13th > July > 2006 Archive

hands waving dollar bills in the air

Microsoft incentives to influence your security vote

Microsoft is offering partners a tasty slice of security software licensing revenues, in a promo to help kick-start this new business. Consultants and systems integrators (SIs) will, for a limited time, receive up to 30 per cent of the cash Microsoft makes on sales of ISA Server, Antigen and ForeFront business products under Microsoft's Security Software Advisor (SSA) program, announced Wednesday. After the promo finishes, partners will make 20 per cent on sales. This is the first time Microsoft has made such an offer to consultants and SIs - partners who typically play a key role in influencing user purchasing decisions but who are rarely part of the actual sales process. The deal demonstrates the value Microsoft is placing on seeding the market with its security offerings. Steve Brown, Microsoft director of product management for security and access products, told The Register: "We haven't offered any like this before. They [consultants and SIs] really function as a trusted advisor to a company, they have a strategic relationship and play a key advisor role in architecture and technology selection." Microsoft is also working to expand partners' knowledge of its products. SSA is backed by a $15m investment during the 12 months to help add "thousands" of companies to Microsoft's partner networks in the area of security. The software giant will spend on training, co-marketing, and demand generation programs. The software giant has taken flack for its decision to offer its own security products in direct competition with partners. But Brown insists that partners are "excited" by the new opportunities afforded by a Microsoft vision that goes beyond just security products and ties into managed infrastructure. "It's a net market expander... that will open up the market to high-margin, value-add services," he said. To qualify for SSA, companies must either be a partner of Microsoft, have been a partner of Sybari Sottware (acquired by Microsoft), or a "top-tier" member of another security vendor's partner program. ®
Gavin Clarke, 13 Jul 2006

Firm forecasts cash not clash for Blu-ray, HD DVD

War may be hell, but it sure can be profitable too. Consider the nearing fight between next-generation optical disc formats HD DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Only a few opening salvos and empty throws have been made so far, but the battle's expected to intensify this coming Christmas. But that won't stop it expanding into a $28bn market come 2010.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006

Defeating the hacker

Book reviewBook review Who is responsible for security? Everybody is, not just the security officer and his/her team. But it's a technical issue, right? A matter of firewalls, applying patches, installing programs that detect and remove spyware and viruses... Wrong again!
David Norfolk, 13 Jul 2006

Acer dual-core Ferrari laptops to debut this month

Acer will hit the gas on its Ferrari notebook line by the end of this month, pushing the pedal to the metal by adding dual-core processors to the prancing pony portable PCs, it has been claimed.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006
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SurfControl snaps up BlackSpider

UK-based net security firm SurfControl has bought email filtering firm BlackSpider for around £20m plus an agreement to take on £1.2m in short-term debts. SurfControl said the deal would allow it to add an on-demand email and web security service to its portfolio. BlackSpider said the agreement will help the sale of its services beyond its client base in Europe, into regions such as the US and Asia Pacific. SurfControl is best known for its URL filtering technology but it also plays in the anti-spam and anti-virus markets. The BlackSpider deal allows SurfControl to add on-demand security services and appliance technology to its existing client-based software technology. BlackSpider competes with firms such as MessageLabs and Postini in offering on-demand security services in the network or "cloud". Its services protect organisations from email and web-based threats, such as spam, viruses, spyware, phishing/pharming attacks and inappropriate content before they reach corporate networks. BlackSpider also sells services that allow firms to control employee web access and encrypt email for secure communications. It has 1,200 customers including O2, LogicaCMG, Johnson Matthey and Panasonic. For the year ending 30 June, BlackSpider's un-audited revenues came in at £4m and its pre-tax loss was £3.3m. SurfControl said it expects to reduce BlackSpider's pre-tax losses over time to the point where it makes a positive contribution to cash flow and profits by the end of its current tax year (Q407). In a trading update, SurfControl said trading in its Q406 had progressed well, with bookings up five per cent. The firm expects to report revenue and profits in line with previous guidance when it announces its results in September this year. ®
John Leyden, 13 Jul 2006
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Firefox 2.0 ready to test

