14th > October > 2005 Archive

Feds claim 'largest ever' CD piracy bust

Counterfeit software from Symantec and Adobe Systems has been seized in an operation that netted the largest ever crop of illegal CD manufacturing equipment in the US. Pirated copies of Symantec Norton Antivirus 2005, Internet Security 2005, PC Anywhere and Adobe's Photoshop CS were among more than 325,000 CDs seized following searches at separte locations in California's Silicon Valley and in Texas. A spokesman for the US Attorney's Office for the Northern District of California spokesman told The Register the pirated software would likely have worked if installed. "They [the pirates] will create nearly identical software. They will sell it on the street and in retail stores," the spokesman said Five individuals were arrested and indicted under the swoop, for various charges related to copyright infringement and trafficking. The illegal discs were seized under Operation Remaster, a joint undercover investigation targeting large-scale suppliers of pirated software, music and movies across Northern California, and involving units from the FBI and US Secret Service. The haul also included a large stash of pirated music of Latin American artists. The spokesperson said the recording industry called the haul the largest CD manufacturing seizure in the US. The spokesman valued the entire bag at $3.2m. The authorities' claim to have made the largest ever bust has been made before, when the numbers didn't add up. ®
Gavin Clarke, 14 Oct 2005

Yahoo! targets! Stanford! students!

Geeks and overachievers at the prestigious Stanford University are to be offered access to more than one million online songs hosted by Yahoo! Music. But almost a quarter of the students are excluded, since the service doesn't work on Mac computers. A year-long pilot program will allow 18,000 graduates and undergrads to play and download music for free, thanks to the support of "a mystery backer," says the University. From October 1, 2006, reduced-rate subscriptions apply. Stanford is the latest university to phase-in a legal online music service, although university officials have denied this is an attempt to get the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) off of their backs. Others, like Cornell, are going over to Yahoo! Music’s reborn rival Napster - with mixed results. [See Students refuse to buy a single song from Napster ] According to the Stanford Report, unnamed representatives of the recording industry have, in the past, "warned some Stanford-network users about their file-sharing activities." Susan Weinstein, university director of business development, said: "Of course we hope that students will use this robust, easy-to-use alternative to illegal file sharing, but we also think it is just a great service, giving students access to a compelling music experience," Weinstein told the Report. The university is, like Cornell, taking steps to ensure a fifth of its student population will be excluded from participating in its music service. Yahoo! Music is only available for machines running Windows Microsoft’s 2000 and Windows XP operating systems, not the Mac favored by a hard core of students. According to Stanford, 78 per cent of undergraduates use Windows-based machines.®
Gavin Clarke, 14 Oct 2005

Will you blother reading a bloring blook?

