21st > October > 2005 Archive

EMC takes on paper with $275m Captiva buy

The insatiable beast that is EMC's mergers and acquisition department has fed again - this time gorging itself on Captiva Software. EMC will shell out close to $275m in cash for the "input management solutions" company. Input management solutions? Yes, we were curious too. As it turns out, Captiva's software can pull data from paper records, digitize it and then help store and manage the information. "Captiva focuses on the early stages of information lifecycle management - information capture, digitization and categorization," EMC said. "Together, Captiva and EMC enable customers to either eliminate paper or automate its digital capture and integrate the information with electronic business processing for competitive advantage." Captiva has been in business since 1989 and worked with EMC over the past ten years. It claims particularly prominent financial services and health care customers such as Prudential, Cigna and BlueCross BlueShield. In its most recent financial report, Captiva reported revenue of $20.2m - a record for the second quarter and a 20 per cent year-over-year rise. The company will slot into EMC's massive list of recent M&A victims, including VMware, Documentum, Legato, SMARTS, Dantz and, well, we forget who else. Captiva makes a wide variety of products for both client and data center use. You can have a look at the applications here. Overall, this buy clearly adds to EMC's strategy of managing all types of information in all its glorious forms. Structured? Unstructured? On a Post-It note? It doesn't matter. EMC will shove it on some disk. ®
Ashlee Vance, 21 Oct 2005

Web 2.0: It's ... like your brain on LSD!

Friday PollFriday Poll There's much fretting about what Web 2.0 really is. It's twice as cosmic, but what is it? Conference co-organizer Tim O'Reilly's first attempt to explain it spanned five pages, and produced the following. Apparently it's a fridge magnet game, and Business Week, which is positioning itself as the indispensable weekly for the Hive Mind, faithfully reprinted it. But all we saw was little sighs and coughs trying to be words, words trying to be catchphrases, and phrases trying to be paradigm-shifting, world-changing ideas. It still didn't make much sense. (And by the way - what's "perpetual beta" doing there? In case you missed that ace new concept, it's just floating around on the center-left, ominously close to the large orange rectangle in the middle. Well, sorry guys. Microsoft beat you to that one a long time ago. We've been waiting for the Longhorn "cured version of Windows" for 73 years now. And a usable desktop version of Linux for almost as long.) Aware of the confusion, Transcendental Tim returned to the challenge, and rushed off this, which is at least a full sentence: Web 2.0 is the network as platform, spanning all connected devices; Web 2.0 applications are those that make the most of the intrinsic advantages of that platform: delivering software as a continually-updated service that gets better the more people use it, consuming and remixing data from multiple sources, including individual users, while providing their own data and services in a form that allows remixing by others, creating network effects through an "architecture of participation," and going beyond the page metaphor of Web 1.0 to deliver rich user experiences. Author Steven "Emergence" Johnson chipped in with this, another earthy metaphor, that as we noticed, they take to like cats take to catnip: "The difference between this Web 2.0 model and the previous one is directly equivalent to the difference between a rain forest and a desert." Which means right now, you're staring at some sand. "This is good news whether we love poodles or not," he said inexplicably. But Steven wrote a best-selling book called Everything Bad Is Good For You - so maybe that's a bad news. Or is it? Now social software smoothie Ross Mayfield thinks he's cracked it. In a brilliant blog post, he proclaimed Web 2.0 is made out of people That's all I have to say. He didn't need to say anymore: the cry rang around the blogs. Yes, that's it! Then we remembered it was the punchline of the movie Soylent Green, where corpses are reconstituted into food. Yeeeuch! Well, we thought since no one can tell us what it is, except for projecting fantasies of what they think it should be, something must be done, before investors lose their shirts. So we're throwing it open to the "collective intelligence" of El Reg, as no one does funnies next generation global computing architectures quite like you on a Friday. Web 2.0 is made of ...   Badger's paws    [➠ Click here]   A magic swirling ship    [➠ Click here]   Javascript worms    [➠ Click here ]   Recycled copies of Esther Dyson's Release 1.0 newsletter    [➠ Click here ]   Never mind, just give us the money    [ ➠ Click here ] All you have to do is click on the appropriate link. It contains a Web 1.0 mailto: indicating your preference. Then hit send. Or, you can substitute your own marketing jargon or buzzword, if you're feeling inspired. The best one gets… oh, something. Good luck. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Oct 2005
cloud

Open source taking over Europe

Nearly half of European local government bodies are using open source software while nearly a third don't know that they are using open source at all. A Maastricht University survey of 12 counties has reportedly found 49 per cent using Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) while 70 per cent said they expect usage to increase. In a comment on the viral nature of FLOSS, it turned out that 29 per cent of authorities who said they did not use FLOSS actually do use open source software such as operating systems, databases and web servers. The results were presented by the Maastricht Economic Research Institute, which has been tracking open source, at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference in Amsterdam this week. The institute surveyed some 900 respondents. A separate FLOSS report from 2002 named performance, flexibility and localization - the ability to easily adapt software programs to local languages - as three key reasons for uptake of FLOSS. The joint report, from the University and International Institute of Infonomics, found performance was top for 83 per cent, security for 75 per cent, and low license fees important for 71 per cent.®
Gavin Clarke, 21 Oct 2005