The Mozilla Foundation is set to release the first beta of the next version of its Firefox web browser, Firefox 2.0. The organisation wants software developers especially to download and test the new version. Several "candidate" betas have been released over the last week, to allow for last minute tweaking and testing before the public release of the official version. New features include phishing filters and integrated spell checking, as well as "enhanced" tabbed browsing, which allows users to reopen a tab they closed by accident. The RSS support has also been tinkered with. Mozilla has not yet decided which of the new features in the beta will make it into the full commercial release. Public reaction is bound to inform those choices. The beta is expected to be released this week. Mozilla stresses that it is released for test purposes only, and is not intended for regular users. It can be installed alongside Firefox 1.5. The full version of the new browser is expected in August. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jul 2006

AMD CPU production deal yields revenues

AMD's foundry deal with Singapore's Chartered Semiconductor has begun to yield money-making microprocessors, the chip maker said today. So-called "revenue shipments" began last month, AMD revealed - the foundry is shipping chips to paying customers.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006

Toshiba delays HD DVD recorder debut

Toshiba has put back the Japanese release of its RD-A1 HD DVD recorder by two weeks, the company said today, in a public apology for having to reschedule the shipment and customer "annoyance" arising from the delay.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006

AOL hovers on historic decision to quit the ISP market

CommentComment Throwing existing revenue away is a tough business and you can never be sure it's the right thing to do. And it's especially difficult to throw away a profitable cash cow piece of revenue. But that's exactly what the AOL board is being asked to go ahead and authorise by AOL CEO Jonathan Miller.
Faultline, 13 Jul 2006

Sony samples movies on Memory Stick

Sony is trialling the sale of movies on Memory Stick in a bid to rekindle the fading marketing for pre-recorded content formatted for its PlayStation Portable handheld games console.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006

The greatest error message of all time?

Error messages are usually a bland and opaque non-explanation of what has gone wrong. Especially when they're posted by large companies. So hats off to Fish4.co.uk for a truly fine, if slightly bitter, error message. The problem is blamed on a piece of Sun equipment - a Sun Fire E6900 Server - described by Sun as an "Extreme Enterprise Powerhouse". The message says: "Thank you for coming to Fish4 this morning. Unfortunately the fish4 website is unavailable due to the failure of a very expensive piece of Sun hardware. A Sun engineer is at the data centre but didn't think to bring the replacement part with him." The company hopes to have the site back up by midday. Fish4 is a collection of local small ads sites for houses, jobs and cars. It is owned by local newspaper groups and has over 30m page impressions a month. The site, might, be available here. Any contenders for a better error message should be sent to the usual address. ®
John Oates, 13 Jul 2006

