26th > July > 2006 Archive

globalisation

Exchange 2007 beta slips out

Microsoft has released fresh betas for the next versions of its email server and email security software, with product availability loosely pegged for 2006 or 2007. Microsoft called its Exchange Server 2007 beta 2 a "feature-complete" milestone, providing unified access to email, voice mail, calendars and contacts from a variety of devices. Also included are new reliability and management tools to prevent Exchange servers from grinding to a halt. Exchange Server 2007 is due either late this year or early next, depending on availability of its email client companion Outlook 2007. A second Forefront Security for Exchange Server beta, foreshadowing the next version of Microsoft's Antigen for Exchange that was launched in June, has also been released. The upgrade is capable of co-ordinating the performance of edge, hub and mail servers, and providing in memory and multithreaded scanning. The software uses up to five anti-virus engines to simultaneously search for viruses, worms and phishing attacks.®
Gavin Clarke, 26 Jul 2006

Internet fraud slips through police fingers, says Attorney General

Internet fraud accounts for eight per cent of all fraud in the UK, according to the Attorney General's office, which says that fraud costs the UK billions of pounds every year. Attorney General Lord Goldsmith has published the final report of his fraud review and has found that internet fraud can sometimes slip through current policing procedures and cost users and businesses dearly. "It is often confusing for victims to know who to report the fraud to, particularly if it crosses geographical or sectoral boundaries," said the report. "Fraudsters benefit from this lack of continuity of response. Internet fraud is a particularly good example of how a fraud can become difficult to report." Goldsmith has proposed the formation of a National Fraud Strategic Authority and a lead police force to tackle fraud on a national scale. He also proposes setting up a National Fraud Reporting Centre. "Fraud is not a victimless crime," said Goldsmith in his introduction to the report. "Work by the Home Office suggests that fraud may be second only to Class A drug trafficking as a source of harm from crime; and there is evidence that fraud funds terrorism, drugs and people trafficking." Goldsmith found that several other countries, most notably the US, have adopted more co-ordinated approaches to detecting and preventing internet fraud. The Internet Crime Complaints Centre (IC3W), a partnership between the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Centre, is one organisation the report held up as an example of good practice. "It is specifically designed to accept reports of people who have been defrauded over the internet, a problem which is particularly difficult to solve with geographical reporting arrangements. IC3W provides an analytical function and informs FBI work, and is linked to the National Cyber-Forensics and Training Alliance which tackles internet and high-tech crime. "The internet has provided new opportunities for fraud to be committed and it is now a significant problem for both businesses and individuals," said David Woods, an associate and litigation expert with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "The current system has made it difficult to co-ordinate efforts among the various law enforcement agencies to effectively tackle fraud, and it is a welcome development to see a renewed focus on seeking to deal with this problem." Internet fraud is certainly affecting the UK. The 2002/2003 British Crime Survey analysed technology crime and found that three quarters of respondents were worried about using a credit card online. The Attorney General's report found that the costs of this kind of fraud were not always the obvious costs. "Externalities are costs or benefits from activities which affect behaviour but are not fully reflected in prices," said the report. "The reluctance of some people to use the internet for financial transactions because of fear of fraud even though they would save money on the transaction by doing so is an example of an externality." Goldsmith said the best way to stop fraud was for consumers and businesses to act sensibly. "The review is clear that much fraud could be avoided if consumers, businesses, and public sector bodies took elementary precautions and, in appropriate circumstances, exercised sensible scepticism about offers that were obviously too good to be true." See: The report (378 pages, 3.4MB PDF) Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 26 Jul 2006

Oops! PlusNet's Force 9 blows email gale

PlusNet has been reported to the Information Commission for sending out 20,000 email addresses to 3,500 subscribers of its ISP brand, Force9. The messages left subscriber names, email addresses and alternate emails visible to anyone who received it. The message was sent to Force9 subscribers in .csv format, it included what products people were subscribed to, the price they were paying but not credit card details. Several irritated subscribers contacted The Reg. At least one subscriber has complained to the Information Commissioner but the regulator takes a mimimum of ten days to decide what action, if any, to take. Brian Trevaskiss, marketing manager at PlusNet, told The Reg: "We've emailed those customers to ask them to delete the emails. We've emailed the customers whose details were released and we've contacted the Information Commission too." The mistake was the result of human error. The ISP has had an unfortunate time with email lately - earlier this month it accidentally disposed of 700GB of customers' emails. ®
John Oates, 26 Jul 2006

