29th > July > 2004 Archive

UK resellers go for growth

Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies A Register Reader Study of people working for UK resellers, conducted by research company Quocirca, has found that more than half believe the market is improving. More than 50 per cent say their customers have increased spending in the last twelve months, and even more think this trend will increase in the next 12 months. Over 40 per cent of respondents believe customers have increased spending a bit over the last year. In the next 12 months 55 per cent believe customers will "increase spending a bit" and just over ten per cent believe they will "increase spending a lot". The Register Reader Survey also looked at relationships between resellers and suppliers. The main suppliers mentioned by name were Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM and Microsoft. Most resellers trust their supplier enough to share information on sales - 15 per cent share information on business opportunites all the time. Over 50 per cent do so "when we need to do so". Just over 10 per cent said they don't pass on leads because they fear the supplier may pass them on elsewhere and about the same percentage said: "We keep information to ourselves; we don't trust them in the slightest". The move to service-led sales is well underway, according to the survey, but most resellers prefer to offer their own services rather than resell branded services from suppliers. Over 30 per cent say they create service offerings with no help from suppliers. A similar percentage said they create packages themselves with some help from suppliers. The survey also asked resellers how good their main supplier is at helping in sales situations. Almost 40 per cent said they did most of the selling but the supplier helped when asked. Around 30 per cent do not get much help from suppliers and less than ten per cent said they keep suppliers at arm's length. Suppliers are also credited with doing a good job of support. Second line support from vendors was held to be excellent or "generally OK" by 60 per cent of resellers questioned. But more than ten per cent of respondents said their main supplier was "as good as useless" at second line response. A full summary of this Register Reader Study is here (pdf) ® Related stories Computacenter signs 3PAR for utility play Sage co-founder goes to Glasgow Big names dominated UK channel in May
John Oates, 29 Jul 2004

Security fears holding back online travel market

Security fears are holding Brits back from buying holidays online, preventing the industry from fully benefiting from the lower sales costs associated with Internet transactions. Around half of bargain-hunting Brits could be persuaded to book their holidays online if there was a bigger online discounts, a recent survey sponsored by IT services firm LogicaCMG out reveals. But one in five of 1,700 users quizzed in the online survey would hesitate about booking trips online because of mistrust of the ability of travel companies to keep their financial and personal details secure. Around one in 10 said a simpler transaction process might encourage them to use online sites instead of high street travel agents. Research company Tickbox.net carried out the survey for LogicaCMG. The online travel market is expected to reach 17 per cent of the total UK travel market (£28bn) by 2007, according to the Association of British Travel Agents. LogicaCMG says that more needs to be done to boost consumer confidence if the online travel market is to reach its potential. Earlier findings from the same survey revealed that one in 20 consumers had noticed attempts at fraud or ID theft while shopping online. "Over a million UK consumers have already been victims of security breaches whilst carrying out online transactions. Because of fears about Internet security, more consumers are using the Internet for researching than actually booking their travel online," says Dave Martin, principal security consultant at LogicaCMG. "This is having a major impact on travel industry profits: every phone booking can cost a company around £30 whereas an online booking can cost a company less than 75 pence. This is the reason why many travel companies now impose surcharges for non-Internet bookings." ® Related stories Amadeus takes control of Opodo Expedia buys Egencia Online ticket to ride OFT to clamp down on misleading online travel deals Wobbly shopping carts blight UK e-commerce Top UK websites diss disabled Hackers cost UK.biz billions
John Leyden, 29 Jul 2004

Chip foundries post positive Q2 gains

TSMC, the world's largest chip foundry, saw revenues reach record levels during is second fiscal quarter. Arch-rival UMC and fellow Far Eastern Foundry Chartered Semiconductor also posted big year-on-year and sequential gains. TSMC's Q2 sales came to TWD64.87bn ($1.9bn), up 12.8 per cent on Q1 and 30 per cent on Q2 2003. Net income for the period reached TWD23.41bn ($686m) - TWD1 per share ($0.15 per ADS unit) - up 24.6 per cent sequentially and 100 per cent on the year-ago quarter. Q2's gross margin jumped to 43.4per cent from 39.5 per cent in the previous quarter. Net margin for the quarter rose to 36.1 per cent from 32.7 per cent in the previous quarter. UMC, meanwhile, saw Q2 sales reach TWD29.18bn ($864m), up 15.2 per cent on Q1's TWD25.33bn ($750m) and 34.4 per cent on Q2 2003's TWD21.71bn ($643m). Income totalled TWD12.7bn ($372m), up 84.2 per cent sequentially and 372.7 per cent year on year. That amounts to TWD0.83 per share ($0.12 per ADS unit). Chartered experienced a similar growth pattern, with Q2 sales up 100.4 per cent year on year and 12 per cent sequentially to $255.8m. Net income was $15.3m, compared to a net loss of $90m in the year-ago quarter. All three companies reported decent sequential increases in wafer shipments - 9.4 per cent for TSMC, 9.7 per cent for UMC and 4.8 per cent for Chartered - and rising average selling prices. They also benefited from a weaker US dollar exchange rate. Chartered said its Q2 2004 utilisation level was 90 per cent, up from 55 per cent in Q2 2003 and 81 per cent in Q1 2004. It expects Q3 revenue to be much the same as Q2's, coming in between $252m and $258m, with net income between $4.5m and $14.5m. "Since April until early June, based on our internal forecast, we were expecting a sequential growth rate of roughly seven per cent for Q3. However, since the second half of June, we saw weakness in Q3 forecasts from customers in the comms sector and to a lesser extent in the consumer sector," the company said. That will lead to changes in the company's product mix and "inventory build related to specific customers". UMC expects wafer shipments to rise 19 per cent during Q3, ensuring "revenue and profit growth to continue into the third quarter". ® Related stories UMC sales soar on surging chip demand UMC sales soar on surging chip demand Chip biz breaks quarterly fab spend record Mobile apps will drive Taiwan silicon UMC techies boost SOI chip speed by 30% UMC ramps 90nm process to volume output TSMC files 'verification' of SMIC spy claim TSMC sues rival, alleging industrial espionage
Tony Smith, 29 Jul 2004

