19th > December > 2005 Archive

Action on song lyric websites is misguided

CommentComment The Music Publishers’ Association of America (MPA) has announced a legal campaign targeted at unlicensed sheet music, lyrics and 'tab' sites, threatening to throw site owners into jail. But these unfortunate actions could do more damage than good. Internet forum contributors and bloggers alike have spent the last few days flaming the MPA and distributing link upon link to lyrics and tab sites, just to teach them a lesson. A guitar tab is a simple graphic presentation of a song corresponding to the strings of the guitar. It is easy to read and can be written with any text-only editor. However, as with any graphic presentation of a song (i.e. sheet music), a tab is covered by the copyright of the original work, even if it has been transcribed by a well-meaning fan (tabs usually are). This is not new. Distributing sheet music of a copyright-protected work without permission is illegal, whoever created it. But getting this message across gently is more important than threatening jail sentences. Jail threats for site owners are unrealistic and unnecessarily inflammatory ("so now they want to jail us just for singing their songs too"). The comments by the MPA president, intentionally or otherwise, unfortunately give the impression that the whole business of downloading sheet music is illegal. No mention is made of the thriving and growing businesses run by legitimate websites with the full permission and agreement of publishers and authors. The MPA action, contrary to its claims, is not proactive. If it were, the MPA would be promoting and supporting the legal music sites currently operating instead of waving jail terms at their adversaries. And following hot on the heels of a questionable cease and desist action by Warner Chappell against a lyrics search tool, the MPA opens itself up to the criticism being targeted already at the big music companies and the Recording Industry Association of America, albeit for completely difference reasons. The MPA is right to act against violations of music copyrights. However, it would be well advised to do so hand-in-hand with the legal websites already operating and to do more to explain the sometimes difficult question of copyright restrictions, instead of angering the very people it needs to convince. © Jonathan Irons Jonathan Irons is CEO of SheetMusicNow.com, a legal digital sheet music site. This article was originally published at OUT-LAW.com
Jonathan Irons, 19 Dec 2005

Carphone swallows Onetel, Tele2

The Carphone Warehouse is splashing out more than £150m to acquire Onetel and Tele2 as part of ambitious plans to challenge the dominance of UK telco BT. Once the deals are completed both companies will be rebranded to Carphone's TalkTalk phone service giving its 2.4m voice punters the ability to call one another for free. And it will add even more momentum to Carphone's plans to invest in local loop unbundling (LLU) and provide telecoms services direct to end users. "Our goal is to become the number one alternative residential telecoms provider in the UK market," said Carphone announcing the deal. "The acquisition of Onetel propels us clearly towards that position and gives us a substantial platform of profitable voice customers from which to launch our drive into the broadband market in 2006. "It also allows two major competitors to join forces in their bid to deliver improved value and service to residential customers." Carphone is paying £132m for Onetel, which was put up for sale in September by parent Centrica. Of that, £95m pays for Onetel's residential and business operations, with £37m relating to British Gas (also owned by Centrica) recruiting more punters for TalkTalk over the next three years. A further £22m could also be paid out if Centrica hits sales targets. Onetel has more than a million voice punters, some 60,000 broadband users and 40,000 mobile customers. The deal is expected to be completed in the next couple of weeks and is tipped to increase Carphone's pre-tax profits next year by around £20m. Speaking today Centrica chief exec Sir Roy Gardner said that Onetel had become a "significant residential fixed line competitor to BT". "However, as we have made clear for some time, global energy markets are changing rapidly and we want to focus closely on growing our core energy and related services operations in the UK and internationally. We will continue offering telecoms services to our British Gas customers, but we don't need to own Onetel to do this," he said. Separately, Carphone also announced today that it had snapped up Tele2 - which has some 188,000 customers in the UK and 36,000 punters in the Republic of Ireland - for £8.5m. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Dec 2005

Dell recalls 35,000 notebook batteries

Dell has asked the owners of 35,000 Inspiron, Precision and Lattitude laptops to send back their batteries. According to the PC maker, the batteries in question may be faulty. If they are, they could overheat and catch fire. As yet, no one has been injured by overly hot batteries or by fires the power packs may have caused, Dell said.
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2005

HP goes HD DVD

HP has formally embraced HD DVD, the next-generation optical disc format it has been opposing for the past few years. The PC maker will no longer support Blu-ray Disc exclusively, the company said on Friday. It will also join the HD DVD Promotion Group, the Toshiba-led industry consortium of HD DVD backers.
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2005

