27th > September > 2004 Archive

O2 shuns 3G hype

O2 is breaking ranks with other UK mobile operators by not offering consumer 3G services in time for Christmas. The company will offer business data services but does not believe the technology will be ready for mass adoption until late 2005 and it criticises rivals for over-hyping 3G services. O2 is offering "O2 Connection Manager" - software to manage a datacard which will work on 3G, wireless LAN and GPRS networks. It has done deals with BT Openzone and The Cloud to provide coverage. The card, from Novatel, costs £110 and automatically detects what networks are available and manages access to them. Services are currently available in "key conurbations" and this will roll out to 20 towns and cities by Christmas. In a veiled attack on rivals 3 and Vodafone, Dave McGlade, CEO of 02 UK, said mobile operators should focus on customer services, rather than getting technology to market first. "As an industry we have a track record of hyping technology before it is ready. Instead we should be launching it only when it has the right customer experience...3G will be a central pillar for the mobile industry moving forwards - but we won't see mass market adoption of this technology until late 2005." Orange and T-Mobile are also expected to stick to data-only services this year. Vodafone announced its Christmas list of 3G handsets last week. ® Related stories Voda plays Santa with 3G bonanza Mexican Catholics smite mobiles Mac users get Vodafone 3G data access
John Oates, 27 Sep 2004

NTL customers told to 'f**k off'

NTL has launched an urgent investigation into why one of the company's recorded messages told punters to "f**k off". Customers in the North East of England were shocked by the verbal assault when they reported faults yesterday . The Sun managed to get a transcript of the message before it was pulled. The message said: "Hello. You are through to NTL customer services. We don't give a f**k about you. We are never here. We just will f**k you about, basically, and we are not going to handle any of your complaints. Just f**k off and leave us alone. Get a life." At this stage it's not known if security on NTL's network was breached, or whether it was an inside job. A spokeswoman for the cableco said it was "too early to say". "The priority yesterday was to remove the offending message," she told us. "This is a serious matter. The message was highly offensive and we would like to apologise to our customers," she said. ® Related stories NTL joins unbundling bandwagon Call centres 'bad for income and health' Severed cable plunges NTL punters into digital darkness NTL staff in white powder scare
Tim Richardson, 27 Sep 2004

419ers enjoy a five-finger shuffle

Nigerian 419ers' less than perfect command of the English language has in the past allowed us to make merry at their expense. The following bog-standard advance fee fraud email contains all the classic elements - deceased African general, suitcases packed with readies, etc, etc. Not much to provoke a fit of the giggles there, you might think, But read on: MR. WANG QIN HANG SENG BANK LTD. DES VOEUX RD. BRANCH, CENTRAL HONG KONG, HONG KONG. Email:wang_qin07@yahoo.com.hk Dear Sir/Madam, Let me start by introducing myself. I am Mr. Wang Qin, credit officer of the Hang Seng Bank Ltd. I have a concealed business suggestion for you. Before the U.S and Iraqi war our client General. Ibrahim Moussa who was with the Iraqi forces and also a business man made a numbered fixed deposit for 18 calendar months, with a value of Twenty Six Million Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars (US$26,500.000.00) only in my branch. Upon maturity several notices were sent to him, even during the war early this year. Again after the war another notification was sent and still no response came from him. We later find out that the General and his family had been killed during the war in a bomb blast that hit their home. After further investigation it was also discovered that Gen. Ibrahim Moussa did not declare any next of kin in his official papers including the paper work of his bank deposit. And he also confided in me the last time he was at my office that no one except me knew of his deposit in my bank. So, Twenty Six Million, Five Hundred Thousand United State Dollars is still lying in my bank and no one will ever come forward to claim it. What bothers me most is that according to the laws of my country, at the expiration of three years the funds will revert to the ownership of the Hong Kong Government if nobody applies to claim the funds. Against this backdrop, my suggestion to you is that I will like you as a foreigner to stand as the next of kin to Gen. Ibrahim Moussa so that you will be able to receive his funds. WHAT IS TO BE DONE: I want you to know that I have had everything planned out so that we shall come out successful. I have contacted an attorney that will prepare the necessary documents that will back you up as the next of kin to Gen. Ibrahim Moussa, all that is required from you at this stage is for you to provide me with your Full Names and Address as you would like them to appear in the documentation. After you have been made the next of kin, the attorney will also file for claims on your behalf and secure the necessary approval and letter of probate in your favor for the movement of the funds. There is no risk involved at all in the matter as we are going to adopt a legalized method and the attorney will prepare all the necessary documents. Please endeavor to observe utmost discretion in all matters concerning this issue. Once the funds have been transferred, we shall share in the ratio of 60% for me, 35% for you and 5% for any expenses incurred during the course of this operation. Should you be interested, please contact me via email the above email strictly as I am not fluent in English and I would like all communication to be via email. As soon as I get your response, I will provide you with more details of this operation. Your earliest response to this letter will be appreciated. Kind Regards Mr. Wang Qin Marvellous. This absolute proof that the Lads from Lagos really are a complete bunch of tossers has caused delight throughout the 419-baiting community. One scambaiter (website on Geocities, so we won't bring it down by giving the url) has recently been involved in a correspondence with Wang Qin, and couldn't resist the following: Dear Wang: You don't have a sister in LA, USA do you as I went to school with a Foo Qin? Then again, Qin is a relatively popular name, isn't it? Also, when it gets to the West, it is often Anglocised into King. Anyway, Foo ended up marrying a fellow called Burnie Hill. But... Foo wanted to keep some of her historic past in her name and was proud of it so she hypenated her name to Foo Qin-Hill. Sir, we salute you. ® Bootnote Ta very much to Andrew Williamson for alerting us to the delights of Wang Qin. Related stories Anatomy of a 419 scam 419ers morph into Murder Incorporated 419er sells herself into sexual slavery 419ers make guest appearance in Doom 3 419ers launch online educational facility
Lester Haines, 27 Sep 2004

