18th > January > 2007 Archive

EMC bans Retrospect 8.0 from the big Dantz

You all know that EMC redefined the storage business, but did you know that it has also redefined definitions? Our sources claim that EMC's has killed plans to advance the Retrospect backup software line – part of a larger move to slash costs across the Insignia SMB (small- and medium-sized business) business group. EMC's public relations team has countered such suggestions by saying that Retrospect remains a key part of Insignia's "maturation." All of which leaves us wondering when "maturation" started to mean "end of lifed."
Ashlee Vance, 18 Jan 2007

EU to look at violent video games

European authorities have agreed to harmonise the laws that govern the sale of adult computer games to minors, following a call from EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini for violent video games to be banned. Speaking after an informal meeting of EU internal ministers in Dresden, Frattini called for EU-wide cooperation in the banning of computer games. "An important decision was made to launch a public request for knowing about different legislation and criteria that are enforced to try and improve the common level in order to ban and to punish," he told journalists. Ministers at the meeting where unanimous in their agreement that they should harmonise the means by which the sale of adult computer games to minors is prevented. There was no agreement on the need for an outright ban of violent video games, but the informal decision should at least encourage European governments to cooperate with the Commission's fact-finding mission. The Register was told in December that Frattini had conceded his efforts would lead to something akin to the UK model being applied across Europe. Frattini's spokesman has since denied there is any truth in this report. In some European countries violent games are, apparently, sold to kids willy-nilly. The UK is as keen as other EU countries to see the laws harmonised so children don't return from school trips with their satchels stuffed full of adult-rated video games. Frattini's public comments on the matter do indeed to go further than UK law, which merely punishes retailers who sell adult games to kids with fines and prison sentences, by demanding outright bans on violent computer games. He called for a dialogue with games producers yesterday "in order to explain to them that we won't tolerate that children are under threat of violent computer games". "It's in their interest to participate and to contribute to the EU dialogue to eradicate violent video games rather than punish," he said, explaining that it was better to prevent their publication in the first place rather than react after they were in the shops. But he wasn't working on anything more than a belief that violent games were bad for society. He admitted his campaign was merely "personal" as scientific evidence had both found and denied a link between violent video games and bad behaviour. "My personal opinion is, yes there's a certain degree of link between growing violence in the younger generation and growing diffusion of horribly violent video games." ®
Mark Ballard, 18 Jan 2007

Sony opens shutter on 7.2Mp compact digicam quartet

Sony announced a quartet of 7.2 megapixel, ISO 1000 Cyber-shot compact digital cameras in Europe today ahead of their launch next month. Top of the list are the DSC-W35 and DSC-W55 - the former available in silver, the W55 in a range of pastel shades - all sporting 56MB of on-board memory, a 2.5in LCD (2in on the W35), and a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens with 3x optical and 6-14x digital zoom. The battery life's quoted at 380 shots.
Tony Smith, 18 Jan 2007

Dishonest data protection notices could earn jail time

People who gather personal data without issuing a valid data protection notice in the course of their business could, at least in theory, face up to 10 years in jail under the UK's new Fraud Act which came into force on Monday. The Act was passed by the House of Commons in November but only came into force this week. Though legal experts say a 10 year jail sentence seems extremely unlikely for an improperly-worded data protection notice or the absence of one, the law does make such a term possible. "An unlooked-for consequence is that a data controller which fails to give a proper data protection notice and obtains personal data which he is going to use in business, e.g. to sell on as part of a mailing list, is now risking a prison sentence," said Rosemary Jay, data protection specialist at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. Section Three of the Act creates the new offence of failing to disclose information. "A person is in breach of this section if he dishonestly fails to disclose to another person information which he is under a legal duty to disclose, and intends, by failing to disclose the information to make a gain for himself or another, or to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss," the Act says. Jay believes that the full force of the sanction will probably never be used for data protection failings. "It is unlikely that someone would get sent to prison for a data protection notice and certainly not for 10 years," she said. A Home Office circular giving guidance on the Act includes an example of a situation where the provision is more likely to be applied: "If a doctor failed to disclose to a hospital that certain patients referred by him for treatment are private patients, thereby avoiding a charge for the services provided." The Act also outlaws the possession of "phishing" kits. Phishing is the act of sending a fake email to many people pretending to be from a well known company, usually a bank. It sends readers to a fake site which can then gather the person's banking details and defraud them. Previously it was not an offence to possess the software and tools necessary to launch phishing attacks, but the new law does make that an offence. It is the first single, general fraud law in English law. Previously a number of different laws created offences related to fraud, but the new Act brings all those offences and some new ones into the same Act. Another new offence which it creates is the writing of software "knowing that it is designed or adapted for use in...connection with fraud". Those found guilty of that offence could also face a jail sentence of up to 10 years. Fraud levels are on the rise, according to KPMG's Forensic Fraud Barometer. It reported that 2005 fraud levels were the highest in a decade, at £900m in the UK. It found that the figure for 2006 was likely to be even higher. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related link Fraud Act 2006(17 page/112KB PDF)
OUT-LAW.COM, 18 Jan 2007

Solar system braces for brightest ever comet

If a group of US astronomers is right, about two million years from now our solar system could be graced by the brightest comet ever. The potential comet is a dwarf planet in the Kuiper belt, designated 2003 EL61. Astronomers at Caltech have plotted its likely path, and have found that a close encounter with Neptune could disturb its path enough to send it tumbling into the inner solar system, where it would become a short period comet. Alternatively, the encounter with Neptune could slingshot the planetoid away from the sun, into the Oort cloud, or even out of the solar system altogether. Caltech's Professor Mike Brown announced his predictions at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Seattle. He explained that the planetoid is very unusual, being mostly rock covered in a thin layer of ice. Objects in the Kuiper belt tend to have more ice than 2003 EL61, suggesting that it suffered a massive collision at some time in its history. This could have knocked off most of its icy covering, and could explain its extremely fast rotation. The planetoid spins so quickly - a full rotation once every four hours - that it is rugby-ball shaped rather than near-spherical. Professor Brown also speculated that after the encounter that spun 2003 EL61, some of the icy mantle could have reformed into smaller satellites. Some of these, he says, could already have made their way into the inner solar system. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jan 2007
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A holistic view of second generation BI

