demonstrate the vital role these ultraconserved elements play by showing what happens when they are missing. Instead, our knockout mice were not only viable and fertile but showed no critical abnormalities in growth, longevity, pathology, or metabolism," he said. The researchers chose to delete sequences that are known as "enhancers". They do not directly encode proteins, but they are thought to play a key role in regulating the expression of nearby genes. (Taking out the genes themselves does muck up an organisms viability, so the team thought the DNA that regulated the genes might also have an effect.) Study director Edward Rubin, head of the Joint Genome Institute and Berkeley Lab's Genomics Division, said that although no one could say the mice in the study were "normal", "we can confidently conclude that the presence of the ultraconserved elements are not required for the viability of the organism". The biggest question the research raises is that of how these sections of DNA came to be perfectly preserved, if they are not vital to the viability of the animal? The researchers are not entirely sure. Ahituv suggests the survival of the mice may lie in redundancy, explaining that for one of the elements the team chose to delete, there are other noncoding ultraconserved elements positioned near it in the genome that show similar enhancer activity. But he acknowledges that this doesn't explain why the sequences are perfectly preserved. "It may be that we saw no deleterious effects in the knockouts because nature provides a backup for these ultraconserved elements. These may rescue the organism from the abnormalities we speculated would be caused by the missing ultraconserved sequences -- though this still does not explain why they are so ultimately conserved." Len Pennacchio, a Berkeley Lab senior scientist and a primary author of the study, suggests that the deletion does make the mice less fit, but not in a way that we can observe on short time scales. Suffice to say, more work is needed. You can read the paper here. ®
AnalysisAnalysis A significant and noticeable part of the US and European academy of terrorism studies is like a shark. If it stops swimming forward, it dies. This has two consequences: a drive to publish or perish which, in turn, motivates it to creep onto past battlefields, assessing which bodies can be ignored for the sake of renewing mythologies; or new terror analyses that purport to show Byzantine networks and capabilities.
Intel has confirmed yesterday's processor price cuts, which saw up to 40 per cent knocked off what the chip giant charges for some of its CPUs. A batch of new ones were released too, including the first single-core Core 2 processors.
More than three million online crimes were carried out last year, according to estimates published today. These included more than 200,000 cases of financial fraud, twice the official number of real-world robberies carried out during the same period.
Police suspect Cornish separatists are behind three arson attacks on housing development sites in Truro and Penryn during the last week, the Cornishman reports.
In all the hoopla surrounding Apple's announcement of its revamped line of iPods on Wednesday, many users might have missed the company's update to iTunes, which includes a fix for a serious security flaw.
Another Dell laptop has gone to the great warehouse in the sky, wafted aloft on a cloud of smoke produced by a burning battery. The incident took place last week in China.
