Archive for February, 2008

iPhone to improve biz apps

Apple says it will introduce a series of business applications for the iPhone, as the company prepares to finally open the device up to third-party developers.
Speaking at a Goldman Sachs investment conference in the US, the company revealed it would introduce iPhone features aimed at businesses, potentially stepping up competition with RIM’s popular BlackBerry devices.

Apple gave no hint of what enterprise features would be unveiled, but many professional users have clamoured for BlackBerry-style push email.

“Apple has acknowledged that there has been great interest in the enterprise community for the iPhone,” says Tim Bajarin, principal analyst of Creative Strategies. “There’s no question it has great potential in enterprise given the right application.”

Apple will detail the software roadmap for the iPhone on 6 March at its Cupertino, California headquarters.

Opening up the phone to third-party developers should also bring more business features to the device. The company is expected to release its iPhone developers’ kit shortly, and analysts believe that this will give the device another timely boost.

“Apple has understood the importance of local applications and they are responding to that, and it will help them sell more iPhones,” says Bajarin. “It should release a plethora of creative applications and it will make the iPhone much more practical as a mobile applications tool.”

Sales on track

Apple also used the conference to affirm its iPhone sales goal for this year. Apple’s chief operating officer, Tim Cook, says he has “really good confidence” the company will hit its oft-stated goal of selling 10 million iPhones by the end of 2008.

Analysts have expressed concern in recent weeks over iPhone sales and the practice of “unlocking” them to run on non-preferred networks. Bernstein Research last month estimated that more than a quarter of iPhones were “unlocked”, putting pressure on Apple’s business model because it can’t collect a portion of carrier fees from those users.

Cracking down on unlocked phones could scare users away and cause Apple to miss its sales target for the device, whereas allowing them could erode profitability and make it tough to sign more carriers to similar revenue-sharing deals, Bernstein claimed.

Source – PC Pro


Microsoft and Eu handbags ends in record fine

The European Commission has fined US computer giant Microsoft for defying sanctions imposed on it for anti-competitive behaviour.
Microsoft must now pay a record 899 million euros ($1.4bn; £680.9m) after it failed to comply with a 2004 ruling that it abused its position.

The ruling said that Microsoft was guilty of not providing key code to rival software makers.

EU regulators said the firm was the first to break an EU antitrust ruling.

The fines come on top of earlier fines of 280m euros imposed in July 2006, and of 497m euros n March 2004.

“Microsoft was the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy that the Commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an antitrust decision,” Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said in a statement.

An investigation concluded in 2004 that Microsoft was guilty of freezing out rivals in products such as media players, while unfairly unfairly linking its Explorer internet browser to its Windows operating system at the expense of rival servers.

The European Court of First Instance upheld this ruling last year, which ordered Microsoft to pay 497 million euros for abusing its dominant market position.

Last week, the firm announced that it would open up the technology of some of its leading software, including Windows, to make it easier to operate with rivals’ products.

“As we demonstrated last week with our new interoperability principles and specific actions to increase the openness of our products, we are focusing on steps that will improve things for the future,” Microsoft said.

But the firm is still being pursued by Brussels.

Earlier this month, the European Commission launched two new anti-competition investigations against Microsoft into similar issues.

Source – BBC


Small Business Server 2008

Redmond yesterday revealed plans for the next version of its Windows server operating system, with different flavours for small biz and mid-sized organisations.

Small Business Server 2008 (SBS), formally code-named “Cougar”, will be available in Standard and Premium editions and will cater for companies of 50 or fewer staff.

 Microsoft said its standard SBS package will include one copy of Windows Server 2008, collaboration server – SharePoint Services 3.0, Exchange Server 2007, and Windows Live OneCare for Server. There will also be add-on tools for the software giant’s newly launched Office Live Small Business online service.

The premium edition will have all of the above plus an extra copy of Windows Server 2008 for a separate seat, as well as a standard edition of SQL Server 2008.

