20th > February > 2006 Archive

Kazaa, record company lawyers ready for appeal

This morning sees the return of the parties in the Kazaa case to the Federal Court for their long awaited appeal. While the earlier case was heard by a single judge (Judge Wilcox), the appeal is to be heard over five days by the Full Bench comprised of Justices Branson, Finkelstein and Lindgren. The appeal follows the September 5, 2005 judgement, which was dubbed a “landmark” decision by both sides. The judgement guaranteed the continued operation of Kazaa, while the record companies saw the decision as striking at the heart of internet piracy. At the time, the record companies reportedly said they would not be appealing the decision. Although widely reported as a victory for the record companies, a Kazaa spokesperson has posed the question: “If they won the case, and they declared their victory, then why are they now appealing?” The spokesperson pointed out that the record companies lost a number of aspects of the September 5 case, including conspiracy claims, trade practices claims, and fair trading claims. In fact, both sides are appealing, and the appeal will be heard this week. The record companies come before the Full Bench of the Federal Court after having declared, in an exchange between record industry lawyer Tony Bannon S C and Justice Wilcox, that they do not trust the Full Bench of the Federal Court. “His Honour: You basically don't trust the Full Court Mr Bannon: We don't His Honour: You're treating them like a jury ....”)(See page 45 of 52, of the transcript from January 30, 2006) According to the Sharman spokesperson, this exchange is symptomatic of the unravelling of the record companies’ case since judgement, and she says, “it is now evident that the Australian record companies intend to shut down Kazaa despite two years of promises not to do so.” “Hot” topics in the appeal are likely to include the role of filtering, the global nature of the internet, Audible magic as a solution to the problem of internet-based infringement, and the meaning of authorisation under Australian law.®
Alex Malik, 20 Feb 2006

Sweetening the pill of compliance

Significant demands have been placed on the financial services sector as a result of compliance related requirements over the past three years, according to a study carried out by Freeform Dynamics involving the interview of 100 UK based IT managers from a range of Banking and Insurance organisations. The study also reveals that while the importance of efficient and effective compliance solutions is well appreciated, fewer than half are satisfied with the ability of current measures to cope with future requirements in the areas of document management, archiving and retrieval. Gaps are even wider with regard to electronic messaging, where only one in twenty are fully satisfied with their capability. And compliance is one issue that is not going away. Almost 60 per cent believe the compliance related burden on IT will increase over the coming three years, with a further 22 per cent saying it will not let up. So how have compliance issues traditionally been dealt with and how might we better prepare ourselves for the future? In the past, the emphasis has been placed on application specific initiatives and point solutions. But as more regulations have been introduced and current ones modified, it has become apparent that this is really just a band aid approach and a more overall compliance strategy is required. Also, as technology advances, more and more different types of data need to be recorded, stored and easily retrieved, not just for compliance, but as part and parcel of performing our day to day jobs. Opportunities therefore exist to tackle other business problems at the same time as compliance related requirements leading to a much more value oriented approach to investment. So, simple as that then? Well, not quite. In practice this involves the challenge of getting the right people round the table, dedicating time to mapping out existing processes, and looking at areas of overlap between necessary compliance related requirements and other business problems. If this can be achieved though, the cost benefit of moving forward with an architectural approach with a greater degree of reuse, flexibility and responsiveness becomes apparent. The importance of getting the right people involved to create an atmosphere more conducive to breaking down budgetary boundaries is highlighted by the research. It is no coincidence that organisations who routinely involve IT management in the business planning process and vice-versa are much more likely to be moving down the architectural compliance route. In practical terms, the nature of the transition to an architectural approach will obviously vary from organisation to organisation depending on the amount of fragmentation and legacy in their current IT landscape and budgetary constraints. While the respondents in the study place a higher emphasis on taking an architectural approach towards compliance in the future, they also acknowledge that there will still be a need for application specific initiatives and point solutions. Hopefully, the necessity for such measures will diminish over time, but it is important to be realistic in the shorter term. For those interested in some guidance, the concept and practicalities of building compliance into the underlying architecture are discussed in greater detail in a paper by RedMonk entitled “SOA Meets Compliance: Compliance Oriented Architecture”, which is available free of charge from www.redmonk.com. But at the end of the day, does taking a strategic architectural approach actually make a difference? While evidence is limited due to the relatively recent introduction of this approach, early indications show that those organisations who have moved down the architectural compliance route feel significantly more confident in their ability to deal with future regulatory requirements. Perhaps these early movers in financial services can provide a lesson for the broader IT community. Helen Vile is projects director at research firm Freeform Dynamics. More details of the research discussed in this article are included in a report entitled “Value Driven Compliance” which is available free of charge and may be requested here
Helen Vile, 20 Feb 2006

