15th > May > 2003 Archive

NewZealand.com saga continues

The saga of the US$500,000 paid by the New Zealand government for domain NewZealand.com is still rolling on, with official responses to Parliamentary questions producing more queries than they did answers. New Zealand MP Rodney Hide has been bombarding the government with queries over its strange conduct. First the government took the previous owner - Virtual Countries - to domain arbitrator WIPO to get the domain back. It not only lost but was also found guilty of reverse domain name hijacking. Then, just days later and without any external consultation, it paid the hearty sum of US$500,000 in tax-payers' money for the domain through government-owned company The New Zealand Way ltd. Since then, it has become clear that the New Zealand government applied for several NewZealand.com trademarks in order to give its case legitimacy but knowing that it would be turned down. It was turned down, but not before a different WIPO decision on newzealand.biz saw the domain wrongly handed over to the government. The answers to more Parliamentary questions make the situation even murkier. It now transpires that the government offered to buy the NewZealand.com domain on 22 November 2002 - five days before the arbitrator ruled against it. Its initial offer was $500,000 and Virtual Countries finally accepted it on 9 December. The Minister for Industry and Regional Development was not informed of the purchase until nearly a month later. A further set of questions by Rodney Hide confirm that The New Zealand Way board sought no outside counsel on the purchase, only whether it had a legal right to the domain. It didn't. Meanwhile the government arm that managed to waste NZ$57,770.21 (£18,500) on going to WIPO in an effort to take over the name, TradeNZ, has admitted that it only became aware of the government's own condemnation of attempts to control country-named domains during the case itself. Assuming that isn't a version of the truth, it is enormously incompetent. Now, read this next answer (answer number 03979) from tourist minister Mark Burton carefully. "Newzealand.com is the obvious single point of entry for anyone online who has an interest in New Zealand for the purposes of tourism, trade or investment. This portal is an important global marketing tool for us, and ownership will ensure that it contains up to date, accurate information." Fair enough, you may say. But using the age-old government answer "I refer the member to written question number xxx", it would appear that this two sentence-response is sufficent to answer numerous supplementary questions. Such as: Why did it spend so much on the domain (especially when it already had other domains such as NewZealand.biz)? Does the government plan to try to take over NewZealand.info? Does the government plan to try to take over NewZealand.net? Did the government consider the numerous other country-name domains owned by Virtual Countries? What is the return expected from the newzealand.com domain and how will it be generated? So, the government has obviously decided to go for the "say nothing" approach. Meanwhile, it admitted that it has so far spent NZ$5,455,153 (£1,940,000) on developing its current tourist site purenz.com which, presumably, will be superseded by NewZealand.com or there would have been no point in buying it. As for NewZealand.com, it has had NZ$8,500 spent on it so far with another NZ$30,000 in the pipeline this year. So it's fair to say that quite a significant amount of money has been wasted thanks to some short-sighted and inefficient government handling of Internet domains - but then short-sighted and inefficient handling is what governments excel at. The New Zealand Way ltd has also behaved questionably. Why pay so much? Why offer that sum before a case over the domain's ownership had even been decided? And why make no effort to consult or inform anyone else until the deal was done? Presumably because it knew that it wouldn't be allowed to spend so much money on a domain just because it has set its heart on it. Is the domain worth that much? It's hard to tell and the arguments are many and varied. Tourism to New Zealand is clearly worth far far more than US$500,000 but the question is: how much additional value does NewZealand.com bring to the country? Even if you work out how much business in terms of direct or indirect bookings will be done through the domain, that is to completely ignore the fact that most people find sites through search engines so a domain's name is less and less important each year than what is contained within it. (As an example "new zealand visit" in Google gives non-government nz.com as the first result. NewZealand.com high rating is entirely due to Virtual Countries' previous efforts.) Buying the .com also ignores the movement away from generic domain names and towards country code domains - in this case .nz - as people become more savvy about the international nature of the Internet. Perhaps you could make a case for the purchase of NewZealand.com for US$500,000. But the over-riding fact remains that a government-owned company went out of its way to make sure it didn't have to and didn't have to justify such tax-payer expense. Whichever way you look at it, that can't be a good thing. ® Related stories Governments continue to go barmy over .com namesakes What really happened with the NewZealand.com case NZ.gov coughs up NZ$1m for newzealand.com
Kieren McCarthy, 15 May 2003

SCO invokes RIAA in Linux jihad

SCO has warned Linux users that they might be liable if they continue to use the open source operating system. It also suspended its own Linux business. Open Source community leader Bruce Perens described the actions as "rabid". In March, SCO sued IBM for $1 billion damages claiming that Big Blue had violated SCO's 'intellectual property' by incorporating AIX code into Linux , devaluing SCO's proprietary UNIX, UnixWare. Yesterday SCO withdrew its own Linux and identified itself with the thuggery of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), an association unlikely to win SCO many friends: "Similar to analogous efforts underway in the music industry, we are prepared to take all actions necessary [our emphasis] to stop the ongoing violation of our intellectual property or other rights." But SCO has cut its own investment in its intellectual property by almost half. It spent $3.748 million on R&D in the quarter ending October 2002, compared to $6.662 million for the quarter ending July 2001. SCO has been in business since 1979, but earned its spurs by nursing along Unix on x86 after Microsoft lost interest in XENIX™ and merged with Linux distributor Caldera three years ago. While SCO's cash cow has been OpenServer, it picked up the rights to UNIX (although the UNIX™ trademark belongs to The OpenGroup). Perhaps realizing, somewhat belatedly, that its lawsuit had set its own tail on fire, SCO today also suspended shipments of its own Linux distribution, Caldera OpenLinux. SCO has been reluctant to provide specific examples of 'theft' it alleges. Bruce Perens sees little chance of SCO cashing in on the case if it's successful, as it promoted its own Linux distributions for so long: "It's history that can't be erased. They've foregone any royalty because they promised that their distributions would be without a royalty. So there's no royalty upside," he told us. Last month Gartner's George Weiss described SCO's action as an exit strategy intended to bait IBM into buying out the litigant: "SCO's lawsuit can be construed as an attempt to raise shareholder value through claims of intellectual-property infringement or to pressure IBM into an acquisition. If the SCO lawsuit is not upheld, the SCO installed base would face a potentially weakened SCO and should then plan for migration from OpenServer and UnixWare within the next five years," he wrote. Darl McBride defended the case with a statement straight out of the Craig Mundie textbook: "SCO's actions may prove unpopular with those who wish to advance or otherwise benefit from Linux as a free software system for use in enterprise applications," wrote SCO CEO McBride. "However, our property and contract rights are important and valuable; not only to us, but to every individual and every company whose livelihood depends on the continued viability of intellectual and intangible property rights in a digital age." In all, it's as bizarre as any story we've covered this year, including this one. We have to wonder what our old friend, and current SCO director, Ed Iacobucci makes of all this nonsense. ® Related Link SCO's case Related Story SCO sues IBM for $1 billion for 'devaluing Unix
Andrew Orlowski, 15 May 2003

