24th > September > 2004 Archive

Autumn offers at the Reg Mobile Shop

Site offerSite offer from the Reg Mobile Store This month's featured dozen from the Reg Mobile Shop is led by the Nokia 6310i (pictured) which we can offer readers at the discounted autumn price of 242.03 inc VAT. And if a new mobe doesn't tickle your fancy, there's plenty more where that came from. Read on: Nokia 6310i (Silver) Tri-Band + Bluetooth – Handset Only Fantastic Value! Tri-band model from Nokia - whether you land in London or Los Angeles, Sydney or Seattle, the Nokia 6310i keeps on working for you. The world phone works in three networks (EGSM 900 and GSM 1800/1900) and gives you coverage on five continents by choosing the best GSM network automatically - wherever you are. Price £205.98 (£242.03 inc VAT) – regular price £212.72 (£249.95 inc VAT). 3Com ADSL 11g Wireless Firewall/Router+FREE USB Adaptor The 3Com® ADSL Wireless 11g Firewall Router combines an ADSL modem, router, 802.11g wireless access point, four-port switch, and firewall to enable up to 253 total (128 wireless) users to economically and securely share a single ADSL connection. For a short time, when you purchase the Router, you will also receive a 3Com 11g USB Adaptor. Price £66.08 (£77.64 inc VAT) – regular price £68.04 (£79.95 inc VAT). HP iPAQ h5550 Pocket PC (English Version) NEW - the best iPAQ yet! The h5550 (with 128MB RAM) offers integrated technology which includes wireless LAN, Bluetooth, Biometric security, removable battery, Secure Digital slot and Advanced power management. With broad choice of wireless capabilities - including integrated Bluetooth and WLAN 802.11b - you can access the internet, email, and corporate data wherever you are. Unique biometric fingerprint reader, VPN software, 64-bit and 128-bit WEP, F-Secure FileCrypto Data Encryption and Xcellenet Afaria device management provide enhanced protection for your device, information and wireless connection. Price £352.93 (£414.69 inc VAT) – regular price £361.66 (£424.95 inc VAT). QTek 2020 GSM/GPRS Pocket PC (English) – Handset Only New Tri-Band + Bluetooth Pocket PC!! The QTek Pocket PC is very similar to the O2 XDA II. The unit is a fully integrated voice enabled GSM/GPRS portable personal computing device that runs the phone edition of Windows Mobile 2003 and features a built-in VGA-resolution (0.3 megapixel) digital camera. Also features an SDIO slot, so you can use memory cards as well as other devices like Wireless LAN cards. This unit is unlocked - it can be used with any GSM network worldwide. This is an English language version. The QTek Pocket PC is designed to offer GSM and 'always on' high-speed GPRS network connectivity for Microsoft's Windows Mobile 2003 software applications. Price £329.30 (£386.93 inc VAT) – regular price £340.38 (£399.95 inc VAT). Nokia 9210i Communicator – Handset Only The big news is that you can get out of the office and take it with you. With the Nokia 9210i Communicator in your pocket, you have mobile e-mail, Internet, video, Sheet, Word Processor, calendar, fax and phone. All easy to use with a big, full-colour display. NB: Dual Band for use in Europe, Africa and Asia (GSM 900/1800). And the big news gets even better. The new Nokia 9210i Communicator is packed with new features that provide higher performance and more fun. It has bigger memory and a better Web browser supporting Javascript™. It has Flash Player, which supports Macromedia Flash, bringing you some big new entertainment possibilities. Price £305.27 (£358.69 inc VAT) – regular price £306.34 (£359.95 inc VAT). Emtac iPAQ GPS Jacket Fully compatible with the iPAQ h3600, h3700, h3800, h3900, h5400 and h5500 series Pocket PC. No software driver required, it works with most major GPS map software packages for the iPAQ. Features a CF slot for extra map data and an external antenna connector. Price £75.86 (£89.13 inc VAT) – regular price £81.66 (£95.95 inc VAT). Acer n30 Pocket PC (English Version) The Acer n30 Pocket PC features a Samsung 266MHz processor, 64MB RAM, an SD(SDIO)/MMC slot, Pocket PC 2003 Premium, a colour 3.5" transflective TFT screen and integrated Bluetooth. At this price its a superb value PDA with all the features and quality of more expensive units. The n30 features a myriad of multimedia applications like a voice dictionary (Text To Speech technology) and Microsoft® Office® handheld suite. PIM (Personal Information Management) made simple and catered for with an Address Book, Date Book, Clock, To Do List and Memo Pad. Price £132.31 (£155.46 inc VAT) – regular price £136.13 (£159.95 inc VAT). Nokia 8910i – Handset Only This dual-band, titanium-encased phone in a sleek black finish features a high-resolution colour display and is the very best phone available in the world today. It supports Bluetooth, GPRS and MMS on GSM 900 or 1800 networks. Price £330.30 (£388.12 inc VAT) – regular price £340.38 (£399.95 inc VAT). palmOne Treo 600 Smartphone – Handset Only The best tool available for e-mail on the move! The Treo 600 automatically configures itself for GPRS on all UK networks that provide the service, and offers quick configuration for many email services including BT Openworld right out of the box! With quad band support for worldwide use, there is no better tool for email on holiday or on a business trip. Now you can use just one device—instead of many—to get it all done. The Treo 600 seamlessly combines a full-featured mobile phone and Palm OS organiser with wireless applications like email, text messaging, web browsing and even a digital camera. And you get it all in one device that's so small it fits right in your pocket. Price £316.69 (£372.11 inc VAT) – regular price £323.36 (£379.95 inc VAT). Nokia D211 GPRS WLAN Card GPRS and Wireless LAN in one PC Card! The Nokia D211 is a multimode radio card for your compatible portable computer that enables network access through GPRS, HSCSD, or Wireless LAN networks. Note: These cards are supplied with 12 month manufacturers warranty. In a wireless LAN network you can get up to 11 Mbit/s speed, which is suitable for large file downloads, reading emails with attachments, viewing video from an internet page, or for mobile video conferencing. Within wireless LAN coverage you can do the same things as with fixed LAN in your office or home ADSL. Wireless LAN networks are currently available in selected airports, Internet cafés, hotels, ski resorts, and company offices. Price £97.56 (£114.63 inc VAT) – regular price £102.94 (£120.95 inc VAT). CoPilot Live Pocket PC 4 CF GPS Special Edition (UK) Detours, distractions and delays? CoPilot Live will handle those safely and efficiently, leaving you to sit back, relax and enjoy the scenery. This version features a CF GPS unit and the award winning ALK co-pilot voice navigation software with Navtech map data. This is a special edition for sale with the iPAQ h2210 only. Points-of-Interest tailored to the way you live and work…a safe and customizable interface…detailed speech…wireless connectivity. All of this brought together in a GPS navigation system that tells you what you need to know, when you want to know it. Price £148.36 (£174.33 inc VAT) – regular price £153.15 (£179.95 inc VAT). HP iPAQ h2210 Pocket PC (English Version) The small and sleek HP iPAQ Pocket PC h2210 has the optimal combination of features, performance, and expandability that allow individuals and mobile professionals use of their pocket pc seven days a week – at home, at work, and on the go. A broad range of features, Bluetooth™, expansion capabilities and multimedia make the HP iPAQ Pocket PC h2210 essential for you to communicate, access and manage information when you want. Features integrated Bluetooth, a CF Type II slot and an SD slot that supports SD/SDIO/MMC. Also includes a removable battery, 64MB RAM and a 400MHz Intel Xscale Processor. Price £192.83 (£226.57 inc VAT) – regular price £195.70 (£229.95 inc VAT). You can access the Reg Mobile Shop right here. Happy shopping. ®
Team Register, 24 Sep 2004

Thus shares nosedive over gloomy forecast

Shares in Thus nosedived 30 per cent in early trading this morning after warning that profits will be down on last year. The alternative telco behind the Demon internet brand blamed tough trading conditions and predatory pricing from rivals for the gloomy forecast. Revenue growth for the first half (H1) of the year was strong with a headline growth of 12 per cent, but intense competitive pressure had squeezed margins in the current quarter, the company said. "In addition, there has been an acceleration in the substitution of dial-up Internet for broadband DSL. As a result, first half EBITDA will now be less than that recorded for the equivalent period last year." Thus is due to publish its interim results next month. Revenue will not be less than £360m and EBITDA (earnings before interest etc) will be at least £39m. In July, shares in Thus took a tumble after the group issued a full-year profit warning, when it blamed the British public's enthusiastic embrace of broadband and ongoing problems in its other businesses. In early trading this morning shares in Thus were down 31 per cent (5.25p) at 11.75p. ® Related stories Thus shares hit by profit warning Thus swells - thanks to ADSL Thus wins £3m GWR IP network gig Thus looks to profit in 2005
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2004
Cat 5 cable