Virgin launches digital music service

Virgin's digital music service, Virgin Digital (VD), opened its virtual doors today, offering US consumers a Napster-style mix of a la carte downloads and an 'all you can eat' monthly subscription package. VD's initial offering is a beta preview release, presumably because it's based on Microsoft's still-in-beta Windows Media 10, as is Napster's 'Napster to Go' service, which is similarly still in the beta phase. Like Napster - and contrary to Apple's public thinking, and Microsoft's for that matter - Virgin clearly believes tethered subscriptions are the future of digital music, essentially allowing punters to download as many songs as they like for a regular, monthly fee. VD's pitch is price: $7.99 a month to Napster's $9.99. There are the usual array of online radio stations bundled. It's not clear from Virgin's press statement whether VD will provide transfers to portable players for that price, or whether the subscription includes CD burning rights. Napster charges extra for both facilities: $14.99 for Napster to Go, and 99c a track for burning. Certainly, from the announcement's wording, burning only appears to be bundled with the a la carte service. VD's other lead over Napster is its catalogue: one million songs, a target Apple's iTunes Music Store exceeded in the US last month. VD will initially target the US, and while it has announced European expansion plans, it will still not say when that will take place. Wherever it launches, Virgin's real strength is its brand. VD may appear too much if a 'me too' service for now, but with in-store promotion and the service's well-known name, it's in a position to make a strong entry into the market. "Virgin Digital will work collaboratively with other Virgin Group companies on cross-marketing and promotions in an effort to mutually extend the breadth, depth and knowledge of music available to customers," the company said. There's the vexed question of whether consumers will prefer pay-per-download offerings or subscriptions, but since VD offers both, it's not likely to be hindered by a shift in one direction or another. ® Related stories Napster unveils portable music service How the music biz can live forever, get even richer, and be loved 9 out of 10 cats prefer CDs to downloads OFT urged to investigate 'rip-off' iTunes easyMusic picks Wippit for pre-Xmas launch The Darkness opens digital song service Yahoo! snaps up Musicmatch Microsoft tells music biz to 'back lock-down CD standard' iTunes Japan hits 'inadequate DRM' hurdle Apple taunts Napster, Real with iTunes affiliate program Real halves music prices, widens loss Apple iTunes catalogue tops 1m songs
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2004

Adobe proposes universal digicam 'raw' image format

Adobe is to promote a 'standard' alternative to digital cameras' numerous 'raw' photo formats. Dubbed Digital NeGative (DNG) format, Adobe's proposal would not supersede the JPEG format used by almost all digicams these days, but the native formats such cameras offer users who want maximum, image fidelity. These raw formats hold the image as taken, without the loss of data even mildest JPEG conversion involves, or adjustments made by the camera's video processing electronics. The catch is that without compression, raw images are very large, limiting the number of them the camera can hold. Worse, different camera vendors use different, proprietary raw formats. Adobe as gone some way to licensing such formats where it can, but it's clearly decided that a single, vendor-neutral raw format makes more sense, hence the DNG proposal. It's pitch is that such a format would allows photographers who require lossless images to work in Photoshop without having to grab and save the images using software from their camera's manufacturer. DNG is based on the TIFF-EP format with extra metadata and scope for lossless JPEG compression, Adobe said. The format supports both mosaiced (CFA) and demosaiced interpolation. Adobe has launched a plug-in for Photoshop which converts over 14 camera makers' raw formats into DNG. The plug-in, for Windows and Mac versions of Photoshop, is accompanied by software that adds support for those raw formats to the CS version of Adobe's imaging application directly. The downloads are free but require registration. Adobe has also published the DNG spec. to allow camera makers to incorporate it into future products. ® Related stories Adobe beats the Street Adobe beta tests Acrobat Reader 7.0 PDF tagging for the blind Adobe's Warnock awarded Lovelace Medal JPEG patent holder renews royalty offensive Intel touts 'MP3 for 3D' universal graphics format
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2004

BT 'unlikely' to be broken up

Ofcom is expected to shy away from calling for BT to be split when it publishes the findings of its review into the UK's telecoms sector next month. In April, the telcoms regulator published the first phase of its consultation into the year-long review into the sector. One of the five key questions posed by the regulator was: "At varying times since 1984, the case has been made for structural or operational separation of BT, or the delivery of full functional equivalence. Are these still relevant questions?" The Mail on Sunday reports that industry pressure to see the break-up of BT has all but evaporated, helped in part by BT's recent prce cuts for local loop unbundling (LLU). In June UK telecoms trade group - UKCTA, which represents Cable & Wireless, Colt, Energis, NTL and Thus and others- stopped short of calling for the complete break-up of BT. Instead, it called for greater operating and accounting transparency within the UK's dominant fixed line telco. Although UKCTA believes that BT still "enjoys a dominant position" it "does not currently strongly support full ownership separation of BT into a regulated access network business and a competitive business". Breaking up BT "would be slow and difficult to achieve in the face of BT opposition", it said. UKCTA echoed the views of Connect and the CWU, the UK's two leading communications trade unions, which said that any break-up of BT would be "immensely complicated". ® Related stories Make BT more transparent, say rival telcos Unions say 'no' to BT break-up Ofcom confirms BT break-up review UK held back by lack of broadband competition Ofcom to probe UK telecom sector
Tim Richardson, 27 Sep 2004
Click here for the full BOFH range