Google tops $1.5bn in Q3

The Google money making machine stormed through Q3 2005, grossing $1.578bn in revenues and clearing a profit of $381m. That's up from $1.384bn and $342m in Q2, and $1.256bn and $369m in Q1 respectively. Earning per share was $1.32 (diluted), up from $1.19 per share in Q2. Google's own sites provided most of the growth, accounting for 56 per cent of total revenue, 20 per cent higher than Q2. Google partner sites generated 43 per cent of revenue, a 7 per cent increase sequentially. This is where Google is most vulnerable: the cost of sales on partner properties is higher and they're vulnerable to competition. See How Microsoft can 'kill' Google (Simple - just buy its customers). Cost of revenue - largely traffic acquisitions costs (TAC) - was $653.8m, up from $597m sequentially. As the results suggest, while revenue growth remains strong, the company continues to invest in payroll. Google added 700 staff in Q3 alone, bringing the head count to 4,989. How does Google compare with neighbor and rival Yahoo!, which also reported this week? Yahoo! reported a gross income of $1.329m and net income of $253m for the quarter. Yahoo!s R&D expenses at $141m, which is roughly in line with Google's $151m and it boasted lower Traffic Acquisition Costs of $597m versus Google's $653m.Yahoo!'s sales and marketing expenses were much higher at $265.7m than Google's at $104.9m. Yahoo! has $2.94bn immediately to hand for potential acquisitions. However thanks to its recent share issue, Google now has a war chest of $7.62bn in cash and ready stock. But Yahoo! can respond that with its more diversified business, it hasn't put all its colored balls in one basket.®
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Oct 2005

Murdoch gets Easynet

BSkyB has agreed to shell out £211m to acquire broadband ISP Easynet in a deal that catapults the satellite broadcaster into the UK's telecoms sector. The deal, which still needs shareholder approval, gives BSkyB the opportunity to offer its punters the all important "triple play" of TV, phone and internet in a move to rival merging cablecos NTL and Telewest. And with such a powerful brand and marketing machine as BSkyB, the acquisition of Easynet - a local loop unbundling (LLU) ISP - will also ruffle feathers at BT. In a statement today BSkyB said that the acquisition of Easynet would give it "an established presence in UK broadband" and a "leading position" in LLU. Indeed, Easynet has already installed its kit in 232 local telephone exchanges enabling it to offer services direct to end users and cutting out BT. It has plans to increase the number of unbundled exchanges and to offer "differentiated and innovative products" to end users. BSkyB's chief exec James Murdoch: "Today's offer reflects the exciting opportunities that now exist to combine quality entertainment with significant high-speed connections. "We see value for families in moving well beyond just another triple play to offer a new level of connected entertainment and communications services," he said. BSkyB's interest in broadband surfaced last week and was confirmed on Monday when Easynet said it had been approached by a potential bidder. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Oct 2005

Two get death sentence for cybercafe fire

Two men have been sentenced to death while a third man faces life behind bars for burning down an internet cafe in China. The three men, all farmers, were hired to burn down the cybercafe by Xie Wenyi, the owner of a rival cybercafe. Four people died in the fire in Longchuan County, Guangdong Province, last November, reports Shanghai Daily News. One of those to perish in fire was Xie, who hired the arsonists following a business dispute. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Oct 2005
homeless man with sign

How ATM fraud nearly brought down British banking

This is the story of how the UK banking system could have collapsed in the early 1990s, but for the forbearance of a junior barrister who also happened to be an expert in computer law - and who discovered that at that time the computing department of one of the banks issuing ATM cards had "gone rogue", cracking PINs and taking money from customers' accounts with abandon.
Charles Arthur, 21 Oct 2005

Orange takes on the iPod (again)

