11th > September > 2003 Archive

Micro Warehouse files for Chapter 11

Micro Warehouse, one of the biggest and best-known computer dealers, has filed for Chapter 11 in the US. The move follows this week's knockdown sale of its North American assets for $22m and outstanding receivables - this for a business turning over $940m a year and, showing the trouble it got itself into, a pathetic $14m in inventory at time of sale. Looks like the company exhausted the patience of suppliers and ran out of credit lines. According to the Chapter 11 filing, as reported by Bloomberg News, Micro Warehouse owes $100m and has assets of $100m. The biggest creditor, Ingram Micro, is owed $17m. Ingram says it will take a $20m charge to account for the collapse of one of its biggest customers. Micro Warehouse is of course big in Europe too, with catalogue-style operations serving the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands. These companies continue as normal. But it will be interesting to see if their operations can escape the chaos surrounding North America. That would mean entirely separate treasury operations, ringfenced bank accounts, regionally-blinkered vendors, and customers keeping their nerve. ® Related story Micro Warehouse flogs North American ops
Drew Cullen, 11 Sep 2003

Grand Theft Auto in the dock over US road killing

Videogames are on trial yet again in the US, as the family of a man killed by teenagers who shot at passing cars on a freeway file a lawsuit against Grand Theft Auto publisher Take-Two. The two teenagers - William and Joshua Buckner, 16 and 14 years old, respectively - opened fire on vehicles on the Interstate 40 highway in Tennessee with a .22 calibre rifle, killing one person and injuring another severely. They told the police who arrested them that they were bored, and decided to mimick their favourite videogame, Grand Theft Auto. The family of the victim, 45-year-old nurse Aaron Hamel, have now filed suit against Take-Two Interactive, claiming that the company should take responsibility for his death. "The industry needs to cough up money so victims and their families can be compensated for their pain," the family's attorney, Jack Thompson, told ABC News. "The shareholders need to know what their games are doing to kids and their families. They need to stop pushing adult rated products to kids. These products are deadly." This isn't the first time that videogames have been in the dock over youth violence in the US. Following the tragic school shootings in Littleton several years ago, the parents of several of the victims attempted to sue a host of games companies - including id Software, creators of Doom, and Nintendo - creators of such blood filled orgies of violence as Mario and Pokemon. In fact, it's not even the first time that Grand Theft Auto has been connected with a crime - the game, whose first incarnation was launched into the UK with a finely tuned campaign of media outrage orchestrated by relentless publicist Max Clifford, was named as a key influence on a group of teenagers who plotted carjackings and murder in California, and also on another group who are facing charges for dozens of robberies and five killings. Of course, in the rush to blame GTA for the killing and sue a cash-rich media company, certain aspects of this case seem to have been forgotten. For a start, Grand Theft Auto games are rated M (similar to our 18 rating here) in the United States, and while the country has no legislation to prevent M-rated games from being sold to children (in fact, legislation attempting to do just this was recently overturned in Washington state), the assumption is that parents will control access to content unsuitable for their children. In this case, this clearly not did not happen. Perhaps even more worryingly, the parents of these teenagers not only failed to control their children's access to violent, adult media, they also failed to control their access to firearms - enabling them to take a fully loaded rifle on the night of June 25, and end an innocent man's life for no other reason than that they were "bored". Naturally, though, nobody seems prepared to question the access to a rifle in this case - this being something of a touchy subject in American politics - but instead the blame is being laid at the door of the games industry. Compare and contrast with the situation here in the UK, where despite massive sales of Grand Theft Auto and Vice City (over a million copies each in a country of only 60 million people), we've yet to see a single case like this emerge. With games on trial for causing juvenile violence in the US, and the family of Mr Hamel calling for Grand Theft Auto to be removed from sale, that's something to consider very seriously. Or perhaps the answer to the perennial problem of delinquent teenagers dropping bricks from motorway and railway bridges is to sue the creators of Tetris. Copyright © 2003 gamesindustry.biz
gamesindustry.biz, 11 Sep 2003

BOFH beats the Boss

Episode 20Episode 20 BOFH 2003: Episode 20 So the Boss has finally tipped a little too much of the overproofed rum on his cereal in the morning and has become a liability. Well, when I say "become a liability", I ACTUALLY mean "become MORE of a liability". Well, when I say "MORE of a liability", I ACTUALLY mean "a complete nightmare". Well, when I say "complete nightmare" I mean: nightmare as in turning up to work brushed cotton pyjamas with a gaping fly, having to give a televised lecture to all the eligible women in the world and having the pants fall down. And then having a test about a subject you haven't studied for. In a tunnel that just keeps getting smaller and smaller. In other words, a liability. The crunch came when he committed to buying all the scheduled desktop replacements at a local retailer advertising package deals because that way everyone got a scanner, inkjet printer and modem in the bundle, which was a bargain. If that wasn't bad enough, he decided to give them a choice of desktop or tower models. And, as every administrator with even the SLIGHTEST clue knows, the LAST thing you give your users is a choice. And the calls haven't stopped since. And not just from the people wanting to know the virtues of horizontal over vertical - a PFY strongpoint apparently - but also from those whose desktop wasn't scheduled for replacement but has suddenly got a pen up the power supply. The coincidence intrigues me, and after a bit of legwork the common denominator is revealed: young, cute, female. I lock the PFY in the lift for two hours with the Pan Pipe music turned up to 10 so he can contemplate his sins. So the Boss has to go. Only it's getting tricky now because the Head of IT is a bit twitchy about all the Health and Safety fines we've racked up in the past. It seems that being an IT manager has a job danger index approaching that of an Elite republican guard. ... "Long Term Secondment?" the PFY asks, as I unveil my plan. "Yep. You give someone enough info that they sneakily create themselves a cushy job in another group, then drop the role like second period maths once you've appointed someone to replace them. It's a great idea which someone posted to one of the Bastard blogs! Wish I'd thought of it myself!" "So, maybe we could put them in Shipping?" he offers. "Nah, they've only got two people - it apparently needs to be in a reasonably large department that's not actually growing, but might possibly want to add people to bolster the impression of dynamism." "THE BEANCOUNTERS!" "Yes!" I concur, joyfully. "Now all we've got to do is think up some reason why he'd want them and they'd want him." "He'd make the company more money?" "Nah, no one cares about that. The best motivators are personal prestige or the chance to shaft someone whose guts they really hate." "Like us, you mean?" "Yes. Good point. But what role?" "What about IT Asset Management! They're always asking us to track down 'lost' inventory." "Yes, and they'd been keen to sniff out something dodgy!" "But would the Boss go for it?" "With a PA running his life and using his office by extortion?" "Ah..." . . . Two days later the fix is in. After a ten-minute Google frenzy I find a couple of articles to support the need for an IT Asset Manager, fake up an 'IT-Auditweek' newsletter with the links concerned and implying that organisations that didn't have an IT Manager in the Auditing role were probably losing millions of quid every year to e-shrinkage, and then anonymously e-mail it to some senior beancounters. The Boss fell over himself to get the role, saving me having to lie that the company auditors were a little concerned with the expenses his PA had been claiming for him. Quicker than you can say Technical Manager in charge of Asset Management and Tracking, the Boss was one! For about a day - until the PFY helpfully noted that the same functionality was built into our current helpdesk software. But you know what they say, one door closes and another one slams shut and has planks nailed over it... "Lucky I didn't move out of my office," the Boss chuckles nervously, wandering up to his door. "Your office?" his PA asks, looking up from his desk. "Well, TECHNICALLY my office." "No, technically it's my office," she responds, pointing at the new nameplate. "I noticed the transfer and applied for the role, what with my intimate knowledge of the area." Oh, she's good! "But I'm back!" "No, I believe you're redundant," she responds, waving a recently delivered sheet of paper around. "But that's constructive dismissal!" "It's only constructive if we create the position - but you thought this role up and proposed it, didn't you?" . . . And about now I'm getting that nasty deep down feeling that I've been played. "But I am looking for an assistant..." Oh, she's really good. Women like that, you can't help imagining what they'd look like administering a Linux farm. OK, so I need to get out more... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here BOFH is copyright © 1995-2003, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 11 Sep 2003