BOFH 2004: The whole shooting match

How to get an upgrade, BOFH-style Episode 1 Heatsink moment BOFH and the pointless questionnaire Episode 2 It doesn't pay to ask too many questions BOFH and the cyberchair Episode 3 Please take your seats BOFH and the coffee machine Episode 4 La Bella Machina BOFH: Interviewing for Helpdesk Episode 5 Easy when you know how BOFH: Infesting the secure comms room Episode 6 Rattus Electronicus BOFH: We who are about to dial salute you Episode 7 A grisly end for he who disturbs the pax bofhica BOFH: Protecting bodily waste in the public domain Episode 8 Counting the cost of excrement BOFH: Enforcing the excremental IP Episode 9 Make cheques payable to BIP PLC BOFH: Hitting the savegame panic button Episode 10 Drastic measures in the dungeon of drudgery BOFH: Taking the fight to the beancounters Episode 11 Inventorise this! BOFH: Stuck on the 6.01999th floor Episode 12 System override BOFH: The enemy at the gate Episode 13 Semper vigilo BOFH: Beware Mad Ron bearing Linux Episode 14 Bright spark BOFH: Frying the PFY Episode 15 Mad Ron the bright spark BOFH: One double espresso from meltdown Episode 16 Total Component Fatigue BOFH: Psst! Wanna buy an encryption device? Episode 17 Easy money the BOFH way BOFH: Wearing the graphite polymer wobbly shoe Episode 18 The morning after the night before BOFH: Downsizing the human deadwood Episode 19 Ethical relocation policy BOFH and the workplace hazards Episode 20 Bloody lucky we had a health and safety bloke BOFH peers through the proxy mirror Episode 21 And finds something illegal, even in Leeds... BOFH: Addressing the Computer Usage Policy Episode 22 Shredders at the ready BOFH gets an RFID he can't refuse Episode 23 Playing tag in Mission Control BOFH: Might as well face it, you're addicted to smut Episode 24 The browser's on, but you're not home... BOFH: Tripping the mangelfreuzer switch Episode 25 Crash, bang, wallop BOFH takes a hit from Cupid's arrow Episode 26 Shall I compare thee to an OS2-free Intel box? BOFH: How do you deal with authority? Episode 27 The Bastard wants to know BOFH switches to power-saving mode Episode 28 Lights out Introducing the BOFH-brand internet café Episode 29 Or should that be 'Technology Centre'? Poker-faced BOFH plays jokers wild Episode 30 Upping the ante PFY proves self abuse cures male-pattern baldness Episode 31 Breaking news from the proxy server BOFH: What to do when the Boss gets touchy-feely Episode 32 Inappropriate behaviour BOFH tests the law of redundant supply Episode 33 P45s at the ready BOFH: A ringside seat at the Boss-baiting pit Episode 34 Place your bets BOFH: Seek, locate and destroy Episode 35 Black ops BOFH: How to survive a Boring Geek Alert Episode 36 Every man for himself BOFH: When sorry seems to be the hardest word Episode 37 Sorry? Moi? BOFH: A little Ray of sunshine Episode 38 Happy thoughts in the comms room BOFH: The hostage's guide to lift imprisonment Episode 39 Stay calm, conserve bodily fluids BOFH: Et tu, PFY-us? Episode 40 Infamy, infamy, they've all got it... BOFH and the serial killer Episode 41 Silence of the Processors BOFH gets into the Xmas spirit Episode 42 Good will to all men. No, really... Previously... BOFH 2003: Year Book Fun for all the family BOFH 2002: A Reader's Digest Travelling Companion 2001: A BOFH Odyssey BOFH Yearbook BOFH 2K: The kit and caboodle That was the year that was... in full The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 And there's more...
Simon Travaglia, 27 Sep 2004

ATI Radeon X700 XT

ReviewReview There's a definite 'halo effect' when it comes to graphics cards, just like with cars. Take Subaru, for example. It leverages off the back of its WRC pedigree by producing the Impreza WRX STi - a very fast road-going version its rally car. Subaru knows that only a small number of its customers will be able to justify the cost of an STi, but thanks to the halo effect, people will still buy into the Impreza range because of its motor sport roots. In the world of graphics cards, both ATI and Nvidia launched their high-end, next generation parts first in order to grab the performance headlines. Yet they always knew that these cards would represent a small percentage of the overall volume. As with Subaru, both companies are hoping that the high-end cards will produce a halo effect that tempts mainstream buyers with the more affordable mid-range products writes Riyad Emeran.
Trusted Reviews, 27 Sep 2004
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Ingram buys Aussie distie for $493m

Ingram Micro is shelling out $493m cash including assumption of debt for Tech Pacific, an Australian distie. The deal will see Ingram's Asia Pac operations double in size. Sydney-based Tech Pacific turned over AUS$3.1bn ($2.2bn) in 2003, generating operating margins of two per cent. It is the market leader in Australia and New Zealand. Ingram, the world's biggest IT distie, is to integrate Tech Pacific into its own Asia-Pac business, which suggests job losses and property closures to us. It inherits 1800 people and 15 distribution centres in Australia, New Zealand, India, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand. Ingram expects the deal to be accretive to 2005 earnings, excluding integration costs. It anticipates some revenue loss, dues to market overlap in some countries - in other words, there will be less credit to go around for resellers. But it also expects cost savings and improved operating margins to outweigh this. ® Related stories Six charged in $10m Ingram computer fraud Bell Micro buys UK distie
Drew Cullen, 27 Sep 2004

