5th > July > 2005 Archive

Lufthansa online activist found guilty

A German activist who launched a short attack against Lufthansa's website, in protest at the company allowing police to use its planes for forced deportations of asylum seekers, has been found guilty by a Frankfurt court. Andreas-Thomas Vogel has been ordered to pay a fine of €900, or as the court put it "the equivalent of 90 days of detention". This essentially means the activist is slapped with a criminal record. On 20 June, 2001 Vogel released software to automatically knock out the web site of Lufthansa as part of an online demonstration. Although technically speaking it wasn't a denial-of-service attack, where a downpour of incoming data to the web server essentially forces it to shut down, Lufthansa's lawyers filed a lawsuit claiming that 1.2 million hits caused unspecified economic damage. After more than three years of investigation, a court in Frankfurt has ruled that Vogel indeed broke the law by releasing the software and that the two hour blockade did cause damage. Vogel, who warned that the German state is trying to make mass protests on the internet illegal, said he will appeal the ruling. His lawyer added that the demonstration was registered with officials. ® Related stories German soldier wins software right of conscience German court to examine Lufthansa attack German soldier wins software right of conscience
Jan Libbenga, 05 Jul 2005

Online food shopping getting better

Posh supermarket Waitrose chain continues to be best place to shop for groceries online, according to research carried out by Computing Which?. Ocado and WaitroseDeliver were both voted top e-supermarket because they were easy to use and had some top features including "excellent" search engines which even found items that were misspelled. Ocado is an independent company that is 40 per cent owned by the John Lewis Partnership (JLP). WaitroseDeliver operates from Waitrose stores and is wholly owned by JLP. While Waitrose continues to do well, other supermarkets are improving their service too. Which is a big improvement on a couple of years ago when GoodHousekeeping decided that shopping for groceries online is a waste of time and puts punters under too much stress. Their research found that it was quicker to shop and queue at the checkout rather than waste time fretting online. Said the mag's editor at the time: "A service which is based on convenience and speed should be catering more for consumers on all fronts - and not becoming a stress-filled chore which takes longer than a trip to the supermarket." How things have changed. Said Sarah Kidner, acting editor, Computing Which?: "Online supermarket shopping has become popular among people who don't want to face wonky trolleys, whining kids and checkout queues. Although the quality of the sites varied, overall we found grocery shopping online to be easy and convenient." ® Related stories Supermarkets next in line for phishing attacks Grocery shopping online getting better E-shopping a stress-filled chore OFT checks out online grocers over price gouging claims Sainsbury's suspends online discounts Shopping without tears: a parents' guide
Tim Richardson, 05 Jul 2005

GSM Association promotes cheapo phones for developing world

The GSM Association is extending its effort to get low-priced mobile phones into the hands of people in developing countries. The industry group, comprising operators, phone makers and developers, is moving into the second phase of its Ultra-Low Cost Handset initiative, which aims to get handsets costing less than $30 onto the market in poorer nations. Although 80 per cent of the world's population has mobile phone coverage, today's 1.3 billion GSM users represent only 25 per cent of the potential, the GSM Association (GSMA) notes. Phase 2 includes an "Invitation to Strategic Partnership" issued to handset manufacturers. Once phone makers are selected for the initiative - a process which should be completed in the autumn - the GSMA will see to it that the ultra-low cost phones will hit the market in the first quarter of 2006. The group is aiming to see six million handsets sold under the programme within the first six months. "The next phase of our initiative aims to drive even greater affordability, through sustainable products, at even lower cost than the first phase of the programme," said Craig Ehrlich, chairman of the GSMA. "At the right entry level we believe there is the potential for over a hundred million new connections per year." Several operators are already expected to sign up to the second phase of the initiative, including six Indian operators, three in Bangladesh and two Pakistan operators. Players in Thailand, the Philippines, South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda, Swaziland, Cameroon, Nigeria, Algeria, DRC, Egypt, Iraq, Tunisia, Russia, the Ukraine, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania are also expected to jump on board. "Operating in developing markets means that we are dealing with the challenges on a day-to-day basis," said Erik Aas, CEO of Telenor-owned GrameenPhone in Bangladesh and a manager of the initiative. "We must ensure that the realities of the issues faced by developing countries are addressed. This programme seizes the initiative and pushes the potential - we are making the market happen." The Ultra-Low Cost Initiative kicked off at the start of the year, with a trial which saw phone maker Motorola agree to supply low-cost handsets to phone makers in developing markets -- a tender which enabled Motorola to make a small profit. Phase one of the project also aims to see 6 million units make it into the hands of users and the GSMAexpects to hit its targets. "The price of the handset is only one hurdle," said GSMA CEO Rob Conway. "We are also pushing hard for further positive changes that can be effected by governments, such as more flexible regulatory decisions and a more favourable approach to taxation. In addition, we are encouraging innovative payment mechanisms that could further positively reduce the barriers to ownership." GSM Association press release is here © ENN
Matthew Clark, 05 Jul 2005
channel

Brit nicked for hacking Xbox

A 22-year old British man has been convicted for modding an Xbox. The Cambridge graduate was tracked down by an investigator for the trade body Electronic & Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA). Elspa tipped off Caerphilly trading standards and Gwent police. He was sentenced to 140 hours of community service at Caerphilly Magistrates court and must pay £750 in costs, according to the BBC. He was modifying Xboxes and fitting them with 200GB hard drives containing up to 80 games. He was offering them for sale on his website for £380. The court also took his IT equipment including three PCs, three consoles and 38 hard drives. He is the first man convicted of the offence, which became a crime last year. Elspa said the sentence showed the seriousness of the offence. Deputy director general Michael Rawlinson told the Beeb: "The modification of consoles is an activity that Elspa's anti-piracy team is prioritising. It is encouraging to see the UK courts do the same." Elspa was unavailable to comment on this story.® Related stories UK games industry seeks big hug Cottage shop games pirate, spammer and pornographer jailed UK games biz has most successful year ever
John Oates, 05 Jul 2005

