9th > July > 2004 Archive

Newspaper discovers moderately happy Wi-Fi user

The New York Times, in its easily-disposable Circuits section, returns to the wonderful world of Wi-Fi. With last year's Wi-Fi bubble well and truly popped, reporting about the technology no longer has the gushing tone of a fundamentalist facing up to The Rapture. The wireless technology continues to spread, we're delighted to say, and is becoming a feature on many campuses and work sites, and now Nokia has vowed to build it into several phones in 2005, alongside 2.5G and 3G radio. But the commercial public offerings always looked a risky proposition. Despite enthusiastic early projections, there simply weren't enough webloggers to make the service viable, and Cometa's crash this year - with only 250 of the projected 20,000 hotspots built - was only the latest casualty. However the Times today draws on its long history of investigative journalism, and has finally discovered a Wi-Fi user! He's a commuter using a trial on the Altamont Express train service in Northern California. In a report penned by freelance Wi-Fi evangelist and weblogger Glenn Fleishman, we discover that Terry Dickman (for it is he) avoids "sites laden with graphics that are slow to load, concentrating on work involving relatively small text files and e-mail," on balance, his life had "changed for the better". Which is good news for the whole Dickman family. The Times discloses that the name of this Wi-Fi user was provided by the trial operator, PointShot. It doesn't mention that Intel, who we learn in the article is also Dickman's employer, has spent several hundred million dollars promoting Wi-Fi and invests in the equipment provider for the service, Broadreach. Now it may be pure coincidence that the only "independent" member of the public the Times could find was an employee of Wi-Fi's biggest promoter. It may be the case that only Intel employees use Wi-Fi, or it may not. We simply don't know. But we do think he could be a teeny bit more enthusiastic about it. An enlightening report in many ways. Pulitzer Prizes all round! ® Update: But no Pullitzer prizes for your red-faced vulture. Although Intel Capital invests in the equipment provider for the Altamont service, Broadreach, it doesn't as we first suggested "sponsor" Pointshot, which spoonfed provided the name of the Intel employee to the Times freelancer. For that we must eat humble pie, in the shape of a crow's hat. So it's just a coincidence that the moderately happy civilian quoted happened to work for Intel. One day, we hope, Ronald McDonald himself will appear in one of these stories, and profess himself delighted with the service. We can but dream. Related link And now a word from our sponsors... Related stories Will the WiFi Bubble hypesters kill WiFi? Radio Intel future or fantasy? Public Wi-Fi has look and feel of a dead duck Public Wi-Fi the debate bubbles on Blame game starts as Wi-Fi Bubble pops Ronald McDonald to save Wi-Fi Public Wi-Fi still has look and feel of dead duck Cometa crash bursts hotspot bubble? Wi-Fi hotspots simply too expensive
Andrew Orlowski, 09 Jul 2004

US Defense Dept tech crisis leaves Our Boys unpaid

They say that slow and steady wins the race, but that's clearly not the case at the US Department of Defense (DoD) where years of big funding and bigger talk have done nothing to cure a computing crisis. A report from the General Accounting Office has chided the DoD for being big, slow, dumb and negligent - just not in such polite terms. For years, the DoD has failed to modernize its organizational structure to deal better with military basics such as paying soldiers and keeping contractors honest. The sum total of the DoD's poor business process, according to the watchdog GAO, has resulted in an inability to keep track of much of anything or to function on a level anywhere near that of a sound organization. "Our two case study projects ... are examples of how DoD's lack of control and accountability over business systems investments continues to result in the department spending hundreds of millions of dollars on systems that will not result in integrated corporate solutions to some of its long-standing inventory and related financial management problems. For example, neither (case study) will provide total asset visibility over DoD's billions of dollars of inventory, such as repair parts and chemical and biological protective clothing. The lack of total asset visibility is a key gap in the department's ability to track and locate inventory," the General Accounting Office says. Add to this the $19bn request by the Pentagon in 2004 to run these operations, and you have a not so pretty picture. In 2003, the DoD reported operations involving $1.1 trillion in assets, more than $1.5 trillion in liabilities and close to 3.3m military and civilian personnel. To handle the sum total of this machine, the DoD uses 2,274 accounting, logistics and personnel systems. The problem is that few of these systems can share information or provide solid information on what the DoD is doing. And the DoD's failures have had serious consequences. A case study involving 481 soldiers revealed that 450 of them had at least one problem receiving their pay on time. "DoD's inability to provide timely and accurate payments to these soldiers, many of whom risked their lives in recent Iraq or Afghanistan missions, distracted them from their missions, imposed financial hardships on the soldiers and their families, and has had a negative impact on retention," the GAO reports. In addition, DoD contractors have massaged the federal tax system "with little or no consequence." The DoD's failure to track contractors has likely led to massive losses under current laws. As of Sept. 2003, the DoD had collected only $678,000 in unpaid taxes. The GAO estimates this total could be raised to $100m per year, if a more effective debt collection program were in place. The DoD is also missing out on tens of millions of dollars every year because of poor policies when dealing with third-party insurers. These are just a fraction of the tragic DoD policies. It has also spent hundreds of millions on modernization projects only to kill the projects without completing them. It has done a miserable job of tracking inventory, funds and using eBay. A military outfit designed to protect soldiers against biological warfare is currently up for sale on the Internet for $3 a pop versus the $200 each the DoD pays for the same outfit. "DoD has acknowledged that these garments should have been restricted to DoD use only and therefore should not have been available to the public," according to the report. Too late. And what can the DoD to improve? Well, emulate Sears and Wal-Mart, of course. "Unlike DOD, which has a proliferation of nonintegrated systems using nonstandard data, Sears and Wal-Mart require all components and subsidiaries to operate within a standard systems framework that results in an integrated system and do not allow individual systems development," GAO said in the report. So despite years of modernization funding, our Defense Department is being outdone by a pair of retailers. Shocking? Hardly. ® Related link GAO Report [PDF] Related stories US gov helps CSC to profit Beware MS bearing gifts, DoD staff warned. Allegedly DARPA creating a race of robo-grunts
Ashlee Vance, 09 Jul 2004

Nextel vexes Verizon with $5bn spectrum swap

In what the FCC chairman Michael Powell described as "the most difficult, complex and challenging issue" he's faced since taking the job seven years ago, Nextel has agreed to relocate its service onto new spectrum. The issue of interference in Nextel's 800 MHz band has alarmed the emergency services for several years. But the deal with the FCC hasn't come cheap, nor without continuing rancor. Nextel will pay the government $4.8bn for two blocks of spectrum in the 1.9Ghz range, the FCC announced yesterday. Nextel is selling and releasing some of its 800MHz spectrum and all of its 700 MHz spectrum, which interfered with radio signals used by the police and emergency services. Nextel will receive $1.6bn for the spectrum it is returning. The deal is complicated by what the FCC calls an an "anti windfall tax" to ensure Nextel complies without lining its own pockets. The agreement was criticized by telco trade body the CTIA, which argued that the 1.9Ghz spectrum should instead have been auctioned. Verizon wanted this most badly, and has been leading the charge. Without naming names, FCC chairman Powell referred to "some of the most ruthless lobbying I have ever encountered". Verizon is now expected to invite Nextel to step outside - and into a courtroom, to resolve the case. With a glimpse of what squabbles we could expect from a deregulated spectrum regime, the FCC noted that "reliance on voluntary measures alone" had proved insufficient. ® Related stories Famous American launches 4G - but this time, is anyone listening? Are you a winner in the T-Mobile, Cingular spectrum swap? Broadband gets FCC chairman hot US punters face higher phone charges
Andrew Orlowski, 09 Jul 2004

