2nd > June > 2005 Archive

cloud

VIA unveils C7-M notebook processor

Computex 2005Computex 2005 VIA has announced a mobile version of its C7 processor, following that chip's launch last week. The Taiwanese chip maker is pitching the C7-M at thin'n'light notebooks. Like its desktop-directed sibling, the mobile part will be fabbed by IBM using its 90nm silicon-on-insulator process. There's 128KB of L2 cache on the die, which also includes decoders for Intel's SSE, SSE 2 and SSE 3 multimedia instruction-set extensions. VIA's own PadLock hardware-accelerated security system is on board too, as per the C7, and there's the usual 'no execute' bit support. For mobile applications, the C7-M contains VIA's PowerSaver power conservation system, which throttles back the core's frequency and voltage when the chip's workload lessens. VIA claimed PowerSaver will cut the chip's power consumption by up to 50 per cent, the better to preserve a portable computer's battery charge. Idling, the C7-M consumes down to 0.1W. Clocked to 2GHz it consumes 20W, VIA said. In a bid to get a look in alongside Intel's Centrino, AMD promotes its Turion mobile processor as Wi-Fi compatible. VIA made the same claim about the C7-M, even going to far as to announce its readiness for 802.11n, the as-yet-undefined next-generation Wi-Fi specification. VIA said it was already shipping samples of the C7-M. Volume production will commence at the end of the month. While the C7-M will go up to 2GHz - sources close to the company even suggest it will clock to 2.4GHz - VIA will initially offer the part at around 1.5GHz. The company did not provide a timetable for the availability of 2GHz versions. ® Related stories VIA to ship C7 next month VIA 2GHz C7 CPU to debut Q4 VIA announces 64-bit x86 processor VIA's 90nm CPU to be branded C7 IBM to fab next-gen VIA CPU
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2005
For Sale sign detail

Palamida lands a Cisco

Software licensing start-up Palamida has landed a corporate big fish anxious to police its use of open source and third-party software in networking products.
Gavin Clarke, 02 Jun 2005
channel

Microsoft Office Communicator 2005 gets out

Microsoft has released the client component of its integrated communications stack heralded by Bill Gates earlier this year as an "evolution of Office". Office Communicator 2005, described by Microsoft as the preferred client for Live Communications Server 2005, extends Windows Messenger with presence-based Instant Messaging (IM), support for public MSN, AOL and Yahoo! through a special service pack, and improved defences against IM-based spam. Other Office Communicator 2005 features include support for Voice over IP (VoIP) and one-to-one audio and video conferencing. Office may have evolved, but Microsoft's pricing hasn't. Customers with Client Access Licenses (CALs) for Live Communications Server 2005 will get IM, presence and video and audio conferencing for free. Customers wishing to access telephony-based features, like PBX integration for remote call control and PSTN audio conferencing must pay extra, by buying Live Communication Server CALs. Office Communicator 2005 was demonstrated earlier this year by Microsoft chief executive Bill Gates during a "live" hook-up between Microsoft executives and one of the cast from NBC's Reality TV show The Apprentice.® Related stories MS launches real-time comms package Nokia slims down 'the brick' Microsoft punts telco platform Less Office, more family for Microsoft DSI program
Gavin Clarke, 02 Jun 2005

NTL and Telewest begin merger talks - report

High level talks that many expect to lead to a merger of the UK's two cable companies have finally kicked off, according to Reuters. Both NTL and Telewest have now hired advisors to steer them through negotiations and have kicked off "early-stage merger talks", according to unnamed sources. A marriage of the two cablecos has been on the cards for years although speculation about a tie-up has intensified recently following a restructuring of both companies. Should the £5.5bn merger get the green light it would create a comms company that would be able to take on satellite TV giant Sky and dominant UK phone outfit BT, creating a company with annual revenues of around £3.3bn and some 5 million punters. Elsewhere, NTL is trying to drum up even more business by offering 1 meg broadband for £9.99 a month fixed for the first year. The deal for new punters within NTL's franchise areas is aimed at trying to get dial-up users to switch to broadband without clobbering them with hefty subscriptions. ® Related stories NTL - Telewest 'preps merger' Consumer growth floats NTL's boat Telewest punters 'unaffected' by spam blacklist NTL flogs Irish cableco Broadband gods smile on Telewest
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 2005

Samsung notebooks to sport Airgo Wi-Fi booster

Computex 2005Computex 2005 Samsung is to equip two of its wireless-enabled notebooks with Airgo's bandwidth-boosting 'multiple input, multiple output' (MIMO) Wi-Fi technology, the two companies announced at Computex 2005 this week. The move puts Samsung's X20 and X25 machines among the first notebooks to support what is likely to become the 802.11n standard for wired-speed wireless networking. It's also a blow for Intel, which had counted the X20 and X25 among the list of Centrino-based notebooks. The X20 and X25 will continue to use the Pentium M processor and Intel system logic, but the shift from Intel Wi-Fi silicon to Airgo's will result in a significant wireless performance gain. According to independent real-world testing conducted by The Tolly Group (TTG) for Airgo, the incorporation of the fabless semiconductor company's 'True MIMO' chipset improves performance when Airgo's technology powers both ends of the wireless link but also when the Samsung notebooks connect to a regular access point. TTG's numbers point to an almost fourfold gain effective throughput when connecting to a standard Linksys access point, rising to an increase in effective throughput of over 650 per cent with an Airgo-enabled Linksys box. The results reveal comparable gains in the WLAN's coverage area. The X20 and X25 remain fully compatible with standard 802.11a/b/g access points, Airgo president and CEO Greg Raleigh told The Register. One frequency, multiple signals MIMO uses multiple radios to transmit multiple standard-speed signals in a single 20MHz channel. Unlike other MIMO offerings, Airgo's system leverages the way these signals interfere as they are scattered by obstacles in their environment to drive further range and bandwidth gains. Spatial multiplexing schemes put the data sent out across these signals back together again. Raleigh said Airgo is the only company to take this approach. Competitors may use the word 'MIMO' but they are not true MIMO implementations, he said. The Samsung machines use Airgo's second-generation Wi-Fi chipset, which offers more than double the energy efficiency of Intel's rival chipset, said Dave Borison, director of product management. The secret, he said, is the use of a pricey but efficient Bipolar CMOS process to fab the chipset's three radios. "We can run three radios in the same power envelope than other Wi-Fi chipsets run one radio in," he said. Borison said Airgo's product roadmap would deliver enhanced energy efficiency, better bandwidth and lower bill-of-materials costs going over time. Airgo has positioned its products at the high end of the Wi-Fi arena, not least because MIMO technology's much-improved range and bandwidth don't come cheap, and it's a far less crowded segment of the Wi-Fi chip market than the low-end. That said, sources familiar with Airgo's plans expect the company to begin pushing down into the mid-range and taking the fight to the likes of Atheros and Broadcom more aggressively. Raleigh and Borison would not comment on the company's immediate plans, but it's clear the company is pushing hard to broaden its customer base beyond the consumer WLAN arena into consumer electronics and ultimately other wireless markets. Airgo's advantage is its lead in MIMO development, built on its founders' pioneering work on the technology. That also led to Airgo champion MIMO as the basis for the next generation of the 802.11 WLAN standard. Today, 802.11n has yet to emerge as a single specification, let alone a ratified standard. However, Airgo's shipping product already supports both of the two, similar proposed specifications for the new standard, said Raleigh, and will work with the merged spec that will ultimately be ratified by the IEEE. ® Related stories VIA unveils C7-M notebook processor IEEE rejects Nokia-backed next-gen Wi-Fi proposal Gigabit Wi-Fi looms large 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 Airgo to double Wi-Fi bandwidth to 108Mbps Related review Belkin Wireless Pre-N Router
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2005
channel

