A US man has been jailed for 21 months for running a phishing web site even though it's unlikely he made any money through the scam. Jayson Harris, 23, of Davenport, Iowa, was convicted of sending bogus e-mail to MSN subscribers which attempted to trick them into handing over their credentials to an equally bogus website he ran. Harris was also ordered to pay $57k, the cost of investigating his case. Harris (AKA the MSN Billing Phisher) confessed to operating the scam between January 2003 until June 2004. He used promises of subscription discounts to trick between 50 and 250 victims into handing over credit card details and other sensitive information. Assistant Federal Defender Kevin Cmelik disputes the government's case that he tried to make fraudulent use of at least three of these credit cards. "I don't think there's any question that Harris didn't make any money," Cmelik said. Harris was rumbled after security investigators at Microsoft referred the case to the FBI, which tracked the source of the scam back to a computer at a house belonging to Harris's grandfather. Having identified the culprit, Microsoft sued Harris for damages in an earlier civil action, winning a default judgment of $3m in December 2005. Harris, who worked as a clerk in Blockbusters, is unlikely to be in a position to pay this fine any time soon. ®
BEA Systems' chief executive has criticized former employer Sun Microsystems for open sourcing Solaris while signaling his intention to keep BEA's middleware stack closed. Alfred Chuang, speaking to press Tuesday, also dismissed rival JBoss for not doing "real" open source because contributions are regulated centrally. He also dismissed the idea open source is suited for some companies and verticals as "total hype". Chuang, whose business has been challenged by the rise of open source, claimed BEA is a genuine open source company because it supports projects like Apache in its application server, programming tools and framework. The fact BEA contributed some of its own code in the first place didn't seem to come into it. As such, Chuang appeared to rule out open sourcing BEA's Java middleware, saying business customers do not want to hack around with the application server's code. Picking on Sun's OpenSolaris program Chuang said: "Look at those who blindly open source. Solaris - two million lines of code. Useless." Chuang went on to criticize JBoss. Marc Fleury, JBoss' chief executive, has prided himself on paying a hard core of developers to maintain the application server and keep development alive. Fleury, speaking at JavaOne last week, re-iterated the point: "We've been a big proponent of professional open source and rejected the myth that with peace and love open source falls from the sky," Fleury said. It's a view shared by Oracle chief executive Larry Ellison. According to Chuang: "JBoss is open source software for selected people who are approved [and] can participate. [Participation is] selected by Marc Fleury. That's not an open source process. An open source process is an open community process. You've got to have an open source process and open source community." Chuang was speaking to press at BEA's offices in San Jose, California, the week after the company announced a mixed bag of financial results. BEA has been under the microscope since 2004 when the bottom dropped out of its licensing business and management suffered the biggest exodus since the parting of the Red Sea. While revenue for BEA's latest three month period jumped 14 per cent to $323m, increased operating expenses took a big bite out of the bottom line and income grew 3.3 per cent to $35m. Operating expenses grew 23 per cent to $210m. BEA blamed the increase on costs associated with the acquisitions of portal vendor Plumtree and business process management specialist Fuego. Income from services rather than licensing continued to dominate BEA's revenue mix during the first quarter - $190m compared to $132m - a fact BEA justified saying this suited its position as a provider of enterprise software, and helped it work towards its goal - stated by Chuang last year - of becoming a $3bn revenue company by 2008 - up from $1bn. "Customer support is where all the profitability comes from," chief financial officer Mark Dentinger said. "Once you get a customer you have a long, long, long-term relationship with them." Asked about BEA's chances of hitting $3bn by 2008, Dentinger said: "That's why I'm here. I hope so." A year into its AquaLogic Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) strategy, BEA claimed AquaLogic products now account for 10 per cent of revenue. While the WebLogic application server and portal combination still represent the biggest growth opportunity, the WebLogic Communications Platform (WLCP) is not selling as well as BEA had initially expected. Launched in February 2005, WLCP includes WebLogic SIP Server, which fuses Java with session internet protocol (SIP) for carriers to provide converged voice and IP services, while WebLogic Network Gatekeeper helps carriers ensure quality of service and maintain service level agreements. BEA expects WLCP sales to kick in, in the second half of 2006. ®
Two of the founders of online poker site PartyGaming are leaving its board of directors. The techy brain behind the site, Anurag Dikshit, is leaving the board but will continue to develop new products as the new head of research and special projects. Group marketing director Vikrant Bhargava is also stepping down. He will leave the company at the end of the year. Despite this, the firm says it hopes he will still "be available to advise the group". The two have already made almost £500m from selling shares in the company. Between them they still own some 39 per cent of the company, which has a market capitalisation of over £5bn. In February, the company sold almost a quarter of its shares to Japanese investment firm Softbank. It also lost chief executive Richard Seagal because he did not want to relocate to Gibraltar. Some observers said the moves showed new chief executive Mitch Garber was making his mark at the firm. In a joint statement, Bhargava and Dikshit said they were confident the firm's marketing and technology departments would continue to flourish and they welcomed the arrival of Mitch Garber. The whole statement is available here. ®
