2nd > November > 2004 Archive

Oracle makes last bid for PeopleSoft

Oracle has dangled its "best and final" offer of $24 per share in front of PeopleSoft shareholders. Oracle's latest bid for the software maker is a $3 hike over a previous offer and values PeopleSoft at just less than $9bn. Oracle has revised its purchase price for PeopleSoft numerous times over the past year and a half and once offered as much as $26 per share for the company. Enough, however, is enough in Larry Land. "Our best and final offer is $24 per share, which we believe represents a substantial premium to the price at which those shares would trade were it not for Oracle's offer," said Jeff Henley, chairman at Oracle. This latest offer will expire at midnight on 19 November. Oracle threatened that it will give up on its acquisition if PeopleSoft's shareholders don't tender at least half of the outstanding stock by that deadline. Oracle appears to be feeling aggressive after the European Commission last week approved its takeover plan. ® Related stories Oracle can buy PeopleSoft: official EC greenlights Oracle's PeopleSoft bid SAP ups profits Life is good for shiny, happy PeopleSoft PeopleSoft boss gets $18m to walk away PeopleSoft begged for earnings help PeopleSoft defends poison pills
Ashlee Vance, 02 Nov 2004

Qualcomm builds video network

Qualcomm is to spend $800m building a nationwide US network to serve multi-media content to mobile phone users. The idea is that they will hire out capacity to mobile operators who will use the network to send audio and video content to subscribers without clogging up their own networks. It will also give TV stations and cable channels access to the mobile market. The shared resource would provide a cheaper way into the mobile data and media market than operators upgrading their own individual networks. The network, due to launch in 2006, will support 50-100 content channels including up to 15 live streaming channels using the 700MHz spectrum which Qualcomm licensed last year. The firm is talking to mobile operators, media companies and handset manufacturers. Verizon told Reuters it would look at the technology. The company claims its technology gives it an advantage: "Deploying high-power transmitters on tall towers provides superior coverage with 30 to 50 times fewer towers than cellular and higher frequency-based system." Qualcomm is setting up a subsidiary company called MediaFLO to run the network which it will later spin off. The chipmaker is still considering whether it will bring in other investors. More details available from Reuters here ® Related stories Nokia makes play for mobile content Qualcomm dials Cambridge to enter UI business Qualcomm stops whingeing, reaps WCDMA goldmine
John Oates, 02 Nov 2004

KPN doubles profits on falling sales

Dutch telco KPN doubled profits in the third quarter despite a fall in sales. For the period ended 30 September 2005 KPN made net profits of €288m, up from €139m for the same period of 2003. Sales for the period were €2, 948m down from €3, 009 in the third quarter of 2003. Net sales for the mobile division grew by over six per cent driven by strong growth in Germany and Belgium. Fixed line revenues decreased by €149m or 7.8 per cent - most of the fall explained by tariff reductions. KPN now has 1.2m ADSL customers. Ad Scheepbouwer, CEO of KPN, said the results showed the improved market share of the mobile division was already paying off. He said the firm's focus would now change: "Our prime focus is now on our fixed business where our objective is to maintain market share of our traditional business in a declining market and to aggressively build up our market share in new growth markets." In the third quarter the mobile division added 800, 000 new customers giving it 16.4m mobile customers in total. The full results are available for download from this page. ® Related stories Wanadoo to build Dutch broadband network Alien smartphone lands in Netherlands KPN prunes Belgian mobile sub
John Oates, 02 Nov 2004

More IT jobs for space-bound dolphins

LettersLetters We'll kick off today with a beautiful rant from a young computer science graduate, struggling to find his feet in a hostile world. The IT skills shortage identified by Gartner does not, it seems, mean that companies are falling over themselves to employ newbies: Is it just me who finds this article frankly rather annoying? It's all very well big companies bitching and moaning about a lack of IT skills but they have no-one to blame but themselves! I'm a recent CompSci graduate, and have had massive amounts of trouble finding a job, as have all my friends off my course, no matter how good the qualification and many are still unemployed 5 months later. The way I see things the reason for this is experience, or indeed lack of. Every single employer wants 'real world experience' but very few are willing to take on young intelligent people and give them the experience and further training they need to make a start. If you don’t have at least 6 months working experience you cannot get even the most basic foot in the door positions and a lot of young graduates are getting to this point and diverting into other areas like teaching. This situation is made even worse by the very selfish and anti-social world of the IT professional, IT knowledge and expertise is not something you absorb from simply being around computers, you only learn something if it's taught to you! Many IT professionals either don’t want to pass on their knowledge and experience as having it somehow makes them feel more important and irreplaceable or they simply expect you to know things that seem obvious to them without realizing that at some point in the past someone did actually tell them rather than just 'knowing it' because its 'obvious' which they would rather believe as again it makes them feel more powerful. Pretty much all this can probably be traced back to troubled childhoods as the picked on nerdy kid and deep seated insecurities. Get over it! Like it or not your the older generation and believe it or not there are masses of young and eager workers waiting to inherit your knowledge if only you would grow up a bit and realize by passing it on you are not automatically devaluing your own positions. Rant over. Oliver There's not a skills shortage at all. The shortage is of people willing to work for a pittance. Old story, old complaint. Plenty of skilled people just that the daft buggers in HR don't know how to find them. Ian I think the register needs to be more intelligent about its headlines for stories such as this. I think it should be more heavily focused on the retraining aspects rather than "we need more foot soldiers." I'm sure all those who have been put out of work by offshoring and downsizing in the last few years would agree. Unless, of course, the unemployment rate amongst people in this sector has dropped from it's record highs. Darren Oh, yes, well...naturally if we wrote more sensible headlines the world would be a better place... Moving swiftly on...This next item is devoid of IT angle, although if you squint at it, you can probably see it as science. However it made its way onto the pages of El Reg, it seems there is more to the recent lawsuit filed on behalf of the Cetacean community than we suggested: Dear Mr. Haines, There have been numerous humorous articles written about the Cetacean Community suit. There has also been a great deal of ridicule, insulting emails, and other highly negative responses to the suit. What I do not find in most of the communications is an understanding of what the suit sought to achieve. I thought perhaps you might be interested, so I am taking the time to send you this message. When Congress passed the Endangered Species Act, numerous members took to the floor to register their reasons for supporting the Act. Included were observations that the Human community is part of an ecological web that supports all life and destroying part of that web may have unknown and unpleasant impacts on the Human community. There were also observations that the other species may hold highly valuable information for the Human community, such as cures for diseases, chemical processes that could be adapted to Human use, and nutritional compounds enhancing Human health. One of the most important observations, because it reflects the appropriate humility we should have when considering the miracles in Nature, was that other species may hold the answers to questions that the Human community has not yet learned to ask. Extinction is forever. Once lost, whatever another species may have held for Human benefit can never be recovered. In order to provide the greatest chance of preventing extinctions, Congress wrote what is probably the broadest standing clause of any law ever passed. There is no question that Congress' intent was to ensure that any species facing extinction as a result of a Human action would have at least judicial review of that action prior to the action being taken. The courts then applied a customary judicial standard in environmental cases -- in order for an environmental entity to have protection, a Human must be directly injured by the challenged act. What this judicial rule meant was that there must be a Human surrogate before the endangered species can receive judicial protection. This rule essentially created two categories of endangered species: (1) those species that could seek judicial protection because the challenged action also directly harmed a Human and (2) those species that could not seek judicial protection because no qualified Human surrogate could be identified. Such a two class system was never intended by Congress. What the Cetacean Community suit seeks to do is to close that gap by allowing the endangered species to bring suit in their own name, eliminating the need for a qualified Human surrogate. Closing that gap would also increase the likelihood of preventing an extinction, which is the goal of the Act. The standing provision in the Act grants standing to "any entity under the jurisdiction of the United States." Obviously Cetaceans are an entity, i.e. they exist. As far as the jurisdiction question, if endangered species are not under the jurisdiction of the United States, then the United States Congress could not have passed the Endangered Species Act. Another court rule is that a statute should be construed by the judiciary to implement the intent of the Congress when the statute was passed, unless the wording of the statute would clearly foreclose such a construction. That rule implement the constitutional separation of powers, wherein Congress legislates and the court applies the law to achieve the intent of the legislation. In this case, the appellate court did not address the "any entity" clause in determining that Cetaceans did not have standing, despite the fact that this clause was the central argument on behalf of the Cetaceans. We believe that the court did not address that clause because the obvious conclusion is that the clause can be construed to include the species themselves and that was not the outcome the court sought to achieve. In recent years, there have been many criticisms of the courts for "judicial activism," which is generally considered as the court making a ruling that is not supported by the constitution and laws. In the Cetacean case, the appellate panel essentially amended the Endangered Species Act to create the two classes of endangered species as explained above. For the court to amend a law clearly crosses the line on separation of powers and violates the rule requiring a statute to be construed to implement the intent of Congress. The case is politically more difficult because the challenge is to low frequency active sonar, which some in the military believe to be important to national security. Success in the Cetacean suit would mean that the military would have to prepare an environmental impact statement for use of the technology during threat and warfare conditions. Preparation of an EIS would mean that, should circumstances arise when the technology might be used, the decision-maker would at least know the environmental impact of doing so and consider that impact in making the decision. Success would also mean that the military would have to secure permits from the National Marine Fisheries service to "take" marine mammals. Such permits are generally issued with appropriate mitigation measures to minimize the damage to marine mammals. There is a provision in the Marine Mammal Protection Act that allows for national security exemptions, if the Secretary of Defense determines that such an exemption is required. Securing the permits and knowing the best scientific means of minimizing damage would again improve the quality of the decision-making. Finally, success would mean that the military would have to consult with the National Marine Fisheries Service regarding the potential impact on endangered and threatened species of using the technology in threat and warfare conditions. There is also a national security exemption in the Endangered Species Act which can be sought. Knowing how use of LFAS would impact endangered and threatened species would further improvel. Nothing in the law or this case would prevent the use of low frequency active sonar in threat and warfare conditions. These laws simply require the decision to use the technology to be made based on the best available information as to the impact on the environment, marine mammals, and endangered or threatened species. The refusal of the President and Secretary of Defense to even pursue that information is the crux of the legal challenge. I hope that this explanation of the suit provides you with an understanding of both the reason we pursued the case and the value of achieving the purpose intended for the case. Aloha, Lanny Sinkin We had a couple of responses to our request for more information on the history of the Vulcan bomber up for sale on eBay: What? You never saw "Thunderball"??? Now THAT was a mission! ;) F. Robert Falbo Hi Pop along here and plug 'XL391' into the search form and you'll find plenty of detailed info about the state of this aircraft and some info on its history. If the current bidders had any idea of its condition I'm sure they wouldn't have put bids in! Plenty of pics of the shed here, 3 years old though - condition has worsened since then. See Regards -- Damien So what you are saying, Damien, is that it probably won't get off the ground first go? Sticking, broadly, with aviation, this week has also seen the news that Shuttle will be flying again next year. A return to orbit for NASA, then. Humanity re-establishing one of its tentative toeholds in space exploration, readying itself to go to the stars etceteras... And what did you have to say about it? William Readdy, ... commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to step back and evaluate the work in respect to the launch planning date." I think you quoted him wrong. He probably said something like this: William Readdy, ... commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to move to the desert like SpaceShipOne." or: William Readdy, ... commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to pick a new design like SpaceShipOne." or: William Readdy, ... commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to have new management like SpaceShipOne." or: William Readdy, ... commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to be less error prone like SpaceShipOne." or: William Readdy, ... commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to have a vision like SpaceShipOne." or: William Readdy, ... commented: "After four hurricanes in a row impacted our centers and our workers, it became clear, we needed to listen to our engineers like SpaceShipOne." And on, and on, and on... Lance And they say we are cynical...®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Nov 2004
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September chip sales edge up 1%