Gov. diverts £2bn gravy train

The Office of Government Commerce (OGC), has caved in to industry protests over its attempt to railroad controversial policies for the second time in a year. The Treasury buying arm is in danger of earning a reputation as a soft touch after broadening the supplier roster for framework contracts worth up to £1bn this week - and soft is not meant to be a reference to the commission* it earns on the business it passes between private companies and other government departments. This time last year, industry was anxious after being told the rehashed framework agreements - a gravy train for those companies who get them - would be awarded to far fewer companies this time round. It was expected that the constriction would cut many small suppliers out of government business. Such agreements over saw £2bn of trade with government last financial year. "We've not had any form of ministerial statement, but what we are getting is a far greater number of [suppliers] going onto the framework than we feared," said an industry insider who had been among the lead campaigners against proposals many thought would restrict competition between all but the fattest government suppliers. "It looks like there might be the same number that were on there before, which was several hundred...and that'll be good for SMEs," he added. Letters went out this week telling the directors of 29 IT suppliers they were made men: they were on the rejigged "Catalist" framework list that allows public sector managers to buy goods and services without having to French-skip through red tape in accordance with European procurement regulations (subject to a cooling off period that ends February 26). That's three more suppliers than last year, split into various specialist categories. The top table, which hosts those lucky suppliers authorised to make quick sales of virtually any sort in the IT goods and services super-category, was also a little more crowded. Fujitsu and Insight UK were surprise new additions to the top list, while Computacenter, PC World Business and SCC retained their positions. With so much business at stake, the framework agreements are highly prized. Yet while tenders for the business are listed in official publications, the secrecy that has surrounded their revision, and the subsequently protracted negotiations over their faults, has been disreputable. The level of mistrust is evident in the refusal of other industry sources close to the negotiations to count their chickens until the other £1bn of revised framework agreements have been awarded; though it may just as well indicate the mutual benefit industry and government get out of doing deals behind doors. Government has used threats to keep suppliers schtum about its bruising procurement rules in the past, but suppliers have learned to appreciate government's habitual use of "commercial in confidence" to hide the arrangements for the spending of billions of pounds of public money. Nevertheless, says one significant Catalist supplier: "I'd like to see as open and transparent a process as possible. Like most things in life, if you don't know what's happening it creates a lot of paranoia." The situation must be even worse for those smaller companies on whose behalf the likes of industry association Intellect have been negotiating in secret with the OGC for the last few years. Few know the nature of the bargains Intellect is striking. Intellect is privileged to have influence over matters that affect many more companies than are represented in its membership of 1,000 - not forgetting the fate of billions of public money. Those secret talks amount to an advantage over the rest of the industry because it knows what's coming, for good or for worse. In addition to this moral obligation on Intellect for transparency, shouldn't the 1 per cent commission taken by OGC Buying solutions*, the business end of the OGC, on the trade done through its frameworks, also oblige more openness about its work? Not either, says the OGC. Yet a lack of transparency encourages mistakes with public money, cover-ups, sly dealings of whatever kind, as was highlighted in the ID cards debate by MPs concerned with the lack of scrutiny over expensive IT projects granted by government. It also encourages bad planning, which might be as indicative of this latest turnaround as it was the OGC's U-turn in the summer over its punitive new model contracts. The new terms were supposed to lessen the chance of embarrassing failure in large IT projects. Their introduction was railroaded by the OGC in 2004. Their withdrawal came after a year of haranguing, not just by suppliers, but lawyers, insurers and academics. The Catalist frameworks have been delayed similarly.® * Whose full accounts can be seen here.
Mark Ballard, 20 Feb 2006

Sony admits PS3 could be delayed

Sony said today it is still aiming to ship PlayStation 3 this Spring, but it warned the next-generation console's release could slip if unnamed industry-set specifications - possibly a reference to the Advanced Access Content System (AACS) copy-protection technology adopted by Blu-ray Disc - are not completed in time.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006

IGF: success, great success or useful sideshow?

IGF BlogIGF Blog When asked a month prior to this week's meeting in Geneva how it was likely to go, one diplomat closely involved in the talks was unequivocal: "It will be a success."
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Feb 2006

