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    Back in October Cisco moved to take control of the 1Mainstream assets, just a few months after Sky had put its last tranche of cash into the fledgling OTT start up and it looks now like Sky saw the chance to take control of its underlying OTT technology by partnering with one of its all-time favorite technology firms.Remember Cisco bought NDS for $5.0bn in 2013, a company which had been hived off only a year earlier from 21st Century Networks, and which originally had its relationship with Sky in the UK, managing encryption for it.Cisco bought 1Mainstream in October last year, not only to please Sky, but also because it needed a more flexible, more recently written, end to end OTT system.1Mainstream has always written pure iOS, Android and TV apps, and has existing DRM relationships with Widevine and PlayReady, and already plugs into multiple CDNs. It comes with its own subscriber management and entitlements databases, and offers an online promotions system and its own CMS based analytics engine. In the past, it has worked with Envivio encoders although Sky is now pretty much exclusively Elemental, and it uses the Wowza streaming engine, and offers support for the Freewheel programmatic advertising system.

    1 Mainstream was acquired by Cisco alongside (in the same week) ParStream, a big data analytics firm, and Lancope, a cloud security firm, but we’re not sure if either of those are significant to OTT delivery.Prices of the OnPrime services vary from the lowest at around £8.99 ($11.50) in Hindi, to £17.99 ($22.75) and each come with a free month trial. We suspect now that Sky will partner with local MNOs and operators to do the marketing on these, in operator partnerships right the way across Europe and even beyond. It is even possible that Sky could engineer their sale in the US, although we imagine that such a move would come directly from Fox.In the meantime, the UK’s BBC has teamed up with the UK independent broadcaster, ITV to bring a British based service to US viewers, based on much the same logic. They are calling it Brit-Box, and it is advertising-free, paid SVoD, which will launch early next year. AMC Networks, which operates BBC America in the US, as a joint venture with BBC Worldwide, is likely to take the lead in bringing this to US viewers. BritBox will make British TV available as soon as 24 hours after being first broadcast in the UK.

    On-call Welcome again to On-Call, our weekly column in which we recount readers' tales of jobs gone wrong, often at times or for reasons that are just plain wrong.This week, meet “Aaron”, who once worked for a construction company he says “didn't need in-house IT but had delusions of grandeur and so employed me.”The company had just one server and about 30 users. Aaron says “most were former builders and mostly clueless when it came to technology.”“One such user had climbed the ranks from bricklayer to contract manager and was constantly finding fault with IT where there was none. Then one day he came in to the office declaring that he could solve all of his problems. He had seen something on TV that he claimed would make him much more efficient.”“Said item was the IBM Transnote, which our very own Lucy Sherriff covered at the time of its launch in the year 2001.

    It has a digital notepad attached, for making handwritten notes. IBM says that the digital pad can be used to fill in customised forms so will be marketed at industries where there is a lot of form filing - for example, insurance firms. "Anywhere where there is a lot of duplication," an IBM spokeswoman said. Lucy quoted the price of the machine at £2,059. Aaron remembers that price tag as rather excessive at the time, so when the chap asked for one “I laughed and said that there was no chance of us purchasing this for him.”But this user had leverage and “the call came from above that he absolutely needed this and we were to order it in immediately.” So Aaron swapped it for his perfectly functional laptop and got on with other things.Until a couple of months later when “the magical machine was placed before me with the claim that it was faulty and its fan must be broken as it was so noisy.” Aaron was pretty sure the user just couldn't figure out how to work IBM's magic digital notepad, but assured the user he would take a look at it immediately.Two weeks later Aaron told the user he'd sent the machine to IBM for repairs. But it was really still on the shelf.

    But the many disadvantages of the Tandy 200 included slow operation, a liquid crystal screen that was hard to see, and minimal storage capacity. Articles which had not yet been used by the paper - and could therefore still go astray - had to be deleted to make room for the next one.It was tempting, then, to contemplate the next generation of portables. They had virtually limitless memory compared with the Tandy, their backlit screens were easy on the eye and they ran much faster. But they were power-hungry: they had hard disks and built-in fans to keep the works cool, not to mention fancy software such as Windows. They needed heavy nickel-cadmium battery packs, but could not do without mains power for long.If you avoided using the hard disk too often, and switched off the machine while you thought, a battery pack could last four hours. That might seem plenty of time to finish one's work, but it was never that simple.Unless nickel-cadmium batteries are charged up fully, then drained fully, they lose their ability to retain any charge at all. Short of carrying a battery charger and spare packs, the peripatetic computer-user sooner or later has to use the mains to power the machine in the middle of a work session, with the kind of consequences described above.

