7th > December > 2005 Archive

.eu domains are go, go, go!

It may have taken over five years getting there, but at 10am today, the first .eu domains will go on sale - and it's going to be a landrush. At least it will be for trademark holders, because only those holding a valid European Union trademark will be entitled to apply from now until 7 February 2006 - and only on the exact trademark they own. Applications will be checked, we are told. The registry owner of .eu, EURid is expecting tens of thousands of requests in a very brief period as approved registrars bombard its servers in an effort to get hold of the domain their customers want. There is no guarantee of success: a large number of trademark have mutiple legitimate owners across the EU, but only one can win the domain. Some companies, including Pool.com, have been offering advanced domain-grabbing options - up to €10,000 for its "premium" domain service. Customers only pay if the company manages to get it for them, following a deposit of €125. But that remains a hell of a mark-up considering the domains themselves cost only €10. Pool.com has a few years experience in picking up dropped domains and previous new domain landrushes and its CEO told us it had partnered with several hundred registars to maximise its changes. It offers no guarantee though. For those of you without trademarks, you may be able to grab a .eu domain in February - but only for your company name, distinctive titles, unregistered trademarks and tradenames. The rest of us will have to wait until 7 April for .eu to be opened up to the market. The big question then will be: does anyone want a .eu domain beyond companies wanting to protect their business? ®
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Dec 2005

Google makes US brand top three

Google has stormed an annual poll measuring public reputations and perceptions of the "most valuable" companies in US corporate culture. The sprawling provider of search and Web 2.0 infrastructure services came third out of 60 household names in Harris Interactive's annual Reputation Quotation. This is the first time in its seven-year history that Google made Harris' poll. In a tribute to the growing importance placed on search by US internet users, or possibly the growing chatter in the media and on Wall St concerning the subject of search, Google was the highest placed tech company. Google's aspiring search rival Microsoft, meanwhile, dropped a position to seventh, swapping places with Sony. Only blue chip giants Johnson & Johnson and the Coca-Cola Company beat Google, coming first and second respectively. Elsewhere in the top 20, 3M Company came fifth, Intel tenth, Dell fifteenth, and IBM nineteenth. Harris asked respondents to evaluate companies in the technology, airline, oil and energy, and retail sectors. Respondents assessed companies' products and services, financial performance, workplace environment, social responsibility, vision and leadership and emotional appeal. You can view the fill results for 2005 here. ®
Gavin Clarke, 07 Dec 2005
Cat 5 cable

All I want for Christmas is ...

So, what is the good little developer getting for Christmas? If you didn't overflow any buffers this year (well, not many anyway) and followed all the “best practices” that nice Mr Gates told you about and didn't play about with nasty little ragamuffins like Linus, then you might get a nice shiny new workstation in your stocking. It'll probably be using one of the 64 bit chips the Xmas Elves at Intel World are turning out, since Intel announced 64-bit dual-core Xeon in plenty of time for Xmas. That nice Mr Dell has turned them into something that'll run transactions at less than a dollar a time which sounds nice. Well, it does if he hasn't cut too many corners doing it - and I wonder if he bought his hardware at RRP? But why would you want 64 bits? Can you count up that big? Well bigger numbers are always better, of course and Chris Furlong of QlikTech points out that Intel 32 bit chips tend to be just a little broken with more than 3-4 Gbytes of RAM– and as his real-time BI product builds, essentially, an in-memory database, it simply flies with 64 bits. It's not the only product using in-memory data structures, of course, and Martin Richmond-Coggan, VP EMEA for Applix, points out that Applix TM1 has been exploiting 64 bits nicely on UNIX for some time (but we promised Santa not to mention UNIX). The cheapness of RAM has been a real Christmas present for people who weren't enthusiastic about virtual memory (a lesson for all of us – "best practice" changes if the environment changes), just in time for some very large applications to appear that can exploit all the RFID data that is promised to arrive any day now. But for many of us, 64 bits may just be a bit of a status symbol for a while - although Aldi, the supermarket, has already sold dual-core Pentium base stations to the general public for as little as £749.99. However, perhaps we'll want the new chips anyway, because things are getting really hot out there – as in frying eggs - and electricity (and air conditioning) costs money. The new multicore chips behave as efficient multiCPU chips, which means that with luck you can crank down the GHz a bit for the same throughput, which cools things down and needs less power. Coooooool... Well, not luck exactly; this needs developers to use “best practices” that allow things to multitask or multithread for greater throughput (but how many developers are really happy with multi-threading applications). Nevertheless, are we wise giving such powerful toys to innocent programmers? Most people use about 10 per cent of the functionality of their software (hopefully a different 10 per cent each time) and most CPUs on people's desks are idle most of the time. Most computing environments aren't like the mainframe with a job scheduler (such as Cybermation can supply), happily (and reliably) running above 90 per cent utilisation. Most people, games players excepted, aren't going to welcome the chance to buy a new PC, just because the programs hanging from their Xmas tree crawl rather than run with less than about 10 Gbytes of cache. There's a reasonable view that a software vendor might have more happy customers (and, thus, more secure developers) if it gives its developers the slowest machine its paying customers might want to use, not the fastest. Perhaps it should buy them the fastest machines as real Xmas presents, just to take home to play games on. Or, since working 24x7 seems to be the new business ethic, put such a machine in the coffee room, for use out of hours. Then, when something goes wrong, the programmer responsible may be on site.... OK, so perhaps I've been at the eggnog already, but “faster, better, newer...” is beginning to get on my nerves. At Intel's dual core Xeon launch, Tikiri Wanduragala of IBM was just about the only speaker who wasn't just drooling over the technology; he came up with a real business message that recognised that not everyone needed the latest and fastest. And, of course, the OTT new machine I gave myself for my birthday isn't being used while I install all the outstanding patches available for a Media Centre PC running Windows XP Pro and find out why the ones that won't install are being uncooperative, and this isn't improving my temper either.... In the meantime, I am actually working on a Windows 98 machine and, although the word processor has lots of functionality to mop up what little power a 500 MHz Pentium 3 has, mere word processing isn't actually any faster on the new 3.4 GHz Pentium 4 machine I've just mentioned. When I come to think of it, word processing wasn't much slower running on MS DOS on a PC/AT. Perhaps Bill Gates needs to buy me a really fast machine as an Xmas present; before I start thinking that well-designed DOS-based software wasn't so bad after all But hold on: I have thought of a way for a developer to justify a super machine for Xmas. Run virtualisation software on it (from VMWare, say) and you can simulate all the boring old legacy PCs your poor customers actually use, at the same time. You can even develop for something like OS/2, if that still makes sense, even though I doubt that OS/2 will install native on anything you can actually buy today, because you can emulate a perfect 1995-era PC just for OS/2. Well, you can if your trusty old PC can cope with the load and you are confident of current Intel chips' ability to copy with true virtualisation (Intel has only just started to deliver full hardware support for virtualisation with "Intel® Virtualization Technology" – what an imaginative name - which may help reduce the performance impact of virtualisation); and you're really sure that your emulation is accurate... To be fair, PC virtualisation seems to be rock solid today, although Richard Garsthagen of VMWare tells me that for real production work, it has its own microkernel OS specialised for virtualisation and that this will be able to take full advantage of Intel's new technologies. The trick, as people with mainframe experience will know, is to keep the platform management channels open and freely accessible (i.e. responding fast) while some virtual partition is occupying resources and misbehaving in ways you haven't anticipated. However, the bottom line is that you might just get that new workstation for Xmas after all – and you might even need it. But I didn't say which Xmas... ® David Norfolk is the author of IT Governance, published by Thorogood. More details here.
Comment, 07 Dec 2005