Project Gizmo challenges Skype

IP Telephony is on the brink of becoming mainstream in both the business sector and for "personal" communications. Indeed, when it comes to "personal" usage — by which I mean a small number of people talking together using relatively simple systems rather than corporate solutions — IP telephony has already made an impressive impact. Indeed, amongst the analyst community, and in many other areas of everyday life, IP telephony is growing rapidly. At the forefront of much individual usage has been the solution supplied by Skype. So successful has Skype been that the company name has already started to transform into a verb — "To Skype". However, Skype's current pre-eminent position is now facing a serious challenge with the launch of Project Gizmo, the latest brainchild of Michael Robertson, the founder of MP3.com and Linspire. In many ways Project Gizmo at first appears to be very similar to Skype. By making a free download of its Beta release software, users can make free telephone calls to others on the Gizmo system utilising whatever IP connection they have in place, typically broadband. The software delivers good sound quality and also offers free voicemail, the ability to take part in conference calls and call recording facilities. In addition, the Gizmo CallOut service enables users to initiate calls to landlines and mobile phones from 1.8 US cents per minute using CallOut Credits. Gizmo also provides a facility to allow users to receive calls on a traditional phone number from mobile phones and landlines. The Gizmo CallIn service, which costs $5 per month, supplies a phone number from one of over 50 cities in the US and UK. The major difference between the two, lies in the fact that Project Gizmo has been built using an open source philosophy around the emerging SIP standards. In addition to being based on the SIP open standard, Gizmo has publicly stated that it is committed to interconnecting its IP telephony system with those operated by other organisations. Gizmo already has links to several other VOIP networks including certain Asterix-based systems. Project Gizmo IP telephony software is currently available in beta versions for Mac OSX, Microsoft Windows XP and Windows 2000 platforms, with a Linux version due for release in the next few months. When loading the software and registering, users are supplied with two identifiers—a Gizmo name and an SIP number. Using the SIP number, VoIP networks can reach Gizmo accounts without charge. There is no doubt that 'Voice over IP' Telephony is growing rapidly. It is equally certain that it will grow even faster as the solutions continue to develop and as ever-expanding populations of potential users come into contact with the concept. Skype has pretty much ruled the roost for the last year or so as IP telephony finally hit the Internet. However, it may now face serious challengers, especially as SIP matures. Project Gizmo could do very well if it can attract users quickly enough. Indeed, Gizmo is even asking for suggestions on a "cooler" name under which to operate. © IT-Analysis.com Related stories Asterisk a star of the future? Open-source IP Telephony slashes costs Mobile and VoIP to inherit the earth BT 'BluePhone' Fusion is better than Skype because...? Yahoo! buys! Dialpad! Palm vets put Skype on a thumb drive
Tony Lock, 05 Jul 2005

Russia and Europe tout new space plane

Russia and Europe are in talks to build a new a space plane that will fly missions to the International Space Station once Shuttle's final flight is over in 2010. The new plane would have a lot of new ideas in its design, explains RKK Energuya engineer Vladimir Daneev. "Since the construction of the Shuttle and Buran, a lot of new materials have been found and new technologies have appeared," he said. "We will use all this Russian know-how in the new spacecraft, and we are eager to incorporate a maximum of European technology in the design." The three-module vehicle would be capable of transporting six astronauts and 500kg of cargo, or two astronauts and 700kg of supplies. It would be capable of landing on a runway, or with a parachute, according to a EuroNews report. Since Shuttle's grounding in 2003, the Russian Soyuz capsule has been the only way to service the ISS, bringing supplies and rotating crew. As well as the capsule has done its job, without Shuttle, the station will never be complete. Soyuz is not big enough to bring up the last pieces of the orbiting habitat, including Europe's Columbus module. But Shuttle is scheduled to stop flying altogether in 2010, and the space station will be in use long after that. NASA is not alone in planning for a post-Shuttle era, and the Russians are keen to move on from the 1960's (now, undoubtedly retro) 'Model-T' Soyuz capsule, and book their place in the future of space exploration. Frank de Winne, a Belgian ESA astronaut, says that the Soyuz concept is getting rather old. "It is also getting rather difficult to produce this type of spacecraft. The Americans are examining a new system of manned space transport, called the Crew Exploration Vehicle; and there is the Russian Kliper project, in which Europe is particularly interested," he concluded. ® Related stories Shuttle to fly 13 July NASA: Ice won't threaten Shuttle launch Shuttle grounded until July
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jul 2005

Pakistan cable break still not found

Attempts to repair an undersea cable linking Pakistan to the rest of the world are being hampered by rough weather, according to the head of the country's telco. Difficult conditions in the Arabian Sea just ten miles off the coast of Karachi have made detecting the fault extremely difficult for engineers as they struggle to restore services to Pakistan. Last week internet and other telecoms services in Pakistan went titsup after a cable - the Southeast Asia-Middle East-Western Europe-3 (SEA-ME-WE3) - suffered damage. Although Pakistan telco PTCL has managed to prop up services in the country using satellite links, communications services are still flaky. Junaid Khan, the president of PTCL told Pakistan daily newspaper Dawn: "Frankly, the fault has not been traced. Previously, we had narrowed the defective portion down to 15 kilometres. "At the moment engineers working aboard the ship sent in by a UAE-based company, E-Marine, were scanning five kilometres of the 39,000-kilometre-long fibre-optic link, which is believed to contain the defective portion." Pakistan has some 10 million net users but the disruption has also hit businesses, call centres and financial institutions. PTCL is considering laying a second cable to prevent such disruption in the future, ® Related stories Severed undersea cable cuts off Pakistan Police arrest telecoms workers in Pakistan Norway mobile service floored - report Rats fingered for knocking out NZ's phone network New Zealand floored by cable outage
Tim Richardson, 05 Jul 2005