IT bosses are storage addicts who can't stop themselves

Hardware suppliers are taking advantage of overworked customers to sell them storage they may not actually need, says a study published by CSF, the UK technology services outfit. The research found that 80 per cent of IT directors admit to buying more storage as a quick fix, to avoid the pain of trying to get more from their current resources. However, 45 per cent went on to blame their suppliers for this, saying the suppliers did not do enough to help them optimise their existing storage investments. Companies who simply buy more storage to solve immediate problems are storing up trouble for the future, according to CSF business development manager Mark Sweeney. He says they should instead look at improving their storage utilisation via consolidation and improved management. "Too often, when customers go out to buy storage, it is too easy for the supplier just to accept the purchase order - they don't investigate and ask why they need it," he adds. It's hard to see what more the suppliers could do for customers who know perfectly well what needs to be done, yet insist on putting off the dreadful day for as long as possible. Fortunately, 40 per cent of the IT managers interviewed by CSF are already getting into storage resource management, and 32 per cent are planning storage consolidation. Sweeney is sympathetic to the laggards though, and suggests that a good first step for any organisation is a storage audit. "Most have heard of storage services but haven't yet figured out how they can help," he says. "For some, the right solution might well be to buy more storage, but in most cases not enough attention is paid to why they need more." If you think an IT disaster would turn your organisation titsup.com, you're in good company. An IDC study commissioned by Quantum reveals that 53 per cent of European companies have no business continuity plans in place. The study of 150 French, German and British companies also found that a quarter had no IT disaster recovery plans, while a third thought it could take longer than two days to restore critical business information. They were aware of new data protection technology such as disk-to-disk, but blamed limited hardware budgets (40 per cent), closely followed by lack of time (38 per cent). ® Related stories An IT director's lot is not a happy one Storage users love the press and a good brand UK firms flop in the data back-up department Business continuity planning: will it save you?
Bryan Betts, 24 Sep 2004

EU software patents directive delayed - again

The debate on European patent law has been rekindled, but the pendulum may be swinging against those groups who favour Union-wide adoption of software patents, says electricnew.net's Ciaran Buckley. The Greens/EFA Group of the European Parliament has announced that the EU's Competitiveness Council, which was to work on the Directive on the Patentability of Computer Implemented Inventions at its meeting on Friday, has dropped the directive from its agenda. The directive seeks to reduce the costs involved in the patent process and to unify Europe's disparate patent laws into a single code. The proposed law was a central plank in the Lisbon Agenda, which aims to make Europe the most competitive economic zone in the world by 2010. The Green's take on the Competitiveness Council's decision is that it will result in the directive being referred back to Coreper, the Committee for EU Permanent Representative Offices, which would allow member states to reconsider the directive. "Officially, the council has experienced translation difficulties with the new official languages of the EU," said Daniel Cohn-Bendit, co-president of the Greens/EFA Group. "In reality this file is returning to Coreper in order to allow the technical discussions between experts from the member states to continue." Cohn-Bendit said that the software regulations proposed by the Competitiveness Council on 18 June would have led to EU's economy being controlled by a small group of multi-nationals. The proposed directive was originally drafted to ensure that software patents would be allowed in Europe. Its meaning was almost completely inverted by the European Parliament, in order to prevent the patenting of algorithms and certain computer processes, with services like Amazon.com's one-line shopping an often cited example. Subsequently, the Council of Ministers restored it to its original effect, but was unable to finalise the directive because of differences in opinion over the number of languages in which patents should be documented. The European Parliament takes the view that strict software patents will stifle innovation among small European companies. Software would instead be covered by copyrights and algorithms and commercial methods might not be protected in any form. The proponents of software patents argue that they actually help small companies, by protecting their technology from large multi-nationals. Other proponents have argued that SMEs and multi-nationals are entitled to protect their R&D and that a watered-down directive would lead to companies moving their R&D facilities out of Europe, into jurisdictions with stronger IP protection. Copyright © 2004, ENN Related stories PwC: software patents threat to Europe Software patents under attack Patents and the threat to open source Democracy and the software patenting debate
ElectricNews.net, 24 Sep 2004

Busy month for JBoss

September has been a busy month for JBoss with three significant announcements. JBoss describes itself as the professional open source company and its core product is JBoss Application Server. Open source is initially attractive because it is free to download and deploy. However the cost of the software is normally only a small part of the overall cost of a project, when the cost of development, deployment, support, maintenance, hardware and services are included. Open source becomes really attractive when it can be shown that the total cost of ownership is lower than other solutions. The other major attraction of open source is that it is free to distribute. This means that an OEM solution vendor can ship their application and the underlying software, such as an application server, as one package. The client does not have to negotiate with a third party and separately install the underlying software. This makes the sale easier for the OEM and the installation simpler for their client. This model only works if the total cost of ownership is really lower, for a large enterprise that is only true if the open source software is enterprise ready. Enterprise-ready means firstly that it has the full range of functions expected, but most importantly that it supports the -ilities reliability, scalability, maintainability etc. that are required for mission critical solutions. Initial versions of JBoss were applauded and used a great deal for initial testing, design and deployment for specific limited solutions. There was some reluctance to deploy it in mission-critical applications because of lack of experience in these environments and some lack of function and support. Some intrepid users did make major deployment and showed that they worked. JBoss, with its atest announcements, is saying that it is enterprise- ready and ready to compete directly with the established non-open-source vendors. It has introduced a new Application Server; a new version of JBossCache that provides persistence supports; and membership of the Eclipse Foundation. JBoss Application Server 4.0 provides the latest functions expected of a Java server including full support of J2EE V1.4 and in some ways more interestingly support for the newer concept of Aspect Orientation (AO). AO is a technique for separating crosscutting concerns such as logging, authentication and transaction integrity from application specific concerns, thereby improving productivity and increasing quality at the same time. It also has made great improvements to the -ilities especially in scalability and performance. JBossCache provides locking, replication and transaction management of any plain old java object (POJO). The caching can now be persisted with the integration of Berkley DB from Sleepycat. This provides a reliable and well performing environment for java applications. JBossCache is available separately but is also distribute with JBoss AR V4.0. Lastly, JBoss has now joined the Eclipse foundation and will be providing code to the J2EE Standard Tools Project. Eclipse has grown rapidly in strength since it was set up as a separate organisation. JBoss joining Eclipse makes perfect sense and will enhance its attraction in the enterprise space. I think that these three announcements put together have made JBoss a really serious contender in the Application Server space. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories Intel pumps VC cash into JBoss Sun rallies J2EE faithful Open Source J2EE 1.4 gets Sun green light
Peter Abrahams, 24 Sep 2004

Ofcom intervenes in telephone 'slamming' row

Ofcom has been forced to intervene in an industry row concerning the transfer of customers between telcos. Phone providers such as Centrica want to make it easier for people to ditch BT and take up their rival services. BT wants to ensure that customers who leave the telco are not the victims of mis-selling or "slamming". Despite protracted negotiations neither side has been able to come up with a workable solution. As a result communications regulator Ofcom has waded in to settle the dispute. Centrica claims BT is able to prevent customers transferring to alternative providers without any comeback for the customer or their chosen new provider. "Short of an appropriate resolution, BT can still cancel customers' orders to switch provider and then deny the chosen provider access to their customer to resolve whatever issues they may have experienced during the switching process," said the company . Ian El-Mokadem, MD of Centrica Telecommunications added that he hoped Ofcom's intervention would result in a solution that "enables communications providers to finally take full control of the customer experience and speedily deal with customer concerns and resolve issues around the transfer process". "Their [BT's] ability to stop customers legitimately switching providers is like Sainsbury’s being able to stop its customers shopping at Asda. It's clearly not in the interests of competition to have the dominant incumbent provider have this level of control over customers' experience of the competitive market," he said. But BT - which is losing around 100,000 punters a month - insists it is acting in the best interests of consumers who are being targetted by unscrupulous telcos. It is aware of more than 100,000 instances of alleged mis-selling in the past year alone and remains concerned that "consumer protection in the wide area of mis-selling is far from satisfactory". "We are looking to industry to acknowledge the mis-selling problem and tackle the issues," said a BT spokesman. ® Related stories BT gets huffy about mis-selling Tele2 slams BT over switching claims BT appeals dirty tricks banning order BT ordered to stop dirty tricks
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2004
Cat 5 cable