Lamo denies $300,000 database hack

Days before going public with his penetration of the New York Times internal network last year, hacker Adrian Lamo created five new user accounts with the LexisNexis database service under the Times corporate account, which he used to rack up $300,000 in charges over the following three months, a federal complaint in New York charges. Lamo said the dollar amount has "no factual basis," and other sources expressed scepticism over the figure Wednesday. A division of Reed Elsevier, LexisNexus provides subscribers with a wealth of online libraries covering legal decisions, public records, and newspaper and magazine archives. Lamo allegedly used the service to run searches on his own name, the names of other hackers, and the names of AOL executives. He also checked real-estate records for his family home and his neighbors' properties, and even used the service's extensive news library to monitor press coverage of his Times hack, according to the complaint filed by FBI agent Christine Howard, unsealed following Lamo's surrender Tuesday. The accounts were closed after LexisNexis officials noticed unusually high activity on them. While the accounts were open, Lamo's queries represented approximately 18% of all searches performed under New York Times accounts, according to the complaint. Asked if he created and used the LexisNexis accounts, Lamo declined to comment Wednesday, "because it's a pending legal matter." But he disputed the $300,000 bill. "I believe this to have no basis in fact," said Lamo. "I don't know what method they used to calculate their damage estimates, but I believe the truth will come out in trial, and these estimates will be found to have no factual basis." Times spokesperson Christine Mohan couldn't say how the $300,000 figure was reached, except that it was provided by LexisNexis. She added that the Times doesn't disclose the terms of its contracts with vendors. LexisNexis didn't immediately return a phone call on the case. The LexisNexis website offers instant "pay as you go" services priced between $3.00 and $12.00 per search -- far less than the $100 per search alleged by the complaint. A Times journalist, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that reporters have not been told of any per-search cost on the paper's LexisNexis account, much less a $100 charge. "That sounds ridiculous," the reporter said. "We would be bankrupt." "Three hundred thousand dollars seems very high, and it seem very unlikely it's what LexisNexis would charge," says Mark Rasch, an attorney and former Justice Department cybercrime prosecutor. The question is more than academic. The $300,000 figure raises Lamo's maximum sentence under federal guidelines from six months in detention, to more than three years in prison, assuming no criminal history and a guilty plea, according to an analysis by Rasch. "It's the difference between going home at the end of the day, and spending more than three years in jail," says the lawyer. Hack-and-Tell History A second charge says that the paper suffered a loss of at least $25,000 spent "confirming, assessing, and repairing the damage" Lamo allegedly caused by cracking and creating accounts on the Times intranet, and adding his own name and phone number to the Times' database of Op-Ed contributors. He listed himself as an expert on "computer hacking, national security, communications intelligence." The allegations of six-figure financial damages are new for the hacker, who's sometimes praised by his victims. Lamo has voluntarily helped some targets fix the vulnerabilities he exploited -- sometimes visiting their offices or signing non-disclosure agreements in the process. Some companies have even professed gratitude for his efforts. In December, 2001, Lamo was praised by communications giant WorldCom after he discovered, then helped close, security holes in their intranet that threatened to expose the private networks of Bank of America, CitiCorp, JP Morgan, and others. Earlier this year, Google-owned Blogger.com blogged its thanks for the hacker's ministrations. "Adrian rocks for not only finding the problem but also for letting us know about them so other people won't be affected," a company engineer wrote. According to the New York complaint, FBI agent Howard began investigating the Times hack in February of last year, after reading about it on SecurityFocus, which first reported on the incident. Lamo said at the time that he penetrated the New York Times after a two-minute scan turned up seven misconfigured proxy servers acting as doorways between the public Internet and the Times private intranet, making the latter accessible to anyone capable of properly configuring their Web browser. Once inside, Lamo exploited weaknesses in the Times password policies to broaden his access, eventually browsing such disparate information as the names and Social Security numbers of the paper's employees, logs of home delivery customers' stop and start orders, instructions and computer dial-ups for stringers to file stories, lists of contacts used by the Metro and Business desks, and the "WireWatch" keywords particular reporters had selected for monitoring wire services. He also accessed, and added his name to, a database of 3,000 contributors to the Times op-ed page, containing such information as the social security numbers for former U.N. weapons inspector Richard Butler, Democratic operative James Carville, ex-NSA chief Bobby Inman, Nannygate veteran Zoe Baird, former secretary of state James Baker, Internet policy thinker Larry Lessig, and thespian activist Robert Redford. Entries with home telephone numbers include Lawrence Walsh, William F. Buckley Jr., Jeanne Kirkpatrick, Rush Limbaugh, Vint Cerf, Warren Beatty and former president Jimmy Carter. In February, 2002, Lamo told the Times of their vulnerability through a SecurityFocus reporter. The paper said Wednesday that Lamo's hacking is no laughing matter. "There are two parts to what he did: One is him accessing the internal networks... and then the creating and using of these false passwords," said Mohan. "We take both of them very seriously, and that's why we have been cooperating with the FBI and local authorities since the incident." After a weekend in hiding, Lamo turned himself in at the federal courthouse in Sacramento, Calif., Tuesday morning. Pursuant to an agreement with prosecutors, he was quickly released on a $250,000 bond secured in part by his parent's house, but was banned from computers, ordered to obtain employment and placed on travel restrictions pending trial. He's scheduled for arraignment in New York on Thursday. Copyright © 2003, Related story SecurityFocus: Who is Adrian Lamo?
Kevin Poulsen, 11 Sep 2003

Nvidia driver update lets slip NV38 brand name

Nvidia appears to have inadvertently leaked the name of its next graphics chips, previously known by the codename NV38. The new chip will apparently be called the GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, according to text embedded in the company's latest driver, Detonator 45.33. The driver contains the following strings: NVIDIA_NV35.DEV_0333.1 = "NVIDIA GeForce FX 5950 Ultra" NVIDIA_NV35.DEV_0334.1 = "NVIDIA NV38" The drivers were released in response to a problem experienced with some GeForce FX 5900-based graphics chips. The glitch caused the picture on the screen to flicker in certain circumstances. According to a post on NV News.net, apparently from Nvidia spokesman Brian Burke, formerly a 3dfx guy, some of you may recall, Nvidia "determined that the issue may involve an interaction between select combinations of the graphics card, system, monitor, other electronic components and the application which creates noise or signal interference". Oddly, the driver is as yet unavailable from Nvidia's own support site, only from 'affiliate' sites. The latest driver on offer from Nvidia is 45.23. Nvidia spokesman Andrew Humber confirmed the new driver's legitimacy and said that the fix contained in this interim release will be rolled into the next "major release" of Detonator, at the end of the month. The problem will affect only a tiny fraction of GeForce FX 5900 users, he said. The update is being posted on sites where users have said that they have experienced the problem, the better to target the update where it's needed, he added. The GeForce FX 5950 Ultra, meanwhile, is expected to debut in a couple of weeks' time at the rescheduled Computex show in Taipei. Essentially, it's the same as the GeForce FX 5900 Ultra (aka NV35), but clocked to a higher core frequency. Nvidia is also expected to announced the GeForce FX 5700, codenamed NV36, shortly. The NV36 is aimed at mainstream users, the NV38 at the high end of the market. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2003

