26th > October > 2004 Archive

PalmOne updates Tungsten T5 firmware

PalmOne has released its first firmware update for the recently released Tungsten T5 PDA. The 15MB download fixes a number of issues that affect the handheld's "performance and reliability", the company said. Specifically, it addresses "a problem in the Calendar that can cause a crash when the default view is changed from Agenda to Month View... an issue in Contacts when using the Menu drop down list for new entries [and] adjusts the Palm OS soft keyboard to prevent system instability in certain situations". The glitches had been seen in a number of early T5s - essentially those manufactured before 16 October 2004, at which point, presumably, PalmOne updated the firmware at the manufacturing site. If you own a T5, create a new Memo document, enter the Graffiti shortcut symbol, a full stop, then '9'. If the date that immediately appears is earlier that 10/16/2004 2:45pm, then you need the update, which you can download here. The update requires at least 16.7MB of free space on your T5, which should be fully charged and backed-up - the update will erase all your data and any applications you've installed yourself. Meanwhile, O2 will release an update for its XDA II device on 1 November, taking the unit's firmware from version 1.60.50 to 1.72.171. The upshot is improved battery life, and better GS> and Bluetooth connectivity. The update is also said to incorporate Windows Mobile 2003 Service Pack 2 - which is not the same thing as Windows Mobile 2003 Second Edition, we hasten to add. ® Related stories PalmOne unveils 256MB Flash drive T5 PDA RIM rises as PalmOne slides in Euro device market PalmOne launches Treo 650 PalmOne chops PDA prices PalmOne preps Bluetooth GPS bundle PalmOne pockets a profit
Tony Smith, 26 Oct 2004

Cassini gives Iapetus a wide berth

The Cassini probe will not pass as close to the moon Iapetus as originally planned because of fears that the flyby will disturb the path of the $3.3bn space craft en route to Titan. Scientists have now tweaked the route so that Cassini will pass Iapetus from a greater, and therefore safer, distance, The Denver Post reports. Larry Esposito, a space scientist at the University of Colorado and a member of NASA's Cassini science team said that the team was under a great deal of scrutiny. After the failure of Beagle 2, and the crash-landing on the Genesis probe in Utah, the scientists on the team are doing everything they can in advance of the Huygens probe being dispatched to Titan to minimise the risks it faces. After all, this is a European-built Lander, scheduled to begin its descent to another world on Christmas day, and it will glide to the surface on parachutes just like those worn by the Genesis probe. Genesis, sent to space to collect samples of the solar wind, crashed into the Utah desert on its return to Earth last month when its parachutes failed to open. After investigation it was determined that their activating switches had been attached backwards. "There's a lot of attention being applied to this. We've adjusted some of our science operations, because of the challenges with Genesis," Esposito said. The mission will fly its closest approach to Titan tonight. Scientists will study the composition of the atmosphere so that they can check the accuracy of their models. This additional information will be critical to those planning the descent and landing of the Huygens probe. ® Related stories Cassini approaches Titanic flyby Neptune shows off five new moons Cassini finds two tiny Saturnian moons
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Oct 2004
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Nvidia ups Q3 sales forecast

Nvidia yesterday increased its Q3 revenue forecast from $470-502m to $510-515, up to 8.5 per cent higher than it had previously predicted and up to 12.9 per cent above Q2's sales. The graphics chip maker attributed the increase to stronger than anticipated demand for its products, in particular its GeForce 6 series members, the 6600 and 6200. Nvidia's third quarter came to a close this past Sunday. It Q2 figures, posted in August, proved something of a "disappointment", with saw a 17 per cent decline in desktop chip sales drive net income down 78.9 per cent year on year despite a minor, one per cent dip in revenue to $456.1m over the same period. If the company meets its best expectations, it will be the best performing quarter in terms of sales since Q4 2002 (November 2001 to January 2002). Nvidia said Q3 gross margins would fall between 31.7 per cent and 32.7 per cent. ® Related stories Nvidia Q2 sales, income slide Nvidia accused of patent violation Nvidia details nForce 4 Nvidia pushes GeForce 6200 at value end
Tony Smith, 26 Oct 2004

Lastminute.com chairman calls it quits

Lastminute.com chairman Allan Leighton is leaving the one-time dotcom darling in January after four years in the job. Mr Leighton is to be replaced by fellow board member Brian Collie, who is currently a main director on the board of UK airport group BAA responsible. He recently announced he would be leaving BAA around the end of the year "to pursue other interests". Said Mr Leighton: "Being involved with lastminute.com for the past four years has been enormously rewarding, with the company growing sales from £34m in 2000 to forecast £1.1bn in 2004, and seeing it become a leader in its sector." Earlier this month Lastminute.com said it was on track to meet targets for Q4, albeit at the lower end of its expected range. It also explained how it would save around £13m in the 2005 financial year to reduce costs by 10 per cent. In August, the company announced it would close six offices in the UK, four overseas and lose 350 jobs. ® Related stories Lastminute seeks £13m savings Lastminute.com axes 350 jobs Lastminute buys German doppelganger
Tim Richardson, 26 Oct 2004

Burt Rutan takes a V2-powered wander down memory lane

Aviation pioneer Burt Rutan has been fondly remembering on the BBC his childhood hero - German rocket scientist Wernher von Braun. The X-Prize victor recently hooked up with two surviving members of von Braun's V2 team and admitted that von Braun's dreams of space travel had inspired him on his own quest to escape Earth's bounds. Sitting with Ernst Stuhlinger and Konrad Dannenberg, Rutan enthusiastically examined what he calls the "Rosetta Stone" - von Braun's teenage diary outlining his ambitions to send man to Mars. Said Rutan: "Here he is a teenager, in 1929 or so, talking about what wonderful things we can do in space." Rutan modestly dismissed comparisons between himself and von Braun: "I clearly don't think I'm in that league," he admitted. "But I am not done yet. For me to be compared to von Braun, I've got to go at least to the moons of Jupiter, perhaps to the stars themselves." While von Braun's contribution to the advancement of rocketry is undeniable - his post-war work for the Americans was vital to the eventual success of the Moon landings - he is rather less fondly remembered by many Europeans, especially the inhabitants of wartime London. At 6.45 on the evening of Friday 8 September 1944 the first V2 to hit London slammed into Staveley Road, Chiswick, killing three. On 25 November 1944, 160 died when a V2 hit a packed Woolworths in New Cross Road, south London. A total of 1,300 V2s were fired at England, killing 2,724 people. A further 1,265 rockets - aimed at disrupting Allied disembarcations - landed on the port of Antwerp and pre-liberation Paris took several hundred hits from the device. That von Braun and his V2 team escaped punishment for their work on Hitler's terror weapon is a classic tale of pure pragmatism in the chilly climate of post-war Europe. The US was determined to secure both von Braun's expertise and hardware lest they fall into the hands of its erstwhile ally, Russia. Von Braun booked himself a "no-questions-asked" ticket to America and quickly knuckled down to helping his adopted home win the Space Race. Von Braun's place in history continues to provoke polemic. Did he have Nazi symapthies? Did he work voluntarily for Hitler or was he "volunteered" for the job? Should he have faced a war crimes tribunal? The debate was recently revitalised by controversy surrounding German lenswoman Leni Riefenstahl. Riefenstahl directed the propagandist Hitler biopic Triumph of the Will, considered by some a masterpiece of the genre. Riefenstahl's close collaboration with the Nazi propaganda machine ultimately led - despite her protestations of non-Nazi political allegiance - to her lifelong exclusion from further filmmaking. Many, however, now insist that her work should be judged purely on technical merit, and without regard to the reason for, or the background to, its creation. Others demand that Riefenstahl's films be consigned to the dustbin of history, along with her memory, since they cannot be divorced from the regime that begat them. Von Braun's legacy continues to be subjected to the same scrutiny. To many, he is a brilliant scientist who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. To an equal number of dissenters, he is a brilliant scientist who was always in the right place at the right time - firstly when Hitler favoured him with vast resources to pursue his dream of rocketry, and subsequently when the Americans favoured him with vast resources to pursue his dream of space travel. Whichever of these most adequately reflects the truth - had a wide-eyed student Burt Rutan not met von Braun at a 1965 San Fransisco technical conference, we may not have recently witnessed the world's first private space flight when SpaceShipOne briefly skipped out of Earth's atmosphere. Von Braun would have been delighted. ® Related stories SpaceShipOne claims X-Prize Virgin to offer space flights Of TCPA, Palladium and Wernher von Braun
Lester Haines, 26 Oct 2004
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Hynix bullish despite Q3 sales, income slip