Verisign granted DNS lookup patent

Verisign has been granted a patent protecting the lookup of domain names. The patent protects the act of performing several look-ups at once, or "performing a multitude of searches simultaneously, transparent to the user. "Specifically, the improved query server searches for an existing domain name records in various domains and then displays the results in a formatted manner, thus eliminating the need for a user to perform individual searches." It would appear that a simple shell script that searches for theregister.com, .org or .net would fall foul of the "invention", which Verisign filed in 1998. The illustration implementation listed in the patent describes a Perl script that forks. In this discussion of the patent at ICANNwatch, Karl Auerbach points out that UNIX resolvers have been doing this since the mid 1980s. Through its Network Solutions Inc. subsidiary, Verisign runs the lucrative .com and .net registries. ® Related Links Verisign patent ICANN Watch report Related Stories Is this the end of the domain transfer nightmare? RSA and Verisign beat SSL patent infringement rap VeriSign 'violates DNS' - IAB VeriSign Registry Service opens door for DNS redirects
Andrew Orlowski, 15 May 2003

Can US software developers form an ‘open source’ union?

There has never been a successful union-style organizing movement among US software developers. Ian Lurie, who runs a Seattle Web design firm, believes this is because traditional "industrial" union structures don't serve programmers' needs very well, but that a new, "open source" union structure based on pre-industrial craft guilds might make lives better for people in the job-nomadic IT industry. Lurie has financial backing from a major traditional union, so this is more than a vapor-level dream. And there are certainly plenty of disgruntled -- often unemployed -- programmers, sysadmins, and other IT workers out there right now who might be willing to join a group that promises to help them find decent-paying jobs with union-style benefits. The union backing Lurie's effort is the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (AIM). Lurie's firm, Portent Interactive, designed the AIM Web site. Together, they came up with the CyberLodge concept. Lurie says, specifically, that the idea was developed jointly by "myself and the Communications Director of the IAM. I've been running my company for about 8 years, and saw more and more jobs being offshored, as well as some truly horrific management practices that, while they began during the boom, have persisted in the 'market correction.' We came to the conclusion that the issue here is one of power. Mid- to large-sized consultancies and other software/tech companies have a great deal of combined lobbying clout, plus a lot of dollars they can move around. And while tech workers have the ability to counter that when necessary, they're totally disorganized." An obvious response to this is, "But most of them seem to like being disorganized." Lurie agrees. "So," he says, "a traditional union is out of the question for a number of reasons: Tech workers are far too transient to belong to a 'union shop'. There's no way tech workers would WANT to be part of a traditional union. In my opinion, employers need to be much more involved with this organization than in a traditional union. "We need to strike a balance between the need to present a reasonably coordinated message and the need for a highly flexible, portable organization that lets tech workers work the way they do today. "The 'Open Source' concept came from my belief that we need to listen to folks before we try to form this organization, and then allow the tech workers to play a central role in the growth of that organization." Naturally, one of CyberLodge's first acts was to put up a Web site. Lurie says it already gets more than 10,000 visitors per month, and that the number is rising steadily. Right now, a great deal of the content seems to harp on the problem of IT jobs going overseas, admittedly a large one for U.S. IT workers, but what could a union of IT workers do about it? Lurie says, "I think (fighting against) offshoring requires two strategies: 1. You have to change the way the workforce works. 2. You have to balance out overwhelming political power on the part of big capital. And somewhere in between you have to wake people up. That requires a good-sized membership base to start, but I don't think we're talking tens of thousands." So far the number of CyberLodge members is zero. There is currently no way to join. But, Lurie says, "We're shifting our strategy, like, NOW, from information-gathering to putting together a proposal for prospective members." One major membership draw may be union-sponsored, portable health insurance puchased thrugh CyberLodge's AIM connection. According to Lurie, the cost to a single, 36-year-old non-smoker for a decent plan would be around $120 per month. "That's for standard health care, not just 'I got hit by a bus,'" catastrophic coverage, he points out. This health insurance would "belong to" the employee, not an employer, so it would be of especially high value to IT contractors and consultants who flit from company to company, which is the group at whom the initial CyberLodge membership drive will most likely be targeted. Employers would be able to hire CyberLodge members without worrying about supplying benefits like health insurance and 401K plans, which they would get through the union. Lurie also talks about setting "standards" rather like the apprentice, journeyman, and master statuses granted by craft unions to workers who meet a set of skill, training, and experience criteria. In theory, an employer who hired, say, a CyberLodge member "Journeyman Java programmer" would be getting a worker of proven ability who could sit right down and go to work. "I really think education and placement will someday be a major part of Cyberlodge," Lurie says. "We need to provide a connection between sharp, quality employees and employers. We won't decline membership to folks based on experience. But it will, eventually, be important that employers know that a Cyberlodge member is a great contractor/employee who can add real value to their company." Remember, Lurie is an employer, not an emplyee. He says, "My ulterior motive in this is to build a better workforce for ME." Another factor is that he -- or at least his company -- is getting paid to put together the seeds of CyberLodge, although he points out that at least half of the time he puts into CyberLodge is uncompenstated; that it's "about 50/50" volunteer and paid work on his part. "Seriously," he says, "We've really come at this as much from the needs of employers as employees, in a lot of ways. And part of the reason for that is that I do run a company, and a tech company at that. Another obvious question came to mind here: "What if your employees all join CyberLodge and go on strike?" "I'm not worried," Lurie replied. "I work very hard with my employees to make sure that we all do well. And that's how Cyberlodge should work, too."
Robin Miller, 15 May 2003