Iomega waves goodbye to 145 staff

Iomega is waving goodbye to 145 staffers and temps - a quarter of its workforce. The cuts will cost it $5m-$7m in severance payments and property get-outs. But it expects to save $30m-$35m a year from the move. Most of the axed jobs comes from Iomega's recently-abandoned digital capture technology (DCT) development programme. The company is taking an asset impairment charge of $4m-$6m, mostly non-cash writedowns, to cover the wind-down of activities The DCT team had designed a removable mini-drive weighing nine grams and holding 1.5GB capacity for camcorders and portable video players, as well as portable PCs and smart handheld devices. In July 2003, Iomega announced that a "select group of OEMs" were evaluating the technology - which we dubbed 'Son of Clik', in recognition of the firm's earlier ill-fated attempt to build a storage line for consumer electronics makers. Iomega expected to see the drives in products in Q204. Well, Q204 has come and gone, but customers are notable by their absence. According to El Reg hardware editor Tony Smith, CE manufacturers are simply too wedded to solid state storage. In July this year, Iomega announced its intention to abandon DCT, following a whopping loss of $19.8m on sales of $77m. Iomega is cutting back because its expenses-to-revenue ratio was out of whack with its competitors. The company still hopes to license DCT, but the closure of the DCT division shows also that it was too small to support such an ambitious project. It will now concentrate around its REV product line, a removable hard drive technology pitched at back-up applications for businesses both big and small. It will also focus on its NAS products. ® Related stories Iomega readies wireless SOHO NAS kit Iomega drops 'Son of Clik' as losses swell Iomega dresses up NAS device Iomega ships 160GB back-up hard drive Iomega ships 35GB 'son of Jaz'
Drew Cullen, 24 Sep 2004

Yachties get all-in-one DSL- wi-fi service

Square Mile International - a global wireless Internet Service Provider (WISP) which serves the yachting community by running hotspots in marinas - has teamed up with Pipex and BT to offer broadband...well...just about everywhere. Through a single bill and subscription, punters can get broadband in ther homes, on board their boats in marinas, and out and about in the UK using BT Openzone's 6,000 hotspots. Subscription to Square Mile hotspots in marinas will cost "yachties" £25 a month. If they want broadband in the home plus access while on board ther boats, it'll cost £45 a month. The full whack - boat, home and 6,000 BT Openzone hotspots - costs £75 a month. Said Dominic Killinger, md of Square Mile International: "This puts the user in control, choosing from Internet access on their boat, at home or thousands of UK hotspots, and we can provide one subscription to meet their needs. There will be only one subscription and one account to access the internet for all three. We believe this is a first in the marketplace and that it will make significant savings of time and money for all sailors wanting access to the internet." Over the last two years, Square Mile has set-up wireless broadband net access in 32 Marinas across the UK, with seventeen more due to go live in the UK in the next month or so. In July, Eclipse Internet announced plans to resell BT's public wi-fi service. It goes live in a couple of weeks. ® Related stories Eclipse stars with BT's Wi-Fi network Wi-Fi makes a splash Don't price Wi-Fi to death, operators warned 60 real ale pubs to get Wi-Fi BT chops cost of UK Wi-Fi access
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2004

Invasion of the identity snatchers

Last year I was the victim of identity theft, a sobering reality in today's world. An unscrupulous criminal managed to social engineer his way past the formidable security checks and balances provided by my credit card company, my bank, and one of my investment accounts. He methodically researched my background and personal information until he could successfully impersonate me, and then subsequently set forth to change the mailing addresses of my most important financial statements. It was a harrowing experience, and one worth explaining in the context of the online world. Numerous visits to the local police and the Canadian RCMP revealed some rather surprising things: identity theft is already so common that there are entire units within law enforcement that deal with this issue every day. They have toll-free numbers, websites and documents that clearly define their incident response procedures. But the reality is, law enforcement will respond to these issues just as you might expect: with phone calls, in-person interviews, and some traditional detective work. It's still very much an analog world around us. The other thing that became crystal clear during the process of regaining my own identity is this: for as capable as they may be, law enforcement is woefully ill-equipped to track down identity theft that starts online. As a security professional with a healthy dose of paranoia, I was confident that my online identity had not been compromised - a more traditional approach had been used. But with the sophistication of today's viruses, millions of others cannot say the same thing. While not all identity theft starts online, the fact is that online identity theft is now incredibly easy to do. The same methodical, traditional approach that was used to steal my identity by placing phone calls is being sped up, improved upon, and made ever more lethal by first attacking the victim online. Your banking and credit card information can come later. We all know how commonplace these technologies already are: keyloggers, Trojans with remote-control capabilities and even webcam control, and backdoors that give access to all your files. There are millions of these installed on infected machines all over the world, lurking in the shadows. Ever do your taxes on your home computer? All it takes is one Social Insurance Number (or Social Security Number in America), plus some really basic personal information, and you're sunk. Every nugget of information can be worth its weight in gold if, for example, that online banking password that was just logged enables someone to change your address and then, a month later, take out a loan in your name. The rise of phishing scams over the past two years alludes to this growing menace: your personal information, especially your banking and credit card information, has significant value to a criminal. No surprise there. Working in the security field, many of us know people who are regularly infected with viruses, worms, Trojans. When it gets bad enough, they reformat and reinstall. I can't count the number of times I've heard people tell me that they're not overly concerned, as they believe that the (often, minimal) personal information on their computer is not inherently valuable. They've clearly never had their personal information put to ill use. As I was reading the new Threat Report from Symantec, which documents historical virus trends, only the biggest numbers jumped out at me. The average time from vulnerability to exploit is now just 5.8 days. Some 40 per cent of Fortune 100 companies had been infected with worms over a period of six months. There were 4,496 new Microsoft Windows viruses discovered in six months, or an average of 24 new viruses every day. Basically, the epidemic is out of control. With a few exceptions, however, the most popular and most prominent viruses and worms are not the ones that will be used to steal your identity. It's that carefully crafted email, or that feature-rich and bloated Trojan, that will be used in covert attempts. Perhaps a suitable solution to the epidemic is a rather old one, and one that I employ myself: encryption of all the personal data that is deemed valuable. I'm not talking about your pictures of Aunt Tilly or your music archive - I'm referring to your tax returns, your financial information, your bill payments, etc. This approach still won't avoid the keyloggers or that remote control Trojan that's sitting on your drive, but it does help to avoid new surprises and mistaken clicks. And to those users out there whom we deal with everyday and who still say there's nothing important on their computer that requires them to care about today's worms, Trojans, viruses, and so on, the day their own information is stolen and used against them is growing ever more near. Copyright © 2004, Kelly Martin is the content editor for SecurityFocus. Related stories World's largest ID theft felon faces 14 years' jail Phishermen attack on a viral scale Spammer charged in huge Acxiom personal data theft Gov.uk launches anti-fraud website Anti-phishing group backs email authentication Would you trade your password for chocolate?
Kelly Martin, 24 Sep 2004

MS fires armour-piercing suit at 'bullet-proof' spam host

Microsoft has fired off nine new lawsuits against spammers including an action against a web hosting firm that allegedly offered so-called "bullet proof" hosting to junk mailers. National Online Sales and its owner Levon Gillespie are jointly accused of offering a "safe haven" for purveyors of get-rich-quick schemes and penis enlargement rackets. The case was filed in Washington State's King County Superior Court. Microsoft attorney Aaron Kornblum told Reuters that the web host offered to send email and host sites through servers based in China. "This is the first action against a Web host catering to spammers. They're providing a safe place for spammers to drive customers to," he said. Neither Gillespie nor National Online Sales has responded so far to the accusations. Suppliers of so-called "bullet-proof" services claim that they can't be shut down as a result of complaints. In reality, such services are usually closed within days as the escalation of complaints to upstream providers forces ISPs to close down sources of spam - or risk being kicked off the net themselves. In any case, the trade is probably on the wane. Anti-spam organisations, such as Spamhaus, are increasingly winning converts in the Chinese ISP community with their argument that local hosts shouldn't offer such slimy services. With the latest batch of lawsuits, Microsoft is involved in 100 spam cases around the world, of which 70 are in the US. Kornblum told Reuters that Microsoft is using litigation to make it costlier and more difficult for spammers to stay in business. ® Related stories Spamming for Dummies Zombie PCs spew out 80% of spam Spamhaus assaults 'Great Wall of Spam' Spam fighters infiltrate spam clubs Big US ISPs set legal attack dogs on big, bad spammers MS sues 200 for spamming Spammer prosecutions waste time and money
John Leyden, 24 Sep 2004

