4th > May > 2006 Archive

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Bot software looks to improve peerage

Peer-to-peer technology appears to have resurfaced in a worm last weekend. The worm, dubbed Nugache and classified also as bot software, attempts to infect systems through email, America Online's instant messaging network, and network shares on vulnerable computers. Once it compromises a computer, the program uses a seed list of 22 different internet addresses to establish connections to other victims' computers in a peer-to-peer network. The program appears to encrypt - or at least obfuscate - the data it sends to other servers, possibly making it harder for intrusion detection systems (IDSs) to detect the program, according to an analysis posted to a security mailing list by university network administrator Brian Eckman. "The 'bot' - for lack of a better term - does not use DNS (the domain name system) to find any (command and control network); it also does not use any human readable string in its communication," Eckman, a security analyst at the University of Minnesota, wrote in his analysis. "Therefore, many IDS measures will not help you detect infected hosts on your network." The techniques represent the latest improvements for bots - the tools of choice for many online criminals aiming to turn compromised computers into cash. Typically, the programs allow a bot master to control a large network of infected systems - or botnet - by sending commands through an internet relay chat (IRC) system, the still extant precursors to the major IM networks. This latest variant of bot software shows that - threatened by investigators' ability to tap into command-and-control networks built on top of internet relay chat - bot masters are looking to peer-to-peer communications, encryption and other technologies to hide their tracks. Botnets that take their commands through peer-to-peer channels will make defenders' jobs much more difficult, said Joe Stewart, senior security researcher with network protection firm Lurhq. "If done properly, it makes it near impossible to shut down the botnet as a whole," Stewart said. "It also provides anonymity to the controller, because they can appear as just another node in the network." The current lack of anonymity has obviously worried many attackers that run botnets, because the latest tools are focusing on ways of keeping communications private, said Vincent Weafer, senior director for security software maker Symantec's response team (SecurityFocus is owned by Symantec.) "IRC is really disappearing," Weafer said. "There is a big movement towards alternative channels - at least encrypted channels - to prevent people from eavesdropping." While the analysis of Nugache is still preliminary, research shows that it infects systems by sending executable files attached to email messages, by attempting to convince victims to download the program by clicking on a link sent through AOL's instant messaging client, and by exploiting two vulnerabilities in unpatched systems running Microsoft Windows. Currently, the program does not seem to have spread far, Weafer said. Using peer-to-peer communications to create an ad-hoc network for controlling compromised computers is not new, but the functionality within bot software has steadily improved. The Slapper worm, which started infecting certain varieties of Linux in September 2002, used a peer-to-peer protocol to command other worm-infected computers to carry out one of three types of denial-of-service attacks. A year after Slapper, another bot - dubbed Sinit - used peer-to-peer communications to create a network of connected compromised PCs that could be updated with additional software using its own protocol. In 2004, security researchers warned that Phatbot - a variant of the prolific Agobot codebase - used a peer-to-peer system created by America Online as part of an open source project to send commands to other compromised systems. Whether Nugache's techniques for communicating over peer-to-peer networks will become part of other bot master's toolboxes depends largely on whether the malicious software writer that created the program shares his code, said Mikko Hyppönen, chief research officer for anti-virus firm F-Secure. At least two other families of bot code have seen widespread development because the source code is widely available. "It all comes down to whether the code ends up being shared or not,"Hyppönen said. "We have not seen it out on the internet yet." A flaw in Nugache could make it easy to shut down, according to Lurhq's Stewart. The initial list of servers appears to be hard coded into the worm, suggesting that blocking those initial 22 internet addresses could stop the botnet from growing. "As it stands, with this one, all that has to be done is shut down a couple dozen infected home-user systems," he said. Yet, the push towards peer-to-peer botnets will be harder to stop. This article originally appeared in Security Focus. Copyright © 2006, SecurityFocus
Robert Lemos, 04 May 2006

Full-up Google choking on web spam?

Webmasters have been seething at Google since it introduced its 'Big Daddy' update in January, the biggest revision to the way its search engine operates for years. Alarm usually accompanies changes to Google's algorithms, as the new rankings can cause websites to be demoted, or disappear entirely. But four months on from the introduction of "Big Daddy," it's clear that the problem is more serious than any previous revision - and it's getting worse. Webmasters now report sites not being crawled for weeks, with Google SERPS (search engine results pages) returning old pages, and failing to return results for phrases that used to bear fruitful results. "Some sites have lost 99 per cent of their indexed pages," reports one member of the Webmaster World forum. "Many cache dates go back to 2004 January." Others report long-extinct pages showing up as "Supplemental Results." This thread is typical of the problems. With creating junk web pages is so cheap and easy to do, Google is engaged in an arms race with search engine optimizers. Each innovation designed to bring clarity to the web, such as tagging, is rapidly exploited by spammers or site owners wishing to harvest some classified advertising revenue. Recently, we featured a software tool that can create 100 Blogger weblogs in 24 minutes, called Blog Mass Installer. A subterranean industry of sites providing "private label articles," or PLAs exists to flesh out "content" for these freshly minted sites. And as a result, legitimate sites are often caught in the cross fire. But the new algorithms may not be solely to blame. Google's chief executive Eric Schmidt has hinted at another reason for the recent chaos. In Google's earnings conference call last month, Schmidt was frank about the extent of the problem. "Those machines are full," he said. "We have a huge machine crisis." And there's at least some anecdotal evidence to support the theory that hardware limitations are to blame. "The issue I have now is Googlebot is SLAMMING my sites since last week, but none of it makes it into the index. If it's old pages being re-indexed or new pages for the first page, they don't show up," writes one webmaster. The confusion has several consequences which we've rarely seen discussed outside web circles. Giving Google the benefit of the doubt, and assuming the changes are intentional, one webmaster writes: "In which case Google's index, and hence effectively 'the Web as most people know it' is set to become a whole lot smaller in the coming weeks." It's barely more than a year since Yahoo! and Google were engaged in a willy-waving exercise to claim who had the largest index. (See My spam-filled search index is bigger than yours!) Now size, it seems, doesn't matter. There's also the intriguing question raised by search engines that are unable to distinguished between nefarious sites and legitimate SEO (search engine optimization) techniques? The search engines can't, we now know, blacklist a range of well-establish techniques without causing chaos. In future, will the search engines need to code for backward bug compatibility? And lingering in the background is the question of whether the explosion of junk content - estimates put robot-generated spam consists of anywhere between one-fifth and one-third of the Google index - can be tamed? "At this rate," writes one poster on the Google Sitemaps Usenet group, in a year the SERPS will be nothing but Amazon affiliates, Ebay auctions, and Wiki clones.  Those sites don't seem to be affected one bit by supplemental hell, 301s, and now deindexing." With $8 billion in the bank, Google is better resourced and more focussed than anyone - but it's still struggling. Financial analysts noted that its R&D expenditure now matches that of a wireline telco. Only a cynic would suggest that poor SERPs drive desperate businesses to the search engines own classified ad departments - so if you want to play, you have to pay. Banish that unworthy thought at once. (Thanks to Isham Research's Phil Payne for the tip).® Bootnote: Something called OneWebDay - we're not kidding - is encouraging you to celebrate the web with a "special hand signal - you extend your middle three fingers and have your thumb and little finger touch in a circle. Not the gesture many webmasters are making this week.
Andrew Orlowski, 04 May 2006
hands waving dollar bills in the air

