A level 60 druid seeking l33t blue drops in the Hellfire Ramparts may have saved PC gaming, according to The New York Times. The paper reports that US retailers sold $203m worth of PC games in the first two months of 2007 — a 48 per cent increase on floundering sales the past few years.
InterviewInterview Karl Auerbach, the last publicly elected board member at ICANN, has been involved with internet development almost since the inception of the internet itself, and served as North America's direct representative on ICANN's Board of Directors.
A federally convened task force released a "strategic plan" designed to stem the growing menace of identity theft by toughening criminal laws, improving data retention practices and establishing more effective educational campaigns for individuals and businesses. At least one privacy advocacy group complained the measures fall short of what's needed to fix the problem. The plan, which was unveiled on Monday by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Federal Trade Commission Chairman Deborah Platt Majoras, follows years of blunders by federal agencies that have exposed social security numbers (SSNs) and other sensitive information on tens of millions of individuals. The most recent breach came to light late last week, when it was revealed that a publicly available database maintained by the Census bureau included the SSNs of tens of thousands of individuals for more than a decade. With the public clamoring for solutions to the identity theft epidemic, the US government seems eager to offer evidence it is cracking down on the problem. Last May, President Bush established the task force, which comprises representatives from 17 federal agencies and departments. Today's strategic plan would suggest the government has yet to tackle identity theft in a comprehensive and meaningful way. In large part, the plan reiterates common-sense practices mandated in existing laws and policies, such as requirements that agencies limit the use of SSNs as a means of identification. As last week's disclosure demonstrates, the mere existence of a law banning that practice goes only so far in ensuring bureaucrats actually follow it. The plan also recommends the establishment of national standards that private sector entities must follow to safeguard the personal data they maintain and would require them to notify consumers when breaches occur. It also suggests the creation of a national law enforcement center to coordinate the efforts of various local, state and federal prosecutors. The plan calls for several legislative proposals, as well. Among them is a law that would ensure that those who pilfer information belonging to corporations and organizations can be prosecuted and the addition of several new crimes to the list of offenses that qualify as "aggravated identity theft". Other recommended laws would eliminate current requirements that information must have been stolen "through interstate communications," ensure federal prosecutors can charge those who use keyloggers and other types of spyware and broaden a cyber-extortion statute. The breach involving the Census Bureau website came to light after a farmer in Illinois Googled herself and stumbled upon information on FedSpending.org, which included her SSN and the SSNs of at least 30,000 others who received financial assistance from the Agriculture Department. Other high-profile breaches involving the federal government include the Veterans Affairs Department, which lost a laptop containing information on some 28 million vets. The IRS, Air Force, Marine Corps and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. have also suffered breaches that put individuals' identities at risk of being stolen. The Center for Democracy and Technology, applauded some of the plan's provisions, but said the plan didn't go far enough. "The report lacks any holistic approach to fixing an outdated national privacy framework that is dangerously ill equipped to respond to modern privacy threats," the CDT argued on its website. "CDT continues to call for the enactment of a national consumer privacy law and for real enforcement of the Federal Privacy Act." The plan can be found here (PDF). ®
Virtualization specialist SWsoft has crafted a cut-rate version of its flagship software, hoping to get new users to try out its technology.
Juniper Networks's first quarter income fell 12 per cent, attributed to operational costs and charges related to a stock options probe. The network equipment maker's income tumbled to $66.6m from $75.8m a year earlier. Net revenues for the first quarter increased 11 per cent to $626.9m versus $556.7m in the same period last year. Juniper CEO Scott Kriens could barely contain his enthusiasm in a statement describing the last three months. "Our first quarter results were in line with our expectations," Kriens gushed. During the quarter, Juniper spent $4.7m investigating how the company has accounted for stock option grants and $7.6m in tax-related charges. Operating costs also grew 22 per cent to $354.3m, for research and development and sales and marketing expenses. The company's second quarter forecast is for revenue between $640m and $650m. Analysts agree, seeing a $646.9m number in their crystal balls. Juniper's full-year outlook is for revenue between $2.6bn and $2.7bn. Analysts are expecting that number to be more on the $2.7bn side. ®
Book reviewBook review Process improvement, in the guise of the ‘big three’ frameworks of ISO 9001, CMMI and Six Sigma on the face of it would seem to have much in common and all aim to produce the same end result – improved quality through established and proven processes. With compliance to one or other of these frameworks increasingly being sought by governments and corporations, it’s no surprise that there’s a rush of interest in them now.