SCO watches Q2 revenue and loss shrink

A number of cost-cutting moves helped the beleaguered SCO Group shrink its second quarter loss. But despite improving its bottom line, the software maker had little good news for investors on the sales front. SCO's revenue hit $9.3m during the second quarter, down from the $10.1m reported in the same period last year. SCO's net loss shrunk to $2.0m during the second quarter, which compared to a net loss of $14.7m in the same period last year. The company made massive cuts to its sales and marketing budgets to save money. Sales of SCO's Unix software and services were down during the quarter, while its SCOsource license business improved year-over-year. SCO whined about the failing Unix business at one point in its statement about the financials, only to complement the business a couple of sentences later. "The decrease in revenue in the second quarter of fiscal year 2005 from the comparable quarter of the prior year was primarily due to continued competitive pressures on the Company's Unix products and services," SCO said. And then. "Our core Unix business remained profitable in the second quarter as expected, and we increased revenue over the prior quarter as a result of improved performance across all geographies," said Darl McBride, CEO at SCO. "We have continued to focus our Unix business on commercial success in the market place and look forward to launching SCO OpenServer 6 later this month. At the same time, our SCOsource business remains committed to pursuing our legal strategy in the courtroom, and we are well-positioned to see our litigation through to its conclusion." SCO sold just $30,000 worth of its SCOsource licenses. That meager total, however, was actually up from the $11,000 in licenses sold last year. SCO, you may have heard, is embroiled in a massive software IP battle with the likes of IBM, Red Hat and Novell. This costly war has been draining SCO's coffers for some time. ® Related stories IBM and Red Hat to teach Uni students how not to get offshored Sun acquires oldSCO for $25m Ex-Sun VP guns for IP violations Insiders reveal SCO's Monterey disarray SCO, Groklaw and the Monterey mystery that never was IBM spooks market with dismal Q1 SCO makes Unix revenue disappear in Q1
Ashlee Vance, 02 Jun 2005

Europe reports broadband growth

The European Union (EU) may be facing a constitutional crisis of its own making, but at least the take-up of broadband among member states is growing fast. The Commission has revealed there are now 40 million broadband lines in the EU - up 70 per cent on last year - with an extra 45,000 lines being added each day. The fastest-growing broadband nation is The Netherlands, which yesterday told Europe to stuff its constitution where the stars don't shine. Other fast-growing broadband nations include France - which rejected the constitution at the weekend - and the UK, which is looking increasingly unlikely to be given a chance to voice its opinion on the matter. Said Information Society and Media Commissioner Viviane Reding: "These broadband figures are very impressive and extremely encouraging for the future. Broadband is central to Europe's competitiveness and prosperity. "Growth in broadband supply and take-up leading to lower prices, greater choice and more innovative offerings for business and consumers. We need to keep up this momentum." ® Related stories UK no longer OECD's broadband laggard EU disgorges internet stats Ireland one of most expensive countries for broadband
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 2005

Fujitsu ditches NHS software supplier

Fujitsu has dropped a key supplier for the NHS patients records project in the south and west of England. Fujitsu is scrapping an agreement with US firm IDX in favour of a product from Cerner. It is the first time a major supplier has been ejected from the NHS IT programme. The change is subject to contract but that should be signed in the next two weeks. In a statement released yesterday IDX admitted the deal was over and it expected to pay between $2m and $4m in costs for getting out of the deal. NHS IT director Richard Granger warned in March that failing suppliers would face the bullet. The programme aims to give every patient an electronic health record which can be accessed from anywhere. Doctors have complained of a lack of consultation over the project. IDX was months late in delivering a localised version of its patient record software, according to the FT. Its CareCast product will now be replaced in the Southern cluster by Cerner's Millenium software. Granger admitted the change would be disruptive and would cause delays. Anonymous sources were more outspoken on VNUnet predicting a delay of one or two years. IDX still has a contract with BT covering the London cluster. BT told the paper it still has full confidence in the company.® Related stories Government issues NHS records guarantee London's NHS IT boss suspended NHS chief cans patient control over health record access GPs have no faith in £6bn NHS IT programme
John Oates, 02 Jun 2005

Skype handset makers flock to Computex

Computex 2005Computex 2005 Numerous Taiwanese manufacturers began pitching for Skype users' business this week, as the annual Computex hardware show played host to a range of gadgets designed to make the P2P-based VoIP software easier to use. And there were a fair few non-Skype VoIP handsets on display that tie into consumer and corporate Wi-Fi networks to make low-cost or no-cost voice calls. Some devices, such as a pair shown by Wistron, provide a mobile phone look and feel. Wistron NeWeb's two handsets - one a candybar design (the SRP-81), the other a clamshell (SKPD-1) - can connect to any 802.11b/g access point and contact any SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) compliant service. They provide the usual phone-like phone book features, along with signal processing techniques like echo cancellation, voice activity detection and noise reduction to improve the call quality. They sport colour screens, polyphonic ringtones, the works. There's no texting, but they do support POP3 email. A unique feature, so far as we can see, is an integrated Wi-Fi sniffer to help users locate Wi-Fi hotspots. A Wistron NeWeb spokesman said the company was seeking vendors to badge the handsets. Good Way Technology's AA2600 also has a mobile phone look, but there's no screen and no radio - it just connects to your computer, whether it's a Mac, or a PC running Linux or Windows, by USB cable. Good Way said the handset works with a range of VoIP apps, including Net2Phone, Babble and MSN Messenger, but the call-make and call-break keys tap into their virtual equivalents in Skype. Viewsun's QPE V601 is a wireless device, but it connects directly to a PC via a USB dongle - the radio has a range of 10m (30ft). The 53g unit is essentially a handheld Skype controller - you push the buttons and they trigger activity in the Skype application. There's no screen. Powered by two AAA batteries, the V601 provides 20 hours' talk-time and 4300 hours on stand-by, Viewsun claimed. Hong Kong-based Speed Dragon's consumer-friendly VoIP handset was even more mobile phone, almost exactly resembling a Nokia handset phone. Senao's SI-7800H-L has got a certain Nokia look about it too. Like the Wistron devices, it operates via a Wi-Fi network, and uses the 802.11e quality of service standard and the 802.11f access point-to-access point communication protocol to allow the unit to be handed over between access points smoothly, the company claimed. Its styling shows that it's clearly pitched at corporates, a fact confirmed by its support for WPA security and 802.1x authentication. There are the usual mobile phone-like features, such as call waiting, call forwarding, phone book and call log. The battery provides more than 100 hours' stand-by time and four hours' talk time. FIC, meanwhile, has its eye on the cordless market with its Wi-Fi Skype device, which ships with its own base-station/recharge cradle that can also connect to the PSTN. According to an FIC representative, the handset communicates with the base-station using 802.11b, though future generations of the product will also support DECT. ®   Related stories Skype enables video calling Vonage promises a million Skype makes empassioned 911 plea Vonage UK opens for business Skype coughs to phone number cock-up Yahoo! tests! VoIP! Canada mulls VoIP regs
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2005

