10th > December > 2004 Archive

ClientLogic job fears after AOL UK loss

There are fears over the future of jobs at ClientLogic's Bristol call centre after AOL UK terminated a contract with the call centre operator. The Bristol call centre handles calls related to AOL UK's dial-up service. But as demand for dial-up declines in favour of broadband, the ISP has decided to pull out of the Bristol operation and split its call centre operation predominantly between its in-house centre in Waterford, Ireland, and ClientLogic's call centre in Bangalore, India. Insiders at ClientLogic say the move has sent morale plummeting with staff worried that there are too few positions within the company to soak up those affected by AOL's departure. In a statement ClientLogic said: "With AOL's decision to leave ClientLogic Bristol, ClientLogic has offered all associates on the AOL account the opportunity to apply for alternative employment on other client campaigns within ClientLogic Bristol." No one from the company was available to say how many jobs are on offer and if all those "applying for alternative employment" would get the get jobs. ClientLogic is a subsidiary of Canadian company Onex Corporation and provides outsourced call centre operation for companies including Sony and Microsoft. ® Related stories Offshoring benefits UK job market UK call centre jobs on the up Call centres are a nightmare BT replaces 'red bill' with Indian call centre nag 500 call centre jobs bound for UK
Tim Richardson, 10 Dec 2004

Local e-gov is wonderful

Local authorities will save around £320m a year by implementing the local e-government National Projects, according to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. CapGemini conducted an analysis of six of the 22 projects. It concluded that as well as the cost savings, local authorities will increase total revenues by £60m per year, and deliver service improvements worth £1.3bn. "The National Projects are designed by councils for councils, and allow managers to implement an existing and proven working model designed specifically to meet their needs," said Martin Scarfe, chair of the National Projects Communications Programme. "I strongly suggest that officers read these guides, summaries of which are being sent today to every English local authority." The national projects were put in place to give local authorities some guidance as to how they should meet e-government targets. The idea was that councils should be able to access proven, standards-based products, services and implementation roadmaps with which to build e-services. Projects include things like the DigitalTV scheme, whereby local authorities run an interactive digital TV channel to publish information, and run polls and so on; and local authority websites project, which set out to develop a suite of applications that would allow councils to make the most of the services the offer on their websites. This way, any local authority that wants to deploy a particular technology should have simple guidelines to follow, rather than each of the 388 authorities having to start from scratch on everything. Phil Hope MP, minister for Local e-Government, said the report "provides a credible advocacy for the National Projects to key decision-makers in local authorities". This, he argued, will provide local authorities with a clear path toward meeting the targets laid out in the Gershon review. ® Related stories BCS certifies Freedom of Information Local government IT is great, says local government Building disaster into the network: how UK.gov does IT
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Dec 2004

WiMAX to steal 3G and DSL market share

WiMAX and other new high-speed wireless technologies are likely to take market share from 3G as well as DSL. In a white paper research firm TelecomView says that WiMax will supplement and in some cases replace 3G, DSL and other wireline technologies to provide broadband services. WiMAX offers high-speed wireless data connections over a range of around 30 miles. The technology features both increased range and download speeds compared to WiFi (802.11x), which is intended to provide coverage over small areas. Along with WiFi, other fixed-wireless broadband systems currently exist, including hardware that can deliver services over several miles. But many of these also require "line of sight" between a transmitter and receiver to function - WiMAX does not. TelecomView estimates that WiMAX will capture more than 40 per cent of the wireless broadband market, leaving 3G with less than 60 per cent in 2009. In addition to stealing market share from 3G, the report suggests that WiMax will also be a threat to fixed-line high-speed broadband services. "Our forecasts show that WiMAX will be the clear winner amongst the new high-speed wireless technologies," said Ian Cox, co-author of the report. "WiMAX will pick up 70 per cent of this new market segment by 2009 due to its higher performance and flexibility compared to the alternatives. 3G will be important for its mobility, but WiMAX will directly compete with DSL." "We believe that WiMAX will pose a threat to fixed and mobile broadband access technologies because it is a single global standard, like DSL, and will bring with it huge economies of scale, particularly as Intel and others are supporting its use in mobile computing devices." WiMAX is now available in proprietary formats only but a common standard is set to be ratified. Although 3G and DSL technologies are already live in most of Europe and therefore have something of a head start on WiMAX, many local industry players agree that the new technology poses a threat. "It's important to say that 3G is live now both in Ireland and in most of Europe while WiMAX in its full-format won't be available for between 24-36 months," said Charlie Ardagh, director of Leap Broadband, one of a handful of companies in Ireland expected to be early WiMAX service providers. Irish Broadband, Clearwire and Digiweb are also looking carefully at WiMAX. "Once the common standard is introduced we'll likely see a situation similar to that which occurred with the introduction of a WiFi standard in that there will be wide adoption," said Ardagh. "The introduction of a standard will result in cheaper kit being produced and this together with the fact that WiMAX has a far wider reach than 3G will make it increasingly popular. We also think that it will compete with DSL as the existing copper network has a limited reach." © ENN Related stories Libera shifts from 28GHz to WiMAX WISPs blaze trail for WiMAX Kent gets UK's first WiMAX network Intel and Clearwire forge WiMAX alliance
ElectricNews.net, 10 Dec 2004
bofh_sidey