Germany, the European Union president, is suggesting that the proposed cap on mobile-phone roaming be increased to €.60 per minute for outgoing calls, and €.30 for incoming; as opposed to the €.40 and €.15 currently proposed. The original cap was voted by the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, but here is still room to manoeuvre until the proposal is voted on in May t. The GSMA has complained loud and long that the original proposal would leave mobile operators broke, and while such opponents now see little benefit in fighting the concept of a cap, they can still try to have the figure set as high as possible. As we've mentioned before: if European roaming rates do come down, then something else will have to go up. The probability is that it will be international roaming outside the EU, which will have to go up, as competitive pressure makes increasing domestic rates more difficult. ®
Intel pruned its processor prices earlier this week, as anticipated. The cuts include knocking 38 per cent off the price of the Core 2 Quad and up to 40 per cent off Core 2 Duo CPUs.
AMD threatened a coupled of weeks back to crank its dual-core Opteron up to 3GHz. This week, the company delivered on that threat. AMD has officially released the Opteron Model 2222 and 8222 SE chips – the highest performing and most expensive versions of the Opteron server chip family. We say "officially" because AMD did brag about the 3GHzness of the chips earlier this month and started handing partners product. Now, AMD has agreed to share pricing for the chips with a wider audience.
Blu-ray Disc and HD DVD players look set to get cheaper now that Sony has formally begun selling blue-laser diodes, a key component of machines that can read the two next-gen optical disc formats.
GMTV has suspended its phone-in quizzes amidst reports that viewers were duped into paying to submit entries for competitions that had already closed. Thousands every week for the last four years paid £1.80 each to enter a weekday multiple-choice quiz, offering prizes of up to £20,000, run by the breakfast TV program. According to an investigation by the BBC's Panorama many had no chance of winning because a shortlist of 20 people with the correct entries was picked 45 minutes before lines officially closed at 9am. The alleged ruse brought in an estimated £45,000 a day from viewers of the lightweight breakfast news magazine, or a total of £40m over the four years the quiz operated. The quiz was managed for the soft-news sofa-sitting specialists by telecoms services firm Opera Interactive Technology. Opera sales director Mark Nuttall allegedly sent an email to workers at the firm telling them "make sure they [GMTV] never find out you are picking the winners early!" in 2003. Ofcom and premium phone line watchdog ICSTIS are expected to launch an investigation into the allegations. GMTV said it "knew nothing" of apparent irregularities by Opera. It denies any impropriety. "GMTV knew nothing of this and is shocked to hear of these allegations," according to a statement from GMTV. "Just over a month ago GMTV instructed the city accountancy firm Deloitte to carry out a full, independent review of GMTV and Opera's current interactive systems and processes. "The review has now been completed and we are confident, on the basis of Deloitte's findings and our own research, that our competitions are being operated fully in accordance with the codes - and that no finalists are being selected before lines have closed. "We are investigating further but do anticipate bringing back our competitions as soon as possible," it added. In a statement, Opera Interactive Technology said it had removed staf implicated in the alleged scandal pending an investigation. It said it has revamped its competition entry handling policy since the start of March and "all competition contestant entries throughout the entire competition period are now considered equally and fairly, whether handled directly by Opera Interactive Technology or by its telecommunications partners, using a randomised computer programme." "Opera has in no way benefited financially from any errors in procedure in the past and will continue to keep its processes in line with any future OFCOM or ICSTIS guidelines," it added. GMTV admitted that it had become the target of angry calls from its five million viewers as a result of the alleged fraud. Details of the allegation were due to be screened in an episode of Panorama, dubbed TV's Dirty Secrets, due to air on BBC1 at 8.30 on Monday. Previous targets of complaints over TV phone-ins have included Richard and Judy, talent search the X Factor and even childrens' program Blue Peter. ®
SapphireSapphire SAP's chief software thinker has lent qualified support to the on-demand software model while championing other current changes as helping realise SAP's original goals.