Apple sells 3m video downloads

Apple has sold more than 3m video downloads since it began offering them through its iTunes Music Store some 55 days ago, the company revealed yesterday. That translates into over 54,545 downloads a day, a 3.6 per cent gain on the 52,632 downloads a day average Apple established during the 19 days from 12 October it took to serve up ITMS' first 1m downloads.
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2005

UK pumps €108m into Mars mission

The UK has whipped out its cheque book and pumped €108m into the European Space Agency's "Aurora" robotic space exploration programme which will culminate in a Mars exploration mission (ExoMars) due to touch down on the Red Planet in 2013. ExoMars will account for most of the cash, while €7.1m is earmarked for preparations for a future "Mars Sample Return" mission. Speaking at the ESA's ministerial shindig in Berlin this week, the UK's Minister for Science and Innovation, Lord Sainsbury, declared: "Aurora will build on last week's exciting Mars Express results which provide the first concrete evidence of significant amounts of water under the surface of Mars. As a major contributor, the UK will have a leading role in this programme which is set to improve our understanding of Mars and the Solar System." The ExoMars mission will involve a roving vehicle equipped with seismometer, drill and ground-penetrating radar designed to probe the Martian surface and beneath and assess the planet's suitability for future human exploration. Professor Keith Mason, CEO of the UK's Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and Chair of the UK Space Board, said: "ExoMars will compliment the international efforts to explore Mars and the rest of ESA's successful space programme to explore our solar system. Mars Express, Cassini-Huygens and Smart-1 continue to deliver amazing results with further revelations set to return through missions such as Venus Express and Rosetta." ®
Lester Haines, 07 Dec 2005
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AMD, IBM 'stress' silicon for 65nm chips

AMD and IBM yesterday claimed their take on the 'strained silicon' technique had yielded a 40 per cent boost to transistor performance. The two chip-making partners will introduce the technology into their 65nm fabrication process, which in AMD's case is expected to go into volume production next year. 'Strained silicon' is the process by which the lattice of silicon atoms in a semiconductor are pulled further apart than usual in order to improve the flow of electrons between them. Intel has been using the technique for some time. AMD introduced it in its 90nm process.
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2005

Fibernet reports 'solid' quarter

Fibernet - the UK-based outfit that provides telecoms services to large organisations as well as other telcos and ISPs - reports that its performance during Q1 has been "solid". In a trading update published today Fibernet said service contract revenues increased to £11.6m for the three months to September, up £200,000 on the previous quarter. It has also signed broadband deals with telecoms outfit Opal for The Carphone Warehouse and local loop unbundling (LLU) operator Be Unlimited. "Fibernet's performance in the first quarter has been solid and we continue our progress towards profitability," said chief exec Charles McGregor. "New business orders and contract renewals for the first quarter have both been to plan. Our margins remain in line with our expectation and we continue to maintain a substantial cash balance." Last Friday, Fibernet confirmed it had been approached regarding a possible take-over, although at the time it said it was doubtful whether it would amount to much. Within hours of making that announcement it issued another statement saying that the "very preliminary discussions regarding an approach have now ceased and the approach has been withdrawn". ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2005
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Intel, Qinetiq tout quantum well transistor breakthrough

Intel's partnership with UK R&D company Qinetiq has borne further fruit: the pair this week said they had made a quantum-well transistor with a gate length of 85nm. Quantum-well transistors are also known as high electron-mobility transistors, and they excite companies like Intel because of their ability to operate simultaneously at low voltages and very high clock speeds. They also dissipate far less heat than today's transistors.
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2005

Game sleuths close eBay Xbox 360 auction

The auction of eight Xbox 360 bundles on eBay by someone claiming to be a store manager for retailer Game has been pulled. The original auction had claimed: "I have 8 units for sale, these were obtained from a store of which I am the manager, receipt will be supplied for your guarantee, just return to any branch of 'game'." But following an investigation by the retailer it seems the person behind the sale was an impostor and does not work for the company. In a statement Game told us: "After a full investigation into this eBay auction and contact with this individual, we're confident that this is not an employee of Game and someone has been misrepresenting themselves on the eBay website. "eBay were notified and the 'seller' retired his auction without selling any of the Xbox 360s." ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2005

Podcast named 'Word of the Year'

The rather unpleasant "podcast" has been named as Word of the Year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, according to the Beeb. The wordsmiths define podcast as "a digital recording of a radio broadcast or similar program, made available on the internet for downloading to a personal audio player" and will add it to their online dictionary early next year. New Oxford American Dictionary supremo, Erin McKean, said: "Podcast was considered for inclusion last year, but we found that not enough people were using it, or were even familiar with the concept. This year it's a completely different story. The word has finally caught up with the rest of the iPod phenomenon." Interestingly, while podcast made the cut, "sudoku", "bird flu" and "rootkit" were not considered worthy of inclusion. Gratifyingly, the BBC report makes no mention whatsover of "blogging", so we can be thankful for small mercies. ®
Lester Haines, 07 Dec 2005
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SanDisk to appeal STMicro patent clash win

SanDisk has again sued STMicro, once more alleging the European chip maker has violated its intellectual property rights. The move follows SanDisk's failure to persuade the US International Trade Commission that STMicro's NAND Flash chips infringe another SanDisk patent. The new lawsuit, filed with the US District of Northern California, accuses STMicro of offering products that, without permission, incorporate technology enshrined in US patent number 5,991,517, owned by SanDisk. SanDisk is also suing STMicro for allegedly violating another patent it owns, number 5,172,338. However, a blow was dealt to that case on Monday, when the US International Trade Commission formerly ruled that STMicro's products did not infringe the patent. The ITC had made just such a preliminary ruling on 19 October. SanDisk had asked the ITC to ban imports into the US of allegedly infringing product, forcing the organisation to investigate its infringement claims. This approach is increasingly being used alongside formal lawsuits when one company alleges another has used its technology without asking. SanDisk said it will appeal against the ITC ruling. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2005

Korean FTC hits Microsoft

Korea’s Fair Trade Commission has ordered Microsoft to decouple its instant messaging and media player software from Windows and pay a $32m fine following a long-running investigation into the software giant. Microsoft said it would appeal the decision, but doesn’t appear keen to follow through on earlier threats to pull its Windows software from the Korean market altogether. Microsoft said: “We disagree with the Commission’s decision and strongly believe that Microsoft has operated within Korean law.” It insisted competition in IM and media players in Korea was “vibrant” and said the Korean FTC’s decision would have a “chilling” effect on innovation. So, presumably, Korea’s indigenous software industry should be thankful for Microsoft’s decision to stick up for them by appealing against the FTC decision. In the meantime, it shouldn’t be too difficult for Microsoft to meet the demands of the Korean FTC. Afterall, this is pretty much the same course of action forced on the company by that other guardian of competition (or is that chiller of innovation), the European Union. So far, Microsoft has decided to abide by the European decision, while continuing to appeal.®
Joe Fay, 07 Dec 2005

So who is funding the CFIT and why?

