8th > October > 2007 Archive

Blu-ray_SM
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How can I play Blu-ray Discs?

Do I need a special player to watch Blu-ray Discs? Or will they play on a normal DVD player?
Kevin Knight, 08 Oct 2007
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MS admits Halo 3 'disc unreadable' errors

Microsoft has refused to reveal the cause behind a fresh wave of disc problems affecting Halo 3. The company told Register Hardware that it's aware of a problem which stops the game from loading correctly, but refused to give any further explanation.
James Sherwood, 08 Oct 2007
first aid box
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Primary care trusts offered data analysis service

A new supplier framework could provide primary care trusts with data analysis services. The framework consists of 14 organisations appointed to offer support services to the NHS through a new agreement, known as the Framework for procuring External Support for Commissioners (FESC).
Kablenet, 08 Oct 2007
Warning: quayside
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Why UML won't save your project

The project's been wobbling along for 18 months. A bottle of champagne just went to the tester who logged the one millionth bug in TestDirector (and everybody cheered), the lead programmer looks like a raccoon that's discovered a departed junkie's heroin stash buried beneath a tree, half the programmers have quit, and the customer believes everything's fine... Although it does strike him as odd that all he's seen so far are static screenshots and Gantt charts with every single task stuck at "90 per cent". The project's in trouble.
Matt Stephens, 08 Oct 2007
Microsoft .NET logo
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The Misfit Geek and AJAX acceptability

If you had any doubts about just how far Ajax has come, you had only take a look at the speakers list for the recent AJAXWorld Conference in Santa Clara, California. Joining the faithful such as Sun Microsystems distinguished engineer and chief technology officer (CTO) Bob Brewin, was the executive responsible for setting database giant Oracle's tools strategy Ted Farrell along with Microsoft senior program manager - and confirmed El Reg fan - Joe Stagner, who both talked about Web 2.0, Rich Internet Application (RIAs), and the asynchronous JavaScript and XML combo that's become the bell of the Web-app-development ball.
John K Waters, 08 Oct 2007
12

Law & Order takes on Second Life

The blurred lines between virtual worlds and the real world have been examined in a recent episode of US drama Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. A fictitious virtual world cleverly called Another YOUniverse, which bears a striking resemblance to Second Life, is the main focus of a recent episode of the investigative drama. The alternate identities (avatars) of virtual world users play a key role in the main crime in the episode, which was broadcast on NBC in the US earlier this week. This isn't the first time the Law & Order franchise has focused on IT-related matters in its storyline; last year an episode in the original Law & Order series focused on a firm dealing with a similar spying scandal to Hewlett-Packard. The main plot of the episode focusing on virtual worlds follows the story of a woman in her twenties - whose avatar is a teenage girl that runs a sex club - that is raped, drugged, kidnapped, and subsequently murdered after being virtually stalked in Another YOUniverse. The avatar of the victim bears a striking resemblance to a teenager kidnapped by the perpetrator decades earlier. Linden Labs and their ilk can rest easy though, as the creators of the virtual world, Another YOUniverse, are painted in a positive light as they willingly assist the detectives in their investigation. The issue of crime in virtual worlds will be further examined later this month in another investigative drama as an episode of CSI: New York, due to air on 24 October in the US, sees the lead character enter Second Life. © 2007 ENN
Emmet Ryan, 08 Oct 2007
4

Eircom moves closer to split

The Irish Department of Communications has confirmed reports that Eircom has made a submission regarding splitting the company. A spokeswoman for the Department told ENN that Eircom made the submission recently and that the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Eamon Ryan, is currently studying it.
Emmet Ryan, 08 Oct 2007
For Sale sign detail
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Lords to rule on overseas credit card protection

A forthcoming decision by the House of Lords could seriously dent confidence in cross-border e-commerce. The Lords have been hearing arguments in the case this week.
OUT-LAW.COM, 08 Oct 2007
25

Cheap PS3 won't help Blu-ray, claim HD DVD backers

Sony's plan to cut the price of the PlayStation 3 in Europe will have "minimal" impact on the adoption of next-generation optical disc formats, the group promoting HD DVD over here has claimed.
Tony Smith, 08 Oct 2007
50

iPod Nano in airport trouser conflagration horror

An Atlanta airport worker claims his iPod Nano burst into flames while stashed in his personal region. The trouser-based blaze was apparently so severe the hapless victim was immolated up to chest level, though reportedly he sustained only superficial injuries.
Lewis Page, 08 Oct 2007
70