Sasser author admits guilt

UpdatedUpdated The German teenager accused of creating the infamous Sasser worm is due to stand trial for computer sabotage offences later today (Tuesday, 5 July). Sven Jaschan, 19, was arrested in the village of Waffensen near Rotenburg, in northern Germany, on suspicion of writing and distributing the Sasser worm in May 2004. He later confessed to police that he was both the author of Sasser and the original creator of the NetSky worm. Jaschan's trial will take place behind closed doors in the juvenile court of the German town of Verden and is expected to take around three days. The teenager is being tried in a juvenile court because he was 17 at the time the worm was created, a mitigating factor that'll help Jaschan escape severe punishment if convicted. Sasser is a network aware worm that exploited a well-known Microsoft vulnerability (in Windows Local Security Authority Subsystem Service - MS04-011) to infect thousands of systems in May 2004. AP reports that German prosecutors have picked three German city governments and a broadcaster whose systems were disrupted by Sasser as specimen victims in the prosecution against Jaschan. These organisations were selected from the 143 plaintiffs with estimated damages of $157,000 who have contacted the authorities. All indications are that this is the tip of a very large iceberg. Jaschan was arrested after a tip-off to Microsoft from individuals (Jaschan's erstwhile friends) hoping to cash in through Microsoft's Anti-Virus Reward Program. Investigators questioned Jaschan's mates on suspicion of assisting his virus writing activities but none have been charged. ® Update As expected, Jaschan admitted writing the Sasser worm during the first day of his trial on computer sabotage offences. Katharina Kruetzfeldt, a spokeswoman for the tribunal, said that 19-year-old Jaschan confessed during the closed-doors hearing. The court is taking evidence about the impact of the Jaschan's malware. A light sentence against Jaschan's is likely because of his early admission of guilt and relative youth. Related stories German police arrest Sasser worm suspect Police probe Sasser informant German police raid five homes in Sasser case Sasser author gets IT security job Sasser kid blamed for viral plague
John Leyden, 05 Jul 2005

Martha Lane Fox back in business

The poster-child for dotcom madness, Martha Lane Fox, has recovered from the car crash which nearly killed her and is back to launch her latest business - a chain of upmarket karaoke bars. Fox, who co-founded lastminute.com with Brent Hoberman, has spent a year recovering from horrendous injuries she suffered while on holiday in Morocco. She was driving in the desert with two friends in May last year when she was thrown from the Jeep and broke her pelvis in six places, broke 28 bones and suffered serious internal bleeding. Her friends got away with minor injuries. After treatment at Essaouira hospital she was airlifted back to Britain. She did not leave hospital until December and has returned for two operations this year. Titanium plates were put in her arms, legs and pelvis and she had a series of skin grafts. Any future travel involving airports will require a doctor's letter explaining why she keeps setting off security screens with the amount of metal in her arms and legs. Fox said the accident hadn't changed her. She told the Scotsman: "No, absolutely not. It's just made me more determined to enjoy life and make a difference with things like my charity work." The first Lucky voice bar opened in London's Soho last week. Fox's partner in the business is Jonny Shaw. Its website, which suffers from Flash overload, promises private rooms and "technology like you've never seen". Fox hopes to expand the venture into a chain of bars. Lastminute.com was sold to Travelocity for £577m in May netting Fox a reported £13.5m. Lane Fox also runs Reprieve - a charity which campaigns for people on Death Row. It has funded investigations which led to several convictions being overturned. There's more on this on the Scotsman's website here.® Related stories Travelocity buys Lastminute.com for £577m Potential buyers sniff Ebookers Lastminute founder injured in Morocco Martha Lane Fox sells £4.6m in shares
John Oates, 05 Jul 2005

Clarke's ID card cost laundry starts to break surface

AnalysisAnalysis Growing public concern over the cost of ID cards forced price concessions of sorts from Home Secretary Charles Clarke last week, but these leave the Home Office facing the prospect of an ever-widening money hole as the total cost of the scheme climbs.
John Lettice, 05 Jul 2005
globalisation

Irish distie claims top spot

Commtech is claiming to be Ireland's top security distributor following its purchase of Sentryst for an undisclosed amount. Sentryst was spun off from reseller Entropy in 1999 and has some shareholders in common. Conall Lavery, MD of Entropy and the largest minority shareholder in Sentryst, said: "Sentryst has operated very successfully in the Irish marketplace....However, the market fragmentation was not conducive to continued growth and it needed to partner with a like minded company." In terms of products Commtech gains: ClearSwift, F-Secure, St Bernard, Websense and WebTrends.® Related stories Fortinet settles GPL violation lawsuit Azlan goes a bundle on security services Teenage British Trojan distributor escapes jail
John Oates, 05 Jul 2005
channel

Chips hurt as DRAM goes down

Tanking DRAM prices dragged down worldwide chip sales in May, latest Semiconductor Industry Association figures show. Total sales hit $18.05bn in May, down 0.5 per cent on the previous month, but up 4 per cent on the year. While surging cellphone sales boosted shipments of related chips, DRAM prices dropped 6 per cent sequentially, denting sales overall. Asia Pacific was the only market that showed sequential growth, with sales of $8.94bn, up 1.8 per cent on the month and 11.1 per cent on the year. The Americas had sales of $3.2bn, down 0.7 per cent sequentially, and up 0.2 per cent on the year. European sales were $3.19bn, down 3.9 per cent sequentially, and up 0.1 per cent on the year, while Japan’s sales, at $3.62bn, were down 2.2 per cent sequentially, and down 2.7 per cent on the year. Related stories Chip sales to hit $226bn this year Chips hit squall in April World chip sales continue to rise
Team Register, 05 Jul 2005

