6th > October > 2005 Archive

For Sale sign detail

How Dell repels attempts to buy its 'open source' PC

Dell this week received much praise for releasing a new version of its "open source" PC. The computer fits into Dell's n Series range of Windows-less systems. These ship with a copy of FreeDOS in the packaging material - but not installed on the PC - which is apparently a bizarre concession to Microsoft. While Dell garners glowing reviews for shipping such an open source OS-friendly product, the company's new E510n actually stands as yet another example of how hard Dell tries not to sell non-Microsoft gear.
Ashlee Vance, 06 Oct 2005

iTunes phone not shifting - analyst

Motorola's ROKR phone isn't exactly flying out of US stores, according to an analyst report. "Our checks indicated mixed to negative reviews of the much-anticipated Rokr phone, with some stores indicating strong early sales but more indicating disappointment in the product," reckons Piper Jaffray analyst Michael Walkley. According to the Wall Street Journal Walkley blames the lack of memory capacity, "appearance" and its high price. The Rokr is exclusive to Cingular, and costs $250 with a contract. Owners can't store more than 100 songs on the device. Cingular is nevertheless promoting it heavily in the US. Apple upstaged the long-awaited Motorola phone when it used the occasion to launch its Nano player. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 06 Oct 2005

Sms.co.uk domain sale could be a 'record breaker'

The domain sms.co.uk is up for grabs and those behind the sale reckon it could net more than £100,000. Sms.co.uk belongs to Manchester-based Teleport UK Limited - which trades as Satellite Media Services. But the company is in administration and is looking to flog its domain to the highest bidder. According to David Carter, director of Hollywood Internet Ltd - one of the companies helping to flog the domain - sms.co.uk "is the biggest name ever to hit the UK resale market". "The potential is enormous and we expect that all of the major telecoms and new media companies will be interested," he said. Those interested in the domain need to submit their sealed bids by November 4. The sale will take place the day after. The domain has a reserve set at "six figures" but Carter reckons it could attract bids way higher still. Indeed, industry experts have told The Register that the reseller market is "quite healthy". Earlier this year, for example, website.com and property.com changed hands for $750,000, while porker.com reached $155,000, according to listings compiled by DN Journal. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Oct 2005

Unleash Microsoft SharePoint 2003

Site offerSite offer Organizations have been talking about knowledge management and leveraging their IT investments to enhance team collaboration for years, but have had difficulty implementing effective solutions that tie together the wide range of information employees need to access. With the release of Microsoft's SharePoint Services v2.0 (2003) and SharePoint Portal Server v2.0 (2003), a powerful and practical framework for creating these solutions has finally become available. The many gigabytes of data that the average company manages can be used more effectively through the development of a customized and effective knowledge management and collaboration "ecosystem." An equally important challenge is for organizations to enhance the productivity of their key employees, and leverage the massive investments that have been made in information technology. SharePoint 2003 technologies are designed to make it easier for everyone on a network to find and manage information. Microsoft SharePoint 2003 Unleashed, Second Edition makes it easier to get there. Microsoft SharePoint 2003 Unleashed RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) Delves into the power of collaboration and knowledge management for small, medium and enterprise level businesses. Microsoft Windows XP Unleashed RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) Unleash your computer's potential with proven techniques for getting the most out of Windows XP Service Pack 2. Visual Studio Tools for Office RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) Direct from two of the lead developers of the product comes the definitive guide to using Visual Studio Tools for Office (VSTO) 2005. Leo Laporte's PC Help Desk RRP £21.99 - Reg price - £15.39 - Saving £6.60 (30%) Tech Support? You don't need no tech support. Armed with this book, you ARE tech support. Apple Training Series RRP £39.99 - Reg price - £27.99 - Saving £12.00 (30%) Everything a server administrator needs to know about Mac OS X networks and systems-in the only Apple-certified guide on the topic! TSP(SM)—Leading a Development Team RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) Watts Humphrey, inventor of CMM, PSP, and TSP provides team leaders with a whole new way of leading an effective development team Art of Photoshop, CS2 Edition, The RRP £35.99 - Reg price - £25.19 - Saving £10.80 (30%) Look over the designer's shoulder while learning advanced Photoshop CS2 techniques with vivid, full-color photography. Don’t forget your opportunity to review current and previous offers: The Reg Bestsellers Last week at The Reg Great new releases This week's book bag
Team Register, 06 Oct 2005

