Oracle has tossed customers a Microsoft-like bone by loosening up its software licensing restrictions for low-end servers running on multi-core chips.
EclipseConEclipseCon Oracle has issued a fresh chapter in its quixotic open source strategy by fully opening a key piece of its Java application server and database technology. Oracle is releasing code for its object-relational TopLink software while also proposing the creation of an Eclipse Foundation TopLink project, the Eclipse Persistence Platform.
In a ruling sure to ruffle the feathers of those opposed to open and regulated gambling environments, the European Court of Justice today issued its most forceful opinion yet covering the cross border provision of gaming services. The ruling in the Placanica case, in which Italian suppliers of gambling services for British bookmaker Stanley faced criminal prosecution in Italy for operating without a license, establishes once and for all that national licensing procedures cannot be applied in a de facto discriminatory manner against foreign gaming operators. Stanley International Betting Ltd., a subsidiary of Stanley Leisure plc, is the fourth largest bookmaker in the United Kingdom, and operates a network of “data transmission centers” (DTCs) , which are terminals that allow a customer to access Stanley’s main server and place wagers remotely. In 1999, when the Italian government issued 1,000 gaming licenses, Stanley chose not to apply, due to the restrictions against corporate licensure. The defendants in Placanica operated an unlicensed DTC in Italy, and, after prosecution by local authorities, found themselves looking at possible sentences of up to three years. The 1999 Italian legislation prohibited companies from obtaining gaming licenses if all of the shareholders in the company could not be ascertained – a requirement that ostensibly provided transparency and protected players, but in practical terms made it impossible for any publicly listed company to obtain a license. Perhaps not surprisingly, in 1999 none of the listed gaming companies were Italian. Although Italy amended the law in 2002 to eliminate the offending requirement, it issued no new licenses, effectively preserving the status quo. The case is the intellectual progeny of an earlier ECJ case, Gambelli, which also involved Stanley and Italy-based DTCs. In Gambelli, the ECJ ruled that although Articles 43 and 49 of the EC Treaty - covering the freedom to establish a business and the freedom to sell services across borders respectively – applied to gaming services, national governments still had considerable latitude to determine how and when to regulate the gaming sector, provided that measures enacted were proportionate to the perceived social ills associated with gambling. As the Court stated then, “[i]t is for the national court to determine whether such legislation, taking account of the detailed rules for its application, actually serves the aims which might justify it, and whether the restrictions it imposes are disproportionate in the light of those objectives.” The Court in Placanica, probably unconvinced that national courts would give sufficient weight to the interests of foreign suppliers, has chosen to reaffirm and clarify that broad mandate. The ruling emphasizes that regulation cannot be a smokescreen for discriminatory trade practices. “The Court has already ruled that, even if the exclusion from tender procedures is applied without distinction to all companies quoted on the regulated markets which could be interested in those licences – regardless of whether they are established in Italy or in another Member State – in so far as the lack of foreign operators among the licensees is attributable to the fact that the Italian rules governing invitations to tender make it impossible in practice for companies quoted on the regulated markets of other Member States to obtain licenses, those rules constitute prima facie a restriction on the freedom of establishment." Although the ruling in Placanica specifically covers the prohibitions against corporate licensing in place in Italy, the arguments in Placanica and Gambelli when read together make clear that sneaky attempts by member states to circumvent the free movement of services to protect local favorites will not be tolerated. The ruling also makes clear that draconian, American-style criminal enforcement will almost never be considered proportionate to any missteps associated with the current legal chaos surrounding online gaming services. The Court specifically held that: 1. National legislation which prohibits the pursuit of the activities of collecting, taking, booking and forwarding offers of bets, in particular bets on sporting events, without a license or a police authorization issued by the Member State concerned, constitutes a restriction on the freedom of establishment and the freedom to provide services, provided for in Articles 43 EC and 49 EC respectively. 2. It is for the national courts to determine whether, in so far as national legislation limits the number of operators active in the betting and gaming sector, it genuinely contributes to the objective of preventing the exploitation of activities in that sector for criminal or fraudulent purposes. 3. Articles 43 EC and 49 EC must be interpreted as precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which excludes – and, moreover, continues to exclude – from the betting and gaming sector operators in the form of companies whose shares are quoted on the regulated markets. 4. Articles 43 EC and 49 EC must be interpreted as precluding national legislation, such as that at issue in the main proceedings, which imposes a criminal penalty on persons such as the defendants in the main proceedings for pursuing the organized activity of collecting bets without a license or a police authorization as required under the national legislation, where those persons were unable to obtain licenses or authorizations because that Member State, in violation of Community law, refused to grant licenses or authorizations to such persons. The ruling is both a rejection of attempts by France to deny the Court’s jurisdiction over gaming services, and an affirmation that regulation of the gambling world needs to be rationally related to the policy goals used as justification for such regulation. Because gambling is such a controversial activity, involving moral questions usually addressed at the local or national level, it is doubtful that a uniform EU policy on the issue will be forthcoming any time soon. The ruling does, however, continue the EU push for equitable treatment between the member states, as many EU states have local monopolies to protect – and that is a rare piece of good news for the online gaming sector. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
The convergence of WAN optimisation with core routing may be taking a big step forward, with Huawei-3Com (H3C) buying the rights to use acceleration software from Expand Networks in its upcoming Intelligent Management Centre (iMC) integrated router platform.