BOFH and the serial killer

Episode 41Episode 41 "It... It's completely stuffed!" the PFY says, looking at the remains of a machine on my desk. "If you think that's bad, look at this," I say, pointing at the machine beside it. "Aggghh!" the PFY gasps "He's even... burnt out the interface chips... You mean...?" "Yes. We have a serial killer on our hands." "When?" "No one knows. These were found hidden in cupboards - there may be more! I think we're dealing with a pretty sick individual here who thinks they're a hardware tech, creeping around the building operating on machines." "Who?" "We don't know." "Well how are we going to find them before they strike again?!?" "I don't know. But I have a lead. I'd like you to go and talk to one of my worst users - a real headcase by the name of Hannon Bell, the Lecturer." "The lecturer?!" "Yeah, academics and beancounters are the worst for this sort of thing. Somewhere in their brain they believe that just because they USE a computer means they're somehow gifted in that area." "How?" "Well it's a bit like the people who had the first flush toilets - They thought they were somehow a plumbing specialist when in actual fact they were just crap dispensers. Anyway, I want you to go talk to the guy." "Where?" "Loony bin just out of town." "A loony bin!" "Yeah, like I said, he was a real nut job - fitted in with academics perfectly. Complete obsessive geek with it though - which made him dangerous." "Why don't you go?" "Nah, he knows me. I'll go with you, but you'll have to talk to him." . . . Later that day at the dribbling academy . . . "Ok, so this is the computer psycho ward. You'll have to leave your PDA here, though." "Really? Why?" the PFY asks. "Look at this >flip<" I say, flashing him a Polaroid. "My mum in a leotard?!" "Oh! No, not that one, this one! >flip<" "Aghh!" the PFY cries, stepping back. "Yes. About two years ago he told a nurse he wanted to Google some info on heart medication ... We managed to save the floppy drive ..." I wait back while the PFY walks down the corridor past the empty cells of Gates, Stallman and Ellison, and is almost to Bell's cell when some other weirdo shouts out something I can't make out. I switch on the receiver for the PFY's lapel transmitter. "Mr Bell?" "Yes." "Hi, I'm Steven, a Systems administrator and we'd like your help tracking down a machine ... reconfigurator." "You're one of Simon's people aren't you?" "Uh, yes." "May I see your company swipe card?" >flick< "C-loser.. Hmmm. Tell me, what did Jobs say?" "Jobs?" "Yeah multiple Jobs down the corridor." "He said I can smell your coffee." "Really? I myself cannot. You eat onion bhajis, but not today, and favour Chicken Vindaloo. Now, what do you want?" "I was hoping you'd tell me why our man wrecks machines?" "Simple. Tell me - how do we covet?" "What we see?" "No! We covet one better than what we see. We see someone with a laptop - we want one, only faster. Smaller. Lighter, with a bigger hard drive." "I see." "So I think you'll find your man has a slow desktop machine. Quiet, doesn't get out much. Probably has personal hygiene issues. Doesn't relate to women well." "You just described three quarters of the geeks I know." . . . Meantime back at the office . . . "It squirts the silicon on its heat sink or else it gets the power again." . . . Back at Mission Control . . . "It's all so... random!" the PFY says, looking at the machines. "Or maybe not" I respond. If we look at these in inventory number order, we find that the one we found last was actually the earliest machine to be mutilated - judging by the hardware address records out of the router. Which means..." "The person killed their own desktop machine first, then mutilated others to cover up for it in a classic organised/disorganised frenzied attack!!!" the PFY gasps. "No! Look, inside the floppy drive - what do you see?" "Nothing! Oh, actually there's some junk... Lotsa bits of paper, floppy labels, etc. get stuck in machines..." "No, Look closer." "I.. What is it, a moth?" the PFY asks. "No, it's a dead weevil." "So you're saying that the machine killer has some fixation on BUGs in computing and is actually trying to tell us something!!!!" "No, I'm saying the killer is you, and the weevils are from that breakfast cereal you had beside that crappy old desktop I made you use when you first started!" "Aaaaaagg!" the PFY shouts, running from the room. Classic Blunder. He would have got away with it too, if it hadn't been for those damn kids. ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here BOFH is copyright © 1995-2004, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
Simon Travaglia, 10 Dec 2004

Tinsel knocks out Brighton wireless network

Part of a wireless network in Brighton fell over this week after someone tied tinsel round an aerial. Volunteers at the community-based wifi network piertopier.net were baffled when one of their nodes located in Brighton hotel went AWOL. When they went to investigate, they found tinsel wound round the aerial after festive hotel staff had run riot with Christmas decorations. Once the tinsel was removed, the network was back to its old self. Earlier this week BT warned that some dodgy Christmas lights could be responsible for knocking over broadband connections. Imported flashing lights that don't meet UK electrical standards are understood to be the worst offenders. Said BT: "It has come to BT's attention that an extremely small percentage of seasonal lighting, which can be used both internally and externally may cause interference with the broadband service. "When the lighting control unit is set to any mode other than a steady state it may generate high levels of radio frequency noise and may cause the broadband service to lose synchronisation. "Investigations have revealed that the broadband service may be impacted where the lights do not meet the standards necessary for customer equipment marking," it said. Since running the story, El Reg has been contacted by one reader who has confirmed that he has been hit by this snag, although his ISP was unaware of the problem. While another reader said his DSL was floored every time his flatmate's TFT screen was plugged in. So are these freak events? Not really, says BT, which has discovered several electrical goods that make DSL throw a wobbly. These include faulty street lights, low voltage garden lights, a faulty central heating switch and...get this...a neighbour's Jacuzzi that required a filter. Could this explain why Vulture Central's own broadband connection keeps failing? ® Related stories Flashing Xmas lights down DSL connection M&S site falls over Brace yourselves for Xmas spam surge
Tim Richardson, 10 Dec 2004