The world's chip makers are in danger of letting down the Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) as it emerged that September's semiconductor sales left the organisation falling behind its bullish forecast for 2004's total. Global chip sales edged up sequentially a single percentage point in September to $18.4bn. It's still a big increase over September 2003's $14.5bn, but only a little higher than August 2004's $18.2bn. For the past six years, September has yielded an average increase over the previous month of 3.3 per cent. Taking the SIA's figures from the first nine months of 2004, you get a total of $157.6bn. The SIA has forecast 2004's overall chip sales will total $216bn, leaving $58.4bn worth of semiconductors to be sold in Q4. That represents a quarter-on-quarter increase of 5.8 per cent. Q-on-Q growth so far has gone from 65.5 per cent between Q2 and Q1 down to 3.2 per cent between Q2 and Q3. With foundries like TSMC and UMC anticipating bug cuts in fab capacity utilisation during Q4, the prognosis for the quarter's sales does not look good. On the current rate of month-on-month growth, Q4 will yield $56bn in sales, leaving the SIA falling just under its forecast. The SIA confessed that September, usually a strong month, was "near the low end of the historic range". Rays of hope include the PC and mobile phone markets, in both of which sales were stronger than expected, the SIA said. It attributed September's growth shortfall to the industry-wide inventory correction. "Continuing strength" in the US economy and rising business IT spending were good omens, too, the SIA said, though chip sales fell in the Americas by 1.7 per cent between September and August. Japanese sales were down 0.5 per cent, though sales in Europe and Asia were up by 4.1 per cent and 1.6 per cent respectively. Sales in the Americas were up 0.9 per cent between Q2 and Q3, followed by Asia-Pacific (2.6 per cent), Japan (3.2 per cent) and Europe (7.2 per cent). ® Related stories World chip sales flat in August Chip capex set to fall in 2005 - analyst Chip biz slowdown to stretch through Q1 '05 Analyst lifts 2004 chip capex forecast... VIA narrows Q3 loss on sales boost Nvidia ups Q3 sales forecast ARM rise bucks Q3 trend Laptops, servers buoy Intel's results ATI Q4 sales, income rocket AMD turns profit on strong 64-bit chip sales
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2004

Vonage: recipe for success?

AnalysisAnalysis Say Vonage to anyone in the communications industry and they say: "Oh the VoIP people." Ask if they'll make it, and you may get responses like, "well the RBOCs hate them and they have hundreds of lookalike competitors." The salvation of Vonage is that when you ask anyone to name one of these 20 or 30 start ups that have copied the Vonage model, they usually hesitate, stammer and go to look them up. Perhaps being first into a revolutionary market, even if you don't have much in the way of breakthrough technology, may well be enough. But the headline numbers say everything about the company that virtually invented paid consumer VoIP services across America. In 2002, the year it launched, it acquired just 7,500 customers. A year later it had 85,000. Now it boasts 300,000 accounts, each paying roughly $30 a month, which makes its run rate for revenue around $108m for a rolling 12 month period. With 600 staff that only gives them a revenue per employee of 180,000, pretty low for a technology company, but it is partly explained because it is currently ramping revenues. It is also ramping staff and said this week it will add 600 more employees between now and Q1 2005. For those that aren't familiar with the Vonage proposition, it is simple. Consumers sign up for unlimited calls across the US and Canada for just $29.99 (it's just gone down to $24.99) and select some kind of self installable SIP devices. It can sit in front of existing phones and attach to the broadband line or it can be a softphone (a phone in software) that links through a PC or even a Linksys router with special Vonage software. SIP stands for Session Initiation Protocol and has been endorsed by the IETF, the 3GPP, the Softswitch Consortium and by Cable Labs' Packet Cable group, to name but a few and it originally hailed from work at Columbia University and came to fruition almost a full five years ago. SIP is nothing more than a way of packaging voice into internet packets so that all the data is there to carry out basic telephony functions through proxy servers and softswitches. It needs to identify the type of traffic, the caller, the person being called, carry the number of the caller, re-route to new addresses, negotiate what to do at termination, offer authentication where required and handle call transfers. More advanced services such as conferencing, and fax delivery need to be supported and all of this function needs to be described in a way that internet services will understand. It's a protocol that the big US local phone companies, the RBOCs, wish would just go away. But they have increasingly taken the view that if you can't beat them, join them, and begun offering similar, competitive services. But without Vonage and its ilk, it would just be a case of replacing one way of delivering phone calls for another, with no material change in the prices. If that is Vonage's role, just to keep the RBOCs honest, what happens to it after it's achieved that and scared voice carriers into offering voice pricing that's more in line with its current cost. From the horse's mouth We got a chance this week to ask Louis Holder, EVP of product development at Vonage. Holder was one of the first three employees back in 2001 when the company got its first round of funding and spent a year building out its offering. "The key to the service is the web dashboard that we give to consumers and SoHo customers to configure their service," he says. "It gives a customer all the things that advanced telephone systems can do, which were usually denied consumers, like viewing your call record including incoming as well as outgoing calls, managing voice messages, routing calls to your cellphone." The service also allows a customer to control billing online for international calling and pay bills online. Holder reckons that between 70 per cent and 75 per cent of Vonage customers drop their original phone line and don't bother to keep a line from the local telco. "We know that because they port their number to us. Most people buy a little $40 uninterruptible power supply to ensure the line is safe from power outages for things like emergency calls. Others use a mobile as a backup or both." So the days when VoIP was an extra and never hurt the incumbent telcos are well and truly over. Holder talks us through the early days: "When we started we just had a single softswitch where all calls had to route through, and just one or two exit gateway back into the PSTN. We just had to negotiate gateway rates with local telecom suppliers based on volume. Now we have 25 US locations and have just bought a dedicated line to the UK and have a gateway into the UK PSTN through a local telecom company there." He won't say which telco this is through except that it's not British Telecom the local incumbent. Local incumbents tend not to want to talk to Vonage. At the moment the UK service is only for US clients to use to call back to the US for its current cheap rate of 3 cents a minute. Later UK subscribers will be invited to join the shift to Vonage VoIP. "Until now we have transported our overseas traffic as normal analog voice. The problem was the quality of the call when it was carried over the international internet. It just wasn't good enough. With a dedicated line we can ensure that there is enough bandwidth for our international traffic, then we can offer a flat rate which includes international dialling. But right now we just have to negotiate discount rates for termination in each country, and pay for the traffic. "Once we have learned a little from having this line in the UK, we will branch out into Europe. That will be early next year at the latest, perhaps later this year." Vonage has to put up a UK operation, built a support desk, add a softswitch and gateway, and then put together a marketing campaign, but it looks like it will sign its first customers in the UK inside three months. Wi-Fi future In the meantime on its home soil it is about to try shifting its calls to hotspots and wireless LANs, says Holder. "We have Beta tests going with a wi-fi phones and people already use our service from Hotspots with a laptop or a PDA if it has the right software on it. We've put out a few dozen wi-fi phones, from about 8 suppliers so far. We want to see how each of them deals with voice compression and how they fool the wi-fi base stations into giving the phones sufficient bandwidth. We'll pick a few to partner with in the first quarter of next year and roll them out. And when WiMAX is ready we'll offer a service using that too." Vonage on WiMAX, if it is allowed to piggy back on the service, will effective shift into being a mobile phone company, and it would eat into the lunch of the WiMAX operator, unless it deliberately partners with Vonage. In fact it wouldn't be insane for Vonage to begin building a network with a WiMAX partner. But any new general purpose WiMAX networks are going to stand or fall based on a triple play - offering voice and later mobile voice, entertainment on demand and high speed internet over the same infrastructure. If one of those key components were taken away by Vonage, the economics of the business might not hang together. A new wireless network could identify and block Vonage packets if it so chose. Currently that's not illegal in the US or anywhere, as far as we know. But the disincentive is to upset and lose customers. The right way around this would be to offer a service that is the same price or lower when in a bundle, as the Vonage service. That's fine for a new broadband wireless network, but for the RBOCs who have existing revenues to protect, it would be a disaster if they were to have to match Vonage pricing. A similar bundled service from the RBOCs is currently available for something like $60 a month for the same phone services, but without the web dashboard control. That means if any of the RBOCs decided to embrace Vonage pricing, they'd have to give away roughly half of their voice revenue. Suicidal at present. It is for this reason that the RBOCs are so hostile to Vonage, with Verizon in particular trying to get Vonage regulated out of business, and throwing up issues like the exhaustion of number availability and the weakness of 911 calling on VoIP and raising issues about the taxation of such a service. The FCC is on the verge of ruling on how VoIP is to be treated, and obviously the investors in Vonage, have 200m reasons (they have invested in total $200m to date) to lobby for the FCC ruling to be lenient. Michael Powell, the chairman of the FCC thinks personally that services like Vonage should be managed US wide by the federal authorities, while others have suggested that local taxation and regulations should apply. He promised the VON Conference only a week ago that he would preside over a minimal, well-harmonized regulatory environment when applied to VoIP services. Perhaps the administration, whoever is in power by the end of this week, will have a different view, given that the RBOCs can make powerful allies and even more powerful enemies, even for a President. We shall see. Seeing the light Certainly the love of big business is not alien to the Bush administration and last week's ruling over exemptions from unbundling for fiber networks, reeks of his administration's involvement. At least one RBOC in the form of Bellsouth is less worried about its phone traffic and more concerned with connection. It has begun to offer broadband lines without the consumer having to be a local phone customer, something that Vonage sees as enlightened. Another danger for Vonage are free VoIP services such as Skype which claims that about 30m people have downloaded it. "The free Skype model has been around for years," says Holder, "with Skype now and before with Dialpad and Netphone. The problem is that people don't want to be tied to switching on their computer every time they want to make a phone call. And people that want things for free are the hardest types of customers to later convert to a paid service." Well at least 30m people are unsure enough to try it out. But then again to use Skypeout, the service which goes through a PSTN gateway, customers are paying the same kinds of prices that Vonage customers are paying. So it's swings and roundabouts and free calls are only to other people who have Skype through a PC. As the Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom is fond of saying, "Even a Skype user has to order pizza and call his mother once in a while," and that means gatewaying to the PSTN. Vonage is still in growth mode and if it continues to attract customers at the same rate as it has this past quarter (around 100,000 accounts a quarter) in will take it around 18 months to make it to 1m accounts and a revenue closer to $360m. But so far it's not profitable. Holder says that its cost of acquiring customers isn't going up right now. "AT&T went and copied our business model when it launched CallVantage, and that has broken down a lot of barriers for us. Right now all it has done is educated the consumer that VoIP is safe. Then they look around for the best service and find us." But he doesn't expect things to stay that way forever: "At the moment we use a lot of internet advertising, because the right demographic for our customers have high speed internet lines already and they spend a lot of time surfing. We also do some TV advertising and some radio and print. But we know that the cost of acquiring customers is going to go up as it gets more competitive in VoIP." So what will Vonage do once the world catches up with it and there are literally hundreds of VoIP programs around for unlimited global calling for under $30 a month? "Well that won't be for a few years and although we understand that is coming, it is up to us to move our offering on to make sure that it stays one step ahead." One way it can do this is by taking its offering to bigger businesses, which it also plans to do next year, partnering with IP Centrex services and IP PABX device suppliers. Next stop: Europe In Europe where Vonage is on the verge of launching, staying one step ahead is easier said than done. The UK and France are building out IP only networks in order to savage their costs, perhaps halve them, ready for a VoIP onslaught that they figure is best to trigger themselves. There's also more local loop unbundling and so more competition from ISPs and unbundlers. And we would think that all Vonage investors will be on the edge of their seats come the US presidential election, because that and the FCC's deliberations, could well decide the company's long term future, within a matter of days. Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories BT spins prop on SME VoIP promo AT&T and Vonage do battle Feds invite comment on VoIP wiretaps
Faultline, 02 Nov 2004