Website seeks sex toy testers

First it was flogging the backless thong, then a search for seasoned w*nkers, now online sex toy outfit LoveHoney has successfully found its way onto El Reg for the third time with its new initiative - the Orgasm Army. Yes, we know we shouldn't be giving LoveHoney any more exposure, but its PR stunts have a kind of irresistible silliness about them which makes a pleasant change from blade servers, 24 meg broadband and VoIP. The latest piece of tomfoolery involves recruiting the aforementioned Orgasm Army - an initiative looking to "build the UK's biggest library of sex toy reviews so girls and guys can find out which vibrators, condoms and lubes are the best a man and woman can get". As the blurb puts it: Will you put your orgasms on the line for Queen and country? Then the LoveHoney Orgasm Army wants you! Enlist today and you could get free sex toys in return for sharing your sex toy experiences on the Orgasm Army Web site. There are, mercifully, a few conditions. You have to be over 18, of sound mind and body and agree to the Orgasm Army terms and conditions. Be warned that you may not submit content which: may adversely affect the functionality of any computer software and/or hardware is untrue, inaccurate, misleading, defamatory, offensive or malicious is in breach of any intellectual property rights of any third party if published by LoveHoney Limited would be illegal, unlawful, contrary to public opinion or would be reasonably likely to cause loss or damage to LoveHoney Limited. Crikey. So, if your explosive climaxes have in the past crashed web browsers, or caused motherboards to melt down, keep 'em to yourself. Likewise, if your orgasmic excesses are contrary to public opinion - and by this we assume they mean a blow-by-blow account of torrid rumpy-pumpy with Tory temptress Anne Widdicombe, for example - then save it for the tabloids. Otherwise, carry on. ®
Lester Haines, 06 Oct 2005

Muslim phone calls faithful to prayer

Dutch Muslims are the first in Europe to benefit from a mobile phone which offers five daily prayer-time reminders, points the faithful in the direction of Mecca and has a copy of the Koran in both English and Arabic. The Ilkone (universe) is already on sale in Asia and the Middle East, and will shortly hit the prayer mats of France, Germany, Italy, Denmark, Belgium and Bosnia. It sounds useful, but as one Dutch Muslim, 15-year-old Mohammed Bouyeri, explained to AP: "I wouldn't buy one. It might be useful for someone at home or traveling, but not at the mosque. Everyone here already knows what time prayers are." Fair enough, although surely the concept could be adapted for other faiths to ensure that followers have all the info they need at their fingertips. For instance, a Catholic mobile listing every saint's day, offering snippets from the Bible in Latin and granting free indulgences with every top-up card over £10... The UK Protestant version, on the other hand, would be a suitably lo-tech device which does nothing more than remind the owner of that bit in the Scriptures about rich people not going to heaven whenever they start banging on about how much they made last year in the housing market. Mormons might benefit from a phone which lists all their wives' and children's birthdays and issues a suitable alert the day before, while we're sure that Buddhists would embrace a "download your favourite mantra for just $0.99" service. Atheists, meanwhile, will just have to make do with a spawn of Satan ringtone (Crazy Frog) and a six megapixel camera with which they can swap fascinating snippets of their Godless lives with other damned souls. ® Bootnote Thanks very much to reader Nasser Ahmed who wrote to note that UK Muslims can get prayer times SMSed to them from www.MyAdhan.com - described as "Your intelligent call to Islam" - without having to shell out for a new handset. There are more specific details here.
Lester Haines, 06 Oct 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Victims coughing up to online extortionists

Online bookmakers who become victims of online extortion attacks more often than not pay up, according to an IBM security researcher. Martin Overton of IBM Global Services said those at the receiving end of denial of service attacks also often fail to report assaults to police despite improved policy procedures to guard the anonymity of victims in the UK and elsewhere. "Criminals are pricing extortion rates at under the cost of preventing attacks. It's cheaper to pay up even if this encourages them [crooks] even more," he said. According to a recent study by analysts Forrester, one in three businesses has been at the receiving end of a successful DDoS attack, with more than 40 per cent suffering losses of more than £54,000 as a result. Victims who pay extortionists are playing into the hands of cybercrooks and likely to receive repeat protection money requests. By paying protection money they are increasing the threat to other businesses. Botnets (networks of compromised PCs controlled by hackers) have been used as a platform for distributed denial of service attacks since infamous hacker Mafiaboy launched an attack from compromised machines against Yahoo!, eBay and Amazon at the turn of the millennium. Modern IRC-controlled bots are designed to be almost invisible and extensible. The increased sophistication and prevalence of malware agents responsible for the creation of botnets is only making matters worse. Overton, a member of the British Tarantula Society, explained that botnet infestations are rife and can cause significant damage to the infected network owner due to lost bandwidth, data theft and possible loss of credibility. Common and widespread bot families include SDbot, Agobot, Spybot, Polybot and Mytob. Upwards of 12,800 variants of SDbot have been created, a figure which has doubled in the last six months, according to Overton. Source code for early versions of SDBot are readily available and have become a building block for spammers, DDoS attackers and other ne'er do wells to add extra components and release in the hopes of seeding a bot network under their control. McAfee has identified 3,821 copies of Agobot but production of this strain has "tailed off" over recent months. Of these 396 variants are non-functional. "Virus writers are pushing variants out so fast they don't always work first time," Overton said, adding that improved security policies and procedures were key to fighting the scourge of botnets. Overton made his comments during a well received presentation on botnets at the Virus Bulletin conference in Dublin on Wednesday. ®
John Leyden, 06 Oct 2005