ICANN's man in Europe bows out

Internet overseeing organisation ICANN still has problems but it will come out of the UN's upcoming review into Internet governance with flying colours, the organisation's man in Europe, Paul Verhoef has predicted on the eve of his departure. As the first staff member located outside of California, Verhoef has played a vital role in getting ICANN accepted globally. Seconded by the European Union in January 2004, he has been on the frontline as European governments have started to ask big questions about the Internet and domain registry owners continued to express their reservations. With a very difficult patch coming up for ICANN, he himself admit that the timing is "far from perfect", but as from today he will head the European Commission's largest-ever project - the 3.5 billion euro Galileo satellite network, an upgraded version of the US' global positioning system (GPS). "Dream is a big word, but you can understand it's not something you really want to turn down," he modestly explained. We had an exit interview with him. What do you know about ICANN that you wished others did? "Well, the most interesting thing for me was that it has been the subject of the most intense political scrutiny for the past three or four years. And it is going to come out of it very well. "It has taken governments until a couple of years ago to realise that the Internet was important and when they started paying attention, the first knee-jerk reaction was 'well, we are going to need to control it'. I think that is being overcome - not quite yet, but we are getting there. "I see it as an entirely new model where governments and private sector and civil society work together, where none of the three has a defined supremacy or primary role but where there is a genuine attempt between the three sides to decide what is the best way forward. Compromises are going to be needed and they are going to be complex - technically, economically and politicially. "I think the whole difficulty is that people have no experience with this new model but I think understanding is growing that such a new model is necessary." What do you feel has been your biggest achievement in the job? "Successfully setting up the first international office. The very fact that this was done and people have been able to work in the same time zone - in Europe, in the Arab countries and particularly in Africa - and work in their languages, has contributed immensely in people feeling they have communication with ICANN. I would hope that ICANN moves very quickly to do that in other regions because I know there is an enormous demand for it. "Obviously one of the more political manifestations at the moment is that ICANN is seen as a US organisation with links to the US government and based in Los Angeles, but ICANN has gone from a US organisation to an Anglo-Saxon one, and the next extremely important step will have to be from Anglo-Saxon to truly International." What does the future hold in store for ICANN after the World Summit [on the Information Society] (WSIS)? [Background: The second world summit on IT will take place in September this year, during which a consensus is expected to be reached on how the Internet should be run in the future. ICANN's entire future depends on it.] "My assumption is that after the Summit things will go a lot better. At the moment there is a lot of positioning by people because they think they will still be able to influence the Summit to come out in their favour. I don't think this is very likely. I think the Summit will come up with some general language, I don't even think they will name ICANN in particular. "But once the summit is over and ICANN has come out with flying colours, people will realise this is the place to be for these particular issues so we'd better go and make it work there because there is no other place." What about the ongoing problem with country-code domains? [Background: Nearly every major country domain (e.g. .uk and .de) has refused to join ICANN's representative body (the ccNSO) until changes are made that give them greater autonomy.] "We have advanced a great amount. There are still one or two problems but I am not too worried about it. ICANN is under no illusion that it is going to make everyone happy, but we are steadily moving forward. Changing the bylaws will allow the majority of the Europeans to come on board, so I would say that in a year, that most of them would have done so." What about continued accusations that ICANN is overly secretive and opaque? "I cannot subscribe to that. I see it more of people not being aware of the processes. We have seen recently on .xxx [the controversial new domain recently approved for sex sites], people have been saying 'well, if we had known about it, we would have never allowed it'. The problem is the .xxx proposal has been in front of ICANN for 18 months , it has been published on the website, it has been the subject of press releases, there have been updates on it, any movement on it has been reported publicly - what more can we do?" What advice to your have for your successor? "You need to travel, you need to talk to people, you need to create relationships where people feel they have a link into the organisation, that they can talk to people, get rid of their frustrations and their issues and really listen to them and do our best to involve them in the process." ICANN is advertising for a replacement for Paul Verhoef if you fancy the job. Related stories Bush administration annexes internet VeriSign given control of .net until 2011 New domains must protect trade marks, says WIPO EC tells Europe and ICANN to make peace
Kieren McCarthy, 05 Jul 2005

MPs want openness on government IT

Government IT projects are missing crucial stages of feasibility studies and 70 individual Whitehall projects have been warned they are likely to fail. But despite the problems, the Office of Government Commerce, the watchdog for government spending, is resisting pressure to make the relevant reports public. Perhaps the reports make such ugly reading that the British public would be too upset by the gross wasting of public money. The Public Accounts Committee wants the reports published and all projects to go through all stages of Gateway Review, unless the OGC agrees they can skip them. The committee believes the Treasury should have the power to withold funding for projects which "consistently ignore stages of the Gateway process." Recent highlights of the government's IT programme include the tax credit scheme which overpaid the poorest families in Britain by almost £2bn - money which is now being extracted from those same families - ongoing problems at the Inland Revenue, the Child Support Agency, MI5 and the NHS. And we haven't even started on the ID card database. British taxpayers will pay €20.1bn on public sector IT projects in 2005 - 40 per cent higher than Germany or France. The Public Accounts Committee report says a third of all projects missed the first two stages of evaluation under the Gateway review programme, designed to avoid further IT disasters. The stages include considering whether projects are "feasible, affordable and likely to achieve the value for money." Reg readers won't be surprised to hear that the ID card dream was considered under these principles... and the OGC refused to release any information. Projects are rated with red, amber or green lights. Red lights were awarded to 70 projects meaning the project team needs to take immediate action to safeguard the project. Another 127 government projects got amber warnings indicating action needed to be taken before the next review, and 57 projects got the green light. Really bad projects get a "double red warning" and the OGC writes to the relevant permanent secretary. The government's best practice guidelines - "Successful Delivery Toolkit" - is also criticised as difficult to use, confusing and contradictory. The report also notes that government departments could make better use of the resources available to them. More details on the PAC website here.® Related stories UK Inland Revenue may sue EDS Soaring card cost headlines threaten UK ID scheme Firemen challenge £31m planned IT bill UK eGov projects drive Europe's public IT spend UK's tax computers go back to the future
John Oates, 05 Jul 2005
channel

Offshoring jobs threat 'exaggerated' - WTO

The threat of offshoring IT jobs overseas is overblown, according to boffins at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). Its annual World Trade Report finds that people's fears about losing jobs overseas to countries such as India and the Philippines are greatly exaggerated and based on unfounded concerns rather than hard facts. The WTO harks back to the mid 90s when there was a flurry of predictions about ecommerce and how it would turn the world on its head threatening traditional businesses. But the expansion of ecommerce has not been as "significant as predicted" and instead it has found its niche in the retail industry. Likewise, predicts the WTO, while the offshoring of IT and IT-enabled services will increase significantly over the coming years, it will do so "without upsetting national employment levels in the countries which offshore" Neither will it "dramatically change the overall employment situation" in those countries that are doing so much now to offer outsourced services. Which all goes to suggest that while offshoring is happening and will change things, it's not something that should be feared. Or as the report puts it: "In reviewing the international trade and the employment data of major countries prominently engaged in the offshoring of IT services, one is tempted to conclude that most of the expressed expectations and fears related to the size and dynamics of offshoring of IT services are exaggerated. "At present, the impact of offshoring services jobs is far stronger in the popular perception than on actual production, employment and trade patterns." Despite the assurances of the WTO, fears still remain - especially among those whose jobs are at threat. In the UK, for instance, trade unions are busy lobbying government and employers over the threat of jobs being exported overseas. One of the UK's largest trade unions, Amicus, claims that the cost savings from outsourcing work from the UK to the developing world are so big that "it will be impossible for UK companies, particularly in insurance, banking and IT, to refuse". And it estimates that 200,000 UK jobs could be punted overseas by the end of the decade. Amicus warns that the that overseas contact centre industry is becoming "very sophisticated" and "has the capacity to do almost every job - from face to face contact, actuarial, legal and technical support - that is currently done in the UK and at a fraction of the cost". It goes on: "The impact could be devastating, hurting mostly the same communities that suffered worst from the collapse of manufacturing. David Fleming, Amicus National Secretary for Finance, has predicted that, unless we take action now, the UK could be left as a nation of "fat cats and hairdressers with nothing in between." ® Related stories IBM UK mainframe workers train their South African replacements Sell the IT department down the river Call centre workers face voice health scare More outsourcing = more unhappiness Indian outsourcing revenues skyrocket HP thins UK support contract - sends hundreds of jobs to India Outsourcing: prepare to renegotiate your deal, says Gartner Dell ready to go on India hiring binge India, China poised to feast on US IT complacency Big boys turn backs on offshoring India acts on call centre fraud Indian call centre staff nicked for fraud US still in midst of hi-tech powered super boom - pundit Terrorists target offshore call centres Dell grows Celtic fringe UK firms avoid outsourcing tech support
Tim Richardson, 05 Jul 2005

