16th > March > 2007 Archive

Old adware habits hard to break for AT&T and Travelocity

AT&T Wireless and Travelocity have continued to pay for ads that get served up by some of the net's more notorious networks despite a legally binding promise to refrain from pitching crud to web denizens. Adware buster Ben Edelman came to that conclusion after meticulously documenting ads being displayed on computers sullied by some of the web's most despised adware. Edelman came upon ads for Cingular (recently acquired by AT&T) and Travelocity while visiting the Google home page and other sites on PCs infected with ad injectors from Deskwizz, Web Nexus, TargetSaver and Fullcontext. (As always, your reporter will offer his gratitude for any examples readers may provide of ads promoting, or being served by, adware, spyware or other net scum.) After being spanked by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, Cingular and Travelocity, along with Priceline, agreed in January to pay fines and ensure their ads were no longer carried by software that is secretly installed or is difficult to remove. Cuomo determined the companies had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting DirectRevenue, another network accused of parasitic practices. Edelman provides six screen shots taken in February and March that show ads from Cingular and Travelocity that were served by scumware, and he says he has plenty more where those came from. He offers loads of URLs and packet logs that trace the origins of the intrusive banners to naughty networks. AT&T Wireless and Travelocity both say they are taking Edelman's report seriously and are investigating the claims. They also reiterated their strict policies against working with adware companies. (Taking them at their word, it would appear they suffered a brief lapse in their rehabilitation.) To Priceline's credit, Edelman found none of its ads being served by adware - proof, he says, that AT&T and Travelocity "could do better if they put forth appropriate effort". His report is here. ®
Dan Goodin, 16 Mar 2007

MySpace-hosted malware exploits QuickTime flaw

A security researcher has documented malware that uses a vulnerability in Apple's QuickTime movie player to make a computer download and run a Javascript. A MySpace account promoting a French music group is exploiting the flaw to siphon information about users visiting the page and send it to a remote server. (Note: The hole was patched in a recent QuickTime update. An early version of this story mistakenly identified the flaw as a zero day.) The perpetrators pull off the feat by embedding into their page an invisible QuickTime video that uses one Javascript to download and execute a second Javascript. It's this second script that acts as the spyware, according to the researcher, Didier Stevens, who documents his findings here. Stevens says McAfee VirusScan will flag the first script as malware and identify it as JS/SpaceTalk Trojan. Both the QuickTime movie file, titled tys4.mov, and the second script are downloaded from a server at profileawareness.com. That's also the site that collects the user data. Apple and MySpace have both suffered their share of security lapses in the recent past. Last week Apple released an update that squashed a variety of bugs in QuickTime, including eight security vulnerabilities. MySpace has also faced a series of exploits which have often been the result of rogue Javascripts. In 2005, for instance, a user named Samy inserted a script into his profile page that allowed him to scoop up millions of friends. And in July, a banner ad posted on the social networking site infected more than a million users with spyware. We contacted both companies for comment late on Thursday but did not hear back. According to Stevens, McAfee was the only antivirus provider to detect the script at the time he posted his finding. McAfee provides a reference of the Trojan, but the description was blank at the time of writing. ®
Dan Goodin, 16 Mar 2007

Blog: Housebuilding as a metaphor for software development

I've long believed that when you start a project you worry about the technology and whether it works. but in the post-mortem afterwards, you find that most of the real issues were to do with project management. Even technology failure can be mitigated, if the project is managed properly. Sometimes the right course is to cancel something based on promises your vendor can't deliver against - before inflicting it on the business. Of course, you can't always criticise the project management, because project managers sometimes have political influence and power – so it's then safer to blame the technology. Sometimes, even the project review - post-mortem - is discouraged, in case it gets too negative... Which is why I've been following Mr Screwpole's lessons in project management failure here with some interest and posted a comment here, concerning how well his metaphor worked in the real world. Screwpole sent his lowly amanuensis, Phil Rice, to put me right.
David Norfolk, 16 Mar 2007

Sony unveils a 3D MySpace with games

The new Sony Home PS3 network promises to be a bit like playing Doom on a computer, where the monsters you meet are being driven by real people, and it conjures images of the internet space novels Snow Crash and Neuromancer, where players interacted fully in virtual worlds. The new Sony Home feature was described this week by Sony executives as a 3D virtual world inhabited by user created Avatars and will be available as a free download this autumn.
Faultline, 16 Mar 2007

NZ council sues self and wins

A New Zealand council has taken itself to court and successfully been fined $4,800, the New Zealand Herald reports. Waitakere City Council decided to take action "in the name of even-handed administration of regulations after it failed to get consents to move six houses". Specifically, it "brought the charges after learning it had contracted out and approved the removal of the homes from a flood plain - without ensuring that building consents had been obtained before removal". Waitakere District Court duly fined the council and ordered it to pay $780 court costs. It will pay itself the fine, minus the court's 10 per cent cut. It has already stumped up $3,000 for pre-trial "outside legal opinion". Quashing protests that the council had gone completely insane, Judge Paul Barber declared the prosecution was "properly brought". Councillor Vanessa Neeson chipped in with: "We feel vindicated by this decision." Two removals firms who carried out the work - Fistonich and Craig Walker - also face fines for not having the proper consent. Nick Fistonich said: "We are quite happy the council only got a small fine. Hopefully our fines will be only small too." Waitakere City Council said that "internal procedures had been reinforced to prevent further breaches". In future, it will presumably make sure it gets the appropriate consent from itself to avoid another appearance before the beak as both litigant and defendant. ® Bootnote The traditional Friday ta very much to Jake Rooney for spotting this piece of tomfoolery.
Lester Haines, 16 Mar 2007

Carnivore ATM bites Florida kiddie

RoTMRoTM A light-fingered Florida nine-year-old has learnt the hard way that you don't mess with ATMs after getting bitten by an Orange County carnivore cash machine. According to a chilling video report on WSMV Nashville, what for Angelica Santiago should have been a routine trip to the store with her parents ended as a four-hour terror ordeal as firefighters battled to free her hand from the machine. Dad William Santigo explained: "She couldn't get her hand out...apparently there was a piece of metal that was stuck in there that was preventing her hand from coming out." Mercifully, the emergency services were able to disable the rogue ATM after seeking advice from a repair technician. Lt Jon Haskett, of Orange County Fire Rescue, calmly recounted: "We just had to dismantle the machine and we put some soap on her hand and worked it till it came free." Quite what Ms Santiago was doing with her paw inside the ATM is unreported, although we suspect that in future she'll find other ways of augmenting her allowance. "It hurt a lot," she admitted. ® Bootnote Good work by Iain Paterson in alerting NRA headquarters to the ATM menace. The Rise of the Machines™ Hybrid vehicle attacks petrol station (12 March 2007) Humans taste of bacon, says gourmet robot (10 November 2006) Satnav orders German into toilet (24 October 2006) Lizard Alliance targets Turkish PM (19 October 2006) Washing machine attacks Icelander (9 October 2006) Volkswagen unleashes 150mph self-driving car (4 July 2006) Police arrest satanic BMW victim (20 June 2006) Iraq grunts mourn loss of robot comrade (25 May 2006) Bendy bus attacks Leeds cake shop (25 April 2006) Captain Cyborg acquires Dalek capability (20 April 2006) Man survives satanic BMW crash-and-burn (13 March 2006) Second Freeview box signals alien invasion fleet (15 February 2006) Lizard Army fuses woman with black helicopter (4 November 2005) NRA probes Japanese sex android (26 August 2005) Androids launch minicab firm (15 July 2005) Beware the breast-examining hand of death (13 July 2005) Lizard Army Neo-Mech menaces eBay (13 July 2005) Vampire robonurses hunt in packs (6 June 2005) Cornell Uni develops apocalypse cube (13 May 2005) Sex android begats Armageddon machine (22 April 2005) Man executes Chrysler (21 April 2005) Rise of the man-eating cyberloo (24 March 2005) Sobbing Frenchman recounts Renault Laguna terror ordeal (18 March 2005) Fire-breathing bus attacks South London (14 March 2005) Dyson unleashes self-replicating hoover (11 March 2005) Battling teen crushes roboarm menace (8 March 2005) French join motorised Lizard Alliance (22 February 2005) Lizard Army develops copulating robot (11 February 2005) We are Zogg: The Cuddly Menace (9 February 2005) Lizard Army invades Alaska (27 January 2005) London menaced by flaming DVD players (12 January 2005) Killer hoover attacks Scotsman (24 December 2004) Car self-destructs in assassination bid (17 December 2004) The rise of the rat-brain controlled android (16 December 2004) Boffins unleash robotic cockroach (15 November 2004) Ukrainian teen fights the Rise of the Machines™ (13 October 2004) Man in satanic Renault terror ordeal (7 October 2004) Killer cyberappliances: Satan implicated (28 June 2004) US develops motorised robobollard (29 April 2004) Killer cyberloo kidnaps kiddie (22 April 2004) Fire-breathing buses threaten London (24 March 2004) Cyberappliances attack Italian village (11 February 2004) Cyberloo blast rocks Stoke-on-Trent (10 February 2004) Cyberkiosk assaults Spanish teenager (8 December 2003) Hi-tech toilet caught on camera (19 April 2001) Hi-tech toilet swallows woman (17 April 2001)
Lester Haines, 16 Mar 2007

Why did your emplyees ejactulate into my grandmother's milkshake?