Multimedia arms race

Tech DigestTech Digest 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 Handheld consoles compete for multimedia dominance Nintendo's DS handheld console is set, in coming months, to get a raft of add-ons and software updates to boost its multimedia functionality. So is Sony's PSP. Have neither console company learned the lesson of both the failure of the Gizmondo and the success of the iPod? It's not how much your handheld can do, but how well it can do it. From Nintendo, the DS is set to get web browsing via the Opera browser, as a cartridge you plug into the DS's game cartridge slot, and also a TV tuner add-on. Other companies are planning hard drives to give the DS some of the functionality of the PSP or iPod. In the US, Nintendo's wildly successful DS Wi-Fi connectivity service is set to see owners downloading game demos and other content in-store automatically and for upcoming Metroid Prime: Hunters, the handheld gets voice over IP chat. In competition, the PSP, clearly the multimedia leader of the two, is set to get email to add to the location-free TV service, web browsing, podcasting, music and movie playing it already has. And on top, a GPS location-service add-on. Throw in a camera add-on and the PSP could rival the Gizmondo for functionality. Yet this multimedia arms race misses the point. A point Nintendo, generally, has been getting better than Sony. It's a games console – it will live or die on its games. While the PSP is home to mostly cut-down PS2 games that look and play shabbily compared to the originals, the DS has been wildly successful with a mix of the innovative (Nintendogs) and the smart cross-over (Mario Kart DS). And in the coming months, the DS schedule really kicks into overdrive, delivering interesting, unusual and fun games to play. Look out for Animal Crossing: Wild World, Metroid Prime: Hunters, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney, Trauma Centre: Under The Knife, Electroplankton and Prof Kawashima's Brain Training: How Old Is Your Brain? Consumers aren't going to be seduced by a Swiss Army knife all-in-one gizmo that started life as a games console. With Microsoft's Xbox 360 looking ever-stronger online and Nintendo's DS dominating the handheld space by dint of games over multimedia gizmos, Sony's suddenly playing catch-up. PS3 launch date and HUB Key Sony execs had seemed to be hinting the PS3 would follow the same line the PS2 did online. In other words – no centralised service, publishers allowed to do their own thing, no annual fee to go online. Considering the runaway success and almost universal critical approval of Xbox Live, particularly the new improved Xbox 360 version, this seemed like Sony's Achilles heel. Now, news leaked in the form of a survey of PS2 online users and from unnamed sources to US games magazine Next Generation, indicates Sony is thinking of an Xbox Live rival after all. According to Next Generation, the Sony PS3 online service will be called the HUB. The annual subscription service will feature "chat, downloadable demos, independent games and online play". So far, so PS3 Live. And the problem is that Microsoft has put a lot of expertise and resources into its Live offering. If Sony wants to get it right, it has a lot of catching up to do. But it does have one advantage over Microsoft. Sony is apparently planning for the HUB to work with its PSP handheld console also. The PSP is already set to get email, on top of the web browsing, podcasting software already available on this multimedia device. With full internet access, and the potential to connect PSP owners with their PS3 at home, or PSP and PS3 gamers somehow, Sony may have an ace up its sleeve. Next Generation also uses the same unnamed sources to give a launch date for the PS3 – September 16 in Japan, September 21 in the US. No word on Europe. Other top stories Sky offers HD clips on the web British software publishers a dying breed Free mobile to mobile voice calls Atari in trouble?
Tech Digest, 20 Feb 2006

Boffins wrestle with future in Roman Bath

Technology firms are backing a University of Bath investigation into city-wide 'pervasive computing zones'. The £1.6m Cityware project has backing from IBM, Nokia, HP and Vodafone. It's hoped the conclusions will help guide future mobile application development. Project leader Dr Eamonn O' Neill said: "Pervasive technology that is available to everyone, everywhere and at all times promises to be the next big leap in mobile computing technology.” Selected local volunteers will be handed 30 top-spec mobile phones and will work with researchers over the next three years to see how the technologies affect their lives. Cityware will make use of wireless networks, Bluetooth and Near Field Communication at different locations across the city. Among the first new services available to volunteers is a photo recognition server that recognises images of places around the historic city centre and returns tourist information about the site. The team also hopes to learn lessons about security and the impacts pervasive technology will have on Bath's UNESCO World Heritage architecture. ®
Christopher Williams, 20 Feb 2006

Google says no to US gov

Google on Friday rejected US government demands that it give up search information claiming that its customers' privacy, as well as its own business secrets, should be protected. The search giant filed a response to the demand from the US government that it hand over two months of search terms and all the web addresses within its index. Google said the demands were unreasonable and were not likely to provide useful information. In contrast to its attitude in China, Google says its users trust the company not to give out information, and that the government's demands would undermine that trust. Google's filing says the Government has failed to prove that its request will lead to the collection of admissible evidence. Google notes that much of what the Government wants is already available online - through metasearch engines like dogpile and metacrawler. The second grounds for rejection, Google claims, is that the subpoena would effectively reveal Google trade secrets. It says any trial would result in its trade secrets - which include how many searches it carries out in one day - would be revealed. Google notes that Professor Philip Stark, hired by the Government to look at log records, is also a private consultant. The response says: "Professor Stark's involvement with Cogit and similarly situated companies may pose a serious threat to the protection of Google's trade secrets and confidential commercial information." Finally the demand places an "undue burden" in that complying with it would damage its search engine performance. In conclusion Google's submision says: "The government seeks trade secrets from Google without coming close to proving these secrets would be relevant to the underlying litigation, that the Government faces a "substantial need" that would not impose an "undue burden" on Google, and that federal law does not blunt the disclosure. The Government's Motion must fail." More details from Google's lawyer's blog here. Google shares have taken a hammering this month - falling from 465p to the 368p it is trading at today.
John Oates, 20 Feb 2006

