5th > November > 2004 Archive
For those aviation enthusiasts who would like to own an Avro Vulcan but feel that they simply do not have a sufficiently large garage in which to hangar the beast, there is a more manageable alternative currently available on eBay for the modest sum of £1m+. It's fair to say that even the most space-starved plane-spotter will be able to find a corner for this example of the type - complete with wings and original Cold War camouflage scheme. The details are as follows: Having scoured my bedroom for something to sell on ebay today as it is free listings for 0.01p-0.99p, i have reluctantly decided to sell my hand made Vulcan Bomber XL-391 Paper Airplane. I thought that this would be an ideal time to sell it, what with all the press publicity going on, with the real one up in Blackpool. I have not actually tested if the plane can fly, i will leave this to the lucky winning bidder. The tail fin of this plane is not actuallty properly attached, the winning bidder will have to refix this themselves. I can provide help with this simple task. Please note that this is a one-off so could become very valuable in years to come. Happy Bidding !!!! Now, £1m is a lot of wonga for a paper plane, but that's nothing compared to the £7m bidding frenzy recently provoked by the sale of the real thing. Earlier this week, bids for Vulcan XL391 reached this heady figure before eBay regained control of the situation and scrubbed the bogus bids. With roughly 24 hours to go before the auction closes, an offer in excess of £11k is required to secure a piece of aviation history. ® Bootnote Thanks to reader Devin Giddings for his plane-spotting efforts. Related stories For sale: Vulcan bomber, one belligerent owner German flogs Saddam's left leg on web Star Trek flat: yours for $1m
In a night time attack, a bomber has shelled a New Jersey school - only two days after the re-election of George W Bush as US president. But warbloggers, put down your wikis. It's not the French, and not, it seems, even a foreign airforce. The US Air Force has admitted that it made the attack, and confirmed that it was an F-16 bomber that attacked Little Egg Harbor Intermediate School in southern New Jersey late last night. A caretaker at the school, who was the only person in the building, reported hearing "what sounded like someone running across the roof", according to AP. Which doesn't sound anything like Donald Rumsfeld's Shock And Awe, or the pictures that Fox News showed us during the recent demonstration of military firepower in Baghdad last year. Many of you will have run across the roof of your school, without causing damage on a scale usually associated with the visit of the United States Air Force. Shouldn't the school at least have been vaporized, vanishing in a puff of smoke? Perhaps the under-funded military, stretched by the occupation of Iraq, has got so desperate it's firing rolled-up copies of New Yorker magazine at targets instead. (You have to wonder - and tips here, please you guys in the know). The school is close to an Air Force firing range, so "computer error" may eventually be cited. In which case, we're almost certainly interested. Earlier this year the FBI blamed computers for their own bad detective work. The Feds' faith in useless social software and their religious belief in the naturally good, naturally digital fingerprint software systems was so strong, that shortly before the Madrid bombings, they arrested an innocent man who'd never been to Spain. Alternatively the senior staff at the USAF may blame the amphetamine-wired pilot, but that would mean opening a whole new can of worms for the service, which is unlikely. Either way, the US military's brightest brains at DARPA are trying to create machines that look and act like humans, at the same time as trying to make their human staff behave as super machine-like as possible. Something had to give. ® Related stories Emergent cheese-sandwich detector enlisted in War on Terror Invisible GIs to heal selves, leap tall building with nanotech US puts on pair of robotrousers Robot grunts tumble in race for $1m prize
InterviewInterview Last month, the British Computer Society announced the first winners of its Women in IT award, set up to recognise of organisations that have done the most to encourage women into technology and engineering roles. In the end, two companies shared the prize: IBM UK, and Pfizer. Rebecca George, chair of the Women in IT Forum, and director of UK government business at IBM, spoke to The Register to explain how businesses can go about attracting and retaining the best staff. In her role as Chair of the Women in IT Forum, a DTI-backed pan-industry working group, George says that one of the first things they need to do is demonstrate that there is a financial return for having more diverse organisations. "A field like application development is, these days, about working in teams," she points out. "Women bring many needed skills to the team, particularly in data analysis, for example. When you are working on the kind of diverse problems that software developers face now, it makes sense that a diverse team will lead to a better output. You need a variety of different approaches to solve things." But putting a number on this benefit might be tricky. George isn’t arguing that there needs to be a distinct, traceable return on any investment in encouraging diversity, but she is keen to investigate more broadly how the make-up of a workforce affects a company’s performance. She argues that the culture of a company is fundamental to its success or failure in retaining women, and that this is where the effort must go at a corporate level if companies want to have a diverse workforce. "The kinds of programmes that are attractive to the whole workforce will be the ones that change the culture," she says. For example, initiatives like flexible working - nominally put in place to make it easier for women to juggle their work and family commitments - have proved just as popular with men. At IBM, 1,000 staff work flexibly – in various ways too, from just working during term time, to working one week on one week off, to swapping every other Monday for a Saturday. Of these 1,000, six are executives, four of whom are men. George is equally clear about how not to tackle the issue: "This is absolutely not about, and cannot be about positive discrimination. We don’t have quotas, and we don’t have targets." There is also plenty of work going into attracting women into the field. To do this, you need to start with 11-year olds and persuade them that the IT world isn’t just about sock-and-sandal wearing geeks, and that they can be a part of it too. George, like Professor Wendy Hall, head of the British Computer Society, is adamant that getting to girls while they are still at school is vital. She says research shows people’s value systems are in place by the time they are 14. Dealing with negative stereotypes, and poor impressions of the technology industry must happen before then. "The main problem here is lack of role models," George says. "If you ask a room full of 11-year olds how many of them know a female programmer, chances are no one will put their hand up. Doctors, lawyers, teachers on the other hand, there are now plenty of role models." The Women in IT Forum is trying to tackle this end of the process, running computer clubs for girls, visiting schools, running technology workshops and so on. This kind of activity is bearing fruit, and more women are being recruited into IT. George says that this leaves the obvious question of why isn’t the overall number increasing? "I have my own theories on this, but they are based purely on anecdotal evidence." She suggests that across Europe women seem to be choosing to leave the industry between the ages of 40 and 50, quite possibly to set up on their own. "The Women in IT Forum is conducting research into this question, and it’ll be interesting to see the results." ® Related stories IT skills shortage threatens humanity Empress of eBay dethrones Queen Carly Women, and the future of IT DTI calls women back to science and technology
It's no use telling Apple how good its kit is, it already knows - and has granted each and every one of them five out of five on the AppleStore's new ratings system. The online shop has just added a system that allows punters to rate the products they've bought, the better to prevent others from picking a dud. But here's the catch: while it's open season on other vendors' offerings, Apple's own remain sacrosanct. Buyers can't rate them because the Mac maker has done so itself. "Would you trust us to display less than perfect ratings on our own products? We don't think so!" the site gleefully admitted on the review rules page. And why has it rated them so highly? "Because we think they're great." Apple has now modified its language, taking out the 'trust us' reference, but you can see a screengrab of the original wording over at Gizmodo, which alerted us to the ratings system. To be fair, many Apple items are not rated, but it shows a certain lack of self-confidence that the company isn't willing to allow its traditionally very loyal user community - declaration of interest: I'm an Apple customer myself - to weigh in on the latest iPod, iMac, iBook, PowerBook, Power Mac, etc. Surely they'd all give glowing recommendations? Maybe not. As the UK version of Apple's iTunes Music Store learned, end-user commentary doesn't always go according to plan. The store's iMix system was hijacked in the early days by punters protesting at the lack of material available from independent labels. It has since brought many of them on board. ® Related stories iTunes users hijack iMixes to demand indie content Apple signs key indies to iTunes Apple London store doors to open 20 November iTrip FM beamer back in black for U2 iPod Apple opens Euro iTunes stores Apple unveils color photo iPod Mac OS X rootkit surfaces Apple profits leap as iPod sales rocket
Norwegian police have shut down the satirical anti-Bush website killhim.nu (Kill Him Now) by Norwegian rap trio Gatas Parlament, daily newspaper Aftenposten reports. The site urged Norwegians to put a bounty on the head of president Bush. Norwegian police removed the site's content and replaced it with a fax notification of the closure. Police attorney Pål-Fredrik Hjort Kraby says the content was removed because it violated Norwegian harassment laws. Aslak Borgersrud of Gatas Parlament says the site "was not about killing anyone", but a spoof on Tellhim.no, where artists took donations to pay for an anti-Bush campaign in Washington Post. The site also promoted the new album release "Fred, frihet og alt gratis", which translates as: "Peace, freedom and everything for free". Gatas Parlament have a history of provocative political activism. The rappers insulted Crown Prince Haakon at a show where Haakon himself was present. And in one of their videos, they call Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik "a murderer, a thief and a puppet who does everything George W. Bush asks". ® Related stories Bush website conspiracy theories darken skies Bush website adopts isolationist stance Council accused of gagging Web site
After its miserable Q2, Nvidia was all smiles again yesterday after the company posted its best quarterly results in almost two years for the third quarter of fiscal 2005. For the three months to 24 October 2004, Nvidia recorded revenues of $515.6m, up 13 per cent on the previous quarter and six per cent on Q3 FY2004. The figure also beat Nvidia's own revenue forecast, which it upgraded from $470-502m to $510-515m the day after the quarter closed. Net income for the period totalled $25.9m (15 cents a share), up from $5.1m (three cents a share) in Q2 and $6.4m (four cents a share) in the year-ago quarter. Q3's income was well above Wall Street's nine cents a share consensus. Nvidia was expected to show an improvement in its third quarter, comprising as it does purchases made by PC vendors and system builders gearing up for the Christmas sales period. "Our improving financial performance reflects the success of the GeForce 6 architecture and our strategy to re-capture the technology leadership position," admitted Nvidia CEO Jen-Hsun Huang. Last week, it emerged that Nvidia had lost its long-held leadership of the standalone graphics chip market to its arch-rival, ATI, according to Mercury Research figures. ATI took 59 per cent of the market, up from 50 per cent in Q2, while Nvidia 37 per cent, down from 46 per cent the previous quarter. ® Related stories Nvidia ups Q3 sales forecast Nvidia Q2 sales, income slide ATI trounces Nvidia in desktop, mobile, integrated markets Intel lost 6.7% chipset market share in Q3 Nvidia accused of patent violation Nvidia details nForce 4 Nvidia pushes GeForce 6200 at value end Nvidia revs GeForce 6600, 6600 GT ATI to launch AMD PCI-E chipset 'next week'