The US Air Force doctor who led an investigation which reported that NASA astronauts flew drunk has criticised the space agency's subsequent review, which concluded that he was wrong. Colonel Richard Bachmann also suggested that management attitudes indicated a culture of silence at NASA. News agencies reported today that Bachmann described NASA language as unhelpful, saying that it was unwise to dismiss allegations of astronaut tipsiness as "urban legends." "Public statements that such things are simply impossible, challenging the veracity of the findings, referring to them as unproven allegations or urban legends, rather than acknowledging how difficult raising such concerns can be, do not encourage openness and safety, make future reporting even less likely, and increase the risk of future mishaps or incidents," the Colonel told politicians in Washington. Just because NASA personnel wouldn't reveal incidents of drunkenness or other problems to their own management didn't mean that such things had never occurred, he said; nor did it mean that his own report was inaccurate. Indeed the Colonel suggested that the fact that NASA's investigation didn't agree with his meant that there were terrible problems within the space agency, worse than space aces drunk at the stick. "We believe this may represent continued fear and barriers to communication and may be a cause for greater, not less concern," he said. Bachmann's independent panel was convened after the arrest of astronaut Lisa Nowak, following her nappy-clad crosscountry odyssey and alleged attempt to mace and kidnap a younger rival for the attentions of her extramarital squeeze, space shuttle pilot Bill Oefelein. Nowak's legal team has filed psych documentation hinting that they may be considering a defence of temporary insanity. Colonel Bachmann's probe found no further scandals of this sort among the 92 astronauts on flight status, indicating that in fact the space aces compare favourably in terms of lurid private life to other high-profile selective groups such as politicians. But Bachmann's group did report that there had been several cases of space crew drunk on launch day, though no details of name and date were given. It was said that concerns had been raised, but ignored by bosses. NASA chief Michael Griffin said he jolly well wasn't running a culture of silence. "One cannot prove a negative. I cannot prove that no one at NASA is afraid to speak up, but I hope that that's not the case," he said. "If anyone at NASA is concerned about an immediate supervisor ... bring it to me ... I do deal with any concerns brought to me. I follow up."®
Nokia will be investigated by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) over claims that some of its mobile phones violate another company's patents. Nokia said the patented technologies were agreed parts of a standardised technology. The investigation is the latest event in a recent upsurge in patent-related disputes over the third generation (3G) mobile phone technology in handsets. The ITC has already banned handsets containing Qualcomm technology from being imported into the US. InterDigital has asked the ITC to investigate Nokia's alleged use of its patented technology in its N75 handset, amongst others. The company filed a complaint last month with the trade body alleging unfair trade practice. Nokia has claimed that the patents involved have been tied up in a technical standards-setting exercise, and that it should be allowed to use the patents. It said that InterDigital had declared the patents essential to the 3G internet standard, and that they should license them on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. "For the proper functioning of the standardisation process and continued industry innovation, Nokia believes companies should refrain from seeking injunctions for standards essential patents," said a Nokia statement, according to Reuters. The InterDigital complaint asks for permanent injunctions to exclude the import of technology using its patents. "The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States of certain 3G mobile handsets and components thereof that infringe patents owned by InterDigital," said an ITC statement. "By instituting this investigation the ITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case," it said. The case will be heard by ITC administrative judge Paul Luckern, who will make a ruling which will then be reviewed by the ITC. The ITC's verdict can be overturned by the US Trade Representative, who is appointed by the President of the US. Reversals, though, are rare and verdicts have been overturned in only a handful of cases. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
CommentComment So was nine months of relentless iPhone hype and froth just a distraction? Not quite, but you could be forgiven for thinking so. I believe Apple's most important product of 2007 was actually announced this week, and its significance has been slow to sink in. It might be one of the cleverest moves Apple's ever made.
A certain Harry Lime once famously explained that "in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance", whereas in Switzerland they had "brotherly love ... 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock". Well, it's taken them a while, but the Swiss have finally challenged this uncharitable analysis of their contribution to human advancement with the deployment of a sensational glass airliner, spotted mid-cloak down at Geneva aiport: The Swiss are not normally noted for their transparency, as their banking system attests, but this technological marvel is a clear challenge to the US's own cloaked aircraft, reportedly used to carry out rendition flights to Guantanamo without attracting the attention of pesky pinko-liberal human rights activists. Quite what use Switzerland will make of its invisible air transportation remains to be seen, although it seems the ideal method for clandestine export of cuckoo clocks to Third World dictatorships and the Axis of Evil™. ® Bootnote Thanks to Mark Patterson for the spot.