Broadband buoys Tiscali

Tiscali has upped its revenues on the back of increased take-up of broadband, the pan-European ISP reported today. Publishing Q1 results today Tiscali generated revenues of €212.5m - an increase of almost ten per cent compared to the same period last year. EBITDA (earnings before interest etc) skipped in at €15.6m, an increase of 18 per cent compared to the previous quarter and a massive jump compared to a year ago when the ISP only made EBITDA of €1m. The main oomph behind the figures was the uptake of broadband by Tiscali's punters. The number of ADSL users rose fourfold over the last year to 360,000 at the end of March. At the end of April that figure had increased to around 400,000 and is continuing to grow by around 11,000 a week. Buoyed by its Q1 performance Tiscali reckons its full-year performance could be better than first thought with revenues growing by around 20 per cent. In a statement the company said: "This was the group's fourth consecutive quarter of organic revenue growth, and the second quarter running of positive EBITDA, marking a considerable improvement in profitability. "These results are particularly significant considering the difficult conditions affecting the economy and the Internet services market, where broadband market regulations, despite some improvements, continue to hamper alternative operators," it said. That barbed comment at the end refers, in part at least, to the row over wholesale broadband pricing in the UK, which prompted Tiscali UK to complain to the telecoms regulator. Tiscali's complaint, along with others in the industry, helped force BT to review its pricing while Oftel continues to investigate complaints of anti-competitive behaviour. ® Related Stories 'Monopolistic' BT kicked where it hurts BT backtracks on broadband pricing cuts MP critical of 'unfair competition' from BT Two more telcos run to Oftel over BT BB 'margin squeeze' Oftel could block BT's ADSL price cut Thus complains to Oftel over BT ADSL 'margin squeeze' Tiscali blasts BT's 'anti-competitive' ADSL price cuts
Tim Richardson, 15 May 2003

MS ‘slush’ fund provides big discounts to stop Linux – email

Microsoft's head of worldwide sales last summer circulated a 'stop Linux at any price' email to sales execs and senior company executives, including Steve Ballmer, Jim Allchin and Jeff Raikes. According to the International Herald Tribune, which has seen the email, Orlando Ayala was aiming to block Linux's progress in government. "Under NO circumstances lose against Linux," he said, saying that in cases where the deal involved governments or large institutions there was a special fund available which could be used to offer large discounts, or even to give Microsoft software away. The existence of what the casual observer might term a slush fund is confirmed in an IHT interview with Microsoft EMEA chairman Jean-Philippe Courtois, who defends it as "part of a strategy to be 'competitive' and 'relevant' in the market for big government and educational deals." Microsoft is known to be particularly concerned about the prospect of an open source avalanche engulfing its European government operations, and the likely European focus of the 'get Linux' operations is confirmed by another email obtained by the IHT, from outside legal counsel. This covers EU law and discounting, says Microsoft should not discriminate among clients, and takes the view that short-term discounting is more likely to escape Brussels' scrutiny. Now, why would Microsoft want to ask lawyers about that kind of stuff? Register open source contacts have insisted for some years now that Microsoft's government and large accounts sales teams have special dispensation - on the highest authority - to block open source deployments at any price; the leaked emails would therefore appear to confirm that they are right. Microsoft is particularly interested in winning and keeping control of UK government and public sector IT systems, and this has bizarre consequences for would-be insurgents. Public sector and large account IT staff who get the green light for test open source deployments keep very quiet about it indeed, even to the extent of begging the press not to mention it until they're sure full-scale deployments are happening, and can't easily be cancelled. For some reason they seem to think large Microsoft SWAT teams will descend on their superiors, bad-mouthing them and waving vast discounts. We've no idea where they could have got this impression from. The IHT documentation strongly suggests the existence of a comprehensive programme, as opposed to it just being a single exec getting ahead of himself (that single exec, incidentally, continues to do well at Microsoft - Ayala is now senior VP, small and midmarket solutions group). A document entitled "Open Source Software Government: World Wide Initiative" aims to stop governments adopting pro open source procurement policies, urges the "pitfalls" of open source to be emphasised, and describes the lobbying of ministries in Germany and construction of alliances with "opinion leaders" in Denmark. (Who might these allies be, gentle Danish readers?) In his email, Ayala even says how much is available for consulting service discounts. This was $65.7 million for the US, $8.9 million for Asia-Pacific, $13.7 million for Canada and Latin America, $5.4 million for Germany, $2.8 million for France and a further $22 million for EMEA. A spokesman told the IHT that the discounts would be used again in FY 2003-4, but seems to have neglected to offer next year's rates. ®
John Lettice, 15 May 2003