Cellcos move to 'dilute' roaming laws

There appears to be political machinations afoot, with the powerful European cellco lobby gunning for EU media commissioner Viviane Reding, trying to kill her attempts to regulate mobile roaming charges within the European Union. UK newspapers were rife this week with self-congratulatory comments about Reding having already agreed a compromise for fear of losing a key European Commission vote on the subject this week. The GSM Association in March showed how opposed it was to Reding's proposals issuing a formal response claiming that mobile operators offer roaming services as part of a package of interrelated services, which it says offer very good value for consumers. But the EC had found instances of roaming charges as high as $15 a minute, and Reding suggested that at some point in the future roaming charges should be abolished all together. The commission website showed that for a four minute call, roaming prices still vary from as little as €0.20 for a Finnish consumer calling home from Sweden, to €13.05 for a four-minute call by a Maltese consumer in Latvia. In some cases, roaming prices have even increased over the past six months and one UK operator has just increased the price for roaming by around 33 per cent. Already, most frequent travelers buy a separate pre-pay SIM card for their phones from territories where they travel frequently, and avoid roaming charges completely. The aim behind Reding's legislation was to reduce roaming charges to a maximum of 30 per cent of the price of each call, and commit to moving gradually to a point where they are not charged. After all, these calls are just IP traffic across international fiber for the most part. Last minute re-drafts of the legislation are said to be continuing through the week to bring powerful competing commissioners, such as those in trade and enterprise, onside in the case of a vote. It is the eventual ban that may have to go and the ceiling which may have to be lifted, in order to get the legislation passed, as well as a six month moratorium until the regulations come into effect. Onc source told the UK Financial Times that Reding has already agreed to back down and give the industry six months to establish maximum roaming charges under their own steam. Cellular operators are utterly cynical on the subject of roaming and use the setting of roaming prices as a way of beating up smaller operators in the entire European region. After repeated attempts to get them to clean house, Reding decided to push this legislation through rapidly. One of the dissenting voices has been the 25 telecom regulators that operate throughout the European countries, and Reding has already issued them with a warning shot this week, pointing the way towards a single European telecom regulator that would coordinate national market watchdogs and create a level playing field for companies offering internet and phone services. "If a national regulator in country A applies the EU rules vigorously...while the national regulator in country B adopts a more lenient policy...this gives companies in country B an unfair competitive advantage over companies in country A," she told a German delegation in Brussels this week. So the regulators are on a warning that if they support local national interests through their approach to telecom regulation, perhaps including this subject of roaming, then they risk giving her enough excuse to bring in a central operation. Reding has had enormous trouble bringing the regulators of new entrants to the EU to heel, with five new cases of infringement on the European Union telecoms rules announced this week, and 18 other cases only just satisfied. In almost all cases they involve decisions in favour of local incumbents to reduce competition or a lack of legislation for their regulators to have sufficient power to act against the incumbent. The new cases range from relieving the incumbent of the need for providing services everywhere to failing to grant "rights of way", to new telecoms entrants. Many of the 18 dropped cases related to there being no central telephone directory. 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, 13 Jul 2006

Vodafone gets first shout at Palm Euro 3G Treo

Palm's first Euro-centric Treo smart phone will run Microsoft's Windows Mobile 5.0 and ship exclusively - initially, at least - on the Vodafone network, the PDA pioneer announced today. The device will ship in the UK, Germany, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands by the end of the year.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006

IT to fight tax credit fraud

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has said that improvements including new technology will help tackle continuing problems with the tax credit system. The department was responding to a report on revised fraud and error estimates for child tax credit and working tax credit, published on 11 July 2006. The document shows that public funds are drained of some £1.7bn each year due to fraud, error and overpayment. It also shows the huge scale of organised tax credit fraud, with fraudsters cheating the system out of more than £130m last year alone by making false claims. To tackle the problem, HMRC said it is making "significant improvements" to IT systems. According to the department, major software releases were successfully implemented in November 2005 and April 2006, delivering improvements in back office processes and services to claimants. It said the result has been a reduction in errors and that the indicative figures for accuracy in processing and calculating awards was 98.3 per cent in 2005-06, up from 78.6 per cent in 2003-04. Work is underway to make the tax credits e-portal more secure and to reopen it. The portal was closed in November 2005 after it was suspected that organised identity fraud was taking place. A Department of Work and Pensions portal used by staff at Jobcentre Plus to send tax credit applications direct to HMRC on their claimants' behalf has been reinstated. The remedies appear to be too little too late for opposition politicians. Conservative shadow paymaster general Mark Francois said the system was in "meltdown" and laid the blame at the door of chancellor Gordon Brown. "It is embarrassing beyond belief that the Treasury has failed to control fraud and error in a system which Mr Brown introduced," said Francois. David Laws, the Liberal Democrat shadow work and pensions secretary, accused the government of an attempted cover up. "The government is well aware that these new figures on tax credit fraud and error are not going to be favourable and is determined to draw attention away from them on a busy news day," he said. Child tax credit and working tax credit were introduced in 2003 to tackle child poverty and encourage more people into work. They replaced earlier forms of tax credit. Computer systems, originally supplied by EDS and now run by Capgemini, failed to perform well from the start. In January 2006, a report from Parliament's Public Administration Committee criticised the scheme for its lack of "customer support". Yesterday, paymaster general Dawn Primarolo was keen to emphasise the benefits of tax credits by highlighting the fact that they now support nearly 20m people, including 6m families. "Tax credits take-up is at unprecedented levels, with 93 per cent of families on incomes below £10,000 claiming their entitlement to child tax credit, compared to 57 per cent take-up in the first year of family credit," she said. "Tax credits have improved work incentives, reduced the tax burden on low to middle income families and helped to dramatically reduce child poverty." 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, 13 Jul 2006