Toshiba tilts digital music player line at iPod

Toshiba will update its Gigabeat line of hard drive-based music players in November, the company said today, matching an iPod Mini-like range of colours to a line of high-capacity hard disks. The new F series comprises three models offering 10, 20 and 60GB 1.8in drive capacities. All three machines sport a 240 x 320, 2.2in colour display. Equally distinctive is each player's cruciform controller - a bid, no doubt, to find an alternative to the iPod's clickwheel and the GeSense pad Sony has built into its Vaio Pocket VGF-AP1. At 10.6 x 6.3 x 1.6cm (the 60GB model is a slightly thicker 1.9cm) the Gigabeat F series is clearly more iPod-like than the more MiniDisc player-styled Gigabeat G series. The new line-up's standard colours are white (10GB) and silver (20, 60GB), but the two lower-end models will also be offered in 'aqua' and 'vin rouge' pink colours. On the audio front, the players support MP3, WAV and WMA files, filtered through an equaliser with 28 pre-sets and a customisation facility - the latter an improvement on the G series. There's also a 3D surround sound facility. Songs are transferred to the device using a USB 2.0 connector. Toshiba claims an 11-hour playback time. The F series support Windows Media 9's DRM technology, but not Windows Media 10. The three models are set to ship in November for ¥39,800 (£200/$360), ¥44,800 (£225/$405) and ¥64,800 (£325/$586), for the 10, 20 and 60GB models, respectively. ® Related stories Toshiba debuts smallest HDD MP3 player Sony to support MP3 - shock Siemens launches iPod-styled camera phone T-Mobile to battle iPod with music smart phone Sony Vaio music, photo player to ship October MS, Apple pitch music at mobile phone makers Apple 'signs second iPod supplier'
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2004

Intel cans Grantsdale WLAN plan

Intel has formally dropped Wi-Fi support from its 'Grantsdale' chipset family and from its 'Alderwood' chipset. The chip giant will now not ship the promised add-in module which would allow PCs based on its i915 and i925 families of chipsets to operate as WLAN access points, primarily to enable the sharing of broadband internet connections. 'Intel Wireless Connect' (IWC) was a key component of Grantsdale and Alderwood flagged both before the chipset began shipping, in June. However, just ahead of that debut, Intel admitted that it would be playing down WLAN support, thanks to a shortage of the daughtercards that would equip PCs with a wireless adaptor. At the time, Intel said daughtercard production would ramp through Q3 and Q4, but late last week the company told ExtremeTech that the part will not ship at all. Company spokesman Dan Snyder characterised the move as a business decision: quite simply, there are now too many cheap access points on the market that building the facility into a PC offers no commercial benefit. Actually, for PC vendors, it's probably a disincentive, since they'd have to build into antennae too. Indeed, it appears to be OEMs who told Intel they didn't want IWC added. Intel will now stop selling Grantsdale and Alderwood South Bridge chips with a 'W' suffix, which reveals support for the Wi-Fi daughtercard add-in slot. Of course, said parts can still be used as regular i915 and i925 South Bridges. ® Related stories Wi-Fi to come late to Grantsdale party Mobo prices fall ahead of Grantsdale cuts Intel Grantsdale hitting demand for low-end GPUs? Intel 'resumes Grantsdale shipments' Intel recalls faulty Grantsdale chipsets Review: Intel i915P, G and i925X chipsets
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2004

Vodafone eyes annual savings of £2.5bn

Vodafone is to cut costs by £2.5bn per year by March 2008. It will do this a combination of £1.4bn through cost-saving measures and £1.1bn through revenue initiatives. The mobile network operator will exploit its size to buy in bulk, and will generate additional revenue by eliminating duplicated effort. In other words, the handset makers and network equipment vendors are in for years of tough negotiations. The company told analysts and investors today that it will employ a "build once, deploy many times" development strategy to reduce time-to-market on new services. It aims to reduce mobile capital expediture to less than 10 per cent of mobile revenue by 2008. Arun Sarin, chief executive, reiterated guidance for the financial year, saying that he expected to generate £7bn in free cash flow, this year. Some of this will go into increasing dividend payments - more information is promised in November to accompany the publication of half-yearly results. The money will also come in useful for acquisitions: Voda remains interested in acquisitions in France, eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, Sarin said. ® Related stories O2 shuns 3G hype Voda plays Santa with 3G bonanza Vodafone to bring Blackberry 'Charm' to Europe Related link Vodafone's last annual report is here (pdf).
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Sep 2004

MS has Media Player - less Windows, just in case...