Tech DigestTech Digest Certified gadget obsessives Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny scour Gizmoville for the oddest digital goodies, while Bayraider keeps tabs on the best and worst of eBay. Shiny has also just launched three new blogs: The first place to go when you have PC problems, Propellerhead is a veritable treasure trove of hints, tips and cheats for Windows computer users. The blog is written by Rick Maybury, a man with half a decade of answering computer queries for the Daily Telegraph’s Boot Camp column behind him. HDTVUK – the first high definition TV news site for the UK PopJunkie - From OMD’s bizarre gay disco album to the retro thrash of the Brian Jonestown’s Massacre’s Take It From the Man, each day PopJunkie offers a mini review of a great lost pop album. Orange takes on the iPod, again So are music downloads via mobile phones taking off in the UK? Well yes and no. While some networks seem to now be only offering a half-baked service, others are going from strength to strength. Orange today has announced a few little tweaks to its music download system Music Player which should help make life a bit easier for its users. The big news is the Orange Music Converter, a rather nifty bit of software for your PC which enables users to convert tracks they have stored on their PC's hard disk into the AAC+ format which is compatible with the Orange Music Player. It works with MP3s and WMAs, but obviously not DRM-ed WMA and AAC tracks downloaded from Napster, iTunes et al. The reason you might want to do this is that the AAC+ tracks take up just 700k of space on a storage card as opposed to 3/4MB of a full MP3 track. So your 512MB SD card instantly now holds the same as a two Gig card would if loaded with MP3s. There is obviously a slight trade off in terms of sound quality though not as much as you might think. Probably the best comparison is MP3 at 96kbps. From now on users will also be able control the tracks they have downloaded via Orange (they start at £1 a shot) using a web page. The page lists the tracks they currently own and enables the user to take the music to and from their mobile. Even if their handset is stolen they can automatically transfer the tracks they have paid for to their next phone. Orange also let on that it was currently looking at the two hard disk based phones – the Nokia N91 and the Samsung SGH-i300 and that Orange subscribers might be able to take delivery of them in the New Year. The Music Player is currently compatible with eleven phones, though Orange has promised to roll it out to cheaper, more youth-oriented handsets next year. Europe gets its first 4G network Forget 3G - it’s old hat now with its sluggish connections, rubbish quality TV and video and snail-like downloads. Nope we are moving to the Czech Republic where, as from yesterday, the inhabitants of a country previously best known for top quality lager, Franz Kafka and not especially politically correct football fans have Europe's first 4G service to play with. Installed by T-Mobile it uses UMTS TD-CDMA technology to deliver download speeds of up to 1Mbps – two and a half times faster than the UK 3G networks. T-Mobile says it hopes to attract subscribers who will stick the 4G friendly PCMCIA card in their laptops (there’s no 4G phones available for Europe yet) and surf like there is no tomorrow. Interestingly T-Mobile is only charging €34 per month for the one Meg service, which is a lot cheaper than its 3G rates over in the UK. The service is only available in Prague at the moment, but it is being rolled out across the Republic. Also on Tech Digest Thierry Henry takes his iPod wireless Philips hard disk players Home brewing is back Top story on Games Digest Sony upgrades PSP pack Sony computer entertainment has unveiled plans to introduce a new retail package for the PSP entitled the Giga Pack. From 28 November, you will be able to buy a package bundle which includes the usual PSP unit, AC adaptor and USB cable on top of a 1GB (instead of the Value’s 32MB) Memory Stick Pro Duo and the new PSP stand for hands free viewing. That means, unless Sony drop the price of the Value Pack, you’ll be paying a mere £35 for a stand and a gig of memory (equating to around 30 hours of music). Doesn’t seem too bad a deal does it? Also on Games Digest Xbox 360/PC hybrid controller hit shops December Bill Gates says no to HD-DVD or Blu-Ray Gizmondo launches in the US with GPS, 14 games Top story on Shiny Shiny Tesco’s pink mobile "Right then, guys! We've got to design a phone for women. What do the ladies like? I know! Make-up and the colour pink! Right! Let's get to work!" This Newgen C800 looks more than familiar, bearing a striking similarity to the ill-fated Siemens Xelibri "compact" mobile. So forgive me if I don't hold out a lot of hope for Tesco Mobile's latest exclusive handset. The powder-puff style pink phone seems to have a few more features on board than the old Siemens number, including a camera and built in speakers with 3D stereo sound effects, but it will still require some level of dedication when it comes to using it - just looking at that strange doubled-up keypad is giving me the collywobbles. Strictly one for pink-fixated teens with plenty of patience, I suspect. Grab yours for £79.99 pre-pay (special offer). Also on Shiny Shiny Nokia's new fashion collection Creative's Zen MicroPhoto goes on sale Moto's 3G RAZR PC tip of the day from Propellerhead Q: I have been invited by a friend to sign up for Google Gmail and it looks like a good idea but I have found in the past that webmail services are not very convenient, as I have to remember to keep checking the inbox. Is there any way I can get Outlook Express to check Gmail, and if so how? Jenny Hewlett A: No problem and there's a couple of ways to keep tabs on your Gmail account. Google has produced a little freeware utility called Gmail Notifier: (http://toolbar.google.com/gmail-helper/index?promo=gdl-en) that monitors your Gmail inbox and tells you when there is mail waiting, or you can set up Outlook Express to check it at the same time as your regular email accounts. To do that in OE go to Tools > Accounts and select the Mail tab, Click Add then Mail and enter your name in the Display Name box. Click Next then in the email address box enter you full Gmail address and click Next. In the next window in the Incoming mailbox enter ‘pop.gmail.com’ (without the quotes) and in the Outgoing mail box type ‘ ‘smtp.gmail.com’. Click Next and enter your Gmail username and password then click Finish. The last job is to go to Tools > Accounts, highlight the Gmail account and click Properties then the Advanced tab. Check both items ‘ This server requires a secure connection (SSL)’, in the Outgoing Mail (SMTP) box enter 465 and in the Incoming Mail (POP3) box should change to 995. Now select the Servers tab and check the box ‘My Server requires authentication’, click OK and it’s done. Also on Propellerhead Missing phone dialer in Windows XP Collectable computers Firebox Foibiles Top stories from our Shiny Media's other blogs: Bayraider Bird flu survival kit Time Machine Lunch with Rupert Murdoch HDTVUK (High Def blog) MTV? Discovery? What other channels are in Sky's HD package? Philips' HD-friendly Media Center PC Celebs who are made for HDTV Popjunkie (great lost pop albums) Depeche Mode - when they were good More superb Beatley-pop - Tin Tin Related stories 2.5G mobile data is crap - Orange exec Orange SPV C550 music phone Orange launches SPV M5000 3G smart phone
Tech Digest, 21 Oct 2005