Public Wi-Fi failing to attract road warriors

IDC's latest research into the mobile Internet market will not make pleasurable reading for public wireless hotspot entrepreneurs. Only 30 per cent of the company's 2500-strong Mobile Advisory Council (MAC) admit to being regular or occasional users of Wi-Fi hotspots. Now, public hotspot usage is known to be limited to a relatively small number of individuals. But it has been assumed that there is demand for public wireless Internet access among mobile professionals - the 'road warrior' of legend. Indeed, most public Wi-Fi business models are based on that very assumption. High roll-out costs are being predicated on these early adopters' willingness to pay through the nose for high-speed Internet access in coffee bars, hotels, airports and the like. The IDC data suggests that assumption may be flawed. IDC's MAC is made up of the very folk hotspot companies are hoping to attract. And yet almost three-quarters of the MAC - classic early adopters to a man or woman - do not use public Wi-Fi hotpots, Randy Giusto, VP of IDC's Personal Technologies and Services team told The Register. To be fair, the MAC comprises 12,000 consumers and business users, of whom only 2500 responded to IDC's latest request for information. Around 84 per cent of MAC members are based in the US, but a growing proportion of European and Asia-Pacific voices are being added to the Council, said Giusto. However, they are still people who use mobile computing devices - notebooks, PDAs and cellphones - regularly and frequently. According to Giusto, hotspots are most likely to be used by college students and young professionals - twentysomethings and thirtysomethings, basically - but usage does spread right across the demographic range. Preferred hotspot locations are travel centres and coffee shops, but Giusto noted a particular keenness on university campus WLANs, primarily among the young, unsurprisingly. Incidentally, notebooks remain the platform of choice for mobile Internet access. Alas, the survey didn't ask whether these hotspot locations are preferred because they're place where users tend to be when they want to go online, or whether users are simply congregating where they are most likely to get access to the Net. In other words, are the users seeking out hotspots, or are the hotspot vendors putting their base-stations in the right places to attract the right clients? Giusto's feeling, based on the demographic data, is that the latter is the most likely. But if hotspot providers can be sure of getting the right kind of customer to come within range of their access points, can they be sure punters will pay enough to log onto the Net to cover their costs? Giusto's numbers suggest they may not. Only 30 per cent of MAC members surveyed are willing to pay over $10 per month. Around half said $5-10 would be their sweet spot. The rest essentially want the service to be free. These figures are spread pretty evenly across the demographic range, said Giusto. Asked how they would prefer to pay, MAC members were against annual subscriptions, but monthly subs or billing fees to mobile phone accounts were popular. Most members were less keen on pay-as-you-go access, though Giusto notes this method is favoured by the 30-39 year-old range. As the group most likely to be paying to experiment with Wi-Fi access today, that's probably because they've yet to determine whether they will use such services sufficiently to warrant a regular subscription. Giusto reckons most of them are picking up the tab themselves. Like early PDA purchases, business Wi-Fi users are buying for their own needs, and not yet claiming it back on expenses. IDC's numbers suggest that users will demand a range of payment options, to best suit their individual usage patterns. Crucially, they're not willing to pay too much for it, since the purchase - even with business users - is personal. Getting the pricing right appears to be essential not simply to creating a mainstream market for public wireless Internet access, but even to attract the pro-mobile, early adopters necessary to build a viable customer base. ® Related Stories Businesses shun Wi-Fi, homes embrace it 70% of Brits don't know what a Wi-Fi hotspot is PWLAN: hotspots finally heating up The way to do wireless Internet is: start with wired Payphone deal to take Cloud's hotspot tally to 10,000 UK corporates unconvinced by Wi-Fi
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2003

Dell to sell TVs, hi-fi, etc.

Dell is to branch out even further into consumer electronics goods, the company's COO said yesterday. The scheme, which echoes recent moves in that direction by Gateway, will see the PC maker add flat-panel TVs to its current plasma screen business. Other consumer electronics products will follow: "It's [just] a matter of time before we evolve into a broader range of consumer electronics products," said Dell COO, Kevin Rollins, yesterday. Rollins didn't say when the first step, to offer flat-screen TVs, would take place, but it's not likely to be far away. "We have not confirmed it," he said, "but my guess is we'll be in it within a reasonably short period of time." Putting the scheme in place in time for the US Thanksgiving and Christmas sales period would meet such a deadline. Rollins discussed the move as a logical extension of the increasing convergence between the PC and home entertainment systems. Not only is the computer being touted as a 'digital hub' for the management of users' snapshots and home movies, but as the recording and movie industries slowly wake up to the commercial possibilities of the Internet as a delivery medium, the PC will play a greater role as the heart of home entertainment rigs. "We are looking at a lot of opportunities to extend the use of the PC for home," said Rollins. This week, Forrester Research, reiterated its view that physical media will soon be redundant, replaced by online archives from which listeners and viewers can select content on demand and have it billed automatically and behind-the-scenes to a credit card, cable TV or mobile phone account. More prosaically, with business interest in PC purchasing diminished, companies like Dell and Gateway are looking for alternative revenue streams and ways of growing the business beyond its computing niche. The consumer electronics market is one such option. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2003

Delayed Intel Centrino WLAN part to arrive next month

Intel will release its upcoming dual-band Wi-Fi adaptor card next quarter, the chip giant said yesterday. The part was to have shipped in the first half of the year, then early in the current quarter, Q3. An Intel spokesman told Cnet that the mini-PCI card, which provides access to 2.4GHz, 11Mbps 802.11b networks and 5Ghz, 54Mbps 802.11a WLANs, will now ship early in the fourth quarter. The reason for the delay: the chip giant has yet to complete validating and testing the adaptor, the spokesman said. Next month, Intel will cut the prices of its Pentium M mobile processors, paving the way for the launch of the next generation of the chip, codenamed 'Dothan', toward the end of Q4. Intel may well be timing the new Wi-Fi adaptor's release to match either the price cuts or the Dothan launch. Both the Pentium M and the Wi-Fi adaptor are key components of Intel's Centrino platform. The spokesman said the Wi-Fi adaptor was "weeks away" from being bundled under the Centrino brand, suggesting an early October release date. The Pentium M prices cuts are due on 5 October. It has to be said, the decision to ship an 802.11a product is surprising, given the far greater interest the market has shown in 802.11g, which offers the same performance, but operates in the same band as 802.11b. A dual 802.11a/b essentially offers the same performance and backward compatibility as an 802.11g adaptor, but 802.11a has become something of a niche product. Intel is working on an 802.11g part, which is due to ship by the end of the year, leaving almost no time for the 802.11a part to establish itself. Had it shipped in the first half of 2003, it would have arrived before 802.11g's official ratification as a standard, and given sufficient promotion from Intel might just have swung the market in favour of the 802.11a standard. Analysts believe 802.11a will ultimately find a role in enterprises who need a high performance WLAN for video and voice as well as data. But that will require the ratification of quality of service and data security standards, milestones not expected until next year. Intel will follow the release of its 802.11g part with a triple-mode part sometime during the first half of the year. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2003