Hynix overtakes Micron in world DRAM chart

South Korean memory maker Hynix has knocked the USA's Micron off the number two spot in Gartner's global DRAM manufacturer chart, the market watcher reported yesterday. Hynix also managed to out-grow its other arch-rival, Germany's Infineon, the researcher said. However, Japan's Elpida was the real growth winning, notching up a 50 per cent sequential increase in revenues, enough to push Taiwan's Nanya out of the top five. According to Gartner, worldwide DRAM chip sales totalled $6.7bn during Q2, up 19.8 per cent on Q1 to reach the highest quarterly total for four years. H1 2004 sales were up 65.9 per cent on the same period last year. Hynix's share of Q2's total revenue was 17.1 per cent, well behind Samsung's commanding - and continued - 29.7 per cent lead. Micron came third (15.3 per cent), followed by Infineon (14.1 per cent), Elpida (5.4 per cent) and all the rest (18.4 per cent). Q2 marked the first time Hynix held the number two spot since 1999, the year in which it was formed from the merger of Hyundai and LG's separate chip businesses. "Hynix's strong presence in the legacy and graphics DRAM segments, which had strong pricing, enabled it to outgrow its rivals Micron and Infineon," said Gartner principal chip analyst Andrew Norwood. By contrast, Micron's moves to diversify away from DRAM pushed sales down and, as Norwood put it, "cost it the number two position". Hynix saw revenues grow 23.7 per cent, third only to Samsung's 24.9 per cent growth rate and Elpida's 50 per cent. These were the only top five companies to outperform the industry average of 19.8 per cent growth. But lest anyone in the DRAM business get cocky about their company's performance, Norwood warned of troubled times ahead. "While the DRAM vendors are gaining profits, they are increasing their capital expenditures on new production facilities," he said. "These will come online in late 2005 and through 2006, triggering an oversupply-driven downturn." In short, he said, Q2's figures are "as good as it gets". ® Q2 Global DRAM Chip Revenues Rank Vendor Q2 Revenue Q2 Market Share Q1 Revenue Q1 Market Share Growth 1 Samsung $1.98bn 29.7% $1.59bn 28.4% 24.9% 2 Hynix $1.14bn 17.1% $921m 16.5% 23.7% 3 Micron $1.02bn 15.3% $1.00bn 18% 1.9% 4 Infineon $941m 14.1% $798m 14.3% 17.9% 5 Elpida $360m 5.4% $240m 4.3% 50%   Others $1.24bn 18.4% $1.03bn 18.5% 19.8%   Total $6.68bn 100% $5.57bn 100% 19.8% Related stories Samsung chases Intel with 80% sales growth Hynix reports record profit Infineon cops unexpected loss Elpida to mass-produce DDR 2 in August Elpida boosts DRAM to SRAM speeds Hynix creditors rethink China DRAM plant plan Hynix cashes in its chips EC green lights Infineon state aid Infineon hires CEO from tyre maker French atomic agency sues Samsung Chip biz breaks quarterly fab spend record
Tony Smith, 29 Jul 2004

MoD deploys £10m on virtual battlefield

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has asked Rayethon Systems to develop a pilot version of the Joint Effects Tactical Targeting System (JETTS), software the MoD says could change the way the armed forces do battle. The £10m contract covers a 36 month assessment period. In an effort to dodge the risks of a large scale software project - likely to be worth £300m in total - the MoD stipulates that JETTS must be open architecture and be developed in phases. It also says elements of the system must be available for re-use in other MoD projects. The software will be designed to allow commanders to control equipment more efficiently when on the battlefield. In a statement, the MoD said the JETTS programme is part of a wider move within the department to a "digitised battle space". The idea is that the software will allow commanders to synchronise deployment of everything from artillery to jets. This will, in the sanitised phrasing of the MoD, increase the tempo of battle, making it harder for opponents to respond. Lord Bach, Minister for Defence Procurement said that battlefield co-ordination is done manually at the moment. The level of detail this needs often slows the pace of operations, he said. In case this seems too bloodthirsty, the MoD is quick to point out that JETTS will also be very useful in peacetime. "JETTS will make battle planning and execution much quicker and easier with assets working simultaneously and in harmony," said Bach "However JETTS will have other applications too and will be used extensively by commanders planning peacetime operations, for example helping to shape the plans for political, economic and social reconstruction." The MoD wants JETTS to be operational by 2015. ® Related stories UK military bans iPods - some places CSC German military mega deal scrapped over price row Eurofighter at risk of 'catastrophic failure' MoD scraps £120m computer project
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jul 2004