China opens net addiction clinic

Proof that China continues to wholeheartedly embrace all that is good about Western capitalism comes with the news that the nascent economic superpower now has a clinic where net-frazzled comrades can tackle their web addiction. The state-run facility in Beijing currently has 12 inmates who rise at 6am for a programme of sports, acupuncture and medication - all designed to wean them off the net and back into the real world, AP reports. The clinic's director, Dr. Tao Ran, explained: "All the children here have left school because they are playing games or in chat rooms everyday. They are suffering from depression, nervousness, fear and unwillingness to interact with others, panic and agitation. They also have sleep disorders, the shakes and numbness in their hands." One 20-year-old, who reportedly spent 20 hours a day gaming online to the detriment of his studies, said: "I wasn't normal. In school I didn't pay attention when teachers were talking. All I could do was think about playing the next game. Playing made me happy, I forgot my problems." Another 21-year-old confessed: "I would stay up for 24 hours. I would eat only in front of the computer." Tao's addiction-killing therapy includes "sessions on a machine that stimulates nerve impulses with 30-volt charges to pressure points" and intravenous administration of an unnamed "clear fluid" said to "adjust the unbalanced status of brain secretions". Between bouts of having their brain secretions rebalanced, patients can lounge about in rooms which are "sunny, decorated with artificial flowers, Winnie the Pooh comforters and a 17-inch television". We're not sure that Winnie the Pooh comforters are an adequate substitute for an 18-hour session on Counterstrike, but at a cool $48 per day (the average city worker's weekly wage is $20), you'd expect a bit of cuddly toy and TV action for your bucks. Quite what the Chinese authorities make of all this is not recorded, but it will certainly add credence to their assertion that China's youth are having their morals eroded by exposure to the internet. Mind you, they only have themselves to blame. In countries where having more than one child will not result in the parents being clipped round the ear with a copy of the Little Red Book, kids might at least have a younger brother to torment rather than taking out their frustrations with a virtual assault rifle. For his part, Tao reckons there might be 2.5 million Chinese suffering from net addiction, although this may not be as apocalyptic as the good doc suggests. Kuang Wenbo, a professor of mass media at Beijing's Renmin University, said: "As the number of the netizens grows, the number of the addicted people will grow as well, but we should not worry about the issue too much. The young men at the age of growing up have their own problems. Even if there was no internet they will get addicted to other things." ® Related stories Microsoft deletes 'freedom' and 'democracy' in China China hits net gambling hard China shuts 12,500 'illegal' cybercafes
Lester Haines, 05 Jul 2005

Man fakes heart attack with electric underpants

A Lincolnshire man who allegedly used a pair of "electric underpants" to fake the symptoms of a heart attack has had his £300,000 damages claim against electric iron manufacturer Morphy Richards unplugged by a judge. According to the Guardian, 41-year-old Marcus Danquah had pursued Morphy Richards since 1999 after his wife found him sparko in the kitchen apparently as a result of a blast from a 42400 Comfi Grip iron. Danquah claimed he had been floored by the wrongly-wired iron, although later evidence suggested the alarm engineer had tampered with the iron so that it gave anyone who touched it an electric shock. The claimant's alleged electric shenanigans did not end there, however. Judge Hamilton explained: "The claimant was taken to Lincoln hospital and was put on an electrocardiogram which might have suggested that he suffered a heart attack." The judge continued that Morphy Richards claimed Danquah interfered with the electrocardiogram readings by deploying a pair of "electric underpants". Although technical details of the hi-tech underwear are not recorded, the judge noted: "The defence included evidence from an eminent cardiologist who said that the results in the hospital were produced as a result of interference. Some numerous other experts and factual witnesses have said that the entire claim is a sham." Danquah was not in court to hear the verdict due to a last-minute admission to hospital for depression and chest pains. The judge was unimpressed, noting that the late submission of documents relating to Danquah's sudden hospitalisation "suggests to me that Mr Danquah is not unwell". Accordingly, judge Hamilton dismissed Danquah's claim, and ordered him to pay "substantial" costs. The failed claimant has already spent £18,000 in legal fees and faces losing his home. ® Related stories Electronic underwear warns of heart attack Kinky shopper KOed by vibrating knickers Tory caught with panties down
Lester Haines, 05 Jul 2005

