South African muggers are using camera phones to capture pictures of potential victims in banks before their accomplices stalk and rob them, according to reports. The ruse is helping street thieves in the Walmer district of Port Elizabeth to target well-heeled victims, according to police spokesman Captain Verna Brink. "This way the person is not actually followed out of the bank, and there is very little suspicion aroused," Brink said, the Herald reports. Among the victims of the suspected theft tactic was former SA hockey coach Brian Hibbert, who was attacked and robbed of R12,000 ($1,760) by armed men brandishing a knife and gun. Hibbert was left with three stab wounds in his right hand after he was overpowered by violent thieves last week shortly after taking a bag containing recently-withdrawn money from his car boot. The attack happened some distance away from the bank where he made the withdrawal. An unnamed female victim was also robbed in a second incident in the same area. Both cases remain unsolved. Local police are urging banks to prohibit the use of camera phones on their premises. Theft of a different sort - fears over the use of camera phones to help low-level fraudsters to get a clean getaway or to help blaggers to case premises in preparation for armed robberies - has prompted a number of US banks to prohibit the use of mobiles on their premises. First National Bank branches in Chicago has joined with banks in Citizens Bank of Northern California and Indianan-based Citizens Financial Bank in banning the technology. The phenomenon is not confined to the US. Banks in Mexico City began banning mobiles in May as part of attempts to foil armed robberies, the Chicago Tribune reports. The Illinois Bankers' Association encourages its members to prohibit hats, hoods and sunglasses - which might be used by miscreants to avoid their picture being captured by security cameras - in an effort to cut down on robberies. Opinions are split on the feasibility on enforcing a mobile phone ban in bank lobbies, the Chicago Tribune reports. FBI agent Thomas Weber said the use of mobiles in the commission of bank robberies is uncommon but he encourages banks to implement any reasonable security precautions they deem necessary. ®
It is perhaps easy to assume that the notion of BI (business intelligence) for the masses - or 'DIYBI', as espoused here, is most likely to involve a sawn-off version of an existing BI tool - probably a mature one where the development costs have already been recovered.
Most punters still find mobile internet usage to be a frustrating experience they'd rather avoid. Despite investment by operators in services such as i-mode and Vodafone Live, 73 per cent of respondents to a new survey said don't access the net from their mobile. Slow-loading pages (38 per cent) and navigation difficulties (27 per cent) were among the reasons cited why people would rather hook up to the net using a PC rather than a phone. A quarter (25 per cent of sites were unavailable to those with mobile phones. The survey of 1500 UK consumers, commissioned by hosting firm Hostway, also found that surfing habits varied depending on how people got online. People were content to browse using a PC than when accessing the net from a phone, where they often wanted to find a specific piece of information. Slightly more consumers would rather access maps (49 per cent) than read news and sport (47 per cent) from their phones. "At the moment, most websites just aren't flexible enough to be accessed on mobile phones," said Neil Barton, a director of Hostway. "There's nothing wrong with having a flash website with all the bells and whistles you can muster, but you've got to be aware that mobile users simply aren't going to be able to access it. The research illustrates that even if people do wait for sites to load, quite often it's impossible to actually get at the content itself because of the way that sites are built." The study suggested that users aren't inherently adverse about using the net on the move. Nine in ten said they'd use mobile internet services providing they could be sure that pages would load faster and they'd avoid high charges. Basic services created the most interest. Survey respondents said that if they could access services quickly, simply and cheaply they would want to access their email on the move (71 per cent) with around half saying that they would also access news and sport (47 per cent) from their mobile. ®
One of the victims of the disastrous drug trial at Northwick Park Hospital earlier this year says he has now been diagnosed with the early stages of cancer. The disease is attacking New Zealander David Oakley's lymphatic system, part of the immune system. He told The BBC: "It's an early sign of cancer. The best I could actually get was that if we catch it early enough it is treatable." Six men who were hospitalised by TGN1412, an experimental treatment designed to combat immune conditions such as arthritis and multiple sclerosis, along with certain forms of leukaemia. But instead of damping down the immune system, the compound over-stimulated it, causing the massive swelling which prompted one woman to describe her boyfriend as looking like "The Elephant Man". After the tests went badly wrong, the men were warned they could face developing cancer, though there is no proof the trial caused Mr Oakley's condition. An inquiry by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority found the trial operator Parexel had not liased properly with the drug's German developers TeGenero. The volunteers' lawyers are currently seeking greater compensation than the initial £5,000 they were offered in April. ®
PayPal has confirmed that a technical glitch in late July meant some of its account holders had money debited from their account twice, echoing similar problems the company had in September last year. According to readers, some eBay powersellers were left with very large negative balances, and some even had their accounts frozen. One writes: "eBay Powersellers are in revolt as this adds to recent eBay fee hikes and changes to the 'eBay shop' feature." PayPal says it has now fixed the problem, and has refunded the cash to those affected. The glitch also meant other PayPal account holders had their accounts credited twice, according to a PayPal statement: "Due to a technical error on Monday 24 and Tuesday 25 July, some PayPal account holders experienced duplicate credit or debit transactions on their accounts. PayPal has already refunded duplicate debits from customers accounts and corrected accounts for transactions that were credited twice to bank accounts. PayPal is not debiting users bank accounts to correct the overpayment." The company has set up a helpline for those affected. If this includes you, give them a call on 08707 307 191. ® Bootnote Thanks to Kevin for the tip.
