2nd > March > 2007 Archive

GPS tracking Feds bust Cisco reseller 'fraud'

A GPS tracking sting has led to accusations that a reseller defrauded Cisco of millions of dollars in networking gear by fiddling its hardware maintainance program on a grand scale.
Christopher Williams, 02 Mar 2007
SCO logo large

SCO loses another $1m in Q1

The SCO Group's revenue kept on sliding during the first quarter, although the company did reduce losses. SCO pulled in $6m last quarter – down from $7.3m in the same period last year. Thankfully for the IP defender, SCO's legal costs fell, helping it to a tidy $1m loss – an improvement over last year's $4.6m loss. Shrinking Unix software sales remain the primary cause for SCO's revenue dip, according to officials.
Ashlee Vance, 02 Mar 2007

Why BitTorrent is loving the US (and not loving the rest of the world)

One of the key benefits for BitTorrrent users around the world, was the parity that it achieved in bringing US content to a global audience, albeit mostly in pirated works. Now the new legal BitTorrent service, launched with fanfare this week, received an almost unanimous thumbs down for being unoriginal and unexciting, and that key benefit has been at least temporarily removed. The new BitTorrent online film download service system is built so that global distribution is an option, but like Apple’s iTunes and Amazon’s Unbox Video, almost none of the content is available outside the US. This has to change, but will it? Content companies everywhere begin life with the full rights to their content, but in the movie world, at least, end up selling overseas rights to established partners for the established channels of theater and DVD distribution. These contracts could and should be trimmed for online because online is so much more attractive when a service can reach out from a single point to the entire globe, especially when this doesn’t carry with it the penalty of paying for lots and lots of servers, because it is built around a P2P distribution network. The result right now is that even films that have originated outside of the US, are not available in their country of origin online. That aside we now have the second major that has emerged from the world of piracy, with Napster spending the past few years trying to manage the trick of converting the brand that was built during a time of piracy into a brand that is popular among legal users. In Napster’s case this has created a moderately successful business in music, and in BitTorrent, on this showing, it is likely to achieve much the same, and pundits are refusing to expect it to sweep the market for video file downloads. But in establishing a catalog of 5,000 films the upstart start up has done exceptionally well, including releases from 20th Century Fox, Lions Gate, all the Viacom cluster including Paramount and MTV, Warner Brothers and the Sony held MGM, and its business model of renting film but selling downloads to own for other categories, as well as publishing and sharing their video content, seems to be the most attractive it could offer the US market. The service is called the BitTorrent Entertainment Network (BEN for short). "The BitTorrent Entertainment Network is created by and for the Bit- Torrent Generation, which has a vast appetite for high-quality, ondemand entertainment," said Ashwin Navin, President and Cofounder of BitTorrent. "BitTorrent.com engages our community to contribute in profound ways - whether it's by evangelizing their favorite titles; by submitting content they've created; or by contributing their bandwidth to enable faster downloads and an improved entertainment experience. Our uniqueness lies in the strength of our community, delivery technology, and the industry's most comprehensive catalog of digital content." BitTorrent is also offering some TV shows, PC games and music content, some free content to entice users to the site in the first place and around 40 hours of high-definition programming. Pricing for movie rentals is $3.99 for new releases and $2.99 for catalog titles, and TV shows and music videos are download-to-own at $1.99 each. The company claims to begin life with 135 million existing clients, but they will find, that like Napster most of them will move on to the next piracy phenomena, which lately is looking more and more like YouTube. BitTorrent the company was formed partly by the author of the Bit- Torrent software, Bram Cohen, with venture capital from Accel and Doll Capital Management. Copyright © 2007, Faultline Faultline is published by Rethink Research, a London-based publishing and consulting firm. This weekly newsletter is an assessment of the impact of the week's events in the world of digital media. Faultline is where media meets technology. Subscription details here.
Faultline, 02 Mar 2007
homeless man with sign

Online ads diet planned for Adobe Photoshop

Adobe Systems is the latest boxed-product vendor to put its software online and embrace the ads-based revenue model. Adobe will launch a free version of its expensive Photoshop photo manipulation software online in the next six months, while hoping to derive income from the internet advertising boom. The service will use an enhanced version of Adobe Remix video edition currently available through the Photobucket site.
Gavin Clarke, 02 Mar 2007

US Marines stomp suburbia

Remote-controlled operated garage doors, a basic freedom held dear by every home-owning American, have become the latest innocent victims of the War on Terror. According to a report in the Washington Post, efforts by the Marines to reclaim narrow band spectrum for national security reasons has meant that garage owners around Quantico, Virginia have had to install new remote control systems. Now the jarheads have added their might to the USAF's 2004 swoop on garage door spectrum. A Quantico base spokesman said: "Marine Corps Base Quantico transitioned to a new bandwidth for land mobile radios in 2005 as part of a government-mandated, Department of Defense-wide conversion to narrow-band systems from wide-band systems in military bases around the country. The transition was made to foster more efficient spectrum use, allowing a variety of military and government organizations to better protect national security." A national program to use reserve spectrum was enacted after September 11. Clickers near other installations died too and resulted in a 21st century epidemic of slight inconvenience for suburbanites. Garage door firms are laughing all the way to the bank of course, with owners around Quantico reporting a big increase in inquiries as soon as the Marines turned on their radio kit in back in December. Since the Marines own the spectrum, electronic garage door devotees have no option but to fork out for a new control. ®
Christopher Williams, 02 Mar 2007

Google removes gaybashing website

After facing criticism for hosting a blog that advocated the killing of gays and lesbians, Google first defended the importance of free speech, then offered a banner warning the site may be offensive to the faint of heart, and then settled on removing the site altogether. And even then, representatives refused to say what exactly what prompted the take-down. According to an article by pinknews, the Jamaica-based killbattyman blog has been hosted by Google's popular blogger.com service since last March. It has regularly featured content advocating violence towards gays and lesbians, including images of a recent incident in Kingston, Jamaica, when a mob surrounded a shop where three men believed to be gay had taken refuge. The headline: "Bring Out The Gays." An entry on Peter Tatchell, the Australian-born British gay rights advocate, showed a doctored image of the man holding a placard with a sexually explicit picture of a child on it. "In some countries, when parents want their children to behave, they tell them "THE TATCHELL MAN IS GOING TO COME FOR YOU!" the site joked. The site also accused rappers of being gay and calls on Jamaicans to murder all gay people. Google removed the site because it violated blogger.com's terms of service, pinknews reported Monday. The publication quoted a Google spokeswoman who said the company removed the site as quickly as possible, but wouldn't say exactly what terms were breached. pinknews also said she defended a decision last week not to remove the site. "There are many things on the Web which certain groups find upsetting or distasteful," the spokeswoman said. "It is up to governments to decide at the end of the day where freedom of speech begins and ends." ®
Dan Goodin, 02 Mar 2007

