Closer co-operation between members of the G5 - a grouping of the five largest EU countries - will make it easier to close down websites supporting terrorism, according to UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke. Among a series of measures agreed at a G5 summit in Granada this week was the setting up of a technical group to "monitor and control the use of the Internet in international terrorism and organised crime." The G5 is an informal grouping of interior ministers of the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy, set up to develop closer co-operation on security and policing in 2003. It has no legal status within the EU and its agreements are non-binding, but it is heavily influential in shaping, and blazing a trail for, EU security policy. In an interview with Radio 4's World at One Clarke appeared to view the primary purpose of the Internet aspects of the agreement as being to make it easier to close down troublesome websites, but German Interior Minister Otto Schily stressed the "need to know what is brewing and how terrorist attacks are being prepared", and said that the five countries had agreed to ask telecom operators to extend the retention period for telephone data from three months to a year. France's Dominique de Villepin said that each of the five would apply the measures immediately, and that they would be discussed with the remaining EU members. The central objective of the summit was to implement the "principle of availability" (see Statewatch for further information on this) which means that data held by one country is automatically available to its partners. According to the summit statement the objective is "to make sure that the police forces of the Group of Five countries should have immediate access to the information that they need and which other members possess." The five appear to intend to implement higher levels of information exchange in advance of the EU as a whole, and will set up networks to share information on suspects (Spain gave the example of "people who have attended jihadist training camps"), stolen explosives, stolen cars and false identity papers. Also to be shared are fingerprint and DNA databases. The UK currently has one of the largest DNA databases in the world, and it is growing fast. The co-operation on the Internet will undoubtedly mean more widespread surveillance of Internet activities, but it could also make life more difficult for fringe and radical web operations. The UK now has a broad range of offences covering support for terrorism including, in the recent Prevention of Terrorism Act, "encouragement" for "acts of terrorism generally", while a draft of a Council of Ministers Convention on Terrorism suggests that "'public provocation to commit an act of terrorism' means the distribution, or otherwise making available, of a message to the public, with the intent to incite the commission of an act of terrorism, including where the message, although not directly advocating such acts, would be reasonably interpreted to have that effect, inter alia, by presenting an act of terrorism as necessary and justified." Offences in this territory already exist in many EU states, but closer co-operation will make it easier for, say, the Italian Government to have the UK Government act against a site in the UK. Action could be taken in one country could be taken on the basis of a particularly broad view of what constitutes "incitement" or "apologie du terrorisme" in another, and its perfectly possible that inconvenient critics could find themselves targeted alongside genuine terrorist propagandists or supporters. Whatever these might be. ® Related stories: Comms, internet ban orders surface in new UK terror law FBI retires Carnivore We seize servers, you can't complain - US gov
CommentComment Politicians around the world have made good political capital through celebrating domestic uses of IT. The vision of broadband-enabled homes, in which shopping, working and learning co-exist around the home, is a pleasant one, and provides a neat way of reasserting family values for the twenty first century. But two things undermine this rosy picture. Firstly, as The Register reported back in December, few people are yet engaged in such wholesome activities. Secondly, the gradual convergence of broadband and broadcast technologies means that the rights and wrongs of what happens online can no longer be swept under the carpet. Less than two years after the UK’s Communications Act opted not to establish any form of internet regulation, policy-makers in the UK are beginning to re-think the laissez-faire attitude to network media. While libertarians argue against government intervention in principle, and conservatives call for sweeping censorship at the first hint of immorality, the question for progressive policy-makers lies elsewhere. We should not be asking whether to regulate in general or what to ban in particular, but what good internet regulation would look like in the first place. One of the policy levers that regulators are hoping to exploit is the promotion of "media literacy". The importance of media literacy is now generally agreed. Exactly what media literacy is finds less consensus. At one end of the scale it is the provision of a basic set of ICT skills that enable the owner to use new communication media proficiently. At the other, it is the ability to access, interpret and create new media content. There are two particular pitfalls the media literacy agenda would do well to avoid. Both relate to misunderstanding the motivations of users’ actions online. Various media literacy strategies have focused on getting individuals to understand the rights and wrongs of online behaviour. This has been the pursuit of rightsholder organisations in particular aiming to increase respect for copyright online. The most basic of education programmes seem to suggest that the only reason people engage in copyright infringing activity online is simply because they don’t know it’s wrong to do so. But consumer surveys have shown this is not the case; it’s not lack of awareness that encourages bad behaviour, but the particular construct of the internet itself, including the absence, or different nature, of online norms of behaviour. There is a loss of public self-awareness that occurs online, which has led to individuals’ behaviour being characterised as dis-inhibited and self-absorbed. In the case of copyright infringement, rightsholders would do well to remember that technology presents a solution, rather than a problem to be overcome. The success of new business models such as Apple’s iTunes music store illustrates this perfectly: consumers are behaving when the technology is convenient enough to give them the chance to do so. This links to the second pitfall which comes with the characterisation of the internet as being in the midst of a battle between anarchy and control - a fight between consumers and producers, rightsholders and the copyleft, and moral guardians against misbehaving users – and attempts to ‘empower’ citizens by educating them about this. While the outcome of these battles do have important public policy ramifications, particularly for the intellectual property regime, we should not lose sight of the fact that for the majority of the public, these battles go unnoticed and bear no direct relevance to their every day life. There is a danger that media literacy teaching providing great detail in this area will increase people’s fear of the Internet and eventually drive them away from Internet use. At present, the breadth and scope of content accessible via the Internet presents a different kind of choice to the one technology evangelists imagine. Instead of ‘where do you want to go today?’ the consideration is very much ‘shall I use the internet or not?’ Engagement with the internet very much depends on the extent to which services fit with the every day tasks and challenges citizens face. Convenience is key, and take up will very much depend on whether they make individuals’ lives easier or not. Bearing this in mind, there are strong reasons to move away from educating citizens of all the freedoms the internet can offer towards recognising the strength of the argument for limiting choice with a focus on fitting the services to the citizen. This is not the same as saying that the World Wide Web as a whole be filtered to provide only government-endorsed services citizens feel safe with, but instead to recommend the provision of a walled garden service aimed at adults, and with a non-commercial bias that can provide access to functional services – such as electronic banking, local government information, and news – limit choice and empower citizens to use the Internet in a way which works for them, rather than being forced to consider the ‘battles’ that may rage in the wider Internet world. The end goal of media literacy – to enable people to cope with, and to function in, a digital society – should be kept at the forefront of the development of any media literacy strategy. There is little benefit in following a more techno-evangelist agenda merely for the sake of it, particularly as this is more likely to reduce Internet use and confidence online. Locating the middle ground between anarchy and control may not necessarily lead to the domestic bliss envisaged by etopian politicians. But it moves us away from the wild frontier, and its fruitless game of cops and robbers that has characterised policy-makers’ attitudes to the web to date. ® Kay Withers is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Public Policy Research. This article is adapted from an IPPR paper Influence and Control: Getting Citizens to Behave in a Digital Society, published yesterday as part of the IPPR’s Manifesto for a Digital Britain. Related stories Circling the wagons: the net politics of exclusion A digitally United Kingdom BT warns of broadband divide ahead of Ofcom review Gov.uk touts Net access for all by 2008 Poor People! Wanna play Internet? White coats to examine digital divide
Microsoft has a new star hire to head up its Longhorn project, Mike Sievert. And he brings a deeper and richer personal experience to the job than many of his marketing counterparts in the technology industry. Sievert took up the post of Corporate VP for Windows Product Management, to give him his full title, at the start of the month. He joins from AT&T Wireless, which has just been acquired by Cingular, and before that he was at E-Trade. Nothing unusual there, you might think. But once upon a time, Sievert held one of the most important marketing posts in the nation: he was brand manager for the United States' favorite indigestion remedy, Pepto-Bismol®. As the nation slept off its All-You-Can-Eat steak and lobster buffets, and 14 oz steaks, Sievert was the man responsible for making sure salvation was never more than a lurching trip to the bathroom away. By placing a bottle of Pepto-Bismol® at the heart of the American home, he single handedly saved many a celebration from turning into a drive-by projectile vomiting incident. Strangely, Microsoft doesn't see fit to mention his achievements in Mike's official corporate biography. There, the copywriters refer only to "management positions in the Health Care Division of the Procter & Gamble Company." Procter & Gamble is the manufacturer of the runny pink saviour. Perhaps they want to shield the competitive advantage that Sievert brings to Redmond a secret from the competition. We don't blame them. For Microsoft sure has an indigestion problem with its own software development processes, where infighting and indecision rule the day. Originally slated for a 2003 launch, ship dates slipped. Bill Gates' boast that Longhorn would take as much manpower as putting a man on the moon began to cut little ice with licensees when it became clear that neither manpower - nor even blogpower - was helping Microsoft get code out of the door. Word of Longhorn delays became so frequent that even the conservative Gartner Group suggested that it might be 2008 until the death march bore fruit. In response, Microsoft scrambled to promise that it really, really would ship something in 2006. But the only way it has been able to meet this very public promise is the emetic route: hurling features such as Avalon and WinFS, and the 'managed code' overboard. He doesn't have much experience of actually shipping software, but we think the industry's Duke of Dyspepsia is up to the stomach-churning task. If you can't be at the heart of the American Dream, the next best thing is to be close to the digestive tract - and we wish Mike the very best. ® Related link "Create your own 5-in-1 Pepto-Bismol® Dance!" - the Pepto-Bismol® Dance Machine Related delays Avalon, WinFS decoupled for Windows Shorthorn (Almost) everything may go, as Longhorn rushes to release MS Trusted Computing back to drawing board No Windows XP SE as Longhorn jettisons features MS delays Yukon Windows Shorthorn is dead-on-arrival Even Microsoft can't wait for Longhorn MS moves into get Longhorn on the road mode Longhorn to erase Cairo mis-step with 1995 ship date Windows Longhorn build leak starts hype two years early Longhorn RTM what it means to you Microsoft delays Longhorn. Again Only kidding? MS may ship Longhorn server after all Gates confirms Windows Longhorn for 2003, Blackcomb MIA?