EC wants to cap data retention laws

The European Commission has stepped into the debate on the proposed data retention bill, saying that the legislation will now require telcos and ISPs to hold onto data for a year, rather that the three or four years originally proposed. The decision follows a vote from the civil liberties committee to reject the original plans as "disproportionate and ineffective", as well as serious concerns over the legality of the proposed legislation. The bill was put together, some argue hastily, in the wake of the Madrid train bombings which killed 191 people. Telephone records were reportedly a key part in the police investigation, and allowed them to make quick arrests. It was put forward by the UK. France, Ireland and Sweden, but following legal advice, the member states now suggest that the bill be proposed by the Commission, rather than by individual countries. This would mean the laws would need to be given the OK by Parliament and the member states, Reuters reports. Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding also says the bill should encompass wider issues than just fighting terrorism, saying that there needed to be a balance between the need for security, and the need for privacy. In its original form, the draft did not state an explicit upper limit on how long data could or should be kept. The draft also failed to delineate between data and content, causing concern among civil liberties campaigners, and among the businesses it would affect. "It will certainly not be three to four years but a maximum of one year and I hope even less," Reding told Reuters. While all this sounds very positive - many of the concerns raised when the original document was published do seem to be being addressed - it remains to be seen how these good intentions will affect the bill. The Commission is expected to publish its new proposal in June or July. Until then, we will have to wait and see. ® Related stories EU's data retention laws could be illegal UK and EU allies plan moves against terror websites EC calls for rethink of data retention proposals
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Jun 2005
globalisation

eBay goes shopping.com

Online auction behemoth eBay has bought price comparison site shopping.com for $620m. Shopping.com offers price comparisons and consumer-written reviews. eBay products will be included on shopping.com's comparisons and product reviews will start appearing on its epinions site. The site claims 50 million unique monthly visitors and 400,000 review writers. Bill Cobb, president of eBay North America, said in a message to users that the deal would give eBay sellers another sales channel and a new set of customers. He said part of the impetus behind the deal was increasing sales of seasonal products on eBay. The deal is subject to the usual regulatory and shareholder approval but assuming that is successful it will close in the third quarter of 2005. Press release available here Warm words from Bill Cobb here. Related stories Oz eBayers must pay tax eBay sitting on the old Gumtree.com eBay comes to cable TV
John Oates, 02 Jun 2005

NEC touts quantum crypto advances

Japanese boffins have succeeded in achieving what's touted as the World's fastest continuous quantum cryptography key generation. Researchers from NEC, the National Institute of Information and Communications Technology and the Japan Science and Technology Agency achieved a fortnight-long, continuous quantum cryptography final-key generation1 at an average rate of 13kbps over a 16-km-long commercial optical network. Developments in producing a low-noise photon receiver and an alternative-shift phase modulation method permitted the advance. An average quantum error rate is 7.5 per cent and the average final-key generation rate is 13.0 kbps was achieved during the experiment. Quantum cryptography allows two users on an optical fibre network to exchange secret keys. It takes advantage of the particle-like nature of light. In quantum cryptography, each bit of the key is encoded upon a single light particle (or ‘photon’). Intercepting this data randomly changes the polarisation of the light, irreversibly altering the data. Because of this quantum mechanics affect any attempt by an eavesdropper to determine a key corrupts the same key. Quantum cryptography systems discard these corrupt keys and only use codes that are known to be secure. These quantum keys, once exchanged, can be used in a one-time pad. Swiss firm ID Quantique, along with US start-up MagiQ, are the only companies selling quantum key distribution systems commercially though QinetiQ and Toshiba Cambridge are also heavily involved in research into "unbreakable" cryptography. NEC said that previous quantum cryptography systems have not been able to achieve long-time continuous key generation due to fibre delay variations, reflection and scattering in fibre. NEC has developed Wavelength division multiplexing technologies to enable transmission of synchronizing signals and quantum signals in the same optical fibre, a feature touted as an advance of existing commercial systems. However the availability of commercial systems from NEC may be up to three years away, IDG reports. ® 1 The final-key is generated from the raw-key by eliminating bits that have possibilities of errors and eavesdropping. The raw-key is a set of random bits generated by single-photon transmission and detection. Related stories Aussie boffins patent single-photon generator Quantum crypto moves out of the lab Quantum crypto comes to Blighty
John Leyden, 02 Jun 2005

A380 delivery delayed for six months

Delivery of Airbus's A380 "super-jumbo" will be delayed for up to six months, the company has confirmed. Accordingly, Qantas - due to put the beast into service in October 2006 - will not now get its hands on the joystick until April 2007. Likewise, Singapore Airlines, set be the first airline to fly A380s, will also have to wait an additional three months until the end of 2006. Compensation claims from the carriers are likely, the BBC reports. An Airbus spokesman told the BBC that the set-back was due to "a variety of things", adding: "In most airline programmes of this size - including those of our competitors - things can run a little later than originally planned. The plane is continuing to perform well in tests." Quantas chief exec Geoff Dixon described the news as "disappointing, given that we have met all of Airbus' deadlines for Qantas specifications". He said his company would most likely seek compensation from Airbus under the terms of the contract between the two. Qantas has 12 A380s on order. This unexpected glitch in the A380 programme comes not long after the much-trumpeted maiden flight of the aircraft on 27 April. At the roll-out ceremony in January, Jacques Chirac enthusiastically called the A380 the "crowning achievement of a human and industrial adventure". ® Related stories A380 behemoth takes to the skies Airbus rolls out A380 A380 Airbus suffers Virgin knock-back Airbus behemoth faces the press
Lester Haines, 02 Jun 2005
chart