NTL launches first quad play and targets freeview

NTL:Telewest has announced details of its quad play of TV, broadband, mobile and fixed line services, making it the first company to do so in the UK. The deal will simply extend NTL:Telewest's current three for £30 offer to include Virgin Mobile pay monthly service for an extra tenner. The four will not yet be available as a single bill, however. The deal for the Virgin brand to be plastered across all four services was inked just three weeks ago. CEO Steve Burch said: "Our intention is to provide consumers with genuine flexibility and choice, at knock-out value: unlike our competitors, whose offers are focused on driving take-up of a particular service, we’re going to let the consumer decide what combination of products they want." Also revealed is a plan to nix the growth of freeview with its own free digital TV service for home phone punters, which NTL says is "superior" to freeview. With free intallation and lifetime subscription, it'll carry additional features such as video on demand from 1 September. Read NTL's announcement here. Sky and Orange are charging into the converged market too, with both having recently launched their broadband offerings. Meanwhile, BT is to offer its TV over broadband service from autumn, but will be unable to bundle it in a single package with fixed line phone service for regulatory reasons. BT also announced its first talk and broadband package in Ireland today at €45 per month. More here from ENN. ®
Christopher Williams, 26 Jul 2006

Variables Won't Constants Aren't:

I first read the lament to the capricity of programming in the title of this piece in Creative Computing, years before C was devised. But it’s still true that there is no way, not even one, of being absolutely sure that a value you set in C or C++ won’t change.
Dominic Connor, 26 Jul 2006
graph up

WEEE directive hits home straight

The government says it is at last ready to say when it plans to implement the long-overdue European directive on Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE). The directive will now come into force on July 1, 2007, according to energy minister Malcom Wicks, who also set out the final proposals for how the directive will be implemented. Originally, it was to have become law in the UK in June 2005. In August last year, the latest of many delays saw the implementation date pushed from January 2006 to June 2006. The, in December, the government said it would miss even this deadline, and admitting that even the draft regulations would not be published until the spring of this year. It feels more like summer to us, but at this stage, it is probably best not to complain. The plans are here, at last, and businesses will have until October 17 to let the government know what they think. Plans include: A national Distributor Takeback Scheme, with dedicated facilities to which people can take their old kit; Authorised Treatment Facilities, to deal with the recycling, and keep producers up to date with how much of their old products have been returned Accredited reprocessing/recycling facilities who will provide evidence of reprocessing to producers; An end-of-year settlement to ensure producers are able to meet their obligations via an "Exchange system; A voluntary approach for producers to show the cost of handling historical WEEE. Producers will also have to sign up to approved compliance schemes. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Jul 2006

Samsung touts Vista-friendly Flash drive - again

Samsung once again touted its NAND Flash-based solid-state disk (SSD) technology yesterday, pitching a 4GB product at notebook and desktop manufacturers developing systems to run Windows Vista. It said the 4GB SSD was being "readied for production".
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2006

Asus unveils slimline barcode-reading phone

Asus introduced its latest mobile phone last week, though it took a while for anyone to notice. It's a slimline model with a two megapixel camera that not only has an auto-focus facility and can take close-up shots, but can scan barcodes.
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2006

Vodafone boss survives

Vodafone boss Arun Sarin survived a hostile meeting with shareholders yesterday and was reappointed chief executive. Some 10 per cent of shareholders voted against his reinstatement and over 20 per cent did not support the company's executive pay scheme, The Telegraph reports. The board faced almost an hour of questions from angry shareholders who bemoaned Vodafone's poor performance and the generous way it rewards management. One described the board as "dysfunctional" and said "there is a perception that the chief executive is underperforming" Newly-appointed chairman John Bond said he supported Sarin but that his performance would be under constant review. More from The Guardian here. ®
John Oates, 26 Jul 2006

Want to show the world what you're doing with the net?

If you are using the internet to change the world and you want the world to know it, today's your lucky day. The inaugural meeting of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) - a new, open meeting agreed to by the world's governments in November - will be held at the end of October this year and the organisers are looking for people to run a series of workshops to show the world what the internet is capable of. The meeting will be visited by the world's governments, non-governmental organisations, the private and civil sector, as well as the press and ordinary internet users. It will take place near Athens and, in between the main sessions, a select number of 40 minute workshops will take place. Workshops will also be audiocast so internet users from around the world will also get a chance to hear them. The forum has four main themes: openness (meaning freedom of expression, free flow of information, ideas and knowledge); security (creating trust and confidence through collaboration); diversity (promoting multilingualism and local content); and access (internet connectivity: policy and cost). If you feel your work fits into any of those categories and you want a spot on the world's biggest stage, you need to write a proposal of less than 1,000 words covering your workshop and what it will contain. All submissions for workshops will then be put forward to a meeting of the IGF's Advisory Group who will make final decisions on 8 September. Successful applicants will then have just under two months to prepare for the meeting which runs from 30 October to 2 November. Details of how to apply can be found on the IGF website. You have until 2 August to apply if your submission is not in English, otherwise you have until 24 August. Good luck. ® Related links Workshop instructions and details
Kieren McCarthy, 26 Jul 2006

