Seven out of every 10 small firms risk losing their business because they are not equipped to cope with security threats from viruses, fraud and system failure, new research suggests. According to a study by the National Computing Centre (NCC), 70 per cent acknowledge this risk despite agreeing that IT is critical to their business. The NCC pointed out that some 15,000 new computer viruses were discovered last year, yet nearly half of the businesses questioned have no plan in place to deal with their threat. A fifth of businesses reported they experienced online security problems in 2005, and nearly half believe it could happen again this year. The NCC said that small businesses, and even one-man bands, are particularly prone to losing their business because many believe they do not face the same risks as larger companies. Business Link and the NCC announced they are working jointly to develop a series of tools and guides for anyone starting or growing a small business that will enable entrepreneurs to carry out risk assessments and reduce the time and costs associated with managing an efficient and secure IT system. Copyright © 2006,
DMFDMF Apple's iTunes Music Store has been hailed as "the future of music" so many times that you might conclude the future has already been written. But a few statistics we gleaned at this week's Digital Music Forum (DMF), held only days after Apple boasted of its billionth download, help put it all in perspective.
An army marches on its stomach, Napoleon Bonaparte famously declared. Silicon Valley's more benevolent employers put this maxim into practice with on-campus dining facilities to keep staff happy, and therefore, productive. Of all the companies in the Bay Area, Google is the most famed -envied, even - among the tech chattering classes for its cooking. Forget the engineer's staple diet of pizza, Jolt Cola and all the cookies you can handle. Think Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Thai. And lots of it, too. In a piece titled "Internet giant's free, gourmet global cuisine powers its workforce while offering chefs and producers a place to shine", SF Gate reports that five cafes on Google's Mountain View campus, churn out more than 200 recipes each day. The latest, Café 150, opened for business on Google's campus offering: "a robust broth teeming with slices of beef skirt steak and hand-made yam noodles; clams sauteed with disks of handmade Chinese sausage and wisps of fresh basil; a sandwich bar with nine made from-scratch condiments, and grilled romaine lettuce, persimmon and poblano chiles; and composed salads such as wild rice and hazelnut, and crispy tofu slaw." No wonder the "lunchtime line wrapped from the dining room into the work cubicles" on Café 150's opening day. According to one Googler: "We eat here because it's better food than in restaurants, it's healthy, there's variety and it's more casual." Now if only they could get Google Video looking half-way decent. ®
Sun Microsystems has turned "good cop" in its campaign against Hewlett Packard's UX by offering the prospect of porting Solaris to Intel's dreaded Itanic. Sun chief executive Scott McNealy has invited HP to work with Sun, combine R&D and "converge" the company's UX operating system with Sun's Solaris 10 in an open letter written to HP CEO Mark Hurd and published Wednesday. McNealy's letter was apparently timed to appear on the eve of a joint HP and Intel web cast that is expected to see HP announce new Unix servers running Intel's Madison processor instead of the delayed Montecito version of Itanium. The proposal seems targeted at HP's ProLiant customers. In an offer HP will probably find easy to refuse, McNealy wrote: "By combining our resources and investments, HP's customer and developer communities would gain the benefit of the fastest growing operating system in the marketplace: improved economics, rapid innovation, and a rich future roadmap otherwise unavailable to your ProLiant user base." McNealy has been one of Itanium's staunchest critics, but any "convergence" could actually necessitate that he and his company execute a strategic 180 by porting Solaris to Intel's troubled chip set since UX has been ported to Itanium. Crazy, but possible? Solaris marketing director Chris Ratcliffe told The Register that "yes", it is possible. Speaking in the wake of McNealy's letter, Ratcliffe said Sun would be "happy" to discuss porting Solaris to Itanic. Radcliffe noted a port of Solaris 10 for IBM's PowerPC architecture is in the works as a result of Sun's Open Solaris program. Marketing spin aside, what would a converged Solaris and UX look like? Very unlike UX, apparently, with Solaris leading in areas like predictive self healing and binary and source compatibility, according to Ratcliffe. "There may be areas we aren't familiar with...or in specific markets and applications," he said, conceding some ground to UX. Of course, Sun is eyeing up HP's UX customers for Solaris, as it has been doing ever since it launched the HP Away program that also targets Tru64 users. This latest offer comes as IDC revealed Sun's Solaris on Unix business dropped in 2005 while Unix as a whole suffered at the hands of Windows. Ratcliffe denied Sun is using the offer as a way to scoop up additional Solaris customers and reverse the decline. Instead, he said Solaris and the Unix business is on the cusp of revival as customers move from evaluating Solaris 10 to deployment. Sun claims 4.2m registered licenses of Solaris 10 with two thirds on x86 and x64. "It takes six to 12 months to see real adoption of the operating system," Ratcliffe said. ®