Ericsson has been hit with a €7.36m ($10m) fine for its role in tapping mobile phones belonging to the Greek prime minister and members of his Cabinet. The Greek privacy watchdog levied the fine for Ericsson's part in tapping phones belonging to 100 senior government figures in the run up to the 2004 Athens Olympics. Calls to these mobiles were diverted to 14 shadow pay-as-you-go phones and probably recorded. The Hellenic Authority for the Information and Communication Security and Privacy (ADAE) said the fine was set based on Ericsson's turnover in Greece. Vodafone was previously fined over €76m ($100m) for its role in the scandal but protested its innocence. The operator was blamed for allowing hackers to gain control of a piece of Ericsson surveillance software. Vodafone's Greek head of network design supposedly killed himself two days after the phone tapping was publicly revealed. The problem came to light after Vodafone began investigating problems with delivering text messages. The case sparked speculation that foreign intelligence services were involved. Ericsson told Reuters that it disputed the decision and would appeal it in the Greek courts. More from AFP here and from Reuters here.
ReviewReview Epson is probably not the first name that springs to mind when deciding which PMP to buy, and its P-3000 - a numerically and technically updated version of the company's well-received P-2000 - provides a slightly askew interpretation of what's traditionally expected from a portable media player.
The Register Weekly Digest has been put together to make your life easy. It gives you a buffet of all the week’s news in one easy-to-swallow email. It also comes as a PDF so you can print it out and take it away with you. We serve it up every Friday. The links to the full news stories are there if you’ve got the time to read them. If you don’t you’ll still know the core details on the big tech developments. Meatcasting with El Reg Its is Open Season on Open Source as El Reg's very own Ashlee Vance hosts a new, fortnightly panel discussion with bigwigs and shaky movers (or is that movers and shakers, we're never sure) from the OS community. You can find episode one here, where Vance and guests explore the tricky issues of MS, Google, MySQL, Web 2.0 and freedom. iPlayer heading for Mac and Linux revamp The Beeb's controversial decision to roll out its iPlayer TV-over-IP platform on Windows only seems to have been slapped down, presumably by its own governing body. A response to a Number 10 petition explains that the BBC Trust "noted the strong public demand for the service to be available on a variety of operating systems", and made this a condition of the approval for the BBC's on-demand services. Patently waiting Patent reform is big news on both sides of the pond. The US is mulling an overhaul of its patent system, a move which has attracted support from tech industry players like Google. The search-firm-cum-ad-broker also filed a patent application for a text message payment system. Expect Google ads on your handset any day now. In the UK, authorities have struck a deal with the US to share each other's patent examination records. So far the deal is for a 12 month trial, but the offices are hopeful that it will cut examination time, especially for applications that are lodged with both offices. Property of some intellectuals Glasgow University, already known for its close collaboration with the tech industry, is moving into electronics design. The academics say they'll definitely be looking to do deals, rather than run fabs themselves, so keep your eyes peels for all kinds of embedded wizardry from north of the border. Passing, not fudging, the buck Michael Dell, CEO of Dell Computers said Wednesday he was not involved in any of the accounting irregularities uncovered during an internal probe at the company. This is the first time Dell has spoken publicly about his (lack of) involvement in the scandal. Lawyers on standby He claims he's not planning any litigation yet, but another former Harvard student has come forward claiming to have invented a precursor to social networking giant Facebook. He's written a book, as yet unpublished, detailing his claims. Lawyers on active duty Legal teams at Google and Spamhaus have been busy this week. Google has seen an adwords lawsuit against it dropped this week, after complainant American Blinds & Wallpaper Factory (ABWF) backed out of the conflict, which