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Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 17th May 2011
4G technology will bring over three times more mobile broadband capacity to the UK from 2013, Ofcom said on Thursday.
According to research conducted by the telecoms regulator, LTE (long-term evolution) is 230 per cent more spectrally efficient than HSPA, the 3G technology that currently provides cellular data connectivity to the country. However, LTE was not the only 4G technology considered in the research - Ofcom also looked at emerging and later generations of LTE's big rival, WiMax.
Stephen Unger, Ofcom's chief technology officer, said the efficiency of 4G spectrum use would increase even more by the end of the decade, by which point technologies such as the future LTE Advanced standard should be in place.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 16th May 2011
The revelation that US commandos who stormed Osama bin Laden's Pakistan bolthole unearthed a "massive smut stash" didn't much surprise those who'd been expecting news that the terrorist wasn't quite the paragon of Islamic virtue he claimed to be.
Of course, the "extensive" collection of "modern, electronically recorded video" may not have belonged to the al Qaeda leader - his son and two couriers also lived in the Abbottabad compound - and there's no evidence he ever viewed it.
Reuters' cautious initial report into the discovery stresses as much, but fails to address a critical question: does the porn repository actually exist?
Another report from "American-owned" Associated Press raised an eyebrow down at the UK's Independent on Sunday.
AP wrote: "The disclosure that US investigators found pornography... fuels the US narrative that Bin Laden was not the respectable or noble figure that his supporters embraced."*
Robert Strang, "former co-chair of the New York state Legislature 9/11 task force", expressed a similar sentiment down at the New York Post, saying: "He was inspirational to them [his adherents] in a big way. And the more that comes out about him, the more it shows that he's not the man they thought he was."
The Independent claims AP's words bear "the imprint of a spin doctor", and there's a certain legitimacy in suggesting that "fuelling the US narrative" is a euphemism for "feeding the US black propaganda machine".
Let's face it, the only way the US administration could have got more column inches out of the outrage was if bin Laden had been caught in bed with a Las Vegas hooker and a bottle of Scotch, toking on a post-coital spliff while reading The Satanic Verses.
Among the coverage highlights is a splendid News of the World piece (registration required), which insists that Bin Laden was "obsessed with US singer Whitney Houston - and especially enjoyed porn videos starring women who look like her".
The paper reckons CIA operatives are now staring drop-jawed at vids of "unnatural acts involving black, white and Asian women", which may have been used to carry "subliminal messages".
Whether al Qaeda really did use pneumatic Whitney Houston-alikes to disseminate information remains to be seen, as in fact does whether Bin Laden's penchant for porn was real or an invention of the CIA's dark imagination.
Roderick T Long, professor of philosophy at Alabama's Auburn Uni, refused to be drawn on Friday, when he blogged: "I have no problem believing that Bin Laden was a hypocrite. But I also have no problem believing that the US government is a liar. Hence I have no opinion one way or 'tother as to the existence of bin Laden's alleged porn collection."
Lester Haines
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Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 16th May 2011
The Prime Minister has said the government is considering scrapping a multibillion-pound project to install a patient records system across the NHS.
Speaking during Prime Minister's Questions this week, David Cameron said the government was considering "terminating some of, or indeed all of" CSC's contract with the Department of Health to install the Lorenzo electronic patient records system.
CSC is due to install the system at health trusts across the Midlands and the north and east of England. However, work on delivering the systems is running years behind schedule.
Cameron was speaking in response to a question by Richard Bacon MP, member of parliamentary spending watchdog the Public Accounts Committee and long-time critic of the project.
Cameron said: "The Department of Health and the Cabinet Office will examine all the available options under the current contract, including the option of terminating some of, or indeed all of, the contract."
The Department of Health has been negotiating the terms of a revised contract for the project with CSC for months, and Cameron said, "We are absolutely determined to achieve better value for money."
The project to install the electronic patient records system is one of a series of IT projects that fall under the National Programme for IT (NPfIT).
Cameron said no revised contract would be signed until a National Audit Office report on the NPfIT - due next week - has been studied, and reviews by the Public Accounts Committee and the Cabinet Office's Major Projects Authority have taken place.
Responding to Cameron's comments, a CSC spokeswoman said: "CSC is in the final stages of negotiating a non-binding memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the NHS.
"The MOU for the realigned NHS programme is designed to offer the government greater value and flexibility, while achieving desired saving in healthcare," she said. "Completion of the MOU has always been dependent on final NHS and other government reviews."
