6th > September > 2006 Archive
Put the cheery comeback stories on hold. HP has a boardroom scandal that deserves some attention. Sweat started trickling down the foreheads of workers in HP's PR department late Tuesday as word broke of a boardroom spy debacle. According to various reports, two of HP's directors have severed ties with the company as a result of Chairman Patricia Dunn's decision to investigate board members. Dunn hoped to discover which board member leaked information about an HP planning session to the press and okayed the use of controversial surveillance techniques to track down the leaker. Tom Perkins, HP veteran and founder of venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins Caufield and Byers, resigned from HP's board in May after he learned of Dunn's surveillance operation. And today the Wall Street Journal reports that fellow board member George Keyworth will not be invited back to serve as a director after HP fingered him as the mole. Dunn permitted a team of so-called security experts to dive into records of the directors' personal telephone calls made both at their homes and on their cell phones, according to the reports. The investigators then processed the data and figured out which director had been communicating with reporters. Dunn did not inform the directors of the investigation until is was completed. The Chairman was said to be upset about a series of leaks that occurred before and after HP fired CEO Carly Fiorina. A CNET story by Dawn Kawamoto that outlined HP's long-term strategy pushed Dunn over the edge. "On May 18, at HP headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., Dunn sprung her bombshell on the board: she had found the leaker," Newsweek reports. "According to Tom Perkins, an HP director who was present, Dunn laid out the surveillance scheme and pointed out the offending director, who acknowledged being the CNET leaker. "Close to 90 minutes of heated debate followed, but Perkins, the Silicon Valley venture capitalist, says he was the only director who rose to take Dunn on directly. Perkins says he was enraged at the surveillance, which he called illegal, unethical and a misplaced corporate priority on Dunn’s part. In an interview with NEWSWEEK, Perkins says he was particularly annoyed since he chaired the HP board’s Nominating and Governance Committee and had not been informed by Dunn of the surveillance, even though, he says, she had told him for months that she was attempting to discover the source of the leak." On May 19, HP then announced Perkins' resignation in a brief statement. It provided no reason for his departure in the statement and seemed to portray Perkins as leaving on good terms. "On behalf of HP, I wish to thank Tom for his service and dedication to our company," CEO Mark Hurd said in the statement. "I am particularly grateful for the support he has provided to me over the past year." Perkins has expressed outrage that HP did not disclose his reasons for resigning. The company is now expected to release an SEC filing tomorrow that discloses the investigation and outs Keyworth as the leaker. "The situation is regrettable," Ms. Dunn said in a statement provided to the Wall Street Journal. "But the bottom line is that the board has asserted its commitment to upholding the standards of confidentiality that are critical to its functioning. A board can't serve effectively if there isn't complete trust that what gets discussed stays in the room." This corporate scandal comes at a time when HP has received mounds of favorable press for its recent financial performance. The company has managed to turn in a couple quarters of consistent results - quite the change from the yo-yo days of Fiorina. Hurd, who pitches himself as a no-nonsense pragmatist, cannot be happy about the exposure of the boardroom shenanigans at this time. Fiorina, however, must be somewhat pleased. The well-groomed executive is about to ship her tell-all book and can use the extra press to boost sales. Newsweek seems to have dug up the most gossip about the boardroom episode, although it has relied heavily on Perkin's account of the situation. The magazine stressed that HP's investigation did not rely on tapping phone lines or reading e-mails. Rather investigators grabbed phone records via a technique known as "pretexting" where a person misrepresents who they are to obtain the details of another individual from a phone company. It's basically a form of social engineering. "Perkins himself was pretexted as part of Dunn’s leaker probe," the magazine reports. "In the materials he sent to the SEC, Perkins includes an August 11 letter from an attorney at AT&T spelling out to Perkins that he was a victim of pretexting in January 2006; Perkins had requested that AT&T examine whether he had been pretexted. "The AT&T letter explains that the third-party pretexter who got details about Perkins’s local home-telephone usage was able to provide the last four digits of Perkins’s Social Security number and that was sufficient identification for AT&T. The impersonator then convinced an AT&T customer-service representative to send the details electronically to an e-mail account at yahoo.com that on its face had nothing to do with Perkins." Pretexting is illegal according to the US Federal Trade Commission. HP's move not to disclose Perkins' reason for resigning is also of note. Companies are required issue a filing with the SEC that outlines why a director resigned when there's a disagreement between the director and the company over "operations, policies and practices." You can expect more on this story to unfold in the coming days, particularly when HP's SEC filing goes out tomorrow. We've been digging through Dave Packard's The HP Way to find the chapter on pretexting but seem to have missed it. Any help is much appreciated.®
Microsoft has published pricing for Windows Vista - and things are looking up for PC manufacturers hoping consumers will start buying shiny new Vista-ready computers. Microsoft will charge $199 for Windows Vista Home Basic, or $99.95 to upgrade, with prices topping out at $399 for Vista Ultimate, or $259 to upgrade. Between these two extremes lies Vista Business priced at $299, or $199 to upgrade, and Vista Home Premium at $239, or $159. Vista Enterprise is only available to large organizations from OEMs, so there is no recommend retail pricing. While Microsoft's entry-level and upgrade prices might appear reasonable on paper to some, and little changed to the five-year-old Windows XP, there are a few clouds to this sliver lining. The first is the ability for machines running Windows XP to actually be able to run Windows Vista, as Microsoft's hardware guidance for new versions of Windows has tended historically towards the, ah, optimistic shall we say. Microsoft's guidance kicks in at an 800MHz processor, 512MB of memory and a 20Gb hard drive. With at least three versions of Vista for consumers to pick, though, there is the apples and oranges trap to avoid. Overall Microsoft is introducing five editions of Windows Vista, whose level of functionality - unsurprisingly - increases as the customer pays more. For consumers, Vista Home Basic does