IT news
Jack Schofield and Eric Doyle
Thursday June 10, 2004
The Guardian

Pay rise
The salary gap between local authority information and communications technology (ICT) staff and those in the private sector is closing, according to a survey conducted for the Society of IT Management (SocITM) by Computer Economics. The gap is smallest at the senior management level, where ICT directors earn 86% of their private sector equivalents. In previous surveys, this was 60%. Notable salary increases were recorded in the police and fire sectors, where ICT salaries increased by 6.8% and 10.2% respectively. Staff retention is also improving, with 17% of the 140 local authorities reporting problems compared with 25% last year.

Pocket Wi-Fi
Dell is launching the slimline Axim X30 handheld computer, which is the first to use Intel's latest Wi-Fi-enabled chip. The Axim is also available without Wi-Fi (802.11b), but with the Intel Xscale PXA270 processor, the integrated networking can be used to access the internet and email through access points or hotspots. Bluetooth is also available for connecting wirelessly to local printers and other peripherals. Within the X30 range, chip speeds range from 312MHz to 624MHz, and the units run the second edition of Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 operating system. Pocket PC versions of Microsoft's Word, Excel, Outlook and Internet Explorer are included in the prices, which range from 129 to 229.

Off their trolleys
Virtual shopping carts on UK websites appear to reflect their real world counterparts. A survey of 51 sites conducted by SciVisum found that 80% performed unsatisfactorily. One in five carts were out of action for 12 or more hours a month, while others left the customer at the checkout with an empty trolley. Worst performers included a leading high street mobile phone store, a well-known music/DVD retailer and a leading DIY chain. The best performers included John Lewis, Waitrose Direct Wines, Orange, and WH Smith.

Pinning hopes
Intel will launch five Pentium 4 processors when it releases its PCI Express chipsets on June 21. The processors will use Intel's new numbering system with the low end being the Pentium 4 Series 520 (2.8GHz) rising to the Series 560 (3.6GHz). The chips and the two chipsets, code-named Grantsdale and Alderwood, will connect to the motherboard through a 775-pin Land Grid Array socket, compared to the current processors with 478 pins. In October, Intel is planning to debut three chips that will run 64-bit applications based on extensions to the current 32-bit instruction set. These will offer an Intel alternative to 64-bit Itanium chips, which use an incompatible instruction set.

Strokes and mirrors
IBM is showcasing a projection system that can turn any surface into a virtual touch screen. The Everywhere Display combines an LCD projector with movable mirrors to throw an image on to a flat surface such as a wall or fridge door. The image is typically comprised of an array of squares offering options. When a customer touches a square, a camera mounted with the projector detects this and the information display is changed to display the choice. The system is on show at the Metro Group Future Store showroom in Rheinberg, Germany.

Complete delete
Computer Aid International, a charity that recycles computer hardware to aid developing countries, is routinely wiping disks clean before export. The move coincides with an announcement from security firm Pointsec Mobile Technologies that its agents bought a laptop containing sensitive data on eBay for 5. Current access codes and administration rights to the secure intranet of one of Europe's largest financial services firms were retrievable from the hard drive despite it having been "deleted". To ensure this type of error does not occur, Computer Aid is using equipment and techniques supplied by Blancco, a data erasure company, to obliterate data before passing hardware on.

Bye bye BIOS
The BIOS or Basic Input-Output System is one thing that survives from the IBM PC launched in 1981, but many people would like something better. Intel is trying to get its system, code-named Tiano, accepted and has joined with CollabNet to release it as open source code under the Common Public License. American Megatrends and Insyde Software are already shipping products based on Tiano technology and Intel's Extensible Firmware Interface (EFI) standard. Microsoft says it is "continuing its commitment to open industry standards by adding EFI boot support to all versions of the Longhorn generation of Windows products" and will participate in the effort. It has also been working with Phoenix Technologies, the largest BIOS manufacturer, on cME ("see me"), its Core Management Engine. Phoenix has said it will support EFI when it becomes an industry standard, but it seems likely the two will co-exist for several years.


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