C&W to cull jobs in Ireland

Telecoms company Cable and Wireless (C&W) is in the process of shedding some 28 jobs from its workforce in Ireland, a spokesman for the telecoms firm told Electricnews.net. C&W is currently undergoing a global restructuring following its takeover of Energis last year. The firm announced in January that it was planning to restructure the firm into two units: a UK unit and one dealing with international business. The company announced it planned to scale back the scope and control of the group corporate centre. However, these new job cuts are understood to be directly related to the Energis takeover and are not part of the global restructuring. The Energis takeover in August last year saw Cable and Wireless spend £700m to acquire the firm. At the time, Energis confirmed to ElectricNews.net that there would be some 700 jobs at stake throughout the two businesses. However, Cable and Wireless is still doing business and making deals in Ireland. It recently announced a deal with the Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN) to offer a low-cost telecoms service to Irish primary schools. Under the agreement, C&W would be recommended as the preferred supplier for the services, and will help fund a nationwide anti-bullying campaign, providing training for principals and deputies in a bid to tackle the problem. The IPPN will gain a certain amount of revenue from C&W, which in turn will be invested in an online modular training programme to combat bullying. Prior to the job cuts, C&W employed some 150 people in Ireland - in Dublin, Belfast, Cork and Shannon. Copyright © 2006, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 20 Feb 2006

Apple 17in MacBook Pro 'to debut in June'

Apple will launch a 2.16GHz 17in MacBook Pro in June - exactly one year after it formally announced the move to Intel processors. However, there's still no sign that the company will similarly create a MacBook Pro version of its 12in PowerBook G4.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006
homeless man with sign

Political hacking scandal hits Hungary

A "Watergate-style" political scandal has broken in Hungary after the opposition party was forced to admit an over-zealous intern was responsible for hacking into the servers of the governing party. Fidesz said the hack against the systems of the ruling socialist party, ahead of the April general elections, was not sanctioned by the party's leadership but, nonetheless, conceded it was a serious breach of electoral etiquette. "Whichever one of our enthusiastic staff did this committed a serious mistake, but the world will not come to an end," Fidesz campaign chief Antal Rogan told Hungarian TV last week, AFP reports. Nearly 3,000 items of campaign literature were downloaded from its secure server, according to the government. The intrusion was traced back to an IP address belonging to Fidesz. Hungarian police have launched an investigation. Socialist president Istvan Hiller says he wants to discuss the attack with Fidesz leader Viktor Orban. ®
John Leyden, 20 Feb 2006

Bird flu menace poised to cross the Channel

It has been a big weekend for bird flu, which has reached Britain's nearest neighbour and may have leapt the channel. The BBC reports that nine dead swans from across the UK are being examined by government vets. Swans are thought to have brought the virus to Germany and Slovenia. In France, authorities confirmed a dead duck had the disease. The French agriculture ministry has responded by ordering all poultry indoors, and embarking on a massive vaccination programme around Lyon, where the offending dead duck was found. Further afield in India, 200 vets have travelled to the Maharashtra province to supervise a mass cull after the disease killed 50,000 birds at one chicken farm. Egypt also confirmed its first cases on Friday. Britain's National Farmer's Union has said confining all chickens to quarters would be a “massive overreaction” at this stage, despite a similar preemptive move by the Netherlands. The UK government has tried to allay fears, saying both the agricultural and public health plans it has in place are adequate, and monitoring procedures are functioning well. The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed 91 people worldwide since 2003, according to the WHO. A feared mutation allowing it to pass from human to human is yet to be detected. A similar bird-derived virus that made the evolutionary leap to direct transmission in humans is estimated to have killed up to 40m people worldwide in 1918. ®
Christopher Williams, 20 Feb 2006

iPod Shuffle becomes t-shirt icon

Can you take the act of demonstrating your support for Apple's diminutive iPod Shuffle too far? The latest in iPod-oriented apparel, the PodShirt, might well prove that you can. PodShirt's new t-shirt incorporates a magnetic clasp on the right breast to hold your Shuffle exactly where the 'i' in the screen-printed iShirt caption appears.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006