US wins David Blunkett Lifetime Menace Award

Big Brother awards 2004Big Brother awards 2004 The UK's sixth annual Big Brother awards last night honoured outstanding achievement by those individuals and organisations who make your business their business, and generally interfere with, snoop on, aggravate and irritate the public with their activities. Laurels were bestowed to recipients in five categories: Worst Public Servant, Most Invasive Company, Most Appalling Project, Most Heinous Government Organisation and Lifetime Menace Award - now renamed the David Blunkett Lifetime Menace Award. Human rights watchdog Privacy International, which organises the awards, said it was overwhelmed by nominations for Blunkett, the Home Office and national ID cards but since each had been recognised in previous years different candidates were considered instead. And the winners are... WORST PUBLIC SERVANT: The Rt Hon Margaret Hodge MP, Minister of State for Children Margaret Hodge has received numerous nominations because of her patronage of the controversial tracking provisions in the Children Bill and for her determination to develop a wide spectrum of intrusive databases and information systems. Event host Mark Thomas joked that Hodge wasn't available to collect the award because she was at home "tattooing her children". Runner-up in the "Worst Public Servant" category were joint nominees Katherine Courtney, director of Home Office's identity cards programme and Stephen Harrison, head of the identity card policy unit at the Home Office. PI described the duo as the "largely invisible figures behind the National Identity Card scheme and have steered the project since its inception in 2002. They were, of course, just following orders". Home Affairs Committee minutes on their activities can be found here and here. MOST INVASIVE COMPANY: British Gas The utility earned its gong for its "unfounded and cowardly claim that the Data Protection Act was the reason why an elderly couple died after British Gas had disconnected their gas supply". British Gas edged out Lloyds TSB and mobile phone tracking outfit FollowUS in the closely-contested category. Lloyds TSB was nominated for its "unnecessary and possibly unlawful threats to freeze the accounts of customers who fail to attend a branch and produce identity documents", a procedure described by the bank as an "initiative" backed by the Financial Services Authority. FollowUS earned a nomination for marketing mobile phone tracking services that can be used to locate people "for peace of mind, security or fun". MOST APPALLING PROJECT: The NHS National Programme for IT The NHS won a "Most Heinous Government Organisation" award in 2000 because of its plans to computerise all patient records in a way that is both insecure and dangerous to patient privacy. Its 'victory' this year reflects the gravity of concerns over these continuing plans. Other nominees were Vodafone, for its systematic default blocking of all "adult" websites, and the Safe Harbor Agreement. This initiative, drawn up by the EU and the US, provides a basis for the transmission to the US of personal information on EU citizens. PI comments: "At best the scheme can be described as inadequate. At worst it is a means of circumventing European privacy law and fooling people into a belief that their information is being protected within the US border." MOST HEINOUS GOVERNMENT ORGANISATION: The Office of National Statistics The Office of National Statistics earned the ire of judges for its development of the "Citizen Information Project" that will collate and share unprecedented amounts of data on the entire population. Runner-up in the category was the Department for Transport which caught the judges' eyes thanks to its electronic vehicle identification (EVI) programme, otherwise known as the "Spy in the Dashboard". The scheme involves an embedded chip will automatically report to authorities a wide range of offences including speeding, road tax evasion and illegal parking. LIFETIME MENACE: The US VISIT Programme Privacy International took the unusual step of shortlisting a US initiative for the UK awards because of the "almost total silence on the US over this programme". US VISIT will fingerprint all visitors to the US from September of this year. "The scheme is offensive and invasive, and has been undertaken with little or no debate or scrutiny. The UK government has been silent about the programme and has capitulated every step of the way," PI comments. US VISIT edged out The Rt Hon Charles Clarke MP for last night's most high profile award. Charles Clarke backed the controversial Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill as a Home Office Minister. Now as Secretary of State for Education & Skills he has responsibility for the Children portfolio occupied by Margaret Hodge (see nomination above). "His activities at Cabinet level pose an ongoing threat to privacy," the judges said. Each of the "winners" received a gold award - a statue in the shape of a boot stamping on a human head, an image derived for George Orwell's classic novel 1984. Commenting on the awards, Simon Davies, Director of Privacy International, said: "The winning nominations reflect a broad and intensified assault on the right to privacy in the UK. There is a clear hostility within government to privacy and a general antagonism to it from within business. We have seen few instances where privacy has been genuinely respected by large organisations." "Almost all large government projects attempt to compromise the right to privacy. The proclaimed need for protection of children and the fight against terrorism has often been shamelessly used as the pretext for privacy invasion. We are seeing a race to the bottom where government and private sector alike compete to provide the most intrusive services in the most unstable environment for privacy," he added. PI said the European Commission has "adopted a key role in leading the assault on privacy", prompting consideration of a EU-wide Big Brother Award. Since their inception in 1998, the Big Brother Awards are now held as an annual event in seventeen countries (including the US, France, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Finland and Switzerland). The UK event will be the 41st Big Brother Award ceremony. A panel of experts consisting of lawyers, academics, consultants, journalists and civil rights activists judged the 2004 awards. Privacy International is engaged in numerous initiatives, including a comprehensive study of anti-terrorism policy developments worldwide that will be published in September. On a more upbeat note, yesterday's award night marked the launch of Privacy International's new website. ® Bootnote Readers with a particular aversion to the Dave Blunkett's volunatry/compulsory ID card scheme will be delighted to learn that Reg e-commerce tentacle Cash'n'Carrion is now carrying the campaigning NO2ID t-shirt, fighting the good fight on behalf of www.no2id.net. You can have a snoop here. Related stories Shortlist for privacy 'Oscars' announced Uncle Sam fingerprints visitors What's the point of NHS IT? No one knows Vodafone's adult filter is go ID cards: a guide for technically-challenged PMs Blunkett states ID card aims but can he achieve them? Big Brother nominated for Google Award World's most stupid security measures named and shamed 2003 Big Brother Awards: The Winners
John Leyden, 29 Jul 2004

Asus announces PDA with VGA LCD, Wi-Fi

Asus has formally launched its Wi-Fi PocketPC, the MyPal A730, in its home state of Taiwan, the company said today. The successor to the company's A716 wireless PDA, the A730 incorporates Intel's latest XScale processor technology, a 520MHz PXA270, and runs Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition. The A730, which was first shown last March at the CeBIT show and, in June, at Computex, sports a 3.7in 480 x 640 65,536-colour LCD. It contains 64MB of RAM (48MB of which is user-accessible) and 64MB of Flash ROM. The PDA offers both a CompactFlash and an SDIO/MMC slot for expansion. The handheld also sports a 1.3 megapixel digital camera. For wireless communications, the A730 offers the usual infra-red, plus Bluetooth and 802.11b. Asus reckons the 1100mAh battery delivers enough power for nine hours' operation, but it's not clear whether that's with the Wi-Fi radio turned on or off. By contrast, the Bluetooth-only MyPal A620BT's 1300mAh battery yields 19 hours' uptime, suggesting the A730's figure is with WLAN enabled. The unit weighs 170g and measures 11.8 x 7.3 x 1.7cm. Despite its early outings and today's launch, the A730 will not go on sale in Taiwan until September, Asus said. That suggests - though the company has not yet confirmed - Q4 availability in Western territories. ® Related stories Asus shows second MS smartphone PDA makers unveil Wi-Fi, GPRS PDAs Asus adds Wi-Fi to MyPal PDA family HP rolls out Wi-Fi PDA phone Fujitsu unveils Wi-Fi PDA T-Mobile unveils Wi-Fi PDA-phone Acer brings Bluetooth to PocketPC line Bluetooth group preps 2.1Mbps spec Asus preps Wi-Fi hard drive Related review Asus A620BT Bluetooth Pocket PC
Tony Smith, 29 Jul 2004

Line up for some PayPal settlement pie

PayPal sent a long email to its US customers this week with details about how to get a piece of the $9.25m settlement fund the lawyers have created. It is possible to get a chunk of it even if you have no specific complaint related to the lawsuit. PayPal sent the notice to anyone who opened an account in the US between October 1, 1999 and January 31, 2004. They will also publish the notice in three media outlets: USA Today and Newsweek and People magazines. The lawsuit, filed by attorneys at Jacoby & Meyers law firm shortly after PayPal's IPO on February 14, 2002, claims that PayPal illegally restricted customers' access to the funds in their accounts and did not provide proper account statements, both in violation of the Electronic Fund Transfer Act (EFTA). PayPal claims that EFTA rules do not apply to its business. Throughout the notice, PayPal repeatedly denies any wrongdoing in the case, clearly stating that the creation of this settlement fund in no way should be taken as an admission of guilt. In fact, the court did not reach a verdict in the case, but simply sent it to mediation, where the parties agreed to settle out of court. Account holders must have opened a PayPal account between October 1, 1999 and January 31, 2004. They may not reside in the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, The Netherlands, or United Kingdom. And of course, they must not be employees or former employees of PayPal. There are two types of claims to be filed in the settlement. Dispute Resolution Claimants are those who believe that before February 1, 2004 they had access to their account improperly restricted as the result of an unauthorized or incorrect funds transfer. These claimants can file a short form to receive a flat payment of $50, or a long form, which will be evaluated by a claims administrator in order to determine payment. Statutory Damage Fund Claimants don't have to have had a complaint related to the lawsuit. They simply need to fill out an online form with account and identification information, releasing PayPal from future liability in the lawsuit or future, similar complaints. Statutory Damage Fund Claimants will share in a $1 million chunk of the total fund, and the proceeds will be divided among all who file claims. More information about the settlement, including online claim forms, can be found here. ® Related stories PayPal forced to apologise for dodgy small print eBay and PayPal go after auction fraudsters PayPal virus writing scammer scumbag pleads guilty Anyone ever managed to claim on PayPal's Money Back Guarantee? Credit card firms profit from Net fraud Judge rules PayPal unfair
Tina Gasperson, 29 Jul 2004