Cybersex blamed for half of divorces

There's further evidence that cybersex is increasingly being blamed for the break-up of marriages. According to online divorce service divorce-online, half of all divorce petitions it processed are due to Internet adultery and cybersex behaviour. Of the 500 divorce petitions surveyed, half contained allegations concerning cybersex, inappropriate online relationships and pornography. The findings appear to support earlier studies into the Net and marriage break-up. Last year, two-thirds of lawyers meeting at an annual conference in Chicago reported that the Internet had played a significant role in divorces they had handled during the past year. Meeting a new lover online and an "obsessive" interest in pornography were the top two problems cited in many Internet-related divorce cases, they said. Other reasons that have led to the break down of marriages include excessive use of the Net and chat rooms. At the time, J Lindsey Short, Jr., president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, had this to say: "While I don't think you can say that the Internet is causing more divorces, it does make it easier to engage in the sorts of behaviours that traditionally lead to divorce." ® Related Story Internet blamed for marriage break ups
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2003

Blaster-F suspect charged with cybercrime

A 24-year-old man suspected of releasing a relatively tame variant of the Blaster worm has been charged with cybercrime offences by Romanian police. If found guilty, Dan Dumitru Ciobanu could face a maximum of 15 years in prison under Romania's strict new computer crime laws. According to police, Ciobanu has admitted spreading Blaster-F, but claims that its release was accidental. Unlike the original worm, AV vendors describe Blaster-F as "low spreading and low risk". Ciobanu reportedly claimed that the virus spread itself only because he tested it while his computer was connected to the Internet. "He has been charged with illegal and major disturbing of informatics systems and for holding illegal software," Liviu Zamfirescu, a police officer from the suspect's home city of Iasi in Northern Romania, told Reuters. According to a police statement, Ciobanu admitted that he modified the original Blaster worm by switching filenames used by the virus, and inserting a piece of Romanian text into the code. The text, when translated into English, reads: Don't go to the Hydrotechnics faculty!!! You are wasting your time... Birsan, your pension awaits!!! I urinate on the diploma!!!!!! "Some people may think only 'geniuses' are capable of writing viruses, however this is far from the truth," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Anti-Virus. "In the past we have seen some virus writers include their full name, address and job history inside their malicious code. If Ciobanu is found to be guilty, the vital clue may have been that a childish rant against a university lecturer was there for all to see." Ciobanu has been released from custody, and no date has been set for his trial. In late August the FBI arrested Jeffrey Lee Parson in connection with another variant, B, of the Blaster worm. The author of the original Blaster worm remains at large. ® Related Stories Blaster worm spreading rapidly Blaster worm variants make mischief Blaster rewrites Windows worm rules Windows Update still standing despite Blaster Blaster variant offers 'fix' for pox-ridden PCs FBI arrests Blaster suspect Parson not dumbest virus writer ever, shock! Feds sexed up case - Blaster suspect Blaster-F suspect arrested in Romania
John Leyden, 11 Sep 2003

Citizens Advice Bureaux test Govt e-services

The Government's Web sites are being put to the test to see if they actually provide useful and helpful information relevant to people's needs. The Citizens Advice Bureaux (CAB) - which deals with around six million problems a year - has teamed up with public sector-focused consultancy, Socitm, to see if the Government's e-services actually work. Research in the past has tended to look at the mechanics of Government Web sites - such as how fast they load, browser compatibility and the number of errors on each page. This latest research is intended to find out how useful the sites in helping people deal with their affairs on issues such as debt, disability benefits, income support, housing benefit, council tax benefit, and separation from spouses or partners. Although no one is prepared to pre-empt the findings of the study, the CAB is aware that some the Government's Web sites "could do better" in providing information and help for people in need. In a statement Malcolm Taylor, e-government project manager, who is leading the project for the CAB said: "E-government should be a force for driving through fundamental improvements in public services, as well as making them faster and easier to use. "This means understanding and responding to the real needs of service users rather than simply putting a form online to meet a performance target. "Citizens Advice Bureaux are a vital interface between local authorities, Government departments and agencies, and the people they serve. Because of our experience and our position of trust with the public, we can help develop e-services that meet genuine needs and reach far greater numbers of disadvantaged people than they otherwise would," he said. The study was carried out by a team of reviewers during August and September. The findings of the study are due to be published in October. ® Related Story UK Govt slammed for duff Web sites
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2003
server room

Cisco adds colour to IP phone range

Cisco this week announced a new IP telephone with a high resolution, colour touch-screen, as well as enhancements to two of its entry-level IP phones to make them better suited for the delivery of business applications. The networking giant's first ever colour IP phone, the 7970G, is due in the first calendar quarter of 2004 with a step price of $995 that will put it out of reach of most users, we suspect. For most IP telephony shops the addition of XML support and network-based application support on the entry-level Cisco IP Phones 7905G and 7912G is likely to be of more immediate relevance. According to Cisco, the added XML-support on these entry-level phones enables users to access business information using the monochrome pixel-based display, extending productivity applications to a broader range of users. The Cisco IP Phone 7905G and 7912G are available now at list prices of $135 and $165 respectively. The enhanced XML capabilities are scheduled to be available with the upcoming software release of Cisco CallManager near the end of this year at no additional cost. Cisco lifted the kimono on developments to its IP phones portfolio at its third annual Cisco Innovation Through Convergence Expo (ITC) in Santa Clara, California this week. The Expo provides Cisco's development partners the opportunity to showcase XML applications running on Cisco Architecture for Voice, Video and Integrated Data (AVVID) networks. ® Related Stories Cisco refreshes IP convergence line Leave your Cisco Wi-Fi mobile phone at the door IP Telephony - next gen heats up Nortel leapfrogs Cisco in VoIP line sales When in Roam: Crossing mobile, WLAN and IP networks Reg readers place VoIP ahead of 3G
John Leyden, 11 Sep 2003

FAST to tackle font filching

Two unnamed companies are being investigated by the Federation Against Software Theft (FAST) for possible breaches of font piracy. News of the investigations - no other details are available at present - comes as global font designer Agfa Monotype announced it has signed up with FAST to tackle the growing issue of unlicensed fonts. The problem of font theft is so bad that it's estimated that 40 per cent of fonts owned by customers are unlicenced, costing the industry millions of pounds a year in lost revenue. In a statement, Paul Brennan, general counsel at FAST, said: "This is a huge issue, but most corporates are unaware that it even exists. Corporate end users must understand the gravity of font software theft." As a result of the tie-up FAST will now be getting tough and enforcing font software licences where necessary. Said Brennan: "Corporate end users be warned - to achieve software compliance the issue of fonts cannot be ignored. In our experience most organisations are not even aware that fonts have to be audited in exactly the same way as software." ® Related Story Why computer fonts are so valuable
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2003

