10th > November > 2005 Archive
AnalysisAnalysis Ever the master of public relations, Microsoft has always been able to figure its way out of a tight spot with the use of a judiciously leaked memo.
A new market has opened for second-hand Microsoft software licences by exploiting British insolvency laws and a clause within many Microsoft licences that permits disused or unwanted volume licences to be transferred. Microsoft says the business model is legal. Discount-licensing.com, the trading name of Staffordshire-based Disclic Ltd, says it is the first and so far the only reseller of its kind. The company, which launched its service this week, finds insolvent or downsizing firms and makes their multiple-user licences available to buyers – growing organisations or those with too few licences for an existing user base. CDs do not necessarily change hands, although they are available if required; what matters more is the transfer of a right to use the software for a set number of users. The concept is of obvious benefit to the buyer. Discounts of 20 per cent – 50 per cent below the prices of any authorised Microsoft reseller are promised. But it also helps insolvency practitioners, letting them realise a new asset for their creditors. Discount-licensing.com acts as the middleman, taking a commission on each sale. The transfer of second-hand corporate software is a complicated process. The licences usually state how and when they can be transferred. If transferred in breach of these conditions, the new user will be using the software illegally. Until now, however, the issue has only arisen in transfers between active companies in, for example, acquisitions, mergers or divestments. Discount-licensing.com says its business model is compliant with Microsoft’s own transfer terms and conditions. It excludes operating system licences, such as those of Windows XP, because of transfer restrictions in these licences; but popular applications like Office XP and server-based software like Windows Server 2000 are available. The company first approached Microsoft with its plan over 14 months ago and a Microsoft spokeswoman confirmed to OUT-LAW today that "the offerings from this company do meet Microsoft’s terms and conditions." The frustration surrounding the principle that businesses are obligated to upgrade or purchase the most up to date versions of software at a premium price is coming to an end, according to discount-licensing.com, in much the same way, it suggests, that the first second-hand car market began. The supply is not unlimited. Discount-licensing.com estimates that around 14,000 or 15,000 companies will be insolvent this year. Of them, only around 10 per cent may have licence agreements that are suitable for transfer. So Microsoft is not about to suffer a revenue crash. Co-founder Jonathan Horley told OUT-LAW that he sees his first challenge as one of education. "Everybody said that licences don't have a value," he said. "Education is going to take some time." It began last year when Horley contributed an article to the Recovery Journal, a publication of the Association of Business Recovery Professionals. He explained to insolvency practitioners that perpetual software licences are an intangible asset that can be realised, provided the licence terms do not prohibit a transfer. His point was in telling the insolvency practitioners what to look for at the start of an insolvency process, i.e. how to identify a multiple user licence, even if the PCs themselves are being sold. The details must then be cross-referenced with the software manufacturer. If the licences pass the test, they represent an asset that has a value that can be realised. Horley pointed out that his service can help with compliance. Around one-third of business software is believed to be unlicensed in the UK, putting companies at risk of action from the Business Software Alliance. This is often because companies have purchased some licences but not enough for their number of users. Now companies that become aware of a licence shortfall can become compliant more cheaply through discount-licensing.com. The website gives examples of job lots that can be bought – one offer is for 150 copies of Office Professional XP, 10 copies of Project 2000 Standard, one copy of FrontPage 2002 and seven copies of Visio Professional 2002. From a reseller, that collection might cost around £53,000. From discount-licensing.com, the cost is under £37,000. Horley explained that customers have to buy licences in batches according to what is made available by each transferor. Licences cannot be divided. At the moment, for instance, Horley can offer a batch of 220 user licences for Office 2003. But if you need licences for just 150 users, unless another batch more closely suits your needs, you might want to compare Horley's price with the price from a regular reseller. But he points out that companies will take a view on their anticipated growth when deciding what presents the best deal - and that his prices are much lower than those from the established competition. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Cisco shares in Frankfurt are down almost three per cent this morning after the router giant posted disappointing quarterly results late last night. For the first quarter of 2006, ended 29 October 2005, Cisco made sales of $6.5bn, compared with $6.0bn for the first fiscal quarter of 2005 and $6.6bn in the fourth quarter of 2005. Net income in the period was $1.3bn compared with $1.1bn in the first quarter of 2005. This figure was hit by stock option expenses of $228m. Cisco's president and CEO, John Chambers, said: "Q1 was a solid quarter for Cisco, with balanced execution across most of our geographies, market segments and product categories." Despite this analysts and the markets were disappointed with Cisco's prediction that growth in the next quarter will be between eight and nine per cent not the 11 per cent they had been expecting. Chambers said poor sales in Europe, and especially the UK, weakened performance. Cisco's stock repurchase program continues - during the period it bought 194m shares at an average price of $18.03 - a total of $3.5bn. There's a Q&A with president and CEO John Chambers and CFO Dennis Powell available here. ®