CommentComment I wrote a series of articles about second generation BI (which I refuse to refer to as Business Intelligence twodotoh) about six months ago. Why then I am returning to it? Because I think it is time to take a step back from the BI market and view it more holistically before we even consider what a next generation environment might look like.
Philip Howard, 18 Jan 2007
PC World

Big TVs and small computers turn on DSG

Big screen TVs had the edge over laptop PCs when it came to picking customers’ wallets last year latest figures from PC World parent DSG International show.
Joe Fay, 18 Jan 2007
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ICM Computer mulls management buyout

The independent directors of ICM Computer Group have given permission to managers to investigate making a buyout proposal. The board also confirmed another party had made an offer for the data continuity firm.
Christopher Williams, 18 Jan 2007

LG, Prada parade iPhone-like KE850

LG has unveiled the Prada-branded handset - the KE850 - it announced late last year and the two firms must be spewing: their designer phone looks a lot like Apple's iPhone, right down to the touchscreen-controlled snazzy graphical user interface.
Tony Smith, 18 Jan 2007

Iranian teen spared the rope

There's some cheering news this cold January morning - condemned Iranian Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi has been spared the rope following an international net campaign led by former Miss Canada Nazanin Afshin-Jam. To recap, Nazanin Fatehi was in January 2006 "sentenced to death for murder by court in Iran after she stabbed one of three men who attempted to rape her and her 16-year-old niece in a park in Karaj (a suburb of Tehran) in March 2005". In June 2006, "the Head of Judiciary Ayatollah Shahroudi announced a stay of execution and the call for a complete new retrial" - scheduled for 10 January. Mercifully, the five judges who reviewed her case "determined that the act was unintentional and was indeed a case of self-defense". As a result she was "exonerated from the charge of murder". That's the good news. The bad news is that the judges "ruled that disproportionate force was used by Nazanin while trying to defend herself and her 15-year old niece" and ordered that she pay dieh, or blood money, "to receive a pardon from the family of the deceased before she can be released from prison". Nazanin's lawyers say they "intend to appeal the payment of blood money, but since this may take several months they also have requested bail so that Nazanin may be released from prison immediately. The court has set bail in the amount of 400,000,000 Rials (over US$40,000)". Since the poor girl's family is a bit cash-strapped, the Help Nazanin campaign is asking for donations. All cash received "will be allocated to the requested bail and other campaign costs" and, if the appeal is successful, "any excess donation fund will be used to assist Nazanin's family as well as any other cases of minors sentenced to death in Iran". Well, El Reg has already walked it like it talks it, and this morning dispatched some cash to the fighting fund. We're sure those of you with a few quid or dollars to spare will be happy to do the same. You can find details on how to make a donation here. ®
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2007

UCLA Taser victim sues university

The UCLA student who received a righteous tasering at the hands of the university's campus police officers has decided to sue for "unspecified monetary damages", Associated Press reports. According to the original report in the uni's Daily Bruin, the incident occurred on 14 November last year when security officers at the Powell Library CLICC computer lab asked 23-year-old Mostafa Tabatabainejad "to leave when he was unable to produce a BruinCard during a random check". As we reported at the time, when he didn't immediately vacate the building, the security operatives returned with police officers to escort him from the premises. The Daily Bruin continued: "By this time the student had begun to walk toward the door with his backpack when an officer approached him and grabbed his arm, at which point the student told the officer to let him go. A second officer then approached the student as well. "The student began to yell 'get off me', repeating himself several times. "It was at this point that the officers shot the student with a Taser for the first time, causing him to fall to the floor and cry out in pain. The student also told the officers he had a medical condition." A video of the whole sorry business subsequently surfaced on YouTube, fuelling general outrage at Tabatabainejad's treatment. In a lawsuit filed in federal court, Tabatabainejad now claims that "Los Angeles campus police officers used excessive force by repeatedly shocking him with the stun gun". Tabatabainejad explained that "he tried to remain calm, explaining to the officers that he was a student and that he suffers from bipolar disorder". The lawsuit duly accuses officers of violating the Americans With Disabilities Act and causing "intentional infliction of emotional distress". His attorney Paul Hoffman said: "He told the officers he had the condition and the officers' response was to Taser him and to hurt him rather to deal with him as a person with a disability." The lawsuit specifically names "UCLA, the campus police department, and officers Terrence Duren and Alexis Bicomong as defendants". UCLA's acting chancellor Norm Abrams said the university was "pursuing an independent investigation along with an internal campus police department probe". He said in a statement: "Shortly after the incident, I urged everyone not to rush to judgment and to let the investigations take their course. We regret that Mostafa Tabatabainejad has filed a lawsuit at this time." ®
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2007

RIM readies new UI, CPU for 3G BlackBerry 9000?