The RIAA will come to regret its court win

ColumnColumn You can understand why an unpublished writer might resort to blooking; but when a successful author with a best-selling business title behind him gives away a chapter a week, it piques curiosity. Gerd Leonhard is an ex-muso, with a message for the recording industry. Judging by the RIAA's triumphant win receiving $220,000 in damages for the downloading and sharing of 24 songs, it's a message they aren't ready to hear. But Gerd is sharing his ideas - free - in book form. There is (he says) a better way of getting money out of people's wallets than going to court. The book is "The End Of Control" and chapter one is already out. It follows his highly successful business title The Future Of Music which has been translated into several languages, including Japanese, since its publication two years ago. When I spoke to Leonhard he was in the airport in Singapore on his way to the next stop of a consulting trip to the Far East, and he was anxious to make sure the world knew about the Radiohead venture - to allow fans to download their tracks for "as little as 1p - plus a mandatory 45p credit card fee", and he was touting this as a sign of the times. His message for the middlemen: "You are about to become squashed between hundreds of managers and artists that want to go direct, large retailers like amazon that re-write the rules of online music selling (think bundles... think flat-rate), telcos and operators that are getting fed up with the tedious and outmoded licensing practices, and search engines that are powering or becoming music communities and the next generation of radio." And, he told his blog readers: "If [the industry tries to] keep up the strategy of 'you need us badly and therefore we make the rules' you will lose the artists, their managers... and the audience. Another 12 months for this Radiohead experiment to become the default approach. Get engaged or get outmoded. And do it soon." His catchphrase seems to be "move the tollbooth further down". What I wanted to know was whether he thought he'd make more money per copy, selling his new book chapter by chapter at zero price, than he did by giving it to a publisher. This turns out to be a tricky question to answer, because (as with many/most music deals) the publisher won't let people tell the world how much they get paid. "But suppose," said Leonhard "you have a reasonably successful business book, which sells 50,000 copies, and your royalty is around 10 pence per copy, that's $10,000 more or less". The money, however, isn't made on the book. Gerd works as a consultant; his fees go up and his assignments increase according to his web exposure. By giving the book away, clearly, he reckons people will read it who might otherwise not read it. "That's also true in music," says Leonhard. "The real money is not in the CDs. It's in the gigs, the merchandising, the sponsorships. To make that money, you have to let people further down the highway before they arrive at the tollbooth." The people formerly known as consumers, he says, are now the bosses. The other half of the argument, which Radiohead was also pointing out in its own announcement, is the idea that giving away the content doesn't necessarily mean you don't sell the book or the CD. Radiohead is asking an astonishing forty pounds sterling for the boxed CD set of its "In Rainbows" songs and, as one of the group remarked: "How many football matches can you watch for that amount?" Gerd Leonhard puts it slightly differently: "If people like the book, they'll buy a copy, rather than printing out the PDF." A schedule for release - along the lines of DVD regions - simply loses sales, he thinks. "The new channel is 'who is quickest?' and 'who is best?' and not 'who has the best control?' any more." He's predicting that the Wall Street Journal will go "open" onto the web shortly, and regards the New York Times' decision to start an RSS subscription feed as another marker of the changes. "Today, in our world of Googles, Facebooks, YouTubes, and iPhones, all content is just zeros and ones, and trying to prevent its 'leakage' is simply futile." Bet that doesn't stop the RIAA suing its customers, all the same. ®
Guy Kewney, 08 Oct 2007

El Reg triumphs in media battle of the wits

The Register emerged triumphant and almost upright from a pub quiz which pitted the cream of London media against each other. Terror scares and light drizzle deterred some of the teams from attending the event at Madame JoJo's in Soho last Monday: including Xfm and The Daily Telegraph. Despite points lost through blatant cheating by Reg team captain Andrew Orlowski during the "physical round" of limbo dancing, the Vultures comfortably saw off a strong challenge by The Daily Star, who finished second - and left Nuts magazine trailing in the distance. The event was sponsored by the fantastically useful and entertaining telephone answers service AQA, which donated £2,000 to Great Ormond Street Hospital. The Reg team, which included Chris Williams and Kelly Fiveash (plus special guest Ash Dosanjh), correctly answered questions including: which movie was the first to feature a flushing toilet (Hitchcock's Psycho), the correct height of the compere in baked beans tins (17) and the exact height of Mt.Everest. Front row (L-R): Andrew Orlowski, Kelly Fiveash, Ash Dosanjh, and Chris Williams; Back row: Team mascot Robin Lettice and compere Danny Wallace Former Southampton and Leeds footballer TV comedian Danny Wallace presented the prize: a cup and a tin of Marks and Spencer Baked Beans. Ecstatic team captain holds aloft the bounty: Marks and Spencer Baked Beans "You can't get anything like this at Mr Patel's corner shop," said an ecstatic Andrew Orlowski. So it's official: we rule. Nyeh. ®
Team Register, 08 Oct 2007

Apple updates iPod software

Apple has updated the software resident on its iPod Classic and third-gen iPod Nano - reviewed here and here, respectively - that's said to improve the players' Cover Flow performance.
Tony Smith, 08 Oct 2007
21