EclipseConEclipseCon After six years mostly focused on enterprise computing, Eclipse is tackling rich internet applications by expanding into Web 2.0.
Obi-Wan Kenobi's Jedi cloak sold at auction yesterday for £54,000. Two telephone bidders battled it out to claim Sir Alec Guinness's costume from the original Star Wars trilogy. Clothing from Dr Who also sold for far more than estimates. Tom Baker's promotional costume of maroon coat, trousers, waistcoat and stripey scarf sold for £24,600 - 20 times the estimate. One of his coats sold for £8,400. Sylvester McCoy's promotional costume was a little more affordable at £1,200. Other highlights of the sale included the Batman and Robin costumes worn by David Jason and Nicholas Lyndurst in an Only Fools and Horses special, which went for £10,200. Bond outfits also went for serious money. A dinner jacket worn by Sean Connery in Thunderball fetched £33,600. Auctioneer Bonhams was selling costumes from theatrical and film supplier Angels, which has won Oscars for its costume design. The company was founded in 1840 as a theatrical supplier and has been run by five generations of the Angel family. Some stock had to be sold because of increasing insurance premiums and shortage of space. Bonhams' press release is here. ®
Newswire and financial data service Reuters is to dip another finger in Web 2.0 waters by setting up its own version of MySpace. But the Reuters site will be targeted at City traders rather than US teenagers. "You will see us, later in the year, launch a version of MySpace for the financial services community," Reuters chief Tom Glocer told the Guardian. Rather than lists of favourite bands, acne creams and so forth, the idea is that the stripey-shirt crowd will be able to "post their research or, if they are traders, their trading models." American high-school kids seem very happy to generate free content for Rupert Murdoch to hang adverts on. It remains to be seen whether traders and analysts – a more financially-motivated group, after all – will be willing to do the same for Reuters shareholders. But the site's business model is not yet fully planned, and indeed it may not carry ads. Reuters wasn't yet willing to go into further detail. However, the company is willing to make at least one bold assumption. Derivatives traders "don't want to have 100 friend requests from teenage girls", according to Glocer, an assertion many would doubt. Reuters has been happy with its Web 2.0 initiatives thus far, with no plans to recall its permanent reporter from Second Life. It will be interesting to watch the fortunes of the new community website as it takes on more shape. ®
An attempt by Flash memory card maker SanDisk to take on a group of MP3-related patent holders has failed in an English court. The High Court said all of SanDisk's claims fell outside the court's jurisdiction of England and Wales.