Hynix's third quarter proved less successful than its record-setting second, the semiconductor company admitted yesterday. Revenue fell eight per cent, from KRW1.65bn ($1.49bn) in Q2 to KRW1.54bn ($1.36bn). Net income was down 15 per cent, from Q2's KRW625bn ($550m) to KRW530bn ($467m). Despite the sequential dip, year on year, Hynix's net income was up 295.6 per cent from KRW134bn ($119.7m). Revenue was up 55.6 per cent from KRW990bn ($884.6m). Gross margin for the three months to 30 September 2004 was "well above" 30 per cent, Hynix said, "representing its ongoing cost reduction efforts, expansion of premium product, and smooth progress of NAND flash memory production". Hynix stressed its plan to become "a memory-focused company based upon technology competitiveness and high profit margins", a strategy boosted during the quarter by the completion of the sale of its non-memory chip business to Citicorp Venture Partners. The company said in September it will boost its capital expenditure by 29 per cent this year, from KRW1.4tr ($1.2bn) to KRW1.8tr ($1.6bn). ® Related stories Hynix reports record profit Hynix overtakes Micron in world DRAM chart Hynix guilty of accounting fraud Hynix pumps up 2004 capex Hynix creditors to vote on China DRAM fab plan Japan to probe Hynix DRAM dealings
Tony Smith, 26 Oct 2004
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Chip capex set to fall in 2005 - analyst

Spending on new chip-making equipment will fall next year - or, at the very best, match 2004's level - according to a new forecast from market watcher IC Insights. The latest prediction effectively reverses the seven per cent growth the researcher had previously said it expected to see through 2005. Now, says IC Insights, 2005 will see "flat to negative growth". That compares with Gartner's forecast, made earlier this month, that 2005 capex will grow just 0.4 per cent, down from a July 2004 estimate of 13.4 per cent growth. Both downward revisions are based on today's slowing demand for chips, which will persuade chip makers they will need less capacity next year. The current slowdown has to an extent pre-empted industry anticipation that demand would start to tail off toward the middle of 2005 in any case. With 2004 capex expected to come in at 53 per cent above 2003's level, there's clearly going to be less need for new plant and equipment next year given the current trend. The slowdown will see Q4 sales coming in up to three per cent above Q3's total, IC Insights now believes, down from its previous forecast of 3-5 per cent. ® Related stories Nvidia up Q3 sales forecast Weak US drags down PC sales growth Chip makers' efforts fail to cut excess inventory Chip biz slowdown to stretch through Q1 '05 Analyst lifts 2004 chip capex forecast... World chip sales flat in August Laptops, servers buoy Intel's results Transmeta loss widens as revenues miss target
Tony Smith, 26 Oct 2004

Ofcom probes O2 billing blunder claims

O2 - the UK mobile operator that's prepared to go to court if anyone messes with its bubbles - is once again fending off allegations that it has been ripping off its punters. In September, O2 was forced to dismiss allegations that its billing system was up the creek and that it was overcharging customers of its mobile phone service. The claims were made by mobile reseller OpenAir, which alleged that O2 charged punters for "free minutes" that were supposed to be part of punters' call tariff plans. Now, OpenAir has submitted a 67-page report to communications regulator Ofcom detailing its accusations. According to the Financial Times, Ofcom asked OpenAir for the report and has now asked O2 to respond. The newspaper cites one example from the OpenAir report where one company was billed a whopping £28,000 a month for running 125 O2 phones. The bill should have been less than £1,000, said OpenAir. The matter has also been picked up by Labour MP Brian Donohoe, who wrote to O2 boss Peter Erskine in September "with great concern that you are overcharging customers for call charges due to simple miscalculation errors by your computer system". Wrote Mr Donohoe: "I have been contacted by one customer who has just found that they have been overcharged for at least nine months in the last year, and I am appealing for more customers to check their bills and come forward if they find a similar pattern. In one case a customer was charged almost £10 more a month than they should have been." No one from O2 was available for comment at the time of writing although the company has previously denied that it overcharged punters. ® Related stories O2 sues 3UK over ad bubbles O2 in SMS contraception harassment rap MP fingers O2 in overcharging rumpus O2 denies 'overcharging' phone users
Tim Richardson, 26 Oct 2004

EC greenlights Oracle's PeopleSoft bid

The European Commission is set to approve Oracle's hostile takeover of PeopleSoft and official confirmation is likely later today. Mario Monti, due to retire as Competition Commissioner at the end of the month, is to give the go-ahead for the $7.7bn takeover. It is believed that the EC concluded that the courts would not support such a decision if it was appealed. There were also concerns raised by the fact that the Department of Justice lost its court case calling for the merger to be stopped. According to the FT it was the Commission's legal services department which finally put the kybosh on blocking the deal. They decided that Oracle would win if it took the case to appeal in the European Court in Luxembourg. The Commission found insufficient evidence that the merger would substantially damage the market for enterprise software. It now believes that the deal would not have a negative effect on the market and that Oracle-PeopleSoft and SAP will have enough competitors. ® Related stories PeopleSoft boss gets $18m to walk away PeopleSoft defends poison pills Oracle vs Peoplesoft
John Oates, 26 Oct 2004

The public sector's FOI Act challenge

The "deadline" for implementation of the UK Freedom of Information Act is January 2005. What does this mean? The public sector, widely defined to include educational organisations, Government agencies, "Quangos" and other extended tentacles of Government have to be in a position to respond to prescribed requests for information on a timely basis. One of the major operational issues is to ensure that the public enterprise has the capabilities to store, manage and extract information pertaining to the requests from its data and records. Technology may enhance these capabilities but it is contended that effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Act will only be satisfied by cultural changes in the public sector. Historically, the sector has responded slowly to cultural change, especially where it is perceived to erode the power and influence of the sector. Some major changes in cultural attitude have been identified as critical to the effective implementation of the Freedom of Information Act. They include consistency in handling and presentation of information across the sector, a move from a paper based to an electronic environment for handling, plus management of information - namely, the requirement to move to a culture of openness from one of secrecy: Consistency in handling of information Many records and much information in the public sector are stored centrally but without establishment of any standards for creation, monitoring, maintenance and disposal of records. Such activities, unless they involved matters of national security, have been regarded as of comparatively low priority. In a paper-based environment there was a reluctance to store information for central access, in case the files were lost. The onset of the technology environment, where information may be accessed by departments and divisions, did nothing to encourage the sharing of information, in fact rather the opposite; it created a proliferation of amended files and records; especially if stored and duplicated at a local level. A number of initiatives have been introduced by the Government to deliver consistency and standards in retention and management of records. Rigorous adoption and adherence to these will bring credible delivery and operation of the Freedom of Information Act. Electronic handling and management This is an important major step in the change to "e-government", the move towards delivery of services to the public electronically. Many do not trust or even accept the delivery of services electronically. They require signed and written certification of delivery and even of destruction of records. Capabilities for tracking and auditing such electronic events are an important components in conversion of such sceptics within the public sector as well as the prospective consumes of the service. Less controversially, perhaps, policies and procedures for development, location, standardisation, plus the management and maintenance of electronic records and information are critical to cultural acceptance. These efforts have to be conducted in close partnership with IT management and major projects to ensure that minimal duplication of effort and resources occur. A culture of openness The Freedom of Information Act postulates that all information held by public sector bodies is made available to those who request it. While there are , of course, exemptions to this, it is diametrically opposed to the current situation, where information is made available exceptionally, though legislation in the 1980's and 1990's as well as codes of practice have made information, primarily at a local authority level, more accessible. Effective management of records will provide those who have to service requests for information with fewer operational and logistical reasons, if not philosophical reasons, for preserving a culture of secrecy, much of which has been encouraged by the lack of good records management. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Government FOI Act chief trails Data Act 'reform' SMEs get Data Protection Act guide Freedom of Information means grief for small biz
Bob McDowall, 26 Oct 2004