Every delegate at the last week's ICANN conference in Vancouver was handed a free bag with an enormous sponsorship logo for an organisation called CFIT.
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Dec 2005

Mobiles for dogs and other gadget goodies

Certified gadget obsessives Tech Digest and Shiny Shiny scour Gizmoville for the oddest digital goodies, TV Scoop features all that’s cool in British telly and Propellerhead answers your PC queries. Mobile phone for dogs So Fido is getting a little too frisky with the bitches in another postcode and is missing out on his din-dins. What can you do? Well last year a US company came up with the genius idea of a GPS collar for dogs, so you could see on your PC exactly where the mutt had wandered. In March a company called PetMobility will go one better and debut the first mobile phone for our canine chums. The PetCell is a bone shaped device that hangs off the hound’s collar. It has its own number and after dialling the owner can speak to their dog via its two way speakers. The dog can of course bark back too. The PetCell also has an option called GeoFence that will alert owners whenever their dog wanders beyond preset parameters, and built-in temperature sensors to indicate if the dog is too hot or cold. Owners can even attach a camera to the collar and get a wireless feed of exactly what their dog is looking at. Given that this is often like to be the rear end of another hound it is perhaps not too enticing a prospect. It’ll sell for around $400 in the US, though there’s no news yet on a European launch. Electrosmog detector I spend my days draped in gadgetry, being exposed to all kinds of strange emissions so this Electrosmog Detector is really the last thing I need. Sensory Perspective's detector lets you hear the pulsing emissions from wireless communications technologies, so you get an idea of just how much "electrosmog" you're being exposed to on a daily basis. If I tried out one of these things in my home, I think I'd be moving to an electricity-free tee pee in the forest fairly sharpish. This electrosmog stuff can apparently come from a range of gadgets including mobile phones, wireless networks, baby alarms and microwaves. Using the detector will allow you to locate electrosmog 'hotspots’, which you can cordon off with police tape and avoid at all costs. It'll cost you £57.50 from here. Change display size on the fly If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel you can change the size of fonts and images displayed on your monitor screen with a single click. Just hold down the Ctrl key and spin the wheel, rolling it towards you increases the size and turning it the other way makes everything smaller (though on some applications this works the other way around...). This can be really handy when viewing web pages, for example, when the page is too large to fit the screen, or to make small or indistinct typefaces easier to read. Try it other applications; in image editing programs for example it works as a zoom control and if you are having trouble reading emails with tiny print give it a twirl. Other top stories Creative's 'video iPod' Sky+ Vs Telewest's TVDrive ZX81 t-shirt on eBay Firefox dictionary FilmFour now a freebie Pararchuting snowman Elivs ghost photo on eBay
Tech Digest, 07 Dec 2005

Inmarsat fires up satellite broadband service

Inmarsat has flicked the switch on a new satellite service that gives users access to broadband services almost anywhere in the world. Six years in development, the Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service enables the transmission of voice and broadband data using lightweight satellite terminals - the smallest of which is about half the size of a laptop. The service is designed for mobile users who want broadband access while working with an "unreliable or non-existent telecoms infrastructure" giving them the opportunity to set up office wherever they are. BGAN offers speeds of up to 492kbps and is initially available across Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. North and South America should come on stream by summer next year giving broadband coverage across 85 per cent of the world's land mass and 98 per cent of the world's population. "BGAN delivers broadband where other networks can't," said Inmarsat COO Michael Butler in a statement. "It enables anyone to set up a broadband mobile office in minutes and remain fully productive - wherever they are on the planet." ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2005

Japan triumphs with MP3 toilet seat

Japanese sanitary ware outfit Toto has produced what must be the last word in toilet seats - the Apricot - which, besides all the usual features the Japanese consumer expects (bum-warming facility, bidet action, automated lid, etc, etc), boasts an MP3 player with detachable remote. As far as we can make out, the MP3s are loaded on an SD card which slips into a wall-mounted unit. The remote appears to allow the user to simultaneously edit his or her playlist while opting for a post-evacuation arse rinse. Or something like that. A full-spec Apricot N5A goes out at a cool 180,600 yen (roughly 860 quid) and to be honest for that sort of money we'd expect it to perform bowel cancer analyses, liposuction and get the beers in while we're enjoying an MP3 bogcast. ® Bootnote Thanks very much to Britt Johnston for the lavatorial tip-off.
Lester Haines, 07 Dec 2005

