14th > May > 2004 Archive

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HP bags brace of service companies

HP has picked up a pair of consulting companies to build out its already swollen services practice. HP today announced that Dallas-based IT Infrastructure Management LLC, which operates under the ManageOne name, and the UK's CEC Europe Service Management were acquired for undisclosed sums. Both of the firms specialize in training and IT consulting. Specifically, ManageOne and CEC Europe fall under the category of information technology service management (ITSM) companies and will join the 500 ITSM consultants already at HP. "These acquisitions will help to strengthen HP's leadership as a premier ITSM services provider," said Mike Rigodanzo, senior vice president, Customer Support, HP Services. "Both CEC Europe Service Management Ltd. and ManageOne have the deep ITSM experience and expertise necessary to help customers address their dynamically changing business needs." Excited yet? ® Related stories HP rides Hondo to super-sized Itanium servers BT and HP's outsourcing strategy HP touts blade PC Oracle, HP, Intel and Sun start YAGCSB*
Ashlee Vance, 14 May 2004

Yahoo! blasts back at Google

Yahoo! used its annual financial analyst day to announce an expanded email service. With Google's beta GMail service grabbing so much attention, Yahoo! will expand the amount of free storage to 100MB per user over the summer, and a rather vague promise of "unlimited" storage for paid users. GMail will offer 1GB of storage and a vastly superior search capability. 100 MB of storage in Yahoo! Mail currently costs $49 a year. In response to privacy concerns, Google has said it will consider offering a pay-for version of GMail without the spybots. But Google often says it will consider doing something that it has no intention of doing, and never does. Yahoo! indulged in some bluffing of its own for Wall Street's benefit. The company says it intends to increase the number of subscribers, currently just below 6m, to 15m, a revised long-term target. The portal has nevertheless bounded along in the past year. Its advertising business netted $418m in most recent quarter, up 120 per cent on the corresponding quarter in 2003 and the lion's share of Yahoo!'s revenue. Gross profit for the first quarter of 2004 was $476m, almost doubling the $240m for the same quarter a year ago. In the same quarter Google earned $389.6m, most of which came from advertising. Google is growing faster, but has warned that 60 plus per cent margins will erode. Significantly, because of its more diversified revenue base, including such ventures as broadband ISP partnerships, Yahoo!'s income costs more. When Google sells some of its stock to the public later this year it will have a war chest of $3bn with which to counter Yahoo! Most of the speculation has suggested that Google will use this cash pile to make acquisitions, and financial commentators are only too happy to play matchmaker. However it serves a more useful purpose. With three times as much money in the bank, Google will be able to drive down the cost of advertising - if it so wishes. Google also announced it will begin to offer banner ads to advertisers for the first time.® Related stories Search drives US online ad sales Yahoo! shows paid search pays Overture searches for WAP gold Yahoo! buys Kelkoo Google revives discredited Microsoft privacy policy for Friendster clone
Andrew Orlowski, 14 May 2004

Google decides banner ads, skyscrapers are not evil

The company that helped discredit lurid web advertising has vowed to bring it back to life. In addition to offering advertisers text classifieds on websites that sign up to its Adsense program, Google will begin offer advertisers graphic ads for the first time. The four formats offered include banner and skyscraper: although they may not be quite what you expect. Google's "banners" are 728 by 90 pixels; that's twice the width of the masthead you see at the top of the page, but much thinner. You can read more here and here. Google is essentially an advertising broker, and it's engaged in an intense battle with Yahoo!'s Overture service. This sensible commercial move would hardly merit any attention if it wasn't for Google's history of fast, clean and largely graphic-free design, and its avowed purpose to "Do No Evil". The latter was enshrined in a preface to its recent regulatory filing announcing a public share offering. Techno-utopian geeks loved the prospectus, but it bombed with the less giddy financial press. Both The Observer (advising a major rewrite) and the San Francisco Chronicle compared it to Mother Teresa, while we thought it sounded like a Coca Cola jingle. To Russell Beattie, who recalled an earlier run-in with Google's advertising program, these sentiments already sounded hollow. Sanctimonious mission statements only come back to haunt the authors. It's best to set the bar really low, so expectations follow. Like this. (Or the 2001 subscription service). ® Related stories Google mail is evil - privacy advocates Google values its own privacy. How does it value yours? Google's public-auction IPO: smart move? Google founder dreams of Google implant in your brain Google heals the sick
Andrew Orlowski, 14 May 2004

Linux fans never do any work

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... While the IT juggernaut continues to thunder along at breakneck speed, some things remain resolutely stationary. It's reassuring to know that there are certain immutables in this crazy, mixed-up world we live in: Linux fans never do any work By Pete Sherriff Published Friday 14th May 1999 11:17 GMT Employers beware. When hiring new techies, think twice before giving the job to an applicant wearing a Linux beanie hat. Exhaustive research by The Register's statistics division has revealed that any news story posted on the Web containg the L word is immediately pounced on by Torvaldians worldwide who obviously have little else to occupy their time. The UK news aggregation site, NewsNow.co.uk, posts a continually-updated list of the top ten most frequently-hit stories from numerous news sources. Invariably, all ten slots are occupied by Linux stories. This one will be on the list soon. We will appraise you of the number of hits obtained. ® For shame. NewsNow is, of course, still going strong. Today's hot topics include "New ISP Review Survey" and "3Com joins WLAN switch manufacturers" under a "Visit the Upgrade Centre and Order your FREE Upgrade Kit for Microsoft® servers or desktops" sponsored link. It's hardly penguin paradise, so where have all the beanie hat wearers gone? Well, exhaustive research by the El Reg statistics division has revealed that every man Jack of 'em has moved on to Slashdot which today reveals that "LinuxWorld reports that 'A Linux cluster deployed at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and codenamed 'Thunder' yesterday delivered 19.94 teraflops of sustained performance, making it the most powerful computer in North America - and the second fastest on Earth.'" Yup - plenty of Ls in there. Business as usual. ®
Team Register, 14 May 2004