"No existing CSC UK government contracts are impacted by the NHS reviews and CSC continues to support the NHS and other public sector contracts during these reviews," the spokeswoman said.
Last month, Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, one of four trusts chosen to pilot the system before it is more widely rolled out, decided to abandon the system blaming "delays" in implementing functionality.
The Department of Health has previously stated that it is considering terminating the contract with CSC, after it missed a key milestone for rolling out the system.
The Lorenzo system is being installed by CSC under the terms of its Local Service Provider (LSP) contract, which is worth just over £3bn but the DoH has said it expects negotiations with CSC will reduce the contract's value by about £500m.
CSC is one of only two LSP suppliers to the DoH that are left, after previous suppliers Accenture and Fujitsu pulled out of contracts.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Mon 16th May 2011
BT says it expects to double the speeds offered by its fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) superfast broadband network next year.
The company is in the process of rolling out FTTC broadband as part of a £2.5bn fibre broadband network that will extend access to faster broadband speeds to two-thirds of the UK.
At present, FTTC offers download speeds of up to 40Mbps but BT believes it will be able to double this to up to 80Mbps in 2012. The upload speeds supported by the tech would also improve, with the current limit of up to 10Mbps "likely" to rise to up to 20Mbps, according to a BT spokesman.
Existing FTTC customers should expect a speed lift next year, according to BT. "Most customers within the existing footprint will get a higher speed," said the spokesman. "There will be a very small number of customers who have very long lines who won't benefit as the additional speed is generated by using higher frequencies and those frequencies do not work on long lines."
BT also reckons it could squeeze even higher speeds out of FTTC - suggesting download speeds could exceed 100Mbps in future.
The firm's announcement comes after Japanese company Fujitsu last month revealed plans to roll out a 1Gbps broadband network to five million UK homes. BT's network does not currently support 1Gbps broadband speeds. It said it will be testing a 1Gbps fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) service next year. Its current FTTH service supports download speeds of up to 100Mbps.
FTTC is BT's preferred technology for its next-generation broadband rollout, with about 75 per cent of the planned footprint to consist of FTTC versus 25 per cent of the faster, and more costly to install, FTTH technology.
While FTTC involves laying fibre-optic cable from the exchange to the street cabinet - with data then being carried into a customer's premises along the existing copper telephone lines - FTTH eliminates the bottleneck of copper as fibre cable is laid all the way inside a customer's premises.
So far, BT has spent £600m of its next-gen broadband pot and is putting 80,000 new premises within reach of fibre each week. BT said it expects to have fibre access for five million homes in the next few weeks and aims to ramp this up to 10 million by 2012.
Orders for BT Infinity, its fibre-based broadband service, are running at an average of about 5,000 per week, the company said. The total customer base for BT Infinity now stands at 144,000.
In separate news, research conducted by telecoms regulator Ofcom has suggested 4G, the next generation of mobile network technology, will be able to deliver more than 200 per cent of the capacity of existing 3G technologies using the same amount of spectrum. The capacity boost is down to 4G having higher rates of spectral efficiency.
"4G mobile technologies will be able to send more information than 3G, for a given amount of spectrum. This increased efficiency means that 4G networks will be able to support increased data rates and more users," said Dr Stephen Unger, chief technology officer at Ofcom, in a statement.
He noted that a user on a 4G mobile network will be able to download a video in about a third of the time it takes on a 3G network today - owing to rates of spectral efficiency that are more than three times higher.
It is expected that 4G spectral efficiency will increase to more than five times the efficiency of 3G by 2020, he added.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Wed 11th May 2011
Microsoft has confirmed that it will buy Skype, the internet telephony company, for $8.5bn in cash.
The £5.2bn takeover has been agreed by the boards of both Microsoft and Silver Lake, the leading firm in the investor group that picked up a majority stake in Skype in 2009. Other members of that group include CPP Investment Board, Andreessen Horowitz, Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis — via their company Joltid — and eBay, which bought Skype in 2005 for $2.6bn and retained a 30-percent stake when it sold the service off in 2009.
The online auctioneers failed to integrate the peer-to-peer service into their business model as was originally planned. Microsoft said in a statement on Tuesday that its acquisition of Skype would "increase the accessibility of real-time video and voice communications, bringing benefits to both consumers and enterprise users and generating significant new business and revenue opportunities".
"Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world," said Microsoft chief Steve Ballmer. "Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world."