Redmond’s other product has been dubbed Essential Business Server (EBS) 2008, which was previously code-named “Centro”. It will be targeted at mid-sized firms with up to 250 computers, and will also be availble in either standard or premium versions.

EBS standard edition will carry three copies of Windows Server 2008, two of which will be set up specifically to handle Active Directory Domain Services (AD DS) on either a domain controller or mail server. The remaining copy will be loaded with System Center Essentials, which runs as the admin unit.

It will also be bundled with Exchange Server 2007 and Forefront. On the premium edition, Redmond has added SQL Server 2008.

Microsoft gave a fuzzy, ball-park release date of the second half of this year for both products, which will be demoed at the firm’s “Heroes Happen Here” launch event on 27 February in Los Angeles.

Redmond admitted last month that SQL Server 2008 won’t hit manufacturing until the third quarter at the earliest.

Source – PC Pro


Windows Server 2008 – First Look

Windows Server 2008, due for its official launch today, is a major upgrade for Microsoft’s server platform, the first for around five years. Requiring a graphical user interface (GUI) on a server operating system always seemed odd, even back in 1993 when Microsoft released Windows NT 3.1.

It has taken Microsoft until now to begin fixing the problem. Server 2008 comes with an installation option called Server Core, and although it is not quite GUI-free (Notepad and Regedit still run), it is command-line driven and lacks most of the baggage that previously came as standard. The snag with Server Core is that it is incomplete.

For example, you can install Microsoft’s web server, Internet Information Services (IIS) 7.0, but you cannot install ASP.NET, PowerShell scripting, or SQL Server. PHP, on the other hand runs fine on Server Core. More about that in a moment.

To be precise, Microsoft has organized the capabilities of Windows Server into optional roles and features. There are 18 roles and 35 features available in our installation of Server 2008 Datacenter Edition. However, Server Core only supports eight roles, being essentially file and print, Active Directory and domain services, web server, and virtualization. There is also no way to upgrade a Server Core install to have full features, so it is only useful if you are sure from the outset what the box will need to do.

Another sign of progress in separating Server 2008 from its desktop cousin Windows Vista is that “Desktop Experience” components like Windows Media Player and Desktop Themes are bundled into an optional feature that presumably few will install. This may be why Server 2008 feels snappier than Vista on the same hardware, even though both share the same core code.

Why can you not start with Server Core and build it up to the complete edition? “That’s a beautiful design goal and our long-term ambition,” according to Microsoft product manager Gareth Hall.

The problem is that Server 2008 is only partially componentized. It is not yet quite what it should be but Server Core is progress, being more lightweight and manageable. According to Microsoft, Server Core is preferable to a full install in scenarios where it will work, such as for Active Directory or virtualization. IIS has a powerful command-line tool called AppCmd that is ideal for Server Core. There are also numerous options for remote management, including Remote Desktop to the command line, Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins, Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) scripts, and Windows Remote Shell.

Unfortunately for developers looking for an application server, Server Core is too limited.

That leads us on to IIS 7.0, a major upgrade. Like the open-source Apache web server, it is modular, so that you can install only those parts that are needed, and individual modules can in principle be replaced with custom versions. In addition, IIS 7.0 is more deeply integrated with .NET. In both IIS 6.0 and IIS 7.0, applications are isolated from one another through application pools, each of which can contain one or more applications.

IIS 7.0 has a new integrated application pool, which means the web server calls both native and managed modules in a single integrated pipeline. This is more efficient, and means that ASP.NET authentication applies to all content types, not just ASP.NET pages.

In previous versions, this was a huge annoyance and potential security hole. Developers had to jump through hoops to accomplish what should be simple tasks like protecting a ZIP file from unauthorized download, or use Windows authentication which is not always practical. The new pipeline means that you can use ASP.NET Forms Authentication for any content, even perhaps a PHP application. The old ISAPI application pool mode remains available for compatibility.