Xmas parties: avoid sex, drugs and booze

Around 80 per cent of British bosses will not organise an office party this Christmas, in part due to legal hangovers from fighting and flirting at past events. The finding that Christmas is cancelled comes from a survey of 3,500 businesses by Peninsula Business Services Ltd which also found that 89 per cent of employers have received a harassment complaint after a work party. But employers and employees can enjoy an office party. And the secret to coping with the less savoury traditions associated with these events is good preparation. Here are OUT-LAW's tips: 1. The invite Do not insist that all staff attend the Christmas party. Christmas is a Christian holiday – so do not pressure someone to attend if they don't want to on the grounds of religion. If the event is out of hours, also remember that some people have family responsibilities that may prevent attendance. If telling people to bring a Secret Santa gift, ask that all gifts are inoffensive. Some gifts – notably underwear and sex toys – have sparked complaints in the past. 2. Decorating the office Use a stepladder to put up decorations – not a swivel chair, warned the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) recently. Don't hang the tinsel on computers or other sources of heat; and don't decorate emergency exit signs. These organisations also warn that your insurance may not cover damage caused by untested electrical equipment – so switch off those tree lights before going home. There are other festive hazards, according to the TUC/RoSPA guidance. Party balloons can kill: around 3.6 million people in Britain suffer from some degree of latex allergy. And over 1,000 people were injured by Christmas trees in 2002, so make sure they are secure and won't be knocked over by people passing by or pulling cables. Some other tips: keep fresh party food in a fridge before the party; use paper cups, not glasses; move computers out of range of spillages; and avoid indoor fireworks, flaming puddings, candles and smoking. 3. Free booze Employers providing free drink or putting a credit card behind a bar should be careful. In one case, three emplyees of the Whitbread Beer Company got drunk and had a fight after a seminar on improving behavioural skills. They successfully argued that their resulting dismissals were unfair. A relevant factor was that the employer had provided a free bar – and thus condoned their behaviour. 4. Age limits Keep an eye out for the office junior. Bosses cannot allow under-18s to drink. In an extreme example, an employer was found responsible for the death of a girl at the office party due to alcohol poisoning. 5. Tables and photocopiers Dancing on desks is likely to cause damage to property and people. It amounts to misuse of company property – as does the photocopying of body parts and other leisure activities on such surfaces. Make it clear that such activities will not be tolerated or that certain parts of the office are out of bounds on the night of the party. 6. Don't ignore drugs in the loos Under the Misuse of Drugs Act of 1971, it is an offence for an employer to knowingly permit or even to ignore the use, production or supply of any controlled drugs, from cannabis to cocaine, taking place on their premises. There may also be a breach of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. 7. Misguided by mistletoe Your staff policies on bullying and harassment and discrimination still apply at the office party. Just make sure everyone knows this and knows what they are. This is one reason why mistletoe is dangerous. A survey reported by ContractorUK found that, while 80 per cent of women would laugh off a pass made by a male co-worker, boss or client, 13 per cent would lodge a complaint. An extreme example of such misbehaviour involved a man telling a female colleague that she "needed a good man," adding that he would like to try her out in bed. At the Christmas party, the man pulled her dress down and made disparaging comments. A claim of sexual harassment succeeded and an award of £10,000 was made for injury to feelings. The laws on discrimination apply at the office party regardless of location. So when one man told a female colleague: "F****** hell, you look worth one" at an after-work leaving event taking place in a local pub, the tribunal had little difficulty in ruling that it was in the course of employment and therefore discriminatory. Employers can find that they end up paying for unwanted advances between co-workers if tribunals characterise the behaviour as evidence of a culture of victimisation or harassment. Sometimes misconduct will be clear. In one case, a senior manager drank heavily at the Christmas party, assaulted some colleagues and told the director to "stick his f****** job up his arse". He was thrown out and broke the window of a pensioner's house. Perhaps unsurprisingly, his claim for unfair dismissal failed. But don't overlook the behaviour of others. For example, if your party budget extends to an after-dinner speaker, choose carefully. When Bernard Manning performed for one company, the host hotel was deemed liable for the offence caused to Afro-Caribbean waitresses by Manning's racist jokes. 8. Manage expectations Alcohol makes people say silly things so always avoid staff performance reviews during the office party. In one case, an employee claimed his boss had promised him a higher salary "in due course" during a chat at the Christmas party. His pay remained static so he quit and claimed constructive dismissal. The employer won the case but only because the nature of the promise was vague. It was a lucky escape: a promise made at a Christmas party is still a promise. A similar issue is the Christmas bonus. If you have paid a discretionary Christmas bonus for several years, staff can argue that it has become contractual through custom and practice. So if times have been tough and you can't afford to pay a bonus this year, tell staff why you feel unable to pay it and try to agree a solution. Acas suggests that you could offer to pay a proportion of the bonus or stagger payments in the next few months; or you could offer to pay the drinks bill at the Christmas party. 9. Getting home If a member of staff has clearly drunk too much at the office Christmas party and plans to drive home, the employer needs to take responsibility. Acas points out that he has a duty of care to his employees – and because it's the company's party, he must think about travel arrangements. Consider ending the party before public transport stops running; or provide the phone numbers for local cab companies and encourage staff to use them. 10. The morning after If the party is mid-week and people are expected in work the next day, Acas recommends that you provide plenty of non-alcoholic drinks and food. Before the party, ensure that all staff know that disciplinary action could be taken if they fail to turn up for work because of over-indulging. Liquid lunches are another risk. If there is urgent work to be done, disciplinary action may be appropriate if staff are late back to the office or intoxicated. But bosses must be careful: a history of festive tolerance could be used as evidence that disciplinary action against an individual is unfair. Also ensure that proper procedures are followed. At an Ardyne Scaffolding Christmas lunch in the early 1990s, a worker returned a few hours late to work after drinking too much. It was the day before the Christmas holiday was due to begin. Ardyne Scaffolding saw this as gross misconduct but decided to tell the employee after he had sobered up – which meant waiting until after the Christmas holiday. The worker learned of the dismissal through gossip during the holiday and claimed unfair dismissal. He won. The Employment Appeals Tribunal decided that, while it was reasonable to wait for Mr Rennie to sober up before being told that he would be dismissed, and while the holiday had complicated matters, this did not justify a failure to follow a clear procedure. Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 07 Dec 2005
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Sony opens up over another CD security hole

Sony has again been outed for including questionable software on its music CDs, after it emerged a security vulnerability in content protection software shipped on some of its disks could allow consumers’ PCs to be hijacked The consumer electronics and media giant, together with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said today that SunnComm had released a security update for its MediaMax Version 5 content protection software, which ships on “certain Sony BMG CDs”. According to the EFF, the vulnerability centres on a file folder installed by the MediaMax software shipped on some Sony CDs, “that could allow malicious third parties who have localized, lower-privilege access to gain control over a consumer’s computer running the Windows operating system.” The vulnerability was uncovered by iSEC Partners in an examination at the behest of the EFF. A list of affected titles and links to the patch can be found at the EFF’s website, here. After the beating it took following last month’s DRM rootkit debacle, Sony has wasted no time coughing to the latest problem and wrapping itself up in the EFF flag. No doubt it has also ordered extra sackcloth and ashes to show just how sorry it really is. It might need them, as the EFF is pointing out “other severe problems with MediaMax discs, including: undisclosed communications with servers Sony controls… undisclosed installation of over 18 MB of software regardless of whether the user agrees to the End User License Agreement; and failure to include an uninstaller with the CD.” Sony is not alone in shipping the MediaMax software. Around 30 other labels use it, according to the EFF, which is checking to see if the same vulnerability exists on those labels' titles.®
Team Register, 07 Dec 2005

Creative unveils Vision:M video iPod killer

Creative is about to launch its alternative to Apple's video-enabled fifth-generation iPod. Creative is expected to announce the player tomorrow, but the company's Japanese division appears to have jumped the gun and detailed the machine today. Dubbed the Zen Vision:M, the skinny player combines music and video playback with photo viewing, all on its 2.5in, 262,144-colour, 320 x 240 LCD.
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2005

MS to pump $1.7bn into India

Microsoft will pump $1.7bn into India over the next four years, in the process creating 3,000 new jobs. Most of the cash will, according to Bill Gates, go towards improving the software giant's research and development capabilities. Gates told a forum of Indian business leaders in New Delhi: "This amount is to be deployed across select focus areas over the next four years in line with Microsoft's strategic vision for India," adding: "We have 4,000 professionals in India today, we will increase it to 7,000 over the next three to four years." Indian Information Technology Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, enthused that the investment was "an indicator of the value that Microsoft attaches to its development and R&D activities in the country". MS already has a research centre in Hyderabad and has plans to open an "innovation centre" in Bangalore in the new year. ®
Lester Haines, 07 Dec 2005
Sony Ericsson Walkman W900