Adobe's Warnock awarded Lovelace Medal

Yesterday evening Dr John Warnock, co-founder of Adobe, was awarded the British Computer Society's Ada Lovelace Medal by BCS president Professor Wendy Hall CBE. The prize is given to individuals for making a significant contribution to the advancement, or the understanding, of Information Systems. Ada Lovelace is remembered as one of the first women to make an impact on computing. She was assistant to Charles Babbage and began corresponding with him on maths and logic when she was just seventeen. Warnock, a collector of books about Charles Babbage, said he was honoured to receive the award. He then treated attendees to a potted history of his career in the computing industry. Warnock described his first project at Evans and Sutherland in 1974 to create a simulator for piloting supertankers into New York Harbour. He described the project as impossible because: the company had never done anything similar before; it was a three-and-a-half year project but had only a year left to run; and there were only four people on the team. The team created a virtual machine which ran on a PDP11 with 32k of memory. This controlled six racks of special hardware. Following this success, the team created a simulator for the space shuttle. From 1978 to 1982 Warnock worked at the legendary Xerox PARC, leaving to set up Adobe in 1983. In his speech, he gave the first public explanation of how Adobe solved the "font problem" - that fonts could not be accurately recreated from scans and needed to be hand-tuned to look presentable. The company had been unable to patent the solution to this because "it was so bloody simple". Warnock had the basic idea for pdf in 1984 when he had to create samples of print documents to show Steve Jobs at Apple. In 1991 he realised how useful it could be for the Web. He recalled it was a battle to convince the board that it would be useful. Since then 600m copies of the Acrobat reader have been downloaded. Asked why Microsoft had never challenged the software, he replied: "For the longest time they just didn't get it. Didn't get the subtlety of publishing and the importance of how things look and not just the content of the ascii text." Warnock also had some advice for software startups today: "There was no great planning in what we did, the company evolved. You have to follow the river - it's the same now. There is no magic formula, but don't hire MBAs." ® Related stories Adobe elevated to $1bn-a-year company Large throng joins industry Hall of Fame Poet's daughter was first programmer NOT
John Oates, 14 May 2004

How to fool ID card system - give a false ID, say UK gov

The UK ID card scheme will, it is alleged, greatly aid the forces of law and order in establishing the identity of offenders and suspects. But, as UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith found himself blurting out in the House of Lords yesterday, there's an easy way out of this for the thinking minor offender - give the police a false ID. This is apparently an approach frequently used today by the more dubious sections of society. You are stopped by the police while speeding in an untaxed, uninsured vehicle that may or may not be yours, and you have no documentation, driving licence or proof of ID on you, so the police ask you for your name and address, and tell you to report to a police station within the next seven days with the necessary bits. Later, the police note your failure to show, but only discover that you gave a false name and address when the summons fails to connect a couple of weeks later. So, asked by Lord Dubbs (Labour) if ID cards would make a significant difference to this situation, Goldsmith replied that it would not, because the government would not be requiring the compulsory carrying of ID cards. Lord Marlesford (Conservative) then intervened, first looking like coming close to hitting the bullseye, but in the end missing it entirely. "This is an example," he said, "not of the importance of identity cards, but of the importance of the authorities having biometric information about individuals, which should enable certain identification." So near and yet so far. Goldsmith happily agreed that using biometric data was a very important part of the way forward. Well yes, but rewind to the hard shoulder some years hence where the offender is not carrying ID and is giving the police a false name and address. The logic of the law as it currently stands is that no one has a right to challenge us if we are going about our lawful business, and therefore we do not have to carry ID. However, should we have committed an offence or be suspected of committing an offence, the police may require us to establish our identity within a reasonable period. Now, on that future hard shoulder in the world according to Blunkett, the police have about their person a wireless biometric reader which could be used to shorten that reasonable period to, well, immediately. So Lord Marlesford is correct about the importance of biometrics here. Regular readers will know that The Register is absolutely convinced that the mobile readers will prove to be an unusable disaster, but we'll let that pass - go with the Blunkett theory here for the sake of the argument. Why are the police on this hard shoulder not using this reader? Well, given that the Home Office has specifically and loudly ruled out making it compulsory to carry ID, it has to tread carefully when it comes to the circumstances where your ID will be checked. And as it has said on numerous occasions that it's not the ID but the biometric that is important, i.e. you are your ID, reading the biometric as a matter of course while claiming carrying ID isn't compulsory does rather look like cheating. And a change in the current relationship between police and citizen, and a reneging on the commitment made in the draft ID bill to retain the seven days grace. The law abiding citizenry, who support the use of biometrics to catch criminal, fraudsters and immigrants, can themselves be pulled over by the police, and probably wouldn't be impressed if they were then fingerprinted. So even if it's logical (which it is), the government can't let the police do it because they're afraid of losing public support. Of course, when the House of Lords and outraged law-abiding citizens discover that the police have this technical capability but are being forbidden to use it, thus allowing criminals to escape, things will change. But that'll likely be a few more years. The Lords exchange, by the way, reminds us of something that's been puzzling us recently. BBC Radio 4 runs a late night Today in Parliament programme, and the same thing the next morning as Yesterday in Parliament. Except they're not always the same. Last night, for instance, the reported exchange went something like, question to Goldsmith, Goldsmith fails to answer and produces waffle about general benefits of ID instead, follow up question demands proper answer, Goldsmith confesses. The report broadcast this morning, however, misses the tetchy follow-up and gives the impression that it was all a lot more under control than it sounded like last night. Come on, BBC editors - the world is quite surrealistic already without you lot sticking your oar in - knock it off, OK? ® Related links: Mistaken ID public meetine, London, 19th May Big names line up for major UK ID debate - but will Blunkett? Blunkett risks ID card battle with EU Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card
John Lettice, 14 May 2004