exactly what it says on the box - you get the an OS, browser, search and parental controls but no sexy Aero interface and no Windows Media Center (for watching and recording all those episodes of CSI: Miami, hooking up the Xbox 360, and viewing photos). Those little gems are reserved for users of Vista Home Premium, while Ultimate gives you all this plus additional power features from the business products like BitLocker encryption, support for domain group policy, and advanced and simplified networking. This makes the act of picking which version of Windows Vista to move to, from the simple world of Windows XP Home and Windows XP Professional, just that little bit harder. With Vista Home Basic living up to its name customers will likely tend towards Vista Home Premium or Vista Ultimate, making Microsoft's minimum hardware guidance further out of touch with reality and likely to see consumers getting their new copies of Windows Vista loaded on a new PC with beefier specs (3GHz processor, 1Gb of memory and 40Gb hard drive - a basic minimum by today's standards.) The pressure is therefore on Microsoft to put the hard sell on Vista to convince consumers to buy a new machine. Jupiter Research reckons 52 per cent of American households own at least one PC, leaving plenty of room for a second. Microsoft faces an uphill task, though, as Vista is due in January, when wallets will be lighter in the wake of the Holiday spending frenzy. Worse, at this stage at least Microsoft doesn't appear to be doing much to encourage uptake beyond offering consumers the blandly appetizing equivalent of Diet Coke for Windows that is Vista Home Basic. Missing is any Apple-style family pack, which gives five additional licenses for OS X Tiger at $199, that would help seed the market. Instead, it seems, Microsoft is trying to seed the market with developers: five million to be precise, which Microsoft said is its goal for those testing Windows Vista Release Candidate One.®
European microchip sales recover slightly in July but still lag behind the global average, according to the latest figures. World Semiconductor Trade Statistics (WSTS) data for July released by The European Semiconductor Industry Association (ESCIA) shows the value of European chip sales increased four per cent to $3.2bn compared to July last year.
Bank of Ireland has agreed to compensate victims of a recent phishing scam, backtracking from its earlier position. The bank had initially refused to refund victims, who lost about €160,000 to scammers after receiving the fake emails. However, reports in the Irish Independent on Tuesday indicate that the bank has since had a change of heart. For its part Bank of Ireland has refused to comment on the cases, releasing a general statement on phishing instead. "Bank of Ireland is aware that there are fraudulent emails being circulated purporting to be from Bank of Ireland 365 online," it said. "Bank of Ireland can not discuss individual cases where a customer has received and responded to such an email." It seems the banks just can't win. The nine customers who were conned out of the cash had threatened to sue the bank for compensation if their money wasn't returned. But now experts fear that there could be a surge in phishing cases, encouraged by the compensation paid out by Bank of Ireland. Conor Flynn, technical director of Rits, said the move was essentially a goodwill gesture by the bank. However, he warned that people may feel less threatened by the scams in future as a result. "It certainly will not help things," he said, speaking with ENN. "People will feel they have a buffer of security." However, he also pointed out that banks may implement more technologies that will push the responsibility back on to the customers to safeguard their details and prove that they didn't reveal their confidential details to a third party. "It's not a victimless crime," Flynn pointed out. "Banks still have to record record-profits. If they lose cash through compensating phishing victims, bank customers will pay." However, despite the high profile coverage, phishing is not a unique problem to Bank of Ireland, something the bank is keen to point out. "This problem is not unique to Bank of Ireland and similar fraudulent emails purporting to come from other banks, credit card companies, e-retailers etc are also in circulation," Bank of Ireland said in its statement. Other financial institutions have warned customers of other phishing scams, including AIB and internet bank RaboDirect. eBay is also a popular target for scammers. Copyright © 2006, ENN
An open source, cross-platform desktop architecture from Eclipse is enjoying a surge of interest among developers according to an Evans Data Corp poll.
The content of pump and dump emails is not usually considered worthy of attention down here at Vulture Central, lacking as it does the creative va-va-voom of a well-crafted 419 missive, but this one caught our eye: W_A T_C_H O U T! Here comes the big one! All signs show that AETR is going to Explode! ALLIANCE ENTERPRISE (AETR) Current Price 0.80 Add this gem to your watch |ist, and watch it trad closely! NEWS RELEASE TAECORP ANNOUNCES BREAKTHR0UGH IN REMOVING DEADLY LANDMINES. MILL VALLEY, CALIFORNIA August 25, 2006 - The Alliance Enterprise Corporation announced today a breakthr0ugh in developing an Aerial Landmine System aimed at locating, detecting and mapping deadly landmines. More than 100 million landmines in 83 countries are holding international communities and industries hostage, preventing the investment in and development of productive lands and the re-building of infrastructure. A broad variety of landmines have been scattered over productive areas effectively crippling the economy and disabling thousands of children and adults. There are no reliable records that accurately show where these devastating landmines lie in wait for their victims. With the present day costs to clear a single land mine ranging between $1,000 to $1,500, solving the problem of de-mining lands will reach billions of dollars. TaeCorp has developed a technology based, cost effective solution to this problem using its three tiered approach to scanning, mapping and removing landmines. TaeCorp's System will provide many social and economic benefits to countries and their industries including oil and gas, mining, agriculture, roads and infrastructure development. About TaeCorp. TaeCorp's vision is to be the recognized leader in providing Aerial Detection Systems including global de-mining, clearing a path to a safer planet for all humankind. TaeCorp's mission is to reclaim lands around the globe embedded with landmines that victimize countries and their stakeholders. Conclusion: The Examples Above Show The Awesome, Earning Potential of Little Known Companies That Explode Onto Investor's Radar Screens; Many of You Are Already Familiar with This. Is AETR Poised and Positioned to Do that For You? Then You May Feel the Time Has Come to Act... And Please Watch this One Trade tomorrow! Go AETR. "Explode onto investor's radar screens", eh? Messy. And you want to look at that apostrophe. See me after school. ® Bootnote Thanks to Ian Halstead for the trading tip-off.