Nano-crystals stake claim in solar panel research

Researchers in the US have developed ultra-thin solar cells made entirely of inorganic nano-crystals. The team says it is the first time something like this has been accomplished, and hints that it is the first step towards cheap and efficient solar paneling. The new material can't yet convert sunlight into electricity as efficiently as traditional silicon solar cells, but it is an easy match for the organic alternative. In addition, their efficiency seems to improve over time, the Berkeley Lab researchers say, rather than degrading, as with plastic photo-cells. The nano-crystals are also as cheap and easy to make as plastic solar cells but have the added advantage of being stable in air, the researchers say. Writing in the journal Science, the team describes the fabrication technique they developed. They separately synthesized rod-shaped nanometre scale crystal of two semi-conductors: cadmium selenide and cadmium telluride. The crystals were then dissolved in solution and spin-cast on to a conductive glass substrate. This process produces films that are around a thousand times thinner than a human hair capable of converting sunlight to electricity with around a three per cent efficiency rate. Silicon photovolatics, by contrast, have an efficiency of between eight and 13 per cent, depending on the design. "We obviously still have a long way to go in terms of energy conversion efficiency," said Ilan Gur, co-author on the paper. "But our dual nano-crystal solar cells are ultra-thin and solution-processed, which means they retain the cost-reduction potential that has made organic cells so attractive vis-a-vis their conventional semiconductor counterparts." Paul Alivisatos, Chancellor's Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science at UC Berkeley notes: "A solar cell that relies exclusively on colloidal nano-crystals has been anticipated theoretically in recent years. We've now demonstrated such a device and have presented a mechanism for its operation." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 21 Oct 2005
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nCipher taps Abridean to enter ID management

nCipher, the UK-based niche crypto-security hardware house, is moving into the identity management market by acquiring Chicago-based firm Abridean. nCipher intends to purchase all the outstanding stock of Abridean in a deal valued at up to $17.9m (£10.2m). nCipher also intends to repay a $1.5m loan owed by Abridean to MMV Financial. The acquisition plans are subject to approval by nCipher shareholders, prompting a decision by the firm to convene an extraordinary general meeting at its Cambridge headquarters on 18 November. Abridean specialises in the management of identities, roles and users' rights within organisations through its abrideanProvisor product line. For year ending 31 December 2004, Abridean had sales of $2.2m, made a net loss of $2m and had gross assets of $1.1m. It employs approximately 40 people. In a statement, nCipher said it reckons that by acquiring Abridean it can capitalise on convergence between cryptography and identity management. "Over the coming years it is anticipated that the combination of identity management and cryptography will become the common mechanism by which organisations can cost-effectively define and enforce access rights and satisfy related audit and compliance requirements across the enterprise," it said. ®
John Leyden, 21 Oct 2005

Investors bet on e-casino

Lady luck appears to be smiling on PartyGaming after the online poker and casino operation reported a surge in revenues. In September shares in PartyGaming nose-dived after the company reported that while the online gaming market and poker "continues to show strong year on year growth, the rate of growth is continuing to moderate". Today, though, PartyGaming reported "strong current trading with uplift in both poker and casino" as it saw an increase of 209,000 new players. As a result group revenues for the three months to the end of September were up 32 per cent to $220m compared to $166m last year. Chief exec Richard Segal said that "there has been a material uplift in performance across all of the group's activities". At noon shares in PartyGaming were up 8.25p (10.5 per cent) at 86.25p. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Oct 2005

UK celebrates Trafalgar anniversary

Britain is today marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar with a series of events around the country and a wreath-laying ceremony off Cape Trafalgar itself. Her Maj will take luncheon aboard HMS Victory on Portsmouth and later light the first of a series of 1,000 beacons around the country to honour those who royally thrashed a combined French and Spanish fleet back in 1805. Naturally, the BBC is giving the whole thing plenty of coverage, and offers a timetable of events which kicked off this morning when Second Sea Lord Sir James Burnell-Nugent laid two wreaths aboard Victory - one on the deck and one where Nelson is reckoned to have popped his clogs after rather ill-advisedly getting shot by a French sniper as Victory tangled with the Redoubtable. The BBC also offers a 360° view of Victory's main and lower gun decks, and there's more on the vessel at the Navy's official website. The Senior Service also has a Trafalgar 200 site where you can get up to speed on what's happening over the next couple of days. In London, meanwhile, the National Maritime Museum's Nelson exhibition runs until 13 November and if you're in the capital you can check out Turner's The Fighting Temeraire at the National Gallery - currently its featured painting of the month and recently voted the UK's favourite canvas. And quite right too, because history records that it was the Temeraire which probably saved Victory from boarding when it gave the Redoutable a terrible pasting at almost point-blank range. Those of a historical bent can get a blow-by-blow account of the battle here. As for us, we're off to sink a few pints in Nelson's honour and we hope that every Englishman will likewise do his duty this afternoon. ®
Lester Haines, 21 Oct 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

How to check your customer is over 18 and still alive

By adding less than two seconds to an e-commerce process, website operators can now check the age, identity and vital status of customers against the UK Electoral Roll, BT directory enquiries, a credit reference database and a mortality database.
OUT-LAW.COM, 21 Oct 2005