Moore's the modern Weegee

One of the most interesting characters to live and thrive in New York City between the Depression and the end of World War II - a time when interesting characters seemed to make up the lion's share of dwellers in that great American city - was Weegee.
Scott Granneman, 26 Jul 2006

Motorola shows 9mm-thick mobile phone

Motorola's big handset blitz earlier this week wasn't the whole story. The company went on to unveil one of the slimmest phones yet made: a 9mm-thick candybar with a fancy electrophoretic display ready for clear viewing in bright sunlight, the company claimed.
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2006

Intel Core 2 Duo dresses up for formal debut

Intel will tomorrow formally unveil its Core 2 Duo and Core 2 Extreme desktop processors - all based on the 'Conroe' core - despite having been shipping the product to computer manufacturers for several weeks. The chip maker may also announce 'Merom', the notebook version of the chip.
Register Hardware, 26 Jul 2006

Minimising the impact of user anarchy

If you ask the question about who is responsible for delivering IT solutions to the business and maintaining hardware, software and networks, you'll generally be told it's the IT department. In a recent research study, however, we uncovered something that made us a little suspicious of just how much IT departments are actually in control. When we asked around 2,500 IT chiefs, support staff and other IT pros how confident they were in the IT department's knowledge of what equipment and software was in use across their organisation, only about one in six said their records were accurate and up to date. Beyond this, there was a very high degree of variability, right down to the three per cent to four per cent who don't even bother to keep records. But how hard can it be to keep track of things? Surely, it is just a case of making a note in a database somewhere of what has been deployed, replaced, reconfigured or upgraded. Easy to say, but it doesn't take much working out that there are a couple of obvious challenges. Firstly, in larger organisations, the IT department cannot usually be considered a single organisational entity. With hundreds, sometimes thousands of IT staff in multinational corporates, for example, resources are typically spread across many groups with different disciplines, responsibilities and alignments with the business. Each of these groups is typically procuring, retiring, modifying and extending elements of the IT infrastructure with varying degrees of coordination between each other. There's a lot of people involved, often working under time and bandwidth constraints and, therefore, a lot of potential for human error and oversight. This is one of the reasons why IT asset records and configuration management databases are so often out of line with reality in these kinds of environments. There is then a factor that affects organisations of pretty much any size. Regardless of policies and controls, it is generally impossible to prevent local business units and even individual users procuring equipment or software through their local budgets or expense accounts. In many organisations, it is not at all unusual for PDAs, PCs, printers, wireless access points, personal productivity applications, and even workgroup or departmental servers to sneak in under IT's radar and find their way onto the network. Regardless of the routes components take into the organisation, we then have the issue of users increasingly regarding it as their "right" to reconfigure, upgrade or extend the hardware and software they use – everything from changing the security settings on their PC so they can use the latest online public services, to installing PCMCIA cards, extra memory, freeware, open source software, beta versions of browsers, etc. The reality is that the average IT department stands little chance of completely controlling the way in which IT is acquired and used. And as we look forward, with the proliferation of personal productivity options that are extremely accessible and have inherent connectability, the challenge is likely to get worse rather than better. Maybe the answer is to just go with the flow, and let the masses out there in user land just get on with it. This probably isn't such a good idea, though. Apart from the accountants not being too happy about no one really having a handle on what has been bought, where it is deployed, and whether it is still active, there are a few other impacts to consider from a cost, service level, and risk prospective. If it can be classed as technology, users will expect the IT department to support it, regardless of its origin and the degree to which it has been manipulated by enthusiastic amateurs. There is an obvious potential cost here if IT takes this burden on board, and either way, there will be an impact on end-user satisfaction. Telling a user you cannot support them because their latest shiny toy was not supplied by the IT department, or because the way in which they tampered with their company equipment means it needs to be taken away and rebuilt, does not do much to enhance the relationship between IT and the business. If you do provide support, the chances are it will take much longer to troubleshoot and resolve issues as technical staff first need to determine what exactly they are dealing with. This again impacts the satisfaction of the typically impatient user. So what's the answer? Well, if you can't completely control what's going on, at least make sure you have visibility of it. In practical terms, this translates to a need to audit the IT components that have found their way into the organisation. Not surprisingly, the research tells us that the IT department's knowledge of what's installed and how it is configured is directly proportional to the frequency with which audits are carried out. Furthermore, the findings clearly illustrate that end user satisfaction with IT support services is directly proportional to the completeness of asset and configuration management records, corroborating some of the previously highlighted dependencies. All of this highlights the importance of up-to-date asset/configuration management databases (CMDBs). Fortunately, one of the biggest risks associated with under-the-radar activity, namely that most of the uncontrolled or potentially insecure equipment ends up being connected to the corporate network, can also work to our advantage. If a component is connected, it can be electronically discovered and audited with the appropriate monitoring and interrogation capability in place. Most asset management systems nowadays provide such capability, and solutions are available from a few hundred dollars/euros for use by small IT shops with a few dozen assets, to high-end solutions that can help to keep track of assets and their configuration across very large enterprise infrastructures. So, if you are out there running around with your clipboard every six months counting PCs, printers, access points, etc, and getting users to turn out their pockets looking for rogue PDAs, you're probably not doing yourselves or your users any favours. The research suggests that automating the asset auditing and management process is probably one of the simplest and most cost effective ways to simultaneously remove an IT headache and boost the level of service provided to the business. ® The research study was executed independently by Freeform Dynamics with sponsorship from Numara Software. More details are available in a short research note that is free of charge and may be requested here.
Dale Vile, 26 Jul 2006
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Amazon profits fall push shares down