Some press releases are so simply, staggeringly indescribable, we print them without comment. These are most often related to corporate makeovers or rebranding exercises, which is quite appropriate in this case. We've tried to be faithful to the original's unique typographical qualities where possible. And we'd better warn you: there's a lot of SHOUTING at the start, and odd emphasis throughout - but that's very much its charm. So sit tight - and here goes: ANNOUNCING "THE BLOOKER PRIZE" THE WORLD'S FIRST LITERARY PRIZE FOR "BLOOKS" (BOOKS BASED ON BLOGS OR WEBSITES) LAUNCHES 10TH OCTOBER   "BLOOKS" ARE THE FASTEST GROWING NEW KIND OF BOOK - AND THE HOTTEST NEW PUBLISHING AND ONLINE TREND   Prominent Internet Figures Will Judge Inaugural Prize - For Fiction, Non-Fiction And Comic-Blooks   BLOOKS ARE A NEW HYBRID LITERARY FORM, FOR A NEW PUBLISHING ERA: "BLOOKS ARE THE NEW BOOKS"   GLOBAL PRIZE MARKS 450TH ANNIVERSARY OF GUTENBERG'S INVENTION OF MOVEABLE TYPE   AFTER BLOOKS WILL COME "FLOOKS" - FILMS BASED ON BLOOKS   (blook n. blook. A printed and bound book, based on a blog (cf. web log) or website; a new stage in the life-cycle of content, if not a new category of content and a new dawn for the book itself. cf. The Lulu Blooker Prize, ("The Blooker"), a literary prize, founded 2005, for blooks. [der. Eng. book, a bound collection of sheets of paper; blog (abbrev. web log, an internet journal, diary or personal website)])  PRESS CONTACT: Susan MacTavish; Best Public Relations ANNOUNCING "THE BLOOKER PRIZE" THE WORLD'S FIRST LITERARY PRIZE FOR "BLOOKS" (BOOKS BASED ON BLOGS OR WEBSITES) "BLOOKS" ARE THE FASTEST GROWING NEW KIND OF BOOK - AND THE HOTTEST NEW PUBLISHING AND ONLINE TREND October 10, 2005 (Raleigh, NC): The world's first literary prize for books based on blogs or websites - known for short as "blooks" is launched Monday, 10th October, 2005 by its sponsor, Lulu (www.lulu.com), a website that enables anyone to publish and sell their own book. The Lulu Blooker Prize ( www.lulublookerprize.com) - alias "The Blooker Prize" or just "The Blooker" - will be the first contest to honor blooks, a new, hybrid literary form and the world's fastest-growing kind of book. "Blooks are the hottest new publishing and online trend," says Bob Young, CEO of Lulu. "So, the newest thing in publishing is the oldest thing: the printed book, reinvented as the blook." Lulu is launching the Blooker - whose name is an affectionate nod to another important literary prize - as a global contest to mark the 450th anniversary this year of Gutenberg's invention of moveable type in 1455. "Blooks are the latest landmark in the history of books", says Young. "They are a new stage in the life-cycle of content, if not an whole new category of literature, with its own creative process and emerging literary style." Cory Doctorow, the noted author, speaker, activist and blogger, will chair a team of team of three prominent Internet figures who will be the judges for the inaugural prize. The prize will reward blooks in three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Comic-Blooks (based on web-comics) but with one overall winner. It is open to blooks published anywhere by anyone, provided they are in English. As co-editor of BoingBoing ( www.boingboing.net), the world's most linked-to blog, Doctorow is a prominent blogger, with years of successful blogging to his name. Doctorow's fellow judges are both Internet luminaries. Robin Miller is one of the creators of modern interactive journalism and, among many other things, editor-in-chief of Slashdot (www.slashdot.org ), the hugely influential technology blog. Paul Jones is the director of iBiblio (www.ibiblio.org) - a large, contributor-run digital library - and an internationally noted speaker. Although the word "blook" itself is new, scores of blooks have already been published, including examples by both well-known and unknown authors; and their number is growing fast. "We have already identified well over 100 blooks - almost half produced by mainstream publishers," says Doctorow. "But this is just the start of something much bigger." There is, in a sense, nothing new about the works of great writers starting life in one medium before transferring to another, points out Doctorow. The Bible, for example, was originally produced as a scroll. "And Dickens originally intended his work to appear in newsprint, not as a book." What is the new is the creative process involved in producing a blook. "Blogs encourage their authors to publish in small, partially formed chunks," says Doctorow. "Previously, such jottings might have been kept in the author's notebook but something amazing happens when you post them online: readers help you connect them, flesh them out and grow them into fully-fledged books or blooks." Doctorow is also the author of several acclaimed books, both fiction and non-fiction, all themselves written using notes posted on his various blogs. "My novel-writing process is one of "bricolage" - of picking up little bits and pieces everywhere and combining them as a I go. There are too many bits and pieces in my head to remember them. So, I write them down on my blog, where I also get feedback. I know of other writers who blog stuff as they go". Doctorow's latest novel is Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town' (Tor Books), a contemporary, magic realist novel about wireless networking.   Examples Of Blooks Like the Internet itself, blooks cover an unlimited subject-range: from 'Salam Pax: The Clandestine Diary of an Ordinary Iraqi' (Grove Press), the eye-witness accounts of the Iraq war by the blogger known as Salam Pax, and 'Small Pieces Loosely Joined' (Perseus Books), David Weinberger's spiritual interpretation of the Internet, to actor Wil Wheaton's memoir 'Just a Geek' (O'Reilly), and Jessica Cutler's 'The Washingtonienne' (Hyperion), a novel based on her scandalous blog of the same name. More scandalous still is 'Belle de Jour: The Intimate Adventures Of A London Call Girl, by Anon' (Phoenix), which started life as an infamous blog, describing the life of a north London prostitute, and read by 15,000 a day. [That rings a belle - ed.] How Blooks Differ From Books "Blooks differ from books in several ways", says Doctorow. Blooks, are, for example:  More Collaborative Some blooks are written as the product of multiple voices and perspectives, filtered through discussions and feedback from online communities. Chris Anderson (longtail.typepad.com), editor of Wired magazine, is working on a much discussed book called 'The Long Tail' (Hyperion 2006), which he is developing through a series of blog postings, feedback and online discussions.  Faster Some books are written and published at great speed. An example is "Katrina and the Lost City of New Orleans" (www.lulu.com/content/167324), a blook just published with the help of Lulu itself. Written in less than ten days by Rod Amis, a journalist and (now former) New Orleans resident, it is the first blook to give an insider account of the New Orleans disaster. It draws heavily on a daily blog written by Amis as the disaster unfolded.  More Likely To Take A Serial Form Some blooks, especially those based on online journals or diaries, take a serial form, which harks back to the Victorian heyday of the novel when Dickens and others first published their novels as serials. 'Belle de Jour' is a good example.     After Books Come Flooks - "Have You Seen The Flook Of The Blook?" 'Belle de Jour', what's more, is now going to be made into a film - or, strictly speaking, a "flook", as in a film based on a blook. So, the question on fashionable lips may soon be: "Have you seen the flook of the blook?"     Traditional Publishers Are Now Mining Blogs - In A New Publishing Gold-Rush Meanwhile, grand publishing houses that were once proud to preach the sanctity of the printed book are now frantically mining blogs and websites for the next big name author. At least one significant new publishing company has placed blooks at the heart of its publishing strategy, making it arguably the world's first dedicated "blook publisher". The Friday Project (www.thefridayproject.co.uk) is a new London publishing house that bills itself as "a completely new breed of publishing house, specialising in turning the Internet's best-known brands into the world's finest books" Next month (November) sees the launch of its first three books.     Literary Immortality Although the Lulu Blooker Prize prize will be awarded in three categories, one of the three category winners will also be selected as the overall winner. The prize money is relatively modest - a total of $4,000 in all - comprising $1,000 for each of the category winners and $2,000 for the overall winner. This is expected to grow over time. Meanwhile, the winner of the inaugural prize will also receive a little piece of literary immortality. Although the prize is sponsored by Lulu, the judging is independent of Lulu and no favor will be shown to blooks published on Lulu. The rapid growth in the number of new blooks reflects, on the one hand, the growth of the blogosphere and of the net as a whole, and, on the other, the growing ease and simplicity of turning the contents of a blog or website into a blook. It also heralds the maturity of the first generation of independent publishers - writers who self-publish their work on the Internet and develop their own talents and audiences without the help of the traditional publishing industry." Both trends are enabled by the growth of web-based publishing services such as Lulu itself, which now hosts the publication at no up-front cost of almost 1,000 new titles a week, including a fast growing number of blooks. The Lulu Blooker Prize will take place annually. The short list of books for the inaugural prize will be announced in March 2006 and the winner on 3 April, 2006.  ABOUT LULU (www.lulu.com): Lulu is the world's fastest growing source of print-on-demand books. Founded by Bob Young, who previously co-founded Red Hat, the open source software company, Lulu provides independent publishers with free access to on-demand publishing tools for books, e-books, DVDs, music, images and calendars.  Details for submitting blooks for the prize can be found at www.LuluBlookerPrize.com. Quite amazing. We hope you enjoyed that as much as we did, and we hope you didn't blarf too hard. Enjoy more Hopeless Pretentiousness from the long list below... ®
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Oct 2005