3Com has reported a net loss of $53m on revenues of $161m for its third fiscal quarter ending 25 February. The revenue figure was down six per cent on last year's $171m, but the $53m loss is also smaller than the $85m shortfall reported a year ago. Revenue from enterprise products fell one per cent while connectivity products brought in 40 per cent less revenue than a year ago. The company says it expects this decline to continue, making this market segment gradually less important to its overall performance. Revenue from the newly acquired TippingPoint accounted for less than two per cent of the total. 3Com says it expects this acquisition to boost its enterprise networking revenues in Q4 when it reports its first full post-acquisition quarter. Overall, 3Com predicts growth in the "mid-to-high single digits" on a percentage basis in Q4. Increased revenues in the enterprise sector will be partially offset by an expected $5m decline in revenue from desktop and mobile connectivity products. The company ended the quarter with $883m in cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments. The results in full are here. ® Related stories LAN switches on fire 3Com buys TippingPoint 3Com issues profit warning
New-kid-on-the-block no frills mobile phone outfit - easyMobile - has responded to jibes from Virgin Mobile by cutting or reducing a number of "hidden nasties" from its service. Virgin Mobile had pointed out "catches galore" with the easyMobile service including it being the "only operator that was audacious enough to charge its customers for paying them" - a reference to the fact that punters are charged up to £1 each time they top up their PAYG service. In response, easyMobile accused Virgin Mobile of panicking but also moved to cut the cost of its service. Said easyMobile in a statement: "With retrospective effect from our launch date, we have eliminated or reduced most of the charges and fees Virgin Mobile believes will limit our ability to win over Virgin customers." The telco backed by entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou has also cut call charges to 6p a minute for UK calls and 2p for texts. But if Stelios thinks he's blunted Virgin Mobile's attack, he better look over his shoulder. The Carphone Warehouse - which has some 120,000 users on its own discount mobile phone outfit Fresh - moved quickly to undercut easyMobile. From today, the cost of Fresh calls to UK mobile or land lines drops to 5p a minute while texts are to cost just 1.7p. Said CW boss Charles Dunstone: "We made a commitment to customers that Fresh will always be the price leader and we are honouring that commitment." With a price war currently raging, it remains to be seen exactly how low operators are prepared to push down prices and how long they will be maintained. ® Related stories Virgin Mobile slags off easyMobile... easyMobile launches - finally CPW halves cost of mobile phone calls Orange sues Stelios for 'passing off'
Users of McAfee’s anti-virus products were warned this week of a potentially serious security vulnerability. The bug - unearthed by security researchers at ISS - involves flaws in the processing of LHA files by an antivirus library that gives rise to possible stack overflow attacks. The flaw applies to McAfee AntiVirus Library prior to version 4400. "Successful exploitation of this vulnerability could be used to gain unauthorized access to networks and machines being protected by McAfee AntiVirus Library product," ISS warns. Desktop, server and gateway versions of McAfee's anti-virus scanners all need patching but this will happen automatically as anti-virus signatures are updated. Several large vendors and ISP's use McAfee's AntiVirus Library in their products or services, which likewise need an upgrade. Over recent weeks ISS has issued alerts over similar but distinct vulnerabilities in various security packages from Symantec, involving the processing of UPX compressed files; and anti-virus products from F-Secure and Trend Micro, both involving the handling of ARJ archive files. ® Related stories Symantec anti-virus flaw hits 30 products Patch now against virus-writing clowns Trend Micro archive bug unearthed
Tokyo is going to get what will be the first major deployment of a WiMAX Metropolitan Area Network in the world. The Yozan MetroZone will deliver high speed IP connectivity, and support voice, video and broadband data services. Airspan Networks and partner YOZAN will commence trials in the second quarter of 2005 and commercial rollout will begin in the fourth quarter of the year. Airspan, a leading provider of broadband wireless solutions in Japan, expects to complete delivery of the base stations by the end of March of 2006. The contract is valued in excess of $12m. The initial network will be based on a rollout of 600 cells in central Tokyo, the companies outlined this week. Gradually the network will expand to provide coverage throughout the greater Tokyo Metropolitan area and surrounding eight prefectures. Airspan will use its software-upgradeable radio technology, which will initially support 802.16-2004 and will later be upgraded to support 802.16e. ® Related stories Qualcomm: WiMax isn't magic WiMAX turns the screw on 3G Motorola damns WiMAX with faint praise
UMC chairman Robert Tsao will be called to answer charges that he and other company executives broke Taiwan's law governing the investment in technology firms based on the Chinese mainland. Tsao will join UMC vice-chairman John Hsuan and 23 other defendants following an investigation into connections between the world's second largest chip foundry and Chinese foundry Hejian, Chinese-language newspaper Liberty Times reports, by way of DigiTimes. Hejian chairman J H Hsu is also in the dock, the paper claimed, citing confirmation from the Hsinchu District Prosecutors Office. UMC's offices were raided by Taiwanese Ministry of Justice officials in February this year, as were the homes of a number of company executives. The raids were part of an investigation into allegations that UMC staff had invested in Hejian without declaring the fact to the Taiwanese government, as local law demands they do. Taiwanese foundries are not allowed to set up fabs on mainland China without first obtaining the permission of the Taiwanese government. The same week, investigators detained Hsu, though he was subsequently released on bail. Hsuan was also detained. UMC has said that neither it nor its executives have any stake, financial or technological, in Hejian, though Tsao has admitted not only to advising Hejian's founders - a number of whom are ex-UMC employees - but desiring to acquire the company. The paper did not publish the date when the case will come to court. This latest stage in the UMC-Hejian case comes after relations between Taiwan and China fell a few degrees after the Chinese parliament voted the government powers to use military force against the island should it ever formally declare its independence. The US government has repeatedly backed Taiwanese autonomy with the threat of military intervention of its own. ® Related stories UMC chief admits desire to acquire Hejian Taiwanese agents detain Chinese foundry chief UMC HQ raided in China investment probe UMC Q4 income plummets on inventory adjustments
I have a problem: I can't seem to find a good host-based firewall for my Windows servers. In fact, people constantly ask me what I recommend and I find myself with no good answer. Even though most of my servers are already behind firewalls, I like having additional protection on the server itself. Sometimes I use remotely co-located servers where I have no firewall, and that makes me completely dependent upon software on the server itself. It seems like the solution would be simple enough. I have been patiently waiting for someone to come along with a capable, full-featured Windows firewall so I can stop explaining to everyone why the right way to go is probably Linux with iptables. But my wait has mostly been in vain. Every time I think I have found the ultimate Windows firewall solution, I end up being disappointed in one way or another. Let's consider our current offerings. Sure, there's TCP/IP filtering. It's actually quite fast. But it is also so limited that it's only good for the most basic filtering of incoming traffic. If you use TCP/IP filter, you will definitely need additional layers of protection. IPSec is better, once you sort out the difference between rules, rulesets, filters, and filtersets. You can use either the UI or the scripting interface, but they are both just as confusing. Once you finally get it up and running, you might notice the network is slower - because IPSec with packet filtering alone can slow down the network by 10-15 per cent. Oh, and here's the thing I hate most about IPSec: it logs to the Windows EventLog. If you want to browse your firewall logs, you either have click on each event to view the properties or export them to another format. That's enough to make me avoid it altogether. The Internet Connection Firewall (ICF) in Windows 2003 is somewhat better. It has decent performance and some flexibility with the rules. When Windows 2003 SP1 comes around, the new Windows Firewall will be even better. Windows Firewall is a big improvement and it has Group Policy support. Unfortunately, Windows Firewall doesn't let you set any rules on outgoing traffic. Furthermore, it requires turning on the Remote Access Connection Manager and Telephony services - something I normally wouldn't need to do on, say, a mail or web server that I'm trying to secure. What about RAS? You may have noticed that it has packet filtering capabilities, and in fact there is a good API for other tools to set these