Patients, GPs to have a say on care record plans

The Department of Health (DoH) has set up a body to represent the interest of patients in the NHS National Programme for IT (NPfIT). Health Minister John Hutton said the Care Record Development Board (CRDB) "will ensure the NHS develops patient-centred care processes that are supported by the IT being delivered by the National Programme". He said its work will enable wider consultation on the development the NHS Care Records Service. Harry Cayton, DoH's director for patients and public, will chair the board, supported by Sir Cyril Chantler, chair of the King's fund and Talib Yaseem, director of nursing for North Cumbria acute hospitals NHS trust. A third deputy is still to be appointed. Board members will be drawn from a variety of disciplines, with representatives from a broad mix of patients and service users, health and social care professionals with experience of service delivery and a range of expertise. A spokesman for the NPfIT told The Register that the CRDB will identify the areas where work is needed to inform the development of the NPfIT. Teams will investigate areas such as electronic prescribing, and their findings will be put to the NPfIT board. The new body replaces the Patients Advisory Board and the National Clinical Advisory Board. The idea is that it will be able to take a wider and more consultative approach than its predecessors, so that there is relevant clinical and patient input into the way in which the NHS Care Records Service is developed. ® Related stories How safe is your medical record? NHS rolls out digital X-rays Doctors divided over £2.3bn NHS IT project
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 2004

Intel preps autumn Pentium M price cuts

Intel will pare the prices of its Pentium M family in October, Taiwanese mobo-maker sources have claimed. The cuts will accompany the anticipated arrival of 90nm 'Dothan' PMs that can operate across a 533MHz frontside bus. Current PMs only support a 400MHz FSB. That in turn suggests Intel's 'Alviso' mobile chipset will ship in the same timeframe - 533MHz FSB support is one of the chipset's key features. Alviso and Dothan are two of the three key components that will make up the next generation of Intel's Centrino platform. The third is its 'Calexico 2' Wi-Fi wireless adaptor. According to a DigiTimes report, Intel will ship an 802.11a/b/g module, the ProWireless 2915ABG, in August. The report also claims the new PMs will sport model numbers just ahead of their 400MHz equivalents. It also suggest they will be offered as 'J' variants - in other words, they will feature the 'no execute' support required by Windows XP Service Pack 2's new anti-virus system. However, that contradicts a story the site ran yesterday which implied the J PMs would not arrive until the new year. There have been some hints of late that 'Centrino 2' might not appear until 2005, despite comments from Intel executives that point to an autumn 2004 launch. Intel could offers Alviso and Calexico 2 as incremental improvements to the Centrino platform, waiting until 2005 for the arrival of the PM Js to launch Centrino 2 as a new, secure mobile platform. Right now, there's not enough information to say which way the company will go. ® October Pentium M Price Cuts and Introductions Processor Prev. Price New Price Change Pentium M 770 (2.13GHz/553MHz FSB)   $637   Pentium M 765 (2.1GHz/400MHz FSB)   $637   Pentium M 760 (2GHz/553MHz FSB)   $423   Pentium M 755 (2GHz/400MHz FSB) $637 $423 -33.6% Pentium M 750 (1.86GHz/553MHz FSB)   $294   Pentium M 745 (1.8GHz/400MHz FSB) $423 $294 -30.5% Pentium M 740 (1.73GHz/553MHz FSB)   $241   Pentium M 735 (1.7GHz/400MHz FSB) $294 $241 -27.2% Pentium M 730 (1.67GHz/553MHz FSB)   $209   Pentium M 725 (1.6GHz/400MHz FSB) $241 $209 -13.3% Pentium M 715 (1.5GHz/400MHz FSB) $209 $209 - Related stories Intel shaves a buck off certain Centrinos Intel Wi-Fi module trims Centrino prices Intel 'delays' Centrino 2 chipset Intel launches Dothan with Pentium M price cuts Intel to combine Wi-Fi, Bluetooth in Centrino 2 90nm Dothan to lead consumer Centrino drive Centrino 2 to launch next Autumn
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 2004

Intel grows Socket T Celeron line-up

Intel is planning to offer more 775-pin Celeron D processors that originally thought, according to reports today. DigiTimes cites sources from among Taiwan's motherboard manufacturers, that the anticipated Socket T Celeron D 335 and 340 will now be joined by the 325 and 330. Intel's move to offer 775-pin 90nm Celerons was signalled in June 2004 by barebones PC maker Shuttle, which noted that its i915-based Socket T systems would support Celeron CPUs as well as the LGA-775 Pentium 4s that Intel had already announced. The chip giant had also announced 90nm Socket 478 Celerons, but not Socket T versions. The possibility of Celeron D parts capable of being used with Intel's Grantsdal' chipset family was raised in April 2004 when details of the company's desktop CPU leaked out. If the claims are accurate, expanding the number of 775-pin Celerons makes sense, as Intel is aggressively pushing Grantsdale as the foundation for all future home PCs. Greater Celeron support, particularly at the lower price points offered by the 325 and 330, is likely to deepen Grantsdale's market penetration far more than if Intel kept it as mid- to high-end P4 sub-system. Enabling Grantsdale at a wider range of price points will also encourage take-up of Intel's 90nm CPUs - again, that's a technology Intel is promoting heavily. The new Celeron Ds are expected to ship early August ahead of anticipated price cuts which will be applied to the CPU line later in the month. ® Related stories Intel forecast to cut P4 price by up to 34% Intel to add NX security to Pentium 4 in Q4 Intel to tackle Sempron with 'Celeron price cuts' PC maker confirms 775-pin Celeron D Intel launches 90nm Celerons Intel to launch 3.6GHz P4 in June
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 2004

CA misses sales target

A weak performance from its services business dragged CA Q1 revenues below guidance. The software vendor now expects revenues for Q1, fiscal 2005 ended June 30 to come in at 830m to $850m, against earlier forecasts of $865m to $885m. Also contributing to revenue shortfall was higher mix of maintenance in the indirect business "which is recorded on a prorated basis rather than during the quarter in which it is sold; and lower subscription revenue due to a slightly higher mix of subscription contract renewals than originally anticipated". But CA is holding steady on guidance for earnings, which it is expects still to come in at between $0.05-$0.07 for GAAP earnings per share are expected to be and between $0.17 and $0.19 for Non-GAAP operating EPS. Jeff Clarke, CA's chief operating officer, is satisfied with performance overall, "considering the current industry guidance". Excellent expense controls ensured the company met its earninging guidance in Q1 and should ensure it hits its earnings target in Q2, he said. The company forecasts revenue growth of five per cent to eight per cent for next quarter. It will have a definitive set of Q1 results ready on 22 July, close of play. ®
Drew Cullen, 09 Jul 2004