SapphireSapphire SAP has kicked off its annual users' conference emphasising new technologies and expanded relationships spanning Web 2.0 and collaboration. During a day of conference sessions and formal news announcements, the enterprise resource planning (ERP) giant outlined plans this year to add additional support for AJAX to its portal collaboration software.
Intel has extended its line of desktop dual-core Core 2 Duo processors, adding an extra model to the set limited to an 800MHz frontside bus and beefing up the cache size of a number of 1066MHz FSB versions.
Voting machines are not going down well with the political classes in France. The machines were involved in widespread problems on Sunday's ballot and, according to reports, several of the country's political parties have demanded that the technology be withdrawn. This election was the first Presidential race in which voting machines have been used. Around 1.5 million of the 44.5 million registered voters had to vote on the machines, but according to Agence France-Presse problems with the technology meant people had to queue for up to two hours to cast their electronic ballots. Many voters simply gave up in the face of such a long wait. Others said they did not trust the machines to protect the anonymity of their vote. Following the difficulties, the Greens, Communists, and Socialists issued a joint statement describing the machines as "a catastrophe" and calling for them to be scrapped. France's interior ministry says there have been no problems with the machines since they were first used in 2003, while local authorities blamed the queues on the high voter turn-out. ®
A controversial bill seeking to exempt members of parliament from the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act will be heard again this Friday. The proposal was the subject of a five-hour filibuster in Parliament last week. Proposed by Conservative MP and former whip David Maclean, the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill is at the top of the list of private members' bills to be read this Friday in one of 13 five hour windows in the Parliamentary calendar. The bill had a reading last Friday at which a handful of MPs who opposed it "talked out" the proposal by speaking on it for the full five hours, preventing it from proceeding to the next stage. But according to a spokesman for Parliament, because the bill has passed the committee stage and is the furthest progressed of all the bills in the queue for time, it will move to the top of the queue and is likely to be the first bill to be read this Friday. There is another private member's bill which could progress past the committee stage and would thus leap ahead of Maclean's, because his has already had a reading in the House of Commons. The bill had its second reading on 19th January and was unopposed. Time had run out on previous bills, and in this case the remaining bills are called out. Any MP who objects at that point shouts "object" and the bill cannot proceed to the next stage on that day. No MP objected at the second reading of the Bill, so it was taken as read without debate and it proceeded to committee stage. The Public Bill Committee heard the bill and amended it on 7 February. At that hearing Maclean defended his controversial bill. "I take the view that when we write on behalf of constituents or when a constituent comes to us we must be able to look them in the eye and say that in all circumstances, what they tell us will not get out – it is like a relationship with a priest," he told the committee. "We will write to an authority with their problem but we guarantee that that information will not be leaked by us or get into the public domain. "I would not be able to function properly in fighting for my constituents if I could not give them a guarantee that when I write to the tax credit people or the Child Support Agency on their behalf, no one else will see what they have said. Of course we must have the right to do that," he said. Critics of the bill say it makes a mockery of the FOI Act by putting the very people who created the law out of its reach. One of the opponents of the bill, Simon Hughes of the Liberal Democrats, said last week: "It would be extremely bad politics and extremely bad law for us at this stage - when parliament is hardly the most well regarded institution in the land – to seek to exempt the Commons and the Lords from the FOI Act. The public want to know what we are doing and in particular they want to know how we spend money on their behalf. It would be regarded as beyond acceptable if we said you can't know some or all of the information about what we do." Maclean said in Feburary that his proposal was not a blanket ban on FOI requests. "This does not apply to us as Members of Parliament writing to a local authority complaining about our own community charge or a personal matter. It does not apply to Members of Parliament writing as Ministers in their ministerial capacity. It relates purely to us as Members of Parliament in our official capacity dealing with public authorities." But Maclean conceded that the kind of constituent information whose protection he sought was, in fact, already covered by an exemption in the FOI Act. "Theoretically there