Hosted CRM: prepare your boat to be floated

Quocirca's Changing ChannelsQuocirca's Changing Channels If hosted CRM floats your boat, 2006 is going to be an exciting year. The noise created by salesforce.com and others over the last few years has created a momentum for hosted offerings in the CRM market as a whole. The vendors are heading down the hosted route faster than their customers and prospects, but if they create enough momentum some end-users may be dragged there more quickly than they were planning. A lot of the new action is going on at the low end of the SMB market. In October 2005, Sage, one of the largest suppliers of business applications to small businesses in Europe, announced a hosted version of its CRM Mid-Market Edition (the former ACCPAC). Badged SageCRM.com, it is to be sold to small businesses via the same channels as ACT!, Sage’s on-premise CRM product for small businesses. Sage will not be alone in offering hosted CRM to small businesses. There are already well established vendors like NetSuite, a pure hosted play and a host of other “me too” vendors that have emerged in the last few years; some of whom will probably fall by the wayside given the increased competition. And Microsoft is set to join the fray. It has just released V3.0 of its own CRM product, and whilst it is still mostly sold as an on-premise product, it too has an eye on the hosted market. In theory, Microsoft Dynamics CRM is still not suited for hosting because it does not support multi-tenancy installations (that is running a number of customers on the same server). But, this has not deterred some Microsoft partners from going full steam ahead. Aspective, a UK based CRM specialist, has launched a hosted CRM service based on the Microsoft product. Each customer will have to have their own server and Aspective limits deployments to a minimum of 10 users. It says this will enable it to maintain profits and still have a competitive per-user price. Hardware must be getting cheap – back in 2000/2001 many of the early providers of hosted products failed because they could not make a profit with such a model. But it is not just about the cost of hardware. For example, RightNow delivers its product as either on premise or hosted, but it charges the same price in either case. It claims it can do this because it’s as cheap to buy hardware and support customers on its own infrastructure as it is to supply and support on premise software. RightNow, like salesforce.com, is more focussed on the mid-market and enterprises. As is Siebel, the grand-daddy of CRM. It has also been plugging away in the hosted CRM market with its own Siebel OnDemand product. IBM, who is Siebel’s largest go to market partner for this product, sees it as part of its drive to get a bigger slice of the mid-market through managed services. But the relationship between the two is clouded by the probable takeover of Siebel by Oracle. Oracle itself has been mumbling about hosting its products as has the other giant of the business applications market – SAP. There is a lot of activity from the big vendors then; some of which are creating opportunities for the channel. It must be daunting for smaller ISVs and resellers who sell their software with on-premise licences, who may think they are missing out on the hosted action – don’t despair – there are specialists out there ready to help. For example, 7 Global, a UK based specialist in helping software vendors adapt their technology and business model to enable them to go down the hosted route. On the other hand you might just want to sit back, watch the bun fight, and see if the users start following the vendors who have already committed to the hosted model – but beware, indications are that, in the long-term, they will. Copyright © 2005,
Quocirca, 19 Dec 2005

Gmail goes mobile

Gmail users can now access their account on the move as search giant Google launches Gmail Mobile The small screen support for the popular e-mail account means that users can access their Gmail account from their mobile phone, using the URL http://m.gmail.com. According to Google, the page will automatically optimise its interface for whatever phone you are using, adjusting it depending on the size of your mobile phone screen. The service also allows users to open attachments such as photos, Microsoft Word documents and PDF files. One interesting feature is the ability to reply to e-mail by calling your contact - once you have a phone number for the sender in your Gmail contacts list. The new service should work on most mobile phones - although Gmail has a list of phones that it knows definitely support the service. The latest moves come amid fierce rivalry between Google, Yahoo and MSN, who are all competing for users. Yahoo already offers a mobile version of its e-mail service, and upped the storage capacity of its accounts to 1GB. MSN offers 250MB of storage to its users. However, Gmail is still under test and is not offered on general availability to users. Users need to be invited by another Gmail account holder, or if they are in the US, they can use their mobile phone to get an invitation code. The company is attempting to protect the services - and its users - from spammers who could sign up for the accounts to reach Gmail customers. Google has added a host of new services to its Gmail account since the launch, including "bottomless storage" that is continually upping the service's storage from 1GB up to the present 2.6GB (and counting!). Also announced in recent days was the addition of an auto-responder service, letting recipients know that the email account holder is away or unavailable. Copyright © 2005, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 19 Dec 2005