Paedo ring sysadmins jailed for 11 years

Two British men yesterday began prison sentences totalling 11 years and three months for their involvement in a sophisticated paedophile ring. Simon Chan, a 27 year-old IT engineer from Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, was sentenced to a total of five and half years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy to distribute indecent images and admitting 20 counts of making indecent images. Robert Pearson, aged 50, a former deputy head teacher at Campion High School in Liverpool, pleaded guilty to 22 counts of making indecent images, one count of Conspiracy to distribute indecent images and three counts of indecent assault. He was sentenced to five years and nine months imprisonment. Both men were also disqualified from working with children for life and placed on the Sex Offenders Register, again for life. The men were part of a worldwide Internet paedophile network that broadcast abuse of children live on the Internet. The group was also involved in making and distributing indecent photographs and movies, according to investigators. The abuse by these groups - called "Insurance" and "Holiday PartyTime" - came to light through Operation Informal, which began last July. Operation Informal involved officers from the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit working with law enforcement around the world to track down the owners and administrators of the secure areas on the Internet frequented by members of the two groups. The trail that led to Chan and Pearson began when officers from the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU) examined a US computer used by members of the two groups. This led to the identification of Simon Chan, a 27 year-old security IT engineer from Staines, through his nickname 'XMASBUNNY'. Officers from the NHTCU arrested Chan on 14 August 2002 and carried out an extensive search of his home. Further examination of the computer and interviewing of Chan also identified another UK member, Robert Pearson (nicknames 'Eagle' and 'Harpy'), then a deputy head teacher at Campion High School in Everton, Merseyside. Pearson was arrested on 21 August 2002. The duo acted as sysadmins for the network and so their arrests and conviction are seen as some of the most significant of Operation Informal. The paedophile groups, which had their own rules and regulations, employed "sophisticated techniques" to exchange files over secure servers in an attempt to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies, the NHTCU says. A large quantity of computers and digital media was retrieved from the homes of these two men, including hard drives, CD-ROMs and videos. Chan's computer media alone contained more than 100 GB of material - equating to 28,000 images and 3,000 videos. Pearson's computers contained 60,000 images and 5,000 videos. NHCTU officer received a commendation from Judge Addison for their work in uncovering Pearson and Chan's crimes. Detective Superintendent Mick Deats, deputy head of the NHTCU, said: "We are delighted with the sentences handed out to these men. This was a lengthy and complicated operation, which drew on all the specialist skills of our officers. Most importantly, a child who was identified as a result of this operation is no longer at risk. "This group used some of the most sophisticated encryption, and through computer forensic techniques we were able to crack some of the encryption used and recover images as evidence. "We are determined to identify, target and prosecute criminals who abuse children on or off-line, and want to send a clear message to other abusers that there is no hiding place for paedophiles on the Internet." ® Related Stories International child porn ring smashed US.gov builds huge child porn database UK police swoop in child porn raids Police swoop on Internet paedophiles On stats and chatroom paedophiles Child porn list leaked to Sunday Times Net porn policeman jailed for 18 months Child porn 'librarian' jailed for 2 years Watch out! There's a chatroom paedophile about
John Leyden, 15 May 2003

NTL to escape ASA ad cap rap

NTL looks set to escape a rap from the advertising watchdog over complaints concerning whether its capped broadband service offers "unlimited surfing". In February NTL sparked a flood of criticism from its punters after it introduced a 1GB a day usage limit on its broadband service. The cableco insisted that the cap would only hit persistently heavy users and had been introduced to protect ordinary users. The cap sparked demonstrations, the creation of Web sites campaigning against the cap and the intervention of Labour MP and former Paymaster General, Geoffrey Robinson. It also provoked a number of complaints to the ASA concerning NTL ads that promoted "unlimited surfing", at a time when the company had also imposed a cap. However, in a ruling which could be published as early as next week, the Advertising Watchdog Authority (ASA) is expected to dismiss complaints, insisting instead that NTL is justified to advertise its broadband service as "unlimited Internet usage". According to documents seen by The Register the ASA is expected to agree with NTL that "because residential users enjoyed 24 hours a day, seven days a week broadband access and they were able to download 1Gb of data in a day without their access being halted and without being charged, [NTL] were justified in advertising that their fixed monthly-fee broadband access offered unlimited Internet usage." Of course, NTL doesn't always get its own way with the advertising watchdog. Last month the ASA caused a storm after it ruled that the unqualified use of "broadband" to describe NTL's 128k service was "likely to mislead" punters. ® Related Stories NTL's 128k service is/is not broadband - ASA MP 'takes up cudgel' in NTL broadband cap row
Tim Richardson, 15 May 2003

Ballmer on Linux

Last week Microsoft held a meeting in Berlin with European industry analysts to discuss Linux and other Open Source Software (OSS), writes Tony Lock, of Bloor Research. The day concluded with CEO Steve Ballmer discussing Microsoft's position in the world. The discussions began with Microsoft noting that Linux and OSS is appearing in a number of different segments. To kick things off the company acknowledged that it lost credibility in the past by criticising the Linux core (kernel and web server stack). It accepts that this core now possesses credibility in the commercial world. Broadly speaking, Microsoft sees the areas where an impact has been felt as "Community" software (simple file and print services, e-mail and firewall / cache), "Commercial quality Community" based software (Linux kernel, networking, web serving) and true "Commercial" software (ISV applications and databases such as Oracle and DB2). The company believes that Linux solutions appeal to different organisations for different reasons. For some, especially price-sensitive SMB organisations, the low cost of purchase and its ability to function on comparatively low cost hardware platforms appear to be major attractions. For others it may be the ability to configure OSS in a bespoke fashion that is the prime attraction. When discussion turned to which platforms Linux is currently gaining share from, opinions were divided. Microsoft believes that the major movers behind Linux (in its opinion IBM and Intel) are using the OSS movement as a means to disrupt the Unix market and that Unix systems comprise the major source of movement. Others present proposed that organisations are migrating from both Unix and Windows to Linux. Ballmer was candid when he was asked about the current attention that the company is now paying to Linux when compared to its former stance of apparent unconcern. He simply smiled and responded that "we were neither unconcerned nor unaware of Linux; we just tried not to show it!" According to Ballmer it is obvious that the advent of Linux and OSS means that Microsoft can no longer rely on the "we are cheaper to acquire" message to win and retain customers. In recognising this the company is now focusing much attention on its belief that its solutions provide a much better TCO case than those currently available using Linux-based tools. He also stressed that "Innovation" and the creation of complete solutions rather than simple software functionality would hold the key to future success. Ballmer once again made it clear that Microsoft had absolutely no plans to port any of its substantial software library to Linux. Apart from concerns centred on the possible impact that any accidental inclusion of GPL code could have on the integrity of Microsoft's own intellectual property, he argued that it could be counterproductive to the development of its products. Overall the day indicated that Microsoft is now happy to recognise that the influence of Linux is growing. It is clear that we can now expect Microsoft to attempt to build its case for Windows as an operating system based on rational arguments rather than a simple dismissal. It will be interesting to see how the company sets about promoting its qualities versus those of open source. It will be even more fascinating to monitor the response of customers, OSS advocates and the world at large. © IT-Analysis.com
IT-Analysis, 15 May 2003