Motorola loses Razr domain name case

Motorola has lost a battle to gain control of the domain name motorazr.com because it failed to prove when it started using the term Moto Razr. The domain name will be kept by its US owner R3 Media. In a domain name dispute resolution process overseen by the Artibration and Mediation Center of the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), Motorola attempted to win control of motorazr.com, a site carrying news and adverts relating to mobile phones. Motorola said that R3 Media acted in bad faith when it registered the domain name in 2004 and that the site is being used to generate advertising revenue by association with it. "[R3 Media] claims it is in the nature of a news service site for many cellular products which is funded by revenue from advertisements placed on it," said the WIPO ruling. "[Motorola] claims [R3] is using the domain name to misdirect customers to advertising sites for commercial gain." The case hung on whether or not the domain name was registered in bad faith and in breach of trade mark rights held by Motorola. Motorola began marketing its Razr line of mobile phones in May 2004 and the motorazr.com domain was registered by R3 in July 2004. Motorola did not file a trade mark application for Motorazr until June 2005, almost a year after the domain name registration. It is possible for a domain name to be passed to a brand holder who does not hold a trade mark registration, but the company must provide proof to the WIPO arbitrator that the trade marked phrase was used by the company at the relevant time. Motorola failed to do this. "There are many WIPO decisions holding that unregistered marks are a sufficient basis on which to base a claim," wrote the Panellist Thomas Halket. "[Motorola] does allege that it did so use the mark, but it is an allegation which is contested by [R3] and [Motorola] has offered no underlying proof of the allegation. It has submitted no dated first-use publication containing the mark." "The record contains no explanation of why the evidence of [Motorola]'s real and actual use of Motorazr is so thin, why a year passed from product launch to trademark application, and why [Motorola] failed to respond to the Panel’s express invitation to provide further information," wrote Halket. "In the present abbreviated proceedings, with these questions and issues open, the Panel on balance concludes that it has no choice but to decline to make a finding of bad faith in this matter." Halket emphasised that this did not mean that he approved of R3's use of the domain. He wrote that he found it "difficult to swallow" R3's claim that, because R3 "allegedly 'coined' the term MOTORAZR, this somehow establishes [R3's] rights in the disputed domain name." He added that a court would be a more appropriate forum for Motorola to pursue its claim. See: The ruling Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Mar 2007
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Lawn mowing ex-policeman cannot claim spy breach by private eyes

A former police officer filmed mowing his lawn while on a disability allowance cannot claim that the filming broke the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), according to the Investigatory Powers Tribunal. The former policeman wanted the Tribunal to rule against the police force under RIPA, but the Tribunal has found that it has no jurisdiction to do so because the filming of him did not constitute the kind of surveillance that RIPA governs. The former sergeant retired in August 2001 from the police having made a claim dating from 1998 for an injury he said he sustained to his back after tripping on a carpet in a police station while on duty. He was awarded £100,000 in 2002. He was also awarded an enhanced pension due to the injuries on the basis that his disability was estimated at 53 per cent. He said the injuries would affect his ability to earn income as a driver. In August 2002 the police instructed a firm of private detectives to observe the former sergeant to see if he was doing anything that was inconsistent with his claimed injuries. Nine minutes of video footage showed the man mowing the lawn and in his car. RIPA governs the surveillance of people by public bodies to ensure it is lawful and that relevant warrants and permissions are obtained. "Cases of unauthorised covert surveillance by a public authority of its employees would appear at first sight to be the kind of case that would fall within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal," said the Tribunal's ruling (PDF). "The main purpose of RIPA is to ensure that the relevant investigatory powers of public authorities, such as interception of communications and various forms of covert surveillance, are used lawfully and compatibly with [Human Rights] Convention rights." The Tribunal is where individuals who think their rights have been infringed can complain about the actions of public bodies. The Tribunal though, only has jurisdiction if the surveillance dealt with is "directed surveillance" within the meaning of sections 26 and 48 (1) and (2) of RIPA. Section 26 of the Act says: "Surveillance is directed for the purposes of this Part if it is covert but not intrusive and is undertaken (a) for the purposes of a specific investigation or a specific operation; (b) in such manner as is likely to result in the obtaining of private information about a person (whether or not specifically identified for the purposes of the investigation or operation); and (c) otherwise than by way of immediate response to events or circumstances the nature of which is such that it would not be reasonably practicable for an authorisation under this Part to be sought for the carrying out of the surveillance." Section 48 says: "'Surveillance' in Part II includes (a) monitoring, observing or listening to persons, their movements, their conversations or their other activities or communications; (b) recording anything monitored, observed or listened to in the course of the surveillance; and (c) surveillance by or with the assistance of a surveillance device." The ex-sergeant argued that the Tribunal did have jurisdiction because there was a campaign of directed surveillance against him. The police force argued there was no directed surveillance within the meaning of the Act because it was not a specific police operation of the kind the Act was designed to regulate. The Tribunal pointed out that not all surveillance of the public by the police is governed by RIPA or breaches the Human Rights Convention. It found that RIPA could not govern the surveillance because it did not cover all public authorities, and there was no sense in the police's pursuit of its economic interests being conducted on a different legal footing than, for example, the Treasury, which does not have the same surveillance rights under RIPA. "The interpretation to be preferred is one which limits 'directed surveillance' under RIPA to the discharge of the public authority's particular public or 'core functions' specific to it, rather than the carrying out of 'ordinary functions' common to all public authorities, such as employment (or its nearest equivalent in the case of the police) and entering into contracts to receive or supply other services," said the ruling. "This is not a case of directed surveillance within RIPA," concluded the Tribunal. "It therefore falls outside the jurisdiction of the Tribunal." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Mar 2007

Honeybees dropping like flies

British beekeepers are viewing the forthcoming opening of their hives with a certain amount of anxiety; unsure if their colonies have survived the winter. The cause of their concern is a mystery ailment which has wiped out "thousands" of honeybee colonies across the northern hemisphere. Beekeepers across 24 US states are already reporting "heavy losses" to "Colony Collapse Disorder", which has in recent years hit hard in Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, and Spain. No one knows the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, which has been attributed to various possible causes. Dr Max Watkins, technical director of honeybee health specialist Vita, explained: "The situation is very serious, but no one yet understands the cause of these widespread honeybee colony deaths. Alleged causes range from harmful pesticides and increased solar radiation through ozone thinning, to falling queen fertility and use of unauthorised bee treatments. "We really don't know the answer - several causes may be at work and the only common factor known so far is that many honeybee colonies are dying. The phenomenon is alarming especially because agricultural pollination and therefore crop production levels are threatened." Symptoms of Colony Collapse Disorder are normally evident between late summer and early spring. In the US, colonies have been hit as older bees pop their clogs, "leaving behind the queen and young workers not yet ready to forage for pollen and nectar and insufficient in number to maintain the colony", as Vita explains. In the UK, meanwhile, there have been "a few but significant examples" of what experts call the "Marie Celeste phenomenon" - colonies abandoning hives altogether leaving no evidence of what caused their disappearance. Watkins continued: "It's a real mystery. We need beekeepers to report their losses and examine and analyse their colonies thoroughly. In the USA it has been difficult to obtain adequate samples and sufficient detailed reports. From records that are available, however, it is noticeable that many beekeepers have been using unauthorised treatments for varroa mites, a honeybee parasite. I'm sure that this is not the complete explanation, but it may be a significant contributory factor." Whatever the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder, European honeybees face a concrete threat from hordes of killer Asian Hornets, which can wipe out a nest of 30,000 bees "in a couple of hours" in search of larvae on which to feed their young. The forests of Aquitaine, in south-west France, already boast swarms of the insect assassins which have "spread like lightning" across France and will inevitably, experts say, find their way to the UK at some point. ®
Lester Haines, 02 Mar 2007
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Torex Retail to lay off developers

