Government dummies and HP's black ops

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Storage standards ahoy!

An array of storage stories this week, sorry, – thanks to Storage Networking World in Frankfurt. There are mutterings over specifications which are meant to make more storage kit interoperable. Who could object to that you say? Well, if two people agree in the computing world it's either an industry standard or it's a conspiracy. Sometimes, of course, it's both.

The working group is hoping to release its first working standard next week, but critics are already carping. One disgruntled vendor told our reporter: "Whenever Dell comes up with a good idea I'm suspicious."

A little harsh maybe, but Dell does have form at turning apparently niche and technical markets into good old fashioned commodity markets. Go here to read who's to lose from storage standards.

The show also heard a warning from John Toigo that storage systems are getting too clever for their own good. Toigo blamed virtualisation for appearing to solve the problem, while really adding another layer of complexity.

He warned that IT departments might end up having to hack into their own systems in order to properly delete information and stay compliant with new data regulations.

Dumb and dumber

Far be it for us to snigger up our sleeves at someone else's misfortune, but what was Peter Dicks thinking when he booked a flight to the US?

Dicks is chairman of an online gambling company which means US authorities view him as even more dangerous than hand luggage. Dicks was duly arrested at New York's JFK airport and is still waiting to hear what charges he will face.

It's only six weeks since fellow gaming boss David Carruthers was arrested - we'd have thought execs would be more circumspect with their holiday plans.

Our favourite quote on the story was in the Telegraph from a colleague on another board of directors who said of Dicks: "He's ultra-bright and highly numerate. He's so bright sometimes he doesn't see the obvious things, like not going to the US if you chair an online gambling company." Quite.

Microsoft Vista singing in a tree

Some time soon we're going to get a verdict from the European Court on whether Microsoft will have to pay a €500m fine and provide better access to server protocols. But this week it tried a bit of pre-emptive finger pointing.

Microsoft said it may have to delay the European release of Vista because the European Commission is dragging its feet on whether it wants changes made before the product is released. The commission hit back quickly, saying that it could not be blamed for the much-delayed software's non-arrival. More on EC vs MS.

It also emerged this week that Vista architect Brian Valentine is leaving Microsoft after the software giant replaced him as head of Vista engineering and seemed to struggle to find him a new job. This followed a big shuffling of deck chairs which will also see the departure of 16-year MS veteran Jim Allchin once Vista does ship. No word on where Allchin is going to, but Valentine is off to Amazon.

A glimpse of Vista pricing also emerged this week. Click here to see how much you'll need when the software finally ships.

Security, phishing and wikis

Microsoft often gets mocked for its security, but this week we heard the first results of its two year programme with Cisco to provide single sign-on. Microsoft's Network Access Protection and Cisco's Network Access Control will soon be able to work together. The companies have also published a white paper detailing the architecture for third party developers. The beta programme starts later this year with the goal of full interoperability with the launch of Windows Longhorn in 2007. Microsoft and Cisco get serious on security.

While we're on security, more evidence this week that the threat of viruses is beginning to fade. They're still out there, of course, but an increasing number of nuisance emails are now phishing attacks rather than viruses. It's like the script kiddies grew up and decided to make some money.

One third of dodgy emails are now phishing attempts, according to MessageLabs. Only one in 98 emails sent in August contained a good old-fashioned virus. More here on MessageLabs' email stats.

While we're talking phish, recent victim of such a scam, the Bank of Ireland, is setting up a High Tech Crime Forum. The group includes banks, the Irish police, and payment services and will exchange information to make life harder for phishers.

Sticking with dirty inboxes, scammers behind "pump-and-dump" schemes are also changing tactics. In the old days these unsolicited emails offered share tips for stocks apparently poised to leap in value. Scammers are now approaching companies directly to offer their services.

With all these changes afoot it's good to see old-fashioned government incompetence isn't going out of style. While we watch the Labour party pulling itself apart over ridding itself of the burden of Blair, we shouldn't ignore the cancellation of a £141m contract for systems at the Department of Work and Pensions.

The money has been spent and the project has now been cancelled. We'll say that again: £141m spent and the project cancelled.

On a lighter note we can't resist a bit of wiki-abuse at Vulture Towers, especially when the victim is a government minister. Environment minister David Milliband, who always seemed a bit too keen for us, set up a wiki to discuss future environmental policies. Shortly after the page was posted the defacements started arriving. Some 170 people posted rude or critical comments before Defra admins took the page down – such is the power of the hive mind. More on red faces at Defra.

And it's not restricted to ministers. An online petition to save Blair got similar treatment – the proposal that our Tony "should be allowed to get on with the job of Prime Minister and should be able to pick a time of his choosing at which to stand down" was supported by Osama bin Laden and Oswald Mosely, among others. We've more here on Tony's pain.

Intel sacks one in ten

Intel isn't mucking about in responding to falling sales and is sacking almost one in ten staff. Taking the Roman route to cost cutting means 10,500 staff will go over the next year – cutting the headcount to 92,000 by mid-2007. By 2008 this will bring annual cost savings of $3bn.

ISPs over and out

Niche broadband providers are already feeling the pain of big brands like Sky and Orange getting on their patch. This week we saw Net Services join the 10 per cent club – set up after the dotcom boom by companies who saw their share price fall to just ten per cent of its highest value. NetServices shares fell to just 8.5p each.

Consolidation, as predicted, is already underway. Pipex bought Toucan and Bulldog this week, giving it the allegedly crucial "triple-play" of fixed line, mobile and broadband services.

Automatic astroturfing

Unfairly influencing online polls isn't new, but an Israeli company has found a way to almost automate the process. Supporters of Israel's foreign policy can download a program which will scan the internet for Israel-related polls and tell you every morning where you should be pointing your browser.

BBC History magazine was forced to abandon a poll after users of the program flooded the site with votes. More on Israel's Megaphone.

Oi techie, leave them kids along

The Department of Education told us this week that schools don't need parental consent to fingerprint children. The Information Commissioner is working on the final details, but reckons that kids can give their own consent.

A lot of parents are unhappy with how these schemes are being implemented – and there's a lot of confusion as to how such schemes should be regulated. We know this because we've had calls from schools trying to find out what the law is now. When people ask journalists for legal advice you know there's a problem.

And finally, HP, Jeeze Louise

Sometimes it's hard to find news in August. And sometimes it's hard to find the humour in technology stories. Then someone like HP comes along.

The printer giant spent the week engaged in a boardroom coup which was really deserving of the description. The "HP way" now apparently includes hiring private dicks to spy on board members and even pretend to be them in order to get hold of their phone records.

The investigation found an alleged mole who had been talking to online news service CNet. But it also led to the protest resignation of long time director Tom Perkins who said HP needed urgent help to get back on course. There's lots more on this here and here.

The Attorney General has now got involved because HP admits its black ops also involved having a little look at phone records belonging to nine reporters from the Wall Street Journal and CNet. We get the feeling this story is going to run for a while – so get up to speed here.

That's your lot for this week, thanks for reading. ®

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