Microsoft is ready to comply with demands that it alters its Windows software in line with the ruling from the European Commission. Microsoft legal eagle Brad Smith told Forbes magazine that Microsoft has spent millions of dollars preparing a version of Windows without Windows Media Player (WMP). He is still hopeful that the two sides can find a negotiated settlement. And he will argue that Microsoft would suffer irreparable damage if the EC stands by its earlier decision but said the company was ready to obey. He told Reuters: "We'll be ready to comply with whatever the court orders". Microsoft is also preparing evidence that further opening up of server protocols would damage its intellectual property. The case is due back in court on Thursday and Friday this week. Judge Bo Vesterdorf is expected to release judgement within the next two months. Vesterdorf can either insist that punishments and remedies should be applied immediately or should wait until after Microsoft's full appeal is heard - a process likely to take years. No more air cover In related news, Airbus is pulling out of supporting Microsoft's appeal against EC anti-trust action. The aircraft manufacturer filed in support of the software giant earlier this month. MS welcomed the intervention by the aircraft manufacturer. Horatio Gutierrez, Microsoft's general counsel for Europe, said Airbus's decision was a significant event in the case and confirmed the software giant's claim that the court ruling would have negative effects beyond the software industry. Microsoft is asking the Court of First Instance to put punishments on hold while it appeals the case. In March of this year Mario Monti and the Competition Commission ruled that Microsoft abused its "near monopoly" position. The EC imposed a record breaking fine of €497m. The software giant was also ordered to offer a version of Windows without Media Player and provide more open access to its server protocols. Brad Smith, Microsoft's chief lawyer, told the Seattle Times that the firm still hopes to talk its way to a solution: "We think that these issues would best be resolved by a negotiated settlement." Microsoft will argue that the case would set a precedent that would damage European firms' ability to innovate. The firm will point to the success of Apple's iTunes service to prove there is competition in the market for digital music. The firm will also use the success of Linux to prove that it already provides enough access to its server protocols. Microsoft has recently settled anti-trust cases with individual US states and legal action with Sun and Sendo. It is still under investigation by the Japanese Fair Trade Commission over allegations that its OEM licensing scheme is unfair. Microsoft also faces a class action suit from local governments in California and a $1bn claim from Real Networks, which alleges that the bundling of WMP into Windows undermined its business. ® Related stories Airbus offers MS a lift Microsoft meets EC judge EC suspends Microsoft sanctions
John Oates, 27 Sep 2004

Tesco extends RFID chip roll-out

Tesco is dipping its toes in spy-chip waters again, despite suffering a storm of bad publicity when it tried attaching RFID chips to Gillette razors in July 2003. Britain's biggest supermarket chain ran a trial in Cambridge which took a picture of anyone who took a pack of razor blades from the shelves Gillette Mach3 razor blades are among the western world's most shop-lifted items. A pallet-load of blades costs as much as a new Ferrari. Consumer and privacy groups were less impressed with the trial, which was abandoned amid calls for a boycott of the store. Today's announcement is that Tesco will attach RFID chips to pallets and cases rather than to individual items. The chips will be attached to pallets containing higher value electrical items like hairdryers. The chips will contain supply-chain information and should give Tesco a clearer view of its inventory. Pallets and cases are "read" automatically as they leave the warehouse and again as they go into stores. The advantage over bar codes is that reading an RFID chip does not require clear line of sight. There are still difficulties with the accuracy of the readings but RFID readers fitted to a warehouse or store door should be able to keep track of all pallets carried through it. This will now be rolled out to 12 distribution centres serving 100 stores. Complete rollout is expected by summer 2005. A spokesman said suppliers would not be affected at this time because the chips will be attached once the products are delivered to Tesco's distribution centre. US retailer WalMart has been criticised for forcing its suppliers to adopt RFID chips. ® Related stories Technology credited with cutting retail theft Outbreak of RFID tagging at medical facilities Wal-Mart attracts more RFID flak
John Oates, 27 Sep 2004

HFC bank loses its marbles over customer CC details

Customers of HFC Bank, a subsidiary of HSBC, are threatening legal action after an "operator error" exposed personal information in emails from the bank. The bank emailed 2,600 of its Marbles credit card customers with a message marked "Urgent", asking them to contact the bank within 24 hours. But the sender somehow included the entire distribution list in the outgoing mail. According to the FT, an already bad situation was made worse because automated replies from some addresses also went to the whole distribution list, revealing phone numbers and details of holiday dates. The bank has admitted the blunder breaches data protection law, and has credited the accounts of those affected with £50. But the BBC reports that customers are still considering legal action. One customer, Brad Green, has set up a forum for fellow mailees to share their views. He describes the error as "a catastrophic breach of data protection" and believes there is a strong case against the bank. HFC has contacted the Information Commission (IC) to report the breach of the data protection act. The IC says that it is taking no action on this occasion. Legal issues aside, this incident is still eyebrow-raising because of the way the bank is contacting its customers. In this case, the message asked customers to phone a helpline number rather than reply by mail. But it sets up an interaction between bank and customer which can easily be exploited - setting up a phony helpline number is not difficult, after all. If customers expect to be contacted by email, when a phishing scam arrives in their inbox, they'll be more likely to treat it as genuine correspondence. HFC says it has used email to reach customers for years, and that no problems have arisen until now. It also advises customers not to divulge account information over the internet. ® Related stories Invasion of the identity snatchers Spammers embrace email authentication DIY phishing kits hit the Net
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Sep 2004