Oxfordshire-based software company Torex Retail is laying off developers, but insists the move is not connected to the ongoing investigation into the company and its financial woes.
John Oates, 02 Mar 2007

Bournemouth Council routes internet through sewer

Bournemouth council offices have been connected up with fibre optic cables run through in the city's sewers. H2O Networks is responsible for the network, which was laid in seven days and will provide unprecedented connection speeds, without relying on BT infrastructure, though it will initially only operate as a backup network. At this stage, Bournemouth has no particular plans for making use of this enormous jump in connectivity between its premises. Using existing tunnels makes far more sense than digging up roads to create new ones, and sewer tunnels are generally deeper than can be reached by the kind of mechanical digger that disrupts connectivity when mistakes are made. The use of sewers, steam tunnels, or old mole homes is great if it means more connectivity with less disruption, and as the chap from the council agreed, you can never have too much bandwidth. ®
Bill Ray, 02 Mar 2007

Companies Act timetable published

The Government is acting more slowly than expected in implementing the Companies Act, the piece of legislation that is completely overhauling the way companies are governed.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Mar 2007

Eircom will 'wipe out' Irish telcos: ALTO

Irish telcos have reacted angrily to Eircom's plan to upgrade its network infrastructure, with one industry group claiming it could eliminate competition. Eircom has confirmed it intends to invest €60m on upgrading its central telecommunications network. The upgrade will bring increased bandwidth to 240 Eircom exchanges, opening up the possibility of data-heavy services such as internet television (IPTV). Greater bandwidth may also result in fewer delays for broadband customers when a large number of users are online. However, Eircom's plans have gone down badly with members of the Alternative Operators in the Communications Market lobby group (ALTO). It claims the incumbent's design for a Next Generation Network (NGN) could effectively kill off other broadband companies. "If Eircom is allowed to proceed with its planned approach to the introduction of NGNs without proper consultation, future competition in the Irish telecoms market will effectively be wiped out. Their proposal will serve only to further increase the 'digital divide' that already exists to the detriment of Ireland's consumers," ALTO said in a statement. ALTO has called on ComReg to monitor Eircom's plans. "Any misguided support of Eircom's plans without such regulatory intervention may increase the digital divide and further reduce competition. This would be the wrong outcome for consumers." Eircom's stance on the matter is that ALTO is fudging the issue: raising the spectre of consumers' being unable to access broadband from alternative operators, whereas Eircom claims upgrading its core infrastructure will benefit consumers and competitors. "We don't see that anything we're doing is contentious," an Eircom spokesman said, who added that the telco's NGN plans were submitted to the Department of Communications and ComReg for feedback. "Increasing our network capacities to 1GB and 10GB will benefit other operators, consumers, big corporations looking for high speed connections and government in terms of spatial strategy." ALTO doesn't see things the same way though, and is worried that its members' capital investment in Eircom exchanges will be nullified. "To date, millions have been invested in telecoms exchanges nationwide and the future of these exchanges now hangs in the balance, as does the LLU network. ALTO members have very real concerns over the potential introduction of the planned development of the NGN which undermines and damages the considerable investment made by investors in this sector." ALTO believes any change from existing technology to Eircom's planned IP technology requires a fundamental change in the interconnection arrangements between alternative operators and the incumbent. Moreover, according to an ALTO spokesperson, among the proposals being considered by Eircom are plans to close up to 40 telephone exchanges in which other telcos have expensive equipment installed. "We have never said we are going to close down exchanges," said an Eircom spokesman, who added that ALTO's argument was the same one it complained Eircom used in relation to Local Loop Unbundling. A spokesperson for ALTO told ENN its members' investments in existing interconnection arrangements are written off over a seven-year period and that if Eircom opts to upgrade its network earlier than expected, ALTO members must be compensated because they will be left with "stranded assets". In addition to voice interconnection equipment, ALTO members also have leased lines in Eircom's Partial Private Circuit nodes (PPCs). These nodes may also be impacted by the NGN programme as exchanges are closed down. ALTO's complaints don't stop there. It is also concerned about access: the organisation said it appears Eircom is planning on using "fibre to the cabinet" and very high bit-rate (VDSL) technology in areas with high customer concentrations. These are the same locations that ALTO members are building Unbundled Local Loop (LLU) networks. According to ALTO, these technologies will not only be exorbitantly expensive but will also strand ALTO members' infrastructure. ALTO argues that the best approach is to emulate the Northern Ireland experience, where NGN upgrades do not strand LLU but instead beef up the existing network and deploy ADSL+ with bonded copper techniques where additional bit rates are needed. For its part Eircom said the LLU process doesn't exist in Northern Ireland as it does in the Republic and the comparison is irrelevant. According to ALTO's website, its members include Budget Telecom, BT, Cable & Wireles, Chorus, Colt Telecom, Magnet Networks, ESN Telecom, Meteor, NTL, Smart Telecom, TalkTalk and Verizon. Copyright © 2007, ENN
ElectricNews.net, 02 Mar 2007

IT suppliers overcharging UK.gov

IT firms are ripping off the government by charging more than twice the market rate for staff, according to a recruitment company. ReThink Recruitment said in a statement that IT outsourcers hire staff for about £700 a day before posting them to work on government contracts at a charge of up to £2,000 a day. Managing director Jon Butterfield said the public sector found it harder to control its staffing costs when it outsourced its project management to external consultants. The supply chain for key IT project skills was several tiers high, he said, and the link at every level was taking a cut. "The final rate the outsourcing provider bills the client is often several times the original price of the skill at the bottom of the chain." Unsurprisingly, Butterfield said the public sector could save money by doing its project management inhouse and hiring its staff direct from a recruitment supplier. Nevertheless, ReThink's statement said that project managers, business managers, technical architects, software consultants, programme managers and IT directors were all hired out by recruitment firms at a charge of between £600 and £650 a day. They would then be posted on government contracts between £1,200 and £2,000 a day. ®
Mark Ballard, 02 Mar 2007

Reclaiming a different legacy

What is "legacy"? It's worth remembering that a lot of systems were written in RAD (Rapid Application Development) tools such as PowerBuilder and Visual Basic in the nineties and this is now often undocumented legacy in small companies (and some not-so-small ones) - just as COBOL systems are in large enterprises.
David Norfolk, 02 Mar 2007
Sony video Walkman

Sony showcases new video MP3 player

Sony has launched a super-slim Walkman video MP3 player that's less than 1cm thick. The NW-A800 series features a 2in colour LCD screen and supports the widely-used MPEG 4 video format.
Scott Snowden, 02 Mar 2007