Tiscali to flog four country ops

Tiscali today confirmed it is to sell of four of its country operations in a bid to concentrate on its core businesses. The pan-European ISP intends to complete the sale of assets in Switzerland, South Africa, Norway and Sweden by the end of the year. Confirmation of Tiscali's plans, first mooted in February, to make its operation leaner came as the ISP notched up a record growth in broadband punters. It signed up 400,000 new subscribers in the first three months of the year, taking the number of ADSL customers at the end of March to 1.24m. Add on the 80,000 or so new sign-ups in April and Tiscali claims to have some 1.32m broadband punters. It also has 6.8m active dial-up users. This "sharp rise" in broadband accounts has fed through to organic revenue growth at the ISP, the company says. Revenues jumped 26 per cent from Q1 03 to €267m (£180m) this year, while Group loss fell 39 per cent from € 85.3m (£57m) to €52.1m (£35m). Tiscali forecasts revenues for the year should grow 30 per cent to more than €1.2bn (£674m) with the number of broadband punters rising to 1.6m. ® Related stories Tiscali mulls sale of some country ops Tiscali names new chief exec Tiscali is UK's 'fastest-growing' broadband ISP
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2004

Jilted lover jailed for email stalking

An Australian man has been jailed for three months for sending offensive emails and making abusive and threatening phone calls. Nicholas Stacey, of Torquay, Victoria pleaded guilty to stalking and using a carriage service (public network) to offend. Stacey was living in the US with his girlfriend when he returned to Australia in December 2003 to finalise his divorce from another woman. But his American girlfriend decided to end the relationship and asked him not to return to the US, according to Australian papers. He didn't take the news well. He began making abusive phone calls - up to 40 a day. He then started sending threatening emails with explicit photos of him and his ex. These included pictures of Stacey receiving oral sex from his ex-girlfriend. In a four week period he sent 60 explicit photos to the woman's family, friends and workmates. Some included the caption "a cheating slut whore". In January Stacey stopped the campaign. He said through his lawyer that he was disgusted with himself and put his actions down to some kind of mental breakdown - he is now having counselling for his problems. The magistrate sentenced him to 12 months in jail, with 9 months suspended. He must also pay a fine of $2,500 plus $500 costs. The magistrate said in some ways the case was worse than a physical assault because of implications for the woman's future security and well-being. "This form of electronic material is out there in cyberspace and will remain there," he said. ® Related stories Stalkers target victims with email German 'old tart' emailer fined US man on Net stalking rap Cuckold bombards Royal Mail with revenge email Sex, Text, Revenge, Hacking and Friends Reunited The famous Sex, text, revenge t-shirt from our very own Cash 'n Carrion
John Oates, 14 May 2004

Dabber exploits Sasser flaw

Virus writers have created a worm that exploits coding flaws in the infamous Sasser worm to spread. Dabber uses a flaw in the FTP server component of the Sasser worm. The worm will only infect users already infected by Sasser, according to security services firm LURHQ. "Even though we have seen worms utilize backdoors left behind by other worms, this is the first time we have seen a worm using a vulnerability in another worm in order to propagate," it said. Worms like Doomjuice and Deadhat exploited the back doors opened by the MyDoom virus to spread but using flaws in virus code to propagate other malicious code is a significant departure. Dabber, first spotted yesterday, is spreading, but only to a modest extent, possibly because the spreading mechanism is quite complex. Dabber scans for Sasser-infected hosts on port 5554. When it finds infected PCs it uses code from a Sasser-FTP exploit developed by "mandragore" of the Romanian Security Research team to seize control of PCs. Dabber than installs itself and deletes the registry keys of Sasser and other viruses. It creates a backdoor on infected machines on TCP port 9898 allowing hackers to download additional code, which might be far more malicious than Dabber itself. To remove Dabber LURHQ advises users to kill the package.exe process using the Windows Task Manager. Remove the "sassfix" registry key. Delete package.exe from the Windows system directory and all start-up folders. Anti-virus vendors are in the process of developing signature updates to automatically detect and remove the worm. ® Related stories Sasser copycats get busy German police arrest Sasser worm suspect Sasser ups cost of Windows - Gartner Sasser creates European pandemonium Sasser worm creates havoc Doomjuice variant ups the ante in MS attack Worms pour through MyDoom back door
John Leyden, 14 May 2004