Online stores 'pricing out' high street retailers

More consumers are turning to the internet instead of the high street for their Christmas shopping. High street retailers feel the pinch of disappearing footfall, as consumers stay home to take advantage of cheaper online goods, according to a report by CyberSource, an electronic payments firm. A recent UK government study, conducted by UK Online centres, found that consumers could save up to two thirds off their Christmas shopping by purchasing presents over the internet. The survey priced ten items at £1,128 when purchased on the high street, compared to just £761 online. Nathan Jackson, managing director at CyberSource, said: “Retailers who boast an online sales channel have a significant advantage over those relying solely on high street stores.” Online retailers are on the right track when it comes to online security, according to Cybersource. All of them polled by CyberSource use some form of fraud protection system, with manual review proving most popular with 73 per cent of businesses. Jackson said, “It is essential that retailers provide consumers with a safe and secure shopping environment in order to retain this proposed increase in revenues and to ensure that consumers log out of the festive season smiling and free from fraud, with a new years resolution to revisit the website time and time again.” Copyright © 2004, Related stories 'Clicks and bricks' trick tempts window shoppers Ecommerce to rocket in 2005 European online sales to outpace US Sainsbury's suspends online discounts Etailers fail ecommerce test Chip and PIN intro fuels mini-boom in card crime Online sales increase
Startups.co.uk, 10 Dec 2004

EU readers: order your Reg goodies now

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion EU readers please note that Sunday 12 December is the last order date for pre-Christmas delivery of Cash'n'Carrion kit and caboodle. UK readers have until Wednesday 15 December to pick up any last-minute prezzies, after which we can all relax and tuck into the turkey and mince pies. Any orders from outside the EU will arrive in the New Year. Happy Christmas. Cash'n'Carrion newsletter Sign up here for our monthly merchandising email and receive advance notification of all new products which will be pre-offered exclusively to subscribers at a discounted rate. You'll also get a headstart on drastic end-of-line reductions and special offers.
Cash'n'Carrion, 10 Dec 2004

BT names Danon successor

BT group finance director Ian Livingston is to replace BT Retail chief exec Pierre Danon, who leaves the telco next year. Livingston, 40, has been a member of the telco's board since April 2002. Before joining BT he was FD at high street retailer Dixons. The job of Group FD goes to Hanif Lalani, 42, who is currently CFO of BT Wholesale. Both men will take up their new positions in February. In a statement BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland said: "It is proof of the strength of BT's management that we have been able to make two such senior appointments from within the company. Ian's experience will be an important addition to managing our large retail operation, and I am delighted to welcome Hanif to the Board in a position for which his previous roles at BT make him exceptionally well-qualified." The fact that both appointments come from within could be another indication that BT is about to shake-up its internal structure in response to Ofcom's call for "substantive behavioural and organisational changes". Chief exec Ben Verwaayen said that the appointments "give a great basis on which to look to the future structure of BT Group". One suggestion is that BT Retail and BT Global Services could be rolled into one, creating a standalone division at arms length from BT Wholesale. A spokesman for BT said no decision had been made about the future structure of the group. Danon announced last month his move to Cap Gemini. Although the move was spun as a promotion for Danon, his departure has been linked with an internal power struggle and dogged by reports of a boardroom rift over the future direction of BT. ® Related stories Danon quits BT Pierre Danon and BT: speculation abounds BT cool on board rift speculation Ofcom tells BT: shape up, or split up
Tim Richardson, 10 Dec 2004

EU regulators probe mobile roaming charges

European telecoms regulators this week launched an investigation into the cost of using a mobile phone abroad. Concerns of the high cost of international roaming charges sparked the probe by the European Regulators Group (ERG), which brings together national regulatory authorities, supported by the European Commission. The expense and complexity of international roaming charges have long been an issue of concern for the Commission. Mobile operators across the EU will be sent a questionnaire by national regulators today in a development that ultimately lead to the imposition of tighter regulation. These could include direct controls on wholesale international roaming rates, which should, in turn, result in lower prices for consumers. The ERG intends to present "some preliminary results" by May 2005. Viviane Reding, information society and media commissioner, said: “I am fully aware, both as a policymaker and as a consumer, of the impact that high roaming charges have on EU citizens and on the competitiveness of our industry. Whether we travel on business or for leisure, many of us have had an unpleasant surprise when the next bill arrived. I hope that today’s initiative of the European Regulators Group will help us to identify remaining competition problems in the 25 Member States and to resolve these as soon as possible.” The review will run along side an anti-trust investigation into Vodafone and O2's alleged abuse of market dominance in setting wholesale roaming rates, which began in July 2004. ® Related stories Mobile operators face EC action over roaming EC accuses Vodafone, O2 of overcharging Brussels to charge Vodafone and O2 over roaming Operators tout FreeMove easy roaming alliance Operators wake up to mobile enterprise needs Related links European Regulators Group's statement (PDF) on its investigation
John Leyden, 10 Dec 2004