Borland axes fifth of workforce

Borland is cutting 20 per cent of its workforce, with the axe falling heaviest in sales and marketing, under a restructuring designed to focus on profitable markets. The company is releasing 300 workers, mainly in "go to market" activities, with plans to shutter offices in at least some of the 29 countries it currently operates in. Details are yet to be finalized, but closures will be based on the size and revenue potential for Borland's Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) business. ALM will be Borland's main focus once its 20-year-old integrated development environment (IDE) business has been spun out. Mike Hulme, senior director of product marketing, told The Register that Borland is deciding how it should go to market in less lucrative geographies, a process that could result in new or expanded reseller agreements. He stressed Borland is "putting resources" into top tier IT markets, which include the UK, France, Germany and the Benelux countries. The European market is where Borland's Delphi business is currently strong. "As we shift to ALM we have more of a direct model. That's very expensive to support and it doesn't make sense to have a dedicated model in every market," Hulme said. The cuts come as Borland restated its loss for fiscal 2005, adding an extra $1m to total $29.8m. Borland said Wednesday it expects to save $60m from the cuts, spinning out the IDE business and restructuring. The restructuring will see Borland combine sales and professional services under field operations, customer support is being united with research and development, and a new business operations function will "focus on aligning internal processes and systems toward serving customers". This department will be headed by senior vice president Chris Barbin, who will report to chief executive Tod Nielsen. ®
Gavin Clarke, 04 May 2006

SecurID takes backseat in Windows Vista

It was cheered, specifically by employees of RSA Security, as the means to provide secure login to PCs running Windows Vista, finally dispensing with passwords and helping lock down enterprise networks. Two years later, though, Microsoft has abandoned plans to provide native support for RSA's SecureID token-based authentication system in the delayed operating system, despite having worked on integration with RSA. A Microsoft spokesman told The Register that companies like RSA must now write so-called credential providers that talk to Windows Vista and allow their security tokens and authentication technologies to work with the operating system. "Most customers told Microsoft they do not view one-time passwords as strategic and are looking long term to smart cards as their preferred strong authentication mechanism," the spokesman said. Microsoft was speaking after RSA chief executive Art Coviello was reported to have revealed Microsoft had devised its own architecture for third parties to use rather than providing native support for SecurID. The Microsoft/RSA SecureID alliance was announced at the RSA Conference in 2004 with enthusiastic backing from Microsoft. The vision was to provide users with two-factor authentication access to PCs and to finally replace static passwords - the death of which Gates has been predicting for some time. Gates, then a relative newbie to RSA events, brandished an RSA key fob on stage at the 2004 show in San Francisco, California, to enthusiastic applause from RSA employees. Microsoft's head of security Mike Nash, meanwhile, said that SecurID would allow customers to "more positively identify users before giving them access to systems and corporate resources." RSA and SecurID, though, appear to have lost their favored status. Instead, RSA must now join other security providers to develop credential providers, which plug into the Windows Vista LogonUI. Coviello blamed problems Microsoft has had delivering Windows Vista, saying native support for SecurID would appear in later editions of the operating system. ®
Gavin Clarke, 04 May 2006

Apple sues itself in the foot (again)

Apple Computer's legal policy of shoot first, and ask questions later, has got the company into trouble again. Apple's lawyers have gone after the popular humor community site Something Awful for posting a link to one of Apple's own internal service manuals. The link resolves to a third party website, and was posted in a useful and informed discussion about Apple's troubled MacBook Pro.
Andrew Orlowski, 04 May 2006
2

If software vendors made everything else

CommentComment So what is it about quality? We all want it, we all expect it in other products that we buy and yet a goodly number of us try to cut corners on delivering it given half a chance. That is how it seems from a couple of responses to last week’s Blog piece `Unbreakable’? Software? Harr!
Martin Banks, 04 May 2006
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Biting the legacy bullet

Developments in the areas of XML-based web services standards, middleware technology and portal frameworks have provided lots of possibilities for extending the life of legacy systems such as old mainframe, AS/400 and first generation UNIX applications. We can now wrap these up in a standard access layer, re-label them “heritage” solutions, and look forward to squeezing another decade of service out of them. This approach can work well, potentially addressing some of the common problems associated with legacy systems that were confirmed during a recent Freeform Dynamics poll of 100 UK-based IT Managers (Figure 1). However, while wrapping older applications in web services-based interfaces might ease some pain in the areas of systems integration and the user experience, it doesn’t particularly help with the growing challenge of maintaining legacy skills or the availability of ongoing support from suppliers, both of which are highlighted as problems anticipated over the coming three years. Perhaps more significantly, tactical measures to extend the life of legacy systems can in many cases perpetuate the problem of inflexibility that is hampering responsiveness to business change. You can wrapper an old monolithic COBOL program that has been modified repeatedly over a quarter of a century as much as you like, but it isn’t going to change the rigidity of what’s under the covers. Deciding what to do with legacy applications is clearly something upon which it is impossible to generalise. Some applications may be archaic, but if they perform a relatively static function that is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future and they still work well, there is a good case for leaving them alone rather than incurring the disruption, risk and cost of replacing them. But accumulate enough of these, as many organisations have done over the years, and the combined impact in terms of cost and business drag can be considerable. Of course the worst case scenario is continued reliance on an inflexible legacy application for a core business function that is dynamic in nature. As organisations work through these considerations, they each come up with different strategies (Figure 2). As we can see, some elect to clean up peripheral applications, the motive typically being to get them onto more cost effective platforms. Others elect to focus on core business systems; the rationale for replacement here usually being a combination of reducing risk and cost while simultaneously boosting flexibility. We then have those who say their aim is to replace all legacy systems over time, which is actually the largest group. When looking at this picture, the most significant conclusion we can draw is that many organisations are calling time on legacy systems and are looking to be proactive rather than reactive in replacing them. That’s not to say, of course, that replacement will happen overnight, but it is nevertheless an indicator that modern businesses increasingly see the need for modern solutions to enable them to operate and compete effectively in today’s dynamic markets. We recently came across an interesting example of this principle in action, which encapsulates many of the considerations we have been discussing. De-regulation and other changes in the utilities marketplace have forced players that were previously able to plod along happily doing the same things for years to become a lot more dynamic. In this kind of environment, the inflexibility of legacy systems comes into sharp focus, which is exactly what happened with Yorkshire Water, one of the utility companies operating in the North of England. In Yorkshire Water’s case, specific challenges existed with its billing system – a 3270 COBOL/QSAM-based application originally written 25 years ago and running on an ICL NOVA 450-11 mainframe. This had a strong batch bias and while it worked fine for the traditional rates based and meter based annual billing approach, it was struggling to keep up with changing demands as the industry was moving towards more flexible electronic payment mechanisms and the provision of customer self-service across a variety of channels – the Web and IVR today, with mobile devices and digital TV looking to the future. Although not explicitly mentioned by the company, we can also guess that keeping options open in terms of expanding the service portfolio beyond the delivery of just water was also a consideration. Yorkshire Water ultimately opted to move its billing system from the mainframe to a Microsoft .NET-based platform running on HP/Compaq kit – specifically a couple of dual processor DL380’s for the front-end and two 4 way DL760’s for the SQL Server 2000 database back-end. Even with the storage area network, the cost and spec of the equipment was relatively modest compared to the old mainframe world. More importantly, though, the move represented the freeing up of a previously legacy locked function which was holding back the evolution of the business. This kind of move underlines something that’s quite important from a technology market evolution perspective. Organisations have been moving applications off mainframes for a long time, but conventional wisdom has been that the target for these should be other systems that are perceived as being “high end”, which has typically translated to proprietary UNIX boxes running Oracle. The thought of moving a mainframe application to a Microsoft platform would just not occur to many people. The reality is that advances in both hardware and software capability are now making phrases such as “mainframe class” less meaningful, whether used in the context of a requirement (i.e. the nature of an application) or a capability (e.g. the attributes of a platform). This is another factor, in addition to flexibility and skills related drivers, which has shifted the cost/benefit equation towards replacement or migration for many more legacy applications in recent years. Again, we need to be realistic, and we do not anticipate huge Telco’s shifting their billing systems off the mainframe in a hurry, for example. But the Yorkshire Water billing system is typical of many mid-range applications that sit there in legacy environments with decades old business processes and IT practices baked into them, that people erroneously assume need to stay that way. Apart from the coming of age of Microsoft platforms, the IBM mainframe has evolved to the modern zSeries and the AS/400 to the equally up to date iSeries. We then have the emergence of Linux blade platforms and the commoditisation of much of the technology in the storage arena. Not surprising then that so many more organisations are now getting proactive about legacy replacement in parallel with their web services wrapping initiatives. It’s still not a trivial activity, but it’s nowhere near as big a deal as it used to be. ®
Dale Vile, 04 May 2006