Public exposure of private data is becoming a regular occurrence, but the majority of these incidents can be prevented if companies implement the proper security best practices, according to analysts at Gartner. "From lost laptops to misplaced backup tapes to accidental emails filled with sensitive information, we seem to be in the midst of a data loss epidemic, with tens of millions of individuals receiving 'data loss' notification letters this year," Gartner research vice president Rich Mogull said. "Data loss and information leaks are not random acts of nature too costly to prevent. By following these five steps, enterprises can dramatically reduce the risk of their valuable structured or unstructured information ending up in the wrong hands and forcing an embarrassing public disclosure." Gartner analysts identified the top five steps to prevent data loss and information leaks: 1. Deploy Content Monitoring and Filtering (CMF) A CMF solution monitors all outbound network traffic and generates alerts regarding (or sometimes blocks) activity based on inspecting the data in network sessions. CMF tools monitor common channels, including email, IM, FTP, HTTP and web mail (interpreting the HTTP for specific web mail services) and look for policy violations based on a variety of techniques. "CMF tools are best at detecting and reducing information loss from accidents, such as emailing the wrong file to the wrong person, or bad business process, such as exchanging HR data over an unencrypted FTP connection," Mogull said. "CMF won't stop all malicious activity and can be circumvented by a knowledgeable attacker. Still, most information leaks are the result of these accidents or bad processes, and CMF is evolving rapidly to address more malicious attacks." 2. Encrypt backup tapes and (possibly) mass storage Gartner analysts doubt that many of the reported lost backup tapes containing consumer records eventually result in fraud. However, because there is no way to know for sure, companies have to assume exposure anyway. Encryption can ensure that the data will still be safe. "During the past few years, tools have emerged that significantly improve the performance, manageability and simplicity of encryption," Mogull said. "For large tape installations, we recommend in-line encryption appliances. For tape drives connected to local systems or servers, companies may want to consider software encryption. Older mainframes may need an in-line appliance with an adapter for mainframe protocols, while new software solutions can take advantage of extra processors or cryptographic coprocessors in more current models." 3. Secure workstations, restrict home computers, and lock portable storage Workstations and laptops can be a major source of loss, especially when a poorly configured or out-of-date enterprise or home computer is compromised by a virus or worm, and by losing portable storage media, such as a Universal Serial Bus (USB) drive or CD-ROM. "There's really no excuse for not keeping an enterprise system up-to-date with the latest patches, a personal firewall, anti-virus and anti-spyware software," Mogull said. "These precautions alone will prevent the vast majority of commonly encountered internet attacks." 4. Encrypt laptops If organisations give employees portable computers, employees will store sensitive data on it. Gartner says policies don't matter: users will always use the tools they acquire, and sensitive data will always end up in unexpected places. "There is only one tool to protect sensitive information on a lost laptop: encryption, preferably whole-drive encryption from a third-party vendor," Mogull said. "Whole-driven encryption, as opposed to file and folder encryption, involves very little user action, protects all data on the computer, and is not vulnerable to the same kinds of recovery techniques that skirt the protections of passwords or other controls." 5. Deploy database activity monitoring Most organisations struggle to secure existing databases that are rarely designed with effective security controls. While companies eventually need to encrypt some of the data in their databases, database activity monitoring is a powerful security control that's easier to implement and more viable than encryption for many types of data. "Database activity monitoring tools observe all activity within a database, record this activity in a secure repository and generate instant alerts for unusual activity," Mogull said. "Through detection of unusual behaviour, database activity monitoring can limit insider misuse of database systems, enforce separation of duties for database administrators and limit certain external attacks, all without affecting database performance." Copyright © 2006, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
CommentComment In the good old days, if you wanted to communicate with someone, you met up with them and talked, or you sent round someone with a piece of paper, and that someone stayed there while the communicant responded in writing and brought the message to you. A clever guy realised that this piece of paper could be delivered on a more wholesale basis, and that the delivery and return could be charged for, so creating the postal service. Then some bloke decided that using paper was a bit slow and wasteful and that messages could be misunderstood, so off he went and invented the telegraph as a means of getting messages through more quickly. Taking things one better, we then had the arrival of the telephone and then the fax. Then the computer came along, and we got email, then instant messaging, then web conferencing. Oh - and just in case we were not quite connected enough, along comes RIM with the BlackBerry - the relatively new drug for the affluent young executive (or older one trying to look younger). Now, we have hybrid systems giving us easy voice conferencing from our mobile phones, our PDAs, our laptops when we are sitting in the airport lounge - the list is endless. And all of this was meant to make our lives