was headed for a full jury trial later this year. The agreement 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 drop the suit. Meanwhile, an appeal court has quashed an $11m judgment against anti-spam organisation Spamhaus. The judge also lifted an injunction that barred Spamhaus from listing either e360 Insight or its principal David Linhardt as a source of spam. Spin cycle PR maestros at Microsoft have had their hands full this week, as the software behemoth tries to spin straw into gold and turn defeat into a public relations victory. The firm had been looking for fast track ratification of its proposed OOXML specification as an international standard, but with national standards bodies in open revolt, things look set to take a little longer. Dog and bone? Brits love their mobiles more than they do their pets, a fabulous survey has revealed. This helps explain how upset people are when they are told there are reasons for not using cell phones in hospital. It also offers a glimmer of hope to O2, which made significant changes to its contracts last week, effectively creating a loophole through which unhappy customers can escape. On the other side of the pond, the Americans have begun a love affair of their own, with the iPhone. Stats released this week reveal that the Apple gadget is outselling its smartphone competition, with even non AT&T customers parting with cash to get their mitts on one. No surprise, then, that Samsung's rumoured Croix looks a uncannily familiar. Three, two, one, virtual launch Virtualisation is the key word in new products this week, with XenSource announcing an OEM version of its VMware, and Virtual Iron's new release also hitting the shelves. IBM and Novell joined forces to launch an integrated open collaboration client for SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. The package include IBM Lotus Notes, IBM Lotus Sametime and IBM productivity tools. New jobs for old 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. Nice work. You break it, you buy it From new jobs, to new deals. Search engine Yahoo! has ramped up its service for advertisers by acquiring privately held global ad network BlueLithium for $300m. San Francisco-based BlueLithium was founded in 2004 and offers web usage matchmaker technology that marries ads with an individual's lifestyle choices and interests. MetroPCS has been very public about the fact that it wants to buy Leap Wireless, intent on creating one big we-don't-do-contacts wireless carrier. But there's no telling what Leap wants. 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. Joy. Number crunching Not much number crunching this week, but E-learning firm SkillSoft saw its profits nearly treble in its latest set of results, which were released late last week. The firm reported net profits of $12.4m, or $0.11 per share, for the second quarter, up from $4.8m, or $0.05 per share, for the same period last year. Vulnerable to interference Yet more security woes for Yahoo instant messger users. the firm had urged users to upgrade their software following the discovery of a brace of security vulnerabilities - the second set of serious security flaws involving Yahoo! Messenger in as many weeks. Without the upgrade, stack-based buffer overflow flaws in the YVerInfo.dll ActiveX control could allow hackers to inject hostile code onto systems running vulnerable versions of Yahoo! Messenger. Also having access issues was the Bank of India, whose website was taken over by n'er do wells who rigged the site to feed malware to customers trying to access online services. Tasty. Scottish voters were also left wondering about system integrity, after a BBC investigation revealed that more than seventy thousand votes in the recent Scottish elections were rejected by the electronic counting machines, with no human oversight. New First Minister Alex Salmond described the news as "astonishing", and deeply disturbing. And finally... Baggage restrictions on plane flights may have to be relaxed a little, after an electrical fault on a 757 was fixed up just fine by a goat sacrifice in Nepal. Try explaining that one to the humourless security drones at Heathrow. ®
It's been 15 years since IBM first unveiled the ThinkPad laptop and about two years since Lenovo acquired it as part of a $1.25bn spending spree. So, in an attempt to capitalise on its purchase, Lenovo has unveiled a leather-bound, 5000-unit limited edition ThinkPad.