Intel CEO Craig Barrett believes the current inventory correction being experienced by the chip industry does not herald a slowdown and has said he takes forecasts of flat sale growth through 2005 "with a grain of salt". Speaking at a Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) meeting this week, Barrett said: "I don't think the inventory correction is a euphemism for a slowdown." Chip demand prediction remains an inexact science, he said. "We don't make forecasts," he added. "I take the SIA forecast with a grain of salt." Earlier this week, the SIA lowered it 2004 global chip sales forecast to $213.8bn from $214bn. It also said it expects 2005's total to be much the same as that, with sales rising again in 2006, by 6.3 per cent. It had previously predicted a 4.2 per cent increase in 2005, followed by a 0.8 per cent dip the year after. Barrett's expectations seem mirrored by market watcher iSuppli, which has reiterated its bullish September forecast for growth of 9.6 per cent during 2005. In an EE Times interview, Dale Ford, iSuppli's VP of market intelligence services, said the growth will arise in part because a broader array of memory products will allow vendors to continue to pump out chips without having to flood a particular market. "In the past, memory suppliers would keep the lines running, now they can reallocate production capacity," he said. iSuppli believes chip sales will hit $208.8bn this year, up 25.5 per cent on 2003's total, $166.4bn, and well below the SIA's forecast. ® Related stories Chip trade body revises 2004 sales downward September chip sales edge up 1% Chip biz slowdown to stretch through Q1 '05 World chip sales flat in August Slowing H2 chip sales to hit 2005's growth - report Global chip sales slow on inventory build-up
Japan's Matsushita and South Korean combine LG Electronics have both issued lawsuits against each other after both companies accused the other of patent infringement. Matsushita was first. It claims LG's plasma display panels use technology it owns governing the way heat can be dispersed from the screens. It asked the Tokyo District Court to ban LG from importing the allegedly offending displays into Japan and from selling those units already there. LG then countersued Matsushita's Panasonic subsidiary in South Korea, this time alleging a similar PDP-related patent violation. It has asked South Korean trade authorities to block the importation and sale of Panasonic PSP products. The company is also considering filing a similar lawsuit in Tokyo. If Matsushita prevails in Japan, LG said, it would be forced to complain to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). "Matsushita's actions are designed to keep a curb on the expanding PDP industry in Korea," the company alleges, according to a report in South Korea's Joong Ang Daily. The legal battle follows the collapse of negotiations between the two companies. Talks began in August, but neither was able to reach an agreement with the other. The spat arises from increasing friction between Japanese and South Korean PDP makers as the latter have aggressively challenged their rivals' dominance of the market. Fujitsu and Samsung were involved in a similar tussle in April this year, though the two settled their differences out of court with a cross-licensing agreement in June. ® Related stories Fujitsu files plasma display patent suits against Samsung 3D patent suit extended to Dell, HP, IBM, Sony, others Game makers hit with graphics patent violation suit Nvidia accused of patent violation Renesas seeks Nanya DRAM ban 34 tech firms sued for alleged LCD patent theft
Times must be tough for the bulk email outfit operating via a forwarding address in a west London business services centre, since it has just knocked a tenner off their "Unbelievable Secrets" email address CD containing 4.6m addies and some bulk mailer software. This once-in-a-lifetime offer was previously £29.95, now suitably reduced for the pre-Xmas rush, according to a hot slice of spam just in: BULK EMAIL CD just £19.95 inc. p&p and contains: 4,600,000 VALIDATED UK email addresses - Verified in August 2004, ensuring a low failure rate and only used privately. TO PURCHASE: Please send a Cheque/PO Payable to "Unbelievable Secrets" for £19.95 and send to: Unit 716, 78 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 5AP The CD will be sent by first class post and you will also receive FREE software to send 30,000+ emails per hour. Note: This CD does not contain any personal information of email address owners eg name/address etc. Struan Robertson, an IT lawyer at solicitors Masons, recently told El Reg it was almost certain that the email addresses were not collected properly. He added that since the bulk mail package bundled with the CD would be used without the consent of those in the firing line, users of the software are violating European Privacy in Electronic Communications regulations. Illegality aside, we reckon that if readers wait until January, the price of this must-have CD will be down to a fiver or less - if the perpetrators have not lamentably starved to death by then. ® Related stories Four million email addresses: yours for £29.95 Beware of Yahoo! spam scam Junk mail host nations named and shamed
Anyone who is currently reading El Reg in the rec room of an illegal immigrants' secure facility in the Home Counties in the hope that it might contain more useful pointers as to how to forge a UK ID card will certainly sympathise with the plight of poor old Liz Toon - Senegalese mortician on the edge: From: email@example.com To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: PLEASE REPLY Date: Fri, 5 Nov 2004 01:33:23 +0000 Good day. I hope this does not come to you as a surprise, since we have never meet before. I am Mrs. Elizabeth Toon a mortician living in London. I hereby write this mail to ask for you help on a matter of which I think is of good importance to me and also on which I happen to be helpless. Recently I recieve a notice from an attorney here in London who made me to understand that I have inherited a sum from a late priest who used to be the morgue priest who did all prayer for the dead. This priest had been sent on transfer since last year to a place which I know not. Its is only through the attorney's notice that I am aware of his death. This attorney made me to understand that all I needed to do was to present my identification and passport in order for the inheritance forms to be processed and the inheritance procedure starts immediately. Because of this I seek your help due to the fact that I happen to me a senegalese and also an illegal immigrant seeking asylum here in London, so with this I cannot present my papers to the attorney because I have none. So I beg for you help to collect this sum of money as the attorney tell me that I have less than one month to claim it. I would be very grateful and happy if you can pesent your identification in my place and collect this money, I have told attorney that someone can help me collect this money on my behalf and he agreed to assist. Let me ask for a favour, I am a poor God fearing person and this money means a lot to me and my peasant family back home in senegal at least if I get the money I can get legal resident papers for myself, please I am putting my hope in your hands because I have no idea of how these things works and I hope i can trust you not to dissapoint me or leave with the money. The money is US$750,000 and i will give you some when you ghelp me collect it. Please let me know when you get this letter so that i can give you the lawyer's contact, as he is await my soonest response. And I would also beg for your patience in my late reply of any of your mail, this is because I have very small access to the internet and this my email is hard to open here so you can reply at another email which open easy: email@example.com Thank you for your patience and understanding. And also bear with my english, is poor. God bless you. Elizabeth. Hmmm. We're not sure that Liz's story stands up to close scrutiny. The priest's "transfer" is just a little too convenient, and it's far more likely that Ms Toon simply murdered the poor bloke herself and dismembered the corpse before dissolving it in acid and flushing the resultant sludge down the lav - along with the passport she needed to claim the loot he spirited out of Liberia aboard a Red Cross flight shortly after the untimely death of president Charles Taylor. In any case, the idea of buying British citizenship for $750,000 is outrageous. You'll need a lot more than that, love, and if you don't believe us just ask Harrods supremo Mohammed al Fayed. A much better bet is to forget the cash and brush up on your running or tennis skills. It worked for Zola Budd and Greg Rusedski. ® Bootnote A hearty cheers to reader Nick Peltekakis for this nice example of the 419 genre. Related stories Anatomy of a 419 scam 419ers enjoy a five-finger shuffle 419ers morph into Murder Incorporated 419er sells herself into sexual slavery 419ers make guest appearance in Doom 3 419ers launch online educational facility
Customers of cahoot, the UK internet bank, were able to view other people's accounts after an upgrade to the service went awry. The service, taken down for 10 hours yesterday to resolve the security breach, is now back up and running. cahoot said the problem is fixed and lessons have been learned. The glitch meant cahoot users could view the account of other subscribers, so long as they knew their customer IDs. But it was not possible to transfer money from these accounts without also knowing the password of potential victims, according to cahoot. In a statement, the bank said: "This problem has arisen as a result of a change cahoot made to its IT system several days ago. As soon as we discovered it, we closed the site while we did testing and sorted out a solution. It has now been fixed and thoroughly tested." "At no time were customers in danger of having money taken out of their accounts because of this systems glitch, but cahoot takes all security issues extremely seriously indeed, and has acted quickly to put this right," it added. The upgrade took place 12 days ago, but the problem came to light after an investigation by BBC Breakfast, acting on a tip-off from a concerned viewer. IT penetration testing company SecureTest said the security breach at cahoot is just one example of a growing category of application security problems. "The network, the hardware and the infrastructure can all be as close to 100 per cent secure as is possible, but if applications contain flaws this is all useless," said Ken Munro, SecureTest's managing director. "In many cases 'hacking' is almost too strong a word. Five minutes spent online, reading-up on input validation and session management attacks, would allow most people to access sensitive information on many of these websites. Or in the case of cahoot, after a poorly managed upgrade to an application, people can even stumble on information by accident." ® Related stories Cahoot launches disposable credit card Cahoot: Another online launch fails to anticipate customer interest Consumers hit by net security jitters Big.biz struggles against security threats
Only six months out of bankruptcy, MCI has reported net losses of $3.4bn for Q3, due to falling revenues and a write down of the value of its network. The company had revenues of $5.08bn to the end of September, down from $5.97bn for the same quarter of 2003. But the main cause of the loss was the charge of $2.77bn that the company took to write down the value of its telephone network. Other telecoms such as AT&T have also written down the value of their networks, saying that regulatory changes and competition from wireless and cable-phone providers have made the networks less valuable. MCI's network spans 98,000 miles over six continents. The write down led to the company having a net loss of $3.4bn, with per share losses of $10.65, compared to losses of only $55m for the same quarter of the previous year. The company and the markets were upbeat about the results. In New York, MCI's shares rose steadily following the results and closed on Thursday up almost three per cent to $17.76. "Our continued emphasis on operational execution produced solid improvements in the third quarter," said Michael Capellas, MCI's CEO. "Going forward, our focus will be on delivering next-generation IP-based products and services and further improving our cost structure." The private IP network business does seem promising for the company. One of the contracts it won during the quarter involved managing a private IP network solution for Diageo, linking 281 locations in 53 countries. This will move Diageo from a frame relay environment to an IP network, using MPLS to provide network traffic management. MCI, formerly known as Worldcom, emerged from Chapter 11 in April 2004, after 21 months of restructuring. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories EC wrong on Worldcom / Sprint deal Major telcos and device makers go after Induce Act BT signs up VoIP with Yahoo!