Private investors sniff around NTL/Telewest

A group of private investors is still interested in buying UK cableco NTL once it has completed its merger with Telewest, The Sunday Times reports. The group - comprising Apax Partners, Cinven, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Premier, Providence Equity Partners - wants to spend around £8bn on the business. The appeal of the cableco is further sweetened should NTL's take-over of Virgin Mobile get the green light. However, there are reports that the cableco is unlikely to welcome a buy-out and is expected to reject any approach. Speculation that a third party might be interested in the enlarged telco surfaced just days after NTL confirmed in October that it planned to take-over Telewest in a deal that values the cableco at around $6bn. The pair - whose cable networks do not overlap - will be able to provide TV, phone and broadband to more than half of UK homes. Once merged, the combined group will have almost five million residential punters and is set to be the largest provider of domestic broadband services in the UK with 2.5m subscribers. It will also be the second largest pay TV outfit with 3.3m punters and the number two fixed telephony provider with 4.3m subscribers. However, the merger of the UK's two cablecos was given added significance earlier this month when NTL announced it had offered £817m to swallow Virgin Mobile. Although the deal was rejected by Virgin industry watchers remain confident it will go-ahead enabling the company to rebrand under the Virgin name offering a four play of TV, phone, broadband and mobile. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Dec 2005
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Update glitch spins out IE7 beta testers

Last week's update for Internet Explorer has tripped up users testing an early pre-release version of IE7. Microsoft has traced back "scattered reports of odd browser behaviour" to a common cause of running IE7 Beta1 alongside IE6. When users updated IE6 last week programming conflicts meant the browser was liable to crash, fails to display the contents of web pages when following hyperlinks or else throw up multiple windows for no good reason. Microsoft's solution is to delete a specific registry key as explained in a posting on Microsoft's official Internet Explorer Weblog here. IE7 Beta1 is only available either to Windows Vista beta testers or as a download for Windows XP. The vast majority of users would not have been hit by the glitch. A second beta version of IE7 is due by the end of Q1 2006. Last week's IE update addressed four security vulnerabilities including one that was the subject of active hacking attacks. ®
John Leyden, 19 Dec 2005

Warner Chappell backtracks over PearLyrics legal threat

Music publisher Warner Chappell has let song lyric search tool PearLyrics off the hook. The company has apologised to the application's author, Walter Ritter, for sending him an "inappropriate" cease-and-desist letter two weeks ago. In response, Ritter stopped making PearLyrics available for download. Warner Chappell said it had merely wanted "to provide consumers a convenient, legal way to find accurate song lyrics", in a statement issued on Friday by the company's chairman and CEO, Richard Blackstone.
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2005

'Chav' caps banned from easyInternetCafe

If you're in Glasgow or Edinburgh and feel the need to pop into easyInternetCafe to check your email over Christmas, make sure you remove your baseball cap first. Otherwise, you won't be allowed in. Stelios Haji-Ioannou - who owns the chain of net cafes along with a no-frills airline and discount cellco - has banned the wearing of caps after some gear was nicked. And it seems punters who wear these things 'Chav style' are tricky to identify on CCTV footage. Easy Group's James Rothnie told The Sunday Times that regular punters are scared of these cap-wearing net users. "We want to make sure our cafes are places where our customers can relax and feel secure," he told the paper. "Since deviant behaviour can be associated with the wearing of baseball caps we are politely asking those people who enter our premises not to wear caps." If successful in Scotland, the net chain intends to ban the wearing of caps in all of its 40 or so cybercafes in the UK. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Dec 2005