The US Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal against a ruling that said a company could modify programs written by an independent consultant, without his consent. The case serves as a reminder of the need to have written agreements in place with freelancers. The case dates back to 1996, when consultant programmer William Krause parted company with title insurance firm Titleserv after 10 years of service. During that period he had written over 35 programs for the firm, eight of which became the subject of a lawsuit. Unfortunately for Titleserv, the question of ownership and copyright in the programs had never been fully agreed, and on his departure, according to court papers, Krause took with him the only copies of the source code for two of the disputed programs, leaving copies of the other six. Working versions of all eight programs were installed on the Titleserv’s servers, but had been locked, so that the source code behind them was inaccessible. Krause told Titleserv that they could continue to use the programs, but had no right to modify the source code. Titleserv sued in July 1996, alleging misappropriation of its property. In the meantime, Titleserv staff managed to access the source code, and modified it slightly, in order to keep things running smoothly until the firm could develop a newer system. Krause then filed his own suit, alleging copyright infringement. The District Court ruled against him, finding that Titleserv’s use and modification was protected under the US Copyright Act. This Act gives a defence to anyone who owns a physical copy of a computer program, adapts it as “an essential step in the utilisation of the computer program in conjunction with a machine,” and does not use it in any other manner. Krause appealed, but lost his case in March this year when the US Appeal Court for the Second Circuit upheld the lower court ruling. In effect, the case hinged on the question of ownership – the ownership of copies of the disputed program. According to the Appeal Court, “formal title in a program copy is not an absolute prerequisite to qualifying for [the Act’s] affirmative defense.” In its opinion, the question was: “whether the party exercises sufficient incidents of ownership over a copy of the program to be sensibly considered the owner of the copy for purposes of [the Act]. The presence or absence of formal title may of course be a factor in this inquiry, but the absence of formal title may be outweighed by evidence that the possessor of the copy enjoys sufficiently broad rights over it to be sensibly considered its owner.” On this occasion, said the Court, Teleserv had paid a considerable price for the programs, which had been customised for its needs. Krause had not reserved any rights to take the programs back, said the Court. According to CNET News.com, the Supreme Court has now refused to take the case further. See: Appeal Court ruling (21-page / 101KB PDF) Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel AMD's anti-trust lawsuit brought against Intel will be heard in the US District Court of Delware under Judge Joseph Farman, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) has ruled. However, pre-trial procedures relating to other anti-trust actions against the chip giant will be consolidated into AMD's action, the Panel said. The JPML judgement follows a hearing held on 29 September, in Asheville, North Carolina, at which representatives from AMD and plaintiffs in other, similar lawsuits filed against Intel debated whether to transfer cases from Delaware to Northern California and there to merge them into a single action. The request to do so came from two Californian plaintiffs, Michael Brauch and Andrew Meimes, who asked the JPML in July to order the transfer of four other cases coming up before the Delaware Court to the US District Court of Northern California and consolidated with ten anti-Intel class actions taking place there. Another class-action plaintiff, Justin Suarez, subsequently asked that the cases be transferred to his chosen venue, San Diego, part of the US District of Southern California. In August, AMD told the JPML it did not wish either move to take place. It said its action against Intel is not only more serious but more urgent than the consumers' complaints. "AMD's suit targets Intel practices that have already destroyed all competition of note except AMD; AMD seeks to bring an end to those practices as expeditiously as possible, before they destroy AMD as well. "Although many of the class action complaints copy parts of AMD's complaint, they all assert injuries and seek damages of a categorically different nature than AMD's direct-competitor action," it told the Panel. Intel also argued that the AMD case should be heard in Delaware. The AMD case will now continue to be heard in Delaware. However, so will all the others, provided that Judge Farman agrees. The JPML rejected AMD's request that its action should be treated separately. "The Panel finds that the actions in this litigation involve common questions of fact," the JPML said. Combining them will "promote the just and efficient conduct of the litigation." However, the company can make such a request again, to Judge Farman, who may accept its request. ®
Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies It's that time of the month again when we ask you, our beloved, tech-savvy readership to give us your input on a topic of IT import. This time around, the lads at Reg Reader Studies have out-snapped themselves in the title department with the scintillating "Responsibility and accountability in the deployment of mobile technology", but rest assured that the survey itself promises to deliver some rather more illuminating material. In summary, this dipping of the toe into the waters lapping at the base of the IT barometer "looks at the responsibilities for both user and organisation from the deployment of wirelessly connected mobile devices". Questions range from "What best describes your current experiences of using laptops with wireless or cellular connections?" to "Do you personally have a password or PIN on the mobile devices you use for work?" via "What best characterises the attitude of mobile users in your organisation to security?". You'll also be asked, as is the local custom, to provide some background detail on your organisation. Be warned: this section contains - as one possible response to the question "How many employees are there in the organisation you work for?" - the magnificent option "0-49". Yup, we've all worked for one of those zero employee outfits at one time or another. As ever, the survey is entirely anonymous, so no need to provide personal details or email addy. We reckon it'll take about 10 minutes of your valuable time, and we thank you in advance of your participation right here. ®
Nvidia came in ahead of analyst expectations when it announced a Q3 FY2006 net income of $65.3m (36 cents a share) on sales of $583.4m last night - just shy of the $583.8m record achieved in Q1 FY2006. That said, the company saw its profitability fall sequentially. Wall Street had been anticipating earnings of 36 cents a share, but on the back of revenues totalling just $579.8m, according to estimates published by a number of news services. The graphics chip maker's quarterly sales were up 13.2 per cent on the year-ago quarter's $515.6m and a more modest 1.5 per cent sequentially. Net income was up 152 per cent year on year, but down 12.7 per cent on the previous quarter. Gross margin improved to 39.1 per cent, up 1.3 percentage points on the previous quarter. ®
BT is shelling out £70m to fund the creation of Openreach - its new access services division. Openretch - as it's become affectionately known - forms part of a regulatory deal with Ofcom to ensure that rival telcos and operators get equal access to wholesale services from BT. In September BT agreed to abide by 230 legally-binding undertakings to help foster greater competition in the UK's telecoms sector including "substantive structural, product and governance changes, affecting both its current and future networks". Central to that was the creation of a new access services division within BT called Openreach to ensure that all telcos get equal access to BT's network. Openstench - as Openretch is also known - should be up and running early in the new year. News of the charge came as BT reported results for the three months to September. And as in the past the UK's dominant fixed line telco reported a fall in traditional revenues in Q2 and a sharp rise in income from what it calls its "new wave" area, which include ICT and broadband. Or as BT's spin machine put it: "Our traditional business continues to operate in what remains a challenging environment. Our new wave businesses show strong growth both in the UK and internationally." Indeed, new wave revenue was up 39 per cent compared to last year at £1.4bn. For the group as a whole,Q2 revenue rose 5 per cent to £4.8bn. But the £70m hit for Ovenready (aka Openstench) plus an increased payout for workers leaving the company helped to account for a 14 per cent drop in pre tax profits from £571m to £489m compared to last year. Said chief exec Ben Verwaayen: "The transformation of BT is right on track with the delivery of another successful quarter. "Revenue has again grown by 5 per cent, with new wave revenues up 39 per cent. "The settlement we have reached with Ofcom in the UK provides a foundation for certainty and clarity which will deliver further benefits to our retail and wholesale customers and shareholders," he said. Elsewhere, the giant telco also reported that its retail broadband service continues to face stiff competition from rivals such as AOL, Tiscali and Wanadoo. For although BT provides 6.2m wholesale DSL lines and its retail division has some 2.1m punters, it is only winning one in four of new DSL punters. By mid morning shares in BT were down 5.4p (2.5 per cent) at 209.09p. ®
A new patent holding company, Open Invention Network (OIN), has been founded with the sole aim of acquiring patents relating to Linux and offering them royalty free to Linux developers. OIN backers IBM, Novell, Red Hat, Philips and Sony said that the company would promote Linux and "spur innovation globally". Patent licences will be made available to anyone, provided they agree not to assert their own patent rights against either the Linux OS, or certain Linux applications. The company will be headed by Jerry Rosenthal, IBM's former VP of intellectual property and licencing. He argues that open collaboration is necessary to drive innovation and economic growth, and that anything getting in the way of people collaborating on Linux, impedes that innovation. "A new model of intellectual property management for Linux must be established to maintain advances in software innovation - regardless of the size or type of business or organization," he added. OIN, Rosenthal says, will not focus on income or