Marconi chief falls on own axe

Mike Donovan, chief operating officer of Marconi since 2001, is looking for opportunites outside the company this morning. Fortunately, he is taking a £4m severance package with him to help salve the pain. Donovan has overseen the restructuring of Marconi and the loss of 20, 000 jobs. He has been running the US businesses for the last three years, and they've mostly been sold off as part of the restructuring leaving him without a job. John Devaney, Chairman of Marconi Corporation plc, said : "Mike has had a very significant role in the turnaround of Marconi, playing a key role in the operational restructuring of the Group. We, and Mike, have recognised for some time that once the operational restructuring was largely complete, and the last of our non-core businesses had been disposed of, Mike's role would need to change. Unfortunately it has not been possible for us to find an appropriate role for him." Donovan was paid approxiamately £490, 000 a year along with share options. Unusually the share options were granted without a strike price - effectively free. He has cashed in £3m already and another £2m are due this month and the final tranche can be cashed in next August. Chairman John Devaney said a pay scheme "that was in line with usual practice" would be introduced soon, according to the Guardian newspaper which has more details here . Donovan leaves at the end of December but has resigned from the board of directors with immediate effect. ® Related stories Marconi back in the black Bhutan plans first unattended phone booths Marconi not drowning but waving
John Oates, 02 Nov 2004

IT industry urged to fight online child abuse

The IT industry must do more to prevent children being abused online, according to a manifesto published today by police and leading children's charities. Among the list of measures designed to beef up policing of the net is a call for the government to investigate using tax incentives to encourage technology companies, computer manufacturers and retailers to help improve online child safety. The review of internet policing backed by the Children's Charities Coalition for Internet Safety (CHIS) - which includes NCH, NSPCC, Barnardo's and ChildLine - also wants computer manufacturers and retailers to pre-install child protection software on all new machines sold in the UK. And it wants the industry to tackle a "number of pressing technical challenges such as the abuse of peer2peer software, the abuse of anonymity and the abuse of encryption". The radical proposals come as those behind Child Safety Online - A Digital Manifesto claim that internet paedophiles are evading justice because police resources are spread too thinly. CHIS wants a new national policing unit set up and more resources to help internet crimes against children. Stuart Hyde, spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) said: "Although we are very pleased with the cooperation we now have between industry, children' charities and the police, there is still much more to do. "Equipping the police service to provide the type of response now expected is a real challenge for us. When we consider the huge licence fees charged for 3G technology, for example, alongside the additional investment in police capability, there is a massive difference. "We have called for additional investment in both technology and resources to address child protection online. The internet has created new challenges and new business for the police, we need new investment to address it and protect our children," he said. While CHIS spokesman John Carr chipped in: "As the General Election approaches, the children's charities are demanding that policing of the internet is made a significantly bigger priority. Vital changes in the law must also be made to make cyberspace as safe as possible for our children." ® Related stories Web paedophile jailed for four years Net extortionists in child porn threat Brit cuffed in US net sex investigation Parents must do more to protect kids online UK gov ads warn kids of net perils Oz police arrest 200 in net child porn crackdown
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2004

BT heralds satellite breakthrough

British Telecom has announced that it has developed a satellite modulation technology that can use existing satellites and triple their existing capacity. If this is a genuine breakthrough, it could improve satellite competitiveness globally overnight. The claim, made in a BT press statement, says: "The new modulation scheme draws on similar principles to those used in the signal transmitted by GSM phones, which delivers data over a modulation scheme consisting of two states. This new method uses multiple states, combined with partial response signaling. Its innovation lies in the design of the detection mechanism in the demodulator, which is based on symbol pattern recognition." Virtually every major global satellite owning group has changed hands in the past 12 months, owing to the high price of satellite capacity versus the falling cost of terrestrial 'wired' bandwidth, which has crashed over the past four years. But if a satellite is valued by the cash it can generate and that in turn is dictated by the bandwidth that it can transmit, then all of those deals will be extremely lucrative if a technology like this comes along because it will effectively triple the value of the satellite in the sky. Key will be the price at which ground stations can be made which harness this new technology. Although the BT press release talks about the market for satellite being in the process of doubling, the reality is that no satellite builder expects any new orders to be placed in the next five years, with there being sufficient satellite capacity already in the sky to carry out the jobs that just must have satellite (like TV distribution across a nationwide footprint). The only thing that could stimulate the technology is a breakthrough of this type, although initially it would yet again, drop the need for new satellites because it would triple the capacity what's already there. Further development of the technology for delivering data to 'small dish' services, such as home-based satellite TV is under consideration. Once this technology hits Direct to Home satellite TV distribution, the economics of delivering TV via satellite, rather than via cable, become even more compelling. The system has been designed for use over large-scale satellite links operating from earth stations, which typically carry high bandwidth data. These include ISP backbone connections, satellite newsgathering, video links and corporate use, military satellite communications and international trunk traffic being transmitted across continents. Copyright © 2004, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here. Related stories BT dangles Wi-Fi for a quid BT spins prop on SME VoIP promo BT Wholesale to trial 2Mb ADSL
Faultline, 02 Nov 2004

Intel to debut 9MB Itanic 2 'on Monday'

Intel will release an Itanium 2 processor with 9MB of L3 cache for four-way systems and up next Monday, according to reports on the web. Sources familiar with the chip giant's plans have separately alerted us to the possibility of an Itanium announcement in the very near future. Intel has never hidden the fact it's preparing a Itanium 2 with such a large cache - the part's codenamed 'Madison 9M' - and the processor has been on Intel's server chip roadmap for some time. Last August, Madison 9M was still being listed for a Q3 release, though obviously that's slipped a bit. The part said to be due for an announcement next Monday, will clock at up to 1.7GHz and also be made available in 6MB and 4MB versions. All the CPUs operate over a 400MHz frontside bus and are fabbed at 130nm. Current Itanium 2 use the same FSB, but clock at up to 1.6GHz with 3MB of L3, or 1.5GHz for the 6MB L3 version. Intel may also announce 'Fanwood' - an updated two-way Itanium - next week, along with a version of the chip for low-power systems, 'Fanwood LV'. The two versions are believed to have 4MB and 3MB of L3, respectively. The LV release will run over a 400MHz FSB, but the regular Fanwood is understood to be able to support a 533MHz bus. Indeed, a version of Madison 9M supporting a 667MHz FSB is expected early next year, though given the delay the 400MHz FSB part has experienced, the faster-bus model may not arrive until Q2 2005 now. That part will take the Itanium 2 family through to mid-2005, when 'Montecito', Intel's dual-core Itanium 2 with 24MB of L3, is due to ship. So too is 'Millington', the dual-core part for two-way systems. ® Related stories Itanium sales fall $13.4bn shy of $14bn forecast Intel Itanic prices chopped Intel: common Xeon, Itanic chipset by 2007 First dual-core Itanic to sport 24MB of cache Intel's Otellini promises Year of Itanium
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2004

NBC deploys 'I can't vote' rant-line

NBC News has set up an 'I can't vote!' helpline using contact centre technology from Intervoice. The Voter Alert Line application will allow US voters to "notify local polling officials about voting problems or irregularities at their local polling location" and forms part of NBC News' political coverage of today's presidential election. People unable to vote successfully for whatever reason will be able to get the weight off their chests by calling a free automated system, delivered by voice and data company Intervoice's Omvia voice automation platform, and leave a message (in either English or Spanish) about their experience. These rants (no longer than 60 seconds) will be captured as a voice file and delivered to news network NBC News along with statistics about the origin and volume of the calls via a web portal developed by Contact Solutions. At the end of a call, frustrated would-be voters will be offered the option to transfer to the local election offices for information about their local polling location. A team of NBC analysts will examine the calling patterns and will review the content of individual calls for insight into local, regional or nationwide voting problems. MSNBC.com will show data collected through the Voter Alert Line, displaying real-time hot spots with a high volume of calls reporting voting problems on its Making Your Vote Count site. The Voter Alert Line is funded by a range of non-partisan organisations and academic institutions, including the Common Cause Education Fund, the University of Pennsylvania Fels' School of Government, the Reform Institute and the Hispanic Voter Project at Johns Hopkins University. Following on from the controversies of the 2000 election and the disputed vote-count in Florida, lawyers are poised to unleash writs if there any disputes this time around. Technology companies like Intervoice are also getting involved. As well as the NBC lines, states will doubtless be running voter helplines too, our US correspondents inform us. While these helplines might put a disgruntled would-be voter in touch with an election official more directly they don't have anything like the ranting potential of NBC's Voter Alert Line, which serves a useful purpose in providing an outlet to people to let off steam. ® Related stories Bush website adopts isolationist stance Bush website conspiracy theories darken skies Politics gets messy, Vulture Central style Guardian US vote wheeze down in flames Lime-sucking Brits absorb heavy US flak Bush beats Gollum to Movie Villain of the Year award Fahrenheit 9/11 gets web airing
John Leyden, 02 Nov 2004