Tories reject migrants as skills gap solution

The majority of Conservative MPs dismiss economic migration as a way of overcoming UK skills shortages, new research reveals.
Startups.co.uk, 06 Oct 2005

T-Mobile goes large on mobile net access

T-Mobile is giving its mobile phone punters access to the net via their handsets in a move which the cellco claims will "redefine the mobile internet market". Web'n'walk, as it's known, goes live with five devices. A further three are due to be added before Christmas and all come complete with colour screens capable of displaying content in both portrait and landscape format. The service is designed to access all existing web sites without the need for the sites to be modified. Although the cellco admits there will be some exceptions, it insists that web sites are presented on mobile phones "as they would be presented on the PC screen". Web'n'walk costs from £30 which includes 40MB of data usage a month and 100 inclusive voice minutes. Further time online can be bought at £1 per MB. Hyping up the launch of its new service T-Mobile said it believes web'n'walk will lead to a "considerable growth in total internet usage and, ultimately, more internet traffic being carried by mobile than by fixed line". Next year, the cellco pans to launch a service based on HSDPA (High Speed Download Packet Access) which it says will deliver speeds more than four times faster than today's 3G services. Said T-Mobile UK boss Brian McBride: "Web'n'walk is literally 'pick it up and use it', the same way you already use the internet. "It's a coming of age of internet, because it brings together the three key ingredients for mass adoption: the same internet experience customers are familiar with on their PCs - now mobile; devices that are simple to use and work the same way your PC does; and very affordable tariffs." Last week O2 began offering its i-mode mobile internet service, while last month 3 unveiled plans to give punters access to a limited amount of web content beyond its own "walled garden". ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Oct 2005

Deadly 1918 flu virus lives again

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention (CDP) have, apparently without a sense of irony, reconstructed the particular strain of the flu virus that was behind the 1918 flu pandemic. That outbreak killed between 20-50m people worldwide. The scientists rebuilt the virus using a process known as reverse genetics. The team extracted samples of the dead virus from the lung tissue of a victim of the 1918 pandemic. The body has been frozen in the Arctic tundra for 80 years. This material was then combined with modern flu viruses to resurrect the original strain. The scientists say the work, published in the October 7 issue of Science, will help prepare for the next time a deadly flu strain breaks out in the human population, and will shed light on why the 1918 pandemic was so much more deadly than later flu pandemics in 1957 and 1968. "By identifying the characteristics that made the 1918 influenza virus so harmful, we have information that will help us develop new vaccines and treatments," said Dr. Terrence Tumpey, a senior microbiologist at the CDC. Lab tests have shown that the recreated batch of the virus is as lethal as the original. Lab mice and chick embryos infected with the virus died quickly, and it also grew rapidly in cultures of human lung cells. Normal flu strains don't have quite such a lethal impact, the researchers said. A separate study has shown that the 1918 strain was originally an avian flu. At some point, it gained a mutation which allowed it to cross into the human population, and spread from person to person. This work also revealed that the 1918 strain and the H5N1 strain of bird flu, share some mutations which allow them to spread more easily, according to reports. So far, although the H5N1 virus has killed more than fifty people since 2003, there have been no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission. Critics of this research argue that recreating the 1918 virus was unneccessary, and that there is now a risk that the virus could escape the lab, or that the research could be exploited by terrorist organisations. However, scientists have long warned that another flu pandemic is inevitable, and say that work like this will mean we'll be better prepared when it happens. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Oct 2005

Gator menaces Cornish duck pond

The residents of a Cornish village are on full-scale 'gator alert following the discovery of a two-foot cayman in the local duck pond. According to the Daily Telegraph, 20-year-old Stacey Clayton and daughter Alanna were feeding the ducks in the village pond at St Blazey when mum saw what she thought was a large log floating in the water. In this case, however, the log had eyes and when Clayton chucked at stone at it, it rather alarmingly scuttled off into the undergrowth. A shaken Clayton recounted: "I noticed this big log in the water, but as I got closer I saw its eyes. I wasn't sure whether it was alive so I threw a stone near it. It lifted its head and looked straight at me. I saw its tail and a dozen teeth coming down from its top jaw. I went home and called the RSPCA. My dad said it was probably a cayman." An RSPCA dragnet of the area surrounding the pond failed to locate the beast, and the organisation warned locals to keep their eyes peeled for rogue reptiles. It did note, however, that the cold may already have done for the animal. The RSPCA added that the Cornish cayman incident "highlighted the problem of people keeping exotic animals with little or no knowledge of the care they require". Quite so, although the good Burghers of St Blazey can consider themselves lucky they don't live in the Everglades, where a recent encounter between a six-foot alligator and a 13-foot Burmese python left both the monsters dead. According to the BBC, Burmese pythons - dumped by their owners - have thrived in Florida's swamps, so much so that they feel confident enough to take on a 'gator. In this case though, the python apparently exploded as it tried to swallow its prey. Frank Mazzotti, a University of Florida wildlife professor, told AP: "Encounters like that are almost never seen in the wild. They were probably evenly matched in size. If the python got a good grip on the alligator before the alligator got a good grip on him, he could win." This clash of Titans has led experts to speculate that the python could fight its way to the top of the food chain, outsting its native reptile adversary. "Clearly, if they can kill an alligator they can kill other species," Prof Mazzotti concluded. ®
Lester Haines, 06 Oct 2005