Research in Motion will launch a brand new user interface, along with the ability to back-up and restore a handheld's contents to MicroSD card, when it brings its BlackBerry 9000 series to market in Q4.
Tony Smith, 18 Jan 2007
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ID theft fears over Hampshire hospital PC theft

The theft of 30 computers containing patient details from a disused hospital site in Hampshire has sparked ID theft fears. PCs, worth an estimated £15,000, were taken from a storeroom in the recently closed Lymington Infirmary earlier this month. The facility was shut to make way for a new £36m facility in the town.
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2007

Government launches data free-for-all

The government has ditched yet more of the protections on personal data contained in the Data Protection Act with new legislation that will allow the sharing of data between public and private sectors. The move follows the decision by the cabinet to allow data to be "normally shared" between public sector bodies, if the sharing is in the public interest. The new bill specifically allows data to be exchanged in the name of preventing fraud. Both public and private sector agencies will have access to information about a person's tax, employment, and benefits status, as well as any pensions and other personal financial information. Medical information is specifically exempted from being shared. Further, the bill paves the way for personal data from various repositories to be collated and compared, which could reveal suspicious patterns of behaviour. Civil rights campaigners are concerned that these powers could be used without any evidence of wrongdoing against the person being investigated. But the serious crime bill also contains provisions for function creep: that is for the Home Secretary to extend the bill beyond its original scope. The powers could be used for prevention of other crimes, not just fraud, for tracking missing offenders, and for recovering debt, according to reports. According to The Guardian, the bill's explanatory notes also set out how the scope of the national fraud initiative will be extended to include central government databases, such as passport office information, and the driving license records. The bill also sets out new, so-called "super asbos", orders designed to target those suspected of serious organised crime, such as money laundering, human trafficking and drug dealing. Ministers want the orders to be handed out to up to 30 suspected serious criminals every year. If the order is breached, a recipient could face up to five years in prison. The Tories have been critical of the scheme. Shadow home secretary David Davis told The Times: "If up to 60 per cent of tearaways breach ASBOs, what makes John Reid think an organised criminal will pay attention to one?" Various reports estimate the cost of each of these orders to be around £40,000. This could be doubled if a recipient elected to appeal the imposition. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jan 2007

Venerable DataFlex goes visual

It is reassuring to know that Microsoft has not overwhelmed every software product from the original PC era. This month sees the UK release of Visual DataFlex (VDF) version 12 - the latest version of Data Access's application development package from the early 1980s.
Phil Manchester, 18 Jan 2007

Debian developers take note

DiaryDiary Linus fans, get your diaries ready. The annual developers' conference of the Debian Project is to be held on 17-23 June in Edinburgh.
Martin Banks, 18 Jan 2007

Parents gain MPs' backing over school fingerprinting

The government should come clean to parents and join with them in a public debate about the schools that have taken children's fingerprints without consent, campaign groups said last night. Representatives of Leave Them Kids Alone, No2ID, and Action on Rights for Children were joined by other campaigning parents in London yesterday to decide how they should take on a government that has not only turned a blind eye to schools taking children's fingerprints, but has allowed them to pay for the fingerprint systems using e-Learning credits. Action on Rights for Children spokeswoman Terri Dowty said about a dozen MPs had promised to support the campaign since opposition education spokespeople Sarah Tether, of the Liberal Democrats, and Nick Gibb of the Conservatives, put their weight behind it. "We've now got cross-party support. They all agree that guidelines just aren't enough. Either this needs proper, informed parental consent or it needs scrapping altogether. At the moment we want to know what parents think about it. "I think it should be stopped - and that's the opinion of all of us - because we are getting children used to the dangers of casualness about biometrics." Pippa King, a parent from Hull who has been campaigning since she discovered her childrens' school planned to take their fingerprints without her permission, was scheduled to talk to MPs in London today. "My children were nearly fingerprinted," she told The Register. "I thought there must be a law against it but there wasn't, so the law should be changed." David Clouter, a parent who runs Leave Them Kids Alone, said: "We are going to poll parents to see what they want to do. We want to back this up by saying this is not just what we want but what people want." "That's not to say that other options like legal action aren't there, but that would be up to individual parents," he added. Phil Booth, national co-ordinator for No2ID, said: "Schools that take fingerprints from children as young as five are sending out the message that they can take control of our biometric data in situations that are non-essential." Children shouldn't need to give their fingerprints in order to take out a library book, he said. He also said it might even be feasible to roll back the thousands of fingerprint systems in schools without wasting the investment the schools have made. The biometrics are merely a single module of a larger system, so they could be simply pulled out and children issued with library cards instead. ®
Mark Ballard, 18 Jan 2007

Scientists solve 1918 bird flu mystery

Scientists appear to have solved an enduring mystery surrounding the 1918 outbreak of Spanish flu which killed millions worldwide. Estimates say the epidemic took 50 million lives, more than the First World War. Unlike most bird flu strains, it was lethal amongst young, healthy people. A Canadian lab reconstucted the Spanish flu virus from human tissues preserved in the Alaskan permafrost and infected macaque monkeys. Their findings were reported on Thursday in the journal Nature, and should give a better view of how the virus killed humans than earlier work with infected mice. It turns out that the H1N1 Spanish flu virus (the current bird flu threat is from H5N1, the nomenclature derived from the proteins which coat the virus) killed 50 million by over-stimulating their immune system, causing the lungs to inflame and rapidly fill with liquid. Lead author Professor Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin said: "Essentially people are drowned by themselves." So a young, healthy person with a young, healthy immune system would be a ripe victim for the 1918 strain. Associated Press reports co-author Michael Katze, of the University of Wahington, said: "It was the robustness of the immune system that helped victimize them." The researchers write that symptoms of the disease appeared within 24 hours of the monkeys' exposure to Spanish flu. They became so ill they were were euthanised after only 8 days of a scheduled 21 day trial. The type of cascading immune response the virus induced is known as a "cytokine storm". Cytokines are the protein messengers released by cells which modulate the immune system. A comparable cytokine storm was implicated in the disastrous drug trial last year which hospitalised six volunteers. The team's work to rebuild and study Spanish flu will help understanding of how the rapidly-evolving disease becomes more deadly. The current H5N1 strain appears to have similar immune-fiddling powers in birds. ®
Christopher Williams, 18 Jan 2007
Dell