Festive trouser pump wafts into eBay

Ah, the evocative smells of Xmas - the alpine-fresh aroma of pine needles, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the faint bouquet of granny's sweet sherry. And, of course, the deadly, nose-crippling whiff of the brussel-sprout-fuelled trouser cough, creeping across the Yule living room like a blanket of phosgene: On Christmas day I will be bottling my first Brussels Sprout Trouser Pump of the afternoon. The actual bottling of the fart will be videoed and quick time video of the main event will be emailed to the highest bidder. although I cannot guarantee anything dramatic, I can assure you I will do my best to impress. Be aware that any "follow through" from the trouser cough can be included in the sale if you wish. The gaseous emission will be generated through consumption of the following items: # Kedgeree for breakfast # Champagne # Real Ale before lunch # A good Rioja or Nuits St George (we haven't decided yet) # Roast Goose, Hazelnut Stuffing, Roast potatoes, Brussel Sprouts (at least 4), gravy, sausages wrapped in bacon, carrots, roasted parsnips, cranberry and bread sauce, Christmas pudding and brandy butter. Happy Bidding and Merry Christmas to you all. Very silly, and moving swiftly on we have another irresistible Yule item in the shape of the invisible Christmas tree: COMPLETELY INVISIBLE CHRISTMAS TREE FULLY DECORATED A festive cracker of an opportunity to bid on this truly magnificent, and Completely Invisible, Christmas Tree. This glittering and gorgeous Tree will be delivered fully decorated, every elegant bough laden with masses of twinkling Fairy Lights, miles of sparkly Tinsel, dozens of Sugar Candy Canes and literally hundreds of glittering Baubles and Novelties ~ absolutely breathtaking. The crowning glory is the Star Performance of the Christmas Fairy, Miss Charity Volunteer, who will sparkle, twinkle and shine from the top of the Tree for the full Twelve Days of Christmas. The current top bid for the invisible Xmas tree is a cool £1,800 - but this is no arboreal reworking of the Xbox 360 scam. Nope, the whole thing is in aid of Children in Need, with 100 per cent of the auction proceeds going to help those less fortunate than ourselves. Good show. ® Bootnote A festive ta very much to Steven Williams and Tim Jones for spotting these Yule eBay oddities.
Lester Haines, 19 Dec 2005

NZ devil Santas terrorise Auckland

The shaken residents of Auckland, New Zealand, are today recovering from a terrifying ordeal provoked by 40 rioting Santas who robbed stores, assaulted security guards and, shockingly, "urinated from highway overpasses", as The Sydney Morning Herald reports. Auckland Central Police operative Noreen Hegarty told the paper how the rampage began last Saturday when the bad Santa collective (drunk and wearing "ill-fitting Santa costumes") chucked beer bottles and relieved themselves from the aforementioned overpasses. They then "rushed through a central city park, overturning garbage bins, throwing bottles at passing cars and spraying graffiti on office buildings". One Santa climbed the mooring line of a cruise ship and was quickly arrested for his trouble. Other Santas at the scene objected and piled into security staff who subsequently required paramedical attention. To cap this orgy of disorder, several Santas then went into a convenience store and made off with beer and fizzy pop. Owner Changa Manakynda recalled: "They came in, said 'Merry Christmas' and then helped themselves." The devil Santas are apparently members of a worldwide movement - dubbed Santarchy - and "designed to protest the commercialisation of Christmas". Three of their number were arrested during the Auckland anti-Yule uprising. Police are currently looking for 37 other men described as "wearing red coats, red hats and sporting big white beards". ®
Lester Haines, 19 Dec 2005

MS pulls plug on Mac IE

Microsoft will formally kill the Mac version of Internet Explorer on 31 January 2006, the software giant has admitted. The software's been moribund since June 2003, of course, when the company said it would no longer develop the code. At the time, it said it would stop supporting the product in 2005, and indeed, the appropriate product page on its website says support will stop on 31 December.
Tony Smith, 19 Dec 2005

US scramjet hits Mach 5

US defence contractor Alliant Techsystems has successfully tested a rocket-launched scramjet at Mach 5.5. The project, in association with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and Office of Naval Research (ONR) - and which forms part of the Freeflight Atmospheric Scramjet Test Technique (FASTT) programme - did not reach the heady Mach 10 achieved by the hydrogen-fuelled X-43A back in November 2004, but it is the first "freeflight of a scramjet-powered vehicle using conventional liquid hydrocarbon jet fuel". The FASTT vehicle was launched from the Wallops Flight Facility, Wallops Island, Virginia, on Saturday 10 December. The 106-inch, 11-inch diameter vehicle was blasted to 60,000 feet by its booster rocket, at which point it separated from the booster and "the Scramjet engine ignited and propelled the vehicle at approximately 5,300 feet per second - or Mach 5.5". After around 15 seconds of propelled flight during which "critical engineering data was captured via on-board sensors and tracking radars", the FASTT descended for an Atlantic splash-down. According to Alliant Techsystems: "The ground-launched flight test demonstrated a viable and cost-effective flight-test method for future hypersonic Scramjet initiatives." The X-43A is also rocket-boosted before the scramjet kicks in, but is launched from beneath a B52 at around 40,000ft. Some scientists have high hope for the technology, given that its use of atmospheric oxgen to mix with the fuel represents a considerable weight saving. Furthermore, it has relatively few moving parts compared with a traditional jet turbine. However, and as we previously noted, a scaled-up X-43C programme - part of the HyperX project to develop alternative space launch technologies - was canned back in January 2004 when the US "committed to conventional rocket-powered space vehicles currently being planned as part of NASA's Constellation project". ®
Lester Haines, 19 Dec 2005