Microsoft Skype Division
Assuming it gains regulatory approval, which is hoped for by the end of 2011, Skype will become a Microsoft business division called the Microsoft Skype Division. It will be headed up by current Skype chief Tony Bates. According to Microsoft, Skype will "support" various Microsoft devices such as Xbox and Kinect — which already offers video-calling capabilities — as well as the Windows Phone platforms and "a wide array of Windows devices".
Skype users will also be able to connect with Lync, Outlook, Xbox Live and "other communities", Microsoft said, promising that the company would "continue to invest in and support" Skype clients that are available for non-Microsoft platforms. Apart from the Windows version, Skype can be downloaded for Mac, Linux, Android, iPhone and Symbian, and is also integrated with TV sets from manufacturers such as Panasonic and Samsung.
The market-leading service, which had until now been planning a public flotation, currently has around 170 million users and carried over 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010. Those figures represent a 150-percent increase in monthly calling minutes during Silver Lake's ownership tenure, Microsoft said. Silver Lake managing director Egon Durban said in the statement that his investor group was "thrilled with Skype's transformation during the period of our ownership and grateful for the extraordinary commitment of its management team and employees".
"We are excited about Skype's long-term future with Microsoft, as it is poised to become one of the world's most dynamic and comprehensive communications platforms," Durban added.
Enterprise customers
However, the takeover of Skype will not necessarily be enough to attract enterprise customers to Microsoft's voice and unified communications services, Analysys Mason analyst Steve Hilton said in a statement.
"Skype, while having some nice communications features, is still a consumer-grade solution," Hilton said. "Enterprises don't want low-quality communications services when dealing with customers. While enterprises will trade off lower prices for lower quality, they could have purchased Skype solutions long ago had they wanted to save a few dollars (or pounds or Euros)."
Hilton also pointed out that Microsoft had had "plenty of voice-centric train wrecks over the years", such as the company's IP PBX play, Response Point.
Informa analyst Giles Cottle said Microsoft would prove a better home for Skype than other companies rumoured to have been interested in buying the service, such as Google and Facebook.
"Microsoft... has numerous ways in which it can make use of Skype: video calling for Windows 7 Phones (and a competitor to [Apple] FaceTime), offering a true PC-based VoIP service with Windows Live Messenger, voice chat in Xbox Live and, of course, strengthening its enterprise communications proposition," Cottle said in a statement. He added that Microsoft had "undoubtedly... over-paid for Skype in the short term, but potentially not in the long term.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Wed 11th May 2011
Business social-networking site LinkedIn has valued itself at around $3bn for a planned flotation, according to an updated US Security and Exchange Commission filing.
The filing — updated on Monday — indicated that the company will be valued at around $3bn (£1.83bn) when it floats on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) later this month. LinkedIn announced its intention to make an initial public offering (IPO) in January.
LinkedIn expects to get a maximum of $35 per share, and to sell over 7.8 million shares.
The latest SEC filing revised the amount of cash that the company now expects to raise from the IPO to a maximum of $315.5m; up from $175m in its filing in January.
"In 2011, our philosophy is to continue to invest for long-term growth. We expect to continue to invest heavily in our product-development efforts to enable our members and customers to derive more value from our platform," the company said. "We expect to continue to make significant capital expenditures to upgrade our technology and network infrastructure to improve the ability of our website to handle expected increases in usage and to enable the release of new features and solutions."
During 2010 LinkedIn reported net revenue of $243.1m — an increase of 102 percent in comparison to 2009 — but generated just $15.4m of net income. Its current valuation is around 12 times its net revenue.
LinkedIn will be the first social network to publicly offer shares, despite previous rumours of social-network giants Twitter and Facebook gearing up for an IPO.
In March, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone said the company had no plans to raise cash over the next 12 months. In January, Facebook announced that it had raised $1.5bn from private investors, giving it a total valuation of $50bn. Since then analysts have valued Facebook at closer to $100bn.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Wed 11th May 2011
BT Wholesale has signed a Deed of Undertaking with the Cabinet Office to become one of the providers underpinning the Public Sector Network programme, the company said on Tuesday.
BT Wholesale has signed a Deed of Undertaking with the Cabinet Office to become one of the providers underpinning the Public Sector Network programme.
Following the agreement, BT becomes a provider of Government Conveyance Network (GCN) services, which will interconnect Public Service Network (PSN) Direct Network Service Providers (DNSPs), which in turn supply the government departments. The PSN is a 'network of networks', created from existing commercial networks, for the public sector.