Dell growth slows to crawl in Q4

Dell's misery continued in the fourth quarter. HP has stretched its time in the number one spot for PC shipments to six months, according to latest figures from Gartner. The extended stint in the top spot meant it tied with Dell as top PC shipper for the year.
Joe Fay, 18 Jan 2007
homeless man with sign

Cookie monster menaces Google

Google has fixed a security vulnerability that created a means for hackers to swipe users' cookie data, days after plugging a separate hole carrying much the same risks.
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2007

Carphone Warehouse hangs up on Celebrity Big Brother

Carphone Warehouse has pulled its sponsorship of Celebrity Big Brother in the wake of the "Shettygate" racism scandal, the BBC reports. The company said its backing for the current series was cancelled "with immediate effect". The announcement follows thousands of complaints to UK TV watchdog Ofcom, whose website is struggling to cope with the sheer numbers of enraged citizens queuing up to vent their spleen about the human zoo. A message on the site's complaints section currently reads: 18 January 2007 - Ofcom is currently receiving very high volumes of complaints alleging racism in Celebrity Big Brother 7. Visitors may experience delays or intermittent problems when trying to submit complaints. According to the BBC, Ofcom said it was "taking the matter very seriously and monitoring the situation very, very carefully". It's not, according to the "Kick Big Brother" bit of its complaints branch, "responding to individual complaints"; rather it says a "Broadcast Bulletin will be published on our website in due course". And no wonder. The Beeb reckons complaints to Ofcom have now reached 27,000, while Channel 4 has copped 3,000 straight to its outrage inbox. The TV channel is under increasing pressure to act over the allegations of racism against Jade Goody, Danielle Lloyd, and Jo O'Meara, who appear to have formed a Macbethean witches' alliance against Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. To add to a growing litany of misdemeanours (see our previous coverage here), viewers were further treated to Goody instructing Shetty to "go back to the slums and find out what real life is about". For the defence, Jade Goody's spokeswoman has defended her client, insisting there "was no proof Goody was racist". She challenged: "I would urge anyone who says that Jade is a racist to produce the evidence to support the claim." This will cut little ice in India, where the media has widely expressed its dismay at Shetty's treatment. A small demonstration in the northern town of Patna was followed by a the country's junior foreign minister, Anand Sharma, asking: "Surely such racist slurs have no place in civilised society?" UK chancellor Gordon Brown - in India on an official visit - sought to calm the situation, and repeated to a press conference his assurances that "the UK and India are against forms of racism and intolerance". He added: "We are for countries that practise what we preach, which is a message of fairness and tolerance to all human beings." Brown did, however, stress that the government would not intervene in the matter, which would be dealt with by Ofcom. The watchdog has indeed promised action, although not as rapidly as the baying mob might like. The BBC notes that chief executive Ed Richards said he "takes the issue seriously but will not conduct a kangaroo court". A letter will be duly dispatched to Channel 4 within the next couple of weeks, and the channel would then have "a few weeks" to respond. Channel 4 has issued a further defensive statement which claimed there had been "no overt racial abuse or racist behaviour". It continued: "Unambiguous racist behaviour and language is not tolerated under any circumstances in the Big Brother house. Housemates are constantly monitored and Channel 4 would intervene if a clear instance of this arose." The statement further noted: "Shetty had not voiced any concerns of racial abuse to Big Brother". Sceptics have suggested that Channel 4's apparent reluctance to intervene in the matter might be influenced by the huge ratings hit it has enjoyed since the rumpus kicked off. A cool 3.5 million viewers tuned in on Monday this week, rising to 4.5 million on Tuesday and 5.2 million on Wednesday. But while the channel can certainly weather the storm while enjoying the attention of millions of TV voyeurs, the Carphone Warehouse announcement might provoke it to reconsider its hands-off stance. ®
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2007

NASA to demystify atmospheric storms

NASA is preparing to launch a new mission to learn more about the causes of atmospheric substorms. A substorm is a period of intense geomagnetic activity, visible to observers as a sudden brightening of the polar aurorae. The storms might be visible to us, but scientists don't really understand what triggers them. What is known is that the Northern lights suddenly brighten when floods of highly charged electrons race down the Earth's magnetic field lines and hit the upper atmosphere. The electrons are accelerated when energy from the solar wind, stored in the Earth's magnetosphere, is "explosively released". Scientists don't understand exactly what triggers the energy release, which is where the THEMIS (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms) mission comes in. THEMIS is a constellation of five satellites that NASA plans to put into orbit in mid-February this year. Once spinning above us in their proper formation, they will collect coordinated measurements every four days. NASA expects the satellites will collect data from more than 30 substorms during the mission's scheduled two year lifespan. "A substorm starts from a single point in space and progresses past the moon's orbit within minutes, so a single satellite cannot identify the substorm origin. The five-satellite constellation of THEMIS will finally identify the trigger location and the physics involved in substorms," said Vassilis Angelopoulos, THEMIS' principal investigator at the University of California, Berkeley's Space Sciences Laboratory. He says the source of the energy releases is "a question almost as old as space physics itself". ®
Lucy Sherriff, 18 Jan 2007

Orb brings iTunes to Wii console

Demonstrating that you can do convergence on a budget, Orb claims that Nintendo Wii owners have downloaded 50,000 copies of its software that permits them to access their home music and photo collections on their games consoles.
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Jan 2007