filters. But these filters do not let you control low-level traffic such as ICMP, so it's not very useful. There are plenty of personal firewalls out there that work quite well for desktop computers, but they all fall short for server use. Some are obviously better than others, but all are plagued with common problems such as poor logging facilities, limited configuration capabilities, slow performance, and worst of all, many of them seem to be prone to blue screens when traffic gets very high. The problem with personal firewalls is the way they integrate with Windows. There are actually numerous ways to intercept packets in Windows, each with their own disadvantages and weaknesses. All approaches are poorly documented. Many of them involve intercepting kernel-mode functions or writing device drivers. This works, sure, but you had better make sure the code is solid or you will experience frequent blue screens. Another problem is that these methods usually don't interact well with others - don't try installing two personal firewalls, or chances are you will have strange problems. And of course, writing hooks into other drivers can sometimes cause problems when installing service packs or hotfixes. There are just more places for things to break. Personal firewalls don't work well for unattended servers, either. Many of them have pop-up windows asking the user to allow certain network packets. This obviously doesn't work on an unattended server. Some firewalls I have tried rely on a tray icon that you cannot even access via Terminal Services! My last attempt to find the holy grail of a Windows server firewall was with installing ISA Server 2004. To my surprise, it worked quite well. Its footprint was a bit hefty and it was total overkill for something used for little more than a personal firewall, but it still worked well in that role. There's just one problem: the ISA Server software license costs more than the server itself. That makes it far too difficult to justify its use. What do I do now? I find myself buying small hardware firewalls to sit on top of the server - just because I'm a little too paranoid to leave it standing alone. Not all hope is lost, at least. Microsoft is working on a new Windows Filtering Platform (WFP) for the upcoming Longhorn OS, due to be released perhaps in the next few years. WFP is basically a packet filtering engine built into the OS. Third party firewall companies will simply tap into this single interface and configure the rules. WFP provides access to packets at various layers of the new TCP/IP protocol stack and it has support for filtering traffic after it has been decrypted. It even has IPv6 suppport. WFP sounds great, but it still doesn't help me today. It's some ways off. And it also remains to be seen how effective and stable this feature turns out. You would think the answer is simple, but it's not. It still amazes me that that an adequate, affordable firewall solution for Windows servers just doesn't exist. Copyright © 2004, Mark Burnett is an independent researcher, consultant, and writer specializing in Windows security. He is the author of Hacking the Code: ASP.NET Web Application Security (Syngress), co-author of the best-selling book Stealing The Network: How to Own the Box (Syngress), and co-author of Maximum Windows 2000 Security (SAMS Publishing). He is a contributor and technical editor for Special Ops: Host and Network Security for Microsoft, UNIX, and Oracle. Mark speaks at various security conferences and has published articles in Windows IT Pro Magazine (formerly Windows & .NET Magazine), Redmond Magazine, Information Security, Windows Web Solutions, Security Administrator and various other print and online publications. Mark is a Microsoft Windows Server Most Valued Professional for Internet Information Services. Related stories MS plugs weak XP firewall Update for Microsoft's Windows Server 2003 secures new beta status Security Report: Windows vs Linux
ISG Webb, the UK-based networking reseller, has been sold to its managers and Royal London Private Equity for £17m. The changing of the guard gives the founding shareholders an exit route, and it also brings some new money – amount unspecified – to the table, enabling the firm "to pursue strategic growth opportunities in the IT services sector". Lloyds TSB Acquisition Finance is supplying debt funding, amount unspecified, for the transaction. RLPE will take a majority stake, again unspecified, in the business, joining three directors, who have run ISG Webb since 2001. Peter Maclean, former chief executive of Guardian iT, has been appointed chief executive. ISG Webb employs 220 staff in Scotland, Manchester, Birmingham and Sevenoaks, Kent (where it has its headquarters) and it specialises in IT plumbing contracts - cabling and infrastructure stuff such as installing 7,000 wireless access points for a supermarket chain. The company has several vendor plaques, including Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, HP and a lot of cabling guys. It cheerfully boasts that its business does not set the heart racing. On its website, it says: Press coverage about ISG Webb does not tend to make the most fascinating reading. That's the problem with trying to make the world a duller place. ® Related stories GFI Informatique pulling out of UK, Northern Europe 'What does HP do?' asks Europe's biggest dealer Logicalis UK buys Notability TSG buys Leeds reseller
Oracle's CFO, Harry You, is leaving the company a mere two months after the database giant acquired Peoplesoft and just as its battle to acquire Retek is heating up. You, who had only worked for Oracle for eight months, is joining BearingPoint as CEO, replacing interim boss Rod McGeary. Oracle's co-president Safra Catz will pick up the financial reins until a replacement is found. Larry Ellison issued a statement saying: "We are proud of the numerous Oracle alumni that have gone on to become CEOs of enterprise software and IT service firms. We wish Harry good fortune in his new job and look forward to partnering with him and BearingPoint for years to come." You's departure come at a critical time for Oracle, however. The company is only two months into integrating Peoplesoft and is embarking on what looks like being a big fight with SAP to acquire retail software vendor Retek. SAP struck a deal earlier this month to acquire Retek for $8.50 a share. Oracle countered that with a $9 bid. On Thursday SAP upped its offer to $11 per share, and Retek advised its shareholders to accept the deal. Oracle responded by increasing its bid for to $11.25, valuing the company at around $630m. Meanwhile, Retek's share price has continued to climb, hitting a high of $11.88 before closing Thursday at $11.65. Reports suggest the bidding will go on, with Ellison giving every indication that he will continue to press his case. He said, in a statement: "Our North American applications business is larger than SAP's. We intend to defend our No. 1 position." ® Related stories Oracle's bid for Retek leaves SAP speechless Oracle puts $525m between SAP and Retek Ellison confounds sceptics over PeopleSoft Oracle boss forecasts PeopleSoft customers' future
Intel will ship its 'Potomac' 64-bit Xeon MP processor on 29 March, bundling it with the 'Twin Castle' E8500 chipset into a server platform the company has codenamed 'Truland'. The chip maker announced mid-February that it would ship Potomac "within 90 days", but the more specific launch date comes courtesy of a Techworld report. The updated Xeon MP processor will contain 8MB of L3 cache, up from the 4MB offered by the current top-of-the-range model, and run at a clock speed of 3.33GHz. That in turn suggests the part will update the current Xeon MP frontside bus speed from 400MHz. Indeed, the E8500 chipset supports a twin 667MHz bus, Intel has said, the better to cope with future multi-core processors. It is believed to contain a memory controller divorced from the North Bridge, the better to facilitate speedy support for faster memory technologies in the future. At launch E8500 will support 400MHz DDR 2 SDRAM with ECC. It will also provide a PCI Express bus. Potomac will ship alongside 'Cranford', a cheaper version of the product, equipped with 1MB of L2 cache and designed to fill the gap between two-way Xeon DP-based systems and four-way Xeon MP servers. Techworld's use of the Truland codename is interesting. At Intel Developer Forum earlier this month, the chip maker disclosed the existence of Truland as a Xeon MP platform sure enough, but said it would feature the 'Paxville' processor - its first dual-core Xeon MP, due to be launched later this year but shipping in volume in Q1 2006. Presumably, Intel is now positioning Truland as a broader Xeon MP platform. ® Related stories Intel nears India fab decision - report Intel preps Truland, Bensley Xeon platforms Intel confirms Itanium has a future Intel to ship dual-core Xeon MP in Q1 06 Intel ships 2MB cache 64-bit Xeon