Readers love mobiles in church; hate mobiles on planes

LettersLetters Mobile phone etiquette dominates the letters bag today; from Mexican churches that have moved to jam phone signals, to a company that wants to enable mobile phone use on planes. Neither idea is particularly popular with readers of El Reg: Nice idea - until passers-by can't get a signal because the jamming spills out of the church. Or until someone suffers a heart attack and no-one can call an ambulance. Or until hotels get these to try force you to use the hotel phone (priced to make a heroin habit seem cheap). Thank God that in this rather more civilised country people who jam mobile phone signals will go to jail. Ken Quote: "Those readers who have ever sat in the quiet carriage of the Heathrow Express angrily eyeing the "please turn off your phone" sign while suits shout into their 3G handsets regardless" You mean you don't just walk over to them and 1. Point at the no mobile signs 2. Tell them only semi politely to not talk on the phone in that car 3. Rip the phone out of their hands with a grin that tells them exactly where the phone will be inserted next if they decide to argue or dare to redial. Simon HALLELUJAH! Matthew Short, sweet, and to the point. Next, and the biggest pile by far, are the letters responding to the idea of allowing mobile phones on planes. : Hi John, I couldn't help but notice that the article re mobiles on planes, says that "Telenor put out a survey showing that almost nearly half of the 1,200 people questioned would prefer to travel on airlines which allow mobile phone use." Does this not translate into 'Over half of the 1200 people questioned would prefer not to be pestered by people nattering away on the ruddy phone while they are trying to sleep'? Prehaps the survey should have included both sides of the coin? Jon A It seems that ARINC is now saying that mobile phone use on planes is not likely to lead to death and destruction. Given this, I wonder if all those people in the UK convicted of "endangering the safety of an aircraft" by using their phones will have their convictions overturned? Ken "By enormous coincidence late last week Arinc and Telenor put out a survey showing that almost nearly half of the 1,200 people questioned would prefer to travel on airlines which allow mobile phone use." Well, that was bloody silly survey for them to put out, wasn't it? Imagine we currently have Airline X and Airline Y; they're absolutely identical in every way and have 50% of the market each, accordingly. Airline X spends untold millions on this shiny new mobile phone inflight service. Airline Y spends nothing and still doesn't let you use your mobile phone. Airline X is, according to the survey, therefore now preferred by "almost half" of the market. It thus follows that Airline Y is preferred by "a little more than half" of the market. Result? Airline X has spent untold millions and lost market share. It carries on making similar business decisions and rapidly goes down the shitter. Airline Y lives happily ever after... Adam W The flip side of the research being that over half of the 1200 people questioned would rather travel on planes that didn't allow mobile phones... Stuart Hi, John, One of my mates is head of In-Flight Services at a certain popular airline that had in-flight phones in 1994. The subsidised charge was USD10 per minute at the time. He once showed me a usage graph and 99% of calls lasted less than two minutes. This big peak then dropped until it reached about 25 minutes and then it spiked again. The 25 minute plus calls were generally by execs that were usually making business deals that more than covered the charge. The two minute calls were made by people who called their friends and did the HELLO...I'M ON A PLANE...YES...A PLANE!! thing but didn't hang up before the first minute was reached. I think he said these calls usually lasted one minute and five seconds... Kindest regards, The Mahatma. "The system is cheaper than other products because it uses the satellite system the plane already carries rather than providing its own." Er, is this a spare satellite system that all planes happen to have or is this the one that the plane's systems use for communication, navigation, etc. and interface with even more important systems that keep the big planey thing up in the big bluey thing? Sharing critical system resources so that people don't get bored - interesting. I also like the statement "technical problems have been solved", well that makes you feel better, a technology company telling you that they have got rid of all the problems that might cause any system craches (sorry couldn't resist). I think I will be buying tickets for planes with the expensive telephone option. Chris Is it just me (as an aircraft engineer) that thinks that if a plane's navigation system is so sensitive to interference from mobile phones I'd rather not be on that plane..... Rob yeah. weeee. how wonderful. You nailed it with the title. Meetings, theaters, lectures, restaraunts, subways, and now flights. At least in my own home and car I can make people shut them off. Disgusting. Its tempting to go back to writing and posting paper letters just to force my little slice of the world to be quiet. Becca "survey showing that almost nearly half of the 1,200 people questioned would prefer to travel on airlines which allow mobile phone use" So that would be a minority, then? There's a world of difference between people being able to make a phone call from somewhere on the plane, and the person sitting next to you exposing you to "secondary telephone conversation" (see "secondary smoking") at close range. As your headline succinctly demonstrates. James Nooo! Please no!! Get someone to kill this off ASAP! Can't we have at least one place free from mobile phones?! What could possibly be worse than constantly ringing mobiles on a 6,7,8...12 hour plane flight?! "Arinc and Telenor put out a survey showing that almost nearly half of the 1,200 people questioned would prefer to travel on airlines which allow mobile phone use". So MOST people would prefer to travel on an airline that does NOT allow mobile phone use then. My visceral loathing of marketing departments continues to grow unabated. Yours, Jonathan Keith Is it just me or is having mobile phones working on aircraft a terrifying thing, and not just because of appalling ring tones ? My main issue is the terrorist threat, look at the Madrid train bombings which were detonated via mobile phone. Ok, there are loads of other ways of blowing up a plane (recent suicide bombers in Russia are an illustration) but the mobile phone method is better than a timer since you can visually make sure a plane is airborne before detonation, rather than sat on a taxi- way, and you don't have to kill yourself either ! Peter We published an interview with Professor Wendy Hall, in which she spoke about why she thinks there are so few women working in IT, and what an be done to even things out a bit. She also outlined her thoughts on how the computer business is going to change over the next ten years, and how that change will need input some of the more traditionally 'female' subject areas, like psychology or sociology. Quote: But in the mid-eighties, the personal computer arrived, and with that, the culture changed beyond recognition. "It became about playing and coding war games," Puuulleeeaaseee. Having been raised with pesonal computers in the '80s it had nothing to do with playing/coding war games. I played King's Quest and other adventure games all through the 80's, and other classics like Q-Bert, and doing "artsie" Logo creations on my TI-99/4A. None of the "war games" really started till the early 90's when Doom made such a huge splash, and the "war games" were made popular because it was the guys who were interested in computers. Does anyone remeber Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? I rest my case. John-Mark Just a couple of minor points; Evolution is not a biological process, but is more closely related to mathematics in terms that it's a method of hunting for 'fitness' using semi-random changes. Beyond a couple of extremely specific mechanisms for biological organisms to endure minor mutation, there isn't a whole lot in the biology A-level that would benefit anyone moving into computers these days, 'evolution' notwithstanding. "It became about playing and coding war games," she explains. "This really turned women off the subject, and we've never really recovered." Women in general are being turned off pure science & engineering subjects across the board, let alone computer science. This has _nothing_ to do with coding or playing wargames, and it's disingenous to suggest that, given the absolutely enormous field that the professor is alledgedly part of. There was some interesting abstract work into Fractals that may have been missed, it being a bit of 'blip' on the computer sciences horizon. I still don't quite understand this politically correct ideal that the spread of males and females within a given industry should be 50/50. People choose their careers on both desire, and one would hope, talent. The only time when careers should become the target of this kind of enquiry is when there are vast fractures between the amount earned by men and women in the same jobs. The publicity that surrounds this is what causes the majority of career choice, rather than the popular stereotypes as reinforced by the good Professor. "Anyone transported from 1994 to the present day would probably be surprised by what they would find here." Not really. In 1994 I was watching the Shoemaker-Levy impacts on Jupiter and thinking that this was the future on mosaic using a 2400 gandalf modem. In 1992 I was using the X.25 Janet network which linked universities. The exact technologies used may be quite novel, but we're still shifting characters around on links, and very little has actually changed. In fact, we've shifted backwards to concepts like google when the Gopher network was actually a lot more interesting, decentralised and largely evolutionary. James Why is it than all things good in this world are created or will be created by women? The article also seems to assume that all the men out there who happen to work IT just love war games and the pathetic user interfaces we currently have to work with! Two very poor assumptions! Mind you (prof?) Hall does at least seem to concede that men will have to 'bring' the technology to the level the women want to play with it too. Every Semblance of Evil and General Badness I believe a more fundamental principle is at work here than those alluded to by Prof Hall. As professions and/or skilled industries become "commoditised", men move out and women move in. There are some good examples from recent history. Just look at teaching as an example. As respect -- and relative pay levels -- have diminished amongst the teaching profession, so the proportion of male teachers has diminished. As software development and support jobs are shipped overseas and respect for IT as a profession diminishes, so the same shall happen in IT. If I remember correctly, I think Germaine Greer manages to describe the phenomenon much more eloquently in The Whole Woman. Regards, James This is a good point - we understand that even cheerleading was regarded as a sensible occupation until women got involved. Finally, we have good news from Odeon Cinemas: I just noticed today that the official Odeon site now has an alternative text-based interface - and also a page about their support for the Disability Discrimination Act. Good to see them get their act together. -Matthew. Marvellous. That's all folks. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Sep 2004