SMS-enabled solar parking meters for Eastbourne

The Sussex coastal town of Eastbourne is soon to receive a new hi-tech boon, in the form of solar-powered armoured parking meters which can send text messages. Apparently the machines, each of which has its own SIM card, aren't endowed with Douglas Adams style overspec'd artificial intelligence brains. Nobody need fear that a desperately bored carpark ticket machine will try to strike up a philosophical txt conversation, or get depressed and refuse to issue tickets. Rather, the idea is that the boxes, jingling as they must be with cash, will text a control centre when their coin compartments get full up - or if anyone should try to break into them. The Guardian quotes East Sussex councillor Matthew Lock, "lead member" for transport, as saying: "We are serious about giving Eastbourne a parking system that will encourage economic growth and will make the lives of residents that little bit easier. So we have thought long and hard..." ...And come up with the idea of text-messaging solar powered carparking hardware. Apparently in the event of an attempted meter-raid, the droid will squeal for help by text, at which point the forces of law and order will spring into action and apprehend any shrapnel-snaffling miscreant before he can make his escape. According to the Guardian, mechanical "cries for help will be sent via text and picked up at a 24-hour control centre... Staff could then alert police." Given that police will seldom respond with any urgency to home-security-system-generated alarms (justifiably, given the percentage of false alerts), it's hard to see how this would help. Indeed, as the Guardian implies, they probably won't even bother calling the law in many cases. But Councillor Lock was gung-ho. "This will be one of the most secure parking services in the country," he said. "With this system, anyone who tampers with a machine runs the risk of being caught in the act and could be jailed." Sure. If the jails weren't quite so full they might, anyway.®
Lewis Page, 08 Oct 2007
19

Nuclear accident messier than we thought

The amount of radioactive fallout from the Windscale nuclear accident half a century ago was grossly underestimated, according to new research. In 1957, a fire broke out at one of two nuclear reactors on the Windscale site when its graphite control rods overheated. The fire was extinguished with water, deemed necessary to limit the amount of radioactive material that escaped, despite the fact it could have caused an explosion. John Garland, formerly of the UK Atomic Energy Authority, and Richard Wakeford, a visiting professor at the University of Manchester, suggest the accident may have generated twice as much radioactive material and caused an additional 40 cases of cancer. Their work is published in the journal Atmospheric Environment. Garland and Wakeford have combined modern computer modelling techniques with a re-analysis of the environmental data collected at the time of the near-disaster, and since. The pair then calculated the likely spread of the radioactive cloud, based on records of the local historical weather conditions. According to the BBC, the team confirmed that the contaminants released by the fire included radioactive iodine and caesium, as well as polonium and a small amount of plutonium. But, John Garland told the Beeb: "The reassessments showed that there was roughly twice the amount than was initially assessed." More contaminants mean more cancers. The volume of material originally thought to have been released would have caused roughly 200 cases of cancer. The level of radioactive material the team now thinks was released probably caused more than 240 cases, the researchers said. Most of the material has now decayed to safe levels, but some plutonium and caesium still remain. The team says the levels are not high enough anymore to pose a risk to human health. It is unlikely that the findings will have any impact on the government's plans to build more nuclear power stations. To paraphrase Paul Howarth, director of research at the Dalton Nuclear Institute at Manchester University, they don't build 'em like that anymore. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Oct 2007
Euro

SAP splashes out on BO

Updated:Updated: SAP is offering €4.8bn (£3.3bn) for Business Objects - a strategy change for the German company which usually develops technology inhouse rather than making big purchases.
John Oates, 08 Oct 2007
Identity
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MPs call for ID theft czar

UK politicians are calling for the creation of an identity theft "czar" to lead the fight against the growing form of crime. The Parliamentary All Party Group on Identity Fraud said the role is needed to co-ordinate work by the government, police, and private sector.
John Leyden, 08 Oct 2007
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Genetics boffins on the verge of artificial bacteria

Genetics entrepreneur Craig Venter claims his team is on the verge of creating the first artificial lifeform. In an interview with The Guardian this weekend, Venter said his company, Synthetic Genomics, has completed an artificial chromosome that will carry all necessary genes for a viable bacterium. It's planned that the DNA will be transplanted into a living cell and take over the molecular reins. An announcement is reckoned to be imminent and Venter says he is 100 per cent confidence of success. The resulting organism will only be part synthetic, but a huge breakthrough for the 20-strong team of top boffins specially assembled by Venter. He's betting on artificial organisms delivering a bonanza for medicine, renewable energy, and anti-climate change efforts. He has already applied for a patent for this first, dubbed Mycoplasma laboratorium. His past attempts to make researchers pay for access to its work sequencing the human genome were a failure, and its data was eventually subsumed into the public database. Venter cuts a maverick figure at the vanguard of biotech, and divides scientists in praise and criticism of his bullish approach to research and commercialisation. Bioethics groups have expressed concerns that regulations have failed to keep pace with developments in synthetic genetics and warn that the technology coold be abused by terrorists. Venter said: "We are not afraid to take on things that are important just because they stimulate thinking. "[This is] a very important philosophical step in the history of our species. We are going from reading our genetic code to the ability to write it." ®
Christopher Williams, 08 Oct 2007
4