MS Eolas appeal begins

Microsoft began its appeal yesterday against a $565m judgment that it infringed on a patent held by Eolas, a University of California spin-off. The federal appeals court heard that the patent should not be valid because of prior art claims. The so-called 906 patent, covers a method for opening third party applications - Flash or PDF, for example - within a browser. In 2003, jury in a district court ruled that Microsoft must pay Eolas $521m in license fees for infringing on the technology. This was later upped to $565m. However, the district judge did not let the jury consider information about the prior art claims before returning its verdict. Judge Randall Rader of the Washington federal appeals court suggested yesterday that this was a mistake: "The point is that the district judge didn't even let this be considered as prior art", he said. In August, the US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) ruled that the Viola web browser, demonstrated a year before the patent was filed, did constitute prior art. However, the Eolas/UC legal team argues that Viola should not be considered as such because it wasn’t demonstrated on a computer hooked up to the internet. The lawyers also contend that Viola was abandoned by its creator, Pei Wei. Microsoft argues that the ruling, if upheld, should only apply to US shipments of IE. This would mean the licence fees payable would drop to around $200m, but News.com reports that the judges in the case did not seem to be convinced by the argument. The PTO has also agreed to re-examine the patent in full, at the behest of the World Wide Web Consortium, headed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Stephen Kunin, the USPTO's deputy commissioner for patent examination policy said that: “a substantial new question of patentability exists”. If Microsoft loses its appeal and the patent is upheld, the implications for the web are enormous. The question is whether Microsoft, and other browser wirters, would rather pay licence fees to Eolas and UC, or would re-code IE to avoid the patented idea. If it plumps for the latter, the knock on effect could “break” hundreds of thousands of web pages. The case continues. ® Related stories Microsoft wins another Eolas web patent battle Microsoft patents tabbing through a web page Eolas' web patent nullified
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Dec 2004

Planet Earth goes mobile mad

Global mobile phone subscriptions doubled over the last four years to reach 1.5bn by the middle of 2004, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) said yesterday. The growth in cell phone usage - particularly in developing countries - means that approximately 25 percent of the world's population now has a mobile. The ITU's annual report said that growth in mobile phone usage is outstripping the rate of increase in both fixed line telecoms and internet access. The UN agency reports the number of fixed lines has grown from 1bn to 1.185bn since the beginning of 2000. The ITU estimates 690m people have access to the internet. The mobile market reached $414bn in 2003, a tenfold increase since 1993, while over the same ten year period the overall telecoms market has grown by an average of 8.8 per cent to record $1.1tn revenues last year, Reuters reports. Mobile revenues are expected to exceed those of fixed-line telecoms for the first time in 2004. Mobile phones are much easier to install than fixed line networks where an adequate infrastructure is not already in place. This helps to explain the strong growth in mobile phone use in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former Soviet Union. ® Related stories Americas lead booming mobile phone biz Nokia aims to dominate mobile email 3G battle centres on consumers Global BB subscribers hit 62m Senegal seeks bridge across digital divide
John Leyden, 10 Dec 2004

HP launches low-end PC for China

HP, the world's second largest producer of PCs, has begun selling a 3,999 yuan ($483) computer in China. The announcement comes as major players in the PC industry start to produce low-end PCs targetted at people living in small towns and the countryside of China. Most of China's 1.3bn people live in these areas. The model, part of HP's Pavilion series, features a FreeDos operating system and a CPU from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD). These products tend to be cheaper than the more popular Intel CPUs and Microsoft Windows operating systems. Joseph Ho, a DBS Vickers analyst, told Reuters that he was unsurprised by HP's latest China move. "The market remains very difficult for Lenovo," he said. "Their backyard is on fire ... The China market remains very very competitive." A similar lower power PC was released for the same price by Chinese company Lenovo Group Ltd earlier this year, which this week agreed to buy IBM's PC business for $1.25bn. In August Dell dropped out of the low-end PC market in China, which is becoming increasingly competitive, as manufacturers turn to rural areas for continued growth. Many of the wealthiest residents of large cities in China already have PCs at home. In the third quarter Lenovo held 24.6 per cent of China's unit PC sales. Founder Group came second, with 10.3 per cent, follwed by Tongfang with 8.7 per cent, Dell at 8.1 per cent, IBM with six per cent and HP at 5.3 per cent. ® Related stories Dell to build second factory in Europe IBM sells PC biz to China Is IBM PC sell off preparation for a Power chip attack?
Robin Lettice, 10 Dec 2004

Southpaws thrash righties: study

Researchers have suggested that left-handed people are better at surviving fights to the death. Charlotte Faurie and Michel Raymond of the University of Montpellier in France found that the greater the homicide rate in unindustrialised cultures, the higher the proportion of left handed people. Industrialised cultures were excluded from the survey due to a lack of data and, according to the researchers, because some weapons, such as guns, used in such societies would provide no advantage for either left or right handed people. Among the Dioula of Burkina Faso, the homicide rate is 0.013 per 1,000 and 3.4 per cent of the population is left-handed. However, among the Eipo of Indonesia, there are three murders for every 1,000 people and 27 per cent are left handed. Faurie and Raymond suggested that the cause for this is that left-handers are more likely to survive hand-to-hand combat. Left handed competitors tend to do better than right handed ones in sports such as tennis. It is thought that this is because right-handed people are not used to facing lefties because there are fewer of them, while left-handed people play against righties most of the time. "Because of the advantage in sports we thought there could be a similar advantage in fights," Faurie told New Scientist. In many cultures, winning a lot of fights will enhance your status and, the theory is, in prehistory this may have increased your reproductive success, thereby explaining the greater number of left-handed people in more violent societies. However, some scientists are unconvinced that there is a link. Chris McManus at University College London, who has researched handedness, said, "I don't think it is anything as simple as this." He says that the sample data used is too limited to provide evidence of a link between handedness and fighting ability, and that data from industrialised cultures should have been included. He believes that left handed people may have an advantage due to their brains being structured differently. "It may be that sometimes their brains assemble themselves in combinations that work better for certain tasks," he says. Left handed people are more likely to have certain health problems, including immune disorders, and thus logically the trait should have been removed by natural selection. The fact that there are still lefties in the population either suggests that being left-handed provides some survival advantage, or is a product of left-handedness not being governed by simple inheritance principles. For instance, there is only a 76 per cent chance that indentical twins, who have identical genes, will both use the same writing hand. It is not known at this time whether being ambidexterous offers a significant advantage in combat. ® Related stories Families fight over PCs shock Stressed-out Spaniards attack computers with hammers Today is Left-handers' Day
Robin Lettice, 10 Dec 2004