Level 3 depeers Cogent

Internet backbone firm Level 3 has fallen out with Cogent Communications, leaving some users in danger of being isolated in network cul de sacs. Level 3 dropped its peering arrangement with tier 1 ISP Cogent Communications yesterday, because it felt it was carrying more traffic under the deal than Cogent, and wanted compensation. Level 3 has, apparently, been putting pressure on companies where it feels peering arrangements are too one-sided. Cogent is standing its ground though. A statement on Cogent’s website today said “Level 3 has partitioned its part of the Internet from Cogent's part of the Internet by denying Level 3's customers access to Cogent's customers and denying Cogent's customers access to Level 3 customers.” While multihomed Level 3 customers can get round the problem, according to Cogent, those that aren’t can’t exchange traffic with Cogent customers. Cogent said it was offering such customers a year of full Internet transit for free. Hopefully the spat will not take this long to settle. A spokesperson for Level 3 in Europe could not comment on the debacle, while Cogent did not have anyone available to speak.®
Team Register, 06 Oct 2005

Be nice to Taiwan, you [terribly rude expletive]!

FoTWFoTW What follows is a lovely illustration of the futility of the quest for the "average Register reader". We can run the numbers from our reader research, and work out the demographics and see just who it is that is reading our stories. We can learn a lot about the average reader: the things you like to read about, what kind of work you do and so on. We can do all this until we are blue in the face, but it is still no good. Because average is what you lot ain't. Below we have two letters, both from Register readers (obviously) responding to our coverage of news that Taiwan has written to Google asking the company not to refer to it as a province of China. Taiwan says it would prefer to be called the Republic of China, thank you very much. Google has so far kept quiet on how it intends to proceed. So far so good. But then, we used sarcasm. [Please imagine a crash of thunder here, for dramatic effect]. Contrast and comparison of the letters is left as an exercise for the reader. Enjoy. You are a complete fu*king a*shole. So you support a comunist regime that runs its own people over with tanks, executes them and sends their families the bill for the bullet, not before they have harvested their organs first so they can sell them. Taiwan has a democratically elected government and is an independent state. Why don't you try living under a comunist oppressor before you start mouthing off you c**t. Daniel Keeping Charming, no? It was hard to separate what was straight versus sarcasm in your piece about the Google-Taiwan spat, especially the part about the threat to invade Taiwan if they declare sovereignty. But if we accept that the purpose of a map is be a representation of reality (as opposed to desires or fantasy), then seems rather wrong-headed of Google to identify Taiwan as a "province of China", since they've been 100% sovereign since the 1949. It would be a heck of lot better for everyone if Google would simply refer to the two sides by their official names, "Peoples Republic of China" for the communist nation on the mainland, and "Republic of China" for the democratic nation on Taiwan. "China" is only informally used as a country name, and isn't specific. The fact that the PRC doesn't like or accept the existence of the ROC is beside the point, the ROC does exist, is a real sovereign entity. It should be recognized on the map. Otherwise its pure fantasy. Actually the whole problem boils down to the fact that the 1949 civil war never really ended. The ROC, then on Taiwan, hasn't accepted being part of the PRC, and the PRC hasn't accepted the continued existence of the ROC. The United Nation's position just reflects the wishes of the PRC, and doesn't reflect the reality. I think about 26 nations in the UN do acknowledge that ROC exists. About the possible fate of Taiwan falling to low-res image status, well, actually Taiwan is well advanced of the PRC in economic, social and political development. Their high-res status is really appropriate for them. Anyway, this was just a note to help clarify some weak points in your blurb on the issue. In the end, the whole snafu just indicates how much power a bunch of software engineers in California have today in influencing how the world views world geography and geopolitics. cheers, Dennis ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Oct 2005

Police foil £1m mobile phone theft

A man is appearing before magistrates today in connection with the theft of £1m worth of Orange mobile phones. The phones were nicked after a robbery at a motorway service station on the M5 at around 4pm on Tuesday. A lorry driver stopped at Frankley Services after a car flashed its lights at him. He was then threatened with a gun and forced to drive to Wolverhampton. His load of Orange mobile phones which police say are worth at least £1m was in the process of being loaded onto another vehicle when police moved in. The driver, a man in his 40s from West Bromwich, was shaken but not hurt, said police. A spokesman for Orange confirmed that all stock was accounted for at the scene. Thirteen people were arrested by West Midlands Police. Three men remain in custody. One, a 54-year-old Walsall man, is before Redditch Magistrates today charged with conspiracy to steal. Police are appealing for witnesses. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Oct 2005
fingers pointing at man

