20th > December > 2002 Archive

W3C sets specs for browser, player accessibility

Standards for accessibility to browsers and multimedia players have been hammered out by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) after four-years' work. The Agent Accessibility Guidelines (UAAG) 1.0 were ratified this week and set standards for developers of audio and video players, and web browser applications so products can be easily used by people with impairments or disabilities. UAAG 1.0 was developed by the User Agent Accessibility Guidelines working group, formed in 1998, with input from leading browser or media vendors such as Apple Inc, Microsoft Corp, Netscape Inc, Opera and RealNetworks Inc. The standards follow on from W3C's earlier work for accessibility to web sites and authoring tools - the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines were published in May 1999 and the Authoring Tools Accessibility Guidelines, to simplify tools and coding used to build accessibility features, appeared in February 2000. The W3C's latest standards are designed to provide developers with a consistent set of guidelines for adding accessibility features when building applications. Presently, accessibility guidelines are fragmented according to geographical, industry, vendor or specific disabilities or conditions. For example, the US government adheres to section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act for accessibility to web sites and generic computer software. However, section 508 is regarded as a "starting point" not a full standard, the W3C said, while different accessibility rules and guidelines also exist in Japan and Europe. Also, while some browser and media players already support accessibility features, such as audio description of a web page, such features can be difficult to access because there is no prescribed standard of development. Janet Brewer, W3C director of the web accessibility initiative, said: "The W3C was asked by a number of partners in different countries to take on the initiative and work with solutions that will be well adopted." UAAG 1.0 sets standards in a number of areas, including voice recognition, screen readers to describe the contents of a web page verbally, screen magnifiers and enlargement. Test suites and W3C documentation is also available. Early, partial implementations of UAAG 1.0 are in progress from IBM, Microsoft and Adobe among others. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 20 Dec 2002

W3C, vendors dust down over WS-Choreography?

A New Year stand-off is brewing, after a leading standards group kicked off its ratifcation procedure for Web services choreography but three major vendors remained aloof from the process, Gavin Clarke writes. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is creating a working group to develop a standard for WS-Choreography, a proposed means to describe the flow of messages exchanged by a Web service in a particular process. Approximately six specifications are floating around the industry, and the W3C said it hopes to consolidate at least three. However, the owners of one major specification - Business Process Execution Language for Web services (BPEL4WS) - are keeping mum over which standards body will receive their offering. BPEL4WS is owned by BEA Systems Inc, IBM and Microsoft Corp. It is feared a failure to integrate different choreography specifications will create different implementations and limit web services uptake. Oracle Corp, helping push W3C's efforts, called this a "worst case scenario". "All that does is confuse the market place," Oracle vice president of standards strategy and architecture Don Deutsch told ComputerWire. Licensing of the vendors' intellectual property (IP), used in web services specifications, is believed to be a potential sticking point in this issue. IP licensing emerged as the web services bogey man in 2002. It is believed vendors who do not license IP under a Royalty Free (RF) mechanism leave the door open to charge royalties at a later date under the Reasonable And Non-Discriminatory (RAND) model. webMethods Inc and Epicentric Inc caused a stir after they notified the W3C they might have patents that cover technologies being used in Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) 1.2. IBM also caused ripples over elements of its technology used in ebXML. CrossGuard Inc, which is involved in development of eXtensible Rights Management Language (XrML) at the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), makes a business from charging companies for its digital rights management expertise. Bethesda, Maryland-based CrossGuard has notified OASIS it believes it has patents that may be infringed by the use of digital rights management language. The W3C's WS-Choreography working group's proposed charter supports RF and it said BPEL4WS will be considered in its work "if made available to the W3C by its owners." The charter says it will also consider Web Services Architecture and Web Services Choreography Interface (WSCI) co-developed by Sun Microsystems Inc. IBM's director of dynamic ebusiness technology Karla Norsworthy and a Microsoft spokesperson said no decision had yet been reached about which standards body should receive BPEL4WS. BEA, based in San Jose, California, was unable to respond at time of going to press. Norsworthy said, though, "we hope to have something early next year." One W3C member, meanwhile, said the organization expects its own working group to be up-and-running in the new year. However, concerns linger that vendors are "forum shopping" for a standards body with a friendly IP policy. Concerns surfaced after IBM and Microsoft submitted WS-Security, co-developed with VeriSign Inc, to OASIS earlier this year instead of the W3C. OASIS supports RF and RAND whereas W3C - despite some recent issues - supports RF. Some W3C members feel IBM and Microsoft took WS-Security to OASIS because of that group's looser IP constraints, having borrowed elements of WS-Security from W3C's own work. WS-Security was published just eight days after one W3C member decided it was time to convert W3C grass roots discussion over security for Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP) - dating from August 2001 - into a standard. WS-Security uses XML Digital Signatures and XML Encryption, which were floating around the W3C. Furthermore, as IBM, Microsoft and VeriSign prepared to go public with WS-Security, one Microsoft W3C representative voiced concern that any public W3C technical discussions would "create IP risks" for members for any related specifications. The Microsoft representative did not respond to ComputerWire's questions. Norsworthy denied Microsoft and IBM went forum shopping over WS-Security, saying OASIS was a suitable group given its existing work on the related Security Assertion Mark-up Language (SAML). Redwood Shores, California-based Oracle called IP a "red herring" as vendors instead choose forums on the basis of how much they can control development of a proposed specification. Oracle is a big player behind W3C's WS-Choreography proposed working group. Deutsch said: "People make decisions for various reasons to do with maintaining control of the specification." He added, though, W3C is the best place for WS-Choreography because of its use of RF. "If your objective is to anoint your technology then your decision will be to go somewhere else because you won't want a level playing field," Deutsch said. "We believe in encouraging IBM and Microsoft to do the right thing, and bring BPEL4WS to the W3C table," Deutsch said. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 20 Dec 2002
Broken CD with wrench