Argosy shows 'infinite capacity' media player

Computex 2005Computex 2005 The PlayStation 3 and the Xbox 360 aren't going to be the only consumer electronics kit with removable hard drives, at least not if Taiwanese developer Argosy Research has anything to say in the matter. At Computex 2005 in Taipei this week, it showed off an hard disk-based media player that can spit out its HDD ready for connection to a PC. The HV670 contains a DVD drive capable of reading pretty much every type of recordable and rewriteable DVD out there, as well as regular DVDs, CDs, Video CDs. The unit supports the DivX format as well as MPEG 1 and 2, plus JPEG for stills, and MP3 and WAV for digital audio. Argosy has built in Dolby Digital and DTS, and the unit's numerous RCA composite, YUV component and S-video outputs can drive PAL and NTSC displays at 4:3 and 16:9 ratios. There are digital audio S/PDIF co-ax and optical output ports too. Alongside the centrally-mounted DVD unit is the HDD bay. What pops out looks like a typical external PC hard drive - the only difference is the presence of a proprietary connector on the back that hooks into the HV670. There's a mains power jack and a printer-style USB 2.0 port next to it, ready for when you want to hook it up to your PC to copy over video, photo and music content. The system doesn't just make it easier to get content onto the player without having to disconnect it from the TV and take it to where your PC is, but also it allows you to maintain multiple hard drives giving you effectively infinite storage capacity. Argosy is offering drives of 160, 250 and 400GB capacities. Argosy was pitching the HD670 at vendors who will bring the product to market under their own brand and set their own prices. ® Related stories Skype handset makers flock to Computex Sonos wireless music kit ready to roll in UK Sony details PlayStation 3 MS unwraps Xbox 360 Gizmondo to offer diskless 'PVR' Sony updates PSX PVRs with PSP video support Shuttle launches first Media Center barebones Merrill Lynch looks to 'killer' Apple home media server Related review Neuros MPEG 4 Recorder
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2005

BT workers accept 3.5% pay rise

BT workers have stepped back from the brink of strike action after voting to accept a 3.5 per cent pay rise from the UK telco. The Communication Workers Union (CWU) was on verge of balloting for strike action until it managed to twist BT's arm and force it to increase its pay offer from 2.7 per cent to 3.5 per cent. "The company had claimed it couldn't afford more than 2.7 per cent, but CWU negotiators dug their heels in for long and tough negotiations, coming up with a 3.5 per cent offer which was accepted today (1 June) in a ballot of CWU members within the company, by nearly four to one," said the CWU in a statement. While union officials are no doubt slapping themselves on the back for securing such an impressive pay raise, the CWU's triumph coincided with the publication of BT's annual review and the news that BT's top execs can expect big pay-outs if they stay at the telco. Chief exec Ben Verwaayen could pocket £2.8m this year as he and other top execs received generous "golden handcuffs" as part of plans to retain senior staff following the departure earlier this year of former BT Retail boss Pierre Danon. ® Related stories CWU accepts BT pay offer BT workers' union rejects 'derisory' pay offer BT workers demand 8% pay rise
Tim Richardson, 02 Jun 2005

Bird flu: we're all going to die

The theme of the person awaking from a deep sleep or coma to find a world utterly changed is a popular one in science fiction. From John Wyndham's book The Day of The Triffids through The Omega Man to the recent film 28 Days Later, the trope of the man arising from his hospital bed to find that nothing is as it was has become well-worn. That's fine - as long as it remains just a story. But if - when - a flu pandemic comes, and millions of people die around the world over a period of months, the reality will be one of two alternatives. It's either going to be like those films, with videoconferencing suddenly all the rage, local farm produce making a big profit, empty supermarket shelves (you have to ship the oil, and distribute the fuel, but can the Armed Forces really do all that?), tumbleweed blowing in the streets, a medieval attitude to anyone not from "around here". Or else governments will impose a police state that will make all the ID cards and airport checks look like a tea party. You'd not be allowed to move anywhere without showing off a vaccination certificate. (Sure, you'd get those on the black market, and they'd cost more than £300, but would you really want them? If you're not vaccinated would you really want to travel among people who might be carriers?) Or it might be both at once. One more thing. You might well be one of those millions who die in such a pandemic. If you travel to work on public transport; if colleagues in your company travel by air to Asia; if you're travelling abroad through a busy airport. You'll probably touch someone or share air with someone who's infected. The premise of Terry Gilliam's Twelve Monkeys will become reality. You may think this is overblown. But discussion of the possibility of a flu pandemic has fallen out of the news. And as the security consultant Bruce Schneier says: "One of the things I routinely tell people is that if it's in the news, don't worry about it. By definition, 'news' means that it hardly ever happens. If a risk is in the news, then it's probably not worth worrying about. When something is no longer reported - automobile deaths, domestic violence - when it's so common that it's not news, then you should start worrying." The risks posed by an outbreak of flu passed from chickens in the Far East, in coutries such as Vietnam and Thailand, burst into the news in February. But now they've passed out of the news. Since then we've had more important things, like the Crazy Frog ringtone, to concern us. Time to worry. And the scientists are. In fact, they're edgier than I've seen them since the BSE outbreak was in its earliest days and people were wondering if it might pass to humans. Quite a few scientists stopped eating beef at that point. Oh, you didn't know? Now, their reaction is to write papers and watch what's happening, very closely. If you read the scientific journals (we do, so you don't have to) the articles are piling up. Last week the journal Nature pulled together an entire online resource on the threat of avian flu. That's the trouble with scientists. They get an idea into their heads - CFCs and ozone, carbon dioxide emissions and the greenhouse effect, the transmission of BSE to other species such as humans - and they worry away at it until they determine what the answer and the mechanism is. Here's what's they're worrying about now. The First World War killed seven million people. But the strain of flu that followed it - incubated, experts reckon, in pigs that were kept near the front lines to help feed the troops - killed up to 100 million, helped by the movement of troops returning home from the war. Pandemics come around, on average, about every 70 years or so. There were small ones in 1957 and 1968/9, when "Hong Kong flu" - strain H1N1 - spread around the world, and one million died. That was tiny by pandemic standards. The scientists reckon we're overdue for an infectious, fatal strain of flu, one which can pass from human to human by the usual methods - sneezing or contact. There's already a deadly strain of flu around - "chicken flu", better known to the scientists by the strain of flu virus that causes it: H5N1. But it only passes from chickens to humans, not from from person to person. If it could do that, it would have the potential to turn pandemic. But maybe it already can. There have already been a couple of cases of deaths from H5N1 where the only logical pathway is human-to-human. The UK government announced in February that it will buy in thousands of doses of Tamiflu as part of the UK Influenza Pandemic Contingency Plan (PDF, 160kB). Too bad - the latest results (reported by New Scientist; limited-time free access) suggest that Tamiflu isn't effective against H5N1. And anyway, New Scientist reports, the UK's order for 14.6 million five-day courses of Tamiflu treatment will take its patent owners Roche two years to fulfil. The company is still trying to develop ways to synthesise it from scratch. The consequences of a really big, fatal flu epidemic on modern society are hard to imagine, partly because they're so enormous. Air passengers would be the first vector of infection, followed by the people who travelled with them in the train or Underground train or coach from the airport, followed by the family and friends of those people. Give it a few days and people would be falling ill, then over the next weeks dying. If the strain is new and unexpected, there wouldn't be time to produce enough vaccine to treat it. According to a New England Journal of Medicine article by Dr Michael Osterholm of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis - who is also director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy - titled "Preparing for the Next Pandemic", the 1950s-era methods of producing vaccines means we would need (ironically enough) one chicken egg per person to produce the vaccine, plus six months to culture it. "The global economy would come to a halt, and since we could not expect appropriate vaccines to be available for many months and we have very limited stockpiles of antiviral drugs, we would be facing a 1918-like scenario," notes Dr Osterholm, who calculates that given current technology, we could vaccinate about 500 million people, tops - about 14 per cent of the world population. Of course, most of those will be in the developed world. But are you sure you'd be one? Are you in the Armed Forces? Do you or your business count as an essential service? If you're not involved with the electricity, water, fuel distribution, phone or gas industries, then probably not. "And owing to our global 'just-in-time delivery' economy, we would have no surge capacity for health care, food supplies, and many other products and services," Dr Osterholm adds. Let's have some more numbers from Dr Osterholm, just to encourage you. He writes: "It is sobering to realize that in 1968, when the most recent influenza pandemic occurred, the virus emerged in a China that had a human population of 790 million, a pig population of 5.2 million, and a poultry population of 12.3 million; today, these populations number 1.3 billion, 508 million, and 13 billion, respectively. Similar changes have occurred in the human and animal populations of other Asian countries, creating an incredible mixing vessel for viruses. Given this reality, as well as the exponential growth in foreign travel during the past 50 years, we must accept that a pandemic is coming - although whether it will be caused by H5N1 or by another novel strain remains to be seen." All this has been noted by virologists and disease experts around the world. But what can we do? For one thing, listen to what they're saying, and put some pressure on the politicians who are ignoring this threat, in the hope it will go away. Climate change may be a greater threat than terrorism, but a flu pandemic is a more immediate threat than either. Or, as Dr Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota put it: "Frankly the crisis could for all we know have started last night in some village in Southeast Asia. We don't have any time to waste and even if we did have some time, the kinds of things we need to do will take years. Right now, the best we can do is try to survive it. We need a Manhattan Project yesterday." Let's hope they got started. Now, where's the number of that forger for my vaccination certificate? ® Related stories Dirty PCs fuel hospital super bugs Gates pledges extra $250m for world health US advises against Taiwan travel
Charles Arthur, 02 Jun 2005
channel