We never thought we'd say this, but it's big up rispek today for McDonald's UK for the candid way in which it deals with challenging customer queries. Try this poser: So now you know. This and other revelations can be found at the burger monolith's "Make your own mind up" customer interface. Just stick "milkshake" in the search field and you'll soon be set straight on a range of milkshake-related issues. And in case you've ever been tempted to ask McDonald's "I heard the staff piss in the milkshake machine. is this true?" or "Are your milkshakes made from dogs lips?", rest assured these too are comprehensively addressed. ® Bootnote A quarter-pound McThankyou to Aaron C for the tip-off.
Lester Haines, 16 Mar 2007

Domain tasting makes WIPO sick

The fairness of the domain name system is being undermined by a new practice that turns domain names into commodities for speculative gain, according to the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), which oversees many domain name disputes. The number of domain name disputes resolved by WIPO last year rose by 25 per cent to 1,823, the largest number of cases handled since 2000 when WIPO had its first full year of dispute resolution. WIPO heard one case in 1999 and 1,857 cases in 2000. The body believes, though, that a controversial practice known as "domain name tasting" poses a threat to legitimate brand owners who cannot keep pace. Domain tasting involves the registration of domains and cancellation of them within five days. Registrants of .com, .net, .org, .biz, .info and .pro names are entitled to a full refund when they delete a domain within that period. The system, known as the "Add Grace Period", was intended to allow registrants to correct spelling mistakes but speculators took advantage. They wrote software to automate the technique. When a name is found that attracts traffic and generates ad revenue, the domain taster typically keeps the name. If no money is made, the refund means there is no loss. When conducted on a massive scale, the amount of money generated can become significant. A five cent "restocking" fee, deducted from refunds, has been suggested as a means of controlling the practice. A variant of domain tasting is known as 'domain kiting', where the registrant returns a name just before the five-day period expires and re-registers it again as soon as it becomes available, allowing for long-term ownership without cost. "Recent developments in the domain name registration system have fostered practices which threaten the interests of trademark owners and cause consumer confusion," said Francis Gurry, WIPO deputy director general, who oversees WIPO's dispute resolution work. "Practices such as 'domain name tasting' risk turning the domain name system into a mostly speculative market." "Domain names used to be primarily specific identifiers of businesses and other internet users, but many names nowadays are mere commodities for speculative gain," said Gurry. "The rate at which domain names change hands and the difficulty to track such mass automated registrations challenge trademark owners in their pursuit of cybersquatters." WIPO recognised that there is now an opportunity for profit in the mass registration of domain names. "Such registrations are often anonymously undertaken on a serial basis without particular attention to third-party intellectual property rights," said a WIPO statement. "Traditionally, cybersquatting involved the registration of domain names by individuals seeking to sell the 'squatted' domain name. Nowadays, 'domainers' derive income from the large-scale automated registration of domain names. They acquire domain name portfolios, buy and sell domain names, and park domain names, claiming a significant share of the well over 100 million domain names that are now registered." The WIPO Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) can be stretched to accommodate such new developments, the WIPO statement said. "With regard to bulk buyers of domain names using automated registration processes, a WIPO panel decision issued in February 2006 found that failure to conduct prior checks for third-party rights in certain circumstances would represent 'wilful blindness', representing bad faith under the UDRP," it said. "This is an example of how the application of the UDRP decision criteria must accommodate changing circumstances and new developments." Learn more: We are running free breakfast seminars next month in Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, London or Glasgow on protecting your name on the net. See OUT-LAW Breakfast Seminars, Spring 2007. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related links A critical view of WIPO's statement by Dailydomainer.com Observations on domain kiting by Bob Parsons, CEO of registrar GoDaddy Public Interest Registry's proposal to control domain tasting (PDF) Add Grace Period rules
OUT-LAW.COM, 16 Mar 2007

Cricinfo bats against Sky in copyright dispute

A cricketing website has found what it hopes is an inventive way to bypass copyright laws to show users action from the Cricket World Cup. Despite the fact that Sky Television has the exclusive rights to broadcast the live action from the West Indies, Cricinfo.com is using computer animation to provide ball-by-ball coverage to non-Sky viewers. A leading media law expert believes that Cricinfo is likely to have stayed on the right side of the law, but says that a similarly inventive trick by BBC news programme Newsnight did not manage to avoid a copyright breach. Cricinfo, which is owned by Wisden, the company behind the Wisden Cricketing Almanac, uses data gathered by employees to simulate the action. The involvement of humans in the process is crucial, says Kim Walker, head of Intellectual Property with Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind OUT-LAW.COM. "Sky clearly own the copyright in the broadcast and that is what they have paid millions of pounds for and the question really is whether what cricinfo.com are doing is copying that broadcast – copying that copyright work," Walker told weekly technology podcast OUT-LAW Radio. "It seems to me that if they have technologies, a software application which literally captures the broadcast and tracks it and converts it into an animated form then I think it is pretty hard to argue that is not copying the broadcast and therefore an infringement of copyright," said Walker. "If, on the other hand, what they are doing is some guy is manually looking at the television screen and using his own efforts to create a new animated version of what is going on in the field of play over in the Caribbean, then that may not be an infringement of copyright because the cricinfo.com guy may be creating his own copyright work, albeit based on what he knows through the broadcast what is going on the field of play." Wisden said it had carefully consulted lawyers before going ahead with the simulations in this week's World Cup. "Cricinfo 3D is based on public domain information gathered by our scorers who record a number of factors such as where the ball pitched, the type of shot played and where the ball goes in the field," said a Wisden statement. "That data is then fed as an xml to anyone who has Cricinfo 3D running on their desktops and the software generates an animation based on this data." Newsnight tried a similar simulation trick in recent days when it wanted to publish a photo of Conservative Party leader David Cameron in coat-tails finery as a member of a posh dining club while at Oxford University. Newspapers were prevented from publishing the politically damaging picture when the photographers withdrew the copyright. Newsnight commissioned an artist to paint the photograph in oils, which it then showed. But Walker says that this is unlikely to have got the programme off the copyright hook. "A photograph of a photograph it is still an infringement of copyright in the original photograph and if you make an oil painting you are still copying the photograph," he said. "You might be adapting it from one medium to another but that is still an infringement of copyright. "There is an exemption from copyright infringement of fair dealing with the copyright work for the purpose of reporting current events," said Walker. "But the problem with that is that it does not apply to photographs." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 16 Mar 2007
Mio C520 personal navigation device

Mio marches on with new GPS launches

CeBITCeBIT Three products in the new range - the C320, C520 and C520t - feature a 4.3in widescreen display and split-screen view, while the entry-level C220 retains a standard 3.5in screen. All four products feature the MioMap 3 software, in addition to speed camera alerts and 20 channel SiRFstarIII GPS receiver.
Scott Snowden, 16 Mar 2007

The top 25 UK web 2.0 start ups

Tech DigestTech Digest Web 2.0 isn't just about startups in California hoping to get bought by Google - even if it can sometimes seem that way. There's loads of sparky Web 2.0 startups here in the UK, even if they don't fall into a lazily-definable scene, trend, or movement.
Tech Digest, 16 Mar 2007