Local authority internet services are showing signs of improvement, though the overall level of progress is slowing, a major survey reveals. The eighth annual Socitm Insight survey of local authority websites - Better Connected 2006 - also concluded that general improvements in the functionality of council websites is being offset by a reduction in overall usability. The survey found that a total of 60 councils now offer the highest level of 'transactional' website where customers can access council services online. This figure has increased from 38 last year and in London alone it means that more than four-in-ten councils are now rated as transactional. But beneath this highest level the survey found that improvement has stagnated. For example, the number of councils with "content plus" sites (the level below transactional) remained the same over the past year at 226, while the number of content sites (the second to lowest rating) fell by only 11. The survey's tests of website usability rated 70 per cent good or satisfactory, an increase on last year's results. However, tests on council search engines showed only one-in-ten sites could find the four most common terms researchers believed any local authority site should be able to handle. And just over three-fifths of authorities achieved a level A rating under the 'web accessibility initiative' used to regulate content accessibility. No increase from 2005. Usage of council websites has shown a significant increase over the past year. Overall, it estimated that 10.2m people used a council website in December 2005, when the survey was carried out, a massive 40 per cent increase on last year. Also more than 84 per cent of users said they would return to a council website compared to only 7 per cent who said they would not. Analysis of users confirmed the existence of a 'digital divide' across the age brackets, with between 71 and 77 per cent of the four age bands between 15 and 54 saying they use the internet, compared to 23 per cent over the age of 64. This divide also persists across social groups. Seventy six per cent of the social group AB – managers and professionals – said they use the web, compared to only 32 per cent of the DE group, which covers the unemployed and semi-skilled. Commenting on the findings of the survey, Societm Insight programme manager Martin Greenwood said: "Use of the internet is central to around 80 per cent of the 'transformational' projects and programmes recently researched and published by Socitm. "The website should, therefore, be positioned as a vehicle that will help to drive transformation forward in local authorities. The engine of that vehicle must be up to the job. The findings of Better Connected 2006 can be used by councils as a self-audit tool to diagnose the current state of the vehicle." Better Connected 2006 is available as a pdf to Socitm Insight subscribers. The printed version, available from mid-March will run to 180 pages (with another 36 pages of technical appendices available electronically). The report costs £375 to non-subscribers from www.socitm.gov.uk 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.
The Audit Commission has applauded Walsall council for jilting Fujitsu Services after three years in which the two haggled as the services that were counting most on the deal suffered. Nevertheless, Walsall has improved most of its services without needing to use private companies at all. The auditor's support for Walsall's conduct in the negotiations, as well as its final decision to give Fujitsu the boot, is unequivocal. The Audit Commissions's 04/05 Annual Audit and Inspection Letter for Walsall, due to be published at the end of March, ratifies the preliminary rating published by the Audit Commission in December, but includes additional commentary about January's collapse of talks with Fujitsu. What the report lacks is a clear indication of what lessons other councils can learn from Walsall's experience. At £500m, it was going to be the biggest of its kind in the UK. Birmingham, Europe's largest council, Gateshead and Swindon are all working on similar deals. Walsall's own Conservative-led Scrutiny Panel's report into the Conservative Cabinet's decision is similarly unenlightening, though it recognizes the "excellent work" of its compadres in minimising costs and making the right decision. Yet the service that was counting most on the deal being struck, benefits, appears to be poorer for all the haggling. The time it takes to process new benefits claims has increased from almost seven weeks to almost ten weeks in the last four years. Still, when talks started Walsall was recognised by the Auditor as a "weak" council. It has since won an overall three out of four stars and the moniker "improving well". Some improvements were done using tips picked up from Fujitsu, according to the council leader, although some services improved after being commandeered by central government. It may arguably not be the role of either the Scrutiny panel or the auditor to look for lessons to share. But no-one else has the access or the authority to do it. The council proper refuses to say what lessons can be drawn from its own mishap by other councils about to spend unprecedented chunks of £billions on novel outsourcing arrangements. Such lessons might help other councils avoid wasting so much time and money on abortive deals. Advice on the contractual minutiae wouldn't go amiss: contractual liability blew the Fujitsu deal and is likely to put the frighteners on customers and suppliers around the country as they haggle over similar deals . Even as Walsall embarks on fresh talks for something to replace the proposed "strategic partnership" with Fujitsu, the Audit Commission has had to draw Walsall up on its accounting, which was £8m out of kilter after the implementation of an Oracle Financials computer system. The staff have since learned how to use their computers, but the council's coffers are £5m short of grants they had overlooked before. Other deals with the private sector have faired better for Walsall. An arrangement with Serco has been credited with helping the council make a 64 per cent improvement in its education services. Perhaps there are one or two things Walsall can teach itself about outsourcing before it gives lessons to anyone else?®
Four Hynix staffers will do time in a US jail and together pay $1m in fines after agreeing to plead guilty to US Department of Justice charges that they conspired to fix memory prices, the DoJ said yesterday.