Stem cell prof wins Nobel prize

Cardiff University professor Martin Evans has been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his research on embryonic stem cells. He shares the prize with his two colleagues, Mario Capecchi and Oliver Smithies of the University of Utah and the University of North Carolina respectively. According to the official announcement, the trio is being recognised for "their discoveries of principles for introducing specific gene modifications in mice by the use of embryonic stem cells". This work laid the foundation for a new technique called gene targeting, which is now used everywhere from basic research to developing new gene therapies. Their work means scientists are able to switch off, or "knock out" individual genes, allowing researchers to work out which genes do what during embryonic development. Professor Evans was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1993. Martin Rees, president of the Royal Society, described the award as a "fitting recognition" of Evans' research. "He [Evans] a world leader in mammalian genetics and his research has undoubtedly increased our understanding of human diseases. Stem cell research has immense potential. It is a field to where UK scientists such as Martin, have made pioneering contributions and maintain a powerful presence." The three researchers split a prize of $1.54m (£755,000) from the Karolinska Institute in Sweden. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Oct 2007
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New product code points to revamped Wii?

Nintendo has set tongues wagging with its registration of a second Wii universal product code (UPC). The move is prompting the console's fans to speculate that it could signal the arrival of a new version of the machine.
James Sherwood, 08 Oct 2007
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Clap-controlled TV consigns remote to bin of history

Losing your TV's remote control down the back of your sofa could soon become a thing of the past. JVC has its sights on replacing traditional TV operation with hand movements and sounds.
James Sherwood, 08 Oct 2007

Get a grip, file-sharing freeloaders: you've never had it so good

CommentComment Last week, the ailing sound recording industry in America found someone even dumber to pick on. Kazaa user Jammie Thomas had got on the internet, and was doing just what the adverts and mass media say you should do once you're there - fill your boots with free stuff.
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Oct 2007
9

Info chief shrugs off Bluetooth regulation

The Information Commissioner will no longer regulate the use of Bluetooth mobile technology, prompting fears of a wave of "Bluetooth spam". The commissioner no longer considers the wireless connection technology to be covered by the UK's privacy laws. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) upholds the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR), which control the sending of unsolicited marketing messages. That prohibition will now not extend to Bluetooth technology, the ICO has said in correspondence with someone who enquired about the regulations. The ICO had not commented officially at time of publication. It is expected to update its guidance this week on the matter. "A public electronic communications network means an electronic communications network provided wholly or mainly for the purpose of making electronic communications services available to members of the public," said the correspondence. "Regulation 22 therefore applies to the sending of text messages or emails (which are both sent over a public electronic communications network), however, following consultation and consideration we do not believe that this definition covers Bluetooth technology. "Our guidance will therefore be updated to reflect the fact that we do not consider Bluetooth marketing falls under the provisions of Regulation 22 (and therefore does not fall under the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations)," said the correspondence. "It is going to be a complete free for all," said Troy Norcross, a mobile marketing consultant with New Media Edge. "I call it blue spam for a reason." The ICO guidelines have until now insisted that users opt in to receive Bluetooth marketing in the same way that they have to with other forms of communication. That now will change. "Until now most businesses have opted for a soft opt in, so a cinema says that by being in our building you are seeking to do business with us, so we can send you material relating to films," said Norcross. "But if they started sending you material about insurance or lawnmowers that would no longer count. It has to be related to their business." Norcross said there were examples of uses of Bluetooth which went against the guidance already, but that they have gone largely un-noticed. "The people doing this around town or in bus shelters are doing it ostensibly against the rules, but not in enough numbers to get people really up in arms." This, he said, was likely to change. "I think now we are going to find Bluetooth marketing suppliers grabbing on to this and going out and trying to get more people to try Bluetooth marketing." Bluetooth is a close-range wireless communications technology present in many mobile phones. Users can avoid receiving marketing messages by switching their Bluetooth off or by setting their phones to refuse connections from strangers, but this would affect the way they can use the technology. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 08 Oct 2007
5