AT&T Wireless ships mobile IM gadget

US mobile network operator AT&T Wireless today launched Ogo, its first non-voice messaging device, pitched at the 'yoof' market - in particular those who only like to communicate by text. The $129 clamshell unit provides a QWERTY keypad ready for instant messaging using AOL, MSN or Yahoo! protocols and email from those three providers and any other POP 3 account. The device also supports SMS messaging. Above the keypad and eight-way navigation control is a 4000-colour display. It also contains a dual-band 850/1900MHz GSM/GPRS radio. Ogo measures 11.5 x 7.5 x 2.5cm when closed and weighs 136g. That includes the 850mAh battery, which provides up to 2.5 hours of usage time and up to 120 hours' stand-by time. The handset is based on IXI Mobile's IXI-Connect phone-oriented OS, which incorporates its own Personal Mobile Gateway (PMG) system. IXI Mobile's PMG technology is founded on provides highly compact router and server code, and is geared to allow devices to connect to the PMG and gain internet access. PMG implies the provision of local wireless networking services, primarily Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, but if Ogo offers Bluetooth support, AT&T Wireless isn't mentioning the fact - though it did confirm the inclusion of PMG technology. IXI-Mobile's pitch is that PMG will allow a wide range of devices to gain wireless Net access. Alas, few manufacturers appear to have yet offered PMG-compatible products. Samsung is one, launching a PMG phone last year, but others appear thin on the ground - to the extent that IXI-Mobile was forced this year to launch a subsidiary, neo, to develop and market reference designs. Indeed, its neoChat NC-10 clamshell IM/email/SMS device looks remarkably similar to AT&T Wireless' Ogo clamshell IM/email/SMS device, updated with a colour display and redesigned keyboard. Ogo goes on sale in the US today. While the price is $129, AT&T Wireless is providing $30 back if you mail in a voucher. The basic monthly plan, which provides unlimited instant messaging, email and SMS, costs $17.99. That supports a single IM account - others costs a further $3 a month each. ® Related stories First pictures of a personal mobile gateway phone from Samsung Chinese launch wristphone What the hell is a proximity server, and why should you care? Suddenly, the personal phone hub is respectable
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2004

Tiscali OKs H1 numbers

Tiscali execs have have rubber-stamped the ISP's results for the first half of the year (H1). The figures - broadly in line with the numbers released for Q2 results - show that H1 revenues rose 25 per cent to €538m (£365m) compared to a year ago. Despite this improvement, Tiscali only managed to shave a couple of million off its pre-tax loss - down from €141.6m (£96m) to €134.3m (£91m) for the first six months of the year. Still, Tiscali's had a busy time since then. It's flogged five of its under-performing country operations (Austria, South Africa, Norway, Sweden and most recently Switzerland) for more than €80m (£54m). And the company has also appointed banker Vittorio Serafino as executive chairman of Tiscal,i following the resignation of Renato Soru to pursue a political career in his native Sardinia. Tiscali is looking to generate €1.2bn (£820m) in revenue for 2004 and see the number of broadband subscribers swell to 1.7m. ® Related stories Tiscali chops off Swiss arm Lycos Europe buys Tiscali Sweden Tiscali Norway flogged Tiscali flogs South African ISP Tiscali to squeeze overheads as losses swell
Tim Richardson, 27 Sep 2004

Virgin to offer space flights

High-flying Brit entrepreneur Richard Branson today announced the imminent take-off of the "VSS Enterprise" - a scaled-up version of Burt Rutan's SpacShipOne - which will offer well-to-do wannabe astronauts the chance of zero-grav flights for a mere £100,000. The Virgin boss has signed a £14m, 15-year licensing deal with Mojave Aerospace Ventures - the outfit financed by MS co-founder Paul Allen - to build five Rutan-designed vehicles. The lads' SpaceShipOne has already ascended to 100km and is front-runner to claim the $10m X-Prize for the first private spaceship to reach said altitude twice within a two-week period. Branson reckons there are around 3,000 people world-wide who would be prepared to stump up the cash for a three-hour flight. He hopes that the revenue generated from the intial flights will drive down the price and allow the hoi-polloi to hop aboard. And Branson's lofty ambitions don't end there. Unveiling his plan at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London today, he told reporters: "If it is a success, we want to move into orbital flights and then, possibly, even get a hotel up there." The first VSS Enterprise is slated for blast-off from the Mojave desert in 2007. Branson hopes to open further launch sites in Florida, Australia and Singapore and will invest $100m in ground infrastructure. ® Related stories Rutan bagsies 'shotgun' in SpaceShipOne X-prize race hots up SpaceShipOne triumphs
Lester Haines, 27 Sep 2004

Virus-free, spam-free, secure email a step closer

A British-based startup believes it has found the Holy Grail - safe, secure email that is spam and virus-free. Jeftel says it can solve the problems which have plagued email since it began. Subscribers to the service pay £25 annual licence fee for the downloaded software. This will enable them to send emails directly to other machines, rather than via a web or email server. Jeftel claims that sending messages directly is safer than leaving copies on servers. The service uses Peer-to-Peer technology like Napster. The software allows users to create online communities which are ring-fenced to avoid hack and virus threats. Subscribers get secure access to their existing email addresses as well as a .safe address. Robert Barr, head of development at Jeftel, told The Reg: "All the vulnerabilities in the SMTP email system are at the storage points. We send encrypted mail directly from machine to machine avoiding this problem." He believes that existing email encryption products are too complicated for many senior executives to use. Both sender and recipient must have installed Jeftel software to use the service. Once set up emails can be sent directly from one machine to another, avoiding ISP servers. Matt Sergeant, anti-spam technologist at MessageLabs, is unconvinced: "I don't see how they will scale this up - it's a chicken and egg situation. At the moment the only people you can email are Jeftel employees - you won't get spam but you won't be able to email anybody either." Jeftel is a privately-funded start-up. It employs 30 people, 21 of them developers. More here. Jeftel is donating £5 from every £25 subscription to Save the Children. The company has patents pending on the technology. ® Related stories Click here to become infected Sasser author gets IT security job MS anti-spam proposal returned to sender
John Oates, 27 Sep 2004