Hacking: the must-have business tool

Your competitor has a wildly successful web-based tool which is being used by many of your customers. Do you (A) give up and get out of the business; (B) set up a team of product developers to make a competing product; or (C) hack into the competitor's website, steal the code, and for good measure hire their critical employees to develop an exact duplicate of their website. If you answered (C) then congratulations and welcome to the new world of competitive hacking. On 15 October, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Seattle, Washington had to deal with the case of two competing websites geared at helping long-distance truckers take on additional revenue-producing load to avoid the unprofitable practice of "dead-heading" - driving a truck that was less than full. One company, Creative Computing, created a successful website called Truckstop.com to help match truckers with loads. In the words of the court, a second company, Getloaded.com, "decided to compete, but not honestly". Getloaded.com used many mechanisms to acquire data from the Truckstop.com website. Initially, they just copied the most current lists of unmatched drivers and loads. When Truckstop started using user IDs and passwords, Getloaded did the same. Reasoning correctly that truckers using both sites would create the same userid's and passwords, Getloaded officials logged into Truckstop's site using their customers' IDs. Then they registered a defunct company as a subscriber as another route to getting access to the data. But this wasn't enough. As the court of appeals noted: "Getloaded's officers also hacked into the code Creative used to operate its website. Microsoft had distributed a patch to prevent a hack it had discovered, but Creative Computing had not yet installed the patch on truckstop.com. Getloaded's president and vice-president hacked into Creative Computing's website through the back door that this patch would have locked." Sound familiar? We in the security business have long preached patch management and access control. This case demonstrates the consequences of failure. Increasingly, companies are keeping confidential and competitive information either on web-accessible databases, or on databases that are vulnerable to unauthorized access via standard Internet protocols and their vulnerabilities. Some of this in unavoidable: for truckers to have access to the website, it must necessarily be open and accessible. Access control for the general public is almost always accomplished via a user-defined userid and password, and users almost always select the same userids and passwords on multiple sites. Accounts are compromised as a result. Software robots can then be used to scrape competitive data off the site. Economic Espionage The answer to these problems is partly technical and partly legal. From a technical standpoint, companies must do a better job in selecting access control methodologies and auditing potential unauthorized access to a website. If you suddenly see thousands of attempted Web accesses from a small range of IP addresses (especially those associated with your competitor) its likely that something fishy is going on. Intrusion detection, log monitoring, and of course patch management all become part of the overall security of the website and the contents. Its not enough to simply patch, you also have to employ technologies that will alert you to new vulnerabilities, new ports opening, and verify and validate the fact that patches have been applied properly. From a legal standpoint, blocking competitors is tricky. You essentially have created a "public" space, but want to put terms and conditions on what can be done in that space. It's sort of like the porn sites that say, as a condition of access, that you certify that you are not a cop, that naked pictures don't offend you, that you are over 18, and that you are aware of the contemporary community standards of wherever you live. Presumably, if you lie to obtain such access, you are violating the law. Thus, part of your overall website defense is to create terms and conditions that prevent data on your site from being used against you: by entering the site the visitor agrees not to commercially use the data on the site, not to reverse engineer the software, or for that matter, not to do anything else that you want to prohibit. Making "fair use" of copyrighted materials is not a copyright violation, but here you are setting terms and conditions of entry into your space. If these terms and conditions are not unreasonable or oppressive, or don't otherwise violate some compelling public policy, then a court is likely to find them enforceable. This was exactly what the courts did in a series of cases going back several years. For example, a court in San Francisco in 2000 found that an eBay competitor could not use an autobot to scan the eBay site for auction materials, as this constituted an "unauthorized access" to the site, and therefore a "trespass to chattels" which resulted in injury to eBay. Similarly, when a travel agents site was likewise scoured by a competitor, a federal court in Boston found that the competitor had exceeded the scope of their authorization, and had not only committed a tort, but also a criminal violation of the federal computer crime law. Automated spam programs have likewise resulted in "unauthorized access" or "exceeding authorized access" claims. The problem with such website policies is demonstrating in court that visitors agreed to be bound by them. A standard "clickwrap" agreement is sufficient. If you have a portion of your website that you want to protect with a userid and password, you should force subscribers to agree to a set of reasonable terms and conditions of use of the website and its content - one that could be enforceable in court. In the trucking case, hacking alone wasn't sufficient, and Getloaded also "hired away a Creative Computing employee who had given Getloaded an unauthorized tour of the truckstop.com website," the court noted. "This employee, while still working for Creative, accessed confidential information regarding several thousand of Creative's customers. He downloaded, and sent to his home e-mail account, the confidential address to truckstop.com's server so that he could access the server from home and retrieve customer lists." The Getloaded case reflects what I believe is a growing trend in hacking: intrusion for competitive advantage. But the case also reinforces that old-fashioned techniques of competitive espionage remain a threat. Copyright © 2004, SecurityFocus columnist Mark D. Rasch, J.D., is a former head of the Justice Department's computer crime unit, and now serves as Senior Vice President and Chief Security Counsel at Solutionary Inc. Related stories Your data is at risk - from everything Watch out! Incoming mass hack attack Dot-Com firms are hacking each other - expert
Mark Rasch, 26 Oct 2004

Blunkett poised to open ID scheme offensive tomorrow

David Blunkett is to publish his response to the Home Affairs Committee's heavily critical report on his ID card scheme tomorrow, Tony Blair said at his monthly press conference yesterday. The HAC report found very little positive to say about the scheme, but bafflingly concluded that "the Government has made a convincing case for proceeding with the introduction of identity cards", and gave it the green light. Blunkett's mission for tomorrow's riposte is therefore primarily not to make the case for an ID scheme, but to provide a convincing explanation of how it will work and how it can be successfully implemented. This and the case are of course inextricably entwined, because pace Home Affairs you can't possibly have made a case for something you've neither adequately defined or explained, but from a parliamentary perspective he can get away with proceeding on the assumption that the payroll vote and enough others accept that a scheme is both useful and inevitable. The adequate definition and explanation, should it by some miracle arrive tomorrow morning, will in any event make entertaining reading. Blair's brief statement to the press conference also provided some useful perspective on where, from the government's point of view, we stand as regards the progress of the scheme. He said he'd taken part in the biometric ID card trial that morning (clips of him grinning cheesily at an iris scanner are available on last night's news bulletins, should you be at all interested), and that: "It is important we get this technology right and ensure it will be user-friendly for the public. That is of course the purpose of the trial." There was of course no "of course" about it when the trial was announced. The Home Office did not clearly specify that the trial was nothing about finding out whether the public actually wanted ID cards or not, and all about honing the process of giving them the cards they were definitely going to get. People did sign up for the trial thinking they could express their opinions on this, but on hearing the survey questions found they could not. Last month we speculated that the Home Office would try to claim the results indicated strong support for the scheme - tomorrow, we may find out. Blair also told us that tomorrow Blunkett would "set out how we will take forward some of the issues raised by the consultation over the draft Bill." This also may be interesting. Consultation responses from the draft bill have not yet been published, but as we've noted before the tenor of the "Consultation and Draft Bill" was that this was something we were going to go ahead with anyway, and that therefore the input solicited (not that there's anything in the document you'd call active solicitation here) was regarding the implementation process alone. The Home Office's justification, such as it is, for taking this direction is "Identity Cards - A Summary of findings from the Consultation Exercise on Entitlement Cards and Identity Fraud" (CM 6019). This consultation, which was conducted in connection with the abandoned Entitlement Cards scheme, was rebranded under the "Identity Cards" banner and heavily spun as a justification for the all-encompassing scheme the Home Office was actually planning by the time it was published and presented to Parliament (November 2003). The spinning of the document is easily detectable and provable - several of the published responses are for example no more than paraphrases and selected quotes from the documents actually submitted. MPs wishing to confirm that the Home Office may not have been entirely truthful to them are at liberty to apply to the Home Office for sight of the original submitted documents, which must be freely available under consultation guidelines. As CM6019 itself (Part A, page 7) says, quoting the Cabinet Office consultation code of practice: "Timing of consultation should be built into the planning process for a policy (including legislation) or service from the start, so that it has the best prospect of improving the proposals concerned, and so that sufficient time is left for it at each stage." Blunkett may be able to explain why this has not happened as he explains himself tomorrow, and it would be useful if, should he claim widespread support for the scheme, he could provide detailed information as to how this support was measured, when and with reference to what. We are not however hopeful, given the nature of the justifications that have made it as far as PM Blair's briefings. Yesterday Blair said: "I think ID cards have an important role to play in fighting serious crime and terrorism and tackling illegal immigration. We know that false identities are important to terrorists and criminals, and we know that because they keep on using them. The Director General of the Security Service has said that at least one third of terrorists use multiple identities routinely. Computers and technology are so advanced now that forgery of passports and identity documents is easier than it has ever been. We need to know people are who they say they are, not least to ensure public services are used for those who are eligible for them. A secure modern solution will give us much more protection than we have at the moment." As we've noted before, the dodgy MI6-sourced factoid that one third of terrorists use multiple IDs routinely is meaningless without there being more data attached to it. It is no more than a statement of the bleeding obvious that a lot of terrorists are going to be using assumed names. A more valid justification for an ID scheme would be statistics showing that a significant number of terrorist attacks were conducted using a false ID which would have been detected by an ID scheme. As the government presents no such data, we must deduce that it has none. Statement of the bleeding obvious number two is that advanced technology is making forgery easier. Here the ID scheme will help, but it will help because it will make the forging of passports significantly harder, which is an objective that will be achieved anyway by the implementation of ICAO-standard passports with facial image. The entire ID scheme could not happen, there could be no central ID register, and this objective would still be achieved. Blair's third statement of the obvious is that we need to know people are who they say they are (we'd have put it a little more precisely, but we'll let him off), followed by what is effectively a prayer for a "secure modern solution". That'd be nice, wouldn't it? But really he's still in the pub bore 'it's obvious/everybody knows' groove, "sleepwalking into a surveillance society." ® Related stories Everything you never wanted to know about the UK ID card Home Office seeks spin doctor to sell cuddly ID card brand UK ID cards to be issued with first biometric passports Biometric gear to be deployed in hospitals and GPs' surgeries UK gov pilots passenger tracking in fight against terror Tag, track, watch, analyse - UK goes mad on crime and terror IT
John Lettice, 26 Oct 2004