The Microsoft CRM wait goes on

The Microsoft Business Solutions division of Microsoft Corp is remaining circumspect about the new release date for its CRM software, following its last-minute announcement on Wednesday that it would not make its end of year delivery deadline. The company said the application is still on course for delivery in the very early part of next year but declined to say whether that means January or the first quarter in general, although the indications are that it will be sooner rather than later. It is remaining tight-lipped about the reasons for the delay but denied that it was due to problems with enabling back to front-office integration, which has been touted as a possible cause. Dean Carroll, business development director for Microsoft Business Solutions pointed out that the company had previously announced that Great Plains integration capability would ship 60 days after the main product, with support for Navision after that. "We did not want to follow up with a service release. It was important we went to market with something that was right. We set the bar high and wanted to make sure it was right, out of the door," he said. Carroll said the delay will not impact the release of version 1.1 of the product, although as this is slated for the second half of 2003 rather than a particular month, it gives the company a lot of room to maneuver. Version 1.1 represents the internationalized version of the product, bringing localization and local language support; minor additional functionality may also make an appearance. Carroll said that although the company is disappointed that the product was not released in 2002, the delay will not impact Microsoft's CRM ambitions. In contrast to several existing small to mid-market CRM players who are in the midst of high-volume marketing initiatives, Microsoft has been exhibiting a comparatively low-key approach to the market geared around functionality and cost of ownership issues rather than directly targeting named competitors, even though its overall aim is far from low-key or modest. Carroll pointed out that as only 10% of the organizations in its target market have some CRM, contact management or sales force automation software in place at the moment, its strategy is not one of displacement but of driving into organizations who have not invested in CRM software as yet. "We are opening up a large market not competing with those in the market today," he said. That it the nub of the matter though and the cause of some of its rivals' near panic-stricken behavior, as the company believes the small to medium business sector is worth nearly $30bn and is aiming to carve itself a $10bn slice, dividing much of the remaining portion up between its partners. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 20 Dec 2002

Veritas picks up blade, app management mavens

Storage management software specialist Veritas Software Corp has dipped into its sizeable cash reserves to buy two companies which despite appearances it insists are not systems management companies. The Mountain View, California-based company is acquiring application performance and availability management vendor Precise Software Solutions Inc for $537m and server provisioning software vendor Jareva Technologies Inc for around $62m in cash. Depending on the preferences of Precise's current stockholders, the two deals in total will cost Veritas up to $460m in cash from its total current cash holding of $2bn which it says is growing at $100m every month. Through the two deals Veritas will add Jareva's BladeForce Management Suite, OpForce IT Automation Suite and Elemental Server products to its portfolio, as well as Precise's numerous application performance monitoring and storage resource management software packages. Among Precise's portfolio are the Insight response time measurement and Savvy proactive management products, as well as Indepth performance management products for IBM Corp's DB2, Oracle Corp's eponymous database management system and Microsoft Corp's SQL Server. The company also produces the Interpoint monitoring software for e-business application suites from Oracle, PeopleSoft Inc and SAP AG, Inform performance reporting and analysis applications, and storage resource management software for IBM's Shark, Hitachi Data System's Lightning and Thunder and Hewlett Packard Co's StorageWorks storage systems. Jareva, meanwhile is a two and a half year old server provisioning specialist based in Sunnyvale, California. Its BladeForce Management Suite, released in June 2002 is designed to bring discovery, provisioning, deployment and management capabilities to blade server environments. Before the release of BladeForce the company focused on the OpForce suite for provisioning multi-platform environments and Elemental Server abstraction and integration server. Server provisioning and application tuning are not systems management areas, Veritas insisted. While Veritas' existing clustering and availability software is about stopping systems from going down, Precise's software is about stopping systems from slowing down. As for the software being acquired with Jareva, Chris Hagerman, senior vice president of strategic operations at Veritas said: "I'd look at the distinction being that what we're doing is automating the actions you need to optimize performance and availability, as opposed to the discovery and monitoring of most systems management applications." The purchase of Precise carries a bonus in the form of SRM software originally developed by W Quinn, an early player with an established position in that sector. Quinn is now owned by Precise. Veritas said the Quinn software in question will eventually be integrated with its own SRM product, so adding the currently fashionable function of quota management. Veritas will pay shareholders of Westwood, Massachusetts-based Precise $16.50 in cash per share, or up to 25% of their consideration in Veritas stock, plus the rest in cash. Stock will be issued at a fixed exchange ration of 0.2365, and a maximum of 7.5 million shares will be issued in the deal. The deal is expected to close in the second quarter of 2003, upon the approval of Precise shareholders, and be accretive within 12 months. © ComputerWire
ComputerWire, 20 Dec 2002