eBay restores Nochex

UpdatedUpdated Without any fanfare, eBay is again accepting payments made by Nochex today. That's the service it banned on Friday, sending sellers into a frantic race to update their listings. Nochex marketing manager Rob Harrison confirmed the news to us, adding that just as with last week's ban, Nochex hadn't been informed or given a reason for the decision. "It's another surprising U-turn," he said. The category of accepted payment methods for eBay UK can be found here. Last night, while Nochex was still apparently unaware that it had been readmitted, the payments service CEO Martin Greenbank issued a statement slamming eBay's "knee jerk reaction", two days after the launch of Google's rival Checkout service. "I really wonder what the EU Competition Commission will make of this move, as they are already mounting an enquiry into competition within the payment cards industry." One eBay trader said that auction giant's stealth hide-and-seek communications policy had added to the confusion "So is this another cockup, or have they genuinely changed policy? There's no announcement yet again - just a quiet change of a page. The guys who have been changing thousands of listings to comply with the "old" new rules are needless to say not happy." Sellers face a lifetime ban if they use a non-approved payment method, which caused a scramble when word of the new policy began to spread last Friday. "People dropped family plans to get their listings changed, because they worried about losing their accounts. Other larger sellers have been editing since last Friday and are furious that it has all been a waste of time," he told us. eBay UK said that dropping Nochex has been an error, and the company regretted the inconvenience. "We have to hold our hands up and say it's a mistake," a spokesperson told us. eBay disputes the claim that Nochex wasn't informed, and said it had been told of the decision by phone.®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Jul 2006

Nintendo denies UK Wii ship-date, price claims

Nintendo's next-generation games console, Wii, will not ship in the UK at the end of November for around £170 - claims made this week by the Daily Star newspaper and subsequently denied by the videogames pioneer.
Hard Reg, 13 Jul 2006
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Former Peregrine VP faces extradition to US

The UK's extradition treaty with the US is under fire yet again, after it emerged that another British businessman, a former European VP of software company Peregrine Systems, is facing extradition to the States. The US department of justice alleges Jeremy Crook was involved in a conspiracy to defraud Peregrine shareholders to the tune of some £2.2bn before the company collapsed and was sold to HP for around $425m. Mr Crook denies any wrong doing, and says he wants to cooperate with US investigators. He is one of 19 people America wants to extradite to face charges over alleged financial crimes. According to The Telegraph, he was interviewed by Securities and Exchange Commission representatives at the US embassy in London, shortly after Peregrine collapsed. It was nine months before he heard anything further, at which stage he was asked at very short notice to appear at a hearing in the US. When he said he wasn't able to attend, he again heard nothing for nine months. Then, in a call from a US lawyer friend he discovered he had been indicted, but he had to read the details of the charges against him on the internet. Crook now runs his own firm, JRC Ventures, specialising in coaching executive management. Prior to this, he was CEO at Cramer Systems, a telecoms software firm. He says defending himself in the US will be "cripplingly expensive", and said that the US is "ruining people's lives". Under the terms of the treaty, UK citizens can be extradited to the US without the United States having to make a clear "prima facie" case that they committed a crime. In return, the UK gets no such promises, and the US has so far failed to even ratify the deal. The treaty has been widely criticised ever since it was struck in 2004, largely because the government is seen as having caved utterly to US demands. Parliament held an emergency debate on the extradition treaty last night, prompted by the case of the so-called NatWest three. These executives have been fighting extradition to the US where they are accused of criminal fraud, in connection with a deal struck with Enron. During the debate, solicitor general Mike O'Brien provoked accusations that the government was trying to smear the three men, after he repeatedly referred to them as "the Enron three". Opposition MPs called for O'Brien to stop using the phrase, complaining that the use of the word Enron was "highly prejudicial". The deputy Speaker said he could not order O'Brien to drop the phrase because the men are not facing trial in the UK. Liberal Democrat shadow home secretary Nick Clegg says that in a symbolic vote called yesterday by the Lib Dems, just four Labour MPs voted to support the treaty. "The House of Commons has signalled its clear condemnation of the extradition treaty," he said. He wants people to write to Mike O'Brien calling for parts of the treaty to be repealed. More info on that is here for anyone who wants to do so. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jul 2006