Daleks, details and a downed Tornado

Letters:Letters: This week, you have mostly been bothered by Daleks. The news that the BBC is resurrecting the Time Lord, Dr. Who, has brought the faithful out in their thousands. Naturally, the tiniest detail of every scrap or sliver of news that makes its way into the press is to be picked up, savoured, and dissected for flaws. Ah yes: the geeks are back: "resulting in the stairphobic salt-cellars stropping off back to their home planet." Unfortunately The Doctor Destroyed Skaro using the Omega Device in the Sylvester McCoy story "Remembrance of the Daleks". Sorry. :-) Alex If my memory serves, there's an episode of Doctor Who called "The Death Of Doctor Who". The "Daleks Boycott Dr Who" story pretty much suggests that this new series will indeed kill the Time Lord off for once and for all. Michael Grade must be laughing his red braces and socks off. First Billie Piper and now no Daleks? I certainly won't be watching this new series. Unless your story suggests that Boycott could be something to do with a new villain. Geoffrey Boycott vs the Doctor? Now that could be interesting! James Dowling one very disillusioned Doctor Who fan Birmingham, England While I am open to the possibility that elements in your Monday 5th July 2004 10:49 GMT "Daleks invade New York" article were supposed to be "funny" or at best, "amusing," I am at a loss as to why you would misspell the word extermination as "extoimination." Did it sneak past your spell-check and/or was your editor out to lunch? You article curiously "quotes": << One outraged Big Apple local is quoted as saying: "How can deez guys at da BBC dump da Daleks? Dat's ridiculous. Dey need extoiminating." >> Having born born in New York and raised in nearby New Jersey (and spent so much time in Manhatten), it has been my life-long experience that there are very few types of people who use the false dialect as used above: specifically the severely mentally challenged and very bad actors (and unfunny comedians) who have never been to the American east coast. At least in your continuation: << Another chipped in: "I grew up watching the Daleks. It's hard to believe a race hellbent on galactic domination will let a few suits at a TV company stop them." >> If a true quote, this clearly sounds as though from a New Yorker or someone from nearby northern New Jersey (though even more puzzling that a Doctor Who fan would remain anonymous for an article quote.) Are you claiming you spoke to someone who said the previous "quote," or are you adding some "colourful" (albeit false) misrepresentation about New Yorkers? I don't recall ever seeing an American article quoting Britons using substituted H's for R's with which to "get the written idea" of an exagerated (and/or false) British dialect. I don't expect to see an article quoting the queen as saying, "Wotcher say 'bout that then, eh, guv?" Or should I? Regards, Geoffrey Gould American Fan of Doctor Who since 1966 Ummm, probably not the Queen, no. However, we submit Dick van Dyke's Australian Cockney in Mary Poppins as evidence of mitigating circumstances for any and all jokes about accents on the other side of the pond. Next up, we have some grammatical nitpicking. A wonderful thing has started to happen: instead of flaming us, you lot are now flaming each other... The website indicates the current employees are barely literate, the grammar and spelling is awful. I hate the idea of outsourcing, but when people who work in an IT department can't use a spell checker I don't blame Swansea for getting rid. Tony We're curious: are you suggesting Swansea is getting rid of anything in particular, or is this the name of a new product that removes unwanted illiterates? Answers on a postcard to the usual address. More nitpicking follows: seems we need to brush up on our languages a bit...More than one person wrote in to point this out to us, but we'd like to encourage amusing comments, rather than 'You're stupid and your French is lousy' type remarks, so we're only running this one: Quelle horreur! Reader Howard Gartside spotted this extravagant bit of pricing after searching for "French" on said e-emporium. He notes: "All I can say is I'm glad I want to improve my French not my English." Mais oui. Bon chance! C'est Bonne chance, mon petit ami. And for the 24 quid, moi aussi will improve my French, that has been rather rusty lately. And I put mes petites grey cells in gear. Au revoir, Ana Yet more nitpicking. Anyone else noticing a pattern here? This was inspired by our latest T-Shirt promo: "Show me the way to go localhost"? "Wherever I lay my hat, that's my localhost"? Perhaps I'm missing something here, but I don't find that particularly amusing, and I've never come across 'home' used to refer to a loopback network connection. There is, however, no place like ~. Perhaps someone should make a T-shirt about that... Adrian We've had an interesting dialogue with one reader, who asked to remain anonymous, about the myopic Patriot missile. The latest installment in the saga is a report from CBS-11 journalist Robert Riggs in which he describes a false firing incident, only hours before a Patriot missile downed the RAF Tornado. Anon: There is a very telling line in your story "Patriot' 'Blue on Blue' that explains everything. That line is "The track was interrogated for IFF [identification friend or foe] but there was no response." Had the aircraft responded it would not have been shot down. From everything I have read on the incident I'm faced with the conclusion that the pilot made errors one of which was not having his IFF on. Not having the IFF on is a very stupid and fatal mistake when flying in your own Air Defense coverage area. . Even after an aircraft is engaged the radar will re-interrogate the aircraft before the missile is allowed to leave the launcher. If the radar receives the proper response the missile will not launch. Register: Fair enough. Explain to us why the Patriot doesn't work, then. Anon: It works. What else can I say. It simply works. And like I said you do not fly in your own Air Defense Coverage with your IFF turned off. It's suicidal and the pilots know this. Now if its true as you say that the IFF was not working before the aircraft took off then it should not have been allowed to do so. Thats a pilot and Command error not a failure that can be placed on the Patriot System. In the interests of inbox preservation, can we ask that any correspondence about this particular letter be directed to the writer of the article. Thankee kindly. Your current article is misleading, as you describe the Center for Defense Information as a Independent Defense Department Watchdog group, without mentioning that it is a left-leaning organization that was founded to be critical of the US Military. Obviously, any quote from them will be both negative and suspect, and your failure accurately describe the source of the quote to the casual reader would lead them to believe that this is an impartial organization. Which of course, what they would want people to believe, and may be what you wanted as well. Of course, you may not be aware of that either, so at any rate, now you know. Jerry While we are on the subject of accidental destruction of property, perhaps a nod to the world's thickest pirate is in order: Well here we have at least an honourable mention for the Darwin Awards. Its likely a good thing his crime was only selling toasty DVD's since, by the sounds of it, if he was of a violent nature he'd have managed to shoot himself somewhere painful, and possibly permanently altered his ability to procreate. Alistair A brief note regarding the fabulous news in the NYT that at least one, completely impartial, person likes Wi-Fi: On a rather grim news day, your "Newspaper discovers..." article was easily the funniest and an ever-necessary blowtorch to the backsides of your cohorts in media. Walt And finally, an unexpected response to our coverage of the Microsoft security competition: As the only British finalist in the EMEA Security Championship (I finished 3rd) what's the chance of getting a mention on The Register? Regards Barrie Cooper Monster Software Oh, alright then. But only 'cos it's Friday. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 2004