BOFH: Frying the PFY

Episode 15Episode 15 BOFH 2004 It's not good. I find the PFY flat on his back in the computer room with all but one of the telltale signs of electrocution (The missing sign being that he hadn't annoyed me in the recent past). Using my rudimentary knowledge of First Aid and for once forsaking the medicinal properties of liberal application of the cattle prod, I keep him stable until the ambulance arrives. (After disconnecting the newly-installed rack from the power, of course) One of the benefits of my long career in computing 'support' is that my location is a prerequisite for the ambulance drivers' Knowledge so they're usually fairly quick to respond to calls. The PFY comes round before the ambulance gets there which is a good sign, however because of the nature of the accident the ambos tell me that it's best that he spends a night or two in the hospital under observation, getting some tests done. They seem somewhat surprised that he managed to survive what would appear to be sustained contact with the mains supply, but I tell them he's probably built up some immunity to the ravages of voltage over the years. I forgo the luxury of riding in the back of the ambo with him however, choosing instead to pick up some essentials for his stay. Crisis over, my thoughts turn to voicing my displeasure. "It's just another crap cost-cutting measure by the company!" I rant at the Boss as he drives us to hospital. Halfway there I realise it would have been quicker if I'd gone with the ambulance, however I'll probably get a second chance at that if the Boss's driving doesn't improve quickly... "Well in this economic climate, savings have to be made.." the Boss sighs, practicing his kamikaze technique on a nearby lorry. "I can think of one person you could get rid of!" "As a matter of fact, Ron…" "Mad Ron," I interject. "...is a registered electrician. A service professional!" "Registered where?" I ask. "They say he came with the building and that his electrical practical exam involved a kite, a key and a thunderstorm." "I don't believe that he's quite that old!" the Boss. "But he is crap!" I argue "and everyone knows it." "He's not that bad!" "HE MIXED UP THE BLOODY EARTH AND PHASE!!" "Yes well, everyone makes mistakes..." he says, calmly. "It's a pretty serious mistake!" "Well, it's not really his fault though - after all, he is colour blind." "HE'S COLOUR BLIND!?" "Yes well, it's... ..an employment issue." "I agree. He shouldn't BE employed." "It's not that simple - we can't let him go because that would mean discriminating against someone on health grounds - a move the union wouldn't support." "So you'd rather have him working there, introducing more health issues?" "Our hands are tied," he sighs, pulling into the hospital carpark. ... Three hours later we find out where the PFY is and make our way to his ward. Our numbers have swollen somewhat, with the PFY's latest female companion, a company lawyer and Mad Ron all in attendance... ... "I have to admit, you seem to be taking this rather well," the Company legal representative says, as a precursor to greasing the PFY to sign away any liability that the company might have for his current condition. "These things happen," the PFY says calmly, tapping on the ECG monitor "...and no harm done." "Yes well, it was a narrow shave." Mad Ron says. "Still, you really should check the earthing of equipment before you use it." "Wouldn't that normally be the role of the electrician?" the PFY asks quietly. "Some might say, but you should really know better than to just trust anything electrical." The PFY's "quiet" demeanour has just slipped into the "too quiet category", methinks… "SO!" I say, sensing danger, "who's up for a coffee then?" "Not me thanks," the Boss burbles. "Really? Are you sure? Why LOOK AT THAT, your defibrillator isn't even plugged in!" "Oh? Get that will you, Ron," the PFY gasps weakly. "Actually I DO feel like a coffee, come to think of it!" the Boss blurts, dragging the Company Lawyer with him. "Now," I say, as we're walking down the hallway, "I hope that colour recognition will be noted in the prerequisites for the new sparky?" "What new sparky?" the lawyer asks. The words are hardly out of his mouth when the lights dim slightly. "Ah, that new sparky!" he continues, without missing a step. "Yes, yes, good as done." "And my assistant will probably be billing you separately for his... uhmm.. HR consultancy." "Beg Pardon!?" he gasps. "Or he could just proceed with the negligence case?" "Oh THAT HR Consultancy, yes, by all means... so long as it's... reasonable." "I'm sure that'll be no problem." I respond. "What's going on?" the Boss asks blankly. "Nothing - just pretend we're speaking a different language." "Like English," the lawyer adds unkindly. So unkindly you have to wonder if he'd make a good operator... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 14 May 2004

US edges closer to private space flight

Burt Rutan and his SpaceShipOne team have taken another step towards claiming the $10m Ansari X-prize for the first private space vehicle. Pilot Mike Melvill yesterday took the vehicle to 64km (211,000ft) above the Mojave desert. To claim the bounty, Rutan's Scaled Composites must fly the craft to 100km (329,000ft), return safely to earth and repeat the whole procedure within two weeks. It now seems likely that SpaceShip One will be first past the post, thereby "jumpstarting the space tourism industry", as the X-prize website puts it. However, we reckon you'll have to have pretty deep pockets for a quick jaunt, despite what Scaled Composites claims: Our goal is to demonstrate that non-government manned space flight operations are not only feasible, but can be done at very low costs. Safety, of course is paramount, but minimum cost is critical. We look to the future, hopefully within ten years, when ordinary people, for the cost of a luxury cruise, can experience a rocket flight into the black sky above the earth's atmosphere, enjoy a few minutes of weightless excitement, then feel the thunderous deceleration of the aerodynamic drag on entry. We hope that the company is not using Scaled Composites' backer Paul Allen - who's not short of a bob or two - as a yardstick by which to measure "ordinary people". After all, if we mere mortals can't have our flying car, then a bit of "thunderous deceleration" would go some way to numbing the pain of disappointment. ® Related sites Scaled Composites Ansari X-prize Related stories Europe space shuttle passes first test FAA greenlights private spaceship US space tourist set for blast-off
Lester Haines, 14 May 2004

Captain Cyborg: 'I know Kung Fu!'