Startling research aimed at determining why Russians are among the worse drivers in Europe has revealed that it can be largely attributed to a penchant for getting their ends away while behind the wheel, Mosnews reports. Indeed, around 25 per cent of those quizzed for the Goodyear poll admitted to mobile rumpy-pumpy, and a fair percentage of those also admitted driving while drunk and chatting on the mobile, jumping red lights, eschewing the seatbelt and breaking the speed limit. Specifically, 30 per cent have driven while drunk, while 36 per cent "regularly" exceed the speed limit. To emphasis just how dangerous driving in Russia really is, we should add that 23 per cent of locals "scold others while driving" and a whopping 60 per cent don't bother checking the condition of their tyres. Which begs the question: just how many drunk Russians are right now receiving executive relief while making a quick call on the mobile as they approach a red light at 200mph on bald tyres to the sound of the mother-in-law in the back seat shouting: "Put your foot down, Ivan, I've got to be at bingo by 8.30." Well, Russia is a pretty big place, so we'll leave you to do the maths. ® Bootnote Our correspondent Matt was rightly impressed with Mosnews's choice of accompanying photo for its article. Click here to see the still from Advanced Driving with Gillian Taylforth.
The European Commission has opened a public consultation on the use of surveillance technology in civil society. At the initiative's heart is the desire to work with industry to create more and better surveillance systems that it can use to monitor the public in order to prevent terrorist attacks. The EC Directorate-General for Justice, Freedom and Security said in a statement it would publish a green paper*, inviting consultation on "what role the Union could play in order to foster detection technologies in the service of the security of its citizens". The green paper was drawn up from the results of a conference of "major European business" and the public sector last November, called the Public-Private Security Dialogue: Detection Technologies and Associated Technologies in the Fight against Terrorism. Ben Hayes, spokesman for civil liberties campaigner Statewatch, said private industry has been given too much control over Europe's surveillance policy. A Statewatch report published in April warned that the EU had been handing private defence firms the power to decide how EU money was spent implementing security measures in civil society. Hayes said these were areas where the defence firms stood to benefit. Moreover, those firms were worried about $1bn of state subsidies given to US firms to develop civil surveillance in the name of homeland security - detailed in Statewatch's Arming Big Brother report. European firms feared this would give US firms an unfair advantage in the emerging market of civil surveillance, so they had sought, and won, more say on EU funding. Yet, said Hayes, people representing the interest of civil liberties against big business were under-represented. The April report, Arming Big Brother, documented the creation of the European Security Research Advisory Board (ESRAB), which advises the EC on matters related to security spending. A third of its members were from industry, another third from member states and academia. Only two out of 50 members represented the civil liberties of European citizens. Statewatch had dubbed this conjunction of public administration and private industry the "security-industry complex", a play on the phrase used by US President Dwight David Eisenhower to warn in 1961 that unprecedented amounts of money being given to private industry by the military should not result in unwarranted influence of war profiteers over policy. "We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together," he said. The EC, however, said its surveillance consultation would consider civil liberties. Surveillance and "detection technologies" were "inherently intrusive", said the EC statement. "Their use needs to be carefully analysed, in order to establish limitations to their intrusiveness where necessary," it added. It also said any legislation that came out of the consultation must "fully comply" with EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. "Particular attention must be paid to compliance with the protection of personal data and the right to private life," it said. The consultation will ask how the EC should address itself to the task of watching its citizens. In particular how different surveillance technologies should be standardised and integrated, how they should be used and what should be done at mass events like sports games. It will consider surveillance, biometrics, tools for analysing communications and documents, and devices for detecting illegal substances. The strong say of the private sector in these matters was decided by the European Council in 2004, when it adopted the The Hague Programme ("strengthening freedom, security and justice in the European Union"). This noted the importance of an industrial say in the matters of civil policy, said the statement. "This Green Paper aims to provide the ingredients for initiating such dialogue within the field of detection technologies," it added.® * The green paper -- "on detection technologies in the work of law enforcement, customs and other security authorities" -- was published Monday, but is not yet available to the public. To get have your say the green paper is available here (Pdf)here.