Boeing robo-chopper for DARPA's super-spyeye

Arms'n'airliners behemoth Boeing has announced that its autonomous robotic stealth chopper, the A160T, will be the initial carrying platform for a new US airborne surveillance payload. The radical new spy system will not be so much an aerial camera as an all-seeing insect-style compound bugeye able to simultaneously look at many different things. The spy machinery, dubbed ARGUS-IS*, is under development by DARPA** - the Pentagon deathboffin apparat where ideas need to be off walls, outside boxes, and well to the left of any field. ARGUS-IS is supposed to avoid the current "soda straw" effect suffered by existing flying spydroid platforms. These machines' cameras can typically look at only one location in any detail, like a person peering down a drinking straw, which can mean that unfortunate choices have to be made. It's difficult to put lots of flying robots into the same airspace at once, even if there are enough to watch everything, so increased numbers aren't the answer. Not just one drinking straw to look down, but dozens. As DARPA notes in its proposal document (pdf): "Long-duration, complex operations involving the US military, other government agencies and international partners will be waged... Above all, they will require persistent surveillance and vastly better intelligence... [Existing] high resolution beams can enable observing dismounts entering and leaving a building of interest; however, if a dismount leaves the building, the [robot-handling] surveillance team is forced to decide if they wish to follow him or continue watching the building. If multiple dismounts leave the building, the choice becomes more difficult. This set of undesirable trade-offs is a fundamental result of the sensors not being able to simultaneously observe a wide area at high resolution..." (A "dismount" is a suspicious weirdo who moves about without the use of a motor conveyance of any kind. This type of deviance is all too common among foreign insurgents and the type of American who must be constantly monitored from on high for the public good. Your beatnik, granola chomping treehugger commie, for instance.) DARPA figures to solve this by deploying a "Gigapixel" wide-angle sensor which can monitor at least 50 places in full detail simultaneously, perhaps satisfying the needs of many different customers on the ground. Just one ARGUS-IS platform could monitor a whole district of Baghdad for the US military, or simultaneously spy on many different places in an American town for all the various cops, spooks or whoever. Some processing would be carried out in the aircraft, and then the info would be sent down to a ground station for further processing and distribution via a 200Mbit/sec datalink. Thus far, the only thing lacking in the test programme has been a suitable flying droid to carry the kit; but now a decision has apparently been made. Flight International reports that Boeing has a $6.3m contract to provide an A-160T whisper-mode robochopper for the ARGUS-IS demo phase. The ARGUS-IS flight pod is supposed to be easily fitted to a variety of platforms, so it may be seen on other airframes if it becomes a success. Still, an unescapable multiplex aerial spyeye package does seem like a suitable load for a silent robot helicopter. ® *Autonomous Realtime Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance- Imaging System. We'd have gone for Ground Observation Gaze Gain Loiter Equipment (GOGGLE). Or Presence Expanding Endurance Patrol Enabling Robot (PEEPER). Or even Large-area Enhanced Effects Reconnaissance (LEER). **Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Lewis Page, 08 Oct 2007
McDonald's logo
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McDonald's goes McWireless

Proletarian fryhouse McDonald's has announced it will offer free Wi-Fi in its 1,200 UK burger outlets by the end of the year. The move will make McDonald's the country's largest public hotspot provider, and pits it against Starbucks' pay-as-you-go T-Mobile service for high street internet supremacy.
Christopher Williams, 08 Oct 2007
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Church slams cathedral gun battle game's Bafta nomination

The Church of England is pleading with the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (Bafta) to remove PlayStation 3 game Resistance: Fall of Man (RFOM) from its Video Games Awards because the game depicts the alleged desecration of Manchester Cathedral.
James Sherwood, 08 Oct 2007
9

Slingbox Solo TV-over-the-net device

ReviewReview Sling Media's Slingbox Solo is for all those folk who already have a digital TV set-top box and don't fancy forking out for a local network and internet video streaming gadget that has an on-board tuner of its own.
Tony Smith, 08 Oct 2007
18

UK's future depends on science and technology

Lord Sainsbury has called for an overhaul of the way science and technology is taught in Britain, saying that without a new approach we risk losing our place in the global economy. He says more specialist science teachers must be trained or recruited, and that science students must be given better careers advice. The report, entitled Race to the Top, sets out how Britain must change if it is to compete with emerging economies. Sainsbury says we can maintain our edge by investing in research and moving the economy into high value goods and services. The alternative - a race to the bottom - is inevitable if companies maintain a myopic focus on lowering costs. Lord Sainsbury, a former minister for science and innovation, was asked to trawl through the government's policies relating to science, technology, investment, and education. He makes several other key recommendations: The government should give more support to universities trying to spin out companies based on their research, and set so-called knowledge transfer targets for universities; put the Technology Strategy Board in charge of working with the research councils to better coordinate research efforts; and simplify the way businesses can get access to funds. The review was broadly welcomed by all the major science bodies. The Institute of Physics (IoP), the Royal Society, and the newly elevated Technology Strategy Board all issued statements praising the ex-minister's plans to invigorate science and technology in the UK. Royal Society president Martin Rees said the review is a timely reminder of the role science plays in the economy. He warned that a fragmented approach to science and innovation means Britain does not always fully capitalise on its resources. There was a note of caution raised by the IoP, however. Chief executive Dr Robert Kirby-Harris said: "While it is important that the economic impact of science research can be considered during funding applications, there is a danger that basic research in more speculative areas could be neglected. Some of the most important scientific innovations in the past century and a half have been the result of basic research that had no specific economic end in mind." He also argued that the government needs to be more open to ideas from science-based businesses when they award procurement contracts, and said that only time would tell if the people in charge of the cash were able to make this cultural shift. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Oct 2007
6