LettersLetters Ah, Kevin Warwick. The man of many electrodes and implanted silicon (not silicone, but more on that later) resurfaced at a conference in London. He spoke eloquently, and at some length, about speechless communication. We don't understand why people don't take him more seriously... I love your coverage on this guy. I seriously think he's given himself minor brain damage with all the poking and prodding he's done into his nervous system. All I could think about when you mentioned his comments on learning being a software download, was Keanu Reeves saying, "I know Kung Fu!" And, on the subject of The Matrix, I'm honestly surprised Captain Cyborg hasn't tried designing his own VR universe yet... of course, maybe that's what he's gearing up for. Oh, and you did forget to mention another form of speechless communication.. It involves extending the fist and raising either one finger (for US residents), or two in a V-shape (Which, if I'm not mistaken is the UK equivalent to the USA's one-finger salute... ) Thanks for a good laugh, Eric I must admit I feel jealous of the lads across the pond and their possession of a cyber-pundit. One would think that such grandiose experiments and fabulous predictions of near future technology would come from someone here in the States. Wearing a nice white suit. With wrap-around arms. In a padded room. You fellows get all the fun. "Thought communication could, and I believe will, make speech redundant." Great, just another avenue for spammers and scammers. Oh, and just think, with Bluetooth, your kids could ask the fridge what's inside rather than standing with the door wide open for hours! And MP3's!!!!! No more of that annoying karaoke and tuneless humming, you could yodel "Legend of a Mind" in perfect harmony! But wait, there's more! BSODs, reboots, DOSs, DDOSs, hackers and crackers and Bill Gates, OH MY! The good Cap'n should be writing Sunday morning cartoons, instead of giving away his material for free. Glenn K Colorado, USA Hi Lester, It may also have occured to you that theregister makes use of another form of speechless communication that also involves the movement of fingers. It's called typing. Presumably the method by which you produced your article??? Bruce Amazingly not: we've recently developed our own direct brain to computer link. It works by staring at the monitor until words appear. Mostly we can do it without fainting now, and if Prof. Warwick would like to study our methods, we're be happy to share our research. We also reported on the continuing legal wrangling between Microsoft and Linspire, the artist formerly known as... Now, as you know, we at El Reg hate controversy and just want everyone to get along. In that spirit, we included the following suggestion in the article: Perhaps there is another solution: one Reg reader reckons the Linux company should give up on Windows and call its software "Gates". Doesn't this bear an auditive resemblance to "Gits"? Roop Hmm, Roop, this could be a problem. However, an interesting alternative follows: "one Reg reader reckons the Linux company should give up on Windows and call its software "Gates" Or even LitiGates. Matthew Many of you were moved to comment on the apparent lack of parity in geek remuneration, suggesting that perhaps working hours are not the only reason for an inbalance in either the number of men and women in IT. Neither, you said, is sex the only explanation for the difference in pay: Hi I'm not usually moved to respond to any article but this evening I must say I am. I did think your article was either deliberately provactive or just unjustly opinionated. Either way, I have to confess I only read the first paragraph before reaching that conclusion. As someone of the first real genertion of people who grew up with 8-bit and 16-bit hoime computers, PC's, the nascent internet at university (unheard of to the general populous in 1995) and a booming jobs market at times (java, .net et al) I feel very lucky. But I also feel well placed to comment on my colleagues over this time (7 years). In my time as a technical manager in various jobs for both mobile companies and banks, often I have worked with female peers who are technically spot-on, whose judgement is absolutely right and who are (in short) the kind of colleagues you rave about if you are asked to give a reference. But if I'm honest, more often the kind of female colleague I meet is quiet and (sometimes very) intelligent but not at all assertive. Someone who would prefer to be quietly competent, but remain in the background. Someone whose very qualities lend themselves to being ranked lower in the organisation than someone more assertive amd more responsible. The male contingent is far more broad - some are uncouth, some are quiet and shy. There is a mix. Surely a reason then, for the "gross over-representation" of males in IT is not a recruitment bias, could be more a reflection that the sets of candidates are very different. That perhaps it means nothing to compare the meales and females in IT on a statistical (or any oher numerical) basis unless you have first compared them on a more rigorous, more deterministicl, more standardizws basis to determine that a comparison iis valid in the first place. Cheers Ez Lucy, In your article the oft repeated complaint about pay differential appears again; "This imbalance shows up very clearly in the difference in average pay packets. Male IT project management staff cost an average of £71.90 per hour, while women cost £37.31...much of the differential is to do with the different kind of work being done, but women are also paid less when like-for-like jobs are compared, Parity says." What galls me about this is it's often presented as a problem that needs some kind of resolution, what never seems to be acknowledged in these kinds of articles is the simple influence on that differential by the individual man or woman themselves... Interviewer: "Great well it seems we've got along really well, would you be interested in an offer? and what kind of package would you be looking for?" Candidate 1: "I was offered a company car last week, with a 200K upfront golden hello straight into a pension , 90K a year 150% bonus pot, 20% pension contribution and private health, including dental care. You need to match that and improve by 20% or I'm not even going to get out of bed for you, and that's on a 3 year rolling contract with 12 months notice.". Candidate 2: "what kind of package are you offering?". If surveyed how many women would be Candidate 2 (and how many men)? Folk seem to forget that they are as much of a commodity resource to a company as the PC under the desk. If it breaks (or leaves) it gets replaced and two weeks on no-one remembers what broke or who left. Basic principles for running a company say you should minimise margins on your costs, and maximise margins on your income, staff are a cost, and project managers are defineitely a commodity, so don't pay them any more than you have to, it's only government and public sector where pay scales and equality are actually mandated through politically correct legislation. If you want a pay rise, ask for one, or quit and go and get one somewhere else if you think you're worth it. Harsh? maybe. Capitalist? certainly, even Thatcherite, but so what? The company you work for is *not* there to be nice to you or do you any favours, it exists solely to make money for it's shareholders and owners whatever altruistic eco/environmentally socially conscience spin anybody wants to play on it. And while I'm at it, after dodgy quotes from dodgy surveys, we also get re-writes of old-monty python sketches, what *is* going on there? "No Monty Python Jokes" used to be the mantra of internet humour, they'd been done to death and then some. Even down to the absurdly patronising "don't get it?". Your audience are the very geeks you mention in the survey, do you really think they haven't heard of Monty Python? Livid of London c/o Daily Mail From social commentary to endangered species in a single bound. Impressive. And now for our own completely seamless link. What do silicone implants, a spade (as in the card suit, not the digging tool), and a large pair of buttocks all have in common? Capgemini and its new logo, that's what. Hey ... when did capgemini get into the casino racket. Looks to me like the strategy boutique types got stuck in monte carlo for a week, used a napkin and a $1000 chip to design that piece. Rather NOT be dealing with a gambling outfit thanks. Alistair Tonner Much enjoyed your piece on CapGemini, especially the "..one-in-four chance of the result being total cobblers." I hope it makes Private Eye's 'Pseuds Corporate' section. Maybe it's just me, but the new logo reminds me of nothing so much as a cartoonist's version of silicone implants. I must get out more... Best regards -- James Pickett Lester, Given the main symbol in Capgemini's new logo.. 's funny how no-one wants to call a spade a spade.. ;o) Regards, Ian Baker Thanks, Lester, for your article on CapGemini's new incarnation on these three Earthly dimensions. My karma is infinitely regenerated by the good news. Just one question - why did you accompany the story with all those pictures of a fat person with a trumpet stuck up his/her a*se? R M Crorie And on that note, (fnarr fnarr), we'll bid you all adieu. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 May 2004