easier. As with a lot of technology, the next "best thing" rarely gets rid of the last "best thing". In 1981, the IBM PC was going to get rid of the mainframe - IBM sold more mainframe processing power in 2005 than it had sold all together previously. Email was going to rid the office of paper (remember the paperless office?). HP's profits are dominated by sales of toner and inks for its printer range. The internet would rid of us client/server technology, which had already rid us of green screen terminals - strange that we still see complete mixes of all of these technologies out there. The postal services of the world are not going broke - there's still a lot of paper being sent around as communications. The telephone is still the mainstay of a lot of people's lives - whether it be wired or wireless. Email volumes continue to grow, as do text message volumes. Voice over IP (VoIP) usage from various sources (standard handsets, computers, PDAs) is growing, voice and web conferencing is becoming common - and yet we still enjoy the social side of having a meeting and seeing a person in the flesh. The big problem with all this is that we are in an increasingly governanced world. For example, most financial institutions now have to be able to demonstrate a complete audit trail of communications with their clients, to safeguard themselves against claims of mis-selling. Each new communication and collaboration method introduces yet another channel of communication - and yet another link to what until now has been a very weak chain. Now, let's say that the company involved has filings of all paper communications between the advisor and the customer, of all telephone calls, of all emails and face-to-face meetings. Great, that should cover it. Ah, but then the customer suddenly cries foul and it gets to court and the customer says: "I remember an IM session where the advisor told me that Product A would give 300 per cent per annum returns, guaranteed." With no demonstration of how you control IM, you can't prove that it didn't happen - and the powers that be are far more likely to side with the customer than the company these days. What can you do? Today's technologies can help to ensure that as many events as possible are captured and that the above scenario is harder to prove. However, it all has to start with a set of policies, detailing how the individual must deal with prospects and customers. Draw up proper guidelines/policies as to what tools can/should be used in what circumstances. Ensure that ad-hoc tools such as consumer-based IM clients can't be used within your company - use commercial versions only which allow recording of sessions in context to the customer. Ensure content filters are applied to email and file transfer systems that allow information into and outside of the company. Integrate systems wherever possible - ensure that telephony systems tie in with customer relationship management (CRM) solutions so that calls can easily be logged (and even recorded) against the customer. Scan in any paper records and file them against the customer. Keep mobile phone records and match them against customer records. Ensure that field personnel complete meeting and telephony contact records either directly during the contact with the customer, or directly afterwards, and get the customer to sign off the record as a true representation of the meeting. Turn on recording for web and audio conferences and file them correctly for ease of recovery. True, it is not possible to record the nuances and the every word and happening of all direct interactions, such as face to face meetings, but our view is that by capturing as much as you can, by demonstrating that your whole value chain, from central systems, through intermediaries to the prospect/customer, is logged as much as can possibly be expected, it will be far harder for a customer chancing his or her lot to present a legal case as to how any "off record" remarks could have been made. It's a nasty world out there - to ensure that you are covered, you need to look at the multitude of different communication and collaboration tools that are used by your customers and employees and make sure that you have them all covered... Copyright © 2006,
MSI today lauded the successful certification of its first Nvidia-based graphics card with an HDMI port. Similar cards can't be far behind, but MSI claimed to be the first graphics card maker to pass the HDMI certification process.
Troubled software firm iSoft Plc said today it has found evidence of possible accounting irregularities for the financial years 2004 and 2005. In July iSoft commissioned an initial independent investigation into possible irregularities, which has now concluded there are grounds for “a more formal investigation.” The investigation concluded there was evidence of irregularities for financial years ending April 30, 2004 and 2005. It said the "principal effects" appear to have been revenues being recognised earlier than they should have been. iSoft said there was no effect on the group's cash position. The board has suspended Steve Graham, who was commercial director at the time, while it awaits the outcome of the formal investigation. Another employee has been put “on special leave of absence”. It said that other employees that “appear to be involved” have since left the company. iSoft has had a pretty dreadful year. It has been forced to change the way it accounts for its revenues, forcing delays in its results. It has also had to slash its financial forecasts, and slash its headcount. CEO Tim Whiston left the firm in June. This has all happened in parallel with the unravelling of the NHS IT system, which has had knock-on effects on suppliers, iSoft included.®
Sony will next month ship a handheld communications device designed for the Wi-Fi world. Dubbed Mylo, the palmtop features 802.11b wireless networking, a slide-out QWERTY keyboard, a 2.4in, 320 x 240 colour display and comes pre-loaded with GoogleTalk, Yahoo! Messenger and Skype.