Sprint and Nextel mull mobile merger - WSJ

Sprint - the US's third biggest mobile telco - and fifth-place rival Nextel are reportedly in talks about a possible merger. The deal would create a carrier with approximately 39m subscribers and a market value of around $70bn. Market leader Cingular bought AT&T Wireless Services for $41.3bn in October creating more pressure on rivals to increase their size in order to compete effectively. The Wall Street Journal quotes unnamed source in reporting that negotiations between Sprint and Nextel are ongoing, but a deal is far from certain. Any agreement would almost certainly be an all-share transaction, it adds. The putative deal would consolidate Sprint's position in the number three slot behind Cingular and Verizon Wireless and ahead of T-Mobile while reducing the number of large US mobile-phone carriers from five to four. A merger would give Sprint access to Nextel's business customers, who tend to be more loyal and spend more than regular consumers thanks in part to Nextel's popular "walkie-talkie" mobile service. Meanwhile Cingular is further ahead than Verizon in selecting technology to roll out 3G mobile services. Shares of Sprint rose from under $23 to $25.04 on rumours of a possible deal. Nextel shares were up from $28 earlier this week to $29.61. ® Related stories AT&T and Cingular tie the knot Sprint spends $3bn on 3G Cellular Nation looks perky again
John Leyden, 10 Dec 2004

Kazaa can't bar child pornographers, court told

Sharman Networks - the company behind peer-to-peer file sharing outfit Kazaa - has denied it is able to block users who use the service to share child pornography. Sharman Networks is currently in the Australian Federal Court in Sydney facing allegations that it created the world's largest music piracy network and knew that its software was being used to distribute music illegally. Earlier in the trial, Tony Bannon, QC - representing dozens of music companies including Universal, EMI, Warner and Sony BMG - dismissed Sharman Networks' claim that the company had no control over how its software was used. Quoting the company's policy on child pornography, he said: "If at any time Kazaa finds that you are using Kazaa to collect or distribute child pornography or other obscene material, [Sharman] reserves the right to permanently bar you and your computers from accessing Kazaa and other Kazaa services." The argument went on, that if Kazaa could bar traders in illegal child porn images, then it could block users who illegally distribute music. However, Philip Morle, Sharman Network's chief technology officer, told the court yesterday that he did not think the company could bar people who used its P2P software to distribute child pornography. He went on to say that he didn't know how people could be blocked; nor was he aware of Kazaa's policy on child pornography, reported ZD Net Australia. The trial continues. ® Related stories Kazaa challenged over child porn control policy Kazaa trial opens with 'massive piracy' claim Musicians 'unconcerned' about file sharing
Tim Richardson, 10 Dec 2004

EC calls for rethink of data retention proposals

The European Council has effectively ditched the British proposal for a data retention directive, and has instructed its preparatory bodies to look for another approach to the issue. This doesn't mean the framework is being dropped in its entirety, however, and it could even end up broadening its scope. The proposal (PDF) was first put forward in the aftermath of the Madrid train bombing. It laid out plans for laws that would require communications service providers to store user data for a minimum of a year, and possibly indefinitely. At the time, political commentators noted that it was very loose in its definition of what exactly constitutes "traffic data". The Council now says the British proposal does not go far enough because it leaves open the question of what data should be kept. It suggests service providers should be required to retain all the data "processed/generated by the service provider, even if the data have no interest for the service provider". Joe McNamee, a spokesman for lobby group Political Intelligence, says that this reveals a "scarcely believable lack of technical awareness", and argues that the problems with the old text will not be resolved by this new approach. "Note that in this document, there is still no mention of what problems this is supposed to solve," he says. The methodology in this policy area doesn't start by identifying a problem and proposing a solution, McNamee argues. It begins by taking a view that there is plenty of data out there that might be useful for law enforcement, and drafting a proposal broad enough to ensure all the data is available if needed. "There are already virtually no limits, beyond Human Rights legislation, on Member States under the proposal. All data produced - however ephemeral or useless - would need to be retained. 'Data processed' means every calculation made by every chip in every device in every link in the chain of communication of every packet in every transmission," he says. The original proposal had several gaping flaws. It did not restrict which communications systems would be covered by the bill, and could potentially be extended to include voice over IP, email, the web and so on. There is also no provision made for dealing with duplication of data: as it stands, service providers involved in sending and receiving an email would each be obliged to keep hold of all its associated data. There is also no guidance on how any directive should be resolved with conflicting legislation at a national level. In the UK for instance, it may well conflict with data protection laws. Service providers will have to store the data very, very safely, implying significant expense. None of these problems have been addressed, McNamee told The Register. "This methodology gave us RIPA, then Enfopol and now this," he says, predicting "a similarly poorly drafted proposal" will be on the table within weeks or months. ® Related stories The public sector's FOI Act challenge Digital storage and archiving = digital decay? Brussels tables data retention law
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Dec 2004

One in five Brits 'buy software from spam'