Shell programming in a nutshell

Site OfferSite Offer Nearly 50,000 UNIX/Linux sysadmins, developers, and power users have used UNIX Shells by Example to become expert shell programmers. Drawing on 20 years' experience as a shell programming instructor, Ellie Quigley's new edition of UNIX® Shells by Example guides readers through every facet of programming all leading UNIX/Linux shells: bourne, bash, korn, C, and tcsh. Quigley illuminates each concept with up-to-date, classroom-tested code examples designed to help you jump-start your own projects. She also systematically introduces awk, sed, and grep for both UNIX and GNU/Linux . . . it covers everything you'll ever need to know about Shell. Key features include: Shell programming fundamentals: what shells are, what they do, how they work Comprehensive coverage of Linux shell programming with bash Shell Programming QuickStart: makes first-time shell programmers productive in just 15 pages Shell programming for sysadmins: walks you through key UNIX and Linux system shell scripts All these features make UNIX® Shells by Example the only shell programming book you’ll ever need, and at just £27.99 (a saving of £12 on the RRP) at The Register bookstore, it's also a bargain you can't afford to miss. The Register bookstore also has the official strategy guide for Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, the latest game in the world-renowned Grand Theft Auto series. For just £7.69 you can be the perfect criminal in San Andreas. A selection of other new titles are also recent releases are featured below: Aspect-Oriented Software Development - RRP £45.99 - Reg price - £32.19 Working Effectively with Legacy Code - RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 Moving to the Linux Business Desktop - RRP £34.99 - Reg price - £24.49 Novell Certified Linux Engineer (Novell CLE) Study Guide - RRP £62.49 - Reg price - £43.74 End of Software, The - RRP £17.99 - Reg price - £12.59 Business Case for Storage Networks, The - RRP £30.99 - Reg price - £21.69 OUTSOURCE - RRP £22.50 - Reg price - £15.75 Low-Carb Lifestyle - RRP £4.99 - Reg price - £3.49 Mastering Internet Video - RRP £34.99 - Reg price - £24.49 To browse or buy the other great discounted titles available to Reg readers, simply click on any of the links below: The Reg Bestsellers Last week at The Reg Great new releases This week's book bag
Team Register, 02 Nov 2004

Moody managers need more kip

One in four British managers is in a bad mood today because they aren't getting enough sleep, according to a report by think-tank Demos on behalf of flat-pack furniture monolith IKEA. Report author Charles Leadbeater said: "On any working day, a quarter of all managers in Britain are likely to be in a bad mood because they have not slept well. These sleep-deprived and shouty managers with a tendency to make mistakes are responsible for millions of British workers. It's hardly a recipe for good management." But while half of managers admitted that lack of sleep made them irritable and more likely to shout at staff, a measly 19 per cent reckoned lack of sleep made them more likely to make mistakes. The reports authors believe that Britain's long working hours culture combined with lack of sleep is creating a vicious circle. Stressed working parents are the most likely to have their sleep disrupted and they are least able to recover. They believe we need to change our attitude to sleep and stop regarding people who work all hours as admirable and successful. In the future the report predicts there will be a growing market for products and services for the sleep-deprived. It predicts automatic "shut-eye pods", like public toilets which you can sleep in without getting arrested. The report's authors also believe napping at work will become more common and that employers will start to take their workers' sleep more seriously. It suggest people most at risk of losing sleep should be offered "catch-up days" to pay off their sleep deficit. ® Related stories Work induces catatonia: official How to make your PC quiet Mobile phones disrupt teenagers' sleep
John Oates, 02 Nov 2004

Ten-foot origami penis meets its match

In response to those readers who requested, nay demanded, a picture of pornogamist Nick Robinson and his rampant 10ft paper penis, we are delighted to report that we have managed to secure a snap of said virile member proudly erect in front of the London Assembly building. Nick constructed the monster to promote his latest book, Adult Origami, and we wondered at the time how rival erotic origami practitioner Master Sugoi - author of Pornogami: a guide to the ancient art of paper-folding for adults - would take this challenge to his authority. Naturally, Sugoi did not take the gargantuan todger lying down, and duly forwarded proof that he too could construct genitalia on an industrial scale if his pride was at stake - as the bottom photo proves. We at El Reg do, however, feel that we may now have provoked an origami jihad in which the two protagonists vie to complete ever-larger saucy foldings - and would like to suggest a compromise before a disastrous fire breaks out and someone gets hurt. Were Robinson and Sugoi to agree to a political alliance then the former's überschlong could mate with the latter's labial construct, and - although exactly what the offspring from such a union might be is a matter for scientific debate (millions of sheets of A4 paper; a 200ft-tall crepe paper infant, perhaps?) - we reckon that the coupling would do much to promote world peace, love and understanding. ® Related stories Man erects 10ft origami penis Interview with the pornogami Grand Master Bored? Try pornogami
Lester Haines, 02 Nov 2004

Intel 'plans' December Grantsdale price cuts

Intel will cut the prices of its i915 chipset family, aka 'Grantsdale', right after Christmas, Taiwanese motherboard maker sources have claimed. According to a DigiTimes report, prices will come down on 26 December, undoubtedly in a bid to boost sales during Q1 2005. The first three months of the year are traditionally a cool one for PC hardware companies. The cuts amount to $2 off the current i915 family prices. That line-up comprises the i915G, i915GV, i915P and i915GL, all 775-pin Socket T parts with DDR 2 SDRAM, PCI Express, Serial ATA and Intel Hi-Def Audio support. The 'G' parts incorporate Intel's Media Graphics Accelerator 900 engine. The price cuts will bring the i915 series closer into line with the older, i845 and i865 chipsets, the sources claimed. Intel is expected to introduce next-generation Grantsdales - aka 'Lakeport' - in Q2. Other Taiwanese sources also claim that Intel has told its customers it has no plans to cut Pentium 4 prices before 2005. ® Related stories Review: Intel 3.46GHz P4 Extreme Edn and i925XE chipset Intel lost 6.7% chipset market share in Q3 Intel 1066MHz FSB chipset slips out Intel to maintain 775-pin P4 prices to 2005 - report Intel cans Grantsdale WLAN plan Intel puts back 90nm P4EE to Q1 '05 - report Intel decides speed matters less these days, kills 4GHz Pentium
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2004

AOL to slash 700 jobs - report

AOL is set to eliminate more than 700 jobs at its HQ in Northern Virginia, according to the Washingston Post. It reports that the cull, due in early December, is necessary as the internet giant continues to cut costs as it battles to cope with the slide in customer numbers. Although no formal announcement has yet been made, it seems that speculation is growing after staff at AOL were told to prepare themselves for a new round of job cuts. In March AOL warned that the "significant" erosion of subscriber numbers looks set to continue as the internet giant faces stiffer competition from broadband and cheaper dial-up services. In its annual report filed with the US's Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), AOL reported that the number of subscribers in the US fell by 2.2m in 2003, from 26.5m at the end of 2002 to 24.3m at the end of 2003. AOL blamed the decline on an exodus of punters from its service and poor uptake to its marketing campaigns, as consumers opted for rival dial-up services or shifted to broadband instead. Said the company in its report: "The AOL narrowband (or dial-up) service experienced significant declines in US subscribers, which is expected to continue. Driving this decrease was the continued industry-wide maturing of the premium narrowband business, which is expected to continue, as consumers migrate to high-speed broadband or lower-cost dial-up services." In December last year AOL announced plans to axe 450 workers and close two offices in California in a move to trim its software development operation. ® Related stories Time Warner sprints ahead, AOL crawls AOL warns of falling revs as punters flee service
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2004

Whatdya mean, free software?

The situation surrounding open source is getting increasingly complex; partly because of the legal issues that SCO's apparently doomed case against IBM has raised and partly because open source products are seeing extensive use. There is no point in pretending that open source is not a major software trend that is changing the industry - it surely is. However, it also difficult idea for commercial organizations to get their minds around and this is limiting its take-up to some degree. To begin with, it is important to distinguish between Linux and open source. Linux may be an open source product but it occupies a particularly key position in the software world now, which transcends the open source idea. The open source nature of Linux is important to some of its users - particularly companies that use Linux as an embedded component in mobile devices and network appliances. They need the ability to get at and tailor the source code. However, the vast majority of Linux users do not have any intention of changing the code. They just want a standard Linux to run. The likelihood is that Linux will become a standard platform for a wide variety of contexts - indeed it has already achieved this to some degree. What holds it up most, at the moment, is its low level market share on the desktop. It is beginning to see extensive use on thin clients and this may lead it into wider desktop usage, but there is still the problem of having two GUIs (Gnome and KDE) and that's one too many - if it is to have a big piece of the desktop market. In thinking about open source, we should set Linux aside. Linux is well supported, not only by SuSE and Red Hat, but by IBM, Hewlett-Packard and many other vendors - and this is primarily because it is a widely used server platform, not because it is open source. There are issues with open source per se that need to be squared away for it to move forward and it is worth listing some of them for consideration: Open source quality is not guaranteed. The reality has been that some open source products have delivered exceptional quality in terms of design, robustness and ease of use. Apache and Zope are good examples. Open source has proven to be a viable approach to developing software but there is no guarantee that it will deliver a specific quality of product - that depends on the core team and the organization behind it. And this is, of course, quite variable. There is no standard open source license. Actually there is wide variety of open source licenses, just as there are a wide variety of proprietary licenses. Small companies may not care too much about this, as they probably have never even read a license, but large organizations do care because they have to. No large organization can afford the risk of not knowing the license terms for the use of key software products. The Open Source license is not a commercial contract and this may mean that the user is exposed to some legal risks. Open source does present some legal risks. The risk is not so much from source code being copied from proprietary products - because the source is open, there is a strong incentive for open source developers to be completely honest and (the SCO v IBM case notwithstanding) it is highly unlikely that open source products contain proprietary code. Actually it is much more likely that proprietary products do - but as no-one gets to see the code, the legal challenges are few. However open source products can, unwittingly, violate patents and the owner of the patent can legitimately sue the user of the open source. The lawyers go after the money rather than the source of the violation, which means targeting users, as SCO has. The legal risk is probably much higher in the US than elsewhere, as the US is more of a litigious society. Legal Indemnification. This brings us to the fact that many open source users have a genuine requirement for legal indemnification. The need for this depends upon the level of risk. The level of risk of IPR violation with some open source products is close to zero, because they are simply imitating and extending commercial products in areas where no patents are filed. Many business applications are of this ilk, but some applications are not. An open source product like GIMP, which is an Adobe Photoshop competitor, could easily infringe one of the many photo retouching patents that exist. Thus the risk varies. So far no-one has fallen foul of this, so the risk may be negligible, but it is too early to say. Vendor support. This brings us to vendor support. The strong support among commercial vendors for some products - notably Linux and Apache, is not the general case for open source. There are, roughly 70,000 open source projects and only a handful have what one could describe as strong support from commercial vendors. Computer Associates is standing behind Zope and Plone (as well as its own Ingres). Eclipse has strong support in IBM and elsewhere. Novell owns Ximian and Sun Microsystems and has a clear interest in Open Office. These are however exceptional situations rather than the rule. It's only the license that is free. Even in the above examples where a large commercial vendor has a deep interest in an open source product, the actual support you can get varies widely. Perhaps the major attraction of open source is that the license can cost nothing, but from then on, all other software costs apply to some degree: maintenance, software distribution, upgrade costs and patching, security, performance management, integration, training and so on. We could classify all of this with the word "support". The extra costs here vary and may be trivial for some products, but for others they are not. The talented techie factor. Some organizations have built up small teams of technicians that can exploit open source products. In doing this they cover the support risk internally and can make good use of the support networks that exist for open source products, so they address the support issue. But this is probably not an option for small organizations and very large organizations. The smaller organization will not be able to assemble the talent required and will rarely have any desire to develop such expertise anyway. The much larger organizations could invest in such a strategy but there is a need to co-ordinate support at the corporate level and the policy is more likely to be to outsource such activity - in which case they need a good support organization to outsource this to. The dilemma for such organizations is that IT support itself is a very complex issue and they already are likely to have too many agreements with too many suppliers. Open source can be seen as a needless complication to an already over-complex situation. The "compliance" factor. Different organizations in different industries have "compliance" standards that they need to adhere to. We're not talking here simply about data protection or Sarbanes-Oxley, but industry best practices that are very different between, say, the pharmaceuticals industry and manufacturing. IT is already a part of this in many areas and its importance will only increase. There is also the factor of local liability laws which are different between Germany, the UK and the US. The challenge for open source is to fit well within such "best practice" schemes and this normally means providing an acceptable support structure. Commercial software vendors are normally well aware of such issues but open source organizations are less so. With open source, we are looking at a relatively new, and increasingly successful way of introducing new software which, at the moment, is rarely driven by commercial considerations that are important to many organizations. It's a new model and it is still evolving. In contrast. Commercial vendors have for many years evolved ways of doing business that address most of these issues adequately for the customer. Until major vendors began to endorse and promote open source products, it didn't matter too much because the majority of open source products only had niche usage. Now it matters, not just because open source usage is clearly increasing, but because the technology trends - towards integration at all levels - is creating integrated software stacks and the big IT users need dependable support for these stacks. (think Veritas plus Oracle plus BEA plus SAP etc. Now throw in a few open source products.) The era of SOAs is upon us and software support, even from large commercial vendors, has become a complex area for vendor/customer agreement. When you introduce significant elements of open source into the mix, it gets more complicated still. For open source to see wider use, the support issue needs to be addressed far better than is currently happening. Our expectation is that some major vendors (Computer Associates, Novell, IBM, HP and several others look like good candidates) will step forward to offer support for specific software stacks in a way that deals with most of the problems that are outlined above. Naturally there will be a cost for this, but that's the whole point. In the end, opting for open source products needs to be a considered activity. Open source can provide exceptional value to corporate computing and can certainly bring down software costs, but it's not a cakewalk. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories E-vote kit makers go 'shared source' UK Gov open source policy gets an upgrade Open Source ready for prime time in UK.gov, says OGC
Robin Bloor, 02 Nov 2004