are provisions in the current Act which may protect that correspondence, but we are not the final arbiter on that. That decision may be made by someone else who decides that it is safe to release our correspondence." Conservative MP Peter Luff challenged Maclean at the February Committee hearing, pointing out that section 40(2) already protects the personal information of identifiable constituents. Maclean admitted that the protection was already there but said there could be problems with third party authorities not complying with the Act. "Clearly if one writes to a public authority and gives the personal details of a constituent, such as their CSA [Child Support Agency] claim, information relating to their children and so on, that information should be protected. It should quite clearly be protected under the current Act. However, inadvertently, someone may release it," he said. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons. Related links The Freedom of Information Act A transcript of the February Committee hearing The order of Parliamentary business for the week
Spider-man 3 opens on 4 May but you can get an ahead-of-time Spidey fix by snagging a special edition Sony Memory Stick Pro Duo memory card or Micro Vault USB Flash drive.
The founder of titillating video operation Girls Gone Wild has been jailed for 35 days for contempt of court, AP reports. Joe Francis, 34, was recently arrested on a contempt citation he earned "during negotiations in a civil lawsuit brought by seven women who were underage when they were filmed by his company on Panama City Beach during spring break in 2003". Lawyers for the litigants reported that Francis "became enraged during the settlement talks, shouting obscenities at the lawyers and threatening to 'bury them'". US District Judge Richard Smoak subsequently ordered Francis to settle the case or face jail. Negotiations apparently broke down earlier this month, and Smoak duly issued the contempt of court warrant. Francis refused to give himself up, calling Smoak "a judge gone wild". Francis was then arrested and held without bail at Florida's Bay County Jail pending his final appearance before Judge Smoak yesterday. Francis reportedly cried throughout the hearing, bewailing: "I am sorry for my behavior. It was wrong. I had heard about appeals and things and I was confused. I am sorry, I really am." Judge Smoak was having none of it, and told Francis' lawyer: "It seems like at every opportunity he made clear his intent to disobey this court. This final act of contempt was the last of many things in this case. Mr Francis' behaviour at the mediation was hostile, obscene, vulgar, and abusive. Every effort was made to avoid getting to this point." Francis' woes don't end with his 35-day contempt sentence, AP notes. He's also "facing state charges for allegedly offering a jail guard $100 for a bottled water and having prescription sleeping pills in his Bay County Jail cell". Francis was also indicted this month by a federal court in Reno, Nevada, "on charges that his companies claimed more than $20m in false business expenses". In Los Angeles, meanwhile, he's "on probation on a federal criminal case in Los Angeles for violating federal laws designed to prevent the sexual exploitation of minors". ®
A private investigation firm has pleaded guilty to obtaining and selling personal information on customers from the Department for Work and Pensions. The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) said it had successfully prosecuted Infofind for illegally "blagging" the personal details of over 250 individuals from the department. The firm and its managing director, Nick Munroe, were convicted of 44 counts of unlawfully obtaining and selling personal information at Kingston Magistrates' Court and fined £3,200. The magistrate highlighted the "very serious" nature of the offences, fining the company £100 per offence on four counts and Munroe £700 per offence on four counts. No separate penalty was imposed on the remaining matters, but the defendants were ordered to pay £5,000 towards prosecution costs. Infofind contacted the DWP on a number of occasions in attempts to trace outstanding debtors on behalf of a finance organisation, On:Line Finance. It breached the Data Protection Act despite having a written agreement with On:Line Finance to comply. On each occasion the blaggers purported to be DWP employees and deceived members of staff into disclosing personal information about individuals. It is an offence under Section 55 of the Data Protection Act to unlawfully obtain, disclose or sell personal information without the consent of the data controller. Philip Taylor, solicitor at the ICO, said: "Obtaining and selling personal information is a serious offence which can be highly damaging to the individuals concerned. This prosecution is the result of a thorough investigation by the ICO and is part of our ongoing work to stop the illegal trade in personal information. "Individuals must be confident that their personal information is stored securely by those organisations which hold and process it. The ICO is working with the DWP to provide training for employees on how to deal with these bogus callers." 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.