profits, but on freeing developers to write software without worrying about intellectual property issues. The launch has not been welcomed unconditionally, however. "Such an alliance, even if it had a billion-dollar budget, could only buy up a negligible portion of all software patents that the USPTO and the European Patent Office crank out," argues anti-software patent campaigner Florian Mueller. To be "strategically relevant", the organisation would need to be prepared to enter into cross-licencing agreements with companies like Microsoft, in the event of a conflict, he says. "The announcement talks about acquiring patents that are relevant to Linux. For cross-licensing, it's key to acquire those patents that your adversaries need for their own products. I really hope they plan to do that." So far the amount each company has invested has not been made public. ®
Sage is paying £78.4m in cash for French firm Adonix. Adonix provides enterprise resource planning for medium sized firms. The company claims almost 7,000 customers and twenty years of experience on its website. It employs 750 people. The deal excludes HR management developer Meta 4 and Italina ERP unit Formula which used to be part of Adonix Group. Adonix made sales of £42.6m in the year ended 31 December 2004 and a profit of £9.6m. Sage boss Paul Walker said the buy would strengthen Sage's position in France and new customers, attracted by Sage's brand, would start considering Adonix products. Adonix is currently represented by resellers XKO in Surrey and e-RP Ltd in Dublin.®
The US Judge presiding over NTP's legal battle with Blackberry maker Research in Motion (RIM) this week said it was "highly unlikely" he would wait for a US Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) verdict on the validity of NTP's intellectual property before making his own judgement on the matter. "Frankly, it's highly unlikely that I'm going to stay these proceedings," Judge James Spencer said, Reuters reports. "I don't run [patent office] business and they don't run mine." He added: "I intend to move swiftly... I've spent enough of my life and time on NTP and RIM." That's bad news for RIM, which may well have been hoping for a delay pending publication of the PTO's findings. Thus far, the PTO has struck down seven of eight NTP patents and may yet invalidate the remainder. NTP has said all it needs is a single claim to pursue its action against RIM. However, RIM can take heart from the fact that Judge Spencer looks set to see whether the abortive $450m settlement reached in March between the two companies is enforceable before proceeding to consider NTP's request for an injunction banning the sale of products already judged to infringe its intellectual property. RIM and NTP reached an accord after the US Court of Appeals decided RIM had indeed infringed some of NTP's patent claims. The Court would later scale back its initial judgement, but not after talks between RIM and NTP about the fine details of the settlement broke down. Up to that point, RIM was to pay NTP $450m for a licence to the latter's IP. RIM sued NTP in June in order to force the settlement, which is likely to be considerably lower than the cost of a sales ban and whatever else it may be forced to cough up in punitive damages. RIM has non-infringing technology up its sleeve which it can implement if an injunction is granted against it, but any ban will still cost it dear, we'd say. NTP began legal proceedings against RIM in 2001. The following year, a US District Court for Eastern Virginia jury found in NTP's favour. In 2003, Judge Spencer granted an injunction banning Blackberry sales in the US, but stayed the injunction pending the outcome of RIM's appeal. Last year, the appeal court also ruled in NTP's favour. ®
Site offerSite offer Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that a new link appeared yesterday in the "Reg Shops" navigation box on the left of your screen, viz: "Computer Components". The explanation is simple: El Reg has inked an affiliate deal with MicroDirect to supply quality computer components, and especially peripherals, to our tech-hungry readership. You can have a look at the new shop right here. The first thing you'll notice is the provocative cool blue branding. Teams of highly-paid consultants slaved for months to formulate a colour scheme which would prevent the kind of hot-headed impulse buying which sees over-excited punters order two Sapphire ATI Radeon X800GTOs when all they actually wanted was a USB cable. Easily done, because down at MicroDirect there is tons and tons of top-notch kit at competitive prices. For the record, MicroDirect has been operating since 1993. It currently boasts big warehousing facilities holding millions of quid in stock, several showrooms and more than 125 industry qualified staff. It's also a Microsoft Certified Partner and ISO 9001:2000 quality assured compliant. In summary: if you're looking for kit check out our computer component shop. And even if you're not in the market right now for a bargain, mosey on down anyway - a combination of deep breathing coupled to the stress-busting azure branding is guaranteed to relieve all but the most serious IT-related angst. ®
Asus has demonstrated a four graphics chips running co-operatively on an SLi-enabled motherboard. So claims Chinese language website PCPOP, which has pictures of the rig and what it can do when running 3DMark 05. The Asus system comprises the company's Nvidia nForc 4 SLi 16x-based A8N32-SLI Deluxe mainboard and a pair of its two-GPU EN7800GT graphics cards, both mounted with twin GeForce 7800 GT chips, each with 256MB of GDDR 3 SDRAM. Unfortunately, while the site provides screenshots of the test renderings, along with Windows grabs showing the GPU configuration, it doesn't provide 3DMark scores for the system. The other question is whether Nvidia will enable four-way SLi in its drivers. It's not clear whether the Asus set-up uses off-the-shelf drivers, an as-yet-unreleased beta driver, or code of its own. Certainly, the system is claimed to have been seen inside Asus' R&D lab. ®