Sony Ericsson Walkman W900 3G music phone

ReviewReview The W900 is billed as the latest and greatest in the 3G Walkman phone series. Spotted at the launch in October in black and in white, the latest news is that only the white version will be released in the UK. And for the first three months, the W900 will only be available in the UK on the Vodafone network.
Dan Leonard, 07 Dec 2005

MEPs urged to reject data retention plan

Privacy International and European Digital Rights (EDRi) are calling on MEPs to reject a proposed Directive on data retention when it comes before the European Parliament next week following an agreement reached by EU Ministers on Friday. In an open letter to the Parliament yesterday, the groups argue that, if approved, the Commission-drafted Directive would irreversibly shift European civil liberties, affect European consumer rights and obstruct the competitiveness of European industry. The plea follows an agreement reached among Ministers at the Justice and Home Affairs Council on Friday. That agreement approves amendments to a draft Directive on data retention that are considered less draconian than proposals originally put forward by the Council of Ministers; but it does not chime with amendments made to the same Directive by the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (LIBE) less than two weeks ago. In that meeting, the LIBE committee stipulated that the data should be retained for a minimum of six months and a maximum of 12 and insisted that if national law enforcement authorities needed to have access to concrete data they would have to get judicial authorisation. MEPs also stated that telcos should be fully reimbursed by Member States for all costs of retention, storage and transmission of data, including investment and operational costs. But the Council of Ministers’ amendments change the retention period to a minumum of six months and a maximum of 24 months – with the proviso that Member States may decide on a longer term if they wish. (Ireland and Italy have maximum retention periods of three and four years respectively, while Poland is considering a retention period of 15 years.) Ministers have also removed any requirement to reimburse telcos and have limited access to the retention data to the investigation of “serious crimes”. The Council of Ministers and MEPs have been at loggerheads over the controversial proposals since they were first mooted by UK, Ireland, France and Sweden in April 2004. Ministers have threatened to push through their own proposals if the two institutions cannot reach agreement on the draft Directive by the end of the year – so the pressure is on MEPs to approve the draft when they meet in a plenary session of the Parliament on 12th December. According to reports, while MEPs have rejected the data retention proposals on two previous occasions, the agreement reached on Friday followed backroom talks with the Commission and MEPs. Ministers therefore appear hopeful that the Parliament will approve the amendments Civil liberties groups are furious about the change of heart and are calling on MEPs to reject the Directive. Privacy International, EDRi, ISPs and consumer groups sent today's open letter to MEPs expressing concern that the Directive will involve the “indiscriminate collection and retention of data on a wide range of Europeans' activities.” According to the letter, the proposals are illegal. They contravene the European Convention on Human Rights and will have a chilling effect on the use of communications technology. In addition, retaining the data will cost EU industry hundreds of millions of Euros per year, harming global competitiveness. The letter suggests that the Directive will not be the ultimate solution; that further invasive laws will follow. It speculates on a possible future requirement for anyone to identify themselves before using communication tools. “As the EU embarks on this unprecedented policy,” says the letter, “we are facing a momentous decision as to whether we wish to set in motion a chain of events that will lead to a surveillance society.” “The EU should follow the example of open and democratic countries that have instead chosen to implement a preservation regime where data is collected and retained only for a specific investigation and then is accessed through court orders,” it concludes. Related links The Council’s compromise draft Directive (23-page / 138KB PDF) The open letter Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 07 Dec 2005

IBM information management

CommentComment This is the third of my articles derived from IBM’s Software Group analyst conference, in this case focused on the Information Management part of the IBM software portfolio, which is my main interest. The Information Management group is the only part of the Software Group that is not known by its brand name. It is, of course, most well known as the group based around DB2 but it also includes WebSphere branded products in its Data Integration Suite (previously Ascential) and Information Integrator. Other products within the group include content management, master data management (MDM), AlphaBlox, Intelligent Miner and an increasing emphasis on providing vertical solutions (that is, industry specific data models and MDM solutions) as well as traditional horizontal products. I have to say that I was somewhat disappointed by the lack of emphasis on Information Management within the conference. There was only passing mention of the Hawk release of the Data Integration Suite and the Serano release of Information Integrator, and there was very little discussion of MDM and its relevance to SOA (service-oriented architecture), which was particularly surprising given that this was the main theme of the conference. As far as DB2 was concerned the main interest was on the Viper release, which is the next version of the product, which will provide native XML storage. I was disappointed to discover that even some other analysts have not yet appreciated the extent to which this is revolutionary. The product is now in open beta and it will probably be generally released during the first half of next year. Initial users report significant performance benefits compared to conventional approaches to storing XML and it will be interesting to see what new applications emerge as a result. Also interesting was the reports of initial users of the DB2 for SAP product, which was released earlier this year. This has special features for improving performance for SAP users (both in transactional and data warehousing environments) and in making implementation easier. Early adopters are now starting to report their experiences with this product and, in particular, some of these have converted from Oracle environments. Comparisons suggest a performance improvement of between two and five times across a range of functionality, which should make Oracle sit up and take notice. However, the most interesting piece of information was with regard to the Information Server product that is due to be released next year. While I have not had a detailed briefing on the product, it has clear advantages in two areas. First, it can sit above MDM, the Data Integration Suite, Information Integrator and other products and allows their services, such as a DataStage process, to be published as a service operation. This is very easy to do: you simply drag a box around the process that you want to wrap and then use the product’s wizard to create the relevant service. Finally, the second thing that Information Server does is that it will act as a bridge between, say, IBM’s MDM capability and environments such as those of SAP. One of the problems with IBM’s approach to MDM is that, taken in isolation, it would mean that application vendors would need to completely rewrite their applications to take advantage of the MDM layer. This isn’t going to happen, not least because vendors like SAP have their own MDM capabilities. The Information Server resolves (or will resolve—it was not clear whether this will be in the first release) this issue by acting as an interface between the two environments. As I said, I have not been fully briefed on the product. Copyright © 2005, IT-Analysis.com
Philip Howard, 07 Dec 2005