'Be' Broadband updates on 24 meg service

Broadband ISP "Be There" has issued an update on the progress it's made so far in providing unbundled broadband in London. While it recognises that some punters have experienced difficulties, the ISP has sought to keep customers up to date with some of the issues facing the local loop unbundling (LLU) operator. For instance, it reports that "getting our automated interfaces with BT to run smoothly" has caused a few problems, notably, that one in ten orders is not being completed within five weeks. "Now obviously we need to do much better than that," said Be, which wants all orders delivered within four weeks, and three quarters within two weeks. Elsewhere, it has reported some connection issues and confirmed that three exchanges have yet to be brought online. Anyhow, here's that update in full. ® A message for all our Be members, Firstly, we truly appreciate your support for our company and being brave early adopters for our service. We recognize that there is frustration regarding your experiences to date and we wanted to assure you that we are doing everything in our power to quickly and efficiently resolve issues. Obviously, we did expect to hit some early "challenges" as we launched, (hence the purpose of the pilot), but were also expecting that the issues would be more internally focused and that you would not be as effected as much as you have been. Below I have listed the high level issues that we have at this time and how we are working to resolve them for you. Additionally, you will find a list of all our live exchanges and our delayed exchanges at the bottom of the message. If you have any further questions or need any help, please contact us directly through our member centre (www.BeThere.co.uk/member), or via telephone 0870 9506 101 or 020 7136 0641. Our major issues: Processing your orders One of our greater challenges has been getting our automated interfaces with BT to run smoothly. As the receiving system has recently been upgraded and our system is new - there was a great opportunity for issues - and as luck would have it, we have found them. (We even have had an issue as our name had changed from Avatar Broadband to Be Un limited!) We've tracked down the majority of issues and we (along with BT) are all working day and night to resolve them - we are making great progress. We expect to be caught up on resolving order errors by early next week. Based upon our current progress we see that: 63% of orders on live exchanges will go live in 2-4 weeks of the exchange going live 87% of orders on live exchanges will go live within 5 weeks of the exchange going live Now obviously we need to do much better than that. Our target is to have all orders delivered within 4 weeks, and 75% within 2 weeks. We will keep you posted as to our progress in meeting our targets. Perceived line instability and connection issues Some of you have reported difficulty connecting and/or frequent re-training of the line. We have fixed over 50% of reported issues and are making strong progress towards the others. With respect to the frequent re-training - we have a fix that we will be testing tomorrow. In short, we choose a profile on our system to give a very high speed, but it seems that for many of you your line noise is greater than the tolerance of this profile. Therefore, we have created a new profile which may decrease speeds slightly but will require less retraining and thus add to your stability. Once the new profile is tested, we will roll it out to those that reported frequent modem re-training. If you are having a problem but have not reported it, please fill out a ticket in our member centre www.BeThere.co.uk/member as this will ensure that we assign you the new profile and resolve you issue. Responding to your tickets Given all the above issues, we have receives lots of emails, tickets and calls. We have fallen behind our target for answering tickets (4 hours) and therefore set up a special task force at the beginning of this week to respond to all outstanding items. We are working hard to respond quickly but there may be some delay until we remove the backlog - but we will. If you have created a ticket in the member centre and feel that you are happy that we are working on the issue or that the issue has been resolved please close the ticket. This would help us refocus our staff to responding to outstanding items and reducing waiting times on new calls. If you have opened a ticket and it's not yet been resolved, then there is no need for you to send in a new one. We will answer all tickets. Promise. Our entire team is working flat out to identify and resolve all of our teething issues as soon as we can. Our pilot price was set to reward you for dealing with the issues that we knew we'd have and to thank you for your support. For those of you that have been unduly inconvenienced we will be offering additional Thank Yous to help make up for missed expectations. We are as disappointed as you are that we have not been able to meet your expectations and our leadership team is committed to ensuring that Be exceeds your expectations in the future. I would like to thank each of you personally for your patience and commitment to BE by sticking with us through this rough patch. Kind regards Brett Head of Member Services P.S. Please do not RESET your modem, as this will remove the Be templates and prevent you from connecting to our service. However, if you have done so, you can call the member centre and we'll get new ones out to you immediately. Below is a list of our active exchanges! Active Exchanges BERMONDSEY, CLERKENWELL, EUSTON, HOLBORN, KINGS CROSS, SHOREDITCH, WALWORTH, ALBERT DOCK, BARKING, DAGENHAM, MUSWELL HILL, NORTH FINCHLEY, PALMERS GREEN, ROMFORD, STRATFORD, CATFORD, DEPTFORD, GREENWICH, PUTNEY, THAMESMEAD, TULSE HILL, WIMBLEDON, CHISWICK, EALING, HAMMERSMITH, PERIVALE, BAYSWATER, MAIDA VALE, PADDINGTON, PRIMROSE HILL, BATTERSEA, BRIXTON, CHELSEA, FULHAM, NINE ELMS, PARSONS GREEN, PIMLICO, SOUTH KENSINGTON, WEST KENSINGTON, WOOLWICH, FULHAM, STEPNEY GREEN, POPLAR Delayed Exchanges, please note we can not give ETA's for an exchange HACKNEY, SHEPHERDS BUSH, NEW CROSS To date, we've committed to unbundling 700 additional exchanges over the next 9 months, and may even increase that number to 1000. Shortly, we will be posting the full list of committed exchanges on the website.
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2005

Adaptec slips SAS under the wire

Storage Expo, LondonStorage Expo, London Adaptec's upcoming family of Serial Attached SCSI adapters is on show here, even though it doesn't formally launch until next week. Already on sale is the 48300, a basic eight-port card offering mirroring and striping (RAID 0/1) on a 64-bit 133MHz PCI interface. It has four 3Gbit/sec internal SAS ports and four external, and lists for around £250. Filling out the range are the 4800SAS and 4805SAS, which are microprocessor-based RAID controllers with 128MB of RAM each. They provide the full set of RAID, including 5, 10 and 50, and more ports too - two internal four-way connectors and one external. The difference between them is that the 4800 is PCI-X and the 4805 is PCIe (PCI-Express). Both cards support Microsoft's VSS and DPM. Given that serial storage was supposed to save us from parallel hell by using easier to route and airflow-friendly round cables instead of ribbons, it seems odd to find Adaptec's SAS adapters fitted with four-way connectors that use flat 'octopus' cables. These are still smaller than SCSI ribbons though, and simpler for connecting external disk enclosures, too. According to an Adaptec staffer, SAS is backwards-compatible with SATA and the same RAID card can run both, so you could for example host four SATA drives on one connector for bulk storage and four SAS drives on the other for frontline data. He added that, unlike SATA, SAS supports port expanders too, so each port can support multiple drives.
Bryan Betts, 14 Oct 2005

Pillar pops up in Europe

Storage Expo, LondonStorage Expo, London Pillar Data called its competitors "dumb" as it opened its European operations this week. The Larry Ellison-funded storage networking unstart-up is the latest to claim it will revolutionise the market with systems that do more than anyone else for less money. Its Axiom boxes can provide both file-based NAS services and block-based SAN volumes from the same storage pool, with the added benefit that the storage can be tuned to the specific application it's intended for, said Pillar CEO Mike Workman. More importantly, it avoids translating data from block to file format unnecessarily, he said, claiming that inefficiencies in the way some other NAS companies provide SAN access mean that data can be converted up to four times. "Everyone else is trying to do consolidation, but they're trying to do it in a dumb way," he added, pointing out that data is stored in block form on the disk, so converting it to file volumes then back to Fibre Channel or iSCSI block format is a waste. "SAN/NAS consolidation is just one of ten things we do," he said. "When you're a start-up you need to do more than one thing. It's one platform that does ten things well, not ten different platforms. The [cost] savings come from doing more with less," and accepting lower margins than the big NAS vendors do, he added. Axiom boxes cost from £30,000, and they use 8-byte LUNs, so they don't have the 16TB volume limit that others have, Workman said, adding, "It's crazy, but we have customers with 300TB LUNs." Pillar's quality of service (QoS) metrics let you describe a business problem in storage terms, with drop-down menus to tune the storage for the application. "The big thing is the ability to do archiving and run Oracle, say, on the same platform using the same storage," Workman said. "By contrast, EMC says if you want to archive buy Centera, and if you want to do something else buy something else." He adds that Pillar will have spent $200m on development by the end of this year. It now has a sales office in the UK and will open French and German offices soon, with a plan to appoint a distributor in each country and operate a "channel-friendly hybrid" direct/indirect sales model - if such a thing really exists.®
Bryan Betts, 14 Oct 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Evesham pitches leaner NAS

Storage Expo, LondonStorage Expo, London Evesham Micro is jumping into the low end NAS business with a compact Windows fileserver based on Intel's LeNA reference design. Called SilverSTOR XS, the NAS box can have up to four hot-swap SATA drives for up to 1.6TB of capacity, and runs on an Intel XScale processor. "It has a Linux-based operating system stored in Flash memory, plus XScale is much more power-efficient," said Evesham product manager Chris Wintle. The SilverSTOR device also has dual Gigabit Ethernet ports and a Mini-PCI slot for an optional 802.11a/b/g wireless card, although Wintle said the wireless drivers won't be available until December. The device is CIFS-only so will not support Linux or Unix clients that look for NFS filesharing, Wintle added. It works with Microsoft's Active Directory or can be used on its own, with data volumes, users and groups defined via a simple Web-based management panel. SilverSTOR prices range from £579 for a unit with two 80GB drives to around £1,200 for a 1.6TB box. "You could do the same thing with a PC, but it probably wouldn't have built-in RAID or hot-swap drives," Wintle said. "This is a dedicated fileserver for up to 30 users in a small office."®
Bryan Betts, 14 Oct 2005

Quantum taps DPM for low-end snapshots

Storage Expo Quantum has enhanced Microsoft's DPM software to fill out its disk-based backup line with an appliance that comes in under its DX series of virtual tape libraries on price. It has taken DPM and added hardware data compression for doubled disk utilisation, plus software to offload data to tape - although the DPM5500 device does not come with tape as standard. "DPM brings a very simple snapshot tool, it's simple to use so it suits our target market and our channel very well - the DX plays into more complex environments. I expect people to connect the DPM to a small tape library," said Graham Hunt, Quantum's EMEA product manager. "We will ship the DPM5500 as a server and software, with three client licences and the tape offload engine," he added. The DPM5500 has dual Gigabit Ethernet ports with TCP offload engines (TOEs), redundant power and cooling, and can have 4.8TB or 9.6TB of disk.®
Bryan Betts, 14 Oct 2005

In Motorola vs Palmsource, who catches the OS?