Monkey brains explain nutty laws

American scholars have blamed the woes of the world on the primate in all of us. A paper in the Chicago Kent Law Review say that government decisions in crisis situations are directed by the primitive inner brain. The paper was produced by a lawyer and a psychologist, who obviously know what they're talking about. Lawmakers rushing into making hot-headed judgments lies at the heart of the problem, they say. The response to September 11 is a prime example of "Emote control" - tight security at airports is meant to save lives, but instead causes more people to drive rather than fly and so causes more deaths. Professor Jules Lobel notes: "Fear is a particularly strong emotion, impervious to reason." The more complex deliberative system evolved in humans so we could weigh up the long-term consequences of our actions. Moderate levels of negative emotions warn the higher brain that its slower, more reasoned powers will be required. Intensifying fear or anger will soon take over though, kicking in the faster responding primitive brain, as the paper's co-author Professor George Lowenstein explains: "One may realize the what the best course of action is but find one's self doing the opposite." It’s not all bad though, the researchers credit emotional decision-making for putting a man on the moon, vanquishing Hitler and, er, reducing air pollution. Emotions are also more vulnerable to manipulation by marketers, since they are attuned to respond to novelty, and visual stimulus. I'm off to order a video iPod.®
Christopher Williams, 21 Oct 2005

Windows mobile unplugged

A glitch with Microsoft's PC to mobile device synchronisation software is preventing users from synchronising their device as normal. Microsoft has issued a software update designed to resolve the issue. Some users of Microsoft ActiveSync 4.0 have reported problems when using the USB connection of their PC to connect to a device with Windows Mobile 5.0. These challenges are "likely caused by interoperability with desktop firewall applications or applications that manage network traffic," according to Microsoft. The glitch only affects users with devices running the latest version of Microsoft's mobile device software, Windows Mobile 5.0 software, and only when synchronizing directly to a PC using a USB connection. Wireless synchronization via either Bluetooth or infra-red is not affected. Nor is direct server synchronisation. In Europe, potentially affected devices include the Orange SPV M5000, iMate JasJar, iMate K-Jam, T-Mobile Vario, T-Mobile MDA Pro, O2 XDA Exec, O2 XDA Mini S, O2 XDA Phone, FSC Pocket LOOX N500, Dell Axim X51 series, HP PPC series (rx1950, hx2190, hx2490, hx2790), Qtek 9100, Qtek 9000, Qtek 8300 and Qtek 8310. An update for ActiveSync is scheduled to be available in late November. For most users the better option would be to download updated software from Microsoft's Windows mobile website. Microsoft has also produced a troubleshooting guide covering the problem here. ®
John Leyden, 21 Oct 2005

BT and Sky to scrap joint marketing deal

BT and Sky may be forced to ditch their joint marketing agreement once the satellite broadcaster acquires broadband ISP Easynet. The pair have been plugging each other's products for a couple of years now in a bid to try and offer a "triple play" service to rival cablecos NTL and Telewest. BT punters were offered promos to join Sky, while Sky offered its viewers money-off to hook up to BT's broadband service. That working partnership now looks under threat. Having pledged to spend £211m to acquire local loop unbundling ISP Easynet it seems odd that Sky would also be happy to market a broadband product of rival BT. BT execs are understood to be lining up a meeting with Sky early next week to thrash out the problem. One insider admitted privately that there is a question mark over the future of the relationship and that the arrangement may have to be scrapped once the two companies become rivals. Despite this, BT believes Sky's sudden move into the UK's broadband sector is more of a concern for the cablecos rather than BT. Playing down the threat posed by such a huge player as Sky, BT bigwig Gavin Patterson said: "We see this largely as a challenge to the cable companies. If Sky win customers from those companies BT will benefit as they will be connected over the BT network. "Next year BT will launch the only national TV over broadband service, which will offer video on demand and time-shifted TV to the whole country, rather than the patchwork of cities and large towns covered by any LLU operator." While Eric Tveter, president and COO of Telewest chipped in: "We have built up a successful base of broadband customers in both residential and business markets, over the past five years. "Increased competition is good for customers and we can understand why Sky wants to follow our lead, but it's early days and we have yet to see evidence of how they will match our triple play." ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Oct 2005

Yellow dots a symptom of technology bird-flu?