A new mineral whose composition almost exactly matches that of Superman-felling kryptonite has been unearthed in Serbia by mining company Rio Tinto. The mineral was identified by researchers at the Natural History Museum, and Canada's National Research Council. Mike Rumsey, mineral curator at the Natural History Museum, explains that when the team had worked out the structure of the mineral, sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, they typed it into Google to see whether anyone had classified it already. The first link returned by the search engine was to a Wikipedia entry on kryptonite, specifically a label on a box of kryptonite in the movie Superman Returns. He says it was very exciting because very few new minerals are discovered - between 30 and 40 every year. However, because the mineral is actually nothing to do with Krypton, it can't be called kryptonite. International nomenclature rules are strict, and the substance will officially be called Jadarite. As well as missing out on its showbiz name, the mineral is not a radioactive green crystal, but a rather ordinary looking white powdery substance. As for kryptonite's potentially superhero slaying powers, Rumsey is not worried: "It probably won't do superman, or us, any harm whatsoever," he said. ®
Senior executives see Web 2.0 as a tool to increase revenues but they could be held back by a lack of know-how within their firms, according to a new study. A report, entitled Serious Business: Web 2.0 Goes Corporate, was conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and sponsored by enterprise search business Fast. The survey asked 406 senior executives for their views on Web 2.0 - a term applied to the perceived transition of the World Wide Web to a platform for online software applications populated by user generated content rather than just a collection of websites. The vast majority - 79 per cent of respondents - said they saw potential in the likes of blogs and social networks to boost company revenues and reduce costs. In spite of this desire to cash in, many businesses cited a lack of understanding of the technology as a barrier to using it. Over a quarter of respondents said their IT departments lacked the competence level to implement Web 2.0 applications effectively. A third of executives questioned said a lack of resources to implement these new functions represented a major obstacle to their business. "It's a matter of freeing up or hiring new [programming] resources. There are too many projects to complete and not enough resources, I can't find enough people," Stephen Baker, chief executive of search at Reed Business, told the EIU. While there may be barriers to embracing Web 2.0 the study found that businesses expect it to play a key role in how they communicate, both internally and externally. The report found that 68 per cent of executives considered it to be the single biggest factor changing the way their company interacts with customers while 49 per cent said it would be the biggest factor affecting how employees interact with each other and the business. Copyright © 2007, ENN
Here's Motorola's latest lady-leading limited edition mobile telephone: a one-off "champagne gold" KRZR K1 ready to bring a true sense of gilt to your life.
Carphone Warehouse will crash into the US mobile market this year, with a big expansion of its Best Buy Mobile joint venture. The firm has been taking tentative steps in mobile stateside with a five month trial in a few of the retail behemoth's outlets. Up to 200 Best Buy stores will now play host to Carphone Warehouse-run "stores within a store" in the next 18 months.
Blu-ray Disc appears to be cementing its lead over rival next-gen format HD DVD, with the latests sales figures from the US pointing to more than two BDs sold for every HD DVD disc.
Business Objects is coughing up $300m to take over French EPM vendor Cartesis. BO will integrate Cartesis’ financial reporting, consolidations and planning, governance risk and compliance technology into its existing performance management platform.