PC add-ons tempt ‘back to school’ buyers

Reg Kit WatchReg Kit Watch Memory Card Readers Memory specialist Crucial has added three USB 2.0 memory card readers to its product list. The Hi-Speed USB 7-in-1 reader supports a bevy of formats: SD, MMC, CompactFlash, IBM Microdrive, SmartMedia, Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro. Unlike the new Hi-Speed USB CompactFlash reader and the Hi-Speed USB SD/MMC reader, the 7-in-1 box doesn't plug directly into the host PC's USB port. Instead it's connected by cable, but the wire retracts into the reader for easy storage. Each product comes with an extension cable in any case, not to mention Crucial's lifetime warranty. All three cards work with 480Mbps USB 2.0 ports, as found on Apple's new iMacs and a host of Windows PCs, but are compatible with older USB 1.1-based systems. The 7-in-1 reader is priced at £16.99/€23.99, the SD/MMC reader at £10.99/€15.99, and the CF reader at £12.99/€18.99. Prices excludes sales tax. Speakers Creative today rolled out the Inspire T series of speakers in the UK, three sets of woofers and tweeters, etc. designed to bring two-, five- and seven-channel sound to PC users. Borrowing from hi-fi speaker design, Creative has built both high-range and mid-range drivers into each set's desktop speakers, yield a "clearer sound picture across the audio stage" - or more treble than PC speakers usually deliver, in other words. The T2900 features two of these new 6W RMS satellites, plus a 17W RMS sub-woofer. The T5400 adds a second pair standard mid-range satellites to be placed behind the listener, and replaces the sub-woofer with a 22W RMS model. The T7700 offers three new satellites (centre, and front left and right), plus four regular satellites, two each for rear left and rear right. There's a suitably beefy sub-woofer too. To make the most of the system, you'll need a 7.1 sound card, which can mix 5.1 sound across all eight speakers. The three sets cost £69.99, £99.99 and £119.99 including UK sales tax, respectively. Flash drive Memorex has released its USB 2.0 Flash drive, the ThumbDrive. The key-shaped unit is available in 128, 256 and 512MB capacities now, with a 1GB version due early next year. At just under three inches long and an inch wide, the ThumbDrive isn't the most compact Flash drive on the market. It also has a rubbed grip, which Memorex seems to believe is important. More useful, we'd say, is the write protection lock built into each unit, a feature missing from many rival products. The silver and black ThumbDrive will be in stores this month at a suggested retail price of $59.99 for 128MB of storage, $99.99 for 256 MB of storage, and $179.99 for 512MB of storage. ®
Tony Smith, 11 Sep 2003

Bill Joy's greatest gift to man – the vi editor

Out of all of Bill Joy's contributions to technology, users appear most fond of one of the simplest - the vi editor. Joy leaves a lasting legacy of work both in the general technology domain and at Sun Microsystems. The Sun co-founder announced this week that he is leaving the company. Among Joy's list of achievements are BSD Unix, NFS, UltraSPARC designs and some work on Java. But it's vi, created in 1976, that really captured Reg readers' hearts. "Bill's greatest gift to mankind was left off his list of achievements (in your article)... the vi editor," writes reader Matthew Hawkins in Australia. "I can live without NFS, Java and related technologies. I'm not sure if I can live without vi." Matthew is not alone in his feelings. Other readers called vi, "Joy's lasting contribution to humanity" and agreed they could not have worked without it. To do vi justice, we turn to Linux Magazine, which has one of the best accounts of how Joy came up with this little gem. Back in 1999, the mag asked Joy what inspired him to write vi: What happened is that Ken Thompson came to Berkeley and brought this broken Pascal system, and we got this summer job to fix it. While we were fixing it, we got frustrated with the editor we were using which was named ed. ed is certainly frustrating. We got this code from a guy named George Coulouris at University College in London* called em - Editor for Mortals - since only immortals could use ed to do anything. By the way, before that summer, we could only type in uppercase. That summer we got lowercase ROMs for our terminals. It was really exciting to finally use lowercase. So we modified em and created en. I don't know if there was an eo or an ep but finally there was ex. [laughter] I remember en but I don't know how it got to ex. So I had a terminal at home and a 300 baud modem so the cursor could move around and I just stayed up all night for a few months and wrote vi. Linux Mag then asked: "So you didn't really write vi in one weekend like everybody says?" No. It took a long time. It was really hard to do because you've got to remember that I was trying to make it usable over a 300 baud modem. That's also the reason you have all these funny commands. It just barely worked to use a screen editor over a modem. It was just barely fast enough. A 1200 baud modem was an upgrade. 1200 baud now is pretty slow. 9600 baud is faster than you can read. 1200 baud is way slower. So the editor was optimized so that you could edit and feel productive when it was painting slower than you could think. Now that computers are so much faster than you can think, nobody understands this anymore. The people doing Emacs were sitting in labs at MIT with what were essentially fibre-channel links to the host, in contemporary terms. They were working on a PDP-10, which was a huge machine by comparison, with infinitely fast screens. So they could have funny commands with the screen shimmering and all that, and meanwhile, I'm sitting at home in sort of World War II surplus housing at Berkeley with a modem and a terminal that can just barely get the cursor off the bottom line. It was a world that is now extinct. People don't know that vi was written for a world that doesn't exist anymore - unless you decide to get a satellite phone and use it to connect to the Net at 2400 baud, in which case you'll realize that the Net is not usable at 2400 baud. It used to be perfectly usable at 1200 baud. But these days you can't use the Web at 2400 baud because the ads are 24KB. That's just a bit of background on the creation of vi. Enterprising types can take a peek here and here for more information on Joy's vi work and the history of BSD Unix. For the record, Reg readers did put Joy's work writing the TCP/IP stack for BSD right up there with vi. ® * Shortly after our story posted, Keith Clarke - a friend of George Coulouris - contacted The Reg with some updated information. Coulouris was actually at Queen Mary College, University of London and not University College in London, as Joy recalled. Coulouris then contacted us with some other fresh insights. Many thanks, Keith and George. Of course Keith is correct in saying that I was a Lecturer at Queen Mary College, University of London when I wrote the 'em' editor. There's a bit more about what it was and how I came to pass it to Bill Joy on the web page that Keith has already cited. There is some stuff about the design of 'em' appended at the end of the page. Paradoxically, I think we had more experience in screen-based interaction at the time than Bell Labs or Berkeley and it was for that reason that I saw the need for a screen editor. It was less powerful than 'vi' in that it allowed the cursor to move only within a single line. This constraint arose mainly from the desire to make it work on the variety of vdu's (and even the TTYs) that we had available at the time. But a full-screen editor is a lot more work to write and Bill deserves most of the credit he has received. Having said that, 'vi' would probably never have seen the light of day if I hadn't sat down at the terminal next to him at Berkeley in the summer of 1976 and I wouldn't be surprised if some of my code lives on in 'vi'. Best wishes, George Coulouris Emeritus Professor of Computer Systems Queen Mary, University of London and Senior Visiting Fellow Laboratory for Communication Engineering Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge Related Story Joy quits Sun
Ashlee Vance, 11 Sep 2003