MS goes a bundle on malware protection

Microsoft is to combine spyware and virus protection in a new enterprise security product due out next year. Microsoft Client Protection will also defend against the emerging threat of rootkits, hacker tools that try to hide themselves from anti-virus programs. Redmond's decision to offer a combined anti-virus and anti-spyware product contrasts with the industry norm of selling separate pieces of software for both functions. The product will work across business desktops, laptops and file servers. Product delivery dates and pricing remain opaque, which has become something of a recurring theme since Microsoft bought Romanian anti-virus developer GeCAD in 2003. At least, since yesterday, we now have a name for Microsoft's enterprise malware protection software. The consumer equivalent we already know will be the joyosly named Microsoft OneCare. In related news, Microsoft yesterday announced the creation of the SecureIT Alliance, a group of Redmond's security partners. The SecureIT Alliance will enable security ISVs such as VeriSign, Trend Micro, Symantec and the 30 founding members "to work closer with Microsoft and each other in order to more effectively and efficiently build and integrate their products for the Microsoft platform". ®
John Leyden, 06 Oct 2005

Star Trek parody hits 450k downloads

A Finnish Star Trek spoof, released by its amateur makers into the wilds of the internet a week ago, has already been downloaded 450,000 times. According to reports, the film's makers estimate that a further 250,000 copies have been downloaded from mirror sites. Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, has been a labour of love. With a tiny budget, it took seven years to make, mostly on computers in producer Samuli Torssonen's living room. The team behind it describe the film as "the product of a core group of five Finns, and over 300 extras, assistants and supporters". "We took a conscious decision not to go to the theatres as the movie was done mostly on a voluntary basis," director Timo Vuorensola told Reuters. "Through the Internet and DVD it will probably get the widest possible viewership. We are hoping to reach one million downloads by the end of the year." The team says on its web site's FAQ that they wanted to offer it for free because so many people had given time to the project and had been paid nothing. Samuli describes it as an expensive hobby, but adds that in terms of film budgets, it has cost nothing. That the film has been a success should not be surprising: after all, the Star Trek fans to whom the film will certainly appeal, and early adopters of technology are overlapping groups. But perhaps the sheer volume of downloads might be enough to give Hollywood food for thought. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Oct 2005
graph up

FTC clamps down on spyware firm

The US’ Federal Trade Commission has gone after what it claims is a spyware and adware operation that invaded users’ machines and served up bogus search pages. The FTC has asked a US district court judge to “halt” the “unfair and deceptive” activities of Stratham, New Hampshire-based Odysseus Marketing, and its principal, Walter Rines. Odysseus advertised free software which it claimed would allow consumers to anonymously engage in peer-to-peer file sharing, the FTC claims. However, the software did not make file sharing anonymous, and was bundled with spy ware called Clientman which downloaded dozens more programs, clogging and slowing users’ machines. The bundled software served up pop-ups, captured and transmitted information, and replaced and reformatted search results, serving up rigged results to place the defendants’ clients first. A disclosure about the spyware was buried in the firm’s T/Cs, the FTC claims, and Odysseus made the software difficult to detect and uninstall. Adding insult to injury, an uninstall feature did not actually uninstall the software, but actually downloaded more programs, the FTC said. The latest FTC action came as the agency chairman, Deborah Platt Majoras, testified to a senate sub-committee on the problem of spy ware and what the agency was doing to quash it.®
Joe Fay, 06 Oct 2005

Golfers to get their own broadband

Thousands of golfers in the UK are to get their own tailor-made broadband service. The Professional Golfers Association (PGA) has hooked up with Viatel as part of a three-year deal to supply golf pros and players with high speed net access. Available from the middle of next month, PGA Broadband will also supply golf-related content such as videos and news. Pricing for the PGA service has yet to be confirmed but if it follows the pattern of other products offered by Viatel, golfers are unlikely to get much change out of £30 a month. This isn't the first time Viatel has teamed up with a sports group to flog its broadband. It also has deals in place with soccer clubs including Man U, Chelsea, Hibs, Hearts and Motherwell. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Oct 2005
For Sale sign detail

All aboard the Enterprise Service Bus

AnalysisAnalysis Sonic Software has a good claim to the invention of the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) and has done more than anyone else to evangelise the concept, backed by the resources of its parent company, Progress Software.
David Norfolk, 06 Oct 2005

Motorola zaps 1,900 jobs

Motorola is axing 1,900 jobs world-wide as part of "various productivity improvement plans". The job losses will hit 29 locations in 20 countries although a spokesman for Motorola refused to say whether any jobs in the UK would be affected by the cuts. All four of Motorola's business divisions - Mobile Devices, Networks, Government & Enterprise Mobility Solutions, and Connected Home Solutions - will be touched by the job losses. The restructuring, which was first revealed last summer, is set to cost the mobile phone maker around $90m, it said in a SEC filing. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Oct 2005