More than one in five British consumers (22 per cent) has purchased software in response to spam email, a study by Forrester Research claims. The study - sponsored by the Business Software Alliance - found that a substantial minority of punters are quite happy to make junk mail purchases across a broad range of products. Other popular junk mail purchases included clothes and jewellery (23 per cent), leisure and travel (20 per cent), finance (18 per cent), adult content (8 per cent), pharmaceuticals (8 per cent) and "business opportunities" (8 per cent). The survey didn't ask how many times spam-happy Brits bought products advertised through junk mail or how much they spent. Forrester's pool of 1,000 UK respondents were recruited online, a factor that could have affected their responses. How else to explain BSA / Forrester's surprisingly large figures? Appetite for distraction Taken at face value the survey suggests an estimated 5.4m-5.8m Britons* have bought software through junk mail offers. Anti-spam firms and economists talk of response rates to spam of around one in 10,000 or less. This sits uncomfortably against the idea that a substantial minority of people are looking through junk mail messages for bargains. The BSA said its survey looks at a different metric of how many people ever bought through spam compared to the percentage of spam messages that result in a purchase. A reasonable response - but we remain sceptical about this survey. Some people do respond to spam - otherwise it wouldn't exist. But the idea that Briton harbours five million-plus people who bought software by junk email strains belief. Nine in ten of those polled in the UK by Forrester received spam. Apparently, 23 per cent of spam gets read, according to the study. Again this figure raises eyebrows. The study also found 37 per cent are concerned that malicious code in spam might led to theft of personal information. Two in five (40 per cent) of respondents to the study reckoned spam is harmful to internet security. Buyer beware Most Reg readers are tech-savvy and are unlikely to respond to spam. But the BSA reckons many people are being duped into buying illegal software after responding to spam offers, without realising the dangers. BSA spokesman Mike Newton warned these purchases carry a high security risk. It has published a check-list advising people how to spot "software spam scams". Newton said: "Many online consumers don't consider the true motives of spammers. Organised crime rings use spam to gain access to personal information. By selling software that appears to be legitimate, spammers are hiding spyware without consumers' knowledge." Forrester quizzed 6,000 in six countries (Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, the UK and US) last month in researching the study. The global version of the study found that 27 per cent of those quizzed had bought spamvertised software. Other popular junk mail purchases included clothes and jewellery (24 per cent), leisure travel (20 per cent), finance (12 per cent), adult content (10 per cent), pharmaceuticals (13 per cent) and "business opportunities" (11 per cent). ® * In July 2004, 58 per cent of UK adults had used the internet at least once in the last three months. Out of an estimated UK population of 59.6m, 80 per cent or 47.7m - are 16 and above. There were 44.1m adults on the electoral roll for the last general election (2001), the number of UK adults is going to be slightly higher than this but let's take this figure as an estimate. Putting these stats together we get an estimate of 25.6m adults in the UK who are active net users (27.7m over 16s). According to the BSA/Forrester study, 22 per cent of this 25.6m or 5.6m have purchased software through spam. Forester said its figures are accurate to within 3 per cent, so we're talking about an estimated 5.2m-5.8m of Britons who have bought software through junk mail offers. Related stories OEM software scams on the rise Small.biz loves illegal software (true) UK's youth boards pirate ship to bootleg island Software pirates cost $9.7bn in Europe - BSA
John Leyden, 10 Dec 2004