"Today's signature of the DoU [Deed of Undertaking] underlines BT's commitment to the PSN, providing a full range of services including the GCN. Drawing on our experience of co-designing PSN, we can help public-sector organisations achieve both cost and service improvements as well as help them transition to PSN compliance," Neil Rogers, president of BT global services for government and health, said in a statement.
The GCN is intended to act as a secure common backbone to PSN service providers and will enable cloud-based and shared services between organisations. It will also deliver datacentre rationalisation benefits such as reduced cost and complexity, BT said.
The GCN service will be built on BT's core Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) network, which already has the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG) 2.2.4 standard accreditation for security and performance.
BT said it expects there to be up to 20 DNSPs that will pay GCN providers to access to the interconnection service. BT's signing of the DoU represents a commitment to bring its GCN service to market within 12 months, the company said.
BT's DoU joins one signed by Virgin Media in November 2010; Virgin is already a major supplier to existing public-sector networks. Global Crossing and Cable & Wireless have also already signed up to provide GCN services.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 10th May 2011
Gadgets - our shiny little friends. Elegant wee status symbols that help us find our way, chat to our friends and play games when we are bored. Gadgets - cute little helpmates that take the rough edges off life and generally make things a bit nicer.
Or, gadgets - robbing us of our common sense as we rely on them to do the most basic things, leaving us ignorant and helpless to the point that instead of lifting our heads, looking around and thinking for ourselves, we no longer see the world as human beings have for thousands of years and simply accept whatever our gadgets show us.
According to Robert Vamosi, author of When Gadgets Betray Us, our reliance on electronic trinkets is changing the human race - and not in a good way.
As gadgets develop the ability to multitask seemingly endless functions, Vamosi argues that people are increasingly unable to think for themselves. The Round-Up nods vigorously in blind agreement as it reads the article on its iPad. And then walks into a door.
Vamosi argues that our reliance on gadgets means we are increasingly abandoning our natural senses and indeed common sense, and living our lives through the lens of technology.
He cites the example of one woman who narrowly missed being hit by a train after she followed sat-nav directions over a railway track: when she got out of her car to open the level-crossing gate, a speeding train drove straight through her vehicle.
He claims we are developing a culture of dependence on technology to the detriment of our common sense, assuming we had any common sense to start with.
For thousands of years we relied on our senses and instincts as hunters and gatherers; these days there's an app for that.
As Vamosi says: "We no longer read the manual before powering on. We demand intuitive interfaces that appear up and running right away, while often masking important security settings."
So superior usability does have its downsides - it turns us into a nation of unthinking drones entrusting our identities, locations and most personal data to vast multinational behemoths that make shiny things.
So should you dump your BlackBerry in a canal, hurl your iPhone into the sea and live life in a cave rocking back and forth and whimpering? Hell no.
Just take a few precautions, and remember who is in charge. That's you, by the way.
And on the plus side, while your gadgets might be robbing you of your common sense, we're not living in a Minority Report world of constant surveillance just yet.
In terms of how our personal data is treated, Vamosi reckons we're still in the realms of another Hollywood blockbuster: Raiders of the Lost Ark.
This is because data is likely to be filed away and forgotten, just like the end of the movie (antique spoiler alert!) "where you've got this vast warehouse of data and they're taking the Ark to be in some row in some queue way back in the far corner where it will probably get lost".
Phew, when he said Raiders of the Lost Ark the Round-Up had visions of being chased down the street by giant boulders. Then again, at least that would make the journey to work more fun.
Text your taxi fare
The Royal Wedding has come and gone and we’re left with memories, commemorative DVDs and a fridge full of uneaten sausage rolls.
But just when you thought we'd all had enough of Union Jacks for a while, telecoms giant Vodafone is branding London cabs with the red, white and blue to promote its latest initiative.
The company's customers can now pay for London taxi fares using their phones through a new mobile payment scheme.
The scheme lets customers send a text with the taxi's registration number and the cost of the taxi fare. The cost of the ride is then added to the user’s phone bill or deducted from their pay-as-you-go tariff.
The Union Jack-branded fleet will also be fitted with chargers for a range of handsets which are available to all mobile users regardless of their network. The first few cabs are now fitted with phone chargers, with all Vodafone taxis set to be equipped by August.
All very high tech. Whether it will persuade the average cabs to go south of the river after nine on a Saturday night remains to be seen...
And finally...
Elsewhere on silicon.com this week: BT is recruiting ex-forces personnel in an initiative to deploy the superfast network that will bring broadband speeds of up to 40Mbps to about two-thirds of the country by 2015.