Vatican Library adopts RFID

The Vatican Library in Rome, home of nearly two million books, manuscripts and other items, has adopted radio frequency identification (RFID) tags to identify and manage a big chunk of its large collection. Systems integrator Seret s.r.l. has tagged more than 50,000 of the Vatican Library's 120,000 volumes in its public reading rooms. Using RFID, the library is finding misplaced books more quickly, maximising floor space with frequently requested items and streamlining the inventory process. Previously, administrators closed the library for an entire month each year to verify its contents, manually cross-referencing what was found on each shelf against the library's collection database. When the RFID project is completed, the Vatican estimates inventory checking will take only half a day. Each TI-RFID inlay stores the individual book or document's catalog data on a specially designed 'library friendly' tag that prevents item damage. The printed tags also include visible text, allowing for faster labeling. When new data is added to an item, the record in the library's collections database is simultaneously updated via wireless communication using a handheld reader and software management system. The library plans to extend the system to include access control, loan management and parking management by issuing RFID-tagged badges to staff, students and researchers. The Vatican solution isn't the first RFID implementation for libraries. During the ABF (Association des Bibliothécaires Français) congress in Toulouse last month Nedap France presented its RFID applications for libraries. ® Related stories IBM opens RFID test centre Munich faces RFID-controlled congestion charge US lubes passports with RFID snake oil Wal-Mart attracts more RFID flak
Jan Libbenga, 09 Jul 2004

Mozilla bug rears its head

A popular browser for Windows is subject to a security hole that creates a means for hackers to run malicious code on vulnerable machines. But this time, the vulnerability involves Mozilla and Firefox browsers - not Internet Explorer. Security researchers have discovered that users could be attacked by hackers using a bug in how Mozilla and Firefox handle the "shell:" function in windows. The function enables websites to invoke various programs associated with specific extensions. But flaws in Mozilla's implementation create a way for a skilled hacker to execute arbitrary code on vulnerable Windows machines. Information on the bug was posted onto a full disclosure security mailing list earlier this week. The flaw affects Mozilla and Firefox on Windows XP or Windows 2000 only. The Mozilla Foundation yesterday issued a patch that resolves the flaw by disabling the use of the shell: external protocol handler. Alternatively users are advised are advised to update their systems to the latest version of Mozilla (1.7.1), Firefox (0.9.2). Users of Thunderbird, Mozilla's next generation e-mail client, also need to upgrade to version 0.7.2 of the software. Firefox is a preview of Mozilla's next generation browser. Thunderbird is Mozilla's email client. Security firm Secunia rates the problem as "moderately critical". So it’s less serious than still unresolved issues bedevilling IE but still unwelcome to Windows users defecting from IE for security reasons. Secunia notes that multiple exploits in Internet Explorer also utilise "shell:" functionality. "The shell: URI handler is inherently insecure and should only be accessed from a few trusted sites - or not from a browser at all," it says. ® External links Mozilla Foundation advisory Related stories IE workaround a non-starter HP issues apocalyptic Netscape HP-UX warning CERT recommends anything but IE
John Leyden, 09 Jul 2004

EC to probe 3G content shutout

EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti is to investigate if new media firms are being shut out from delivering valuable content to users. In comments delivered in Brussels at a workshop on access to quality audiovisual content in new media, Monti said the European Commission would keep a close eye on developments. The move comes amid concern from new media providers - such as mobile content and video-on-demand providers - who say that traditional media companies are shutting them out. 3G mobile network operators, for example, say they have had difficulty licensing video clips for football matches, because traditional media firms act to make the delivery of such video to mobile devices difficult, if not impossible. Companies that deliver movies over high-speed wired data networks, so-called video-on-demand providers, report similar problems as video rental giants and television incumbents block their attempts to license films. In January, the Commission launched a probe which sought to determine if 3G mobile operators had indeed been shut out from the football broadcasting sector. Now, a second, more expansive investigation will examine the sale of similar rights to Internet operators. "Availability of attractive content - notably sports (football) rights but also music, film rights and anything that will be considered as an attractive content in the future - will continue to be kept under close scrutiny using all the powerful legal instruments that the recent modernisation of the anti-trust rules has put at our disposal," Monti said. Monti noted that some media companies, mainly incumbent free-to-air or pay-TV broadcasters, acquire rights for the delivery of some content over the Internet or mobile phones - areas in which they do not operate. "Our review, which focuses on the availability of rights to major sport events, notably football, has so far shown a generally negative attitude by the relevant players towards making premium content available for delivery over platforms different from the traditional ones." The Competition boss acknowledged that some incumbent media companies may see new media operators as a threat to their revenues, but the majority of the Commissioner's comments indicated that the EU would not allow new media companies to be shut out. © ENN Related stories Erkki speaks on mobile regulations EC probes mobile sports right sales 3 ties up Sky Sports content deal
ElectricNews.net, 09 Jul 2004

Vodafone defends buggy content filter

Vodafone UK has defended the early introduction of adult content filters for its mobile phone users, saying that the system is necessary to protect children. The operator launched the filters with great fanfare last week, five months ahead of the mobile phone industry's self-imposed deadline. However, aside from a smattering of applause from child protection lobbyists, the response to the launch has been critical. Al Russell, head of content services at Vodafone, says the company wants parents and guardians to feel that their kids are safe using Vodafone's services. "This is not an area for compromise," he argues. "The choice was, do we want to wait to protect minors until the end of the year, or do we implement a transparent and pragmatic system now?" Other operators have written the move off as a publicity stunt, pointing out that there is not much competitive advantage in launching first. Their point was made for them: Vodafone has set the system up so that subscribers must prove that they are 18 to be gain access to restricted sites. However, bugs in the software meant large sections of the Net were classified as 18+ classification, regardless of their content. The filtering system uses a rating service bought in from a third party, which Vodafone is, as yet, reluctant to name. It uses a combination of a database of classified sites, and a dynamic rating service. Andre Pyler, Vodafone's man on the ground, says the system is classifying everything except for half a per cent of user-requested URLs. In such cases, the URL is sent to a human operator for manual classification. However, a glitch at launch meant subscribers trying to access pages that were unavailable for other reasons ended up seeing a restricted access notification, instead of a '404 not found' message. Also, the filter automatically barred sites that it couldn't automatically classify. The company says it has fixed both problems, and that complaints have dropped off substantially. The industry-wide decision to introduce self regulation was prompted by the usual hints from government that life would be oh-so-much-more-complicated if it had to get involved. Vodafone says it was also contacted by several "charity stakeholders", who were just as keen to see some kind of restriction on the access to porn and betting sites. By the end of 2004, all the operators in the UK will have content regulation, with the still-to-be-appointed Independent Content Board (ICB, as it will be known) taking responsibility for rating content. The ICB, or the lack of the ICB, is also proving controversial. Although Russell insists Vodafone does not see its role as that of censor, he concedes that the situation will be more comfortable when a third party is responsible for rating content, and there is clear accountability in place. ® Related stories So why does Vodafone filter block Sky News? Vodafone's adult filter is go Mobile porn is a 'time bomb'
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 2004

Oi, Saddo, show us your home page!