The US Air Force (USAF) is trialling battery-powered off-road vehicles for use by its special-forces ground units, according to reports - and you can buy one yourself for just $100,000 plus shipping. A blog post at Wired flagged up the interesting move by the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) this week, though it appears that AFSOC may have had its electric buggies for a couple of months now. The Colorado Springs Gazette reported in July that: "American Electric Vehicles just completed a one-year contract with the U.S. Special Operations Command to develop and build four prototypes of a fully electric off-road vehicle ... The CERV, or Clandestine Electric Reconnaissance Vehicle, had to be engineered to fit inside a CV-22 Osprey, an aircraft that can do vertical takeoffs and landings but flies more like a plane than a helicopter." Freeze, Abdul! Right, George, get his camel; I'm sick of this. According to this (pdf) US government document, AFSOC were given $3.2m of funding for CERV during 2007. Hopefully they get more than just four prototypes for that. American Electric also offer their "Panther" skeletonised electric buggy for sale to the public - "no machine gun, choice of paint" - from $99,990 (not including delivery from the plant at Palmer Lake, Colorado). The company's president, Daniel Rivers, reckons that electric propulsion is good on the battlefield because of its quietness and relatively low thermal signature. "The Air Force wants to drop electric vehicles with troops behind enemy lines," he said. AFSOC doesn't have any "troops" as such, being mainly an organisation providing air support to other US spec-ops arms such as Navy SEALs, Green Berets, Delta Force, MARSOC and all the rest of them. But the air force nonetheless has some super-troopers who work on the ground; the scarlet-bereted Combat Controllers and Pararescuemen, who retrieve shot down pilots, call in air strikes for other spec-ops types, provide air-traffic control at secret behind-enemy-lines landing sites, and generally bustle about making themselves useful. They also train as parachutists and even divers (god save us, what's next? Airforce divers, indeed*). Presumably it is these USAF red berets who will whine into battle aboard their combat Segway-buggies. They might face a few difficulties, though, as the company spec sheet (pdf) says the machine will go only fifty miles before running its batteries flat. (The initial airforce requirement in 2006 seems to have been for 200 miles, but it appears this may not have been achieved.) At that point - we being behind enemy lines here, presumably - the airforce super-troopers will have a bit of a problem. Generators and mains sockets may be a bit thin on the ground. Not to worry , though - the Panther can be fitted with an optional solar-charging kit. Assuming "full sun" the vehicle will be ready to go another fifty miles in just five days! Perhaps AFSOC want the Panther more as a self-mobile battery pack to power comms or other electrical kit. Rivers apparently says it can deliver "100 kilowatts of power for up to 15 minutes ... to power electric weapons or field hospital operations." Even so, assuming you really want a big battery and silent running, a hybrid like the planned "Aggressor" probably makes more sense. As for civilian customers, providing one was willing to forgo offroad capability, $100,000 might be better spent on a Tesla Roadster - assuming that it overcomes any remaining technical hitches. It could even be worth waiting for Nanosafe-powered kit, which can potentially be charged up quickly at an industrial power outlet - rather than needing several hours to top off like Li-ion gear. Or, you could say the hell with electric cars and get an Aston Martin or something. It isn't as though electricity is actually green - or, probably, going to be green during the life of your next car.® *Disclaimer: Your correspondent was once a navy diver, and is not going to believe in the underwater expertise of airforce paddlers in a hurry. No doubt they're frightfully good at parachuting and so on, which will be very handy the next time America decides to mount a secret mission beyond helicopter/Osprey range. (Possibly a one way trip for the lads involved.)
Office 2.0 ConferenceOffice 2.0 Conference Apple is facing fresh calls to open the iPhone as new evidence emerged of the technical and legal challenges developers face putting their software on the device. Delegates attending the Office 2.0 Conference have voiced concern over the iPhone's closed architecture, lack of developer tools, and the fact its version of Apple's Safari browser lacks common web plug ins they said needlessly complicate the process of porting software and online services to the device.
AnalysisAnalysis At some point in the latter decades of the 20th century, someone sat down and thought: wouldn't it be nice if all the money in the world was controlled by scientists rather than accountants and nice chaps from Eton?
Pssst, pass it on… Dell is selling Linux-based home PCs and laptops to its UK customers, but you’ll need a very good eye and probably a magnifying glass to find the systems on the direct seller's website.
Keeping up to date with updates to different news websites can be a major burden – which can be ameliorated with an RSS feed. With an RSS feed, the updates are pushed to you as they become available. RSS is a collection of web feed formats, specified in XML and used to provide frequently updated digital content to users. The first version of RSS, RSS 0.9, was created by Netscape in 1999 but the “RSS” acronym has different interpretations for different subsequent standards: for RSS 2.0, Really Simple Syndication; for RSS 0.91 and RSS 1.0, Rich Site Summary; for RSS 0.9 and RSS 1.0, RDF Site Summary.