WinHECWinHEC Linux made a surprise appearance in Bill Gates' opening keynote presentation at WinHEC on Tuesday. Midway through his speech, Gates handed the spotlight over to Jeff Woolsey, lead programme manager for Microsoft's Windows Division, to demonstrate Microsoft's 64-bit server virtualisation software. After showing how the next version of Windows Server will be able to run a full version of Windows Server 2003 in a window, Woolsey then called up another window running Red Hat Enterprise Server Version 4. Woolsey explained that non-Microsoft operating systems have to be supported in the virtualisation ecosystem to offer interoperability and standardisation across the board. "Our customers have told us that they want to standardise on a single platform for virtualisation," he said. "They don't want to use one virtualisation technology for Windows and another virtualisation technology for other operating systems. And, since the majority of operating systems being virtualised are Windows, it only makes sense that we provide our customers the best platform for virtualisation so that they can standardise on Windows server virtualisation and Longhorn Server." During the demo Woolsey highlighted the product's ability to run both 32-bit and 64-bit servers in separate virtual partitions, or instances, simultaneously. He also showed how the software could support twin or quadruple processors and claimed that multiple windows, or instances, each using up to eight processors, will be possible in the finished product. The software has a hypervisor base to provide a connectivity layer with the underlying hardware. A hypervisor is a very light operating system running directly on top of the server hardware to control the I/O streams of the various instances – rather like DOS used to work under Windows in the early days. The system also uses an optimised version of the Longhorn server to support the multiple instances. Management of the whole environment is achieved through the new Microsoft Management Console (MMC) interface that will be included with Longhorn. Microsoft chose WinHEC to talk up its virtualisation software because Longhorn will not be available until next year. At that time the company will be playing catch-up with VMware's ESX Server and XenSource's Linux-based Xen Hypervisor which are both available now. To whet the appetite of potential customers, Woolsey demonstrated how Microsoft's virtualisation can allow new hardware to be added or changed in any of the server instances without stopping the server. Claiming this as a differentiator for the product over its competitors, he showed a network card being added to a server configuration and how system memory can be reallocated to increase the capacity of a specific server instance. ®
Apple has teamed up with wingéd Nike, the Ancient Greek personification of athletic footwear*, to offer an iPod Nano add-on that talks to your shoes.
WinHECWinHEC Bill Gates kicked off the Microsoft Windows Hardware Engineering Conference (WinHEC) by announcing the second beta versions of Windows Vista, Windows Server (Longhorn) and Office 2007. Then, in what passed as a rock 'n' roll moment, he presented a slightly bemused customer with a framed edition of the betas on gold-coloured DVDs. Microsoft is a hive of activity at the moment and Gates had a lot of ground to cover in his one hour on stage. He set the scene by explaining that the company is trying to make life easier for its customers by delivering more secure and reliable products. He also said a number of Windows Server products will be moving to 64-bit only versions. This will start with Exchange 2007, but other products in the pipeline include the Small Business Server Edition currently being developed under the name of Cougar. The move is a result of the extra power that is being provided by x86-based, 64-bit processors and the scalability these provide. Gates said Microsoft's strategy "is a clear message that 64-bit is here to stay and will be pervasive". Other advances in computer hardware and networking are also ringing in the changes. The lowering of costs of non-volatile memory used in storage devices means inclusion of these memory chips on the motherboard opens up new possibilities. Gates announced the company's support for SuperGo technology that will use these chips to capture the current image of the computer's state when Windows is placed in hibernation. The next time the computer is turned on the memory will enable a faster start and put less strain on the hard disk. The next stop on the Gates tour was Microsoft's commitment to virtual servers and a first airing of the Windows Server virtualisation software that will accompany Longhorn. Next up was Chevron general manager of IT Alan Nunns, who came on stage to tell Bill how great Microsoft is and how the oil and gas business would implode without him. Gates handed over the framed set of betas as a reward for showing up, and Nunns left the stage. Then the mobile world became the focus and Microsoft's commitment to the tablet PC as the platform of the future was reaffirmed. Gates also said he feels Media Centre is now coming together as the entertainment operating system for the home. In the telecoms arena there were three new phones from Motorola, Philips and Uniden that support Windows Live Messenger. The phones can connect to a user's remote PC through the Microsoft online service to find contact information stored within the Windows Messenger instant messaging system. This is a precursor of the future of Microsoft's interpretation of online services and will be expanded to encompass many more services, Gates promised. The keynote was based around the established skeletal framework of release promises, hard news, performing users, and pantomimes based on living the Windows dream. At least this year there seems to be a bit more meat on these bones. ®
Dell, famous for sticking to its direct sales business model, is opening two stores in the US but stresses it is just an experiment. The stores will not carry inventory - orders will still go through Dell's website and existing fullfilment process. The two shops, with about 3,000 square feet of space, will carry about 36 products including big screen TVs. Although primarily a direct seller Dell has tried retail sales before - late last year it did a deal with US warehouse giant Costco to offer cheap desktop machines off the shelf. Since 2002, the company has run kiosks in shopping malls and department stores to let shoppers try before they buy. These also have no inventory but can help customers through ordering online. IDC PC sales figures for the most recent quarter showed Dell's growth slowing to less than one per cent in the US, but it is still in top spot. But Dell will be up against some competition - both the malls chosen already have Apple stores. More from the New York Times here and Cnet here. ®
Book reviewBook review Like it or not, (and there are plenty of zealots who don't), the Java and .NET worlds have to learn to live with one another nicely. In practice this means that applications have to be able to cross platform boundaries easily - no more hiding behind proprietary interfaces, no more trying to own the entire software stack, and no more pretending that other platforms don't exist. All of which is helping to drive the move towards web services and service oriented architectures (SOA).