Porn pumps the wireless net

The market for porn and other adult content on handsets will grow to around $90m in the US and $1bn globally by 2008, according to a study by analysts Yankee Group published yesterday. Yankee reckons that many carriers are true prudish and risk missing out on a slice of the lucrative market because of misplaced fears. Child protection concerns are real enough but can be managed it concludes in the report Child Protection Unlocks Wireless Adult Content Market. "US carriers are the latest to discover that half of the traffic outside their walled gardens is related to adult content," Yankee notes. "Fear is trumping greed for the moment, but [adult content and child protection] can work together - if carriers can develop a solid mechanism for protecting minors, as Vodafone UK has done, and they can safely profit from the opportunity." Adult content includes chat and gaming services but porn is a mainstay for many players in the market. Yankee cites the example of PhoneErotica.com, run by wireless startup PhoneBox Entertainment, which receives more than 75 million hits per week. PhoneErotica.com charges users via their phone bill. It reckons less than five per cent of visitors to wireless adult sites will enter credit cards, versus over 30 per cent who are willing to put the charge on their phone bill. However, most customers of wireless adult content, especially in Europe, find services by sending a premium SMS message, rather than browsing to a WAP site. "Using premium SMS scenario, the cellphone carrier arguably distances itself from the content. The carrier can claim that its relationship to the adult content industry is similar to the landline operator’s relationship with a sex hotline," Yankee reports. ® Related stories Nokia touts content filter for mobiles Vodafone's adult filter is go Mobile porn is a 'time bomb' French ISPs to carry the can for dodgy content Porn and the handset
John Leyden, 26 Oct 2004

WTF? A new black t-shirt?

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion We have a lot to thank the internet for - access to information; fast mass communication; and a whole rack of snappy abbreviations designed to take the fingerwork out of IM and email. Suitably inspired by the latter, the cheeky chappies down at TechnoDepot have decided to celebrate the highly-popular WTF? on a premium, 100 per cent cotton t-shirt. As TLAs go, it's among the most pithy and to-the-point and likely to have admiring friends and family LOL. As is the local custom, the WTF? t-shirt is printed on "any-colour-you-like-as-long-as-it's-geek-black", er, black, and available in a broad array of sizes ranging from medium to XXXL. It'll set you back £12.76 (£14.99 inc VAT). And if you like the cut of its jib, then why not consider snapping up a TechnoDepot RTFM shirt while you about it? This and all the rest of the TechnoDepot range are available at Cash'n'Carrion. ® Cash'n'Carrion newsletter Sign up here for our monthly merchandising email and receive advance notification of all new products which will be pre-offered exclusively to subscribers at a discounted rate. You'll also get a headstart on drastic end-of-line reductions and special offers.
Cash'n'Carrion, 26 Oct 2004

C&W flogs Japanese biz

UK telco Cable and Wireless is to flog its Japanese business - Cable & Wireless IDC Inc. (IDC) - to Japanese internet and telecoms outfit Softbank for £72.4m. Although C&W reckons IDC is a "sound business operating in a highly competitive market", it reckons that it is not a "good strategic fit" as it continues to focus on its "primary markets". The deal is expected to be completed at the beginning of 2005 and includes Softbank taking on £9.5m in debt. C&W operations in other Asian markets - including Hong Kong, China, Singapore, Macau and India - are unaffected by the sale. IDC provides voice, data and IP services to business customers in Japan and racked up revenues of £255m last year. Proceeds from the sale of IDC will be pumped into the running of the rest of the C&W group. Although C&W is getting rid of the business, it will hang onto two international data nodes to allow the company to provide services to and from Japan. Separately, C&W is to unveil its first UK advertising campaign for four years from tomorrow. A series of press ads will position C&W as the "leader in integrated communications and IT infrastructure solutions for business". Said C&W's UK marketing bod: "This integrated campaign sends a clear signal to the market that Cable & Wireless means business. We have a clear vision and a strong brand proposition." ® Related stories Interactive urinal cake aimed at ravers, C&W fans The Great ISP Buyout C&W to throw £85m at LLU
Tim Richardson, 26 Oct 2004

Wi-Fi Alliance certifies first converged kit

As the Wi-Fi Alliance announces the first standards-certified dual-mode Wi-Fi/cellular products, there are such high expectations of the devices that many are ignoring the fact that few have yet worked out a business model. The Alliance has initiated a Wi-Fi/Cellular Convergence taskgroup focused on “identifying and meeting the cellular industry's unique certification requirements for Wi-Fi functions in WCC devices”. The Alliance aims to take on the bulk of the certification work for converged devices in order to speed time to market by offering a single source. "Through its established global network of labs, the Wi-Fi Alliance has the certification infrastructure in place to advance the cellular industry's adoption of Wi-Fi in converged Wi-Fi/Cellular products," said Alliance managing director Frank Hanzlik. The Alliance tests will only cover compatibility with the Wi-Fi standards and effective coexistence between the two radios. But there are many more hurdles to cross before dual-mode devices become the basis of a major business, rather than an executive toy. And these only become higher as the definition of a converged device moves from simple Wi-Fi support in a cellular handset to products that support television, video and other IPbased functions. These additional facilities will increase power consumption and gadget size and, despite the work done by companies like Texas Instruments to counter these effects. The other problems are with the business model. In a converged device, does the manufacturer, cellular operator or IP content provider own the customer and the billing relationship, and how does the revenue get split between the three? This situation is complex enough within the cellcos’ walled garden, but when open IP access is added to the equation, plus branded content services such as television broadcasts or music download services offered to the cellphone, the situation becomes chaotic. The Shosteck Group, a telecoms consultancy based in Maryland, believes convergence at the device level is outrunning convergence at the operator, network and services levels, with results that could cause backlash against the whole idea of multinetwork strategies. Controlling the bundle of offerings, the bill and the brand will be critical, but will be fought over by an increasingly large number of parties with very different agendas. The new study identifies four key trends of device convergence: Multi-functional devices, such as smartphones, which may use only one network but offer an increasingly broad range of capabilities, from full IP access to television. Multi-mode devices, which support Wi-Fi and cellular and will be important for the enterprise and for mobile VoIP All-IP devices such as VoIP handsets Virtual devices in the wireless personal area network, such as IXI’s personal gateway or Intel’s mooted Personal Data Server. The first round of Wi-Fi Certified products with WCC capabilities includes: HP iPAQ Pocket PC h6315 (available now) Nokia 9500 Communicator (scheduled for Q4 2004) Motorola MPx (scheduled for late 2004) Intermec 760 Mobile Computer (available now) Wi-Fi Convergence Accessories (enables Wi-Fi in select PDAs and cellphones) SanDisk Connect Wi-Fi SD Card (available now) Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories WiFi Alliance warns chip makers over 802. Wi-Fi Alliance moots security set-up standard Wi-Fi Alliance preps WPA 2 security spec
Wireless Watch, 26 Oct 2004