Amazon shares fell sharply in after hours trading after the retail giant posted a big drop in profits. Net sales grew 22 per cent to $2.14bn in the second quarter ended 30 June 2006, but operating income fell 55 per cent to $47m. Changes to accounting for foreign currency made up for $24m of the shortfall. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos talked up the shop's membership scheme - Amazon Prime - where users pay $79 for a year's worth of free shipping. Bezos also said investment in technology would slow. "We're looking forward to the coming decrease in our year-over-year growth rates in technology spending in the second half of 2006." The US still makes up the bulk of sales - $1.16bn, while the UK, Germany, Japan, France and China sold $982m worth of books. Amazon started selling groceries during the period - the US site carries 14,000 dry goods. The cost of outbound shipping grew 28 per cent to $188m - the company expects shipping costs to continue to grow. More details from Amazon here. ®
John Oates, 26 Jul 2006

Ten gadgets to get you sacked

Tech DigestTech Digest It's hot, your boss is evil, you never got that promised pay-rise. It's hot, your colleagues hate you, and you're fed up with sardine-like commuting. Oh, and did I mention it's really hot? What better time then to jack in your job to spend more time with your sofa, beer-fridge and television? But if you're going to go, do it with a bang rather than a whimper, and get your ass sacked. We've rounded up ten gadgets that should do the job...
Tech Digest, 26 Jul 2006

US citizens avoid tailbacks with new Google traffic tracker

It can only be a matter of "when" before a Google user drives into a tree, trying to see which roads are congested, on the display of their mobile phone. But probably, traffic message channel (TMC) information users (like Trafficmaster) will already have hit the same tree. The new service, announced in 30 major US cities yesterday, allows the Google mapping data to be overlaid by traffic news, with red-coded roads on the map being "avoid" and green ones being "OK" with the inbetween tracks yellow to orange, depending how bad they are. In the UK, TMC data can already be viewed on mobiles via TrafficTV, which is currently offering Orange users a free one-month trial service. The TrafficTV product doesn't just show maps, but also lets you choose to see live CCTV images of the traffic. It works well if the passenger does the navigating and mobile button pushing...but if you are going slowly enough to drive and operate the phone, it's probably too late to avoid the jam. Genuine GPS navigators like Navicore also offers a congestion service, but the driver gets the warnings audibly, not only on a display. The company allows you to use a standard Nokia Series 60 smartphone, linked via Bluetooth to the GPS unit. TMC traffic routing data is now free with the standard subscription. In the circumstances, the Google launch in Europe will not be seen as much of a story, when it comes. Google had no information on its plans for expansion at press time. To learn more about today's announcement, or to see the full range of mobile products and services available from Google, visit mobile.google.com. Copyright © Newswireless.net
Guy Kewney, 26 Jul 2006

BenQ Mobile shows shiny black handset trio

BenQ Mobile has just rolled out three new handsets under its BenQ-Siemens brand, including what may be the world's first non-stick phone and a pair of small-size 3G handsets. All three are kitted out in shiny black shells. Black is indeed the new... er... black.
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2006

Google shows click fraud rates

Google is to show advertisers how many fraudulent clicks the search giant detects. The search giant has always removed dodgy clicks and advertisers do not pay for them. But because figures have been secret there has been suspicion about the size of the problem. Google maintains it is not a huge issue but many observers disagree. Advertisers will now see total fraudulent clicks as well as what percentage that makes of total clicks on any advert. Clicks are counted in real-time. The issue is likely to remain contentious - Google has an ongoing court case on the subject. There's more on one of Google's official blogs here.®
John Oates, 26 Jul 2006