£179m council outsourcing costs disputed

A row has broken out over the cost of outsourcing council services from London to Scotland. The GMB union claims that it will cost Westminster residents an estimated £179m and 400 job losses if proposals made by the local authority's outsourcing partner Vertex to relocate some council functions to Scotland were allowed to go ahead. The plans that emerged in January following Westminster City Council's decision to ask Vertex to move out of the existing offices supplied by the local authority. Vertex said it was unable to find new, affordable accommodation within London, and Dingwall in Scotland, where it had existing capacity, was the only available option. The £179m figure is based on documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act 2000, from Westminster City Council in the past three years. The GMB said it had been tracking how Westminster had been spending taxpayers money in outsourcing services through Vertex, when it believes it would have been cheaper keeping them "inhouse". The union is claiming that the council paid a consultant £1.3m to produce a report which would justify the outsourcing costs on the grounds of "value for money". Additional costs were factored into the Public Sector Comparator that made the council-run option appear more expensive, including £15.8m of "risk" and £23m for accommodation, kit and IT staff. The GMB said while "technically legal, these figures do not stand up to 'value for money' scrutiny". Furthermore, the Vertex bid did not consider the staff required to monitor the working of the contract, the economies of scale lost by outsourcing, the loss of accountability, nor the cost to the community of to the redundancies. In a written response, Westminster City Council strongly disputes the GMB figure saying it is a "complete fabrication and a wilful misinterpretation of information." The council points to several facts in the documents released to the Union, where the Public Sector Comparator was constructed using HM Treasury rules and it predicted a saving of £30m if Vertex were recruited. Westminster also takes issue with the number of job losses. It says no members of staff are being asked to relocate to Scotland. In fact, workers "affected by [the proposals] are being offered continued employment by Vertex in Westminster". At the time of the original announcement, UNISON threatened strike action in response to the potential job losses. Angered by the news, UNISON national officer Dave Johnson said Westminster was "gambling" with vital services and that it was "unrealistic" to expect staff to relocate to such a remote area. Copyright © eGov monitor Weekly eGov monitor Weekly is a free e-newsletter covering developments in UK eGovernment and public sector IT over the last seven days. To register go here.
eGov Monitor Weekly, 20 Feb 2006
cloud

Spammers adopt stealth tactics

Botnet controllers are switching to stealth tactics in a bid to avoid detection. Instead of mass mail-outs of spam and malicious code, they are adopting slower distribution tactics in a bid to avoid appearing on corporate security radars. UK-based web security firm BlackSpider Technologies reports that one huge botnet, responsible for issuing 50m identical spam emails per day, compromises at least 150,000 distinct IP addresses. The use of a large number of machines - each sending out an average of 330 emails a day or around 40 per hour during the course of a working day - is a change from days of yore when a handful of compromised email servers would have been used to do the same job. It's well known that packages such as Send-safe.com are used by spammers to control the distribution of junk mail broadband-connected PCs infected by viruses such as SoBig, but BlackSpider's figures on the mail-out rate from compromised machines add a fresh perspective to the problem. BlackSpider Technologies CTO James Kay said this low mail-out rate means users of compromised machines will not notice anything untoward with their net connection. Because they don't notice anything amiss, the spambot remains undetected. "It’s about time law enforcement agencies took the botnet issue far more seriously. Ninety-eight per cent of spam and malicious code comes from machines with bad or unknown reputations, and we should be slapping online ASBOs (anti-social behaviour orders) on them to stop this criminal cycle," Kay said. Kay added that spam purveyors are adopting the same stealth tactics as VXers. "It’s not dissimilar to the low-volume virus distribution tactic that we first saw last year, when hackers realised that releasing viruses in smaller numbers kept them out of sight of anti-virus vendors for far longer, causing more damage." ®
John Leyden, 20 Feb 2006

UK gambling firms say no to Italian ban

UK gaming companies are threatening to take legal action against Italian regulators unless they reverse recent changes which outlaw access to gaming sites outside Italy. Italy's Ministry of Economy and Finance passed a law threatening to fine any Italian ISP which allows access to a list of gambling sites. The Remote Gambling Association (RGA), which represents online gambling, put out a statement in November objecting to the changes which they claim breach five categories of EC rules. A spokesman for the RGA told The Register discussions were ongoing with individual members talking to government. He said the RGA was likely to review its options at the end of the month. European Commission laws allow governments to restrict cross-border services on moral grounds, but not due to competition. In related news, Antigua is calling on the US to obey a World Trade Organisation (WTO) ruling on internet gambling. Antigua is home to several such companies but US law forbids placing bets across state lines. Antigua complained that the US government has done nothing to comply with the April 2005 ruling. The country is also worried that two new bills potentially put the US in breach of WTO rules. More from Yahoo here. ®
John Oates, 20 Feb 2006

Nintendo to drop DS for DS Lite

Nintendo will nix its current DS handheld console this summer, replacing it with the recently announced DS Lite. The video game pioneer will also formally announce the launch date of its Revolution console on May 9, Nintendo US marketing chief Reggie Fils-Aime said last week.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006

Small biz owners' stress levels shoot up

Owners of small and medium-size businesses are suffering from increasing levels of stress, according to a new report. Research from financial advisor Grant Thornton has found that 17 per cent of business owners have experienced a significant rise in stress during the last year.
Startups.co.uk, 20 Feb 2006