Broadband wireless threatens 3G voice ambitions

Calculations of the threat to 3G revenues from broadband wireless have focused mainly on data, but as some 3G carriers put voice in a more central position in their strategies, they could find that route roadblocked too. The third generation UMTS and CDMA technologies may have been the first to promise both voice and broadband-class data on one network and device, but the emergence of usable VoIP over wireless has moved formerly data-only approaches into this space too. Roadmaps for data networks such as CDMA EVDO and 802.16e now feature VoIP, and now so does the plan for UMTS’ dataonly strand, TDD. Chipmaker Atmel has worked with IPWireless, the main supplier of UMTS TDD equipment, to produce a TDD mobile handset offering VoIP as well as the usual broadband packetbased services. The two companies have completed the first successful transmission of a call from a mobile VoIP handset over UMTS TDD, and claim the network is ideal for voice because it features high capacity, low latency, and low power requirements. The prototype, which has an unnamed OEM manufacturer, is based on Atmel’s AT76C902 VoIP system on a chip with the IPWireless TDD Module. Phones should be commercially available in mid-2005. While IPWireless lacks the market weight or the OEM support to take on the mobile operators as WiMAX and Flarion Flash OFDM aim to do, it is certainly making its technology more appealing to its traditional base of independent operators, which include the UK’s PCCW. Their services will be more compelling if they can offer voice and they will, therefore, be less likely to opt for a pure IP solution such as 802.16 instead of TDD. The move shows that any technology hoping to take its place in the next generation of networking needs to support voice, and associated requirements like quality of service, effectively. This then shifts the competitive landscape for the technologies that previously claimed control of the voice delivery market. The shift is already clearly visible in the CDMA market, even without taking challenges from broadband wireless into account. Last month, Verizon Wireless’ CTO Dick Lynch said the next upgrade of EV-DO equipment, called Rev A, which promises peak data rates of 3.1Mbps, would also carry voice over IP, and so could make a further upgrade to the next CDMA generation, EV-DV (Evolution – Data and Voice) unnecessary (see Wireless Watch September 30 2004). Rev A equipment will start shipping next year and, although EV-DO with VoIP will take advantage of the spectral efficiencies of CDMA less well than EV-DV, this will be outweighed by early availability and lower prices. In UMTS, while TDD with VoIP will not have the same effect on its bigger brother that EV-DO could on EV-DV, 3G can no longer expect to take all the voice revenue for itself. 3G can deliver voice for a quarter of the cost per minute compared to 2G and so operators are looking to cut their overall delivery costs as users move from 2G to 3G and to displace wireline voice revenues. The promise of this business model could be severely disrupted by VoIP over WiMAX, especially for operators like 3 that are now relying primarily on low cost voice minutes for growth. In the IP world, users will become increasingly accustomed to having cheap voice bundled into an overall flat rate package, and operator delivery costs will be even lower than for 3G. Their current ARPU hopes from voice could be severely threatened by broadband wireless options as these become more seamless and quality assured than the current voice over Wi-Fi options. Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories PCCW opens kimono (a little) on UK broadband wireless plans Nokia to rejoin WiMAX Forum Wireline operators flock to WiMAX
Wireless Watch, 26 Oct 2004

Philips 755 mobile phone

ReviewReview With so many manufacturers making mobile phones, companies have to come up with more and more inventive ways to make you to want to choose their models over their competitors' products. To that end, we've seen a whole host of new technologies that even five years ago, you would have judged to be preposterous, writes Stuart Miles. Philips' gambit on this is the inclusion of a touch screen so you can "tag" the pictures you've taken with the built-in digital camera. Using words like "Tag it!" written in graffiti on the phone to us smacks of marketing hype and unfortunately for Philips it seems to be nothing more. The first problem is the design of the phone. Square and flat, the handset neither looks pretty nor easy to use. For a phone that's got graffiti writing on it, it looks very staid and business-like. Rather than expect you to use your mitts to touch the screen, Philips, taking a similar view to Sony Ericsson with the P900 series, has included a flat stylus that bolts on to the side of the phone. Whether it's because we're used to the P900 series, but to a right-handed user, the stylus was on the wrong side. What's more, the stylus is almost impossible to get out of the cradle. Yet Philips is so worried that you might lose them, it throws a couple more in the box for good measure. Keys are flat and almost impossible to use without selecting other keys and attempting to avoid the usual joystick issues - ie. getting caught on your pocket - Philips has made it so flat that likewise it's hard to use. It's not all bad with the style - a nice touch is a camera lens cover on the rear of the phone that slides up and down shutter style. Additionally the 755 does have a large colour screen for seeing what you are taking a picture of and of course doubling as a table for the "Tag it!" element. "Tag it!" is the idea that you'll take a picture and then want to write over it before you send it to your business colleague or friend. Pressing the "Tag it!" button when not in camera mode will bring up a rudimentary drawing package that gives you basic options like line thickness, colour and text. The interface looks like something I wrote in BBC Basic at school 20 years ago and for some reason you have to select everything twice to get it to work, once to select it and another to use it. Verdict With no Bluetooth, a VGA camera, a poor menu system and a USP that isn't really that exciting when you come to use it, there is unfortunately little to like about this model. What we do like, although find highly impractical, is the TV link that comes in the box allowing you to share your photos on a television. We like it, because it's a nice idea, and saves you messing around with Bluetooth dongles. However, it's impractical because it's large and cumbersome and will really only be used when you've got a bag to carry it. It's a small gripe, but maybe if we were left-handed we could get used to the stylus being where it is and maybe if we really felt the need to write over our images before we send them to people then this might find a home. As it is, competing against models such as the P910i, it hasn't got a hope in hell. Philips 755   Rating 50%   Pros — Able to write on your images before you send them   Cons — Bad design; poor software; awkward to use   Price $299   More info The Philips website Recent Reviews Sony Ericsson P910i smart phone Motorola E398 mobile phone Navman PiN GPS PocketPC Griffin radioShark ALK CoPilot Smartphone Samsung X10 Plus slimline notebook Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music Evesham e-box Media Center 2005 PC Visit The Reg's Review Channel for more hardware coverage.
Pocket Lint, 26 Oct 2004

Swansea IT strike action off

A widespread strike in Swansea in support of IT workers has been called off after council union members voted not to go ahead with industrial action Council services would have been hammered if the three one-day strikes - due to begin this week - had gone ahead. Instead, workers voted yesterday not to proceed and agreed to call off a planned overtime ban. No-one at public sector union, Unison, was available for comment at the time of writing. However, in a statement Swansea councillor, Chris Holley said: "I am pleased. I feel that the majority of our staff never really wanted to take strike action and I think they will be as happy as I am that it won't now be happening. I always said this industrial action was unnecessary because the Council has no hidden agenda on privatisation or redundancies. That's always been the case and nothing has changed." Three weeks ago one hundred striking IT workers returned to work after eight weeks on strike. They took the action over concerns that a £100m e-government outsourcing plan would lead to job losses. ® Related stories Swansea IT workers return to work ACAS to mediate in Swansea IT strike 5,000 Swansea workers to vote on IT strike 1,000 workers rally behind Swansea IT strikers Swansea IT strikers go marching on 5000 Swansea staff to vote on strike Swansea IT strikers reject 'sabotage' claim Bin men walk out in support of Swansea IT strike Swansea IT striker speaks out IT staff strike 'indefinitely' in Swansea Swansea IT staff to strike over outsourcing deal Swansea IT jobs are 'safe', says council Swansea Council IT staff threaten strike over outsourcing
Tim Richardson, 26 Oct 2004

EDS suffers US Navy broadside

Services behemoth EDS has delayed posting its accounts until 3 November while it tries to work out how much damage it suffered from its disasterous US Navy project. The $8bn deal has already forced EDS into making a profit warning. The firm's accountants KPMG are working out the value of $700m of assets connected to the project. EDS shares fell five per cent in after-hours trading from just over $20 to $19, according to Reuters. A statement on the firm's website says earnings for the quarter ended September 30 2004 will not be ready until 3 November. But EDS expects earnings to be in line with expectations of five to ten per cent per share. Including the impact of US Airways going bust, but excluding the impact of the Navy contract, EDS expects revenue of between $4.9bn and $5bn for the quarter. The Navy Marine Corps Intranet(NMCI) has been a nightmare for EDS almost since the start. The contract has already cost the firm more than $500m in related write-off costs and led to an investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Full release available on EDS's website here. ® Related stories EDS cuts losses EDS job cuts on the way EDS faces SEC probe
John Oates, 26 Oct 2004