You can never be too rich or too thin and it's hard not to be impressed by Pano Logic's arguments for a Size Zero desktop. Announced last week, the world's 'first truly virtualised desktop' has no software at all - operating across the network to a server-based instance of Microsoft Vista or XP. This makes it more secure (no local software to get corrupted), cheap (no local software to upgrade) and green (low power consumption). Pano Logic reckons it cuts total cost of ownership by 70 per cent - saving as much as $3,200 per desktop over three years.
Denon has confirmed to Register Hardware that any European consumers hoping to snap-up its first Blu-ray Disc player before Christmas will have to wait a while longer. The 3800BDCI player is now scheduled for release at some point in 2008, rather than the November 2007 timeframe Denon originally quoted.
Virgin Media are to start rounding up fixed-line calls to the nearest minute: something they've been doing for ex-Telewest customers since May, and something BT, Sky and Talk Talk have been doing for a while. From the 6th October all calls made by Virgin Media customers will be rounded up to the nearest minute, and they'll be billed for that number of minutes. So a call lasting a 1 minute and 1 second will cost you 2 minutes. The change came to ex-NTL customers first, back in May, and is now spreading to the rest of Virgin Media's fixed-line customers, who should have received a letter to that effect. Per-minute billing used to be a technical necessity: it was easier to count minutes than muck about with seconds. In the UK an advertising war necessitated the rapid introduction of per-second billing amongst mobile operators, with fixed-line providers quick to follow suit, but that trend has been steadily reversing in recent years. With BT, Sky and Talk Talk already charging by the minute it's surprising the mobile operators aren't following the trend: or perhaps they're just slow to catch up.
Segments of the Orange mobile network flaked out during the week; particularly on Wednesday night, but Orange says everything's fine now and not to worry about a thing. Reports of network failure started to come in during the first part of the week, but culminated on Wednesday evening when all aspects of the network started failing between 19.00 and 21.00, leaving punters unable to connect for voice calls, messaging or data. In a statement, Orange told us they were very sorry, and everything is all fixed now. Pushed to explain the problem we have been told that investigations continue; so either they've no idea why the network failed, or they do know but would prefer to wait until everyone is looking the other way before mentioning it. When the Skype network failed we made much of their inability to run as a "proper" network, and many readers felt that anyone relying on a two-bit operator like Skype deserved what they got. But companies like Orange and Vodafone are supposed to be proper networks, with proper reliability, and even if they are working to reduce their outgoings it shouldn't be at the expense of that reliability: unless customers are happy with failing networks if they can get cheap calls.
3 Ireland's fixed broadband service is still unable to provide consistent connections, decent speeds, or access to standard e-mail interfaces, according to their users, despite repeated promises and assurances that everything is working fine. While 3 might well employ a good PR representative, they don't seem to be backing that up with the engineering expertise needed to run the network. Customers are complaining of connections frequently dropping out, and web sites disappearing from the network with a regularity which makes the service unusable. The speed of HSDPA connections is very dependent on the distance to the nearest cell, so customers in rural areas will inevitably suffer from slow speeds. And while some users in towns do report decent connections it's the consistency of the connection which seems to be causing most problems. For many applications, such as Telnet, VPNs and FTP, the speed of the connection is much less important than its consistency; the connection must be maintained or the activity is interrupted and is forced start again. But 3's inability to manage an SMTP service, the most basic of requirements for e-mail service, beggars belief. Though there are IP-addressing problems with running a server on a mobile network, all the other major network operators seem to manage this with the minimum of fuss. When we spoke to 3 they again assured us everything was fixed and working fine, and that SMTP would be available really soon. But they also admitted they've not changed anything since a week ago when they last told us everything was working fine. ®