LettersLetters Here's a weird thing we found out this week: if you are Cuban, and want to buy a mobile phone in Cuba, you need a foreigner to sign up for one for you. How's that for user-friendly? Almost as good as the Qatar city of Doha where, in the 1980's at least, you had to be a registered alcoholic in order to buy a drink: Exactly how would you expect Castro to open the country to new technology. Or to be more precise, under the stupid, pig headed US embargoes of the country, exactly how would you propose they generate the required foreign currency to pay for all these shiny new gadgets you're so keen for the Cubans to have. Now while I sympathise greatly, and wish they had all the shiny new things their hearts could desire (After all, he who dies with the most gadgets wins), perhaps time would be better spent forcing the US to stop the crap & treat them at least as well as they treat other countries that had revolutions such as China... Hamish With regards to your article on Cuban Pre Pay Issues. I used to work at a large multinational supplier of Mobile Comms systems who's customers were spread around the world from the Central African Republic, to Switzerland, Latvia and the USA. We provided the computer systems that allowed for Pre Pay services to be offered. THings such as the real time rating of calls, to the handling of SMS. Anyway, I worked on the design for the solution for Cubacel back in 2001/2. Cubacel had asked for all the usual things, but along with this they needed the ability for dual currency (Pesos and USD) even though the USD was technically illegal in Cuba, and the other strange thing was that there had to be an interface to the national accounts to allow for the government to credit every pre pay user's account with credit every month. We spent ages trying to get all this to work, and quoted for it at a reasonable price (relatively of course). Then came the real kicker. Even though we had to make it possible for subscribers to op up using USD, we weren't allowed to use ANY American hardware. This initially pushed the price beyond the limits of sanity, and finally lead to the collapse of the deal. So all in all, I'm not overly surprised that coverage is patchy, service poor and problems arise. Mind you the people from Cubacel I dealt with were the nicest of any of the operators I spoke to in my three years there. Much nicer than those troublesome Bahamians. Name withheld On my visit to Cuba this summer the country was very welcoming! Admittedly it took a little while at immigration but that was just checking passports. Mobile phone coverage was limited to the tourist areas but then the majority of locals only have enough money to live, let alone own and use a mobile phone. And in my hotel there was broadband - a little slow but worked fine! It wasn't even restricted like other communist countries. Plus it was a lovely country with very friendly locals. Ben Also surfacing this week were suggestions that management might be starting to listen to advice from their organisation's computer security staff. Or at least, that security staff are starting to feel optimistic that management might listen to them, one day: It's nice that some of my fellow security professionals thing they have increasing influence in their organisations ("According to the survey, the efforts of many in the profession to sell their value to the organisations they work for are beginning to pay off. Survey respondents were generally optimistic about levels of influence within their organizations, with a third (33.4 per cent) saying that information security’s level of influence within business units and executive management has significantly increased."). But hey, let's call a spade a spade here - the reason IT Security has an increased profile and budget within organisations has little to do with a sales snow job from your friendly CISSP-qualified security person and a lot more to do with two US politicians, Messrs Sarbanes and Oxley... Repeal s.404 and s.302 of the Sarbanes-Oxley act and see what happens to your IT security budget bro... cheers, Steve While it is heartening that security concerns have produced some reflex response in the managerial notochord, unfortunately the flailing and kicking produced is at best wasteful, and at it's worst harmful. Until we stop building networks based on the world's flimsiest protocol suite ( IP ) that are connected to database systems and applications built on UNIX or Microsoft operating systems, we may as well try to fire-proof a paper house. Nathan A week to celebrate the prevention of ID theft. Break out the shampoo, er, champagne: Three points: - isn't this "Week" just a 'spin twin' of its evil counterpart, the ID card bill ? - what were the sample sizes and demographics, so we may determine whether this was applied to a couple of houses down the road from David Beckham, or Nottingham's Meadows estate ? - one extra tip in your 'how to avoid' list : always ask cold-calling financials(GE Capital springs to mind - they like to ring at 8.30am on a Sunday to remind you you've forgotten your payment) for (e.g.) the last two digits of your account number, so /you/ can check who /they/ are, before they take your security details. Regards, Mike A former security adviser to the President of the US has said cyber security risks across the pond are being poorly managed by the department of Homeland Security. Hands up if this surprises you... No? No one? Oh, OK then. I have worked in the computer support field for twenty years. I can tell you that many of my colleagues and our management suffer from an overwhelming lack of interest in security and in quality of work. The prevalent attitude is that we won't address problems because they will probably never lead to failures on our watch. People would rather bet that a vulnerability will not be exploited than close the vulnerability. People would rather continue to use a dysfunctional system than fix it. The only conclusion that I can draw from my work experience is that most people are sociopaths and passive accomplices to business failures. I would be willing to bet that most successful computer attacks could have been foiled if the computer administrator and his/her management had done their jobs properly. The bit in the article about holding individual people responsible for flaws is not so unrealistic. First, how about just holding the corporation that created the software responsible. That would be a big step in