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Law, law is jaw jaw

The US House of Representatives has got a bee in its bonnet about social networking sites such as MySpace, so it has passed a law making it illegal to access such sites from public institutions.

Why are these sites such an evil? Because they are used by paedophiles to contact children, apparently.

But in their rush for headlines hurry to protect the children, lawmakers have thrown the net so wide as to be meaningless. As the law stands, any site which allows you to have and edit a profile or preferences, which uses instant messaging, or even reader comments, will fall foul of the law.

Leaving US libraries, which already block any content not suitable for children, with the tough job of stopping people accessing some of the web's most used sites. There's more here on US attempts to stop the social networking sites.

Another suggestion on child protection came this week from a Glaswegian businessman who discovered that his daughter could only identify a small percentage of her friends on MSN. The idea is a commercial ID card for kids. Parents must fork out a tenner a year to get a card for their child, so they can be identified by other children. Organisers hope the card will reduce online bullying too.

It's one of those ideas which would work brilliantly if everyone had one, but there are no real benefits until that happens. There's more on protecting children by ID cards here.

ISPs = first victim of convergence

It's been a long summer for internet service providers, and it's only the beginning of August. If dealing with the heat in data centres isn't bad enough, there's always the threat of new competition. With mobile companies like Orange and broadcasters like Sky getting in on the act, the industry is changing rapidly.

For a long time, ISPs have enjoyed cheap customer acquisition and have mostly avoided the awful churn rates suffered by mobile providers. But how will this change with converged services? Is a customer with broadband and TV services more or less likely to move than a punter with just one service?

Whatever the outcome, the internet service providers will have to start offering proper service.

But this brave new world is still waiting for Tiscali customers without email and, even worse, for PlusNet customers who heard this week that their 700GB of missing email is gone forever.

And if mobile firms offering fixed line services isn't confusing enough, remember to keep up with mobile internet provision getting cheaper. T-Mobile is hoping its decision to cap charges for data will increase use of its “Web'n'Walk” service.

While we're talking about email, there's a timely piece on the site from SecurityFocus about email privacy and what users expect. It's not enough to get staff consent and the laws differ not just between countries but even between states – in California you need all parties' consent to listen to a call, but in Georgia only one person needs to agree to monitoring for it to be legal. So check the details of email privacy before you go emailing anyone in Georgia.

And before you go off on holiday, be aware that Orange has “readjusted” its roaming rates. We'll give you a clue: they haven't gone down. More details here.

Security a go-go

Lots of security news this week, thanks in part to the Black Hat security conference in Las Vegas. Visitors were treated to a demonstration which used wireless drivers to get control of a computer.

But the real shocker was that the attack was made on an Apple. The hackers said they chose an Apple machine to illustrate the “Mac user base aura of smugness on security”.

They should really know that Mac users aren't just smug about security, they can't help it, they're just smug. More on the Mac attack here.

Also this week - Intel produced a patch for three holes in its Centrino wireless chipset. And users are warned about holes in VoIP.

Some good news though - researchers reckon hackers can no longer rely on holes in operating systems to get access to machines – increasingly, they'll exploit more peripheral areas such as device drivers or applications. Attackers ignoring operating systems.

And what happens when you get bitten by your guard dog? McAfee found a problem with older copies of its consumer security software which could leave machines vulnerable to attack. If you've got a machine running an oldish version of McAfee, have a look here for the full list of dodgy products.

If worrying about old software isn't bad enough, you can always worry about Vista. Researchers at Symantec have been looking at Microsoft's oft-delayed operating system and don't like what they see - but they do concede that the software has better “out-of-the-box” security than existing Windows products. More of Symantec's view of Vista.

And, finally, you've at least got to credit the latest 419 scam with a sense of humour. They've created an exact copy of the Interpol website. Interpol is not amused and is warning people not to respond to emails asking for cash which appear to come from Interpol. Wise words. Go here for more on interpol's fake website.

Chip, chip hooray

A good week for AMD. Mercury Research found this week that the chip company has over a quarter of the x86 server market – a big jump from the 16.4 per cent it had in the last quarter of 2005. More on AMD's growing share.

IBM announced this week it will make five machines based on AMD's Opteron chips. Big Blue has blown hot and cold on AMD – it was the first supporter of Opteron in 2003, but then seemed to go off the idea. Well, the love affair seems very much back on again. Read what Ashlee made of IBM's Opteron announcement.

Government IT – popular as plague

It's survey season. Microsoft asked 1,000 people what they thought about council delivery of services using the internet – one in 10 believes such things are old-fashioned and inefficient...We must have missed the meeting when the internet became old-fashioned.

A lot of the problem is that people are still not aware of what services are available online - the majority have never used an online council service.

Better news from Norwich – and it's not often enough that line gets written. Council officials in Norfolk's capital have cut the ribbon on a city-wide Wi-Fi network. It will be used to improve council work, but is also available for anyone else. The mesh network is due to be expanded to include some rural areas too. The VoIP tractor is surely not far away. Details of the UK's largest Wi-Fi network.

And if you think government pays too much for technology, have a look at this story, which reckons centralised negotiations by Treasury buying agency OGCbuying.solutions have saved the civil service £412m.

Vista might not be here yet, but Microsoft has been shuffling execs around to make sure it hits the streets on time. We got a glimpse of the upgrade path, and it's a rocky road. Anyone, or any business, running Windows 2000 will have to back up files and desktop settings before installing the software. Only users of WindowsXP home edition can just install the software and keep their preferences. More here on the way to Vista.

In other Microsoft news, the company announced this week it will charge for beta copies of Office 2007. It claims the fee is necessary to recoup the server costs of so many people dowloading the trial version. Charging for beta software? Why didn't we think of that? More here.

Well, that's about it for this week. Thanks for reading, see you next week.

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