Honda scientists have created a system that will translate thoughts into electrical signals that can be used to control machinery. The technique doesn't require the user to undergo surgery or extensive training - a major advance over past thought-controlled technologies, the company said.
Instant Messaging (IM) is becoming a presence on securities trading desks in the USA. And Pivot Solutions has developed IM Trader, an IM product for the trading desk. IM Trader enables customers to place securities orders for trading in a manner that complies with Securities and Exchange Commission rules by transforming instant messages into the standard FIX format for transmission between the buy and sell side parties. It is contended the majority of US brokerage Wall Street firms use IM. It is further contended that America Online's instant messaging platform (AIM) predominates in this market through its strategic alliance with IM Trader. Some proponents of IM assert that not only is this an innovative, low cost and easy way of transmitting orders, but that the brokers' trading desks are only responding to the customer demands. From a regulatory compliance perspective, the SEC views IM as it views email. All IM communications must be logged, recorded and archived. They must be readily accessible to review or inspection. To avoid any compliance concerns, IM order capabilities have to be integrated into the broker's Order Management and Routing Systems. The major concern for the financial regulators remains the possibility that the trader may have access to another IM service, where messages are not recorded and archived. This could lead to so-called "front running of orders". The unlogged orders from the "alternative IM service" could be used to set the best price for the logged orders coming through the authorised and integrated system. While the US financial services regulators have not prohibited the use of IM Order services, they are "unsettled about their use". They have not, as yet, offered a solution to this other than stressing that "the books and records should reflect what is really going on", but will have to issue some formal statements on policy and practice if IM trading services continue to proliferate. In the UK and Europe the use of IM services for placing securities order has not been raised as an issue publicly with financial services regulators. The response is likely to be similar to that of US regulators. However, advances in financial regulation tend to be more consultative. Accordingly, it is more likely that financial institutions will review the compliance issues impacting the deployment of IM for transmitting securities orders with the relevant financial regulator and implement any necessary additional compliance procedures before they proceed to implement IM trading services. Recent research in the UK/Europe highlights the technical progress in IM but supports the traditional prejudices towards it. The research showed that while 60 per cent of office workers are IM users, only 28 per cent of them use IM for business purposes. Employees cited instant response, convenience, informality, and faster decision making as their top reasons for using IM at work. More advanced users highlighted features of collaborative business applications and cheap voice calls. The same research identified why IM was not actually being used as extensively as it could be in business. Fifty-six per cent stated the use of IM was against their corporate IT policy. "Regulatory and compliance" issues and having no permanent record were also cited as a problem, though some IM systems do in fact allow records to be kept. Fear of security and virus risks at eight per cent also featured. IM services for securities transactions would appear to face a long haul before they are set for widespread adoption in the European region; customer perception being the initial, perhaps, major obstacle. Copyright © 2006, IT-Analysis.com
Tech DigestTech Digest Review from Tech Digest. Also check out our World Cup blog Who Ate All The Bratwurst? The digital music revolution seems to have affected all age groups - with your nan being as likely to listen to her iPod while she's gardening as your annoying nephew is to be rocking his Walkman 'phone at the back of the bus. A problem that perhaps affects the older MP3 enthusiast a little more keenly than the young is the difficulty of transferring old, beloved and often irreplaceable vinyl disks into the new digital formats. Sooner or later though, almost everyone wants to convert a little bit of history. A few solutions have been floated in the past, Steinberg's Clean was one particularly worthy contender, but all the products hitherto available have been a bit...how shall I put this?...fiddly. A California outfit called Ion has spotted this evident need for a simple piece of kit which makes the vinyl-to-digital transfer as painless as possible, and launched the first (as far as they know) USB turntable. We reported the product launch at the end of last year, but it's only recently that we were able to snag one for review. It's a nicely-designed object, with DJ-compliant pitch slider, anti-skate mechanism for those older albums and, for reasons only Ion can tell you, two start buttons. It's rather lightweight, which is either a mercy if you're planning to move it from house to house scavenging old vinyl, or a disappointment if you're one of those audiophile types who like everything made out of depleted uranium for added stability. Certainly, the audio transferred sounded pretty good with no obvious rumble or other environmental artefacts. There's also a very handy, if somewhat strangely-sited, minijack input just next to the turntable if you want to use the turntable as an analogue-to-digital converter for other line sources, like a cassette or minidisk. The bundled Audacity software (Both PC & Mac version 1.2.3 in the box, I downloaded 1.2.4 for free from the Audacity site) was easy enough to use, with most settings left at default, and only the USB audio needing to be designated as the input for things to start happening. I noticed some mild weirdness with input at first, with only the left channel recording, but flicking the input preference from stereo to mono and back again made everything behave nicely. In fairness, that could just as easily have been a peculiarity of my Mac as the Audacity software. One interesting little detail is the ability to rip 33rpm albums at 45, then slow the audio back down. For the minor time saving achieved I'm not convinced it's worth the inevitable audio degradation, but it's clever though, and if you're in a real hurry to digitise a massive library it might just be worthwhile. Certainly compared with other systems I've tried this is the simplest and most senior-friendly method of capturing old records to hard disk yet seen. It works as a regular hifi turntable as well, making the price (they're £120 from Firebox) even more reasonable - and even though I've already transferred that last old Grandmaster Flash 12 inch I'd been hanging onto, I think I want one. Other stories 20 Gig PS3s unlikely to hit UK for some time LG's Eight gig mini MP3 player BenQ Siemens new clamshell music phone Solar powered battery charger HD copy protection delayed until 2010?