SanDisk Sansa e250 MP3 player

ReviewReview There's no denying that Apple's ownership of the MP3 player market, but it's far from the only contender. SanDisk has been making MP3 players for quite some time, like the c150 I reviewed not so long ago. However, the new e200 series is a direct competitor to the iPod Nano, so let's see how well it compares...
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 13 Jul 2006

Zidane headbutt outrage: new video evidence

UpdatedUpdated Pity if you will poor old Zinedine Zidane: sent off during the World Cup final for a serious infraction of FIFA's "no headbutting Italians" rule and now reduced to the status of French national hero with enough cash in the bank to enjoy a lifetime of truffles, stuffed songbirds and fine vintage champagne.
Lester Haines, 13 Jul 2006
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'Smart' phones, stupid punters?

The frustration of trying to lead a turbo-cool MobileLifestyle™ has been revealed in all its button-bashing, customer service monkey-abusing lack of glory. A survey* of 15,000 "faulty" devices by mobile data provider WDSGlobal found 63 per cent of the one in seven new phones which are returned have nothing wrong with them. Given each return cost operators at least £35 to test, refurbish and repackage, the bill to the UK mobile industry is estimated at £54m, with the global cost weighing in at a profit-denting $4.5bn. WDSGlobal communications chief Doug Overton said: "The mobile phone has become the poor relation to its consumer electronic cousins - MP3 players, digital cameras and mobile gaming devices all generally provide a more fulfilling out-of-box experience to the consumer." Marek Pawlowski, mobile user experience analyst at PMN, describes the findings as "not particularly surprising". The expontential surge in take up of mobile devices has not been matched by data services, which have more limped up a linear revenue curve. Punters expect a negative experience when buying a new phone. Apologists would argue that a modern mobile phone is closer in complexity to a laptop than an iPod, so a less intuitive user experience is inevitable. However, so much has been staked by operators on making a success of becoming content providers and providing more services than just voice and text messaging. The risk of the value-added side of the network business now being tainted with the IT nightmare brush must be a paramount concern within the industry. A big part of the problem lies with retailers, many of whom do not furnish staff with the expertise to advise punters properly. A mystery shopper survey found just 20 per cent of assistants were able to provide even a moderately competent description of the benefits a BlackBerry could offer. Orange is trialing a new model for its high street stores in Notting Hill, incentivising staff on how much buyers use data services once they have bought a phone, rather than paying commission on the sale itself. Email is still the underexploited killer app for mobile data. MMS has never taken off, and six years down the line, looks like it never will. A £50 bet one industry insider made that it was doomed to failure has been called in. Perhaps networks are hoping users will pool their communications when their quadruple-play offerings touch down and so passively simplify the set-up process for mobile email. Efforts by Vodafone to support mobile email for businesses, like dedicated expert support staff, are countered by a very "hit and miss" experience for consumers, Pawlowski said. Overton agrees problems lie within networks as well as with GCSE-lite shop staff. There is a lack of communication between product development, which fulfills its brief by constantly churning out new offerings, and customer support. The complications of dealing with the ensuing chaos of new settings, over-air updates, and dealing with dissatisfied users is divorced from development. Eerily, WDSGlobal's services are sold on the idea of cutting support costs. Pawlowski says no matter where the problem sits, what matters is the user experience is broken, and the responsibility for that will always ultimately lie with operators. On all fronts there is "a long way to go". ® *The survey of returned phones was conducted on customers of "one of the top three retailers in the UK". Spookily, Tesco mobile is "powered by WDSGlobal". Bootnote The impenetrability of the operators' Great White Hope was demonstrated when one veteran Reg technology journalist was forced to return a Nokia N90 to a PR agency after finding his determined attempts to download episodes of the Sugababes mobile video documentary series hopeless.
Christopher Williams, 13 Jul 2006
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Microsoft dealers learn consulting by numbers