Video Networks to speed up LLU roll-out

Video Networks Ltd (VNL) - which switched on its new broadband and digital TV service in London yesterday - is to bring forward plans to expand its service following BT's proposal to slash local loop unbundling (LLU) costs. BT yesterday announced that LLU costs would fall 70 per cent while communications regulator, Ofcom, said it was "committed to ensuring that appropriate regulation is put in place to provide the most positive environment for the success of LLU". Video Networks has so far unbundled around 80 exchanges in London making its HomeChoice service available to some 1.25m punters. Now, the company intends to make the service available to between 2.5m and 3m Londoners following BT's announcement to re-design and simplify its current LLU packages,. Said Roger Lynch, chairman and chief exec of VNL: "Video Networks welcomes BT's announcement reducing the price of local loop unbundling to service providers like ourselves. The full reduction of 70 per cent will bring the UK in line with the rates offered by other large EU incumbents. "This reduction will play a critical role in allowing the development of companies such as VNL who are willing to invest in and provide exciting new services like HomeChoice. "We plan to use these savings immediately to bring forward the further expansion of HomeChoice's availability footprint that was originally planned for the fourth quarter of 2004," he concluded. ® Related stories Industry warms to BT's LLU price cuts Ofcom hails BT wholesale price cuts BT to slash LLU costs London to get unbundled video-on-demand
Tim Richardson, 14 May 2004

Symantec fights auto-responder menace

Virus notification alerts will hopefully become less of a nuisance after modifications to Symantec's mail server security products announced this week. Mass mailing viruses frequently spoof the sender's address in infected emails sent out from pox-ridden PCs. This forged email address is often randomly plucked off the infected computer by a virus. Many gateway applications that scan email attachments for viral content email auto-responds when a virus is found. If the 'Sender' name has been forged, the auto-reply will be sent to an innocent party, causing unnecessary confusion and stress. A false accusation may even harm an organisation's relationship with clients and partners. Bounced messages from auto-responders are feeding a flood of useless and malicious messages that threatens to swamp legitimate emails for many users, include many whose Linux or Apple Mac machine are immune to Windows malware. Symantec has turned off this auto-responder feature by default for the last two years but systems admins insist on turning it back on, according to Chris Miller, a Symantec mail security product manager. In response the company has come up with a more sophisticated approach, called Mass Mailer Cleanup, with the latest version of its gateway product Symantec Mail Security for SMTP 4.0. Miller explained this technology was able to differentiate between mass mailers and regular viruses, only sending notifications for the latter. Mass Mailer Cleanup also deletes the entire content of messages generated by mass mailer viruses so that internal users receive fewer useless messages. The technology will feature in other Symantec AV product for Lotus Notes and Microsoft Exchange, he added. Symantec hopes the AV industry as a whole will modify its approach to auto-responder 'virus-generated spam', which has historically been treated as something of a marketing tool. In years past notifying people they may have sent a virus performed a useful function that has been eroded by the mass-mailer auto-responder problem. Symantec move to minimise this problem is welcome even if is overdue, we could have really done with those auto-responder messages from Symantec, NAI and Sophos gateways during the MyDoom epidemic, for example. ® Related stories Auto-responders magnify Sobig problem The illicit trade in compromised PCs Anti-spam tsunami hits SMEs
John Leyden, 14 May 2004

Intergraph and Gateway kiss and make up

Intergraph has ended its legal action against computer maker Gateway. The case concerned patents for Intergraph's memory management technology - called Clipper - which it claimed Gateway had infringed. Under the terms of the agreement, Gateway will pay Intergraph $5m within ten days and two payments of $2.5m in July and October. It has also agreed to make future royalty payments of $1.25 per unit for some US sales of computer systems. Gateway also gets a Clipper license for eMachines, which it bought in January, and agreed to pay $1.25 per unit sold in the US until February 2009. Intergraph has recently settled patent infringement cases with AMD, Dell and Intel. It is still pursuing HP - the two are due back in court in August. Halsey Wise, CEO and president of Intergraph, said: "We are pleased to have resolved this component of our OEM patent litigation. We are happy with the terms of the Gateway settlement, particularly the future royalty component."® Related stories AMD gives up processor profits to Intergraph Gateway axes 2,500 jobs, closes US stores Gateway to buy eMachines
John Oates, 14 May 2004

US small biz filled with optimism

A survey of small businesses in the US has revealed optimism about prospects for the year ahead and almost half expect to take on more staff. 62 per cent of small and medium businesses (SMBs) believe business will improve this year. Respondents to the survey also believe they need technology which as least as good as that used by large corporations. IT spending will also increase in the upcoming year. The survey found 44 per cent of those surveyed believe spending on IT will rise by 10 per cent and 17 per cent believe spending will increase between 11 and 20 per cent. Small business depends on local resellers and consultants. According to the survey 85 per cent of US small businesses depend on local experts to keep systems running - most SMBs do not have their own staff to install and configure IT equipment. The survey was carried out by Penn, Schoen & Berland Associates in early May. It was paid for by HP in time for Small Business Week which will rock the US next week. They talked to 501 senior figures at small and medium businesses - defined as companies with less than 999 employees. ® Related stories Survey finds most professional geeks are men IT suppliers survey - your votes count Small.biz fails to tackle spam
John Oates, 14 May 2004
server room