Mercury Telecommunications feels Ofcom's wrath

Mercury Telecommunications Ltd has been slapped down by Ofcom for incorrectly invoicing a customer in a dispute investigation run by Otelo. The process has left the company not only kicked out of Otelo (the investigating body), but unable to trade legally. Under the Communications Act 2003, all telecommunications companies are required to be members of an independent dispute resolution scheme (DRB), by joining up with either Otelo and Cisas. Customers in dispute with their telecommunications provider can complain to the organisation of which their provider is a member without being charged. Assuming the dispute is three months old and the company complaints procedure has been followed, the DRB gets involved and issues an invoice to the telecommunications company for the cost of the investigation - a set fee which is agreed by members each year. This fee is payable regardless of the validity of the complaint. Mercury's contention is that if a customer owes less than the fee (a figure which isn't officially public, but is widely known) they might as well file a spurious complaint on the basis that the telecommunications company is unlikely to let the complaint last three months and incur the greater cost of an investigation. Mercury issued an invoice to a complainant to recover its costs in what it considered a case of this type. But that is clearly in breach of the Act. As a result of this dispute, Mercury was kicked out of Otelo but, as it is legally required to be within a DRB, it applied for membership of Cisas. Unfortunately for Mercury, Cisas and Otelo have an agreement to inform each other of companies expelled from either scheme, and a policy of not granting membership to such companies - leaving Mercury with nowhere to go. Ofcom has now ruled that Mercury will have to concede to everything Otelo has claimed, and if it wants to continue trading it's going to have to pay up and play nicely. Mercury director Ian Burrow says the company is a victim of circumstance and at the mercy of a closed society of regulators and dispute resolution schemes which leaves small operators in an untenable position. With websites now providing information on how to make claims against telecommunications companies, and how to win those claims though careful manipulation of the rules, more people might be tempted to get what they can - making life very difficult for the small trader with the rules standing as they are. ®
Bill Ray, 02 Mar 2007

Samsung ships 60nm 1Gb DDR 2 DRAM chip

Samsung has begun punching out 60nm 1Gb DDR 2 DRAM chips in volume, the company announced today, claiming it's the first memory maker to do so. It's offering the chip on 512MB, 1GB and 2GB DIMMs, it said.
Tony Smith, 02 Mar 2007
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Irish donkey sex case shocks net

UpdatedUpdated Netizens have reacted with a mixture of horror and disbelief to a story which recently appeared on Galway First entitled "Lonely man brought donkey to hotel room, court told". We say recently, because the stampede of surfers rushing down to check the outrage for themselves appears to have brought down galwayfirst.ie. No matter. Here's a handy grab of the orginal story, and the full text below: A man who was found dressed in latex and handcuffs brought a donkey to his room in a Galway city centre hotel, because he was advised "to get out and meet people," the local court heard last week. Thomas Aloysius McCarney, with an address in south Galway, was charged with cruelty to animals, lewd and obscene behaviour, and with being a danger to himself when he appeared before the court on Friday. He was also charged with damage to a mini-bar in the room, but this charge was later dropped when the defendant said that it was the donkey who caused that damage. Solicitor for the accused Ms Sharon Fitzhenry said that her client had been through a difficult time lately and that his wife had left him and that his life had become increasingly lonely. "Mr McCarney has been attending counselling at which he was told that he would be advised to get out and meet people and do interesting things. It was this advice that saw him book into the city centre hotel with a donkey," she said. She added that Mr McCarney also suffered from a fixation with the Shrek movies and could constantly be heard at work talking to himself saying things like "Isn't that right, Donkey?" Supt John McBrearty told the court that Mr McCarney who had signed in as "Mr Shrek" had told hotel staff that the donkey was a family pet and that this was believed by the hotel receptionist who the supt said was "young and hadn't great English." Receptionist Irina Legova said that Mr McCarney had told her that the donkey was a breed of "super rabbit" which he was bringing to a pet fair in the city. The court was told that the donkey went berserk in the middle of the night and ran amok in the hotel corridor, forcing hotel staff to call the gardai. McCarney was found in the room wearing a latex suit and handcuffs, the key to which the donkey is believed to have swallowed. He was removed to Mill St station after which it is said he was the subject of much mirth among the lads next door in The Galway Arms. He was fined €2,000 for bringing the donkey to the room under the Unlawful Accommodation of Donkeys Act 1837. Other charges were dropped due to lack of evidence. Astounding. We emailed Galway First to request confirmation of McCarney's fine and to ask for Ms Legova's phone number. The editorial team has not yet replied. ® Update We're obliged to Galway First's Keith Lynch for getting back to us this afternoon. Here's his response: Sadly Ms Legova has now gone into hiding following the incident. The man at the centre of the case, Mr McCarney was heavily fined and is rumoured to now be bankrupt. But, most importantly, we have highlighted a serious issues. Donkey crimes like this are all too common in Ireland's west. The gardaí have intensified their efforts to stop this horrible abuse. We were just glad we could bring it to the people.
Lester Haines, 02 Mar 2007

EC balks at MS pricing, loses Swift to the US

The Register Weekly Digest has been put together to make your life easy. It gives you a buffet of all the week's news in one easy-to-swallow email. It also comes as a PDF so you can print it out and take it away with you. We serve it up every Friday. The links to the full news stories are there if you've got the time to read them. If you don't, you'll still know the core details on the big tech developments. You can sign up for The Register Weekly Digest here. Microsoft's misery As ever, it has been a busy week for the boys and girls of Redmond, as Microsoft found itself in the headlines for all the wrong reasons. To start the week, the software firm woke up to the nasty realisation that all its dirty laundry from the Comes class action lawsuit was being hung out to dry on BitTorrent. Ouch. Next, it found itself in the firing line from VMware. The EMC subsidiary published a white paper accusing Redmond's finest of restrictive support policies and limiting customer choice. Microsoft's response was a little lightweight for our reporter's tastes. And finally, the European Commission warned Microsoft it could face further penalties over what it calls "unreasonable pricing" of interoperability information. Microsoft has four weeks to respond, then faces a hearing, and a definitive ruling from the commission. Lock up that Fox We've become accustomed to Microsoft's regular patching, but this week it was Firefox users who needed to repair browser holes. Mozilla issued a patch for flaws that could be exploited to bypass security restrictions, conduct cross-site scripting or spoofing attacks, pinch sensitive information, or even gain control of vulnerable systems. Shopping tips for Michael Dell Analysts at Sanford Bernstein suggest Dell should buy Acer. Available for a mere $4bn, the firm could expand Dell's horizons, the analysts say, giving it access to Asia and Europe. But that cherished direct sales business model would have to go. However likely or unlikely that prospect seems, the firm is busy broadening its offering. This week saw news that it plans to offer Linux on desktops for its corporate customers. Symantec boss quits Symantec's president of its key security and data management business Jeremy Burton has quit the firm to become CEO of business process software firm Serena Software. The buffer overfloweth Flaws in an ActiveX component incorporated in many technical support support packages create a risk of hacking attacks, security watchers warn. The code in question, part of SupportSoft's ActiveX controls, is subject to multiple buffer overflow vulnerabilities, which create a means for hackers to inject malware onto vulnerable systems. Insider hacking? The Securities and Exchange Commission claims that accountancy firm Blue Bottle hacked into corporate servers to gain early access to news releases, which it then used to guide its trades. The SEC is suing the firm for insider trading. Europe vs USofA Swift (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) claims Safe Harbour in the US over transfer of banking data to US anti-terror authorities. The EU had ruled that the organisation is obliged by EU law to protect the privacy of the data it handles, and that sending information to the US is illegal. Swift says it interprets the law differently, giving fresh legs to an already long running argument. Europe vs Europe Plans to tighten up European intellectual property laws are still just that, plans. MEPs have again postponed a vote on the proposals, saying they need to thrash out exactly what will constitute a commercial scale infringement. Rethinking contractual inking Selling your software as service? Time to rethink your service level agreement, argues the Software & Information Industry Association. Setting realistic expectations now will save tears at bedtime. VirginMedia's cloudy day Post NTL, Sky, and VirginMedia just can't agree about anything. Negotiations over access to Sky One ended when Sky TV picked up its channel and went home. Newly named VirginMedia is instead providing access to some of the channel's must-see content on an on-demand basis. Yoof culture Good and bad news for the young 'uns. The government has scrapped plans for a young person's ID card, but cases of repetitive strain injury are on the rise, especially among the young. Let me entertain you Chinese scientists announce they can remotely control pigeons, thanks to brain-implanted electrodes; Jesus backs phone masts, and Sharon Stone sweeps the board at the Razzies. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Mar 2007