BT has been warned that its "honeymoon period" is coming to an end after some telcos said they were still sceptical about changes designed to make the UK's telecoms sector more competitive and transparent. The warning was contained in that latest assessment of Openreach, BT's access services division created earlier this year as part of a regulatory settlement with Ofcom. Openreach was set up to ensure that rival telcos and operators get transparent and equal access to BT's phone network after firms complained that BT was abusing its dominant position as both a wholesale and retail provider of telecoms services. This partial "splitting" of the former monopoly meant BT was spared an investigation that could have led to its break-up. But four months after the creation of Openreach a survey of operators on behalf of Ofcom has found that "few concrete changes" have been introduced although it is accepted that it is still "early days". Broadly speaking, the findings from the survey are mixed. On one hand, there are those who are generally supportive of Openreach and who recognise that setting up such a major new organisation is bound to throw up some teething problems. Then there are "sceptics", who said they need to see changes before giving their full support to the new structure. The report said: "While most of Openreach's customers appreciate that the pace of change has been such that there were bound to be teething problems, many stressed that the honeymoon period is now ending and that they required significant improvements within the next six to 12 months." Key issues that need to be dealt with include recruiting more staff and speeding up the delivery of products and services. One plus point for BT came from local loop unbundling (LLU) operators who said they had already seen "positive change" although further work was still needed. In a statement, BT described the report as "constructive" adding that "many of the issues raised in the report have since been addressed". "It is still very early days in implementing what is a massive and radical change in the way the industry and BT operate after more than two decades of regulation," it said. "A huge amount has been achieved to date, including the creation of Openreach, a new 30,000 person business. BT has delivered against every single one of its undertakings to date, and everyone is committed to delivering the remainder," it said. ®
Computer 2000's parent, Tech Data saw its shares rise slightly yesterday, despite the company posting a big fall in first quarter profits. The distie watched turnover fall by 2.4 per cent to $4.9bn for the first quarter of 2007, ended 31 April 2006.
A drug that has caused the catastrophic crash of 97 per cent of the south Asian vulture population has been restricted by the Indian government. Firms have three months to stop flogging anti-inflammatory diclofenac to farmers. The drug is given to cattle for lameness and as a painkiller. It had been thought harmless - it is widely prescribed to people - but scientists discovered the compound wrecked the kidneys of birds scavenging livestock carcasses. White-backed, long-billed and slender billed species have been pushed to the brink of extinction since farmers began using the drug in the 90s. RSPB conservation director Mark Avery said: "The Indian government's decision is an historic and priceless one and a move that will be hugely significant for the millions of people in Asia for whom vultures are absolutely indispensable." Vultures occupy a vital ecological niche in the rural regions, stripping carcasses that would otherwise encourage disease. RSPB Asian vulture program chief Chris Bowden said: "The decline of vultures has been quicker than any other wild bird, including the dodo, and we know what happened to them." As we reported in January, conservationists had been lobbying New Dehli to have the practice outlawed. Officials are now pushing farmers and vets to switch to the alternative drug meloxicam. ®
The head of the Trading Standards Institute (TSI) has called for "strong penalties" to combat mis-selling by telecoms companies. TSI chief exec Ron Gainsford said he is "concerned at the growing problem of telecoms mis-selling and would like to see strong penalties for misleading sales behaviour". His comments come on the first anniversary of Ofcom's industry code of conduct, designed to stamp out slamming and other dodgy sales techniques. In May 2005, all telcos flogging fixed line services had to adhere to a mandatory code of practice to prevent punters being duped into switching telephone suppliers. In the worst "slamming" cases, punters are switched from one telco to another without their knowledge or consent. Companies that breach the new rules could be fined up to 10 per cent of turnover. At the time, Ofcom chief exec Stephen Carter said: "These measures should help support progress towards the appropriate levels of clarity and transparency whilst the market continues to mature." But BT says that little has changed over the last 12 months and wants the telecoms industry to "clean up its act" after receiving more than 200,000 complaints about mis-selling over the last year. In a statement, BT Consumer MD Gavin Patterson said: "This is an anniversary the telecoms industry should be ashamed of. We've received 200,000 complaints since the codes were introduced and...with complaints to us running up to 20,000 a month, we're worried thousands more customers are going to suffer from the problem in the year ahead." A spokesman for Ofcom told us that enforcing the rules introduced in this area last year "is a priority for Ofcom". "We continue to run an industry-wide investigation into compliance which has led to action against several individual companies. When changes to the rules were made, we said we'd assess their impact over a two year period and that is what will happen over the coming months," he told us. ®