BT punters flee

One hundred thousand people a month are ditching BT and opting for alternative telephone providers as the UK's dominant fixed line telco admitted that the business environment "remained challenging". BT's share of home phone users fell by 1.5 per cent to 66 per cent in the three months to the end of June, as the former monopoly continued to lose ground to rivals. Of course, BT is happy to point out that 100,000 punters a month are returning to the telco. It's less keen to let on that 200,000 customers a month are turning their backs. Increased competition in its traditional business — as well as a massive jump in redundancy costs - led to a fall in pre-tax profit (before goodwill amortisation and exceptional items) as its slipped 13 per cent to £434m from £501m. Turnover was a smidgen lower at £4.57bn. WBT's traditional business continues to get a beating as punters turn to alternative providers such as Tele2, One.Tel and the Carphone Warehouse. But it continues to make advances in "New Wave" business areas such as broadband and ICT, which saw turnover rise 32 per cent to £936m. As of the end of June, there were 2.7m ADSL lines in the UK, an increase of 154 per cent compared to the same time last year, with the number of new broadband punters increasing by 36,000 a week. But even as more and more punters turn to broadband, it's not all good news for BT. For while BT Retail's share of ADSL punters hit 1.1m, it's share of new sign-ups slipped to just three in ten. Confirmation of this from BT's own figures confirms a recent analyst report which highlighted that BT Retail had lost broadband market share during every quarter for the last two years. Despite the continuing pressures on BT, the company remains upbeat. Said chief exec, Ben Verwaayen: "The transformation of our business continues at pace. This is the second consecutive quarter of underlying growth in turnover. New wave turnover, including ICT, broadband, mobility and managed services grew by 32 per cent to £936m. New wave businesses generated over 20 per cent of group turnover in the quarter. This strong growth in new wave has offset the decline in turnover from the traditional business and these results reflect a continuation of recent trends." By mid morning shares in BT had fallen 5p (2.57 per cent) to 189.75p. ® Related stories One.Tel touts cheap biz mobile calls BT to trial pay-as-you-go broadband BT Retail cuts cost of DSL, caps users BT's DSL market share carries on falling
Tim Richardson, 29 Jul 2004

Mobiles in hospitals now safe: official

Using mobile phones in hospitals is safe after all, according to new official guidance. Until now, the use of mobile phones in hospitals was prohibited because of fears that they could interfere with medical equipment. Today, though, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) issued new advice that a total ban on mobile phones in hospitals "is not necessary". Instead, it recommends that hospitals should "balance the risks of mobile phones interfering with critical devices and the desire for better communication in hospitals". Said Prof Kent Woods, chief exec of the MHRA: "Mobile communication technology is particularly fast moving, resulting in a wider range of communication equipment becoming available. We have recognised that hospitals need to be updated and advised as to what action to take in light of these advances. "Some mobile devices can cause interference with critical medical equipment and it is important these are turned off where a risk exists. However, there is no reason why mobile technology can't be used in designated areas of hospitals where there is little or no risk of interference with critical medical equipment." Earlier this month a row broke out between doctors and the Department of Health over the use of mobile phones in hospitals. At the British Medical Association's (BMA) annual conference, Dr Simon Calvert, a specialist registrar at King's College Hospital in London, told the assembled physicians that there was no justification for banning mobile phones. He argued that emergency services radios have a much greater risk of interfering with essential equipment, yet are allowed into resuscitation units and intensive care rooms. He cited a 1997 study, which found mobiles only affected four per cent of devices, and only 0.1 per cent were seriously affected. "We haven't moved on in 30 years. Mobile phones seem to be the pariah of the wards, with threats of disciplinary action on any staff using them," he said. ® Related stories Mobiles in hospitals are safe, say doctors Mobile phones rot your balls Nine PCs stolen from NHS hospital Healthcare IT spend on the up-and-up
Tim Richardson, 29 Jul 2004

New date for SCO v IBM hearing

A new court date has been set for the SCO v IBM motion hearing. Originally scheduled for 4 August, the hearing has been moved to 2pm on 15 September. Coming after eighteen months of legal wrangling, the September hearing will be a defining moment in the dispute, with SCO having by far the most to lose. In March, IBM asked the courts to absolve it of any claims of copyright infringement made by SCO, a year into the court battle over the ownership of sections of UNIX code. SCO naturally filed a motion to dismiss this request. If IBM wins this latest round of litigation, it will pretty much put the kibosh on SCO's end user lawsuits, of which the company has filed several, GrokLaw says. Recently, AutoZone won a stay of its case, when the judge ruled that the IBM hearing should come first. For SCO, then, the 15 September hearing will be a make or break date in its battle to claim Linux for its own. However, if the judge grants SCO's motion to dismiss IBM's claims of non-infringement, IBM will have other opportunities to argue this point. Earlier this week, Judge Kimball gave both parties an amended timeline for filing relevant documents. He ordered that IBM file its Memorandum in Opposition to SCO's Motion to Compel by 4 August. SCO's answer in support of that document is due on the 18th. Both companies have been ordered to submit documents relating to IBM's Motion for Partial Summary Judgment by 16 August. ® Related links SCO vs. IBM vs. SCO: Is the end in sight? BayStar sets lawyers on SCO Judge junks most of SCO's complaint against DaimlerChrysler Patents and the threat to open source SCO makes peace with BayStar SCO trumps Sun's open source Solaris bid
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jul 2004
Broken CD with wrench

Cisco drops Huawei lawsuit

Cisco is dropping its patent infringement lawsuit against Chinese networking firm Huawei in exchange for a promise from its rival to modify its product lineup. The settlement comes 20 months after Cisco sued Huawei for allegedly using stolen Cisco's technology to develop a line-up of routers and switches sold in competition to the networking giant. Yesterday's agreement marks the completion of Cisco's lawsuit against both Huawei Technologies its subsidiaries, Huawei America, and FutureWei Technologies, that was pending in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. The completion of the lawsuit comes after a third party review of Huawei's products, and after Huawei discontinued the sale of products at issue in the suit. Huawei has agreed to change its command line interface, user manuals, help screens and portions of its source code to address Cisco's concerns. Cisco agreed to suspend its patent infringement lawsuit when the third party review got underway so the settlement of the lawsuit comes as no great surprise. 3Com was not a party to the original action but intervened in the case last July because of its joint venture with Huawei. This joint venture has since been given the green light by both Chinese regulators and the US courts. Three cheers: hip, hip, Huawei Although Huawei has been forced to give ground in settling Cisco's lawsuit, both sides have put a positive spin on events in court. Cisco has issued a statement proclaiming the completion of its lawsuit as "a victory for the protection of intellectual property rights." Huawei's rather different take is that "Cisco cannot bring another lawsuit against Huawei in the future asserting the same or substantially similar claims" because the US Court dismissed Cisco's claim "with prejudice" following the end of third party review process. "The order of dismissal provides that each party will bear its own costs and attorney's fees with respect to this dismissal," Huawei said. ® Related stories Cisco sues Huawei over IP theft UK distie fights Cisco injunction 3Com teams up with Huawei 3Com welcome to join Cisco-Huawei dispute Cisco halts Huawei piracy suit Huawei-3Com tie-up approved
John Leyden, 29 Jul 2004