BOFH: What to do when the Boss gets touchy-feely

Episode 32Episode 32 BOFH 2004 "I'M NOT A SIMPLEMINDED BLOODY IDIOT YOU KNOW!" the Boss shouts. "MMmmmff," the PFY responds, getting a mouthful of the book I'm holding before he can say something he'll regret. Well, something that the Boss will regret. Actually, something the Boss won't understand, ask for clarification for, get annoyed about, do something stupid and retaliatory, in turn receive something from the PFY in the stupid and retaliatory line. That he'll regret. "What's wrong with me having full network access?" >Sigh< "If we allow the application you're using to contact the internet, it'll most likely cause your machine to be infected with one of a number of new viruses, which will most likely cause a lot of the workplace machines to be infected." "Don't people have antivirus programs on their machines?" "Yes, but the definitions are rarely up to date - and peer-to-peer networking is a good way of downloading the latest in viruses." "But if I kept my machine up to date, it would all be ok then?" "Not necessarily, no," I reply. "Why not?" "Because you're an idiot," the PFY blurts, before I can install another chapter. "I beg your pardon?" the Boss says, in a tone which would tend to suggest the matter isn't going to end here. "ID-I-OT," the PFY says slowly. "YOU... ARE… ONE." Which clears up any potential misunderstanding the boss might have about the message that the PFY is trying to convey to him. All that we need now is the Boss to want to make a big deal out of it… "Right!" the Boss says, storming out. Cat, Pigeons, frantic fluttering noises. . . . "So the purpose of this interview is to investigate the complaint that's been made to ascertain what actually took place from the viewpoint of all parties," the HR woman says. "Now we have a statement here, which I'll read shortly, but at this point I'd just like you to recount your memory of what took place earlier today - in your own words. Bear in mind that anything said in this room should remain in this room." "Well," the PFY starts. "I got to work at about 8:15am…" "Yes, ok, I should have been a bit more precise," the HR rep says. "What I actually meant was what occurred earlier this morning - in the conversation with your manager." "The conversation with my manager?" the PFY repeats vacantly. "I think you know which conversation…" the HR rep says kindly. "Do we really have to go into it - I mean it's all water under the bridge!" "Once a complaint's been made, we have to investigate it thoroughly." "But what if Simon withdraws it?" "Withdraws what?!" the Boss snaps. "Why would you think that Simon would've brought the complaint?" the HR person asks, raising a finger for the Boss's silence. "I... Isn't this about the harassment thing?" "The harassment thing?" "The boss. Propositioning me. I only told Simon because it disturbed me - I didn't want to get anyone in trouble." Ooooh, the old "boss is all over me" defence. "WHAT!?" the boss shouts. "I didn't even mention the doors thing," the PFY adds. "The doors thing?" the HR person asks. "The way he... always closes the door when I go into his office. It makes me... uncomfortable." "It's for privacy!" "You never close the door for the secretary or the Head's PA!" "I don't get complaints about them!" "Actually, people complain about me," I add, "but I don't get the closed door treatment." "You never bloody turn up!" "Uh-huh. Very convenient." "I'M A HAPPILY MARRIED MAN - WITH TWO CHILDREN!" "Cover story," the PFY murmurs quietly. "Ok, I… I think this may have got a little out of hand," The HR droid interjects, holding up a hand. "Simon, what's your opinion?" "I'm sure some people find my assistant attractive, but I favour the child bearing - as opposed to ball bearing – gender." "I'M NOT BLOODY GAY!" "Sure, Elton," the PFY snaps. "Well I have to say that this complicates matters somewhat," the HR person interrupts. "I'm going to have to seek some advice from my supervisor before we go any further." . . . Several extended "counselling" sessions later… "So we're agreed that you might have misheard him, and he, in turn might have misunderstood your... concern for his wellbeing," the HR rep says, scratching notes as she goes. "I suppose I may have been mistaken," the PFY admits. "And I might have heard him say something else I guess," the Boss responds. "Ok, in that case I can't see any reason in us following this up any further," the HR rep says, signing the bottom of her page and making to leave. "All this because you don't want me to run a file sharing program," the Boss murmurs to the PFY quietly. "It's sort of pathetic really." "Plonker," the PFY mouths back. And there go those words he's going to regret... Well, the Boss is going to regret.. "BAD TOUCHING!" the PFY shouts, jumping up from the table and hiding behind the HR rep before Boss can move. Sigh. It is sort of pathetic really. But the touch of fun makes everything worthwhile. "I saw everything!!!.." I blurt. ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 24 Sep 2004

Missing galaxies puzzle scientists

The latest Ultra Deep Field images from Hubble, pictures of ancient, star -forming galaxies, have left scientists with a bit of a problem. There aren't nearly as many galaxies as theories predict there should be. The analysis of Hubble's data was carried out by a team of UK researchers led by Dr Andrew Bunker at the University of Exeter and graduate student Elizabeth Stanway at the Institute of Astronomy at Cambridge University. The researchers explain that at this very early point in the universe's history, the space between galaxies was filled with neutral gas. Something caused this gas to ionise rather rapidly (in astronomical terms) so that space was filled with plasma instead. Ultraviolet light, produced by forming stars, is widely thought to have been the most likely trigger for the switch. By working out how much UV would be needed to ionise all the insterstellar gases, astronomers could calculate how many stars needed to form, to produce the radiation. The answer is: there are more stars than could be produced in the galaxies they have found. Hubble peered back in time using its infrared imaging system and built up an image of a patch of sky using multiple exposures. Stanway explains that the visible light from these objects would have been absorbed by gas clouds long before it reached Earth: "but their infrared light can be detected, and it is their infrared colours which lead us to believe that these galaxies lie at such immense distances," she said. The galaxies have a red shift of six, meaning they are around 13bn years old, and are some of the earliest star-forming galaxies ever detected. These stellar nurseries existed when the universe was just a billion years old, and are twice as old as our own solar system. The astronomers used the Keck and Gemini telescopes (based in Hawaii and Chile) to verify their results. "Using the largest optical telescope, Keck, was very important as it showed that this population of objects discovered by the Hubble Space Telescope really are incredibly distant", Bunker said. There are a number of possible explanations for the findings, he told the BBC> One possibility is that the physics of the universe was different, and that our understanding of star formation is "flawed". The puzzling results have been confirmed by other scientists working in the field, and will be published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Related stories Dim stars shed light on age of galaxy Boffins baffled by suburban quasars Hubble nudges the dawn of universe
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Sep 2004

Centrica buys Telco Global for £43m

Centrica, the giant outfit behind the One.Tel and British Gas Communications telecoms brands,has forked out £43m to acquire Telco Holdings Ltd. Operating under the Telco Global brand, Enfield-based Telco Holdings has 238,000 residential fixed lines customers, 11,000 business customer and around 10,000 mobile business users. These will all be added to Centrica's exsiting customer base of 1.5m. The acquisition also provides it with an opening into the business market. There's also the chance to explore VoIP services as well. Said Sir Roy Gardner, chief exec of Centrica: "Today's acquisition will enable us to consolidate our position as the UK's largest indirect access telecommunications company, reinforcing One.Tel as the major alternative for BT customers, and supporting our efforts in the B2B market." ® Related stories Ofcom intervenes in telephone 'slamming' row One.Tel in broadband - telco bundle One.Tel in free calls offer
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2004

Now we are 8 (and this token proves it)