Former telecoms regulator Oftel made a hash of deregulating the UK's directory enquiries (DQ) service, the National Audit Office has found. Eighteen months after BT's 192 service was scrapped and the market opened up to competition consumers are paying more for a service they're using less. One senior MP has questioned whether Oftel was right to open up the sector in the first place while another industry figure has called for the return of the old 192 service. For while punters have the choice of using scores of DQ operators, two companies - BT (118 500) and The Number (118 118) - dominate the sector with 80 per cent market share. In a critical report, the National Audit Office (NAO) said: "A small minority of residential callers use directory enquiries frequently, but the average residential caller uses the services less than once per month. The average caller is unlikely to be motivated to find the lowest price so the market is not driven by price competition." What's more, Oftel's successor Ofcom "cannot yet demonstrate that, overall, consumers have benefited from liberalisation", said the report. It continued: "Most residential consumers are paying more for directory enquiry services while the absence of reliable accuracy data on the previous services means that it is not possible to show whether accuracy has improved." With such a damning report people have been queuing up to have their say. Edward Leigh MP, the chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, said: "Ignoring the wisdom of the phrase, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it', Oftel have made an unpopular and unnecessary change. Just because competition generally brings great benefits does not mean it always works. This is an instance where competition was not needed and is not helpful." Alastair Crawford, boss of online information outfit 192.com said that the increased competition has led to worse service and increased prices. "It is clear that consumers want 192 back and Ofcom should give it back." ® Related stories DQ prices up, service down UK DQ use slides BT in 118 500 price hike 118 services not up to scratch Oftel Which? slams 118 services
A week after Nokia defected to the WWiSE 802.11n technology proposal group, and a day after a trio of telcos gave the organisation the thumbs up, an alternative proposal has won the support of the IEEE Task Group charged with investigating the next generation of Wi-Fi. The outcome of the ballot has not yet been formally made public, but sources close to Atheros, the Wi-Fi chip maker backing WWiSE-rival TGn Sync, claim their proposal won, 181 votes to 140, giving it 56.4 per cent of the total votes cast. That, the sources say, means the WWiSE proposal has been eliminated in favour of TGn Sync. We were under the impression the winner needed to gain at least 75 per cent of the vote to force a rival proposal to be formally rejected. Presumably that will happen in May when the 802.11n Task Group votes again on the TGn Sync - if the standard wins the support of 75 per cent or more of the vote, it will be selected as the basis for the draft 802.11n standard. 802.11n is the name the IEEE has given to the next generation of the Wi-Fi wireless networking standard. Currently under development, the technology is intended to yield at least 100Mbps real data throughput, with a raw throughput of up to 200Mbps. By contrast, 802.11g has a raw throughput of 54Mbps, but once noise, interference and the bandwidth required to maintain error-free data transmissions are taken into account, the actual speed is much slower than that. The same is true of 802.11b. WWiSE - short for 'Worldwide Spectrum Efficiency' - was launched as a proposal for the 802.11n standard last August by Texas Instruments, Broadcom, Conexant, STMicro, Airgo and Bermai. Since then it has won the backing of Motorola, which last month agreed to merge its own 802.11n proposal into the WWiSE offering. A week after WWiSE was launched, Intel, Atheros, Agere, Infineon, Cisco, Nokia, Qualcomm, Nortel, Mitsubishi, Sony, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sanyo, Toshiba and others offered up an alternative proposal, dubbed TGn Sync. Both proposals are based on the Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) many-antennae technique and Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiplexing (OFDM) to combine the bandwidths offered by a number of radio channels into a single fat data pipe. Both call for two- and four-antenna arrays. The two proposals support 20MHz and 40MHz channel widths to ensure backward compatibility with today's Wi-Fi kit. However, they apply different signal modulations, and only TGn Sync has offered compatibility with 802.11b as well as 802.11a/g. Bizarrely, Nokia jumped ship earlier this month, switching its allegiance from TGn Sync to WWiSE. Presumably, it's feeling a little silly now. Earlier this week, WWiSE announced that telcos France Telecom, NTT and ITRI had also agreed to back its proposal. With a second ballot due in two months' time, it may be too soon to write off WWiSE as quickly as TGn Sync members would like us to do. Their proposal has to win over a significant proportion of those folk who sided with WWiSE. In the hope of ensuring a single specification and avoiding the deadlock that has hampered the definition of an ultrawideband (UWB) standard, TGn Sync will now be lobbying hard to persuade WWiSE backers to accept what it sees as the inevitable. ® Related stories Belkin out on a limb with 802.11n? WiFi Alliance warns chip makers over 802.11n claims Wi-Fi group says 'no' to pre-standard 802.11n kit Second consortium unveils 'broadband Wi-Fi' proposal Firms tout 'universal' tech for 802.11n
We really do wish the French would pay rather more attention to the mounting evidence that their entire car industry - notably Citroen and Renault - is now nothing more than a supplier of quality satanic automobiles to the Lizard Alliance. In July last year we reported that a mephistopholean Renault Vel Satis attempted to do away with its terrified owner when it took him on an hour-long, 125mph kamikaze Cannonball Run. Renault at the time doubted very much the driver's version of events - that the car had refused to respond to appeals to slow down a bit - and we accordingly concluded that company CEO Louis Schweitzer was remotely controlled from the lizard mothership via explosive cranial implant. Naturally, less well-informed readers derided our suggestion that the French are manipulated by extraterrestrial forces bent on the subjugation of humanity via technology. Further proof is clearly required. Read on: On Wednesday, an innocent jaunt near Rouen became another page in the chronicle of the Rise of the Machines™ after a Renault Laguna spontaneously decided to subject its master - accompanied by his five-year-old son - to a forty-kilometre white-knuckle rollercoaster terror ordeal during which the panic-sticken Frenchman could neither brake, decelerate nor use the clutch. Mr Gamada later recounted to French daily Paris-Normandie: "I always take the same route. I'd entered 87kmph on the speed regulator because there's a 90kmph limit on the road. But suddenly the car locked up. I couldn't do anything... except turn the wheel." A shaken Gamada continued: "I was asked to do one of three things: disengage the clutch, which didn't work; press the start button five times - again, nothing; override the speed control box - still nothing." Gamada at this point contacted his wife via mobile phone, who in turn alerted the authorities. The police put Gamada in touch with Renault assistance and - after 40 kilometres - a combination of clutch, start button and speed regulator manipulation brought the murderous Laguna to a halt. The local press report notes that "the offending car is fitted with a mechanical speed regulator - without electronic control". It rather superbly adds: "It seems probable that the driver was not able to disengage the lever." We await with delicious, albeit fearful, anticipation the explanation of Louis Schweitzer for this latest outrage. Of course, the report will finger Gamada as the culprit after which the sobbing victim will be paid off with a family trip to Disneyland Paris during which he and his son will - as the only eyewitnesses to the events - be terminated by a French-built cyberloo. ® Bootnote Thanks very much to French neoLuddite Resistance Army member Stéphane for alerting us to the Laguna's malevolent intent. Consider yourselves forewarned and forearmed. The Rise of the Machines™ Fire-breathing bus attacks South London Dyson unleashes self-replicating hoover Battling teen crushes roboarm menace French join motorised Lizard Alliance Lizard Army develops copulating robot We are Zogg: The Cuddly Menace Lizard Army invades Alaska London menaced by flaming DVD players Killer hoover attacks Scotsman Car self-destructs in assassination bid The rise of the rat-brain controlled android Japanese unveil trumpet-playing robot Boffins unleash robotic cockroach Ukrainian teen fights the Rise of the Machines Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated US develops motorised robobollard Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie A robot in every home by 2010 Cyberappliances attack Italian village Fire-breathing buses threaten London Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent Spanish cyberkiosks claim second victim Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager Hi-tech toilet caught on camera Hi-tech toilet swallows woman