In net politics, it's God vs Dog

Votes, Bits BytesVotes, Bits Bytes Net religion bumped into real, organized religion again at the Berkman Center's Votes, Bits Bytes conference today, held at Harvard University's Law School. The subject couldn't be more topical. In the recent elections, church-based groups got out the vote. Despite the view that a blogger's vote is worth ten ordinary votes, real religion triumphed Internet religion. Robert Puttnam, the author of Bowling Alone who popularized the term 'social capital', followed an ecstatic keynote speech talk by Scott Heiferman, co-founder and CEO of Meetup.com. Heiferman began at the pace of a runaway horse, and his frenzy only increased as he continued. "We're on the verge of a new people-powered era!" he said. Meetup.com wasn't just for political junkies, he insisted: it allowed single mums, pug lovers and expatriates to meet, as slides of happy single mums, pug lovers and expatriates flashed past. "It means more power at the node!" he added. As Scott's EPM (Exclamation-Marks-Per-Minute) rose to a machine gun tempo, he dispensed with sentences altogether, a high tempo succession of aphorisms. "We need a new term for this!" he said, and steadied the PowerPoint projector long enough to offer "Flash, Emergent, People-Powered, Long-Lasting, Open, Influential, Agile, Chapter-Based Institutions, Organizations, Unions, Coalitions, Associations With Card Carrying Members Engaged In Collective Action!" What did these groups have in common? Scott explained. The slides of happy pug-lovers, holding their pooches, flashed round again. "They're emergent! Esther Dyson wrote that the Republican Party was an emergent organization!" A thin voice from the front row - which turned out to be Esther herself - piped up, "But that was a very long time ago." Undeterred, Heiferman rattled on. "The USA was an emergent organization! - That idea of collective power! - We haven't unleashed that yet!" "It's collective power! - Linux! - Google! - Google is collective power!! - The links!!" The PowerPoints were now looping past us so quickly on the big screen, the presentation began to resemble a shaky 1920s animation. "This will empower people! Citizens - shareholders - customers - employees and other people - with more power!!" And with that, he sat down. Puttnam welcomed Meetup.com and believed that it could be as big as the boy scouts. Technology had privatized leisure time, with the result that people participated on their own, at home. Now, he hoped, technology could help people meet each other and build real face-to-face ties with people. He had been studying an evangelical church in Orange County, and confirmed that the church has played a central role in getting out the vote. He was particularly impressed by the low barrier to participating in the church by the group's 'Seeker' drop-in sessions. "Can internet groups achieve the same level of organization, eventually?" he asked. The answer, which he hoped would be true, was yes. When people make a lasting commitment to a group, they stick around longer and behave better. Part of the reason online conversations are so hopeful are articulated neatly here: you can disagree with someone in the real world, but it's hard to online without each party deciding it's less trouble to walk away. So what's to stop online groups from falling apart just as easily? From the audience, an atheist single mum who lived in an evangelical community marveled at the level of support given to church members, and despaired that the secular were so poorly provided for. An earlier questioner had made the same point. "White conservatives and African Americans have equivalents: they're called churches. There's no 'meetup' social networking institution for white adults. Where will it come from?" Alas, despite much talk of low barriers to entry, and the relative stickiness of Meetup-originated groups, both panelists' answers skirted around the issue. With a church, it's harder to leave. Afterwards your reporter asked Puttnam why he thought leaving a church, with its faith commitment, was just as easy as leaving a pug-lovers group? A colleague of his stepped in. "People leave churches all the time in the United States," he said. Oh really? If he left an evangelical church wouldn't he expect a friendly real world visit from some members of the congregation? The question left hanging in the air, as the party had to depart in a hurry. So for now, we must leave it there. Although the audience was invited to marvel at the achievement of Internet-based social groups, it's hard not to conclude that Churches have something even blogging pug-lovers don't have. And no machine is going to bridge that gap. ® Bootnote: Your reporter will introduce a panel discussion entitled "Mistakes Techno Utopians Make" at the Law School tomorrow, Saturday at 9am - with William Davies and Ted Byfield. Details here - all welcome. Related stories How organized religion, not net religion, won it for Bush US netizens: white, wealthy and full of it - shock! The great blue vs. red state debate Circling the wagons: the net politics of exclusion One blogger is worth ten votes - Harvard man
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Dec 2004

Former Oftel boss leaves Ofcom

David Edmonds, the former head of defunct telecoms regulator Oftel,is to step down as a board member of Ofcom early in the New Year. According to the spinmeisters at Ofcom, Edmonds is "leaving, at his own request, before the end of his three year term (which expires in September 2005) in order to develop other interests". Who cares. For many, Edmonds lacked the clout to deal with an incumbent operator hell-bent on doing anything and everything to protect its market domination. On one occasion, facing a parliamentary select committee in 2000, Edmonds was ripped apart for Oftel's failure to regulate the telco. "Frankly, BT was taking you for a ride," MP Martin O'Neill told him. "Your complacency is quite appalling. One can't blame BT if you can't police them." Said Edmonds: "You need to hit BT with a club five times and on the sixth they come up with what you want. We have had trench warfare all this summer." Last year, commenting on the dog's breakfast made of local loop unbundling (LLU) four years ago he said: "I was the first European regulator to go down that route. At no time did we allow BT to thwart what we were doing. I was a convenient scapegoat in a period when some of BT's competitors were seeing their very, very thin business plans lapsing because of the environment." And only last month in Ofcom's telecoms review, the new regulator said: "For twenty years, regulation has failed to fully address the problem of BT's control of the infrastructure connecting customers to the network." A spokesman for Ofcom denied this was a criticism of the regulator, but of past regulation. ® Related stories I was a convenient scapegoat Oftel boss Oftel boss is telecoms superhero UK Govt backs telecoms regulator Broadband Britain as bad as UK railways Oftel's Edmonds says LLU not been a success Oftel head flambéed by angry MPs
Tim Richardson, 10 Dec 2004

What mistakes do Techno Utopians make?

Votes, Bits BytesVotes, Bits Bytes Thanks to the good people at the Berkman Center at Harvard University, our very own Andrew Orlowski will be appearing in Cambridge, Massachusetts with a panel of his own choosing tomorrow. A tad predictably, he's chosen "Mistakes Techno Utopians Make" and he'll be joined by think tank researcher William Davies of the IPPR, over from London, and Ted Byfield, co-founder of the nettime mailing list. Davies wrote the essay wondering why the "social" dimension had disappeared from so much net discourse, to be replaced by group theory with its own, spooky "laws". He promises that discussion will get round to whacky ideas of knowledge, information, and the fondness for dodgy biological metaphors that make so many clever people sound like Chance the Gardener from Being There. There's a longer description here It's a 9am start, but entry is free, and there's lots of opportunity to talk back. If you can't make it, but need to get something of your chest, email the boy at the usual address. Let good sense prevail. ®
Team Register, 10 Dec 2004