CommentComment Hundreds of PC resellers are going to get a make over through the use of a new sales tool supplied FOC by Microsoft. Demo Showcase, announced to the software giant's channel partners at a conference in Boston yesterday, is the keystone of Microsoft's strategy to muscle its way into the unfolding market for generic business software for mid-sized firms. But there is a shortage of people with the skills to sell these complex systems. Most of Microsoft's sales channels, which consist of 380,000 partners around the world, have little experience selling business systems to mid-sized firms - a job that involves assessing a firm's needs and selling a tailored system. Microsoft has been training its partners up, but it's a slow process. So it hopes its Demo Showcase will solve the problem. Since buying a bevy of bright mid-market software vendors and giving them common brands (Dynamics and Microsoft Business Solutions), Microsoft has hunted for enough partners to sell and install the systems. The aim is to avoid being beaten by several other firms that are also striving to establish an early lead - and therefore likely domination - in the mid-market. Big hitters like Germany's SAP and regional heavyweights like Britain's Sage have reasonable hope of keeping Microsoft at bay because of their long-standing dominance in chosen markets. Microsoft Demo recognises 120 typical business processes in different sectors and maps them to a host of solutions from the MBS stable. The theory is, all resellers need do is to roll up to customers with the tool and follow the onscreen commands. The sales channel plan is the correlate of Microsoft's emerging product plan (built on the impending launches of its Vista operating system and Office 2007 desktop software); both intended to bridge its old business with its new; and thus remove the handicap it has in selling against its mid-market rivals. A firm like Sage, for example, has a natural advantage in selling mid-market systems in the UK because most small and medium sized firms already use its accounting software and have done so for years. Microsoft has an almost universal base of customers using its operating systems and desktop office software, but whether or not this would make company directors more likely to buy its new business system remains to be seen. Microsoft hopes that tying its old software into its mid-market offerings so that, say, Office 2007 becomes the interface for all its offerings, an albatross becomes market leverage. The idea is the same with the reseller's sales tool. Microsoft will shoehorn its old resellers into sharp suits, making them look more professional. Many will not actually be able to deliver the systems they sell with the tool, but Microsoft wants them all to partner with each other so that those firms who can do no more than talk the talk can bring someone else in to walk the walk. The old guard are then transformed, not into services-led companies as they were always told they would be, but as Microsoft's ready made pre-sales channel, providing a commodity consulting service that delivers pristine qualified leads to those resellers further up the chain with the nous to do the delicate technical work. ®
Mark Ballard, 13 Jul 2006