Japanese in exoskeleton ancestor-respect scheme

Most people who follow robotics and exoskeletonry are aware of the superannuated surge projected for the Japanese population in coming decades, and the governmental plan to mostly have robots look after the burgeoning blue-rinsed hordes. This will free up the relatively few folks of working age left in the land of the Rising Sun to work very hard so as to pay all the bills. Come on, let's get you out of that cumbersome unwieldy machinery. However, of late some reports have suggested that testy Japanese oldsters aren't taking kindly to having droid minders (albeit in that case the fluffy moron-bots in question were sufficiently useless and irritating they would have annoyed anyone). Furthermore, it appears that in many cases there may be a double-layered problem, in which the very elderly (90+) may have to be cared for by their offspring (only 70 or so). This has in its turn suggested a new use for the well known Nipponese powered exoskeleton suit technology, already touted as a nifty alternative to the traditional Zimmer frame. AFP scribe Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura asks today: "As Japan greys, who will look after the elderly? Maybe one day their aging children - in robot suits..." It seems that the Kanagawa Institute of Technology showed off their astounding, pneumatic "Wearable Power Assist Suit" last week at a trade fair, along with other motorised-geriatric manufacturers. "Of course 80-year-olds won't be able to wear this," the Institute's Hiroi Tsukui told AFP. "But perhaps for their children who are in their 50s and need to take care of their parents, this could prove to be useful," she added, as - according to AFP - she casually threw a young man down on a table. Robot women don't need men or bicycles. "Japan, which has one of the world's lowest birth rates and yet forbids immigration, is increasingly turning to robots," says de Freytas-Tamura, hinting that the only choice of idle, hedonistic childless first-worlders is whom to be culturally colonised by; surly young immigrants - angered, perhaps, by a recent humbling for their home colonies on the rugby pitch - or a sinister machine army. Getting back to today's Japan, the powered suit apparently takes 10 minutes to put on, weighs 30kg, and "has blinking lights and wires reminiscent of a robot in a sci-fi movie," according to AFP. "But it allows the wearer to lift a person as heavy as 100 kilos as if they were carrying only half that weight." Just how many 50-year-olds can hoist 50-kilo weights while wearing a 30-kg exoskeleton remains to be seen. And it has to be said, the gear doesn't look safe for plucking people out of baths, nor for grappling with murderous acid-blooded alien monsters. But it would appear that the technology is quite literally marching on. The AFP report is here. ®
Lewis Page, 08 Oct 2007
22

Interpol launches worldwide hunt for abuse pics man

Interpol has launched an unprecedented international appeal for information in the hunt for a man featured in child abuse pictures whose face was obscured using graphics software. Imaging specialists at Germany's Bundeskriminalamt (Federal Criminal Investigation Office) unscrambled several images of the man, known online as "Vico". One of the "Vico" pictures before and after work by digital imaging experts. Interpol says he appears in about 200 photographs of child abuse taken in Vietnam and Cambodia. His face had been "swirled" in the pictures in a bid to conceal his identity. Interpol Secretary General Ronald Noble said the images of the man abusing young boys had been circulating on the internet for years. International inquiries have failed to identify him, however, and it's the first time the agency has made such an appeal. "We have very good reason to believe that he travels the world in order to sexually abuse and exploit vulnerable children," he said. "We have tried all other means to identify and to bring him to justice, but we are now convinced that without the public's help this sexual predator could continue to rape and sexually abuse young children whose ages appear to range from six to early teens." Kristin Kvigne, assistant director of Interpol's Trafficking in Human Beings Unit said: "The decision to make public this man's picture was not one which was taken lightly... we are certainly not encouraging members of the public to take any direct action themselves." Anyone with information can contact Interpol here. ®
Christopher Williams, 08 Oct 2007