Storage switch users place McData and Cisco ahead of Brocade

The storage switch users have spoken, and it's not looking good for Brocade. A three member panel joined the always eloquent analyst Nancy Marrone- Hurley (Enterprise Storage Group) for a switch vendor ranking exercise here at the Storage Decisions conference. Overall, McData came out on top for both the breadth of its product line and proven success in the SAN (storage area network) market. Newcomer Cisco came in a close second, receiving praise for some features the other vendors cannot offer and a compelling roadmap. The loser of the bunch was Brocade. "Unless Brocade really responds on the high-end this will be a McData and Cisco market," Marrone said. "Broacade has to respond because a lot of people have leapfrogged it." What's the big problem with Brocade? Well, the panelists and other users in the audience largely agreed that Brocade rested on its laurels for too long. The panelists charged that Brocade took its sweet time rolling out the high-end SilkWorm 12000 product and that the company is reluctant to provide new features. "Brocade only comes out with something when they absolutely have to," said Michael Passe, senior systems engineer at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. The overall feeling is that McData provides a wide range of switches, stretching from the low to high-end. The company has also acquired Sanera and Nishan, which should help build out its portfolio. Sanera will help it push farther into the high-end switch market and Nishan adds a nice IP-based product line, iSCSI included. All told, these products will add to an already strong reputation. Cisco had a late start in the Fibre Channel switch market, but users appear bullish on its prospects. "Cisco has a lot of promising technology," Passe said. "They have a lot of know how in ASIC and crossbar design. They are the new kid on the block now, but in the next two years, they will probably become the leader in the space." Analysts have warned that it will take Cisco a long time to build up trust in the storage market. CIOs don't tend to let unproven players fiddle in their data centers. But the message Cisco is providing to potential customers seems to be working. It easily grabbed the second ranking among the panelists, well ahead of Brocade. Even the most bullish Brocade user was down on the company. "Brocade is great for support even though we buy their products through IBM, but they seem a little bit weak to market with their products," said Troy Margelofsky, an engineer with Lands' End. "Once Cisco made their announcement, Brocade miraculously got their act together on the 12000." The users also agreed that they are sticking with one vendor for the time being. The vendors' interoperability talk is encouraging, but no one is believing the line just yet. "i dont buy it all," said Sanjay Mandloi, vice president at LabMorgan, a unit of JPMorganChase."I don't think any of the vendors are interested in it. We have been burnt many times by this interop buzz word that is going around." Over time, the users do want to be able to play vendors off of each other, but this won't really be an option for a couple of years, they said. Vendors tend to show interoperability matrices based on very specific versions of operating systems, firmware and applications. Throw a custom app or new HBA into the mix and all is lost. The users would also like to see the vendors get their act together with efficient SAN designs. As customers stretch up over 20TBs, they are finding that many of the ports in their expensive high-end switches have to be reserved for ISLs (Inter Switch Links). The customers have pushed and pushed for vendors to do something about this, but as of yet, there is little response. Why pay thousands for a 64-port switch when you can only use about 14 of the ports? "We want true scale with reduced ISL usage," Mandloi said. "When you start putting 64-port switches together, you will see how many ISLs you need. You need to get more bandwidth without losing ports, and the vendors need to think about this. You only get 10 ports out of a 64-port switch right now. How good is that?" Not good at all. ®
Ashlee Vance, 11 Sep 2003

Satellite biz wants govt hand-outs for broadband

The satellite industry wants greater co-operation - read 'financial aid' from governments if their technology is to help make broadband services available to all. At a joint meeting in Paris earlier this week, the European Satellite Operators Association (ESOA) and the Satellite Industry Association (SIA) outlined how satellite technology can supply broadband, in particular to rural areas and countries in developing regions The industry maintains that countries that have set deadlines for universal access over the next five years or so will only be able to achieve their goal if satellite is part of the broadband equation. But according to the industry, helping bridge the digital divide will need help from governments - primarily in the form of financial aid and subsidies to help offset the cost of rolling out a service. However, the sector is also keen to see obstacles - such as protectionist policies that make it difficult to break into new markets - lowered and more favourable regulatory measures introduced. In a statement, the chairman of the ESOA Board, Giuliano Berretta, said: "Satellites are an essential component for world governments for achieving their committed objectives to bridge the digital divide, internationally and domestically. "As operators, we are all playing our part in realising this goal by investing in satellites and developing products and services that enable communities and users to access leading edge communications irrespective of location. "However, we need governments to positively support satellite solutions so that final users can truly benefit from innovative services," he said. The two groups along with CEOs of other satellite operators are due to meet in Washington, DC next spring. ®
Tim Richardson, 11 Sep 2003

UK firms tout camera phone blinding tech

A pair of British companies today teamed up to market a technology that allows camera phones or digital cameras to be disabled in a localised environment. Iceberg Systems, a developer of Internet and mobile systems, claims its Safe Haven technology effectively prevents the misuse of camera phones. The company has appointed audio technology licensing firm Sensaura to promote Safe Haven. In recent months, the widespread adoption of camera phones has provoked concern among child protection agencies that the technology could use by perverts to surreptitiously snap pictures of youngsters. The increased availability of digital cameras of all types has also raised concerns about possible industrial espionage among some corporates, as evidenced by Samsung's recent decision to ban camera phones from its premises. Meanwhile, Japanese youngsters are increasingly snapping away at magazines and books in shops, then printing out the pictures at home - all to save themselves the cover price. David Blagden, an IP Broker at Sensaura, said that as camera phones become the norm rather than the exception, banning them will become an increasingly cumbersome approach to such problems. Sports Centres would have to collect a large number of phones and businesses concerned about camera phones would end up prohibiting many people from using mobile phones on their premises. By contrast, Safe Haven technology allows the camera functionality of the phone or other electronic devices (such as camera PDAs, digital cameras and multi-purpose MP3 players) to be disabled without affecting any other usage of the device. Safe Haven works by transmitting a signal in a localised environment such as a school, swimming pool, office facility or factory, which "disables the camera functionality of devices in the nearby environment", the companies claim. The snag is that Safe Haven technology needs to be integrated at the time of manufacture into new devices or installed as a Java download update to suitable equipment already in the market. "You need to have an approved camera," Blagden admitted, adding that the incorporation of Sade Haven technology is unlikely to affect handset prices. Safe Haven sends out a signal announcing the presence of a wireless privacy zone. When this signal is received by the phone, it disables its imaging system. Each Safe Haven node would have a range of around 300m and cost a "few hundred dollars" (pricing is yet to be set). Blagden was reluctant to go into much detail on the workings of the technology, so we can only guess at how easy it might be to defeat. Sensaura and Iceberg Systems are currently in negotiation with the world's leading mobile handset manufacturers to implement the technology, along with blue chip companies, organisations and governments worldwide, they claim. The companies expect the technology to start arriving on the market from the beginning of next year. ® Related Stories Camera phones tempt European handset buyers Samsung to ban camera phones Pervert panic prompts pic phone bathing ban Cellphone jamming scam exposed
John Leyden, 11 Sep 2003
Broken CD with wrench

EMC drops WideSky, swallows pride

The sky has fallen over EMC's headquarters in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and oddly enough you've hardly heard anything about it. In late 2001, EMC unveiled WideSky. The software was the company's answer for hetrogenous storage management. WideSky was meant to bridge the gap between different hardware and software platforms, making it possible for EMC customers to manage all kinds of gear from one place. The little catch with WideSky was that EMC was going it alone. While the other vendors where talking about a shared set of management standards, EMC stood up to say that it could pull off the task on its own. Customers need WideSky now, and we'll do that standards bit later, when we really have to. Well, it turns out customers didn't really want WideSky just yet. After two years of nonstop marketing and chest beating, the brand is dead. Children everywhere should run. EMC has found a way to kill a figment of one's imagination. "We're not going to use the WideSky brand anywhere in the marketplace," Mark Lewis, EMC's vice president of Open Software Operations, told SearchStorage.com last week. "What we're trying to do is make some definitive clarifications around EMC and what we're doing, and the status of SMI-S." Lewis wasn't kidding either. EMC has removed the once vast stockpile of WideSky references from its Web site. Gone are the links to the glorious hype. Lewis, along with the more recently acquired Mark Sorenson, once worked at HP. And it's these two executives new roles at EMC that may help explain why WideSky met such an untimely demise. Some well-placed industry sources say that both execs scoffed at WideSky while at HP. This should come as no surprise since all of EMC's rivals jumped at the chance to criticize the company for taking a proprietary approach to storage management when standards like SMI-S were on the way. Once at EMC, the former HP execs helped topple the house of cards. EMC management knew it had to go the standards route eventually. That's why it has played such an active role in the standards body (SNIA) overseeing SMI-S. The sales folks, however, saw the standards as a myth. The company was divided. But a two-pronged, doublespeak approach rarely pays off in the long run, so the top brass ordered the execution of WideSky. This move has been rumored for some time by various news outlets, but the actual death of WideSky has been met with a shocking silence. It's not everyday that a vendor has to swallow a crow the size of Texas. To be fair, EMC does have products today that basically do what WideSky promised. Various software packages exist for managing multivendor gear. It's just that a massive cork has been shoved down a blowhole that once spewed brave, we can stand strong on our own bluster. EMC's WideSky retreat has opened a whole new opportunity for competitors to take shots. "It's about time," said Mark Canepa, head of storage at Sun Microsystems, in an interview at the Storage Decisions conference. "We've been telling them to drop it for a long time." Executives from HP and Veritas also had a chuckle over EMC's miscue. When all is said and done, the end of WideSky is still more of a marketing move than anything. EMC is going along with its API swap agenda and will give users hetrogenous management in way or another. The end of WideSky does, however, mark a huge shift in EMC's approach to standards. Executives once warned that it would take decades for things like SMI-S to function as billed. Something changed at EMC to make them see standards in a different light, and this is likely good for users and the industry. Rest in peace, WideSky. ® Related Links ByteandSwitch gets there quick SearchStorage.com follows Related Stories EMC PR caught in a spin EMC spreads software wings HP plays API swaps with Hitachi EMC steps up CIM support, but lauds WideSky
Ashlee Vance, 11 Sep 2003