If you're happy to pay for your iTunes Music Store song downloads, but could live without that pesky DRM stuff the recording companies insist Apple inserts into each file, you'll be pleased to know that notorious hacker Jon Lech Johansen, he of DVD Content Scrambling System de-coding fame, has figured out how to do just that. 'DVD Jon' has posted PyMusique a Python-based utility that offers a "fair interface to the iTunes Music Store", co-written with Travis Watkins and Cody Brocious. The app provides the usual ITMS features - access to song previews and the ability to set up a payment account and to use it to buy songs - but there are two crucial differences. First, PyMusique allows you to re-download songs you've purchased. So if your hard drive goes up the Suwannee and you haven't backed it up for a while, you can re-acquire your ITMS-sourced song library. Second, none of the tracks you download will be encumbered with DRM. Of course, it's of very questionable legality. Quite apart from potentially bypassing Apple's FairPlay copy protection system - a no-no according to Europe's European Union Copyright Directive (EUCD) - running the software infringes the terms and conditions ITMS user agree to abide by when they set up an account. "You will not access the Service by any means other than through software that is provided by Apple for accessing the Service," ITMS' Ts&Cs say. iTunes downloads each song as an audio stream, but only once it has grabbed the track does it apply the DRM rules - not surprising, perhaps, since the copy-protection coded into a given song is client computer-specific. Technically, then, PyMusique doesn't bypass the copy-protection code since it grabs the file before the DRM rules are applied. Still, it's a moot point and one that lawyers will enjoy debating if they're given the chance. Last August, DVD Jon revealed how to crack the encryption Apple uses to protect songs as they're streamed across a wireless network to its AirPort Express 'Wi-Fi to hi-fi' access point. At the time, he posted JustePort, a Linux/Windows app that allows applications other than iTunes to transmit audio via the AirPort Express hardware. AudioHijack developer Rogue Amoeba recently shipped AirFoil, a $25 Mac OS X utility that does the same thing. ® Related stories Apple de-socializes iTunes Apple brings discord to Hymn DVD Jon cracks Airport music streaming Apple DMCA sends iTunes DRM decryptor offshore New workaround for Apple DRM Hollywood drops DVD lawsuit iTunes DRM cracked wide open for GNU/Linux. Seriously DVD Jon wins again
IBM and Novell have launched a program to accelerate the development and certification of Novell's SUSE Linux on IBM's eServer and middleware platforms. IBM hopes the scheme will help double the number of Linux apps independent developers make for its servers within the next two years. The scheme will give independent software developers access to the technical resources and tools available at nine IBM Innovation Centers in North America (San Mateo, California; Waltham, Massachussets and Chicago, Illinois), Europe (Hursley, UK; Paris, France and Stuttgart, Germany), Sydney, Australia and Asia (Bangalore, India and Shanghai, China). Novell will dispense copies of SUSE Linux Enterprise Server and supporting documentation for software developers, and make it easier for them to join Novell's Technology Partner Program by setting up on-site registration at IBM's centres. IBM, in turn, will offer ISVs "consulting support and technical expertise" to help them migrate, develop and implement their applications for SUSE Linux on IBM platforms. Both companies said the scheme recognised the transition of Linux from a niche operating system to a mainstream platform for business applications. Buell Duncan, IBM's general manager of ISV and Developer Relations, said that 2,000 of 6,000 Linux app for IBM platforms have come from ISVs. "IBM has a goal to double that number in the next two years," he said. ® Related stories IBM goes after Intel, AMD with Linux-only server Novell takes SuSE Enterprise Linux to the next kernel Novell woos CeBIT with SUSE Linux 9.3
Japanese anti-trust officials have extended Intel's deadline for appealing against charges that it abused its market leadership position to hinder arch-rival AMD. Intel Japan now has until 1 April to respond to the ruling. It was to have done so today, but was given more time to give the judgement a thorough reading, a company spokesman told Reuters. Such moves are not uncommon, and do little to change the outcome. AMD this week said it was considering a range of options by which it may itself respond to the Japanese Fair Trade Commission (FTC) findings. The company did not rule out initiating legal proceedings against Intel. On 8 March, the FTC ruled that Intel Japan had indeed attempted to squeeze out AMD, Transmeta and other x86 processor companies by offering rebates to computer manufacturers who bought only Intel product. Last June, the European Commission relaunched its investigation into claims that Intel engaged in similar tactics in Europe. In each territory, the probes were prompted by complaints from AMD. Intel has denied its business practices are in any way unfair or anticompetitive, and that it believes they are legal. At the time, it said the FTC decision "does not appear to take into account antitrust principles commonly accepted worldwide". Come 1 April, Intel may challenge the verdict, which would force the FTC to bring the case to trial. Intel may subsequently appeal against the ruling in the Japanese high court. ® Related stories Japan calls Intel to task over anti-AMD rebates Intel Japan faces anti-trust action Germany bans 'Intel only' IT tenders EC widens Intel-only contracts probe Intel defeats AMD in court AMD defeats Intel in US Supreme Court EC relaunches Intel antitrust probe EC threatens court action over Intel-only contracts
Episode 10Episode 10 "...and so I need another battery for my laptop," the PR geek whines, thus ending a 15-minute monologue on how important his work is, what he does, where he goes, who he talks to, what his presentation is like, how it's delivered, how long it take TO deliver, how he processes customer's queries, what he does on his holidays, where he GOES on his holidays, how he packs his laptop to take with him on holidays, how important his work is (again), why he really needs a battery with the capacity of a small geothermal power station, and what he could cope with in the meantime. "Ah well," the PFY responds, not so much playing the empathy card as putting it into the shredder. "Well you have to get me one. I need it!" "But even with a new battery you'll only get.. maybe eight hours tops out of both batteries - IF they're at full charge?" I say reasonably. "Not necessarily," the geek responds smugly - which can only mean I've stepping into his well laid trap. "Not if I get the 1600QV battery!" "The 1600QV?" I ask. "Yes!" he chirps happily. "It's a Swiss-made battery which fits inside the same space as a normal battery and has three times the capacity." "And 10 times the cost?" the PFY asks. "I.. " he says, fumbling with a brochure. "Well, it's in US dollars, not pounds." "The only way that figure would look good is in Turkish lire!" "It's been okayed!" he said. "Who the hell would okay an extravaga..." I start, penny dropping. "The Head of IT, yes?" "Yes, he thought it was a good idea. He said you have a miscellaneous items budget for this sort of thing." "That, copper bracelets for arthritis, earthing straps for underwear to reduce static damage and rubbing cabbage leaves on your head to cure baldness." "It's a good battery!" "And it probably weighs about twice as much as your laptop!" "But I need to be able to be on the move!" Despite our sage advice the deal is done and the order is placed. An hour or two after receiving it our user gives us a call. "My new battery won't work!" he blurts. "Why?" "The support website says I probably need to buy a special high capacity charger…" "Well I think that you should probably consider..." I respond. "..and it's been approved, so can you organise that, ASAP?" Ngggggggggg I find the charger costs about twice as much as the battery which pretty much means that a single laptop has accounted for a month's worth of my miscellaneous budget - so I'm not at all happy. Less happy a day later when the geek calls back again. "The thing weighs a ton!!" he snaps. "We told you that before you bought it!" "No, not the battery - although that's heavy too - the charger. It's heavier than my carry-on allowance! And it doesn't use US power - and I'm going there next week!!!!" Nggg "WE TOLD YOU IT WAS GOING TO BE HEAVY!" "Yes but it's too heavy. What about a fuel cell?" "A FUEL CELL!?" "Yes, I've been reading about them, they're small, easily rechargeable and reasonably light." "Where the hell would we get money for a fuel cell battery?" "Your boss says that you have money for R&D. This is an ideal R&D project - you could make an existing fuel cell fit in the battery compartment for me." "I..." . . . There's no point in arguing any further so the PFY and I put our minds to work and three days later have a working prototype. "Is that it?" our geek asks. "What's all the strange writing all over it?" "One bit's Arabic and the other bit Greek. It's a fuel cell from a GPS system we paid an extortionate amount for on eBay." "And it'll work?" "Only one way to find out!" the PFY replies, suppressing his pride. He plugs it in with a due sense of trepidation and pushes the power button while the Boss braces himself for the inevitable explosion. ..which doesn't happen... "It works!" he cries. "Of course it does! And there was some space left over in the cell so we slapped a small NiCad pack in there so that you can get about 15 mins of runtime when the fuel cell's expended," the PFY adds. . . . 10 minutes later when they're gone. "So when do you think that he'll learn that it's just a NiMh battery?" the PFY asks. "Oh, probably when he's landed in the States and going through customs." "How?" "I think US customs will let him know once that anonymous phone call about the guy carrying an unlicensed hydrogen-based explosive device has been received." "I hardly think that..." "And after the Arabic translator picks out the words 'Death to Yankee Warmongers' from the side of the battery I'm guessing things will go downhill quite fast…" "Oh..." the PFY says, the sheckle dropping. "If only our powers were used for good." If only... ® BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 Get BOFH Books here BOFH is copyright © 1995-2005, Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his rights.