Euro-publisher chief slates 'parasitic' search firms

The head of the European Publishers Council gave Google and other search vendors a savaging this week, warning they could not expect to “help themselves” to producers’ content for free and forever. The Associated Press reports that Francisco Pinto Balsemao told a conference in Brussels that Google and others were attempting to reverse the traditional “permission-based” copyright model. Warming to his theme, he said it was “fascinating to see how these companies ‘help themselves’ to copyright-protected material, build up their own business models around what they have collected, and parasitically, earn advertising revenues off the back of other people’s content.” While Balsemao slated Google and the like, he accepted that consumers too had to be weaned off free content, so that the publishing industry could “legal certainty and the confidence that their intellectual property will be protected.” The EPC’s membership is a who’s who of Europe’s traditional media, with the heads of the Financial Times Group, Reuters, Trinity Mirror, Telegraph Group, Daily Mail and General Trust, News International UK and Reed Business Information amongst its UK membership. Google will, on request, remove a news source from its index. Getting it to be more accommodating to the publishing industry’s needs might need more concerted action from publishers. And therein lies the problem. Before they could settle this new feud with Google, the publishers would have to settle a range of far more ancient feuds amongst themselves first.®
Team Register, 07 Dec 2005

Samsung sues Matsushita

Samsung has accused Matsushita's Panasonic subsidiary of violating nine plasma display panel patents it holds, and today filed lawsuits with the US District Court in Los Angeles and Pennsylvania, South Korean news sources report. Samsung's PDP division, Samsung SDI, said it had held talks with Matsushita on nine separate occasions during the past 12 months, but was unable to negotiate a deal amenable to both parties. And why did the South Korean company choose to sue a Japanese rival in the US court? “We filed a lawsuit in the US, where there is the greatest demand for digital TVs, because we thought the US, as a third-party would, have no conflict of interest and thus ensure a fair trial," a Samsung spokesman said. Both firms have a history of display-related litigation. In 2003, Samsung sued Fujitsu, accusing it of infringing its PDP patents. In April 2004, Fujitsu counter-sued, though the two companies eventually settled out of court by signing a cross-licensing agreement. Matsushita, meanwhile, settled a similar patent clash with LG in April 2005. It sued LG in November 2004, prompting the South Korean firm to counter-sue immediately. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Dec 2005
channel

UK Customs denies pressing banks to pull out of mobile sector

"We have chosen to end the banking relationship between your company and HSBC." With these words, over 150 mobile phone dealers in the UK have suddenly found themselves treated as money-launderers - and HM Revenue and Customs is said to be behind it. Some dealers say the Revenue is instructing banks to dump its mobile customers. A detailed report in this week's Mobile News makes it clear that a simple denial by the Customs officers won't be found convincing. According to a Birmingham law firm, Dass Solicitors, which is preparing a case against the banks on behalf of more than 150 mobile phone traders, it seems likely that the banks are taking orders from on high. Customs denies this, but Mobile News has found a Customs expert, Vincent Curley - managing partner at VAT consultant Curley & Co - and Curley says it's quite plausible. Customs, he says, does put pressure on banks, and has been shown to do so in the past. "I would expect Customs to point out to a bank their money laundering obligations," said Curley, "and I know from advising on the mobile industry that main high street banks close down the bank accounts of mobile phone traders without proper explanation." At issue is whether Customs is targeting the mobile sector as a whole, or whether it is aiming at a few, known suspicious dealers. Mobile News says it has seen bank letters which use the word "sector" which is suspicious. The bank concerned admits that it did use the word, but describes this as a "mistake" and denied Customs pressure. The UK mobile dealer industry definitely does include some very shady characters, and phone thieves in Britain have no difficulty in finding dealers to take stolen goods and help them export them to other countries. There is also a long-standing feud between Customs and the mobile industry over VAT fraud - as a means of laundering the proceeds of crime, says the Excise lot. The newspaper, which goes out to the distribution channel for mobile phones in the UK, printed a sample letter from HSBC. It said: "We are concerned at the number of high value electronic payments that we are being asked to undertake for the Company on a regular basis. We are also concerned that the current operation of the account is not consistent with our understanding of this business when the relationship commenced." Bank staff contradict the assurances of their head offices, who say there is "no question" of their targeting a business or a sector at the say-so of HM Revenue and Customs, claims solicitor Alias Dass. He says he "has it on good authority" that bank workers have seen documents which make it clear that there is a policy of scepticism about mobile traders, and that the reason for this is information from Customs. The news breaks at a time when the Customs officers are nursing a bloody corporate nose after "Operation Venison" collapsed, with the Judge awarding six million pounds of costs to the defendants. Operation Venison was a case of "carousel fraud" where consignments of phones are moved rapidly from one dealer to the next, with each claiming refunds of VAT; the system is open to abuse. However, the Judge appears to have taken the view that the Revenue staff went beyond their remit. The collapse of Operation Venison leaves the enforcers in a situation where they need to catch up with an undoubted network of crooks, but without the freedom to take action which might snare innocent, or at least unprovably guilty, operators. Mobile News doesn't run current stories on its own website; you have to subscribe. Copyright © Newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 07 Dec 2005

Bookham axes 150 UK jobs

Bookham Inc - the fiber optic company that used to be based in the UK before upping sticks and settling in the US - is axing 150 jobs at its factory in Paignton, Devon. Instead, the jobs are to be transferred to Bookham's factory in China as part of the firm's efforts to cut costs. The job losses are expected to be completed by autumn 2006 although Paignton will continue to operate as an R&D facility employing some 200 staff. In a statement the company said: "Bookham, Inc. has today announced to its employees that as part of the company's previously disclosed restructuring plans it will be transferring a portion of its operations in Paignton, the Chip on Carrier manufacturing process, to its manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China. "The company has so far made substantial progress in moving assembly and test operations to the Far East site and has seen positive cost reductions. Bookham expects the Chip on Carrier transfer to impact approximately 150 employees in Paignton." This latest round of job cuts in Devon follows the loss of 600 jobs last year. In March 2004, Bookham announced that it planned to shunt jobs overseas after opening a manufacturing plant in China to "substantially reduce the cost of assembling the company's products". ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Dec 2005

Microsoft Discovers Branch Office

Went to a useful workshop on Windows Server 2003 R2 for its launch yesterday (Tues 6th Dec). No, it's not WS 2005, it's an enterprise-friendly step release with no kernel changes but some new functionality. Looks good - much was made of it clever replication capability using the RDC (Remote Differential Compression) protocol. This is all part of Microsoft's new focus on Branches - it's noticed that organisations have Branches and that these have Servers - but that giving them their own IT group is a bit expensive. Well, Microsoft may be onto somthing at that.
David Norfolk, 07 Dec 2005

Go Virtual to become Agile

The bigger the IT user, the more likely they are to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous server under-utilisation. Most of the major research companies have, at some time or another, studied the use of server resources in a production environment and found it low. A typical server – you know the type of beast: dual Xeons, a Gigabyte or two of memory and a reasonable RAID array – is usually only doing something productive for around 20 percent of its life. The rest of the time, it sits there, idling away the hours, doing nothing.
Martin Banks, 07 Dec 2005