Another major change in IIS is the way it is configured. Most settings have been moved to the per-directory XML file called web.config. This uses inheritance, so for a particular site you can have default settings in a root web.config, and override this as needed in sub-directories. ASP.NET has always worked like this, but previously most other IIS settings could only be changed through IIS administration. This makes it easier to move applications, since they are configured in files that can simply be copied across, and makes life better for developers who only have file access to the web server, such as those using shared hosting. It is fascinating to see how Microsoft has retreated from the registry towards text configuration files, which is the Unix and Apache model.

Failed Request Tracing is another new feature worth mentioning. You can define what constitutes a failed request, by status code, time taken, or event severity, and have IIS log those requests in detail to a failed request log. The big advantage is the detail available. For example, Windows is prone to permission issues that can be hard to pin down.

Unfortunately, some administrators take the easy option and relax security generally instead of solving the specific issue. Failed Request Tracing makes it easier to identify and fix the exact problem.
PHP support is much improved. The key to this is built-in support for FastCGI, which keeps a CGI service loaded between requests with great speed benefits. A complication with PHP on Windows is that differences between Windows multi-threading and Unix multiple processes required either the use of a thread safe build, which is detrimental to compatibility with some extensions, or using a normal build but under CGI, which is slow.

Now you can use the non-thread safe build with FastCGI, which is great for both performance and compatibility. Setting up PHP on our test server was trivial, using manual configuration and the standard binary download from php.net.

IIS 7 v Apache
How does IIS now compare to Apache? Apache is the most popular web server by some margin, with more than 50 per cent market share according to Netcraft. Nevertheless, IIS has actually increased its share during the last couple of years, though meaningful figures are hard to track down because of domain parking and huge shared hosting providers. Security has also improved since IIS 6.0.

For most users, the choice between Apache and IIS makes itself. If you need ASP.NET and Windows integration, or to run SharePoint services, then IIS is the only choice. Otherwise, Apache has had all the advantages of cross-platform support, and great stability and extensibility thanks to its wide adoption and community. This balance will not change fundamentally with IIS 7.0, though some of the reasons for favoring Apache are now less compelling.

Per-directory configuration files in IIS should perform better then .htaccess files in Apache, and the most annoying characteristics of IIS for shared hosting have been resolved. We have not tested performance or scalability, though Microsoft’s developer division general manager Scott Guthrie claims substantial gains over IIS 6.0. It has been tested for up to 20,000 sites on a single box, with “acceptable performance for shutdown and startup”.

For those who do choose Server 2008, there are a bewildering range of editions, running from Web Server to DataCenter. Note that Server Core is an installation option, not an edition in itself. Significantly, the DataCenter edition comes with unlimited virtual image rights, making it best value for serious virtualization. Note, too, that the new Hyper-V virtualization technology remains in beta, even in the final Server 2008 release.

Other interesting features for developers include new Terminal Services features, including RemoteApp that lets you remote an individual application, rather than a complete desktop, and TS Web Access, which lets users start applications from a web link. In combination with TS Gateway, you can run Terminal Services over HTTPS making this a powerful option for firewall-friendly remote working.

Whereas Vista has been a PR disaster, it is unlikely that its cousin Server 2008 will meet the same fate. There are solid improvements over the predecessor Server 2003, including IIS 7.0, granular installation, improved terminal services, the Server Core, command-line control, and changes to Active Directory. Hyper-V is nicely done, and although it is nothing special in relation to competing products from VMWare and others, its integration and neat tools will win users when it comes out of beta.

Don’t get me wrong – there are frustrations. I banged my head on the desk when I saw that Server 2008 still sets “Hide extensions for known file types” and other such nonsense in IE. In other words, it’s still Windows; but a welcome upgrade nonetheless.