Motorola was pipped at the post with its bid to acquire PalmSource, and isn't happy. It's suing the software company and seeking a termination fee. PalmSource announced it was being acquired by Japanese browser company Access for $324m on September 9 this year, or $18.50. In late September PalmSource disclosed it was the subject of a lawsuit from a jilted bidder, called 'Company A'. We now know that's Motorola - the Chicago Sun Times being first into print with the news. The suit describes how Motorola approached PalmSource in the late spring, with a view to a collaboration. As did Access. A third company - believed to be Palm - bid $13 in cash and stock, before dropping out. Bidding continued throughout the first week of September, and Motorola thought it had won with a bid of $17.25 per share. When Access returned with what proved to be the winning bid, Motorola didn't increase its offer. However it does maintain that a contract was sealed, and PalmSource's failure to pay $8.6m due by September 16 is a breach of contract. Why did Moto want Palm software? It's not for PalmOS, in its present or future incarnations, we're assured. In early 2003 Motorola announced it was investing heavily in China and Linux. Late last year, PalmSource announced it was picking up China MobileSoft (CMS). CMS has an embedded OS, but its main business comes from selling phone applications: when we spoke to PalmSource in February, CMS had ten OEMs for these applications. But Palm undertook another, little publicized strategy shift in the spring which led to the ouster of CEO David Nagel, and signaled the end of its role as an OS shop with an OEM operation and a consumer brand. That shift meant PalmSource would focus on selling Linux phone applications to lower tier phone vendors. In China, that's big business, but doesn't need consumer savvy marketing - or much of an OS team. Both Motorola and Access wanted CMS' China presence - but have mixed feelings about maintaining an OS. Having dipped into every platform camp over the years, Motorola emphatically doesn't need another OS. Access is said to be ambivalent. Palm uses PalmOS Garnet in its hit Treo smartphone and all its established PDA handhelds. Palm can continue to use PalmOS in its products for another four years, and a published royalty schedule guarantees Access a fixed income for each year - and Palm hopes, a commitment to continue development of the OS. With a much publicized Windows product just announced, it's a delicate time for Palm to announce its intentions to get PalmOS back under the roof. But it wants to, it has little to lose with the PalmOS OEM business drying up, and has much to gain from making a bid for the OS. Sooner or later, we reckon the much-traveled OS will be back at home.®
Andrew Orlowski, 14 Oct 2005

UK broadband to get faster next year

Broadband speed across the UK are set to jump to 8 meg if trials of BT's new "Max" service prove successful. Beginning next month BT Wholesale is due to begin market trials in some 53 exchanges dotted around Greater London, Cornwall, Strathclyde, Northern Ireland and South Glamorgan. "This trial phase is essential to ensure our higher speed broadband products and systems meet the reliability standards that service providers and end users expect," said BT Wholesale bod Cameron Rejali. Once completed, all 5,300 broadband-enabled exchanges across the UK are due to be upgraded to support the increased speed. It means punters will be able to achieve download speeds of up to 8 meg depending on the quality of their line. Currently, BT's broadband network can only support download speeds of up to 2 meg. But critics have pointed out that that BT is way behind rivals Telewest and NTL which are already rolling out 10 meg broadband over their cable networks. Meanwhile, operators such as Bulldog, EasyNet and "Be", who are installing their kit in BT exchanges in a process known as local loop unbundling (LLU), are providing speeds of up to 24 meg. BT points out that these speed increases are only in densely populated urban areas which means that vast areas of the UK are unable to hook up to these faster speeds. "We want our speed increases to be done nation-wide so as to prevent a digital divide," said a BT spokeswoman. BT Wholesale's 8 meg service is due to be up and running by spring 2006. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2005

Claranet buys French hosting outfit

UK-based ISP Claranet has snapped up managed hosting outfit Artful for an undisclosed sum. Founded in 1997 Artful, which is based in Rennes, France, manages hosted applications covering databases, intranets, extranets, web sites and enterprise systems. "The acquisition of Artful is in line with our strategy of expanding our portfolio of services and build[ing] on the group's revenues and profits," said Nicolas Prouteau, le boss of Claranet France. In April, Claranet agreed to splash out $27m to rescue VIA NET.WORKS, Inc. after the business-focused telco warned it was running out of cash. In August the pair fell out after Claranet "claimed that certain events have occurred which trigger a right to terminate the agreements". In the end VIA accepted a $18.1m cash offer from privately-held voice and data network provider Interoute. As part of the deal Interoute gets VIA's PSINet Europe operations in Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland and The Netherlands, and its VIA NET.WORKS operations in Spain, France and Germany. As regards VIA's spat with Claranet, the pair eventually settled their differences, but not before Claranet agreed to cough up $800,000 thereby "mutually releasing each other generally from all claims relating to the transactions". ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2005

Data retention compromise mooted by EU Ministers

European Justice Ministers have agreed not to immediately force through plans for an EU-wide data retention scheme, but opted to negotiate with the European Parliament instead. MEPs had objected to the proposal, claiming that it breaches civil rights laws. MEPs had even threatened to take the Council of Ministers to court if they were not allowed to participate in the legislative process, according to reports. The Council of Ministers would prefer to have the cooperation of the European Parliament in creating the legislation but does not actually need it. UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke, on behalf of the EU Presidency – held by the UK until January – warned yesterday that he would push the measure through if MEPs have made no progress by the end of the year. "We have reaffirmed that we will have agreement on measures to deal with telecoms data by the end of the British presidency,” he told the BBC. “We have agreed we will seek to join the European Parliament in that approach if we can." Meeting in Brussels, Ministers agreed to a compromise deal that would oblige ISPs and telcos to retain fixed and mobile telephony data for a minimum period of 12 months, and IP-based communications data for a minimum period of six months. The proposals allow for a maximum retention period of two years, although Member States, such as Ireland and Italy, who already have national retention periods going beyond that, will be allowed to stick to their existing timescales. In addition, the deal allows Member States to decide at a national level whether to reimburse industry for the additional costs that the scheme will incur, and confirms that the measure will be reviewed after five years to ensure that it is working properly. "This development today means justice and home affairs ministers are willing to accept a legal process that will let all branches of government decide the issue," a spokesman for EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, told the International Herald Tribune. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 14 Oct 2005

Space age scanners headed for airports?