US online pharmacies take fight to Canadians

The trade in discounted prescription drugs between Canada and the US has elicited considerable controversy on both sides of the border. Yet recent figures show that sales of drugs via Canadian pharmacies have not been as great as some had predicted. However, as Datamonitor's David Deon explains, pharmaceutical companies could go further by driving the expansion of online prescribing in the US. Minnesota and Wisconsin have generated about $545,000 in sales in the first five months of their state-sponsored websites offering Canadian drugs, according to figures made public last week. These are the first public accounting figures showing how much residents are using the websites, which were created by the governors of the two states. Yet the level of sales recorded represents a fraction of the cross-border business done by private and non-profit websites. The statistics suggest the state-sponsored programs are not having a major economic effect, which had been a major concern of state pharmacists. Minnesota pharmacists are concerned that Canadian sales will take business away from them and make it harder to advise customers who get some of their drugs elsewhere. Officials of the Minnesota Pharmacists Association have stated that they were pleased with the relatively low usage of the state's drug websites. The US Food and Drug Administration has openly criticized the Minnesota program, issuing two earlier letters to Minnesota officials that declared the program illegal and accused the state of abetting law-breakers. The agency is concerned with the safety of unregulated drugs purchased from Canadian pharmacies. Minnesota and Wisconsin are the only states that have inspected Canadian pharmacies, signed performance agreements with some and listed prices for hundreds of drugs on the state websites. The FDA warns that the states may not be doing all they should to ensure good practices by the Canadian pharmacies. In contrast, proponents of the program believe that it offers significant help to patients struggling with high drug costs. Such controversy has only heightened interest in the online scheme in the US. On July 27, a group of Californians visited Winnipeg on a fact finding mission to local pharmacies. Local authorities in California are reportedly investigating the possibility of passing legislation that would allow the import of cheap drugs for patients who were uninsured or significantly underinsured. However, the Californian delegation also met with criticism that Canadians would be disadvantaged by the advent of a prescription drugs trade to the US on a large scale. Total sales to US consumers from Canadian pharmacies are estimated to exceed $1bn this year. In all, US consumers spent about $160bn on prescriptions last year, and about $3bn in Minnesota, according to the Associated Press. The impact of parallel importing between the US and Canada on the pharmaceutical industry will grow as the online pharmacy market expands and constitutes a larger portion of overall drug sales. The financial impact of parallel importing through online pharmacies has been relatively minimal to date. The big pharmaceutical firms have become increasingly concerned at the rise of such a parallel import trade between Canada and the US. In a bid to protect their revenues, both GSK and Pfizer have taken steps to restrict supply of their drugs to those Canadian pharmacies that supply across the border at a discount. Wider patient concerns about the quality of products and regulatory standards of pharmacies outside the US may mean that growth in this niche area remains modest for the time being. If the big pharma players want to counter the discounters more proactively, however, they should help to facilitate the growth of an extensive network of online pharmacies for the US market alone. Online pharmacies themselves bring with them a number of advantages, notably the availability of a convenient method to fill prescriptions to improve drug fulfillment rates. Moreover, online pharmacies can bolster patient compliance rates by facilitating the refill process. Both of these factors should help protect companies' revenues. The use of online pharmacies is likely to grow as consumers become more aware of the benefits of using such pharmacies. Moreover, by bypassing elements of the supply chain, online pharmacies often offer lower prices than standard pharmacies, providing a significant incentive for US consumers. After all, price is the major factor driving growth of the Canadian discount trade. Source: Datamonitor Related research: Datamonitor, "MarketWatch: Technology Annual Subscription" Related stories Big Pharma puts squeeze on Canadian Net pharmacies Legality of online pharmacies questioned Unscrupulous Net drugs trade led to death of student The War against Viagra e-Pharmacy sites offer risky prescription Internet pharmacies draw fire on Capitol Hill
Datamonitor, 29 Jul 2004