Britain bounced into number one spot as Europe's most digital market on Tuesday, largely due to digital TV spending ahead of the World Cup. The latest research from Informa Telecoms and Media ranks the UK as the most digital state in western Europe based on the research firm's quarterly Converging Media (CM) index. The final quarter score of 2005 for the UK was 30.5 points based on advanced-digital-content consumption through broadband, digital TV, and mobile phone platforms. Ireland ranked seventh in a list of 10 western European countries with a CM score of 17.4, ahead of Switzerland, Denmark and Norway. Informa analyst Steve Mullins told ENN that the Republic's small market in terms of number of households may skew the results favourably for Ireland. For example, Informa's total broadband penetration figure for Ireland as of the end of 2005 - derived from "large broadband providers in Ireland" - is 18.4 per cent: equivalent to 250,000 subscribers. In comparison, the sixth-place Netherlands has 59 per cent broadband penetration with four million subscribers, while Switzerland - which ranked joint seventh alongside Ireland with a CM score of 17.4 - has 55 per cent broadband penetration with 1.7m subscribers. According to Informa, the total number of Irish digital TV subscriptions at the end of 2005 was 534,000 up from 515,000 the previous quarter, thus household penetration stands at 39.3 per cent. Meanwhile in the UK, Informa believes the huge digital TV penetration is based on BskyB packages and BBC Freeserve, and that fact alone may have put the UK on top of the list. "The UK is by far Western Europe's most digital market and its surprising number-one ranking is due to the huge take-up of digital TV. The sector now boasts a base of almost 17m users," Mullins said. "On top of digital TV, the UK market also added 900,000 new customers to mobile-broadband services (3G) in the final quarter of last year, accounting for an impressive growth of 23 per cent." The UK now has 4.8m high-speed mobile subscribers. Although ranking second in the CM Index, the Finns outdid the Brits in terms of growth adding 35,000 new 3G subscriptions in the final quarter - a spike of 85 per cent - to give Finland close to 80,000 mobile 3G users. Irish 3G penetration at the end of 2005 was 6.1 per cent equating to 243,000 subscriptions, the report said. Italy, although ranked third, as western Europe's leading 3G sector, with close to 10m subscribers. "The country's CM Index of 21.1 is largely based on its mobile performance rather than by fixed broadband and digital TV," said Mullins, who added that having the latest mobile phone was a cultural expression in Italy. "In Ireland, the pre-Christmas quarter saw a late surge in mobile phone handset sales which are broadband-enabled. Even if people aren't using all their 3G services yet, it does indicate the fast growth of future trends and we are expecting a higher mobile penetration in Ireland by the end of the second quarter of 2006." Mullins expects to start seeing more digital TV and 3G promotions in Ireland - especially video downloads onto phones and an explosion of user-created content. Last week, mobile operator Three launched its first pre-pay broadband-enabled mobiles and Mullins said he is interested to see if the Irish market lends itself to people using a 2G bill phone and a separate pre-paid handset for 3G applications. Copyright © 2006, ENN
O2 Germany has posted details of a PDA phone it's calling the XDA Trion but is better known as HTC's 'Hermes' design. Hermes is also set to ship as the i-mate JasJam, if a posting on a US retail website is anything to go by.
CommentComment Given that we have had decision support systems, enterprise information systems, and now business intelligence for the better part of two decades, you would think that the market would be showing some signs of maturity or, at least, that it was consolidating and moving towards some sort of commoditisation. From the number of new BI companies that I have met lately, this seems very far from fruition.
Review Round-upReview Round-up This week's no-holds barred product assessments from around the web focuses on the big announcement of the last few days: AMD's Socket AM2 processors and Nvidia's nForce 500 chipset series...
Available in fetching orange and yellow, or shades of blue and green, here's the $100 laptop, which was unveiled at the Seven Countries Task Force Meeting yesterday. Almost immediately, pictures of the machine hit the net.
BT is looking to fill more than 1,300 new jobs as part of a £1bn upgrade to the UK's phone network. The new engineers will work on phone and internet connections to homes and businesses as part of BT Openreach, the telco's new access and services division. Around £100m is planned to be invested in each of 10 UK regions during the next 12 months to improve the network's capacity. The work will include the installation of thousands of miles of new optical fibre and copper cabling. "This major investment in infrastructure and new engineers will help us in the continuing improvement in service to our customers and end users," a BT spokesman said. ®
Qualcomm has brought the patent infringement allegations it has made against mobile phone giant Nokia to the UK. The US company has asked the English High Court to ban certain Nokia products and to force the Finnish firm to cough up damages.