A scanning system inspired by bats could spell the end of airport metal detectors, according to the European Space Agency. It is based on the principles of echolocation, the technique bats use to hunt in the dark. Named Tadar, after the Brazilian Tadarida bat, it uses millimetre waves to scan for concealed weapons, and can detect non metallic objects as easily as metallic ones. The company behind the scanner, Farran Systems, explains that the technology was originally developed for ESA's space systems. The scanner uses 3mm microwaves to scan people as they walk through a booth. Its sensors detect thermal energy emitted by the body as well as microwaves being reflected from objects. Clothes become transparent, but denser objects, such as plastic explosives or other weapons, show up clearly against the background thermal image of the body. Everyday items like door keys and money will also be clearly visible as will liquids and non metallic items. Different materials reflect the microwaves at different frequencies, and will show up in different representative colours. This will give the scan operators an idea of what kinds of materials they are dealing with. The system can operate in both passive and active modes. When it is in passive mode, people would need to stand still to be scanned, but in active mode, it can produce a three dimensional map of a scene from a distance of up to 50m. Tadar is being demonstrated at this week's Inter Airport Europe Exhibition in Munich. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Oct 2005
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Start-up buys Solid State Solutions

Magnos Holdings, a new company set up to buy enterprise storage resellers, has made its first acquisition: Solid State Solutions (S3). Terms are undisclosed. S3 is based in Hampshire and its founder-owners, Roger and Lorraine Smith, are to retire from the business. But they will stay on for now as consultants to ensure a smooth handover. Set up in 1988, S3’s customer base is predominantly in the South East. Its vendor roster includes Symantec (Veritas), ADIC, StorageTek, Hitachi Data Systems, Network Appliance, Spectra Logic and InTechnology. Barry Jones, business development director of Magnos, said he bought S3 “because it was available”. More importantly, it produces good margins and has the best revenue per head – “by a long chalk” – of any company he has investigated so far in the UK enterprise storage channel. There are too many storage resellers operating at the same level, resulting in too much cost in the supply chain, and struggle to make good margins, according to Jones. This makes the sector ripe for consolidation. "Storage is growing and will continue to grow, and there will be good margins, so long as you offer good added value services. You cannot build a strategic business around box-shifting," he said. Magnos funded the S3 deal through “private resources and bank borrowings”. Another small potential acquisition in the wings will be funded in the same way. Beyond that, “negotiations with sources of corporate finance – who share our vision for consolidation in this sector – are well advanced.” Jones aims to built a country-wide operation, which would mean three or four branches across the UK. Magnos Holdings is born out of Magnos Consulting, a three-man consultancy based in Harrogate. Jones, who has been in IT for an “embarrassing number of years” is a channel veteran, at one time running DEC’s European VAR team in the 1980s. ®
Drew Cullen, 14 Oct 2005

Oz Swiftel case settled in a shroud of secrecy

The long running Australian Swiftel case was settled today. All the important issues and players were involved in this case – ISPs, alleged BitTorrent and P2P users … film, music and other content holders. There were also allegations of large-scale internet-based copyright infringement. The case was supposed to represent another significant piece in the Australian judicial puzzle known as the “legal framework in the digital age”. So, why was this case settled, and why were the terms of the settlement sealed? When we watch people or companies over a period of time, it is natural to observe patterns of behaviour. This is especially the case when we watch the copyright enforcement industry. Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations (MIPI) has had a golden run of successes over the past decade. Many MIPI cases have gone to judgement. Through these judgements MIPI has effectively “made law”. So, how can a private organisation make law? Lawyers call it precedent. MIPI has brought a number of cases in the Federal Court over the past few years. These cases have been heard, and MIPI has been successful (to varying degrees) in each of these cases. As a result, MIPI have helped develop a body of legal judgements which can be used by judges in Australian courts to interpret legislation (such as the Copyright Act) well into the future. Here is a sample of some recent MIPI copyright cases (in alphabetical order): • Cooper • Miyamoto • Sharman • Smith • Universities case MIPI has also settled a number of cases over the past few years. In these settled cases, MIPI has gone in “hard”, with cease and desist letters, Anton Piller (civil search and retention) orders, and has supported these actions with an effective public relations campaign. Respondents faced with such a campaign have been faced with two choices – either fight the “good” (and expensive) fight, or simply settle with the recording industry (read: surrender). Typically, when MIPI has settled cases the respondents have had to make a payment of a substantial sum of money. Often the sum approximates the amount of the alleged loss, which in turn approximates the amount of damages that would have been payable had the case run its course, and had the respondents lost. The settlement sum may include court costs and the applicant’s legal expenses to date. There may be “goodwill” discount which acknowledges the respondent’s admission of liability. MIPI usually publicly disclose settlement terms. This is not only so that MIPI and its stakeholders can “claim” a victory in their press releases, but it is so that MIPI can use the settlement as a precedent for future cases. On October 14, 2005, it was announced that the Swiftel case had been settled. The Swiftel case was supposed to be the first Australian case dealing with the use of BitTorrent technology for alleged copyright infringement. The case was also supposed to be the first major test of new laws designed to limit ISPs' liability for copyright breaches carried out by their customers. At the time that the case commenced a MIPI representative identified “Swiftel as an ISP which has adopted BitTorrent technology to link infringers to music clips and sound recordings.” According to s MIPI representative, “hundreds of thousands of downloads (were) conducted in the last year in breach of copyright laws.” The case focused on two internet servers including a website known as “Archie's Hub”. Anyway - the case was settled … nothing unusual about that … except, for perhaps the first time in MIPI history, the terms of a settlement in a copyright infringement case were sealed. This means that we cannot find out how much money the respondents will have to pay to the applicant record companies as part of the settlement. Nor can we find out the other terms (if any) of this deal. This is very unusual, given that MIPI has always been about setting precedents. In this case, there will be no precedent set. No citation. No bragging rights. Next time an ISP is sued in Australia, it will be as if the Swiftel case never happened … So what were the settlement terms? Early MIPI media statements talk of “hundreds of thousands of downloads”, so perhaps the settlement sum is close to a million dollars. Alternatively, the sum payable may be smaller … perhaps much smaller. In fact, the settlement sum may be so small, that the recording industry does not want other respondents (and would-be respondents) to know how little money it takes to “get out of a case” involving high volume internet-based copyright infringement. The shroud of silence is intriguing. All the important players were involved in the Swiftel case. ISPs were involved, and we saw how important that was in the Cooper case. There are allegations of high volume P2P file sharing. That was crucial in the Kazaa case. There were allegations of financial gain and substantial losses to copyright holders – just like the other MIPI cases. However, from an Australian legal perspective there were new factors involved in this case, such as the use of BitTorrent, the interaction between the Federal Magistrates Court and the Federal Court, and the impact of the Australia/US Free Trade Agreement. So, why the secret settlement given that the recording industry was seemingly so confident in the merits of their case? Could it be the recording industry didn’t want to spend any more money on this case – even if it would potentially yield good legal precedents? Could it be the Oz recording industry has swapped a long term perspective for short term gain? Could it be the recording industry is still reeling as a result of a budget “blow out” in the Kazaa case? Or could this be part of a wider exit strategy – a plan by the recording industry to take a step back from copyright enforcement proceedings? Alex Malik is a technology lawyer and music industry commentator. He can be contacted at Alex.Malik@student.uts.edu.au.
Alex Malik, 14 Oct 2005