Trolltech sees a billion Linux phones

If Linux is to grab a significant chunk of the mobile phones business in the coming years, as supporters hope, then much of its fate is in the hands of Trolltech. The Norwegian software house is best known among software developers, for its GUI toolkit - rather unfairly, as it's been playing in the embedded arena for six years now, and recently the company is hiring like it means business.
Andrew Orlowski, 04 May 2006

Microsoft expected to buy Massive

Just three week’s ago Faultline said the US in-game advertising networks were so well established that instead of Microsoft and Sony building their own networks, they would do better to buy the existing players. Microsoft has now moved for market leader Massive Inc, which already delivers advertising into 70 games, many of them exclusively on the Xbox version of the game. So far the deal is at the rumor stage, but we expect this is just while paperwork is worked through and should it go ahead, the rumored price of $200 to $400m gives an idea of how important this market segment is going to be. Faultline happens to believe it will become a $3bn market while other research groups are predicting it to be far smaller at present. In-game advertising networks rely on an online connection being used with the games console. At game start up, the console issues a request for any new adverts that are supposed to go with the game, and they are sent online. They used to be simple 10 to 20 kilobyte files of text, audio and graphics, callable from a remote library as the game plays, but back in August Massive added TV style video ads into its gaming system. These can be downloaded in the background, rather than delaying the game start up. Then as players reach a specific part of the game used for advertising, and this might be an advertising hoarding, the sides of a race track or a TV screen in the gameplay, the advert will begin to play. The system is careful not to put gamers off by intruding on their game time, and surveys have been carried out that support the notion that gamers actually like real ads, because they make the game appear more life like. When Massive began life in 2004 the entire in-game ad market was just $10m it said. Yankee Group now says that the market will grow by more than five times to reach $732m by 2010 from $56m last year. So far Massive has had no more than $30m invested in it, with $10m spent in a third round this January. The company reckons that each game will yield between $500,000 to $1m of extra new revenue for each game. With 70 live games over the past two years, and an average revenue generating lifetime of four to five months per game, this suggests that Massive has revenues of no more than $35m, with half of that having to go back to the games publishers it partners with. That would make the rumored valuation between six and 12 times revenues. Massive has signed up deals with Vivendi Universal Games, UbiSoft, Acclaim, Konami and Legacy Interactive, and the US part of Atari, it told us last year. It offers advertisers "reach" calculations based on the title's sales and then a percentage of these which are online and a calculation of how many playing hours that games will generate in its first month. Massive reckons it has four to five months of advertising inventory to sell before people stop playing the game in large numbers, but the company will continue to serve adverts to the games whenever they are played, which will provide a kind of "long tail" for game advertising. At the moment gamers do not universally register their games online, and this can reduce the amount of demographics that is available to advertisers. Usually they try to get players to register the first time they use them, but this is notoriously unreliable. This means that there is very little guidance for the types of advertising that can be sent in-game. However, if Microsoft goes ahead and buys Massive, it can take its device registration details and mix them with the advertising demographics to considerably improve this small chink in in-game advertising. After Massive, both Double Fusion and IGA are also compelling acquisition targets, and we would expect that Sony might at some stage move to either acquire or build its own service, perhaps not a US based service though, and that Google, the doyen advertising based services, will be immediately on the scent of some form of move here. We suggested previously that Google's way of getting into the gaming business would be to give games away for free, and sell adverts in them. If Microsoft completes his deal, the urgency to enter the game market at Google, and elsewhere, may go up considerably. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 04 May 2006

QIT: quantum hope or quantum hype?

Quantum information technology (QIT) is here already. Judging by the impressive turn out at the Cambridge-MIT Institute's recent Industry in the Quantum Age chinwag session at the Royal Society, it's here to stay.
Christopher Williams, 04 May 2006

French court drops DRM interoperability provision

A higher French select legal committee has dropped the contentious provision from its copyright law that would have placed the onus on companies using DRM on music services, to license it to other equipment makers. Although the law has more debating stages, its real aim was to catch France up with the World Copyright Treaty (WCT) and make provisions that are similar to the US Digital Millenium Copyright Act, including making it illegal to break DRM and copy protection. Apple and others had made protestations over the additional wording of the law which were clearly targeted at Apple’s iTunes service and its reluctance to license its Fairplay DRM to anyone else. A lower court added the sections on DRM interoperability and in our analysis in March, we said the new laws would be unworkable and would eventually be squashed, which has now happened. Almost every European country has now passed a version of a law which supports the WCT, having been pressurised to do so by the European Commission. This includes the issue of citizens never interfering with content protection, even where this goes against local laws that say that content buyers are allowed to make personal copies of their purchased works. Copyright © 2006, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 04 May 2006
graph up

Intel asks judge to dismiss AMD complaint

AMD vs IntelAMD vs Intel Intel has called on Delaware District Court Judge Joseph J Farnan to dismiss the overseas element of the legal action brought against it by its arch-rival, AMD. The move had been expected: Intel's lawyers announced last month they would make the request. AMD's response could have been forecast too: it said the move was an "effort to escape responsibility" for Intel's alleged ill-conduct.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006

RIM countersues Visto over patent spat

Research in Motion (RIM) has countersued Visto, the wireless email specialist that formally accused it of intellectual-property infringement on Monday. RIM's complaint demands the Dallas court declare its products do not incorporate technology detailed in Visto's patents.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006

NZ ordered to increase broadband competition

The Kiwi government is planning to drive through a series of measures to force incumbent telco Telecom New Zealand to unbundle the local loop and increase competition. A raft of proposals - including LLU, increased regulation, and the promotion of investment by rival operators in fibre, wireless and satellite networks - are being put forward as a way to drag New Zealand out of the bottom third of the OECD's league table of broadband countries. The Kiwi government has decided that key to this lacklustre performance is the lack of effective competition among broadband and telecoms providers. "Telecom dominates the broadband market," it said in a statement, adding that rival operators are forced to rely on a "restricted speed 'unbundled bitstream service' (UBS) that allows limited options for competitors to develop differentiated broadband products." Instead, it sees LLU - whereby rival operators are able to install their kit in the incumbent's exchanges to provide services direct to end users - as a way of increasing the provision of broadband in New Zealand. According to the latest stats, there are currently more than 280,000 broadband users in New Zealand. But Communications Minister David Cunliffe said the package of measures was "a vital part of the government's drive to transform the economy and push New Zealand's broadband performance into the top quarter of the OECD". "Access to fast, competitively priced broadband internet is vital for New Zealand to take full advantage of new technologies," he said. "This package will help ensure we catch up and keep up with other developed countries." But Telecom has reacted angrily to the proposals, saying there are no guarantees that the measures "will deliver on the government's aims of high speed broadband throughout New Zealand". "As we have told the Government in our submissions, high speed broadband services and the advanced products that will run on them require major investment from all players in the sector," Telecom exec Bruce Parkes said. "Today's package actually tells players to put away any major investment plans and rely on regulation instead." ®
Tim Richardson, 04 May 2006

Sky names HD launch day

After months of speculation Sky has officially confirmed that its HD service will start broadcasting on Monday, 22 May. On that date the first of the 40,000 telly addicts who have signed up to the HD service will have their system installed.
Tech Digest, 04 May 2006