PollPoll Several weeks ago, I had a problem with a new HP desktop right out of the box. When I tried to install MS OS updates they were downloaded, but when the system rebooted it caused a permanent loop. I called HP and got a message that it was busy. Naturally, I didn't want to play the call back game all day, so I got onto my other computer and initiated an online chat with HP tech support through the US, where I got a first level technician who was less than stellar in his reaction to my problem. In a fit of pique, I then blogged about the experience and vented my frustration. Here is an extract: I wrote out an explanation of what had happened, and what I had tried. I explained that I needed to know which one of the updates was not getting along with HP's version of XP Media Center Edition 2005 and what I could do to get around it. His response: you have to do each update manually to figure out which one doesn't work. Mind you, there are 63 of them according to Microsoft. Also, this has been a problem since October, so you'd think I wouldn't be the only one with this problem. Maybe someone at HP and/or Microsoft had worked it out by then and could tell me? Nope. So in the end, this is HP's response: go figure it out by yourself. AND THEN WHAT!!!???? So once I know which patch is damning my system – which it will do again – then I'll have to do F10 AGAIN and install all the other patches again and then hope that was the only patch giving me a hard time. However, that only isolates the problem. It doesn't solve it. What do I do about the bad patch? Skip over it and leave my system vulnerable to whatever that patch was supposed to fix? I think what really annoys me most is that Alvin (the support technician) clearly didn't go digging through any databases to see what might have happened previously. Nope, he just blew me off with – well, you have to install each one and see what happens!!! Now, the good news is that both HP and Microsoft eventually responded to me and got some competent people working on the problem. There are a couple of Microsoft engineers who have earned gold stars in my book along the way, chiefly Pedro Ribeiro, who has been responsive, patient, good humoured, and competent with me and my little problem. To be fair, the HP guys local to me in Italy that have borne the brunt of my bad humour have also since been very good in following up, suggesting that once a problem does successfully start down the escalation path, the processes in place seem to be quite satisfactory. In the meantime, I've been having conversations about this problem and the real issues behind it – which are basically concerned with forcing technically competent power users to bear the excruciating pain of negotiating past front line support people with a fraction of their knowledge who make dumb and unhelpful suggestions or insist on following an irrelevant script. As far as I'm concerned, this could have happened with any set of vendors. In this instance, it happened to be HP and Microsoft, but that is a risk when you're volume leaders – more problems fall on your doorstep. From the blog I had several responses from people who pointed out that they had had fabulous support from HP at the corporate level and that I was mad for buying a consumer system from them. I had other people take that argument further and point out that I was mad to expect customer service from any vendor for a consumer product. Didn't I know this was all about price and margin? Didn't I know that the only customers that matter are corporate? It saddened and shocked me that we've reached this point, that we can fork out 1,000 or more euros/dollars/pounds for a product and have little expectation of any help should something go wrong. It saddens me that the industry has collectively reached the point where service is considered secondary when so many companies are heavily investing in services and economically we see the services sector as the great growth of the future. I got talking to my colleagues about this too and we discussed several options that we'd tried, with vendors or third parties, none of which were satisfying, and why. I think we've worked out what the problem is. The challenge is power users. If you are a neophyte, then you call tech support, you get someone with a script who walks you through the basic steps. Usually this solves a significant number of problems in a relatively cost-effective manner. Power users do not work in this model. Generally, by the time we call, we've tried many of the basic fixes already, we've done research on the web, we've called our friends, family, and mavens we know and we've still reached a dead end. What power users do not want is to wind up on the phone with someone who knows less than they do and then waste everyone's time and money trying to get around someone who doesn't understand what they're talking about and is a gatekeeper from those who do. The industry as a whole needs to think about power users and how to deal with them. Specifically, how do you identify them without insulting them? How do you provide them cost-effective offerings? And, most importantly, how can you use them inherently in the process to reward, support, and empower them further? Because these guys are the fanboys you want talking up your products. Because many power users are also mobile workers who can influence the corporate decision-making process - and if you've ruined your reputation for them, it will transfer to the office. Because many younger power users are the future IT decision-makers who will carry their biases with them through their careers. I've spoken to several companies, and we've started to think about some good ideas. However, we are trying to establish the extent of the problem and gather more feedback. So if you have a couple of minutes, it would be great if you could participate in our little poll below. Power user poll To what degree do you encounter the kind of issues with inexperienced front line support agents discussed in this article when calling as a consumer (rather than when calling on behalf of your business)? - With most calls, this is a general problem in the industry Depends on the vendor, some are good, some are not Occasional problems, but mostly not an issue Don't call tech support as a consumer often enough to say On average, how do support calls when calling as a consumer compare to calls made on behalf of your business? - The consumer experience is much worse The consumer experience is marginally worse They are about the same The consumer experience is marginally better The consumer experience is much better Varies too much to generalise As a "power consumer", would you ever consider paying for a "fast track" service to get straight through to a more experienced support technician? - Yes Perhaps a nominal 'membership' fee to go on a priority database, but no more No, would rather put up with the inconvenience No, I would object to doing this out of principle Not relevant, it is not that big an issue Does your support experience as a consumer impact products or services you recommend or decide to buy in a business context? - Often/aways Sometimes Rarely/never Any specific support related comments or experiences you would like to share as a "power consumer"? Feel free to highlight specific vendors – good or bad! Thank you!