ID card pricing announced

The cost of a new stand-alone ID card has been set at £30, it was revealed yesterday. The Home Secretary, Charles Clarke made the announcement in response to a parliamentary question tabled by Martin Salter MP. The stand-alone card will be valid for 10 years and the current estimated cost for a passport and ID card package is estimated at £93. The cost estimates were calculated "following careful scrutiny of the costs of the ID cards scheme over the summer by the Home Office, in full consultation with Treasury and other Government departments." Accounting firm KPMG was called in to provide an objective evaluation of the scheme and considered the government’s assessment to be "robust and appropriate for this stage of development." The ID card can be used for travel within the EU without a passport, applying for jobs, benefits and a bank account. Mr Clarke also announced the publication of the government's latest research into public support and awareness for the ID card scheme. The survey was originally undertaken in the first three months of the year and was retaken following the July 2005 London attacks. The report shows there was no significant difference between the results of the two surveys. According to the report, there is strong citizen support for the scheme: 73 per cent are in favour, 17 per cent are opposed while 10 per cent are neutral. Three-quarters of respondents are prepared to pay £93 for a combined passport and ID card, and £50 for a stand-alone ID card. This compares well with passport penetration in the UK, with 77 per cent of citizens holding one. When asked if they were willing to pay £250 for a combined passport and ID card, and £100 for a stand-alone ID card, 63 per cent agreed. The UK Passport Service is to begin issuing biometric passports early next year, and a compulsory national ID card scheme will be introduced by 2008. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
eGov Monitor Weekly, 14 Oct 2005

PlusNet buys into LLU

PlusNet has become the latest operator to sign up to Easynet's unbundled broadband service enabling the Sheffield-based ISP to cut its dependency on BT for high speed net access. LLUStream was launched ten months ago and gives ISPs the chance to source wholesale broadband from another telco other than BT without having to install their own kit in BT exchanges. It also means that PlusNet will be able to offer customers wired up to LLUStream-enabled exchanges speeds of up to 24 megs. BT's network currently supports speeds of up to 2 meg although 8 meg should be available from next spring. The UK's dominant fixed line telco announced today that it is due to begin trialling its "Max" service next month and PlusNet is also taking part in that pilot. Said PlusNet chief exec Lee Strafford: "Easynet's LLUStream gives our customers the benefits delivered by local loop unbundling, without us having to make the costly LLU infrastructure investment ourselves." In August Centrica-owned telco OneTel - which is currently up for sale - signed a similar deal with Easynet to provide unbundled broadband to around 20,000 subscribers. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2005

Researchers name gene suspected in Tourette's syndrome

US researchers said yesterday they had identified a gene that could be involved in Tourette's syndrome. Scientists at Yale University's school of medicine, writing in the journal Science said that although other genes and other factors probably also come into play, they had good evidence that a gene called SLITRK1 is at least partly responsible for the condition. Research leader Dr Matthew State says the work began with a boy who was the only person in his family to have Tourette's syndrome, Reuters reports. DNA analysis revealed that he had a so-called genetic inversion on chromosome 13. As the name suggests, this means a particular gene had broken off, inverted itself, and then reattached itself to the chromosome. The SLITRK1 gene is found on the end of this inverted section. It plays a key role in brain development, particularly in the interconnection of neurons. Having identified a possible genetic culprit, State and his team could then compare this gene in Tourette's sufferers with the same gene in those without the condition, looking for a mutation. DNA tests on 174 Tourette's patients revealed that their version of the SLITRK1 gene is indeed a mutant. State issued a statement saying: "This finding could provide an important clue in understanding Tourette's on a molecular and cellular level. Confirming this in even a small number of additional TS patients will pave the way for a deeper understanding of the disease process." Tourette's syndrome generally begins in childhood or adolescence and is characterised by motor and vocal tics - involuntary movements and outbursts. Many Tourette's patients also suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, or attention deficit disorder. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Oct 2005

LLU falters in UK

There's yet more bad news for telecoms operators keen to invest in providing their own broadband services direct to end users. The Office of the Telecoms Adjudicator (OTA) has flagged up yet more problems with local loop unbundling (LLU) in the UK. The situation is so bad the OTA is now "disappointed" with the progress that's been made. In its latest assessment the OTA said the operational problems reported over the last couple of months "continue to persist and are giving me significant cause for concern". "Current poor performance is being caused by a combination of automation instability, poor software problem handling, volume growth and resource shortfalls. This has led to an overall deterioration in the quality of delivery," said the OTA. In a bid to restore faith in LLU the OTA has received assurances from the head of BT's new equal access network group - BT Openreach - that these problems are of the "highest priority". Even so, the OTA remarks that after many months of steady progress BT, the OTA and LLU operators are "disappointed at the current setbacks" although are "focused on getting back on track" LLU ISP Bulldog - which is facing an investigation by regulator Ofcom after receiving hundreds of customer complaints - continues to blame part of its troubles on the cumbersome LLU process and fingers the "shortcomings of the BT automated process" for slower customer provisioning. LLU newcomer "Be" has also been hit by problems reporting that only six in ten orders go live within two-to-four weeks. "One of our greater challenges has been getting our automated interfaces with BT to run smoothly," it said. Despite the problems, the OTA reported that there are now 123,000 unbundled lines in the UK with numbers growing by around 4,000 a week. "However the operational problems the industry are experiencing confirm there is still some way to go before we consolidate the Market Breakthrough we all aspire to," it said. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2005

Compressed air could help bridge digital divide

BT is looking to wire up remote areas with broadband services by blowing fibre optic cables between existing telephone poles. The lightweight cables - no thicker than a human hair - can be used to provide a high speed private circuit to businesses in rural areas. What's different, is that BT is using a lightweight tube through which up to four fibres, bundled together, are blown at high speed using compressed air. Since this "droptube" is much lighter and thinner than a standard overhead optical fibre cable, the telco should be able run the cables using existing telephone poles without having to strengthen them or install new ones. Such a move could help reduce the cost of make bringing high-speed connections to rural areas. The service is currently being trialled in an exposed part of Pembrokeshire, Wales, where engineers will be able to test whether the "droptube" can survive harsh, windy conditions. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Oct 2005