A computer data cock-up meant that California Governor Schwarzenegger was told he'd already voted when he showed up at a polling station earlier this week. The Gubernator was initially advised he might have to submit a provisional ballot before checks established he hadn't previously voted, allowing the former Hollywood star to cast his vote in California's special election normally. The snafu was traced back to tests of electronic voting systems carried out last month, AP reports. Schwarzenegger's name was used to test whether local voting computers were properly linked to the network but official forgot to cancel this transaction, creating the impression that the Terminator star had already cast his ballot when he showed up at a polling station in the Brentwood district of Los Angeles earlier this week. It's unclear whether or not anybody else was affected. Snags in voting were the least of Schwarzenegger's troubles on Tuesday night after Californian voters decisively rejected four reform measures advocated by the Governor in a electoral slap widely seen as a blow to Arnie's authority and a set-back to his plans to get re-elected next year. ®
We've said it before and we'll say it again: 419 emails are like number 12 buses - you wait ages for one and then loads turn up at once. Yes indeed, we were delighted to learn yesterday that the late Dennis Thatcher had bequeathed us 950,000 quid, but it just gets better and better. No sooner had we fired off an email to claim that unexpected bounty, than this turned up: From: "firstname.lastname@example.org"
Date: 9 November 2005 10:01:47 GMT
I Dr. Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, would like to ask your partnership in reprofilling funds over $250m in excess, the funds would be coming via a string of selected banks in Europe and Asia. The Funds in question were generated by me during the oil for food program in Iraq. I have been getting scandals/ controversy in this regards, you can read more on the links below-
You would be paid 5% as your management fee. Please do not write back directly to me via my official email address. All further correspondence should be sent to my private mail box ( email@example.com ). As soon as you indicate your interest I will give further details. Remember to treat this mail and transaction as strictly confidential. I will await your urgent correspondence via my private mail box-
Nice one. We make that $12.5m in commission to add to the Thatcher beneficence, making a grand total of £8,096,422.77 just for answering a couple of emails. Right, the beers are on us... ®
In a bid to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, New York state officials have announced that cars sold or registered in the state must cut the amount of CO2 they produce, as of 2009. The move could cut the state's emissions of the gas by 14.9 million CO2 equivalent tons per year by 2020, and by 26.3 million CO2 equivalent tons per year by 2030. The new regulations are at odds with the Bush Administration's approach, which has largely been to hope that new technology will come along and solve the problem, rather than to move to curb emissions. But, as Kit Kennedy, an attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council told Reuters: "New York isn't waiting for President Bush or the federal government to take action." The state's Republican governor George Pataki, who is reportedly considering a presidential bid, is also trying to regulate greenhouse emissions from power plants in the North East of the US, along with eight other states. New York is not alone in defying the Bush party line. California imposed regulations of car emissions a year ago, and last week, Vermont said it would also move to put upper limits on how much CO2 a car could produce. Massachusetts, Maine Connecticut and Rhode Island are also making similar plans, Reuters reports. Unsurprisingly, the car industry is not delighted. A spokeswoman for the industry lobby group, Alliance of Automobile Manufactures, said that a national consensus was needed. "National fuel economy standards cannot be written by any single state or group of states," she added. However, state officials note that the rules make no mention of fuel economy, and are in fact governing emissions. New York says the new regulations will be finalised in 30 days. ®
Apple has claimed another major scalp in the Digital Music Wars. Olympus, maker of the m:robe media player, has said it is pulling out of the market. Olympus admitted its presence in the market is weak, even though the business is a highly attractive one, according to a presentation given yesterday to outline its new strategy. In the face of stiff competition, it will "freeze" its portable digital music player operation, said Masaharu Ohkubo, President of Olympus' imaging division - essentially the company will stop making them. It is similarly quitting the MO storage device arena, Ohkubo said. In August, D&M Holdings, Japanese owner of the Denon and Marantz hi-fi brands, sold off its Rio MP3 player business' assets to audio chip maker SigmaTel, then quit the market. As Diamon Multimedia, Rio had been in the MP3 player market since its earliest days. Olympus said it will focus its digital camera business more on high-end SLR devices and away from consumer-oriented compact cameras, the company said. Digital SLRs currently account for three per cent of Olympus' imaging division's product mix, but it wants to see that rise to 20 per cent and 30 per cent, respectively, in three and five years' time. By then, compact digital cameras will account for just 40 per cent of the division's product mix. The decision to drop m:robe follows the announcement of H1 FY2006 figures and revised forecasts for the full year to 31 March 2006. Olympus recorded H1 net income of ¥2.2bn ($18.72m) - down from ¥6.7bn ($57m) in the year-ago period - on sales of ¥476.3bn ($4.05bn), up from H1 FY2005's ¥308.7bn ($2.63bn). For the full fiscal year, Olympus said it now expects sales of ¥970bn ($8.25bn), down from the ¥1070bn ($9.1bn) previously forecast, but still 19.2 per cent up on last year's ¥813.5bn ($6.92bn). It now expects to report a net income of ¥27bn ($229.71m), an improvement on the ¥11.8bn ($100.39m) it lost last year. ®
