Innovation and Technology Weekly – No. 19, 2001

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Issue 19, 2001

This week's headlines:

Severe security hole discovered in Microsoft XP
December 20, 2001

Security researchers have uncovered serious flaws in Microsoft's new Windows XP operating system, billed as the most secure ever, that allows attackers to gain complete control of a user's computer.

A Microsoft official acknowledged that the risk to consumers was unprecedented because the glitches allow hackers to seize control of all Windows XP operating system software without requiring a computer user to do anything except connect to the Internet.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the patch would not be made available via XP's automatic update feature until the beginning of next year, citing the need for further testing of the technology. For now, users can view the advisory and download the patch at

Full story: Newsbytes / BBC News Back to top

Adobe ordered to halt InDesign sales
December 19, 2001

Adobe Systems has been ordered to stop selling its InDesign software by a US District Court judge, giving a boost to copyright-infringement charges by Trio Systems.

Trio has charged that Adobe's use of a database engine called C-Index violates its license with Trio because it allows third-party software developers to use C-Index without a license. Adobe has countersued Trio in response.

The injunction prevents Adobe from distributing its InDesign 1.5 layout software and requires the removal of all unsold copies from the marketplace. The order also affects Adobe's InCopy 1.1 and the Design Collection Suite that includes InDesign 1.5.

Full story: ZDNet Back to top

Dutch firm set to begin i-mode tests
December 18, 2001

KPN, the Dutch telecommunications company, said on Monday it would begin testing its i-mode mobile internet service this week ahead of the European commercial launch scheduled for March. The service allows users to browse designated internet sites with a mobile phone handset.

KPN, which has spent more than E9bn on 3-G mobile phone licences in Europe, sees i-mode as a bridge to UMTS services and a test base for how those systems might operate when they are launched in 2003. UMTS will allow the high-speed transmission of data such as moving images.

The Dutch group has licensed the i-mode technology from NTT DoCoMo, the Japanese mobile phone group that owns 15 per cent of KPN Mobile, on a 10-year exclusive basis in Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. DoCoMo has signed up 30m i-mode subscribers since the service was launched in Japan in February 1999.

Full story: Financial Times Back to top

Agreement reached about web radio royalties
December 18, 2001

Musicians in the US have reached a tentative agreement with radio stations over the payment of royalties when a broadcast is streamed over the internet. Musicians' groups, record companies and radio stations had been involved in the arbitration hearing.

The new deal covers internet streams of shows that are already broadcast over the airwaves by radio stations licensed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). It does not cover web-only broadcasters, who are still in arbitration talks expected to last until February.

No details of the agreed fee were revealed.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

US expands investigation into software piracy
December 18, 2001

In a scene repeated at some of the most prestigious US universities over the last week, students and employees have found themselves face-to-face with federal law enforcement agents offering them a choice: Talk to us about thrill-seeking software piracy gangs or face a prison cell.

The US Customs Service, which is conducting the questionings, said many of the students and university employees were cooperating with the inquiry, which is being described as the largest criminal investigation of software piracy ever by the federal government.

Investigators say the inquiry, called Operation Buccaneer, has expanded exponentially since last week with raids at several universities, including Duke, MIT and the University of California, and on the offices of several software and computer companies around the country. No arrests have been made so far, because the Customs Service is trying to persuade more suspects to cooperate in exchange for leniency.

Full story: New York Times Back to top

Invisible circuits top science honours
December 20, 2001

The top scientific breakthrough of 2001 has been learning to wire up the tiny electronic components created from individual atoms and molecules by nanotechnology researchers.

So say the editors of the prestigious US-based journal Science, who publish a top 10 list of major achievements at the end of each year.

No longer just atomic-scale novelties, nanocircuits have proved themselves capable of carrying out simple computing tasks, the first step towards developing computers so tiny they could float on the wind or swim in the blood.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

IBM takes quantum leap
December 19, 2001

Researchers at IBM said on Wednesday that they have used a newly developed computer to perform 'the most complex quantum computation to date', marking a small step in the advance of quantum computing.

IBM said the new quantum computer is based on seven atoms that are able to work together as both the computer's processor and memory. Previously the most powerful quantum computer IBM had built was based on five atoms. A quantum computer is designed around the spin of an electron or atomic nucleus.