BT streams videos over GPRS

BT Broadcast Services (BTBS) is to make it easier to deliver live streaming media video feeds to mobile users courtesy of a technology deal with Vemotion. The approach allows streaming media to be delivered to users with GPRS, as well as higher speed 3G connections. Vemotion's technology includes the FastStart capability, which halves video start-up times; Layered Download, which improves quality with each viewing of a clip, and Mobile Aware features to enhance user experience in harsh network conditions. The technology is also the first in the world to meet the emerging H.264 international standard, which doubles video quality for the same data rate as MPEG-4. Vemotion's technology incorporates patented components developed by BT Exact (the research arm of BT). Vemotion and BT Broadcast Services are marketing their service offering to content providers and mobile operators. Antoniou said Vemotion was already talking to TV companies about the delivery of sport and content based on a "mass participation" TV programme to mobile phones. TV companies are interested in making the service as easy to use as possible, he added. Firms in the music industry and financial services market are also in the technology, according to Vemotion. Vemotion is an independent company operating mobile video hosting services. The most popular video applications currently available are music videos, cartoons, sports and news clips, video alerts and video greetings. Users pay from 30 pence to watch clips lasting between 20 seconds and four minutes. Vemotion's technology allows users to watch live events, access content on demand, or download clips for later viewing. Using patented technology from BTexact, Vemotion delivers full-colour video services to the latest mobile phones and PDAs such as the Nokia 7650 and 3650, SonyEricsson P800, O2 XDA and HP iPAQ. ® Related Stories New spec heralds digital video broadcast on 3G handsets Content is king for 3G. But what content? Cost turns UK punters off 3G - survey Tech savvy are gagging for 3G Personal music stations for 3G phones Mobile startups dismiss 3G - for now Why do we need 3G phones anyway?
John Leyden, 11 Sep 2003

Microsoft in reasonable Net action shocker!

It’s not something you often hear but Microsoft seems to be taking an entirely reasonable approach to the Internet when it comes to domain names. Somewhat ironically this has only become apparent after the Beast of Redmond’s lawyers send a letter to the Mike Chatha - owner of xbox.ws and xbox.us.com - demanding he agree to hand over the domains within four days or face the consequences. Mike contacted us asking if there was any way he could beat off the Beast. Sadly, no, Mike, all is lost. Even though the .ws suffix relates to Western Samoa, it is also the case that the country has signed up to ICANN’s flawed UDRP domain resolution rules. That means: no chance. So where does the reasonableness come in? Well, Microsoft only acted when Mike rather foolishly advertised the fact he wanted to sell them - for £1,795 and £795 respectively. MS’ letter points out that it was this “attempt to profit from the sale of domain name incorporating the Xbox trademark” that forced its hand. It explains that it is obligated to control use of its trademarks. Which is entirely true. Under trademark law, if Microsoft could be shown to have been aware that its trademark was being used for profitable means and it did nothing to stop it, then it can be argued that Microsoft has forfeited its rights in respect to the name. As such - and Mike won’t like this - it had little choice but to threaten to batter him to a bloody pulp. What is interesting though is that MS left Mike run his site - which was about the Xbox, promoted Xbox products that didn’t come from Microsoft and used Xbox colours - for two-and-a-half years before contacting him. Why is that interesting? Because Microsoft could have taken the domains off him at any point it fancied thanks to the daft UDRP rules and corporate-friendly arbitrator WIPO (the offer to sell the names also makes the decision a technicality as it breaks the so-called “good faith” defence for keeping a domain). That it chose not to displays a clear corporate policy of leaving non-profit sites alone even if they infringe the company’s trademarks. Which is surprisingly tolerant. Of course the threat of a $100,000 fine on each domain under the US’ Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act is nonsense. Just how a UK citizen could be compelled to pay far more money than he possesses under a US law is something that would require a fair bit of imagination. But then the threat of huge sums of money from one of the world’s largest companies does tend to have a powerful effect. And while the letter states that Microsoft “prefers to resolve matters such as this informally”, the four days that Mike is given to respond are clearly unreasonable. But if Mike wants to keep the domains what he needs to do is contact the lawyers, apologise for offering to sell the domains and promise never to attempt to make money from them again. If he’s lucky they’ll let him have them. Otherwise he might as well hand them over now and save himself the trouble. If this makes him so mad that he trashes his Xbox with his foot and forehead, he may want to consider buying the Xbox name from a country that allows outside citizens to register domains but has refused to sign up to the UDRP, therefore leaving Microsoft powerless to act. But then we couldn’t name those countries or condone such an action. Not yet anyway. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 11 Sep 2003

Coming soon? ‘Safe’ zones that disable picture phones

Been snapped in a lap-dancing joint when you're supposed to be working late? Asleep at the Oval when you've 'got flu'? Serves you right then, but you can probably see advantages to a system that can be used to disable picture phones. Whereas the 'friends' who took the compromising pictures of you will no doubt see clear disadvantages. So how do we figure that one out? You don't want or need a phone that stops you taking pictures in changing rooms, because you're not that kind of pervert. Or maybe because you are that kind of pervert. On the other hand you do want other people's phones to stop taking pictures in changing rooms, because you never know when one of them is going to turn out to be a pervert. Tricky - you want it to exist, but you're not going to buy it. You think. What if you had a choice between a phone that didn't take pictures while you were in a designated privacy zone, or of checking your phone at the door? If the technology exists, then it's perfectly feasible that businesses, venues, schools even whole governments will present you with that choice, which is perhaps where Iceberg Systems' Safe Haven comes in. Safe Haven works by sending a signal to a picture phone telling it that it's in a privacy zone, at which point the phone's imaging system switches itself off. This beats checking it at the door, because it still works as a phone, and the picture capability comes back on when you move outside the zone. The obvious snag here is that this is not a blanket 'death ray' for picture phones; it will only work for future generations of phones that know about the signal and know what to do about it, so there has to be some inducement for manufacturers to incorporate the capability (or incapability), and for people to buy the hardware. But there are obvious scenarios where it could play fairly soon. Security-conscious businesses could make its presence a requirement for company phones, and ban non-compliant phones from the premises. Which provides an incentive for the manufacturers in two ways; first, if they're not capable of supplying the handset, they lose the customer, and second, they have the opportunity to sell higher-spec picture phones to businesses who previously refused to buy them for security reasons. Privacy concerns are also leading governments to restrict the use of picture phones, in the case of Saudi Arabia, even banning them. If, as seems likely, these concerns intensify, then the presence of a control mechanism could become a mechanism for manufacturers to avoid restrictions on the sale and use of their handsets. According to Iceberg the technology, which is being promoted by audio IP licensing outfit Sensaura, is also applicable to other types of wireless imaging devices, so could be used to control digital cameras and camera-equipped PDAs and laptops. These, however, look like a rather larger mountain to climb than picture phones, which you could call the low-hanging fruit of privacy invasion. No names as regards licensees yet, but Iceberg says it's in talks with "the leading handset manufacturers, blue chip companies and [ominously] governments around the world." So in a couple of years it's back to the old washing line for you, Arnold Layne... ® Iceberg Systems
John Lettice, 11 Sep 2003