Skype slaps charge on non-'Pro' customers

Skype, the rather popular VoIP service, has introduced a connection charge of 3.9 euro cents for all calls outside the Skype network - those using the SkypeOut service - from midday today. The change comes with several alterations to its international tariffs, and the announcement of a Skype Pro service which will cost €2 a month and remove any per-minute charges for national calls to landlines. Problem is, Skype Pro won't be available for a while, so for the moment there is just the additional connection charge to worry about, though subscribers to Talk For Britain or Skype Unlimited (in the US) won't have to pay that. International calls are now being charged at €0.017 per minute - for the Czech Republic (including Prague), Guam, Hungary (including Budapest), Israel (including Jerusalem), Luxembourg, Malaysia (including Kuala Lumpur), Puerto Rico, and both Alaska and Hawaii in the United States - representing cuts of up to 65 per cent. The VoIP market is hugely price-sensitive, and with such healthy competition no one can be seen to be charging more than anyone else. Mobile phone companies have long specialised in creating tariffs which are too complex to compare, and it's unsurprising to see Skype mucking about with its charges. The Skype Pro service will also bundle some premium services, including free avatars for CrazyTalk and ringtones from Emotive, and this is indicative of the necessity to get out of the overly price-competitive market of connecting voice calls and into the business of supplying value-added services which offer a better margin as well as improved customer loyalty. ®
Bill Ray, 18 Jan 2007
channel

'Microsoft broke anti-trust agreement,' prosecutors claim

A relatively minor US anti-trust case could put Microsoft back in hot water with the government, four years after settling its long-running national case.
Gavin Clarke, 18 Jan 2007

Stormy weather brings down Southern Railway website

As the UK battens down the hatches and lashes itself to the wheel under the relentless onslaught of inclement weather, we're glad to report that Southern Railways' website boasts a suitably storm-proof construction. Or rather, and in the great UK railway tradition, it actually blew over at the first sign of a stiff breeze. Here's the current state of play: Website unavailable Unfortunately, due to the extreme weather conditions today, our website is experiencing heavy use, leading to technical difficulties. Please note that Southern train services on all routes are being severely disrupted due to high winds. Short notice service alterations, cancellations and delays are occurring across the Southern Network. This situation may continue throughout the day, effecting evening peak services. Due to the number of services affected, we are unable to give out service information on specific trains at this time. We would like to apologise for any disruption that may occur on your journey today. As our informant Ivor Hewitt puts it: So this morning I spent three and a half hours (normal journey time 40 mins) sitting in a train 100 yards outside a station due to a tree on the line.... I just went to check the southern website to see what's happening and whether I should put a sleeping bag under my desk... only to find that they have actually "shut" their website and simply display a static page saying we've shut the website due to heavy use. Fantastic. Ivor adds: "How utterly crap can you get exactly?" Well, to be fair, the site does have a sort of service update which makes chilling reading for London commuters: Please be advised that part of the roof structure at London Bridge station has been damaged by high winds. Therefore, the station is now closed to passengers, with the exception of those arriving there on incoming overground rail services. There is no access to the station either on foot, or by London Underground services. Passengers are advised to go to the nearest London terminal to pick up National Rail Services. ®
Lester Haines, 18 Jan 2007

1and1 email takes a dive again

Hosting and email provider 1and1 has annoyed its customers for the second time this week with patchy service. The Register has been contacted by a dozen irate 1and1 customers, all complaining that their inability to access email, which the firm told us it had sorted on Tuesday, had resurfaced. Many have had trouble contacting the firm. Our own call was sent to hold music for several minutes and then went dead. A recorded message informs callers the firm is working on a technical fault and is hoping to have normal service resumed "as soon as possible". Readers report both POP3 and SMTP are a no-go. Reader Craig said: The last email I received properly was 11:11 this morning, and I just get a send & receive error in Outlook when I try. Their webmail interface just gives a HTTP 500 Internal Server Error too! And Mark asks asks what we're itching to know too: "Any idea what's behind their bullsh*t excuses?" ®
Christopher Williams, 18 Jan 2007

UK refuses to extend legal protections for search engines

The British government will not back a change to the UK E-commerce Regulations which would give greater legal protection to search engines and other intermediaries. The Government says that changes should be left to a European Commission review later this year. The EU's E-commerce Directive of 2000, from which the UK Regulations are derived, limits the liability of intermediaries where they host or cache information or act as 'mere conduits' in its transmission. The Directive's protection for an ISP is fairly clear; its protection for a search engine is not. Some EU Member States sought to resolve that ambiguity in their implementing laws. The Spanish authorities reasoned that search engines are analogous to hosting services because the service provider has a lack of control over the content and included explicit protection for search engines in Spain's national law. It applied the same reasoning and protection to providers of hyperlinks and also content aggregation services. Austria and Liechtenstein also extended their national protections, though their reasoning was that search engines were more analogous to 'mere conduits' than hosts. Hungary and Portugal also added extensions for such intermediaries to their national laws. The Directive required the European Commission to monitor the Directive's application in periodic reports. Its first report, delivered in 2003, recommended that all member states extend the protections afforded to intermediaries. With no explicit protection in UK law for search engines or providers of links or content aggregation services, the UK's Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) sought views on whether it should make changes. It published a consultation paper in June 2005. Perhaps predictably, providers of search and content aggregation services said they want the limitation of liability to be extended. They fear a court ruling that holds them responsible for failing to filter, assess or censor the content that they pass on to users. They claim that the automated processes which are essential to their operation would not be feasible if they were made responsible for third party content and they feel vulnerable to actions for copyright infringement, defamation and even contempt. Just as predictably, owners of content such as music and films, who are fighting unauthorised uses of their works, argue that the limitation should not be extended any further - because it would further aid those who use and distribute works without permission. They pointed out that search engines have developed very successfully over recent years notwithstanding the absence of liability exemptions. In its conclusions, published in December, the DTI wrote: "Although there have been good arguments made both for and against the granting of an extension of the limitations on liability to providers of hyperlinks, location tool services and content aggregation services, the DTI, mindful of its obligation for evidence based-regulations, has reached the conclusion that there is currently insufficient evidence to justify any extension to these limitations." "In particular," noted the DTI, "there has been no significant legal action in the UK since the Directive's implementation in July 2002". It added that it had seen little evidence of out-of-court settlements or notices received by search engines that showed significant legal uncertainty among providers. "The second review of the Electronic Commerce Directive by the European Commission is due in 2007 and the DTI will encourage the Commission to take on board the important issues raised during this consultation," it said. One of the main points raised in its own consultation, the DTI said, was that in countries that have extended the rights there has been no significant difference to the legal position of aggregators and hyperlink providers. "There appears to be very little evidence to suggest that where Member States have limited the liability limitation to providers of hyperlinks and location tool providers it has made any significant difference," said the DTI's response. "There appears to be very little case law in these Member States to ascertain their effect". Yahoo! is listed among the respondents in the DTI report. Its main rivals – Google and Microsoft – are not. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
Team Register, 18 Jan 2007