Vodafone asks for wireless data guinea-pigs

An integrated - GPRS and WiFi - mobile data service is due to be rolled out by Vodafone in July or August. The company is now asking for corporates who want to be guinea-pigs of the new version of Vodafone Mobile Office, to sign up. The new service will be "officially" secret for another couple of months, but it will be aimed squarely at corporates using PC and Pocket PC devices, and using corporate software - like SAP and Seybold and other standard "mainframe" systems remotely. And it uses the Citrix remote access technology to provide its connectivity, although the deal to cement this product hasn't been officially inked between Citrix and Vodafone yet. The service will probably cost around £50 per head per month, said Ivan Donn, director of Mobile Applications for Vodafone, at a seminar during Citrix's user forum in Edinburgh today. "We will certainly want to make it possible for our customers to get access from whatever wireless they have. There will be a big WiFi button on our software, the Dashboard product, and we'll pay the bills for access to all the Wireless Internet service providers (WISPs) that people meet," said Donn. That includes rivals like T-Mobile, who recently rolled out a joint subscription for GPRS/WiFi users. "We have agreements with all our rival phone network providers," said Donn. "They take our users' money for access to their GPRS networks; why wouldn't they also take our users' money for access to WLAN services? I expect deals to be in place when we announce the service at the end of the year." The service won't be entirely seamless; Vodafone already provides a variety of data cards so that people can (for example) use CDMA data in those parts of America where it is available, or GSM/GPRS data in other areas. But users probably won't care, at this stage. "We've been weak in complementing this with whole solutions, which makes the work we do with Citrix important," said Donn. "Giving people bits of solutions, an expecting them to shop around for parts of the rest and putting it together on a DIY way is not the way to drive the market." Also, he believes, Vodafone will have to de-risk the solution; "we have to have a flat line charge rate, which makes it easier to detect whether RoI is coming in." He said the likely charge "would be nearer £50 than £60 per month."
Guy Kewney, 15 May 2003

‘No fuss’ e-risk cover for SMEs

Click For Cover, A Lloyd's underwriting firm, has unwrapped a "no-fuss" e-risk insurance policy designed for smaller businesses. Called Club Esurance, the policy is designed for companies employing fewer than 30 people (including directors). It indemnifies businesses against losses and liability claims for up to £500K arising from email and the Internet. This policy costs £950 a year – there’s an excess of £2,500. For £750 a year you get cover for up to £250k, again with a £2,500 excess. In return you get cover against: Claims made by third parties for Libel and slander due to e-mail or web site content Breaches of confidentiality or rights of privacy Misleading advertising, pricing or jurisdictional issues Damage to their computer systems and/or records Their losses as a result of your computer systems being inaccessible or as a result of you losing their data Claims made by your employees for An inappropriate workplace (e.g. sexual harassment due to e-mail content Breaches of confidentiality Claims for your own losses for Costs incurred in repairing the damage caused to your computer systems and finding, replacing or restoring your computer records as result of a hack attack or virus Ransom demands or threats to introduce a virus into your systems or to disseminate your data to third parties Legal expenses incurred in the enforcement of your intellectual property rights on the internet The cost of a public relations consultant to mitigate the damage to your reputation as a result of any loss that is covered under the policy This sounds like a bargain to us – although, admittedly, The Register, as a news publisher, gets quoted somewhat higher rates for professional indemnity than most organisations of equivalent size. And we get more than 10,000 visits a month, the cut-off point for the policy. Also if your Internet presence requires mission-critical uptime, then this policy is not for you. And there is a long, long list of risky businesses which are not wanted: Application service provider, aviation, broadcasting, domain name registration, gambling, casinos, insurance company, internet portal, internet e-market place, internet service provider, internet host, pension funds, petrochemical, pharmaceuticals, pornography, publishing, internet search engine, stock broker or trader, TV or radio, retail banking, investment banking and any activities relating to video or audio other than solely the retail sale of video or audio material or equipment that has been produced and distributed by others. Phew! Professional indemnity insurance can be hard to find when you are a small business of any kind. It can be even harder to obtain when you are a small business trading on the Internet. Insurance companies don't like risk and they don't like the Wild Wild Web. According to DTI figures cited by Click for Cover, fewer than eight per cent of UK SMEs were, in 2002, specifically covered for e-risks. At very least, businesses should examine existing professional indemnity policies to ensure that they are covered for e-risk. If not, Click for Club Esurance is worth checking out. You can contact the company for more info on 0870 770 1002, or by email here. ®
Drew Cullen, 15 May 2003
SGI logo hardware close-up

Arctic Circle village gets VDSL

Residents of the remote Arctic Circle village of Longyearbyen in Norway are to get some of the highest speed Net connections in the planet. The 1,700 residents will be able to watch "100 TV stations and a full VDSL (very high speed DSL) network", thanks to plans to lay two fibre optic cables between the mainland and the island of Svalbard, where Longyearbyen is located. Aftenpost reports. The $40 million rollout of ultra-fast broadband to the North Pole (or thereabouts) is financed by the Norwegian Space Centre on Svalbard, which will use the link to transfer data to clients in the US and Europe far more quickly than is possible with satellite transmissions. Svalbard Satellite Station (SvalSat) specialises in retrieving data from satellites in polar orbit. Building a 3,000km cable to the station is expensive initially, but over the longer term it's cheaper than using expensive and slower satellite connections. The ultra-fast connections for Longyearbyen residents (every home will be connected) comes as a fringe benefit of the Space Centre's project. Which is nice. So rural Britons looking for the fastest broadband connections need only persuade a satellite station or similar to set up on their doorsteps. Tricky but possibly easier than the alternative - moving to Longyearbyen. ®
John Leyden, 15 May 2003