Maynor reveals missing Apple flaw

Security researcher David Maynor got some measure of vindication at the Black Hat DC Conference this year. Six months after he and his colleague Jon Ellch claimed that Mac OS X wireless drivers were vulnerable to attack, Maynor on Wednesday revealed the code he used to exploit a native flaw in the platform as well as emails showing he notified Apple of the danger.
Robert Lemos, 02 Mar 2007
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The rise of zero-day patches

InterviewInterview Zero-day exploits were once the realm of just underground and elite hackers, but their increased prevalence is bringing a positive new trend: unofficial patches from members of the community, offered for protection before official vendor patches appear. Federico Biancuzzi interviewed Landon Fuller, who wrote Mac OS X patches for recent Month of Apple Bugs vulnerabilities, and the ZERT team, which has offered patches for critical Microsoft Windows zero-days that were actively exploited.
Federico Biancuzzi, 02 Mar 2007

PingWales says hwyl

PingWales, the source for independent IT news in Wales, has been forced to shut up shop just before celebrating its three year anniversary. Editor and publisher Basheera Khan told the Reg: "When we started, just less than three years ago, many people said that Wales did not have a large enough IT industry to support a news service. It looks like they were right - we just couldn't bring in enough advertising revenue." Khan said the team had been overwhelmed by the response from readers. They received dozens of calls and emails saying they would be missed. Negotiations over the domain name are continuing but probably won't be resolved for a few months while the company is wound-up. Some of the most popular pages on the site, tutorials on OpenBSD, will be donated to the OpenBSD documentation project. ®
John Oates, 02 Mar 2007

Intel 'Bloomfield' to intro 1,366-pin socket?

Intel will next year begin shipping processors with a 1,366 pins, it has been claimed. The interface will use the same land grid array (LGA) as the chip giant's current LGA775 process, but with almost twice as many pins.
Tony Smith, 02 Mar 2007
Nokia E65 mobile phone
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Nokia E65 mobile phone

ReviewReview As part of an expansion to its business-orientated E Series, the Nokia E65 has been styled to give off the persona that it's designed specifically to attract a higher class of user – the modern and remotely connected business executive.
Brooke Vandenberg, 02 Mar 2007
Flag United Kingdom

UK councils in email meltdown madness

Email systems and local councils in Britain just don't seem to mix. Council bosses in the New Forest called in the assistance of Microsoft after a glitch in its email system prevented staff from either sending or receiving email for a week.
John Leyden, 02 Mar 2007

AMD chipset roadmap does include Intel

AMD will continue to develop chipsets for Intel processors, the company has apparently claimed, although it also admits it's not shooting for marketshare dominance.
Tony Smith, 02 Mar 2007
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Reg hacks scorched in nuclear flame blitz

FoTWFoTW Regular readers will be aware of the Vulture Central tradition which dicates that you're not a fully-fledged Reg hack until you've been subjected to a vicious outburst of e-anger from some reader with steam coming out of his or her ears. Well, we're delighted to report that Bill Ray this week passed this milestone in fine style. The flame in question is regarding a pretty inoffensive piece on GameJump.com - a website apparently offering free mobile games. Not so, thunders "fatty p": see you mate you are a rit wanker pricks like you need a slap round the head say that games are free and they anit even fucking free Well, according to a visibly-shaken Bill Ray, there are free games down at GameJump.com, so quite what this is all about is anyone's guess. But while I was chuckling to myself as poor old Bill locked himself in a darkened room with a litre of strong liquor, reader "Mikey" was preparing a nuclear counterstrike to my analysis of Israel's 2007 Eurovision Song Contest entry: Mate - you are such an anti-semitic turd, you have no idea of Middle East politics and frankly you need to get a life. Make sure you are better informed before you post crap on a high quality site. I will be taking action to have your pitiful comments removed. Accordingly, both myself and Mr Ray have hidden ourselves in the cupboard under the stairs until we are officially informed it is safe to come out, or until the bottle of Scotch runs out - whichever comes first. ®
Lester Haines, 02 Mar 2007

Cassini eats Saturn

The Cassini spacecraft has moved into a new orbit around Saturn, soaring to ever higher latitudes and greater distances from the planet. The result is that the craft has been able to capture some truly unusual new pictures of the ringed planet. "Finally, here are the views that we've waited years for," said Dr Carolyn Porco, Cassini imaging team leader at the Space Science Institute. "Sailing high above Saturn and seeing the rings spread out beneath us like a giant, copper medallion is like exploring an alien world we've never seen before. It just doesn't look like the same place. It's so utterly breath-taking it almost gives you vertigo." In the picture shown above, the planet was deliberately overexposed, and later cut from the picture altogether. This meant the details of the rings could be caught in all their glory, with the missing planet casting its shadow across them. The image is made of 27 separate exposures - nine each in red, blue and green - that were snapped over a 45 minute period. Because of the gaps between the exposures, clumps of material in some of the rings had moved in between shots. Cassini scientists say this adds to a sense of movement in the image. Over the next few months, Cassini's incline will be gradually lowered so that by June it will be orbiting in line with the plane of the rings once again. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Mar 2007
arrow pointing up

Armed robber offers bank customers loans

An armed blagger who was surrounded by cops in an Austrian bank filled an idle five hours before his arrest by offering phone customers loans, Ananova reports. According to Austrian police, Guenther Baum "stormed into the Bawag bank on the main shopping street in Vienna waving a gun". His choice of target, however, proved ill-advised, since the bank was "next door to the country's special forces headquarters and a police station". Duly surrounded, Baum made his way to the building's first floor with three staff and a customer as hostages, and then rather agreeably "started taking calls from customers offering loans as the police waited outside". After five hours, Baum gave himself up "leaving the bank to deal with the angry customers who thought they had secured the answer to their financial problems". ®
Lester Haines, 02 Mar 2007

Blindside to mull potholes in road to e-government

What can go wrong with e-enabled government? A consultancy team has set up Blindside to find out. The twist: anyone can post comments to the blog, and anyone can edit the wiki. Blindside was created by Kable, a consultancy specialising in the public sector, in conjunction with Vega, a specialist in information assurance. Kable and Vega are committed to report to the Cabinet Office Central Sponsor for Information Assurance once a quarter. The first report is due at the end of March. It is probably the first time in any country that the public has been able to make such direct input into the way its government operates. Kable chairman William Heath also runs the Ideal Government site. Heath describes the difference between Ideal Government and Blindside this way: "Ideal Government asks, 'What do we want from e-enabled public services?' The answer, he says, is quick wins: RSS for freedom of information, for example. "By contrast, Blindside asks, 'What's going to go wrong in our e-enabled world?' Building trust between us and our government is crucial. It's dangerous if we go into the information age without really good dialogue across different disciplines." Opened for business the other day without fanfare, Blindside attempts to identify and summarise the many issues for government IT that security and policy analysts talk about frequently, but often not to each other, such as electronic voting, identity cards, data mining, and fraud. It is, he says, all part of "government's function as guardian of the critical national infrastructure". The big question: can you do real information gathering on a publicly accessible wiki without finding it filled with "the awkward squad"? Heath says: "Civil servants don't blog for obvious reasons. But they need to engage with the blogosphere. They've asked us (via Vega) for input about emerging technologies and the information assurance implications thereof. We feel it's best to respond in this way. I just hope it works." ®
Wendy M. Grossman, 02 Mar 2007
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Morse all smiles despite turnover slide