The Home Office has fingered 3,000 organisations for expulsion from the list of groups or firms authorised to query the Criminal Records Bureau (CRB) database of people with past convictions. The move follows concerns that thousands of people have been incorrectly identified as criminals when prospective employers or other organisations queried the CRB. The Home Office's public stance on the matter has been "mistakes happen". However, it appears to have quietly outsourced the blame to those organisations, or agents, who are authorised to carry out record checks through the CRB. This first, routine purge will be the first of many scheduled for the next 18 months. It is warranted under the new regulations added to the Police Act (1997), in April. The Home Office said it had written to 3,000 agents that had made less than 10 queries of the CRB database. It hopes to have them de-registered by the summer. All those who have made less than 100 CRB queries are also set for expulsion. These are thought to number about 10,000 of a total of 13,500. A Home Office source said the routine purge was designed to get rid of problem agents, but officially the department will not directly accuse registered firms of carelessness or abuse of the system. "In April, we commenced our programme to reduce the size of the registered body network because we were aware that some registered bodies were not fully complying with our code of practice and not carrying out identity checks to the standard we expect," the source said. "Organisations that persistently fail to comply with these new regulations will be considered for deregistration, removing their ability to comply with CRB checks." The Criminal Records Bureau reported in its Strategic Plan this week that one of its most serious risks was losing the trust and support of its agents - those private, public and charitable bodies authorised to perform police checks on its database. The bureau's public explanation for the April regulations and the ongoing cull was that reducing the list would make the system more manageable and reduce the likelihood of mistakes. The National Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders received 15,000 calls to its helpline about CRB disclosures last year. The Home Office said complaints it had upheld against its system of CRB checks represented only 0.025 per cent of nearly 9m queries of its data. Yet that still represents over 2,000 people being fingered for crimes they did not commit. That also disregards those people whose minor non-sex related convictions spent long ago, still prevent them from working with children. Or those whose criminal records were examined and disseminated for no good reason. The Home Office says 22 per cent of agents have made 89 per cent of CRB queries. It has not revealed what ratio of agents have been responsible for the mistakes that made victims of so many British citizens. Powerful charitable organisations are included among the biggest users of the CRB system. Their support is crucial to it ever becoming a success. Having outsourced its checks, the Home Office cannot quite get away with outsourcing the blame. ®
Attacks targeting an unpatched vulnerability in Microsoft Word 2002 and 2003 have prompted Microsoft to tell users they should run the application in "safe mode". The workaround does not address the underlying vulnerability, but running Word in safe mode will thwart current attacks based on the vulnerability, Microsoft advises. Redmond is testing a more complete fix, which is scheduled for delivery on 13 June. To run Word in safe mode users need to disable the Outlook feature that invokes Word as a mail editor before restarting their machine and appending /safe to the WINWORD.EXE command line. Running Word in restricted mode may be good advice, but how many users will follow it? Microsoft routinely advises users not to run their machine in administrative mode, but this custom is honoured more in the breach than the observance. Aside from this workaround, users are advised to avoid the temptation to open Word documents in unsolicited emails, the main vector of hacking attacks targeting the Word vulnerability. Microsoft's advisory contains detailed advice on suggested workarounds and can be found here. ®
Two companies this week launched products designed to turn Macs - the Mini in particular - into PVRs. Miglia's TVMax is the most Mini-friendly of the two, but I-O Data's GV-1394TV/M3 connects to a Firewire port - handy for folk with USB 1.1-era computers.
London-based broadband ISP - Evolution Broadband Ltd - has decided to "stop providing ADSL service entirely" from next month. In an email to customers yesterday the firm urged customers to "migrate immediately" and warned that it could not "guarantee that service will be continued past 6th June 2006". The firm has already started issuing MAC codes necessary for cutomers to switch broadband providers. It appears the ISP has been "battling speed issues" over the last few weeks. "Regrettably we have been experiencing a number of issues," it said, "many of which have been beyond our control, and despite our best efforts we have not been able to improve the download speeds to a level that we would find acceptable in the long term." As a result of "further contractual changes from our suppliers it is now evident that it is no longer viable to offer the service at the price point and terms offered" it said. "We would like to reiterate that this is not a decision we have taken lightly and are as disappointed as you that we have not been able to provide the same level of service as we first did when ADSL Max was launched," said the firm. "Unfortunately the speed issues and now the pricing issues are factors beyond our control. Thanks for sticking with us and good luck with your new ISP." At time of writing, Evolution Broadband had not responded for our request for comment. A notice on the firm's site reads: "EvolutionDSL is no longer accepting new customers." ®
Microsoft boss Steve Ballmer said the launch of operating system Windows Vista could slip back even further. Vista was originally due for release in late 2002 or 2003, under the Longhorn name. It was then delayed until Christmas 2005, another deadline that slipped past. In March this year, Microsoft said the software would not be ready until January 2007. And today Ballmer said this date may move again: "Certainly, when Windows Vista comes to the market next year, and it will be next year, we will make sure that we make a high quality product, ship a high quality product, when it's ready.". Having missed the Christmas target, Microsoft is in discussions with computer manufacturers about the best time to ship the software. Ballmer said: "What we are discussing ... with hardware partners is when they would really like it - early January, late January, February. We are on track for shipping early in the year," He was speaking at a press conference held with NEC in Japan. The two companies are to license each other's patents, work together on enterprise networks, high-end servers and cluster servers. More details from NEC here. Analyst house Gartner earned Microsoft's ire back in 2003 by predicting substantial delays. Gartner now predicts Vista will not be widely available until the second quarter of 2007. More from AFP here. ®
The consultancy and technology firm told MPs that it was not responsible for the failure of the Rural Payments Agency to deliver subsidies to farmers on time. Less than half of the £1.5bn subsidies owed to farmers under the Single Payment Scheme (SPS) had been paid by the April deadline. In a three hour grilling by the Environment Food and Rural Affairs sub-committee on 22 May, Accenture director Peter Holmes insisted Accenture had "fulfilled specifications outlined in the fixed term, fixed price contract". He said the company was not responsible for "other components in the system". Accenture chiefs told MPs, the 'Rita' IT system was a key component in a jigsaw that enables payment - but was not the whole picture. Holmes told MPs the failure to pay the subsidies was down to "business processes". "Our contract was to deliver a system that met a specification and to demonstrate that the system met that specification, which it did." Accenture said 'Rita', had been up and running since October 2005. But the committee criticised the lack of live testing of the Accenture system. The committee also argued the system had "gummed up" when confronted with volumes of land changes and an unexpected increase in customers. Accenture director Sean Shine said the volume of land changes were up to "11 times the original expectation". Rural Payments Agency staff had to validate land details sent by farmers, which led to the payment failures. MPs also heard how Accenture, despite holding the largest IT contract that had jumped from the original £34m to a renegotiated £54m, had not been involved in any policy change discussions following the announcement of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms. Committee chair, Conservative MP Michael Jack, said he was shocked by the revelation, he said: "Accenture provided the engine for delivering the system but had no idea what was going on in the outside world. That is unbelievable." 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.