At about the time that Senator John Kerry had accepted defeat and phoned President Bush to congratulate him, stories were circulating on the Internet claiming that the electronic voting machines in Florida and Ohio and some other states might have been rigged for a Bush victory. The claim stems from the fact that exit polls were indicating a marginal Kerry victory in those key states, but his apparent exit poll advantage was not reflected in the total vote count. This indeed was the shape of the story if you sat through the election night telethon. At first it looked as though Kerry was doing well, but as the night wore on a Bush victory became more and more likely. So what are we to think of the claim? Despite the "conspiracy theory", there is good reason to believe that it was a genuine Bush victory. First of all, the final outcome reflected the fact that Bush held a small lead in the opinion polls right up to election day. Although all of the individual polls were subject to a margin of error greater than Bush's lead, the aggregation of the polls was still slightly in favour of Bush (and this reduces the statistical error margin). The pollsters had been plagued by suggestions that they were not properly accounting for the youth vote and most, if not all of them, examined, re-examined and adjusted their weighting parameters in an attempt to account for the expected high youth vote for Kerry. The pollsters have a big self-interest in not being too far wrong. The indications, on election night itself, were that the level of disenfranchisement through technology failure, long lines of voting and voters being turned away from the polls for lack of proper credentials, was much lower than in 2000 and, although there may have been one or two areas where there were problems, there is no reason to believe that the election was skewed by such incidents. Another straw in the wind was the gambling money - which has historically provided a reasonable guide to an election's outcome. While it is illegal for most American's to place bets over the Internet (on anything), many of them do. Throughout the whole campaign the betting odds were in Bush's favour - in effect predicting a Bush victory simply by the weight of money that was gambling on that outcome. The figures for the total bets placed (on Betfair one of the leading sites for such bets) was $4.2m on Bush and $1.2m on Kerry. Finally, the results from Florida and Ohio, which were only marginally in Bush's favour were not particularly out of line with the voting in the US as a whole. As it worked out, these results seemed to reflect the mood of America. So what are we to think of the electronic voting "conspiracy theory"? Here too there are reasons to pause for thought. The companies that supply the machines (Diebold Election Systems, Election Systems & Software, Hart InterCivic, and Sequoia Voting Systems) would destroy their own business if it were ever discovered that the technology was compromised. Would they take the risk? I personally doubt it, especially as it would involve bringing more than one or two people into the "conspiracy", any one of whom could go public on what was going down. Also, bending the software to affect the result in a very subtle way (and get it right) is probably very difficult to achieve. The margin for failure is high and the whole scheme is very risky. There is however legitimate cause for concern in the simple fact that many of the electronic voting machines that were deployed did not have audit trails that validated the figures they gave. If there were any kind of malfunction in any of these, there was simply no way to validate the figures. The justification for complete transparency and validation of voting technology is not only desirable but necessary. Indeed if ever there was a case for the open sourcing of program code then this is it. One hopes that by the time the next major elections in the US come round, there will be paper audit trails on every voting machine deployed. Copyright © 2004, IT-Analysis.com Related stories Bush wins as Reps add seats in Congress No winner in US presidential election US presidential race comes down to the wire NBC deploys 'I can't vote' rant-line
BT's slice of the UK's broadband market is sliding so fast it has missed a key market share target it set just eight months ago. Yesterday, the company published "record" broadband numbers in a bid to counter negative reports about its recent performance. Yet the move has backfired because the figures also reveal that its retail market share has dropped to under 40 per cent. The figure is important because in March, BT said that it wanted to "maintain a 40 per cent plus share of the retail DSL sector". Yet the figures published yesterday showed that of the 3.33m wholesale DSL lines in circulation, 1.28m were operated by BT Retail. BT's own figures show that its slice of the UK's DSL sector has slipped to 38.9 per cent - below its "40 per cent plus" target. The scale of BT's slide is even more acute when you consider that at the beginning of the year BT Retail's share of DSL - via its BT Broadband and BT Yahoo! Broadband brands - was 46 per cent. BT's continuing loss of market share raises concerns that the telco is failing to make the most from the millions it has invested in promoting its broadband products. Coupled with BT Retail's mass exodus of voice customers, this is yet another headache for the company, which publishes its latest financial results next week. One industry insider expressed surprise at how quickly BT Retail's lead is being eaten away and is unsure how BT can stop the rot, especially since Wanadoo UK and AOL UK have both passed the 500,000 subscriber milestone. A spokesman for BT confirmed that BT Retail's market share has dipped below the all-important 40 per cent but explained that it just showed the highly competitive nature of the UK's broadband sector. "This is proof of what we've been saying - it's tough for [BT] Retail to compete in this space," he said. ® Related stories BT crows about broadband numbers BT cool on board rift speculation Wanadoo UK poised for 500,000th broadband customer NTL supercharges broadband UK crawls up Euro BB league table AOL UK cuts cost of broadband
Disappointment seems certain for fans of PalmOne who were looking forward to seeing the new 'Cobalt' operating system in new Palm handhelds, as president Ed Colligan told analysts in London yesterday that he "would not commit" to upgrading his hardware even next year. The Treo 650, launched last month in the US, turns out to be based on PalmOS 5 or 'Garnet' - and Colligan said he wouldn't even be offering that model to European users until February next year. "We've already built much of the functionality we need into the current platform," he said. "We made the decision not to confuse developers by switching, but to support the work we've done in enhancing OS 5." The Treo 600 continues to be the most up-to-date Treo available in Europe; Colligan has an explanation: "It's so that we can have it ready for a great out-of-box user experience when it launches with European operators." It will ship in Europe in February, he said. "We can't immediately ship to everywhere in the world. There's an enormous amount of effort goes to tying these things to the solutions of any carrier partner. It's a great out of box user experience, the one thing we think we do really well, which we're aiming at." No information was available on which carriers would take it, but it seems clear that Orange will be one of the first to ship. But no multi-threading? Multi-threading is the ability of the operating system to keep track of more than one simultaneous task, and a good example of how important this is arises if you install a downloadable application, like an IRC chat client on the Treo 600. It works - up until the point where the phone rings. At that point, it disconnects from the chat host. "We could do something like that if we wanted to," said Colligan. "It's a question of how we integrate the application into the device." Which, he conceded, means that the PalmOne family will continue to use OS5 for a long time. How long? He wouldn't say. "Frankly, we're keeping that to ourselves as competitive information," said Colligan. Nobody knows when we'll start the shift to Cobalt, OS 6, or on which devices. For now, we're saying that we've built the functionality we need into the Treo and the Tungsten T5 and there's no need to confuse developers by switching. I'm not even prepared to commit us to a change next year, or the year after, at this stage." Copyright © 2004, NewsWireless Related stories Danger Hiptop 2 Global smart phone sales soar PalmOne updates Tungsten T5 firmware
Episode 38Episode 38 "It's a work of art," the PFY sighs. "Beautiful!" I concur. "You've done a fantastic job - as usual." "Thanks," says Ray, our cabling contractor. "I'm well pleased with it myself. No problems or mods before I send the bill in?" "No thanks - and add a little bonus in for yourself for, I dunno, design consultation." "Thanks!" Ray wanders off and the PFY and I just stand and appreciate the work he's done. The eight wonders of the modern world have absolutely nothing on a perfect Cat-6 install, beautifully velcroed strain relief, smooth turning radii, all terminated with care at a pristine new patch by exception rack. I could weep! "Right, get two separately keyed high security locks on these doors - in fact, have them replaced with security doors labelled 'Danger - Radiation Hazard Inside' and alarm the area." "Aren't you going just a LITTLE overboard?" the PFY asks. "If I was able to, I'd lock a trained attack dog in there with a fixation on genitals." "Why?" "There's something about a new comms closet that just attracts idiots, it's like a wingnut tractor beam - they come from all over the building." "To look?" "No, to touch, they want to... destroy... the beauty of it. We can't have that! This is my new quiet place!" "Your what?" the PFY cries. "Quiet place. The place you go mentally when you need a break. Some people have ponds and some have beaches, but to me a brand new comms room - unfettered by random acts of cabling - is nirvana itself. It's beautiful ... It must be protected - Oh, and soundproofed, like an isolation chamber!" "It'll cost!" "I don't care what it costs, get it done - Now! When you've made the calls, bring me back a hammer and some nails - I'll stand guard meantime." The PFY wanders off shaking his head - for all his experience he's still an amateur when it comes to the machinations of an idiot's mind. The door is duly nailed shut, and contractors scheduled to arrive within a few days. As luck would have it, the contractors arrive the next day and I escort them personally to the comms room, opening the door to find ... ... it's exactly the way I left it. Joy of joys, saints of computing be praised! "Now you'll be sure to vacuum up all your woodshavings, ironfilings and everything?" I ask. "Sure," the bloke from the security company says. "And you're not going to run ANY cables near those ones, just slap a dialer termination point over there and piezo sounders there and there," I say, pointing out the locations on the wall with little diagrams on them. "Uh-huh," he responds . Three hours later I have the keys but I wait patiently for him to leave the building before running upstairs, unlocking the doors to find... ...it's still ok. He's been as good as his word, it's a minter! And the doors require keys from both sides! I lock myself in for a mental recharge, noticing - nothing, absolute silence in fact. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. Happy thoughts. The phone rings. It's the Boss. He wants me to reinstall his desktop machine because his REGEDIT session didn't work out well. What the hell, I tell him I'm be down in Five! Happy thoughts. The Boss's machine is a tricky one because he's somehow managed to damage his filesystem in the process and wants to recover some personal documents. Normally, the tool I would use for this is a large hammer, but I'm in a good mood so I spend the three hours it takes and recover his holiday snapshots - saving him the hassle of rescanning them. Happy thoughts. The next day the PFY comes by with the maintenance engineer for the building supervisor who tells us that at we're going to need to run larger pipes from the rooftop chiller to our computer room aircon units as they can't keep up with the load. It'll be costly, noisy and dusty for a couple of days. I just nod. Happy thoughts. A user rings and lives through the exercise. Happy thoughts. I get to work the next day and security ask to see my pass, like they're supposed to do every day. I show them my pass calmly and make my way up to Mission Control. Happy thoughts. The PFY, concerned for my mental stability, suggests that perhaps I would like an appointment with a special doctor who really cares. Shaking my head placidly, I lead him back to the source of all joy so he can appreciate… ... the two large chiller pipes running through the middle of the room. Dust everywhere. Water cutoff relay wires heavily cable tied to my data cabling. I ... A mains cable ... terminated in a patch by exception frame. H… H... It's no good. I call the buildings manager and ask him to bring the aircon guy up here ASAP. No-one ever sees them again. True, the 'Radiation Hazard' cupboard makes a lot of very dull thumping for a while, but on the one occasion someone decides to investigate they find keys broken off in the locks ... HAPPY THOUGHTS! ® BOFH 2004: The whole shooting match BOFH 2003: Year Book BOFH 2002: A Reader's Digest 2001: A BOFH Odyssey BOFH 2K: The kit and caboodle BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion We're delighted to announce that the NO2ID t-shirt is back in stock as of right now - very timely given the group behind the campaigning apparel - NO2ID.net - has just launched its NO2ID e-Petition to be presented to Downing Street in time for the Queen's Speech. According to NO2ID.net, this bit of e-lobbying is essential because: "The government seems to have decided that there is no room for any public debate and refuses to engage with serious - and growing - civil liberty and privacy concerns with the [ID card] scheme. The Home Office have not met once with civil liberties organisations yet say their concerns have been addressed, they avoid public meetings while briefing technology partners in private and they 'focus group' only those people that they know the scheme will affect the worst." And while your down there putting your X on the e-Petition before it closes on 19 November, you'll need a shirt to suit. Cue the classic NO2ID in two schemes - on black, as seen here, or deployed on a a crisp summer white. Sizes range from small to XXL and women's fit small/medium/XL for a man-the-barricades £11.05 (£12.98 inc VAT). What's more, Cash'n'Carrion reiterates its promise that details of every order taken will not be passed to the FBI or the Home Office, neither will they be recorded on a RFID tag and embedded into small children, nor will they be later found on an NHS secure server discarded in a skip. And you can't say fairer than that. Buy the NO2ID shirt right here, right now. ® Cash'n'Carrion newsletter Sign up here for our monthly merchandising email and receive advance notification of all new products which will be pre-offered exclusively to subscribers at a discounted rate. You'll also get a headstart on drastic end-of-line reductions and special offers.