Lack of cash killed Beagle 2

If there had been as many people taking care of the Beagle 2 project as there have been reports into why the lander got lost, we'd have reams of data on the composition of the Martian soil flooding back from a perfectly functioning vehicle, right now. The latest report is from the House of Commons Select Committee for Science and Technology. It concludes, among other things, that the project was stymied by a lack of funding at an early enough stage in the development process. It says that while the government was "admirably enthusiastic" about the project, is was "unable to respond to its relatively sudden emergence" with guaranteed sponsorship. As a consequence, the scientists had to spend time fundraising, rather than on designing and testing equipment. These conclusions echo the findings of the Beagle 2 team's own investigation, published this August. Although they refused to blame a lack of funding for the mission's failure, Professor Colin Pillinger did acknowledge that it would have been useful to have had the money earlier in the process. He told reporters then: "Obviously more money means you can do more testing, but testing isn't everything, it still has to work on the day." Another major stumbling block was that Beagle 2 was classified as an instrument, rather than a lander. At this stage, almost everyone agrees that this was a mistake. It was categorised as such mainly for budgetary reasons, and as a consequence neither ESA (European Space Agency) nor the UK government really became involved until problems with the project became apparent. Despite all this, the select committee argued that the investment of £25m of taxpayers' money in the project was a good one, because it put the UK on a strong footing for involvement in future space programmes, such as Aurora, the European mission to Mars. It applauded PPARC's (Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council) early decision to fund Aurora, but cautioned: "Long term participation will be expensive however...we have recommended that the Government does not leave it to PPARC alone to fund future UK involvement." Beagle 2 hitched a ride to Mars on the ESA's Mars Express mission. It was designed to drill down into the surface of the red planet and search for evidence of life. However, the lander failed to make contact with the team on Earth once it had been ejected from Mars Express, and was declared lost soon afterwards. Subsequent investigations concluded that the lander had most likely crashed into Mars, its parachutes not sufficient to slow its descent in the thinner-than-expected atmosphere. ® Related link Select Committee report (pdf). Related stories NASA rules out Beagle resurrection UK backs Aurora Euro space programme Six more months for Mars rovers Beagle 2 team none the wiser on failure
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Nov 2004

Free training offer is latest spam scam

Surfers were yesterday urged to be wary of unsolicited emails offering training and well paid jobs in the financial sector. Rather than offering a route into a lucrative job such emails are likely part of a devious scam masterminded by Russian spammers, security vendor Sophos warns. The emails, which claim to come from merchant bank Credit Suisse, offer a free two-week training course over the web. However, the emails (sample sent to Australia here) and associated website are an elaborate fake. Users who sign-up for the course may be duped into helping to transfer monies overseas from online bank accounts compromised through phishing attacks. It's also possible victims might be ripped off directly themselves. The bogus website featured in the scam email is no longer available but surfers are urged to be wary of a reappearance of the fraudulent ruse. "Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated in the way in which they attempt to steal money from innocent internet users," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos. "This campaign involves luring people who may wish to generate an income from home into signing up for a fake training course that may teach them a very expensive lesson." ® Related stories Beware of Yahoo! spam scam Four million email addresses: yours for £29.95 UK police arrest 12 phishing mule suspects UK banks launch anti-phishing website Watch out, there's a scammer about
John Leyden, 02 Nov 2004

Olympus Mju-mini digicam

ReviewReview Never wishing to be seen to stand idly by while the competition innovates, Olympus is always looking for ways to develop its Mju cameras. Last time the sacrosanct design was refined, it brought about a format evolution, from film to digital. This time it's a 'streamlining and downsizing' exercise, to offer more camera in less body, giving Olympus the perfect product to challenge Casio's Exilim and Canon's Ixus I ultra-compacts, writes Charlie Brewer. The body of the Mju-mini is a 5mm shorter, in length, and 50g lighter than Mju 400 digital, measuring only 9.5 x 5.6 x 2.8cm and weighing 115g. Frontage is a specially bent single piece of lightweight aluminium with reverse panel and battery door made of colour matched plastic. To maximize fashionista appeal, and learning from Canon's Ixus i, Olympus have made six different colours: Jewellery Silver, Pure White, Cosmic Black, Crystal Blue, Velvet Red and Copper Orange. Gone is the awkward manual lens cover that had to be operated by hand to activate the camera, replaced by a automatic slide'n'lock system more reminiscent of a Casio or Canon. The shape of the body also reflects a dramatic departure standard Mju design. A forwards/backwards knurled jog-wheel has been mounted on the top of the body, next to the shutter release, to allow selection of the camera, video or playback modes. The shutter release has been given a curved surface and is possible too close to the power switch for safe operation at speed. The four-way menu pad on the reverse, with the select button in the centre, has had its profiled reduced, making it nearly flush with the camera's body, to the right of the viewing screen. However, the 'Quickview' on the left of the screen has been reduced so much it's now a little tricky to operate. A rubber water-resistant seal has been placed around the lip of the battery door and the Mju-mini claims to be "all weather", but if you want the camera to carry on working, I'd avoid excessive exposure to harsh environments. An interesting optional extra, again borrowing heavily from the Ixus i and the Mju 400, is a waterproof case that will keep the camera working down to a token 3m depth. The new model boasts an impressive four-megapixel resolution and a 1.8in, high contrast TFT sunshine-viewing screen on the reverse. Stills are stored as JPEG files with resolution options ranging from SHQ 2272 x 1704 pixels down to SQ2 640 x 480 pixels. Video is QuickTime Motion JPEG, and the sound, be it video soundtrack or audio notes with still images, is WAV. The micro-flash has plenty of welly and can throw photons out over 2.8m, giving the image good broad coverage, in reasonable situations. The recycle time of the flash is around 5s, acceptable for the size of the battery. The flash can be a little overbearing though. Some images showed signs of flare points, but only when viewed on the camera. A point to note with all small-bodied cameras is that fingers have a tendency to get in the way of sensors, leading to inaccurate reading. Activation time has been enhanced, with the camera being shot-ready, from power off, in about 1s. The 2x optical zoom, made up of five lenses arranged in three groups, has an optional 4x digital booster, and optical side alone is equivalent to 35-70mm on a 35mm camera. The auto focus is still a little sluggish, a reoccurring feature in Olympus cameras I have tested and all you can do is refocus and wait for the green indicator to lock on, but it can be infuriating. The look of the menus has been refined to make the graphics smother. Basic functions are as we remember them but as with the overall size of the camera these have also been pared down. The manual functions offer flexible necessity rather than broad creativity, while the number of embedded preset modes is now 13. New modes include candles, fireworks and objects behind glass. White balance and ISO can be altered manually but the Mju-mini is really designed from snapping in optimum conditions. Verdict The Mju-mini is a pocket full of dynamite. The design is great and Olympus fans will be delighted by the familiarity of the controls and functions. It's nice to see Olympus getting the bit between its teeth again and developing its mainstay products in intelligent new directions. Olympus Mju-mini   Rating 80%   Pros — Size; looks; function; and start-up time.   Cons — Focus can be temperamental; flash flare in the viewing screen; power button too near shutter release.   Price £200 inc. VAT   More info The Olympus UK website Recent Reviews Creative Zen Touch 20GB music player Danger Hiptop 2 Sony Ericsson P910i smart phone Navman PiN GPS PocketPC Griffin radioShark Intel 3.46GHz P4 Extreme Edn and i925XE chipset Orange Mobile Office 3G data card Philips 755 mobile phone Samsung X10 Plus slimline notebook Creative Sound Blaster Wireless Music
Pocket Lint, 02 Nov 2004