ColumnColumn Dear Sir William,
UpdatedUpdated The Securities and Exchange Commision (SEC) today accused Apple's former top lawyer of fraudulently backdating options to under-report company expenses by $40m. Nancy Heinen is also accused of altering company records to conceal the fraud. She is contesting the charges, the WSJ reports today. The SEC also filed charges against former CFO Fred Anderson for being asleep on his watch. He should have noticed what Heinen had done, the regulator said. It has already settled with Anderson, who will kiss goodbye to $3.5m worth of option gains. The settlement won't see Anderson admit any wrongdoing. Anderson will also pay a fine of $150,000 to the government agency, which has been trawling Silicon Valley for foul play in the awarding of options during the tech boom. Options backdating was a favoured way for tech firms to attract and award talent, particularly in the frothier days of the dot com boom. It referred to the setting of option prices not at the price the day they were granted but at another, typically earlier day, when the price was lower. This gave the option more room to increase in value by the time the execs cashed them in. The practice is not illegal, as long as the backdating is disclosed to shareholders and the relevant authorities. It was the small matter of informing shareholders that seems to have defeated many leading firms in the information technology industry. Apple coughed to backdating options earlier this year, offering to make up the shortfall to employees who were affected.®
AMD has admitted that its channel business has been hit hard and today announced that it is to launch a new programme to claw back its marketshare.
Experts have calculated that "severe technical difficulties" in Iran's nuclear programme mean it's eight years away from an operational nuclear weapon, the Telegraph reports.
After a couple of days with the Teradata people at its Universe Conference 2007 (22-25 April), I'm seriously impressed. I like Teradata's "one data warehouse" concept, with all the disaggregated data in a normalised store. I like the way it separates the logical views of the data (including the semantic view) from underlying physical database.
ExclusiveExclusive The move to bundled broadband and mobile packages has thrown the role of ISPA, the internet providers' trade association, into confusion, after it emerged that most Orange broadband customers are not protected by its code of practice. After a broadband outage spanning several weeks, Register reader Max took his complaint to ISPA, which passed it back to Orange, which told him that because his internet service was a "free" addition to his mobile package, his complaint would not be handled using ISPA guidelines. An email from the firm's compliance officer Alison Carter said: "As you have a converged service with Orange, i.e. a pay monthly mobile contract and a free/discounted broadband package, your complaint will be dealt with by Orange Mobile; they will contact you as soon as possible. As Orange Mobile are not members of ISPA your complaint will not be handled using ISPA guidelines; we have informed ISPA of this." ISPA's code of practice covers issues like data protection, honesty, and complaints procedures. Failure to meet the code can result in ISPs losing their accreditation. In a statement, Orange told The Register: "Orange provides its converged customers with access to a free and independent alternative dispute resolution service via CISAS, an Ofcom approved service. Orange is also a member of ISPA and all of our customers have access to alternative dispute resolution services under Orange's Code of Practice for Consumers." CISAS is an independent dispute arbitrator for communications firms. Its procedures allow 12 weeks from the date the complaint was made before it will get involved. Orange says its procedures allow the operator three months to deal with complaints internally before they are eligible for independent consideration, the maximum allowed by CICAS. Orange's email to Max confirmed: "If your complaint reaches a deadlock situation or has not been resolved after three months, you can refer the matter to CISAS." ISPA encourages its members to get CICAS involved earlier in the process if the customer complains to the association repeatedly. ISPA will allow the ISP 10 working days for the ISP to resolve the complaint directly. An ISPA representative said: "If a customer complains to ISPA for a second time, ISPA contacts the ISP and requests that the customer be provided with a CISAS reference number - if the complaint cannot be resolved - so that they can escalate the case to independent adjudication. " "ISPA supports the issuing of reference numbers by the ISP rather than making customers wait for three months. ISPA can effectively resolve complaints after 15 working days." ISPA's spokesman said they were "working with Orange" to clarify the situation for consumers. He could not tell The Register how Orange could remain a member but not be subject to the ISPA code of practice, or provide details of the situation regarding the other large converged providers. We contacted Virgin Media, who said all its broadband customers are covered by the ISPA code of practice, regardless of what other services they take. Sky, which provides "free" broadband to its TV customers on a similar basis to Orange's mobile subscribers, said all its broadband customers are protected by the ISPA code of practice. According to the ISPA member list, TalkTalk, another large provider of "free" broadband does not belong to the association. The news of Orange's non-compliance with the industry standard code of practice will do little to build confidence from its users, who have endured a year of bodged LLU migrations and repeated lengthy outages. ®
PKWare has made a basic version of its SecureZIP encryption utility available to consumers at no charge. SecureZIP Standard Version 11, available for free download, combines an archiving and encryption utility. The tool allows users to protect data on their hard drive or sent through email against theft and unauthorised access.