UK small businesses are becoming increasingly baffled by telecoms terminology, a new survey has found. The survey, by Tiscali business services, revealed that over half of 250 businesses polled are confused by jargon and acronyms used to market telecom systems. Almost two thirds found it difficult to compare various broadband solutions, leaving businesses clueless as to what would best suite their needs. Figures also show that 38 per cent of businesses are using basic consumer broadband, a figure that increases to 49 per cent among those with ten employees or less. Tiscali argue that such a choice does not supply businesses, of any size, with the type of bandwidth, technical support and security that they require. Nathan Francis, general manager of Tiscali business services, said: "Broadband offers many benefits to small businesses. "However, if they aren't getting to the right broadband package to support their specific business needs because of confusing technical jargon, it is a bad thing for everybody concerned, the supplier, the carrier, the UK economy and most importantly the small business." When asked if they believed their broadband choice to be the best, most cost-effective solution, just over half of businesses could give a positive response. Francis said, "Educating small business to ensure that they get to the right, most cost effective broadband solution for them must be the priority of suppliers to this sector and the UK government." Copyright © 2004, Related stories UK.biz at ease with data protection UK.biz likes buying online UK.biz urged to get online
It's only just started shipping its Gizmondo handheld games console but Tiger Telematics has already said it plans to challenge the likes of Nokia, Sony Ericsson, Motorola, HTC, PalmOne and Research in Motion with a smart phone product. Dubbed 'Bizmondo', the unit is essentially an enterprise-oriented version of the Gizmondo, incorporating that machine's GPS support, GSM/GPRS and Bluetooth connectivity, along with its MP3 audio and MPEG 4 video playback features. The announcement follows Tiger's acquisition of UK-based corporate-oriented real-time application delivery software developer Integra SP. Integra's AltioLive product essentially provided a way of connecting clients to enterprise applications through a browser-launched Java client. Such a system would naturally form the foundation for Bizmondo's push email/PIM functionality and provide the ability to tie the handheld into enterprise applications and data. Integra will continue to develop, support and offer AltioLive. And presumably it will in due course promote Bizmondo to its corporate customers, among whom it counts heavyweights in the financial services sectors, including Nasdaq, Deutsche Borse, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Coutts, Bank of America and ABN Amro. Other customers include Reuters, Bloomberg and Sun Microsystems. The acquisition requires Integra shareholder approval but if that is granted, the deal will be completed by the end of the month. The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Earlier this week, Tiger announced its acquisition of troubled UK games developer Warthog for $8m. ® Related stories Gizmondo grabs troubled UK games maker Gizmondo UK debut set for 29 October Gizmondo fishes for game coders with cash fund fly Gizmondo pushes Button after Jordan F1 deal deflates Gametrac morphs into, er, Gizmondo
Intel is gearing up to create a Centrino-style brand and platform for 'digital home'-oriented PCs, it has emerged. Codenamed 'East Fork' - after the Ohio state park, apparently - the platform centres on 'Smithfield', the upcoming dual-core Pentium 4 CPU, and 'Lakeport', Intel's next-generation desktop chipset. Like Centrino, East Fork will also have a wireless component - almost certainly the 'Caswell 2' module that Intel chipset marketing chief Sunil Kumar was reported to have mentioned this week as a Lakeport component. Caswell 2 contains is believed to contain Intel's 'Calexico 2' tri-mode Wi-Fi chipset. Smithfield, Lakeport, and Caswell 2 are all due to ship during H2 2005, and that's also when East Fork is said to be scheduled for a public introduction, according to Taiwanese mobo maker sources cited by DigiTimes. East Fork will form the basis for a major marketing drive behind the 'digital home' concept, though that's something Intel has been discussing for some time. Unlike Centrino, there's nothing radically new here, simply an alternative way of marketing standard products. But Intel has often said it's increasingly interested in offering platforms rather than processors. The logic is clear: this way it gets to sell not only the CPU, but the chipset and other add-ons, and it helps the company move away from its old stance that performance was all about megahertz and nothing else. Intel talked about a number of such platforms at last February's Intel Developer Forum, though they were then attached to the then-unreleased 'Grantsdale' and 'Alderwood' chipsets, and apparently offered more as broader concept systems than as a true Centrino-esque platform and brand. In the end, Intel took the former approach, in contrast with what it apparently plans to do with East Fork. The Taiwanese sources claim Intel already has some 50 partners companies committed to backing its East Fork initiative. And the Digital Home Fund the company announced back in January 2004 will be used to encourage other vendors to step on board, they say. ® Related stories Intel to add Wi-Fi to Pentium 4 chipsets - again Intel moots Centrino-style home PC platform
LettersLetters Let's start with the really important stuff: it is Friday after all. The BBC's new Welsh translation tool has gone down a storm: This technology could be used by El Reg... for acronyms! Every day I find myself reading an interesting story, but I get stuck by not knowing what "WXYZ" stands for. Keep up the good work. Mark WXYZ: Web-based... Xylophonic ...erm....Yankee...uh..er...Zebra? Ok, we lost it a bit at the end there. Points for trying? Re: "punter", "fag", etc; I have spent one-third of my life among Cockneys and the remainder among rednecks, but I haven't found an american equivalent to "Fwaooorr!" Gareth We bet you get invited to all the best parties with a pedigree like that... This is a great idea, but I already have something similar as an extension to firefox. It works on any website. The extension is "dictionary search" here and you can set it up to translate using the various free translation tools on the web. It doesn't sound quite as convenient as having tootips appearing (you have to select, then right click) but it does work with any web page. Darius A "big congratulatory pat" indeed. More like a boot up the jacksie, methinks. Post, pipped. Cigar, none: Regards Paul Seems young Oliver touched a few nerves with his rant on the IT skills shortage story. We had a lot of letters on this one. The general gist of most was that he should stop whining and start playing with more technology in his own time, although some were a little more supportive. A couple of good ideas for recent graduates as to how to get their foot on that slippery first rung, too: Oliver said: "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!" That's possibly the stupidest thing I've ever heard. Are you incapable of setting out to learn something on your own, Oliver? And you have a degree? Why? The best kind of learnt knowledge is that which the student set out to learn off their own bat; it's more thorough, more motivated and undoubtedly more interesting than any taught knowledge could ever be. Jasmine The assertion made in one of your published e-mails stated that the only way to get a job in IT was to have experience is correct. However, getting a job is not the only way to get experience. As an Apple computer refugee, who lost my shirt in the Dot Com Bust, I had to retool in skills since working for Apple was not going to be an option. Thus, I took a crap job, ordered a T1, and proceeded to learn how to secure and administer Linux servers. Almost 5 years later, I have a profitable hosting business, three or four good corporate clients, and enough money to pay my bills and keep the wife and the cat happy. Some of my contemporaries are still unemployed or "working at McDonalds". It takes a certain kind of Lemming to break into the corporate world, make a success of it, and maintain some semblance of emotional health. There are other options. Mine option is hard work. But then again, I do what I love. Maybe that's the difference. And while I have 11 years experience in my field, my previous career was as a guitarist. If you think corporate job seekers have it bad- trying being a music performance major.... Michael Well if you really think that "you only learn something if it's taught to you", then stop wondering why some guy from India or Eastern Europe is going to take "your job". I am 25 and have been working as a software developer for about 3.5 years, and most of the stuff I know is stuff that I taught myself. Of course you can not learn just by beeing around computers. You have to sit down and use them. Study by yourself. And if they see you are genuinely interested in learning, I am sure IT professionals will offer some help or advice. Or, if you expect to be spoon fed, you should just go get one of those "My job went to ..." t-shirts and vote for Dubya so he gets re-elected and he encourages US companies to outsource more jobs to my country so I get some more money and buy a nice house. Calin Any "IT professionals" who don't want to pass on their experience are not true professionals. Regards, Mike : Chartered Engineer Oliver said... "IT knowledge and expertise is not something you absorb from simply being around computers, you only learn something if it's taught to you!" Nuts. I'd never give someone with this attitude a job. If you're really into your IT you'll play with things, find problems and then find the answer yourself with Google and other sites from the astonishing list of on-line resources we now have at our fingertips. The vital skill in IT these days is to be able to _find_ the answer, not to know it already. No one can know everything that is required because the number combinations of hardware and software with which you can be presented is so staggeringly huge as to be effectivley infinite. Cheers, Charlie We also had this letter, looking at the problem from a different perspective: A survey was done in a certain trade paper in January of this year concerning the so-called "IT Skills shortage". It was fairly extensive, but it turned up the following fascinating facts. People under 30 were thought to have insufficient "soft skills" and general experience to work in any given job. People over 35 were thought to be "too inflexible and unwilling to learn". This leaves the current workforce with a paultry five year window to get a job, always supposing they have found some experience during the first years and, if they miss it, they end up on the scrap heap. I've had precious little work since being made redundant nearly three years ago, and I'm not exactly what you could call old. One of the main problems that was identified by this survey was that the major bottleneck was Recruitment. There are companies getting fat on folk trying to train their way into jobs, others that get fat on keeping their books full of ultimately useless CV's, yet there are still jobs out there. How about revealing the real reason why there is such a supposed shortage? There are too many people getting fat out of the status quo, and nothing is being done about it. As I said, this was all uncovered by this survey, yet I see no discernable improvement in the situation, then I see Gartner griping about it. The people at Gartner should see it from where I sit! -- Chris Nokia had a word or two to say about its rivals nicking its design ideas. You said something about people in glass houses and the relative merits of them lobbing rocks about: If Nokia are getting tetchy about other companies knocking off their designs there is definitely a bit of pot/kettle going on. Have a look at the Nokia 6230 announced on 2nd Nov : here it's almost identical to the SonyEricsson T610 as seen everywhere. Made me laugh anyway - I suspect that Sagem's lawyers will have a field day when they spot the uncanny resemblance. Cheers, Peter This is a bit rich coming from the company who seem to have ripped off the award winning Sony Ericsson T610 industrial design for the Nokia 3230, their new Series 60 phone. Bill Next, a young man writes, confused by spam, technology rankings and soul sales. An interesting mix, we're sure you'll agree: I'm ever so glad that Hormel is so dedicated to reminding us what their Spam is. I know that I was sure having problems keeping the two seperate in my mind. I mean on the one hand you have something produced for dirt cheap and is sent out to as wide of a market as possible, it is wrapped in packaging meant to look pretty and get your attention, it is meant to make money for a business, it has contents that are a complete mystery, it leaves a bad taste in your mouth, and almost no one wants to even be bothered with it. And on the other hand you have... Wait. How are they different again? Help me Hormel! I'm so confused. ;-) Insincerely, Arah Leonard Arah had more to say to us this week, more sincerely this time, apparently: "In contrast, the US scores lower for mobile use but has the highest number of homes with PCs and highest software spending." Wait. So because the US has a strong land-line phone network and therefore doesn't need mobile phones in the same way that other countries with a poor communication infastructure do, it's heavily penalized in its tech-savviness? Even though it ranks absolute top in actual computers, unarguably the effigy of technology? Is it just me, or is the legitimacy of the IDS's measurement of the ISI rather debatable? Besides the already mentioned gaping logic flaw, why is the 'Telecom' category defined by broadband, wireless services, and network infastructure and not by, oh, say, how many people have access to a telephone? Why is broadband even in the 'Telecom' section when it's a purely internet concept and there's a whole 'Internet' category all its own? And as for internet, why is e-commerce such a major part of the 'Internet' ranking? So countries with actual land markets that meet people's needs get a low 'Internet' ranking because the people don't need to conduct e-commerce to get what they want? And what does e-commerce even have to do with the availability of information in this INFORMATION Society Index? Shouldn't 'Internet' be ranked by the availability of public internet terminals (cafes, libraries, malls, etc.), of home internet access, of work internet access, of broadband uptake, of wlan