Democrats push for action on stem cell bill

US Senate Democrats have attempted to inject some life into an ongoing campaign to allow federal funding of embryonic research with a letter to Majority Leader Bill Frist asking him to add stem cells to a list of health-related issues due for debate next week. The US House of Representatives last year passed a bill allowing research using 400,000 frozen embryos created for in-vitro fertilisation treatment, most of which face destruction. It has not, however, been passed by the Senate, and President Bush promised to personally veto it, declaring: "I've made it very clear to the Congress that the use of federal money, taxpayers' money, to promote science which destroys life in order to save life - I'm against that. And therefore if the bill does that, I will veto it." Nonetheless, there is some hope for the stalled bill, Reuters notes. Frist, a Tennessee Republican, surprisingly defected to the pro-research camp last year, and is reportedly keen for it to advance. Although the Democrat petition, signed by Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada and stem cell bill co-sponsor Tom Harkin of Iowa - among others - carries no Republican signatures, "aides say some Republican backers of stem cell research are also eager for Frist to act". The bill's supporters also boast some heavyweight Hollywood backing. Parkison's disease sufferer Michael J Fox said after the legislation was passed by the House of Representatives that Bush "has an opportunity to do something fantastic for the world". Harry Reid added: "President Bush has made the wrong choice, putting politics ahead of safe, responsible science." And, to underscore the ideological brouhaha the issue has provoked, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein described some of the bill's opponents as "people who want to obfuscate this issue", who were motivated "more by ideological concerns related to abortion". ®
Lester Haines, 04 May 2006
Neuros MPEG 4 Recorder 2

Neuros tells PSP users 'don't run firmware 2.7'

PlayStation Portable owners who use Neuros Technology's MPEG-4 Recorder 2 to record video for playback on their consoles are being warned not to apply Sony's latest PSP firmware, version 2.7. Neuros claims the update prevents the PSP playing video recorded on its device.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006
fingers pointing at man

MS throws hat into paid-search engine ring

Microsoft is taking on the great Google Money Machine with an inhouse answer to Google Adwords. Step forward Microsoft adCenter, launched yesterday to pump out all-paid search traffic on MSN and other Microsoft online properties in the US. Microsoft’s adCenter replaces Yahoo!'s Overture as the paid-for search engine on MSN. The only surprise is how long it took Microsoft to make the switcheroo – predicted ever since Yahoo! bought Overture in 2003 – and confirmed this time last year by Microsoft at its annual MSN Strategic Account Summit. Microsoft adCenter is already running in Singapore and France and will trial in the UK with select advertisers in June. Paid-for-search is what made Google founders Larry Page and Sergei Brin multi-billionaires, and it is what made Yahoo! pay $1.63bn for Overture. Microsoft is coming late to the feeding frenzy: there are few signs of paid-search revenues actually falling, but advertiser disenchantment is growing. Click-fraud and ballooning prices are to blame. Yesterday, for instance, a Newark, NJ advertiser, Crafts by Veronica, and several other small firms slapped Yahoo! with a class action suit, alleging fraud in the way the company distributes ads through Overture. The suit follows research published last month by anti-spyware activist Ben Edelman. This details examples of alleged syndication and click fraud. A class action suit could be considered a badge of success – surely it is better than indifference. And Microsoft has had plenty enough of those to take any such future actions in its stride. A more pressing challenge will be to find third party publishers for its technology. Google and Yahoo! after all have tens of thousands of partners already signed up. The quickest short-cut for Microsoft would be to buy Miva.com, the new name for Findwhat.com and eSpotting, which is the only independent paid-for search firm of note in town. ® Related link Microsoft press release
Drew Cullen, 04 May 2006

Woman eBays groping slimeball's jacket

Any reader who has ever tried to pick up a woman in Chicago may already be aware of the techniques which are absolutely guaranteed to result in abject failure - or worse. For those of you yet to make a pitch to Illinois' fairer sex, these no-nos include: sliming all over your intended victim; blatantly grabbing her breasts; throwing your hot sweaty oversized weight around near her; and shaking your big fat ass in her face. For proof, just ask the owner of this jacket: Blimey. Here's the background: This is the first item I have ever listed on ebay and I am doing it for one specific reason- to give the loser who slimed all over me and blatantly grabbed my breasts at the bar last Thursday an opportunity to buy his jacket back. I also thought it would be fun to sell something he left behind after annoying me for an hour- bid this jacket up, the higher it goes the more Mr. Prince Charming will have to pay to get it back! Nice one. We reckon the outrage took place at a career fair in the Windy City, if the seller's final insult is anything to go by: If you are reading this realizing you are the 5'9" 200 lb jack ass I met at the bar last week- call your parents. I'm sure they will buy you another jacket, afterall you don't have a job. Yes, indeed - hell hath no fury like a woman groped, and no messing. ® Bootnote Thanks to Alex Morris for the tip-off.
Lester Haines, 04 May 2006

Early MacBook Pros hit by battery glitch?

Apple has apparently added battery problems to the list of woes potentially affecting its MacBook Pro notebook family. Online reports allege a small number of early versions of the Intel-based machines may have shipped with troublesome batteries. Apple is said to be replacing the power units on a customer-by-customer basis.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006
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FTC sues over mobile phone records sale

A US consumer watchdog has launched a series of lawsuits designed to frustrate the controversial sale of consumers' telephone records to data brokers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is seeking a permanent injunction against five web-based operations over the practice. It also wants the courts to seize profits made from the sale of these records from the five data brokers. The defendants have been named as: 77 Investigations Inc, and Reginald Kimbro, based in Upland, California; AccuSearch Inc, doing business as Abika.com, and Jay Patel, based in Cheyenne, Wyoming; CEO Group Inc, doing business as Check Em Out, and Scott Joseph, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Information Search Inc and David Kacala, based in Baltimore, Maryland; and Integrity Security & Investigation Services Inc, Edmund L Edmister, Tracey Edmister, and F Lynn Moseley, based in Yorktown, Virginia. The defendants are being sued over alleged violation of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 which states that consumers' phone records are private property that can only be disclosed with the approval of a customer, as well as breaches of the FTC Act. "Trafficking in consumers' confidential telephone records is outrageous," said Lydia Parnes, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. "It robs consumers of their privacy and exposes them to everything from snoops to stalkers. We intend to put a stop to it." According to the FTC complaints, the defendants advertised that they could obtain the confidential phone records of any individual, including lists of outgoing and incoming calls, to anyone prepared to stump up their fees, regardless of any legal niceties. The FTC alleges that data brokers used deception to obtain confidential phone records data. "The account holders have not authorised the defendants to obtain access to or sell their confidential customer phone records. Instead, to obtain such information, defendants have used, or caused others to use, false pretenses, fraudulent statements, fraudulent or stolen documents or other misrepresentations, including posing as a customer of a telecommunications carrier, to induce officers, employees, or agents of telecommunications carriers to disclose confidential customer phone records," the FTC complaints state. One of the defendants, Integrity Security & Investigations Services Inc, which is based in Yorktown, Virginia, also allegedly obtained and sold consumers' financial records, including credit card information. The lawsuits, announced on Wednesday, follow an undercover investigation by FTC staff assisted by the Federal Communications Commission and US mobile operators Cingular Wireless, Sprint Nextel, and Verizon. Investigators surfed the net to identify US firms that sell consumers' phone records. They then posed as clients to complete undercover purchases of the phone records. FTC staff followed this up with warning letters to operators of 29 websites that continued to advertise the sale of phone records to the public. Dozens of data brokers in the US make a business from selling call records - sometimes obtained from phone company insiders or by deception - for about $100 per account per month. The main market is private investigators. The Electronic Privacy Information Centre filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission over these practices back in January. It has also submitted a petition to the regulator asking it to act to make sure phone companies improve their security safeguards. Meanwhile, consumers are advised to ask their phone companies to install a password on their individual accounts in a bid to block unauthorised access. ®
John Leyden, 04 May 2006