Tax credits portal to reopen in 2008

The paymaster general has told MPs the online tax credits system, once a target for criminals, is to reopen next year. The troubled online system for the delivery of tax credits is be brought back into service, a hearing of Parliament's treasury committee has heard. Dawn Primarolo, paymaster general at HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the department which delivers tax credits, said: "By 2008 the necessary IT and ID will be available and it can be reopened." The tax credits e-portal was shut in November 2005 after being targeted by organised criminals. After the closure, David Varney, former chair of HMRC, admitted that he knew the tax credit online service was a target for fraudsters from when it was first set up. Committee member Mark Todd said he thought there were "higher priorities" than reintroducing the service. He said that an increase in the number of manual payments to claimants indicated that the main computer system for delivering tax credits was still not functioning properly. Primarolo said the system was working better than its predecessors, following software improvements. Asked when this will be assessed, she said: "When all the IT is in place, we will do that." Initially, the £150m tax credit IT system was supplied by EDS. It was launched despite warnings that it had not been properly tested and was at risk of failure. A series of software problems followed, and EDS lost the contract to Cap Gemini. EDS received penalties of more than £71m, but has only paid £26.5m because payment depends upon it winning future business from government. A National Audit Office report in 2006 said there was no guarantee that EDS will win sufficient business to trigger full payment. Tax credits were introduced in 2003 to encourage families on low income off benefits and into work. It replaced the working families and disabled person's tax credits schemes, which ran from 1999 to 2003 and distributed £17.8bn. Asked about the success of tax credits, Primarolo told the committee that this could be measured by the high take up rate. "I see the success of tax credits by its phenomenal take up," she said. Some 97 per cent of people with an income of £10,000 or less are in receipt of tax credits. Newcastle MP Jim Cousins criticised HMRC's failure to publish figures for fraud and error in the tax credits system. He said the situation was "shocking". "The Department for Work and Pensions is able to publish for every category of benefit an estimate for fraud and error, broken down into fraud, customer error and official error. When are you going to be able to do the same for tax credits?" Cousins asked. Sarah Walker, the director of benefits and tax credits at HMRC, said that figures for fraud and customer error will be published this summer and that a pilot programme to measure official error and IT error was under way. But Walker said she did not know when she would be able to give a breakdown similar to that of work and pensions. HMRC has admitted to losing a massive £2bn in overpayments of tax credits in the first years of operation. Software glitches and slow running of systems caused overpayments of £37m, which have been written off by the Treasury. This article was originally published at Kablenet. Kablenet's GC weekly is a free email newsletter covering the latest news and analysis of public sector technology. To register click here.
Kablenet, 16 Mar 2007

Acer sends mini PC into the living room

CeBITCeBIT Acer is to offer a living room-friendly version of its business-oriented mini PC, the Veriton 1000, the manufacturer revealed today.
Tony Smith, 16 Mar 2007

HP Sauce goes Dutch

The UK has capped its final bottle of HP Sauce, the BBC reports. The classic accompaniment to the Brit bacon sarnie will in future have a distinctly Dutch tang, with production shifting to the Netherlands since the Birmingham operation was "not viable", according to Heinz. The Aston factory's last shift ended at 6am today after campaigners battled unsuccessfully to prevent the closure. Local businesses launched a "Save Our Sauce" campaign - complete with protests in Birmingham and outside the US embassy in London - while MPs "tried to get HP banned from tables inside the Houses of Parliament as it was no longer 'a symbol of Britishness'." Production team leader Danny Lloyd, who'd worked at the factory for 18 years, admitted the closure was "like the bottom had fallen out" of fellow workers' world. ®
Lester Haines, 16 Mar 2007

Microsoft moves further into the Content Intelligence space

CommentComment In my previous article The Content Intelligence (CI) market: to be or not to be? I debated whether or not the CI market was in a state of readiness for lift-off.
Gerry Brown, 16 Mar 2007

Exam cheats get gadgety

More than 1,000 teenagers were caught using "mobile phones or other electronic communication devices" during exams last year, according to a Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) report released today. The total number of candidates collared with "unauthorised material" was 1,906, but this figure included those nabbed in possession of other contraband such as notes or even dictionaries. The gadget-loving cheaters numbered 1,276. The incidence of digitally-enhanced dishonesty remains low for now, but the QCA considers the phenomenon worthy of concern. Last year it commissioned Professor Jean Underwood to write a report on technological exam fraud, available here. Underwood is Professor of Psychology at Nottingham Trent University, rather than a security boffin or engineer. The most common punishment for the 2006 crop of youthful miscreants was loss of marks without forfeiting qualification. The beaks' second-favourite option was a warning not to do it again. In a few hundred cases, however, the authorities came down hard and stripped the overly goal-oriented youngsters of their certificates. But the nation's youth mostly chose not to stoop so low, or if they did managed to get away with it undetected. In every 1,500 students, 1,499 sailed through without a blot on their copybooks, the same high proportion as in 2005. Fears of catastrophic moral turpitude among the young seem to be without foundation, at least when speaking of those who take exams. ®
Lewis Page, 16 Mar 2007

Elton John menaces Tobago

Sir Elton John may be banned from performing a forthcoming gig on the Caribbean island of Tobago for fears the musical Friend of Dorothy could turn the whole place gay, The Sun reports. Sir Elton is slated to take to the stage at a jazz festival in April, but his imminent arrival has ruffled a few feathers on an island where homosexuality is "widely condemned". Archdeacon Philip Isaac warned: "His visit can open the country to be tempted towards pursuing his lifestyle. He needs to be ministered to." Festival organiser Anthony Maharaj countered: "He is coming as one of the world's greatest performers - not to preach about what lifestyle people should have." ®
Lester Haines, 16 Mar 2007

iLuv woos with DVD-playing add-on screen for iPod

iLuv wants you iPod owners to open your heart to its i1055, a gadget that transforms Apple's icon music player into a big-screen portable movie viewer. No videos on your iPod? Don't worry, the i1055 is a DVD player too.
Tony Smith, 16 Mar 2007

Headphone wearing dinobots will raise our children

CeBITCeBIT The children of the future will be raised by robot dinosaurs, will only communicate with their parents via blogs, and their best friends will be people they've seen on YouTube.
Joe Fay, 16 Mar 2007

BOFH: The new geek on the block

Episode 10Episode 10 >Swipe< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >BEEP-BEEP-BEEEEEP!< >Swipe< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >BEEP-BEEP-BEEEEEP!< >Swipe< >bip< ... >bip< ... >bip< .... >bip< >BEEP-BEEP-BEEEEEP!< "There's something wrong with the door," the Boss announces. "Which door?" the PFY asks, apparently oblivious to the fact that the Boss is standing outside the entrance to the computer room. "THIS door." "What's the matter with it?" "Cards don't work on it." "Really?" the PFY says, wandering over. >SWIPE< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >Clack!< >SLAM!< "No, seems to be fine..." "It doesn't work with my card!" "Ah, so it's more of a card problem than a door one. It's probably just that you're not permitted access to the computer room." "Ridiculous! Why wouldn't I have access to the computer room?" "Let's rephrase that as why WOULD you have access to the computer room?" I ask, weighing into the conversation. "Given that your IT 'expertise' is about 15 years old and involved changing PABX batteries?" "I..." the Boss says, realising that at least ONE person at the company can read between the lines of his CV. "And so you see there really isn't any real reason why you would need to have access..." the PFY adds. "Well I would LIKE access anyway!" "And I would like unbreakable Oracle, but you have to pick your battles..." "I'll just get security to do it!" "The inline filter in the door control circuit that rejects certain updates..." "Why would you put a filter in?!" "Because we've had issues with people doing inappropriate things in the computer room." "What do you mean?" "Running, eating, drinking," the PFY says reading from the 'unacceptable activities' list." "I'm hardly likely to do any of those things." "Not with no access." "I...This isn't finished!" he snaps storming out. Three days later the Boss attacks on a new front by rolling on up accompanied by a weedy bloke struggling under the weight of a 1U rack-mount server. "We need to install this," the Boss says. "?" "It's your portal appliance," the weedy guy responds. "A portal appliance?" "A dedicated server which will act as the gateway to all your internal and external processing." "Oh, you mean like a single point of failure!" the PFY gasps. "No, this is state-of-the-art - a fault free turnkey solution." "Fair enough, hand it over then," the PFY assents. "No, I need to install it," the geek says, looking to the Boss for affirmation. "But it's a turnkey device," the PFY argues. "It might have some startup problems the first time." "You said it was fault free!" "Initial configuration options?" the geek suggests. "Tell you what, do them here and we'll install it later." ...10 minutes later... "So I'll just..." "...hand it over and we'll install it." "I'll need access to the console if it fails!" "AND it's a critical portal application so he's going to need to have access at all hours - DAY AND NIGHT in case something happens when you're not around," the Boss adds. "And I'll need a pager," the geek adds. "Connected to your monitoring software." "Because?" "It...might have a hardware problem...as yet undiagnosed." Eventually I am talked around to giving the geek access to the server room, much to the PFY's disgust. "It was just a cover story so he can let the Boss into the machine room." "Of course it was," I concur. "And he's not going to be able to do anything even if it does go down, just power the thing up again." "Uh-huh." "And if it does go down it's going to take user visibility to our systems with it." "Indeed." "It'll be a critical outage!" "Uh-huh." "And someone's going to have to respond." "Yes, you're right. And who will that person be?" "Not me." "Or me. No, it looks like every outage will be dealt with by our geeky new acquaintance." "Who could be in and out of the room all the time. And you're not worried?" "Nah, he'll crack first," I say. >CLACK!< "Oh dear - it looks like the circuit breaker to the portal machine has tripped," I add, closing the switchboard door. One higher rated breaker later... >wiggle< >clunk< ... >wiggle< >clunk< "Oh dear - it looks like the power cables have vibrated loose from the portal machine!" I gasp. Two cable ties later... "And your next plan is?" the PFY asks. "A simple combination of the effects of the lunchtime curry and repeated Pings-of-Death." "Pings-of-Death? Nothing's susceptible to that any more!" "Nessus says yes," I say. >tappity< ...Twenty Ping-of-Deaths, pages and geek visits later... "We'll have to turn it off," the geek whimpers. "I can't keep coming in to reset it every minute or so." "We can't turn it off!" the PFY responds. "It's the gateway to all our internal and external processing and we're starting end-of-financial-year processing!!!" "But I can't keep coming in!" the geek whines. "I need to go to..." >beep< >beep< >beep< ... With the number of outages the head of IT was pretty much obliged to take a look at the situation for himself sooner or later - it was just coincidence that the PFY rang him to visit the exact moment that the effects of the curry, cold environment, and bowel pressure had the geek dispatching his lunchtime curry into a cardboard box within reach of the portal server's reset button. Suffice to say there's a new entry in the unacceptable activities list and the inline filter is no longer necessary... BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 16 Mar 2007