AOpen Mini PC 'not competing' with Apple Mac Mini

Computex 2005Computex 2005 PC maker AOpen has been quick to attempt to stamp out any suggestions that its remarkably Mac Mini-like "Mini PC", jointly demonstrated at Computex 2005 this week with Intel, is intended to compete with the Apple product. The company even went as far as to quote a well-known computer market analyst that the Mini PC, which AOpen said was "a giant leap forward", is not the Wintel world's answer to the compact cut-price computer Apple began shipping earlier this year. No, no, said AOpen, dismissing comments that the Mini PC was a Mac Mini rip-off, of course we're not competing with Apple - it's competing with us. AOpen's 'logic' is that since the Mac Mini is all about winning over Wintel users to Apple's product line, the Mac Mini competes with PCs, not the other way round. Either way, the two machines are remarkably similar. The dimensions may be a little different (16.5 x 16.5 x 5cm for the Mac Mini and 15 x 15 x 5cm for the Mini PC) but the two boxes share the same round-edged design, square profile, rear-facing air vent and ports, and front-mounted slot-loading optical drive. Slot-loaders have, of course, been a common feature of a variety of Macs for ages, whereas they're rather rare in the Wintel world. There's no Apple logo on AOpen box, natch, and it sports an unappealing on/off button on its front. The Mini PC incorporates Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, both optional on the Mac Mini. It's powered by a Pentium M processor running alongside Intel's 915GM chipset. Apple announced the Mac Mini back in January. The Mini PC actually made its first public appearance in February at the Intel Developer Forum, where it was described as a concept design. ® Related stories Apple in 'talks with Intel' Apple financials rude with health Is the Mac Mini Apple's future 'smart' iPod Dock? Euro Apple fans moan over Mac Mini pricing Apple unveils CD-sized mini Mac, one ounce iPod Related stories Apple Mac Mini
Tony Smith, 02 Jun 2005
channel

Unipalm fingers Networks First

Distributor Unipalm is working with Networks First to bolster its hardware maintenance services. Networks First offers support based on service level agreements, escalation procedures, access to trained engineers, remote diagnosis and customer questionnaires after every fault call. Sally Barton, director of professional services at Unipalm, said it had chosen Networks First on the recommendation of existing customers and for its creative development of new services. Barton said the two firms will grow their hardware business and offer new services to the channel. Networks First employs 40 people and is headquartered in Solihull with offices in London and Scotland.® Related stories Unipalm bundles Symantec and Blue Coat Anti-spam tsunami hits SMEs Ingram Micro sales solid
John Oates, 02 Jun 2005
For Sale sign detail

Free software fans take a stand against software patents

Free software advocates are holding a last conference on the software patents directive today, ahead of a parliamentary vote on the directive on 21 June. This afternoon, Association Electronique Libre and Open Standaarden will lead a demonstration in Brussels against the proposed legislation. Open source luminaries Richard Stallman, founder of GNU/Linux and Alan Cox (of Red Hat fame) will join Green MEPs Monica Frassoni and Eva Lichtenberger to discuss the impact of software patents on the free and open source software community. Stallman has spoken many times about the dangers of allowing patents on software ideas. He warns that if companies are allowed to patent software ideas, big business will ride roughshod over the smaller players, and the free software movement will be effectively strangled. He says that the US should be a warning for Europe, as it is a case study of how difficult things can get for an independent developer trying not to infringe anything already patented. When the developer inevitably does infringe a patent, he has three choices: avoid the idea, try to buy a license, or overturn the patent. No-one is obliged to grant licenses, they can name their terms if they do and it wouldn't take too many deals requiring a slice of gross sales to sink a product. Big companies can ride out these kinds of difficulties by brandishing their own portfolio of patents, and signing cross-licensing deals. They can also afford to pursue their patents in the courts - a process that is notoriously expensive. Smaller players would not have that luxury. Stallman, and other anti-patent campaigners, argue that the directive of computer implemented inventions (as it is formally known) would usher in just this kind of madness in Europe. Anyone who can't make it to Brussels to register a protest, but who would like to make their voice heard, can sign up for a web demo against the introduction of the directive here. The European Parliamentary committee will vote on its proposed amendments to the draft on 21 June, and the parliament as a whole is likely to vote on the directive on 5 July. ® Related stories Patent Office makes a technical contribution EU takes axe to software patents directive Software patent directive back in motion
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Jun 2005