Induce Act tweaks fail to stem concern

Clouds of ambiguity hover over Senate Bill S.2560, known as the "Induce Act", despite the latest tweaks. The Bill (Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act of 2004, to give its full title) adds the same liabilities for copyright infringement to anyone who "intentionally induces", via a product or service, acts of copyright infringement. The substance of the bill remains the same, despite the addition of language which appears to permit "fair use." Such provisions are made irrelevant by the remaining language which allows manufacturers of VCRs, PVRs and PCs to become liable for inducement. You're not going to have any fair use rights on a machine that doesn't exist, or that you can't buy. The additional language forbids prosecutions solely based on a consumer's "private and noncommercial" usage of a product or service provided that the consumer hasn't made the copies publicly available. It also allows a similar escape clause for distributors, investors, marketing companies who promote such products or services, or journalists and analysts who write about them. The "actor must have engaged in conscious and deliberate affirmative acts which a reasonable person would expect to result in widespread violations of subsection (a) taking into consideration a totality of the circumstances." Even with such waffle, the bill remains essentially the same. Campaign group Public Knowledge maintains that the amendments fail to defang the most damaging aspects of bill. "It nullifies the 1984 Betamax decision, the fundamental Supreme Court decision that helped to create new choices and experiences for consumers, and will create a litigation nightmare," said PK president Gigi Sohn in a press release. "If the Copyright Act had read this way in 1975, it is highly unlikely that any home recording or email products would have come to market," PK's Art Brodsky writes in a preliminary analysis of the revised bill. "TiVo, iPod, iTunes, and other products and services all involve combinations of products and services that, no matter how otherwise commendable and useful for consumers, arguably involve “widespread” infringement as currently defined by copyright interests." One of the bill's co-sponsors, Senator Hatch, once advocated introducing compulsory licenses (aka "Flat Fees") to bring sense to the record industry and raise money for songwriters from file trading. After being wooed by the Recording Industry Ass. of America, Hatch changed his mind. ® Related stories Major telcos and device makers go after Induce Act Court tells RIAA and Congress to let P2P software thrive Hatch's Induce Act comes under fire Consumer groups rally against Hatch's Induce Act Dirty rotten inducers - the law the IT world deserves?
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Sep 2004

Scientists send Buckyballs to detox

Researchers at the Centre for Biological and Environmental Nanotechnology (CBEN) have demonstrated a way to dramatically reduce the toxicity of buckyballs. Earlier this year, Eva Oberdoerster, an environmental toxicologist with Southern Methodist University, found brain damage in fish exposed to the fullerene molecules. Until her research, scientists had not looked for toxic behaviour at all, expecting that the molecules would just become "part of the muck". Now, the CBEN project has confirmed the toxicity of the molecule, but the researchers have found a way to switch it off. Buckyballs, named after American architect, Richard Buckminster Fuller, who designed a geodesic dome with essentially the same symmetry, are football (soccer ball) shaped, hollow molecules consisting of 60 carbon atoms. They do occur in nature, but were only discovered, in a lab, in 1985. The molecule has had a huge impact on materials science, since its discovery, and it has potential application in pharmaceuticals, fuel cells and so on. However, there are concerns about the effect they may have on human and animal health. The CBEN research looked at plain Buckballs, and Buckyballs with various degrees of surface modification - that is, buckyballs with other molecule attached. According to News-Medical.net, they found that the greater the surface modification, the lower the toxicity. Vicki Colvin, CBEN director, professor of chemistry and chemical engineering, and the principal investigator for the research, explained that there are some cases where the toxicity is useful, such as in treatments for cancer. "In other cases -- like applications where particles may make their way into the environment -- toxicity is undesirable," she added. The research team stressed that the lab tests were not a reliable indication of how the molecule might behave inside an animal body. In the real world, they explained, other body processes would have to be considered. In addition, the bonds to the modifying molecule can be broken by UV light, limiting the technique's usefulness in the outside world. The research is to be published in the journal Nano Letters. ® Related stories Buckminster Fuller on stamp duty UK gov awards £1m to bio-terror detector firm AMD, Infineon to spend $200m on nanotech know-how Silicon carbide: coming soon to a chip near you Nanotech aids green hydrogen production
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Sep 2004

Oz conservatives demand porn-busting net levy

A conservative Australian party is demanding a levy on all internet users to fund a AU$45m blockade on smut and general web nastiness at server level, news.com.au reports. Family First - which holds seats in South Australia - has close ties to the Pentecostal Assemblies of God and reckons that: "As a society, we have acknowledged the need to regulate other media and prevent porn peddlers from accessing children and adolescents." The ban would hit "disturbed, aggressive or sexualised behaviour" and would see users stump up AU$7 to AU$10 per year. Family First acknowledges that their plan "may have the result of putting cost pressures on some of the smaller ISPs" but claims that most of them are dispensible anyway. Indeed, the party says that "adequate competition could be maintained with 30 ISPs rather than the hundreds in existence now". The net tax is essential, it insists, and the destruction of most of Oz's service providers "is a small price to pay to protect children". Interestingly, Family First's proposal cites a recent study by the Australia Institute which "found many teenagers had been exposed to internet pornography, and questioned the effectiveness of the existing system of internet regulation". We suspect that this is none other then the eye-opening probe into Aussie smut which actually concluded that net porn is good for you. This particular study caused an almighty punch-up fuelled by moral indignation and fury, and it appears that Family First has now quite startlingly co-opted the findings for its own porn-busting crusade. ® Related stories Net porn good for you: official Aussies chew over enforced Net filters Porn filters ineffective against Tribbles
Lester Haines, 27 Sep 2004