The European Commission (EC) has accused Microsoft of not properly complying with the sanctions laid out as part of its anti-trust ruling in 2004, particularly on the question of interoperability. It says the software giant is not making it easy enough for companies who want to take a licence for Microsoft's data protocols to access the necessary documentation; that the licences are too extensive, covering unwanted items; that the terms and conditions of the license mean some open source developers can't take advantage of the protocols; and finally that the royalties demanded are too high. An EC spokesman told the BBC: "On the basis of market test results, we have serious doubts that Microsoft is complying with the interoperability remedy...It would appear that the level of royalties applied would be unjustified." Microsoft issued a statement saying that the company remains "fully committed to complying with the Commission’s decision". "The issues are complex and nuanced. As the Commission itself has noted, in large part, each of them revolve around striking the appropriate balance between the need to preserve the legitimate private interests of Microsoft with the public interests of the Commission," the statement went on. The company added that it was grateful to receive the results of the Commission's market testing, so that it could "respond promptly and in an appropriate way" to work through the issues raised. ® Related stories Opera to MS: Get real about interoperability, Mr Gates Are Microsoft's licences unfair to open-sourcerers? MS loses Europe appeal, will ship WMP-free Windows version
PalmOne's third-quarter sales dipped sequentially but were up year on year, the PDA maker said yesterday. For the three months to 25 February, PalmOne received $285.3m in revenue, down on Q2 FY2005's $376.2m but up 18 per cent on the year-ago quarter's $242.5m. The post-Christmas quarter is traditionally a weaker one for the PDA company. Q3 FY2005 yielded net income of $4.4m (nine cents a share), well up on Q3 FY2004's $9.3m (20 cents a share) loss, but down on the previous quarter's $24.7m (48 cents a share). The recently completed quarter's non-GAAP net income was $10.6m (21 cents a share), the difference accounted for by "the effects of the amortisation of intangible assets and deferred stock-based compensation" and laying off staff. Looking ahead, PalmOne said it expects Q4 FY2005 revenue to line in the $320-330m range, making for sequential sales growth of at least 12.2 per cent and year-on-year growth of 19.7-23.5 per cent. During the past quarter it shipped some 938,000-odd devices. The Treo 650 supply deals signed with Orange in the UK, France and Switzerland, and with Telecom Italia Mobile are all bearing fruit, PalmOne expects half of its revenue to come from smart-phone sales. Gross margins are expected to fall between 29.5 and 30.5 per cent. With the company now run by former Handspring president Ed Colligan - at least until a replacement for former CEO Todd Bradley is found - it's no surprise that the company should be increasing its focus on the Treo product line. But it's clear demand for pure-play PDAs is declining, so such a shift whether, through careful planning or natural inclination, is to be welcomed. Still, the company is expected to update its Zire 7x consumer-oriented multimedia PDA family shortly with a new model, the 73, if a hint on an Amazon.com page is anything to go by. Wild speculation on Internet news groups suggests something big is cooking on the Tungsten business PDA front, not to mention a possible Windows Mobile-based Treo. Whatever products are launched in Q4, if any, expect earnings of 20-27 cents a share, the company said. ® Related stories PalmOne brings forward Euro Treo 650 debut PalmOne settles WLAN gaming patent clash PalmOne chief quits PalmOne Q2 sales soar PalmOne offers Treo 650 users a free 128MB card
Carphone Warehouse (CW) - which has more than 760,000 TalkTalk phone customers - has been accused of sneaking in a "stealth" price rise by making early morning calls more expensive. Copying a similar move by BT last month, peak rate charges for CW's TalkTalk landline service now kick in at 6am rather than 8am. A statement added on to bills this month reads: "In line with changes announced by BT, from 1st March 2005 the Daytime calling period will be changed to cover the period between 6am-6pm weekdays." When BT announced plans to increase its peak rate time from January it was slammed for introducing a "stealth price rise" that would see the cost of calls made between 6am and 8am increase by 110 per cent. Now consumer group uSwitch.com - which helps punters find the best deal for telecoms services - has criticised TalkTalk for the copycat move. Said uSwitch.com director Jon Miller: "BT introduced this charge by stealth in February, and it's disappointing to see TalkTalk following suit, not only because of the increase in charges, but also in the way they have chosen to notify their customers." A spokesman for BT described TalkTalk's move as "very cheeky" and a "good bit sneakier" than BT's approach to informing punters of its change. BT is also concerned at the wording of TalkTalk's announcement because TalkTalk is "trying to imply that this price rise was forced on them by BT's actions which is, of course, complete nonsense," said a spokesman. CW was asked to comment on the price rise and explain why its stealth price rise is "in line with changes announced by BT". The company declined, but in a statement said: "We urge that you look at the bigger picture. All TalkTalk customers talk to each other for free forever and whenever. TalkTalk guarantees that your bill will be cheaper than BT or we will pay you £1,000." ® Related stories BT sneaks in 'stealth price rise' Fresh undercuts discounted easyMobile tariffs Carphone crackdown on phone insurance scam BT and CPW in £1,000 challenge showdown
The UK's video games industry has called for the government to recognise the contribution it makes to Britain's economy before a subsidised bloc of Nordic and Central and European producers hits the indigenous industry where it hurts. According to a Screen Digest report - published on behalf of the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA) - the latest official figures show that Brit-based games companies recorded a tasty positive balance of trade close to £200m. The industry now employs 22,000 people - up 7.5 per cent on 2000. However, the immediate outlook is not as rosy as it should be. In fact, the number of UK game development studios' employees dropped six per cent between 2000 and 2004. The overall rise represents the "increase in people working in other sectors of the games industry – publishing, distribution and retail". Roger Bennett, director general of ELSPA, explained: "Our greatest asset is our creativity and in recent times we have seen this talent being leeched away through lack of funding and more attractive prospects overseas. The UK is at risk of losing its position both as the font of some of the most successful games produced for a global market worth $20bn and as the major European destination for global investment. It is now time for Government to recognise the valuable contribution we make to the UK economy, comparative to other entertainment sectors. "It needs to give the games industry the same level of support provided to the film industry for example as announced on Thursday in this week’s budget. The Government should also reflect the policy in other countries where investment in game technology and creativity is encouraged and where attractive location incentives are readily available." The report also found that the big growth area is the "network games market" - non-retail sales channels which are expanding more than seven times faster than the traditional retail market. Ben Keen, Screen Digest’s chief analyst, commented: "While retail sales of games continue to reach new levels, new distribution channels are now expanding fast. Mobile and online have become significant markets in their own right and we expect all forms of networked games exploitation to account for 20 per cent of the total Western world market by 2008." ® Related stories Mobile gaming gets its skates on Massive game advertising startup to aid desperate brands Gizmondo grabs troubled UK games maker