the right direction. Secondly, the entire product is not always at fault. Often there is one small part of a large product that is flawed. Therefore it would not take the mind of Sherlock Holmes to ascribe responsibility for whomever was responsible for this or that flawed module. Anon You weren't hallucinating. You could see yellow dots on your colour print outs. The printer company put them there for the FBI to use in case you went on a counterfeiting rampage. Feel better? Right... I'll be paying cash, picking up in person and wearing a hoody and a baseball cap next time I buy a printer then.... Anon Just buy your PCs in cash at PC World like me, and then forget to send in your Warranty registration card, like almost everyone... Nathan There is surely a simple workaround for this tracking info - simply add a watermark or background of a very pale yellow, so it prints mostly white with scattered yellow dots. Or solid yellow, so the tracking dots are washed out, or a bitmap pattern encoding the serial no of some printer at, e.g., the Pentagon... --Nigel I'm sure the NSA or FBI or whoever think they've done a really clever thing, trying to find out which printer printed whatever damning documents they didn't want printed. The forgers who want to print banknotes will either not buy these printers or just use their own technology. For the whistleblowers and activists who don't want to get caught (and can't afford to use ordinary black-and-white photocopying...), I'm sure that a background of randomly distributed light yellow dots will be enough to throw the spooks off the trail. Paul As if we could get through letters without some reference to the Dr. Who spin-off: A Doctor Who spin-off? Hopefully it won't end up like K-9 and Company. Tim I don't think Russell T. Davies successfully 'revived' Dr Who, Christopher Ecclestone was poor, the directing was worse and the music was abysmal. I didn't like the story arc either. Captain Jack was a humorous, but ultimately light-weight character and your description of Torchwood is not exactly inspiring. Although it does remind me of the Chief Wiggum spin-off show, where he would have 'sexy' adventures every week. If they had chief Wiggum in the Bayou instead of John Barrowman in space, it might be worth watching. John Even better than hearing that Captain Jack would be gracing our screen in a series of his own, though, was the revelation that bird flu, while being a virus, is not likely to affect computer systems. Thank you Gartner. We shall all sleep easier: Fantastic! I was in no end of worry with sleepless nights and cold sweats about what would happen to my ebay sales should I meet a horrific end via a transmuting virus chocking the life out of me. Now who is going to cover the procedures to ensure our IT systems are safe should a meteor the size of Australia come crashing in to the Earth. Jon HaHa! As the sole admin for a medical college, this is exactly what my workplace intends to do with me: Lock infected employees in their homes with broadband access and then paint a red cross on the door, so I can remotely reboot the servers for the next generation emerging blinking into the post-apocalyptic landscape. Ah, The Reg, always on the money ;-) Matt. Hmmm... "Make your workforce aware of the avian flu threat and the steps you're taking to prepare for it." There's a global bird flu threat? Really? *shocking* "Assess your business continuity preparedness for this type of workforce outage scenario and try to improve it (if necessary)." Simple: It's doomed! No point in worrying about it - go down the pub instead. "Assign someone in your business to track biological threats such as the avian flu. He or she should regularly review business continuity plans and update them in response to new information." So, what happens if that person gets bird flu and kiffs it? "Establish or expand policies and tools that enable employees to work from home with broadband access, appropriate security and network access to applications." Coffins with broadband pre-installed? "Expand online transaction and self-service options for customers and partners." If everyone is going to be dead or at least very ill, then there are two minor issues with this statement: a) Who's going to be buying stuff? Dead people? b) Who's going to be delivering the stuff should anyone have survived to purchase it? "Work with customers and partners to minimize any disruption by developing coordinated crisis response capabilities." Buy adjacent allotments in a graveyard so you can continue your business relationships in to the afterlife? Yup, I'll be sticking with the Reg's top tips instead. Particularly the bloke on the roof with a minigun and a baseball bat for when he runs out of bullets. I'd like to add some more to your list if I may: If you see a tree, either shake it (scare the birds away) or chop it down Breed *lots* of cats - at least 200 per household Poison those "nuts in red fishnet bags" things that you hang in your garden Fill the local duck pond with piranhas (sp?) or crude oil Eat as much crispy duck as possible as it'll soon be off the menu (replaced by crispy tit, etc) Buy shares in Rentokill or any company that makes Scarecrows If all else fails: Build a desert sub-bunker and start stocking up on supplies, then learn the fine art of googlewhacking to pass the time Guy Giants of '70s rock they may have been, but what makes The Who experts on global pandemics, avian or otherwise? Mike Groan. Any more of that, and you're barred, Mike. Lock infected employees in their homes with broadband access and then paint a red cross on the door, bugger that! I'm going to lock myself in my own home, with a big cross on the door and a note to Domino's asking them push the food through the pizza sized slot provided and the drink through the cat flap. Oliver I think the part of your article that worries me the most is that, out of everything else I have read regarding bird flu, the advice you add at the bottom of your article is the most sensible I have read yet. Makes you wonder about the intelligence of some people in charge and if the next crisis will be caused by bird flu or bird brains. Frank And finally, the news that Microsoft is one of the sponsors of the new Wembley Stadium has caused some concern already: Personally I won't be walking under that arch until it's had at least 2 service packs. Richard Fair play, Richard, fair play. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 21 Oct 2005