Incidence of email "get rich quick" scams more than doubled (albeit from a low base) last month, according to email security firm Clearswift. It warns surfers to disregard spurious "work from home opportunities" received via junk mail which are normally designed to lure naive users into criminal enterprises. After accounting for 0.5 per cent of spam emails in September these work at home scams made up 1.2 per cent of junk emails caught in a Clearswift's sieve last month. These so-called opportunities typically come in two flavours. The first involves accepting delivery of goods paid for with a stolen credit card, then forwarding them further along the chain, and the second is a simple money-laundering role where the "worker" acts as a laundering mule. Older get rich scams involving share tips are still much more commonplace. Here so-called experts advise would-be investors to back certain shares in an attempt to raise the price to a level where the perpetrators can pull out having made a quick buck. "In a similar manner to the investments themselves, penny shares are a very volatile spam category, rising and falling heavily over time. This October, these have almost trebled in volume to count almost a third of all spam," Clearswift notes. As "get rich quick" scams have increased in prevalence other categories, including phishing fraud and pornographic junk mail, have taken a nose-dive, according to Clearswift's latest monthly spam index. Phishing - where crooks set up a fake banking websites in order to gather credit card details of gullible users - has suffered a decline, now accounting for only 0.4 per cent of all unsolicited mail. Clearswift reckons greater awareness of the existence of phishing scams has contributed to their decline. This rise in stocks and potentially illegal employment scams comes as other traditional tricks decline in popularity, notably the advance fee fraud (419) scam emails. The decreased incidents of 419 scam emails has happened despite efforts by the Lads from Lagos to diversify and send mails ostensibly from different countries - including China, Indonesia and Russia - and different business types as well as the familiar pleading letters from the families of ousted West African generals. Continuing a recent trend, pornographic spam has plummeted by over half during October, and gambling promotions have all but disappeared. ®
Kingston Communications - the telco that operates from a BT-surrounded enclave in Hull - is the latest outfit to receive a bid approach. In a statement today the company confirmed that "has received an approach that may or may not lead to an offer for Kingston Communications. "The approach contains a number of conditions and pre-conditions which are being considered by the Board. "The Directors emphasise that these discussions are conceptual in nature and that there can be no certainty that they will lead to any definitive agreement concerning any transaction," it said. News that Kingston could be acquired follows hot on the heels of Cable & Wireless' (C&W) acquisition of Energis and Sky's £211m bid for Easynet. Kingston operates in East Yorkshire but also has national reach via its Affiniti communications integrator business and broadband ISP Eclipse. Separately, a report out today by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) predicts that large-scale mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the tech sector look set to continue. Heralding the "return of the mega deal", PwC reported: "Despite deal volumes remaining relatively stable, the value of M&A deals in the technology sector has risen by 112% to €81billion in the first nine months of 2005." ®
The Queen has installed satellite navigation systems in her Daimler-Jaguar as well the fleet of limos - three Rollers, two Bentleys and three Daimlers - which whisk Her Maj between palace and public function. That's according to UK tabloid the Sun, which reports that Liz II was seen "using" a satnav system in her Daimler-Jag at the Royal Chapel in Windsor Great Park on Sunday. What this actually means is that, as an onlooker said: "When she started the ignition, the sat-nav came on." Right-o. The unnamed source added: "It's amusing the Queen has the same problems as the rest of us about getting lost — but she's done something about it." Well we are not amused, and in any case, as a Buck House source noted: "The Queen enjoys driving but usually takes the wheel only on Royal estates. The sat-nav systems will be of great use to her chauffeurs on the road." The Sun can confirm, though, that the Queen does regularly text grandchildren Harry and William - unless she gets the Keeper of the Royal Mobile to do it for her. She also owns an iPod, although her playlist is a closely-guarded state secret. ® Bootnote Thanks very much to Peter Bowles for his artist's impression of how we believe the Queen's satnav might look.