Banks ‘fail to protect IT systems’

Nearly 40 per cent of banks have suffered a major IT security breach in the past year despite investing heavily in IT security practices and technologies. The Deloitte & Touche survey of 35 per cent of the world's top 500 global financial institutions contradicts the common belief that most security breaches come from inside sources. Of the 39 per cent of respondents who reported a substantial security breach, only 10 per cent said these attacks came from employees. Gerry Fitzpatrick, a partner in Deloitte & Touche's enterprise risk service unit, said the 39 percent figure may appear low when compared to other surveys which show that nearly 80 percent to 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies and government agencies have been breached. But financial institutions generally have higher security standards because of the nature of their businesses. As such, the survey showed how vulnerable banks are to attacks and how much work needs to be done, he argues. "Overall, there are encouraging signs of progress in the industry worldwide, especially the increase of information security officers, as well as plans by a vast majority to incorporate new measures such as smart cards and wireless security," said Fitzpatrick, noting that 60 per cent of banks have either a chief security officer or chief information security officer. "At the same time, there still seems to be a lack of clarity on the impact of multiple governance initiatives on information security and the role it will play in compliance. Obviously, many still feel vulnerable to external and internal threats," Fitzpatrick added. According to the survey, there are strong regional differences in attitudes and motivations toward security practices and technologies. For instance, security officers from institutions in EMEA said they were most motivated by fear of exposure and demand for compliance to differing laws and regulations, but had the least use of ethical hacking and network penetration testing. EMEA security personnel described themselves as "effective users of demonstrated technologies" and are ahead of other regions in terms of policy setting, security standards, use of public key infrastructure (PKI), biometrics and security expenditure. On the other hand, US-based respondents had the highest implementation levels of all the regions of every security measure except for the adoption of security standards, privacy standards, and the use of biometrics and PKI. The survey also found that only 5 per cent of respondents were "extremely confident" about how well their organisation's systems are protected from internal attacks, while only 43 per cent felt "very confident" that their organisation's back-ups would work or are being stored off-site safely. According to the survey, security typically accounts for between 6 percent and 8 per cent of a financial institution's overall IT budget. ®
ElectricNews.net, 15 May 2003

Tiscali to launch Euro Sat BB service

Tiscali is hooking up with Eutelsat to provide a one-way broadband satellite service throughout 15 countries in Europe. The pan-European ISP is targeting the service - based on Eutelsat's OPENSKY platform - at home users in areas not covered by terrestrial broadband technologies. It's estimated that one in four of Europe's population - around 25 million homes - is outside the reach of cable or ADSL broadband access. Although the service is expected to begin being rolled out during the summer there's little detail to today's statement. The ISP acknowledges that the service has to be affordable. In March Tiscali UK decided to delay the commercial roll-out of a two-way broadband-via-satellite service until it finished evaluating the results of a year-long trial. While the pilot project - which involved 90 people - proved to be successful, the guinea pigs said the service was simply too expensive. At the time Tiscali said that it was looking at alternative products to see if other options can be found with lower up-front costs. That alternative appears now to have been found. ® Related Story Tiscali UK mulls roll-out of Sat service
Tim Richardson, 15 May 2003

VCs pump $23m into RLX

RLX Technologies, the Texan maker of ultra-high density blade servers, has secured $23m in new capital. This is apparently the biggest VC investment in a computer hardware firm in 2003. Which shows either how little VCs think of computer hardware firms, or how much they think of RLX. Or both. All of RLX's existing 'major' VCs have coughed up in this, the third round of financing. Investors have now pumped $100m to the two year-old firm. The press release is here Right now, RLX is the technology leader in blade servers, producing thinner blades - in both Intel and Transmeta flavours - which draw less power than its rivals. The company also makes big claims for its systems management software. Cooling and system management issues means that squeezing hundreds of blades into a rack is not yet the province of the commodity-shifters such as Dell. Which is nice, as the blade servers do not yet command commodity sales volumes. The analyst firms are bullish on the future of blade server sales, but surely at some point, the server giants, IBM, HP and Sun, will be picking up the lion's share of this market. They have the distribution welly, customer base, and financial clout. Somewhere around this time, but preferably before, RLX will be an attractive takeover target. ® Related story Crusoe blade strikes 1Ghz, fries Banias?
Drew Cullen, 15 May 2003

For sale: One annoying tw*t of a girlfriend

UpdatedUpdated There's no doubt that eBay really is a vast improvement on the old Exchange and Mart when it comes to getting rid of unwanted items. Like girlfriends, for instance. Indeed, where else could you expect to attract a bid of £10,000,000 for one second-hand partner, described thus?: One annoying twat of a girlfriend. WARNING GOODS ARE DEFECTIVE!!! Slightly overweight. Teeth are cold (they come with little yellow jackets). Boring as hell. More varied sexlife available from a bag of spuds. She will two tone any residence she is allow access to in samba and sickly yellow, symbolic of a effeminate mexican. Can't/won't/shouldn't be allowed to cook (this may result in poisoning). Owner is forced to sell in order that he be able to gain access to the TV and stop the bitch watching poxy DIY programs despite not knowing which end of a paintbrush to hold. Buyer will collect and never ever return. Attempts at refunds or returns may result in actual bodily harm. Please please please bid now!!! Hopefully said girlfriend will make her own bloody way to buyer saving P&P. We note that the seller has quite correctly listed his unwanted other half under "Everything Else: Household Appliances". The photo is a nice touch, too, and doubtless contributed to the healthy bidding war. Readers are advised to enjoy this bit of tomfoolery while they can. Following our report two weeks ago on the four geeks offering themselves for a date, eBay quickly pulled the plug on the auction. Sadly, it appears that eBay's sense of humour is currently as elusive as an Iraqi weapon of mass destruction. For shame. ® Update Yup, it took eBay two minutes to kill this auction. Well, we anticipated this. For your viewing pleasure, we are pleased to reproduce the picture which complimented the sale. Please note that we have added "porn bars" and Body Shop sea urchin and guava face mask to protect the innocent: Bootnote We can't help feeling that the vendor in this case is a prime candidate to receive one of our Clever Trevor limited edition t-shirts. Now there was a man looking to have his vitals chopped off with a carving knife.
Lester Haines, 15 May 2003