Barnsley teams with Bull

Barnsley MBC has formed a joint venture company with Bull Information Systems (BIS) to manage its ICT for the next 10 years. The council, which announced that it is spending £76.1m over the on the deal, claimed the venture will provide it with a more "cost effective, secure and robust" infrastructure to support its services. It has not, however, revealed how much it expects to save. All 106 council staff will be transferred to the new company. BIS will also be able to use the centre for other contracts, whether in the private or public sector. The joint venture's spokesperson told GC News: "The council is not just concerned with efficiency savings but wanted to retain council IT staff and create more jobs in the local area. The joint venture offers that solution." The company also plans to work with regional bodies, colleges and skills councils to develop opportunities for local people to obtain IT training and join its workforce. Future plans could include providing ICT services to small businesses and start-ups in the region. Barnsley chief executive Phil Coppard said: "The operation of a secure ICT infrastructure is an essential requirement for the council in its aim towards key initiatives of remaking Barnsley, remaking education, and digital challenge aspirations. "Insourcing our IT services in this way not only guarantees the jobs of the existing team, it creates a new high tech company in Barnsley that we believe is ideally poised to win new business and create more jobs for the local area." 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, 13 Jul 2006
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Consumer VoIP heads for prime time

Dialing over the net represents the future of consumer voice calls, but shortcomings still affect some popular services, according to a new report. Making calls over the internet is far cheaper than conventional voice calls and becoming more popular as the use of broadband rises, prompting Computing Which? to put several services to the test. The Consumer Association magazine looked at six free internet phone services: Skype, Yahoo! Messenger, Sipgate X-Lite, Google Talk (trial), MSN Messenger, and Babble.net. The services all offer the ability to call other PC users with the same software without charge. They also commonly offer the ability to make cheap rate calls to landline numbers. Computing Which? looked at how easy it was to set up these services, their effectiveness, and their range of features. Skype scored high marks for its easy set-up and "exceptional voice clarity". Meanwhile, Yahoo! Messenger won plaudits for its range of features including the option of landline calls, webcam chats, instant messaging, voicemail, and conference calls. Google Talk, however, was criticised by the Which? team for shortcomings to its audio wizard that mean audio level indicators only kick in once a call has been initiated. And Babble was let down by its "poor help files and software bugs". "Using your PC as a phone can be so cheap – often even free – that pricey landline and mobile bills could be in danger of becoming extinct. With mobile phone services entering the broadband market, VoIP looks set to be the choice of the future," Computing Which? editor Jessica Ross said. ®
John Leyden, 13 Jul 2006
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EC begins new pan-European patent love-in

Yesterday's public hearing on the future of pan-European patent legislation has been hailed as "day one" in a new war on software patents, as support gathers for the European Patent Litigation Agreement (EPLA).
Lucy Sherriff, 13 Jul 2006

Bloodthirsty Killeroo terrorised Oz

Giant murderous toothy kangaroos marauded across the Outback millions of years ago, palaeontologists have revealed. The discovery was made, along with 20-odd other previously unknown species, during a dig in northwest Queensland by scientists from the University of New South Wales. Researcher Sue Hand said the 'roos had "well muscled-in teeth, not for grazing. These things had slicing crests that could have crunched through bone and sliced off flesh". Because of Australia's relative remoteness, marsupials were the only mammal group lucky enough make it there in pre-human days. The lack of competition from others allowed them to diversify to fill niches that might have been occupied by wolves or big cats elsewhere in the world. Reuters has the chilling fossil evidence here. Sadly for followers of the never-ending tussle between man, animal and manimal, the beast is long extinct having been around between 10 and 20 million years ago, so Steve Irwin will not be able to goad the Killeroo into having a scrap with him. As well as the Killeroo - proper name Ekaltadeta - the team described a predatory bird the team excitedly dubbed the "demon duck of doom". ®
Christopher Williams, 13 Jul 2006
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Phishers rip into two-factor authentication