VeriSign announced a new USB token that verifies the ages and sexes of children using a computer, and claimed that this will make it easier for innocent sprouts to avoid online predators, Reuters reports. "Chatroom lurkers who can't prove their age will stick out like sore thumbs as more kids adopt the tokens," the wire service explained. The so-called i-Stik USB token will provide verification of a child's age and sex. School administrators will provide lists of students, with their dates of birth and sexes, and VeriSign will encode that information onto the i-Stick tokens. The scheme will begin with a handful of schools for testing this Fall, and, if all goes according to plan, be extended to thousands of schools starting next Spring. That is, assuming its glaring flaws don't become painfully evident by that time. Most obviously, the token will not verify age or sex of the person using it, but only of the person to whom it was issued. Anyone might be using it, and no doubt paedos will be scrambling to get their hands on one of their own, either through loss, theft, or bribery. Once the tokens become popular and widely available, one can expect a brisk trade in them on paedo bulletin boards. (Naturally, the Feds will have to be supplied with plenty of these gizmos, so that they can spend their days hanging out in kids' chatrooms with better cover.) Meanwhile, parents will be lulled further into foolish notions that an Internet-connected PC makes for an adequate electronic babysitter. The Internet is adult space, and there is no substitute for parental supervision. If this scheme does anything to produce a false sense of security among parents, then it's worse than nothing; it's actually dangerous. One thing that the tokens will be good for is online marketing to children. Marketers will be able to get a more accurate sense of the ages and sexes of young visitors to various online venues, and target them more precisely. It will also make for decent PR and corporate image-making for VeriSign, suggesting that the company takes the safety of children seriously. Most importantly, it will produce a nice revenue stream from a basically worthless product that school districts will purchase with tax dollars. In all, it's a win/win gimmick and publicity stunt, so long as child safety is not a criterion for judging its success. ® Correction In our story regarding VeriSign's i-Stik USB token for children, we said that "school districts will purchase [them] with tax dollars." VeriSign would like it known that it will pay for the pilot programme, and that online child protection outfit i-SAFE America will fund expansion with federal grant money and private donations. Thus we should have said that the scheme, if it should succeed, will eventually need additional public funds, which might or might not come from school district budgets. Thomas C Greene is the author of Computer Security for the Home and Small Office, a comprehensive guide to system hardening, malware protection, online anonymity, encryption, and data hygiene for Windows and Linux. Related story RSA cosies up to AOL as VeriSign enters token market
Thomas C Greene, 24 Sep 2004
fingers pointing at man

MS tweaks volume licensing

Microsoft has made some changes to the terms of its volume licensing agreements, a move it says will give customers more flexibility and choice. The Enterprise Step-up promotion is to become a permanent feature of the company's licensing offering. Step-up allows some of Microsoft's enterprise customers to move from Standard Edition software to Professional or Enterprise Edition versions. It was originally a year-long promotion available to customers with Software Assurance, Select License, an Enterprise Agreement or Open License Value, and expired at the start of September this year. The company has also changed the terms for Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005. Brent Callinicos, vice president, worldwide licensing and pricing, said that customers had asked for the model to be simplified, so now instead of a per-processor license, the company is offering a server-plus-managed-device model. Microsoft has also launched a new licensing website which will act as a repository of all the company's Ts&Cs and other license related information. Callinicos said that the site had been developed based on customer feedback: "We've designed the Web site to be easily searchable and to provide up-to-date resources that help our customers better understand how Microsoft licenses its products in the United States and Canada." ® Related stories MS fires armour-piercing suit at 'bullet-proof' spam host McSoftware pirate jailed for nine months Windows is the 'biggest beta test in history' - Gartner
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Sep 2004

Boffin hits it big with breast-enlarging ringtone

Long-term readers will certainly recall the heartwarming tale of mammarily-challenged student Michel, the US lass who launched an online appeal to raise cash for surgery to transform her "itty-bitty boobies to big tatas!" Well, she needn't have bothered, because a Japanese man has developed a breast-augmenting ringtone which has had oriental A-cups downloading like crazed breastless women in the hope of aurally-driven überjubblies. Hideto Tomabechi - who apparently cut his scientific spurs deprogramming members of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult - claims that his deliciously-titled "Rockmelon" ditty uses "sounds that make the brain and body move unconsciously". Tomabechio calls the subliminal mambooster a kind of "positive brainwashing" and further reckons that it's "a part of cognitive science". Rather improbably, or should that be lamentably, Rockmelon enjoyed 10,000 downloads in its first week alone. One satisfied user said: "I listened to the tune for a week expecting all the time that I was being duped. But, incredibly, my 87-centimeter bust grew to 89 centimeters! It was awesome!" A spokesman for Media Chic - which punts the melody online - confirmed: "We haven't done any advertising for it, so I suppose the tune's success has come about through word of mouth. We've even received mail from one user who said they listened to the tune every night before going to sleep and it made her tits bigger." That's proof enough for us. Tomabechi says he's planning further ringtones to help people quit smoking, combat baldness and attract a mate. Whether the latter category will include a suitably stirring penis-pumping anthem is not noted. ® Bootnote Hats of to Japan-based Reg reader Nick May for taking such a close interest in his female hosts' breasts. Related stories College girl's breasts in your hands Woman gets tits out online for charity Boffins grow breasts on mice
Lester Haines, 24 Sep 2004

EU to approve Oracle takeover - reports

The European Union is set to approve Oracle's hostile $7.7bn takeover of enterprise apps vendor PeopleSoft, according to Reuters and the Financial Times, both of which cite unnamed sources. According to FT, European Union competition commissioner Mario Monti is expected to give the deal the green light before he steps down from the role at the end of October. Monti still has to consult the EU's national antitrust regulators but that it unlikely to sway his position, which has been moving towards approval for some months. A US federal court has already given the takeover the green light after US regulators had initially ruled against it on competition grounds. EU lawyers reckons that same thing would happen here if the Commission blocked the bid, the FT reports. Reuters initially carried a report along the same lines as the FT but later story quotes the Commission as saying (officially at least) that its still in talks with Oracle and nothing's been decided yet. Approval in Europe will pave the way for the acquisition to go ahead, providing the DoJ does not appeal against the US court's decision to clear Oracle's hostile bid. There's still the little matter of gaining PeopleSoft shareholder approval after that, of course. ® Related stories Oracle wins US antitrust suit PeopleSoft staff get golden goodbye Oracle v. PeopleSoft: the joke is on...
John Leyden, 24 Sep 2004

Jowell waves through BBC Technology sale

The sale of BBC Technology to Siemens is to go ahead after Culture Minister Tessa Jowell said she had "no legitimate reason" to block the sale. A letter approving the privatisation of BBC Technology and the transfer of 1,400 staff has been sent to the BBC. Siemens is expected to take over ownership on October 1. Gerry Morrissey, assistant general secretary of trade union BECTU ,said: "This decision will come as a blow to our members in BBC Technology who have opposed this sell-off since it was first proposed. Despite the protection we have won for their terms and conditions after the sale, it could turn out to be bad news for some of them once jobs start to go, and it's certainly not good for the BBC in the long term". "This isn't just the BBC selling off one of its 'Crown Jewels', it's a case of handing its central nervous system over to the private sector." One stunned BBC insider told us: "It looks like we've all been sold down the river - and in only a week's time if the BBC stick to their currently planned timescale. Those of us being screwed over don't even know what's going to happen in a week's time." BECTU has campaigned against the privatisation of BBC Technology ever since details of the sell-off were announced last November. The BBC said sale of the technology division will raise more than £100m and save £30m a year in IT running costs. Despite assurances, the union argued that the move would lead to job losses and leave workers worse off. ® Related stories Union lobbies Jowell over BBC Technology sell-off BBC Tech staff reject Siemens sell-off - again Legal threat halts second proposed BBC Tech strike BBC Technology strike off BBC Tech staff to vote again for strike action BBC Tech strike over outsourcing BBC outsource deal includes staff black list BBC shortlists tech division buyers BBC to flog technology division
Tim Richardson, 24 Sep 2004