Sales of wireless networking equipment destined for the enterprise showed healthy growth in the last quarter, outstripping the pace of growth in the residential sector, according to new figures from IDC. Shipments of wireless routers/gateways that are primarily for the residential market grew by two per cent from Q3 to Q4 2004, compared to 19 per cent growth in the enterprise segment. Overall, WLAN infrastructure revenue gained only 0.8 percent, but WLAN client revenue jumped by 27 per cent. NETGEAR now leads the market having gained nearly three per cent market share in the quarter. "The residential market did not reach its saturation point already, but growth rates will be lower than reached in the past quarters," IDC analyst Evelien Wiggers told The Register. "The enterprise segment has been slower to pick up since security and management issues are playing a more important role than in the residential segment." More evidence that PCs are increasingly connecting to wireless networks comes from the kind of WLAN kit that is selling well, IDC says. Even though more and more laptops and desktops are shipping with pre-installed WLAN connections, vendors of PCI adapters and USB receivers experienced positive growth during this quarter, which indicates that more desktops are being attached to a wireless network. ® Related stories IEEE rejects Nokia-backed next-gen Wi-Fi proposal Wi-Fi security is getting worse T-Mobile launches WiMax net access for UK trains
The British public stands four-square behind ISPs over moves to curb the availability of images of child abuse on the net. In a MORI poll of 1,00O UK adults, 89 per cent said they would support ISPs if they tracked those visiting child porn websites and 93 per cent said that ISPs should report this information to the police. Leaving aside the four per cent of folks out there who want ISPs to hand over data to the police without favouring the monitoring that would need to go with it, the study suggest the public reckon people who access child abuse websites have no right to hide behind claims of privacy violation. The study also shows that 90 per cent of the country’s adult population would support the voluntary blocking by ISPs of access to child abuse and paedophilic web sites, and 89 per cent said they would support the official monitoring of the content of such sites. The survey, sponsored by content filtering firm StreamShield Networks, will doubtless be taken by BT as an endorsement of its CleanFeed scheme for blocking access to child abuse websites. However it's worth wondering whether when people are questioned by strangers on subjects as charged as child abuse they might respond with what is seen as the "correct response" rather than their considered opinion. ® Related stories BT's modest plan to clean up the Net Police to monitor chat rooms BT blocks 230k attempts to access child porn ISPA seeks analysis of BT's 'Cleanfeed' stats BT on child porn stats
LettersLetters Ah, chip and PIN. Was there ever a topic more beloved by any readership? We ran a comment piece this week that took a look at the pros and (mainly, in the view of the writer) cons of the new system. We had a whole sackful of letters on this one. Here are the best, and most coherent: "But why cannot online systems ask for the pin number to be confirmed?" How, exactly? I can see only two alternatives: 1. You type in a PIN onto a webform, just like the card number. Oops, you've just revealed your PIN to any software running on your computer, and any gateway system in the transaction path (which if you're not using SSL, could be absolutely anyone) as the data travels from client to shop to payment processor to bank. 2. You possess a physical card reader, similar to that used by retail shops. That does the authentication, keeping your PIN safe, and transmits some status code indicating that authentication was successful. How expensive is this box, exactly? How many consumers would get one -- especially when the primary benefit of having one is for the retailer, not the consumer? And if they're widespread enough I doubt it would be too long before someone manages to imitate the "successfully authenticated" signal despite not having a physical card. Electronic transactions rely on a chain of trust. When you broaden the scope too far, that trust erodes. Gavin "But why cannot online systems ask for the pin number to be confirmed?" You can answer that one for yourself if you think about it. It's not secure enough. You can break it with 1,000 brute force guesses, which is not a lot - I can certainly imagine some criminal group scripting or just brute forcing an attempt to buy something on 1,000 different websites with each possible pin till they hit the right one. And once they've broken the PIN this way, they can go and commit card fraud in person too. It's not practical to try a card at 1,000 different retailers and get the code wrong each time, but it's certainly practical online, so allowing chip-and-PIN to be used online would online compromise it both online *and* offline. Adam Hi David, I also have worked with Credit Card fraud for years. I seem to remember the Chip'n'Pin equivalent online was 'Verified by VISA' - I even heard Mastercard were going to do the same. But I've never seen either. In theory, you would fill your basket as usual and then checkout. You would then fire off to your billing partner who would then send you back a 3rd party URL for the issuing bank. You then presented this screen to the shopper in a popup window - something like a cash point ATM window. The shopper would then verify their PIN directly with the issuer. This was then confirmed back to your billing partner and everyone was happy. It's a fairly basic security triangle, and fairly simple to implement - but why have we never seen it? John Chip and Pin is basically the biggest con in history. It transfers liability for fraud from card issuers to cardholders and traders. If someone looks over your shoulder at the supermarket and sees your PIN, then picks your pocket on the way out, you are liable for the fraud. If your card is used without the PIN, the retailer is liable. The card issuers are never liable. There is no reason for the card issuers to do anything to prevent fraud now as they are not liable for it, but can still sit back and take the same 1.5% cut of the money, including 1.5% of any fraudulent transactions, plus interest on any fraudulent transactions until you can pay off the £5000 bill run up by the fraudsters. The only solution is to do what I do... at any time only keep £100 or so available on any one card. With internet banking I can transfer funds from my savings account to my current and credit card account in seconds. If someone steals one of my cards, they will be very disappointed, and so will my card issuer. Nathan Silicon Valley's leading lights have visited Washington with their begging bowls in hand to ask for more cash from the government to fund R&D. The basic message was that the tech revolution has led to a huge rise in living standards, but that government doesn't spend as much on R&D as it did before, and that this is horrid and unfair. Oh, poor diddums, you said. Break out the violins: AMEN BROTHA! I am an American, I'm in the IT industry, and I'm sick and tired of CEOs getting pampered, paid and then put to pasture with huge retirement plans. I'm SO sick of that that if a CEO happened to sit down next to me at a bar and I found out, I'd probably get thrown out for punching them in the nose. They are getting to the point of the old royalty of the UK...they can do no evil, yet own everything in sight. It's really a sicko system that allows them to get away with it. So now (instead of supporting the research on their own multi-million dollar paychecks and profit margins), they want ME to pay for it. F*** that, they can pay for their own research. Frankly, people that drive Hummers usually piss me off anyway, because they really do think they own the road... Cheers! Jan DaimlerChrysler's plans to launch a hydrogen car by 2012 caught a few eyes. Not everyone is convinced that this is a truly altruistic effort by the corporations. No, really: The main benefit of using hydrogen will be to the corporate entities that control the expensive and tricky technologies needed to make it all work. There is an alternative right now, Biodiesel. Biodiesel burns very cleanly and has a closed carbon cycle. Further, you don't need to be a mega corporation to access the technologies needed to create biodiesel and run you car on it today. Clearly the corporations are gunning for a hydrogen based economic, once the oil runs out. Hence these fluffy stories disguised as addressing green issues. Simon "If you need a power station to obtain the hydrogen in the first place, there is no net environmental gain from switching fuels, after all." Unless the power station fuel life-cycle (including fuel-production) was more efficient than the average car. Chris Fair point. Also, as one or two other readers pointed out, it would be a lot nicer to go for a jog next to a road if the cars were only producing water vapour as they trundled along their merry way. Just briefly, we'd like to clear up the question of exactly how the Martian rover was cleaned: "One alternative scenario, of course is that the rover stopped, just for a moment at a red traffic light and a Martian with a squeegee gave it a quick clean, in accordance with that particular universal law. It is not known whether NASA plans to equip future missions with loose change to prevent angering the natives with poor