    Enter the next generation of portables, which attempt to return to the virtues of the Tandy 200 while retaining the advantages of its successors. My Hewlett Packard Omnibook 300 weighs 3lb, eschews backlighting and uses 'flash card' technology, which requires scarcely any power, instead of hard or floppy disks. The small nickel-metal-hydride battery pack can be partially recharged without ill effects and can keep running for five hours. And it can run on four AA batteries as well.But the main reason for giving up on portables was last year's launch of the Amstrad NC100 Notepad. This is the size of a skinny A4 road atlas and uses four AA batteries which give up to 20 hours of use, foregoing the need for frequent traipsing to the Ladies in search of a hairdryer socket for recharging purposes. This activity becomes vital when your computer's four-hour battery gives up after two hours and ten minutes, a fact of computing life always overlooked by computer designers.The Amstrad can take the punishment meted out by casual transportation in my shoulder bag, where it jostles with a small tape recorder and a Swiss Army knife. The pruning attachments in the knife were once needed to repair fingernails brutalised by the short-travel keyboards of laptops and notebooks, but it is no longer needed as the NC100 is blessed with a decent full-size keyboard. This has knobbles on the 'home' keys, put there to tell you that the NC100 is not a toy in spite of its Fisher-Price appearance.

    And I can even work the Amstrad without recourse to those multicoloured 'dumbo' keys. Once you have got the hang of the thing the red, yellow, green and blue function keys serve only to remind you of how computer-illiterate you were: 'To use the word processor, press Yellow and Red, stupid.'The NC100 is ludicrously easy to get started as it does not require you to undergo the tyranny of learning Dos or Windows - the PC-compatible operating systems - before you can write your first letter. It even prints to almost anything you can find that fits the sockets on the back. This is How Computers Should Be.The Amstrad stores up to 150,000 words at a time on its one megabyte PCMCIA storage card. This card is battery-backed and removable and one card can carry the manuscript of a full-length book. These devices are the size of a Barclaycard and less of a liability than floppy disks.When the computer world eventually catches up with the Amstrad, I will be able to buy a PCMCIA Card Drive to grab the data from the cards directly - at the moment I need a null-modem lead to transfer data to the PCs and Macs I use whilst deskbound. And the computer knows just enough about communications to be able to send and receive text documents via the telephone, so a small battery operated modem lives alongside it.

    I did dally recently with a Dell 325SLI notebook PC and for a while was besotted with its VGA screen and slim-line looks. But the Amstrad is much closer to the ideal machine for a peripatetic scribbler as it does not have a hard disk to suffer the slings and arrows of daily misfortune. Previous experience confirms that hard disks and mobile authors only work well together until the day after the warranty expires. Then all is irretrievably lost as a matter of course.Naturally, the NC100 lacks some features. It does not have a 120-megabyte hard disk, there is no spreadsheet for charts of accounts and it does not run Windows.Nor does it have a VGA colour display and it consequently does not impress people on trains. This is extremely useful as I can work away undisturbed without some suit leaning over my shoulder proffering advice on Windows Swapfile settings. The Amstrad has zero street cred. People leave you alone when they find out you have one.To celebrate its splendid non-standardisation, the NC100 has the words 'User Friendly' printed above the screen in small affable letters. If you decide that you do not agree after five minutes of use, then Alan Sugar will give you your money back, no questions asked. This is the sort of heavyweight guarantee that should come with all computers, regardless of size.

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    The cloud is a fabulous concept. If you want to try something out, or prototype your latest idea, or give yourself a relatively inexpensive disaster recovery setup, get in there and run up a cloud-based installation.There's something that the cloud lacks, though: it's just not fun or cool. Lists of virtual machines in the Azure management GUI aren't sexy. Neither is the pop-up on AWS that tells you the settings you need to paste into your router to get your VPN up and running. And incidentally, Microsoft and Amazon, I'm not having a pop specifically at you – they're just random examples that apply to the cloud in general rather to than any one supplier in particular.One of the things that has to stay in your data centre, assuming you have one, is the infrastructure that runs it. There's nothing quite as impressive as a spankingly tidy cabinet, every cable run perfectly along the cable management tray, perhaps colour-coded for important connections.I've had managers and auditors become wide-eyed and gasp when I've opened the cabinet door on a particularly sexy collection of flashing lights and cables (not, I hasten to add, my own cabling handiwork – happily I used to have a colleague called Chris who was amazing at that stuff).