EU slaps import duty on large LCD screens

The EU plans to impose a 14 per cent import duty on imports of larger LCD screens, leading pundits to forecast a huge hike in sticker prices. Dutch trade organisation ICT Office believes the tariff will cost its members "millions". The tariff would be applied to all monitors that are not produced within the EU, which is the majority of monitors imported. LG manufactures some units in Wales, while Philips manufactures most of its units in the Far East.
Jan Libbenga, 19 Dec 2005

Chile and Peru fight merciless hacker war

Long gone are the good old days when obstreperous Latin American nations would invade each other over a World Cup qualifying match* - nowadays your belligerent sons of Cortez are battling it out in cyberspace. Take if you will Peru and Chile, currently engaged in a no-holds-barred hack war in which no government website is spared the attention of e-nationalists determined to hurl insults at their cross-border rivals. The background is this: according to the Beeb, "Chile and Peru are currently embroiled in a diplomatic dispute over fishing waters in the Pacific Ocean". Fair enough. Rather more serious though, is the punch-up over which nation owns the rights to Pisco, a drink which "Peru claims as its own but is trademarked, produced and marketed in greater volume by Chile". Local media reports say the first strike came when a Peruvian hacker Cyber Alexis entered the Chilean National Emergency Office's website and declared: "We do as we like with our policy and our ocean" and "Nobody can match ceviche [lemon-cured fish] and pisco, or equal their quality." Swift retaliation followed from a Chilean activist who made merry on Peru's judiciary website, including the inflammatory: "We fight for what is ours. The ocean and pisco are Chilean!" The warring nations were last week trying to restore their websites to normality and shore up their defences again future incursion. The matter of whose fish is better remains unresolved. Bootnote *Football results June 6, 1969, Tegucigalpa: Honduras 1 - 0 El Salvador (0-0 at halftime) June 15, 1969, San Salvador: El Salvador 3 - 0 Honduras (HT: 3-0) A playoff match on June 27, 1969, Mexico: El Salvador 3 - 2 Honduras after extra time (HT: 1-2, FT: 2-2). El Salavdor thereafter invaded Honduras although the aggression did nothing to improve their world cup prospects.
Lester Haines, 19 Dec 2005