CommentComment Last week, Oracle, one of the industry giants, announced that it has agreed to buy Hyperion Solutions Corporation, by no means a small ISV, for $52 per share - thereby valuing the acquisition at approximately $3.3bn. Hyperion is a supplier of specialist performance management software solutions, a space that is growing in importance as organisations seek to make ever better use of the vast volumes of data they habitually acquire as part of their daily operation. It is fair to say that extracting valuable business information from stored data is now a prime objective.
Samsung has begun sending out hybrid hard drives to computer manufacturers, according to a variety of reports coming out of Asia today.
CommentComment EMC has announced several new products targeted at mid-market enterprises seeking to more effectively consolidate, backup, archive, and protect their information. The new offerings include the EMC CLARiiON CX3-10 UltraScale networked storage system; new EMC RecoverPoint/SE software for mid-tier storage environments; and three offerings for mid-market organisations wishing to consolidate, back up, archive, and protect Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Microsoft Exchange 2003, and Oracle RAC 10g environments.
CommentComment Tesco's pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap philosophy works for most things - but not neccessarily telecoms it appears. A four minute call to a US freephone number, using a Tesco Internet Phone connection, cost one Reg reader £1 a minute - 50 times what it would have cost to dial up a normal US number. When we contacted Tesco to confirm what the rate should be, it told us it had no idea and no way of finding out. Tesco Internet Phone is a VoIP offering. Cheap calls are made by computer and routed over the internet for the majority of the connection, then connected using a local (cheap) call. Like most VoIP providers, Tesco provides free calls to other subscribers, and very low cost international calls - two pence a minute for a normal call to the US. The problem comes with the plethora of billing services now available. Anyone who has called a US freephone number from the UK will be familiar with the recorded announcement informing you that international billing will apply. The same thing happens if you phone a UK freephone number using a mobile telephone. But for this call no warning was received, just a bill for £4.42. We phoned Tesco Internet Phone at its Crewe call centre. It told us it has a chart of rates, and US freephone numbers aren't on it - therefore, it has no way of knowing how much such a call would cost. We suggested this was patently ridiculous, but were told that no supervisor was available and no further information could be supplied. Billing tables are increasingly complicated, and mistakes are endemic in the industry. An Informa survey from a few years ago found that every single mobile operator had at least one error in its billing tables. Tesco shouldn't be pilloried for overcharging, but having a help line that can't advise how much a call is going to cost is the kind of customer service which will send customers back to BT post haste. Tesco telecoms PR department could not be reached for comment. ®
The US Navy is funding research into a "Star Trek phaser set on 'stun'". At least to begin with, the kit is intended for use by Marines in ordinary urban combat rather than starship crewmen beamed down onto strange new worlds (fans of the classic series may be interested to note that the USS Enterprise happens to be preparing for an "upcoming surge deployment", however.) The new technology has been given an acronym, EPIC, for Electromagnetic Personnel Interdiction Control. The idea is that intense radio-frequency emissions – capable of passing through walls – would be used to temporarily disrupt the balance and coordination functions of targets' inner ears, knocking them down relatively harmlessly. The Navy notes that "second order effects would be extreme motion sickness," suggesting that in fact the order given by future Captain Kirks may be "set phasers on 'puke'". The intention of the programme is to avoid unnecessary harm to the target, but unconscious vomiting would seem to present something of a choking hazard. Still, EPIC-based regurge blasters would seem less brutal than the microwave-oven cannons already tested, which are designed to disperse crowds by lightly frying their outer skin layers. Texas-based wireless systems firm Invocon was awarded a $99,609 development contract in 2004. The company now claims that "the first known demonstration of a vestibular response to an electromagnetic stimulus has been performed", and wants more money "for research into the effects of the stimulus and potential delivery mechanisms". The best commentary so far was provided by "Dan Lardee" on Wired's blogs, who simply said: "I think I got hit by one of those beams last night." ®
French media-player maker Archos has begun selling what it claims is the only handheld video player with a 7in display and wireless connectivity, all for just $550 (£286/€420).