    And if your hardware vendor does cool kit, that's a bonus. My favourite was 3PAR's (now HP's) funky racks with yellow flashes across the doors. A colleague once referred to the yellow rack and the humming of the disks therein as “a box of angry bees”. What I do know is that everyone commented on it.Sadly, of course, the best any vendor can hope to achieve is second best, because the best-looking piece of kit ever devised has been out of production for years.Someone told me only this week of her experience rather a lot of years ago when she was a trainee accountant at the UK Atomic Energy Authority … and she went to see the Cray in its data centre. If you think anything can beat a proper Cray (the Cray-1, not one of those poncey 19-inch-rack-with-funky-doors ones they do these days), you're welcome to submit challenges in the Comments section of this page.

    I come from a world of running resilient global infrastructures. This tends to mean a global network connected to a bunch of kit at each location that largely follows a standard architecture, since if everything's the same it's a breeze to manage. So you have the same firewalls, same family of switches, the same remote management servers, the same fileservers, the same storage devices, and so on at each site; the only thing that will usually change was the number of switches in the stack, reflecting the fact that some offices are bigger and have more users than others. And of course the only real way to test the resilience of your kit is to have a real setup to play with.Doing it for real has two key advantages. First, you're proving conclusively that it does what you expect. Yes, you can emulate a link failure by downing the port on (say) the WAN router, but it's still electrically connected in some cases. I've seen instances where downing the port didn't cause the link to go down entirely, but pulling the cable did – handy to know when you're testing your failover design.Second, though, is when you're trying to sell the idea of the CFO, or the company's investment committee, so they'll give you the money to actually do it.Take a bunch of senior managers to the data centre, open up the rack on your test network, run up a funky streamed music video on your laptop, and invite them to do their worst. “Pick a switch and pull the power on it,” you can tell them, and the video keeps on humming.

    Stuff the power back in and watch the monitoring alerts all turn green when the switch is back on line. Invite them to pull the cable from the primary (simulated) WAN connection in the knowledge that it's supposed to be resilient; see the video pause for a few seconds while BGP re-converges and then pick up where it left off without you doing anything.If you're a techie, you think this is cool and you feel smug; if you're a manager you think the techie is some kind of wizard who does weird magic because until this point they thought this whole resilient technology was unfounded bollocks that you made up.Of course you could have demonstrated this from a distance by electronically downing ports, but being there in person and seeing it for real is worth a thousand semi-artificial demos.In these days of cloud computing, auditors can be a royal pain in the arse. Particularly the younger ones who are sent to do the initial on-site interviews and whose sole contribution to the process is the ability to write down what they're told.I love taking auditors to data centres. They're so used to people saying: “Oh, that's in the cloud” or “It's in our service provider's premises … here's a photocopy of their ISO27001 certificate” that they spend their lives with a suspicious look on their face.So it's great when they ask: “Can you tell me where XXX is stored?” You email the data centre receptionist surreptitiously to tell him to be particularly pedantic about ID, then shepherd the auditors outside, hop in the car, drive down to the data centre, go through the (now overly onerous) entry procedure, open the door of cabinet C23, point to the third disk shelf down, and say: “It's on there.” Even better, you nod to cabinet D14 and mention: “Oh, it's in there as well, and I won't bother showing you the other data centre as it's a long way away, but it's there too.”

    Beancounters like boxes you can point at, particularly when they have big black-and-white labels saying “CORP-MailServer-01”. Auditor-baiting is a great game, and you can only do it if you have core stuff in your DC.You may, of course, end up deciding to move your entire production application world into the cloud. It's inexpensive, security isn't regarded as an excessive problem, and support costs generally go down markedly when someone else has to look after the hardware and the software upgrades.Even if you do, though, the data centre remains the ideal place to do your architecture tests and prototyping – trying things out and seeing how they behave. The example I gave earlier about inviting people to pull the connection out of the simulated WAN link is exactly what I'm talking about: a platform that physically exists but isn't part of the production infrastructure. It's got routers, servers, switches, storage, bits of cable, its own internet connection, and preferably additional tools such as a WAN emulator, dedicated PC for network monitoring, and so on.The cloud has a fairly core problem: it's the cloud. You have no idea of the underlying hardware, or how far server A physically sits from server B. You have high-level monitoring but nothing below a very abstract set of statistics, so although you could use something like PerfMon/TypePerf at the Windows level (or the Linux equivalent if you're an Open Source kind of person) you have no idea what's going on on the network.