Cash'n'Carrion opens tech bookstore to online masses

Cash'n'CarrionCash'n'Carrion Cash'n'Carrion, The Register's venerable online store, has had a makeover. As well as titivating the design, we have expanded our massive retail empire with a brand new bookshop. To celebrate its birth, assembled some of the books that our hacks and techies have come to rely upon and love over the course of their many varied experiences in life (!). These books have completed software projects, networked entire companies, improved excel accounts sheets and, dare we say it, even provided some light relief when the BOFH has dared to darken our doors. With this in mind we thought we'd share these books with you with a few extra quid off so that you can while away the hours doing as we do. Enjoy!!! Project Management JumpStart Harbor Light Press Heldman, Kim I really enjoyed having this book land on my desk. It certainly has all the necessary information required for any new project manager. All the essential areas are covered, from defining the project goals, planning, managing resources, cost and time, to controlling communication and managing your project team. The book will give you a good grounding, providing all the basic rules and methods you can apply to run a project successfully. I particularly liked the Notes and Tips found throughout each chapter. These are good advice snippets of what appears to be common sense but when actually stated, you think "Oh yes, of course that's a good idea/makes sense". As a slightly seasoned Project Manager, I've been meaning to buy a book to keep on my desk for reference, for those times when I just need a little inspiration or indeed just a reminder of how far I've come! This book will do just the job for now. AK Our price: £12.59. You save £5.40 (30%) How to Cheat at Managing Microsoft Windows Small Business Server 2003 Syngress Media Snedaker, Susan Snedaker achieves what a lot of other books are unable to – a simplification of the complexities of Microsoft technology. It covers all the fundamental sections of Small Business Server: installation, security, configuration and connections, without trying to cover every eventuality (specific problems can generally be solved through a Google search on the Internet or Microsoft's very good Tech Net site). Aside from boosting the egos of us "non-MCSE" computer technicians, by calling us "unsung heroes", she has provided us with some great information to allow us to get the job done. Thanks Susan! HH Our Price: £19.59 You save £8.40 (30%) Microsoft Excel data analysis and Business Modeling Microsoft Press Wayne L. Winston Microsoft Excel data analysis and Business Modeling has the potential to be an interesting and informative book – but does it deliver? Well the answer from this reviewer is an unreserved yes! As long as the reader has some degree of competency in Excel they will be led through the myriad of different formulas and statistical analysis techniques available. These are introduced in a user-friendly way, and are built on subsequently so that powerful analysis is possible using Excel. Overall I would thoroughly recommend this book to any intermediate – advanced Excel user. MW Our price: £17.35 You save £10.64 (38%) VBA and Macros for Microsoft Excel Que Jelen, Bill; Syrstad, Tracy This is co-authored by Bill Jelen, also known as Mr Excel who is well-known as a leading author on Excel, and is also behind the website MrExcel.com. The aim of this book is to help the reader create macros for Excel – to make it more efficient, but also so that they are created in a way that future users of the code are able to modify it, and debug it easily. The book starts off with simple techniques, which soon build up to more interesting topics, such as automating pivot tables and getting information from web sites. Overall I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wishes to learn to program macros in Excel. MW Our price: £20.29 You save £8.70 (30%) Expert Oracle Database Architecture: 9i & 10g Programming Techniques & Solutions Apress Thomas Kyte Tom Kyte is well known in the Oracle field and has had a number of books published, including Expert one-on-one Oracle which is considered by many as the leading book on the subject. This book is the first volume of the second edition (with Expert Oracle programming currently due in June 2006), and the CD contains a PDF of Expert One-on-One Oracle (8i edition). The book focuses solely on 9i and 10g architecture. The book is well written in a user-friendly way, using simple examples to illustrate different areas. All are covered in depth and given the treatment they deserve. By the end of this book you will know pretty much everything you will need to know about Oracle Database architecture, and after that it will still be a handy reference to dip into when issues arise. Thoroughly recommended – and get the Expert Oracle Programming book when that comes out too!! MW Our price: £21.07 You save £12.92 (38%) The Best Software Writing I Apress Joel Spolsky Software is one of those areas that can just swamp you with "officialdom". Everybody knows that software has to be written correctly, has to be well structured and has to be (relatively!!) efficient if your boss or the end user is going to take either you or it seriously – but does that mean it has to be boring?? Not according to Joel Spolsky, a leading light, and expert, in the world of software development. As he says, most of the books written on software development are tedious – they're functional, they tell you what you need to know, but they take more effort to read than that Charles Dickens novel did when you were 13, still in school, and more interested in playing Pong on your Atari! This book is a collection of what he considers to be the best essays and snippets covering all areas of software and software writing. Fully edited and with a contributory author list that reads as a "who's who" in the world of development, this book will not only help you to see how better to write up your projects, but will provide hours of recreational reading and enjoyment. PN Our price: £11.15 You save £6.84 (38%) Code Complete 2nd Edition Microsoft Press Steve McConnell Steve McConnell is renowned for writing excellent books on constructing software, either as a software author or as a project manager. If you are going to read one book on how to write code in a commercial environment then this is it. It works through the process completely, with real emphasis on getting the decisions right at the beginning so as to avoid costly mistakes later in the process. The author discusses best practise on writing your code so that poor unfortunates can debug (heaven forbid!) and maybe even improve upon your work at a later date. Finally, the book covers real world tuning and testing strategies and has a section on great programming tools. You really should read this book, even if you've been programming for a number of years. PS Our price: £21.07 You save £12.92 (38%) The TCP/IP Guide No Starch Press Charles M. Kozierok Every once in a while a book comes along that's destined to gather dust on your shelf. Not I might hasten to add, because you won't read it, but because you'll keep it to hand for years and years! (the publisher must have had this in mind when they made it hardback). This is one of those books that every computer department or networking professional should have. Charles has a superb down to earth style that makes this complex subject understandable for even the most inexperienced networker. It is as comprehensive as you would imagine a 1,542-page book to be, covering the OSI model, and just about every protocol you can think of including IPV4, IPV6, IP Sec, IP NAT, Mobile IP, DNS, SNMP (the list goes on and on). If you work with TCP /IP to any degree then do yourself a favour and buy this book. PS Our price: £34.09 You save £20.90 (38%) Digital Retro Ilex Gordon Laing If you grew up with computers in the 80s, then this is a trip down memory lane. If you are less than thirty then I suspect this book may not hold much attraction for you. Every key computer and games machine of the time (all 44 of them) is there including: the Atari VCS, MITS Altair 8800, Commodore Pet 2001, ZX80, ZX81, Spectrum, BBC Micro Commodore 64, Dragon 32, Apple MAC and the IBM 5150 PC. Pictures combined with descriptions of each of the machines and their place in computing history mean this is a book you can lose an hour or two in. Superb for rekindling those arguments of old!
Cash'n'Carrion, 19 Dec 2005