access points, and of people with wireless internet access devices? You know, the internet. And exactly where do cable and satellite TV, or for that matter even paper-print and radio fall into place in the ISI? Are these not sources of information to society? Since when is information strictly limited to the internet? I'd like to know what makes IDC so capable to "Analyze the Future" when analysis of their own Information Society Index doesn't even make sense. Maybe next IDC can put out Space Superiority Index defined by the number of people who drink Tang and the count of how many people in a country want to be an astronaut when they grow up. Sincerely, Arah Leonard And just when you thought he'd said his piece, he's back with a rant on US stem cell research: Isn't it kind of hypocritical for Mel Gibson to oppose stem cell research on the basis of moral grounds and at the same time be involved in so many violent movies that corrupt our youth, not the least of which being that gruesome Christ thing? (Yes, I _could_ name it, but I like referring to it this way better.) Or is it not hypocritical because morals are more of a personal nature thing and everyone's are different so it's okay for him to find bloody movies morally supportable even if Joe Blow disagrees? (In which case why do we then have people like Dubya choosing our morals for us?) I'm so confused! Maybe I should sell my soul to the Catholic Church so that I no longer have to think for myself. Or maybe I should just take the Catholic Curch's guide to morality and molest some young boys while eating the flesh and drinking the blood of some dead god to antiquated candle light and organ music. - Arah Leonard We can't advise you on most of that, but if you are thinking of selling your soul, you might get a better price if you list it on eBay and let the press know. I am not going to contribute to your FOTW (I hope) but I wanted to point out some errors in your article. For starters I personally disagree with President Bush's position on obtaining stem cells for research but even so I do not like to see anyone's (even an opponent) position distorted. "W" is not opposed to stem cell research and in fact is the first president to have federal funding for it. How someone can "cut" funding when they are the first to ever have it escapes me. He does oppose creation of new lines of stem cells from embryos and here I differ with him totally but I choose not to get all excited - let the pro lifers and their rabid opponents have it out without me thank you. Currently the federal government has already created over 7500 units of stem cells (from "old" lines that did not involve the "destruction of unborn children" - a totally different argument) and of those 4000 have been sent to requesting scientists and institutions who are currently involved in stem cell research and 3500 are just sitting there waiting for requests. That rather destroys the "availability" argument hands down - there are more available for research than requested! If this changes in the future then my position is: use them from anywhere but of course "W" and I disagree there. Until that point is reached however there is no point in an argument. That is what I consider to be a "factual" errors in your article but I would like to go a little further and argue a point that is purely subjective. While I am all in favor of stem cell research regardless of the source (I totally disagree with the President) the idea of huge funding from federal or state tax money most probably resembles your NIH - a black hole sucking in copious amounts of money while giving back next to nothing. Federal and/or state financed research is most likely going to be given to well-connected but incompetent institutions and researchers. In my opinion the research should be done by independent and competent scientists who are more interested in obtaining results than government money and recognition. So in summary - if you are saying that the US federal government is preventing stem cell research I believe you are either misinformed or misleading readers. If you are saying the government is not providing enough money *for* research then we merely differ in who we think is best qualified to be funding/doing the research and may we both just agree as intelligent people to disagree. I hope you don't take this wrong - I really do like your articles and just felt I had to express my opinion on this one. Tom Staying stateside, and on the topic of the election, (although not delving too deeply into any of it, oh no), we have the following response to news of the NBC rant line: With Mary Poppins voting in Ohio, we can hardly take these "elect kerry" whiners seriously. The rant line is just for people who don't get their way and is an extension of the lying, immoral democrats in America running the country down. John Uhuh. Well, that's cleared that up. Now into space: Firstly, in defence of the Shuttle: For the attention of William Ready - not to knock the brilliance of private enterprise, but the Shuttle does rather a lot more than Spaceship One. Spaceship One trots up to a fairly high altitude which was once arbitrarily defined as 'space' and then hightails it back down again sharpish. The Shuttle actually goes into, y'know, orbit, which is more space-y as most people tend to perceive it. And stays there. And launches satellites, and things. Y'know. Space stuff. Adam Next, funding ideas for Beagle 3: the beagle2 folks should maybe try for a Firefox-style donation program next time. i reckon they could have generated a surprising amount of money if they took a lot of small contributions from net contributors. i would have contributed to beagle 2 if i was ever asked. James And a Register reader single handedly saves the world from invisible comets One word (well, two maybe): infra-red. Tom Now that's sorted, we'll bid you adieu for the weekend. Enjoy. ®
Emails claiming to contain video clips of terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden are likely to be example of a new computer worm. The Famus-F worm normally arrives in the form of a bilingual English and Spanish email, with the subject line "More terrorism this year". The message body states: "Last speech from Bin Laden. Please forwards this video to everybody." and includes a password - "cnn". If executed, the worm attempts to forward itself to email addresses found on infected computers. It also drops a number of files onto the hard drive. Fortunately, Famus-F is not spreading very successfully. Even so, vigilance is advisable. The worm is yet another example of virus writers using a topical subject to trick users into running malicious code. In July virus writers tried to trick users into opening a Trojan horse on their PC by passing malicious code off as a "suicide photographs" of bin Laden. This wasn't particularly successful, but that didn't stop the repeated use of the ploy in attempts to spread the Hackarmy Trojan in the last four months. ® Related stories Trojan poses as bin Laden suicide pics Schwarzenegger virus terminated Panto bin Laden in New York, New York outrage
FoTWFoTW Something of a rarity: a double flame. Well, one is a flame, the other is just another example of how to mis-understand an article. Still. Onwards: We featured news this week that a caricature of Osama bin Laden made himself rather unpopular when he burst into a rendition of Frank Sinatra's New York, New York during a panto in New Zealand. We wrote: The musical Ozzie appeared at the end of the Southern Stars Charitable Trust's version of Aladdin, provoking one parent to complain to the Trust that his inclusion was "callous", and a "calculated political statement". When we said "musical Ozzie", we were of course, referring to the singing Osama character, something we thought was pretty obvious. Apparently not. One reader rather politely enquired: Dear Sir, I don't understand your article's reference to a "musical Ozzie". While Australians are doubtless responsible for much that is offensive and vaguely related to music - Kylie Minogue, for instance - I'm not sure why you are blaming them for this one. - Donald Neal Psst: Ozzie, not Aussie. While another wrote, rather more rudely: Quick correction- if the play took place in NZ then the bin Laden character was most certainly NOT played by one of those criminals from across the ditch- Australians, also known as Aussies or Ozzies for those who forget the rest of the syllables. I don't know if you're American or English, but if you're English the least you could do is to remember your former colonies separately. And if you're American, odds are that you voted for Bush in which case you're a certified moron and I wouldn't expect you to distinguish between Australia, New Zealand or 'the rest of the world' for that matter either. Cheers M Hyde Dear, oh dear, oh dear. It isn't even as if we mentioned Australians at all. Anywhere in the article. Perhaps there is something we can do to help you distinguish between a caricature of a Saudi radical, and a nation of sporting overachievers? ®
Dell has become the first company to be targeted by the owner of a broad-brush patent that covers international ecommerce. The patent in question, 6,460,020, covers a "universal shopping center for international operation". It describes a system that allows buyers to order goods online, and have their international delivery charges calculated there and then. If they accept the total amount, they can authorise a credit card payment. The patent was filed in December 1997 and granted in October 2002. It is owned by DE Technologies, based in Union Hall, Virginia. DE is the company suing Dell, and it's after a percentage of the $14.9bn sales the PC giant makes selling kit overseas. In essence, Dell is being used as an example of what might happen to other companies if they fail to license DE's patent, the patented process' co-inventor and DE CEO, Ed Pool, told the Wall Street Journal. Dell has yet to comment on the case, but if it attempts to fight the claim, its defence could well centre on prior art. Amazon, to name but one online retailer with an international reach, has been doing this kind of thing long before 1997. However, Dell may simply decide that the cost of licensing the patent is lower than the cost of litigation, particularly since it will have lawyers to pay - even if it prevails in court. Dell is also the target of American Video Graphics, another little-known firm, but one that holds a number of graphics-related patents acquired from Tektronix. It is suing Dell, a number of other hardware companies and the leading games publishers for alleged infringement of its intellectual property. ® Related stories 3D patent suit extended to Dell, HP, IBM, Sony, others Game makers hit with graphics patent violation suit LG, Matsushita trade lawsuits in PDP patent clash Campaign warns of software patent menace Nvidia accused of patent violation Novell to defend against open source IP attack 34 tech firms sued for alleged LCD patent theft Patent landrush threatens Wi-Fi standards Microsoft FAT patent rejected
A qualified industrial engineer with an IQ of 200, five masters degrees wants a job in the UK after spending two years on the dole in Bulgaria. According to Press Association reports, Daniela Simidchieva is struggling to find gainful employment, even as a cleaning woman, despite being listed by Mensa as the "world's cleverest woman". Her mind boggling IQ is equal to that of Marie Curie, according to reports. She told PA: "I love learning, but I also want to work. In the last 44 years I have studied economics, education and sociology at universities in Bulgaria and Britain. I am qualified as an industrial engineer, as an English teacher and as an electrical engineer as well as having my five Masters degrees." She concludes that in Bulgaria "employers do not want clever employees". Given the skills shortage in the IT sector we all keep hearing so much about, and the need to get more women into science, engineering and IT, we're sure Simidchieva will be able to find a job in Blighty in no time. In the interests of fairness, we would like to point out that some people have immensely high IQs, and are very highly qualified, but are also staggeringly bonkers. Some less charitable folks might also argue that someone that smart should be able to come up with an alternative way of making a living. But not us. Oh, no.® Related stories Turing honoured with bronze statue 500 call centre jobs bound for UK Man sacked for hunting ET at work
Those US citizens who are as we speak packing their bags in a state of near panic following the re-election of George W Bush in the certain knowledge that waves of gun-toting, bible-waving, gay-bashing rednecks will shortly be coming to pop a cap in their pinko, Kerry-loving liberal asses should know that help is at hand - in the form of Canada. Yup, single Canadians are signing up in their tens to Marry an American, (motto: "No good American will be left behind"), an initiative designed to give marital sanctuary to Democrats for whom the US of A has become just too, well, Republican. The site explains it thus: Now that George W. Bush has been officially elected, single, sexy, American liberals - already a threatened species - will be desperate to escape. These lonely, afraid (did we mention really hot?) progressives will need a safe haven. You can help. Open your heart, and your home. Marry an American. But what, you may ask, can Canada offer Americans that they can't already get at home in spades? Well, there are a couple of things: Americans, sick of the political climate of their homeland, have long sought refuge within Canadian borders. And let's face it, when compared to the United States, Canada is a liberal utopia & we have universal healthcare (in two languages!), gay marriage, free marijuana for everyone, and we don't like guns. Already, our American counterparts are fleeing the U.S. in droves and buying up land along our borders. We envision a movement where everyone wins: Freedom of expression and a politically convenient marriage with love and igloos for all. Canadian singles, tired of the dating scene, are willing to act for love or just plain pity. Let's drop our borders/inhibitions/commitment issues, set a date, pick out our china patterns and wed a sexy American liberal. So far so good. And what might the red-blooded American ex-pat expect from the Canadian gene pool? Hmmmm. What about "I*heart*trees1985", who describes herself as a "full-time liberal arts major / part-time tree hugger" who is into "Mountain Equipment Co-op, vegan potlucks, mother earth (gaia), feminist collectives, dreadlocks", and offers "I do a wicked Joni Mitchell impersonation and don’t shave my legs" as reasons to get to know her better. Yes, we can see steam coming out of Dick Cheney's ears already. But if you think this is just a bit of fun by the Canadians at the expense of their politically disadvantaged neighbours, then check out the chilling facts on canada.com which says that on the day Bush gave his acceptance speech, 115,016 sobbing US citizens visited Canada's immigration website - 64 per cent of the traffic for that fateful date. The big question for the Democratic Party seems to be not who will be its next presidential candidate, but who will be left to vote for her - because by the time Hillary Clinton even gets a sniff of the ballot box, 98 per cent of her voter base will be on skidoos en route to their three-year-old* kid's first seal-clubbing adventure weekend. ® *Estimated age at next US presidential election based on departure for Canada immediately after reading this article, short courtship followed by marriage, conception and normal nine-month term. Related stories Captain Cyborg faces Canadian challenge Canadian Uni to run virus writing course Canadian PM takes a clubbing Martians invade Canada