Despite a fall in turnover and profits, Morse says it is pleased with its financial results for the six months ending 31 December, the first since the group split into two six months ago. The company saw group turnover fall to £132.2m, against £187.4m for the same period a year earlier. Profit, before tax, was also down at £3.7m, against £6.1m a year ago.
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Mar 2007

Take That menace UK comms infrastructure

Reformed pop combo Take That - currently enjoying a bit of a renaissance while ex-member Robbie Williams mopes about counting his money - have proved the biggest threat to UK communications networks since the Luftwaffe tried unsuccessfully to bomb the Chain Home radar network in 1940. But where the Germans failed, Take That have triumphed. Earlier today, tickets went on sale for the group's forthcoming and gusset-moistening "Beautiful World" tour, instantly reducing online sales sites to a crawl. According to Keynote Systems, TicketMaster was brought to a virtual standstill "for the first time in two and half years", and between 9.15am and 10.15am the site was "only available to 80 per cent of users". Ticketline and Stargreen were also semi-paralysed by the onslaught, while Aloud.com proved the only bomb-proof site, "maintaining a 100 per cent availability throughout the morning", albeit with a bit of a wait for pages to load. While ticket etailers wilted under fire, Take That launched a simultaneous attack on BT's networks. One shell-shocked Reg reader wrote in to say that his company's phone system died for an hour this morning. BT's excuse? That "Take That tickets went on sale this morning and affected thousands of lines nationwide". At the time of writing, UK TV stations are still broadcasting. Should your screen suddenly go blank, you'll know who to blame. Vulture Central has already implemented its disaster management plan and is as we speak stockpiling food and beer against a possible total collapse of Britain's communications infrastructure. ®
Lester Haines, 02 Mar 2007

UK.gov probes foreign IT workers

The Home Office has said it will review the way it awards work permits to foreign IT bods following an accusation that Work Permits UK was bending the rules to let outsourcing firms import foreign workers on the cheap. Union Amicus said last month it had a Home Office survey that showed one in six foreign IT workers were employed below the market rate. Their employers, and Work Permits UK, which approved their applications, were therefore breaking immigration rules that prevent IT firms from importing cheap labour. A Home Office spokeswoman told The Register this week that the figures Amicus used to back its case, which had been taken from an unpublished Home Office report, were not reliable. It was scoping out a more thorough survey to get to the bottom of the matter, she said. Amicus, through its position on the ITCE Sector Advisory Panel for Work Permits UK, has been fine-tuning the approval system along with other representatives from unions, industry, and various government offices. Its presentation of the unofficial figures to Joan Ryan, parliamentary under secretary of the Home Office, last autumn came as a surprise to its colleagues on the panel. The last published panel minutes, from a meeting last May, revealed that the issue of wage rates and work permit applications sponsored by IT outsourcers was still being worked out. Amicus was not present at the meeting. The unpublished minutes of the panel's October meeting, a copy of which has been obtained by The Register, show how they were still struggling to assess the quality of the approval system while Amicus was separately taking the matter up with ministers. Work Permits UK said at the meeting that it "would never agree to a lower salary being paid to an overseas worker than that which was paid to a resident worker". Baromoter salaries below which work permits are supposed to be awarded are under constant revision by the panel. In October, members still hadn't agreed the base salary levels from which Work Permits UK was supposed to work. Work Permits UK urged them to find a consensus. Amicus' assertions that the system wasn't working did appear to be technically correct, despite the Home Office's attempts to rubbish its claims. The Home Office spokeswoman said this week that the figures Amicus had used in its complaint had been taken from a "limited sampling exercise". "The report that Amicus quoted is limited," she said. "It's disappointing that Amicus have released this because the numbers are not robust." The work permits system could not be used to import cheap labour to the UK, she said. The salaries of all workers given a permit "meets the going rate". Yet Amicus national officer Peter Skyte said the Home Office has previously endorsed the same figures. There had been a sample size of 150 cases, he said, and quoted from the report: "While this represents a small sample of IT work permits approved, past Work Permits UK exercises have demonstrated that samples of this size provide a sound indication of how Work Permit applications are being considered." Skyte added: "We welcome a larger exercise, provided it was done speedily and not just as a means of deflecting attention." The Home Office said it was still doing the scope and remit of the larger survey. But this whole episode looks like it might just be a storm in a tea cup. Amicus said there had been a "huge increase" in the number of IT work permits approved. There were 33,756 awarded last year, up from 25,000 in 2005. Taking a median estimate of the number of IT professionals working in the UK, which is about 856,000, the temporary work permits issued to foreign workers last year represented just 3.9 per cent of the working population. Seventy-nine per cent of those were inter-company transfers related to outsourcing contracts for work that is being done overseas anyway. If one in six of those work permits were approved at below the market rate, that means just 5,626 people, or 0.7 per cent of those working in the IT industry, will be getting their visas reviewed by Work Permits UK. But neither Amicus nor the Home Office have said how much less than the market rate these people were getting paid. Was it £100 or £10,000? And had the salary levels set by the panel changed since the applications where awarded? The panel wasn't even sure in October how allowances were figured into the equation. Though Amicus appears to be technically correct in its assertion that some foreign IT workers are being paid below the going rate, the shifting sands make its data look less certain. ®
Mark Ballard, 02 Mar 2007
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British porn domain mastermind fights US Government

The British man behind the proposed .xxx internet domain believes the US Government has intervened to thwart his plans. Stuart Lawley is fighting a court battle to retrieve the documents he says would prove his case. Lawley made dotcom millions with web design and hosting firm Oneview.net which was floated then sold before the first internet crash, and has bank rolled the seven-year proposal to have a top level domain for pornography. His firm ICM Registry was awarded the right to operate the domain but contractual wrangling is more about the conservative Bush administration's connections to the religious right than they are about the contract itself, Lawley told technology podcast OUT-LAW Radio. "We were hoping to sign our contract which was a standard contract that most other registries have, until the United States Government intervened," said Lawley, who lives in Florida. "They had been lobbied very heavily by the Christian conservative groups here in the United States." Lawley says that the US Department of Commerce's view of the proposal changed, which filtered down to ICANN. He said that he obtained some government documents under freedom of information legislation outlining parts of his case but that crucial elements were redacted, which means they were blanked out. "We received documentation that showed clearly what had gone on. Some of the documents were sent in redacted form and we have litigation in the District of Columbia courts against the United States Department of Commerce and the United States Department of State to try and force them to turn over these documents that we allege show the level of interference in the ICANN process," said Lawley. "The documents show that up to a certain date the Department of Commerce understood our application and were mildly approving of it," said Lawley. "After several high level meetings between Christian conservative leaders and administration and Department of Commerce officials the tone very much changed overnight into 'how do we stop this' and 'how do we kill it'. That's the nature of the documents we are trying to get more detail on." Lawley says that the .xxx domain is a good idea because it introduces some self-regulation into a $5bn industry that does not currently police itself. His proposal mandates that anyone registering a .xxx domain must tag their content so that it is labelled as pornographic or adult material. Even if the .xxx site merely points to a .com or .net domain, the content to which it ultimately points must be tagged, he said. He also said that $10 of the $60 annual registration fee will go to a foundation set up by his company to fund child protection online. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 02 Mar 2007