The Supremes prep for P2P battle royal

The US Supreme Court is ready to put P2P networks, technology firms and your rights to share culture to the test. The high court today revealed that it will review a lower court ruling, which cleared P2P firms Grokster and StreamCast of being held liable for the actions of their users. The earlier lower court decision, which placed blame for copyright violations on end users and not the P2P companies, was a serious blow to the major record labels and movie studios. The media conglomerates have now gotten their way and put the P2P firms before the Supreme Court. The stakes, however, in this matter will likely be even higher than whether a couple of P2P firms are found to directly aid copyright infringement. The court will put the 20-year-old Sony-Betamax decision under the microscope. This decision made it possible for companies to distribute devices such as the VCR that let consumers make copies of copyrighted material. The basis for the decision is that the products can be shown to have legal, legitimate uses that are substantial enough for the products to be made available even if they can sometimes be used for illegal activity. In addition, the company supplying the device cannot be held liable for what a user may do with the product. Northern California's 9th Circuit pointed to the Sony-Betamax decision in the Grokster/StreamCast case, saying P2P technology appears to have many non-infringing uses. In addition, the court warned that legislators should not step in and crush a new technology just because it at first seems disruptive to a market. The movie studios, for example, tried to block the VCR, only to later benefit from a huge rental market. Technology company advocates are fighting to protect both the Sony-Betamax decision and P2P technology. They fear that invention around devices such as MP3 players, copying systems and even broader forms of computing products could be stifled by strict laws governing whether or not a given technology could contribute to copyright infringement. “While we are disappointed that the Court has taken the case, we believe strongly that at the end of the day, the 1984 Sony Betamax doctrine, which has done so much to promote technological innovation to improve the lives of consumers, will be reaffirmed," said Public Knowledge, a public interest group. "The big content companies are trying to accomplish in this case what they have failed to do in the 20 years since Betamax, and what they have failed this year to accomplish in Congress – to put restrictions on new technologies that suit their purposes not the needs of consumers." “The evidence that file-sharing has significantly hurt the large content companies is very thin. But the trade-off of giving content companies more control over the development of technologies and of overturning Betamax, would be very significant and very harmful to consumers and to our economy." The pigopolists, more interested in preserving their monopoly on content than innovation, see things in a different light. "There are seminal issues before the court - the future of the creative industries and legitimate Internet commerce," Mitch Bainwol, chief executive officer of the Recording Industry Association of America, said in a statement. "These are questions not about a particular technology, but the abuse of that technology by practitioners of a parasitical business model." Two courts have already sided with Grokster and StreamCast over the media powerhouses, and the Supreme Court may well do the same. This would be a big win for the technology companies which have much larger franchises to protect than the media giants. In the end, however, a victory for the P2P firms will likely mean even more lawsuits against consumers. The RIAA and MPAA have taken to suing their customers because they can't get at the P2P choke points. The case is expected to be heard early next year with a ruling arriving by July. ® Related stories Wippit to gain over 1m major-label tracks Shawn Fanning's Snocap touts vision of P2P heaven Kazaa trial opens with 'massive piracy' claim RIAA sues filesharing US students First deadline passes for Supreme Court Grokster case MPAA asks Supreme Court to crush P2Pers Court tells RIAA and Congress to let P2P software thrive US prosecutors challenge P2P companies
Ashlee Vance, 10 Dec 2004

Kerry net chief: cool software doesn't win elections

Votes, Bits, BytesVotes, Bits, Bytes Zach Exley, the online communications chief for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, offered a brutally frank assessment of his team's elections tactics today. It probably didn't win him many friends at the Berkman Law School's Internet and Society 2004 conference here at Harvard, many of whom have come to hear their faith in the goodness of the internet affirmed - but it's the most accurate account we've heard. Exley was on a panel with his counterpart Chuck DeFeo, eCampaign manager of Bush-Cheney '04, discussing how the net had influenced politics this year. The Democrats had no shortage of goatee-chinned web designers, but they were trounced by the Republicans' superior top-down organization. "The difference between the approach of the left in general, and the Republicans, is that the left was more interested in just putting cool software up. The idea was to put up the tools and let people use them." He derided net evangelists who believed that the answer was 'let's come up with new ways of talking!' "The belief was 'let's get 5,000 people out there and they'll talk to each other. but to put a president in office we need to get people organized and trained." In the end, he said, a field organization was far more valuable than blog blather. "The left's now saying we didn't have people on discussion forums," Exley said. "But we did. It didn't move votes." He sympathized with a young Democrat volunteer who pointed that the Committee's software - devised by the central DNC, not the Kerry / Edwards campaign [or ACT, as stated in an earlier version of this story] - was actually, um, pretty awful. She had volunteers aplenty but no decent materials for them to use. "There wasn't a shortage of people - but we didn't have an organization," Exley agreed. [By email, Zack explains - "We did put up a lot of great tools, but all desined to enable people to act in the field and to raise money. Then -- and this is the big difference between us and the Bush team -- we drove people to use them using the email list of supporters that we built," he writes]. He even accused his GOP counterpart DeFeo of distracting people from the real issues by talking up the magic of the internet. He accused him of "being a hippy". The clean shaven DeFeo didn't look impressed. So what did go wrong in 2004? "Republicans are beating us at what used to be our game: the grassroots approach. That's real politics," he said. "Basically [the Democrats] don't trust the people." When the GOP had lost elections, they didn't joke en masse about moving to Canada. They got their heads down and built an organization. Exley also provoked a shudder from the more utopian members of the audience by adding, "If Hitler had an email list and some online tools - yeah, we'd be speaking a different language now," pointing out that the tools can be used for evil as well as good purposes. The take away was pretty stark: after a year of Panglossian happy-talk from media outlets like NPR, the tools proved not to be magic: and the much-lauded "conversation" proved to be an irrelevant distraction from building a real world field organization. None of this should surprise most readers, but the fact that this is even considered controversial shows how much techno utopians have to learn. ® Related stories Howard Dean's Net architect blasts emergent punditocracy Dean campaign Waves Net guru Trippi goodbye Blogging 'cruelty' allegations rock post-DNC calm In net politics, it's God vs Dog Reach out and sneer: Dem radicals speak to the Red States
Andrew Orlowski, 10 Dec 2004