    Particularly for an application specialist this is a big deal: in any networked application each contact between endpoints has several phases, from the initial DNS lookup right at the end of the delivery of the results to the user. In the cloud you just can't see this – so research on how your apps perform in this regard needs you to have some kind of data centre presence with some real, physical equipment in it.And the beauty is that you can often equip your R&D “lab” without costing the earth. After all, you didn't throw out those end-of-life switches or routers, did you? In most cases you replace kit not because it's completely unusable but because the vendor no longer supports it and hence it's no use in a business-critical infrastructure. So if you gave me a few Cisco 2600s routers, 3750G switches, ASA5510s, four-year-old Dell servers and the like I'd be perfectly happy. Although you'll need to buy some stuff, it won't be an expensive ground-up purchase.And the point is I'd be able to let my gang run riot with them and practise stuff. Flash an ancient copy of the ASA firmware onto a 5510 and let them figure out how to upgrade it to the latest release without breaking the VPN connection. We can unplug things and see how the database copes, and whether it manages to get its bearings and pick up where it left off once the connection comes back.

    Engineers are like children: we like stuff that's new, and we like trying stuff out and finding things out for ourselves Buy some assorted hard disks – SATA and SAS spinning disks and various types of Flash drive – and do real benchmarks and show yourself just what the difference is. Record what you see, because when you then look back to the cloud for your production systems you'll be so much more convinced that (say) the extra performance of the SSD storage option is worth it – because you'll remember that “Holy crap!” moment when you saw how fast the benchmark was on your own physical box, run by your own fair hand.The cloud abstracts everything too much to be useful for infrastructure research and testing, and so an in-house alternative is the obvious way to go.And the thing is, engineers are like children: we like stuff that's new, and we like trying stuff out and finding things out for ourselves. And if this can involve real engineering, with real metal boxes (preferably with the lids off where possible), and flashing lights, and bits of electric string, all the better.And this means physical kit. On our premises. Combine this with the undeniable fact that experimenting is fun, and it's the obvious way of getting the fun stuff back into the data centre.

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    Following last week's Paris attacks, the French National Assembly has today voted to extend the nation's state of emergency for a further three months. It will also amend powers established in the original 1955 legislation in light of technological developments.Despite the murders of 129 victims, and the deaths of the seven terrorists, the state of emergency bill has alarmed civil liberties campaigners, who are concerned about several measures they deem authoritarian, particularly the expansive powers police have been granted to conduct computer searches, net censorship, and curtail the freedom of association.The bill passed through the lower parliamentary house in France this morning with a vote of 551-6. It will be read by the Senate tomorrow, and if it passes would be adopted on Friday afternoon. It is the first ever amendment of the 1955 act.Before the vote, Prime Minster Manuel Valls warned the National Assembly of the dangers the nation faced from terrorists, stating that there could also be a risk of chemical or biological weapons.Valls also announced that the ring-leader of the latest Paris attacks had been killed in a pre-dawn raid, while adding that €400m had been earmarked to further fund the nation's state of emergency crackdown.

    While extending the emergency to three months, the bill will also extend new powers to the police, ostensibly for preventing terrorism through increasing the legal room available for them to make searches and seizures, as well the ability to place citizens under house arrest.French advocacy group La Quadrature du Net described the extension as unjustified by any reason other than to circumvent the principle of separation of powers. Since the beginning of the emergency last Saturday, many searches are conducted for administrative cases under common law, with no connection to the fight against terrorism, and foreshadow a police state that the extension of three months the risk of trivialising.French security forces have conducted over 400 raids since last Friday's terrorist attacks, and have made 60 arrests.Earlier this year, a BBC journalist's laptop was seized by police in the UK under counter-terror legislation. La Quadrature welcomed a modification in the bill which protects journalists from such seizures during the state of emergency.Their equipment is not protected if it is used at home, however, as the bill extends the police's administrative search powers to searching data processing systems. Le Quadrature stated these searches can happen on any equipment, including storage present on the place or reachable 'through a initial system or available for the initial system'.