Voice over Internet Protocol company Vonage sold its shares on the NYSE for the first time today. The offering was a little unusual because only 20 per cent of company shares were sold and 13.5 per cent of shares are reserved for Vonage customers. To qualify you must be a US citizen, live in the US, and have opened a Vonage account before mid-December 2005. Vonage shares are priced at $17 each, which will raise $531m if prices hold. But at the time of writing, shortly after the NYSE opened, Vonage was down 4.4 per cent at $16.25. Prices often bounce around a little in early trading, but Vonage will be disappointed to fall from its launch price. More from Vonage, including up-to-date share prices, here. ®
Legend Internet is blaming a hardware failure for leaving customers without email since the weekend. Legend, which was acquired by Scottish telco Thus earlier this year, has already warned customers that "because of the nature of the mail server failure, delivery of mail sent prior to this time cannot be guaranteed before Wednesday/Thursday as information and queued mail needs to be transferred onto a new server". One hacked-off punter told us he "hasn't been able to send or receive email since the weekend, and there's no sign of things getting any better any time soon". In a statement, Legend Communications told us: "Due to a hardware failure on two of our outbound mail relays, some Legend Internet and Vital customer emails will not have been delivered or received - outstanding email is waiting on one of our servers while we carry out repairs to the affected mail relays. This is causing an extra load on our operational outbound mail relay, resulting in current email experiencing delays." If all goes to plan, Legend hopes it can start delivering outstanding email later today. The ISP has apologised for any inconvenience this outage may have caused. ®
The German state prosecutor this week claimed it has searched 130 homes all over Germany and identified 3,500 suspects who have been offering up to 8,000 music files through P2P network eDonkey. These individuals now face fines of up to €15,000 or prison sentences of up to three years, according to the German Public Prosecution Service of Cologne and the Police Authority of Bergheim. John Kennedy, chairman of the IFPI, the international recording industry association, this week called the raids "the biggest single action against illegal file-sharing internationally". However, few details about the raids were given, other than that the German police have run the investigation for several months. This leaves open the question whether the Germans indeed have the names of 3,500 individuals, or more likely a large collection of IP addresses. The authorities claim they have access to a server located in the German city of Hürth, southwest of Cologne, which acts as a distributor in the eDonkey network. The owners of the server are not prosecuted. German police say that through this server they recorded a total of 40,000 IP addresses, 3,500 of whom were located in Germany. During the investigation more than 800,000 music files were uploaded. However, claims by German law enforcement that 3,500 individuals were identified with the help of internet providers seem rather unlikely, in particular since German ISPs are reluctant to reveal the identity of internet users who offer downloads of music files on the web. Public prosecutor Jürgen Krautkremer says he doesn't want to give details while the investigations continue. He confirms that search warrants were issued for those users who shared more than 500 files or, approximately, 25 to 30 CDs during the period under observation. According to IFPI, some 400 million music files were downloaded illegally last year in Germany. ®
BT is predicting more Bobbies on the street with its service that enables police equipped with PDAs to check national databases and electoral rolls while on the beat. The BT Police Data Mobility Solution was demonstrated at the ACPO-APA Exhibition, and is already in use by the Met and by police in Merseyside and Sussex. The service will now work on several different networks. Police can make queries to the Police National Computer, the Electoral roll, their own criminal databases, and any other resources available to them. It also enables officers to log reports without returning to the station. It will work with almost any PDA and uses either GPRS or BT's Mobitex network. Last year, police in London used the system to make 4m checks on the Police National Computer - a third higher than the year before. The Met's dispatch team also use it to keep track of the force's 1,500 vehicles, making response to incidents faster and more efficient. Police services also get a single contract with BT, thereby minimising the hassle associated with maintaining equipment and dealing with several third parties. Which is nice. ®
Skype has warned of a flaw in its popular VoIP client software that creates a means for hackers to swipe files from their "buddies". The flaw can be exploited via a malicious constructed Skype URL which initiates the transfer of a single named file to another Skype user. The security bug stems from an error within the parsing of the parameters passed by the URL handler. This flaw creates a means for hackers to inject commands within a maliciously crafted Skype URL that initiates transfer of a file from one Skype user without requiring the sender to explicitly consent to the action. However, this only works if a trust relationship already exists between the two parties, drastically restricting the scope for mischief. The bug, which is not easy to exploit, applies only to Skype for Windows and not other versions of the software. Users are advised to update to Skype 2.5, release 2.5.*.79 or Skype 2.0, release 2.0.*.105 or later as explained in an advisory here. ®