Sony loses Aussie PlayStation mod chip case

Australia’s High Court has ruled that modifying PlayStations to bypass Sony's regional coding mechanism does not violate the country’s copyright laws. Sony sued a Sydney-based supplier of mod chips four years ago, claiming the chips violate its copyright. It initially lost, then won the case on appeal. However, the chip supplier appealed that decision and the case went to the High Court. Sony has fought hard in a number of countries to clamp down on mod chips, which can be used, amongst other things, to bypass the regional coding system which underpins the company’s differential pricing in different markets. The judges, according to the Associated Press, decided that while pirating a game is one thing, playing an otherwise legit game using a mod chip is another, opening the way for Aussies to buy in games from cheaper markets to play on their Sony Australia machines. They also found that Sony’s regional coding did not qualify as a technological protection measure, and also said that regional coding restricted competition and consumer rights. AP quoted a defence lawyer predicting the move would force Sony to harmonize worldwide game prices. It didn’t quote Sony, as the electronics giant had nothing to say at the time. While the decision will cheer up gamers down under, it’s less clear what effect it will have in other countries. Console vendors have had more success persuading judges in other markets that mod chips are a very bad thing. While Sony may abandon regional pricing, it may also make a more concerted effort to bury regional coding in its console’s copyright protection mechanism. And judges seem to take a much dimmer view of any tampering with copyright protection.®
Joe Fay, 06 Oct 2005
arrow pointing up

Virus naming scheme gets mixed reception

A group dedicated to curing virus-naming confusion enjoyed its official launch on Wednesday. The Common Malware Enumeration (CME) aims to mitigate confusion in responding to viral outbreaks by providing a common name for high profile threats that can then be used in vendor products or their websites. Users have been asking for consistency in naming from vendors for years and CME (which has been in gestation for two years) can only hope to mitigate - rather than cure - this confusion. Identifiers will be in the format of CME-N, where N is a unique number for each high profile malware strain. In the rush to write virus definition signatures - and monikers likely to capture public attention - anti-virus firms often come up with a variety of different names for the same piece of malware. CME won't end this practice but it will add an index so that end users can more easily correlate data on the same big-hitting worm or virus. The CME initiative being sponsored by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) and works along similar lines to the existing Common Vulnerability Enumeration scheme, which deals with security vulnerabilities as opposed to malware. Vendors are split over the benefits of CME. David Perry, global director of education at Trend Micro, said the scheme might make things even more confusing. "Now every piece of malware will just have 18 names and a number," he said. Supporters of the scheme rejected this criticism. "Big-hitting viruses will be tied together with a common thread," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. Larry Bridwell, content security programs manager at ICSA Labs, said conceded that the scheme was modest in its proposals but argued it was still a step in the right direction. Members of the CME Editorial Board are drawn from a raft of security vendors including Computer Associates, F-Secure, ICSA Labs, Kaspersky Lab, McAfee, MessageLabs, Microsoft, Norman, Sophos, Symantec, and Trend Micro. More info on the scheme can be found here. ®
John Leyden, 06 Oct 2005

UK court slaps Asbo on lawyer

It's not just slap-happy baseball-capped teen ne'er-do-wells high on alcopops who find themselves at the receiving end of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) - they can also be used to control the menace of drunken and abusive solicitors, the Mirror reports. Personal injury specialist Colette Cowap, 38, faces five years in chokey if she breaches the order granted yesterday by Blackpool magistrates at the request of police. Cowap had reportedly boozed her way to a "catalogue of drunken and abusive behaviour", including a conviction for drink driving and abusing staff at Blackpool's Victoria Hospital following another "incident". The terms of the order oblige Cowap to refrain from abusing or intimidating anyone and to vacate shops, hotels and hospitals when asked to leave. The court heard that Cowap had a "very good job" but work pressure drove her to hit the bottle. A former colleague told the Mirror: "This is a tragedy for Colette." ®
Lester Haines, 06 Oct 2005

Galileo project threatened by funding row

A row over funding is threatening the future of the Galileo satellite constellation, according to the head of the Italian space agency (ASI). In an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, Sergio Vetrella warns that if the dispute, ostensibly about additional costs, but possibly having more to do with national pride, is not settled by the end of the month, the whole project could be in jeopardy. Galileo is a European satellite navigation project designed to provide a civilian-controlled alternative to the US' Global Positioning System. The system promises better resolution than GPS, and is due to switch on in 2008. The project is being funded partly by European governments and partly by private enterprise, and the next phase of the project, starting in 2006, needs additional public funds of around €430m. But, Reuters reports, Vetrella says the Germans are delaying contributing their share to boost their bid to house the Galileo project control centre in Munich. Naturally, Italy would prefer that the control centre is in Italy, France is keen on a French location, while Spain thinks it would be best off in Spain. If an agreement cannot be reached by the end of October, the schedule for the whole project will slip, leading to a bigger bill at the end, Vetrella concludes. Potential uses for the system already being discussed range from standard satellite navigation for motorists, through tracking fish stocks to help fishermen in the developing world, to proposals in the UK to rejig the entire car tax system around tracking individual drivers' road use. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Oct 2005

