Microsoft vouchers, Cisco security, and throttling Branson

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Businesses using Linux were warned this week that Microsoft and Novell's legal protection program isn't worth the trouble. The indemnity vouchers on offer to SuSE Linux users promise a safe haven if the patent wars between Microsoft and free software turn nasty (only last week Microsoft executives warned that Linux infringed 234 patents held by the software giant).

But Eben Moglen said this week that once GPL 3.0 was extended - as it almost certainly will be to the kernel and toolchain, at the very least - the promise will extend to everyone else, too.

And those 235 patents? Microsoft said it would tell everyone what they were, as soon as it had a free moment.

Secure layer not so secure

Cisco warned this week that the operating system it uses in most of its routers and switches was getting snarfed by secure packets. Certain SSL messages, which are the bedrock of secure corporate communications on the internet, open up the routers to denial of service attacks.

Register readers discovered this week that low-budget airline Ryanair failed to use SSL at all on its website when making some confidential transactions.

Better late than never? UK ISP PlusNet is belatedly adding SSL to its POP3 and IMAP after a webmail bug exposed its users to spam earlier this year.

Public to throttle Branson in reciprocity agreement

Virgin has a had rough time since taking over the UK's debt laden cable monopoly. Three weeks into throttling 150,000 broadband users who exhibit "abornomal usage" every night, the company was still claiming it offered an unlimited service.

This week Nildram followed suit, throttling "broadband connections" down to 64kbit/s. While Nildram touted it as a Quality of Service feature - benefitting VoIP and VPN users over P2P porn leechers - readers begged to differ. Nildram says the throttling only affects users who have exceeded their quotas.

When the music stops, it's safe to buy servers again

The market for x86 servers has rebounded this year, after buyers waited for the technology merry-go-round to slow down at the end of last year. HP shipped the most boxes, but IBM pipped them out for revenue. The Unix business isn't dead, though, with IBM sales rising almost 15 per cent in the first three months of this year.

And that business looks well set after we smoked out an early sighting of its POWER 6-based servers running Oracle 11i. Oracle posted details of the forthcoming systems where it thought no one could see them - on the World Wide Web.

Oracle has since removed the link which it hosted, but you can see the benchmarks here. But IBM says systems powered by the high bandwidth wonder chip won't be available until November.

IBM also revealed how it was taking process technology down to 32 nanometers.

Dell has retaliated by offering less cardboard packaging - good news if you buy a lot of Dell boxes. Customers will only get one CD and set of manuals per Multipack shipment - so, er, don't lose them.

Dell also revealed its virtualisation plans this week, which we concluded will keep the price pressure up on its server rivals.

Phone 2.0 - now with extra worms

Who would have guessed it? More malware targeting net phone service Skype emerged this week. This worm, which has yet to be named, also ensnares IM messaging networks such as MSN and ICQ. Users of Linux and Mac systems, or Linux and Mac systems without a host Windows OS, are unaffected.

VoIP rival JahJah said that it planned to go public, boosted by a claim that investor Intel will embed its technology in the chip giant's firmware. That should make the security vulnerabilities easier to fix, then.

But VoIP entreprenuer Michael Robertson warned rivals of his Gizmo service this week that unless they were able to strike deals to get their client software embedded with the phone manufacturers, they would struggle. Guess who's got his client software embedded in Nokia?

"Where did I leave that map, dear?"

A study published this week revealed that when it comes to map reading, the genders come out about even. Men outperform women on tasks such as "mentally rotating objects and matching angles", while women performed better on verbal dexterity and remembering objects' locations.

The verbal dexterity will come in handy when the man has lost the map - and won't ask for directions.

Six figure storage

EMC deluged regulars with new hardware at EMC World this week. Very, very big storage: 1.8 petabytes per tape, for example, and RAID array capable of supporting 2,400-disk.

Sun responded by giving details of its own six figure storage, a rebadged StorageTek 9990V capable of keeping over 1,000 disks humming.

Californian cash heads for Europe

Got a bright idea that uses 3G? Qualcomm is to spend €100m financing technology start-ups in the EU. The investments are intended to boost 3G against rival networking specifications, such as Ultra Wide Band (UWB) and WiMAX.

WiMAX is "based on a cable standard [DOCSIS] and was never designed for wireless", said Qualcomm's chief operating officer Sanjey Jha.


Public Wi-Fi: a few good users needed

Westminster Council wants to roll out a WLAN network across its eight square miles of territory - but seems hard pressed what people will actually use it for. You can help them out with suggestions - and win yourselves £1,000. It's good to see public money being used to answer the question "what on earth will you do with this public money we've spent?"

Google can remember it for you wholesale

When Eric Schmidt first said he wanted a "Google that knows more about you", two years ago, the reaction was "That's pretty creepy!", and Schmidt went very quiet. Now he's talking up the value of the search giant's data hoard, this time to an audience of politicans.

"We cannot even answer the most basic questions because we don't know enough about you. That is the most important aspect of Google's expansion," he told the Google Zeitgeist conference.

Former FCC economist Thomas Hazlett, and now professor of law at George Mason University, summed up the risky strategy:

"The rude awakening for many is that they supposed that [Google] was a different kind of company and that the markets it opened were upside down from others. They are finding that privacy, like other goods, has trade-offs, and that even the purest of souls must make hard choices."

Markets 'work best when completely rigged'. Honest.

Remember the distasteful "prediction market" launched by the US Defense Department's research wing DARPA. Quickly dubbed a terror casino, the idea was dropped when politicians realised it could be gamed by would-be assassins. The man behind the project re-emerged this week, unrepentent.

Robin Hanson now claims that gaming improves the efficiency of markets, by "reducing noise". His claim was short on statistics, we noted.

Speeding while emitting carbon

Drivers within the M25 can look forward to more red tape and charges, thanks to Mayor Ken Livingstone's latest technology caper. A key figure in the implementation of the Congestion Zone explains how the Low Emission Zone will eventually ensnare all vehicles - but your van fleet will be one of the first in line.

Despite costing a staggering £60bn, according to the opposition, and despite the fact that nobody wants it, the government is to introduce national road pricing.

Bat-loving environment minister David Miliband has other priorities, however. He told a Google conference this week that he'd caught the web religion.

Greener Greenland

But why bother? One of the many positive aspects of a warmer planet was highlighted this week, with news that a lead and zinc mine abandoned in Greenland will soon reopen. ®

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