The computation performed by the computer is a demonstration of 'Shor's Algorithm', a method of factoring numbers that was developed in 1994 by AT&T scientist Peter Shor. IBM scientists said the demonstration of the new machine involved showing that Shor's algorithm works by having the computer correctly identify 3 and 5 as the factors of 15.

Full story: ZDNet / Reuters Back to top

New software lets computers see
December 18, 2001

New software code has been released that researchers claim allows developers to build computers that can see. Researchers say the code will lead to new developments in human and computer interaction.

Until now, computer vision applications has been restricted to two dimensions. But stereoscopic-enabling source code, released by researchers at Intel, enables computers to recognise 'depth' as well as 'flat' images, therefore computers are able to break out individual objects and surfaces in a scene.

The new stereoscopic code is an open standard upon which commercial applications may be built. The code enhances vision applications such as gesture recognition, object tracking and face recognition. In the future, those technologies may lead to more sophisticated computer interface methods, better security systems and biometric tools, improve robotics and space exploration methods, researchers say.

Full story: CNN / IDG Back to top

New technology hides barcodes in pictures
December 19, 2001

A new steganography-based technique hides barcodes inside pictures and could help create forgery-proof identity documents. The Concealogram, developed by a scientist from Israel's Ben Gurion University, slips a two-dimensional barcode inside a halftone image, which can be read by scanning the image with a regular optical scanner.

The 2-D barcode is a cousin to the ubiquitous striped one-dimensional barcode. But it is made up of a binary system of dots instead of lines and has all the information stored within so there is no need to connect to a database. A halftone image is also made up of a binary set of dots, making a perfect match, with one able to be slipped inside the other.

Each section of the newly created 'image-barcode' contains all the information that the barcode held on its own, avoiding problems caused by partial covering of the image or damage. The barcode can store around 3 kilobytes of information, enough for a colour photo, a fingerprint and additional information.

Full story: Wired News Back to top

Next: an ID chip planted in your body?
December 19, 2001

A US surgeon has embedded under his skin tiny computer chips that can automatically transmit personal information to a scanner, a technology that might someday be widely used as a way to identify people.

The new chip, developed by Applied Digital Solutions, has a miniature antenna that emits signals containing about two paragraphs worth of data when scanned by a handheld reader. The signal can contain a name, telephone number and other information. Or it can send out a code that, when linked to a database, can call up records.

Airlines, nuclear power plants and other sensitive facilities may want to use the chips for employees. Corrections authorities have expressed interest in using the chips to better identify prisoners and parolees. However, it could pose ethical or privacy dilemmas if implanted against someone's wishes, or if it exposes personal information to prying eyes.

Full story: Newsbytes Back to top

Computer crack funnier than many human jokes
December 20, 2001

An experiment to uncover the world's funniest jokes has found that some computer-generated gags can be more amusing than those thought up by humans. The Laugh Lab survey is being conducted through a website, on which members of the public are invited to submit favourite jokes, rate other submissions and submit information about themselves.

Five computer-generated gags were contributed by researchers at Edinburgh University's computer science lab. These are characterised by simple word play and most were voted to be very poor. However, one gag: 'What kind of murderer has moral fibre? A cereal killer,' did surprisingly well, ranking higher than a third of all other jokes.

The survey will now enter a second stage in which visitors will be asked to contribute more detailed information about themselves. The researchers hope that the data gathered through the project will provide new insight into links between humour, psychology and society. (see Laugh Lab website at:

Full story: New Scientist Back to top

Survey confirms alcohol and text messaging don't mix
December 17, 2001

A survey suggests 60 per cent of British mobile phone users have sent offensive or inappropriate text messages when drunk. Mobile services firm Zed says it has found women are by far the worst culprits.

A high proportion of female respondents admitted sending rude messages, including some to the wrong person. Others said they had texted their ex-boyfriends when under the influence. Over a third of respondents said they had woken up to find a stranger's number stored in their mobile phone memory from the night before. The survey found 78 per cent of respondents sent up to three text messages a night when out drinking. A total of 22 per cent send four or more.

'It seems that with the Christmas party season in full swing there are going to be a lot of people struggling with what we call the ''mobile hangover'',' said the firm's UK manager Richard Hancock.

Full story: Ananova Back to top