Finland bans DRM fiddling in all its forms

The Finnish government voted yesterday to make it illegal to copy media, even for personal use, if you have to subvert copy protection to do so. The legislation was passed by 121 votes to 34. Forty-four MPs were absent. The updated copyright protection laws have been criticised for ignoring consumers' rights, and the bill itself has been branded confusing and badly worded. Until now, Finland had allowed copying for personal use, and had a blank media levy in place to compensate authors. But under the new laws, not only will copying for personal use become illegal, so will possessing, distributing or advertising tools that break copy protection. P2PNet points out that the law prohibits even "organised discussion" of such things. The Finnish president does have the right to veto the new legislation, but this right is very rarely exercised. According to Finnish News Agency STT, the government appended a note to the legislation asking content producing industries to voluntarily agree not to prosecute individuals for making a few copies for their own use. Based on the track record of these same industries, we at El Reg are sure that Finns wanting to transfer to a few tracks from a newly purchased (copy protected) CD over to their MP3 players will be absolutely fine. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 06 Oct 2005

US ISP sues for defamation

US-based Eagle Broadband Inc has filed a defamation lawsuit against 25 unnamed net users for allegedly posting misleading information about the company. In a lawsuit filed with the Superior Court of California the company alleged that the postings on bulletins boards and website were done to "drive down the value of its stock in order to reap profits for themselves". The postings were made on financial message boards including Yahoo! Finance and Raging Bull and included "fraudulent statements about the financial condition and business activities of the company, erroneous information about the company's products...and personal attacks." The company said it had uncovered what it described as "solid evidence" of "fraudulent and defamatory information being posted on various Internet sites". In a statement David Micek, President and CEO of Eagle Broadband said: "While Eagle Broadband fully respects individuals' right to free speech, we will not tolerate deliberate misinformation campaigns that disseminate false and fraudulent statements that damage the company, our shareholders and the value of our stock." ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Oct 2005

AOL confirms Weblogs Inc buyout

AOL has confirmed it is to acquire blog network outfit Weblogs, Inc as part of a plan to keep subscribers and advertisers locked into its content. Financial details were not disclosed although earlier reports claim the US internet giant was prepared to shell out $25m for the company. Jim Bankoff, an AOL bigwig with a long job title, said the tie-up with Weblogs would enable its punters "to 'deep-dive' into a vast array of compelling topics that keep them interested and entertained on our network of properties". "Weblogs, Inc. provides AOL with the ability to quickly launch websites and communities across areas our audience is passionate about, and advertisers are interested in," he said. Privately-held Weblogs, Inc was founded in 2003 and operates a network of 85 blogging sites covering topics including technology (Engadget and Joystiq) music, movies, travel technology and finance. The company features more than 100 independent, freelance expert bloggers producing more than 1,000 blogs a week. Which is nice. ®
Tim Richardson, 06 Oct 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Sober worm comeback poses as schoolfriend pic

Virus writers have created a duo of email worms which pose as pictures of old schoolfriends. The Sober-O and Sober-P worms were bulk mailed to thousands of potential victims overnight in an attempt to seed infection. Like earlier versions of the Sober worm, the bilingual virus can travel in both English and German language emails. Windows users duped into opening infected attachments will find their machines turned into zombie drones under the control of hackers. When translated, the German version of the infected email messages contains text referring to a class reunion. English language versions of both worms refer to password changes. The malware sends German versions to email addresses associated with German (.de) and Austrian domains. English language versions go to everyone else. "It may be flattering to think that someone has taken the trouble to look you up and make contact, but it's a lot less pleasant when you realise it's really a virus writer trying to hijack your computer," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "The success of websites like FriendsReunited and Classmates.com show that many people have used the net to keep in touch with old school friends. The worry is that those targeted will be unable to tell which messages are genuinely from friends, and which ones are designed to cause trouble." Sober-O uses the same tricks as its predecessor, Sober-N, one of the biggest virus outbreaks of 2005. Sober-N posed as offers for tickets to the 2006 World Cup in Germany. ®
John Leyden, 06 Oct 2005
channel