One of the architects of Windows Vista is leaving Microsoft weeks after it emerged he would be re-assigned once the delayed operating system is launched. Brian Valentine, the vice president for Microsoft's core operating system division, is reportedly leaving Microsoft after 19 years to join internet retailer Amazon. His exit comes after it emerged Valentine was being replaced by the man currently in charge of Microsoft's engineering standards, Jon DeVaan, while no role had been earmarked for Valentine. It was the latest bout of change designed to finally get Windows Vista out the door and lay the groundwork for smoother delivery for future versions of Windows. Former group vice president Jim Allchin is also headed out following a major restructuring last September. Allchin was responsible for Windows product delivery, engineering and technical architecture but was elevated to a broader, shared responsibility as platform and services division co-president with fellow co-president Kevin Johnson - formerly group vice president of sales, marketing and services. Allchin will leave Microsoft, after 16 years, once Windows Vista has shipped. Windows Vista has been beset by delays, core architectural elements have been removed and the code base was reworked after as it became obvious the original vision could not be met. Valentine led Windows code engineering for seven years and is joining Amazon as a senior vice president. Microsoft was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press®
William Shatner has turned down a free trip into space because it's "not my idea of a good time", as the actor explained to UK tabloid The Sun. Richard Branson offered the 75-year-old a £114,000 ticket for Virgin Galactic’s first passenger flight in 2008. Shatner, however, declared: "I'm interested in man's march into the unknown but to vomit in space is not my idea of a good time. Neither is a fiery crash with the vomit hovering over me. I do want to go up but I need guarantees I'll definitely come back." Kirk will not, then, be joining Ripley on the "VSS Enterprise" when it finally blasts off from Virgin Galactic’s New Mexico spaceport. Sigourney Weaver booked her flight back in 2004, prompting a spokesperson to comment: "We’d be delighted to take Sigourney back to visit the Aliens." ®
Anti-virus company F-Secure has posted details of a Windows virus which can use a Symbian handset to transport itself between systems. The Mobler worm infects a Windows system, hides the Windows folder and sets about copying itself into different directories and on to any removable media available. It also creates a Symbian installation file which, if executed by an unwary user, installs a copy of the virus onto any removable media on the handset. Once there it depends on a curious user to execute it when attached to another computer. In many ways this is a blast from the past in terms of virus design: when a virus would copy itself into an application and rely on that application being moved between systems. Indeed; on systems which have floppy drives Mobler will repeatedly attempt to copy itself onto a disk even if there isn’t one present, the sounds of which should present a clue that something is amiss. In these days when infection can follow opening a dodgy e-mail or just visiting the wrong web site, it’s harking back to simpler times to require the user to actually execute the infection themselves. But apparently F-Secure received a copy of Mobler from an infected customer, so normal warnings apply: keep anti-virus software up to date, don’t open dodgy e-mails and, additionally, don’t run applications which suddenly appear on your removable media.
The Sony press release says it all rather concisely: ‘Sony Computer Entertainment Europe Announces New March 2007 date for European Launch of Playstation 3." Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE) today announced that it would revise the launch date of its Playstation 3 computer entertainment system in the PAL territories of Europe, Russia, Middle East, Africa and Australasia from 17th November 2006, as previously announced to March 2007.
A faulty signature update to CA's antivirus software created headaches for sys admins last week after the software falsely identified a Windows 2003 component as malware. Win 2003 servers crashed and failed to reboot once the faulty (30.3.3054) update to CA's eTrust software was applied because the software wrongly flagged legitimate Lsass.exe files as the low-impact Lassrv-B Trojan. In default configurations, CA's software deleted the LSASS Windows Service component causing systems to lock-up CA acting promptly to issue a corrected update but not before a number of users were hit by the inadvertent error, the SANS Institute reports. CA and Microsoft have both published advisories (here and here) explaining the steps sys admins needed to take in order to restore systems. Lassrv-B, first identified on 24 August, is spreading in the wild, albeit modestly. The issue with CA's eTrust update was confined to Win 2003 users. CA users using other versions of Windows were left untouched by the problem. ®
BBC History Magazine was forced to remove an online poll after it was targeted by a project aimed at influencing internet opinion in Israel's favour. The Give Israel Your United Support (GIYUS) website hosts a downloadable desktop tool called Megaphone. The program alerts users to opinion polls and "talkback" features on news sites so they can respond with pro-Israel views. In turn, users can alert GIYUS operators to any opinion polls they think should be targeted. The Jerusalem-based World Union of Jewish Students launched GIYUS and Megaphone on 19 July, a week after Israel launched air attacks in Lebanon. The long-running BBC History Magazine poll posed the question: "Do you think holocaust denial should be made illegal in Britain?" Soon after it was targeted by Megaphone, the poll was pulled. The magazine declined to speak to The Register about the episode. Prior to contacting The Register, our source corresponded with the magazine. Staff writer Robert Attar wrote at the end of August: "I am aware about this situation. I had a look at their site and all they have done is encouraged their members to vote on the polls which seems legitimate to me. It would also be extremely difficult to prevent groups of people voting in this way. As our polls are not used for any scientific or academic purpose I don't see the problem." Three days after the launch of Megaphone, Amir Gissin, public affairs director of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs wrote to pro-Israel or "Hasbara" organisations to urge them to back the new tactic. Dear friends, Many of us recognize the importance of the Internet as the new battleground for Israel's image. It's time to do it better, and coordinate our on-line efforts on behalf of Israel. An Israeli software company have developed a free, safe and useful tool for us - the Internet Megaphone. Please go to www.giyus.org, download the Megaphone, and you will receive daily updates with instant links to important internet polls, problematic articles that require a talkback, etc. We need 100,000 Megaphone users to make a difference. So, please distribute this mail to all Israel's supporters. Do it now. For Israel. Amir Gissin Director Public Affairs (Hasbara) Department GIYUS currently claims 24,000 Megaphone users. Comparing Megaphone to pro-Palestinian blogs designed to rally support, in comments to the Jerusalem Post on 31 August, Gissin said: "Why can they do it, but we need to sit quietly? The Internet is the communications medium of the future. The government is not behind this initiative, but I can only be happy it exists." One Megaphone alert dispatched in August