Operators show Nokia who wears the housut*

ExclusiveExclusive Nokia is being handed a sharp lesson in business basics: don't compete with your biggest customers. In August, the Finnish phone giant announced it was going "beyond the phone" and creating an online portal called Ovi in a bid to become a major service company. This would offer music, maps and games - bringing it into competition with its biggest channel: the network operators. Revenge has been swift. Now T-Mobile has become the third UK operator to snub Nokia's flagship music phone for the Christmas season, the N81. The full range will be formally announced in the next fortnight, but a spokesperson confirmed the N81 isn't part of it. As we reported recently, Orange's autumn range shuns Nokia completely. 3 UK has already declined the N81. The other two UK operators will ensure the device languishes in obscurity. Officially, you'll be able to get it from Vodafone - pre-register here - but it won't be heavily promoted, we understand. When Vodafone unveiled its MusicStation handsets last month, the N81 was absent from the roster. Meanwhile, O2 is carrying Apple's iPhone. And O2, having agreed to hand over a spare kidney to secure the rights to the "Jesus Phone", can't afford to dilute its music promo budget. Mobile operators are essentially hire purchase companies. Heavy subsidies and promotion mean the punter gets a phone for basically nothing up front and pays for it over the length of the contract. You can still get an unlocked device from the likes of Expansys, but this is relegated to the niche market of gadget fans. Without an operator subsidy, the mass market for a device just isn't there. So, farewell the Nokia N81 - we hardly knew you. Operators have sunk the music flagship before it's even left port. Is this legal, you may ask? Nokia has been instrumental in persuading the European Commission to investigate Microsoft and Qualcomm, for example, but proving anti-competitive behaviour in this instance is difficult. It needs to prove they've closed the market, and acted in concert doing so. Operators will point out that when it comes to music phones, there's plenty of choice - and Sony has a winning brand. So Nokia will just have to take this one on the chin, we reckon. One dead flagship doesn't mean the end for Ovi - but it does remind Nokia it has to pursue the strategy relentlessly, embedding it deeply in a wide range of phones. ® *Bootnote - Finnish for trousers, obviously.
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Oct 2007
2

VMware makes storage fluid

Fresh off a blockbuster IPO and its user conference, VMware has divulged details around upcoming additions to its flagship software. Out of all the new bits and bobs in ESX Server 3.5 and VirtualCenter 2.5, customers may find some storage tools most appealing. VMware has crafted a storage replica of its VMotion technology used to move virtual machines between physical servers. With Storage Vmotion, customers can shift virtual machine disk files from storage box to storage box.
Ashlee Vance, 08 Oct 2007
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5

Government websites invaded by smut and spyware

A slew of government organisations and corporations are unwittingly helping hackers promote porn sites. Targets as diverse as the Marin County Transportation Authority website in California and the Bank of Ghana have been unwittingly playing host to code that redirects surfers to smut as a result of insecure systems.
John Leyden, 08 Oct 2007
24

Tax man praised for owning up to lost laptop

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has become the latest organisation to apologise to clients as the result of a lost laptop. A machine containing personal data was stolen from the car of an HMRC staff member last month, the UK tax department confirmed on Monday. The tax worker had been using the laptop for a routine audit of tax information from several investment firms.
John Leyden, 08 Oct 2007
7

Do you want a high-score with that?

Proletarian grill joint Burger King has announced its intention to broaden its brand into mobile phone games, to be developed by Mobliss and promoted in US branches. The games will be (shock) burger-related, with the first requiring the user to complete tasks within a Burger-King-themed city in order to become the protégé of "The King": not Elvis, but Burger King's slightly-creepy brand mascot. It's not the first time "The King" has been seen in a computer game: Sneak King for X-Box has the rubber-masked monarch sneaking around giving burgers to the starving masses, and was sold in-store for $3.99. For the less charitable (or more republican) player there's also the opportunity to beat the living shit out of the character in "Fight Night Round 3". All of these are, of course, pale imitations of Mr. Wimpy - released in 1984 for the 48K Spectrum. Mr. Wimpy could take The King any day of the week (just as soon as he can get the volume set right on the tape player). Plotting computer games around brand characters isn't new, but players will expect exceptional gameplay when they're asked to pay for what is, ultimately, an interactive advertisement. The mobile games will be promoted in-store, on menus and such, with punters able to buy the games using an SMS shortcode. The first title should be available by spring next year. ®
Bill Ray, 08 Oct 2007
BT
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BT offers £1K for Wi-Fi application

BT is offering £1,000 to the best mobile phone application that uses a Wi-Fi connection for something, anything, in an attempt to work out just what such connections are for.
Bill Ray, 08 Oct 2007
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1

T-shirt helps geeks detect Wi-Fi networks

Booting up your laptop only to find there are no Wi-Fi networks nearby is a pain. Thankfully, geeks everywhere can now find a signal for surfing by simply looking down at their apparel.
James Sherwood, 08 Oct 2007
34