A website has been launched to help local authorities make decisions on the use of open source software. Open Source Academy (OSA), a consortium of organisations with experience of the technology, unveiled the site on 1 March 2006. It said the site, which includes a free 'ask an expert' service, will provide answers to council members and officers about the choice available in software procurement. It will provide a growing resource of information and guidance, including: case studies of councils which have migrated to open source software (OSS), technical papers with guidance on using OSS, a database of systems to provide a quick guide to integration between existing systems, and a news service. OpenForum Europe director Bob Blatchford, who has been managing the development of the portal, said: "OSA aims to encourage local authorities to adopt procurement policies which involve making balanced 'strategic IT choices' between traditional proprietary and open source software solutions. "OSS systems are viable and credible alternatives to proprietary software that can bring cost savings as well as security, organisational and community benefits when implemented in local government organisations. "The services delivered by the portal are a first step to furnishing local authorities with the comparative information they need when considering software procurement decisions." OSA is a consortium led by Birmingham City Council, and includes Cheshire, Bristol and Shepway councils, the University of Kent, OpenForum Europe, National Computing Centre, the Society of IT Management and the Institute of IT Training. It is funded under the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister's (ODPM) e-Innovations programme, and was established to encourage local authorities to make more use of OSS. Software distributed under an OSS licence makes the source code available so that anyone can use, copy, modify and distribute the software. The ODPM is supporting the OSA in an effort to promote greater competition in the software market. This article was originally published at Kablenet.
Steve Ballmer told the audience of 3GSM recently that Microsoft should be considered a friend, not a foe, of the global mobile operator community.
AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel AMD has subpoenaed VoIP software developer Skype in a bid to seek evidence to back its allegations that Intel abused its dominant position in the x86 chip market to hinder its smaller competitor. The move follows an announcement that Skype 2.0 contains features that are only available to PCs fitted with Intel CPUs.
Security and archiving specialists Softek has signed a deal to distribute services firm Global Relay's hosted message management solution in the UK and Europe. As well as easy day to day access, the Message Archiver system makes regulatory compliance more simple, they say. All messages are sent to the system over an encrypted connection, the messages themselves are dual-encrypted, before being written to huge storage arrays at multiple worldwide data centres. A full audit trail is provided, and for authenticity purposes, data is also written to tamperproof WORM tapes dedicated to each customer. Global Relay CEO Warren Roy said: "We have noticed an increasing demand in the UK and Europe for a high performance, easy-to use archiving solution." Jason Thompson, Softek managing director, explained the logic behind the choice: "The beauty of a hosted archiving solution is clear. There is no hardware or software to purchase or install, the systems integrate with all email platforms, and the service can be setup in within an hour."®
San Diego-based data backup firm Overland Storage today announced a reseller recruitment drive beginning next week. Overland's reseller program offers a 10 per cent margin. compared to what it says is the usual 5 per cent. However, if a reseller signs up before March 31, this will be increased to 20 per cent. Overland said: "This announcement enforces Overland's commitment to the channel and highlights that the company is the only truly channel-driven storage vendor that sells exclusively through the channel and OEM partners."®
Those government IT departments who have of late been battling to keep services running in the face of inclement and Arctic weather would do well to drop a line to Aberdeenshire Council who, we're delighted to report, have once again proved that the UK truly is at the cutting edge of technological innovation: Hi, Due to all the recent bad weather in Aberdeenshire, and the majority of our schools being closed, we have developed a new remote technical assistant. It is hoped that this technician (See attached pic) will be able to continue our work in the harshest of winter weather while we are able to stay at home or in the office for safety. We anticipate an interest in this prototype from a few countries including Canada, Russia, and Antarctic survey teams. However we feel there might need to be some modifications before we can use this technology in Asia or Africa.... Thank You Andy Support Analyst Aberdeenshire Council Good show. We're sure that Aberdeenshire ratepayers will be highly satisfied with how their tax quids are being spent up there close(r) to the Arctic circle, and no doubt the phone lines are as we speak jammed with calls from potential customers in Verkhoyansk, Siberia. Regarding possible deployment in the tropics, surely the RTA could simply be packed in a solar-powered chest freezer which would also serve as a handy depository for beer and frozen, microwaveable pizzas - the traditional fare of IT operatives worldwide. ®
UpdatedUpdated Microsoft has pushed back the unveiling of its mysterious Origami Project, believed to be a consumer-friendly tablet PC, to next week. The website dedicated to the project last week said we would "learn more" today, 2 March, but the site now says we'll "find out" about it on 9 March.