The British Educational Communications and Technology Agency (Becta) has signed a secrecy clause with Microsoft which prevents it from disclosing the prices schools are paying for software licences. Figures released by the Department for Education and Skills show that in 2005-06 schools spent £615m on ICT, including Microsoft products. But when Conservative MP Brooks Newmark asked the government for details of purchasing agreements with Microsoft, schools minister Jim Knight said the information is confidential.
When the Storm Worm swept through the internet in mid-January, the program's writers took a brute force approach to evading anti-virus defenses: They created a massive number of slightly different copies of the program and released them all at the same time.
Nevis Networks reckons it's the first to come up with a version of network access control for the LAN that doesn't get in the way of users. The company says users no longer have to log in to an 802.1x client on the desktop, or sign in to its captive portal so their PC can be scanned, before being allowed access to the LAN. Instead, it has updated the software in its LANenforcer appliances to identify users in the background using Kerberos authentication, and then automatically associate them with their access rights.
If it's not good enough for Intel, is it good enough for you? We're talking Microsoft's Windows Vista, which the chip giant's CEO, Paul Otellini, this week indicated has not won the backing of his technology experts.
Group TestGroup Test The mobile phone may well be enjoying its time in the limelight, but like reality TV stars and the England cricket team, it probably won't last forever. Especially not when you cast your eye over this little lot, the cream of the DECT cordless-phone crop. Where these handsets are concerned, it is indeed good to talk.
UK.gov has unveiled its latest weapon in its battle against illegal immigration – the fearsome text message. Home secretary John Reid today outlined a stack of proposals to make life for illegals "uncomfortable and constrained". We presume he meant to add "even more". Reid's aim is to prevent illegal immigrants accessing public services. He railed against foreigners who come to the UK "stealing our benefits" and accessing the NHS for free, according to the BBC. Reid described plans for a "watch list" of illegal migrants to alert government departments when they apply for services to which they're not entitled. Foreigners settling in the UK legally will need to carry ID cards, and landlords and employers will face action if they employ or house illegal immigrants. Part of the crackdown will include a "pilot" scheme to remind individuals who enter the UK on visas to not to over-stay. Reid didn't elaborate on how the Home Office proposes to police the cellphones of immigrants. Not to mention whether he planned to strike the world's biggest free SMS deal to avoid bankrupting the HM Treasury. But that's all just detail. The point is the mere sight of a Home Office text will clearly be enough to scare people on the cusp of overstaying right back over the UK's borders. Which presumably will put them in the middle of the deep blue sea. Luckily, they'll have their mobiles so they'll be able to call the coast guard for help. For which John Reid will presumably charge them. ®
CommentComment I got some flack recently for daring to suggest (or appearing to) that open source software (OSS) should be "fit for purpose" (here). After all, since all those saintly OSS developers are working for nothing, why should we expect their software to work? Well, I can't imagine a company with any hope of staying in business using software that isn't "fit for purpose", OSS or not. But, luckily, as I personally believe in OSS, there is objective evidence that it really can be pretty good quality. This comes from the Java Open Review, an open source project sponsored by Fortify Software which uses Fortify SCA tools and Findbugs to look for defects in software – as a service. It publishes aggregated statistics but has a "responsible disclosure policy", which means details of bugs found are fed back only to the authors. The project has recently analysed some common Java packages of the sort used to build/support other applications, including Hibernate, Struts, Spring, and Tomcat. These did pretty well, as you might expect, averaging under 0.1 defects per kloc (kilo lines of code), as opposed to the expected 20-30 defects per kloc reported by Carnegie Mellon's Cylab Sustainable Computing Consortium (although one should be a little cautious comparing such studies as even the definition of a "kloc" could differ). Java, the most popular OSS language by far, appears to be more reliable than C/C++ - which is not exactly news, but it is always good to actually confirm what is obvious. And it's useful ammunition for developers wanting to exploit OSS in conservative companies, as it appears that OSS may contain at least an order of magnitude fewer bugs than commercial software. Although the sample sizes are rather small as yet, and you can probably find buggy OSS if you look, I am pretty impressed not by the absolute figures so much as by the OSS community supporting an open assessment of OSS quality – this bodes well for OSS quality generally, if the project excites interest in the community. Perhaps we should revisit his project in a few months and look at interest levels. Now, can you imagine Microsoft, IBM, or BEA publishing their defect statistics in any useful way? I can't, but if I'm wrong, please