WinHECWinHEC In a staged performance at the WinHEC show, a small picture frame passed almost unnoticed as Mika Krammer, director of Microsoft's Windows division, acted out life after Vista. The frame was running SideShow, a well-named technology because it will sneak into your life without the usual fanfare from Microsoft. The wireless-based Vista service allows information from a computer to be downloaded to a device and stored for display - ready for whenever it needs to be referenced. This information might just be your appointments for the day from Outlook, it could be an often-referenced web page, or just photos of the kids on your workdesk. SideShow uses an Auxiliary Display Controller (ADC) to show the information on a static LCD screen which can be any size a device designer requires. It may be a small monochrome panel on the outside surface of a computer, on a mobile phone or on a remote control. It could be a bigger colour screen in a frame on the desk or hanging on the wall. In Krammer's show, the small desktop frame cycled through pictures of the family and could also call up the latest weather prediction. When the source computer is in range and turned on, the display could use Messenger's presence detection to show when contacts appear online. The limits are only in the Vista application driving the transfers or the capabilities and memory capacity of the secondary display. A typical scenario would be when a mobile worker is travelling to a meeting. The daily details from Outlook would be visible at a glance on the laptop lid without having to turn the computer on. These types of external, information-packed displays have been talked about in earnest since 2004, when Intel unveiled a line of concept notebooks using the technology. You can see Microsoft's SideShow vision here. Microsoft was also plugging its mobile phone Windows Live Messenger service at the show. The service is still officially in beta but Motorola's Q PDA phone offers support, as do new ranges from Philips and Uniden. ®
Ofcom has detailed its plans to sell off two spectrum bands for fixed wireless broadband services in the UK. Rather than auction off the 71-76GHz and 81-86GHz bands, the regulator proposes to offload them on a first come first served basis. Neither are in use right now, but Ofcom reckons they could do very nicely for applications such as “very high capacity, point to point, wireless networks” running at 1Gbps to 10Gbps over distances of one to two kilometres. It is proposing “light touch” licensing with the first come first served offer as the bands' “high band width, narrow beam” nature mean large numbers of users can coexist without interference meaning supply is unlikely to ever exceed demand. Mmm, that kind of certainty on supply and demand always makes us nervous. Afterall, a few years ago you might have said the same about water in the permanently soggy British Isles. Whatever, the consultation runs till August 1, and you can find more details here. ®
The server market was slapped and dropped on its head during the first quarter of 2006. We haven't seen anything quite like it since 2000. What's the big shocker? Well, Sun Microsystems actually enjoyed one of the stronger runs during the first quarter by most metrics, while Dell proved one of the worst performers. Beyond the server vendor rumbles, AMD continued to gain gobs of share on Intel in the x86 processor market. Now to the numbers courtesy of the good people at Gartner. The total worldwide server market was as flat as Thomas Friedman during the first quarter with sales coming in at $12.3bn. Shipments jumped up 14 per cent, as all vendors combined to move 2m boxes. IBM remained the revenue leader, while HP held on as the shipments king. Sellers of x86 systems continue to benefit from a trend toward smaller boxes, which explains the rise in shipments and flat overall revenue. IBM showed the strongest growth in shipments with sales rising 19 per cent. In a true shocker, Sun followed with 8.1 per cent growth, HP showed 8 per cent growth, Dell showed 7 per cent growth and Fujitsu posted 5 per cent growth. On the revenue front, Sun made by far the most significant gains. Sun's server revenue surged 8 per cent, while HP was flat. IBM saw revenue slide 4 per cent, and Dell posted a 2 per cent drop in revenue. Fujistu stumbled in a big way, dropping 14 per cent. "Sun Microsystems returned to server revenue growth for the first time in almost two years, driven by increases in its UltraSPARC and its Opteron-based server revenue," Gartner said. "Dell, on the other hand, while posting a 7.1 percent shipment growth for the quarter, suffered an atypical revenue drop of 2 percent for the period." Sun regained its position as the big-iron leader, as it grew sales, while HP, IBM and Fujitsu dropped sales. Sun now accounts for more than 50 per cent of Unix/Itanium shipments and 32 per cent of big-iron revenue. HP and IBM follow with 30 per cent revenue share each. In the x86 server market, AMD continued to show momentum. In last year's first quarter, it held 6 per cent of the worldwide market. This time around, it grabbed 15 per cent of the market. The most dramatic gain for AMD came in the US four-socket section of the server market where it rose from 23 per cent share to 48 per cent share. That helps explain why Dell gave in and embraced AMD on the four-socket front. As usual, we'll be posting Itanium breakouts when they arrive from Gartner. ®
Fraudsters who deal in stolen credit card data have devised a means to extract money from sponsors of junk mail campaigns. Carders have signed up as affiliates to spam campaigns, but instead of sending out junk mail themselves they are using stolen credit card data to make purchases from the sponsors of spam campaigns, such as online pharmacies. The carders earn a cut of these sales of anything between 40 to 50 per cent, the Washington Post's security blog reports, more than enough to make the scam1 viable. But the sponsors of spam campaigns end up losing out because of charge backs generated when fraudulent purchases are identified. Higher incidents of charge-backs result in higher merchant fees while drawing the attention of banks and credit cards sponsors to dubious businesses. Far from benefiting from increased sales, spam sponsors end up losing out. In this way, card fraudsters are scamming the backers of spam. Spam sponsors are complaining about been ripped off, a factor that allowed net security firm CipherTrust to identify the new ruse during the course of its work monitoring online spam and fraud forums. "Basically, we're seeing the carders and phishers starting to look for other ways to make money and starting to discuss new methods of making profits from their scams," CipherTrust research scientist Dmitri Alperovitch said. ® 1 The scam doesn't have a name as yet, but it's surely only a matter of time before it finds a catchy moniker. Philching, pharding and pstinging are among the early suggestions...
Last night, in a trendy San Francisco wine bar where you slide Java cards into dispensers to get a drink, Bite Communications hosted an event which allowed the press to swoon over its Web 2.0 clients.