Got your own homepage? Then you are probably shy, sensitive to criticism and suffering from low self esteem. Chances are, you are male too. So says the psychologists of the Chemnitz University of Technology (CUT) in Germany, who interviewed more than 300 webpage owners. Some say that personal home pages are futile products of narcissism and exhibitionism.Some say that home pages are "inane, petty, and grotesquely self-indulgent with no redeeming qualities whatsoever". Well, some say wrong. Home pages challenge timid people to find their own value, the German researchers argue. But it remains unclear if building a home page transforms social anxiety into happiness. The German researchers do not reveal if the characteristics they've found are culturally defined. They do point out, however, that the majority of the home page owners want to present themselves as naturally as possible. Whatever that means. Researchers may now want to dig deep into the psyche of bloggers, who according to recent reports have a hard time keeping up with the demands of moderating logs in the face of a job, family and other responsibilities and increasingly suffer from burnout. Bless. ® Related stories Washington sex blogger signs book deal Harvard man provides musical solace for bereft bloggers Low self esteem makes you thick - official Text addiction accident waiting to happen
Jan Libbenga, 09 Jul 2004

Anatomy of a 419 scam

ExclusiveExclusive Regular readers will be familiar with our ongoing coverage of variations on the 419 advance fee fraud scam. Occasionally, we report on people who have been suckered by the promise of riches beyond the wildest dreams of avarice - and duly fleeced for their trouble.
Team Register, 09 Jul 2004

Toshiba bows out of PocketPC arena?

Toshiba is gearing up to quit the PDA market, if reports citing a number of the company's European sales representatives are anything to go by. According to a report at Msmobiles.com, Toshiba representatives in Belgium told site correspondents who tried to by PocketPCs that the company will exit the PDA market by Q4. The site also claims to have heard of similar statements being made in the US. Separately, over at WindowsMobile.ch, a reader keen to buy an e800 was told by the company's Swiss operation that production of the deviced has ceased and that Toshiba's PDA division has "closed". And in May this year, "industry insiders" hinted to Brighthand that Toshiba was quietly withdrawing from the US PDA market - or was planning to do so. Toshiba took just over two per cent of the world PDA market in Q1 2004, according to market watcher IDC, putting it in fifth place behind Dell, Sony, HP and PalmOne. Sony's worldwide share was put at 9.3 per cent, but that still wasn't enough to prevent the Japanese giant from exiting the market in the US and Europe to focus on Japanese sales. Sony cited flat sales in those two territories as the reason for its decision. European PDA sales grew 33 per cent year in year in Q1, making it the only region to see an increase - shipments were way down elsewhere, yielding an overall decline of 11.7 per cent. If Sony thinks such a business environment is untenable, it's hard to imagine Toshiba, with its much smaller market share, not coming to the same conclusion. We asked Toshiba to comment, but the company's UK representatives did not respond to our calls. ® Related stories Sony exits global PDA biz World PDA shipments plunge PalmOne, HP slog it out over Euro sales PDA, smartphone sales rocket in Europe
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 2004

UK firm offers to double Wi-Fi range for a tenner

Want to double the range of your Wi-Fi access point without resorting to pricey high-gain antenna upgrades or proprietary tweaks to the 802.11 standard? Then UK start-up Tritium reckons it has the answer. Enter the Flatenna, a DIY parabolic reflector which when punched out of its cardboard surround, assembled, mounted on your access point's external antenna and - crucially - turned to face your PC, will yield the boost to range or signal strength, its maker claims. Indeed, add a second £10 Flatenna to your PC's aerial, and you could "achieve five times the [usual] range under the right conditions", Tritium says. Essentially, the foil-backed cardboard add-on acts as a parabolic reflector, allowing you to maximise the signal in your chosen direction. Tritium managing director Carl Schofield says the gizmo was developed to facilitate a community shared broadband network in London's Isle of Dogs area. The group needed a cheap way of improving the inter-building wireless links that make the network possible. Having come up with a successful design for the community project, Tritium decided to offer the add-on to other users. "We designed something to meet our local need and realised that we had a great product on our hands," he said. "There is a need for Wi-Fi range improvements in the home to reach the bottom of the garden or that room in the attic." We haven't tried it, but if you feel like giving Flatenna a go, it is available now from Tritium's web site. ® Related stories Linksys touts Wi-Fi signal boost upgrade Intel invests in smart antennae to drive Wi-Fi, WiMAX Chip start-up boosts Wi-Fi rate by '10-20 times' ParkerVision touts Wi-Fi range boost tech
Tony Smith, 09 Jul 2004

Japanese to tag schoolkids

Japanese primary school kids' bags will be tagged with RFID so that little darlings can be monitored on their way to and from school. The telecoms ministry has announced that a primary school in Tabe, Wakayama Prefecture, will test the scheme which will log when kids pass through the gates and warn the school when they stray too close to locations deemed dangerous by staff and parents. The project requires tag readers to be installed at the school and attached to any such undesirable locale outside. It remains to be seen if sweet shop owners will take kindly to RFID scanners clamped to their premises. The system will offer parents the opportunity to receive updates regarding their offsprings' progress through the mean streets of Tabe via email or SMS. ® Related stories Vatican Library adopts RFID Munich faces RFID-controlled congestion charge US lubes passports with RFID snake oil Barcelona nightclub chips customers Tinfoil hats to retail with RFID tags? German revolt against RFID
Lester Haines, 09 Jul 2004

Pink pound flexes muscle online

It was five years ago today...It was five years ago today... Our original intro to this 1999 outing of the power of the pink pound was "We're playing this one straight - honest". And so we did: Pink pound flexes muscle online By Tim Richardson Published Friday 9th July 1999 16:42 GMT E-tailers are being warned that they could miss out on a significant share of e-shopping revenue if they ignore gays and lesbians on the Web. According to a survey by California-based IT consultants, Computer Economics the worldwide population of gay and lesbian Net users is set to almost double from nine million today to 17 million in 2005. Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America will be home to the largest groups of gay and lesbian Internet users, the survey said. In North America gay and lesbian Net users will rise in number from 6.75 million this year to a little over 11 million by 2005. In Europe, the gay and lesbian population is predicted to double from 1.3 million to 2.6 million over the same period. Computer Economics predicts that South America will experience the fastest increase - with a growth rate of 227 per cent over the next five years. "Web-based marketers need to get a clue," said Computer Economics vice president of research, Michael Erbschloe. "This is a significant market segment that cannot be ignored and certainly not alienated. The North American gay and lesbian online population will remain the largest over the next five years, but in all other regions the populations will more than double, and in some cases more than triple, he said. 'Tis true: ignore potential markets at your peril. Proof of the burgeoning gay ecommerce sector can be found at sites such as the does-exactly-what-it-says-on-the-tin Gay e-Commerce. Enough said. ®
Team Register, 09 Jul 2004

Free Software Foundation Europe wants your money

The Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) has launched a new fundraising campaign, following an EC decision not to award the group public monies. The group needs around €10,000 per month to keep going at its current level, and wants to double this budget so that it can expand its activities. It also wants to put down roots and set up a real-world office. The FSFE is the European offshoot of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), an organisation set up in 1985 to promote computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. It is responsible for the GNU Project, so named because it is fun to say, according to the group's website. Georg Greve, FSFE president, told The Register that the group is already overwhelmed by requests for its support and involvement from the free software community. As well as this reactive kind of work, FSFE wants to run other projects such as building a GNU business network. Lack of funding has put these projects on the back burner. Greve argues that market rules are stacked in favour of proprietory software, and that this is compounded by a consumer expectation that software should be proprietory. The GNU Business Network would provide a contrasting view. "The GNU Business Network was first concieved around 2001 with the vision to foster and support commercial business with Free Software, supporting Free Software companies and those on their way to Free Software." Greve said, in an email interview with El Reg. "It would provide extensive networking among companies, customers and developers on the grounds of a truly neutral instance that has no interest but Free Software itself." Projects like the GNU Business Network need the backing of companies that will benefit from it, he said: "Currently, most of our support comes from individuals who want us to keep doing our job. It is time that companies also do their part." Anyone with spare cash and an interest in free software should surf their way over to here. ® Related stories Software patents under attack Software giants feel open source pressure MS, open source, The Facts and the fit-ups
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 2004