Tech DigestTech Digest From the UK's leading gadgets blog Tech Digest Okay, maybe not the beach - if you're spending a couple of weeks sunning yourself abroad you might want a break from technology, even in paper form. But if you're on the lookout for some more weighty reading matter on where all this technology is leading (or just want to make your own robot), we've picked out 10 recent books worth checking out. No, not including the Long Tail one - that's got quite enough recommendations online already.
A Federal Appeals Count has cleared IBM of discriminating against older employees when it overhauled its pension scheme in the late 1990s. The ruling reversed an earlier verdict by a lower court. From IBM’s point of view, the appeal court ruled that the pension scheme IBM put in place in 1999 was both “lawful and age-neutral”. The case kicked off in 1999, when the company shifted US employees from a traditional defined benefits plan, where retirees were guaranteed a set proportion of their final salary, to a cash balance plan, where a set portion of salary was set aside each pay period to build a pension pot. Older staffers claimed the shift discriminated against them as they would not have as long to build up their nest eggs. They also questioned the whole concept of cash balance plans. The judges disagreed, saying any benefit for younger workers did not amount to discrimination against older workers. As it happens, IBM changed its mind again earlier this year, and is now shifting US workers to a 401K plan, where employees and (potentially) employers both make contributions to a retirement account, but there is no guarantee how much the pot will be worth at retirement. ®
Nokia is to buy Loudeye, the US digital music company that owns On-Demand Distribution (OD2), the European music download supplier started by Peter Gabriel. The Finnish mobile phone giant is paying $60m in cash for the company.
StobStob Hi Verity, are we up for some more frolics and fun? Nope. It's a spot test today. Using your neatest handwriting, write out a standard C++ loop on the nursery blackboard. No copying. This will count towards your final grade. Joy. What brought this on? Oh, ok – gimme the chalk, let's get it over with:
Monstermob Group's shares have been boosted by confirmation it has received a takeover approach. The UK mobile content provider has issued three profits warnings this year, and has seen its stock tumble from 446.5 pence in January to just 41.5 pence on Friday. At time of writing, shares were changing hands for just over 67 pence, up more than 20 per cent on closing price yesterday, valuing the outfit at around £41m. According to the Financial Times, the bid was rumoured to come from former chief executive Martin Higginson, who was replaced by managing director Niccolo de Masi in June. The paper reports that the source is another party, however. A statement from the firm said: "The board wished to stress that discussions are at a preliminary stage. The proposals being considered are subject to a number of material preconditions and there is no certainty that any offer will be made for the company." Monstermob has suffered from falling demand and a regulatory backlash at its aggressive marketing tactics, which have included charging a subscription fee when many punters thought they were making a one-off payment. ®
Telecoms equipment firm Nortel and telecommunications provider Imagine have teamed up to provide an all-Ireland communications package for small businesses. The two firms said they will begin immediate recruitment for 40 resellers to market the combined product. This comprises Nortel's Business Communications Manager (BCM) internet telephony product, and a combined telecommunications pricing package from Imagine. In a joint statement, Nortel and Imagine said the low equipment cost of BCM and Imagine's pricing model will provide a competitive offer to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in the Irish market. Imagine claims the offering could halve the cost of installing new switchboard and telephone equipment, and that its service for business users could save them up to 60 per cent on local and national calls, 20 per cent on calls to mobiles and 80 per cent on international calls. Nortel's SMB manager David Forde said the combined product could streamline business operations and costs for small firms across the four provinces. "Nortel is pleased to support Imagine in providing this exceptional opportunity for the SMB sector. We have the pedigree of providing large scale telephony and networking solutions to enterprise customers for over 100 years. We are now using this experience to provide an exciting new range of application-rich telephony solutions which was built from the ground up." The applications provided by the two firms as part of this package include IP Telephony (VoIP), unified messaging, contact centre services, and mobile working solutions. Announcing the deal, Imagine chairman and chief executive Sean Bolger said the partnership represents two leading companies coming together to create a "comprehensive and competitive communications solution" for the SMB sector. "This development will also provide significant opportunities to successful resellers in this sector," he added. Nortel employs 300 people at its R&D facility in Galway, while Imagine employs 180 people in Dublin and recently announced it is to create over 300 jobs at a new call centre in Armagh. Imagine said its most recent turnover was €50m. Copyright © 2006, ENN
Asus and Gigabyte have formally announced a plan to create a joint-venture to market their motherboards and graphics cards under the Gigabyte brand. The JV's own name has yet to be decided, the partners admitted today.