ATI Radeon X1900 GT slips out early

ATI's upcoming Radeon X1900 GT GPU appears to have slipped out early. Boards based on the chip aren't expected to arrive until 9 May, but at least one store from the US retail chain Best Buy put a handful of the units on sale this week, an online report alleges.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006

AOL still on the slide

AOL is still struggling to make up lost revenues as subscribers continue to flee the service. The internet giant has lost more than three million customers over the last year as the number of US subscribers fell to 18.6m - down 835,000 over the last three months alone. Publishing Q1 results for the three months to March, AOL (owned by media giant Time Warner) reported that revenues fell seven per cent ($152m) to just under $2bn, compared to the same period last year. This was due to a 13 per cent decrease ($236m) in subscription revenues although it was partly offset 26 per cent increase ($81m) in ad revenues. At the same time, operating income decreased 14 per cent ($45m). AOL's decline is also being mirrored in Europe. At the end of March AOL Europe had 5.9m punters - down 147,000 on the previous three months and a slide of 452,000 on the same period last year. ®
Team Register, 04 May 2006

Toshiba pegs laptop refunds on England World Cup win

If England wins the 2006 World Cup, Toshiba will refund 66 per cent of the purchase price of many of its Centrino Duo-branded Satellite, Satellite Pro, Portégé, Tecra and Qosmio and notebooks, the company has announced.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006

Scientists moot Romulan-style cloaking device

Two mathematicians have boldly gone where no boffin has gone before and described the theoretical possibility of a cloaking device, the BBC reports. However, before the Trekkies among you don your Romulan cozzies and rush for a copy of the Royal Society publication in which Nicolae Nicorovici and Graeme Milton expound their cloak of invisibility, be aware it's very much a paper concept, currently applicable only to small objects of a particular range of shapes. The theory is based on "anomalous localised resonance" - analogous to the effect by which a vibrating tuning fork placed close to a wine glass will cause the latter to vibrate, as the Beeb notes. Nicorovici and Milton say an illuminated speck of dust (yup, that's the scale we're talking about), in close proximity to a "superlens*" cloaking material, would "scatter light at frequencies that induce a strong, finely tuned resonance in a cloaking material placed very close by". Said resonance cancels out the light coming from the speck, and voila! - invisibility. At least, that's the plan. Superlens pioneer Sir John Pendry, of Imperial College London, said of the mathematicians' admission that "the cloaking effect works only at certain frequencies of light, so that some objects placed near the cloak might only partially disappear": "I believe their claims about the speck of dust and a certain class of objects. In the paper, they do give an instance about a particular shape of material they can't cloak. So they can't cloak everything." He further explained: "Providing the specks of dust are within the cloaked area, the effect will happen. A cloak that only fits one particular set of circumstances is very restrictive - you can't redesign the furniture without redesigning the cloak." Accordingly, we don't think Starfleet Command will be losing any sleep over this one just yet. Nicorovici and Milton's research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. ® Bootnote *The superlens's basic purpose is to break the "diffraction limit" which "restricts the resolution of microscopes and other optical devices to the wavelength of light used", as physicsweb puts it in its illuminating and comprehensive technical description. Here's more: Diffraction restricts the resolution of microscopes and other optical devices to the wavelength of light used. To see why, imagine two widely spaced apertures that are illuminated by the same beam of light so that each aperture produces its own diffraction pattern. If the apertures are moved closer together, their diffraction patterns overlap until they eventually merge to form a single peak. The individual apertures can then no longer be resolved by observing the transmitted light. This unwanted effect is known as the diffraction limit. As is often the case in physics, this simple picture is a little more complicated in practice because light that squeezes through a sub-wavelength aperture emerges in two portions. First there is a "far-field" portion that propagates away from the aperture and can be refocused by conventional lenses. Then there is a "near-field" portion that stays put, remaining localsed around the aperture over a region less than a wavelength in size. The near-field portion contains all of the sub-wavelength spatial details about an object, but it decays quickly as a function of distance from the object. Conventional optical devices are therefore unable to convey these finer details to an image. Instead, such instruments are constrained to recover as much of the far-field light as possible, limiting their resolution to roughly the wavelength of light. The idea, then, is to produce a lens capable of recovering the near-field and far-field components, in which case "an exact image of the object could be formed with perfect resolution". That's exactly what two teams did with a thin layer of silver which, working with visible light, "can be used to image structures with a resolution as high as one-quarter the wavelength of the incident light".
Lester Haines, 04 May 2006

ATI, Nokia converge on phone multimedia

ATI may have scored a major design win for its mobile phone graphics chips: the world's leading handset maker, Nokia. The pair today announced they are to make it easier for developers to create multimedia material for phones, giving content creators a "12-18 months" heads-up, presumably a launch target for ATI-powered Nokia handsets.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006
channel

IT spend failing to support UK.biz

British businesses are failing to develop IT systems that support business objectives, according to a new book from the British Computer Society (BCS). Many firms are failing to get the most out of technology and wasting money because of poor planning, the BCS tome - snappily titled Business Analysis - concludes. Integration and skilled analysis of the business by people with IT expertise is needed if firms are to gain a strategic advantage from IT spending. Firms following piecemeal development and maintenance of IT systems are doomed to spend money with few tangible returns. The BCS book explains the new discipline of business analysis and how it can help firms to stay ahead of the competition. In addition to enabling managers and specialists to gain an understanding of how business analysis works and how to undertake it, Business Analysis also contains pointers on the skills required by practitioners in the field that are likely to help in recruitment programs. The book divides business analysis into several key competencies including: managing business change, strategy analysis, modeling business systems, business case development, stakeholder analysis, information resource management, and business process modeling. International Business Systems Development Forum president Jim Stone said: "The Business Analysis book provides the definitive rationale and most relevant techniques for enabling business transformation via the beneficial deployment of IS/IT based solutions". Business Analysis, which was written by a team of experts in the field, costs £25 and is available from BCS Books or from all good bookshops. ®
John Leyden, 04 May 2006

Chris Eccleston linked to remake of The Prisoner

Former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston has been "linked" with the lead role in a remake of The Prisoner, the BBC reports. Sky One is planning a six-part "thrilling reinvention" of the 1969 cult classic, as director of programmes Richard Woolfe breathlessly put it, adding: "If Doctor Who set the standard, The Prisoner raises the bar." If Eccleston does indeed step into Patrick McGoohan's Number 6 shoes, he will have his work cut out matching the success of the original 17 episodes. Accordingly, Sky One is rolling out the big guns to ensure the programme will capture the imagination of a new generation of viewers. As commissioning editor Elaine Pyke explained: "This project has been subject to an unprecedented level of attention, attracting an array of A-list actors and writers." Quite which A-list thespos might join Eccleston in The Village is not noted, but the BBC says Clocking Off writer Bill Gallagher is responsible for the script. ®
Lester Haines, 04 May 2006

BT exchange reopens after asbestos scare

A BT exchange in Isleworth, West London, is now up and running again after the discovery of asbestos in the building. Following an asbestos alert on 25 April, BT engineers were barred from entering the exchange until a specialist team of contractors had cleaned the premises. The all-clear was given last weekend, and since then two thirds of the backlog of 500 faults and new orders have been completed. The rest should be cleared by the end of the week. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous material used widely as a fire-proofing and insulation material. However, its fibres can cause life-threatening illnesses if inhaled. According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), asbestos is "the greatest single cause of work related deaths in the UK", accounting for more than 3,500 deaths a year. ®
Tim Richardson, 04 May 2006
DVD it in many colours