First HD-DVD film appears on BitTorrent

A high-definition format movie has made its way onto BitTorrent. A pirated copy of the hit science fiction movie Serenity has been ripped from a HD DVD disc and made available to users of the popular P2P file sharing protocol.
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2007

DRM threat to net radio returns

A bill re-introduced last week to the US Senate compels digital radio broadcasters to use DRM. The PERFORM Act was first introduced on the floor last year, and seeks to harmonize royalties between different digital media, such as satellite and webcasters. It's intended to prevent the US's two digital satellite radio broadcasters from turning the platform into a music distribution platform. Among other changes, PERFORM amends Section 114(d)(2) of Title 17 of the US Code, the copyright law, to ensure: ... the transmitting entity ... uses technology that is reasonably available, technologically feasible, and economically reasonable to prevent the making of copies or phonorecords embodying the transmission in whole or in part, except for reasonable recording... Reasonable recording, as defined by the Grand Dame of California politics Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.) last year, means that a listener can for personal use make time-shifted recordings from satellite or the net, and play them back to back. It does not mean, she said, "is set a recording device to find all the Frank Sinatra songs being played on the radio-service and only record those songs." That technology is trivial to implement for the satellite broadcasters, who have yet to do so. XM and Sirius are already being sued by the RIAA over their recordable digital music players, including the Samsung Helix and the Pioneer Inno (aka "The Mothership). However, clumsy wording in the draft bill nullifies Feinstein's intentions - and fails to exclude internet broadcasts. The expense and practicality of protecting lo-fi streams few people record is likely to be challenged by webcasters. Last year's PERFORM act got some heavyweight opposition from Clear Channel and Cox, and died quietly. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Jan 2007

IFPI hails piracy crusade for selling more music downloads

Digital music sales nearly doubled in 2006 but the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry wants more done to stop piracy. The IFPI published its Digital Music report on Wednesday which estimates that digital music sales reached nearly USD2 billion in 2006, up from USD1.1 billion the previous year. Music downloads account for about 10 per cent of the industry's sales, up from 5.5 per cent in the previous year. The IFPI acknowledges that sales of digital music do make up for the decline in CD sales. The organisation said legal actions against large-scale peer-to-peer uploaders have helped contain piracy, thus reducing the proportion of internet users frequently file-sharing in key European markets. More than 10,000 such actions were initiated in 18 countries worldwide in 2006, and the average legal settlement is now €2,420. The IFPI said it is stepping up its campaign for action from internet service providers (ISPs) and will take whatever legal steps are necessary to fight piracy. "As an industry we are enforcing our rights decisively in the fight against piracy and this will continue. However, we should not be doing this job alone. With cooperation from ISPs we could make huge strides in tackling internet piracy globally," said IFPI chairman and chief executive John Kennedy "It is very unfortunate that it seems to need pressure from governments or even action in the courts to achieve this, but as an industry we are determined to see this campaign through to the end," he said. The report found that single track purchased online had increased 89 percent on the previous year with 795 million individual tracks downloaded. Portable player sales helped increase consumption with total sales of around 120 million worldwide in 2006 - an increase of 43 per cent on the previous year. Digital music users now have a wider variety of choice with the number of tracks available online doubling to reach over four million in the last year. "By 2010 we expect at least one quarter of all music sales worldwide to be digital," said Kennedy. "The chief winners in the rise of digital music are consumers. They have effectively been given access to 24-hour music stores with unlimited shelf space." Copyright © 2007, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 18 Jan 2007

Four arrested in Japan over dating site spam blizzard

Four men suspected of sending an internet-congesting 5.4 billion spam emails to promote a dating website have been arrested in Japan. Yoshimitsu Hirono, 47, president of Tokyo-based dating website Takumi Tsushin, and three other suspects, are charged with distributing 90m junk mail messages a day in July and August last year. Investigators say the group sent the spam run through a bank of 128 compromised computers located in China to send the spam run, in an attempt to cover their tracks, English language Japanese paper the Daily Mainichi reports "China ranks as the second-worst country in the world for relaying spam, but that doesn't mean that the spammers themselves are based there," said Graham Cluley of the anti-virus software firm Sophos. "Spammers may make use of computers in China to make investigations more complicated and to take advantage of lower infrastructure costs." Competition between dating sites in Japan is fierce, and the suspects are suspected of turning to illegal means in to gain an edge. According to the Daily Mainichi Takumi Tsushin made 120 million yen ($1m) a month via its partner matching services. ®
John Leyden, 18 Jan 2007