said: "Ask the UN to re-examine its position on the Qana incident. Remind the UN that Reuters admitted some of the Qana photos are faked, and that Hezbollah manipulates and uses innocent Lebanese civilians as human shields." Qana was the scene of a devastating airstrike which killed dozens of civilians, including many children. Israel was widely condemned and the UN security council expressed "shock and distress" at the action. Other interested parties have called for the initiative to try and stay under the radar. Former Israeli consul-general in New York Alon Pinkas told the Jerusalem Post: "Once it is out there that these are organized talkbacks, then anytime anything positive appears on the web, people will say it is manufactured in Israel." While the loss of the BBC History poll is relatively inconsequential in the grand scheme, it points to a new highly organised mass manipulation of technologies which are supposed to be democratising and encouraging free expression by individuals. Megaphone has no registration or identity check, so nothing would stop those opposed to Israel downloading Megaphone and using its alerts to voice opinions against its activities, however. Inevitably, a hacked version already exists which replaces Israeli flags with Palestinian ones and alters some of the text. However it is used, Megaphone is effectively a high-tech exercise in ballot-stuffing. We're calling it lobbyware. ®
If you ever suspected that the old days weren't quite as great as old folk reckon, or that the cock and bull stories told by politicians haven't changed one jot in two hundred years, you now have the means to find out without getting off your lazy backside and going to the library. Google has opened a news archive that reaches back to the beginning of the 19th Century. And it's not bad, if a bit limited so far. There are just a few publications, like Time magazine and the UK's Guardian newspaper, that have given their news content over for free. Others, like the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal still want to charge people to read old news. Still, a Google spokesman reckoned it was early days yet. More papers will be added, some of them even displaying our heritage for free. But for now, for a thorough understanding of history, you will still have to go to the library. And for a thorough understanding of the future, libraries, for all their talk about progress, will have to go to Google. More here.®
Analysts are predicting that Apple will launch a mobile phone in the first half of 2007. According to Shaw Wu of American Technology Research “The new phone's design will be similar to that of the iPod Nano, and is likely to come in three colours—white, black and platinum.” Phew, they’ve got the colours sorted out then. Wu went on to say "There were plenty of sceptics when Apple first launched its iPod MP3 players that ended up revolutionizing an emerging market…but Apple should not be discounted due to its strong brand name, loyal customer base, and obsession with quality”
Humans failed to colonise Britain seven times before they finally settled, according to the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain Project. The five year scientific effort has re-examined a heap of data from fossils and flint tools. The date of the earliest abortive attempt at making Blighty home was backdated 200,000 years by the research to 700,000 years ago. A bonanza of flints at a fossil-rich site in Lowestoft is the oldest unequivocal evidence of human occupation in northern Europe, The BBC reports. Up until 12,000 years ago settlers were repeatedly beaten back as the country iced over during chilly periods. Natural History Museum professor Chris Stringer told the BA Festival of Science: "Britain has suffered some of the most extreme climate changes of any area in the world during the Pleistocene." "So places in say South Wales would have gone from something that looked like North Africa with hippos, elephants, rhinos and hyenas, to the other extreme: to an extraordinary cold environment like northern Scandinavia." "In human terms, Britain was the edge of the Universe." ®
Vodafone have appointed Vittorio Colao as its new Chief Executive for Europe. Colao only left Vodafone two years ago to become Chief Executive of RCS MediaGroup, the Italian publishing and media company, after working as Chief Executive of Vodafone Italy and, subsequently, having responsibility for operations in Southern Europe. He will start on 9 October. Mr Colao’s experience gained at RCS can only help Vodafone who are one of the few remaining mobile-only companies and need to broaden their revenue sources if they are going to compete with the quad-play operators existing in many of their markets. Alternatively Mr Colao might decide that his arrival is a good time to reverse that strategy, making a wireless or wired play for additional communications services.
ReviewReview First up in a series of Core 2 Duo motherboard reviews from Reg Hardware comes the TForce P965 Deluxe from former mid-table manufacturer Biostar, a company now working hard at getting their enthusiast oriented and overclocking-friendly T-series motherboards noticed by the DIY performance builder.
Creative has launched a new webcam, and ominously the Creative Live! Cam Voice, which is the 13th model in its extensive range and the ninth to use that blasted exclamation mark after the word ‘Live’. It claims to be the first webcam on the market to offer built-in dual microphones and a true 1.3 Megapixel lens with intelligent auto exposure and white balance for clearer images. We suspect that Creative means a 1.3MP sensor, and not lens, but the resolution of 1,280x960 is an impressive figure for a webcam. With interpolation the numbers climb to 5 Megapixels and 2,560x1,920.
Nvidia has launched two new versions of its mighty GeForce 7900 graphics chip with the GeForce 7900 GS going on sale immediately and the GeForce 7950 GT hitting the shops on 14 September. The two new chips fill a gaping chasm in the Nvidia product range between the GeForce 7600 GT at £100-£150 and the GeForce 7900 GTX at £265-£320 with just the GeForce 7900 GT bridging the middle at £190-£280.
A bank robber who made off with a wad of cash from an Orlando bank last Friday had his collar felt after his trousers exploded as he attempted to make good his escape, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Kenneth Ray Brooks marched into Centura Bank and declared: "I'm holding down the joint," police reports record. He then "stuffed a stack of bills into his waistband and pushed the money down out of view", and quickly exited the scene tailed by a bank employee. Sadly, Brooks didn't get far before a dye-pack concealed in the loot exploded. Police spokeswoman Sgt. Barbara Jones explained: "Witnesses said they could see smoke coming out of his pants." Officers attending the scene quickly identified the perp by "his discomfort and bright red dye on both hands". Brooks, identified by bank employees and CCTV footage of the blag, was taken to police headquarters for questioning and later "walked very slowly to a waiting ambulance with the help of police officers and firefighters". He then enjoyed a trip to the local hospital "as a result of possible burning injuries to his person". Brooks has been charged with robbery, but that's not his most immediate concern. Police told the Orlando Sentinel that only the FBI could advise on the best method for removing the dye from Brook's hands and "lower torso". ® Bootnote Our informant Mike Richards failed to find an IT angle to this particular tale of woe, but quite reasonably asked: "Could you ignore a story that begins: 'The crotch of Kenneth Ray Brooks' pants exploded Friday afternoon.'?" Evidently not.