Sun sues Azul, using Tremblay Gambit

Sun Microsystems has done the expected and countersued server appliance start-up Azul, and this time it's personal. Broadly, Sun has charged Azul with patent infringement around the way its servers process Java software. Sun has paid particular attention to any of its patents that touch on "transactional memory" and "speculative locking technology" techniques. In addition, Sun has brought up problems it has with Azul CEO and former Sun executive Stephen DeWitt. We did a bit of digging through Sun's claim and discovered that chip engineer Marc Tremblay seems at the heart of this squabble. Tremblay is a Sun Fellow, and his name appears on all of the patents mentioned by Sun in its lawsuit. Azul earlier this year filed a lawsuit against Sun, claiming the large server maker was bullying the start-up. Sun had made unreasonable licensing requests and then threatened to sue Azul, according to the company's complaint. CEO Stephen DeWitt backed up these sentiments in an interview at the time, saying that Azul had no choice but to strike first in this battle. This time around, Sun has aimed right at DeWitt. DeWitt came to Sun after it acquired his company Cobalt Networks for $2bn in 2000. According to Sun, a non-compete clause signed by DeWitt – that granted him $100m in stock compensation – demanded that he stay at Sun until Dec. of 2002. Instead, Dewitt began talks with Azul in June of 2002 and became CEO in Oct., Sun said. In addition, Azul hired numerous Sun staffers who also had some non-compete restrictions or knowledge of Sun's confidential plans, the company alleges. Sun would like to see a court stop Azul from selling its Java server appliances and award damages. This case has become quite the hot topic in Silicon Valley due to the personalities and circumstances at play. There's no question that Sun Chairman Scott McNealy and Azul CEO DeWitt have little fondness for each other. The rumor mill has even gone so far as to suggest that these lawsuits are the result of a fight the two executives' kids had at an ice hockey game, although well placed sources say that's certainly not the case. Without question, DeWitt's leaving Sun after having received the insane sum of $2bn for Cobalt only to lead a server maker using multi-core chips to crank through Java has left a bitter taste in the Sun camp's mouth. Sun has its own multi-core dynamos, invented Java and intends to make the most money off servers running the software. ®
Ashlee Vance, 04 May 2006

Wayne Rooney 'hits roof' over fiancée's txt from '5am'

This is very silly indeed: currently crocked Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney reportedly "hit the roof" when fiancée Coleen McLoughlin got a txt msg apparently from someone called "Sam". According to Ananova, McLoughlin told Marie Claire magazine: "He went on, 'Who's Sam? Who's this Sam?'" McLoughlin then had to explain to Rooney that he had misread the message and the offending word was in fact "5am" - the time at which the SMS was sent by a friend. Other delightful revelations in the Marie Claire interview include the fact that the two lovebirds "call Monday night 'Mad Monday' because we watch Emmerdale, Coronation Street, EastEnders and then Corrie again - that's our night in, watching the soaps". Bless. We hope Rooney is not obliged by injury to spend the whole of June slumped in front of the soaps, because, let's face it, the Liverpudlian footballing dynamo is pretty much England's only hope of overcoming Trinidad and Tobago in the World Cup group stages. ®
Lester Haines, 04 May 2006

Sonic ESB chosen for BT Integrate

Sonic Software has just had a rather nice endorsement for its ESB (Enterprise Service Bus): BT Global Services is using it in its BT Integrate distributed integration appliance. This seems to be a practical realisation of an idea I first saw mooted (and demo’d) by Data General last century – a smart box in the corner of your premises, with just a network port, a power connector and a link port (to another box, for fault tolerance), provisioned and managed entirely through your phone connection. Good to see practical technology catching up with yesterday’s vision! And, I really do think that ESB and SOA will be the enablers for the next decade.
David Norfolk, 04 May 2006

Sony delays Blu-ray Disc movie launch

Sony's US home video division has put back the release of pre-recorded Blu-ray Discs by a month because machines capable of playing them will not be available until 20 June. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) had originally intended to ship the discs on 23 May.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006

Schools fail to renew ageing PCs

Schools and colleges have more computers but many face a growing problem in renewing their IT equipment, a new report reveals. Around half of schools do not have a policy in place for replacing old or broken workstations, according to the first annual review of the government's strategy for technology in education in England. The report by the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta), released on 3 May, concludes that those that do have a policy (32 per cent of primary and 44 percent of secondary) intend to replace 25 per cent of their stock within five years – two years after the accepted target three-year lifespan. The ratio of pupils to computers has also continued to fall. In 2005 there was one computer for every 6.1 primary school pupils on average and one for every 3.7 secondary school pupils. In further education colleges, the demand for computers by the growing number of students outstrips supply. "As a result, there has been a worsening of student-computer ratios in FE colleges," says the report. However, interactive whiteboards are now prevalent in schools and colleges, with increasing numbers connected to computers with internet connection. Mobile technologies are also set to play an "increasingly important role with personal ownership of mobile technologies such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones on the rise in schools". Despite significant improvements in internet bandwidth in schools, many teachers are unclear about the full range of benefits broadband can bring. "In around a third of colleges, demand for internet access has continued to outpace college capability," says the report. "Unfortunately this represents a growing trend." There is also still a "significant minority of pupils who do not have home internet access". Although the market is providing increasing numbers of high quality products in the schools sector, provision is mixed. "It is unlikely that demand will effectively drive improvements to quality, as purchases by schools continue to be concentrated on a relatively small number of suppliers. This is partly because practitioners are finding it difficult to develop effective strategies for identifying appropriate software," the report concludes. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 04 May 2006

Orange UK to axe 2,000 jobs

Orange is to axe up to 2,000 jobs in the UK as part of the cellco's plans to merge with sister company Wanadoo. Around 15 per cent of the workforce is to be cut as the Wanadoo ISP sheds its name and becomes part of Orange to create a single telecoms firm. The changes are part of a NExT (New Experience in Telecoms) strategy adopted last year by France Telecom, which owns Orange. In a statement, the company said it wanted to create "a leaner organisation that will be better equipped to compete...in an increasingly competitive environment". Bernard Ghillebaert, chief exec of Orange UK said: "Specifics will be worked out over the next few months and a final structure in place by September, but the new Orange must be lean and agile and our cost base needs to be lower. "Specifically, we will be 15 per cent leaner, resulting in significant annual savings and a streamlined, more efficient organisation. This means the loss of approximately 1,800 to 2,000 jobs. "This reduction is expected to be achieved mainly through a combination of redeployment, natural attrition, non-renewal of temporary short term contracts, and, as a last resort, some redundancies." He added that workers would be "treated with respect and dignity consistent with our values". ®
Tim Richardson, 04 May 2006
cloud

Kazakh heavy metal virusmonger avoids jail

A former heavy metal guitarist has escaped jail after been convicted of running websites that distributed an estimated 4,000 different computer viruses. Sergey Kazachkov, the former lead guitarist of Kazakhstan rockers DLM turned science student, received a two year suspended sentence after confessing to running a brace of virus exchange sites, along with creating malware himself. A Russian court also imposed a one year probation order on the miscreant. Some Russian reports claimed that Kazachkov, of Voronezh in central Russia, created the infamous PC-thrashing Chernobyl virus. However, as anti-virus firm Sophos points out, Kazachkov only offered Chernobyl as a download along with numerous other items of malicious code. The author of Chernobyl (AKA CIH) was Chen Ing-Hau, a Taiwanese student, who was arrested by police in 2000 but never prosecuted. Kazachkov's prosecution has a local precedent. In November 2004, a member of the international 29A virus-writing group was convicted of creating the Stepan and Gastropod viruses. Eugene Suchkov, from the little-known Russian republic of Udmurtia, posted live code for the viruses alongside the source code necessary to create variants onto a number of underground virus exchange websites. Neither of these viruses spread. Eugene (AKA Whale) was fined 3,000 roubles (then equivalent to approximately $105). ®
John Leyden, 04 May 2006