Rock rolls out Meivo VoD HD TV

We've heard of big-screen PCs with built-in TV tuners, but here's an attempt to do it the other way round. Notebook specialist Rock has put the PC into the TV, and is pitching the hybrid as a handy way to view web-sourced video-on-demand content.
Tony Smith, 16 Mar 2007

Ubiquio 701 ultra-mobile PC

ReviewReview It's almost a year since Intel and Microsoft launched the Ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) as a new category of handheld computer. Chip maker VIA touted an early reference design, but its offering was quickly eclipsed by Samsung's Q1 UMPC. But the VIA machines didn't disappear entirely and has now popped up again, this time as the Ubiquio 701.
Tony Smith, 16 Mar 2007
For Sale sign detail

Ballmer says Google growth strategy 'insane'

Chair-flinging Microsoft kingpin Steve Ballmer has continued his public campaign against Google, characterising the search firm's growth strategy as "insane." The famously irascible billionaire, currently fourteenth on the Forbes' richest-yanks-on-the-planet list, made the remarks during a talk to Stanford Business School students on Wednesday. Ballmer studied there as a young man after a first degree at Harvard, but dropped out to work for Bill Gates.
Lewis Page, 16 Mar 2007

Readers win with Reg Hardware

Last week, Register Hardware offered its readers the chance to win a Nokia E65 smart phone...
Register Hardware, 16 Mar 2007

Wiki elevated to Oxford English Dictionary

It's official: "wiki" is now a fully-fledged member of the English lexicon, according to the latest update of the online Oxford English Dictionary (OED). OED chief editor John Simpson said in a statement: "Words are included in the dictionary on the basis of the documentary evidence that we have collected about them. A while ago this evidence suggested that wiki was starting to make a name for itself. "We tracked it for several years, researched its origins and finally decided it was time to include it in the dictionary." Wiki has come a long way from its Hawaiian roots, Reuters notes, where "wiki wiki" means "quickly". The OED's principal editor of new words, Graeme Diamond, explained: "That the word acquired a new meaning is attributed to the fact that commenting and editing on internet websites became faster." Other new boys in the OED include "asswipe", "bathorhodopsin", "claymation", "irritainment", "malware", "technopreneur" and "zipperhead". And just in case our pals across the channel think it's only they who are menaced by foreign imports, our beloved mother tongue now embraces "Bangla", "capoeira" and - by the Lord Harry and Saint George - "citron pressé" and "crème fraîche". ®
Lester Haines, 16 Mar 2007

Researchers take internet back to the drawing board

The internet as it stands has numerous shortcomings, so researchers at Stanford University have gone back to the drawing board in an effort to design a better system of communications. In an overview of the project, the researchers explain: "We believe that the current internet has significant deficiencies that need to be solved before it can become a unified global communication infrastructure.
John Leyden, 16 Mar 2007

The devil is in the data sharing

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. Data - yours, mine and his This week, the headlines were all about data. The banks left it out on the streets, the government wants to share it around, and Google promised to ditch it after two years. Google says the change of policy, which it will roll out at the end of the year, was prompted by concerns raised by privacy watchdogs, and the need to defend itself against government demands for data. It says it will hang on to data for 18 to 24 months before scrubbing some of the bits in IP addresses associated with searches. Will you share your data with HMGov? Six months after the government announced it would review whether data protection laws were a "barrier" to its information sharing plans, it is still not ready to share its thoughts on the matter. It wants to compare the data its various agencies hold on us to spot trouble before it occurs. Meanwhile, eBay had a rather embarrassing spillage of its data when a hacker named Vladuz managed to gain employee level access to the auctioneer's forums. The intrusion, like the others preceding it, is fuelling suspicions that eBay suffers from systemic security problems. Dangerous littering The Information Commissioner has told 11 UK banks to stop dumping customers' statements in bins on the pavement outside branches. Consumer advocates complained to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) that identity thieves might be rifling through the rubbish bags for people's personal details. But for all the worries about identity theft, when the figures for dodgy transactions in the UK were published, they revealed an overall drop in fraudulent payments. Tracking down the bad guys A national computer forensics lab for the US has been established in Alabama. The facility, developed by the US Secret Service and partially funded by the Department of Homeland Security's National Cyber Security Division, will serve as a national cyber crimes training facility for prosecutors and judges as well as law enforcement investigators. And while you're hunting for traders in malware, McAfee's new atlas might be useful. It's tracked where in the world the most dodgy sites are hosted. The worst haven for malware belonged to the the tiny Pacific island of Tokelau (.tk), where more than 10 per cent of websites contained dodgy content. Eastern European domains were also risky, it found, while Nordic nations were the safest. So, what to do? Get yourself tooled up with new security stuff from Grisoft? A decade of partnership Feel the love, we did. EMC and Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC) have expanded and extended their 10 year old strategic alliance. Officially, the two will work together on advanced data centre architectures, while FSC will also provide services for the EMC midrange storage that it sells in Europe. Lovely. Liked it so much, Cisco bought the company companies Cisco went of a shopping spree, snapping up NeoPath, a firm it invested in last year for an undisclosed sum. The company also agreed to pony up $3.2bn for online conferencing firm Webex. Expanding collections Oracle also bought itself a new database. Just in case it didn't have enough at home. The market thought it was a great idea for Hyperion. Blades unsheathed in duel Meanwhile, HP and IBM went head to head over the world of the blade. Two sides of a coin? Criminal minds at work US authorities have charged three Indian nationals for an elaborate pump-and-dump scheme that used hijacked brokerage accounts to manipulate the prices of 14 securities including Sun Microsystems and put options for Google. The men were charged criminally in a 23-count indictment for conspiracy, securities fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft, and computer fraud. This week also saw the SEC throw the book at four former Nortel execs. Frank Dunn, ex-CFO and CEO at the Canadian telecoms equipment maker; Douglas Beatty, ex-controller and CFO; Michael Gollogy, ex-controller; and MaryAnne Pahaphil, ex-assistant controller, are accused of manipulating secret cash reserves and recognising revenues earlier than they should have done to meet Wall Street expectations and to line their own pockets. Tch tch. Hiring and firing in techland Work Permits UK (WPUK) has moved to quell industry fears that British IT workers are being undercut by immigrants employed on work permits on lower salaries. Union? No, never heard of it Vodafone has trouble recognising a union. We'd like to help it: Vodafone, it's the large group of employees demanding collective bargaining on pay, hours, and holiday. Name of "Collect". Never say we don't help out. Piracy is bad, m'kay? Except when it grows the market... A senior Microsoft exec has admitted that some software piracy actually ends up benefiting the technology giant because it leads to purchases of other software packages. Would you look at the prior art on that? The campaigner behind attempts to invalidate Amazon.com's '1-Click' patent has gained access to Amazon's filings at the US Patent Office and still believes he has a case. New Zealander Peter Calveley is pursuing a reexamination of the 1-Click patent granted to Amazon. The US Patent and Trade marks Office (USPTO) last year agreed to conduct a reexamination and the process is ongoing. While in the UK, the Patent Office has proposed a new set of rules it says will modernise its processes. The rules are open for consultation until June. Justice, the HP Way A California state judge has dropped all criminal charges against former Hewlett-Packard chairman Patricia Dunn and paved the way to clearing three others caught up in the spying scandal, which was initiated to discover the source of leaks to the media. Get orf my copyright Viacom's patience with Google has finally run out, and the entertainment giant has filed a $1bn copyright infringement suit against Google. Viacom says the ad giant's YouTube service is hosting 160,000 infringing works, which have been viewed 1.5 billion times. It alleges that YouTube has "built a lucrative business out of exploiting the devotion of fans to others' creative works in order to enrich itself and its corporate parent Google". And finally, the sillier side of the net did not disappoint this week, with chocolate pilchards on offer, while Indian students were told to go offline and get a life. Good advice for a Friday, we're sure you'll agree. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Mar 2007

