Original URL: https://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/09/15/weekly_15_september/

Spies, Big Brother and sweaty cops' fingerprints

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By Joe Fay

Posted in Business, 15th September 2006 13:45 GMT

Do you ever get one of those weeks where nothing seems to have happened, yet it’s been incredibly busy? Puzzling, isn’t it? Nothing and everything seems to have happened this week. So where to start?

Well, if you thought that Big Brother finished last month you were wrong. Everyone from Welsh school kids to HP execs has come under the beady eye of….well, you know who.

Spy versus spy

HP’s spying scandal grew and grew. As well as directors and reporters, it has now emerged that the investigative help hired by Chairman, Patricia Dunn, also cast their steely eyes over some HP employees. The California attorney general said he may lay charges against the firm. He better be quick, as the Feds and the SEC are also breathing down the HP's neck.

Patricia Dunn announced that she was sorry about the whole squalid mess. Well, sorry that its plans to spy on directors/reporters/employees/whoever, went awry in quite the way they did. She is stepping down - in the New Year - though she won‘t be leaving the firm‘s board. CEO and prez Mark Hurd will add the chairman ship to his expanding job card. Which is just the sort of concentration of power that will reassure the world that HP’s Big Brother phase is over.

Teachers silent on chips in schools

No such worries in the UK. With schools now fingerprinting their charges, whether parents like it or not, the UK workforce will be so used to being watched that having your phone records swiped will barely raise an eyebrow. The teaching unions have made some noises of disapproval, but in nothing like the strident tones they reserve for outrages like suggesting the folk they represent take shorter holidays or put on a tie every now and again. It’s hard not to think that they know many of their members think fingerprinting plans don’t go far enough, and we should go the whole hog and chip the little blighters.

Brit youth craves its mobile fix

Alternatively, let’s just GPS-enable their mobiles. Apparently, being deprived of his or her mobile is enough to send the most hardened youth into cold turkey. Though you’d have to take their booze and drugs away as well to really mess them up. Bet that explains a lot about the mood swings of your latest graduate trainees.

UK.gov buys Microsoft...

Ok, that’s enough Big Brother bothering. Let’s get back to the really interesting stuff: squeezing suppliers.

It seems UK.gov - you know, the folks someone voted in - has secured cheaper licenses from Microsoft. How did they do this? By jacking up the number of licenses bought. To how much? A whacking 1.5 million plus.

That’s one Microsoft license for every 40 people in the UK. By breaching the 1.5 million barrier, the gov’s procurement arm, OGCbuying Solutions, reckons it will save the public purse around £1m per year. Or about 66 pence per user. You do the maths. Even better, just ask a civil servant.

...or is that the other way round?

OGC was in the news again this week for appointing a new head honcho. Alison Littley was formerly director of global demand and marketing procurement at booze giant Diageo. How that kind of experience will play with civil servants and IV vendors is anyone’s guess.

Breakout product of the week

If Littley’s looking for new gadgets to spend government cash on, we can point her in the direction of a few new must-haves:

IBM has finally shipped a product based on Cell, the chip architecture it developed with Sony and Toshiba. The QS20 blade features two 3.2GHz BE processors, each of which contains a Power Processing Element (PPE) and eight Synergistic Processing Elements (SPEs). Each PPE is itself a PowerPC chip, with two-way hardware multithreading, 32Kb of level 1 instruction cache and 32Kb of level 1 data cache. Each SPE consists of a RISC chip with 128-bit SIMD capability and 256KB of local memory. Just in case you’re worried it might be a bit light on cache, IBM have also thrown in another 512KB of level 2 cache per processor. Like a circle in a circle, like a... Yep, cache is where it’s at, and IBM will be asking for a around $19,000 worth of yours for the basic model.

Sun also refreshed its server range, popping 1.5GHz versions of the UltraSPARC IIIi processor into the low end of its server range. The freshened-up boxes also boast PCI-X and PCI Express for I/O rather than just PCI in the old gear. The V215 starts at $4,000 including 1GB of memory and one 73GB drive. The V245 starts at $4,600 with the same, basic configuration, and the V445 starts at $16,000 with two 1.59GHz chips, 4GB of memory and two 73GB drives. Intel in optical chips/Cortina trade-in

Intel drives Cortina

Elsewhere in the chip world, Intel offloaded its optical networking components business to a company called Cortina. Which just summons up images of the great chip breaking yard in the sky. The PC processor giant has already offloaded its comms chip business and is looking at dumping its media and signalling parts. Anyone who visited Intel’s Developer get-togethers in the first half of this decade knew that these areas - comms, optical - were the new frontiers for Intel as it grew beyond its core PC processor business.

Well, except that they aren’t anymore. Expect a redesigned Intel Inside badge anytime now.

Dell adopts 2.0 moniker - need we say more?

And what of long-time Intel best friend Dell? Seems like Mike and the boys have a few problems of their own. An SEC accounting probe at the PC firm has gotten a bit more serious. So serious, in fact, that it’s going to have to delay its second quarter financial report. Worse for shareholders, it’s iced a share repurchase program. The firm is working put if any restatements may be necessary. The US attorney's office for the Southern District of New York has also begun its own informal probe of Dell

Still, it’s not all bad news. The firm is revamping customer service and its supply chain in what it’s dubbing Dell 2.0. This, it says, will put it back on the growth curve. Oh dear. That’s the sort of thing that makes us really really nervous. Anyway, shouldn’t that be Dell 3.0? After all, there was Dell 1.0, with competitively-priced products backed by cracking customer service. Then there was…well, you know.

Ofcom terminating charges - sort of

And talking of regulators, UK regulator Ofcom is capping termination charges for mobile vendors at 5.3 pence a minute. It’ll look at the situation again in 2011. It’s also looking at termination charges on SMS as well. Which could add up to a nice slice of your mobile bill. Until the operators think up another new wheeze.

Christmas is coming

And while we’re in the corporate comms gadgetry dept, Palm and Voda will ship the 3G Treo 750v on 2 October. This is a Euro-centric UMTS-connected Windows Mobile 5.0 device and will no doubt be appearing on your team’s Christmas list, sorry, latest mobile strategy spec sheet sometime soon.

Samsung also unveiled its latest piece of C-level jewellery this week, a multi-band, multi-moder dubbed the "World Phone". Not too sure about the name to be honest. Sounds a bit smiley utopian and earnest - like World Music as a genre. Still, there’s nothing overly earnest about being able to connect to CDMA and, JCDMAas well as GSM.

BT drops British, goes Fusion

And if that’s not enough, BT’s going to be knocking on your door trying to push its Fusion Batphone thingy for your corporate comms system. The telecoms giant, which no longer wants anyone to know it’s British (see here for more on that one), clearly reckons the device, which will hop between WLAN and GSM, is ready for corporate primetime after whirling it around consumers for months.

In fact, Leeds council has already taken the bait.

Cops hot under the collar

We are, of course, in favour of anything that consolidates and streamlines corporate comms. That said, there is an argument for not consolidating too much content on a single device, as one harassed techie in Spain found this week. When he flicked the switch on a shared PC to start a police training video for 120 wannabe police sergeants, the hapless operator delivered not a vid on cultural sensitivity training or some other key police skill, but a whole load of hot blonde on blonde action. Truncheons were raised, and the department has now mounted a probe, sorry, investigation.

And there you have it. Not a good week to be chairman of a major technology company, a Welsh schoolchild, or a Spanish police PC operator. Or British, if you’re a major telco. Same time, same place next Friday. ®