A mass mailing worm that attempts to trick users into downloading malware in response to bogus text messages is spreading in Spain. Anti-virus firm McAfee said the Eliles-A worm is among the first malware samples to automate a so-called phishing via SMS (SMiShing) attack. Eliles-A worm initially spreads as a conventional mass mailing worm whose infectious payload is contained in attachment to email messages, which poses as a CV from a supposed job applicant. Compromised PCs are used to send SMS messages free of charge via email sent through the SMS Gateways of two Spanish operators. The worm has two routines in it that calculate random phone numbers to target for attack. Targeted users receive an SMS claiming to be from the mobile operator and advising them to download "free antivirus software" for their phone. Users that download and install the software from the link would have found themselves infected with malware. The link is now inactive but pointed towards a Symbian SIS file, indicating that the malware is targeting Symbian phones for infection. Its unclear what malware payload hackers intended to deposit on the shiny Nokia Series 60 phones of their intended marks. McAfee said evidence within the code of the Eliles-A worm suggests it was cobbled together from from a variety of disparate sources by script kiddies. Most of the code is in Spanish with some German comments. ®
A man caught speeding by a Watchman camera in Hyde, Greater Manchester, decided he'd attempt to destroy the evidence by blowing up the offending device with thermite, the BBC reports. Craig Moore, 28, of Thorne, Doncaster, was caught on camera in Mottram Road on 14 August last year while driving a work vehicle. Later that night, he returned with a quantity of thermite (a powdered mixture of aluminium and iron oxide) which he used in his job as a welder. A recording later recovered from the Watchman's hard disk drive showed a Ford Transit approach and stop, then leave just before a shower of sparks heralded the camera's demise. Unfortunately for the perp, police were able tap into the Transit's tracker device, which showed it had "arrived in Hyde, stopped on Mottram Road and then returned to the Doncaster area, where it was parked outside Moore's home address". Pc Mark Akers, of Tameside Police, said: "Instead of just accepting that he had been caught travelling above the speed limit, Moore decided to blow the camera apart. He obviously thought that by destroying the main camera he was destroying all the evidence. But a combination of hard work and the latest technology led to his conviction." Moore's pyrotechnic display eventually led to an appearance before the beak this week at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court, where he was jailed for four months. He had previously admitted damaging property. Speaking in his defence, Andrew Bailey said Moore feared that since he already had 10 points on his licence, he would lose it and therefore his livelihood and the means to support his family. ®
Samsung was showing its SGH-i600 Smartphone at IFA 2006 and judging by what we’ve seen, RIM should be afraid for the popularity of its beloved Blackberry. The i600 is single-handed design so you don’t need to use both thumbs to navigate the QWERTY keypad and it has a decent-sized 2.3inch screen with 320x240 resolution and 65,000 colours. It supports HSDPA, EDGE, GSM, UMTS and GPRS and has a 1.3Megapixel camera on the back and a smaller camera for video calling on the front. Other parts of the spec include 802.11b/g wireless, Bluetooth, 128MB ROM, 64MB RAM and a MicroSD slot.
The most useful place for a map is in the pocket, but anyone who has tried to navigate using a web-based mapping application on a mobile phone will know that it is a lot easier to ask for directions, or just wander around at random. Running client software on the phone makes a lot more sense, as the interface can be tuned to suit a mobile experience; but when desktop mapping is free then not a lot of people are prepared to pay for that same service on their mobile. Map 24 won’t charge you for their mapping application, which runs on Windows Mobile and Series 60 Symbian devices, and provides the normal mapping functions along with the 3D-view which is so popular on GPS systems these days. Points of interest are marked, and settings such as routes and addresses can be imported from the Map 24 on-line application. The application is slick and works well, but obviously generates a lot of data traffic which could be expensive. There is an option to display the amount of data transferred, but an unlimited data tariff is a better option if available. Almost simultaneous with the Map 24 launch comes Mobile Earth, exclusive to Vodafone Live! users and only covering Germany for the moment, Mobile Earth adds aerial photographs and should work on most Vodafone Live! handsets as it uses a Java client which can be downloaded through the Vodafone Live! portal. Again, the normal capabilities of searching for addresses and route planning are supported, but this time the map can be replaced with a photograph in a similar way to that offered by Google Earth. But if similarity to Google Earth is what’s required then MGMaps provides an interface which can collect data from that source as well as others, including Microsoft Virtual Earth and Yahoo Maps. No route planning is provided, and the interface isn’t as slick as the competition, but worldwide coverage is available and it will connect to your Bluetooth GPS hardware if you have it. Mapping on mobile phones has become useful as well as being free, just watch the bandwidth as the money saved on software might well be spent several times over on connectivity. Bootonote: Thanks to the several readers, Terry Pettitt was quickest, who pointed out an application we neglected to mention. It seems we missed Google’s own mobile phone mapping software, which offers worldwide satellite photography and route planning, but in our defence it comes pretty low on a Google search for “mobile map”.