Nokia to bring Good push email to business phones

Nokia today launched a partnership with mobile messaging company Good Technology to port the latter's GoodLink push email/PIM software to the handset maker's "business class" phones. That essentially means Nokia's smart phones, such as the 6600 and the upcoming 6670, and its Communicator line, said Good marketing chief Sue Forbes, though she would not be drawn on which specific handset models the deal between the two companies encompasses. Nor, for that matter, when it will ship. But the longer Nokia and Good leave it, the longer RIM has to sort out the problems that have limited the release of its Blackberry Connect software. That application brings Blackberry functionality - well, some of it - to other hardware makers' devices. With ever greater proportions of RIM's revenue coming from hardware sales rather than back-end software and services - an increase fuelled by rising device sales; up more than 350 per cent year on year during Q3, according to market watcher Canalys - its enthusiasm to push Blackberry Connect may be understandably waning. But push it the company does. And even Nokia is planning to ship its next Communicator, the 9300, with Blackberry support when the handset ships early next year. Then again, Sony Ericsson announced Blackberry support for the P910i when that handset was launched in July, but of the software there's still no sign, even in Europe, where the code is shipping on Nokia's 6820 messaging phone and 9550 Communicator. But whatever happens between Nokia and RIM, the Good deal is not exclusive. Nokia will help tweak Good's Symbian code - presumably for its Series 60 and Series 80 UIs; neither company would say - and offer the result through its enterprise sales division. That division also said today it will offer Visto's push email/PIM software with the 9500 and 9300, with a Series 80 version of Visto's software arriving during Q1 2005. In addition, Visto said it will add support for the new 3G-enabled Nokia 6630 in early 2005. Visto already supports Series 60 handsets. ® Related stories Global smart phone sales soar Nokia slims down 'the brick' Nokia calls up RIM, again Good Technology settles with Lawsuits in Motion Siemens touts Blackberry-based business phone Sony Ericsson debuts keyboard smart phone
Tony Smith, 02 Nov 2004

Timico snaps up Atlas Internet

London-based ISP Atlas Internet has been bought by new-kid-on-the-block telecoms outfit Timico Ltd. Financial details surrounding the deal were not disclosed. Notts-based Timico Ltd opened its doors last week with a "a serious mission to respond to the communications needs of small/medium enterprises (SMEs) in the UK" by providing converged fixed, mobile and broadband services. This sales pitch is backed by agreements with BT Wholesale, T-Mobile and Energis. Commenting on today's acquisition of the business-to-business ISP, Timico said: "It will importantly enable Timico to have total control of the network connectivity on which it can build voice and data applications, including Voice over IP (VoIP) for its business customers." The newly-enlarged group now employs 40 people. ® Related stories The Great ISP Buyout Business Serve buys VoIP outfit Claranet buys VIA NET.WORKS UK Firstnet founder buys 186k, Onyx, others
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2004

Sage rebadges CRM for smaller biz

Sage is releasing its mid-market CRM product created through the acquisition of ACCPAC earlier this year. The product, Sage CRM Mid-Market edition, was previously available in the UK as ACCPAC CRM. The software is available in a shrink-wrapped box from today but Sage is more excited about the hosted version which will be available in the first quarter of next year. Because it will be available to either deploy internally or as a web service hosted remotely they claim it will tempt more customers to try CRM for the first time. Gerry Carr, marketing manager at Sage, told The Register: "The unique features - that it can be hosted externally or deployed in-house, and that you can switch between the two quite easily will make it more attractive to entry level customers." The hosted version means you can effectively "try-before-you-buy". Carr believes the market will continue to grow. He said: "Penetration is only just beginning at the lower level. We are seeing companies that four or five years ago we would never have considered as targets." Richard Bee, head of CRM at Sage, agreed. He told the Register: "The market is growing and will continue to grow even faster. In the UK, for the mid-market we see growth of 10 per cent." ® Related stories Sage acquires profits Sage loses small business head Merger mania continues for Sage resellers
John Oates, 02 Nov 2004

mmO2 eyes German i-mode service

NTT DoCoMo is in talks with KPN to alter its license terms to allow telecom operator mmO2 to launch the i-mode service in Germany. KPN how holds the exclusive rights to market the i-mode service in the Benelux and Germany and has insisted it has no plans to change its contract, according to several newspaper reports. DoCoMo currently licenses i-mode to operators in Spain, Italy, France and Greece and through KPN in Germany and the Benelux. In all of these countries i-mode has struggled to make the service a mass-market success, so it is understandable DoCoMo wants to boost market growth as much as it can. The UK in particular is a challenging market. DoCoMo previously hoped to roll out i-mode in the UK through 3G UK Holdings (3 UK), part of Hutchison Whampoa, but that company pulled out its investment earlier this year after 3 UK failed to introduce the technology. mm02 now considers to license i-mode for the UK and Ireland by the end of the year. Related stories KPN doubles profits on falling sales mmo2 numbers are up DoCoMo hunts for UK partner
Jan Libbenga, 02 Nov 2004

Phishing for dummies: hook, line and sinker

Recent "phishing" episodes, and two new browser vulnerabilities, show how the bad guys are tricking people into exposing their passwords and bank accounts. Couldn't happen to tech-savvy users, right? Unless you consider how entire nations have been fooled. The art of faking out opponents in a clever, elegant, beautiful way is one that I find fascinating, and I cherish examples of that art. When looking through history for stories illustrating the deliberate use of distractions to obfuscate an intended purpose, I often return to World War II, which offers many such tales. The story of the allies' cracking of the German Enigma machine is one that everyone in security should know about. Used by the Germans, the Enigma machine was cracked by the allies using a variety of techniques. Math played its part, but so did subterfuge. Robert Morris, former chief scientist at the NSA (and father of the Morris Worm author), explained during a talk at Blackhat Briefings that the Americans noticed that German weather ships trawling in the North Atlantic used Enigma machines to send in weather reports every day. If the Allies could acquire those machines and their keys, it would be a major help in decrypting Enigma. Consquently, the Allies sank a couple of the ships in what seemed like a normal wartime action, but in reality salvage teams immediately went to work and recovered the Enigma machines and the required keys. The Germans never suspected what the real target of the attacks was, and the Allies had another tool to use in their war. Several incidents, famous only after the war, occured during the preparations for the liberation of Europe from the fascists. The Allies wanted to confuse the Nazis so that the actual locations of the landings - the beaches of Normandy for D-day in 1944 and Sicily in the Mediterranean in 1943 - would be secret as long as possible, so they developed several deceptions that were purposely designed to be "accidentally" picked up by Nazi operators, including: Operation Fortitude A fake First Army Group, supposedly commanded by General George S. Patton, sent fake radio messages confirming that the Pas de Calais was going to be the epicenter of D-day. In addition, airfields were created that contained row upon row of papier-mache planes, designed to fool air surveillance. Operation Skye Radio traffic out of Scotland intentionally deceived the Germans into believing that the D-day attack was going to come out of northern Europe, in either Norway or Denmark. Operation Mincement (This one is my favorite) This brilliant plan involved dropping a dead man, wearing a life jacket and supposedly named "Major William Martin", into the ocean off the coast of Spain in April 1943. Chained to his wrist was a briefcase containing forged war plans about the upcoming invasion of Sardinia. Hitler fell for it completely, diverting Axis defenses to Sardinia and allowing the Allies much easier access to the island of Sicily, the real target. In the cases above, the good guys used subterfuge, trickery, even treachery to fool their enemies into beliving that what they were seeing and hearing was true, when it fact it was anything but. We're seeing the same sort of chicanery today on the web, except now its ordinary users who are being duped by the bad guys, and the good guys have a heck of a time making the situation any better. I'm referring to the epidemic of phishing that is currently one of the biggest problems on the net. Reaching the point of epidemic I don't know about you, but I get at least one email every few days that is supposedly from CitiBank (currently used in 54 per cent of phishing messages), or PayPal, or eBay, or Amazon, or SunTrust Bank (who the heck are they?), or or or or or ... the list goes on and on. The emails always mention that my account needs to be updated, or my credit card has been charged for some enormous purchase that I never made and I need to correct this, or that I need to verify some information the website has on me. Whatever. The goal is always to get me to believe that a company I use for financial transactions - and who therefore is trusted by me - needs information, so that I submit personal data that can be used by criminals to further their own ends. These messages can look very, very real, as the image below, taken by blogging pioneer Dave Winer shows. Yes, he uses Outlook Express for some reason, and received this in his email (click for a bigger pic): Keep in mind that phishing is not confined to email, but is also web-based as well. In fact, those emails wouldn't work without a corresponding website, designed also to look as realistic as possible, containing forms for suckers to fill in. But there are also various tricks that can be played on unsuspecting web users that can get them in trouble. How big is that trouble? Enormous, and growing. According to a Gartner Group study from May of this year, at least 1.8m consumers have been tricked by phishing attacks into revealing sensitive information - and the majority of that 1.8m occured within the year prior to that report. In just the last six months, phishing emails have increased by 4000 per cent. On average, a consumer loses $1200 when his bank account is taken over, and the vast majority of such takeovers are from phishing. Think about those numbers for a second. 1.8m people affected. 4000 per cent increase. $1200 average loss per person. This is escalating into such a problem for banks that many of them are now refusing to protect their customers and, as The Boston Herald reports, are now choosing instead to "litigate, fight and force consumers to settle for lower amounts". If you were fooled through phishing, your bank very well may refuse to reimburse you. Most consumers know that if they get screwed using a credit card, they're only liable for $50. Not so with bank accounts, evidently. Some of you might think, as I did, that FDIC protections safeguard those of us who live in the US, at least up to $100,000 (which is far, far more coverage that this columnist needs!) Nope. Those only apply if the bank declares bankruptcy, not if an Eastern European cracker employed by the mob tricks me into revealing my PayPal password and then cleans out my bank account. Browser Problems So phishing is a large, serious, and growing, problem. That's bad. And then within the last few weeks we received even worse news: many of our favorite (and some not-so-favorite) web browsers were vulnerable to phishing using a particularly clever attack vector: the tabs that many of us have come to know, love, and depend upon. Secunia issued a security report detailing how most major web browsers with the tabbed browsing feature were vulnerable to two different vulnerabilities. First, the browsers. Recognize any you use? Mozilla 1.7.3 Mozilla Firefox 0.10.1 Camino 0.8 Opera 7.54 Konqueror 3.2.2-6 Netscape 7.2 Avant Browser 9.02 build 101 and 10.0 build 029 Maxthon (MyIE2) 1.1.039 That list contains several that I use on a daily basis: Firefox, Opera, Konqueror, even Mozilla. In many cases, these are the very latest versions of these browsers (not counting nightly builds, of course). A cross-section of browser rendering engines - Gecko, KHTML, Trident, Presto, and more - is represented. The major operating systems, Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows, are represented as well. Microsoft's Internet Explorer - at least an un-enhanced IE, since Avant and Maxthon are just feature-laden shells wrapped around IE's Trident rendering engine - is unaffected, but only because IE by itself is so lacking in modern features that it doesn't even support tabs (hey, maybe that's why Microsoft hasn't ever included support for tabs in IE - 'cause they're concerned about security!). Now, the vulnerabilities. One of them is pretty clever, and one of them, I think, is a bit overstated, but I'll explain that in a second. You have a couple of different websites open in a couple of tabs. You open another tab and head over to a trusted website, like PayPal's. You're on the PayPal site, when suddenly a dialog box opens, apparently from PayPal, and asks you to enter your password and your credit card info, "for verification purposes". You do so and keep using the PayPal site, never realizing that it was not the PayPal tab that spawned that dialog box, but a web site on a different, inactive tab. To see what I'm talking about, open the demo site at Secunia with an affected browser and follow the instructions. Very clever. There are two problems here. First, the browser doesn't easily keep the user informed as to which tab is responsible for the dialog box. That's an easy fix. Second, the browser shouldn't allow inactive tabs to spawn dialog boxes in the first place. Another easy fix. But still - not good. Clearly, none of the organizations creating these browsers ever envisioned such an attack. Of course, this attack will only work if you're already on a shady web site to begin with, and if that site knows you've gone to a site that it knows you trust, like PayPal. As Secunia itself points out, for this sneaky stunt to work it would "normally require that a user is tricked into opening a link from a malicious web site to a trusted web site in a new tab". Clearly, the likelihood of that string of events is pretty small. But it's still clever, and it would undoubtedly get a lot of folks in trouble if they somehow had both the "bad" and the "good" sites open at the same time in separate tabs. The second vulnerability strikes me as even less likely, but perhaps I'm wrong. Let's say you have a couple of different web sites open in a couple of tabs. You open another tab and head over to a trusted website, like PayPal's. You type in your username and password, but nothing shows up. You type it again. Still nothing. Assuming that PayPal's site is temporarily borked, you close the tab and continue on your merry way. Little do you know that everything you typed actually went into a form on a site found on one of your other tabs. If you want to see this in action, Secunia has a demo site up for this one as well. Now, this one seems quite unlikely to me, even more so that the first. Secunia justifies the seriousness of the hole by claiming that it "is escalated a bit by the fact that most people do not look at the monitor while typing data into a form field", which doesn't jibe with what I do or what I see. In my experience, most folks - not all, but most - look at form fields while they're typing, so I think that they would immediately notice when text isn't appearing. Further, it doesn't matter if the text you're trying to type is actually entered into a form field in another tab - you'd have to actually go back to that tab, not notice that your PayPal password was sitting there in a field, and then go ahead and press Submit and send that data to the bad guys. I find this scenario even less likely than the one in the first vulnerability, but maybe I'm nuts. So here we have problems in some very popular tabbed browsers. Secunia's advice is logical: either disable JavaScript (which will cause problems using a vast number of web sites, so it's not likely), or avoid opening a trusted web site in a tab when other tabs already contain untrusted websites. OK. Not bad advice. So if you want to use PayPal or eBay or your bank, open up a new Firefox window first. No problem. A fix, of course, would be better. In the usual open source tradition of fixing flaws quickly, Konqueror released a version of the browser that was patched against the vulnerabilities, and Firefox promised that it would be secured by the time 1.0 is released, sometime in the new few weeks. On the other hand, Netscape, now owned by AOL, and Avant never bothered to respond to Secunia when it contacted them. Guess I know which browsers to avoid. I'm not trying to discredit Secunia or these vulnerabilities. They are definitely problems that need to be fixed. It's just that there's a big difference between the almost torturous series of steps required to exploit users with these vulnerabilities as compared to the recent IE exploit that involved simply visiting your bank's website. However, there are other phishing vulnerabilities out there, involving Google, for instance, that are far easier to fall for. Undoubtedly there are many, many others, involving weaknesses in the web sites and in the web browsers we all use every day, that will be discovered. We need to be aware of these openings because they remind us that phishing is not just a matter of receiving an email that's a doppelganger for a real one from a company we do business with, but also that phishing is increasingly going to use the vector of the browser itself as an opening for exploitation. And that, as security pros undoubtedly know in their bones, is going to be an even bigger problem than duplicitous emails. Copyright © 2004, Scott Granneman is a senior consultant for Bryan Consulting Inc. in St. Louis. He specializes in Internet Services and developing Web applications for corporate, educational, and institutional clients. Related stories Free training offer is latest spam scam Beware of Yahoo! spam scam Consumers hit by net security jitters
Scott Granneman, 02 Nov 2004