Lite-On EZ-DUB DVD writer

DVD writers have become something of a commodity item these days and you can pick up a top-of-the-range internal model for not much more than £30. However, bundled software packages can also be confusing for someone unfamiliar with how they work, and has most likely put off a fair few potential buyers. Lite-On thinks it has solved both these problems in a convenient way with the EZ-DUB external USB 2.0 DVD writer.
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 20 Feb 2006
channel

Relisys back in business

Monitor maker Relisys, which went into administration on 12 January, is back in business. In a statement the company said: "Relysis Digital, a subsidiary of Relitec Holdings Ltd, will focus on products in high-growth markets, including televisions, specialist IT hardware and software solutions..." The company is moving to new headquarters in Warrington, Cheshire and will show new hardware and software products "throughout Q2", it said. Relisys Digital's CEO, Lisa Layzell, said: "Relisys Digital will focus on newer, expanding markets and will deliver class-leading display solutions and Windows-based terminal products. This is an exciting time to be in the market and we are looking forward to the challenges ahead and will meet those head on." The company will continue to honour warranties and has set up two hotlines - 0870 264 2037 for monitors, and 0870 264 2038 for LCD TVs and Plasma screens - for warranty related enquiries. ®
John Oates, 20 Feb 2006

RIM open to 'reasonable' settlement offer from NTP

As Research in Motion (RIM) prepares itself for this Friday's US District Court hearing into NTP's request that its Blackberry service be shut down in the US, it has once again said it is open to a "reasonable" settlement offers.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006

Rumsfeld: US govt insufficiently tech-savvy

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has made a speech lamenting the US government's lack of technology in its media operations. He described the administration's PR as "a five-and-dime store" in an "eBay world". His main point in the four-page soliloquy is that the US Government is less new media-savvy than its detractors. Ironically, many of the administration's detractors have been pointing that out in the media for some time. In the speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Rumsfeld complained that while terrorists and such like hate the States 24/7, the Pentagon's PR office only works nine to five. Here's Rummy's bleeding-edge shopping list of what he sees as the main battlegrounds in the propaganda struggle: Email, blogs, Blackberries, instant messaging, digital cameras, a global internet with no inhibitions, mobile phones, handheld video cameras, talk radio, 24-hour news broadcasts and satellite television. Whether Mr Rumsfeld is aware of the impending injunction that threatens to bring down the Blackberry network this week is unclear. To illustrate the "dangerous deficiency" in technologies, Rumsfeld points to last year's deadly riots in the Muslim world over an inaccurate Newsweek report of soldiers flushing a copy of the Koran down a Guantanamo Bay john: "Once aware of the story, the US Military, appropriately, and of necessity, took the time needed to ensure that it had the facts before responding - having to conduct interviews and pore though countless documents, investigations and log books. It was finally determined that the charge was false. But in the meantime the lives had been lost and great damage had been done." The Pentagon's propaganda machinery needs a little technogrease to compete with the bloggers, reckons Rummy. "In this environment, the old adage that 'a lie can be half way around the world before the truth has its boots on' becomes doubly true with today's technologies," he said. ®
Christopher Williams, 20 Feb 2006
channel

Dell seeks damages from man called Dell

Web designer Paul Dell is asking for donations to help him defend himself against legal action and a claim for damages from computer maker Dell, Inc.
John Oates, 20 Feb 2006

Global net tussle reaches uneasy truce

Governments, business, academia and civil society have reached an uneasy truce at the end of two days of meetings over the creation of a new global body for the internet.
Kieren McCarthy, 20 Feb 2006

EU cops to get Europe-wide licence and vehicle database

A European database of vehicle documentation, giving police access to driver and vehicle data from multiple European countries, goes live today. The Traffic Documentation System (TDS) is currently subscribed to by the UK, Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands, and has been developed by Dutch National Traffic Police on behalf of the European Traffic Police Network, TISPOL, with EU funding. Five more countries are due to join shortly. It will, the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) tells us, be "a valuable tool in the fight across Europe against those involved in all forms of illegal activity including terrorism, smuggling and forgery." Which might strike you as a little bit of mission creep for an organisation whose purpose "is to co-ordinate on a Europe-wide scale different national traffic enforcement actions" (European Commission statement). TISPOL's previous greatest hits over a lifespan of around five years include Europe-wide swoops on drink-driving, heavy goods vehicle safety, and speeding. If there is an obvious benefit to co-ordinating such operations across Europe as opposed to just doing it as part of the normal duty roster it eludes The Register, and it does rather make TISPOL's funding so far look like a thunderous waste of money. But TDS does have an obvious purpose in that it aids the nicking of foreigners or people pretending to be foreigners, which is a chore for your honest enforcer throughout Europe. But will it? ACPO says it has been field tested in North East London (which seems to get all the good stuff early) and at the Channel Tunnel, but tells us that the first five countries "have provided documents for inclusion on the database". This tends to suggest that the documents may not yet have been included in their entirety, and the UK's police forces, and Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) have been failing spectacularly to get their own data online for some years now (March for MoT centres, unless it's slipped again, and the police IMPACT system is receding towards the horizon). Given this, and the likelihood that the situation elsewhere in Europe will be similar, it's extremely doubtful that a fully live, all-singing all-dancing, all-seeing system can be achieved for quite a few years. According to UK TISPOL rep Adam Briggs, TDS is also intended to "help ensure anyone transporting livestock, waste and other goods across Europe is properly licensed and their vehicles and loads are safe", so that's another couple of classes of database that are going to have to go into the system too. Nor is the roadside ceuf with an urgent appointment with the canteen likely to be enamoured of the current access mechanism. The database will be available to police via the Internet, so access will depend on whether or not the relevant national force has simple mobile Internet access, or the data can be distributed on CD. In both cases the system will be dependent on how effectively the data is kept up to date, with this being particularly unlikely with the CD version. Widespread leakage of extensive pan-European vehicle data can also surely be predicted, if we're proposing to stick the lot on CDs and dish them out to half the traffic cops in Europe. But nevertheless, it's a step towards pan-European road policing, and there are others afoot, including VERA2/eNFORCE (Video Enforcement for Road Authorities 2), a system for enforcing traffic offence penalties in the country of the vehicle's registration, and plans for the pan-European driving licence, RFID perhaps included. And then there's the satellite network. Happy journeys... ®
John Lettice, 20 Feb 2006
globalisation