Insecurity begins at home

Spyware is rife and virus infection commonplace yet many home users reckon they are safe from online threats. An AOL/National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) Online Safety Study - conducted by technical experts in the homes of 329 typical dial-up and broadband computer users across the US - found that most computer users think they are safe but lack basic defences against viruses, spyware, hackers, and other online threats. Only half of broadband consumers used a firewall. Worse still four in five of home PCs inspected were infected with spyware. The average infected user has 93 spyware/adware components on their computer. Two thirds lacked up to date anti-virus software. One in seven users (15 per cent) had no AV software at all - so it comes as no particular surprise that one in five of the surveyed PCs were infected by a virus. Despite this legion of problems 77 per cent of those polled reckon they are safe from online threats. The NCSA wants to shake this complacency and encourage more people to guard the sensitive personal and financial information many keep on home PCs from attack. "The results validate our purpose - to raise awareness and change behaviour," said Ken Watson, chairman of the National Cyber Security Alliance. "Extrapolating the percentages in our survey, this indicates that millions of Americans are at risk - and are already infected - by viruses, spyware, and adware. With October as National Cyber Security Awareness Month, now is the perfect time for every American to review the protections they have and make sure those protections are up-to-date and complete." ® Related stories Consumers hit by net security jitters Security Report: Windows vs Linux Viruses leap through window of opportunity Webroot: Spyware is Windows-only UK preps major security awareness campaign
John Leyden, 26 Oct 2004

Airespace extends WLAN switch line to SMEs

WLAN switch maker Airespace today extended its enterprise-oriented product line downmarket with a new wireless network controller pitched at small to medium-sized businesses. The Airespace 3500 provides the same access point, security and radio coverage capabilities as the company's more corporate-oriented boxes, but controls fewer access points. That, said Jeff Aaron, a senior Airespace product marketing manager, makes it suitable not only for big enterprises' branch offices but smaller businesses too. Traditional consumer/SME kit may be well-suited to smaller premises, but it doesn't provide the enterprise-level functionality such customers are increasingly demanding, he told The Register. 'Smaller' in Jeff's book is 10,000-60,000sq ft. The 3500 connects up to six 'thin' 802.11a/b/g access points running the Lightweight Access Point Protocol (LWAPP). Based on the company's own AireOS, the switch provides real time RF management to maximise the coverage the access points provide, eliminating, the company claims, the need for site surveys. The 3500 also provides location tracking, suiting it to RFID-style applications. On the security side, the 3500 watches out for attempts to gain unauthorised access to the WLAN - partly by detecting out-of-the-building clients and partly through full 802.11i/WPA 2 support. The unit also provides Wi-Fi Multimedia (WMM) pre-802.11e quality of service support to prioritise packets, allowing time-dependent data such as audio or video to be sent ahead of data that can safely wait a few microseconds. Aaron also said the 3500 provides a level of bandwidth segmentation to further improve the delivery of, say, VoIP traffic. However, he pledged the company's technology would remain in step with 802.11e, which has not yet been ratified by the IEEE. The 3500 connects and extends an existing LAN infrastructure through four 10/100Mbps Ethernet ports. The switch it due to ship next month. Pricing starts at $2000. ® Related stories Wi-Fi Alliance unveils media streaming quality tech Aruba touts Wi-Fi grid scheme Cisco offers WLAN switching
Tony Smith, 26 Oct 2004

Oxford enjoys wireless broadband trial

The latest broadband wireless technology to go on trial in the UK is ArrayComm’s iBurst, which is being tested in Oxford prior to a potential expansion by Personal Broadband Australia (PBA). ArrayComm announced in June that it would trial the broadband network around Oxford, and the tests are now in motion. The network is being built by TCI, an Australian telecoms integrator with a UK subsidiary. It was founded by Jim Cooney, the CEO of PBA, which was set up in 2001 in order to roll out the first commercial implementation of iBurst in its home country, and which is now considering acquiring spectrum in the UK. PBA’s UK trial involves six base stations in the Malvern area, Belfast, Edinburgh and Oxford. If it is successful, the test could lead to the establishment of PBA in Britain, says Cooney. Following an increasingly common pattern in broadband wireless, PBA works as both network builder and operator, in partnership with TCI. With the UK’s regulator Ofcom set to allow spectrum trading next year, it should have new opportunities in the country. iBurst has so far been deployed in 2.3GHz bands but can also run in 3.5Ghz. PBA may have a hard job to penetrate the crowded UK market, which by next year will have extensive coverage from 3G and the broadband wireless network of PCCW, as well as likely WiMAX roll-outs from incumbent BT and various unlicensed services. Rather than trying to establish a new brand, a successful trial might lead to a partnership with an existing operator looking for a good way to use excess spectrum and move into broadband. In 2001 PBA acquired spectrum during the Australian 3G auctions that would be suitable for iBurst and has now deployed the technology commercially in Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra and Melbourne, with a two-year roadmap to a national system covering 75 per cent of the population. Vodafone Australia is part of the consortium that brought PBA to market. iBurst is based on ArrayComm’s IntelliCell smart antenna technology. This uses advanced signal processing to detect where a user’s transmission location and direct the antenna to focus the return signal there, rather than broadcast widely. This creates a ‘cell of one user’, which makes for highly efficient transmission and low power consumption. The same frequency can be reused for multiple customers. iBurst transmits four bits of data per second per hertz per cell, about 10 times GSM capacity, and uses TDD techniques, allowing one channel to be used for uplink and downlink, aiding its spectral efficiency. It claims to be up to 400 times cheaper than 3G to operate. Copyright © 2004, Wireless Watch Wireless Watch is published by Rethink Research, a London-based IT publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter delivers in-depth analysis and market research of mobile and wireless for business. Subscription details are here. Related stories Broadband wireless threatens 3G voice ambitions WiMAX roadshow rolls into town AT&T to deploy WiMAX in 2006
Wireless Watch, 26 Oct 2004