Flying golden Daleks menace the web

The last few days have seen a little frisson of excitement spread round the world of Doctor Who aficionados after snaps of the latest Dalek model - soon to be seen battling Christopher Ecclestone and Billie Piper - invaded the web. There's some background to the filming of the new series on gallifreyone.com - including the revelations that the Daleks will be able to indulge in thruster-powered flight and, what's more, that they now come in a fetching golden livery. This latter factoid delighted UK tabloid the Sun, since the paper spearheaded the campaign to restore the Daleks to the series after the Beeb and the estate of Terry Nation fell out. Accordingly, it duly celebrated the motorised villains' new-found "bling" by declaring that they "look even shinier than jewellery-plastered rapper Puff Daddy". Quite what Davros would have made of his creation being compared to a fur-clad rapper is anyone's guess, although we suspect he would have fully approved of Mr Diddy's alleged fondness for firearms. ® Related stories Daleks invade Blackpool Dalek veteran ready for galactic domination Daleks to sprout legs BBC confirms Daleks will battle Doctor Who Daleks invade New York Daleks boycott Dr Who Doctor Who fans applaud new assistant
Lester Haines, 02 Nov 2004

UK.biz urged to get online

Companies are being urged to set up their own website if they are to take advantage of the 76 per cent of consumers who prefer to search for businesses on the internet, according to research by web hosting and domain name company easily.co.uk. The findings show that the internet has replaced business directories as the first port of call for consumers trying to find a business. Accordingly, the company is warning small businesses that they risk jeopardising their future if they ignore the potential of the world wide web. Only 18 per cent of the 1,500 consumers polled relied on business directories such as the Yellow Pages and Thomson, with a further 6 per cent using directory inquiries. Johnathan Robinson, director of business development at Easily, said: "These findings show that as the UK continues to embrace the internet, companies without a web presence will miss out on a significant number of sales leads. This need not be expensive. The benefits on offer far outweigh the small cost, and these days you can easily create an inexpensive and professional website." UK businesses already on the net will also be pleased with the news that four out of five British consumers prefer to do their shopping on UK-based sites. This revelation - released by domain name firm Nominet - shows that reasons behind such parochial shopping habits stem from easier communication between the customer and the firm. 47 per cent of respondents were reassured that they could contact a UK company by other means. Also, 34 per cent feel more comfortable purchasing from British sites as they are expected to adhere to UK trade laws. Lesley Cowley, managing director at Nominet UK, said: "This highlights the importance, even for multinational companies, to have a localised domain name and the brand value attached for businesses competing for a share of fast-growing e-commerce revenues. Clearly the golden rule of 'think global, act local' is more than just a business cliché." Copyright © 2004, Related stories Small.biz left standing in ecommerce gold rush Sage rebadges CRM for smaller biz Timico snaps up Atlas Internet
Startups.co.uk, 02 Nov 2004

Wales to host new £1m CRT recycling plant

A new recycling plant in Wales is set to create 70 jobs by turning old computer waste into something useful. The £1m investment will enable the new Citiraya Recycling Technology plant to recycle old Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) TV screens and computer monitors. The 35,000 square feet plant is due to open in December and will be able to recycle 500,000 CRT screens a year. Said Singapore-based Citiraya in a statement: "[The plant] will deploy one of the first Laser Cutting Technology processes in the UK. These processes provide safe removal of the phosphor layer, separation and segregation of the panel and funnel glass cullet, thus enabling the separated fractions to be recycled and reused in manufacturing new CRT." The opening of the plant is due to come ahead of new European legislation - Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) Directive - designed to regulate how businesses reuse, reclaim, recycle and dispose of surplus electronic equipment. ® Related stories BT goes green Sita flogs WEEE ops to Oz recycling giant Old PCs are goldmine for data thieves How to make hard cash from old IT Brace your IT budget for green impact
Tim Richardson, 02 Nov 2004

Follow the Vendee Globe on your mobe

Ellen McArthur's latest boat is packed to the gills with mobile technology to keep fans up-to-date with its progress in the Vendee Globe round-the-world yacht race. The Offshore Challenges boat will actually be skippered by Nick Moloney in the race which starts on Sunday. The boat has been fitted out with four webcams and a satellite broadband system which sends all the latest information back to Offshore Challenges' control centre. From there it is reformatted for the various iTAGG services. Steve Procter, CEO at iTAGG, told The Register: "I'm surprised by how much people will pay for quite poor content. Compared to three or four pounds for a ringtone paying less than a pound for a picture of a sporting celebrity seems reasonable." Procter said pictures of big events during the race could be on people's handsets within minutes. These include instant SMS news - interested punters send a text message to receive the latest news by reply. Or you can sign up to a subscription service which will text your phone every day. Obsessive fans can access a Wap site via mobile or even download a Java application to keep them updated all the time. The information will be available to mobile users in France and the UK. iTAGG services previously came to the attentions of El reg when they launched a mobile SMS Good Pub guide. It was road-tested by a Register editor released into the wilds of Essex - he was quickly directed to a nearby hostelry. ® Boat-related stories Txt saves three from Davey Jones' locker HP puts winds in Larry's sails
John Oates, 02 Nov 2004

Get down and rock via 3G

Register readers feeling too tired to get on their dancing shoes and get down with the kids this evening can take solace from a new service from mobile network "3" which is broadcasting, sorry "phonecasting", a 45-minute concert by London-based Rooster from the Institute of Contemporary Art. "3" hopes the experiment will tell them more about how consumers are using mobile video technology. It is planning regular concerts in 2005 to use music to promote its 3G services. According to this story on the BBC, "3" is claiming 1,000 subscribers will pay £5 each for the privilege of listening in. Box office staff at the ICA assured The Register that only two "real world" tickets were still available at the time of writing. Any Reg readers tuning in to Rooster's concert please don't be embarrassed - get in touch and let us know how heavily it rocked. ® Related stories mmO2 eyes German i-mode service 3 UK claims 1.2m subscribers 3 signs up Argos
John Oates, 02 Nov 2004

IE exploits top web security threat list

Internet Explorer exploits posed the fastest growing web security threat to enterprises in the last quarter, according to web security services firm ScanSafe. The top exploit (Exploit.HTML.Mht) was used to attack twice as many businesses as any other web security threat in Q2 2004. While Trojans and worms remain the most significant type of threat, exploits, which accounted for 19 per cent of all attacks recorded by ScanSafe, are growing in prevalence. ScanSafe reckons the many vulnerabilities recently exposed in popular web browsers, such as runaway market leader Internet Explorer, are creating a ready mechanism for crackers to compromise systems simply by conning users into visiting websites hosting malicious content. "ScanSafe forecasts exploits driven by browser vulnerabilities will become an increased threat to enterprises," said John Edwards, technical director, ScanSafe. "As vulnerabilities continue to emerge in Microsoft Internet Explorer and other browsers, and administrators struggle to update patches, attackers will be quick to take advantage." Webmail pages remain high risk with 10 per cent of all web attacks monitored by ScanSafe occurring on these sites. Spyware accounted for 12 per cent of all monitored attacks, a continued increase in activity on previous quarters. These sneaky applications secretly monitor a user's online activities and may transmit confidential data to third parties. London-based security outfit ScanSafe markets a net-based filtering service designed to counter web-borne viruses and malicious code. ScanSafe scans for all web viruses by integrating anti-virus engines from three leading AV vendors with its own proprietary internet-level detection technology, Outbreak Intelligence. The idea is similar to that pioneered by MessageLabs but applied to HTTP traffic instead of email. ® Related stories A bumper crop of browser glitches Germans develop nasty case of IE jitters Companies adapt to a zero day world Unpatched IE vuln exploited by adware Webroot: Spyware is Windows-only
John Leyden, 02 Nov 2004