CeBIT clips vulture's wing

CeBIT blogCeBIT blog Things just aren't as big as they used to be at CeBIT. The trade show has slipped down the industry's to-do list almost as quickly as it has vacated the number of the halls it used to pack out. Even Greenpeace couldn't be bothered turning up this year to harangue show goers and point out how much rubbish they're creating. When no one's even demanding you make a difference, does that mean you couldn't, even if you tried?
Joe Fay, 16 Mar 2007
Recycle sign

SMEs still in dark over WEEE

SMEs remain wildly ignorant of new electronic equipment disposal regs, according to a leading UK IT reseller. The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE) legislation passed another significant milestone this week. The deadline for kit producers to join a disposal compliance scheme was 15 March.
Lewis Page, 16 Mar 2007

Skype does directory enquiries and dirty chat lines

Popular VoIP service Skype has launched two new services, Skype Find and Skype Prime. Both are available worldwide and both services are currently in beta testing mode. Skype Find, a business recommendation service, allows users to search for a service within an entered location, and see a listing of local companies that can provide that service, along with recommendations or comments from other Skype users. The listing is currently a little sparse, a search for restaurants in Scotland showed nothing until expanded to "food" in "UK", but it's early days. The inevitable link to make a Skype call to the company concerned is present, along with one to add your business to their listing. At the moment this is without charge, though it would seem obvious that some sort of premium listing will come with time. More interesting is the premium-rate connection service Skype Prime, which allows anyone to charge callers to contact them over Skype, at a rate they determine, with 30 per cent going to Skype as a handling charge. The idea is to allow the ranks of astrologers, cricket pundits and, let's be honest, sex lines, to move their businesses to Skype with little effort. Callers to a Skype Prime service settle through PayPal which, according to UK premium-rate regulator ICSTIS, deems the service beyond its regulation. Callers need to have the latest version of the Skype client software (3.1) to access the service. Skype Find will only be really interesting when it starts charging for premium placement, and Skype Prime is going to have to work hard to avoid becoming a video sex line service. Both services are indicative of a company which needs additional revenue streams to supplement the low long-distance call rates it charges. ®
Bill Ray, 16 Mar 2007

Phoenix makes tentative offer for ICM

Phoenix IT Group, a publicly-listed managed services company, has tabled a conditional offer to buy business continuity firm ICM Computer Group.
Mark Ballard, 16 Mar 2007

HP models security and trust

Implementing sensible security measures is still one of those decisions that remains on the "what we should do next" list within many enterprises. That is certainly the view of Martin Sadler, director of the Trusted Systems Lab at HP's research laboratories in Bristol. "Generally speaking there is still a low level of understanding about security and a lot of the devices that are accessing new services such as SOA (Service Oriented Architecture systems) and SaaS (Software as a Service systems) are out of date," he said. His primary role of late, therefore, has been to build a security lifecycle model that can be implemented in any enterprise. The model his team has developed has this lack of understanding as its start point; getting users, particularly business users, to understand the importance of security risks is a key component in the success of implementing any security measures. This moves naturally on to the development of policy, the deployment of technology, securing the overall information systems infrastructure and monitoring the security and business processes as whole. Security policy is, according to Sadler, one of the hotbeds of argument within enterprises. There is a lot of tension between the security personnel who want to beef up the technology deployed, and the business managements that do not want to make the capital investments that would necessarily follow. This process he calls Trust Economics. To demonstrate the issues surrounding Trust Economics, the lab has built analytical modeling tools that can, like weather forecasting software, model business performance into the future and allow both sides to play "what if?" games with the parameters underpinning the business. In this way, it becomes possible to analyse the tradeoffs between making extensive investments in security tools and implementing policies such as reducing security staff and/or investments. For example, the actual effects of events such as a serious virus infection of the IT infrastructure can be modelled and demonstrated. One of the key technology deployments that can be made is in Identity Management - not only straight forward ID, but building maps of the relationship between an individual ID and that individual's role in the business. From analysing network data it is possible to map user IDs against access permissions and from that to map groups of users with similar permissions to roles that those users fulfill. Those roles can then be mapped to the roles that the business actually requires, so that role-based Access Control Lists (ACLs) can be developed. These can be particularly important where a business has extensive internet-based relationships with partner companies. In such circumstances it is often important that individuals working for such companies have access to resources or services within the primary partner&'s IT systems. Allowing such access without comprehensive management controls is, however, also a significant security risk. This process is also two-ended so that business managers can identify roles – and the permissions that they will require. This can then be used to map the access permissions associated with specific roles. "This can highlight access permission exceptions and anomalies where users have managed to acquire permissions that they should not have," Sadler observed. He estimated that HP, with 50,000 partner-users, can save around $1m just by speeding up and simplifying the management of the ACLs. Monitoring the business and security processes within any company often used to be an annual exercise geared to the yearly appearance of "the auditors". Now, security issues demand that it is a 24/7 exercise. This is only enhanced by the increasing strictures demanded by compliance to regulations and legislation. "The cries of pain over Sarbanes-Oxley compliance processing have actually been about the cost of fixing poor business processes," Sadler said. To address this, the labs have developed analytical modeling tools that can help businesses identify the weak-points in both business and security processes that can cause the problems. One of the common causes is an historical adherence to meeting the annual appearance of the auditors, which means that post-audit, management, and control of business and security processes often slackens, only to be reigned in and brought under control when the auditors are next due to appear. By monitoring process activity as Key Performance Indicators the labs have been able to build tools that, for example, can be used to demonstrate to sysadmins when and where processes are being inadequately managed. One final part of the security lifecycle model that HP has developed and is now starting to implement is the use of virtualisation technologies to overcome a common human issue that can have significant security implications. Many people work, at least part time, from home and run the risks associated with allowing a "work" PC to be also used occasionally by others. Using virtualisation technologies, individual PCs can now be partitioned between different services, each with different levels of security, and with no "leakage" between partitions. "So it becomes possible to have a single PC that has one virus-riddled virtual PC that's used by the kids, and one totally secure virtual PC for work, which operates fully under the control of the corporate IT environment," Sadler said. This work is also being contributed by HP to the European Commission funded Open Trusted Computing consortium, which aims to build a comprehensive, open-source based trusted computing environment. ®
Martin Banks, 16 Mar 2007

Will Net Neutrality kill Web 2.0?