Pipex rejigs SME sales team

Pipex is restructuring its SME sales team in Hertfordshire but denied claims that the shake-up would lead to job losses. A spokesman for the broadband ISP said that those affected by the changes would be offered other jobs in the company with most of them at its Welwyn office. However, he admitted that some of the jobs could be based at other Pipex locations. He denied claims made by insiders that as many as 25 people could lose their job as part of the move. "The overall headcount will not be reduced," he told us. In October, Pipex bought Freedom to Surf (F2S) for £10m, taking the total number of broadband users to 250,000 and giving it enough clusters of users in urban areas to make investment in LLU commercially viable. In April, Pipex shelled out £5.9m to acquire web host outfit Donhost Ltd, while last year it acquired another web hosting operation, Host Europe, and also broadband ISP Nildram. ®
Tim Richardson, 19 Dec 2005

Terror phone clone scam exposed

Affiliates of terrorist organization Hezbollah cloned the mobiles of senior executives of Canadian operator Rogers Communications, including chief exec Ted Rogers. Even though the firm had technology in place to trigger alerts over suspicious departures in call activity, Rogers staffers were too frightened of inconveniencing bosses to do anything about the fraud, Canadian paper the Globe and Mail reports. The scam only came to light after law professor Susan Drummond challenged a mobile phone of C$12,000 she received after her return from a month-long trip to Israel. The monster mobile bill listed more than 300 calls made in August to foreign countries including Libya, Pakistan, Russia and Syria. Drummond was told she'd have to foot the bill despite her protests than she'd never previously made overseas calls using the account. Her normal bill was around C$75. Rogers' continued insistence that the bill nevertheless had to be paid prompted Drummond and her partner, Harry Gefen, to begin investigating. That probe hit pay dirt when Gefen tape recorded an interview with a Rogers security manager, Cindy Hopper, who was speaking at a conference on telecoms fraud in Toronto in September. Unaware that Gefen was an aggrieved punter, Hopper told him that terrorists groups linked to had Hezbollah repeatedly cloned the mobile phones of senior Rogers execs in 1997 and 1998. Senior Rogers' execs were perfect targets for fraud since staffers could not be sure if calls were legitimate or not. Fear of inconveniencing their superiors over something that turned out to be a false alarm prevented workers from taking any action. "They were cloning the senior executives repeatedly, because everyone was afraid to cut off Ted Rogers' phone," Hopper told Gefen, in an interview that recognised the cleverness of the social engineering trick. "They were using actually a pretty brilliant psychology. Nobody wants to cut off Ted Rogers' phone or any people that are directly under Ted Rogers, so they took their scanners to our building... Nobody wants to shut off Ted. Even if he is calling Iran, Syria, Lebanon, and Kuwait." During the interview, Hopper confirmed that Rogers had a system in place similar to those used by banks to flag up suspicious card transactions that was capable of spotting fraud-in-progress. The information obtained by her partner enabled Drummond to file a small court claim against Rogers Wireless alleging that it "profiting from crime" by failing to shut down stolen mobile phones. Initially Rogers resisted this action arguing that Drummond was responsible for calls made on the account prior to reporting that her phone was been misused. However after the story broke over the weekend, Rogers CEO Ted Rogers intervened and offered to write off the debt along with paying Gefen and Drummond's out-of-pocket expenses. Drummond also extracted from the chief exec to a promise to attend their house and hear their concerns over a cup of tea. "I'm glad that we got somewhere with this fight, but it shouldn't take a law professor and a technology journalist to make them behave like decent corporate citizens," Drummond told the Globe and Mail. ®
John Leyden, 19 Dec 2005