Thirty-seven people have been arrested after the Metropolitan Police seized more than 100 firearms in a crackdown on weapons traded online. Some 700 addresses have been raided over the last four days as officers mounted the UK-wide operation. In all, 86 handguns, ten rifles, three machine guns, seven shotguns, 13 stun guns and a crossbow were nabbed in Operation Bembridge. Class A drugs were also seized during the raids. Said Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, Head of the Met's Specialist Crime Directorate: "This is the climax of a long-term intelligence operation where we have identified weaponry purchased over the Internet. I am delighted by its success and the sheer number of firearms, ammunition and other weapons seized will make London a safer city." The apparent ease to which guns are available online was highlighted this week by a Labour MP who compiled a list of handguns he claims were for sale on internet auction site, eBay. Steve McCabe, MP for Birmingham Hall Green, has called on eBay to pay closer attention to goods for sale on its pages after he was able to buy an air rifle on the auction site last month. He told the House of Commons: "The other week, it was possible for me to buy a gun from the eBay internet site. The way in which the sellers work is simple. They advertise an empty bag or box. The buyer bids for that bag or box, and when that is done, the seller throws in the gun for free. "This site is being used to facilitate a trade in illegal weapons," he said in a call for the Home Secretary to take action. ® Related stories MP takes aim at eBay over gun sales Illegal stun guns sold on eBay UK MPs take aim at eBay in gun smuggling report
It has been said before that the cost of IT training for those of us in the computer security industry is really quite high. After all, there is not only the cost of the course itself, but also the associated costs of hotels, food, and rental vehicles if the course is out of town. This quickly adds up to a rather tidy sum for managers trying to maximize their often decreasing budgets. But have those same managers considered what is the cost of not providing training to their staff? IT managers often have difficult decisions to make, and to offer training or not is certainly one of them. Do you provide your analysts with regular training through accredited vendors, or decide not to do so in light of the financial cost? Quite a few managers I know personally choose not to. They believe that if they provide training for their analysts that they will lose them to other firms. While this can be a very valid argument, it is also one on the razor's edge - by that I mean you run the risk of your employee becoming irritated at any lack of investment in them and their future, and they simply leave. Several of my peers have left perfectly good companies for this very reason. All of them felt that they deserved a job which provided them with current and up to date training. Perhaps nowhere in IT does that ring more true than in the evolving field of security. Those who have left a company due to training issues show that education is very valuable indeed. As a security analyst, for example, you must not only stay current with technology, but also improve your core skill set. Whether this is done by studying a programming language like C or PERL, or any of the many others, is immaterial. The point is that you have to stay current, else your skill set may start rusting out. Long gone are the days of cradle-to-grave employment. In our current employment environment you can pretty much count on the fact that you will be in a new job several years from now, and very likely with a new company. To that end you need to keep your knowledge current. You will be offering very little added value to your employer if you do not strive to maintain, and more importantly update your skills. Right or wrong, many employees believe that it is up to the employer to provide that training - and with that same reasoning, most believe it should not be the employee who pays out of pocket for these courses. This is a classic Catch-22 situation, and the decision on training versus employee retention can be a difficult one to make. Reality dictates that most companies simply do not provide adequate training for their staff simply due to financial constraints - and in fact, it may not be important to their long-term objectives. Outside of the government, military, and large enterprises you are very often out of luck when it comes to training dollars. That is a rather bleak reality for the employee of a small-to-mid size company. Paying dividends If you own or manage staff in a small-to-mid size company, it would pay you great dividends to set aside some money for training. You need not send your staff out on numerous courses a year to keep them happy. Upon an initial hiring of a new employee you should tell them that as part of their benefits they shall be given perhaps one course (or however many) per year where all the costs will be covered. The best and brightest security courses are not cheap, but their benefit to your organization can be worth their weight in gold. These initiatives would show your next prospective hire that you are definitely serious about helping to maintain their skills and investing in them as an employee. One way I would suggest to do it is by letting them know that they personally have a certain dollar amount allotted to them for training, and they can then give you a wish list of courses they would like to go on. Too often it has happened that a new piece of networking gear is bought and installed without any training provided on how to setup and configure it properly. All you may get is a situation whereby you are told, "here is the manual for X piece of equipment, read up on it and learn how to use it." I would argue this is why there are so many poorly configured machines out there causing major security headaches and allowing for breaches by intruders, exposing valuable company data. One has little choice at times but to simply read the manual, but it is a poor way of doing business. This comes back to another prevalent idea, such that, "all this security stuff does nothing for me except to be sucking up my dollars." Management often thinks this way when they do not see, or understand, the benefits of the technology. It is largely due to the fact that because the latest worm or virus has not affected them, and thus they do not see the need to provide training for their security staff. However, we all know that the very reason they were not affected is because they had trained and competent security staff. For the many people out there who pull double or triple duty at times, getting the latest training is even more important. Nowadays having the system administrator deal with related technology such as routers, in addition to all his other security functions, is all too common. These are not trivial components to configure. Learning on the job is a good way to learn, but it still cannot replace the proper training - yet so few want to shell out the money for it. I believe this is why you see so many network security jobs with an insanely long list of required skills, often starting with a particular certification. The person who left that job may indeed have had those skills, but how many other people realistically have such a diverse skill set - and do the job properly? To expect a prospective employee to have system administration experience plus be able to configure and maintain a router, for example, on top of specialized security knowledge is a little much. Many of the jobs I have seen advertised have come to this. They want everything yet give you very little in return to help you continually improve your skill set. And again, I believe this is simply due to a company no longer wanting to shell out large dollars on training. They demand that you have all of this knowledge prior to being hired. The problem is, if your company is not willing to provide you with this training how are you ever going to get it? We must all admit that management has a delicate balancing act and I for one don't envy them. Do you train or do you not train? Yet as a manager you must always remember one thing: it is an inevitable fact that you will always lose people no matter what you do. However, an individual who sees that a company is truly interested in investing in him personally will be more likely to stick around. Copyright © 2004, Don Parker, GCIA GCIH, specializes in intrusion detection and incident handling. In addition to writing about network security he enjoys a role as guest speaker for various security conferences. Related stories Virus-obsessed firms ignore insider risk Phishing for dummies: hook, line and sinker Free training offer is latest spam scam
The massive programme of legal action against alleged infringers of a series of patents covering graphics and other computing techniques has been extended to console hardware vendors Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo. The news follows yesterday's revelation that 18 PC hardware companies had also been targeted, alongside 12 games software publishers. The console makers are accused of infringing two patents, 5,109,520 and 4,734,690. The latter essentially covers representing a dynamic 3D environment and objects on a 2D display, and is the same patent the games publishers have been alleged to have violated. The former is entitled 'Image frame buffer access speedup by providing multiple buffer controllers each containing command FIFO buffers', and is cited in the action against the PC makers. In each case, the plaintiff is seeking a jury trial, and wants it the defendants to cough up legal costs, damages and both pre- and post-judgement interest on the damages. With patent applications stretching right back to the mid-1980s, why has it taken so long for key hardware vendors and games software publishers to be sued for alleged infringement of a series of patents covering 3D graphics? Because the current owner of the intellectual property in question only took possession on 16 June 2004. The current owner is one American Video Graphics, of Marshall, Texas. It's the company on whose behalf Dallas-based law firm McKool Smith - the name most associated with the current litigation - has filed complaints with the District Court for Eastern Texas against HP, Dell, IBM, Gateway, Acer, Sony, Toshiba, MPC, Systemax, Fujitsu, Micro Electronics, Matsushita, Averatec, Polywell, Twinhead, Sharp, Uniwill and JVC. Games publishers on the receiving end of a writ include Electronic Arts, Take-Two, Activision, Atari, THQ, Vivendi Universal, Sega, Square Enix, Tecmo, Lucasarts, Namco and Ubisoft. All these companies are charged with violating AVG's intellectual property rights by allegedly transgressing one or more of 25 separate patents originally filed by and granted to Tektronix. The patents were assigned between 1987 and 1992, and all were sold by Tektronix to a number of third-parties. Patent number 4,734,690, for example, the patent the games publishers are alleged to have infringed, had two owners between Tektronix and AVG: David G White and Research Investment Network, inc. Others have longer ownership routes from the inventor to AVG. The patents were sold by Tektronix at various points between 1999 and 2004. It's not clear whether any of the patents' previous owners pursued Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and the others, but their swift sale suggests they were purchased for sale rather than exploitation. AVG clearly feels differently and its mass-action suggests it believes it has a strong chance of success. Typically, IP owners pursuing large companies will chose one to fight and potentially make an example of in the hope of persuading others to sign up in the meantime and to limit their exposure should the action fail. ® Related stories 3D patent suit extended to Dell, HP, IBM, Sony, others Game makers hit with graphics patent violation suit Dell sued for allleged global sales patent abuse LG, Matsushita trade lawsuits in PDP patent clash
Microsoft has expanded its MSN music store to eight European countries in a bid to beat Apple's iTunes Music Store. The move is enabled by MSN's existing digital music partners. The Spanish, Dutch, Austrian and Swiss stores, for example, are operated by Loudeye's European subsidiary, OD2, which is the foundation for MSN's existing European stores. The MS offshoot is also partnering with CDON.com, a Scandinavian online CD seller owned by Swedish media group Modern Times. It will run four MSN music stores aimed at Swedish, Danish, Norwegian and Finnish consumers, respectively. The move follows Apple's opening a few weeks back of stores targeting buyers in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Greece and Finland. Even so, MSN hopes to attract more customers than its rival, because there are more PC users than Mac users out there. "If you take all the new countries, we expect to overtake iTunes very soon because we will have a larger user base to tap," Arndt Salzburg, MSN entertainment chief for EMEA and Latin America, according to Reuters. Of course, that assumes that iTunes buyers are only Mac users, ignoring the significant number of iPod owners who connect the player to a PC. Indeed, it's the iPod connection that's likely to keep iTunes ahead of MSN and others for the time being. MSN competes with Napster in the UK for non-iPod users. Salzburg claimed the MSN Music store was profitable business, but declined to provide details. ® Related stories Apple opens Euro iTunes stores Microsoft moves in on music downloads Music biz in unauthorised downloads shock Napster beams songs to Windows smart phones Grokster, Sony BMG to do legit P2P service?