tipping." Are you SURE that's plausible? :-) Jesse Yes. Our plans for world domination (based on exclusive ownership of the black hole-based domestic product market) have come unstuck. Seems we've lost by a nose, or should that be bill, to a duck: Hi, I read the article about the black holes, but at least one of your suggestions cannot be patented: I remember as a kid, reading the Donald Duck, that the inventor (whatever his name in English is, I read it in Dutch), had, in his workshop, a lamp to make sunny places dark. It looked like a black lightbulb. Otherwise I liked the article. Regards, Derk Korevaar Sadly, I think your plans for the neverflush Black Hole Toilet have a serious flaw. One characteristic of a black hole is that light can be trapped at the event horizon and it may be that the image of material that has fallen into the black hole may be trapped for some time. This could lead to the rather unsavoury vision of multiple turds on view for days, weeks or even months! In addition, if you subscribe to the multiverse theory, it may be that material dropping into a black hole reappears in another alternate universe. How would you like it if your newly decorated lounge was suddenly splattered with other beings' waste products? Keith Sounds like they need to call Dr.Octavious. I understand he did a similar experiment, but it went a wee bit wrong when those tentacles took over his mind. Aaron Hmmm. Researchers tell us (and their presumably paymasters) that they can throw bits of gold at other bits of gold and it creates a black hole into which everything conveniently disappears (as proof, of course), with a bit of fireball that is over so quickly, "sorry, did you miss it. Give us money for some more gold and we'll try again..", "Oops, did you miss it that time too?... Another go perhaps?" Give me some gold and I can assure you I can replicate the black hole effect. I would also have a nicer car and house. Purely as a relativistic consequence. The phrase "Emperors new clothes" comes to mind. And physicists say no-one takes them seriously..... Charles And now, to cyber-humans. Should we be allowed to tinker with ourselves (no, not like that) to improve on nature's gifts? The EU says non. Spoilsports that they are, they've said we should only be allowed to fix broken stuff. No super powers allowed. Boo Hiss. I see, so it's OK to use technology to bring everyone up to the same level. For instance glasses are good as they correct defective vision in a large number of cases and bring everyone closer to the same level of visual ability - super. But does that mean that the EGE would consider binoculars evil and call for them to be banned? Lester writes: If they were surgically attached to your face, yes... Well, if it's a surgical thing then surely Jordan, and the other plastic playthings, should be limited to a 38D - or whatever is average/acceptable/just- like-my-mum. Lee You say, "Which pretty well sounds the death knell for Warwick's plan to surgically enhance himself for the greater benefit of humanity. Good show." but as an ex-student of Mr Warwick I belive this will save his plans, "Access to ICT implants for enhancement should only be for the purpose of bringing children or adults into the "normal" range for the population" I'm not sure if a chip can stop a man talking about football through an hour long cybernetics lecture, but it's gotta be worth a try. Name withheld "Access to ICT implants for enhancement should only be for the purpose of bringing children or adults into the "normal" range for the population (normal meaning the conditions that generally prevail and that are not caused by genetic malfunction, disease or deficiency and lacking observable abnormalities), if they so wish and have given their informed consent. "Which pretty well sounds the death knell for Warwick's plan to surgically enhance himself for the greater benefit of humanity." On the contrary, i believe that this gives us the green light to 'surgically enhance' Cpt Cyborg out of cloud-cuckoo-land! If only [a] we had an implant for common-sense & [b] could convince him of the social benefit of such an implant. Paradoxically, Dean Rz Happy Fridaying. ®
VIA NET.WORKS, Inc. - the business-focused telco in Europe and the US - has called in PricewaterhouseCoopers to help it secure new financing to address an "urgent liquidity problem". Netherlands-based VIA NET.WORKS has given itself until the end of March to either find new investment or flog all or part of the business. In a statement the company said: "A combination of factors including unanticipated revenue shortfalls in certain of its legacy VIA companies and its new VIA Express business would leave the company with insufficient cash reserves to continue the operations of the group's parent company in early April 2005." VIA chief exec Ray Walsh explained: "We are pursuing all opportunities to optimise the value that is inherent in the VIA businesses. With an appropriate infusion of new cash to pay for additional cost reductions, we believe we could still achieve our goal of achieving positive cash flows from consolidated operations during 2005." "Unfortunately, while we have built a business with approximately $100m in annualised revenue, we have not yet reached the point where our cash-generating operations can sustain the ongoing costs of running the group, including the very significant costs inherent in maintaining a public company," he said. ® Related stories VIA NET.WORKS buys PSINet Europe 'Desperate' Qwest ups bid for MCI Telecom future to look a lot like the past - study
Dundee University officially opened its Space Technology Centre today, where researchers will work on planetary lander simulators, and develop support technology for space missions. The centre encompasses the Natural Environment Research Council Satellite Receiving Station in Dundee. Spacecraft can encounter a huge number of problems during the landing phase of an off-world mission, because conditions cannot be fully known. Uneven terrain, such as craters or boulders at the planned landing site, adverse lighting conditions or atmospheric effects could spell disaster for landers, as is thought to have happened with the Beagle 2 Mars lander. Headed by Dr Steve Parkes, the research facility will test new sensor models and simulation tools to improve simulations of craft landing on planets or asteroids. By changing the variables such as terrain and atmospheric conditions the researchers will establish conditions for safe landings for a particular mission. They will also be able to provide data for the guidance systems so that they can better cope when things are less-than-perfect. The Space Systems Research Group at Dundee has already had a major influence on space system design. The European Space Agency (ESA) is already using the University’s simulations of Mars and Mercury to develop guidance and navigation systems for its spacecraft. The group also led the technical work on the SpaceWire network standard, which is now being used on many ESA and NASA spacecraft, including a future NASA mission to Mercury. ® Related stories Lack of cash killed Beagle 2 NASA rules out Beagle resurrection UK backs Aurora Euro space programme
CompetitionCompetition Tomorrow marks the launch of the eagerly-awaited, all-singing, all-dancing Gizmondo - and we at El Reg have got together with our web hosting partner Rackspace to offer readers the chance to win one of two hot-off-the-production-line examples. For those readers who have not the foggiest idea what a Gizmondo is or why it should be given coffee table space, suffice it to say that it offers: TFT screen ~ 240 x 320 pixels, 400 Mhz ARM9 from Samsung, 128-bit 3D Graphics accelerator from Nvidia, GPS tracking application, GPS mapping application, MP3 playback, MIDI/WAV formats, SMS, Speaker, Windows Media Player 9, MPEG 4 video playback, JPEG camera, SD flash card reader, Mini-USB client, Bluetooth class 2 for multiplayer gaming, Polyphonic ring tones, Stereo headset socket for MP3 and games, Flight Mode, GSM tri-band, GPRS Class 10, WAP 2.0, MMS receive and send. In fact, pretty well the only thing it can't do is enter this competition for you. All you have to do to be in with a chance to win one of our pair of Gizmondos is click right here. You need to enter a few details and answer a couple of simple questions. That's it. Good luck. ® About Rackspace Managed Hosting Rackspace Managed Hosting provides award-winning managed and application hosting services, with an unbeatable brand of customer service - Fanatical Support™, to a broad range of enterprises. Rackspace hosting solutions are available across Microsoft and Linux managed servers and are perfect for those businesses running medium to large web hosting environments. We individually design every configuration to match each customer’s specific requirements. All our servers feature premium hardware and are backed by our one-hour Hardware Replacement guarantee.