Linux worm targets PHP flaw

Internet ne'er do wells have created a Linux worm which uses a recently discovered vulnerability in XML-RPC for PHP, a popular open source component used in many applications, to attack vulnerable systems. The Mare-D worm also tries to take advantage of a security flaw in Mambo to spread. If successful, the worm installs an IRC-controlled backdoor on compromised systems. Most affected applications have been updated to address the security flaw exploited by Mare-D, which anti-virus firms rate as a low risk. The malware is noteworthy mainly because of the rarity of malware strains targeting Linux systems rather than the minimal threat is poses. ®
John Leyden, 20 Feb 2006

Mio eyes CeBIT for mass GPS device roll-out

Mio is preparing to announce six Windows Mobile-based navigation devices with integrated GPS receivers, it has emerged. The line-up includes a pair of GPS-enabled PDAs, and four dedicated navigations systems in a variety of form factors. The machines' debut is reportedly set for next month's CeBIT show in Hannover, Germany.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006
channel

Microsoft reveals piracy battle plan for the UK

Microsoft has launched a campaign targeting software piracy in the UK. Called 'Keep IT Real', the campaign aims to reduce the UK piracy level for Windows by five per cent to 11.7 per cent within three years. The company says its goal would help the UK economy. "Keep IT Real will help us to address the problem in a number of ways," Microsoft UK head of anti-piracy Michala Alexander said. "By educating customers on how to purchase legitimate software, we can protect them from the risks associated with piracy. And by closing down channels for the sale of pirate software, we can reduce the impact of illegal trade on Microsoft's UK partners." Over the next six months, Microsoft plans to send two teams of investigators to 800 technology vendors suspected of hard-disk loading (where PC vendors charge multiple customers for copies of the software pre-installed on PCs, but provide a license agreement valid for only one copy) or other forms of piracy. Microsoft will then assess the findings of the operation, known as 'Feet on the Street', and decide on the appropriate course of action for each case. This could include prosecution. "A small number of IT vendors are at the moment putting customers at risk of unwittingly running illegal software," Alexander said. "The work of the Feet on the Street teams will make clear to these vendors that Microsoft will not tolerate illegal copies of its software being sold." Microsoft is increasing its commitment to the pursuit of legal action. Earlier this week the company announced the initial results of a crackdown on the sale of counterfeit software in the Glasgow area. In projects spanning three years, investigations were conducted into 12 companies, resulting in court proceedings and payments of up to £75,000 each. The software giant is also working with auction and retail websites to tackle piracy. It reports that, under eBay’s VeRO programme, over 35,000 suspected illegal sales items have been removed from the eBay site since August 2005. Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 20 Feb 2006

Sony preps Vaio VoIP mouse

Squeakerphone™Squeakerphone™ Sony UK has introduced an optical mouse that doubles up as a VoIP handset. The VN-CX1 is kitted out in Vaio styling and colours - black, blue and silver - though its angular edges suggest it's not the most comfortable controller around. There's an LED on top, next to the scrollwheel, that flashes when someone's trying to get in touch. It rings too.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006

London Oyster card - a tool for spouse stalkers?

