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Microsoft gives Christmas beta

Microsoft gave punters an early Christmas when it spat out a beta of the final Windows XP Service Pack. It's almost four years since the last service pack. Punters see this as a relief – Microsoft, clearly, would rather they quietly move to its Vista OS. What's that? You'd rather get the flu for Christmas. After all Bill's done for you and all. He's got a magic telescope you know.

Waiting for that Vista service pack? You're in for a treat. Redmond has decided it should include a cryptographically flawed pseudo random number generator in its upcoming service pack for Windows Vista. Still, some would say that'll be the least of your problems.

Another LibDem identity crisis

The LibDems have been desperate to get a handle on the whole ID theft thing. We're not quite sure if having one of their MPs banned by Facebook for impersonating an, er, MP was what they meant...

Consumers demand Ofcom hold BB vendors to account

Ofcom's Consumer Panel came up with a whizzo wheeze in its latest set of recommendations to the regulator. It wants Ofcom to hold broadband providers to their advertised speed claims.

Amongst other recommendations, it reckons consumers should be able to cancel their contracts if providers manifestly can't provide something close to the speed they're punting. Stirring stuff, though we suspect providers are not exactly quaking in their boots, since while the panel can make recommendations, Ofcom doesn't actually have to listen to them.

Darling gets tough on data leaking civil servants

Now, we really don't want to go on about government incompetence, but seeing as you're asking... Alistair Darling gave an update to MPs this week to coincide with an interim report on the HMRC data debacle. Yes, they're still looking for the disks, no they're sure no crimes have happened as a result of the data loss. Hang on, haven't we heard all this before?

More interestingly, Darling came out in support of tougher penalties for officials who let personal data into the wild. Apparently, the next bowler-hatter public servant who pulls a stunt like this can expect a stretch in chokey.

Yes, we'll believe it when we see it too.

UK's data flydrive

Oh, and wouldn't you know it. Soon as Darling sits down, up jumps Ruth Kelly to cough to the Department of Transport's mislaying of a hard disk with details of three million driving test candidates. Well, strictly speaking it's just disappeared from the secure facility of a contractor. In Iowa. Yes, your data is now better travelled than you.

Now HMRC is leaking coke

Still, it's not like HMRC is a complete bunch of killjoys. As well as losing the details of almost half the population, it's also let 1.5kg of Bolivian marching powder out of the door. Apparently, the stuff should have been in a secure lockup – always the way. Still, after all the troubles of the last week, it's nice to know one arm of the government is still trying to give us all a white Christmas.

TJX strikes cut-price settlement with banks

It might be worth looking at how these things are sorted in the States. Retail giant TJX is close to putting its data release scandal to bed with a $41m settlement with the banks. The firm had exposed the data of as many as 100 million customers. A settlement with consumers is still to be finalised.

Google in sensible power research shock

OK, normally we're the first to take a pop at Google. But the boys were talking some sense this week when they highlighted the need for memory, network, and disc vendors to do their bit to trim back global warming. OK, they were actually talking about data centre warming, but you know what we mean.

Far as Google engineers Luiz André Barroso and Urs Hólzle are concerned, CPU vendors have already stepped up the plate, but the rest of the system is losing power like the UK gov loses personal data. Typically, kit is running at 20 and 70 per cent energy efficiency – they reckon vendors should be aiming at between 60 and 90 per cent energy efficiency.

BoFH powers down California

We all love a tale of a real BoFH (of course the BoFH is real). So we were heartened to see Lonnie Charles Denison, 33, of South Natomas in California confessing to breaking a glass cover and pushing an emergency power off button at the Independent System Operator's (ISO) data centre near Folsom on 15 April. The contract Unix sys admin was upset with his employer and co-workers at the time after discovering his computer privileges had been revoked. He will be sentenced in the New Year.

Perhaps if they'd taken the BBC line on staff bonding, this might never have happened. All they'd have had to pay for was the jelly.

Norwich Union forced to update security policy

Closer to home, insurance giant Norwich Union copped a £1.26m fine for failing to safeguard customers against fraud. Security lapses in the firm's caller identification procedures allowed fraudsters to impersonate customers by using information, including names, addresses, and telephone numbers, obtained from public sources such as Companies House. They subsequently cashed in genuine customers' policies. Just to add insult to injury, the firm ringfenced directors' funds, while leaving security procedures unchanged for its customers.

And Brussels goes power-mad

Or, you can rely on Brussels to sort out the problem. We're not talking wind farms here. Rather, that the European Council – we can't remember what it does either – has ruled that government authorities across Europe must only buy office kit that meets the Energy Star standards.

T-Mobile and 3 reach for mistletoe

3 and T-Mobile tied the knot this week. Well, sort of. They've agreed to combine their 3G radio networks. But this doesn't mean any thing more serious is in the pipeline. No, no, definitely no. So put away that mistletoe. No means no.

As CSC staff ask who ate all the pies?

Sticking with the festive symbolism, it was heart warming to see CSC sending each of its employees a mince pie to say thank you this year. Well, that's each of the employees still there – the services giant has been merrily swinging the axe like a Christmas tree harvester all year.

A spokesperson described the distribution of the pies as a "Christmas gesture from the senior team". Yep, and we're sure the non-senior team would have made an appropriate gesture in return.

And there we have it. This will be the last Reg Weekly of 2007. We'll see you in the same place in the second week of 2008. ®

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