CollabNet adds IP checker to software

Developers working on CollabNet's hosted collaboration service can now verify the intellectual property (IP) terms of their code to remain on the right side of the law. IP start-up Palamida's IP Amplifier has been integrated into CollabNet's Application Lifecycle Manager enabling developers working in distributed projects to check the IP terms and conditions of the software components they use. CollabNet users can click through to a web page where their code is scanned and a report generated. Palamida's service cross references a database of 100,000 open source projects, three billion code snippets, two million file digests and four million Java name space names. Palamida said users could also throw their own preferences into the mix by plugging in a custom list of components. The first scan is free, but developers will have to pay for additional scans and reports. Palamida hopes to attract the interest of software vendors and end-users. Developers can verify that there are no hidden licensing terms associated with open source and third-party software components used in their products. End-users can track their use of third parties' components in distributed development projects for accurate billing and to avoid unnecessary licensing costs, in addition to also verifying the IP conditions of components used in projects. CollabNet provides the development platform for a number of vendor-backed developer communities and end-user projects. Customers include Sun Microsystems' SunSource.net and Java.net, BEA Systems' dev2dev, Barclay Global Investors' BGI Developer Network and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein's openadaptor. Separately, Palamida is publishing a list of all open source and third-party components that are used in IP Amplifier, along with the associated terms and conditions. IP Amplifier contains 17 open source and one non-open source components, spanning Apache, Hibernate and Spring application frameworks. Palamdia's vice president for business development Theresa Bui Friday reckons Palamida is taking a lead on the issue among commercial software companies. ®
Gavin Clarke, 07 Dec 2005

Microsoft vows to fight South Korean antitrust ruling

Microsoft will fight a South Korean government ruling ordering it to separate its IM software and Media Player from Windows and pay a $32m fine for violating antitrust laws. "We intend to appeal this decision because it is inconsistent with Korean law," Microsoft said in a statement. Microsoft added it would "continue developing products for Korean consumers in a way that complies with all laws and is pro-competitive." Microsoft has apparently not decided to withdraw Windows from the South Korean market, as it once threatened should it be ordered to unbundle. South Korea's Fair Trade Commission (FTC) gave Microsoft six months to unbundle internet messenger, Media Player and also Media Server from Windows, saying it was hurting consumers and had raised the barriers to entry for PC server and operating system manufacturers. Microsoft countered by saying competition is vibrant in South Korea and that the decision "could have the effect of chilling innovation" in the country. South Korea's ruling mirrors last year's European Commission order to offer a version of Windows without Media Player, after it was found Microsoft used its market position to hurt the competition. The South Korean ruling goes further, though, by preventing Microsoft from selling the bundled version of Windows.®
Gavin Clarke, 07 Dec 2005
channel

Sun will be seeing double with Niagara II

ExclusiveExclusive Sun Microsystems has at last delivered its first batch of Niagara-based servers, and you've no doubt read plenty about the boxes here or elsewhere. What you haven't read much about is Niagara II. We're here to help. On the record, Sun has stated that Niagara II will have close to twice the performance of Niagara I - aka UltraSPARC T1. The chip will be built on a 65-nanometer process, include support for multiprocessor servers and probably arrive in 2007. Documents obtained by The Register reveal more exact specifications for Niagara II. In particular, the chip will have eight cores, just like the first version, but support 8 threads per core, which is twice as many as Niagara I. In total, Niagara II will crunch through 64 threads, up from 32 in the current part. Sun has taken some flack on Niagara I because the chip has a single floating point unit. That changes with Niagara II as well. This chip will have one floating point unit per core - an item seen in our documents and confirmed by Jeff O'Neal, a director in Sun's engineering group. "When you go to Niagara II and look there, you have to keep the ratios the same," O'Neal said. "So there, moving to a floating point unit per core is the next logical place to go." Improving floating point performance should help Sun address a wider software pool than just the web and application serving markets current Niagara-based systems target. Niagara II will also have improved crypto processing functions, come in a smaller package and include support for up to 64 fully-buffered DIMMSs. The Sun documents show that 2007 is the likely delivery date for Niagara II with an initial clock speed of at least 1.4GHz. ®
Ashlee Vance, 07 Dec 2005
homeless man with sign

Consumers improving security, but gaps remain

Spyware and viruses have infected fewer home PCs than a year ago, but the large majority of computer users still lack a critical software defense, such as spyware protection, up-to-date antivirus or a properly configured firewall, according to a study of Internet users released on Wednesday. The Online Safety Study, conducted by America Online and the National Cyber Security Alliance, analyzed the security of 354 broadband and dial-up users' computers. The study found that the number compromised by spyware dropped to 61 per cent, from 80 per cent a year ago, and the fraction infected with an active virus dropped to 12 per cent from 19 per cent a year ago. AOL and the NCSA sent technicians to the homes of each survey participant to check their computer security. While improvements are evident, consumers still have a long way to go, said Tatiana Platt, chief trust officer for America Online. "Although we have made some strides in helping consumers protect themselves, the threats are growing broader and more dangerous, so the risk of failure can be that much more catastrophic," Platt said in a statement announcing the study. "When a single virus, a simple scam or hidden spyware program can shut down your computer or cause a person to lose their bank account, their family pictures, or all of their personal records, it is vital that consumers take every possible step to protect themselves." Attacks targeting consumers have become more worrisome as the attacker's tools have become more sophisticated. Current attacks mainly attempt to gain personal information for identity theft or compromise PCs connected to broadband internet accounts. Attacker-controlled PCs, known as zombies or bots, can then be used for further attacks. Phishing, in particular, has become a worry, according to the study. Each month, about a quarter of online Americans saw an fraudulent e-mail aimed at convincing them to give up personal information. Almost 70 per cent of the surveyed customers thought such phishing attacks were email messages from a legitimate company, and 18 percent said a friend or family member had fallen victim to such an attack. Almost three-quarters of the people surveyed use their computers for sensitive transactions online, suggesting that successful phishing attacks could easily gain access to financial information, the study said. Identity theft using information gleaned from consumers' systems is growing quickly, but still pales in comparison to offline identity theft. In 2004, online identity fraud totaled 11.6 per cent of all cases of identity theft, according to a survey of 552 people conducted by Javelin Strategy and Research. Data from the survey suggests that online identity theft only accounted for some $600m of the total estimated loss of $52.6 billion for the United States for that year. "Our numbers show that fears about online identity fraud may be out of proportion to the relative risk, causing consumers to ignore the most glaring issues," James Van Dyke, founder and principal analyst for Javelin Strategy and Research, said in a statement announcing the identity-theft study earlier this year. "Indeed, most instances of identity fraud occur through traditional channels and are paper-based, not Internet-based." Yet, the growth in phishing, spyware and other consumer-focused attacks has Internet service providers, like America Online, concentrating on defense and education. The company frequently scans its network, intercepts potential spyware and viruses, blacklists malicious Web sites and offers free Internet security tools, AOL's Platt said. "We do everything we can to make sure that malicious scans and spyware don't ever reach our users," she said. "To the extent that we can push protections directly to users, we are actually extending our reach, because our consumers have told us that is what they want." While more than 80 per cent of the online consumers surveyed believe they are secure, about the same number have not installed necessary security software or have a misconfiguration that affects security, the study said. "More than anything, this reinforces the need for some people to be more vigilant online," Platt said. "The bottom line is, if you get an e-mail that asks for personal information or sends you to a web site that asks for sensitive information, don't click on it." Symantec, the parent company of SecurityFocus, is a member of the National Cyber Security Alliance, which commissioned the study. Copyright © 2005, SecurityFocus This article was first published here
Robert Lemos, 07 Dec 2005
channel