BBC promos go GooTube

The BBC played down a new agreement to license content to Google's YouTube website today. Corporation executives admitted that the initial scope of the deal doesn't expand on what the Beeb already offers through its website. Three branded YouTube "channels" will show promotional clips and news clips from the BBC, the BBC's commercial division Worldwide, and its news service World. Thirty news clips a day will be available on the latter. Two of the three "channels" will show advertisements alongside the clips. Original programming is scant: video diaries from Dr Who and Life On Mars have been promised, for example. "This deal is absolutely no different to what BBC World has offered for years, we have deals to offer clips on websites such as Yahoo!," BBC Worldwide's David Moody. Ashley Highfield, the BBC's new media chief, agreed, explaining the deal "not about distributing content like full-length programmes; YouTube is a promotional vehicle for us". Executives also said the deal was a testing ground for the BBC's own iPlayer. YouTube surfers have more chance of stumbling across BBC content, while the corporation also gets Google to shoulder the burden of hosting the material. A win-win for the BBC, then? There's no need for bad language: King Penguins on YouTube The problem is, the complexities of adhering to the corporation's charter using a global medium are already making a monkey out of director general Mark Thompson's goal to have BBC content available "anytime, anywhere". Two thirds of the promo content won't be available to UK users - because the BBC isn't permitted to show advertisements in the UK. Meanwhile, much of the BBC's digital content can't be viewed outside the UK. So what you can see and where is all a bit of a crapshoot. Despite its multi-million pound investment in digital services, the BBC now trails latecomers like Channel 4, which now offers UK citizens a broadband VoD service for Windows PCs. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Mar 2007

Bruce Willis ousts Deep Purple for Eurovision title

LettersLetters It's always good to know you take us seriously, and this reader's practical application of the recent ban on the word solution made all hacks at Vulture Central sit back and sigh with a collective 'Aw, bless'.
Tracey Cooper, 02 Mar 2007
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Scotsman wins £1,300 settlement against spammer

An Edinburgh man has obtained damages of more than £1,300 from British-based spammer. Gordon Dick was granted the order against Transcom Internet Services Ltd of Henley-on-Thames at a January hearing in Edinburgh's Sheriff Court. Although he hasn't received any money yet, even after sending a debt collector around to Transcom's premises, the lawsuit is a landmark in the fight by consumers against UK spammers. This is the first action of its kind in Scotland and only the second so far in the UK. The Scottish action comes after a £300 out-of-court settlement against Media Logistics obtained by aggrieved spam recipient Nigel Roberts. Dick said despite differing legal systems in Scotland and England the basis of both cases were violations of the same anti-spam laws. "The courts have now sent a clear message, spam will not be tolerated and individuals rights to not have their mailbox filled with unsolicited advertising will be upheld. It has been clear to me throughout my case and in front of each sheriff that they have little time for spammers and their anti-social actions," he said. Dick, who works in ecommerce, and has no legal background, told El Reg that he found the small claims process quite straightforward and "user friendly". Legal action for individuals is only possible where spammers can be identified as originating from the UK, which Dick acknowledges is not always easy. Another difficulty is that UK legislation applies only to private email addresses (not those of businesses) and fails to specify the level of damages spammers ought to pay. In his case, the offending email was sent in February 2006 to a protected address that had never received any spam. This address was obtained from Transcom Internet Services from a private mailing list and used to spamvertise, of all things, spam-filtered email addresses from a UK-based website run by Transcom Internet Services. Dick wrote to a group of companies in Henley-on-Thames run by a William Smith of Reading, the sole director of Transcom Internet Services Ltd and a director of Transcom ISP Ltd, as well as other firms. He sought an explanation of Transcom's actions and a promise to delete his personal data. Transcom Internet Services wrote back confirming responsibility for the email but denied its actions were unlawful and challenged Dick to sue. Transcom reacted to Dick's final warning that he planned to take legal action, with threats to counter-sue that failed to materialise he filed a small claim in Edinburgh Sheriff Court in May 2006. Dick sued Transcom for violations of the UK's Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003, which gives individuals the right to avoid receiving unsolicited commercial email, faxes or text messages. Transcom sent the offending messages to an estimated 72,000 recipients. Transcom instructed solicitors and filed a defence in court. Early hearings went against Transcom resulting in an offer to settle out of court for £500, which Dick refused because it contained no promise from Transcom that it would refrain from spamming again and no apology over its earlier actions. The day before the case was due to be heard, Transcom agreed to pay £750 but again refused to be bound by a promise not to violate anti-spam laws again. This settlement never completed and Transcom's solicitors withdrew from acting for the company. Dick was awarded damages of £750 plus interest along with expenses of £617 as a result of small claims court action against Transcom Internet Services. A maximum of £75 on expenses is normal for small court claim actions but this cap was lifted, reflecting the tough line the court took to Transcom's failure to attend arbitration or otherwise settle the case at an earlier date. Users who receive spam messages from UK firms need to make sure they give firms a chance to put things right, Dick advises. "You need to stay calm and reasonable," he said. Although most spam hitting UK in-boxes comes from countries such as the USA and China, British internet users can at least drive local spammers out of business. Dick has launched a website to help others make legal claims against spammers at scotchspam.org.uk. Roberts offers his own advice on his earlier successful legal action here. ®
John Leyden, 02 Mar 2007

Blu-ray backer Samsung shows HD DVD laptop

Samsung may be a fully paid up member of the Blu-ray Disc supporters club, but that hasn't kept it out of the HD DVD camp, and today it showed off a 17in widescreen notebook that's key component is a HD DVD drive.
Tony Smith, 02 Mar 2007
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MacRumors vigilantes nail UK teen scammer

A British teenager who tried to scam fellow MacRumors members learned the hard way that when enraged fanboys get up a head of indignant steam, you'd better run for cover.
Lester Haines, 02 Mar 2007