Networks need to get smarter, says PacketExchange's Kieron O'Brien, in a sharp counterpoint to the "Net Neutrality" hysteria. PacketExchange bypasses the congestion of the internet by offering its customers a private end-to-end network. Some of its customers, such as Nokia, Microsoft, and cable ISP Telewest (now owned by Virgin) aren't so surprising. But last week it added social networking site Bebo to its client list. But look at what Bebo does, O'Brien told us. You'll see why it wanted to bypass the net too. For most internet users at home uploads are far from optimal - and Bebo users like to upload stuff, like photos and clips. They're very model "Web 2.0 citizens", if you like. Which is where it runs into today's network - and trouble. "The Plain Old Internet wasn't designed for this level of complexity. It's great for downloads - and there are caching engines all over the place to speed up downloads. But telcos don't understand the word upload. "The net is getting in the way. Packets are passed around this irrelevant network - the internet gets in the way of uploads. It's slow, and the user gets bored. "We take the middle man out of the internet - connect from one edge of the network to the other edge." VoIP users, game players, and video downloaders all have different needs, but one thing in common, O'Brien says: "Volume isn't a problem - delay is a problem." (VoIP in particular doesn't consume a lot of bandwidth, but it's very sensitive to delay). PacketExchange began life in 2001. It currently buys paths "from everybody as long as they are diverse from each other", he says. For example, PacketWeb has seven paths across the Atlantic. "Actually, you know where the end points are, so you can have an intelligent route map and pass traffic along on a best-routing policy rather than a 'Don't Care, Send-and-Pray' policy. 'Send-and-pray' is just another form of delay." Software as a Service (SaaS) is another offering that benefits from routing round the web. Badly written legislation that tries to implement the Apple Pie ideal of "Net Neutrality" threatens such advances, however. Last year's amendments to the Telecomm bill had the unintended consequence of outlawing for-fee QoS. A "neutral" net ensures there's one slow lane for everyone; that's something the net's most distinguished engineers - including Robert Kahn - think is insane. But O'Brien pours scorn on the operators too, for being less than frank with customers. "Go and look where they've advertised 10Mbit/s or 20Mbit/s to the home, and you'll see the economic model is virtually impossible. That's where you see a 50:1 or 20:1 contention policy - which means the capacity is 50x over-subscribed." Gamers and video fans deserve better, he says. "That means bandwidth-hungry users are getting a terrible experience. So then we see Deep Packet Inspection technology going into the networks to stop people using bandwidth-hungry applications." He's not unduly worried right now, he told us, but notes that the neutralists have their own agendas. "Some of the people in the Net Neutrality argument have said they are going to be telecoms providers - like Google." One thing's for certain - if the internet is to evolve, and evolve in a positive way, it doesn't need handicaps. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Mar 2007

CeBIT 2007: The package

Several vultures descended on Hannover this week to bring you the latest news on all that's new and exciting in digital IT and telecoms. From mini PCs and new Commodore gaming machines, to dino robots and roaming, it's all right here. Unwrap and enjoy.
Team Register, 16 Mar 2007

Liberty, equality and Big Brotherhood

LettersLetters Right, it is Friday which means it is time for some letters. So let us waste none of your valuable "winding down for the weekend" time, and crack on, shall we? First up, the National Audit Office would like to speak to you, our beloved readers: "Sir We are at a loss to understand the Kablenet article "MPs criticise NAO's efficiency scrutiny" posted on your website. At the recent Public Accounts Committee hearing, there was not a hint of criticism of our report which concluded that the National Audit Office could have full confidence in only one quarter of the Government's reported efficiency gains. You quote the robust comments of two members of the PAC but it is obvious that they are referring to the Efficiency Programme itself, not to our report. Your Kablenet correspondent should read Mark Ballard's article ("NAO attacks UK gov £13.3 bn savings claim", 8 February) which interpreted our report very differently." Julian Wood Director of Marketing and Communications National Audit Office Clear? Good. Next, Carphone Warehouse does the sensible thing and backs slowly away from the stinky pile of mess that is the Celebrity Big Brother fiasco, taking its sponsorship of the main, non-celebrity version with it. Ideas were sought for a replacement sponsor. perhaps we should have known better than to ask... One of the long-lost joys of movie-going was the decades-old cheap 'n cheerful advert for the local Indian restaurant. An enterprising curry house should be given the opportunity to sponsor Big Brother (on a bit of tatty cardboard) in front of the camera; either before every advert break, or, when the whole car crash Davina experience goes all Bugatti Veyron. Mike Let's see. We're looking for a company who feels at home being associated with what is essentially a vacuous popularity contest dressed up as a legitimate sociological experiment. Big Brother in association with Second Life can't be far off... Joe The Home Office, make it the whole Government of this fine isle should sponsor Big Brother. Since with ID cards, passports with interviews and GPS tracking for road pricing in cars they have proposed or introduced more Orwellian ideas than any before, it can only be appropriate. Erik I think the obvious choice would be to have the Labour government sponsor Big Brother with tax-payers' money - it fits right in with its quest to ensure that the British are the most surveilled society in the world. It adds a spin of coolness to oppression and normalises any sort of detention of the masses. Let's face it, most watchers of BB are unable to distinguish fiction from reality when it's issued from a glowing box in the corner of the room - what's the difference between a featureless, controlled cell in Elstree and the same at Belmarsh? Watching people being watched can only reduce resistance to being watched yourself - this should grease the pole upon which people will have to sit and swivel when it comes to having the GPS-RfID-ID card-driving license-Passport anal implant inserted. PS They could throw in some peerages for Endemol/Channel 4 execs while they're at it. Ali I think that 'Heat' magazine should sponsor big brother, with the resulting feedback loop between the two hopefully somehow causing the pair to evaporate from this current reality. Jon The masses are revolting, and Vodafone won't recognise 'em: They are not alone - twenty4help (recently taken over by Teleperformance - 2 days ago completed) recognises unions and also has works councils at all other European sites but not in the 2 UK sites in Newcastle and Linlithgow. Should be the CWU to represent us but they even chase their representitives off site when they turn up to try and raise the profile of the union! Mike Microsoft has admitted that the latest update to its Windows Genuine Advantage program will phone back to Redmond even if the user clicks cancel. Nice... I'm sure someone else has already brought this up, but I'll bring it up just in case. From the article: "In order to establish an accurate count, we also generate several globally unique identifiers (GUIDs) that do not contain any personal information. We use the GUIDs to tally the number of individual machines without identifying the user." Now, haven't the RIAA, MPAA and maybe Microsoft itself said, or at least implied, in various piracy cases that, in effect, knowing the machine is knowing the user? See the www.groklaw.net article, The Results of Your Labor and a Thank You, by Ray Beckerman, Esq. - Updated http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20070302073736822 Page 22, Lines 5 thru 12 Can they have it both ways? Just curious. Dave "By way of justifying Microsoft's approach, alexkoc writes that the EULA, likewise presented by the WGA installer, also covered the relaying of such information." (from the Heise article) Quite a spin! So the EULA which I just read says we will do what we want anyway regardless whether you accept the EULA or not :P Yeah as if an installer needs soooo much more improvement. All of those WinUpdate installers usually only have Next / Cancel anyway. There is never any option (except which update you want to install). The only thing I can imagine is: - you get a good statistic that the majority of people cancelling the WGA installation happens at step n - you add a lenghty stupid dialog box that pops up when you hit cancel at step n telling Joe Average that "some components may not work properly or not at all bla bla bla (insert usual MS Spin) so that he is trickled into having some FUD and then just go ahead and install the Genuine Disadvantage Anything not like it uses to be from Redmond? JCD The average Brit in the street isn't convinced that the government's data sharing plans are for the good. It kind of depends on how you ask the question, really. The ICO is more purblind than the government in this case. The Data Protection Act is the least of government worries; it is feebly susceptible to regulatory curtailment, since the ICO will just follow the rules whatever and declare that abiding by the rules is good. It is common-law confidentiality and ultra vires they really want to tear up, and the ECHR Article 8 rights they are hoping they can define their way around. Not a lot of hope for privacy and rule of law if no one is to stand up for those much more fundamental protections. All best Guy Herbert General Secretary, NO2ID Meanwhile, the DWP has been told to tell us all what its up to, to escape a fate worse than the Child Support Agency IT cock-up. You think the advice could be taken more widely by those in Whitehall: "problems had stemmed from its attempt to shoehorn complex lives into a series of formulaic rules controlled by computer" Now that is the very essence of the ID card scheme to come.. New Labour and all their Gosplan-like agencies never learn from distant or recent history. K. Walmart went all green on us this week. But, as ever, the central point of the story went right over the head of some readers, who just wanted to take pot shots at us for being bourgeois. Well, tough, we're all playing croquet this afternoon. Come back later. You start your article with a sentence containing, "... Wal-Mart, America's least popular popular retailer ..." That is a very affluent, upper-middle class, viewpoint. Among the lower middle and working poor, and especially the poor, Wal-Mart is very very popular. Wal-Mart has prices that they can afford better than prices at many retailers. That is the secret of Wal-Mart's success. As the underclass in the USA grows, Wal-Marts get increasingly crowded. Wal-Mart has got to love the Republicans' crushing of the middle class, pushing more people into the lower income brackets. It increases their customer base! Folks who never would have considered shopping at Wal-Mart suddenly find that Wal-Mart is where they do most of their shopping. Although I am rather affluent, I come from very humble beginnings and have many relatives who are poor. I frequent Wal-Mart out of appreciation for the service that their low prices do for my family and others like them. I wish the upper crust of society would consider what is helpful for those who are less well off, rather than simply what fits their faddish ideas of political correctness. As the divide between the "haves" and the "have nots" grows, the risk for social strife grows. But then, conservatives seem to thrive on divisiveness and social strife. Best regards, Tom Are you still here? Begone, lout. When Wang Seasoning makes it on to the dissident list, you cry foul. Surely shome mishtake? I'm sorry, but.... (quote) Human Rights Watch has criticised Yahoo! for assisting in the prosecution of four critics of the Chinese government: "Shi Tao, Li Hi, Chiang Tijuana, and Wang Seasoning." (/quote) WANG SEASONING? This HAS to be bullshit. I mean really, who's next? Myra Buttreeks? Amanda Hugginkiss? Hugh Jass? Sumyun Gai? :) Vince 'Wang Seasoning'? Where did you get that from? That's a company that makes soya and chilli condiments, not a dissident. I had a bit of a search through hrw.org and I can't find any references to it there either. So, I have to ask: Do you have a sauce for this information? cheers, DaveK We also brought you the sad news that a model airplane crashed a bit this week. Whaddya mean, understatement? OK, so it was a 16 foot jet-powered replica of a Vickers Valiant which cost model-maker Simon Steggall £15k, two years' graft, and one wife to build. Fine. It still crashed. Ah, there you go. That's what happens when you don't build a model of an Avro Vulcan. Matthew Did I miss something, or did this guy crash and explode a jet-powered model airplane, showering fire and hot kerosene all over, during an attempt to show an examiner that it was safe for public displays? Well gee, I guess that really showed how safe it was then. I also particularly liked that he lost two wives to his hobby, but when the plane explodes he feels like he's lost a member of the family. Kinda makes you wonder if he felt the same about either wife. In any event, I sure hope his new girlfriend has insurance and knows how to stop, drop, and roll. Ambulance on speed-dial? Really makes you think about "til death do you part". With him It might not be all that long of a wait after all. Sincerely, Arah Leonard The French language, is notoriously reluctant to let any of our horrible English words pollute its Gallic-ness, but it seems that more than a few are slipping through the net. Only fair, really, they gave us half our language a thousand years ago. You can think of it as a really long-term loan, if it helps, boys? The sooner the French learn that language is dynamic, and just let change occur naturally, instead of having to sit down and have a meeting when a new word is sited, the better. (Pity they're not so good at spotting illegal immigrants wandering towards Calais). English is full of French words, anything that ends in "tion" for a start. Say it in your best Inspector Clouseau voice and tada, you're speaking French! Sorry, but I can't help you with the gender of your newly discovered French word. The whole idea of inanimate objects having a gender is just too weird. As for trying to make it the language of choice for certain EU documents, I can shoot that down with a hint of green. Take any manual with English and French sections, compare the paragraphs, you'll see that the English is shorter. So by using English the manual will be shorter, use less paper and ink to produce, weigh less and so is easier and cheaper to transport. Given the amount of paper the EU waffles it's way through each year, I think this would easily outweigh the savings made by Tony Blair and his energy saving light bulbs. Steve The whole article just smacks of Schadenfreude... Pete (with coat, already in taxi) As a French national having grown up in the US, I must admit that the stance of my government concerning the so-called "purity" of the French language makes me wince. But the Académie Française really galls me. Trying to introduce "bogue" is annoying, but get a load of "cédérom" ! Next to that abomination, Anti-Blocage de Sécurité seems positively of Mensa-level inspiration ! But all this froth about "fin de semaine" (which absolutely nobody uses) or "courriel" (is actually used by some - but rarely) is doomed to failure. Everything computer-related is technical, and English is by far the best language to describe technical stuff. It is useless to try to stem the tide of English, and that is something the French government WILL come to terms with - in a century or two. Meanwhile, I understand that this particular subject will be the source of merriment for a good number of satirical articles - with full justification. That said, try as they may, apparently nobody has found a proper translation of "secrétaire de direction", one that has the exact same significance. So, from time to time in some multinational meetings, I hear people happily chatting in English, then "secrétaire de direction" is suddenly bombed in. Makes me laugh inside every time. Pascal. Dude, I feel for the French in that there story. We Welsh have had to endure the humiliation of a motor-repair's idea of bilingual displaying the options of 'batris, egsosts a teiars' and although there is a Welsh word for 'music' (cerddoriaeth), I once saw a Woollies in Maesteg directing me to 'miwsig'. But why is it that using English in another language is seen as cheap, but using a foreign language in English is seen as posh (it adds a little panache to one's vocabulary)? And anyway, how many Americanisms are hitting these hallowed shores? The only language that's really proliferating like a vial of middle-eastern uranium is American English. English or American; which would the French hate the most? Richard In Quebec, we have much laughed about the "Franglais" of the French. As our French was declining, we tried to save it. And some of those words have French equivalents in our parts. Yet, France has a fascination with English whereas Quebec wants to keep its culture intact, so the difference is noticeable. Even institutions suggesting French equivalents to English words has differences. Quebec had "courrier électronique" and "courriel" for email, yet France had "emél", "mel" et "mél". You'll notice that mel pronounces similarly to mail, yet French doesn't have the same word. I'm not saying Quebec knows best. I'm saying that our different pasts makes for different visions of the French language. Carl The spaniards utterly succumbed long ago, even changing their alphabet sorting rules to make it easier for computer programmers (sorting "ll" and "ch" as two letters rather than one). As for "standing"...the spaniards actually got that via the French! And as for French...maybe they dumped lots of Italian words, but luckily at the same time they got Italian cooking, and kept it (merely renaming it "French cooking" in the process). DV The Lithuanians are also protective of their language, there is a government department that tries to think up of lithuanian medieval words for bits of a computer, so "monitorius" (monitor) is supposed to be "vaizduoklis" (viewgiver) but everybody thinks that's stupid. English is cool, and good for business. Game over. And English is very easy to learn the basics of, ironically, because it was simplified by peasants during the French occupation of Britain :) Ha!! Mark >Being a world-class speaker of Spanglish myself, I have no objection to these The problem is that the locals think they are using real English words, for example they use "footing", which my colleagues assure me is 100% Queen's English, for jogging. Then there's "spinning", this is what you do when you use an exercise bike, they use this as if I should know what it means. Personally I wish they'd stick to pure Spanish. Chris Frites a emporter - get this German out of my restaurant C'est ca que j'ai demande - I caught that from Mandy Une piece de grand standing - High class hooker Hors de combat - topless mud-wrestling h And we'll draw the line there. Enjoy the fin de semaine. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Mar 2007