Private eye fined for illegal sleuthing

A private detective was fined this week for unlawfully obtaining information relating to "vulnerable women" from medical centres. Ray Pearson, a director of North London-based Pearmac Ltd, was prosecuted by the Information Commissioner’s Office. Pearson also persuaded an employee from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) to hand over his Employee Identity Number, and then misrepresented himself in order to find out about a customer of HMRC. He was fined a total of £6,250 for Data Protection Act offences and ordered to pay a further £600 costs by Brent Magistrates Court. Philip Taylor, a solicitor with the Information Commissioner’s Office, said: “We are very pleased with the outcome of this case – these are very serious offences, and the fines awarded by Brent magistrates recognise that." Pearson and his co-director, Alan McInerney, also pleaded guilty to an offence under the Act relating to the non-notification of Pearmac Ltd. Mr McInerney was fined £500, and ordered to pay £150 costs. The company was also fined £750 and ordered to pay £150 costs. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 21 Oct 2005

Intelligent design debate hits Aussie news stands

The argument about whether or not the so-called "intelligent design theory" (ID) of evolution should be taught in schools has spilled out of the Pennsylvania courtroom and into the Australian media. Australian federal education minister Dr. Brendan Nelson yesterday restated his view that he has no problem with ID being taught in Australia's schools, while more than 70,000 Australian scientists endorsed an open letter condemning ID as "unscientific", and calling on schools to ban it from their classrooms. Dr. Nelson has not gone so far as to suggest ID has a place in science classes, but some independent school in the country have already begun teaching it as an alternative to evolution. Intelligent design holds that life is too complex to have arisen without some unnamed intelligent creator somehow guiding its evolution. Supporters point to gaps in the fossil record and aspects of evolution not yet fully explained by researchers as proof that an intelligent agent must have been involved. However, scientists argue that ID fails the most basic test of whether or not something should be considered a scientific theory. According to evidence given this week in the Pennsylvania ID trial, the US National Academies of Science (NAS) define a theory as: "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses." The trial was brought by a group of parents who argue that their local school board's decision to allow ID to be taught in science classes is an attempt to introduce creationism into the curriculum. A key witness for the defence (the pro-intelligent design camp) conceded this week that ID does not meet the criteria, New Scientist reports. Instead, Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, proposed a definition of theory that he had to admit was so broad, it would include astrology. Under cross examination, he also conceded that his definition of a theory was almost identical to the NAS' definition of a hypothesis. ID's lack of scientific credibility is central to the argument put forward by Australia's scientists. In their open letter, they say that the core of the intelligent design argument relies on a belief in a supernatural entity of some form. This, they say, cannot be observed, tested validated or falsified. Australia's News.com quotes the letter as saying: "They are free to believe or profess whatever they like. But not being able to imagine or explain how something happened other than by making a leap of faith to supernatural intervention is no basis for science: that is a theological or philosophical notion." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 21 Oct 2005

Hunt for Swedish file sharers steps up

The Swedish branch of the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and the games and film industry body Antipiratbyrån (APB) have won the right to collect the IP addresses of Swedish citizens found to be sharing copyright-protected material and report them to officials. Both organisations no longer need prior authorisation from the Swedish Data Inspection Board (DI). Earlier this year ABP was disciplined by the DI for breaking privacy data rules in its hunt for illegal file-sharers. APB has a 'notice and take down' policy in agreement with the European Union's ecommerce Directive. ABP uses special software to record the IP-addresses of file swappers, the file name and the server through which the connection is made. Until recently, collecting the IP addresses of people who share movies, games and music against copyright laws couldn't be done without prior permission. Now that the entertainment industry is no longer subject to the Swedish Personal Data Act, the hunt for illegal file sharers can finally proceed. However, in order to report file sharers, the entertainment industry would still have to cooperate with ISPs. So far, they are not keen to assist. Jan Sjöberg, the press officer at Telia Sonera Sweden, told The Local this week that "we will not send out warning letters to our customers on anyone else's behalf." APB lawyer Henrik Pontén hopes ISPs will change their viewpoint. "It is also in their interest that there is a functioning games and film industry for legal distribution.”®
Jan Libbenga, 21 Oct 2005

Warner backs Blu-ray

Film studio Warner Brothers yesterday announced plans to produce high-definition DVDs in the Blu-ray format backed by Sony as well as the rival HD DVD standard backed by Toshiba. The commitment to both camps by Warner follows a similar fence-sitting move by Paramount Home Entertainment three weeks ago. Universal Studios, the third studio that lined up to back the HD DVD format is also expected to follow suit. Marsha King, the executive vice president for new business development at Warner Home Video, said it wanted to make its movies available to as many consumers as possible. The studio is now satisfied that copy protection technologies included within Blu-ray will satisfy its requirements. Disney, Fox and Lion's Gate and Sony Pictures have pitched their lot in with the Blu-ray group while eschewing Toshiba's format. Left unchecked this would give the Blu-ray camp an advantage over its rival as the format that offers consumers the widest possible choice of movies. Toshiba's technology is an extension of existing DVD technologies and expected to be cheaper and easier to manufacture. However Blu-ray promises extra capacity and the backing of consumer vendors such as Sony, Panasonic and Samsung who can be expected to throw their marketing muscle behind its launch. ®
John Leyden, 21 Oct 2005

EMC's Chief adds Chairman title to collection

EMC will bestow the title of Chairman on current President and CEO Joe Tucci come January. Tucci will take over the Chairman role from longtime EMCer Mike Ruettgers, who will hang around as a senior advisor to the board. EMC's statement on this brass shuffling lacked the typical chatter about Ruettgers wanting to spend more time with his family or pursue fish farming in Alaska. An EMC spokesman, however, confirmed that he was pretty sure the family time thing was an issue, which helped put our mind at ease. "Joe Tucci has clearly been the right leader at the right time for EMC," said Ruettgers. "In five years as President and CEO, Joe has led EMC through a remarkable period of transformation, resurgence and success. . . . He has built a deep and talented bench. And he and the people of EMC have now delivered nine straight quarters of double-digit year-to-year revenue growth." Ruettgers, 62, joined EMC in 1988 - well after the company's early furniture selling days. He served as CEO from 1992 to 2001 and acted as Chairman since then. As senior advisor, Ruettgers will be allowed to talk to customers and give the board his valued opinions. In this post Enron/WorldCom/Insert Scandal Company Here world, it's rare to see a top executive take on three titles. Sun Microsystems' Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy, for example, faced pressure to give up his President designation and eventually did. Corporate governance types prefer to see the roles of Chairman, CEO and President spread between at least two people. EMC also appointed board member David Strohm to the newly created position of lead director of the board seemingly in an effort to answer some of these governance questions. "The addition of this role to the EMC Board is good corporate governance practice and positive for EMC and our shareholders," Ruettgers said. Tucci's ascension will surprise few who have watched EMC over the past few years. The CEO pushed EMC to increase its software revenue and has been aggressive in pursuit of this goal with many major acquisitions. EMC has enjoyed consistent, double-digit growth, leaving it and Dell as the only real Tier I hardware players to pull off this feat. ®
Ashlee Vance, 21 Oct 2005