Sainsbury's suspends online discounts

Sainsbury's has had to cancel a series of discounts offered to online shoppers after voucher codes posted on a web forum were used by literally hundreds of people. The company had offered online shoppers £10 off their next shop if deliveries were late. One recipient of late groceries decided to share the voucher codes with the online community at MoneySavingExpert.com. Unsurprisingly, the codes were enthusiastically received. The thrifty surfers left messages thanking the original poster for the discount, in many cases saying how much money they had managed to save on their weekly shop, and promising to return with codes of their own if their deliveries were late. Until yesterday, the codes were still available on the forums at MoneySavingExpert.com, but now the thread has been temporarily suspended pending an investigation into the origin of the codes. However, a notice on the site now reads: We have removed the threads regarding Sainsbury's Vouchers pending an investigation and notification of potential legal action by Sainsburys. Can everyone please refrain from posting anything more concerning Sainsburys vouchers until we have completed our investigation. Please also do not discuss this issue on the Boards. I ask you all to please refer to Online Vouchers: The Rules and Guidance to learn the site's policies to posts of this nature. Webmaster The site is run by financial journalist Martin Lewis. He says that the issue of voucher codes is one that many companies are struggling with. "This isn't just an issue faced by Sainsbury's," he said, explaining that La Redoute and CD WOW have also run afoul of the anarchic nature of the web. La Redoute had trouble with discount codes when it emerged that typing numbers at random into the system would often result in a discount being issued. CD-WOW, meanwhile, suffered when an affiliate discount scheme that proved rather too popular with web users. "It is a growing problem and companies are going to have to tighten up the way the operate their systems," Lewis says. "From a consumer's point of view, my advice is to be very careful. If you use a code that comes from an unknown source, don't use it. At best the company will end up devaluing all discounts, and at worst, the user could be prosecuted for fraud. For the sake of 20p or 30p off, it is probably not worth the risk of defrauding a large company with big lawyers." Lewis asks users not to post the codes that have been specifically issued for individual use on the site, warning that re-use of the codes is fraud, and as such, is not "condoned or supported by this site". He also asks that anyone who does post a discount code state clearly where it came from, and who exactly is permitted to use it. However, it is not clear what terms and conditions were associated with the Sainsbury's discount vouchers. When asked whether there was anything in the Ts&Cs that specifically restricted customers from sharing the codes, a spokeswoman for the company told us that Sainsbury's wasn't happy to share that information. The blunder has meant legitimate vouchers have been scrapped too, as Sainsbury's tried to get the problem under control. The company says the codes were changed every two weeks to prevent abuse, but that this system is being updated. ® Related stories Consumers hit by net security jitters Hospital suspends ten staff for 'net abuse' Grocery shopping online getting better
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Nov 2004

SCO not sure pro-SCO site is a good idea

Legal concerns of all things have caused The SCO Group to rethink it plans to launch a pro-SCO propaganda web site meant to counter the popular Groklaw site. SCO once vowed to have a live site up by Nov. 1. It hoped to spin breaking news surrounding its ongoing Unix/Linux related cases against the likes of IBM and Novell. Such a site seemed a bit redundant given SCO's active PR corps and existing legal pages, but the company felt it needed a way to offset the analysis provided at pro-Linux Groklaw. SCO's hopes and dreams, however, have been slowed by the very lawyers it loves. A SCO spokeswoman told IDG News Service that "legal and management concerns about the content of the Web site" have put the project on hold. At the moment the SCOinfo.com page has a place holder only. "It's still up for debate whether the Web site will ever go up," the spokeswoman told IDG. The idea for the pro-SCO site initially cropped up after SCO suffered a string of legal setbacks in its cases against IBM and DaimlerChrysler. The company seemed to want a way to massage the way observers viewed various court decisions before Groklaw could attack. One can only hope that more sober minds convinced SCO that a propaganda page would be viewed as unprofessional and painfully slanted. ® Related stories Whatdya mean, free software? Novell to defend against open source IP attack McNealy: Microsoft needs Sun to beat IBM and Red Hat SCO's profit turns to loss as Q3 revenue tumbles
Ashlee Vance, 02 Nov 2004

Nokia revives media phone concept with pen mini-tablet

Nokia has unveiled its pen-based, mini-tablet smartphone platform once again. The 7710 media phone, announced today, is the second device to feature the Series 90 software, and Nokia hopes it will fare better than the first. A phone that showcased the software, the 7700, was announced exactly a year ago, but in June the company said it was being demoted to a prototype and wouldn't be released to the general public. Series 90 marks a departure for Nokia, which has for several years maintained that one-handed phones don't need any other input method, and two-handed phones really need a full keyboard. This had been the stance since it launched the QWERTY keyboard communicator eight years ago, and neither the success of Palm, nor Sony Ericsson's P900 could convince it otherwise. The 7710 is fundamentally similar to its predecessor, but with a slightly redesigned case and no side-talking. It too has a 640x320 screen, an MMC expansion slot and slightly more memory: 90MB. It plays "Visual Radio" and, with an add-on, DVB-H video streams. It's to launch in Asia by the end of this year, and in Europe early next. So who'd want one? To date no company has successfully sold such a form factor - a landscape-orientated tablet - except to niche vertical markets. Nokia's consumer marketing people are clearly more ambitious than that, and want the 7710 to be pitched as a media device. However it's an attractive device on which to view real work too, with more than 60 per cent more pixels than Nokia's revived Series 80 communicator. As the platform will run RIM, Good and Visto software and there's a GPS add-on available, there's a chance that this will be a seriously useful lightweight version of what quaintly used to be called an "information appliance" (although you only need to think about this for a second to see that the person using the box is applying the information, not the box itself - but we digress). The most serious limitation of the 7710 has only become apparent over the past year, with the runaway success of the iPod and the imminent introduction of Microsoft's Portable Media Center devices. As a "media phone", it doesn't do media as well as these other devices. Many MP3 players are also radios (although surprisingly, not Apple's own iPod). With 8 GB MMCs now available, the day when a solid state MP3 player can be folded into the phone at very low cost is drawing near. (Don't get your hopes up for using one in a 7710: it only supports cards up to 512 MB.) Will a phone ever be a better iPod than an iPod? That's doubtful, but it might be good enough for many people, especially given the price advantage. However there's more to a comparison than simply cost or capacity. Nokia hasn't announced the pieces of the software puzzle that are necessary to make this attractive to a mass market, such as synchronization. Nokia and enlightened operators such as Orange are well aware, and have been for several years, that for appliances such as the media phone to become a truly essential part of people's lives, the fix required isn't technical, but industry politics. ® Related Stories Nokia to bring Good push email to business phones Qualcomm builds video network Psion mourners see hope in shrunken Communicator Nokia's new Communicator - who needs it? PalmSource looks beyond the phone to tablets, players and tools Nokia's 7700 media device - first shot in the PDA wars?
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Nov 2004

US presidential race comes down to the wire

Tom Greene tries his hand as psephologist. Early indications are not encouraging ... Today, a portion of the US electorate not seen at the polls since 1968 is expected to cast ballots in a presidential election characterized by what we're told are razor-sharp margins. Opinion polls are riding the edge: none favours either candidate by more than its own margin of error. Everyone insists that the race will be whisker close and cannot be called in advance. Nonsense, we say. America is a land where miracles occur daily: George W Bush is the President; Halle Berry has an Oscar for best actress; John Updike is a best-selling author; Mark Wahlberg and Ben Affleck are film stars; Justin Timberlake has a lucrative career in music; Jesse "The Body" Ventura is (or was) the Governor of some flyover state... At the risk of public disgrace, and in spite of what the polls and wiser heads say, The Register anticipates a true American miracle ending in an impressive victory for Kerry in both the popular and electoral votes. Here's why: Republican disappointment We expect solid Republican turnout, but not spectacular turnout. There are two reasons: First, while Kerry has not attracted much in the way of devotion, he is not much hated, either. People are generally lukewarm in both their support and their disapproval. Thus there is not a significant body of Americans determined to see him lose. Second, Bush has alienated a number of conservatives with his misguided nation-building in Iraq, and with his incontinent deficit spending. "Tax and spend" is bad enough to conservatives; "borrow and spend" is appreciably worse. Thus there is a solid group of Republican conservatives who, while they would not go so far as to vote for Kerry, will not go to the trouble of voting for Bush. They'll show up if an important legislative or state seat is in jeopardy, and if not, sit this one out and let nature take its course. And among those who do show up, a decent percentage will close their eyes, hold their noses, disdainfully vote for Kerry, and then vote Republican down the line. Democratic anger On the other hand, we expect Democrats to flock to the polls. Many still harbor deep resentment over the 2000 presidential election, which they believe was hijacked by a Republican Supreme Court. Many others suspect they were disenfranchised by Republican dirty tricks. Democrats resent and despise Bush with a special passion that few Republicans feel towards Kerry. Whether fairly or not, many Democrats believe that Bush is a dangerous religious fanatic, a dunce, and a malevolent, childish megalomaniac. They may not be enamoured of Kerry, but they loathe Bush so deeply, and resent him and the 2000 elections debacle in Florida so intensely, that they will vote him out of office, come Hell or high water. Better educated Democrats are concerned about the chance Bush may get to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing Neanderthals of the Scalia/Thomas variety, and fret much about America's loss of international prestige and her loss of support among allies in the hands of the Bushies. They may be sophisticated enough to see past the Bush stereotypes, and they may not be altogether delighted with Kerry, but they know that Kerry will ensure a liberal majority on the SC; will work through international institutions to build alliances in the fight against terrorism and therefore do better than the isolationist Bush; and will actually raise the money he spends, which, while it might slow the economy, is immensely preferable to borrowing, which will eventually crush it. Catholic skepticism Finally, Bush carried 50 per cent of the Catholic vote in 2000, chiefly on the strength of his rather empty pro-life chatter (the abortion rate has been rising since he took office). He's not going to do so well this time around, since the Pope bluntly condemned the Iraq war. And a number of Catholics will be pleased simply to see a brotha in the White House for only the second time in US history. The choice in 2000 was between two Protestants, neither of whom inspired much enthusiasm in any voting bloc, much less among Catholics. Things have changed. More Catholics will vote for Kerry than voted for Gore. We predict that Kerry will win New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida. The momentum will carry itself west, giving him the battleground states of Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. As the momentum builds, he will pick up New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. We call it 310 to 228 - a blowout. Tomorrow, the returns will be in, and the details of voting patterns across the US will be available. We are going to have great fun, either crowing about our prescience, or sheepishly explaining how we got things so comically wrong. Stay tuned. ® Related Story Will the US election matter to the IT sector?
Thomas C Greene, 02 Nov 2004