Tsunami hacker convicted

Daniel James Cuthbert was convicted today of breaking Section 1 of the Computer Misuse Act of 1990 by hacking into a tsunami appeal website last New Year's Eve. District Judge Mr Quentin Purdy said: "For whatever reason Mr Cuthbert intended to secure access, in an unauthorised way, to that computer...it is with some considerable regret...I find the case proved against Mr Cuthbert." He was fined £400 for the offence and must pay a further £600 in costs. Cuthbert, 28, of Whitechapel, London, told Horseferry Road Magistrates Court yesterday that he had made a donation on the site, but when he received no final thank-you or confirmation page he became concerned it may have been a phishing site, so he carried out two tests to check its security. This action set off an Intruder Detection System in a BT server room and the telco contacted the police. The prosecution made an application for costs but declined to seize Cuthbert's Apple notebook on which the offences were committed. They made no further claim for compensation. The defence asked for some sort of discharge because the case came close to "strict liability" - it was his responsibility but not his "fault". Mr Harding, for the defence, said: "His reasoning was not reprehensible. He was convicted because of the widely-drafted legislation that could catch so many." Mr Purdy, speaking to Cuthbert in the dock, said: "I appreciate the consequences of this conviction for you are considerably graver than any I can impose. But you crossed an inappropriate line, time and expense was expended and anxiety caused. That aside, the price may be a heavy one for you to pay." Cuthbert lost his job as security consultant at ABN Amro as a result of his arrest and has only recently been able to find work. DC Robert Burls of the Met's Computer Crime Unit said afterwards: "We welcome today's verdict in a case which fully tested the computer crime legislation and hope it sends a reassuring message to the general public that in this particular case the appropriate security measures were in place thus enabling donations to be made securely to the Tsunami Appeal via the DEC website." Peter Sommer, who was an expert witness for the defence, said he thought the judge had a good understanding of the issues involved but "took a very strict view of the wording of the legislation." Sommer added that he thought the policing of minor offences should "not involve taking people to court but rather talking, warning and slapping wrists." Asked if he thought the verdict would make it harder for the police to get help and cooperation from security professionals Sommer said: "It will certainly make them more wary." Speaking after the verdict an upset Daniel Cuthbert told the Reg: "They've now set the bar so high that there should be thousands of convictions for people doing things like these. There will be lot of anger from security professionals and the police will find it harder to get help in future." Cuthbert is considering a career outside the IT industry. For the full text of Section 1 of the Act click here. ®
John Oates, 06 Oct 2005
server room

Show us your paperwork - AMD

AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel AMD continues to push forward in its anti-trust battle against Intel, announcing today that it has shifted from customer document preservation mode to customer document production mode. The law permits AMD to ask companies that it either does business with, or has tried to do business with, to hold onto their e-mails, papers and anything else relevant. That means the likes of Dell, IBM, Sun Microsystems and Sony. AMD made such requests earlier this year and has now moved to ask these companies to start turning over their documentation. Even though it's not an AMD customer, Dell has already agreed to comply with the earlier subpoenas. In an Oct. 4 filing, AMD asked that Gateway, Sony, Toshiba, Rackable Systems, NEC, CompUSA, Office Depot, Egenera, Hewlett Packard, Dell, Sun, IBM, Fujitsu, Supermicro, Circuit City and others send in their files. Some of these names prove more interesting than others. Rackable Systems, for example, has enjoyed a booming Opteron-based server business in tandem with HP, although you don't hear much about this from HP. For its part, Supermicro broke from the Intel-only camp in May but refused to tell the public about it. The AMD/Intel war can trigger the oddest sales tactics. Then, of course, you have Dell which remains in the Intel-only camp, meaning it has had to watch all of it major rivals ship faster, dual-core Opteron powered servers for months while it waits for Intel to develop a similar product. AMD has charged Intel with using dirty tactics to keep customers from picking up the Athlon and Opteron chips. Intel denies any wrongdoing and says the market will decide which company makes the better processor. Fun stuff. ®
Ashlee Vance, 06 Oct 2005

Adaptec to offload costly systems growth engine

Adaptec has issued a systems SOS, asking a financial services firm to help it offload a pair of storage lines once meant to be the future of the company. Adaptec this week recruited Credit Suisse First Boston (CSFB) to find a suitor for its Snap Server network attached storage (NAS) boxes and Eurologic block systems hardware and software. This move comes as troubled Adaptec tries to streamline its business and focus solely on SATA and Serial Attached SCSI products. Adaptec spent $30m to buy Eurologic in early 2003, and another $100m to pick up Snap in mid-2004. "As mentioned in our last earnings call, our management team has been conducting a very thorough analysis of all of Adaptec's businesses and operations," said Scott Mercer, the interim CEO of Adaptec. "While we have successfully built a solid suite of storage systems products and gained a volume leadership position in NAS, it became clear that we needed to simplify our business model." Despite $80m in revenue per year, Adaptec's systems business appears to be more of a burden than a blessing at this time. The company has fumbled through a year of poor earnings results. Most recently, Adaptec posted first quarter revenue of $98.4m - down from $115.5m one year earlier. It also reported a net loss of $36m compared with flat net income in the first fiscal quarter of 2005. Adaptec has lowered its fiscal guidance in four straight quarters. Adaptec had once managed to secure a nice win for the Snap business, serving as a supplier for IBM. That business, however, never swelled as hoped. In late September, the company announced another long-term savings move by saying it renegotiated a RAID controller deal with IBM. "In analyzing Adaptec's various businesses, it became clear to us that delivering add-on products for IBM's eServer iSeries and pSeries systems would not be a long term profitable business opportunity for Adaptec," it said at the time. As a result, Adaptec received a $22m payment from IBM and announced a $26m loss "on the sale of assets and impairment of related goodwill." All has clearly not been well at the company since CEO and President Robert Stephens retired in May. The move away from systems caused underwear to bunch up throughout the financial community. Adaptec had positioned the systems products as key to its future growth and downplayed SATA and SAS sales. Where will Adaptec's gear end up? Surely plenty of players are in the market for a discounted NAS line. ®
Ashlee Vance, 06 Oct 2005