AOL regrets publishing the search logs of 658,000 US users on a research website. The data was anonymised and covered only around 20m search queries of users of its client software. But it set off an internet firestorm of criticism. So AOL has done the PR-savvy thing and 'fessed up to making an error of judgement in releasing the logs. The data was pulled last weekend, although not before various mirror sites got their mitts on it. "This was a screw-up, and we're angry and upset about it," AOL spokesman Andrew Weinstein said, AP reports. "It was an innocent enough attempt to reach out to the academic community with new research tools, but it was obviously not appropriately vetted, and if it had been, it would have been stopped in an instant." More background can be found in our analysis here. ®
Microsoft is to end development of Virtual PC for Mac, the company admitted this week. While an x86 emulation app makes little sense in a world of Intel-based Macs, the move means the software giant has rejected the chance to turn the tool into a true virtualisation utility.
The average web-enabled Brit spends 23 hours a week in cyberspace with time online split between an increasingly diverse range of activities. A survey by internet pollsters YouGov has found, suggest the internet is replacing the television as the nation's preferred way of accessing content. According to communications watchdog Ofcom, people spend an average of 19 hours a week watching television, some four hours less than on the net. Way back when (ooh, five years ago), people mainly used the net to check email and maybe indulge in a little light websurfing. Now, just eight of the 23 weekly online hours are spent surfing, with online gaming, IP telephony, TV streaming and so on taking up much more time. Online banking and shopping combined take up less than two hours in a typical week, almost the same amount of time people are now spending making IP phone calls. Email clocks up almost three and a half hours per week. All this emphasises the challenges facing traditional media outlets and communications companies. The film and music industries are already struggling to fit their businesses around the way the web works, and this survey suggests similar trouble ahead for television and telephone companies. The YouGov poll was commissioned by price comparison site uSwitch.com, and asked almost 15,000 people about their internet habits. Faster connection speeds, and increased competition in the broadband sector are thought to be behind the shift. ®
Brocade will acquire fellow storage switch maker McData in a $713m all-stock deal. Under the terms, McData shareholders will control 30 per cent of the new combined company. Based on Brocade's $6.14 closing price yesterday, McData's shareholders will get 0.75 Brocade shares for each McData share they own, valuing McData's stock at around $4.61 a piece. McData's market value Monday was $3.11 for class A stock and $2.85 for class B. Both boards gave unanimous approval to the deal, which is expected to be completed by Q1 2007. The firms will continue as separate entities until then. Brocade CEO Michael Klayko said: "The acquisition of McData will build on Brocade's vision for the next generation data centre, leveraging Brocade's product innovation and operational discipline. "The combined company will accelerate innovation and the delivery of a diverse set of compelling and cost-effective solutions to customers, while preserving investment protection, simplifying administration and management, and delivering greater interoperability." Brocade, McData and Cisco dominate the Fibre Channel storage switch market. This deal would clearly strengthen McCade's position against the much larger Cisco, which only entered the market in 2002 after acquiring Andiamo. Cisco has long set a goal of becoming the number one or two Fibre Channel switch player and the creation of Brodata assures it of hitting that target. Brocade anticipates $100m annual cost savings through the merger. Brocade's top brass will stay, with McData CEO John Kelley taking an advisory role and two McData directors joining the combined board. Brocade will maintain its name, with McData becoming a wholly-owned subsidary on closing the deal. In separate releases, the two firms delivered preliminary results. Brocade expects net revenues around $189m for its fiscal Q3, up 54 per cent on the same period last year, and delivering earnings per share of $0.08 to $0.09. The final results are due 17 August. Read the press release here. McData, meanwhile, expects net revenues of between $150m and $152m, below previous guidance of $170m to $180m. Earnings per share will be break-even at best, and potentially a loss of $0.02. The firm blames weak demand ahead of forthcoming product launches. McData's figures are here. ®
Forgotten TechForgotten Tech Sony's upcoming Wi-Fi-equipped, VoIP-oriented communications gadget isn't the first of the consumer electronics giant's products to be called Mylo, short for 'My Life Online'. Reg Hardware readers with long memories may recall a Sony PDA-friendly online service of the same name.