    La Quadrature spokesperson Adrienne Charmet told The Register: We are hoping certain provisions, especially those allowing the Minister of the Interior to censor websites, are not included in the bill when it passes through the Senate.The principle behind a state of emergency is to make a police state. It is to transfer justice to the police – La Quadrature du Net We are particularly concerned with the police ability to restrict the freedom of association on security ground. If we invite people to a cryptoparty and the police believe cryptography is a security threat then they could force us to disband, added Charmet. Of course we hope it wouldn't be used against us, but there is no protection in the law.Despite the recent surveillance law passed in France, these attacks happened. We don't accept that the population must remain under mass surveillance while terrorists are not being placed under targeted surveillance, said Charmet. The principle behind a state of emergency is to make a police state, she explained. It is to transfer justice to the police.La Quadrature du Net will be calling on citizens to encourage members of the Assembly to launch an inquiry to whether surveillance legislation is fit for duty, following the attacks of last Friday. Cleveland Police in the north east of England allegedly used counter-terrorism powers to hunt down a whistleblower within its ranks. That's according to a complaint filed to the UK's cop watchdog, the IPCC.

    Worryingly, the Cleveland force used the anti-terror powers to access the phone records of three journalists.The complaint was made by the Police Federation, which told The Register it concerns the alleged misuse of a RIPA application by Cleveland Police. IPCC standard practice in these incidents is to immediately forward the complaint to the police force in question, which is then responsible for dealing with it.According to the Echo, the federation alleged that a RIPA application was made in 2012 and listed three journalists from The Northern Echo, a solicitor and two Police Federation representatives. The organisation claimed the application had asked for permission to access data from the mobile phones of these individuals from January to May 2012.The Register understands there was no prosecution of the suspected whistleblower, who had made allegations about institutional racism within Cleveland Police and has since left the force.The use of powers provided under RIPA to target journalists has consistently raised alarm. A revision was made in March this year to RIPA, titled the Acquisition and Disclosure of Communications Data: Code of Practice which was intended to explicitly force police employees to get a judge's permission to hoover up people's metadata. The application regarding the Echo's journalists was made in 2012.

    However, of the two reported incidents following on from the changes in which no judicial approval was sought, neither police force was named.At the time the Interception of Communications Commissioner, Sir Anthony May, stated this was because naming and shaming [might] have the unintended consequence of undermining the open and co-operative self reporting of errors.One force was outed by the journalists' publication in question, however, when the Scottish Sunday Herald accused Police Scotland of committing multiple breaches of the code.Peter Barron, the Echo's editor, said: These allegations are a matter of serious concern – that a police force should apparently go to these lengths to identify the source of a story which was clearly in the public interest. This is surely not what the legislation was intended to do and the fact that Cleveland Police will neither confirm nor deny the allegations adds to our concerns.It follows an incident less than a year ago, when a RIPA request to Vodafone for a journalist's records led to the company spaffing 1,760 journalists' protected records to the Metropolitan Police. Last month, the laptop of a journalist with BBC's Newsnight was lifted by police using an order under the Terrorism Act.Protection for journalists is a touted part of the draft Investigatory Powers Bill, as it will be considered a sensitive profession along with medicine and law.The Register has attempted to contact Cleveland Police several times, but they were not answering their phones at the time of publication.

    Blackhat Europe Synopsys security boffin Ian Haken says un-patched PCs in enterprises are at risk of having user accounts popped and Bitlocker bypassed, in an attack he describes as trivial to perform.The attack vector, sealed off in the latest round of Redmond patches (MS15-122), affect those Windows machines that are part of network domains, notably those in enterprise fleets.Only sadistic sysadmins whose users suffer having to enter pre-boot passwords are immune, Haken says.Haken says attackers with access to a lost or stolen laptop can spoofing the relevant network domain, to set up a fake user account which matches the username for the victim's computer.The fake account needs to be set with a creation date in the past. The password set does not matter.Once the victim machine connects to the spoofed domain, Windows will throw a password reset prompt that will change the credentials in the computer's local cache.The laptop could then be disconnected from the spoofed domain and accessed using the changed credentials.Haken says in the paper Bypassing Local Windows Authentication to Defeat Full Disk [pdf] presented at BlackHat Europe the attack is not foiled by Redmond's Trusted Platform Module. Here's a sample of his thinking:

    ... the domain controller is remote, and since the attacker has physical control of the machine, the attacker also has control of network communication and can direct communication to an attacker-controlled mock domain controller. Since a machine with passwordless BitLocker will transparently retrieve the decryption key and boot to the Windows login screen, Windows authentication becomes the attack surface for defeating BitLocker.There is no easy fix without Microsoft's patch. Those admins who do not or cannot apply the patches can disable local credential caching, but that means users cannot login offline. Apple CEO Tim Cook is telling customers not to expect a Mac answer to the Microsoft Surface Pro any time soon.The Apple boss said in an interview with Ireland's Independent that the Cupertino giant has no desire to merge its iOS mobile operating system and its Macintosh desktop and notebook lines with a hybrid tablet that would run OS X.