Ageia PhysX physics accelerator chip

ReviewReview Accelerating game physics is a hot topic for gamers. The concept of using add-on hardware - be it GPU or even a new kind of dedicated physics processing unit (PPU) - to speed up physics calculations that would otherwise have to run on the CPU is back at the forefront of developers' discussions...
Ryszard Sommefeldt, 04 May 2006

June US debut for Nintendo DS Lite

Nintendo's redesigned handheld games console, the DS Lite, will go on sale in the US on 11 June, the company announced today. The new version will retail for $130, and will be available in a single colour: glossy white.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006

Teachers strike threat over kid's mucky snap

Teachers at a school in Newcastle upon Tyne are being balloted on strike action after a pupil who snapped a picture of a female teacher's cleavage on his mobile phone was allowed to return to class. The snap was taken as the teacher leaned forward, and subsequently sent to other pupils, reports The Telegraph. The boy was expelled from St Cuthbert's Catholic High School but was allowed to return after his parents appealed the decision. Now teachers are threatening strike action claiming that this is the latest example of kids using mobile phones to harass teachers. Union leaders have called for mobile phones to be banned from schools. A study published last year revealed that school bullies are increasingly using phones with built-in cameras to torment their victims. One in 10 children has felt threatened or embarrassed after bullies snapped their picture using a camera phone, according to children's charity NCH. Seven per cent of those harassed by bullies in this way believe the picture was also forwarded to others. Earlier this year, schools on Merseyside were urged to ban the use of mobile phones amid fears they might damage children's health and could also lead to mobile phone-related crime. ®
Team Register, 04 May 2006

'Buy our PCs or founder,' Dell tells nations

WCITWCIT The Dell model isn't just about removing the middle man and creating an efficient business. When it comes to developing nations, the Dell model is one where the countries create policies that make buying computers, servers and storage easy.
Ashlee Vance, 04 May 2006

Please don't download our album, sob Red Hot Chilis

Mainstream rockers Red Hot Chili Peppers have resorted to emotional blackmail to prevent their fans from downloading illegal copies of their new album before it is released on 9 May. Flea, their much-admired bassist, and a man who, like the other "peppers", is wont to make an exhibition of his naked torso, told fans in a letter posted on the website of the Red Hot Chili Peppers Fan Club on Tuesday that it would "break my heart" if they downloaded the new album. He called upon the sensitive souls of his colleagues, who together form one of the biggest selling bands in the world, as expert witnesses in his case: "it will break john frusciante's heart. it will break anthony kiedis's heart. and it will break the heart of chad smith," he wrote. But Flea, also known as Michael Balzary, also said there were "equitable business reasons" why fans should buy the album, citing the hard work the band members had put into it. The group is thought to have sold 50m albums and is not short of a bob or two. But that does not mean they are any less human. Flea confessed how deeply hurt the band would be to think their fans had to listen to poor quality copies of music they had put so much time into producing. Indeed, he said the thought "bums all of us out", and guitarist John Frusciante in particular would be "hurt deep inside". The Chili Peppers' record company and numerous retailers are counting on making big bucks out of the new album, "Stadium Arcadium". Fans should, he said, appeal to their own consciences before deciding whether to download the new album or buy it in the shops. ®
Team Register, 04 May 2006

VESA completes DVI successor

The Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) has unwrapped the final version of DisplayPort, the monitor interconnect it hopes will succeed DVI by adding HD audio as well as picture signals, and support for higher resolutions and refresh rates than are available today.
Tony Smith, 04 May 2006
channel

Traumatised email servers mark Love Bug anniversary

Thursday 4 May marks the sixth anniversary of the spread of the infamous Love Bug (AKA ILOVEYOU) worm, a mass mailer that infected numerous Windows computers worldwide. Even those not infected directly found their email inboxes filed with junk, an experience that was to be repeated several times over subsequent years. The Love Bug worm tricked users into thinking they'd received a message from a secret admirer. But if the attachment was opened on a Windows PC, the worm would leave it infected while forwarding copies of itself to email addresses harvested from compromised PCs. The suspected author of the worm, Filipino student Onel de Guzman, was arrested but escaped prosecution because of a lack of relevant laws. Laws designed to combat computer misuse in the Philippines were only introduced in June 2000 and weren't backdated, allowing de Guzman to avoid trial. The worm used VBScripts to spread, popularising a technique that was then comparatively rare. Security experts attributed its success in spreading to its use of a love bait as an enticement, which proved to be a powerful psychological draw to bored office workers and consumers. The worm was first spotted on 3 May 2000, but its spread didn't begin in earnest until the following day, 4 May 2000. Much has changed in the malware landscape over the intervening six years, according to UK-based net security firm Sophos. The Love Bug, and the less prolific but still virulent Melissa worm that preceded it, heralded the hay-day of mass-mailing worms that relied on social engineering to spread such attacks are now rare. Targeted Trojan and spyware attacks now represent a far greater security challenge. In 2001, 21 per cent of all threats discovered by Sophos were Trojan horses. By April 2006 this figure had shot up to 86 per cent as hackers used Trojan horses to download malicious code, spy on users, steal information, or seize control of infected PCs. The Love Bug was conceived as a means of stealing internet connection passwords in order to give its creators cheap access to the net, making it something of a forerunner to today's menaces. The Love Bug popularised the use of social engineering tricks to spread email worms by tricking users into double-clicking on malicious attachments. For example, the Anna Kournikova worm posed as pictures of the Russian tennis pin-up. Other malware strains offered infected files supposedly connected to Britney Spears, Paris Hilton and Jennifer Lopez. Sophos experts say financially-motivated hackers now prefer to use Trojan horses rather than mass-mailing worms because there's a greater pay off in avoiding the public attention a major outbreak brings. Publicity about a viral epidemic tends to make users more wary, while creating a motive for police to apply more resources towards identifying culprits, an outcome cyberciminals are keen to avoid. ®
John Leyden, 04 May 2006
bofh_sidey

BOFH 2006: Lock, stock and barrel

17 minutes of goodwill Episode 1 Happy New Year The way of the hammer Episode 2 Engineers are great! 'Did you know..?' Episode 3 Yes, we did - we're Systems and Network Automated attendant abuse Episode 4 'I'm sorry, that serial number is not recognised' Headhunted Episode 5 A wonderful opportunity BOFH takes a leaf from Captain Kirk's log Episode 6 New recruit lost on unexplored planet Birthday present backfire Episode 7 Snap...happy? Being root Episode 8 Seminar sabotage A change in tone Episode 9 Insert this way up Feral access points Episode 10 Wild, untamed... Previously... BOFH 2005: All you can eat 36 courses of meaty goodness BOFH 2004: The whole shooting match That fun-filled year in full BOFH 2003: Year Book Fun for all the family BOFH 2002: A Reader's Digest Travelling Companion 2001: A BOFH Odyssey BOFH Yearbook BOFH 2K: The kit and caboodle That was the year that was... in full The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99 And there's more...
Team Register, 04 May 2006
graph up

Blue Security offloads DoS attack onto blogs

A denial of service attack against Blue Security, distributors of a controversial anti-spam system, has taken the firm's site offline. Mistakes in the firm's response to the attack are been linked to a traffic flood that took numerous blogs offline too. Blue Security has established a ‘Do Not Intrude Registry’ (akin to the Do Not Call Registry for telemarketing) with around 450,000 members. Participants download a small tool, called Blue Frog, which systematically flood the websites of spammers with opt-out messages. Depending on your point of view, this initiative can either be viewed as community action or vigilantism. Earlier this week members of the Blue community received aggressive spam messages from an unknown group in an attempt to intimidate users into dropping out of Blue Security's network. Ordinary punters who had nothing to do with Blue Security also received the same messages proving, if proof were needed, that the belligerent junk mail campaign was a scatter-shot affair. This campaign of intimidation was followed by a denial of service attack against Blue Security's website on Wednesday. Posts in the North American Network Operators Group mailing list report that during the ongoing attack traffic heading for bluesecurity.com was offloaded to the firm's TypePad-hosted weblog, bluesecurity.blogs.com. This configuration change is blamed for taking the website of blogging outfit Six Apart, which runs TypePad and Live Journal, offline too leaving the information superhighway temporarily bereft of the outpourings of numerous bloggers. Six Apart, rather gallantly, has been careful not to blame Blue Security but others have criticised the latter firm for redirecting the flood it was receiving. Six Apart restored services to normal early on Thursday morning while Blue Security's website was still unavailable by tapas time on Thursday. A spokeswoman for Blue Security confirmed that its site was under attack. She added that the firm regretted making configuration changes, since amended, that hit Six Apart's services. ®
John Leyden, 04 May 2006