Galaxies rent asunder in huge cosmic collision

An international team of astronomers has observed the perfect cosmic storm: the most powerful collision of two galactic clusters ever recorded. The scientists who discovered the collision likened it to two high-pressure weather fronts colliding to create hurricane-like conditions. Only in this case, whole galaxies can be thrown from their paths. As the two clusters hit each other head on, the impact created an enormous shock wave of superheated gases and plasma that rolled out into space. Galactic clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe: each cluster contains thousands of galaxies and millions of stars. The cosmic light show was spotted with the European Space Agency's XMM-Newton observatory. The super cluster involved is Abell 754, in the constellation Hydra. Team leader Dr Patrick Henry of the University of Hawaii said: "Here before our eyes we see the making of one of the biggest objects in the universe. What was once two distinct but smaller galaxy clusters 300 million years ago is now one massive cluster in turmoil." The AOL takeover of Time-Warner was peanuts compared to this merger, he added. Although the super cluster has been known for many years, it is only with the detailed analysis of data now available that scientists can say what actually happened during the collision. "One cluster has apparently smashed into the other from the 'northwest' and has since made one pass through," said Dr Alexis Finoguenov of the Max-Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics. "Now, gravity will pull the remnants of this first cluster back towards the core of the second. Over the next few billion years, the remnants of the clusters will settle and the merger will be complete." The Milky Way is also part of a galactic cluster. We are heading for the Virgo cluster, it seems, and will ram straight into it in around two billion years time. Make a note in your diaries. ® Related stories Missing galaxies puzzle scientists Earth to disappear from alien radar Hubble loses an eye Astronomers uncover mystery at galactic core
Lucy Sherriff, 24 Sep 2004

JPEG exploit toolkit spotted online

A toolkit designed to exploit a recently-disclosed Microsoft JPEG vulnerability has been released onto the net. The toolkit (screen shot from AV firm F-Secure here) makes it trivially easy for maliciously-minded attackers, however unskilled they might be, to exploit unpatched Windows systems and run malicious code. The attack mechanism used here takes advantage of a recently discovered flaw in the way Microsoft applications process JPEG image files. Malformed JPEG files are capable of triggering a buffer overflow in a common Windows component (the GDI+ image viewing library), it was revealed last week. This behaviour creates a ready mechanism to inject exploit code into vulnerable systems. Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 make use of vulnerable library by default. Other Windows OSes might be vulnerable, depending on what applications users have installed. Microsoft, which unsurprisingly rates the vulnerability as critical, released a patch to defend against the flaw on 14 September. To be at risk, users have to open a JPEG file modified to trigger the flaw using either IE or Outlook. They also need to be unpatched. Unfortunately there's plenty of scope for both conditions to be met and the gene pool of potential victims is huge. The problem is exacerbated by the fact JPEG files are typically viewed "as a benign and trusted file format... as such it is possible to cause image files to be viewed with minimal user-interaction through several applications including many email clients such as Outlook and Outlook Express," Security tools vendor ISS notes. "There is also potential for automatic exploitation in the form of a network-propagating worm." Since the Microsoft's update security firm ScanSafe, which looks for malware in web traffic, has stopped numerous JPEG files identified as containing the exploit. Users are strongly advised to download and install the latest software patches from Microsoft and to update their anti-virus definitions as soon as possible. If you haven't done it already now would be a very good time. Sysadmins need to include the contents of JPEG files among the types of traffic scanned by network security tools. Several gateway AV scanners, for example, do not inspect image files by default. ® Related stories Microsoft warns of poisoned picture peril Malware by numbers: online virus creation tool spotted Virus toolkits are s'kiddie menace
John Leyden, 24 Sep 2004

Fiorina: HP's SAP disaster under control

HP Chief Carly Fiorina has assured financial analysts that last quarter's server and storage ordering system fiasco is truly a thing of the past. Fiorina, addressing yesterday a Banc of America Securities conference in San Francisco, promised that HP has made its way through a stunning order backlog and that all squeaky wheels have been properly greased. HP suffered one of its more embarrassing recent episodes when an internal SAP consolidation cost it $400m in third quarter revenue. Equally bad, the ordering debacle hurt HP's reputation with customers - many of whom were unable to obtain gear. "We have completed the (SAP) migration, and we are now through the order backlog that created," Fiorina told the analyst crowd, according to CNET. "We've been very forthright what those execution issues are. We've taken steps to deal with those and believe those are behind us." But how forthright was HP? During its third quarter earnings call, the company was typically hesitant to say exactly what went wrong with its ordering system. Only later, did word leak out that a failed SAP consolidation was to blame. HP was working to unite its SAP ordering systems with those from Compaq, bring down some 40 systems to about 6, sources have said. Many insiders knew the project - code-named Fusion - had every chance of going wrong, despite HP's supposed expertise in dealing with SAP migrations. HP picked its traditionally slowest quarter for the move, but sales folk warned that some kind of backup system had to be put in place to avoid disaster. Instead, HP simply pumped the channel full of servers and storage boxes a couple weeks ahead of the switch, crossed its fingers and hoped for the best. Insiders agree that most of the SAP plan went just fine, but there were enough problems to disrupt HP's entire supply chain. HP staffers were standing inside 18-wheelers hand-labeling shipments of million-dollar Superdome servers and the like. High-ranking executives were being forced to spend their time approving rush orders of $50 parts to key customers. In total, a disaster - and not one that HP described in exacting detail to the public. Has HP righted the ship? We'd like to know. ® Related stories Itanium sales fall $13.4bn shy of $14bn forecast Interex cowers behind HP omerta HP users decry Itanium, SAP issues and bad English HP's order system chaos to continue throughout August HP's Livermore opts for 'content free' content HP: The Adaptive Enterprise that can't adapt
Ashlee Vance, 24 Sep 2004

So what is it about Win2k security MS won't enhance?

If you want the 'security enhancements' of Windows XP SP2 but you're running an earlier version of Windows, then you're going to have to upgrade, Microsoft has been confirming to the public prints this week. Despite this being highly significant for the many companies still running Windows 2000, Microsoft has been confirming it pretty quietly - CNET and Microsoft Watch both seem to have been given statements on demand, and Redmond does not yet seem to be exactly bulging with detail on the subject. Which is a pity, because the information the company has given out so far is sufficiently unclear for us to confidently predict the arrival of a clarification. For example, what is meant by "enhancement?" There are some things in XP SP2 which you could reasonably think of as security updates, and others that most people would accept are better classed as enhancements, that is a new feature as opposed to a fix for something that turned out to be broke. But there's fuzzy territory in between and, erm, things get even fuzzier if you consider that it's IE's security in general that turned out to be broke. Microsoft therefore needs to nail down precisely what it is that it considers an enhancement in SP2, and tell it's customers. It also needs to say whether it thinks it is just restating policy from a few months back, when it said it didn't have immediate plans to port security and feature enhancements to older versions, but that it was working on plans for these. Security-wise it still has to be working on plans for these, because it remains committed to providing security support for them. So it really does have to come up with the plans, specifying where security support ends and enhancements provision begins. But the noises coming out of Redmond speak of a company that's thinking on its feet (something that Microsoft is almost supernaturally bad at doing). It tells CNET it doesn't have plans "to deliver Windows XP SP2 enhancements for Windows 2000 or other older versions of Windows", and you'll note this just says "enhancements" rather than security enhancements, while Microsoft Watch gets something that could have an entirely different and more general meaning: "We never committed to back porting technologies", which could mean lots of stuff, but: "Our commitment has been to provide the greatest possible level of security to all our customers. We will continue to do this for IE and for previous versions of Windows." When it comes to Win9x Microsoft clearly does have a point when it rules out 'retrofitting' new technologies to the older operating systems. But Windows 2000 is a substantially different matter, because XP at least began life as a rev of Win2k, so the technical arguments against giving it most of what XP's getting are rather more nebulous. There is a more sustainable argument that it is not cost-effective for Microsoft to support Win2k in this way, but if that is the argument, Microsoft should say so. If, on the other hand, it argues that the difficulties inherent in fixing all of the older operating systems, lumping Win9x, NT and Win2k together, present a mammoth task and would take resources away from securing XP, then it is fibbing. Securing Win2k alongside XP, as far as the enhancements/technologies/fixes that actually do provide extra security are concerned, ought not to be a major cost or headache. Essentially, it's something Microsoft's major business customers could legitimately demand, and they could equally legitimately be extremely annoyed at being told it's about time they switched to XP. Exquisitely, a fair slice of the problem for your honest megacorporation running 50,000 Win2k stations lies in the close association of Internet Explorer (et al) and the operating system. If IE is so inextricably bound into the OS that a less than secure IE means a less than secure OS, then yes, 'upgrade to XP' does have a certain amount of persuasiveness. But if said megacorporation contemplated its rotting (and frankly these days, rather tired-looking) Microsoft browsers and mused 'Mozilla.. Opera... Firefox' it might find itself less inclined to do the XP rollout than it used to be. "Hell, shove Opera onto them and see if wee can hold out until Longhorn..." Microsoft is therefore potentially shooting itself in the foot by creating an impression of relative insecurity in non-XP IE. And if people start thinking in terms of a switch of browser and email client being a cost-effective security fix for Windows (they've been told often enough), then (as Microsoft itself worried all those years back, with reference to Netscape) they could also start thinking the underlying platform was a damn sight less important than they've been led to believe. If Microsoft thinks 'upgrade to XP' is an offer users can't refuse, then it's making a big mistake. Because they just might. ® Related links XP SP2 fixes and enhancements SP2 on XP Home WinXP SP2 = security placebo? Security ‘impossible’ for Win9x, buy XP now, says MS exec
John Lettice, 24 Sep 2004