GPS tech to rein in UK's speeding motorists

Plans are underway to use a satellite-based system to stop motorists from speeding following the conclusion of government-backed trials of the technology in Leeds. The speed limiting technology works by applying brakes or cutting out the accelerator in modified cars whenever a driver tries to exceed to limit for a particular stretch of road. In the trial, a control device was loaded with a digital map showing the speed limit of every road in Leeds. This was linked to a satellite positioning system. If a speed limit was exceeded an "auto-pilot" function would slow a car down. The system can be over-ridden to avoid a hazard but in normal circumstances drivers would not be allowed to go over a speed limit. A six-month trial of the technology in Leeds using volunteer drivers and 20 modified Škoda1 Fabias concluded the technology promoted road safety. Fitting the system to all Britain’s cars could save up to 1,000 lives a year, according to Leeds University researchers. The Yorkshire boffins carried out the trials as part of a two-year research project into "intelligent speed adaptation" (ISA) funded by £2m from the Department for Transport (DfT). Results of the trial are due to be presented to minister this week, The Sunday Times reports. Beyond representing yet another example of the surveillance society New Labour seems keen to promote the technology could also be viewed as a way of making the introduction of road pricing more palatable. If you know where people are at any point and how fast they've been traveling then it's only a short step to bill them for the miles they've covered. The safety argument could be used to persuade people of the benefits of "speed spy" technology while offering early adopters discounts on motoring charges. That, at least in theory, might make increased charges to urban motorists that would accompany the introduction of road pricing easier to swallow. The Sunday Times reports that a study commissioned by London’s transport chiefs recommended congestion charge discounts to drivers using the system. The DfT said it had no plans to make the system compulsory although it is considering commissioning the creation of a digital map of Britain's road system that would pave the way for the possible introduction of the technology. However drivers groups remain unconvinced about the supposed safety benefits of the approach. Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, said that taking control away from drivers might make them less alert. ® 1 Škoda, as well as being the leading car maker in the Czech Republic, also means "what a shame" or pity in Czech and some other Slavic languages. Older Škodas have a reputation of being somewhat slow so the use of newer versions of the car in the trials may well prompt hoots of derision from the "petrol-heads" crowd. Related stories UK would tag all vehicles in road pricing scheme UK road pricing plan heralds the ID card for cars CVs, privacy and GPS tracking Munich faces RFID-controlled congestion charge Blunkett pilot to track offenders via satellite
John Leyden, 05 Jul 2005

Oz watchdog bans mobile porn

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) - as of 1 July the newly formed face of the Australian Broadcasting Authority and the Australian Communications Authority - has banned hard-core porn from mobile phones. According to various media reports, mobile operators will not be allowed to punt X18+ content or anything which has been refused classification. They will also be obliged to check customers' ages before ejaculating "less offensive" (MA15+ or R18+) moboporn. Furthermore, operators will have to monitor chat room services. The announcement will come as a terrible blow to the burgeoning Australian 3G market. Vodafone, Telstra and Optus will this year join Hutchison in offering high-speed access to top-notch services, but God alone knows how they're going to recoup their licence fees if they can't offer anything spicier than live Aussie rules football. As any well-informed pundit knows, the whole future of 3G hangs on online gambling and pornography. No-one is interested in MMS or the Premiership beamed live to your handset on a two inch square screen. What people really want is the ability to play real-time poker while on the train to work, and download naked people while in the pub. Australia's persistent nannyism attacks not only the fundamental tenets of personal freedom, but also prevents honest, hard-working mobile operators from exerting their God-given right to make huge profits. This undemocratic and anticapitalist rampage must stop, and it must stop now. ® Related stories Net porn good for you: official Oz conservatives demand porn-busting net levy Hardcore web porn banned down under
Lester Haines, 05 Jul 2005

Does your urine smell of maple syrup?

Do you get seborrhoeic dermatitis around your nose and an acne like rash? Do you produce excess ear wax? Do you have a swollen tongue with lateral teeth indentations? Do you ever wonder why you feel absolutely bloody awful? Fear not, help may at hand in the form of Body Language - a new "online diagnostic tool" designed to get you back on track. Body Language is the brainchild of biochemist Graham Cope and forensic scientist Jim Campbell. According to the blurb: This website introduces you to the idea that there are many hundreds of 'Body Language' signals telling you about the state of your health, and what you need to look after your body. This isn't more healthy eating advice. It's about your body’s signs and symptoms to help you to lead a healthier, enrich your life, and live longer. Example: if you've got Brisk Knee Reflexes, you may be deficient in magnesium. Alternatively, shaking hands are a sign of, well, any Reg hack can tell you what causes that... For a more eye-opening revelation, try "Does your baby's urine smell of maple syrup?" Yes? Here's why: Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) is an extremely rare inherited metabolic disorder characterized by a distinctive sweet odor of the urine and sweat. It is a serious disorder that, unless treated promptly and correctly, can be life threatening. Therapy must be started at the earliest possible age to achieve the best results. MSUD is manageable, just as diabetes is manageable, but care and attention must be given to diet and to the treatment of even minor illnesses. Good Lord. Of course, the website's authors make no claim to be a professional online resource, and note: "These Body Language signs are valuable as 'early warning signs' but are no substitute for professional health advice and should not be used exclusively for self-diagnosis or for self treatment of serious complaints or diseases." Indeed. Which is why there is nothing on Body Language asking: "Are you suffering from fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, sore throat, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, a rash, red eyes, hiccups and internal and external bleeding?" ® Related stories Bird flu: we're all going to die Space launches make kids sick Laptops cause infertility: official
Lester Haines, 05 Jul 2005

Thousands sign No2ID pledge

More than 8,000 people have signed No2ID's Pledgebank promise that they will refuse to register for an ID card. The Pledgebank premise is that no one should have to take a stand alone. People can make pledges that they promise to honour if they get enough support from like-minded people. The site's founder, Tom Steinberg, describes the philosophy behind the site as "a direct attack on the age-old barrier to action that comes from the feeling that you can't achieve things when you're on our own." In that spirit, No2ID's national coordinator, Phil Booth, made the following pledge when the site launched back in June this year (2005): "I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same pledge." Now, (at the last count, and steadily rising) 8,054 people have signed up to make their feelings about the government's ID card plans known. If you are uncertain about the introduction of a national identity register and database, or don't fancy paying over £300 for your next passport, you can join the pledge by pointing your web browser here and adding your name to the list. But let's have fewer of the comedy attempts, eh? (Currently the list shows HM Government, and Tony Blair among the signatories, something we consider highly unlikely.) The No2ID campaign is trying to make a serious point about this. ® Related stories Clarke's ID card cost laundry starts to break surface ID cards halve Labour majority Soaring card cost headlines threaten UK ID scheme
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jul 2005