Lime-sucking Brits absorb heavy US flak

LettersLetters The Guardian's letter writing campaign, whereby concerned Brits could write to undecided US voters in swing states in a bid to persuade them against voting for Bush, was probably not the greatest idea of all time. More supporting evidence follows: I'm a real admirer of The Register's even-handedness (unusual in an IT industry publication). I was therefore very disappointed when your article featured a frankly appalling response from a US protagonist without including some of the arguably more outrageous material emanating from The Guardian camp (such as that from Richard Dawkins, who ought to know better), and who started this email war. Either you're too lazy to check the blogosphere for this easily obtained material (I found it readily via Tim Blair) or you're sucking up to the Pommie establishment. Shame on you, either way. By the way, The Guardian is not pinko. It's what we in Australia describe as watermelon - green outside, red within and completely lacking in substance. Kim Good take on the whole affair, but you may have missed the fact that when The Guardian talks about "14,000 matches" between interfering busybodies - sorry, I mean concerned citizens - and US voters, it is conveniently ignoring the fact that one of the ways the US backlash manifested itself was in the downloading of voter names and addresses by the "hacktivists". Since The Guardian pledged to provide each name and address only once, this would then protect those particular voters from receiving a letter from a perhaps well-meaning but certainly insufferably arrogant leftie. ("I know you, as a brainless bumpkin from rural Ohio, can't be expected to make up your own mind correctly, so let me, in my well-educated grasp of world affairs, enlighten you on how you should vote.") So it's entirely likely that a large (even a very large) percentage of the vaunted 14,000 were downloaded to prevent the purposes of the project. Which may also be the real reason it was abandoned... Stephen >> LIMEY HANDS OFF OUR ELECTION << So how exactly did seafaring American explorer-navigators avoid scurvy on prolonged sea voyages ? And how does writing letters constitute "having hands on" an election. Talking of "constituting", isn't there something about Free Speech in there somewhere ? And has anyone asked the Iraqis about who might have hands on their elections - not to mention the Chileans and a few others I could think of. Regards Mike I suspect this was just a ploy by The Guardian. They've realised that to beat the pure joy of your Flame of the Week, they need to tap the sheer wit and style available in the US in (steaming) spades. Sending cheese-eating surrender monkeys over to gather top-notch flameage is a stroke of genius. The Register will have to work much harder to match this feat. Andy We are willing to accept this challenge. Coming soon to The Register: articles on why DRM is a good idea, our stunning revelations about Linus Torvald's sordid private life, a beginner's guide to spam-based marketing, and Our Top Ten favourite monopolies. That should get some fires going... The 1812 war? That'll be when the USA tried to expand into Canada and got its arse handed to it by the combined might of the British and Canadian forces, right? Guess Bush supporters not knowing history makes sense... Michael Did anyone else spend a brief moment trying to work out what Napoleon's invasion of Russia had to do with UK and US relations..? Turns out that drinking at lunchtime can cause drunkenness. Astonishingly, you've managed to bring the election into this again, even though we didn't even mention it once. And you drunken bastards are trying to tell us who we should vote for in the upcoming election? No wonder you want Kerry in office so badly. Your citizenry are too drunk to make an informed decision. Shut your drunken nasty mouths, mind your own business and vote for whoever you want in your own elections but keep your drunken opinions about our elections to yourselves. You are a nation of sick bastards and Charlie Brooker’s comments in the Guardian UK prove it. He must be drunk as well. Mitchell We might be drunk, Mitchell, but we are not stupid... Your title is highly misleading. It's not three-quarters of you Englishmen who are drunk after lunch, it's three-quarters of those *who were drinking during lunch* who are drunk. David That's cleared that up, then. We are sober as judges. Does this mean we are qualified to meddle in overseas elections? If that many Brits come back from lunch soused, does it affect productivity or performance? Does the UK have a "market economy"? This makes it sound like it doesn't. I hate to admit that I don't know that answer. G.B. Hall, Marietta, Ga. USA How much more of a market economy do you want? We're all out spending our hard-earned money in pubs at lunch time. Sounds pretty market-y to us. Maintaining the UK vs. US theme, our most recent Flame of the Week appears to have struck a nerve, and many of you felt compelled to write in. We're not sure what we ought to do in response to the wide variety of instructions we received, and we're certain some of them are anatomically impossible. Still, let's get started with the following theory on what might have prompted the flame in the first place: Maybe it's because people are getting a little sick to death of the liberal shite seen recently on The Register. Stick to IT - leave politics alone and tell Thomas Greene in Washington to shove his PC up his arse. Cheers! Todd Thomas has been so instructed many times, but doesn't seem to have taken a blind bit of notice. We doubt if adding your voice to the clamour will make the slightest difference, to be honest, so you should probably save yourself the effort. Molly Ivans has had a long standing hatred with President Bush that started before he was president. She is so anti-Bush that none of her opinions can be taken seriously. Tom Still with FoTW, you also had some ideas for alternative monikers for the leader of the free world: The flamer was correct. His proper title is King George, but unlike his late majesty he can't blame his insanity on over-dosing on arsenic. However, he is doing a bang-up job extending the American empire. Rick Rebellious subject of his majesty Re stop calling George Dubya: Stop calling Dubya 'President'. Cheers, Anon I have to agree with the FOTW on the "dubya" matter. Please, in the future, refer to him as "that ignorant unelected prick currently fuc*ing over the economy and making america the target of the worlds hate and perennial terrorist attacks." Feel free to come up with a creative acronym in order to save space. thank you. Shane TIUPCFOtE&MAtTotWH&PTA. Hmm, snappy... So, from the battle for the presidential office to the battle between PC and Mac users. In the last batch of letters, a chap called Jonathan asked why Mac users would need an OS designed for complete idiots. You'll probably not be surprised to hear that we had almost as many emails about this as we did about the flame of the week... In response to the letter asking: "If Mac users are "more intelligent than the average computer user," why do they need an operating system designed for complete idiots?" The answer is, of course - that they've got better things to do than figure out how the hell to work their computers. Tom A complete idiot is someone who uses windows and thinks that a unix based OS is an operating system designed for complete idiots. Please post this in reply to Jonathan as this is my opinion about his comment. Regards K. Rimane Jonothan has the following point: "If Mac users are "more intelligent than the average computer user," why do they need an operating system designed for complete idiots?" I'm Mac illiterate (I managed to crash one running OS8 several times in a minute, which is apparently something special), but I assume that having an OS designed for idiots would be better than having an OS *written* by them. Perhaps OSX was designed for the MS programming team? Graham Ooooo. This one could keep going back and forth for some time. We'll draw a line under it there, thanks. Lastly, we have thoughts on the fall of mankind. Just the sort of this to end a letters round-up: I must comment upon the article by John Leyden where you report on a disturbing Trend (groanable pun very deliberately intended) The new generation of Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are migrating from the IBM OS/2 operating system to Microsoft Windows and IP networks. This saves costs and enhances customer services. But it also means that ATMs are now at risk from computer worms, according to Trend Micro. a) since the ATM already has a paid-for OS/2 licence, how does replacing it with another machine incorporating a WinXP licence fee represent a saving? b) what enhanced customer services are being offered? Are they necessary? Could they have been offered by the "old/anachronistic" OS/2 system? Funny how we still call this sort of thing "progress." I think I might mount a campaign for us smug OS/2 users to avoid using ATMs in future. Raimund Genes, European president of Trend Micro, said that 70 per cent of ATMs are based on either XP or embedded XP. "That's the way manufacturers are taking the ATM and ticketing machine market," he said. "There really isn't much choice." Anyone ever heard of "just say no"? Why not simply buy hardware? I'm not well travelled, but in Australia we call this attitude "rolling over and playing dead". I'm sure readers can think of other equivalents.
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Oct 2004

Judge bins Florida paper trail challenge

US Representative Robert Wexler (Democrat, Florida) has lost a bid to require voting machines to create a voter-verifiable paper trail. Citing equal protection statutes, the Wexler team argued that those Florida districts with touch screen machines would be at a comparative disadvantage if a re-count were required. And raising the issue of undervoting, team Wexler argued that the machines can't distinguish between a voter who overlooks a race and one who decides not to cast a ballot in it. Unfortunately, US District Judge James Cohn saw things differently. While he did acknowledge that a voter-verifiable receipt would be preferable, he noted that it was his job to rule on the issue of equal protection that Wexler raised, not to evaluate the design of the ballot machines. And because the machines present voters with a summary screen before they cast their ballots, and give them an opportunity to correct mistakes and vote in races they might have overlooked, the judge believed that their rights are adequately protected in cases of undervoting. All this, of course, presumes that the machines work as advertised. But because Wexler didn't challenge them on that basis, it's none of the court's affair. However, we can anticipate a flood of challenges based on how well the machines do what they're supposed to do once we've seen just how many will malfunction. This will no doubt be accompanied by a torrent of fraud accusations, and just about every Constitutional challenge imaginable, come next week. This year's election is shaping up to be the most bitterly contested in recent memory. One hopes that we'll learn who will be seated in Congress before the next session opens, and who the president will be in time for Inauguration Day. But The Register is not entirely confident. ® Related stories Florida heads into e-voting storm Server crash blitzes Florida's e-voting records E-voting promises US election tragicomedy
Thomas C Greene, 26 Oct 2004

Four million email addresses: yours for £29.95

A technology lawyer is warning Register readers that a 'too-good-to-be-true' email is in fact too-good-to-be-true. The missive offers 4.6m email addresses on an "Unbelievable Secrets" CD for £29.95 along with bulk mail software that can send "30,000+ emails per hour". Straun Robertson, an IT lawyer at solicitors Masons, said it was almost certain that the email addresses were not collected properly. This leaves both the seller and purchaser of the CD at risk from prosecution for offences against the Data Protection Act. Complaints would have to be made to the Information Commissioner. If miscreants persisted in their illegal activity despite this warning they could be prosecuted. "Not complying with the notice is a criminal offence. Someone could be fined up to £5,000 or sent to prison for six but it's likely the spammer will stop once they get a warning, in which case they'd probably get away with it," he said. It also reasonable to assume that the bulk mail package bundled with the CD would be used without the consent of those in the firing line. So users of the software are violating Privacy in Electronic Communications regulations, introduced across the European Union in recent months. Cheques and postal orders should be sent to an address in west London. Two Register reporters checked out the address - it is a business services centre on bijou Marylebone High Street surrounded by designer shops and up-market restaurants. The boxes are available on a variety of contracts and a company worker assured us that the firm doesn't bother checking addresses given by box holders. After office hours a shutter comes down separating the boxes at the front of the store. Box-holders get a swipe card so they can open boxes outside normal working hours. A check on news.admin.net-abuse news groups reveal a similar scam operated late last year which used a mail box on Old Brompton Road. It suggests our spammer might be more of a velvet-clad Noel Coward figure than a shady Russian gangster. This is the full text of the email: "BULK EMAIL CD just £29.95 inc. p&p and contains: 4,600,000 VALIDATED UK email addresses - Verified in August 2004, ensuring a low failure rate and only used privately. TO PURCHASE: Please send a Cheque/PO Payable to "Unbelievable Secrets" for £29.95 and send to: Unit 716, 78 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 5AP The CD will be sent by first class post and you will also receive FREE software to send 30,000+ emails per hour. Note: This CD does not contain any personal information of email address owners eg name/address etc." ® Related stories Hacking: the must-have business tool 419ers take Aussie financial advisor for AU$1m Watch out, there's a scammer about
John Oates, 26 Oct 2004