Site offerSite offer The Register and Opera have teamed up to offer you, our beloved readers, an easy way to get online through their mobile phone, viz: Opera Mini, Opera's java-based mobile browser. Opera Mini comes bundled with El Reg bookmarks for your convenience, and should provide the majority of you with a smooth and fast browsing. Why Opera Mini? Opera Mini™ is a fast and easy alternative to Opera's full mobile browser application, allowing users to access the full web on mobile phones that would normally be incapable of running a web browser. This includes the vast majority of today's 700 million Java-enabled phones. Instead of requiring the phone to process web pages, it uses a remote server to pre-process the page before sending it to the phone. This makes Opera Mini perfect for phones with very low resources, or low bandwidth connections. It's pretty good even for vanilla web pages. Reg users will note however, that Vulture Central has done some specific coding which allows us to recognise Opera Mini mobile phone browsers, and serve them an especially svelte and swift version of the page brought to you by new Reg Bloatgone™. Ok, gimme some of that Yes, you say, I'll have some of that. But how? Simple: just send an SMS text message saying 'GO THEREGISTER' To 85080. In return, we will send both a WAP Push (service message) and an SMS with the back-up link for the browser embedded in the message. The WAP push is the easier option, but it can get a bit lost on some phones. On the Motorola Razor, for example, it comes into your inbox as a 'browser message,' but on phones like the Sharp 902 it is rather more challenging to find and initiate the download. If you do decide, therefore, to use the back-up link, you'll need to copy it into your phone's standard browser and download from there. The SMS service is powered by Bango and we guarantee that your phone number will not be resold, abused or anything as a result of using this service. Bango are good like that, as they assured our black ops team who went round mob-handed, just to make sure. Enough technical hocus-pocus, how much does it cost? The SMS that you send will be charged to you at your standard network rate. The cost of the response should be covered by The Register, but if that goes wrong for some reason, due to the vagaries of networks, handsets etc, the maximum strain on your wallet for the response will be somewhere in the region of 12p. What about support? It's worth bearing in mind that, ultimately, this is an Opera service so any problems are most likely to be solved with Opera's help and support. Probably the best starting point for any problems is Opera's tech forum, which you can find here. We do know that people in the UK using the '3' Network are currently likely to have problems - the walled garden approach 3 uses seems to prevent any messages getting through, so we'd advise 3 users to hold off for now and await developments. If you're unsure about whether your phone and network will support the service, go here for the Opera Mini FAQ and look at the list of supported networks. Anything else? No. This plug has now officially ended. Happy surfing on Opera Mini. ®
Apple has announced that its iMac range now exclusively uses the Intel Core 2 Duo processor and it’s celebrating the happy occasion by adding a 24in widescreen iMac to the existing 17 and 20in models. The 17in starts at £679 with a basic 1.83GHz Core 2 Duo processor, 512MB RAM, 160GB SATA HDD, a CD/DVD combo drive, Intel GMA950 graphics and a screen resolution of 1,440x900. You can spec this up to a 2GHz CPU with 1GB RAM, a DVD writer and Radeon X1600 graphics for £799.
Pump-and-dump spammers are refining their tactics and marketing techniques in an attempt to drum up new business. Junk mail scumbags are now targeting companies with offers to boost their stock prices in return for payment. Pump-and-dump scams are email campaigns that seek to encourage armchair investors to sink their cash into particular firms' stock. The goal is to quickly inflate interest in low-value stock with bogus insider info in order to ramp up share prices and sell at a profit before the inevitable crash and burn. Meanwhile those duped are left holding possibly worthless shares. Most of these scams are thought to take place without the knowledge of firms that are the subject of the scams. However, in a new twist seen in a junk mail campaign discovered by net security firm Sophos, scammers are telling companies that they can boost their own stock prices by up to 250 per cent within two to three weeks using junk mail. The bogus offers even promise a one day free trial. Spam emails sent out as part of the campaign claim that the scammers will offer advice on future share price movements to investors, for a 30 per cent slice of supposed profits. Sophos reports that pump-and-dump stock campaigns currently account for approximately 15 per cent of all spam, up from 0.8 percent in January 2005. In related news, security experts have identified a "pump-and-dump" stock spam campaign that features an animated graphic to display a "subliminal" message to potential investors. Spam messages seeking to pump up interest in a firm called Trimax display the animated message "Buy" every 15 seconds. By using images instead of text, junk mail messages might avoid detection by anti-spam filters that rely on the analysis of textual content alone. The percentage of spam containing embedded images has risen sharply from 18.2 per cent in January to over 35 per cent last month, according to Sophos. ®
Competition resultsCompetition results So, to some unfinished business.