Judge - IBM must pay for Compuware software probe

Compuware Corp. today has claimed a small victory in its lawsuit against IBM over software IP (intellectual property) issues with a court ordering IBM to pay costs related to the discovery of evidence. Oddly, Compuware only today issued a statement about its "win" even though Magistrate Wallace Capel Jr. in Michigan delivered his order on Sept. 15. The judge sanctioned IBM for probable "gross negligence" in looking into software piracy issues. He also moved the trial date from November to January. Compuware first filed the lawsuit against IBM in March of 2002. It claimed that IBM had copied its software tools and then used a monopoly position in the mainframe market to compete unfairly on software sales. Compuware is upset that IBM claimed not to have the original source code of the software in question only to discover the code shortly before the matter was to go to trial. Court filings show that IBM had a tough time locating the old code, finding it eventually on a mainframe sitting in Perth, Australia. The judge took Compuware to task for continually filing emergency motions in the case and chastised IBM for what seemed to be delay tactics. "IBM is going to pay the cost for this motion," the judge said. "They're going to pay the cost for the re-depositions of those and for the cost of the analysis on it." IBM charged that Compuware put out a release about the decision at such a late date because it wants to "try the case in the media," according to the AP. IBM has filed six counterclaims against Compuware for patent infringement. ® Related stories Compuware sues Moody's over rating False start for Java tools interoperability Compuware launches antitrust suit against IBM
Ashlee Vance, 27 Sep 2004

L-I-N-D-O-W-S goes up for sale on eBay

How much does it cost to spell "Microsoft bites"? Well, for $641 (at the time of writing), you could be the proud owner of a piece of anti-Microsoft history. The seven, large letters that once topped Lindows' San Diego campus are currently up for sale on eBay. The company's campus now, of course, has its Linspire flag flying proudly. "For those looking for a good alphabet starter kit or to create their own sign, this is an ideal opportunity!," the eBay posting states. "More than 100 scrabble-legal words can be composed using this unique combination of letters such as "disown", "loins," "idols" and many more!!!" You could also spells Windols, but our legal team recommends against it. Saying the word "Lindows" out loud while reading this story is also a bad idea. The letters are grand to be sure and really should be the prized possession of any self-respecting Linux zealot. Linspire CEO Michael Robertson tells us that the letters were given to a friend of the company. What an opportunistic back-stabber! ® Related stories Dell, prisoner of the Beast of Redmond Sheep, planes and Lara Croft Lindows postpones IPO HP launches Linux laptop Microsoft settles L-----s dispute
Ashlee Vance, 27 Sep 2004

Is SunnComm a sham or the next, big DRM success?

FeatureFeature You might expect one of the world's leading digital rights management (DRM) technology makers to have a rich history in either the computing or music fields or both. This is not the case for SunnComm International Inc. Instead, the firm's experience revolves around a troubled oil and gas business, an Elvis and Madonna impersonator operation and even a Christmas tree farm.
Ashlee Vance, 27 Sep 2004

PalmSource reboots Cobalt, but no phones until 2005

Palm kicks off its European developer conference in Munich this week with details of a new release of its Cobalt OS. Cobalt 6.1 will feature new GSM and 802.11 APIs, a revamped browser based on NetFront's core, and a new IDE based on the open source Eclipse Project. Cobalt is the ground-up revision of the Palm OS, the result of Palm's acquisition of Be Inc's staff in August 2001, and it solves many of the long-standing complaints about process management and memory management. It also gave the company the chance to start afresh with new security, and audio and video frameworks. Although the older version of the OS, Garnet, lives on, PalmSource confirmed that no Cobalt phones will appear this year. The OS first shipped, without much fanfare, to licensees in December, and since then a 6.01 update has appeared. Devices were expected in Q3, or round about now. But integration has taken longer than expected, and the first new phones won't appear until the first quarter of next year. According to PalmSource, eleven phones are under development. The longer-than-expected delay has prompted PalmSource to bundle communications stacks with the OS and to develop more ready to run applications for licensees. "There's been a certain wait-and-see. They've taken a little longer and been more cautious," PalmSource product marketing manager John Cook told us. Integration issues have dogged all the major smartphone platform vendors. Cook confirmed that the delay had contributed to PalmSource's decision to bundle applications and focus on speeding time-to-market for licensees. "It's taking a certain period of time to move off the OS they know, from Garnet," he told us. "It depends on how much effort and IP they put into doing their own custom applications. Cobalt 6.1 also features modern graphics effects such as TrueType font support, translucent windows and drop shadows. The new browser features "squeeze rendering", which PalmSource claims is more flexible than Opera's Small Screen Rendering, and support for tabbed browsing. Cook said the OS can be squeezed into 32MB of RAM, and 32MB of ROM or NAND flash memory. There's no 3G support as of yet. PalmSource will be gunning for ODMs and stressing ease of use. The company's battle-hardened evangelist Michael Mace claims that today's smartphones aren't user friendly enough, and he has a point. Microsoft's Smartphone OS carries too many desktop legacies to feel truly native on a handheld, Nokia's Series 60 requires far too many button presses to accomplish the simplest tasks, and Symbian's slick UIQ is only really usable with third party software. But it won't be drawn into a feature race with Microsoft or Symbian, which announced a real-time OS in February. "We'll never win the features war against a Symbian or a Microsoft and we don't intend to play that game," he told us. With network operators and manufacturers alike waiting for that great mythical creature "Mobile Data" to appear, making a phone easy to use easy to use isn't a bad strategy. ® Related stories PDA, smartphone sales rocket in Europe Smartphone wars over, Symbian and MS both lost? Palmsource puts down its mark in the volume smart phone market PalmSource to rebrand OSes Garnet, Cobalt PalmSource stealth releases OS milestone
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Sep 2004