BOFH: Might as well face it, you're addicted to smut

Episode 24Episode 24 BOFH 2004 I get so bored at times… The sort of bored you are when you can't even be stuffed firing up a browser and seeing what's new at smuttysmuttychicks.com. But if I don't do it, who's going to care about the girls?! The Boss comes in mid browse, and starts rabbiting on about how it's not acceptable workplace behaviour, etc., etc. I ask him to kindly be quiet because I'm not giving the girls the attention they deserve. Next thing you know, he's back with a guy from HR. And they want to have a quiet interview!!! . . . What the hell, I am bored. "Is there some reason you were looking at that porn site?" the HR Guy asks, carefully "Apart from checking out the girls?" I ask. "Yes." "I don't think so. Hang on!" "What?" "Nope, I've got nothing." "And you're aware that the company has a policy regarding acceptable use of computers?" "Really?" "YES" the Boss snaps, annoyed. "It's been in place for at least 18 months!" "Ah, I see, so it's not actually a policy I agreed to several years ago when I started." "Your contract gives the company the right to vary acceptable behaviour policies." "Not my contract," I say "I think you'll find it does," the HR Guy responds. "No, mine was sent as an electronic document, so I just cut out the clauses I didn't like, added a couple of my own, printed two copies and signed them. Then your guy signed them too – probably without checking. Or maybe he liked the idea of clause F.3 that I'm allowed to call Managers... 'knobface'." "I.." the HR Guy says, then ducks out the door to check something. … two hours later . . . "It's true," the HR Guy says. "There is a clause saying he can call you knobface." "Which was also signed by your HR guy – in ink," I add. "Yes." "Including the eight or so extra clauses I added... er.. Knobface?" There's an extended pause while the HR Guy contemplates some form of retaliatory attack, thinks the better of it, and goes to weep to the company solicitors. A couple of hours later he comes back with some fairly weak Force Majeur clause which would hold as much water as a paper g-string. Still, I am bored.... "Which leads us to the fact that you're still in contravention of company policy," the HR guy continues. "Ok, it's a fair cop," I say. "So you're admitting that you committed an act which could have you dismissed?" "My contract terminated, yes." "Knowingly?" "Sure." "You don't seem to be taking this situation very seriously. You realise that if the company were to publicly terminate your contract for browsing porn, it's possible you'd never work in the industry again?" "I think you're forgetting I work in the Computing Industry..." "I don't think even they would tolerate this activity - if we were to let you go." It would seem that the HR Guy has his heart set on me breaking down and blubbering like a big girl's blouse - which just isn't going to happen. Well, not now I've had my brainwave anyway. "I don't actually think you CAN fire me for browsing porn.." "Why not?" "Well, I think I'm addicted to porn." "I beg your pardon?" "Addicted. To porn." "You're joking!" "Oh no. You see I'm fairly sure that the browsing of porn causes the release of testosterone, endorphins or something like that, which in turn causes a pleasure response in the body – or so my doctor will tell me if I ask. I'm addicted to that pleasure response, in much the same way as a drug addict is addicted to the pleasure they obtain from their drugs." "So you're saying you have no control over your actions?" "None." "And you…. Believe that this is somehow the company's problem?" "Oh no." "Good." "No, I think it's the company's fault. It's completely different." "I think you'll find that to demonstrate fault, the company would have to be aware of a problem." "They are. I filled out a workplace hazard form about it six months ago." The HR Guy looks at the Boss, who shrugs silently, having only been in the company a few weeks. "The company MADE me look at porn – what people were browsing, what was in their fileshares, etc." "Eh?" "I didn't want to - but it was my job! The things I've seen! The nightmares I have!" "That's ridiculous - no-one can prove it's harmful!" "Ah yes - the asbestos company defence," I say. "Still, you have your job to do..." "So you're going to go quietly?" "Of course! Although I will be pursuing the company for the costs of my treatment." "What treatment?" "The porn equivalent of methadone. Apparently it involves daily doses of bikini calendar photos." "You can't be serious!" "No, you're probably right. I guess I'll just have to make a full and frank disclosure as part of my class action suit against the company - just before the big share float." "I think you'll find a class action suit is where a group of ..." "Would you look at the bezels on her!" the PFY snaps from behind his monitor having until now been silent. "Ah. Well, how about we forget the whole thing then?" the HR Guy says, realising that this could get rather nasty... "That'll be fine," I say. "And could you close the door on your way out... knobface?" I think I'll wait till next week to get help for my p2p piracy problem.... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 29 Jul 2004

AOL: customers down, ad sales up

AOL's European ISPs in the UK, Germany and France lost 88,000 customer in the three months to June, parent company Time Warner Inc announced yesterday. Unfortunately, that's all it said on the matter and didn't provide any more detail on the individual performances of its European country operations. Overall, America Online lost 668,000 punters during Q2 as its global subscriber base fell to 23.4m. The Internet division of the giant media corporation said the Q2 decline reflected a decrease of 753,000 members in trial and retention programmes, offset partly by an 85,000 increase in billed subscribers. Despite this, revenue edged slightly higher from $2.13bn (£1.18bn) in Q2 2003 to $2.18bn (£1.2bn), while operating income rose from $210m (£116m) to $276m (£152m)over the same period. The two per cent growth in AOL's turnover was buoyed by an increase in ad revenues which climbed 23 per cent to $42m (£23m) led by higher revenues from paid search which notched up $31m (£17m). Revenue from subscription to AOL's Internet access services was "essentially flat". AOL Europe chipped in $28m (£15.5m), AOL Japan $18m (£10m) and AOL Latin America $13m (£7m), which helped make up a fall in subscription revenues from the US. ® Related stories AOL splashes $435m on Advertising.com Penis pill peddler stiffs AOL spam insider AOL France fined for unfair contract clauses AOL to target Hispanic Net users in ad campaign AOL settles class action lawsuits
Tim Richardson, 29 Jul 2004

EA swallows Criterion Software

Electronic Arts has acquired UK-based Criterion Software Group from current owners Canon. The move gives EA control of Criterion's portfolio which includes games series Burnout and - most significantly - the company's RenderWare technology. EA chairman and CEO Larry Probst said: "This is a great fit. Criterion offers us studio talent and a proven management team, globally recognized intellectual property and technology infrastructure that will accelerate our readiness on the next generation of consoles." By "technology infrastructure" Probst means not just the existing RenderWare tools but also RenderWare4, which will, according to Criterion CEO David Lau-Kee "boost development efforts on the next generation of consoles which are expected to debut over the next two years". Although EA will continue to license RenderWare to third parties who have used it to develop all-time favourites such as Grand Theft Auto, the BBC notes that the giant's control of the middleware may push developers towards other alternatives, such as Microsoft's cross-platform XNA for X-Box, and Windows and Window's mobile. Nevertheless, Criterion seems chipper about the deal. Company supremo Fiona Sperry said: "Our mission has always been to create exciting new franchises that appeal to the widest possible audience. Within EA, we can now secure our future as one of the world's leading development studios." The deal should be confirmed within 30-45 days, "subject to regulatory clearances". EA notes: "Criterion will be managed from EA's UK Studio in nearby Chertsey, Surrey; the RenderWare business will remain in the UK at a separate location. RenderWare will be managed apart from EA's local studios." ® Related stories EA and MS deal for online gaming EA president piles into N-Gage EA throws weight behind PS2 Online
Lester Haines, 29 Jul 2004

HP Compaq nc4010

ReviewReview Anyone that has to travel a lot with a notebook in their bag will appreciate that a super powerful desktop replacement machine is not always the best option. If you always need to have your computer with you, no matter where you are, something sleek and portable is definitely the preferred solution. The HP Compaq nc4010 falls squarely into this category and it is very similar to the excellent IBM ThinkPad X40, although not quite as small or light, writes Lars-Goran Nilsson.
Trusted Reviews, 29 Jul 2004