Orange kills Wildfire - finally

Orange yesterday pulled the plug on its Wildfire voice recognition service. The cellco had planned to terminate Wildfire at the end of May but delayed closure, in response to a barrage of complaints. It had underestimated the strength of feeling from loyal Wildfire fans - in particular blind and visually impaired users who relied on Wildfire to make their calls. The cellco - owned by France Telecom - blamed declining numbers for its decision to ditch Wildfire. Orange paid €148m ($142m) to acquire Wildfire Communications in April 2000. The system drummed up an army of fans who relied on the voice activated system to take messages, place calls and store information. Like a "real" PA, Wildfire also became familiar with punters' "personal requirements" the more they used it. ® Related stories Orange postpones Wildfire closure Orange blasted for extinguishing Wildfire Orange snuffs out Wildfire
Tim Richardson, 05 Jul 2005

Email critical to business shocker

Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies Thanks very much to those 1,826 Reg readers who took the time to complete our recent survey on email, or more precisely, "Email Criticality, Support and Migration". The findings demonstrate how central email has become to modern business. For example, two thirds of respondents - including 1,102 SMBs - said that email was critical to the sales process. Likewise, 90 per cent of respondents reckoned email important or critical in the customer services arena. Accordingly, if a company's email crashes and burns, this will impact on operations almost immediately. Over a quarter of respondents said the sales side of their business would be significantly impacted within an hour if email went down, whilst a day's downtime would have a significant negative impact on over three quarters of organisations. Management, meanwhile, is keeping an increasingly close eye on IT departments' performance using email service delivery as a yardstick. This has been facilitated by increasing use of the BlackBerry and other smart handhelds amongst managers and executives which has heightened their awareness and sensitivity to email downtime. The soution, naturally, is to try and ensure that there are no email outages. Given the criticality of email and the pressure on IT to respond quickly when email problems occur, it obviously makes sense for organisations to think about prevention of problems rather than focusing purely on curing them after they occur. Three quarters of respondents recognised that good patch management is important in helping to achieve this and larger organisations in particular regard support and maintenance contracts as being important. That's the semi-skimmed summary. The full-fat report is available right here (PDF). Your industry needs you Sign up here to become a permanent member of our Reg Reader Studies Survey Panel. You'll get the occasional email alerting you to a new survey and may even get the chance to win Reg goodies.
Quocirca, 05 Jul 2005
fingers pointing at man

Ingram Micro adds five firms

Ingram Micro Europe is bolstering its software product line with the addition of five new vendors. Actual availability will vary from country to country as the rollout continues. Ingram will sell products from Phoenix Technologies which offers security and data recovery software, especially for laptops. Also signed up for the season is Sproqit Technologies which gives users wireless access to, and control of, Outlook from a PDA or Smart phone. Ingram will also distribute I.R.I.S Group's products which use character recognition to convert paper documents into crunchable data. EasyBits Software from Norway is also joining Ingram's team - EasyBits is a retail product which creates a interface for kids and a restricted browser. Ingram is also extending its relationship with Quark to include 12 European countries.® Related stories Unipalm fingers Networks First Ingram Micro improves software offers Ingram Micro gets closer to AMD
John Oates, 05 Jul 2005
graph up

Computacenter reorganises

Britain's biggest reseller is hoping a total reorganisation of its business will help it back to bigger profits. Computacenter boss Mike Norris spent today talking to analysts in the City. George O'Connor, an analyst at Shore Capital, who was at the meeting, said: "As expected he unveiled a new organisation model, moving away from customer and vertical units towards technology units. The thinking is that there will be economies by using such a model. The trouble is Computacenter has been a very successful selling company and this may alienate customers who like to see propositions which address their needs." Norris also addressed Computacenter's French and German subsidiaries. O'Connor said: "There were encouraging bits and pieces on France and Germany but to be honest the jury's still out." On the market as a whole Norris apparently said Dell continues to lead the market and is still getting stronger. Computacenter was not available to comment.® Related stories Computacenter expects full year profits shortfall Computacenter issues profit warning Computacenter signs up for BladeLogic
John Oates, 05 Jul 2005

eBay pulls illegal Live 8 DVDs

eBay is busy trying to remove illegal copies of last weekend's Live 8 gig from its auction site after the record industry complained pirated material was being flogged less than 24 hours after the event. The BPI (British Phonographic Industry) urged eBay to get tough on music pirates looking to cash in on the poverty awareness concert. It also called on eBay to step up its anti-piracy efforts after finding thousands of illegal copies of the Live 8 Hyde Park gig on the site. Said BPI anti-piracy head David Martin: "There are too many people out there who believe music is for stealing, regardless of the wishes of artists and the people who invest in them. Sadly we are not at all surprised by this incident. In a statement eBay told us: "The unauthorised copies of Live 8 DVDs we have been told about have been taken down because the sale of fake items is not permitted on eBay.co.uk. "We will continue to work with any relevant rights owners...to end the sale of counterfeit or unauthorised items on eBay.co.uk." But it's not just music being flogged on eBay. People are also cashing in by selling ticket stubs, programmes and even concert "passes" that were handed out free by AOL, the ISP that broadcast the event online. A spokesman for AOL told us: "We distributed these lanyards to concert-goers as free souvenirs of an amazing event, so it is highly inappropriate if people choose to sell them." Last month Live 8 organiser Bob Geldof kicked off an almighty stink after complaining that tickets for the gig - which were dished out for free - were being sold on eBay. He called eBay an "electronic pimp" and called on punters to boycott the online auction site. ® Related stories eBayers banned for wrecking Live 8 ticket auctions Don't flog Live 8 tickets on eBay, pleads eBay eBay bows to Saint Bob over Live 8 Boycott eBay, says Saint Bob Live 8 getz 1m txts for tikits
Tim Richardson, 05 Jul 2005
For Sale sign detail

HP, Expansys waiting on the judge

Expansys and Hewlett Packard are awaiting a High Court judge’s ruling on their grey marketing court spat. HP sued Manchester-based Expansys earlier this year for importing iPaqs from outside Europe. HP claims, amongst other things, that this infringes its trademarks. HP has been on the warpath over so-called grey marketing recently. While it was earlier expected the case would be settled more or less amicably, this was not the case, and UK trade magazine Microscope reports that the two firms had their day in court last week. The case was heard by Mr Justice Laddie, who has now retired to his chambers to consider his ruling. Laddie is, apparently, about to retire which either means a verdict will be handed down fairly quickly, or that it will be bounced onto another judge. dragging out the process until we're all grey. More details from Microscope here.® Related stories Sony UK denies grey PSP confiscation claims Sony tries to choke off UK PSP imports UK distie sues MS for libel over $7m grey claims
Joe Fay, 05 Jul 2005
graph up