Green groups have said they are ready to walk out on a public consultation on the future use of nuclear power, describing it as "seriously flawed", just ahead of public meetings arranged to air the debate. A coalition of six environmental organisations, including Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, led calls for the consultation in the first place. The government was eventually compelled to run the consultation when the High Court ruled that its previous efforts were "manifestly inadequate and unfair". Eight meetings are scheduled to take place tomorrow across the UK, where members of the public are supposed to hear all sides of the nuclear debate. But the green groups say that the government is not including all the arguments. Specifically, Friends of the Earth accuses the government of omitting discussion of alternatives to nuclear power and glossing over the wider dangers of the technology. It is also unhappy about the speed with which the government is pushing ahead with the consultation - doing in five months what critics argue should take closer to nine months. Friends of the Earth's Director, Tony Juniper said: "This is not a genuine consultation about nuclear power. It is deeply flawed and it is clear that the Government has essentially made up its mind. We are perfectly happy to debate the issue of nuclear power, but we are not prepared to take part in this latest Government farce." Ben Ayliffe, a spokesman for the groups, told The Guardian that the coalition was prepared to go back to court to force the government to consult properly: "We have given the government every chance to make the information they give to the public impartial, but they have chosen to ignore it. It has not wanted an open debate. We would rather not go to court, but it is an option that we are considering." The government said it would be "disappointed" if the green lobby did not join in the consultation it fought so hard to get. "The government's preliminary view is that nuclear should play a part in providing our homes and businesses with the low-carbon energy we need to make sure the lights stay on and to protect the health of our planet. We want to know whether the public and other organisations share this view," John Hutton, the secretary of state for business, enterprise and regulatory reform, said in a statement. But the greens say Gordon brown's own words betray the government's real position. In Prime Minister's questions, Brown said that the decision on the future use of nuclear power had already been taken. He was later forced to qualify his statement after a letter from Greenpeace lawyers. Tony Juniper concludes: "Nuclear power is not a solution to climate change. A new programme would only generate around four per cent of the UK's energy consumption. It is expensive and dangerous, and will leave a highly toxic legacy for many generations to come. There are lots of non-nuclear alternatives ... the Government should invest in these solutions." ®
Comments:Comments: Toddlers have been banned from practicing yoga in a Somerset church hall, because the activity is "unchristian" and promotes other spiritualities. The interesting image of toddlers doing yoga aside, at least one of you dove straight into the gutter:
Meat CastMeat Cast If an analyst's brain is vacuumed in a forest, does it make a noise? We answer that very question in Episode 6 - code-named Toe-Tapping Senator - of Semi-Coherent Computing. This week's show has me pulling down a direct feed of server data and virtualization philosophy from Gabriel Consulting Group analyst Dan Olds. We talk about HP's surging blade server business, Dell's x86 server struggles and successes and the trend toward larger x86 boxes. Oh yeah, we discuss Microsoft maybe buying Citrix, different approaches to virtualization software and the future of computing too. Along the way, Olds dishes out some of his research to help provide an idea as to where HP, Dell, Sun and IBM fail and aid their customers. You must listen to this show if you like x86 servers and/or virtualization technology and/or want to maintain your self-respect. Semi-Coherent Computing - Episode Six - Toe-Tapping Senator You can also grab the show off iTunes here or subscribe to the show via this feed. You'll find Dan Olds here. As always, special thanks go out to legend in the making Todd Phelps for letting us use his song "You Can Call Me Daddy Tonight." You'll find Phelps's web site here and his MySpace page here.®
Microsoft's Security Response Center has provided advanced notification of the patches that are expected for release next week as part of the September Security Patch Release.