RSA unwraps small business authentication appliance

RSA is looking to cater for the needs of smaller businesses with mobile workforces with a new version of its authentication appliance range. The RSA SecurID Appliance 100 provides two-factor authentication for up to 100 users.
John Leyden, 16 Mar 2007

Horizon digests year of feasting

Horizon Technology Group has been showing off after a year of gorging on high-margin acquisitions. The firm's preliminary results for the year ended 31 December 2006 show a 29.8 per cent in profit after tax and a 49.8 per cent jump in revenue.
Mark Ballard, 16 Mar 2007

Beeb shuts down Jam education website

The BBC has suspended its free online education website after complaints from commercial providers. BBC Jam offered resources and assistance to school children aged five to 16 based around the national curriculum. It went online in 2006 and was rolling out service incrementally, aiming for full coverage in 2008. The site has 170,000 registered users and employed 200 staff, whose future is now uncertain. The Jam budget was £150m, £45m of which was intended to be used for commissioning from independent private-sector companies. It was approved for launch by both the UK and European Union in 2003. Following the fully-publicised "hard" launch of Jam last October, paid-for online education providers complained to the European Commission (EC) that the service was unfairly hurting their business. The Beeb had already planned a review of Jam's market impact for later in 2007, but the EC asked for a separate one. Acting BBC chairman Chitra Bharucha said: "We have considered the European Commission's request – in light of industry's allegations of non-compliance – to subject BBC Jam to a separate review, in advance of that already scheduled for later this year. The trust's view is that two consecutive regulatory reviews would be unnecessarily bureaucratic and complex, with serious implications for delivery of the service to licence fee payers. "Overall we have concluded that the best approach is to suspend the service in full now and request BBC management to prepare fresh proposals for how the BBC meets its public purpose of promoting formal education in the context of school age children. "We regret the need to suspend BBC Jam during this process and apologise to its users, the BBC staff who have worked on the service to date, suppliers, and the independent production companies affected by this decision." The Beeb is still required by its charter to promote education and learning, and the licence-payers have to cough up their £150m willy-nilly. Whether the BBC can actually deliver the service without upsetting commercial interests and the EC remains to be seen. ®
Lewis Page, 16 Mar 2007