Europe's top retailers are expected to sell $100bn-worth of IT kit this year. And computer specialists are not solely responsible for this "strong performance": computer goods now account for 28-40 per cent of turnover of electrical retailing specialists. The big supermarkets are also getting in on the act: they are making "significant inroads" into the computer retailing scene. So says IT Europa, the channel research firm, which has polled Europe's top 50 retailers. The tenth annual edition of IT Europa's The Retail Channel in Europe – The Top 500, shows that the top 50 players account for 85 per cent of revenues. IT Europa attributes sales growth to continued commoditisation of IT products, the increase in broadband usage across Europe and the growth in e-tail sales. Here is a quote from Alan Norman, managing director at IT Europa: "Selling the PC can be the start of a long relationship with customers as they expand their systems with storage, wireless, video and other peripherals and software. To this end many retailers are developing their operations to cover the whole spectrum of IT solutions for consumers and small businesses." ®
For those of us that don’t follow photo standards every day, there appears to be a new standards war forming among the picture takers of the world, with Kodak firmly holding up one side of the war, and representatives from the PC printing world led by Epson and HP, supporting the other.
Morse plc saw revenues slip but profits increase in the last six months of 2005, figures released yesterday showed. Turnover was £187.5m, compared to £194.4m last year (excluding discontinued operations). However, revenue from services, which the company is now focussing on, were up 18 per cent. Pre-tax profits were £6.1m, up 61 per cent, compared to £3.8m a year ago (excluding discontinued operations. Morse said the results were evidence of a successful transition from pure reselling towards services, with 52 per cent of turnover and 64 per cent of profit coming from services.®
US police have found a gun magazine near the site of a crash that totalled a $1m Ferrari Enzo in which former Gizmondo executive Stefan Eriksson was riding. Local law enforcement officials believe the clip is connected with the smash, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.
Apple released a security update on Wednesday that fixes multiple vulnerabilities, including a critical flaw in its Safari web browser that created a means for hackers to attack vulnerable systems.
There was a time when Microsoft ads were a bit more entertaining than the current "dinosaur head" offerings which have of late been baffling adults and scaring small children worldwide. The proof comes in this hitherto-unseen-in-the-civilised-world shocker for MS Office Student and Teacher Edition 2003: Fantastic. For the record, an MS operative confirmed this morning that this is "an old advertisement which ran only in New Zealand for a short period and is no longer being used". For the love of all that's Holy, why not? Let's face it, this is the only advertising campaign ever to give Linux programmers the vaguest hope that they might one day have sex with a real woman. Old school? You bet. Bring it on... ® Bootnote Thanks to reader Ivor Hewitt for the tip-off. Anyone who's already seen this ad knocking about on the net, there's no need to send in the obligatory "bah this is old news it appeared on [insert name of blog] on [insert date] so you are a bunch of [insert insult]" because we hadn't seen it 'til this morning so it's entirely probable that loads of other people haven't had the pleasure either. Thank you.