Turkey new hotspot for holidays and viruses

LettersLetters The postbag was positively groaning this week. But we shall ignore almost everything you've said in favour of a fabulous photo story. We got a note from a reader (thank you, you know who you are) that one William Gates III was holidaying in Turkey. And Lo! CNet has the confirmation. Sadly, the esteemed news site was unable to prevent itself from morphing into Hello! magazine, in a new triumph for tech journalism. Surely such heights have not been scaled since SF Gate profiled Larry Ellison's rather decorative wife, Melanie Craft. (Really, read it. We think you'll like the bit about the shower.) Anyway, check out the pictures here. See how cheerful they look? Pay special attention to picture two. Does Sir Bill remind Doonsbury fans of anyone? Finally, we don't wish to seem uncharitable, but does anyone else think that it can be pure coincidence that Gates holidaying in Turkey at exactly the same time as there is an outbreak of avian flu in the same country. We all know about MS and viruses, after all... And on with the show. Let's see, you've vented on many subjects. Let's start with the conviction of one Daniel Cuthbert for the "hacking" of the DEC Tsunami appeal website: Thanks for the story on the Tsunami "Hacker" - the first I have seen that actually describes what the poor sod did. If you had told me that this would constitute an offence, that the police would pursue it, and that the CPS would prosecute it, prior to this case, I would not have believed it. I'm quite at a loss as to how typing a URL which would only have yielded a page on a baldy configured server constitutes an "attack" - it would seem to be a perfectly reasonable "sanity check" to me. It seems that the real evil in this case is the extremely badly drafted legislation - how are we to know what we have "permission" to do? We do not! However, the people who created this miscarriage of justice are the police and CPS, who seem to be both ignorant of the territory in which they are operating and capable of extraordinary malice. I have no idea what the officer who said that this "sends a reassuring message" was driving at - the message it sends to me is that anything I type may be willfully misrepresented and used against me. Oh, and I donated £150 to that appeal through that website that week - I would not do so again, as I would not feel safe. That is the saddest aspect of all of this case. Cheers, PhilK What utter crap! So now, if a website publishes a broken link and I click on it, because they didn't INTEND for me to have the access I'm a criminal? Better arrest just about everyone! Vince I just put ../../../ into the address bar. Does that make me a bad guy? Dom 'Dr Neil Barrett, a computer crime expert recently appointed to advise the EC on Microsoft issues, said: "...the access was unauthorised. He came to a site for which he did not have permission to exceed the normal user levels of access and attempted to elevate that access. Now, it's true that security professionals do such things - on penetration tests - but that's where permission has been given." Barrett does not believe the verdict will have much impact on the security community.' The man typed NINE bloody characters into his browser's URL bar, for God's sake! For this he loses his career, is convicted of a criminal act, is fined and branded a criminal for the rest of his life? ... I can guarantee that in the unlikely event that any British law enforcement agency ever asks me for help with a computer security issue, they'll get a "bugger off" until I see a subpoena from a US court - and I *do* have British customers, so it's not entirely outside the pale. In fact, let me go one step further: Now that a police agency has demonstrated that cooperation by computer security professionals will be used to oppress the innocent, the curious, and those who are (justifiably) wary of criminals, I will *never* give any such cooperation to any law enforcement agency without a court order. Morely This is pretty scary stuff. I should add that this is coming from the Metropolitan Police, probably the worst law enforcement unit in the country (the people who shot dead an innocent tube passenger, the people who shot dead someone for carrying a chair leg, the people who arrested protestors...when the Chinese President visited London, etc.). This kind of gung-ho who-cares-about-the-consequences policing is low-level tyranny and its getting worse: the Government is passing overly broad laws which are being strictly interpreted making criminals of everyone. I predict that one day even shouting "nonsense" at the Foreign Secretary will be treated as terrorism by the police. Oh.. K. This may seem daft but typing ../../../ in the address bar can't possibly be referred to as "...the access was unauthorised. He came to a site for which he did not have permission to exceed the normal user levels of access and attempted to elevate that access". Surely all he would have seen would be a 403 Forbidden message. How can anyone be prosecuted for this! The Googletoolbar has an up a directory button which does the same thing. and which I often use when navigating in a site in the hope of finding more general information than given on the specific page I'm reading. I also routinely get 403 errors when doing this - does that make me a criminal? Surely there has to be more to this story or our criminal justice system is in a real mess. Mark "Cuthbert put ../../../ into the address line" is that all he did? I run an Apache web server here and have at least 10-20 attempts at those kinds of vulnerabilities a night, man I need to call the police, I could be rich at a £1000 a pop. And what's this Intrusion Detection System? It's obviously over-paranoid since Cuthbert didn't actually manage to intrude, just knock on the door. Do I need to get one to earn £1000 per hack attempt? What is the world coming to? Maybe the Met should get out there and target all these script-kiddies randomly scanning every IP range they can dream up and who are willing to cause damage, should their new piece of software provide the functionality to break in. I've got plenty of server logs for them to start with if they need. Savage I feel sorry for the guy, seeing as he lost his job which is probably a bit harsh. But he did break the law...it's interesting to note that the people up in arms about this are the "security experts", are they trying to say that there should be one set of rules for them, and another set of rules for everyone else? Imagine, if I was passing a house and I thought a crime was in progress because I heard shouting and crashing sounds from inside. Do I have the right to break open the back door and have a look? Or even sneak in, if the door is open? Not according to the law!, because they could just as well be having kinky sex, as actually really killing each other. Now, if there really _was_ something going on then I'd be morally right to go in and do the right thing, and perhaps that's what the guy felt he was doing; but the bottom line is, if he thought the site was dodgy, he should have followed the proper channels to have it investigated. At the very least he could have contacted the website in question (even anonymously if he was afeared for his reputation) and explained the situation to them; rather than walking away and making it look like an attack. that's my 2 pence anyhow. Steve Is this right? Convicted for typing "../../../" in the address bar?!! How on earth can this be a crime? Why isn't this a national outrage? Is there a campaign site? Aren't we all guilty of doing this, even by accident? Still, I suppose he was lucky he didn't do it on a "strategic" site - he could probably be held by the Police for 3 months without charge. Wow, I love my country. Where did it go? Cheers ian So if I, in my ignorance, type in the string from your article ../../.. I can end up with my career in ruins? What? Mind you, as being a techie Frenchman using a mobile phone in a heavy coat can get you an arrest record then why should we be surprised? And they want to be able to hold people for 90 days! Cheers Francis Next up, the BSA and its new found consumer loving face. Yes, the one that wants private copy levies scrapped in the EU. Because they are not fair to consumers, now that we have shiny fabulous DRM as an alternative: I always wondered why we paid blank media levies and then got sued for performing tasks we'd paid tax to be able to do. The worst was realising every time you burned a data CD that you'd wasted your copy tax on *not* pirating copyright material. The only down side of removing copying levies is that they could have possibly been used in defence of burning bit-torrented albums, as the music cartels had received their royalties for the works burned to CD. Jared "But surely the BSA has not thought this one through. If Europeans are all paying for unpoliceable private copying already, why do we need DRM?" Excellent question! If I were in the EU, I'd certainly be all in favor of keeping an existing, simpler, and functional systems of fees over DRM. On the other hand, if I had an interest in selling DRM systems, then I'd be all in favor of scrapping the fees, thus increasing the need for DRM. (I think this is terribly obvious, but sometimes the obvious needs to be said aloud.) After all, if you're in the business selling DRM systems or DRM enforcements tools (such as the upcoming Windows Vista product), then the more people you can corral into using DRM, the more money you can make, the greater control you can have. By the way, wasn't Microsoft instrumental in setting up the BSA (Business Software Alliance) about fifteen years ago when MS felt they weren't getting sufficiently preferential treatment from the SPA (Software Publishers Association), who, at that time, were more concerned with shareware registrations? Marlin Even better, instead of charging us MORE for the DRM content, why not just give it away cheaper? I mean, after all it can't be copied. RIGHT? Michael Are you sure it's not a hoax? Was it really all they said? They didn't print the rest of the press release in smallprint on the reverse side? They didn't mention something along the lines of wanting DRM software forced upon everybody - and high licences for the DRM-enforcing-software? C'mon... You report the news! Let us know the rest! Karl I loved the quote 'DRM is increasingly being accepted'. All I ever get asked by my non tech friends is how to remove itunes DRM so they can play the files on their cheap MP3 players! (Or maybe this is all some nefarious plan to get DRM accepted then lock it down a lot more tighter when its sort of accepted.) (Would love to say more but theres some black helicopters landing outside.) Phillip Slightly worrying, this next one. A study reveals that the UK's system for tracking criminal and terrorist finance is not up to snuff. Those in the know are not surprised: None of this is surprising. If i position myself as a data miner (one of my skillsets) i get asked where my Phd in advanced stats is, and get paid 50% (or less) of what i get offered as a BI, DSS, DW, or DB architect professional. No Phd required... Further, as i consider it a really interesting, socially beneficial, and rewarding line of work, i looked at roles being offered by the NCIS's high-tech unit (a year or two ago), and the salaries and remit were less than attractive. So am i astonished that they are (mostly) staffed by MOUS-qualified staff who think a mailmerge, pivottable, or auto-import from .CSV is high-tech? Not really. Will they have some great people who do it for passion? Probably. Will they be decision makers and architects? Unlikely. Am i working there? Not on your nelly - i'd be arrested for murder of colleagues, and my defense of self-defense and/or euthenasia would not hold water:) An anecdote: When a (4 months pregnant) co-worker was anonymously threatened with highly abusive and threatening emails from an anonymous AOL address, it took me exactly 15 minutes to track down their IP address, and about an hour to get hold of AOL's officer in the UK for such cases (i did have to bounce between their offshore helpdesks in india and ireland...) As AOL mostly uses a unique IP and dial-back, they knew exactly who the originator was. Armed with all the facts, all the names, and a closed case, it took 2 weeks to find the right person in the police force, and another week before action occurred. Am i confident our law enforcement officers are capable of dealing with high-tech crime? umm... Name withheld None of you was particularly happy with the idea of putting benefits claimants through lie detector tests either: What???!?? I'm outraged... Obviously this will never get into law, and it's just Blunkett trying to get into the headlines again, but the man clearly has a screw loose. Fraser It's quite well understood that lie detection systems, no matter how sophisticated cannot detect certain types of liar. A good example are those people that genuinely believe (or can convince themselves) that the lies they are telling are justified. Surely the worst offenders are those that have little or no moral sense, so are unlikely to show any stress when spinning their own version of the truth. Ironically, many politicians fall into this category. Just look at the rubbish some of them spout with straight faces! Jim Presumably Blunkett, Blair et al will also be quite happy to have one of these devices installed in the middle of the House of Commons chamber? It could then handily warn the people when our elected representatives are being less than truthful, by emitting a great Family Fortunes style "wrong answer" noise. Come on Blunkett - show the people you have confidence in this technology you are prepared to use on the rest of us! Fat chance. Ben Also in this highly politically charged letters round up, we should pause to consider the BBC's request for more cash. A mixed response here, and not much middle ground: F*ck the BBC A McKinnon Remember that the BBC is being pushed hard by HM Govt to roll out Digital TV. The Govt doesn't want to do it itself and cop all the cr*p now being thrown at the Beeb for forcing everyone to change their TV's etc. So the money the BBC is after is, in part, to cover the cost of doing the dirty work of Bliar, Brown and Co. Gerry Hey, lay off Auntie! The TV license fee costs a fraction of a Sky subscription, and provides far better content and services - the Listen Again feature for radio (and they're planning to add TV to that service, too - not just comedies, AFAIK, but the whole week's worth of output). I gave up my Sky subscription ages ago because it was so expensive and offered nothing worth watching. The Beeb has a great reputation worldwide for the quality of its journalism and content. On top of that, they're now having to stump up the costs for the digital transition - it makes no difference to us, the taxpayers, whether the gov't or BBC pay for that, of course, we'll still pay for it one way or another. So if you want to have a go at someone for the cost of the license fee, blame the government for pushing what would have been a government cost onto the Beeb. I've got no affiliation with the BBC, I just think they provide a great service and even £180 (by 2013 - that's still quite a long way off, it's not as if next year's license fee will be £180) is great value for money. So leave the Beeb alone. (Flooding Eastenders out of existence sounds good to me, though!) Steve If all this extra content is being provided based on my TV License, I'd like to know what the BBC is going to do about getting it to me. I have not purchased a set-top box, and have no intention of doing so either on the basis that the coverage is not universal. My father (for instance) lives in Croydon, and can only get 5 of the "many" extra channels available to those with set-top boxes. I live in woking, and can barely receive channel 5 where I am. Before the BBC decides to start wasting my money on extra channels, they need to spend money on the infrastructure so that people can actually receive it. Am I entitled to a discount because I feel that there is nothing extra on these (quite honestly) appalling extra channels? No. And wh not? because then the BBC would lose its monopoly. If they want to fund these extra channels, do it the commercial way and charge people directly for the use. God damn it, I'm not a money tree! Alec The BBC can increase my licence fee to fund the transfer to digital. All I ask in return is a small share of the £xxxBn profit from selling off their analogue spectrum once they have migrated. That's not too much to ask is it? Mark Sadly, all that cash will go to HM Government, not to Auntie. This should not surprise you... Something a little lighter to end on? Yes, we thought so. So why not take a stroll through the Peruvian mountains where farmers and miners are protesting that wads of money are being spent on technology when all they really want is some decent bloody irrigation: Give a man a spade and he will create an irrigation channel, telling his friends and neighbours. Give a man the Internet and he will tell Everyone! He'll even stop digging to blog by phone or check his email every five minutes. Roop I think that these Peruvians are very ungrateful. Here is Switzerland we are in dire need of more soccer pitches and who can complain about more bandwidth? The Swiss have no understanding of draining ditches and irrigation anymore. The Peruvians need to understand where the Swiss are coming from. Maybe they could compromise with a few hotels on tops of the Andes with James Bond being chased by . That's something that the Swiss can relate to. Regards, Sean Redmond. This explains why my IRC channel (#peruvian-princess-4-me) has been such a raving failure. Who'd have thought they couldn't read or right. Dammit, back to the drawing board. --- All well and good, say local farmers, but as representative Cristian Huilca put it: "We're peasants, many of us cannot read or write ... But we don't believe the internet will help us as much as an irrigation channel will." --- Scott Enjoy the weekend. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Oct 2005