Strategy Boutiques invade Japan

LogoWatchLogoWatch It's been a while since any company of note was suddenly gripped by the need to redefine the corporate identity paradigm, but the terrifying pestilence of rebranding madness has struck to shocking effect in Japan. The evidence suggests that Eudyna Devices Inc's Yokohama HQ must have recently suffered a visit from one or more Strategy Boutiques, suitably armed with Powerpoint presentations, whalesong CDs and joss-stick burners. The graphic speaks for itself: Eudyna Red? As Reg reader J. Kanowitz - who brought this outrage to our attention - notes: "Is 'Eudyna Red' higher performance than Renesas Red, Amiga Red, or Soviet Bloc Red?" A good question - or Reg red for that matter? Madness, sheer madness. ® Related stories Strategy Boutique redefines the t-shirt paradigm Capgemini succumbs to rebranding madness Welsh dragon struck by rebranding madness NZ army reels under rebranding frontal assault Taiwan hit by sudden outbreak of rebranding madness Terrifying outbreak of rebranding madness in France Whalesong-driven rebranding madness spreads to Spain Rebranding kiss of death strikes Deloitte Consulting
Lester Haines, 09 Jul 2004

Building bugs in double-quick time

The first bug was a small insect caught in an early 1940s computer. Today bugs are very different in their nature, and fixing and removing defects in computer systems has become a long and labor-intensive process. Software development project teams do little to help themselves, it seems. All too often, the focus of a software project will be on the "visible sides" of development: the functionality and user interface. Actually, errors in software requirements and software design documents are more frequent than errors in source code itself. Not only are requirements and design errors more numerous, they are also more severe and more difficult to remove. Front-end errors in requirements and design cannot easily be found and removed with software testing, but instead need pre-test reviews and inspections. Yet there is rarely enough time set aside for that in the software build process. Time to market seems always to take precedence over build quality, and developers are compensated accordingly. Few organizations reward good quality. All too often, the quality-conscious software engineer is accused of simply working too slowly. Yet surveys show that the occurrence rate of bugs in the average organization is almost twice that found in best-of-breed shops. And evidence suggests that with improvement to both the occurrence rate of defects and the defect removal process itself, there is scope for a reduction by a factor of five in the number of defects actually delivered by the average IT shop. It is that combination of high levels of potential defects and low levels of defect removal efficiency that contributes to the dominance of error-related work patterns in the software community. More than twice as much effort is associated with defect removal than with actual product development. Too many people are involved in fixing too many errors. It is a crazy situation that simply would not be tolerated in the financial services markets, in retail or the automotive industry. Why should it be accepted in IT? There is a degree of waste and rework that seems to permeate the software development process, and it is unacceptable. What is surprising is that almost all IT organizations now face either a shortage of labor or some arbitrary headcount cap, and almost all have not yet successfully attacked the inefficiency of the software development process. Lone bugs are no longer the issue. It is rogue software development practices that are the real problem. It could be down to problems with the people or the process, the methods, or the tools. More likely, it is a combination of all four aspects that has been the cause of the runaway software development process, and it is going to take some fixing. Source: ComputerWire/Datamonitor Related Research: Datamonitor, MarketWatch - Technology, Annual Subscription Related stories Vodafone defends buggy content filter Does open source software enhance security? Proposed: a Bounty for Bugs
Datamonitor, 09 Jul 2004

Thus shares hit by profit warning

Shares in Thus, the telco and ISP, hit the skids today after the group issued a full-year profit warning. Thus blamed the news on the British public's enthusiastic embrace of broadband, and ongoing problems in its other businesses. The news has come as something of a surprise, following recent positive spin on the same trend. Indeed, in May this year, Thus highlighted its customers' transition to broadband as one of its key milestones, stating proudly that it generated more revenue from ADSL subscribers than it did from those still using dial-up. The company now says that the lower margins on broadband have put its core business under pressure. It said it expects to report earnings before interest and tax of between £47-53m, down from its earlier prediction of £53-59m. By lunchtime, shares had fallen almost 20 per cent, or 4.5 pence, as house broker Investec also lowered its predictions for the company's earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) by 16 per cent to £49.3m. In a statement issued earlier today, the company said it was reviewing its position on its non-core activities: namely, its call centre and scratch-card operations. It said it expects to complete the sale of its contact centre business by July 31st, and that there would be an announcement on the Interactive Services (scratch-cards) segment later this year, following a review of its performance. The company is not alone in its troubles: last week Colt issued a similar warning, also pointing to increasing pressure on its margins. ® Related stories Thus swells - thanks to ADSL Thus looks to profit in 2005 Thus passes cash flow positive milestone
Lucy Sherriff, 09 Jul 2004

Archive.org suffers Fahrenheit 911 memory loss

OpinionOpinion You don't often think about libraries in terms of strength. Few mayors tout the large sack of the local book depository or put it up against a massive skyscraper during PR stunts. Libraries are pretty passive creatures that receive some credit for the quantity of volumes they hold but not much credit these days for being powerful entities. That is until you run across something like Archive.org. For where the Library of Congress exudes strength, Archive.org piddles weakness. The site is really a reminder of how not far the Internet has come and how strong some old traditions really are. The supposed Internet archiving site is not a passive entity at all. It doesn't simply collect more and more data for the use of researchers as it claims. Instead, Archive.org actively engages in odd publicity stunts and actively pulls down information. What could be weaker than a media-hungry library with disappearing material? On Wednesday, Archive.org put up a copy of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911 documentary for download. The site was apparently responding to an interview in which Moore said he didn't mind people downloading the movie as long as the sites offering it didn't profit from the action. So Archive.org flexed its freedom of information/culture muscle and boldly offered the movie in a variety of formats. An intern here in The Register's Chicago office was ordered to test the download out. It worked. Our intern - Streaming Sally - used the FreeCache technology Archive.org recommended, and the download took about 3 hours. The movie came in a bit choppy but certainly watchable - so Sally said. But just hours after putting up the movie, Archive.org pulled it down. In the movie's place was a note that read, "This is under copyright, and archive.org needs to pull it before any damage happens." Think of this as a child fondling a can of spray paint but then stepping away from the school wall before "any damage happens." Or a seven-year-old contemplating a ten-yard run with scissors in hand and then putting the weapon down before "any damage happens." How ever you think about it. It's clear that there are children running Archive.org - the kind that play copyright gags while doing shots of Pepsi late into the night. We know this because Archive.org has long had a childlike relationship with information. Our first indication of this happened back in 2002. At that time, Intel has accidentally released the code-name of an upcoming project - Nehalem. One of Intel's engineers discussed the project in an interview conducted by Intel itself and posted on Intel's web site. Some schmuck of a reporter found the code-name and did a story on it. Intel's PR machine then went into action. First, it removed the interview from its site. Then, it called Google to make sure no copies of the interviewed lurked in Google's cache. Then, it called Archive.org to remove any trace of the interview at all. Libraries exist to preserve society’s cultural artifacts and to provide access to them. If libraries are to continue to foster education and scholarship in this era of digital technology, it’s essential for them to extend those functions into the digital world. Open and free access to literature and other writings has long been considered essential to education and to the maintenance of an open society. Public and philanthropic enterprises have supported it through the ages. The Internet Archive is opening its collections to researchers, historians, and scholars. The Archive has no vested interest in the discoveries of the users of its collections, nor is it a grant-making organization. This is pretty big talk for a toddler of a library. The Intel incident is by no means the first or only time Archive.org has pulled information at a vendor or user's request. Exactly how a vendor that of its own volition posts information in a public forum can then go back and claim it's proprietary is beyond us and how a "library" can obey this request defies comprehension. We're not talking about Windows source code here, friends. Beyond any of this, Archive.org does a poor job of recording sites - you know, the ones it doesn't erase. Response times are horrible and more often than not only a few old examples of sites exist. Without question, an Internet library raises tricky questions. How, for example, can you archive a libelous story when both the publisher and subject agree the original must be pulled? Not the best of situations. Still, we're pretty sure Archive.org is not the caliber of organization needed to clear up these serious matters. The upshot of all this is that we desperately need a "real" Internet archive - one that doesn't pretend to be brave for a few hours as part of some information stunt and one that doesn't delete the very records it's supposed to keep. ® Related stories Britain's Web presence to be saved Vivendi spinoff takes MP3.com archive private The Persistence of Hoax Defacement contest likely to target Web hosting firms
Ashlee Vance, 09 Jul 2004