Source – The Register


Microsoft out in the cold as VMWare takes Server Giants

VMware has penned a deal with server giants Dell, HP, IBM and Fujitsu Siemens to embed the ESX 3i hypervisor into their server products.
The manufacturers will start shipping hardware loaded with VMware’s virtualisation software within the next 60 days, and the companies are hoping the deal will help speed the adoption of virtualisation technology among businesses.

ESX Server 3i strips the service console from ESX Server, bringing the install down from 2GB to around 32MB. The software allows servers to act like multiple machines, each with its own operating system and software.

The companies have not revealed the financial details of the deals, and are not saying whether the inclusion of ESX 3i will bump up the price of their offerings. However, the deal should help to reassure investors getting jittery after VMware warned of slowed growth in 2008.

The announcement comes on the eve of Microsoft’s roll out of Windows Server 2008, and is no doubt timed to overshadow what Microsoft has been describing as the “biggest enterprise product launch in its history”.

Microsoft’s own virtualisation technology, dubbed Hyper-V, will be available three months after the launch of Windows Server 2008.

Source – PC Pro


Firefox – New Search Technology

The latest version of web browser Firefox will make changes to the way people search for information online, says its developer.
Mozilla has told the BBC’s World Service that the new browser has been designed around the importance of search to users.

Firefox 3, currently going through its third stage of beta testing, will offer a combined search and bookmark tool via the url bar.

It will also more offline options.

Chairman of the Mozilla Foundation Mitchell Baker told BBC World Service’s Digital Planet programme:

“It’s clear that when people are looking for information on the web, a search is the number one activity,” she said.

“We’ve devised ways to bring that power into areas that are closer to your individual life.”

Typing in, for example, “cameras” into the url bar, will bring up a list of the sites that the user recently visited that have cameras in their names.

“If you buy shoes, that’s all you need to remember – we will use search, as you’ve come to expect it, to help you find the places that you have been visiting,” Ms Baker said.
Firefox use spread quickly from a small group of users
Ms Baker said that other changes have been made that are invisible in terms of look, but will improve overall performance.

“It will be faster, sleeker, and even easier to use,” she said.

“In terms of features, we’ve tried very hard not to bloat the interface but to keep it simple, the way people like it, and to have new things appear when you need them.”

The other substantial change will be the ability to do much more offline, with the browser “remembering” key data that is usually lost when an internet connection goes down.

This is designed to allow the user to continue to work when travelling or in remote areas where wireless access is patchy.

Firefox is currently the second most popular browser, although its 12% share is dwarfed by that of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer.

It has, however, substantially grown from its launch – first as Phoenix in 2002, then as Firebird, and finally ending up as Firefox in February 2004.

Ms Baker said that when Mozilla issued Firefox 1 they had one person on staff, but hundreds working on different aspects of it.

Now they have 150 employees around the world, and “tens of thousands” working on the software.

Mozilla is run as a not-for-profit organisation, and advocate of open source coding.

Source – BBC


Google take to the waves

Google has announced that it will build new undersea cables to boost international bandwidth.
The cable network will be called Unity, and run the 6,000 miles from Asia to the US under the Pacific Ocean.

It is expected that the connection will increase trans-Pacific bandwidth by 20% when it is completed in the first quarter of 2010.

Rather than one individual cable, Unity will consist of five separate fibre pairs. Each of these will be capable of carrying 960Gb/sec, providing a theoretical data transmission rate of 7.68Tb/sec.

Unity will be constructed by NEC and Tyco, and cost an estimated £150 million to complete.

This will be funded by a consortium consisting of Google and five telecoms companies; Bharti Airtel, Global Transit, KDDI Corporation, Pacnet and SingTel.

“The Unity cable system allows the members of the consortium to provide the increased capacity needed as more applications and services migrate online, giving users faster and more reliable connectivity,” says Unity spokesperson, Jayne Stowell.

Google has previously expressed an interest in investing in network infrastructure. Last year Google announced that it has set aside a budget of $4.6 billion to purchase a section of the US wireless sprectrum.