HP today divulged some of the grimy details behind its boardroom mole hunting operation. In a filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), HP confirmed that it used a form of surveillance known as "pretexting" to snoop on its board members. The company hired a team of investigators that tricked phone companies into revealing the call logs of directors' home and cell phone accounts. HP hoped this process would reveal which director had leaked information to CNET about a planning session. And, in fact, the questionable technique worked. HP will not put up longtime director George Keyworth for reelection to its board after outing him as the mole, according to the SEC filing. In addition, HP for the first time disclosed that veteran board member Tom Perkins resigned in May over a disagreement as to how the company handled the witch hunt. Companies are required to issue a specific filing with the SEC when directors quit their post due to objections over corporate practices. HP did not make such a filing back in May even though Perkins had expressed his displeasure with the pretexting operation okayed in secret by Chairman Patricia Dunn. HP today explained its failure to make the nature of Perkins' resignation clear in its SEC filing. "At the time of his resignation, Mr. Perkins did not provide any written communication to HP concerning the reasons for his resignation," HP said. "Following his resignation, and after HP on May 22 had disclosed the fact of Mr. Perkins’ resignation on Form 8-K in accordance with the applicable federal securities laws, Mr. Perkins notified HP that he had concerns with the HP Board’s handling of investigations that had been conducted into leaks of confidential HP information from meetings of the HP Board of Directors. "HP is filing this Form 8-K to report the following additional information about the circumstances relating to Mr. Perkins’ resignation, to report the findings of its leak investigations, and to report other related events that have occurred subsequent to the completion of those investigations and Mr. Perkins’ resignation." Perkins, a renowned venture capitalist and former HP executive, disagrees with HP's portrayal of the nature and timing of his objections to the pretexting operation. In a letter sent to HP's directors, Perkins wrote, "I am hereby providing the company notice that I consider the company's Form 8-K filed on May 22, 2006, relating to my resignation to be defective because it did not describe my objection to and disagreement with the company's operations, policies and practices as they relate to the chair's improper and likely unlawful investigation. I therefore disagree with the company statements concerning my resignation . . . " "As the company failed to make a full and accurate report (as required by federal law) and having given the company several opportunities to correct the record, I am now legally obliged to disclose publicly the reasons for my resignation. This is a very sad duty. "My history with the Hewlett-Packard Company is long and I have been privileged to count both founders as close friends. I consider HP to be an icon of Silicon Valley, and one of the great companies of the world. It now needs, urgently, to correct its course." The letter also details how Perkins discovered that investigators had misrepresented their identities to secure his phone logs from AT&T. According to the telephone company, a person obtained Perkins' January 2006 phone bill by providing his telephone number and the last four digits of his Social Security number. The AT&T report also says the person used the e-mail account firstname.lastname@example.org to register an account and accessed the bill information from the IP address 184.108.40.206, which traces back to Cox Communications in Atlanta. California's attorney general has vowed to investigate how HP obtained the information about its directors. In its SEC filing, HP said it will cooperate with the state's investigation and will also provide any relevant information to the SEC as the commission examines how HP handled Perkins' resignation. "(HP's Nominating and Governance Committee) was then advised by the Committee’s outside counsel that the use of pretexting at the time of the investigation was not generally unlawful (except with respect to financial institutions), but such counsel could not confirm that the techniques employed by the outside consulting firm and the party retained by that firm complied in all respects with applicable law," HP said in its filing. The US Federal Trade Commission says that the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act forbids anyone from using false or fictitious statements or documents to secure customer information from a financial institution. The law is less clear on how pretexting can be used to get consumer information from non-financial institutions such as telcos, as it only "generally prohibits" the practice. Perkins stature in Silicon Valley and his deep ties to HP make this a particularly embarrassing episode for the company. HP maintains that it had to do everything necessary to protect the information passed between board members. The company had endured a series of leaks leading up to CEO Carly Fiorina's termination and after, as the company transitioned to new CEO Mark Hurd. Revelations of HP's long-term strategy in the press - although vague and not terribly gripping - were too much for Dunn. But going behind the directors' backs to conduct an investigation with a dubious social engineering technique undermines HP's reputation built up over the decades by the company's founders and employees. The scandal now also proves a massive distraction at a time when HP has been enjoying consistent financial performance and a rising share price. ®
Sun Microsystems will soon lose the direct touch of one its staunchest allies when John Doerr leaves the company's board. Sun today announced that Doerr will step down as a director when his term expires in early November. The famed venture capitalist has backed Sun since its early days as a workstation maker. He's also a personal favorite of Chairman Scott McNealy and CEO Jonathan Schwartz. McNealy, in particular, has celebrated Doerr in public as one of the most respected players in Silicon Valley. As is customary in these situations, Sun issued a statement saying that Doerr wants to spend more time with his family and concentrate on green tech projects. Doerr, however, still sits on the boards of Google, Amazon.com and Intuit, making him a busy boy. Doerr has been one of the most influential figures at top-notch VC house Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, since leaving Intel for the firm in 1980. Doerr worked on KPCB's investments in Compaq, Sun, Intuit, Netscape, Amazon.com and the infamous @home. In an interview, he once recalled, "The four co-founders of Sun were twenty-seven-year-old entrepreneurs - backed by a couple of thirty-year-old venture capitalists. Fortunately, none of us really knew what we were doing, or what we were up against. If we had, we might not have violated the then conventional wisdom about computing." KPCB now employs Bill Joy and Vinod Khosla - two of Sun's founders. Doerr has been behind Sun through the good times and bad. Doerr's colleague Tom Perkins made headlines this week by coming out against HP's boardroom spying operation. We have no reason to believe that pretexting influenced Doerr's decision to leave Sun. ®
Microsoft and Cisco Systems have detailed plans for interoperability between systems designed to enforce security policies on Windows PCs and servers. The giants have published a white paper and detailed a roadmap that will enable Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP) and Cisco's Network Admission Control (NAC) to work together, to the benefit of users and developers. Microsoft said the white paper describes the architecture and provides details for integrating the embedded security capabilities of Cisco's network infrastructure with capabilities planned in Windows Vista and Windows Longhorn Server. Under the roadmap, a limited beta program for interoperability between NAP and NAC will begin later this year. Microsoft said interoperability would be possible with the launch of Windows Longhorn Sever is in the second half of 2007. The goal is to provide single sign-on to a network for machines running Longhorn Server and Windows Vista, and to give third parties building applications with a security component the simplicity of a single programming interface. Interoperability will also mean customers can deploy Cisco's NAC now and upgrade to NAP once Windows Longhorn Server ships, Microsoft said. Cisco and Microsoft unveiled their plan in 2004. The idea was for two of the biggest companies in software and network equipment to collaborate on APIs and protocols, making their systems compatible. Microsoft was a relative newcomer to end-point security with NAP, which is designed to help administrators set security policies for network-attached Windows PCs and servers. Anyone else underwhelmed by this arrangement/white paper?®
Sun Microsystems is hoping to leverage the popularity of Red Hat's JBoss, with software making it easier to use NetBeans with the application server.