Rural wireless broadband goes national

Peterborough based X-Systems Management aims to overcome rural gaps in ADSL and cable service with a wireless LAN-based broadband service, launched yesterday. X-Systems Broadband uses the 2.4 GHz radio frequency to provide true 'always-on' broadband access to businesses and homes, at connection speeds of between 1Mbps and 4Mbps. Unlike other schemes, X-Systems Management is offering its service on a national basis. A spokesman for the company said it is inviting home users in rural areas, community groups and business to register their interest on its site. Even at X-Broadband's minimum speed, the service is still around eight times faster than BT's recently announced 'Mid-band' ISDN package and requires only 50 users to trigger the cost-effective installation. Monthly subscriptions to X-Systems Broadband start at £25 for the 1Mbps service. Set-up costs £149 per household. Backhaul connections will be over either satellite or leased-line links, as appropriate. The company has developed two "tailored systems" designed to fulfil the differing needs of business and domestic users. In both cases a turnaround time of just 4 weeks is achievable to install the system within a community and get it on-line, X-Systems Management promises. ® External Links X-Systems Broadband Related Stories Rural areas face widening BB digital divide BT green lights rural broadband scheme Become a wireless ISP: for £300 Wireless broadband trial brings hope for rural users North Yorks to get wireless broadband network Rural Hants could get wireless broadband UK gov rules stall rural broadband scheme
John Leyden, 15 May 2003

Oftel restates call for mobile phone charge cut

Oftel has restated its call for mobile phone operators to cut the cost of calls for consumers. In a statement today Oftel boss David Edmonds said: "Calling someone on their mobile phone is expensive because consumers have no option but to pay the connection charge set by the operator of the network they call. "Oftel believes that measures are needed to require the mobile operators to reduce their call termination charges, which should result in cheaper calls to mobile phones." The telecoms regulator wants to see three annual cuts of around 15 per cent a year over the next three years to help make life easier for punters. If all this sounds a tad familiar, then you're right. It is. In April, Oftel ordered the UK's four mobile phone operators to slash charges for making calls to their mobile networks. This followed a review of the market completed in January by the Competition Commission. Both Oftel and the Competition Commission agreed that punters pay too much for calls to mobile phones and that the mobile operators - O2, Orange, T-Mobile and Vodafone - must cut their termination charges for these calls. So why this latest intervention? Well, it's all to do with Oftel reviewing the matter as part of its work to implement new EC Directives on electronic communications networks by 25 July. Make sense now? To us neither. Anyhow, a judicial review obtained by the mobile network operators on the original price cut order is due to be heard some time next month. Oftel has ordered the mobile operators to make the first 15 per cent cut by July. The big beneficiaries of lower termination rates will be BT and BT customers calling mobile phones from landlines. Only it may not working out like this: Orange, for instance, has raised pre-paid rates in response, and other network operators are expected to follow suit. With the new review, Oftel will be able to examine if the network operators have breached the spirit of its order to implement cuts. And one last thing. Oftel also said it had no intend to regulate the 3G market since this offers "new and innovative services and inappropriate regulation at this stage could damage the evolution of this new market". ® Related Stories Vodafone, Orange seeks judicial review over phone charges Oftel orders cut in mobile phone charges
Tim Richardson, 15 May 2003

T-Mobile exits as curse of MS smartphone strikes again

In what begins to look like what Lady Bracknell would call carelessness, Microsoft mislaid another smartphone customer today. T-Mobile International, which along with AT&T was one of Microsoft's two best shots at winning volume for its phone platform, confessed today that it wouldn't be launching its version this summer after all. A spokesman present "on the sidelines" of a Deutsche Telekom news conference in Bonn told Reuters that the company would not be pursuing the project "for the time being." It's not entirely clear why at the moment, although Reuters suggests technical problems resulting in high failure rates may have cooled T-Mobile's enthusiasm. Certainly, getting on top of bugs has been an ongoing struggle for Orange, which has not shipped vast numbers of its SPV implementation of the MS smartphone, but seems not to care hugely. Whose fault it doesn't work is also a critical component of the 'lawsuits at dawn' spat between Microsoft and Sendo, the refusenik we prepared earlier. Microsoft has a number of smaller networks worldwide running or about the run with its handsets, but it's got a lot riding on AT&T now, and if anything goes wrong there it'll be difficult to categorise the whole smartphone enterprise as anything other than a disaster. ® Related stories: MS Smartphone to hit 28m units in 2005 - oh, really?
John Lettice, 15 May 2003

UpMyStreet saved for Nation

UpMyStreet.com, the brilliant UK web site which went titsup last month after failing to get new funding has a new owner. uSwitch.com, a household bills comparison service, has bought the info-by-post code company from administrators for an undisclosed sum. But there should be some more more cost savings and more cross marketing opportunities to be had (they are already partners) as uSwitch.com is also an info-by-postcode business. ® Related story UpMyStreet is For Sale
Drew Cullen, 15 May 2003