Windows 2000 represents the "lowest risk choice of operating system" for Royal Navy destroyer Combat Management, and "any residual risks associated with reliability [are] well understood by the contractor", Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told the Commons yesterday. Responding to a question from Michael Fabricant MP, Ingram said that the selection of a CMS for the forthcoming Type 45 class of destroyer was the responsibility of contractor BAE Systems, but that the decision to use Windows 2000 had been subject to review. This was carried out by the Ministry of Defence together with "specialist representatives" from QinetiQ and the Defence Science Technology Laboratory (DSTL). As reported here, BAE's CMS subsidiary, AMS, has standardised on Windows for future CMS development, and this effectively means that any Royal Navy vessel BAE contracts for will use Windows. This decision was made in the teeth of vocal criticism from some of BAE's own engineers, and a considerable amount of rolling of eyes elsewhere. Register sources meanwhile claim that the MoD is one of the strongest supporters of Windows in UK government. The MoD effectively opted itself out of the OGC's government-wide deal with Microsoft two years ago, and is alleged to tell would-be contractors that Windows as its desktop standard is 'not negotiable.' Yesterday Ingram didn't actually answer very much of the question. Fabricant had asked if there had been an external review of the Type 45 decision, and from Ingram's answer we can perhaps infer 'No'. He then asked for a cost comparison between Unix and Windows 2000 as the CMS OS, and Ingram simply said: "The cost of implementing an operating system for the Combat Management System in the Type 45 is a matter for the prime contractor, BAE Systems, and their sub-contractor. The Department does not have, or require, visibility of costs at that level of detail." Fabricant also asked what systems had been put in place to cope with a failure, and what steps had been taken to ensure the Win2k CMS in the Type 45 was reliable. Aside from affirming that Win2k was "the lowest risk choice" and that BAE was on top of "residual risks" (Are these cookies? Spyware?), Ingram said: "The system design has built-in redundancy, with automatic, and transparent, switch-over to a back-up system if the primary system has a problem. This would provide continuity of operation and ensure that no data was lost. The system design also ensures that comprehensive hardware mechanisms will be in place to avoid any other safety or technical issues." So we have an internal MoD review with no external validation or public accountability, and we have no information regarding the yardsticks used, or indeed even what was measured. It seems however unlikely that a UN*X alternative as favoured by the old guard BAE engineers was put forward as an option, and it's doubtful whether the MoD will have given (or even been equipped to give) serious consideration to relative costs. QinetiQ and the DSTL could in theory have provided reasonably informed advice, but as we have no idea of the status of their "representatives" or their terms of reference, they quite likely were not given the chance. One of the justifications for AMS standardising on Windows, incidentally, is that it will be possible to use commodity hardware that can be swapped out easily. While one does not want to be shelling out £1,000 for bespoke spanners, this is perhaps something that's not wholly relevant when considering systems in hardware that costs billions. And UN*X runs on commodity platforms too, plus other stuff that Windows doesn't run on. BAE, incidentally, was the contractor for the submarines sold to Canada, one of which, the Chicoutimi, caught fire shortly after leaving port. The Canadian inquiry should shed some light on what actually happened, but a series of Parliamentary questions has teased information regarding where the buck might stop from Defence Ministers. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon (always the charmer) had commented "I think 'buyer beware' is absolutely accurate", but the reality appears to be that the submarine was officially handed over to the Canadians two days before it left port, that the refit was carried out for Canada by the MoD (contracted out to BAE), and that the deal was actually a leasing arrangement running for eight years from 2nd October 2004, with Canada paying a nominal £1 at the end to assume full ownership. There's no question of the Chicoutimi running Windows, of course, but we'd just like our Canadian readers to know we're keeping an eye on this one. So far it seems pretty clear where liability will lie (not a bad expression for a politician's tombstone, that), if the goods turn out to have been defective. We're conscious we might have been a little too nice to QinetiQ back there, so just to set the record straight we'll remind people what QinetiQ, formerly the Government-owned Defence Evaluation and Research Agency, was using its Windows desktops to research in 1998. We accept QinetiQ has long-since paid its debt to society, and is now perfectly clean. But we'll be round to check later. (that's enough digressions - Ed) ® Related links OSS torpedoed: Royal Navy will run on Windows for Warships ATMs in peril from computer worms?
A senior member of the UK's leading internet trade body resigned today after losing the confidence of fellow board members. Stephen Dyer, chairman of Mailbox Internet Ltd and until today one of ten directors on the board of the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA), said he was forced out of the job because of his support for rival trade group UKIF. UKIF (UK Internet Federation) first surfaced in August to lobby against wholesale broadband price hikes which it claimed could lead to dozens of smaller ISPs going bust. However, the emergence of UKIF caused friction with ISPA and now it appears that Mr Dyer has become a casualty of that rift. In a personal statement Dyer wrote: "Whilst being an ISPA Council member, during the last few months I have supported the UKIF initiative to defend members of ISPA, the wider industry and my own company from a serious threat due to new developments in the structure of BT pricing and OFCOM regulation in relation to Broadband. "However in practice the perception of UKIF as a possible competitor to ISPA has created distrust on the ISPA Council to the extent that they today have voted that I should cease to be a director. "Faced with this distrust, and mindful of the damage that ISPA might suffer in any prolonged and divisive EGM process, I have today tendered my resignation from the ISPA Council." A spokesman for ISP confirmed that the ISPA's governing body met today and that Dyer had resigned. ® Related stories 70 UK ISPs in anti-BT uprising ISPs tackle Ofcom over BT broadband price hike 'Large number' of ISPs face ruin - UKIF New e-minister urged to intervene in broadband row Ofcom must answer broadband price hike charges - MP
The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has doubled the bounty it will pay to people who shop their employers for using illegally pirated software, taking the upper limit to £20,000 until the end of the year. Historically, the organisation has paid 10 per cent of the value of recovered software to the person who tipped them off, but the most it would pay out in the UK was £10k. By raising this ceiling, the BSA hopes to generate more tips from people working within larger companies. Research into staff attitudes to pirated software found that 48 per cent of people would be bothered if their company used pirated software - the majority (57 per cent) of those saying that it was an indication of poor management. Others were worried about breaking the law themselves (21 per cent) while another 11 per cent worried that they could even be prosecuted. Similar numbers (61 per cent) said that there was no justification for acquiring pirated goods, while 41 per cent said there should be penalties in place for merely using software that was pirated. Staffers who reckon their company has £200k worth of dodgy software kicking about the place, and fancy a £20k Christmas bonus, can shop their bosses to the BSA on this website. ® Related stories UK firm fined £30K for dodgy software 11 charged over 'biggest-ever' MS piracy bust German lawyer arrested in piracy crackdown Reg readers name BSA antipiracy weasel
Election 2004Election 2004 A newspaper columnist has called for the old-fashioned, "left wing" Democratic Party to be replaced by a new, emergent party of computer nerds. Free-marketeer Dan Gillmor of Silicon Valley's San Jose Mercury urges the Democrats to abandon "old, discredited politics", while an "increasingly radical middle" needs a new party with some "creative thinking". From where will this come? In a column published the same day, he tells us. Writing before the outcome was known, Gillmor enthuses about "the most exciting development ... the new world of cyber-politics," where the "expanded horizons" on offer should cancel out the groupthink, which he briefly acknowledges, and lead to greater accountability and participation. Such settler rhetoric - "new world", "horizons" - is familiar stuff from techno utopians. So too is the hope, amongst many intelligent, impatient people with a reluctance to develop their social skills, that we must be able to do better. (Bill Gates doesn't have the patience or inclination to watch TV, and many internet activists don't have the patience or inclination to persuade a stranger, which is a lot more difficult and unrewarding.) We briefly heard about "Emergent Democracy" last Spring, although it disappeared in about the time it takes you to say "Second Superpower". But we're sure to hear more about this itchy, push-button, "interactive" version of democracy, a kind of thumbs down at the Roman Coliseum, in the future. Maybe Dan will become its Arthur Schlesinger. But for now, how can a computer-savvy nerd party help? We don't see Eliot Spitzer, the New York attorney general, having trouble being re-elected, and the man's been described as a "one-man socialist Torquemada." Because politics is n-dimensional, based on values and not some right-left scale, his "old fashioned" efforts to remind corporations of their social responsibilities may well be very popular if put to the public. [*]So it isn't clear that the Democrats must abandon the idea that we're happier when the corporations are left to manage themselves. Nor is it clear that the internet is a net civic good, yet, or that it increased voter turnout more than other factors did in the 2004 election. So the conclusion that we're then invited to draw - that the Democrats are doomed because they're lagging in some kind of technological arms race - doesn't necessarily follow. But let's take each one of these ideas in turn. Man machine Such settler rhetoric flourishes where a sensible grasp of what humans can do, and what the machines can do, is out of kilter. Wild and improbable visions often follow. When something good happens, people are quick to praise the machines. "If people are more moved than ever to participate, I'm betting that the Net played a big role," writes Dan. But if something bad happens, we blame stupid humans for not "getting it". Voters in Texas using machines from Hart InterCivic, discovered that their votes were nullified when they browsed the ballot by turning a wheel. "It's not a machine issue," Shafer said. "It's voters not properly following the instructions." And you might ask, who's fault is it that the Jim Crow boxes were so badly designed? (Dan, to his great credit, urged Californian voters to demand an auditable paper ballot this week, and castigated election officials for not making voters aware that they had the option.) But the echo chamber effect won't go away, because it's a defining characteristic of computer-mediated communications everywhere, and not just in this deeply polarized country. My colleague Thomas Greene puts it most succinctly. "You can say something someone disagrees with at a party, and they'll talk to you. Try doing this online." Where the barriers to participation are low, the barriers to making a hurried exit are equally low. There are no social obligations to sticking around, unlike in the real world. (There are subtle factors within the overall trend. Today's thin-skinned ego-driven weblogger may simply have been yesterday's Usenet faint heart, for example. And well-designed software can encourage better online participation: the DailyKos abandoned weblog software for the much more community-orientated Scoop system, and became the Slashdot of politics - only one where people say interesting things politely.) The settler iconography is no accident: the idea that everything "old fashioned" must be discarded, and everything is new again. "Like the American settlers, internet dwellers create a myth that there was no politics before they arrived," Will Davies pointed out, in a brilliant talk at NotCon this year. They needed to do this to ignore the fact that the land was already occupied. "To the same end, internet settlers choose to ignore the historical and sociological facts of how the internet is run, and who can't get on to it and why, and the mechanisms used online to divide people." Gated