Group TestGroup Test The stigma of the camcorder as a provider of rubbish quality "comedy" footage shot solely to keep Harry Hill in a job is over. Be it HD pro movie making or just YouTube-style improv clips, there are myriad models on offer so suit any and all budgets...
Vodafone's USB-connected 3G HSDPA modem has appeared again, this time with T-Mobile's name on it - and a lower price.
BT has announced a corporate reshuffle aimed at keeping the telco "ahead of the game" as it battles increasing competition at home and abroad. The changes acknowledge the firm's increasing reliance on software and IP services by creating a new strategy unit to oversee the existing retail, global services, wholesale, and Openreach divisions.
Bad news from the US. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association wants to change how chocolate is defined so that crappy imitation chocolate-flavoured stuff can be reclassified as actual chocolate. It has asked the Food and Drug Administration if the much cheaper vegetable oil may be substituted for cocoa butter, and whey protein for dry whole milk, and still be called chocolate. Clearly, we at El Reg could never support such a ludicrous notion. Chocolate is a wonderful thing: it can be used to prise (possibly fake) passwords from the secretive minds of sys admins, and makes you brainy and young.* The proposals are part of a wider petition by various food industry groups which declares itself in favour of "modernising food standards". Fortunately, a sturdy defence is being mounted, with the Guittard Chocolate Company eager as any to get into the fray. In a press release, fourth generation chocolatier Gary Guittard (great job title) says the changes would short change the consumer and lower the "gold standard" for chocolate. "There are no clear consumer benefits associated with the proposed changes," he adds. "No one can afford to sit back and eat bon-bons while America's great passion for chocolate is threatened. We're asking the public to sign/send an email petition or to phone or email the Food and Drug Administration." Point your browser here to join the fight. ® *Er, not really. But some people would like to think so.
GMTV promised today it would reimburse viewers who made fruitless calls to its premium rate competition lines. The breakfast TV channel cum sofa showroom said it had only become aware that some callers had no chance of ever actually making the winner's shortlist when it was contacted by the BBC's investigative programme Panorama. It said it had been "shocked and saddened by the allegations". GMTV said after carrying out its own enquiries, there had indeed been irregularities in the way its telecoms provider Opera Interactive Technology had operated its competition lines. GMTV said it had now terminated its contract with Opera, and that its competitions would be suspended until further notice. GMTV MD Paul Corley did some public squirming on the sofa today as he was grilled by the station's famously hard-nosed interviewer, Fiona Phillips. He said where appropriate the channel would make restitution – once it had worked out how it might actually check all the entries. "We can't tell you how cross everyone was," he said, adding: "Not so much on our behalf, but on behalf of people out there who paid to enter the competition and trust GMTV." Phillips, refusing to let her boss off the hook, said: "I think we all felt we'd let people down yesterday." Corely surely spoke for the nation when he said: "We just thought this is totally wrong", and that "television should be honest, above board and particularly GMTV, which is a friend to people in the morning". At the same time said Corely, claims that viewers had been ripped off to the tune of £40m were "nonsense" and were based on extrapolations by Panorama. ®
Public sector services giant Serco has tabled an offer to buy Cornwell Management Consultants Plc, an AIM-listed firm based in Surrey, for £7m.