AOL is giving consumers a free anti-virus software package, dubbed Active Virus Shield, powered by technology from Kasperesky Lab. No AOL membership is required to use the service, though users are obliged to submit their email details in order to activate the technology. Although free anti-virus packages already permeate the market, most notably Grisoft's AVG, coverage is far from universal, so AOL's entry is welcome. A US study by the National Cyber Security Alliance last December found that more than half (56 per cent) of the participants either had no anti-virus protection or had not updated it within the last week. Active Virus Shield offers protection against viruses, spyware, malware and Trojans before they attack, as well as real-time scanning of files and email. Signature updates are updated "every hour", a significant difference from other free packages that offer far less frequent updates. The software comes bundled with a free security toolbar for IE users. The toolbar includes a a password manager, pop-up blocking technology, and a link to the Whois domain registration database that allows users to find more information about potentially suspicious sites. "The consumer PC security experience is long overdue for re-invention." AOL Digital Services president John McKinley said. "With so many consumers online with inadequate security safeguards, it is time to make things like virus protection a fundamental right, not a risk." AOL's anti-virus software promo is the latest give-away in its strategy of becoming more like a portal, such as Yahoo!, and less like a conventional ISP. Last week, AOL announced plans to give away integrated email and software, security and other products as part of a strategy to drive more traffic to its sites and ramp up advertising revenue. In recent days, AOL has offered web users 5GB of free storage online and a range of web-based security products (via AOL Safety and Security Centre) to which it is adding Active Virus Shield as a software download. Free products including personalised email domains, video and search, as well as an update of its AOL software, are promised over coming weeks. ®
Reg Reader StudiesReg Reader Studies The mercury's been rising all summer, which surely means it's time to consult the old tech barometer. Yes, we want you, beloved readers, to tell us in detail what's been getting under your skin these last few months, just by working your way through our latest reader survey here. To make it even easier, we've carefully arranged it into handy bite sized sections including: servers and virtualisation; communication and collaboration; application delivery; Microsoft and open source; security; and you and your organisation. So, you can either munch your through the whole shebang, or graze on those morsels which are most relevant. So, loosen up those mouse fingers and give us a few minutes of your time and we'll make sure your voice is heard where it counts. And if that doesn't grab you, everyone who completes at least one section is entered into a draw for a cracking Reg goodie bag. Got your attention? Right, then let's get tapping here. ®
On news that Reuters has pulled all 920 of Lebanese freelancer Adnan Hajj's photos after two were found to have been doctored in Photoshop (see New Zealand Herald story), we received this email from scam-busting reader Mark: These images have come into my possession from a "reputable news source". My crack team of uber-geeks have managed to determine that they have been subtly altered to increase their impact upon viewers. As such, we feel it our duty to expose this disgraceful sham, and make the world aware that this kind of thing is rampant in our once-respected news agencies. Mark, Ipswich Shocking. Regular readers will be aware that we at Vulture Central uphold the strictest editorial policies and would never condone altering images to increase impact, nor would we publish anything but the truth in its raw, unedited form. ®
Exclusive PreviewExclusive Preview Nokia says we should all be playing music on our phones, but some of us like having a separate music player. But it's a problem is when a call comes in and we're left frantically trying to pause the player and pull out the phone before the caller rings off. Assuming, with earphones in, we've heard the mobile ringing in the first place. Fortunately, UK company Mavizen reckons it has the answer: Blueye, a bluetooth dongle that ties your iPod to your phone...