Iraq domain owner convicted

The current owner of Iraq's .iq domain has been found guilty along with his four brothers, of illegally shipping computer parts from the US to Libya and Syria. Bayan, Basman, Ghassan, Hazim and Ihsan Elashi have yet to be sentenced but face 10 years apiece. On top of this, all five of them will face a further trial in September for allegedly dealing in the property a "specially designated terrorist" - namely Mousa Abu Marzook, the ex-head of Hamas' political bureau and their cousin's husband, for which they could face a further 10-year sentence. With that also comes various counts of money laundering that have a 10 to 20-year sentence. It is a stunning fall from grace for Bayan Elashi and his brothers, but a feather in the cap of the US government, which has used the Elashi case as a prime example of how it is dealing with the internal terrorist threat following the 2001 terrorist attacks. All five brothers are Palestinian immigrants. Bayan moved to the US in 1977, at the age of 22, where he took a masters in computer science and started up an IT research company in California. He is credited with producing the world's first Arabic PC, and started another company before finally creating InfoCom Corporation in Texas in 1992. Five years later, he was awarded the managership of Iraq's .iq domain by Jon Postel in recognition of his skill. InfoCom became a thriving telecoms company, with all five brothers on staff, and a $7m turnover. It hosted a large number of domains for customers in the Middle East as well as many major Muslim-American organisations, including the Council on American Islamic Relations, the Islamic Society of North America and the Islamic Association for Palestine. But it was the connection between InfoCom and Islamic charity the Holy Land Foundation that first got the FBI interested. InfoCom and the Holy Land Foundation moved from different parts of the country to directly opposite one another in Richardson, Texas at the same time. Ghassan Elashi, InfoCom's head of sales, co-founded the foundation and was its board chairman. Bayan as president and CEO of InfoCom was also the technical contact for the Foundation's website - which was, of course, hosted by InfoCom. The FBI suspected that the Holy Land Foundation was being used to filter money through to Middle East terrorists and so shut it down. After investigations, it then arrested the brothers on 18 December 2002 on charges of dealing illegally Mousa abu Marzook and illegally exporting computer equipment and technology to Libya and Syria - described by US officials as state sponsors of terrorism. The documented export violations [pdf] stretch back to the mid-90s and showed how InfoCom illegally shipped computer parts to the two countries, often through a middleman in Malta. If based in the US, InfoCom needed a special export licence for both countries, which it did not apply for. The brothers subsequently lied on numerous shipments about their true value. They hoped that by hugely undervaluing the parts, they would evade the attention of the US authorities. However, the brothers were found innocent on numerous counts of making false statements. The brothers' defence was that they had been conned by a Libyan businessman and knew nothing of the final destination of the goods. They did not knowingly break export laws and the goods were low-grade and did not pose a threat, their defence lawyers argued. The jury spent three days deliberating, and disagreed. Nevertheless, the defence lawyers claim the Elashis were targeted because of their ethnicity and Muslim religion. Similar charges would have been punished by fines, not a criminal court case, they argued. However, there is a very strong political bent to the whole case, with the Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI director Robert Mueller both making personal statements over it. Mueller made an explicit connection between "9/11" and the arrests when they first happened in 2002. Whether the Elashi brothers are dangerous terrorist funders or businessmen caught up in an over-zealous attempt by the US government to demonstrate results will become far clearer in the second case. The government alleges that Mousa abu Marzook put his significant financial interests in InfoCom in the name of his wife and the Elashi's cousins to avoid new financial laws put in place by the authorities regarding monies held by named terrorist groups. However, the government alleges (see the full case here [pdf]) that Marzook had full control of his assets and the Elashis were in fact helping to protect those assets by concealing them within their company's accounts. Related stories Iraq, its domain and the ‘terrorist-funding’ owner This is what is happening to Iraq's Internet domain
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Jul 2004

Nominet board results in

The results of the board elections for the .uk domain registrar are in - and it's out with the old and in with the new. Former member of its Public Advisory Board, Gordon Dick has been elevated to the six-strong deciding unit of Nominet, alongside existing board member Fay Howard. Unfortunately that means Stephen Dyer has been replaced after four years at the top. Gordon previously said his decision to stand was in order to give Nominet members a choice and added in his election statement that a "regular but steady churn of CoM members helps to invigorate Nominet and ensures that complacency and arrogance does not have a chance to set in". Well, that what members have voted for - although we can exactly work out how. The board elections are complicated by the fact that 25 per cent of the vote is given equally to each member (one member, one vote) but the remaining 75 per cent is weighted according to how significant that member is - namely how many domains they have registered that year. Adding further confusion is the formula provided by the Electoral Reform Services. While we have no doubt it is fair and equitable, we can figure out exactly how. See here to try and make some sense of it. Anyway, in the first round of voting, the 210 returned valid papers gave a weighted voting split of Fay Howard with 12,053, Stephen Dyer with 736 and Gordon Dick struggling with 206. The 2nd stage of voting then produces figures of -1054.66, 25.50 and 1019.49 respectively - which subsequently gave Gordon Dick the highest score with 1225.49, Fay Howard second with 998.34 and last Stephen Dyer with 761.50. From last to first in one apparently incomprehensible step. See it for yourself here. Anyway, congratulations to Gordon and Fay, commiserations to Stephen, and pull your socks up to Nominet members who voted in their smallest numbers yet (234 in 2002; 306 in 2003; just 210 this year). ® Related stories ICANN grows up at last Powergen awarded whistleblower's domain EC tells Europe and ICANN to make peace
Kieren McCarthy, 09 Jul 2004