Canadian prof develops drunk-driving sim

A new videogame has been developed which aims to simulate the experience of drunk driving. The game, named "Booze Cruise", was coded as an academic project aimed at social betterment, rather than a sick commercial stunt to cash in on the worst aspects of human nature. "The basic story is that this person is absolutely pissed and woke up in the trunk of their car and now is going to drive home," according to Calgary digital media prof Jim Parker, quoted by Reuters. "Booze Cruise" simulates the effects of drunkenness by the use of blurry and narrowed imagery, annoying lag times etc. Challenges include pedestrians, other cars and a police checkpoint. Apparently there are also "distractions on the side of the road, like pink elephants", which Parker added "just for fun". Ha ha - what a card. Some kind of virtual puking experience might have been a tad more gritty, perhaps. It seems that Canadian plods assisted in the design of the game, "trying to make it as realistic as possible", according to Reuters. The Alberta coppers apparently reckon that "Booze Cruise" could help cut down on drink driving. "It's going to be a great tool," Constable Rob Haffner told the wire-service scribes. "Whatever education that we can get out there is always going to be beneficial as far as drinking and driving goes." Parker acknowledges that many teenagers are very familiar with driving videogames - games which might well be more fun to play than his, as the graphics aren't crippled and the lags are minimised. But he still thinks that his software "will persuade them that alcohol will affect their skills". That may be true, but surely it would be even more persuasive for an overconfident youth to polish off a few tins of lager and then take on a sober opponent in the racing videogame of their choice. By comparison, Parker's game wouldn't seem to really prove anything about alcohol, just about the developers' view of it. The pink elephants may not help much with the credibility issue, either. Nonetheless, the media prof is undaunted. "This is aimed not at adults, this is aimed at people who are 13 to 16," he said. "We want to stop them from doing it in advance." Hmm. More from Reuters here.®
Lewis Page, 08 Oct 2007
globalisation

Reborn Teradata bets on the unexpected

Okay, it's not exactly the slip of the tongue a CEO wants one week after taking his company public. Teradata chief Michael Koehler appeared before close to 4,000 people here at the company's user conference and talked about Teradata's excellence with "datawastes" – er make that databases.
Ashlee Vance, 08 Oct 2007
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Intel asks EC to relax deadline

Intel is asking the European Commission for more time to respond to antitrust charges.
Austin Modine, 08 Oct 2007
Identity
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ID thieves bring ease of use to trafficking forums

As cyber crime goes mainstream, a working knowledge of English is no longer a required skill for identity thieves trafficking in stolen credit card numbers and other personal data. Just ask Matthew Miller, a pharmacist from Pennsylvania, who recently learned miscreants had translated some of his personal details into French before blasting them out to a discussion group frequented by online con artists.
Dan Goodin, 08 Oct 2007

ITU pools experts to thwart cybercrime

Experts from around the world gathered in Geneva last week to discus how to fight cybercrime through international co-operation. The meeting, held under the auspices of the International Telecommunication Union, also sought to promote cybersecurity, in general. ITU's Global Cybersecurity Agenda (GCA) aims to build on existing national and regional initiatives to avoid duplication of work and encourage collaboration amongst all relevant partners. Around 60 experts from governments, industry, academic and research institutions as well as regional and international organisations from around the world took part in the Global Cybersecurity Agenda meeting last week. Among the participants was the minister for economic affairs in Estonia, which was the target of a co-ordinated cyber-attack in April and May this year. Five key areas relating to the fight against cybercrime were identified: legal measures, technical and procedural measures, organisation structures, capacity building and international cooperation. The experts split into five groups to consider the challenges in each area. This work will result in five strategic reports, to be consolidated into a global roadmap and delivered to the ITU Secretary-General over an unspecified timescale. The study groups are being led by luminaries such as Justin Rattner, chief technology officer at Intel and Ivar Tallo, senior programme officer at theUnited Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). ®
John Leyden, 08 Oct 2007
ABC childrens blocks
2

Google and IBM push cluster computing on colleges

Google and IBM want their future employees to have large-scale cluster computing chops, so they're investing several million to get them while they're young. The companies are teaming up to promote the study in academia.
Austin Modine, 08 Oct 2007
Flag Sweden

Fujitsu to buy Swedish reseller

Fujitsu Services is buying Mandator, the Swedish reseller, for $78m in cash - roughly one times annual revenues. The price, three Swedish crowns per share, represents a 30 per cent premium on Mandator's stock price in the ten days before the offer was announced.
Team Register, 08 Oct 2007
Facebook
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Kiddie coders embrace Facebook as new-age dev platform

Reid Hoffman believes that Facebook has a big future as a development platform, arguing that many fresh-from-college coders will turn to the popular social networking site when building their next Web-based entertainment application. But he questions whether the Facebook "friends list" - or "social graph" - is suited to business applications and other tools that go beyond entertainment. Of course, that’s what you’d expect him to say. Hoffman is the co-founder and chairman of LinkedIn, a social network for business professionals, and he recently tossed some dough into the $10m fbFund – which funds nothing but Facebook applications.
Cade Metz, 08 Oct 2007