Boffins pinpoint trust hormone

Scientists from Switzerland and the US reckon they have discovered a way of making people trust you - just give 'em a dose of hormone Oxytocin and away you go... Oxytocin is, according to Reuters, a hormone released during sexual orgasm. It's nickname of "cuddle" hormone gives you an idea of what its effect is, viz; "We find that intranasal administration of Oxytocin causes a substantial increase in trusting behavior," as the scientists explain in Nature. Put another way: "Oxytocin specifically affects an individual's willingness to accept social risks arising through interpersonal interactions." And apparently, test subjects "exposed to the hormone but faced with a computer did not show increased willingness to take risks". All of which translates thus: Oxytocin makes you more likely to trust someone. Naturally, the scientists did offer a warning as to possible misuse of this touchy-feely hormone, concluding: "Of course, this finding could be misused to induce trusting behaviors that selfish actors subsequently exploit." That's to say, you might find yourself suddenly finding Tony Blair and George Bush strangely plausible, without realising that your entire neighbourhood has been dosed with Oxytocin deployed via aerosol from stealth black helicopters. You have been warned. ® Related stories Happy = healthy: official Chip improves vision, baffles scientists Black holes in production in New York
Lester Haines, 02 Jun 2005
fingers pointing at man

TSG gets SME specialist

The Technology Services Group, the reseller started by Sage founder Graham Wylie, is making John Mundell its regional sales director for the north west. Mundell has experience in IT sales and previously worked for Excel Publishing, URL Ltd and Dixons Store Group. He will be focussing on selling to SMEs around Manchester and Warrington. He will concentrate on pushing TSG's service and support services. He's married with one daughter and "enjoys football, family life and reading when not taking on the challenge of assisting with TSG's continuing UK growth.", according to the lovingly crafted press release. ® Related stories TSG goes for Smees TSG buys another Scottish reseller TSG buys Yorks dealer
John Oates, 02 Jun 2005
fingers pointing at man

Sun sheds $4.1bn for StorageTek

Sun Microsystems shocked investors and customers today by announcing that it will acquire StorageTek for $4.1bn. Sun has offered up $37 per share in cash for each StorageTek share - an 18 per cent premium. The storage maker's shares started the day at $31.23 per share and then shot up more than 15 per cent to $36.41 the moment Sun's buy was announced. Shares of Sun dipped slightly to $3.80 at the time of this report. Sun expects the deal to close in late Summer or early Fall. This acquisition eats up a huge chunk of Sun's close to $7bn in cash. (StorageTek arrives with $1.1bn in cash of its own, which is a nice boost for Sun.) The company, however, has long struggled in the storage market and could use some help. It has watched as rivals EMC, HP and IBM sold tons of storage attached to its Solaris boxes. In addition to bolstering its storage business, the move gives Sun a much-needed marketing boost. It has been languishing for some time as its tries to revitalize its server and software businesses. StorageTek could well push Sun toward near-term profitability. In its recent quarters, Sun has ended up just below break-even. StorageTek, by contrast, posted income of $23m on the back of $499m in revenue during its most recent quarter. The company reported $2.2bn in revenue and net income of $191m in 2004. "This is not an acquire and turnaround situation," McNealy said. "(StorageTek) is generating cash and making money." Executives from both companies refused to present a management structure for the combined company. But StorageTek's CEO Patrick Martin vowed to keep his 7,000 person firm's presence in Colorado high. StorageTek has been operating out of that state since 1969. This deal gives Sun one of the leaders in the tape storage and data backup market. StorageTek has deals with a wide variety of storage hardware makers, and executives from both companies pledged to maintain such relationships. Sun has focused on selling SAN (storage area network) and NAS (network attached storage) systems and related software. In the future, the companies want to create common software products and to nail the storage market that centers around regulatory and compliance issues. Recent regulations have pushed storage vendors to create a wide variety of compliance gear. Sun also plans to give the typically quiet StorageTek a more vocal marketing edge. "We can go take our megaphone, and we believe gain some share in the market," McNealy said. "At least, that's our game plan." A cynic would suggest that Sun has acquired a dinosaur with only little prospect of nailing future, high-growth areas. Tape isn't dead as some would suggest, but it is being punished by disk more and more every year. In addition, Sun's storage performance has been so poor that one wonders if it can make good use of the StorageTek assets. On the other hand, this deal gives Sun a new channel to sell both storage and servers. Sun has acquired the right to converse with thousands and thousands of IBM, HP, EMC and Dell customers where it might not have had its own accounts. In addition, this evens out Sun's hardware play, making it very significant throughout the data center. A braver, more exciting move would have been for Sun to merge with EMC and really give the likes of IBM and HP a run. That, however, would have required Sun to give up much of its independence, which is not something McNealy has ever seemed interested in or willing to do. ® Related stories HP fills NonStop gear full of Itaniums NetApp opens fire on EMC Mimosa ships all-knowing Exchange protector 15,000 HP workers get nervous as analyst predicts massive job cuts
Ashlee Vance, 02 Jun 2005

Earth bacteria could invade Mars

Earth-bugs might just be able to survive on Mars, according to new research, although the circumstances do have to be perfect. The research team from the University of Florida warns that at least one type of earthly bacteria could survive long enough to hitch a ride to the red planet, and leave a biological signature in the Martian soil. Any future missions hunting for life on Mars will need to take care to distinguish between Martian life, and any possible alien invaders, the researchers say. The general consensus is that the hard UV exposure on Mars would be sufficient to kill most forms of Earth bacteria. In fact laboratory tests show that five minutes of exposure to ultra-violet light at Martian levels is enough to kill even the most resilient of bacterial species: the blue-green algae Chroococcidiopsis sp. 029. But if the bacteria is protected by just one millimetre of Martian soil, it could survive for at least 24 hours. If the conditions are just right, the bacteria could even grow, although this is much less likely. The Martian environment is quite horrible for Earth life, and the low temperatures, low pressures and aridity do not make for comfy conditions. The study also found that signs of life, such as Chlorophyll and some enzyme activity, will persist for hours, and perhaps much longer, after the bacteria have died. Since the search for life on Mars will look for these very indicators, mission planners will have to gather other supporting evidence for life, if they are to be sure of what they have found. ® Related stories Buzz Aldrin takes giant leap into kids' books Europe will land on Mars in 2013 Frozen sea on Mars hints at alien life
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Jun 2005