Litigation frenzy driving IT contractors under

A spiralling cycle of litigation against independent IT contractors is forcing many firms out of business as they try to cope with the costs of fighting lengthy legal battles. Even where the consultant is not at fault, the cost of specialist legal representation and expert evidence can run into hundreds of thousands of pounds to defend a legal action arising out of a mistakes such as the accidental erasure of a client's hard drive. According to recent research, the number of professional indemnity claims made by small IT consultants has soared by more than 40 per cent in the last four years as dissatisfied clients increasingly resort to legal action. The research, conducted by specialist insurance firm Hiscox, found that the size of claims is rising as well as their frequency. This placed greatest pressure on smaller consultants who may not have the resources to fight protracted legal battles. Examples of recent slip-ups by small consultants the study found had recently resulted in claims include: accidentally wiping a client's data, supplying software that infringed someone else's intellectual property rights, failing to integrate a new system and delivering a system that did not meet the client's brief. The largest of these legal actions was for a one-man consultancy, the client of which initially sued for damages in excess of £3 million, though this was subsequently reduced. In May 2003 alone the insurer said that it handled claims against small IT contractors with a combined value of almost £5 million. Sam Franks, product expert for IT consultants at Hiscox, warned: "Clients are becoming more litigious, with technology playing such a critical part in the day to day running of businesses they are no longer willing to let mistakes go and bear the cost themselves." ®
Robert Jaques, 11 Sep 2003

CGEY: a backwards step

If Cap Gemini Ernst & Young goes ahead with its proposed takeover of French systems integrator Transiciel, it would go against most conventional thinking in the IT services sector. CGEY needs to invest in longer-term benefits, rather than just improving short-term earnings. Paul Hermelin, CGEY's chief executive said last week that he is still considering whether to pursue the takeover of Boulogne-based Transiciel, and is cautious about the company's desire to be merged into CGEY's Sogeti bodyshopping business, of which it was formerly a part. On the positive side, if CGEY merged with Transiciel, it would consolidate its position as the largest services company in its domestic market, with international rivals IBM Global Services and EDS attempting to deepen their relationships with France's largest accounts. It would also go a small way towards improving the French IT services market's current overcapacity problem, and Transiciel's operating profit margin of 7.7% is significantly higher than CGEY's, which was 2.7% in the first half of the year. But bringing Transiciel into the group would fail to address CGEY's two major strategic goals: to grow its outsourcing business, and to develop its offshore delivery capabilities. Companies such as CGEY need to counter the current depressed spending on discretionary consulting and integration projects by building up recurring revenue streams from outsourcing. This is not an area of great strength for Transiciel, which makes about 30% of its sales from outsourcing, the same amount as CGEY. Nearly all top-tier IT services providers are building up their offshore delivery capabilities in order to compete against low cost Indian companies in areas such as applications management and maintenance. Transiciel specializes in both areas, but cannot offer clients a low cost delivery option of its own. Investment analysts at JP Morgan point out that CGEY has only 2.5% of its global workforce based in low-cost markets such as India and the Far East, compared to figures in excess of 5% at Accenture and IBM Global Services, and 70% at Indian software services specialists such as Wipro Technologies and Infosys Technologies. CGEY should be looking to invest in companies that can grow its capabilities in these areas, rather than pursuing local rivals for short-term earnings benefits. Source: Computerwire/Datamonitor Recommended research: Reuters Business Insight, "The IT Services Outlook" (RBTC0059)
Datamonitor, 11 Sep 2003

My 12-year-old nephew is going to rob your house

FoTWFoTW Re: The RIAA sees the face of evil, and it's a 12-year-old girl A number of you out there - the vast majority - were troubled when the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of American) launched its legal attack against a child. Many of you even offered to pay the youngster's legal bill. Some other groups have stepped in on that front, and we suggest you contact them, if you would still like to chip in. That's not really our business. The volume of anti-RIAA mail has made it tough to respond to all of the letters and hard to pick out just a few for posting. So instead, we thought it would be sporting to print some anti-Register mail. In the case of the RIAA, it's much easier to deal with. Hi A$$lee, Long time no see. Well actually I've seen so much of your dribble, I try to skip right over most of the garbage. I find your RIAA story on the 12 year old girl on The Reg today to be quite interesting. Let's take a look at this scenario... We have a 12 year old girl who is reported to be an honor student, who is downloading a thousand or more copies of music files from KaZaA. And she alleges that because her Mom paid KaZaA a $29.99 service charge, that she believed it was perfectly fine to download this music. ARE YOU A F*CKING IDIOT ?????? If this honor student can figure out how to log on to KaZaA and download music, then she sure as Hell can read and has surely seen the HUNDREDS of online stories stating that it's illegal to download music from KaZaA and that the RIAA has been suing people for copyright infringement for doing same. And what about Mom??? Anyone with a clue would throw Mom's A$$ in the slammer for promoting theft of copyright protected material and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, that is unless you're completely insane and believe we should teach children to steal early in life so that some day they can be the CEO of Enron or WorldCom. IF YOU ARE IGNORANT ENOUGH TO BUY INTO THIS B.S. ABOUT NOT KNOWING WHAT SHE WAS DOING WAS ILLEGAL, I HAVE SOME OCEAN FRONT PROPERTY IN ARIZONA THAT YOU WOULD BE VERY INTERESTED IN PURCHASING. We can take the midnight fly-over for a look... Talk about irresponsible journalism to support your distorted views of the World... You've elevated yourself to the level of Mike Tyson. Perhaps you should get a lifetime script for Prozac like Mickey??? When enough of these A$$holes pay stiff fines and/or go to jail, then people will start to get the message that just because you don't like copyright laws, doesn't mean you can steal someone else's property. Have a theft-free day! Your pal, Randy For the record, Randy sends along a threatening e-mail every week or so. He's one of the more creative flamers out there, and, like the best of them, he loves to make good use of all the keyboard functions he can. He claims to be a high-ranking executive at a major company, but we think he's doing time in between padded walls. Ashlee, Please, tell me where your house is so I can send in my 12-year-old nephew to pillage it. Obviously you modify your concept of what stealing is based on who does it - so you won't mind returning to your home, freshly looted, if you learn it's only a kid who did it. - Tim Carter We provided Tim with the address and easy to follow directions to la casa de Reg. We did, however, request that his nephew wear a bright, orange jacket over his "I'm with stupid" t-shirt. Ashlee, Journalists are there to report the news, not make it. Though we all see the same errors with this situation. I do not need to, while trying to read an article on =this= child, wade through your anti-capitalistic class warrior polemics. Please stick to social commentary and not agenda pushing, it is not becoming of a supposedly fair and balanced publication like the register. I finished the article knowing more about your political and social preferences than I did the facts and story around and behind this girl and the issue at hand. You failed to further the discussion on this issue, and instead became bogged down in irrelevant issue like "where an executive may or may not live". Stick to the point. Cheers, Richard. Beijing. Richard is obviously a regular Register reader. Oh wait, he got the fair and balanced bit confused with Fox. No more TV for you, Richard.
Ashlee Vance, 11 Sep 2003