tell me. To be fair they'd all have to do so, I suppose, in some sort of race where no one wanted to be first. But in the meantime, this from the Colorado State University makes interesting reading. It suggests that defect rates in open source operating systems are comfortably lower than those in Windows, although those in Windows really aren't too bad. Unfortunately, only a beta version of Windows XP was available, so you'd expect its defect rates to be higher – which perhaps ought to worry users of Web 2.0 applications where beta software sometimes seems like the norm. You can find the Java Open Review study here (registration needed). Some other quality nuggets from this project are that cross-site scripting is the most common vulnerability you should be considering these days, and that even if Java packages are pretty good, the code samples supplied with them often don't reflect good security practice – just one reason why basically good OSS code is often used in insecure ways by developers. Oh, and while I'm talking about security and finding defects, one of my pet hates is employing ex-hackers as penetration testers. Penetration testing has its place as a sort of acceptance testing or threat assessment, but it is really too late in the lifecycle to find defects anyway. But, if you employ ex hackers to do it, how do you know they've really reformed (do you really want to give them low-level access to commercially sensitive or personal data in your systems), and how do you know they're as good as they say they are? Well, now there's an analysis tool from Fortify called Tracer which looks at the executables being penetration tested and reports back on coverage etc. That could sort out the sheep from the goats! ®
So P2P TV services really do conform to the proverbial bus cliche: you wait ages for one, then loads of cliches come along at once. If you know Joost, then you'll know Babelgum, which unveiled its service in London today. Both are PC-based upstarts to the industry's own IPTV standard. Both are in closed beta, both offer TV over broadband, both RE free to end-users, as they're both ad-supported propositions, and both have an element of P2P. Both, too, offer content providers DRM - and both are eyeing the same middleground of independent producers and small production houses, who even in a multi-channel world find high quality content hard to sell. Users with experience of both beta programs say they're remarkably similar. You have to look quite closely to see the differences. Financial support is one. While Joost is a VC operation, Babelgum is privately backed by its chairman Silvio Scaglia. Scaglia is the largest shareholder in Italy's number two telco Fastweb, and before that ran Omnitel, which became Vodafone Italy. Babelgum also appears to offer content providers much more flexibility. And it's comparatively buzzword-light. Refreshingly, not once in the Babelgum presentation did we hear the dreaded phrase "Long Tail" - while the Joost CEO couldn't stop referring to his server farm as "Long Tail Servers". In fact, there's no user-generated content at all on Babelgum. The question mark that hangs over both services is whether the advertising model supports it. Will it simply find independent programme makers a niche audience? Or will it pay them a revenue share that's meaningful? According to Babelgum's press release, Babelgum delivers a new and sustainable internet video model [their emphasis]. Sustainable? Scaglia was a lot more frank in the Q&A at the press conference: "Frankly the business plan is subjective," he told journalists. "You can put any numbers here. Right now, it's a leap of faith." One other intriguing tidbit emerged. Asked about "censorship", Scaglia said that "any offensive content be removed immediately". All someone had to do was complain. Which is peculiar. As the internet has reminded us, you can guarantee that someone, somewhere will complain about something - such as the homosexual subtext of Barney The Dinosaur. When programming is essentially on-demand, it makes little sense for the infrastructure provider to be a Nanny - it surely needs to do no more than label the channels and expect us to act like grown-ups. We'll report back when we've spent some time with the beta. ®
A public sector computer technician from New Jersey has been arrested over allegations he took Cisco for $10m through a fraud that exploited the networking giant's programme for replacing broken or defective kit. Michael Kyereme, 40, from Piscataway, New Jersey, was arrested on fraud charges on Friday in connection with the alleged scam. Kyereme, who faces offences punishable by up 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if convicted, is being held in custody pending the outcome of a bail hearing scheduled for Thursday.
About £13bn of fraud was committed in the UK in 2005, but the figure could be on the conservative side, a report commissioned by the Association of Chief Police Officers said today. The report, which examined existing primary data sources about fraud of all types, noted how unreliable much of the data is and how difficult it is to aggregate because of inconsistency in reporting standards.
Every day this week, Register Hardware is offering readers the chance to win a Nokia E65 smart phone, and we've drawn our first winners...
Nokia has powered up its handset software update system, having trialled the tool last year. The web-based system allows phone owners to update their devices without having first to find a service centre to do it for them.