Korean scientist tried to clone mammoths

Hwang Woo-Suk, the disgraced Korean stem cell scientist, diverted private donations towards efforts to clone tigers and even mammoths, a court heard yesterday. The wannabe John Hammond said his team procured mammoth tissue from glaciers and tried three times to clone the hairy pachyderms – but failed. He also tried to clone tigers, he admitted. The cash used for the mammoth cloning effort came from a 1bn Won grant from SK Group which was earmarked for "peripheral activities related to the research". The admission came in the third hearing in his trial for misusing and embezzling state funds and donations and violating bioethics laws, according to Reuters. Hwang denies embezzlement, saying no funds were misdirected for personal use. More mundane admissions by Hwang included using the names of junior team members to set up bank accounts, paying for housing for a junior scientist, paying for trips overseas, and paying for a scientist's wedding. Yesterday, he said that while he had "cheated" he had been cheated too, with junior researchers leading him to think the team had made big breakthroughs. ®
Joe Fay, 26 Jul 2006
globalisation

Medic database spam suspect collared

A US man has been charged with stealing the membership database of the American College of Physicians (ACP) for resale as a premium spamming list. William Bailey Jr, 46, of Charlotte, North Carolina, faces a possible fine of up to $2.75m and a maximum sentence of up to 55 years if he's convicted of gaining unauthorised access to the database of 80,000 US doctors and medics. Bailey ran a website called dr-411.com that allegedly punted the email addresses of members of professional organisations such as doctors, lawyers and real estate agents. Although sales from the site have been suspended, banner ads continue to offer contact databases on 20,000 doctors for $399, according to net security firm Sophos. Bailey allegedly obtained this data after hacking into the ACP's membership database, in disregard of warnings over the sensitivity of the information, between January and May 2005. ®
John Leyden, 26 Jul 2006

BT to offer Universal movie downloads

BT has signed up for Universal's movie download package. The deal will allow the telco to sell PC-only full-length films online from the end of this month.
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2006

Nvidia GeForce 7600 GS-based fanless cards

ReviewReview They may have been quiet but passively cooled graphics cards have generally been pretty poor performers or needed complex and costly heatpipe designs. But with the arrival of Nvidia's GeForce 7600 GS this has all changed, and you can get decent performance at a decent price without the decibels...
Lars-Göran Nilsson, 26 Jul 2006

India takes on offshoring naysayers

An ambassador for the Indian software industry has been trying to wipe up the dirt that was smeared on his compatriots last month after an HSBC call-centre worker was arrested for allegedly defrauding UK customers. Visiting the UK last week, Nasscom (National Association of Software and Services Companies) vice president Sunil Mehta wanted to correct the perception that as Indian workers were paid less money, they were more likely to commit fraud. "If morality was a function of income then the most rich would be the most honest," Mehta told The Register after concluding a meeting with union Amicus. In June, an Indian worker was arrested for allegedly defrauding £233,000 from the accounts of about 20 HSBC customers. However, the Royal Bank of Scotland lost nearly 100 times that amount of money (£21m) to a man working for the bank in Edinburgh. The story of his being jailed for 10 years broke almost simultaneously with that of the comparatively minor Indian fraud. But that was not all that was overlooked. HSBC had insisted that its Indian centres suffered less fraud than those based in the UK. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said British banks are more reluctant to report or prosecute their inhouse fraudsters, as doing so could tarnish their reputations. The under-reporting of fraud of all types is "chronic" in the UK, according to the Attorney General's review of fraud published yesterday. Part of the review's remit is to determine the true extent of fraud in Britain. According to Ernst & Young, three quarters of all fraud occurs in developed markets. BDO Stoy Hayward said reported incidents of fraud in UK banks totalled £1bn in 2005. Whatever the amount of unreported fraud, "mounting fraud losses" had become so problematic for Britain's financial institutions last year they decided they could no longer sweep it under the carpet, the FSA said in January. Indian services firms, on the other hand, have had to try harder to prevent fraud. They went as far as a biometric database of employees working in the Indian offshore services industry. The Reserve Bank of India could end up vetting outsourcing arrangements. The trade for personal data has become so rife in the UK that the government is now officially considering a two-year prison sentence for anyone caught flogging personal data. The Department for Constitutional Affairs was forced this week, following the advice of the Information Commissioner, to open a consultation on the matter. Few have noted this despicable irony. At least Forrester Research analyst Sudin Apte has reported that "media glare" will harm India's offshore industry, even though its outsourcing firms take more precautions to protect themselves from fraud. ®
Mark Ballard, 26 Jul 2006
channel

Ingram let down by Europe in second quarter

Ingram Micro reported a “solid” second quarter yesterday but its figures included further evidence of a flaccid IT market in Europe.
Joe Fay, 26 Jul 2006

Sun didn't rise in Bristol today: official

Bristol citizens who have been complaining about the sweltering temperatures of the last few weeks have been given some respite from the scorching rays from above. But rather than a few clouds to lessen the exposure, or a nice breeze to take the edge off the intensity, the sun simply didn't rise at all - at least according to this BBC forecast: Nice one. Bristol readers who are worried the sun may never creep over Brandon Hill again, needn't fear. BBC forecasters have it due up at the normal time tomorrow. ® Bootnote Thanks to reader Toby Murcott for shedding light on this piece of silliness.
Tracey Cooper, 26 Jul 2006

Could there be lakes on Titan?