Source – PC Pro


HMRC Pays Criminal for Data

Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) is paying a German crook a reward for allegedly stolen information about bank accounts in Liechtenstein. The information is believed to relate to 100 people who between them owe the UK tax authorities more than £100m.

The tiny princedom is much loved by tax dodgers for its refusal to sign up to international finance treaties – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development named Liechtenstein as an “uncooperative tax haven” last year.

The Revenue has paid in the region of £100,000 for a set of discs with details of various Liechtenstein account holders. The Revenue has not confirmed who it paid, but it has been widely reported to be a whistleblower who used to work for a Liechtenstein bank.

But the deal has raised disquiet about the methods the Revenue is now prepared to use to catch suspected fraudsters.

One such concern would be that if any of the alleged evaders took their case to court HMRC would have trouble getting its dodgy dossier accepted as evidence by a British court. But lawyers seem to believe the Revenue is exempt from such considerations. The Inland Revenue is also protected from Data Protection laws when it is investigating fraud.

HMRC acting chairman Dave Hartnett said: “Most people under investigation have substantial amounts to pay with at least £100m tax at risk in the UK. HMRC is determined to protect the UK’s tax base from evasion and in doing so we will use all the statutory powers we have. It should now be clear to everyone that there is no safe hiding place for the proceeds of tax evasion.

“Those who have hidden income and gains should make a prompt and complete disclosure to HMRC. And in the light of recent developments involving Liechtenstein bank accounts, there needs to be a significant move towards full implementation of OECD standards on transparency and effective exchange of information in tax matters.”

It has been reported that the Revenue was offered the information two years ago, but turned it down.

German authorities paid more than £3m for similar information which led them to 750 German citizens with secret accounts in the principality.

It also emerged today that German intelligence is prepared to share the information with other nations. Finland, Norway, and Sweden are believed to have already expressed an interest.

Source – PC Pro


Wifi Man!

Two men have been arrested for “dishonestly obtaining a communications service” after they used a householder’s wireless network to check their emails.

The offence happened on Sunday in Tweedmouth, south of Berwick-upon-Tweed.

A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police told the Reg: “I can confirm that two local men were using a householder’s wireless network to check their email. They were arrested and are out on bail pending further enquiries.”

Berwick Neighbourhood Inspector Sharon Stavers said: “This is a very unusual offence and it appears the two men were doing nothing more sinister than checking their email and getting some time on the internet for free.

“However, this is an offence and people pay good money to get the internet in their homes. It is worth reminding people who use a wireless connection to ensure they follow the manufacturer’s instructions when setting it up and make sure all security systems are in place to keep computers safe.”

A survey from Cisco earlier this month found 11 per cent of remote workers admitted to pinching bandwidth, up from six per cent last year.

Opinion is divided on the issue. Some users secure their networks and some deliberately leave connections open or use services like Fon to trade bandwidth – you provide members with some of your home broadband and in exchange you get access to other Fon members’s networks.

Source – The Register


Bend it like Nokia

Nokia and the University of Cambridge jointly designed a concept mobile phone that allows users to mould the handset into different shapes.

Dubbed Morph, the handset has been designed to demonstrate the possible future benefits of nanotechnology for mobile devices. Morph is both stretchable and flexible, but a Nokia spokesman claimed that nanotechnology could also allow future mobile phones to incorporate self-cleaning surfaces and see-through electronics.

Although very little has been said about the Morph’s technical capabilitiesallow, in theory, the handset’s able to alter its state between a watch-like mode, a credit-card shape and a traditional mobile phone.

The project, which has been roughly one year in the making, doesn’t mean the Morph will be on shelves anytime soon though. Nokia admitted that it could be seven years before elements of the Morph will be available for integration into other off-the-shelf phones.

However, the Finnish mobile phone giant claimed that, eventually, nanotechnology could help reduce manufacturing costs and introduce complex features at lower prices.

One day, all mobile phones will be made this way. Apparently.

Source – The Register