Computer Security: a handbook for the ordinary user

Book reviewBook review It may seem a little self-referential to review a book by a colleague but Thomas C. Greene's Computer Security for the Home and Small Office is a well-written manual on computer security and online-privacy that's well worthy of your attention. Written with home users in mind, the book aims to demystify computer security and help users to enjoy and a safer and more enjoyable computing experience. The book, though not without its flaws, largely succeeds in this difficult task. Reg readers will know of Greene's enthusiasm for Linux desktops but in the book he recognises that the majority of people remain attached to Windows. Recognising this, he argues that it's easy to enhance Windows security simply by replacing common applications, utilities, and clients with open-source alternatives that "don't contain any hidden code or secret functions". By preferring open to closed source software, many routes to exploitation can be shut off. As early as the Intro, readers are advised to install and properly configure the Mozilla browser and email client in favour of Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Greene's argument is particular timely: continuing problems with IE have prompted security clearing house US-CERT to advise users to use other browsers. The great Windows vs Linux debate While the book focuses on Windows, Linux users will find plenty of advice within its pages. The book contains a chapter weighing the advantages and disadvantages of migrating from Windows to Linux - a move that Greene says greatly simplifies computer security for less experienced users. As Reg readers might expect, Greene seasons his computer security tips with analysis, illustrative security incident anecdotes and humour. This will not be to everyone's taste. But the result is a book with much more personality than that any technical manual I've come across before. At the same time it is a thorough guide to basic computer security practices and is refreshingly free of technical jargon and hype. Signposting security If the book has a fault it is that it sometimes jumps from step-by step-guides to discourses on much broader computer security issues. It is almost as if two books had been merged into one. This is not a criticism of the content but of the editing and format which leaves readers picking through chapters looking for advice. Readers who take the time to do this will be rewarded with clear and detailed explanations on configuring Mozilla or installing PGP, for example. But despite a comprehensive index and appendices I'm still left with the impression that readers could have been given a bit more help. The jokes, anecdotes and yes rants - it is our Thomas, after all - do differentiate the book from other manuals and give a reader a clear background for the advice proffered. Many sections summarise arguments and discussions which Greene first aired on these pages. Online privacy and anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene are important areas of security which Greene reckons have received far too little attention. He provides practical advice on PGP encryption and pointers to other resources but we’re left with the impression he’s got a lot more to say on the subject, which may feature in further works by the author. Fighting FUD A key theme is de-bunking the hacker myth. Greene challenges the conventional wisdom that hackers are the primary cause of system exploitation by pointing out that few would succeed but for the innocent mistakes of users, and the prevalence of malware and software flaws. In focusing on this aspect, Greene presents security as a manageable problem for end users, instead of leaving them cowering in fear. He supplis his readers with material that will leave them a better judge of the threats they need to worry about, and the ones you can safely dismiss. Greene writes: "There is a whole security and antivirus racket devoted to frightening us with dire threats, encouraging us to overspend on mediocre security products and services. But in truth, it's neither difficult nor expensive to harden a computer system or small network with sensible configurations and inexpensive, and often free, tools. Nor is it at all difficult to frustrate malicious hackers, virus writers and privacy invaders. "Computer security and online privacy are not black arts - you can learn them, and you will," he adds. Greene backs up this analysis with advice on defending systems from attack, protecting privacy and protecting children from inappropriate Web content. For instance, he explains how to set up a multi-user system on Windows XP. By setting up Windows correctly, it's possible to reduce the harmful effects of malware and enhance user privacy on shared systems. Screen grabs and extensive appendices illustrate these tutorials which are clearly presented, if a little poorly signposted. In this small respect Computer Security for the Home and Small Office scores badly against Idiot's guide to computer-style books. In other departments, Greene's book is streets ahead and I'd have no hesitation in recommending it as an engaging primer to computer security for everyday computer users. Strongly recommended. The list price is $39.99 but you should be able to get a good discount from Amazons US, Canada and UK. ® Computer Security for the Home and Small Office by Thomas C. Greene (405 pages) Published by Apress, April 2004 Distributed by Springer Verlag ISBN: 1590593162 Related stories Beyond Fear A security primer for troubled minds (book review) CERT recommends anything but IE IE workaround a non-starter Viruses and spam hit small firms harder UK.gov aims to demystify security for SMEs
John Leyden, 09 Jul 2004

George Michael in negative chat room scandal!!

Blaming the media and the end of all that is good, George Michael decided this week to shut down the chat section of his website. Nasty comments about Michael looking tubby, old and tired also played a role in the decision, but Michael stressed that it was the media and the end of all that is good that were mostly to blame for the decision. "I'm afraid that, having visited the forums on a regular basis over the past few months, simply to see how you guys thought the album/ interviews/promotion were going, I have decided to close them down," Michael or a bot purporting to be he of Wham! fame writes. "As many of you will know, much of my reasoning for the future is to stay away from the negativity of the media." That's a good idea, George. "I think that it is bad for me and for music in general, so I find it really sad to see the forums so packed full of negative comment, and that so many genuinely positive fans find themselves defending me(or themselves) constantly against attack." Yep, absolutely shocking chat room behavior. "How pointless." Indeed. "There are plenty of places to read people slagging each other off (Here's one - Ed), but I wasn't trying to create one in opening the Forum. Those of you that want to carry on the media's work will have to do it somewhere else I suppose...." But what are we going to do without your website? Where else can we share in our love of banal but poppy tunes that never really lived up to similar banal but poppy Wham! tunes? "Things will stay the same for the next two weeks, so that those of you who have made friendships can decide which other sites to meet at, and then the rooms will close. I feel bad for those of you who have always been supportive, but I'm afraid I want nothing to do with the bitching that has evolved between some members, (many members), and perhaps unofficial sites will be a calmer affair." Is it really that bad, George? "Sorry guys, but that's the way it goes... Peace and Love...or nothing at all." How did Michael's immense fan base react to the news? High Times writes, "i dont know what exactly bitching there was but we have moderators to watch the situation! REALIZE THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF US QUITE NORMAL FANS AND SOME 5 OR 6 OR HOW MUCH OF THEM IDIOTS MAKE GEORGE BELIEVE WE ALL ARE SO NEGATIVE!!!!!!!!!!!WE ARE THE SAME FANS THAT WE WERE BEFORE !!!!!" Yeah, cull the negative idiots. But, that must be better than previous put-downs like this from Braiz_DPR. "Message for George Michael "Hey man, how are you? I'm a 21 years old, simple, miserable, unknown gay guy that lives down way here in Brazil (South America) and only now I'm getting to know your music... It started when I borrowed a DVD from a friend (Ladies and Gentlemen - The best of) and saw the videos and the interview. I found it amazing... and it's just the begining for sure. "You have the sexiest man voice in the world... I just love to hear you singing... I wish you could sing to me right into my ears. I would shiver!!! And above all, you are soooo sexy!!! I would do anything to make love to you!!! You're soooo HOT! I'm sorry for beeing so horny here... "Easy, George." So while Michael is called "fat, tired and old" in some places, there is not a lot of negativity. Sadly, we checked. There really isn't much negativity at all. The chat forums are mostly loaded with poems and sex proposals for Michael. But, as Michael says, it's peace and love or nothing at all. ® Related stories Pixies top UK download chart Germany debuts Creative Commons George Michael offers free songs on Internet The Internet MP list of shame
Ashlee Vance, 09 Jul 2004