San Francisco expands public surveillance

In a controversial decision that pits civil libertarians against urban dwellers fed up with crime, San Francisco officials have agreed to almost double the number of surveillance cameras on city streets. Following four hours of heated debate, the San Francisco Police Commission voted 5-0 in favor of adding 25 new cameras in eight locations throughout the city's roughly 50 square miles. Currently there are 33 cameras in 14 sites. Wednesday night's debate, which included about 100 speakers, is playing out in cities across the US, as technological advances make it easier to monitor everyday people coming and going in public. While surveillance is a fact of life in countries such as the UK, it runs counter to the sensibilities across the pond, where a fierce expectation of privacy has been a part of the national psyche for 200 years. "What's going to stop the government from adding more and more cameras until they're in our homes, they're in our back yards, they're in our basements and they proliferate just as they were in the novel 1984 where tyrannical government reigns supreme?" one San Francisco resident asked the commission. Plenty of people spoke in favor of the cameras, however. One resident, who lives at an intersection where cameras are planned, said a recent shooting near her home remains unsolved. "If we would have had the camera, at least we would have seen who was running away," she said. Several civil liberties groups, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Electronic Frontier Foundation, argue there is no evidence that cameras deter crime. They pointed to statistics that showed an increase in illegal incidents at half of the locations where monitoring has been implemented. They also contend that such programs are open to abuse by crooked law enforcement members. In approving the expansion, commissioners said they wanted police officials to explore ways to turn cameras off during political demonstrations. They also pushed for a policy that would see video destroyed rather than simply stopping the maintenance of it. Under a city ordinance that approved the cameras, footage may not be maintained for more than 14 days. An internal police policy originally called for video to be stored for 72 hours, but this was changed to seven days. Opponents say the video could be obtained by citizens opposed to US immigration laws and protesters under California's open records act. ®
Dan Goodin, 18 Jan 2007

Myspace sued for failing to protect minors

As Peter Parker learned: With great power comes great responsibility. The adage that guided the Spider Man alter ego is fitting for Myspace.com, whose massive user base gives the social networking site vast reach. According to lawsuits filed on behalf of four families, Myspace didn't act quickly enough to protect users who are minors from adult predators. The plaintiffs say their daughters were solicited and abused by adults using the site. The issue of child safety on Myspace has become such a hot-button issue that the site is implementing ways to protect its underage users. Among them is software that would allow parents to track the name, age and location that teens enter into their profile. It would log the information in a password-protected file on a computer's hard disk for parents to monitor. Among those being represented in the lawsuits is a 15 year-old girl who was "lured to a meeting, drugged and assaulted in 2006 by an adult Myspace user," lawyers contend. Two others were sisters who were "sexually assaulted and raped by two adult Myspace users" after being given alcohol. The lawsuits announced today are the latest mishap to face Myspace. Yesterday, it was revealed that some 56,000 Myspace users fell victim to a phishing attack that exposed their passwords, allowing the perpetrator to access their accounts. The list of compromised accounts, including passwords, circulated on security mailing lists. Some of the information was clearly the work of people trying to thwart the phisher. Names included nothingfromnowhere@hotmail.co.uk and a password of whorror666, but we were also able to confirm that some of the information was pilfered from real Myspace users. Myspace said in a statement that it's an industry leader in internet safety, and went on to say some of the responsibility rests with others. "Ultimately, internet safety is a shared responsibility. We encourage everyone to apply common sense offline safety lessons in their online experiences and engage in open family dialogue about smart web practices." ®
Dan Goodin, 18 Jan 2007

Father of internet warns against Net Neutrality

Robert Kahn, the most senior figure in the development of the internet, has delivered a strong warning against "Net Neutrality" legislation. Speaking to an audience at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California at an event held in his honour, Kahn warned against legislation that inhibited experimentation and innovation where it was needed. Kahn rejected the term "Net Neutrality", calling it "a slogan". He cautioned against dogmatic views of network architecture, saying the need for experimentation at the edges shouldn't come at the expense of improvements elsewhere in the network. (Kahn gently reminded his audience that the internet was really about interconnecting networks, a point often lost today). "If the goal is to encourage people to build new capabilities, then the party that takes the lead is probably only going to have it on their net to start with and it's not going to be on anyone else's net. You want to incentivize people to innovate, and they're going to innovate on their own nets or a few other nets," "I am totally opposed to mandating that nothing interesting can happen inside the net," he said. So called "Neutrality" legislation posed more of a danger than fragmentation, he concluded. With the exception of Google's man in Washington DC, Vint Cerf (with whom Kahn developed TCP/IP), most of the senior engineers responsible for developing the packet switched internetworking of today oppose "Neutrality" legislation. Dave Farber, often called the grandfather of the internet, has been the most prominent critic. Engineers fear rash legislation would inhibit the ability of systems engineers to improve latency and jitter issues needed to move data at speed. "The internet is still pretty fragile today," said Kahn. Life of Kahn Kahn's history as protocol designer is a minor note, compared to his role as a politically astute manager and advocate at key moments in the development of the technologies responsible for the internet. When he embarked on a career in networking, peers and seniors tried to talk him out of what was then considered a crazy choice. "People thought I was throwing my career away. People thought time sharing wouldn't take off and if it did it would only be in a few palce, so wouldn't have commercial values," he said. "If I had listened to many people in the field I would not have gone into networking." Working on colour TV, automatic game control loops, information theory, and even microwaves were all considered "cooler" than networking. Later, he found DARPA was a reluctant sponsor. The US Department of Defense's research agency didn't have many computers when Kahn arrived in 1972 and couldn't see much of a use for them. Technical history is often seen as an inevitable progression, punctuated by moments of individual genius, but the gentle backroom cajoling rarely gets mentioned. It was certainly needed. Ironically, when Kahn arrived at DARPA it was to take a break from networks, and work on factory automation research. But the hype du jour, Artificial Intelligence, was sweeping the land and Congress cut the budget for his project. Kahn began to reassemble a team of packet switching veterans. In the early 80s he managed the gradual, and awkward transition from private defense project to public network, fighting off the cumbersome, bureaucratically-devised OSI model of internetworking. "I fought a ten year battle to protect the name 'Internet'", he says. "It cost a million dollars and eventually the name prevailed - but we could have lost the internet." The CRNI (Corporation for National Research Initiatives) was really essential to winning that one, he said. Kahn urged today's engineers to "Think Big... we are at the very early stage of a revolution that's going to take most of the 21st century". He rejects any labelling as the "father of the internet", saying credit for its growth can be shared by the entire industry. You can find a video of his talk here. It's a 230MB download in Windows Media format only, and there's no transcript yet. Thanks to veteran internet engineer Richard Bennett (who has plenty to say about the subject) for the heads up. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 18 Jan 2007
globalisation