ITV Local is now open for business in London and Central, after a year of trials in the Meridian region. The online service offers local news, documentaries and films, bulked out with the inevitable user-generated content.
Boozy students hurl so much vomit about at Cambridge University that cleaners are now being immunised against Hepatitis, it has been revealed. Contract cleaners at Gonville & Caius college get the jabs routinely, and staff there were said to be "furious" over a recent puking surge. In fact, the spate of incidents actually occurred last term, when the new crop of first-years arrived at Caius. As has been happening for hundreds of years, the new students appear to have got a bit out of hand. With many of them being swotty straight-A types away from home for the first time, the results were perhaps inevitable. But then, a mere few months later, the Cardiff student newspaper (pdf) scooped the national media when its intrepid newshawks got hold of the story two days ago. "Cambridge University students seem to be lacking in common sense, frequently drinking more than their limit," the Cardiff student hacks trumpeted. "The university has introduced bans on drinking games...at this stage, there has been no need to enforce such extreme principles at Cardiff." (Of course, all Cardiff undergraduates are noted for their common sense and sobriety) The shocking tale was duly picked up by quality mainstream outlets such as the London Evening Standard and The Daily Mail, with predictable moralising about binge-drinking culture and the decay of the nation's youth. Caption-writers at Indian outlet CNN-IBM carried things further, posting a picture of a different Cambridge college, King's, where there is no suggestion of any out-of-the-ordinary vomiting or precautions against it. The pic is subtitled "RIDICULOUS ELITISM: Cleaners at Cambridge are at a risk as they clean vomit of drunken students almost everyday." Some slightly more realistic comment was offered yesterday by Caius' bursar, Ian Herd. "It was a small number of students, mainly freshers, who got carried away on being away from home for the first time. There has been a great improvement since then, but I would be a fool to say it won't happen again." Or indeed that it hasn't been happening for a long time. When your correspondent went to Cambridge at the end of the 1980s there was plenty of vomiting and general youthful idiocy going on. It would be emotionally satisfying to suggest that kids these days are dissolute little blighters, can't hold their booze, etc etc, but it's hard to imagine that they're bringing up any more than previous generations. As for the sudden new risk to the cleaners, Hep-B jabs must be offered by law to any employee who may come into contact with the body fluids of other people. Caius' cleaning contractors are merely complying with legislation. Strictly, anyone required to clean a public area anywhere should get vaccinated. But it seems that Cambridge students' puke is more newsworthy than other people's, and the story was never going to be headlined "Cambridge college complies with health and safety law." ®
British banks have responded to European privacy watchdogs, who claim they broke the law by letting US anti-terror investigators have access to the details of their customers' international financial transactions. The banks have written letters to their customers, and claim this should be enough to put them in the clear. British Banking Association retail director Stewart Dickey said banks wrote to their customers to warn them that the details of their international transactions might be accessed by US investigators. He said this responds to the demands of the Article 29 Working Party (A29), which has co-ordinated the action of data protection authorities across Europe to ensure the banks' co-operation with US agents does not violate individual liberties. The A29 group, though it has no actual power to enforce its demands, said in November that Europe's financial institutions, all of which conduct their international business through the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (Swift), must get this "illegal state of affairs" corrected "immediately". That order, Dickey said, had been complied with. "We have to watch carefully what happens in Brussels (where transatlantic agreement is being fleshed out) but, given that Swift are working on this, for the moment that is all we need to do - to make sure the information given to customers is correct. "We are working very closely with the ICO and he's very much aware - and the Working Party - of what we are doing. "He is content with the actions the banks are taking with regard to improving the information they give to customers." The UK Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) has been pressing British banks and financial institutions in accord with its European counterparts. A spokesman for the Information Commissioner said it had written to "various representative bodies", though wouldn't divulge who these were - despite Europe's privacy watchdogs' recent commitment to transparency. Following bold European statements to correct the "illegal state of affairs" immediately, the UK's own requests to its financial institutions seemed a little limp. "We asked them to look at what steps, if any, are needed to make sure UK financial institutions comply with data protection legislation," the spokesman said. "We explained that, at this stage, we are not expecting to take enforcement action against any UK financial institutions, however, this may need to be considered if the current situation remains unchanged," he added. What the UK ICO is not outwardly saying is that it might have little more recourse than polite entreaty. As reported before, Swift operates an effective monopoly on international financial operations. Eighty-eight British financial institutions hold shares in Swift, while a total 457 UK institutions are connected to its network. They can't be ordered to stop using Swift without bringing the world's markets to a halt. The US won't stop its terrorist finance investigation and shows no sign of welcoming European privacy watchdogs into its little coterie. So the banks appear to be in the clear until the Europeans flesh out the transatlantic agreement for which they opened negotiations with the US last week. "The banks are waiting to see if they can be saved by the international agreement," a source in Brussels said. Dickey said as far as Swift was concerned it had struck its own deal with the US to protect the privacy of its data. "Swift will tell you that the information given to the Americans was very strictly controlled. The point is that the data transferred complies with data protection laws," he said. The data protection authorities say otherwise, but they can't really do much about it for now. Dickey, as if to rub salt in the wound, says the same stands for him until there's a transatlantic agreement. That's just what the authorities fear - that a transatlantic agreement between Swift and the US becomes a precedent for other agreements which subvert the broader legal principles the data protection wonks are fighting to protect. ®
Car manufacturers have been at pains to tout a new green image in the run up to the 77th International Motor Show, which opens tomorrow in Geneva.