Internet is dying – Prof. Lessig

The Internet is dying, says Lawrence Lessig, a law professor with a cult following amongst technophiles. Lessig is mobilizing against the FCC's relaxation of media controls which will leave most of the United States' professional media outlets in the hands of a tiny number of owners. In FCC chairman Michael Powell's vision, Old Man Potter can own every newspaper, radio station and TV channel in Pottersville. The move, which has even been criticized by former FOX and Vivendi executive Barry Diller, would return the mass media to a state even turn of the century robber barons couldn't have wished for. But drawing an important parallel, Lessig argues that the relaxation of media controls for the latter-day robber barons bodes ill for open computer communications. "The Internet is dying," he writes, launching a torpedo at the heart of techno-utopian mysticism by questioning the belief that all will be for the best in all possible worlds. Writing an introduction to the centenary edition of Orwell's 1984, Thomas Pynchon describes The Internet as "a development that promises social control on a scale those quaint old 20th-century tyrants with their goofy moustaches could only dream about". Lessig is more subtle, but points us the same way. "When the content layer, the logical layer, and the physical layer are all effectively owned by a handful of companies, free of any requirements of neutrality or openness, what will you ask then?" The vandals stole the handles The Internet is dying in ways that Lessig doesn't enumerate, too. You only have to step outside tech-savvy circles to see what a massive disappointment the modern tech experience is for most people: many of whom are your friends and relatives. What does the Internet mean to these folks, now? It represents a perfect tragedy of the commons. Email is all but unusable because of spam. Even if our Bayesian filters win the arms race against the spammers, in terms of quantity as well as quality of communications, email has been a disaster. (An architect friend tells me that email has become the biggest productivity drain in his organization: not just the quantity of attachments, but the mindless round-robin communications, requesting comments that get ignored. Email has become a corporate displacement activity.) Google has its own spam problems: a tiny number of webloggers and list-makers whose mindless hyperlinks degrade the value of its search results, and create the Web equivalent of TV static. Basic web surfing means navigating through web sites whose inspiration for their baroque overdesign seems to have been Donald Trump's wedding cake, all the while requiring the user to close down dozens of unrequested pop-up advertisements. (Yes, we know the tools to turn off pop-ups, but the vast majority of IE users don't have that luxury, and their patience has already been tested to the limit.) And most of all, The Internet means sitting at noisy and unreliable machines that would land any self-respecting consumer manufacturer with a class action suit. What's dying here isn't The Internet - it remains as open as ever to new software and new ideas. Remarkably, the consensus that upholds the technical infrastructure survives, in the form of the IETF, despite self-interested parties trying to overturn it. What's dying is the idea that the Internet would be a tool of universal liberation, and the argument that "freedom" in itself is a justification for this information pollution. It's probably reached a tipping point: the signal to noise ratio is now too low. Users are not stupid. The 42 per cent of US citizens who Pew Research tells us have no interest in logging on and "blowing their minds" are simply making a sensible choice. Free to do what? Lessig seems to have completed half the journey from promising Republican lawyer to mature political economist - but the last part of the journey will be the hardest. It involves unwiring some stubborn philosophical assumptions. "'Won't unlicensed spectrum guarantee our freedom?'" asks Lessig's interlocutor, appropriately enough, one 'Dr.Pangloss'. Well, we suppose he means that's "freedom" in the sense of push-button buzzword, where "freedom" is an end in itself. There's a slight problem with this. Freedom isn't an absolute: it's whatever we decide it to be. Deny absolute freedom to a small number of people to set employment conditions, and you can give the vast majority of people a three day weekend. Result: happiness. (Maybe) And 'freedom' as a justification for deregulation - which gave us the Internet - hardly inspires confidence for the future wireless in the United States. An exercise for the reader: trace how the same buzzwords that propelled the last irrational bubble - "freedom", "choice" - are the same buzzwords behind the wireless bubble. But such concepts are complex, possibly eternal social mediations and involve more than pushing a few buttons. But hey, no one said it would be easy. The most popular technology in the world - thanks to its low cost and high communications value - is the cellphone. This is derided by the 'freedom' lobby because it's regulated spectrum (boo!), and not an 'open' network (hiss!), and yet it delivers a tremendous social utility. The latest generation of phones impresses me not because they can run irc or ssh, which they do splendidly, but because I can send a photo to relatives with three clicks on a device costing less than $100. A small parcel of happiness, there. Now contrast that with the tragedy of the commons we described above. Back to Lessig, answering 'Pangloss'. Only a small chunk of spectrum will be "freed", notes Lessig, but, "to the same companies, no doubt". So long as the United States' techno-utopians seem to be obsessed with infrastructure plumbing as the British are obsessed with toilets, with means rather than ends, Lessig faces an uphill battle. Guiding US policy to create an infrastructure that provides utility to the people, rather than a handful of ideologues, is going to be Lessig's greatest challenge. ® Related Link Lessig: MediaCon Update The good professor has amended the wording of his text, as he explains on his blog: "Actually, that?s not quite what I wrote, the quotes not withstanding." Which we think translates as "what I wrote isn't what you think it meant, so I've gone back and changed what I wrote"... Very odd.
Andrew Orlowski, 15 May 2003

Come and get your Linux: SCO opens door to suing self?

Yesterday, SCO was so shocked - shocked! - by the degrading effects of Linux on Unix, that it pulled out of the Linux business. The company sent warning letters to 1,500 enterprises and solemnly announced that "until the attendant risks with Linux are better understood and properly resolved, the company will suspend all of its future sales of the Linux operating system". It also promised "all actions necessary" to stop the "ongoing violation of our intellectual property". However SCO continues to distribute the poison. Visitors to the company's ftp server at ftp.caldera.com are greeted with this message: Welcome to the Caldera International FTP site! "Unifying Unix with Linux for Business" "For Linux ISO downloads, please connect to ftp.iso.caldera.com," visitors are advised. So we did, and there they are. Yesterday SCO said that it would "hold [SCO Linux and OpenLinux customers] harmless from any SCO intellectual property issues regarding SCO Linux and Caldera OpenLinux products." Editor in Chief of Linux Journal Don Marti has teased an allegation from SCO's senior VP Chris Sontag that infringing code is "all over the place" in the Linux source, including the kernel itself. But it looks like the infringement is "ongoing" all over SCO's ftp servers, too. Now there's a serious point to this malarkey. How can Scaldera claim damages when it has not only left the stable door open, but been sending out the horse, with a hefty good-luck thump on its backside, for over two years now? ® Related Stories SCO invokes RIAA in Linux jihad SCO sues IBM for $1 billion for 'devaluing Unix'
Andrew Orlowski, 15 May 2003