Transport for London's (TfL) 'ID card lite', the Oyster travelcard, is already being illicitly used to snoop on people's movements, according to the Independent on Sunday. The problem stems from the fact that TfL records the journeys made using the card, and gives owners easy internet access to their personal audit trail. But it's perhaps too easy. TfL itself logs individual journeys in order, it claims, to plan its network better. Yes, one can see how, with slightly higher programming skills than TfL has apparently got, one could produce data of similar utility without logging point to point journeys of individual cards, but TfL claims that it does not associate the journey data with named individuals. TfL does however provide the police with journey data for named individuals on request, and the ability to track named individual's movements is obviously of considerable use to the security services. Oyster cards have already figured in a number of serious crime investigations. Giving individuals access to their own journey data seems of doubtful utility, considering most of them will have a fair idea of where they've been, and you can probably view this feature as a marketing tool intended (as will be the case with respect to allowing individuals access to their National Identity Register entry) to give the user the erroneous impression that they are the ones controlling their own data. The IoS claims that Oyster journey data can be extracted at a ticket machine using the card, or online by keying the serial number of the card. As far as The Register is aware, however, internet access is slightly more secure than this, requiring a username and password or the serial number, and mother's maiden name or similar, from the application form. These are not, however, insuperable hurdles for the suspicious spouse or close friend, and access to the individual's email account would probably be enough for a snooper to change passwords and gain access to the account itself. It is possible to obtain an anonymous pay as you go Oyster card, but most users will either have filled in a form or registered online, so TfL has their name, address, and some personal details. Currently, Oyster's extremely basic security only seems likely to cause trouble in fairly limited circumstances, but if TfL's plans to make it an 'e-cash' card for retail payments as well, Oyster will become a more attractive target for criminals (as far as we can gather, as criminals seem not to pay their fares anyway, stealing season tickets is pointless). An RFID card, used by the majority of commuting Londoners for travelling and shopping, could well be worth a spot a high-tech snooping, cloning and skimming, well ahead of the national ID card achieving similar status. So how good will the security on Oyster V2 be? We're not sure we'd put money on it... ® *Apropos of nothing, seeing we're doing TfL, were The Register inclined to revolutionary action we'd be finding and publishing the home address of the Zombie Announcer Woman who (we've timed it) can fire out deafening "Ladies and gentelemen..." audionags at 20 second intervals. If TfL is not at the very least forced to turn down the volume for health and safety reasons, we feel sure she'll be first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
John Lettice, 20 Feb 2006

Big studios sue Samsung

Samsung Electronics is facing legal action from the big five US movie studios which claims one of its DVD players can be used to avoid encryption technology. According to reports, Samsung is being sued by 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Time Warner, Walt Disney, and Universal. The Korean Times said Samsung had not yet received the complaint. But the spokesman, "guessed that the film makers take issue with DVD-HD841, which Samsung sold in the United States between June and October 2004. "If so, I do not know why the movie studios are complaining about the products, of which production was brought to an end more than 15 months ago. We stopped manufacturing the model after concerns erupted that its copy-protection features can be circumvented by sophisticated users." More details from the Korean Times here. ®
John Oates, 20 Feb 2006

iPod Nano add-on adds old iPod add-ons

US manufacturer Battery Technology has come up with a rather neat accessory for iPod owners who've downsized to a Nano from an older third or fourth generation player, or from an iPod Mini. It's a connector that allows you to plug almost all of your old headphone accessories into your new player.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006

Yahoo!Mail bans Allah and Dirty Harry handles

Yahoo! is banning the use of allah in email names - even if the letters are included within another name. This was uncovered by Reg reader Ed Callahan whose mother Linda Callahan was trying to sign up for a Verizon email address. She could not get it to accept her surname. Enquiries to Verizon revealed that a partnership with Yahoo! was to blame. Yahoo! will not accept any identies which include the letters "allah". Nor will Yahoo! accept yahoo, osama or binladen. But it will accept god, messiah, jesus, jehova, buddah, satan and both priest and pedophile. Ed Callahan told us: "On one level this is just silliness. But we have a war on terrorism and it's migrating to be a war on Muslims - this just shows the confusion there is between the two and how pervasive this is." The Callahans are still waiting to hear back from Yahoo! A spokesman for Yahoo! UK said: "This sounds like a glitch. But we will get back to Ed and Lindy Callahan with a full answer as soon as possible." . More from the blogosphere here. Famous *allah*s: Dirty Harry Callahan, Lord Jim Calla(g)han (ex-British PM), errr...that's all...®
John Oates, 20 Feb 2006

OSx86 Project forum reopens after DMCA black-out

The OSx86 Project has re-activated its forum after the virtual bulletin board's Apple-induced absence made headlines last week. The project's leaders confirmed that it was indeed the Mac maker's lawyers who'd asked them to remove content that allegedly infringed the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA).
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006
New Intel logos

Intel next-gen South Bridge to kill parallel ATA

Intel's upcoming ICH8 South Bridge chip, a key component of its 'Broadwater' family of chipsets, will wave farewell to the Parallel ATA bus, if a presentation slide said to have come from the company and posted online is to believed. Also for the chop is the AC'97 sound system.
Tony Smith, 20 Feb 2006