US TV viewers are currently enjoying 3,783 sex scenes per 1,000 hours of quality programming, compared with a limp 1,930 in 1998, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey has found. According to the BBC, the KFF discovered that 70 per cent of shows now have sexual content "ranging from a reference to full depiction", with an average of five "sex-related" scenes per hour. Picked out for special mention were "a discussion of sex" on Gilmore Girls and a "depiction of sexual intercourse" on The OC. Teen shows are the most smut-heavy, it seems. The leading broadcasts for this demographic managed to pack in no less than seven sex-related scenes per hour. The upshot? Collapse of Western civilisation, naturally, with TV-sex-crazed minors going at it like jack-rabbits. Well, not quite. Lead researcher Dale Kunkel noted it was "generally accepted that TV influenced children's behaviour". He added: "Their sexual knowledge, attitudes and behaviours are all shaped in part by the characters in stories that television conveys." In fact, the Kaiser study admits "a slight rise in shows promoting a message about contraception and the risks in having sex". Furthermore, 14 per cent of shows with sexual content contained "discussions about waiting to have sex or safe sex" - an improvement on 1998's nine per cent. Fox Networks Group supremo Tony Vinciquerra weighed in with: "We have debates every minute of every day about what goes on television." He noted that parents have options such as the V-chip to prevent their little ones accessing illicit material. He might have added that there is always the time-honoured censorship method available to concerned parents: the off switch. ®
Virus writers have begun taking advantage of Sony-BMG's use of rootkit technology in DRM software bundled with its music CDs. Sony-BMG's rootkit DRM technology masks files whose filenames start with "$sys$". A newly-discovered variant of of the Breplibot Trojan takes advantage of this to drop the file "$sys$drv.exe" in the Windows system directory. "This means, that for systems infected by the Sony DRM rootkit technology, the dropped file is entirely invisible to the user. It will not be found in any process and file listing. Only rootkit scanners, such as the free utility RootkitRevealer, can unmask the culprit," warns Ivan Macalintal, a senior threat analyst at security firm Trend Micro The malware arrives attached in an email, which pretends to come from a reputable business magazine, asking the businessman to verify his/her "picture" to be used for the December issue. If the malicious payload contained in this email is executed then the Trojan installs an IRC backdoor on affected Windows systems. Romanian anti-virus firm BitDefender confirms that the malware is in the wild but a full technical analysis of the Trojan is yet to be completed. The response of anti-virus firms, some of which have only promised to flag up rather than block system changes made by Sony-BMG's rootkit, remains unclear. ®
The ever-acquisitive Technology Services Group has closed a takeover deal with Birmingham-based Open Systems Services. Pegasus software specialist OSS is the 17th company SME reseller TSG has hoovered up since its buying spree began in October 2003. TSG funded the buy with the £25m corporate facility with Lloyds TSB Corporate it agreed earlier this year. The deal adds ten staff to TSG’s 460 strong UK workforce. Don Islip and Colin Corbett, who started OSS in 1991, will stick around as the company is integrated with TSG’s midlands organization, headed by Alan Mann.®
The Government looks set to clamp down on some types of advertising for online casinos, the FT reports today. The problem appears to be with those online casinos based outside of the UK. While they are free to plug their businesses, they are not allowed to tempt punters with attractive offers such as being prepared to match stakes. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell told the paper that e-casinos breaking that flout regulations will be prosecuted. "I am not willing to turn a blind eye to this and have agreed with the Gambling Commission that we should crack down on advertisers and publishers who knowingly break the law," she said. ®
Stunning new infrared pictures of star forming regions in the Cassiopeia constellation have been sent back by the Spitzer Space Telescope. The images reveal stars forming inside towering pillars of dust - more than ten times larger than the famous "Pillars of Creation" pictures Hubble took of the Eagle Nebula. The largest of the towers houses several embryonic stars than have never been seen before. "We believe that the star clusters lighting up the tips of the pillars are essentially the offspring of the region's single, massive star," said Dr. Lori Allen, from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. "It appears that radiation and winds from the massive star triggered new stars to form." The infrared view of the pillars has allowed investigators, led by Dr. Allen, to estimate the age of the stars in the pillars, and to study how they were formed. In visible light the dust towers are utterly opaque, surrounded by a halo of light at the edges. This particular section of space, the M5 region of the Cassiopeia constellation, along with the Eagle nebula is known as a high-mass star forming region. It is a generally accepted part of the theory of star formation that large and dense dust clouds eventually collapse in on themselves under the force of their own gravity, eventually forming massive stars - perhaps 10 times the mass of our sun. When these huge stars light up, the radiation and stellar winds shape the remains of the nebula around them, stripping away all but the densest regions of dust - the pillars. The theory is then that these pillars become dense enough to trigger a secondary wave of star formation, which is what the astronomers think they have captured in these images. ®
We're delighted to announce that Settec - "considered today as one of the main players in training business", and offering "specialized seminars cover topics such as defensive driving, first aid, ergonomics..." - has organised a full-steam five-day session in sunny Cairo for those of you interested in Labor and Social Security Laws. It also helps if you hate Xmas, as the emailed flyer demonstrates: That's right - you can forget baby Jesus, tinsel, Santa and Xmas lunch down the pub because you, matey, are off to Egypt for a "highly participative" brainstorm with fellow fortunates. Seriously, though, we cannot in all honesty imagine anyone's boss dispatching him or her to a labour law jolly in Egypt on Xmas day. On the other hand, as I write, Reg big cheese Linus "Fish Fingers" Birtles is on the blower trying to book two cattle-class charter tickets to Cairo for the 24 December. We will no doubt discover who has incurred his wrath in due course. In the meantime, a Reg shirt for anyone who can provide photographic evidence that they too were obliged to miss turkey and stuffing for lamb kebab and mint tea in the Land of the Pharaohs. ®
A trio of entrepreneurial hackers hope to do for the business of password cracking what Google did for search and, in the process, may remove the last vestiges of security from many password systems.