Security threats soar in 2005

Nearly 16,000 new viruses, worms and Trojans have appeared in 2005, but criminals are moving their focus to niche targeted groups with specially customised malware to steal data and cash. The huge increase in the number of malware programs stems from the activities of criminal gangs intent on using trojans, worms and viruses to make a profit, according to a new report from anti-virus software firm Sophos, entitled the Security Threat Management Report 2005. These gangs have been focusing their efforts on a smaller number of victims, who are targeted with customised malware, so that the creators of the virus can evade the attentions of anti-virus software vendors and security providers. "Internet criminals may be turning their back on large scale attacks not only because they do not wish to draw attention to their efforts, but also because they cannot practically handle the amount of stolen data they might receive if they infected hundreds of thousands of computers in one day," the report noted. A report published in November 2005 by Financial Insights, an IDC company, estimated that global financial institutions lost USD400 million in 2004 due to phishing schemes. Phishing is a system whereby scammers send an email, purporting to be from their financial institution, which induces them to reveal their online banking details. Instead of going for the large financial institutions, cyber criminals are now engaging in what has been dubbed "puddle phishing", where they target a smaller financial institution that may only have a few branches. Another phishing phenomenon is the "spear phishing" practice, where attackers will target employees in a specific company in an attempt to gain passwords and usernames to access confidential data. Because these attacks are so targeted, the most dangerous viruses are unlikely to be included among the top-10 most common viruses, which anti-virus vendors issue to raise security awareness among internet users. While all of the top ten threats are Windows-based worms, the number of Trojan horses written during 2005 outweighs worms by a ratio of two-to-one. In 2005, the Zafi-D virus has topped the Sophos list as the most prevalent virus on the internet. The most prevalent virus in 2004, Netsky-P, has dropped to second place this year. Sober-Z - which was only unleashed in November 2005 - has already climbed to third place as it continues to disrupt and clog networks worldwide. The other viruses in the top 10 were Sober-N, Zafi-B, Mytob-BE, Mytob-AS, Netsky-D, Mytob-GH, Mytob-EP. Copyright © 2005, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 07 Dec 2005

Songwriters challenge UK online royalty rate

Composers and songwriters on Friday set out their case for an increased royalty rate for the sale of music downloads and challenged record companies to disclose the monies they make from the sale of internet downloads. The musicians were responding to a legal action filed by record label trade group the British Phonographic Industry (BPI) in June. That claim, filed with the UK Copyright Tribunal, sought to challenge licence terms set out by music publishers and composers for the use of their compositions on the internet and on mobile devices. In 2002, music publishers and composers, acting through trade association The Music Alliance – a joint venture between the UK licensing and collecting societies MCPS (Mechanical-Copyright Protection Society) and PRS (Performing Right Society) – approved a Joint Online Licence, allowing online music providers to obtain a licence for performing and mechanical rights in one easy step. But the licence imposes a rate of 12% of gross retail revenues on nearly all online music offerings (subject to a temporary discount to 8%). This compares with publishing royalties on physical products, such as CDs, which stand at 6.5 per cent of retail price (or 8.5 per cent of the published wholesale price) and broadcast radio rates, which range from 3– 5.25 per cent of net advertising revenues. The UK’s leading online music services and the BPI, representing more than 300 UK record labels, have taken exception to the tariff, and in June filed a complaint with the Copyright Tribunal. Geoff Taylor, BPI General Counsel said at the time: “The licence that the Alliance is trying to impose for online music is unreasonable and unsustainable. It is charging a royalty rate on a download that is double the rate it charges for a song on a CD. It applies this excessive rate to a whole range of online music services, without taking into account their different characteristics. The Alliance’s tariff threatens to seriously harm the development of the legal online and mobile music markets.” According to the online music services and the BPI, the terms set by the Music Alliance are unreasonable because the Alliance and its members have not had to invest heavily in creating new legal online services and fighting internet piracy. Moreover it simply applies a single rate, without taking into account the nature and features of the service involved. The BPI also argues that imposing higher royalties on online services than on their off-line equivalents puts online services at an unfair commercial disadvantage. The Music Alliance filed its response to the claim on Friday, explaining that composers and songwriters currently earn around 5p from the sale of a download. BPI proposals would see them earning 2½p. In contrast, record companies keep 40–50p from the same sale, it says. The Music Alliance proposes that, as of 1st January, composers and songwriters receive 7–9p per download, to bring their earnings in line with those they might have received in the past. This is not a cost to the consumer, says the Alliance, but a cost to be recovered from the enhanced profits currently being enjoyed by record companies as a result of the savings being made from digital distribution. Adam Singer, group chief executive of the Music Alliance, said: “We have now submitted our reasons for why the record industry should adopt fresh economic thinking in a digital age in order to sustain the composing community upon which they rely. We believe that this dynamic digital market should not be stultified in the aspic of analogue thought; we should recognise that digital liberates margin and why writers should share in the new wealth that modern record companies will be able to create.” Copyright © 2005, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 07 Dec 2005
graph up

Small.biz grabs more UK public sector deals

The number of government contracts being won by small businesses has increased, according to official figures. Data from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) shows out of the £4.7bn worth of contracts up for grabs this year, £1bn worth was awarded to small businesses, representing 22 per cent of the total value. The figure was up on the 18 per cent recorded during 2004. Business groups have attacked ministers over recent years claiming too many small firms are being ignored when it comes to allocating public sector contracts. While welcoming the figures, small business minister Barry Gardiner recognised the need to increase the proportion of smaller companies winning deals. "The public sector must do more to ensure that it is making the best possible use of the innovation and dynamism that the small business sector can bring," he said. To raise awareness amongst public sector procurers of the value for money and quality of service small businesses can provide, the DTI's Small Business Service has joined up with the Office of Government Commerce (OGC) to publish a special guide. John Oughton, OGC chief executive, said: "I am confident that the programme to assist SMEs in bidding for government contracts is delivering. "OGC's regional training seminars for procurers have been well received, standardised prequalification documentation is being used and work with major suppliers to open up their supply chains is progressing well." Copyright © 2005,
Startups.co.uk, 07 Dec 2005

SQL Server 2005 Management Tools

Microsoft, of course, provides some DBA management tools but there are also 3rd. party tools available (for both modelling and management) from companies such as Embarcadero and BMC. ® Return to Page 1 of main article here - otherwise use "back" button.
Mark Whitehorn, 07 Dec 2005