HP knifes Itanium, cans IA-64 workstations

Intel has lost the biggest customer for its ailing Itanium chip: Hewlett Packard's workstation division. HP is instead opting for total commitment to the 64-bit x86 chip market. "In working with and listening to our high-performance workstation partners and customers, we have become aware that the focus in this arena is being driven toward 64-bit extension technology," HP said in a statement. "The decision to discontinue HP’s Itanium workstation investment is limited to the workstation market and has no impact on HP’s success with Itanium-based Integrity servers." This is a stunning vote of no-confidence from the company that jointly developed the processor with Intel. HP has dominated the dismal Itanium market, moving well over 90 percent of all Itanium-based tin. Workstations long made up the bulk of HP's Itanic shipments and were key to the company's software porting efforts. HP, Intel and others "helped out" ISVs with free and discounted Itanium kit to get them to move software over to Intel's EPIC instruction set. Despite its Itanium leanings, HP has become a huge supporter of AMD's Opteron processor and Intel's 64-bit Nocona chip. The company clearly sees much more demand for systems based on these processors and must, to some degree, believe that the majority of software porting to Itanium is complete. Either that or it has lost all faith in Itanium. Hats off to HP though for making the tough decisions. It swallowed some pride in picking up Opteron and promoting its strength over HP's own Xeon-based server in various benchmarks. Now, it's downed some more by declaring that Itanium really should be confined to the niche most pundits envisioned for it - as a high-end PA-RISC replacement for big iron. Itanium, however, requires companies to face these kinds of brutal realities. IBM recently reminded everyone of the chip's bad fortunes. Intel's product has embarrassed analyst powerhouse IDC by goading it into sales forecasts that were 96 percent wrong. As Intel's server chief Abhi Talwalkar said at the recent Intel Developer Forum, "The key (to Itanium) is choice. You don't have to go to one single OEM such as Sun or IBM." Now there's one less choice for Itanium workstations. It remains to be seen how hard the other IA-64 workstation vendors will try to grab the void left by HP. A quarter's worth of IA-64 sales equals about a week's RISC shipments from IBM or Sun. Look out Itanium ecosystem - HP's dumping acid. ® Related stories Fiorina: HP's SAP disaster under control HP summarizes blade strategy with new marketing term IBM mocks Itanium server sales - again The Solaris on Itanium discussion stalls again HP gears up for Opteron server binge IBM strikes out at Intel with new Opteron box Intel admits Itanium pains, plots server future
Ashlee Vance, 24 Sep 2004

Red Hat opens losing propaganda offensive against Sun

OpinionOpinion Heaven help us all - there's a blog battle being waged between Red Hat's chief cheerleader Michael Tiemann and Sun Microsystems' President Jonathan Schwartz. It appears that Sun's recent rampage against Red Hat - most vociferously delivered via Schwartz's blog - has Tiemann's undies creeping toward an uncomfortable place. This is understandable in that Red Hat is not used to non-Redmond criticism and is unaccustomed to having a Microsoft rival of all things go after its pricey support costs. Red Hat has become the patron saint of Linux and this entitles it to an elevated position that its revenue and size would not typically warrant. "The open source community doesn't do what you ask them to do unless either (a) they trust you, or (b) what you ask them to do fits into some larger goal they've already signed onto," Tiemann writes in his glob missive directed at Sun. "Merely being pathetic doesn't score a whole lotta points, even if you are an executive of a once-great company." Ouch. "The open source community doesn't really care what you think. You can love them, you can hate them, you can ignore them, even insult them, but what matters at the end of the day is this: what have you done?" Let's be clear here. Sun is notorious for stirring up trouble in a bid to garner extra attention and press. It has done it for years against Microsoft and of late against Red Hat. Sun will say just about anything, if it's outrageous enough. CEO Scott McNealy started this tradition, and Schwartz obviously paid attention during the hyperbole training sessions. Not even McNealy or Schwartz would question this over a beer. They'd giggle. Tiemann, however, is way off base and has done something the Sun executives rarely do - be petty instead of somewhat smart. As Sun likes to point out, it's the second leading supplier of open source code on the planet - not after Red Hat but after UC Berkeley. Sun funds and supports OpenOffice - er, didn't Red Hat once give the finger to the Linux desktop. Sun has thrown plenty of tools back to the open source community and plans to open source Solaris. In addition, Sun has been a longtime supporter of CollabNet - a maker of some of the best tools around for developing open source code. ( Brian Behlendorf, founder of CollabNet and co-author of Apache, would likely - hate to puts word in his mouth - tell you there is value in creating a viable business model around code instead of just waving the open source flag.) Tiemann ignores all of this to throw some kind of hissy fit. "Now, you say that you love the open source community, but how much? If you love the open source community, you'd open source Java," he says. "Would you promise that any open source developer can use any of your patents in open source code without fear of a lawsuit from you? Would you create a fund to defend open source developers against the predatory practice of other patent holders? Would you put your financial muscle (what's left of it) and lobbying credibility (still good, I acknowledge) behind fighting software patents--something our community universally hates because it threatens our ability to innovate? And if you won't, why not? Because you love Microsoft more?" Easy, Michael, take your meds. Stop watching Days of Our Lives and get back to the office. Sun hasn't become Microsoft's hairless love slave. Sun's decision whether or not to open source Java is Sun's decision. It's really irrelevant to a larger open source discussion. Sun has done more than its fair share for the open source community. You'll notice that it's not attacking the open source community in the first place, but rather attacking Red Hat - a company that is questionably bending the great platform for all, Linux, into a monopoly. Sun is in the business of making money. Not Dell kind of money, but money nonetheless. Sun has more than $7bn in the bank and pulls in close to $3bn a quarter. Given that Red Hat made just $46m last quarter, it's probably best that Tiemann leave discussions of financial muscle to the big boys. Maybe he should ask Schwartz over for dinner, so he can see what $1bn looks like. Sun makes this money by having a business that is a mix of proprietary and open source technology. Granted the proprietary pays way more of the bills these days with Solaris on Sparc servers accounting for the vast majority of Sun's revenue, but the company is now embracing openish x86 technology, open sourcing Solaris and selling Linux, which it indemnified well before Red Hat. But away from this, Sun signed a deal last year for 1m Linux desktops - something Red Hat either never tried to pull off or failed at miserably. (Sun's support of Linux on the desktop is one of the keys to making Linux a broad success and should not be underestimated.) And, to be sure, Sun does not love Microsoft. It has a much richer tradition of bashing Microsoft than Red Hat - Sun just happens to have found a way to make billions from the bashing. It's pretty easy to nag Sun for not opening sourcing Java, but it's sad that Tiemann had to resort to that. Why not go after Red Hat investor and partner extraordinaire Dell. Sure the Round Rock Express sells plenty of Linux servers, but we're unfamiliar with its donations of open source code. The only Linux moment of significance we remember from Dell was when it pulled Linux off all its desktops because Ballmer asked it to, and by ask we mean told. Many who have met Schwartz say that he has a McNealy-like ego and a bit too much sass for his britches. That might be true. The same people, however, agree that he's pretty damn smart. Tiemann will lose this battle of blogging wits in a big way. It's probably best, Michael, if you toddle back to the labs and find new and improved ways to put proprietary wrappers around Torvalds' code. "Calling us lunatics and making other claims that don't stand up is not the Open Source way," Tiemann closes. Um, you've heard of Richard Stallman, right? ® Related stories Microsoft killed Dell Linux States Dell ends great Linux desktop adventure Novell takes SuSE Enterprise Linux to the next kernel Sun slams Red Hat
Ashlee Vance, 24 Sep 2004