Sinister news has leaked out of the US Department of Defence, where plans are afoot to implant mind control devices into sharks in the hope of using them for underwater espionage. The DoD engineer-designed implant (developed in lab experiments on rats) will be deployed to harness a squad of shark spies, it was revealed at a meeting in Hawaii last week. Until now, applications for the controversial technology have centred on regaining movement in paralysis sufferers. Sharks' stealthy movement through water makes them perfect candidates for underwater snooping, able to follow ships and submarines without detection. They are one of nature's most successful predators, having been on the oceanic block for 400m years in a relatively unchanging form. New Scientist reports that a group at Boston University is already using probes in the lab to steer dogfish, a close shark relative. As the dogfish meanders about, researchers take control by beaming a radio signal from a laptop to an antenna attached to the fish. DoD hopes that as well as controlling the shark's movements, operators could get feedback on what it is feeling. Their amazing sensory powers can follow chemical trails through the sea and detect electromagnetic fields. If it comes to fruition, the project would cut out hassle for the military; the long standing teams of dolphin mine-seekers used by the US Navy have to be carefully trained, which costs valuable time and fish. ®
We're not entirely sure what exactly the Isle of Wight has done to merit a visit from the Lads from Lagos, but locals should be aware that the Newport correspondent of the Advance Fee Fraud Times may be suffering from a multiple personality disorder: vicent woods Associates and solicitor St. Cross Lane Newport Isle of Wight PO30 5BZ Email:email@example.com Attn: I do foresee the surprise this letter will bring to you as it comes from a stranger, but be assured that it comes with the best of intentions. I got your contact from a search into the Internet and was inspired to seek your cooperation. I am aware of the risks involved in sending this letter by email, therefore I ask that you consider the factors below ad keep it strictly confidential. However, if you are unable to meet my demand, kindly discard of it. I am Steven Wright, an attorney to Christian Eicht Mason. On the 25th of July 2000, my client, and his entire family died in the Air France Concorde plane crash heading for New York in their plan for a world cruise, visits the site below. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/859479.stm My late client has a Trust account valued at $10.5 million dollars with a private bank in the UK. I have since been asked to provide his next of kin and sincerely I have been unsuccessful in locating the relatives since he died with his family. With the bank giving me a deadline to the end of their organization?s financial year ending 31st March 2006 before they claim the deposit, I now desperately seek your consent to present you as the sole next of kin of the deceased, so that the entire funds can be paid to you either in cash or direct wire transfer and then you and I can share the money or put it in any profitable business. I have all necessary information to prepare the relevant documentations that will be used to back up the Claim under a legitimate ground without violating any laws. All I require is your honest co-operation with a ready hand, focused mind and a sincere heart. If you are interested please do contact me ASAP, so that I can educate you further for us to proceed swiftly. I wait to hear from you ASAP. Please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks, vicentwoods.(Barrister) Yes indeed, it's all pretty standard stuff, right down to the old "died in a plane crash" gag with the "it must be true because here it is on the Beeb" angle. This is, however, the first 419 email we've seen from a certifiable schizophrenic. These boys really should stick to using just one name per email - any more gives the distinct impression that this might be a less genuine offer than it otherwise appears. Still, we like the bit about "ready hand, focused mind and a sincere heart". If that isn't from Henry V then it damn well should be, by the Lord Harry. ® Bootnote The usual big-up Abuja rispek to Steve Atty for forwarding this one.
Israeli-based security firm Check Point faces a rare full-blown US government investigation over its proposed acquisition of intrusion detection firm Sourcefire. AP reports the Committee on Foreign Investments in the US is to look into the $225m deal following concerns raised by the FBI and Pentagon over the wisdom of allowing the development of technology that forms a linchpin in defending critical systems against hacker attack to move overseas. The Committee on Foreign Investments in the US is an inter-agency committee which reviews proposed foreign acquisitions of US companies in order to "protect national security while maintaining the credibility of the United States' open investment policy". Sourcefire specialises in intrusion detection software - put crudely hi-tech burglar alarm systems - but Check Point is already a market leader in firewalls, which are arguably every bit as important as intrusion detection systems in combating hacker attack. Check Point's FireWall-1 is in widespread use by government, utilities, and financial institutions worldwide. So from a technical perspective, at least, the Bush administration's special interest in Sourcefire is at least curious. Check Point said last month that it and Sourcefire were both "committed to working cooperatively with the committee during its investigation", which is expected to last 45 days. The proposed acquisition of Sourcefire by Check Point, announced in October, has already received US anti-trust approval. AP reports that the ongoing Foreign Investments Committee investigation into the Sourcefire deal is only the twenty-sixth time any of 1,600 acquisitions it has considered have undergone a detailed review, following the customary 30 day period of consideration. Sourcefire founder Martin Roesch developed the popular Snort intrusion prevention software before helping to build Sourcefire as a commercial developer of intrusion prevention and real-time network awareness products. Check Point plans to combine Sourcefire's technology with Check Point's InterSpect internal security gateway and Integrity endpoint security suite to bolster its portfolio of internal security products post-acquisition. Approximately 10 per cent of Sourcefire's estimated $35m revenues in 2005 came from protecting classified US government systems, Jeffrey W Englander, a software security analyst at America's Growth Capital, told AP. He says Check Point would sooner agree to extricating itself from US government contracts than queering the deal. ®
We like sub-notebooks here at Reg Hardware, and LG's 2.3cm-thick, 1.1kg Xnote TX - it's called the TX Express outside Korea - quite caught our eye. It may not be based on the latest Core Duo processor, but it still packs in some impressive features in its compact casing.