Phishers are seeking to circumvent two-factor authentication schemes using man-in-the-middle attacks. Last October, US federal regulators urged banks to adopt two-factor authentication as a means to combat the growing problem of online account fraud. Two-factor authentication involves the use of a password-generating device along with conventional passwords. That means a thief must know more than just a password to gain access to a user's account. Although the technology helps guard against fraud, a recent attack against Citibank shows the technique is far from foolproof. A bogus security warning ostensibly from Citibank, and targeting customers of its Citibusiness service, urged prospective marks to visit a website and enter not only their account details and password (as with conventional phishing scams) but also the code generated by the customer's token. These authentication key codes change every minute or so. The fraudulent site is automated so it uses this information to log onto the real Citibusiness login site, allowing fraudsters access to compromised accounts. The site, based in Russia, operated last week but has since been shut down, the Washington Post reports. The attack confirms concerns from security expert Bruce Schneier that two-factor authentication schemes have been oversold as a silver-bullet solution to online identity fraud. Banks in the Netherlands and Scandinavia have used two-factor authentication for years, and the technology is widely credited with helping to make account fraud more difficult. But the Citibank attack shows the growing sophistication of fraudsters, and undermines any notion that this approach delivers complete protection. ®
John Leyden, 13 Jul 2006

Nintendo Wii to ship in UK on 15 October?

When will Nintendo ship its next-generation games console, Wii? Nintendo's not giving a precise date, of course, but some retailers are beginning to hazard guesses. Whether they're based on inside knowledge or the latest internet rumours we leave to you.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006

Sony Ericsson profits double in Q2

Revenue and profit at Sony Ericsson soared during the second quarter on the back of strong sales of its high-end Walkman mobile phones. The world's fifth biggest mobile phone manufacturer announced revenue of €2.3bn for its fiscal second quarter, a rise of 41 per cent from the year-ago quarter. Net income for the three months ended 30 June reached €143m, almost doubling the €75m profit recorded in the second quarter of 2005. Income before taxes was €211m, marking an increase of 143 per cent from the €87m posted for the same quarter a year ago. Sony Ericsson shipped 15.7 million mobile phones during the second quarter, up 33 per cent on the 11.8 million handsets sold in the same quarter last year. The average selling price of mobile phones declined slightly sequentially, due to a greater proportion of low-priced models, such as the J100, J220 and J230 shipping in volume. During the quarter the company shipped three new Walkman phones, the W300, W700 and W42S and announced two new models: the W850, a tri-band/UMTS slider phone, and the quad-band EDGE W710, the first sports Walkman with pedometer and jogging applications. The firm also began shipping the K800, Sony Ericsson's first Cybershot-branded camera phone. "The second quarter has seen Sony Ericsson both announce and start to ship a wide variety of products confirming the company's ability to compete, capture market share and profitably grow the business. With a product line-up that includes a broad range of both basic and feature phones, Sony Ericsson is now in a position to broaden its customer base in all market regions and customer segments," said Miles Flint, president of Sony Ericsson. According to Flint, growth in the global handset market is continuing to outpace expectations, and Sony Ericsson predicts that more than 950 million mobiles will be shipped worldwide during 2006. Copyright © 2006, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 13 Jul 2006

IBM: Cell-like CPU yields 10-20 per cent

Cell processor producers Sony, Toshiba and IBM are getting rather low-sounding yields of the broadband-oriented CPU it seems - at least if comments made by Tom Reeves, VP of semiconductor and technology services at IBM, are anything to go by.
Tony Smith, 13 Jul 2006

Intel sends 1,000 managers packing

Intel's cosmetic surgery continued today, as the vendor performed pink sliposuction on its managerial ranks. Close to 1,000 managers will be fired later this week in a cost-cutting move for the chip giant. Word of the layoffs leaked to the press courtesy of an internal memo penned by Intel CEO Paul Otellini.
Ashlee Vance, 13 Jul 2006
channel

Dell begins rebate offensive

Cut prices to win back customers? Forget that. Dell has decided to cut its rebate program instead. Dell earns points for creativity with its plan announced today that will see the vendor reduce mail-in rebate and promotional offers by 70 to 80 per cent. Dell pitched the rebate pullback as "part of the company's effort to make buying easier and improve the overall customer experience." This latest move from Dell comes as the company tries to win back business it has lost to rivals over the past couple of quarters.
Ashlee Vance, 13 Jul 2006

SAP suffers peer pressure

SAP upset financial analysts this week with a set of disappointing, preliminary second quarter figures that showed rivals gaining on the firm.
Gavin Clarke, 13 Jul 2006