NHS computers prescribe trouble

NHS computer systems fail to spot dangerous prescription errors, according to researchers. The problem may put lives at risk. The study was conducted by teams at universities in Edinburgh, Kent and Nottingham. All of the computer systems in use in three quarters of the UK's GP surgeries had flaws, the research teams said, when tested with dangerous situations such as prescription of drugs which conflict with a patient's medical condition as noted on his or her records. For example: one system failed to highlight the risk of prescribing the combined contraceptive pill to a woman suffering from deep vein thrombosis (DVT), despite the widely-recognised potentially harmful side-effects of the pill to those with DVT. Another allowed the team to prescribe asprin to a child. Again, this is not good practise as it can cause a disease called Reye's Syndrome. The good news is that most of the problems uncovered by the study can be resolved. Professor Aziz Sheikh, of Edinburgh University, noted that IT systems have the potential to cut this kind of error, but stressed that there needs to be better communication between the computer system and drug database users. The findings are published in the British Medical Journal. ® Related stories NHS rolls out digital X-rays Healthcare IT spend on the up-and-up European healthcare 'online by 2008' Bush presses for electronic medical records
Lucy Sherriff, 14 May 2004

Berg execution website shut down

The website which originally hosted the video of Nicholas Berg being beheaded has been shut down. Malaysian web hosting company Acme Commerce Sdn. Bhd. took action because the number of requests threatened to overwhelm its systems. The company told the BBC the decision was taken because the volume of requests was so great it jammed connections to hundreds of other servers operated by the company. Acme Commerce also said would have taken action earlier if it had been aware of the contents of the video. The company said it had no wish to be associated with al-Qaeda or with any group that would distribute such gruesome images.The site - called al-ansar.biz - is believed to have links to the terrorist group. The Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said the government would not allow any company operating on behalf of a terrrost organisation, or hosting web pages for such a group, to operate in the country. Acme Commerce had hosted the site for more than a year. Its business manager told Malaysiakini online news service: "We have cut off all websites that are connected to terrorism." The five-and-a-half minute video is still available elsewhere on the Web. It shows Berg in orange pyjamas sitting in front of a line of five masked men. A statement is read out in Arabic before one of the men produces a large knife, pushes Berg to the ground, cuts off his head and holds it up to the camera. There is suspicion surrounding the video in some quarters. Al Jazeera claims it was monitoring the site which was the supposed source of the video and it was not there. ® Related stories Ukrainian nukes go AWOL Al Qaeda boss confused phone SIM with cloaking device MI5 takes charge of online terror tips
John Oates, 14 May 2004

UK gov gets school IT gold star

Government efforts to boost IT provision in schools appear to be working, according to a report from Ofsted, the body that monitors standards in education. British classrooms now have record levels of IT equipment, and resources compare favourably with other European nations. ICT teaching standards have gone up too, with 90 per cent of teachers now 'competent' users of technology. Effective use of technology in lessons has also improved, the review says, and the impact of OCT on teaching is now rated as 'satisfactory'. Despite this good news, and as with any school report, there is still room for improvement. A key finding of the report is that at National level, schools need to work out not just how to use new technologies, like broadband, but also focus on using them effectively. Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, David Bell, said that the impact of the increased investment in IT for schools was felt mostly in teacher confidence. The flipside of that is that such a large portion of available funding and time goes into making sure staff are competant to use technology that too little is left to go in to planning how it will be used in teaching. Opportunities to exploit the technology across a wider number of subjects are missed every day, however, and outside of the IT lessons, use of the kit depends on who is teaching the class. The report makes three main recommendations for steps schools can take to improve things even further: develop approaches to evaluating the impact of ICT at different levels in schools so that staff are confident to assess its influence on teaching and learning develop electronic portfolios of pupils’ work so that assessed work can be easily accessed by teachers, pupils and parents ensure that adequate technical support is included as an essential element of planning for ICT and that this is central to the school’s ICT strategy Bell concluded: "What the Government, LEAs and schools must now focus on doing is ensuring that the quality, diversity and extent of pupils’ ICT experiences is consistent across all schools." ® Related stories Exam cheats reveal MMS killer app Schools use SMS to fight truancy Computing A-level star wins laptop
Lucy Sherriff, 14 May 2004

Spam fighters infiltrate spam clubs

Spam fighters are gaining vital clues in the battle to keep in-boxes clean of junk mail by infiltrating spammer clubs. Online spammer forums like the Pro Bulk Club the Bulk Club and bulkmails.org have been gatecrashed by activists from organisations like Spamhaus. Steve Linford of Spamhaus said spammers know this already but they don't know who amongst their number is working for the other side. In theory the members-only forums of these sites is accessible only by invitation and only to individuals who have a proven track record in spamming. Apart from playing with the paranoia of spammers, the undercover investigation cast light on the latest spammer techniques. Instead of using open mail relays or unscrupulous hosts (so-called 'bullet-proof' hosting - in reality, ISPs in developing countries who pull the plug on spammers when enough complaints are received by their upstream provider), spammers are using compromised machines to get their junk mail out. Viruses such as My-Doom and Bagle surrender the control of infected machines to hackers. This expanding network of infected, zombie PCs can be used either for spam distribution or as platforms for DDoS attacks, such as those that many online bookies have suffered in recent months. Trade in PCs for DDoS attacks typically happens in more anonymous IRC channels, but spammers are tapping into the same resource. Lists of virus-infected PCs ('fresh proxies' in spammer parlance) are commonly traded in spammer clubs along with spamware (bulk mailing software), according to Linford. He explained that software like Dynamic Mail Sending is specifically designed to send spam through proxies. "This software rotates through a list of addresses, perhaps sending 10,000 messages from each machine," Linford explains. Spamhaus has established an Exploit Black Lists of compromised hosts, often broadband users, but the latest spam software checks this and goes on the next address if a machine is blacklisted. "With thousands of machines on a list its easy to abandon a few," said Linford. He explained that traders sell lists, which they try to clean using automated software, to many people. The lists aren't generally exclusive. PCs compromised by MyDoom and the like contact their authors by email or over IRC. "People selling these fresh proxies are either the virus writers themselves or someone very close to them. I don't know how ties between spammers and virus writers was first forged but there is clearly a strong link there," he added. ® Related stories Phatbot arrest throws open trde in zombie PCs The illicit trade in compromised PCs Mafia recruiting spammers, crackers, AV chief warns Big US ISPs set legal attack dogs on big, bad spammers
John Leyden, 14 May 2004