Scientists call for nanotech caution

A new report has called for more research into the effects of nanoparticles on the environment and on human health. The Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineers (RAE) asks for tighter regulation of nanotechnology research, and has recommended to the British government that production of 'free' nanoparticles should be specifically prohibited until more is known. In the meantime, it recommends that both nanoparticles and nanotubes should be treated as new chemicals under UK and European law, as this would mean they would have to go through rigorous safety tests and would be appropriately labelled. The report follows a year-long independent study of the technology, commissioned by the government in June 2003. Its cautious tone is not surprising: science took a public battering during the row over genetically modified food, and the Royal Society and RAE would clearly prefer the public to view their approach as careful, not cavalier. While acknowledging the potential benefits of nanotechnology, the report cautions against presenting it a a solution to every problem, to avoid sparking a backlash. It says that the lack of evidence about the risks it poses has resulted in considerable uncertainty - both in the public, and in the scientific community. Nanotech also has its own image problems, sparked by Eric Drexler's now infamous description of runaway replication, a nightmare scenario in which the world is consumed by replicating nanobots and turned into grey goo. Drexler has subsequently said he thinks this is actually very unlikely, but the notion is so vivid, it still persists. The Prince of Wales has also called for a careful approach: in an article in the Independent of Sunday he described his concerns that nanotechnology had the potential to be both physically and economically harmful if is it not used correctly. Meanwhile, Nanotech enthusiasts point to the ways it could transform our lives through revolutions in computing, medical research and instrumentation, and by taking electronics beyond current limits. The economic impact would also be huge: Philippe Busquin, European Research Commissioner, has described the technology as "the oil of the future economy". Lord Sainsbury, the Minister for Science and Innovation, welcomed the report. "We have learned that it is neccessary with major technologies to ensure that the debate takes place 'upstream'," he said. He thanked both the Royal Society and The Royal Academy of Engineers for their work, and promised a formal government reponse to the report by the end of the year, after careful reflection on the recommendations. You can read the report here. ® Related stories Prince Charles gives forth on nanotech Europe sees nano-electronics as 'future oil' World safe from nanobot 'grey goo' Nanotech buckyballs kill fish UK.gov pumps £90m into nanotech Nano-technology more investor folly? Nanotechnology may be over-hyped
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jul 2004

Retailers bans Manhunt after murder link claim

UpdatedUpdated UK consumer electronics retail chain Dixons and games retailer Game have pulled the computer game Manhunt from its shelves after the parents of a murdered schoolboy blamed the title for their son's death. Stefan Pakeerah, 14, was stabbed and beaten to death in a Leicester park in February. Warren Leblanc, 17, of Braunstone Frith, Leicester this week pleaded guilty to the lethal attack. Pakeerah's parents alleged that Leblanc's fascination in the game, in which points are scored for committing grisly killings, had influenced his actions. The victims father dubbed Manhunt "a manual for murder". Dixons and Game today began removing Manhunt from its store shelves. Under UK law Manhunt must not be sold to anyone under the age of 18. Retailer W H Smith told the BBC that it was considering whether to continue stocking the title. Virgin Megastores, however, will continue to do so. "While we take a level of responsibility, ultimately, censorship decisions are up to the consumer," a spokesman said. Computer games that depict 'realistic' imagery must be certified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) before release. The BBFC today stood by its certification, which indicates that the game should only be sold to adults. UK retailers are bound by the law to ensure that games are only sold to buyers of an appropriate age. Of course, nothing prevents an adult buying such a game on a juvenile's behalf. And some kids do get hold of pirate copies. We've been here before. Computer games have been claimed to influence other adolescent murders, most notably the Columbine High School killings, which some observers blamed on an obsessive interest in Doom. More recently, Grand Theft Auto has been blamed for a road killing. Influences are easy to claim, but direct causality is harder to prove, whether the alleged cause are violent computer games or equally violent movies. Two decades or more ago, it was Dungeons and Dragons that was felt to be at fault. But for every child psychologist claiming violent imagery leads to violent actions, there's another who believes games and movies provide an outlet for aggression that might otherwise be directed toward other kids. Certainly, the vast majority of game players, comic readers and movie viewers do not act out in the real world violent content they've consumed on a PC or DVD. ® Related stories Grand Theft Auto in the dock over US road killing Eidos in clear over Columbine George Dubya blames Net for Columbine massacre Hollywood pushes violent movies, games on kids FTC Net blamed for new Columbine High School threats
Tony Smith, 29 Jul 2004

Phishermen net bumper catch of Americans

US consumers are still easy prey to fraudsters using phishing emails to lure consumers into handing over valuable financial information. In a survey sponsored by anti-spam outfit MailFrontier, 28 per cent of US adults were unable to distinguish phishing emails from legitimate correspondence. Scam emails that form the basis of phishing attacks often pose as 'security check' emails from well-known businesses. These messages attempt to trick users into handing over their account details and passwords to bogus sites. The collected details are used for credit card fraud and identity theft. First seen more than a year ago, phishing emails are becoming increasingly sophisticated, directing users to bogus websites which accurately reproduce the look and feel of legitimate sites. Not that fraudsters need to be particularly ingenious. MailFrontier's survey of 1,000 US Web users found consumers are still easily fooled by some of the earliest, most unsophisticated phishing scams. For example, the survey included a highly publicised PayPal phishing email which was identified inaccurately as legitimate by 31 per cent of respondents. Email users are encouraged to test their own ability to spot phishing scams here. MailFrontier said it "offers educational tips on how to detect email phishing attacks to those who take the test" which turns out to translate into the offer of its nti-spam and anti-fraud software, MailFrontier Desktop. Well it has to get a product pitch in there somehow. More altruistically, MailFrontier has compiled a useful catalogue of email scams here. Although phishing is arguably at its worst in America, European consumers are also a frequently targeted by fraudsters. The problem has prompted UK banks and police to team in offering advice to customers which can be reviewed here. ® Related stories Sloppy banks open the door to phishermen Bush to sign anti-phishing bill Anti-phishing group backs email authentication Fear of phishing hits e-commerce UK police arrest 12 phishing mule suspects Phishing scams cost UK banks £1m+ Phishing attacks on the rise UK banks and police proffer anti-phishing advice
John Leyden, 29 Jul 2004

Apple blasts Real DRM translator

Apple today described itself as "stunned" that Real Networks has dared to reverse engineer its FairPlay DRM system in order that Real's online music subscription service can be made compatible with the iPod. Real launched its Harmony Technology earlier this week. The software essentially converts songs protected by Real's Helix DRM system into tracks guarded by FairPlay or Microsoft's Windows Media DRM mechanism. Since the iPod doesn't support Helix, Harmony allows Real customers to download songs that can, after conversion, be played on the iPod. Apple, however, said Real had "adopted the tactics and ethics of a hacker" in the development of Harmony. "We are investigating the implications of [Real's] actions under the DMCA and other laws," it said. Real maintains there is no illegality since Harmony doesn't bypass either its own or Apple's DRM rules - it simply translates one set of rule formulations into the another. Reverse engineering is a legal activity, but Apple could yet claim that Real used proprietary information for which it did not have a licence to help it in that endeavour. It may also allege that the process has violated its own copyrights. Whatever legal course Apple may or may not take, it certainly warned that it may change FairPlay and break Harmony. "We strongly caution Real and their customers that when we update our iPod software from time to time it is highly likely that Real's Harmony technology will cease to work with current and future iPods," Apple said. ® Related stories Real to 'free' iPod from iTunes Music Store DRM begins to work its magic DRM begins to work its magic Macrovision preps '99% effective' CD lock-in tech P2Pers: we can make file-sharing secure and outsell iTunes Duke develops iPod-equipped download army More universities agree to RIAA/Napster 'protection' Guilty until proven innocent - DRM the mobile phone way Intel, MS and co. to tout copy-friendly DRM tech
Tony Smith, 29 Jul 2004