A former federal computer security expert faces a possible five year jail term after pleading guilty to hacking a US Department of Education computer. Kenneth Kwak, 34, of Chantilly, Virginia, admitted snooping on his supervisor's email and internet surfing activities while employed as a system auditor for the US Department of Education. Kwak placed unspecified software on his boss's computer that allowed him to access files on the system without permission. He shared snippets gleaned from his repeated spying forays with colleagues around the office. In a statement the DoJ said: "Kwak carried out his crime and invaded his supervisor's privacy for personal entertainment; there is no indication he profited financially from his actions." As part of a plea bargaining agreement, Kwak pleaded guilty to one count of unauthorised access to a protected computer during a hearing in the District of Columbia federal court before US District Judge Royce Lamberth on Wednesday. He faces a maximum of five years in jail and a fine of $250,000 over the offence. Sentencing has been set for 12 May. The case was investigated by the Computer Crime Investigations Division of the Department of Education's Inspector General's Office. Kwak's prosecution was carried as part of the "zero-tolerance policy" recently adopted by the US Attorney's office over computer hacking offences. ®
HP and Gateway have agreed to settle their legal differences with a $47m payment, from Gateway to HP. The two firms fell out in 2004 over patent infringement allegations made by both companies against each other - both now have a licence to use the other's intellectual property.
ReviewReview I first reviewed Slim Devices' network music player, the Squeezebox, in April 2004. We're not quite two years on from that, but the machine has already undergone two major revisions: first, in March 2005, an upgrade of its networking capabilities and audio engine, and then, just seven months later, a complete case redesign...
In briefIn brief BT says that 99.6 per cent of UK homes and businesses will be able to get higher speed broadband from the end of this month. The UK incumbent said that 78 per cent of BT customer lines should be able to support 4Mbit/s and above, while 42 per cent will get 6Mbit/s and above. Those special people who live or work very close to their exchange may get upto 8Mb/s. BT said it is upgrading 5,300 exchanges to support these speeds. Pity those poor souls hooked up to the 150 smaller exchanges who won't get the spanking new speeds.®
A study by a US university has concluded that mobile phones and other portable electronic devices are liable to interfere with the operation of critical aircraft components. Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University found the effects of mobile transmissions of devices such as Global Positioning System receivers were worse than previously thought, after monitoring transmissions on a number of short-haul US flights. They tracked radio emissions via a broadband antenna attached to a compact portable spectrum analyzer held in a carry-on bag (which we trust didn't itself generate emissions). The researchers found that on average one to four cell phone calls were made during commercial flights in the north-east US. Some of these calls are made during critical flight stages such as the climb after take-off, or on final approach, potentially placing an aircraft in danger. The study focused mainly on in-flight mobile use but it also unearthed evidence that the use of devices such as laptops and DVD players, especially during critical flight stages, were also a potential hazard. "We found that the risk posed by these portable devices is higher than previously believed," said Bill Strauss, an expert in aircraft electromagnetic compatibility at the Naval Air Warfare Center in Patuxent River, Maryland, and a recent doctoral graduate from Carnegie Mellon. "These devices can disrupt normal operation of key cockpit instruments, especially Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, which are increasingly vital for safe landings." The study comes as the US Federal Communications Commission is considering lifting the ban on the use of mobile phones during flights. Granger Morgan, head of the EPP Department at Carnegie Mellon, reckons this is a bad move. "We feel that passenger use of portable electronic devices on aircraft should continue to be limited for the safety of all concerned," said Morgan. Although use of mobile phones, much less electronic devices, have never been linked to an aircraft accident the Carnegie Mellon boffins reckon the risk is all too real. Researchers behind the study advise the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Aviation Authority begin to coordinate electronic emission standards. They also recommend routine monitoring of on-board radio emissions by flight data recorders. The study will be featured in an article due to appear in the March issue of IEEE Spectrum magazine. ®