Gates: 'We'll keep Google honest'

Bill Gates has promised to keep Google "honest" by pushing the internet rival to "to better" despite coming late to the internet services market with an unfinished offering. Hosting a summit of some of MSN's largest advertisers, who will no doubt want to know why MSN's traffic is increasing while revenue from ads is falling, Gates conceded Google had done a "great job" on search and advertising while Microsoft had made a number of tactical mistakes, including appointing the "wrong" people. He spoke as Microsoft launched its adCenter advertising serving engine for MSN and Windows Live, bringing forward the service from its anticipated summer release. Gates promised Microsoft would do a better job of providing more context-based search results than Google, calling current search a "treasure hunt." "For Microsoft, we always want to be in the lead, making the breakthroughs... we will keep them [Google] honest, in the sense of being able to do better in a number of areas," Gates said during an "interview" with talk show host Donny Deutsch at the company's seventh MSN Strategic Account Summit. Microsoft is trying to encourage advertisers to sign-up to its service here. Gates appears to be placing much of his faith in new content rather than original technology or challenging business models to drive traffic to MSN and Windows Live. That content will be delivered through MSN Originals. Gates conscripted US rapper Jay-Z as the music celebrity designate to appear with him at this particular Microsoft event - following in the footsteps of Justin Timberlake and Santana, stars of previous Microsoft launches and events who've had the unenviable job of upstaging the charismatic Microsoft founder. While Gates was pitching potential advertisers, Google was trying to convince the enterprise crowd that its search tools are right for them. Dave Girouard, vice president and general manager of Google's enterprise business, told Interop in Las Vegas, Nevada, that Google builds search capabilities for the enterprise user by providing a system that - unlike traditional enterprise systems - does not become harder to use over time. Highlighting Google's OneBox, Girouard said the system collects the most relevant information into a small box at the top of a search results page, making the product easy to use. "We've been able to innovate without adding complexity to the system," Girouard said.®
Gavin Clarke, 04 May 2006

Muni Wi-Fi KO'd by wrong kind of hills, trees, rain

Google's launch of a Wi-Fi network in its home town of Mountain View may be delayed, according to reports. The company is scrambling to build more transmitters than it originally planned, notes eWeek's Ben Charny. It's typical of the delays in getting municipal Wi-Fi projects up and running. Bouyed more by evangelism - and lobbying dollars - rather than reality, Wi-Fi projects are experiencing the kind of issues all too familiar to experienced network engineers. Kimo Crossman, whose activism helped push the details of San Francisco's Municipal Wi-Fi project TechConnect into the sunlight, says that municipal Wi-Fi projects in Tempe, Arizona and St Cloud in Florida also ran into the same problem. "The need for pilots of municipal Wi-Fi seem beyond prudent," Crossman tells us. San Francisco has additional challenges over Mountain View, he notes. "Hills, older construction with lead and mesh which significantly reduce penetration of outside signals, and a much higher coverage requirement of 95 per cent outdoors and 90 per cent indoors are significant issues," he says. Crossman notes that the same technology, Tropos, being used in Mountain View is also planned for San Francisco. It's the indoor coverage that appears to be the stumbling block. In the small town of Chaska, Minnesota, the project was forced into an upgrade almost as soon as it went live, notes Cnet. These are familiar problems to network engineers responsible for the build out of CDMA and GSM networks throughout the 1990s. But Wi-Fi's high frequency band, which works poorly indoors, its lack of allocated spectrum and low range, mean the technology has far more problems than established cellular radio interfaces. As a consequence, leaves, fog, and rain can severely hamper network performance. Just as hills defeated the takeover of earth by the Mark One Dalek (after an early, successful conquest of East Anglia), hills are proving a problem for the Wi-Fi evangelistas. Because of that, dreams of replacing the cellular carriers as a reliable phone service with unregulated spectrum are likely to remain just that - dreams. At least until battle hardened 4G network technologies such as Qualcomm's OFDM and WiMAX come along. And when they do, the largest buyers of 4G are likely to be...you've already guessed. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 04 May 2006

Apple heads for new carrier collision

The US Patent and Trademark Office has published two patent applications today which offer some clue to the future shape of the iPod, and also Apple's ambitions as a digital media distributor. As well as an intriguing glimpse of what a wireless iPod could do, it potentially sets Apple on a collision course with the major cellular phone networks.
Andrew Orlowski, 04 May 2006

US in open source backlash

WCITWCIT The US has fallen way behind other nations with regard to its embrace of open source technology, and the situation may only get worse. Open source coders face their grandest test to date as organizations place more and more scrutiny on the origins and value of FOSS (free and open source software) products. That's the word that came down today from an august panel here at the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT). Some members of the panel reckoned that countries in Europe, Asia and South America have a greater appreciation for the open source lifestyle. Such a notion does not come as a surprise, although the tone of the attacks against the US did prove out of the ordinary. "We have to be very clear that the perception (of open source) in the US is not shared throughout the world," said Ravi Kalakota, the CIO of open source at Unisys. "Latin America is aggressively moving to open source. The same thing is happening in Europe. . . They have no qualms about licensing and other things that the US government is hung up on. "We have to be very clear when we talk about a global perspective. The US is an outlier and in many ways a laggard in the open source arena as opposed to the commercial software where we lead the way." Such comments are sure to go over well with Unisys partners such as Red Hat, Novell and JBoss. Kalakota, however, has a point in that federal and state government bodies here have failed to embrace open source software with the same vigor as some foreign nations. To make matters worse for the FOSS posse, the US government may be in the process of pulling back even more on the open source front, according to Hummer Winblad partner Mitchell Kertzman. "The parts of the government that are concerned about things like national security are really worried about open source," he said. Kertzman declined to out which agencies have specific open source issues but claimed that they've expressed great FOSS fears in private to the venture capitalists. "There is a lot of concern about the security aspects," he said, adding that this could cause a "decrease in the desire for open source." Will Hurley, the CTO of Qlusters, denied the US government's apprehension around open source, saying he has pumped plenty of FOSS code into the Department of Energy's security systems. Legal fears also seem on the rise with regard to open source software, according to panel moderator and attorney Hank Jones. He has seen major acquisitions delayed or cancelled after pursuers put the software assets of their target under the microscope. The "increased scrutiny that is now occurring" has started to turn up some horror stories, Jones said. In particular, companies have discovered that assets claimed as proprietary often end up having plenty of code pinched from various open source projects. Despite all of this, the panelists remained pretty optimistic about open source software's role in the future. The panelists don't expect to see many wealthy, pure play open source vendors but rather the types that sell services or other goods around an open source product. Open source will increasingly be competing with the software as a service crowd for attention in the coming years, the panelists said. Counter intuitively, Kalakota from Unisys expects the "iPod generation" to usher in a sort of rebirth for open source. Despite being raised on proprietary, locked down devices that make sharing culture difficult, teenagers now "think sharing, think community and think open," he said. "I would say the next five years will be very exciting." ®
Ashlee Vance, 04 May 2006