More dismal news for the US consumer. After the simultaneous failure of Municipal Wi-Fi projects in three major US cities - something we predicted four years ago - faster, cheaper mobile data looks further away than ever. So why are Google lobbyists advocating for the next wave of collapsing wireless initiatives - rather than helping things? As we reported on Wednesday, the FCC threw out a bid to have a prime chunk of 2100Mhz spectrum handed to it exclusively, free, on a plate, for 15 years. The FCC argued that it didn't have the power to grant "innovative" bids special favours, and in any case, the bid by M2Z and NetFree US wasn't innovative. (When you're a bureaucrat, you can do things like that - it's a perk of the job.) But as Commenters at El Reg wondered, what on earth is the FCC even doing considering bids such as this? 2100Mhz, they pointed out, is the global portion of spectrum in Europe and Asia used by UMTS: the W-CDMA flavour of 3G. This is what allows you to turn off your Vodafone phone at Heathrow - turn it back on after you touchdown at Tokyo International, and continue your suspended IP session. It's very handy. The answer is that the FCC hasn't decided what it should do with 2100Mhz yet, which is a remarkable testament to its intellectual confusion. But the answer should be fairly simple: auction it off to the highest cellular network bidder. Thanks to spectacular regulatory mismanagement (in the 1980s, the FCC even had the bright idea of auctioning off spectrum to every Mom and Pop shop which could fill out the form) the US consumer pays too much for their basic handsets, and indirectly, too much for the service. Sprint/Nextel is plumping for 4G WiMAX in 700Mhz, Verizon is sticking with CDMA, and while AT&T and T-Mobile both have the same air interface in GSM/W-CDMA, they use different portions of the spectrum. That's four flavours of network equipment. This deprives the US of global economies of scale: instead of a fighting for a share of a 3bn market, manufacturers fight for a much smaller market of 200m. It's why, as Reg readers pointed out, the handsets are lousy - and expensive, too. Enron with a G? But over at Google, the K-Street lobbyists seem to be in charge. The Silicon Valley giant needs to employ more economists perhaps, and economists who aren't religiously inclined: for its intervention on behalf of M2Z was typically short-sighted and self-interested. Google sees itself as the Enron of spectrum. Google also sees itself as the Enron of healthcare. In one case it's bringing trading to where there is no trading, in the other, it's making the trading that's already there more efficient. And All Shall Kneel before the Church of the Algorithm! Now there are times when liberalisation is welcome, and times - as with Enron - when it's not. This is a case where keeping the lobbyists locked in their kennels really was the Only Right Thing To Do. Alas, Googleron is attacking spectrum with the ideological fervor of the DC boys helping the post-Soviet economy: and it's going to have just as messy consequences. Fortunately, things are a lot brighter in wireless than in fixed line - if the FCC remember one thing: data doesn't pay. (The collapse of the Muni Wi-Fi iniatives is simply the latest example). But when data is subsidized by, and bundled with something people will pay for, then the technology allows us to have really quite excellent data services as a bonus. Earlier this month the UK operator 3, part of the global Hutchison operation, rolled out its £10 a month Turbo 3G plan for laptops (details here). This network blankets 85 per cent of the UK in "super 3G" speed data, at a price that pretty much anyone can afford. (A month's high speed data costs you two hours in Starbucks, is another way of thinking about it) This is why the FCC should get AT&T and T-Mobile in a room, and empty their pockets. Not too much, so they're obliged to refinance huge debts and stagnate, rather than investing, as greedy European governments discovered. But enough to get a return for the public, on top of a real result. Regulation is smoke-filled room politics - it's not science. So the FCC should start twisting some arms. And for Google? It takes a huge mental leap today to imagine the Silicon Valley company lobbying for the telcos to be awarded this spectrum. But I don't see why not. It's the only way 300m Americans are going to be using mobile data anytime soon - and that's 300m Adsense opportunities. If Google really cares about mobile, it should be batting for the US to join the global standard - not be creating the next wave of Wi-Fi flops, due around 2011. Google, however, find itself trapped in a peculiarly US mythology. Forward-looking Americans always find it more attractive to strike out at a new frontier, than fix hard-to-solve problems at home - and there's few things harder than getting regulation right. So Google is the poster-child for the new frontier of "spectrum": a role it should wriggle out of as soon as it can. That means firing some lobbyists, however - and admitting the sometimes the Algorithm is not God. Some chance. ®