Britain may have more CCTV cameras per head than anywhere else in the world but when it comes to electronic surveillance the country is way behind Italy, the Netherlands and even Sweden. Official figures have revealed UK law enforcement agencies and other government bodies made 439,000 requests to monitor telephones and email addresses in a 15 month period between 2005 and 2006, leading to comments that Britain led the world in spying on its citizens. A report (PDF) from the Interception of Communications Commissioner, the UK surveillance watchdog, reports that 4,000 "errors" were made over the report period. Most concerned less serious slip-ups involving requests to obtain lists of telephone calls and individual email addresses, but 67 involved errors that led to the direct interception of communications. The UK figures might sound high but are dwarfed by interception statistics from other countries. According to figures from German scientific think-tank the Max Planck Society, Italy leads the world with 76 intercepts per 100,000 head of population, shortly ahead of the Netherlands (62), and with third-placed Sweden some way back (33). Germany comes in fourth with 23.5 intercepts per 100,000 head of population with England and Wales trailing on six intercepts per head of population. Scott Coleman, director of marketing for lawful intercept at electronic surveillance firm SS8 Networks, said the Max Planck data reflected its own perception of the marketplace. "There's nothing weird or out of place. It supports our perception that Italy has more interception going on than any other country and reflects what we think is going on in the US and UK. We think the numbers are accurate," he told El Reg. The Netherlands came up with a standard for IP interception and championed a framework for electronic surveillance when it held the EU presidency in 2004, so it can be seen as an evangelist for technology its ready to apply on its own populace. Corruption inquiries are perceived as the reason why Italy tops the global wiretap league. Electronic surveillance levels in US are roughly on par with those of the UK. Based on a Department of Justice intercept report to Congress, 1.2m requests to tap telephones and email addresses were made in 2005, the last year for which figures are available. Most involved requests to obtain historic lists of telephone calls with only 48,000 requests looking for real-time call data and 2,600 involving the interception of communications. These official figures exclude so-called warrantless wiretaps that were approved as part of the domestic arm of the Bush Adminsrations War on Terror and also exclude the work of the National Security Agency, the US's secret signals intelligence agency. SS8 Networks makes middleware that helps service providers manage the collection of data from wiretaps across multiple voice and data connections. The firm's Xcipio products allow carriers to meet regulatory requirements for supporting law enforcement agencies. Under the controversial Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act US broadband and VoIP providers face a 14 May compliance deadline for setting up systems that allow them to process wiretapping requests from law enforcement agencies. Despite this looming deadline, standards bodies are yet to come up with a finalised standard for how the technology ought to be applied, Coleman reports. "The legislation has led to some increase as a result of sales to broadband providers but the diversity of communication protocols across different network types is more important to our business," he added. ®
The US Department of Justice told a federal judge it is unhappy with Microsoft's plans to extend a deadline for supplying technical information to licensees documenting how Windows communicates with operating systems and middleware made by other companies.
VMware has hoisted a revamped version of its ACE desktop virtualization software onto a beta testing site. The beta code for ACE 2 Enterprise edition includes a handful of tools not found in the software' predecessor, which has been around since, gulp, 2004.