NTL's merger with Telewest helped boost Q2 revenues 83 per cent to £884.3m, the network reported today. Losses from continuing operations were up too though, hitting £206m, from a £56.3m loss in 2005. Net loss was £195.8m compared to income of £73.5m a year ago. After 25,800 new cable punters came to NTL in Q1, 18,900 upped sticks and left the network in Q2. NTL said the deserters were expected because of increased competition, an active housing market and its strategy of attracting "quality" custom. Average revenue per customer (ARPU) rose 71 pence on Q1 to £42.21. CEO Steve Burch said: "Consumer revenue, OCF, ARPU, RGU per customer and triple play penetration have all improved sharply as we focused our strategy on acquiring profitable quality customers. As expected, this did impact overall customer levels slightly." He added that the anticipated cost savings from the March merger with Telewest are on target to reach the £250m target by the end of 2007, with £15m slashed in the first full three month period as one company. NTL's broadband offerings attracted 104,900 new punters in Q2 2006, compared to 191,400 in the previous quarter and 149,800 in the same quarter last year. Its full triple play has been taken up by 37.1 per cent of customers, up slightly on the 34.9 per cent that had gone for it by the end of Q1. NTL's net debt mountain now stands at an accountant-aneurysm-inducing £5.396bn. Compared to BSkyB, which recently announced annual pre-tax profits of £798m on revenues of more than £4bn, NTL looks feeble at this stage. The success of its impending Virgin-branded quad play will be microscopically scrutinised. NTL's financial statement is here (.pdf).®
Security researchers have identified a new Trojan which sends data back to attackers via an unconventional communications protocol (for malware) in a bid to escape detection. The as-yet unnamed phishing Trojan transmits stolen information back to hackers via ICMP (Internet Control Message Protocol) packets instead of email or HTTP packets, the standard route for transmitting purloined information. After infecting a victim's computer, the Trojan is programmed to install itself as an Internet Explorer Browser Helper Object (BHO). The software then waits for a victim to post sensitive data online. This data, once entered, is captured by the Trojan and sent to attackers. Instead of using email or HTTP POST requests, the Trojan encodes purloined data using a simple XOR algorithm before placing it into the data section of an ICMP ping packet. "To network administrators and egress filters, this ICMP packet looks like legitimate traffic leaving the network. However, the ICMP packet actually contains encoded personal information entered by a user. The attackers presumably capture this packet at their remote server, where the packet is easily decoded to reveal the information entered by the user," reports web security firm Websense, which analysed the behaviour of the Trojan after being among the first to receive samples of the malware code. ®
Portuguese industrial designer João Pedro Carneiro has come up with this intriguing design for a portable computer created specifically for content creators that incorporates not only a keyboard but a graphics tablet too.
A conservative MP has called for the £12.5bn National Programme for IT (NPfIT) to be scrapped after he saw a leaked report that said the NHS was better off without the computer system. On Sunday, The Observer reported the contents of a leaked report by David Kwo, who had been in charge of implementing the scheme in London. Kwo, it said, had written that "the NHS would most likely have been better off without the national programme". Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, who received the leaked report, called for the NPfIT to be scrapped. "The billions of pounds already spent could have been used to run 10 district general hospitals for a year," he told the Observer. "Now it is clear that patient safety and public health could be at risk. It is time to halt this programme before things get worse." Kwo's report described how hospitals were being "forced" to implement old software, just so it looked like NPfIT was delivering something. The Observer reported that just 12 of 176 major English hospitals had implemented the most basic version of software produced by NPfIT. GPs were implementing their own systems, according to Kwo. He said while NPfIT was meant to join all the NHS's disparate systems together, they were instead "fragmenting further". The National Care Record, the keystone of a conjoined NHS IT system, is also running about two years late, having originally been expected this year. It is being reconsidered, but some means of sharing patient information around the country would have been required whether NPfIT was implemented or not. Connecting for Health, the government body running NPfIT, said in a statement its systems would "ultimately" improve patient care by giving NHS organisations around the country access to all patient information. "Currently, with most existing systems, information stays on the computer where it was originated and can't be accessed by other doctors and nurses to treat patients," it said. It also said GPs were pleased with the systems they were getting under NPfIT and it knew of none who had chosen to implement their own. ®
LettersLetters Just a short tour of the letters bag today, to make sure we cover the important stuff. Like whether or not Southerners (in the UK - calm down Texas) are pansies. But first, we'll mention a few issues you have with PayPal's double dipping. Your story is indeed correct - they are currently fixing the problem by refunding the money. Full marks to them for notifying those affected (I was notified via email of the problem). No marks to them for levying their standard charges on the refunds, leaving those affected out of pocket. Tim In the paypal double dipping story, you quote a contact number for people who have been affected by this... The number, begins 0870, which is a kickback number. Paypal will be making money off of the people who are calling to complain! Also some phone networks cannot make calls to 0845/0870 kickback numbers (some prepaid mobiles and ip phone networks etc). I find it highly insulting when companies use numbers like this, especially for purposes of complaining. What's worse is the fact that most people don't even realise the company they're calling is making money at their expense. Ben Paypal have slightly compounded this issue. They didn't refund the