Google Earth: the black helicopters have landed

Competition resultsCompetition results It's taken our photo interpretation bureau the best part of two weeks to sift through the hundred of entries we had for our "Spot the Black Helicopter" competition - giving readers a chance to win one of our lovely Black Helicopter t-shirts.
Lester Haines, 14 Oct 2005

US firms get more for their IT bucks

Businesses that invest in IT reap significant productivity gains, according to researchers at the London School of Economics, but how the technology is used, and how the business is organised is just as important. The researchers evaluated data from more than 7,500 companies in the UK. They found that US-owned firms in the UK not only use more ICT than both domestic firms and other multinationals, but they also use it more effectively. When a US-owned firm doubles its IT spend, it tends to see productivity gains of around five per cent, the researchers say. For domestic firms, the same increase in outlay only leads to a productivity increase of four per cent. The LSE contends that this is because US firms are better managed than local UK firms, and that the structure of the companies is "conducive to getting the most out of ICT", according to the university's press material. The LSE researchers say that there are signs that more US-style business practices are being adopted in the UK and across Europe, and argue that the cultural barriers should not be overstated because of the potential benefits. The study, led by Professor John Van Reenen from the LSE's Centre for Economic Performance, was carried out in tandem with the Office of National Statistics (ONS), and was sponsored by the DTI. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on this one, as we are sure you will have plenty. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 14 Oct 2005