Bogus Wikipedia Prof. was blessed then promoted

It's been a busy week for the pipeline that connects the consensus-reality wonderland of Wikipedia with Planet Earth. You won't believe what's just tumbled out at this end. Wikipedia's Maximum Leader Jimmy Wales, it transpires, has blessed an identity fraudster who bamboozled journalists last year, by rewarding him with a full-time job and promotion to Wikipedia's politburo. Wales said he had no qualms with the deception. His comments follow an apology issued by The New Yorker magazine this week, after a bogus Professor who claimed to have four degrees, tricked a Pulitizer Prize winning journalist commissioned by the publication. In her glowing feature about Wikipedia published last year for the weekly magazine, Stacy Schiff failed to check the credentials of one her sources. Schiff reported that a Wikipedia contributor who identified himself as "Essjay" was a "tenured professor of religion at a private university in the eastern United States" - as he claimed on his user page - who taught "both undergraduate and graduate theology". He claimed to have a BA and MA in Religious Studies, and Doctorates in Law and Philosophy, and used the fictional credentials to pimp up his reputation, and intimidate adversaries. But the Walter Mitty character turned out to be 24-year old Ryan Jordan, who had no such credentials. That's par for the course for the site where truth is decided by a show of hands, and most contributors cloak their identities. It would have served as a minor cautionary tale for journalists who let their evangelical inclinations get the better of them; many articles about the phenomenon are little more than puff pieces. Both Schiff, and New Yorker fact-checker Jessica Rosenberg - daughter of Harvard's new President, apparently - took the Wikipedian at face value. Catch as Catch Can Even Jordan himself professed to astonishment at Schiff and Rosenberg's credulity: "Actually, I did six hours of interviews with the reporter, and two with a fact checker, but I was really surprised that they were willing to do an interview with someone who they couldn't confirm; I can only assume that it is proof I was doing a good job playing the part," he wrote. (This and more Jordan quotes were culled from the site by Wikipedia Watch, and can be found here.) In all likelihood, the story would have been quickly forgotten, had it not been for the reaction of Wikipedia's figurehead and uber-leader Jimmy Wales. Wales not only defended the identity fraudster, but promoted him to a salaried position on Wikia. Wikia Inc. is the corporation co-founded by Wales, which has to date received $14m of investment capital from a VC firm and Amazon.com. Wales also promoted Jordan to the creepy sounding "ArbComm", or Arbitration Committee, which is the next-to-final adjudication panel at Wikipedia. (The final panel consists of the Maximum Leader himself). "I regard it as a pseudonym and I don't really have a problem with it," Wales told the New Yorker. Wales' insouciance left onlookers amazed. "It does make you wonder about what else happens at Wikipedia that Jimmy Wales doesn't have a problem with," wrote author Stephen Dubner. Wikipedia co-founder Larry Sanger correctly describes it as an 'identity fraud'. And quite brilliantly, Sanger also gets to the core of the problem - the alternative reality, created by the Wikipedians cult-like devotion to the cause. (As with many cults, failings are attributed to outsiders). "Wikipedians have plainly become a very insular group: they have their own mores and requirements, which are completely independent of the real world," writes Sanger.  "Indeed, that's what this story is about, after all: real-world identities and credentials are rejected as unnecessary by Wikipedia.  How could Wikipedia fail to become insular with that attitude? " When your reporter first started to chronicle Wikipedia, it was because it so perfectly embodied so many utopian aspects of technology discourse. But perhaps we missed the biggest: its ability to generate an alternative reality, something that strongly characterized the "Net Neutrality" debate. If this was a movie, it would be a very modern comedy. ® Bootnote Once again credit goes to Daniel Brandt for uncovering the scandal. Brandt was responsible for discovering the identity of John Seigenthaler's defamer, after Wikipedia administrators declined to get involved. Watch how this story unfolded in the days after Jordan was appointed to WIkia, on January 11 this year, here - it's a fascinating read.
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Mar 2007
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Novell posts drop in revenues and profits

Novell has recorded a $12m drop in revenues for the first quarter of 2007. The networking software firm reported net revenues of $230m for the period ending 31 January, (Q1 '06: $242m). Novell posted net losses of $19.9m for the quarter, resulting in a loss per share of $0.06, compared with net profits of $1.8m and flat earnings per share for the same period last year. The results fell short of analysts' expectations of per share earnings of $0.01 and revenue of $233m. Shares in Novell fell six per cent today.
ElectricNews.net, 02 Mar 2007

EMI rejects Warner bid

EMI's board today rejected an approach by Warner Music Group, saying the price was too low and the format of the bid too cumbersome. "WMG’s proposal was considered by the Board which concluded that it is not in the best interests of EMI shareholders to entertain a pre-conditional offer which would entail prolonged regulatory uncertainty and unacceptable operational risk at a critical time for the Company," the music group said in a statement issued late on Friday afternoon, UK time. "The Board also regards a price of 260 pence per share as inadequate, having regard to the stand-alone value of EMI, the synergies available from a combination with WMG and the risks identified above." Warner Music first courted EMI seven years ago, but in October 2000 the pair broke off from a proposed merger as they didn't think regulatory approval would be forthcoming. In 2004, EMI tried to get hitched to Sony-BMG, but a legal challenge from the independent label sector sank the deal last year. This time, the only stumbling block seems to be the EMI board itself. Warner has agreed terms with the independents' global trade group Impala which sees the indies back the merger in return for concessions on divesting repetoire, competition pledges, and financial backing for Merlin, the indies' new global digital music licensing agency. The UK label Ministry of Sound quit the UK indie label trade group AIM in protest at the deal, although it's believed that MoS doesn't know what the specific pledges are. An independent source told us that MoS had declined to sign an NDA allowing it to view the Impala-Warner agreement. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Mar 2007
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There is life beyond .NET, says Microsoft (really)

The acceptance of new abstract concepts can sometimes be harmful to entrenched philosophical (and marketing) positions. Microsoft's announcement this week that it is to bolster the business process management (BPM) software market is an admission that there are parts of the world which are not wholly Microsoft.
Phil Manchester, 02 Mar 2007
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Wanted: social workers (Klansmen preferred)

A chilling illustration of the perils of copywriting by committee comes to us from West Sussex County Council human resources department. The engine of UK south coast municipal governance is advertising for two "enthusiastic and committed" individuals to coordinate racist incidents across the county. The council's groundbreaking experiment in public sector bigotry will see the duo given free reign to "influence change where necessary". Prospective applicants can surely expect to be quizzed on their skills in starching white sheets, CB radio networking experience, and knot-tying badge history with the boy scouts. Indeed, as our West Sussex recruitment correspondent Matthew notes, coordinating racist incidents is not a job for the casual Anglo-Saxon supremacist. He said: "I applied but my racism organisation skills are limited to calling a friend of mine a cheating mick over a game of poker so I don’t hold out much hope. The council new team of racists will be also subject to a criminal record check, presumably to establish their credentials in the criminal pursuits of cock fighting, cross burning and country music. ®
Christopher Williams, 02 Mar 2007

Vista product activation unpicked

The activation method used by Microsoft to protect Vista from piracy is under attack on multiple fronts. According to Keznews, activation codes for Vista can be obtained by brute force using key generator software that randomly tries a variety of 25-digit codes until it finds one that works. With a powerful enough PC, users might be able to cycle through 20,000 different keys an hour until the software finds a key that fits. The key generator itself is a modified version of the original software license manager script file, according to reports.
John Leyden, 02 Mar 2007
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eBay plugs hole in sign-on page

A week or more after it was brought to its attention, eBay has plugged a hole in its sign-on page that was being exploited by phishers. The vulnerability was noteworthy because it led users to eBay's official login page first, unlike most phishing attacks, which direct victims to a spoofed URL. Once a user entered a valid user name and password on the eBay site, however, the exploit redirected the person to a third-party site of an attacker's choosing.
Dan Goodin, 02 Mar 2007
Flag France

Office 2007 bug delights Francophiles everywhere

Much to the delight of Francophiles everywhere, Microsoft's Office 2007 switches Outlook Express spell-checkers to work only in French. Those disposed to communicate in other languages are being advised to use third-party programs.
Dan Goodin, 02 Mar 2007