Sony BMG is facing a class action suit from Californian consumers who claim the music giant's rootkit DRM technology damaged their computers and breaks three separate Californian laws. The suit asks the court to stop Sony selling any more CDs containing the rootkit and seeks compensation for damage already done. Some Sony audio CDs include software which will secretly load itself if the CD is played on a computer. The suit was filed 1 November in the Los Angeles Superior Court by attorney Alan Himmelfarb, according to Reuters. A second case has been started in New York on behalf of anyone who's bought one of the CDs. Sony is also facing possible action from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in Italy - the lobby group has filed papers with the Italian authorities alleging Sony is guilty of "illicit acts". The Electronic Frontier Foundation has also examined Sony's End User License Agreement which consumers now agree to when buying Sony CDs. Aside from letting Sony install any software they like on your computer it also covers what you can do with stored copies of the CD. Any copies of the CD kept on a laptop or other device must be deleted if the original CD is stolen or lost. They cannot be stored on your work computer only a "personal home computer system owned by you". If you move countries you must delete all songs covered by the license. If you file for bankrupcy you must delete all relevant files. Any consumer who fails to keep up-to-date with the hidden software is in breach of the agreement. In exchange for all this the license also limits Sony BMG's liability for any damages this might cause to just $5 per CD - or slightly less than you paid for it in the first place. Read the whole critique here. A spokesman for Sony BMG in the UK guided us in the direction of New York HQ because CDs sold in the UK do not contain the rootkit. Sony BMG New York were unable to provide comment by press time. ®
The UK's National Consumer Council (NCC) has lent its voice to pan European calls for the music and film industries to stop treating consumers like pirates. The pan European consumer organisation BEUC is launching a campaign, backed by MEP Zuzana Roithova, to see consumers' digital rights enshrined in law because it believes consumers' rights being ignored by many online music vendors. It is particularly critical of licence conditions the music industry is imposing on consumers, and says that the range of content available online is very narrow, threatening cultural diversity. The 'Declaration of Consumers’ Digital Rights', calls for the music industry to stop suing P2P downloaders and to give the market a chance to evolve new ways of distributing content online. It also wants companies working on DRM solutions to be compelled to respect fair use rights. It argues that service providers should not be able to unilaterally change the terms and conditions controlling music a person has already purchased. After conducting a pan-European survey survey on the subject, it concluded that a lack of interoperability between various music players and different music file formats means consumers are not able to pick and chose the best deal available to them. The BEUC wants the following rights guaranteed for European consumers: Right to choice, knowledge and cultural diversity Right to the principle of 'technical neutrality' - defend and maintain consumer rights in the digital environment Right to benefit from technological innovations without abusive restrictions Right to interoperability of content and devices Right to the protection of privacy Right not to be criminalised You can read more about the NCC's position on this and other issues here. ®
ReviewReview The GeForce 6800 GT was a cracker. While Nvidia wowed everybody with the 6800 Ultra, it was the 6800 GT that most people bought, offering most of the bang without quite as much of the buck.
UK security firm Sophos plans to release a tool which will detect the existence of Sony's DRM copy-protection rootkit on Windows computers, disable it, and prevent it from re-installing. The move follows the discovery of the first malware (a Trojan called Breplibot) that takes advantage of Sony-BMG's use of rootkit technology in DRM software bundled with its music CDs to mask its presence on infected systems. "Sophos is acting on customers' concern that the software on Sony's CDs is introducing a vulnerability which hackers and virus writers are able to exploit," explained Cluley. "We will give customers the ability to determine if their computers suffer from the vulnerability and remove it if necessary." The free download should be available today. Sony-BMG's rootkit DRM technology masks files whose filenames start with "$sys$". A newly-discovered variant of of the Breplibot Trojan takes advantage of this to drop the file "$sys$drv.exe" in the Windows system directory. Once loaded in this way the malware will be invisible to anti-virus scanners. Only rootkit scanners, such as the free utility RootkitRevealer, can unmask the malware. Sophos's tool will remove this cloaking behaviour but will not remove the software components installed by Sony-BMG, the deletion of which might cause system instability. But this very cloaking means it may not be obvious to users that they need the tool. Around 20 CDs from Sony-BMG which have shipped an estimated 2m copies around the world feature the controversial DRM technology, developed by UK security developer First4Internet. Sophos obtained advice from First4Internet in developing its tool. We wanted to ask First4Internet and Sony-BMG what they intended to do to make sure their copy-protection technology wasn't abused by virus writers but neither returned our calls this afternoon. ®
AnalysisAnalysis EMC shareholders concerned about the stagnant nature of the company's shares should open up a new document file right now. They should address it to CEO Joe Tucci, and they should title it "Spinoff VMware and unlock precious shareholder value."