monies directly back to people's bank accounts, they put the money into their Paypal account and then automatically triggered a normal Paypal bank transfer. In my case, this incurred their 25p per transaction fee for amounts under 50 quid so I'm out of pocket due to their mistake. I've just entered into a fight with them to get the full amounts refunded. If they don't play ball then I'll get the bank involved as the monies were taken by Direct Debit in the first place so should be covered by the Direct Debit Guarantee. Regards, Ben. Just a heads up that PayPal are still taking their fee for refunding transactions. Anyone affected might want to check their account. They debited my account twice, refunded 1 of the payments back to my PayPal account and then transferred it back to my account - unfortunately they debited their usual fee off that transfer. Getting charged for their mistake is a fresh new way of business that might catch on! Cheers Jas You also wrote to explain about the apparent solo bidding on the Harrier up for sale on eBay. Re the bidder who appears to be bidding against himself -- this is a common sight on eBay, and is part of the way it's supposed to work. It just means the bidder initially specified a high maximum bid in advance. You can put a million pounds down on an auction that's currently going for 1.99 and it'll just start you at the next increment - 2.50, say. Then if somebody tries to bid 3.00, your bid automatically raises to the next increment with no intervention on your part. The opposing bids don't show up on the history because they were never "official" bids, since they didn't beat your actual maximum bid. I'm not sure it's a good design but that's how it works. This is probably the 200th, and dullest email you've gotten on the subject but that's the sort of thing you get for writing a tech column, I guess. Eric We can live with it. I see a nit, I pick: `Astonishingly, this plane (minus weaponry and engines) is for sale on eBay.' But it's a Harrier - it's only got the one engine. I'll get me coat. Rowland. I saw this "lot" being discussed on a bulletin board last week, someone there helpfully pointed out that in the US you can buy the engines to fit it :-) Ken Interesting read on the harrier, but it seems the navy is throwing them away like used microwaves, that one is not only cheeper, but has a record of it's action in the falklands!! Chris Yay. Free microwaves...oh, wait... And as promised, the good old North vs. South debate resurfaces in a new, and slightly hazy, form: Have we just found the true origin of the "Southern Shandy Drinking Fairies" jibe? Over the years the Northerners have simply presumed our more resilient Southern drinking abilities are due to us drinking weaker 'shandies' in a vain attempt to explain away this anomaly? Either that or we just drink more coffee down south: Coffee defends liver against booze
(13 June 2006) which could be attributed to the office habits of the larger number of IT sector workers resident in the South.
That said it could just be coz us Southerners are better!
I'd guess there's something to be said for the intelligence of those serving beer to Londoners:
"Or, it could be that at the average local in London, it costs £15 for a champagne flute of warm imported organic lager served by a barely-sentient frustrated Australian surfing instructor."
While you may think that the Aussies may be barely above the amoebic level, they typically have a well developed sense of humour. Personally, I'd be happy to pretend to be stupid, if I could enjoy watching London's sophisticates pay so much for so little of something so poor.
I can also certainly understand a surfer's frustration with being in England.
Rule Britannia indeed :)
Of course we drink more beer oop north. We've got so much water up here compared with you southerners, we've got to do something with the damned stuff.
It's either that or bath in it (shudder!)
All that talk of overpriced champagne has made us thirsty. We're off to the pub. More from you on Friday, so keep 'em coming. ®
CommentComment Steve Jobs' minimal contribution to his annual WWDC keynote yesterday amounted to little more than handing over the proceedings to his lieutenants. Jobs himself concentrated on doing something we already know he does quite well: bash Microsoft.
Borland Software is resurrecting a face from its long-forgotten past as it prepares to launch new tools for Windows developers. Turboman - the impossibly blond comic strip hero whose ads promoting Borland's Pascal, C and Basic fast RAD tools and languages ran in Dr Dobbs - has been brought back from his 1980s exile. The move comes as Borland prepares single-language versions of Borland Developer Studio under the Turbo moniker. Introduced in 1983, Turbo Pascal was one of the industry's first commercial PC development environments. In the pipeline for the third-quarter of 2006 are Turbo Delphi, Turbo C++ and Turbo C#, which will be made available in paid-for and free editions. The Turbo range will offer low-cost, language-specific rapid application development for students, hobbyists and professional developers. Borland is resurrecting the Turbo name - which it calls a "brand classic" - at a crucial time, as it spins out its tools as an independent business. The chargeable version of Turbo, Turbo Professional, will start at under $500 while academic pricing comes in at less than $100. Borland knows how tough it is to build a business based on licensing (Borland Developer Studio 2006 - featuring Delphi, C++ Builder and C# Builder cost $1,090 list price), so the spin-out is looking for a different revenue mix. Through the Low-priced and free tools it aims to build a bigger customer base which it can then flog services to. Microsoft adopted a similar approach last year to market segmentation and market building, when it launched free, lightweight Express editions of Visual Studio and its SQL Server database. The difference here appears to be that Borland is supplying a full-powered IDE while Microsoft offers relatively limited functionality. Turbo Professional and the free, downloadable Turbo Express will feature two-way RAD designers, ALM tools, database and more than 200 drag-and-drop components, according to Turboexplorer.com. Greater functionality and quality will be key selling points as the independent tools business must compete with Microsoft's Visual Studio for business - Borland is the number two-provider of tools for Windows, behind Microsoft (albeit some-way behind). ® Bootnote Turboman ad on YouTube