Plastic surgeon sucks out belly dancer's buttock

A German belly dancer who checked into hospital to have her thighs trimmed ended up with just one butt cheek after the plastic surgeon hoovered out her right buttock, Ananova reports. Julia "Cleopatra" Meyer, 38, of Munich, said of her liposuction ordeal at the Berlin Charité hospital: "I had been unhappy with my saddlebags, the fat stored in the outer thigh area. Because of the local anaesthesia I did not realise what he was doing. When I saw afterwards that half of my bum was missing I almost fainted. It had been completely sucked away." Unsurprisingly, the matter ended in court, where Meyer was awarded £12,000 damages against the unnamed private plastic surgeon. The court heard her career is dead and the poor woman "does not even dare to go to a swimming pool because she is ashamed of the way she looks". A consultant at the Berlin Charité hospital chipped in his expert opinion, describing the arse reduction as a "grave error in treatment". ®
Lester Haines, 16 Mar 2007

Google phone - it's for real

A Google executive has confirmed the existence of one of its best-kept secrets. The advertising giant is designing a mobile phone, according to the company's Iberian chief. Spanish IT site Noticias quotes Isabel Aguilera, Google's chief for Spain and Portugal, as explaining the move as a way of extending the "information society" (translation: Google's advertising business) into less developed countries. As the personal project of co-founder Larry Page, Google's phone is also one of its best-protected secrets. When a report surfaced in the New York Times discussing the possibility of a mobile phone project, the famously grumpy Page threw a hissy fit, and the suspected leakers took the bullet. We've been making enquiries too, and a picture is beginning to take shape. In August 2005 Google acquired a stealth-mode startup called Android, founded by Andy Rubin. Rubin was a veteran of Apple and General Magic, but is best known for leading WebTV and subsequently Danger Inc. Danger produced one of the most-photographed phones of recent years, thanks to Paris Hilton: its Hiptop was marketed by T-Mobile as the Sidekick. According to sources, Android takes a similar design approach as the Sidekick, drawing on lessons learnt at Danger. A tiny real-time operating system runs the signalling stacks and a Java Virtual Machine, with a Java based application suite. (The industry has seen several similar efforts. Sun Microsystems' own JavaOS for embedded devices didn't see out the 1990s, and the much-trumpeted SavaJe, which received investment from Vodafone and Orange after it emerged in 2002, expired last year.) So Android was described as "SavaJe done right". Earlier this month VC Simeon Simeonov suggested that Rubin had a 100-strong team working on the Google Phone. But plans have become more ambitious, as the recruitment of Apple veteran Mike Reed and Canadian mobile app company Reqwireless suggests. Graphics expert Reed worked on the ill-fated QuickDraw GX and on font technology at Apple. Google acquired his start-up Skia, which produced a vector graphics suite for resource constrained devices. Reqwireless, based in Waterloo, Canada, has the job of providing the applications. Google already offers a number of online office applications, which it bundles with its Gmail service and online storage space and sells to SMEs for $50 per seat per year (Google already offers a well-received, Java-based email client for mobiles, and a similar application for Google Maps). Google's mobile centre in London has already recruited an impressive roster of engineering talent from, among other companies, Symbian. Why, then, employ a graphics expert for a JavaOS? We'll have to wait and see, but such technology questions are secondary to the main objective, which is to expand Google's advertising franchise. A handheld referral system (Google has announced some fairly conventional advertising programs recently, including "dead media" such as print.) Mobile advertising placement offers marketeers all kinds of incentives for punters to visit a store. Rather than taking a cut from the click throughs, Google could bargain for a slice of the transaction. So, you search for "coffee", find a cafe, and redeem a virtual coupon. And the marketer has a relationship with the customer. This is a familiar, almost ancient scenario, and it's failed to take off for several reasons. But not least the retailer (in this case, our cafe) is reluctant to cede control to the referrer (in this case, Google). Google has already experimented with coupons for people who find a store using its regular Maps service. But that's not specifically mobile. Google's phone is unlikely to generate the media hype induced by the iPhone - which outside the style-starved USA looks like a toy in search of a wealthy fool. But if Google can strike the right commercial balance, it may well prove to have a far deeper and longer lasting significance for commerce. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 16 Mar 2007

BT announces escape route for Biscit customers

BT today announced a bail-out process for customers trapped aboard the foundering ISP Biscit Internet. From next Monday, Biscit DSL customers will be able to call a special helpline set up by BT to obtain a Migration Authorisation Code, or MAC. This can then be given to a new ISP of the customer's choice, simplifying the process of transfer and minimising downtime. The helpline number will appear on a webpage which Biscit subscribers will be directed to from Monday. The webpage will only be available for seven days, so Biscit DSL customers are advised to move fast. BT also advises that Biscit phone service customers will lose outgoing service from today, other than for 999 calls. Those who have both phone and DSL will evidently have to get their MAC without using their landline. ®
Lewis Page, 16 Mar 2007

Martian pole capped by planet swamping ice sheet

The southern pole of Mars is hidden beneath a "deep and wide" layer of ice - enough that if it melted*, it would cover the whole planet in a sea 36 feet deep. Shallow for a sea, but still a fair quantity of aqua. The findings are published in the 15 March online edition of the journal Science. Lead author Jeffrey Plaut said: "The south polar layered deposits of Mars cover an area bigger than Texas. The amount of water they contain has been estimated before, but never with the level of confidence this radar makes possible." The precise measurements were taken with MARSIS, a joint NASA Italian Space Agency instrument on the European Space Agency's Mars Express orbiter. The radar instrument can see through the ice to the ground below. At its deepest, this is 2.3km below the surface of the ice. Giovanni Picardi, professor at the University of Rome, and principal investigator for the instrument commented: "MARSIS is showing itself to be a very powerful tool to probe underneath the Martian surface...the details we are seeing are truly amazing." He added that the instrument is still to be fine tuned, and should soon be capable of producing even more detailed information on the composition of the surface and subsurface. So far, there is one signal that has puzzled the scientists: at the base of one layer of ice, there is a particularly light reflection. The characteristics are such that if it were warmer, the team would confidently identify it as liquid water. But it so cold that liquid water is extremely unlikely, the researchers say. These polar layered deposits hold most of the water on Mars, and extend beyond a bright white polar cap of frozen carbon dioxide. The radar pings suggest that 90 per cent of the material below the polar cap is frozen water. ® *Not on our list of likely events, either.
Lucy Sherriff, 16 Mar 2007

Cingular escapees win $160 each

Cingular Wireless will cough up $18.5m to settle a long-running dispute with California utilities watchdogs, who said it applied unfair fees when customers left its network. Some of the cash will go towards refunding about 115,000 Californians who were charged when they wanted to leave their contracts. They will get an average of around $160 each, within 60 days, according to Cingular. The argument dates to 2000-2002, when Cingular's pre-upgrade network buckled under the strain of call volumes. The California Public Utitities Commission (CPUC) argued that Cingular's terms at the time didn't give customers long enough to evaluate the standard of the service. In 2004, the CPUC fined Cingular $12.1m for failing to tell customers its network was overloaded. That decision was upheld when Cingular took the dispute to the California appeals court. Since then the two have tussled over how much to refund customers. Commissioner John Bohn said today's settlement "demonstrates that the PUC takes its enforcement responsibility seriously...it will get reparations back to affected consumers expeditiously." In its statement, Cingular said: "Cingular's business practices have changed significantly since the period in question, and the company is now the industry leader in customer-friendly initiatives." The firm said it still had strong grounds to appeal against the Commission's again, but would be the big man and pay up, as well as withdraw an application to review the case it had made to the US Supreme Court. Under today's settlement, the cellco is required to employ an independent administrator to process claims where records of charges no longer exist. ®
Christopher Williams, 16 Mar 2007

Prosecutors swoop on Cisco reseller fraud (again)

Federal prosecutors in California have indicted four former employees of a defunct networking resellers for allegedly scamming Cisco's replacement parts program. which could land them long jail terms. The four, who worked for Minnesota firm Interlink Communications Corp, are accused of conspiring to defraud Cisco's SMARTnet warranty program of more than $1m of networking equipment. Prosecutors allege that between at least January 2001 and May 2002 they illegally re-sold replacement parts received under the scheme, which sends out new gear before faulty equipment is returned to Cisco.
Christopher Williams, 16 Mar 2007

Apple to unbackdate (some) stock options

With a huge tax mess looming for recipients of Apple's backdated stock options, the Cupertino firm has told the SEC it is offering relief for some those affected.
Christopher Williams, 16 Mar 2007