Vendors warn Euro patents bill won't add up

Corporate support for the European Directive on Software patents is fading fast ahead of the parliamentary vote tomorrow, with big technology companies saying no directive would be better than one muddled by too many amendments. Telecoms equipment maker, Alcatel, says that a departure from the Common Position would be dangerous to the future of the company, and would threaten jobs in Europe. Meanwhile Philips has said that an amended directive would be legally confusing, adding that it would rather see it withdrawn. According to the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, conservative MEP Klaus-Heiner Lehne is trying to establish a majority of MEPs to vote for a rejection of the Council's "Common Position", even before any amendments are discussed. The FFII says it is no coincidence that supporters of the Common Position, like Lehne, are now calling for the directive to be dropped. It claims that parliament is close to establishing a majority of MEPs in support of the amendments tabled by Michel Rocard. The amendments would put limits on patentability, it argues, and so the directive should only be rejected if the 367 votes needed to pass the changes cannot be found. The FFII adds that the Commission can still withdraw the bill, if it sees fit to do so, even if the amendments are passed. Commissioner Charlie McCreevy confirmed today that if he is not happy with the bill passed by parliament, he is still prepared to withdraw the directive. He also said that if the bill is rejected, he will not table an alternative. MEPs will vote on the amendments and the future of the directive tomorrow. ® Related stories Yet more campaigning on software patents Lobby groups go all out as EU patent deadline looms EU jettisons software patent amendments
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Jul 2005

VIA delays crucial meeting on Claranet acquisition

VIA NET.WORKS has postponed a crucial shareholder meeting to approve the sale of its business to UK ISP Claranet. Although VIA, a business-focused telco operating in Europe and the US, has received the thumbs-up for the deal from those shareholders who have voted so far, it hasn't secured enough votes to give it the go-ahead. Instead, it's giving shareholders more time to vote on the plans to save the business. The shareholder meeting was scheduled to have taken place on 29 June, but has been delayed until 22 July. In a statement VIA said that the proposal to sell the company to Claranet had the "overwhelming support of the shareholders who have voted, but only one third of the total votes of the outstanding voting shares have been received to date". Via needs at least half of the votes for the sale to go-ahead. In March VIA reported that it faced an "urgent liquidity problem" that could lead to the closure of the business ISP. In April Claranet agreed to rescue the firm with a $27m offer to buy out VIA subject to shareholder approval. ® Related stories VIA NET.WORKS faces liquidity crisis Claranet closer to VIA buyout Claranet rejects 'cold feet' claims over VIA deal Backlog builds as Amen strike bites Amenworld workers strike over proposed VIA sale Claranet to buy VIA NET.WORKS
Tim Richardson, 05 Jul 2005
arrow pointing up

Dell customers offered McData meal with their blades

Dell has added some networking variety to its blade server line by selling McData Fibre Channel switches as a networking option alongside the compact systems. Customers can fit up to 2 of McData's 4314 switches in Dell's blade server chassis - aka the Dell Modular Server Enclosure. The McData product joins other Fibre Channel switches from Brocade and Gigabit Ethernet and Infiniband products from various vendors. Improving its blade server line is critical for Dell which has fallen well behind rivals IBM and HP in the market for these hot-selling, higher-margin items. Dell is in the midst of its second run at the blade server market. It released a redesigned box - the PowerEdge 1855 - in November of last year. The blade market hasn't lent itself to Dell's typical follow the leaders and standardize strategy. Companies such as IBM, HP, Sun Microsystems and Egenera have all developed unique cases to hold the small blade severs. This lack of standards forced Dell to spend a bit of cash on research and development and delayed its rollout of the new 1855 product. Meanwhile, IBM and HP have relentlessly assaulted the blade market with kit running on all types of different processors and with various operating systems. Such focus has helped IBM take 39 per cent of the blade market, and HP grab 35 per cent share, according to the latest data from IDC. Dell can claim just 9 per cent share. Sun has temporarily given up on blades as it too tries a second design. IBM and HP offer a wide variety of networking options with their blade systems. Both companies quite happily promote Cisco switches with their kit as well as the McData and Brocade switches. ® Related stories Can anyone compete with Intel? AMD says, 'No!' HP dresses up ProLiants with dual-core Opterons 'Think Again' camp opens for wounded Apple iLemmings RACK goes Nasdaq with humble IPO Sun exits blade server market . . . for now
Ashlee Vance, 05 Jul 2005

Broadcom finds an antitrust suit for Qualcomm

Not satisfied with a mere patent lawsuit against its rival, Broadcom has thumped Qualcomm with a round of antitrust charges. The networking chip maker today announced the antitrust suit against Qualcomm, claiming its rival used unfair licensing practices in the cellular communications market. In the complaint, filed in the US District Court for New Jersey, Broadcom requests payment for damages and a permanent injunction banning Qualcomm's allegedly unfair tactics. This lawsuit follows one filed by Broadcom in May, accusing Qualcomm of patent infringement. "Our goal is simply to ensure fair competition and a level playing field, not just for Broadcom, but for the entire cellular industry," said Scott McGregor, CEO at Broadcom. "Qualcomm's practices prevent that. Their monopoly in CDMA technology has increased the price of cell phones in the U.S., and we are hoping that the courts will prevent the same thing from happening with the next generation '3G' cell phones. Qualcomm's monopolistic activities limit competition, stifle innovation, and ultimately harm consumers and service providers." Qualcomm did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but a company spokesman was quoted elsewhere saying Broadcom's suit was without merit. In particular, Broadcom alleges that Qualcomm uses its patents around CDMA technology to block rivals unfairly. Qualcomm will give customers who buy its W-CDMA chips instead of rivals' products a better deal on the technology IP licensing, according to Broadcom. The antitrust lawsuit does not overlap with Broadcom's patent lawsuit, in which the vendor accused Qualcomm of violating its IP for delivering multimedia content to cell phones. ® Related stories US mulls Broadcom's Qualcomm broadside Broadcom broadsides Qualcomm with wireless chip IP lawsuit Global 3G boost for Qualcomm Qualcomm stops whingeing, reaps WCDMA goldmine Qualcomm waives damages to keep loyalty royalties secret
Ashlee Vance, 05 Jul 2005