The ex-forces men and women will begin working for BT's mobile engineering workforce this month after a fast-track recruitment and training programme.
But while many of us still wait for the broadband upgrade of our dreams, one UK city has already made it. Any idea which British city was the only one to be ranked in the world's top 100 for broadband speeds? Ok, so it might be in 99th place, but read the story to find out which it is
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Posted by Graham Keen on Tue 10th May 2011
Apple is now the world's most valuable brand, knocking Google off the top spot and into second place on the BrandZ Top 100 2011 ranking of the most valuable global brands.
The value of the iPhone and iPad maker's brand surged 84 per cent since last year's list, racking up a total brand value of $153.3bn, according to market research company and list compilers Millward Brown, a subsidiary of advertising and marketing giant WPP. Apple's decision to launch the iPad is credited with helping to propel its brand to the top of the list.
"At the start of last year, few people fretted that their lives felt bereft of a digital gadget smaller than their laptop but larger than their mobile phone. By the end of 2010, however, about 18 million of us owned iPads or other tablets," the report notes.
Over the same time period, Google's brand shed two per cent of its value, with the boys from Mountain View now commanding $111.5bn of brand worth.
Another technology company took third place: software, hardware and professional services giant IBM surged 17 per cent - achieving a net brand worth of $100.8bn. Microsoft in fifth place, AT&T in seventh and China Mobile in ninth also made the top 10. Tech and telecoms brands now make up a third of the Top 100 brands on the list, compared with a quarter in 2006. Tech brands as a whole rose 18 per cent on the previous BrandZ list.
Social-networking behemoth Facebook made its debut appearance on the list, with a brand worth of $19.1m, growing 246 per cent to land at number 35. Other tech brand risers include Chinese search service Baidu, which grew brand value 141 per cent to $22.6m and gained 29th place, and online retailer and ebook maker Amazon, which jumped 37 per cent to $37.6m and grabbed 14th place.
The biggest tech brand loser on the list is mobile giant Nokia, which shed 28 per cent of its brand value, sliding to 81st place - a bigger percentage decline than oil giant BP, which lost 27 per cent of its brand value following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
RIM's BlackBerry brand also had a bad year, dropping 20 per cent of its value and slipping to 25th place.
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Posted by Graham Keen on Wed 4th May 2011
Explosive data growth is a big pain for every IT manager on earth. Many enterprises have their global infrastructures scattered among two or three continents. Maintaining file servers or filers all around the world isn't a simple matter: some of them are unattended, there are security concerns, backup/archive policies can't be complied with and on, and on.
Enterprises are figuring out how to consolidate this stuff while keeping a 24X7 worldwide service and, on the other hand, vendors are trying to address these needs, but few products turn into really usable solutions and the price can't fit every budget.
Recently I wrote about an interesting product from HDS and I'm sure you can list it on top of your possible choices for these kind of projects, but two drawbacks might keep them at a distance: the cost of the project and the feeling of being locked-in to a traditional block storage when you need to scale up on a single instance.
Exploring alternatives
I'm sure you already know of Scality, a small French startup already mentioned on The Register, and its RING technology. To quickly recap, its product is software, normally spread across many nodes, built to deliver an object storage infrastructure.
It was developed with internet and service providers in mind and uses commodity x86 hardware equipped with off-the-shelf disks. Indeed, the principal Scality customers are ISPs (in Italy it recently closed deals with Tiscali and SeeWeb) ,which will use these infrastructures for internal mail storage and to sell object storage services like Amazon S3.
Scality's solution can cost half that of a traditional storage, with resiliency and scalability advantages, but the other side of the coin is that it hasn't a native CIFS/NFS gateway; you must access it via standard APIs (C or HTTP REST).
The only way to solve this issue is to adopt a supported NAS Gateway supported NAS gateway like the one from Nasuni, another small startup. The Nasuni filer is a virtual appliance - you can install it on a VM - acting as a local file server/cache for the remote site while dealing with data to-from the central Scality RING.
This odd couple allows great savings and, theoretically, solves the big migration path problem from a traditional storage infrastructure to global private cloud storage.
Obviously this is just conjecture because these two are small startups and big enterprises are always sceptical of working with such beasts; guess how they will react when you propose a project with two of them!
But the idea is good and surely needs further investigation to better understand how these products may work together when developing a real single, big, secure, multi-tenant private cloud
Enrico Signoretti
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