Comet and Carphone Warehouse to flog AOL broadband

AOL UK has signed extended distribution deals with Comet and the Carphone Warehouse to flog its broadband service and ADSL starter kits. Comet is promoting and distributing AOL Broadband in its 260 stores across the UK. The Carphone Warehouse will begin punting the service next year. Both deals are extensions of existing agreements that AOL has with Comet and the Carphone Warehouse for AOL's narrowband service. Today's announcement represent a further step in AOL's strategy directly to target UK consumers with AOL Broadband, said the Internet outfit in a statement. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Dec 2002

Police investigate porn DVD bought at Dixons

Police in Birmingham have launched an investigation after child pornography was found on a DVD disk bought at a Dixons store in the West Midlands. The disk was part of software sold with a £200 CD rewriter. The family that bought the hardware told the ">Birmingham Post that they were "totally appalled" by what they saw. It seems the box containing the rewriter had been opened prior to it being bought. Dixons said that this was an "extremely serious incident" and that it was cooperating fully with police. In a statement the high street electrical store said: "We deeply regret the distress that this episode has caused and will do all that we can to identify the source. "We understand that the police have now executed a warrant on a house in the Bordsley Green area of Birmingham, and are questioning a 34 year old man." Dixons MD, Chris Langley, has already been in contact personally with the family that bought the CD rewriter to apologise for the incident. ®
Tim Richardson, 20 Dec 2002

Welsh Web designer pleads guilty to virus creation

A 21-old Welsh Web designer has pleaded guilty to creating and distributing three mass mailer viruses, in a hearing at Bow Street Magistrates Court this morning. Simon Vallor, of Llandudno, North Wales, admitted offences under section three of the Computer Misuse Act 1990 in creating the Gokar, Redesi and Admirer mass mailing viruses. Magistrates passed over responsibility for sentencing to Southwark Crown Court, where a judge will sentence Vallor early in the New Year. A date for sentencing is yet to be set. Charges against Vallor relating to the possession of indecent images of children were withdrawn at the hearing this morning. Valler was arrested on February 14 this year and charged with offences under section three of the Computer Misuse Act 1990, following intelligence received by British police from the FBI's Baltimore field office. North Wales police were assisted in their investigation by officers from Scotland Yard's specialist Computer Crime Unit. ® Related Stories Welsh Web designer charged with virus writing, child porn offences Linux rootkit hacker suspect arrested in UK
John Leyden, 20 Dec 2002

Student gets merit award for school computer hack

High school student Reid Ellison did exactly the opposite of what most students would do when he hacked into his school computer records - he marked his grades down. The bright 15-year old changed his grades at Anzar High School in San Juan Bautista, California from a A to a D+. However, Reid didn't get into trouble for his actions. Far from it. The intrusion was sanctioned by his school as part of his coursework and his success in breaking into the school's systems earned him a perfect score in the unconventional project. Reid's task of hacking into the network was greatly simplified by the weak password the school used - Silvia, the name of the school's secretary. This password has since been changed and, with the help of the teenager, the school is looking to bolster its security. "I basically came up with three pages to improve the security of the network in general," Reid, who wants to study to be an engineer when he leaves school, told CNN. Reid's teachers were pleased to note that Reid hasn't developed a taste for cracking computer systems and are doubtless grateful of the free penetration testing advice that the 15 year-old has given them. "If he didn't have such high moral fibre, he could probably make a lot of money off his abilities," said Wayne Norton, Reid's adviser. ®
John Leyden, 20 Dec 2002

One Click Fraud: more MS scammers likely

This week Seattle FBI told The Register that more arrests in the Daniel Feussner case were unlikely. Feussner was the Microsoft employee charged last week with selling $9 million of stolen software. But Microsoft itself believes more cases will be unearthed as it investigates abuse of its internal purchasing system, The Seattle Post Intelligencer's Dan Richman reports today. A number of investigations are underway, says a Microsoft spokesperson, and may result in dismissal and prosecution. Amazingly, Richman reports that none of the individual items Feussner is alleged to have ordered had a value of more than $1,000, which triggers a form requiring a supervisor to click the "Approve" button - kind of like Amazon's One Click Shopping™. Why the Feds aren't interested in pursuing more Feussners is puzzling. Perhaps it's another example of Microsoft policing itself? If you have any information, let us know. ® Related Story MS staffer accused of $9m software for Ferraris scam
Andrew Orlowski, 20 Dec 2002