communities substitute group for social, and "cease to question the macro institutions and systems around them." The gated communities have already gone up, on the internet. One of its founding engineers, Karl Auerbach told your reporter earlier this year that physically, as well as sociologically, "The internet is balkanizing. Communities of trust are forming in which traffic is accepted only from known friends." Remind you of anything? What this leads to is a false sense of reality. Howard Dean supporters had a tremendous disappointment when man and message failed to resonate in Meatspace. The noise of online participation isn't a very reliable indicator of what people are really thinking or doing. "Everyone I know voted Democrat," people asked yesterday "How could this happen?" In fact, voter turnout rose little in prosperous areas with high broadband penetration, but dramatically in areas where broadband penetration was lowest: up over ten per cent in Mississippi, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico. Meanwhile, the cornerstones of civic life - community and church groups - were far more effective in getting out the vote. These delivered a Republican victory. So for Doctor Gillmor to prescribe the ailing patient 'more internet' is a strange choice. For him to advocate abandoning the US left's organizational vehicle (with one current useless owner, but a proven track record of some moderate success, if you look at the log book) makes senses only if, like Dan, you don't think think the left should have an effective vehicle at all. (He wants a "radical center", remember . On being asked to abandon the project, progressives might be tempted to echo Gandhi, who when asked what he thought of western civilization, replied "I think it would be a good idea!" Giving up barely after we've started, on a center ground defined by others, or by nothing but technology, isn't an adequate replacement. For some people, technology is the answer, no matter what the question may be. But Gillmor's reasons for wanting a new net party are rather like, to paraphrase Kennedy, asking not "what can the machines do for me?" but asking "what can I do for the machines?" ®
Election 2004Election 2004 Technophobes and luddites won the election for George W Bush in 2004, not technology-toting bloggers, by turning out the vote. The giant, self-congratulatory humpfest that is the blogger nation really didn't do much at all for the Democrats, despite Joe Trippi telling anyone who'll listen that the internet transformed politics. For voter turn-out was markedly higher in the states with the lowest broadband penetration. Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York and California have the highest broadband penetration and all went to Kerry. Meanwhile, Mississippi, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming and New Mexico have the lowest penetration and all went to Bush. But the rise in votes was proportionately higher in states where the internet doesn't reach so many people. In blogless Mississippi, Bush received 666,000 votes in 2004 compared to 549,000 in 2000. That's more than a 20 per cent increase in votes. (Somehow we doubt that P. Diddy threatening youngsters in Mississippi to "Vote or Die" did much to inspire youth turnout.) Kerry picked up 440,000 in Mississippi compared to Gore's 400,000 votes - about a 10 per cent difference. What about a battleground, internet-wary state like New Mexico? The Land of Enchantment chucked 370,000 votes Bush's way in 2004 compared to 286,000 in 2000, when Bush lost the state. Kerry picked up 362,000 compared to Gore's 286,000. These numbers prove little other than that voting totals increased handily and always in Bush's favor in states largely considered lacking in IT but strong in Jesus. In broadband rich Connecticut, Kerry picked up 848,000 votes compared to Gore's 796,000. That's close to a 6 per cent rise. Bush earned 687,000 votes in 2004 compared to 546,000 in 2000. That's a handy 26 per cent gain. In New Jersey, the story is similar. Kerry pulled in 1.8m votes compared to Gore's 1.75m. Bush, however, nabbed 1.6m votes in 2004 versus 1.3m in 2000. With all those statistics out of the way, we're left with one conclusion. A year ago we were told that One Blogger is Worth Ten Votes. In reality, however, it may be easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for bloggers to deliver you the election. This is the most obvious and frivolous takeaway from this year's election/revival. For months, the internet was buzzed by so-called citizen journalists - otherwise known as message board tools - who convinced each other that they were making a difference. They often analyzed their own convincing and then concluded that they were indeed right. Then W. won and did so by a larger margin than in 2000. But has anyone told Joe Trippi? A long strange Trippi "What has been amazing this year is the creativity of Generation E’s members to spur and engage more of its generation to become involved and make a difference," Trippi claims in his blog. And later on, he writes - "Young Americans are awake like never before and studies show the earlier a voter becomes an active voter the more likely they are to be active voters throughout their life. Politicians beware. A generational giant has been awakened." There are so many things wrong with this, and with Trippi himself, that it's hard to know where to begin. Let's at least start by looking at what the droopy god of blog scum was trying to explain. Trippi questions the numerous analysts who don't believe the youth vote was all that spectacular this election. There were more young voters, but there were more voters period as a result of population increases and shared hatred. Trippi tells us that the pundits are missing the point. Close to 10 per cent more young voters showed up this time around, the youngsters "were especially active in battleground states," and many voted with absentee ballots, meaning they were missed by exit polls. If, however, more young people did show up, they weren't terribly impressive. All week long, Joe Trippi dangled his jowls on MSNBC, on the basis of an unsuccessful campaign, and we seem to remember, for getting himself sacked after boosting his favorite DRM company while getting the dumb Doc to advocate TCPA: the lock-down computing Microsoft wants to build into Windows to stop you sharing music. Again and again, he promised that the internet and bloggers would bring out the youth vote. NPR gladly repeated this almost every day. And then, like Zogby, he stuck to his promises despite so much evidence to the contrary. Again and again, he told America that Kerry had pulled in eight times as much money as Bush online. The perky MSNBC drones next to him guffawed at the rich evidence of web success. The blogger army fell right into line behind Trippi. It told itself how awful W was. It told itself how much "it" matters - how it showed those swift boat veterans a thing or two. How the internet is freedom and how rapid communication is "pretty awesome," as our president might say. "I’ve written a lot in my "Trippi’s Take" columns about how the Internet empowers the bottom, and how that empowerment energizes citizen involvement that can create real change in an otherwise top-down world," Trippi again writes. Trippi isn't the only one to blame. All the blogging believers are at fault. Even if Jesus set up a blogging cafe in the center of Rockport, Texas and extolled the virtues of a woman's right to choose while snapping pictures of gay weddings with his Nokia, it would have made no difference to this election. All of the bloggers would have told themselves about the miracle, while Bobby and Bobby Sue went right along with their business. The longer the Democrats pretend that their vacuum of righteousness is actually reaching the public at large, helped by NPR, the more trouble they will be in. Be it an internet wasteland like New Mexico or fat pipe rich Connecticut, it doesn't matter. George W. Bush kicked your blogging ass. Now internet zombies need to take lessons from those Dems that actually got out and participated in the world. Most of the evangelicals in Alabama certainly weren't reading georgeisthebest.typepad.com to summon up their inspiration to vote. No, they had a fearless leader screaming at them about fear and impending doom. If the Democrats want to make some gains over the next four years, they'd be well suited to get a message with some substance and weight instead hoping that empty technology will somehow save them. ® Related stories Airborne blogger has wings clipped Web's most famous hooker kills blog After blog experiment, Illinois village 'vanishes'
Microsoft is to give users three working days notice about upcoming security patches. Starting this month the software giant will provide a general summary of upcoming updates just before it releases patches, an event that normally takes place on the second Tuesday of every month. This information - the number and severity of security fixes and the products they are for - has been available for Microsoft's premium customers for over a year. Now it's extending the service to the great unwashed. Microsoft's Security Bulletin Advanced Notification program will give Microsoft shops some idea about how much work they have in front of them and thereby help to plan overtime. It might also help Microsoft fend off criticism sometimes heard during heavy patch months that it is dumping too many patches on users, all at once and with insufficient notice. But aside from these points we can't see the pre-notice notices making a great deal of difference to either attackers or defenders of IT systems. Those on the dark side are normally all too aware about which Microsoft's products have unpatched holes without Microsoft's minimalist pre-alerts. Microsoft published the first of these "upcoming attraction" notices today in advance of a patch to be delivered on 9 November. The lone patch next Tuesday (November 9) will be an "important" fix for Microsoft's Internet Security and Acceleration Server (ISAS) firewall and web-caching server. From next month, these alerts will also be sent out by email. This pre-notice coincides with the launch of a Validation Program for ISAS 2004 at this week's RSA conference in Barcelona. Microsoft is working in concert with VeriTest to certify that third-party security software can work with Microsoft's firewall and web-caching server. First to come though this process is McAfee SecurityShield. Censorware software from SurfControl and load balancing technology has also been put through the certification process. By adding third-party ISV support, and signing up hardware OEMs to pre-load ISAS 2004 on appliances, Microsoft is seeking to broaden the appeal of its software and challenge traditional security firms in the firewall market. Rich Kaplan, VP of the Security Business & Technology Unit at Microsoft, also announced the forthcoming availability of the Windows Rights Management Services (RMS) Service Pack 1 (SP1) beta. The release, due 1H2005, features smart card support and tighter integration with Active Directory as enhancements to Microsoft's product for controlling what users can do with sensitive business documents. ® Related stories Microsoft adds security layers to ISA Server Seven critical in MS October patch batch Oracle's first monthly patch batch fails to placate critics
Novell has responded to Microsoft's attempts to portray Windows as a safer proposition than Linux in the enterprise with a counteroffensive of its own. In response to Microsoft's 'Get the Facts' campaign, Novell has launched a site designed to "unbending the truth" about Linux. The move comes after Microsoft chief exec Steve Ballmer sent out a memo to customers suggesting that Linux might be more expensive and less secure than commonly portrayed. He also said that Linux customers risked possible intellectual property lawsuits. As throughout the year-long 'Get the Facts' campaign, Ballmer used third party analyst reports to bolster Microsoft's arguments. Until now, Novell has been content to stress the virtues of its technology in mixed Linux and Windows environments, attempting to stay above the fray by essentially ignoring Microsoft's campaign. No more. IDG reports that Novell chief exec Jack Messman is drafting a memo which seeks to debunk Ballmer's latest missive. Novell is criticising Microsoft for selectively quoting passages from analyst reports favourable to the software giant's case. Analysts say that Novell is doing much the same thing. Users ought to read their reports rather than listening to the spin or counterspin from rival vendors, they advise. As with many marketing battles the set-to is generating more heat than light. One important point - the timing of Novell's counter-offensive - has largely gone unnoticed. Yesterday Novell's vice-chairman Chris Stone unexpectedly left the company to pursue "other opportunities". Stone was a key player in Novell's Linux strategy and it's tempting to see the timing - if not the substance - of Novell's counterblast as designed to divert attention away from his departure. ® Related stories Microsoft delivers 'the Facts' about Linux 'Independent' report used MS-sourced data to trash OSS Windows v Linux security: the real facts