IBM UK workers in the dark as firing crunch time hits

ExclusiveExclusive More complaints have surfaced against IBM's severance and firing plans here in the UK with critics saying Big Blue is behaving like an antiquated employer. IBM last month warned that it would fire up to 13,000 workers - many of them in Europe and the UK specifically. It began the job cut process by offering workers in the UK a severance package that includes two weeks worth of pay for each year of service. But Amicus, one the largest unions in the UK, with 1.2 million members, has challenged the process IBM put in place to counsel workers on severance options. In particular, the union has charged that IBM is taking an unprecedented step in requiring elected employee representatives to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), which restrict the information they can report back to the rest of the workforce. "We have never come across that (NDAs) before in this type of negotiation," Peter Skyte, national officer with Amicus, told The Register. "These people can't represent the workforce because they can't report back to them properly with the gagging conditions IBM has in place." IBM declined to comment for this story. According to documents obtained by The Register, tomorrow will be the last day IBM employees can seek advice from counsellors on the company's voluntary severance package plans. The workers can then inform IBM of their decision on June 6 and will head out the door on June 16 if they accept the offer. The documents reveal the following format for compensation: For employees on standard IBM terms and conditions the payment IBM is offering will be based on 2 weeks’ salary per completed year of service as at the leave date, subject to the minimum detailed below. Two weeks’ salary is defined as annual gross reference salary X 2/52. An amount equivalent to 2 months’ of gross reference salary will be added to that. An amount equivalent to the gross amount of the payment in lieu of notice and benefits will be deducted from this figure and the balance will be the ex gratia payment. One example of IBM worker's compensation was laid out as follows: Employee has Salary of £5620 per month, is aged 47 on the leave date and has 17 completed years of service: Payment in Lieu of Notice £15563 (Notice Period is 12 weeks) Pay in Lieu of Benefits £831 (Notice Period is 12 weeks. Employee has company car - benefit is £300 per month) Ex gratia Payment £38941 Total Payment £55335 (2 weeks of salary per completed year of service, plus 2 months of salary) Pension Enhancement £28100 One IBM staffer who requested anonymity described the voluntary severance offer as "extremely disappointing." Amicus agreed. "For a world-class company, IBM is not paying world-class redundancy in comparison with some of its competitors who pay, for example, one month's salary," Skyte said. As a point of reference, IBM's US staffers were not offered any voluntary packaged in this most recent round of layoffs, although relatively few US staff were hit compared to European employees. In the US, companies often offer just two weeks to two months of severance pay total not for each year of service. The union leader also emphasized Amicus's displeasure with IBM's overall firing plans. The company last year boasted of its intention to hire thousands and thousands of staffers only to end up firing almost as many staff after missing earnings expectations in its first quarter. "This is a knee jerk reaction to the first quarter that is aimed at boosting share prices," Skyte said. "It's similar to 19th century farmers who hired workers for the harvest and then fired them at the end of the season. That's no way to treat a hi-tech workforce." ® Related stories IBM Germany job cut fears tempered 15,000 HP workers get nervous as analyst predicts massive job cuts Can IBM's Euro problems continue? IBM refuses to say where jobs axe will fall More mergers in the telecom industry? IBM to fix bad quarter by axing 13,000 jobs Dell ready to go on India hiring binge
Ashlee Vance, 02 Jun 2005

Window of exposure lets viruses run rampant

More than 295,000 virus-infected emails were sent to companies in the UK in May before anti-virus vendors could issue signature updates, according to email filtering firm BlackSpider Technologies. It’s long been known that there is a ‘window of exposure’ - the interval between when a virus begins spreading and signature updates are issued by anti-virus vendors. BlackSpider has put a figure on this phenomenon in order to back up its argument that there’s a high risk of infection during this ‘window of exposure’ for firms that rely on conventional anti-virus scanners alone. Vendors that make most of their money from desktop or server-based anti-virus scanners argue that most of these viruses could be thwarted by a policy of blocking executable attachments in email. They also argue - with some justification - that many instances of virus infestation occur because people don’t keep anti-virus protection up to date and that older viruses pose the greater problem. Furthermore looking at virus-infected emails – rather than figures on virus-infected PCs that are harder to obtain – slews stats towards newer, chattier viruses. Desktop anti-virus protection also defends against viruses that propagate using browser exploits, unlike email filtering services. "Blocking at the perimeter alone is dangerous because viruses can spread through variety of methods, such as IM and P2P, as well as email. Users need protection at the heart of their organisation," said Carole Theriault, a security consultant at Sophos. Email filtering firms, such as BlackSpider and MessageLabs, counter-argue that their services are needed in addition to conventional anti-virus defences. The ability to recognise and quarantines viruses before patches are issued by anti-virus vendors helps corporate security, they argue. This approach also allows more aggressive filtering. According to BlackSpider, the recent fast-spreading Sober-P virus proved particularly problematic for anti-virus vendors who took more than two days to issue signature updates that picked up all copies of the variant. The two most damaging virus outbreaks of last month occurred on May 31. MyTob-BC proved the most prolific, with approximately 69,500 emails being sent to UK businesses prior to the first signature updates being available from anti-virus vendors, while the Bagle-BO virus ran it a close second. Blackspider blocked 67,000 copies UK business email addresses before anti-virus vendors issued a signature update. Spohos’s Theriault said that heuristic (automatic detection) features in its products picked up Bagle-BO without the need to issue additional anti-virus signatures. ® Related stories Viruses leap through window of opportunity The trouble with anti-virus MS punts all-in-one security and backup service
John Leyden, 02 Jun 2005

Website compiles sexual partner database

Everyone knows the old classic that everyone on the planet is separated by just six degrees, so, if you want to get in touch with a Patagonian goat-herd, a chain of just half-a-dozen people will bring you face-to-face with your target. Another time-honoured adage is that when you sleep with someone, you are sleeping with everyone they ever slept with, and everyone those people slept with, and so forth. Accordingly, you may be pleasantly surprised to discover that you have in fact slept with Sharon Stone, even if you weren't aware of the fact. Now a website is seeking to build the world's biggest database of previous sexual partners - a so-called "Sex Degrees of Separation" resource - aiming to, well, we're not quite sure what the point of it is, but here's the blurb: Shagster.net* - located at www.shagster.net - aims to go one stage further than the current craze of online social groups such as Friendster and Myspace which simply list friends of friends of friends. Shagster.net allows members to finally discover a new circle of mates through mating. Naturally, there are built-in safeguards to protect the privacy of those who do not wish it to be publicly known that they once enjoyed a one-night stand with a bloke from Birmingham after a particularly drunken computer show beano: Users simply register their profile for free before inputting the details of those they have slept with. These details are only added with the consent of the other party, but, once given, a new circle of friends is generated. Stats such as 'performance ratings' are also listed, adding a little bit more spice to the community. Members can browse the profiles of friends they are connected to, to discover who they in turn are connected to, forming new friendships through their mutual conquests. The consent bit of it does actually sort of scupper the basic premise of Shagster.net. Still, we're sure that the pseudo-sociological element will make the whole thing a great success, as site founder Chris Leate explains: "This site aims to explore the various worldwide links between individuals via sexual partners. It'll provide an interesting snapshot of the sexual make-up of our users - one which will, I am sure, provoke debate as the community evolves." Hmmm. Shagster.net is currently in beta. The operators say it is free now and will remain so after it goes full-fat in the coming months. In the meantime, if you get an email saying: "Sharon69@shagster.net claims you once gave her one in the toilets at Computex and would like to advertise the fact to everyone on the planet", you now know that it is not an attempt to extract money with menaces, but rather said Sharon simply trying to get an interesting snapshot of her sexual make-up. ® Bootnote *Surely Shagsreunited is a better moniker for this invaluable online resource? Related stories Paris Hilton burger cavort crashes website South Korean swingers in net porn bust Dating website dumps serial shagger
Lester Haines, 02 Jun 2005
homeless man with sign