IBM snags software maker Cyanea

IBM's acquisition machine has swallowed another victim with software maker Cyanea now set to join Big Blue's fold. IBM plans to take Cyanea's products for improving the performance of business software and bundle them with its Tivoli systems management software line. This deal marks the seventeenth software acquisition IBM has made since 2001 and follows right behind the purchase of analytics software-maker Alpahblox. IBM did not announce a close date or financial terms for the Cyanea acquisition. Cyanea has an impressive customer list, including CSC, Commerce Bank, John Deere and Deutsche Telekom. Its software is most highly touted as a performance enhancer for Java (J2EE) applications. Software written in CICS and IMS is also supported, which is important to IBM, as it plans to offer the Cyanea products for its mainframe systems. Cyanea's software also runs on a wide range of platforms, including AIX, z/OS, OS/390, Linux, HP-UX, Windows 2000 and Solaris. There is more on the company's products here. IBM is touting the Cyanea software as a way of improving transaction performance on its mainframes, providing troubleshooting tools for WebSphere and conducting performance analysis for Rational software. IBM is not alone in the software acquisition game. Over the past two years, HP, EMC, Sun Microsystems and Veritas have all scooped up as many ISVs as possible. And, while it's encouraging to see the vendors improving their middleware in this manner, you have to believe the cost of these acquisitions will be returned to customers in some way, shape or form. ® Related stories IBM grabs Alphablox IBM locks in VMware through 2007 IBM lights Candle
Ashlee Vance, 29 Jul 2004

BBC Technology strike off

A two-day strike by BBC techies scheduled to begin tomorrow has been called off after employers made a second revised offer to staff. Lawyers for the broadcasting union BECTU said that this new offer needs to be put to workers before any industrial action can take place. Industrial action - which could have disrupted the BBC's TV, radio and online services this weekend - has been suspended while union members are ballotted for this latest offer. Workers at BBC Technology are unhappy at the proposed sale of the broadcaster's technology division to Siemens and their transfer to the technology outfit. Union negotiators say that the newly-revised offer goes a long way towards meeting their key demands and includes certain employment and pension guarantees, such as a promise that no ex-BBC Technology staff would be redeployed within Siemens outside the city they are currently working in. An earlier offer - which prompted this week's now suspended strike action - was rejected by the union. Members of BECTU will now be ballotted on this new offer. If this is rejected techies could walk out on 13/14 August. ® Related stories BBC Tech staff to vote again for strike action BBC Tech strike over outsourcing BBC faces online shake-up BBC outsource deal includes staff black list
Tim Richardson, 29 Jul 2004

Wobbly sun causes plasma jets

A group of scientists has come up with a new explanation for the origins of spicules - jets of plasma that shoot up from the solar surface at speeds of around 90,000 kilometres per hour: the solar matter is propelled into space by sound waves entering the solar atmosphere. Using observational data from two satellites (TRACE and SOHO) and an the Swedish Solar optical telescope, scientists at Sheffield university and the Lockheed Martin Solar and Astrophysics lab, have determined that the jets occur periodically, about every five minutes or so. Professor Erdélyi von Fáy-Siebenbürgen then developed a computer simulation of the events, incorporating the effects of compression waves, or sounds waves, in the sun. He explained that the compression waves are most likely caused by two things: the oscillation of the sun itself, and convection cells - areas of rising and falling solar matter. Convection cells on Earth cause thermals, breezes, thunderstorms and other weather patterns. In the sun, they cause compression waves.. The compression waves are usually damped before they reach the solar atmosphere, von Fáy-Siebenbürgen said, but occasionally they get through. When this happens, the compression of the atmosphere forms a shock wave, propelling matter upwards in the form of a plasma jet. The research solves an astrophysical puzzle that has baffled scientists for over 120 years since the spicules were first discovered. His model produced jets at virtually identical intervals: "I would say it is around 99 per cent accurate," he told The Register today. "We were very surprised by the accuracy of the model. It is something we are very proud of," he said. Although relatively small compared to full scale solar flares, spicules are interesting for the same reasons: they may contribute to the solar wind. This flow of highly charged particles causes the Aurorae Borealis and Australis, but can also knock out satellites and even bring down electrical systems on Earth during particularly vigarous solar storms. ® Related stories Mission to map the Aurorae launches 26 July ESA to probe Earth's magnetic field In the event of nuclear attack, your data is safe
Lucy Sherriff, 29 Jul 2004

Russian extortion gang faces 15 years

A Russian cyber extortion gang arrested last week cost British bookmakers tens of millions in lost revenues, according to the head of a Russian police agency. Three men suspected of masterminding a cyber-extortion racket targeting online bookies were arrested last week in a joint operation between the UK's National Hi-Tech Crime Unit and its counterparts in the Russian Federation. The trio, who investigators reckon netted hundreds of thousands of pounds from the shakedowns, were picked up in a series of raids both in St Petersburg, and in the Saratov and Stavropol regions in southwest Russia. The alleged cyber-extortions took place following Denial of Service (DOS) attacks directed against the websites of many online bookies. These attacks bombarded bookies' servers with a tidal wave of spurious and malicious traffic, effectively shutting down their online operations and costing millions of pounds in lost business. Russia's Interior Ministry said that gang had also launched attacks on unidentified British banks. At a press conference in Moscow yesterday, Russian officials gave new details about the gangs' alleged activities, but did not name suspects or confirm the identity of their victims. Yevgeny Yakimovich, the chief of the Russian Interior Ministry's Department K, which fights cyber-crimes in Russia, said the attacks cost bookies £40m in lost business. Russian officials declined to name the victims. Valery Syzrantsev, head of the Interior Ministry's Chief Investigating Department, said the hackers targeted nine online bookies, attacking them each repeatedly and demanding payments of up to $50,000 to stop. "Two companies, which suffered especially big losses, agreed to pay $40,000 (£22,000) each," Syzrantsev said, AP reports. Of the three men arrested last week, two remain in custody. Russian investigators are hunting down other members of the gang who Syzrantsev characterised as "well-educated people aged 20-21 who had found each on the Internet and agreed to work together in the extortion". Suspects could face up to 15 years imprisonment if convicted of extortion. ® Related stories Cybercops seize Russian extortion masterminds Extortionists attack iBetX.com Extortionists take out UK gambling site (Sporting Options) Online extortionists target Cheltenham European betting sites brace for attack Phatbot arrest throws open trade in zombie PCs MPs demand big stick for hackers DDoS attacks go through the roof DDoSers attack DoubleClick
John Leyden, 29 Jul 2004