Virgin threatens Sky while Skype founder goes mile high

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Tory boy's techie meander

Have you heard the one about the Tory who got a bit techie? George Osborne, Britain's shadow chancellor of the exchequer has expressed his love of the open source movement by stating how the British government should save money by ditching its conventional software licenses.

WorldCom repercussions

Former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers lost his bid to get the US Supreme Court to hear the appeal of his conviction for presiding over the most spectacular accounting fraud in American history. Mr Ebbers has argued the trial judge in his case erred by refusing to grant immunity to several prospective defence witnesses.

That denial prevented Ebbers from presenting evidence that would have cleared him of wrongdoing, Ebbers' attorneys claimed.

Vonage violations

A US District Court jury has said Vonage Holdings must pay a whopping $58m for violating three patents held by Verizon Communications. If upheld on appeal, the award could represent a considerable crimp in operations for Vonage, which last year racked up a net loss of $286m on sales of $607m. The order to pay a royalty of 5.5 per cent of future revenue for any ongoing infringement obviously wouldn't help, either.

Microsoft roundup

Making a number of headlines in a week is nothing new for Microsoft. This week the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) signed a secrecy clause with Microsoft which prevents it from disclosing the prices schools are paying for software licences.

Figures released by the Department for Education and Skills show in 2005-06 schools spent £615m on ICT, including Microsoft products. But when Conservative MP Brooks Newmark asked the government for details of purchasing agreements with Microsoft, schools minister Jim Knight said the information is confidential.

A hop over the pond to the US and Microsoft is being sued. This time the plaintiff is a man awaiting trial on firearms offences.

During the investigation FBI technicians found self-made sex videos and evidence that he frequented porn sites on his PC. Michael Alan Crooker is annoyed security settings on his PC failed to prevent Federal agents from finding out about his smut-surfing habits. He is now suing Microsoft for privacy violations he claims caused "great embarrassment".

Finally, the latest update for Apple's iTunes software is said to omit support for the recently launched Windows Vista. Instead, the application is an XP-only affair.

OneCare bashed

Microsoft's Live OneCare was placed last in a test of the effectiveness of anti-virus security packages by Austrian researchers.

AV Comparatives put 17 security packages through their paces to see how well they recognised a battery of nearly half a million items of malware.

The winner of the competition was G Data Security's AntiVirusKit (AVK), which identified all but 0.45 per cent of the sample. OneCare allowed 17.6 per cent (86,600 of 497,600) to slip through the net.

Spamalot antics

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has suspended the trading actions of 35 companies that have been the "subject of recent and repeated spam email campaigns".

The companies are not listed on any exchange, are not subject to the reporting requirements of publicly quoted companies, and brokers are not required to conduct due diligence regarding the issuers.

Investigations are said to be pending.

Terminator emerges from Israel

Israeli killer-robot maker Elbit Systems has unveiled a ground-crawling combat machine "roughly the size of a small television".

The war-bot, dubbed Viper, is said to be capable of engaging enemies with bursts of laser-sighted automatic fire, or even grenades. It ships with an Uzi nine-millimetre machine gun.

Skype founder's skyline frolics

Janus Friis, billionaire founder of Skype, Kazaa and Joost is reported to have made several attempts to liven up a 12-hour flight with the stepdaughter of 007 actor Roger Moore.

The couple adjourned to the bogs on two occasions, while crew members banged on the door telling them such antics were banned on the Virgin flight.

Has Icstis gone soft?

As the UK's TV premium phoneline crisis spread, Icstis chairman Sir Alastair Graham denied the watchdog has lost its bite. He rebutted allegations Icstis was reactive rather than proactive, pointing to the investigation into Call TV Quiz Services as an example. He said the regulator could impose fines of up to £250,000 as well as other sanctions.

Italy's gambling laws illegal?

Italy must not use criminal law to stop gaming companies licensed in another EU nations from taking bets in the country, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled.

The ruling, which says Italian restrictions are incompatible with Community principles, has been welcomed by gaming operators as a sign that European markets are opening up.

Under Italian legislation, the organising of games of chance or the collecting of bets requires a licence and police authorisation. Rogue operators face criminal penalties of up to three years' imprisonment.

UK fraud

About £13bn of fraud was committed in the UK in 2005, but the figure could be on the conservative side, a report commissioned by the Association of Chief Police Officers said.

Acpo said much of the data used to measure fraud is unreliable and is difficult to aggregate because of inconsistency in reporting standards.

MySpace for traders

Newswire and financial data service Reuters is to dip another finger in Web 2.0 waters by setting up its own version of MySpace. But the Reuters site will be targeted at City traders rather than US teenagers.

Virgin takes aim at Sky

Virgin Media has threatened legal action for abuse of a dominant position if Sky doesn't agree to independent arbitration within 30 days.

Virgin pays Sky to carry Sky's channels on its cable network, but Sky also carries Virgin's channels (including Living and Bravo) on its satellite network. It is how Sky compares the value of those channels from which a legal case could be built.

NASA's nappy nightmare

And finally, NASA has sacked Lisa Nowak, the astronaut charged with attempted kidnapping. Nowak is reported to have driven 1,000 miles to confront Colleen Shipman, a woman she saw as a rival for the affections of fellow astronaut Bill Oefelein.

According to the BBC, she wore a nappy to avoid having to make toilet stops on her journey. Nowak, a Navy captain, was suspended from active duty by NASA soon after her arrest and placed on 30 days leave. But because she is a serving officer, NASA says, it can't take its normal disciplinary steps. ®

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