HP assuages Canada with $105m

HP has played peacemaker with the Canadian government, agreeing to shell out $105m to settle a long-running contract dispute. The $105m sum matches what Canada's Department of National Defence had been seeking from HP. The government argued that HP - and the old Compaq - had received payment for services never actually performed. HP has not admitted to any wrongdoing and plans to pursue the matter with lawsuits against third parties. "HP determined that it was important for the company to honor its contractual obligations, rather than engage in protracted litigation with the Government of Canada, despite the lack of evidence that HP employees derived any improper benefit from the scheme," HP said. "HP now intends to take appropriate steps, including legal action, to recover these funds from the individuals and companies responsible." Both HP and the Canadian government are being relatively quiet about exactly what went on in this services scandal. HP did, however, say other parties had engaged in a "complex scheme designed to exploit both parties through contracts inherited through HP's merger with Compaq Computer Corp." Darren Gibb, a spokesman for Canada' Minister of National Defence, said that the government plans to assist HP in its pursuit of the third parties involved in the dispute. "We have worked closely with HP on this and are conducting our own ongoing investigation," Gibb said. "We are absolutely delighted with today's' news. It shows that the government of Canada is committed to protecting tax payer dollars." ® Related stories HP owes Canada $120m, claims official HP shells out for SCO road show
Ashlee Vance, 14 May 2004

'System error' downed RAF Tornado

An RAF Tornado which was struck by a US Patriot missile while returning from a sortie over Iraq last year was downed by a 'system error', UK defence minister Ivor Caplin has admitted. In a written statement, Caplin said that there were several contributory factors which led to the deaths of crewmen Flt Lt Kevin Main and Flt Lt David Williams in March 2003: "Like most aircraft accidents, no single cause was to blame. The board of inquiry has established the causes of this tragic accident and has highlighted the various factors that contributed to it." These factors include failure of the aircraft's "identification friend or foe" (IFF) system and the "wide classification criteria" of the patriot's anti-radiation missile recognition system. Put simply, the Tornado failed to identify itself as friendly, and was then classified as an enemy rocket by the Patriot battery, which promptly shot it down. Furthermore, an inquiry into the incident "painted a picture of inexperienced US troops, heavily reliant on technology to make decisions, but lacking crucial equipment which could have helped them identify the Tornado as a friendly aircraft". Mr Caplin summed up by saying that the board of inquiry "has established the causes of this tragic accident and has highlighted the various factors that contributed to it. The board's recommendations are now being implemented". ® Related stories Ukrainian nukes go AWOL DiY $5k cruise project shut down, missile goes into hiding US forces to target enemy mobiles with P2P WLANs
Lester Haines, 14 May 2004

EBS outpaces Sun with Solaris x86 kit

Sun Microsystems garners a lot of press for its Solaris x86 push, but a small company based in Massachusetts is arguably doing more to sell actual product running the operating system. Electronic Business Solutions (EBS) has just rolled out a new dual processor Opteron-based workstation, which is certified to run both Solaris x86 and Sun's Java Desktop System (JDS) Linux operating system. The new box joins a ruggedized laptop and two-processor Opteron server already certified to run Solaris x86 in EBS's hardware lineup. EBS plans to roll out a four-way Opteron box next month as well. The EBS lineup is nothing short of stellar, if you are a Solaris x86 fan. At present, Sun only has the operating system available on its two processor Xeon and Opteron servers. And, as we recently discovered, Sun does not always make it easy to buy Solaris x86 on these few systems it does have. Sometime this year, Sun is expected to roll out a four-way Opteron box and a workstation of its own. In the meantime, Solaris x86 users can turn to EBS and do so with Sun's blessing. "Together, Sun and EBS are providing a range of Solaris x86-based solutions, that deliver great performance and functionality at prices that won’t break the bank,” said Jack O’Brien, a group marketing manager at Sun. Lucky for Sun, the company really doesn't have to do much of anything to have EBS on board. Fran Oh, the CEO of EBS, has long been a Solaris x86 fan, working with both Sun and HP to certify the OS for x86-based gear. EBS's new HLS Series workstation backs up this Solaris x86 enthusiasm with smart product. The box packs two Opteron chips from AMD, 2Gbytes of memory, a 120Gbyte hard drive and a Nvidia Quadro FX 500 graphics card. The system starts under $3,000. "We are trying to bring the Solaris world and the Opteron world together with a real high-end graphics workstation," Richard Anderson, CTO at EBS, told El Reg. Not surprisingly, Sun has been demonstrating the EBS gear at various customer and user conferences. Both companies are trying to revive Solaris x86 and push it from a hobbyist OS status to being the Unix of choice among Opteron users. Government and university customers have shown the most interest for Solaris x86 in recent months, Oh said. EBS backed up our perception that Solaris x86 has garnered heightened importance within Sun. It seems Sun is putting far more than just marketing muscle behind the OS. ® Related stories Veritas gratifies itself, users and Sun with new product Sun's Opteron box defies European power supply standards Sun makes servers Windows-ready Sun slashes Solaris x86 price for big buyers Analysts cheer AMD, Dell and Microsoft as x86-64-bit winners Sun finally ships StarOffice for Solaris x86 Sun sets Solaris x86 free Sun and AMD toast their Opteron marriage Sun ashamed of Solaris x86 past Sun gives Solaris x86 a nudge with new test suite
Ashlee Vance, 14 May 2004