New radar maps of Titan appear to show that the moon has surface lakes dotted around its northern pole. No solar system object other than Earth has been shown to have standing bodies of liquid on its surface, so the discovery is remarkable. Titan's lakes would not, of course, be full of water. They would almost certainly be some kind of hydrocarbon - most likely methane or ethane. The radar maps show dark patches with channels leading in and out of them. Some of the patches are completely black to radar, indicating they are extremely smooth. Others have rims around the edges, suggesting liquid has been evaporating, leaving a deposit behind. The top image above shows a region around 260 miles by 93 miles. The lower of the two is slightly longer: 295 miles by 93 miles, according to the boffins at NASA's JPL. Scientists have speculated for some time that liquid methane might exist in Titan's colder polar regions. If these are bodies of liquid, they should change over time - becoming smaller or larger, or even rougher as winds create waves on their surfaces. If they are lakes, this kind of thing should show up in future images of these areas. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 26 Jul 2006
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Spyware poses as Firefox extension

Virus writers have created a spyware package that poses as an extension to the Firefox web browser. FormSpy, which poses as the legitimate NumberedLinks 0.9 extension, is programmed to steal confidential information from compromised machines including passwords, credit card numbers, and ebanking login details. The malware is also capable of sniffing passwords from ICQ, FTP, and email traffic before sending this data to a hacker-controlled website. FormSpy is normally downloaded onto compromised machines already infected with another Trojan program, called Downloader-AXM. It can also spread as a drive-by download from compromised websites. Downloader-AXM began spreading via virus infected spam messages (example here) earlier this week. Fortunately, the attack is not yet widespread, according to net security firm McAfee, which has published a detailed write-up of the threat here. ®
John Leyden, 26 Jul 2006

AMD demos 4x4

AMD's upcoming 4x4 gaming platform will cost "substantially" under $1,000 - for the processors at least. So said company VP Pat Moorhead, who showed off a prototype system in the US yesterday, though details of the system were kept under wraps.
Tony Smith, 26 Jul 2006

India rejects One Laptop Per Child

India has decided against getting involved in Nicholas Negroponte's One Laptop Per Child scheme - which aims to provide kids in developing countries with a simple $100 machine. The success of the project depends on support, and big orders, from governments. The loss of such a potentially huge, and relatively technically sophisticated market, will be a serious blow. The Indian Ministry of Education dismissed the laptop as "pedagogically suspect". Education Secretary Sudeep Banerjee said: "We cannot visualise a situation for decades when we can go beyone the pilot stage. We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools." Banerjee said if money were available it would be better spent on existing education plans. Banerjee told the Hindu: "We do not think that the idea of Prof Negroponte is mature enough to be taken seriously at this stage and no major country is presently following this. Even inside America, there is not much enthusiasm about this." OLPC's original schedule was to deliver machines by the end of 2006, but it will not start production until it has received orders, and payment, for between five and ten million machines. But in better news it also emerged earlier this month that Nigeria is ordering one million machines. Allafrica.com has the story here. The idea is backed by AMD, Google, MIT, Nortel and Red Hat. China, India, Brazil, Argentina, Egypt, Nigeria, and Thailand were all named by the OLPC organisation as governments which had expressed an interest. More info on the OLPC project here.®
John Oates, 26 Jul 2006

Americans take the office with them on holiday

Pity the Yanks - they already get fewer days off than the rest of us and a new survey reveals they are still spending much of their meagre holidays working. A survey of 1,500 people for the Travel Industry Association found 24 per cent of respondents pack their laptops when they go on holiday. A sad nine per cent take laptops on holiday because they feel they have to be in touch with the office. Even more disturbing - 10 per cent do so because they like to stay in touch with the office. Some 18 per cent use the internet while away to stay in touch with family and friends. A separate survey carried out last month found 43 per cent of US office workers saying they work on vacation - double the number who said the same in 1995. One in four staff work for more than three hours a day while on holiday. The average US citizen gets 13 days off a year, compared to 42 for Italians. More details here. ®
John Oates, 26 Jul 2006

Itsy witsy teeny weeny beeping UV-proof bikini

Concern about rising skin cancer rates has prompted Canadian swimwear company Solestrom to design a bikini with an in-built UV meter. Every year around 8,000 cases of malignant melanoma are diagnosed in the UK, causing almost 1,800 deaths each year, according to Cancer Research UK. "There's so much concern about sun exposure and skin cancer that we saw the demand and designed something to be safe for the wearer," Solestrom spokeswoman Emily Garassa told Reuters. The "Smart-Swim Bikini", due to go on sale next month, measures UV intensity and displays it on scale from 0 to 20. Anything above 11 is considered "extreme", and a reading between three and five a "moderate" level of risk. When the reading gets too high, the bikini alerts the wearer with a beeping alarm, warning the sunworshipper to cover up. This Star Trek-reminiscent lycra offering is currently under introductory offer for US$130. Normal retail price will be a whopping US$190. For the more fashion-conscious, "in an ongoing quest to merge fashion and technology", as the company's website puts it, Solestrom has an alternate range with beads that change colour according to UV levels (pictured below). According to Reuters, the Smart-Swim Bikini's launch coincides with the 60th anniversary of the itsy witsy beachwear. ®
Tracey Cooper, 26 Jul 2006