UK shelters from smut Trojan blitz

UK businesses were targeted in a blitz of 215,000 emails containing a new Trojan on Monday (19 December), according to email filtering firm BlackSpider Technologies. The malware - called Small-BXP - comes in the payload to a message that poses as a receipt for access to an online porn site. Infected emails have the subject line "Payment receipt". The attachment is a packed executable FSG file called FILE.965658 which is 5492 bytes long. Analysis of the malware is ongoing, with Kaspersky and Symantec among the first vendors to issue anti-virus updates. Firms are urged to set up rules to block the malware the gateway whilst consumers are urged to be cautious about unsolicited emails. As usual, Small-BXP is a Windows-only threat. It's not uncommon for virus writers to use networks of compromised PCs to disseminate their wares over a short space of time but the ferocity of the latest attack is unusual. The sexually-related theme of the infected messages is all too familiar. ®
John Leyden, 19 Dec 2005

$10m for a Wikipedia for grown-ups

Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger is to launch an alternative to the utopian, all-comers, anything-goes web site, and has raised $10m to hire experts to help edit it. A year ago Sanger, who worked on Wikipedia's predecessor Nupedia and left the project in 2002, criticized its bias against expertise, and his new venture reflects these concerns. Digital Universe aims to garner the best of both worlds: harness wide public input, but with acknowledged experts acting as stewards. The project has a long list of institutions signed up, including the National Council for Science and the Environment, the American Museum of Natural History, the World Resources Institute, the UN and UCB. Material will be available for free, but the project's FAQ says that for a small premium, copyright material will be available to subscribers. It also offers a richer, and much more attractive user interface. As its popularity has grown, Wikipedia has become more of a hobby, a multiplayer game and a repository for fan trivia than an attempt to improve the wisdom of the human race - although the project's most fanatical supporters assume that one follows the other. Sanger had similar hopes, he wrote last year, when starting Wikipedia: "Wikipedia began as a good-natured anarchy, a sort of Rousseauian state of digital nature. I always took Wikipedia's anarchy to be provisional and purely for purposes of determining what the best rules, and the nature of its authority, should be. What I, and other Wikipedians, failed to realize is that our initial anarchy would be taken by the next wave of contributors as the very essence of the project - how Wikipedia was "meant" to be." Today Wikipedia's entries on multi user online role playing games (it's almost 8,000 words long) and pedophilia (it's perhaps rather more sympathetic than an average parent or judge might be to this predilection) illustrate the shortcomings and dangers of the Wikipedia approach. Its fate was probably sealed from that early decision to embrace the utopians at the expense of quality. Can anyone fiddle? With Digital Universe due to launch in January Sanger might have timed it impeccably, given the extensive recent coverage to Wikipedia's shortcomings. But will this new venture fare any better than Nupedia, which adopted a similar model and garnered only a handful of entries? It all depends on how you define success. In terms of a quantitative measure, Wikipedia is triumphant, and it also dominates one particular medium (there are hundreds of web scraper sites duplicating the content). In terms of quality, its accuracy veers from the occasionally passable to the frequently risible, while its all-important readability is even worse - and deteriorating. At least Digital Universe won't be encumbered by one immutable aspect of the more utopian Wikipedia: experts won't be find themselves against gangs of know-nothings. This immediately repelled all but the most dedicated experts, and over time, it began to repel the most dedicated and honorable amateur Wikipedians too. Wikipediaphiles - in many cases being process-driven people - tend to view everything as a process issue. With a nut tightened here, and an extra bureaucratic rule there, then things will improve. But sometimes no amount of process tweaking can compensate for the dearth of quality people, and here DU starts with a significant advantage. It wants to find them, and it can afford to pay them. We'll see.® Related stories
Andrew Orlowski, 19 Dec 2005

Gates joins PC as 'person' of year

Twenty-three years after the PC, the device responsible for much of his personal fortune, was named Time Magazine's "person of the year," Bill Gates has been honored in kind.
Gavin Clarke, 19 Dec 2005

How Pixar's graphics gods made Lucas and Jobs look really smart

Book reviewBook review When first looking at Michael Rubin's droidMaker, you can't help but be nervous that another 400 pages have been wasted on the special effects magic behind Star Wars. Thankfully, that's not the case - far from it. DroidMaker really captures the 20-year technology journey that runs through Lucasfilm for a period and ends with Pixar Animation Studios. In short, it's the tale of relentless technophiles, visionary patrons and a film revolution.
Ashlee Vance, 19 Dec 2005