A week of bots, Blunkett and rotting teeth

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EMC's RSA hangover

A relatively quiet week on the acquisition front, with Cisco the only one of the big boys to make a swoop. It coughed an undisclosed sum for IP networking chip start-up SpansLogic. Perhaps everyone was given pause for thought by EMC CEO Joe Tucci's admission that he paid well over the odds when he splurged $2.1bn on security vendor RSA last year.

There was talk that Microsoft might hit back at Google's transgressions on its desktop software territory by buying $2bn web advertising firm DoubleClick, but skepticism was instant given Redmond already owns ad serving business Atlas GMT.

Show us the money

Even without a Microsoft cash injection, DoubleClick's future looks pretty rosy. Research showed that for the first time last year, online ads attracted more money in the UK than national newspapers, which is nice. Even better, the number suggested advertisers are understanding that pop-up marketing is rude, with the proportion of pork directed at them plummeting more than 35 per cent.

Unlimited bullsh*t

Questionable advertising practices provided a target for the latest online petition to garner attention on the Downing Street website. Unhappy broadband users reckon they've been duped by campaigns flogging "unlimited" services. More than 3,000 people are calling on the government, the Advertising Standards Authority, or Ofcom to make a stand.


If Ofcom does act, it was never going to be this week: the communications watchdog was a busy puppy.

First up, it imposed lower limits on what mobile operators can charge for carrying calls from other networks. Orange, Vodafone, O2, and T-Mobile will get 5.1 pence per minute as of 1 April. Hutchison's 3G-only outfit 3 will get 5.9 pence, reining it in for the first time by 45 per cent.

The mainstream press mostly reported it as a victory for consumers, but BT isn't happy. It says Ofcom is effectively subsidising mobile operators by letting them recoup too much of the billions they spent on 3G licences at the height of the tech boom in 2000. The European Commission is poring over Ofcom's 400-page report to see if it agrees.

The regulators' next target was VoIP operators, who'll have to adhere to a new code of conduct from June. They'll be forced to be more up front with customers about the limitations of VoIP compared to traditional lines, particularly in terms of emergency calling problems and losing connections in a powercut. Predictably, VoIP industry association ITSPA is fuming, but it'll be incandescent if Ofcom decides to force the industry to pay for connections to 999 call centres when it returns to the issue later this year.

Elsewhere in VoIP, the Verizon vs Vonage spat got an interesting postscript. After awarding damages earlier, the judge granted Verizon an injuction to stop Vonage using its patented technology, even if it pays licensing fees. It's not just about the money, see?

Finally in our regulatory round-up, Ofcom's treatment of BT in the last couple of years drew indirect praise from European telecoms commisioner Viviane Reding. She's mulling instructing other national regulators to force their telcos to open up networks to broadband rivals. As if to celebrate, Ofcom decided to set BT date targets to further separate Openreach, the division designed to give fair access to competition, from the rest of its business.

Pipex: who wants some?

One competitor BT may not have to worry about for much longer is Pipex. Reports said the telco had been given the green light to bid for the ISP, which it'll welcome after being shut out of the AOL carve-up last year. Pipex's broker UBS remained tight-lipped on who'll eventually pick up the various limbs of the firm.

Due Delligence

Tricky, this money shunting lark, it seems. Dell became the latest this week to mutter to the SEC that something had gone wrong with its numbers, and it might have to restate results. Not good news for the PC builder, since its financial performance is already terrible. Dell won't be helped either by news that it has been flogging PCs with RAID controllers that can't talk to Windows Vista.

Vista bug shocker

Problems with Vista hard drive control aren't all Dell's fault, however. One of the juiciest bugs in the new OS so far meant Microsoft took a hammering in user forums. The glitch means machines can stall when copying, moving, and deleting files, which as one grumbler noted is "the most basic of features".


HP and Oracle have been dishing up spam to the world, after bots commandeered machines on their domains. The two giants maintained an undignified silence on the issue, but kudos to Best Buy, which was also implicated in punting Viagra and penny shares. The retailer 'fessed up and got to cleansing its systems immediately.

Oracle and HP should just ditch their old datacentres and throw one of Rackable's me-too shipping containers on the pick-up.

They better hope their compromised servers haven't been spamming all over MySpace. The News Corp empire this week moved to spank "King of Spammers" Sanford Wallace in court. He's accused of setting up 11,000 false accounts and spamming thousands of MySpace users to line his pockets.

Meanwhile, spam itself is getting fatter. Image spam is contributing to bumping up the size of the average junk mail to 11.76Kb.

Yahoo! for webmail

Thank the God of exclamation marks for Yahoo!, then. It stepped in this week with unlimited inboxes for its webmail services - non-commercial use only however, and not if you're in Japan or China. Presumably Yahoo! doesn't fancy the admin headache of snitching to Beijing on unlimited quantities of dissident email.

Translate this: !*%@ off!

Over at rival Google, it was revealed it's working on statistical translation software so that all the information online is available to everyone. Everywhere. Forever!

Futuristic stuff, but a misty eyed reminder of more innocent days came this week when media giant Bertelsmann settled with the record companies over its investment in naughty Napster. Remember them? Happy days.

Looks like video game file sharers are next for the legal treatment.

Blunkett gets porked

This week has left us looking forward to our flabby retirement in the technology consulting racket. Look at David Blunkett: cause a fuss by beating the drum for ID cards in political office, depart under a cloud, then park your behind at a firm which could be bidding for the contract. Lovely.

In fact, all the ideals we held dear came crashing down around us. Not even Ribena is sacred, with two New Zealand schoolgirls revealing the local version doesn't have any vitamin C in it after all, which explains why we kept getting scurvy at school. ®

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