Netscape versus Digg

Newly relaunched Netscape.com has been getting into a bit of a slanging match with Digg - the site which gets its users to rate news stories. The new Netscape does something very similar but pays its would-be-editors up to $1,000 a month for their recommendations. Kevin Rose, from Digg, and Jason Calacanis, from Netscape, have been trading blows in blogland for some time. But visitors to Netscape.com earlier today were greeted with a rather rude pop-up - it was a four letter word of Anglo-Saxon origin but obscure etymology. Click here to see the shocking popup if you're over 18 and not at work. Once you removed the first dialog box a second appeared which said: "Hi to all you Diggers out there ;)". See here. The content of the site was also changed. Thanks to the many Reg readers who tipped us off to this one. Several bloggers reckoned the site was hit by malicious javascript - the writer claimed he had warned Netscape and the company had failed to do anything about it. More details here. ®
John Oates, 26 Jul 2006

School sues over Wikipedia posts

A high school in Nebraska, USA is suing over entries posted on Wikipedia - the website that "anyone can edit" that's popular with teenagers and the unemployed. Wikipedia itself isn't the target of the lawsuit from Skutt High School, nor are many of the sites that legally or illegally scrape Wikipedia's content. The school has filed a John and Joe Doe lawsuit to identify the perps behind edits which, AP reports, "... include sharp criticism of Skutt principal Patrick Slattery, obscene language and a note about drug use by students." "These particular edits were really harmful and mean-spirited," said Patrick Flood, a lawyer for Skutt told AP. The offending entry for Skutt High School was replaced by a clean stub. The edits were made between February and June this year, but the offending page was deleted and replaced with a "clean" stub, which was accorded "protected" status on July 22. Protected status means the entry can't be edited by anonymous users, or recently-registered users, leaving it in the hands of Wikipedia's elite. Delightfully, however - and in true Wikipedia fashion - the new, minimal entry places the school, the town of Omaha, and the entire US state of Nebraska in Canada: So much for protection. To help the elite administrators tending to the revised Skutt entry, we're including this handy reference. Wikipedia's place in the public consciousness as a source of unreliable information and trivia turf wars was cemented today by satirical site The Onion, which reports how "Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence" ("Founding Fathers, Patriots, Mr. T. Honored"). Here, or by clicking on the picture below: Wikipedia's problems with vandalism have percolated to the top of the hierarchy within the organization. One of the most prominent evangelists for the site, Angela Beesley, recently resigned from the board of the non-profit that runs Wikipedia, the WikiMedia Foundation, in the hope of having her own entry removed from Wikipedia. "I'm sick of this article being trolled. It's full of lies and nonsense," she wrote recently. "Given that this was previously kept on the grounds I was on that Board, there is no longer any reason for this page to be kept. This has already been deleted on the French and German Wikipedias." (With co-founder Jimmy Wales, Beesley remains on the board of the for-profit corporation Wikia, which recently received $4m in venture capital) Seth Finkelstein, who recently tried to have his own entry from Wikipedia removed recently, described it as "a pretty stunning vote of no-confidence. Even at least some high-ups can't eat the dog food." Like all those Romulan peace treaties from Star Trek, once you're in, you're in. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 26 Jul 2006

US judge dismisses terror trawl lawsuit

A US court has dismissed a lawsuit against AT&T brought by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) alleging that the telco handed over citizen's phone records to US spy agencies without adequate authorisiation. US District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly agreed with the government’s argument that the need to protect 'state secrets' necessitated dismissing the lawsuit. "The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government's intelligence activities," Judge Kennelly ruled, AP reports. The case, which sought class action status, was filed by the ACLU on behalf of Chicago author Studs Terkel and others who argued that their rights were violated when AT&T divulged the telephone records of its customers to the federal government. The practice of so-called warrantless wiretapping came to light after the New York Times reported that the president had authorised the National Security Agency (NSA) to intercept communications inside the US. The ACLU has issued a statement criticising the court's decision. It argues that the role of analysing phone records in the NSA's controversial domestic surveillance program has already been widely discussed and therefore can longer be sensibly classified as a secret. The ACLU's action is only one of several lawsuits launched in the wake of reports that AT&T and other telcos turned phone records over to the National Security Administration, the US government's signals intelligence agency. The NSA's "massive and illegal program" to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications remains the subject of an ongoing lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), for example. In marked contrast to Kennelly's ruling on the ACLU suit, the judge considering the EFF lawsuit last week rejected government arguments that allowing the case to proceed might imperil state secrets. ®
John Leyden, 26 Jul 2006