Indian outsourcing revenues skyrocket

Exports of software and IT services from India will rise 30 to 32 per cent in the year to March 2006, according to predictions from India's leading association of technology companies. The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) said that exports will hit $22.5bn in 2006, up from $17.2bn in the FY ending March 2005 and $16.7bn in 2003-04. Domestic market revenues grow by 24 per cent in FY 04-05 to reach $4.8bn. One million people work in India's growing IT market, according to Nasscom, which is targeting export growth of $50bn in FY 09. "The industry is in a strong position to leverage the global software opportunity and establish India as the premier IT destination in the world. To sustain our competitive advantage, the industry must engage closely with academia to create the right talent pool, collaborate with the hardware industry in microelectronics and embedded software, maximize employment opportunities and elevate service excellence through R&D and quality-benchmarked delivery," said S. Ramadorai, chairman of NASSCOM and managing director of Tata Consultancy Services, the Indian software services giant. ® Related stories HP confirms jobs to India move India, China poised to feast on US IT complacency Bomb scare targets Indian software firms Outsourcing more expensive than in-house service Offshoring inevitable, so get over it
John Leyden, 02 Jun 2005

Online poker firm set to float

PartyGaming, which runs online poker games, is set to float on the London Stock Exchange later this month for an estimated £5bn. The price would make it the largest IPO in recent years and make PartyGaming more valuable than British Airways and Boots. The firm is based in Gibraltar for tax reasons and launched in 1997. It turned over $222.6m in the first quarter of this year and claims its PartyPoker website hosts up to 65,000 players at peak times. Online gambling is gaining in popularity and winning new players especially amongst women. The LSE is becoming the favoured destination for online gaming firms because of continued questions over US regulation. ® Related stories Global poker game for the internet goes on WTO rules in online gambling dispute Women warm to online betting
John Oates, 02 Jun 2005

.net vote stalls

A controversial vote to give VeriSign control of the .net registry for the next six years has stalled. A special meeting of the ICANN Board on Wednesday - the second in a month, both with .net top of the agenda - failed to reach agreement after a number of members abstained and the necessary quorum to pass a resolution wasn't reached. The vote, called for by Hagen Hultzsch and seconded by chairman Vint Cerf, sought the re-selection of VeriSign in running .net. The duo along with a further three Board members voted in favour but two voted against and four abstained. A further four were not present. Under ICANN bylaws a majority of Board members should be present for the meeting to be legitimate and a majority of those present need to vote in favour for a resolution to be carried. In this case, five were in favour but six were against or abstained. The vote failure comes after a hotly contested process of selection for a new .net registry owner. As we exclusively revealed last month, ICANN had made a large number of changes to the public consultation process, all of which favoured VeriSign. The company chosen by ICANN to carry out the evaluation, Telcordia, also has close ties with VeriSign. However, it was the level of criticism thrown at both the process and Telcordia that has given ICANN Board members pause for thought. Every single bidder in the process, except the winner VeriSign, has made highly critical public statements. Adding to this, two of ICANN's own constituencies ruled the process flawed, including the chairman of the committee which drew up the original evaluation criteria. The first special meeting of the Board to decide on the issue, held on 3 May did not vote on .net because Telcordia had failed to complete a revised version of its final report. That report finally arrived late on Friday 27 May, giving interested parties just one working day to review it before the second special Board meeting yesterday, 1 June. Telcordia's revised report still appears to contains numerous flaws and debatable judgements. It has corrected several blatant errors from the first version, but again decides in favour of VeriSign, and again appears to make arbitrary decisions in favour of one company or against another. The .net issue will again go to the Board at a third special meeting next week on Tuesday 7 June. Since ICANN does not appear to be questioning the process or report or asking for further comment, it is difficult to see what real progress will be made in this time. One thing does seem certain: the absent Board members will appear next week and, the organisation hopes, vote in favour in sufficient numbers to pass this highly irregular decision through. .net vote of 1 June 2005. Motion to grant ownership to VeriSign. In favour: Vinton G. Cerf; Hagen Hultzsch; Veni Markovski; Hualin Qian; Paul Twomey Against: Alejandro Pisanty; Vanda Scartezini Abstained: Raimundo Beca; Demi Getschko; Joichi Ito; Michael D. Palage Absent: Mouhamet Diop; Thomas Niles; Njeri Rionge; Peter Dengate Thrush ® Related stories Verisign and .net: a winner all the way VeriSign responds to .net report criticisms VeriSign wins back .net registry VeriSign enters MMS market with Lightsurf buy
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Jun 2005

Scandinavia gets tough on file sharing

Scandinavia seems to getting tougher with those sharing illegal music files on the web. Sweden last week passed a law banning the sharing of copyrighted material on the web without payment of royalties. Until now, it was legal in Sweden to download copyrighted movie and music files, but making them available for sharing was unlawful. Earlier this year, a Swedish prosecutor had already charged a man who made a movie available for download from his computer, the first such case in the Nordic country. In Sweden, the piracy problem is bigger than in any other country in Europe, experts claim. At least 500,000 people in Sweden - a country of nine million inhabitants - download and post illegal copies of films, claims the Swedish Anti-piracy Bureau. But then they would say that, wouldn't they? An Oslo municipal court this week sentenced a 36-year-old man for running an illegal file sharing service, the first conviction of its type in Norway. The man had made a significant number of film and music files available for at least 300 people at a time, daily newspaper Aftenposten reports. Norwegian police discovered more than 60,000 pirated film and music files, some of which sat on his employer's server: the Norwegian telecom company NetCom. ® Related stories Spaniards stick sword in P2P website Court rules for German ISPs in P2P identities case UK court orders ISPs to unmask 33 filesharers
Jan Libbenga, 02 Jun 2005