Sun cheers two SPARC advances in one week (true)

Some of you Negative Noycies out there have spent the last five years claiming that Sun's SPARC processor made more sense in a museum than in a server. Sun's cancellation of the UltraSPARC V chip supported such views.
Ashlee Vance, 18 Jan 2007

Bush performs wiretapping U-turn

The US government has made a major concession regarding a controversial domestic surveillance programme which is the subject of a lawsuit alleging that the activity is unconstitutional. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said that the programme, which is operated by the National Security Agency, would now be overseen by a court. Judicial oversight is one of the concessions demanded by critics of the programme, but Gonzales has proposed making the programme accountable to a secret military court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), which sits in Washington behind closed doors. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act allows the FISC to authorise surveillance of phone and net traffic as well as physical surveillance. The NSA is accused in a suit filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) of operating an unconstitutional surveillance programme, which monitors the telephone traffic of US citizens. It accuses telco AT&T of allowing the NSA access to its networks, an accusation to which the company has not directly responded. The EFF said that it was not yet clear if Gonzales's move affects its lawsuit. Patrick Leahy (Dem. Vermont) at the head of the Senate's Judiciary Committee welcomed the move. "I welcome the President’s decision not to reauthorize the NSA’s warrantless spying program and instead to seek approval for all wiretaps from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, as the law has required for years," he said. "We must engage in all surveillance necessary to prevent acts of terrorism, but we can and should do so in ways that protect the basic rights of all Americans including the right to privacy," said Leahy. "The issue has never been whether to monitor suspected terrorists but doing it legally and with proper checks and balances to prevent abuses." The EFF suit is based on the rights of US citizens to have private communications. "The lawsuit alleges that AT&T continues to assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of Americans," said an EFF statement. "EFF, on behalf of a nationwide class of AT&T customers, is suing to stop this illegal conduct and hold AT&T responsible for its illegal collaboration in the government's domestic spying program, which has violated the law and damaged the fundamental freedoms of the American public." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 18 Jan 2007

Salesforce.com goes carbon neutral

Salesforce.com has become Silicon Valley's latest high-tech convert to the green computing crusade, committing $126,000 to become "carbon neutral" this year. The software as a service (SaaS) pioneer is supporting five renewable energy projects to compensate for the nearly 20,000 tones of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by its offices, staff travel, and data center operations last year. Salesforce.com is joining a green IT crusade dominated by computer manufacturers who've given themselves a bad name for churning out products that involve toxic manufacturing processes, guzzle power, and then blight the ecosystem once they reach the end of their useful lives. Sun Microsystems is arguably leading the high-tech charge, through speeches, by providing servers running lower-power chips, and with a corporate commitment to reduce its green house gas emissions to 20 per cent of levels in 2002 by 2012. Salesforce.com is buying-in to so-called "carbon offsetting" and this comes at a time of growing debate over the worth of such schemes. Today the British government unveiled its own controversial plans to certify carbon offsetting schemes. The program is intended to help consumers pick offsetting programs. Carbon offsetting involves paying for things like trees or sources of renewable energy to make up for CO2 produced during activities like air travel or watching TV. Friends of the Earth has criticized carbon offsetting as a dangerously misleading activity, because programs fail to change the behavior producing CO2 in the first place. The environmentalist lobby group warned that carbon offsetting isn't a "magic bullet" and should be considered only as a package of measures to reduce emissions. Friends of the Earth has "strong concerns" over the environmental credibility of carbon offsetting projects and wants CO2 targets to be set by government. Carbon off-setters are concerned over the lack of standards and regulation of schemes, which could mean individuals and businesses waste their money while the planet boils. Tom Stoddard, co-founder of NativeEnergy - working with Salesforce.com - told The Register that standards would help bring credibility to the carbon offset market. Among the problems in today's unregulated world: money that goes into running projects rather than saving the planet and knowing which trees to plant and where to put them, as some species help to increase climatic temperature. Salesforce.com screened some 30 projects and five third-party organizers before picking NativeEnergy, and seems to have based its decision on a number of features. In lieu of guidelines, the company has spread its bets but there appears no clear correlation between carbon produced and the offset. Instead, NativeEnergy uses a sliding scale that includes purchase of energy from projects while keeping the price of that energy at an affordable market rate. So far, Salesforce.com is living up to the stereotype of the carbon offsetter feared by Friends of the Earth, of having done little to reduce its actual emissions, beyond subsidizing employee transport and recycling in recent years. That's about to change, though, and Salesforce.com has promised carbon offsetting will be the first in a series of measures that actually tackle the emissions associated with its offices, travel and data centers. A sustainability council is planned that will evaluate activities such as subsidizing employees' hybrid cars, instituting more recycling and re-assessing office equipment. "Now we've taken this [first] step we have employees coming out of the wood work and starting to look at what else we can do," executive director of the Salesforce.com Foundation Suzanne DiBianca said. The choice was clear: "We could do something now or we could do nothing while we do the analysis. Some people feel offsetting carbon doesn't make any difference. I believe it does, or we wouldn't have invested in this," DiBianca said. A Friends of the Earth spokesman supported Salesforce.com's decision to combine renewable projects while tackling its emissions: "Carbon offsetting is an easy excuse to carry on business as usual. Renewable energy [projects] are different... as long as the company is reducing its own emissions," he said. ®
Gavin Clarke, 18 Jan 2007