Shareholders approve Eircom sale

Eircom's shareholders voted overwhelmingly in favour of a takeover by Australian investment house Babcock & Brown at a meeting in Dublin today. The deal values Eircom at almost €2.4bn and formalises the fourth change of ownership of Eircom in six years. The institutional shareholders who have approved B&B's bid for the company are not members of the public who originally bought into Eircom's share scheme in 1999. These institutional shareholders have made a 62 per cent profit on their investment since the telecommunications company floated in 2004. That compares to a suspected loss of around 25 per cent for the 500,000 individuals who bought Eircom shares when the Irish government originally sold the company six years ago. In a speech to the shareholders, Eircom chairman Anthony O'Reilly described the deal as a happy conclusion to a tough journey. "When Valentia acquired Eircom in 2001, shortly after its flotation by the Government, the company had no broadband, no mobile, a rapidly declining market share, an inefficient cost base and a deeply disgruntled shareholder community. In contrast today, Eircom has rolled out broadband, re-entered Mobile with a flourish, stabilised its market share through good products, delivered services at prices cheaper than the EU average, and satisfied shareholders with exceptional returns," he said. In response to industry criticism aimed at Eircom over local loop unbundling (LLU), O'Reilly said other operators were trying to force uneconomic access or prices on Eircom. "This is their self-interest and it is our job to protect our own shareholders' investment, a job which your management does very well - delivering what one analyst called 'a regulatory masterclass'," he told shareholders. He added that although good regulation is vital to a healthy industry, "rarely are these regulatory issues matters of national importance as other operators like to claim." O'Reilly told shareholders that every town in Ireland and 200 other communities now had access to broadband. He also questioned comparisons between the Republic and Northern Ireland, where he said the near 100 percent broadband penetration in the Province had been achieved with the support of public funds. "History will record that Eircom, despite the fiercest criticism, became the first private entity in the State to roll out a major nationwide infrastructure, at no cost to the tax-payer," he said. O'Reilly concluded that due to the dedication of Eircom's employees, the company is in good condition for the future and its potential new owners, and "I feel, to quote a phrase, that 'my work here is done'," he said. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Maxim Kelly, 26 Jul 2006
SGI logo hardware close-up

The life and times of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard

Into the ValleyInto the Valley Most proles looking to suck from HP's historical teat will find the experience less than gratifying. Company archives have been locked away at HP's Palo Alto headquarters, as have the offices of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. Even the HP Garage, which sits in the middle of a Palo Alto neighborhood, is reserved for the elite. Tourists can but peek through a gate or a window, while top HP customers get to dine inside the Silicon Valley landmark.
Ashlee Vance, 26 Jul 2006

SugarCRM dangles Microsoft and AJAX sweeties

SugarCRM is touting the first fruits of a technology relationship with Microsoft in the next version of its open source customer relationship management suite.
Gavin Clarke, 26 Jul 2006

El Reg saves Los Alamos lab web site from hooligans

Forget managing a $2.2bn weapons lab, Los Alamos National Security is struggling just to keep its web site up. LANS - the new manager of the famed Los Alamos National Laboratory - allowed the registration of its web site to lapse last week and didn't fix the problem until being contacted about it by The Register. The site lansllc.com tossed up a Go Daddy expiration page for days. Ever the alert citizens, we looked to purchase the site in order to hand it over to Los Alamos. Go Daddy, however, said that its fantastic customer service results in clients receiving a 92-day grace period for site renewals. Hoping LANS would take care of the matter itself, we then called the company to let it know about the problem. A LANS official said the downed web site had gone unnoticed. She then added that management would debate what to do with the site next and might leave it down to save money. Tellingly, the site went live again with a new registration about an hour after we called. The incident has comic elements on a couple of fronts. LANS - a consortium composed of Bechtel, the University of California (UC) and government contractors Washington Group International and BWX - took over Los Alamos from UC in June. The for profit company has been tasked by the government with restoring order and safety at one of the US's top research centers. The new management, however, already faces some daunting problems such as hefty expenses. The Register earlier this week was the first to report on the $200m in extra costs that LANS must deal with despite having a flat budget. Lab director Michael Anastasio has called on staff to use "efficiencies" and "creativity" to solve the lab's budget crisis. While not renewing a web site might fit under the "creativity" banner, it seems like a bad idea overall given that any Tom, Dick or Harry could put up a mock LANS site. That said, we're sure the lab personnel are poised to handle more crucial issues with alarming speed. ®
Ashlee Vance, 26 Jul 2006