Spam monitors clock increase in 'Rolex' junk mail

Offers for cheap "Rolex" watches are beginning to eclipse Viagra pills in spam emails. Over the last month, UK-based security software firm Sophos reports a threefold increase in the number of junk emails referencing Rolex. Junk mail referencing Rolex detected by the firm increased from two to six per cent this month. "Spammers hawking cheap watches are the internet equivalent of Del Boy and Rodney, but few computer users who have to wade through a barrage of unsolicited emails every day will find their antics amusing," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Spam continues to be a nice little earner for the spammers, because people continue to purchase goods sold via junk email. However good the offer may seem, the message is simple - never buy from a spam email." Rolex has reportedly sent a 'cease and desist' notice to a website offering bogus Rolex watches, alleging trademark infringement. Earlier this year, Pfizer (which makes Viagra) launched a series of lawsuits against dozens of illegitimate online pharmacies to block sales of counterfeit drugs and help reduce spam. ® Related stories Pfizer takes big stick to Viagra spammers Pfizer sues online pharmacies NASA hacker rolex jailed for four months What do Rolex, Brad Pitt and Llanwrthwl have in common?
John Leyden, 26 Oct 2004

Oracle can buy PeopleSoft: official

In one of Competition Commissioner Mario Monti's final acts before he retires at the end of the week he has officially approved Oracle's hostile takeover of PeopleSoft. The European Commission was originally concerned that the takeover would damage competiveness in the market for enterprise software for big businesses. After the deal was approved by the US courts it seemed less likely that the EC would take a different view. It is believed that the EC's legal affairs department put the kybosh on stopping the deal because it believed Oracle would win any subsequent appeal. The Commission found insufficient evidence that the merger would substantially damage the market for enterprise software. It now believes that the deal would not have a negative effect on the market and that Oracle-PeopleSoft and SAP will have enough competitors. The Commission said: "After a detailed probe, the Commission has concluded that there is an absence of sufficient evidence of competitive harm especially in view of the fact that large and complex companies...have other suppliers to serve their needs beside Oracle, PeopleSoft and SAP", according to the BBC. There are no conditions attached to the approval. PeopleSoft said its board of directors would review the implications of the decision. The statement pointed out that the board had unaimously rejected Oracle's previous offers as inadequate and not a fair reflection of the value of the company. PeopleSoft is claiming over $1bn in damages from Oracle for "a deliberate campaign to mislead PeopleSoft's customers and disrupt its business." Earlier this month PeopleSoft removed its CEO, Craig Conway, who was widely seen as an opponent of the Oracle takeover. ® Related stories PeopleSoft boss gets $18m to walk away PeopleSoft defends poison pills Oracle vs Peoplesoft
John Oates, 26 Oct 2004

80 per cent of home PCs infected - survey

The Internet is well on its way to becoming one vast bot net, a survey by AOL and the National Cyber Security Alliance suggests. Researchers interviewed, and examined the computers of, 329 volunteers. They found that nearly all Windows PCs are infected with some form of malware, and that a majority of users are unaware of the simplest security basics, such as the difference between anti-virus software and a firewall, for instance. Most users had antivirus software installed, presumably because it's usually preloaded on OEM boxes, but two thirds had not bothered to update their virus siggies in the preceding week. One poor victim had 92 viruses on their PC, and another an incredible 1,059 spyware/adware progies. Two thirds of users had no firewall or packet filter, and 14 per cent of those who had them had misconfigured them. And only nine per cent had any sort of parental controls in place. Half of wireless users employed MAC filtering to prevent connection freeloading, while 60 per cent used WEP to encrypt their signals. Nevertheless, almost three quarters of those surveyed reported believing that their PC is very secure or moderately secure. Somehow, the message isn't getting through. Unless, of course, the message that is getting through is the Microsoft Trustworthy Computing message, and it's led people to overconfidence. The National Cyber Security Alliance says that users need more education, and encouragement to take more responsibility for their own cyber security, and, by extension, the collective security of the Net. But this seems to be blaming the victim. They might perhaps just deserve better software. ® 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.
Thomas C Greene, 26 Oct 2004

Apple unveils color photo iPod

As expected, Apple has extended its successful iPod music player to carry and display your photos. Two new iPod Photo models, slightly heavier than the regular iPod, and with a color screen and support for an AV cable that allows the photos and albums stored on the iPod to be displayed on a TV screen, were added to the line-up today. And thankfully, the first photo that appears as the device is booted won't be that of U2 singer and global pontificator, Bono, as some feared. He appeared on stage today in an unrelated product announcement, a trial balloon for a concept suggested by the RIAA's Cary Sherman. Cary's dream device, he said when the iPod was first launched, would be a portable media player preloaded with RIAA-compatible locked music. Well, it's almost here, but more of that in a moment. The new photo-friendly models feature a 60GB or 40GB hard disk, better battery life and a 220x176-pixel 65,000 color screen. iPod Photo syncs with Adobe's excellent Photoshop Album software on the PC (and Photoshop Elements, too) and Apple's own iPhoto on the Mac. At $599/£429, the top-end model is an ounce heavier than the previous 40GB iPod. In July, Apple cut the price of the high end iPod from $499 to $399. The new 40GB photo iPod weighs in at $499/£359. Apple suggests that shipments from its online store will begin within two weeks. Underneath the hood, Apple has reduced the amount of skip-free music playback and beefed up the battery, claiming 15 hours of continuous audio playback, or five hours of slideshows, for the iPod Photo. iTunes 4.7, released today, will support the new models. "Get Brownie Points for Sharing", claims Apple in the accompanying press release, encouragingly. Although we think they probably don't mean like this... ...which is how the next generation of truly useful iPod hardware should work. For now, thanks to the included AV cable, multimedia slideshows created on the PC or Mac will be playable on granny's TV - the major selling point of the new model. Amidst dire predictions that the phone will eventually replace the iPod, by subsuming many of its features, and much clamor for Apple itself to produce an 'iPhone', the company seems unphazed. Speaking here earlier this year, Symbian founder Colly Myers said he didn't see a future for 'Sporks', smartphones that combine several underwhelming function areas into "something that isn't a very good spoon or a very good fork". An under-appreciated factor in Apple's iPod strategy is that it focuses on doing a few things very well. More importantly, perhaps, and often over-looked, is that the 'Pod' is personal computer accessory and not a personal computer replacement. It takes data created on or acquired through a PC to places where the PC doesn't usually go. Contrast this with Bill Gates' approach, which is to drive the PC into places where it shouldn't go and doesn't belong - at least not in a form recognizable as today's Windows PC. As a promotional gimmick, Apple has also introduced an all-black 20GB 'U2 edition' iPod which entitles the lucky U2 fan to buy them all over again ... at a discount. Perhaps the cunning Apple CEO left this requirement down the back of the sofa, when he sold his $10m New York apartment to Bono. Or perhaps it's the only way Bono can get his G4 Cube repaired? Stoive, ye drive a hard bargain... ® [*] "Includes an iTunes Music Store coupon you can use to save $50 when you purchase The Complete U2, a digital boxed-set that includes more than 400 songs and more than 25 rare and unreleased tracks", according to Apple. Related stories Apple preps 'black iPod' U2 limited edition promo Apple profits leap as iPod sales rocket Love DRM or my family starves: why Steve Ballmer doesn't Get It
Andrew Orlowski, 26 Oct 2004