The editor of The Daily Telegraph has hinted that the paper could be on a legal collision course with Google and Yahoo! over the aggregators' use of its content. Newspaper industry watcher Roy Greenslade reports that speaking at the Ifra newsroom conference in Paris last week, Telegraph editor Will Lewis said: Our ability to protect content is under consistent attack from those such as Google and Yahoo! who wish to access it for free. These companies are seeking to build a business model on the back of our own investment without recognition. All media companies need to be on guard for this. Success in the digital age, as we have seen in our own company, is going to require massive investment...[this needs] effective legal protection for our content, in such a way that allows us to invest for the future. Media owners are becoming increasingly bold in their attacks on aggregators, and particularly Google, which they accuse of bagging huge advertising revenues on the back of zero investment in content. Last week it reported first quarter revenues of $3.6bn, way ahead of expectations. Angered by YouTube, execs at entertainment giant Viacom are engaged in a $1bn war of words with Mountain View, and Belgian newspaper group Copiepress scored a humiliating victory, forcing the removal of content from Google News. Google fought that case to the bitter end, and chose to submit itself to a revenue carve-up in a similar dispute with French news agency AFP, rather than face court in the US. A high profile UK court challenge would presumably be similarly distasteful to Google's doyens, who prefer the image of plucky young web success the company maintains in the mainstream. Google has said that republishing snippets of news reports via Google News is fair use, and that if owners ask it will deindex them. Opponents argue that Google has a de facto monopoly on search, and so controls the gateway to internet news, and should therefore be compelled to share the huge profits it draws for relatively little effort. ®
Morse's board has voted to demerge the company from Monitise, a division of the group which develops mobile banking and payments solutions. Monitise, which was founded four years ago, will be listed on AIM.
LettersLetters Wi-Fi is responsible for kids behaving badly, teachers complaining about their jobs, and probably global warming, if you believe the recent hype: What a load of old bollocks. There are any number of studies that disprove the 'magnetic fields/power lines give you x/y/z', and you'll note that the only teachers that have spoken out about this are non-science types... Look at the links from their page. Astral Travel is the least of what's on offer. To quote my mail to their bossman : Dear Mr Parkin, I write with reference to your page on the proposed problem of ``electro-sensitivity'', I'm interested to see that one of the references for electro-sensitivity, a suggested issue for users of 2.4GHz Wireless networks is http://www.astral-projection.org.uk/links/electrosensitivity.html. That page also offers to teach me how to remote view and travel astrally. I can also move on, again from your page, to http://www.cogreslab.co.uk/elec_sensitivity.asp. This tells me that: Any such conduit will create impressive electric fields when in surcharge, that is when the water occupies more than half the conduit cross section. In these conditions electrons are dislodged by frictional motion from hydrogen atoms which in water are constantly bonding and re-bonding with oxygen. These unpaired electrons, being unable to rejoin their associated atoms which have moved on downstream, form a powerful electric field in the space around the conduit, extending many metres from the pipeline. In one nutshell this explains both the ME outbreaks and the general phenomenon of dowsing, as well as the feeling of pain in the joints of arthritics before a storm. In this last example the underside of the stormcloud is heavy with positively charged ions, generated as it passes over dry terrain. So, water moving through a pipe generates a `powerful electric field'. One has to wonder why hydro-electric plants bother with all those expensive generators. Does the PAT really regard websites offering astral travel and remote viewing as the best sources for its members to educate themselves from? Likewise the claim that water in pipes generates electric fields? And if so, how do I avoid having my children taught science by your members? ian And one not quite on the topic of wireless: "the construction of new homes": I couldn't interest you in the newly-formed (i.e. as I write this) underground movement to preserve a few tattered remnants of British language and culture as it sinks, baseball cap reversed, into a sea of popcorn? So we'd start smuggling in phrases like building new houses, sea bed -- not ocean floor, shotgun -- not scattergun, station -- not train station, meet -- not meet with, and out of bounds -- not off-limits. Go on, it'd be fun to see how many you can get into an article before some red-necked (I know, I know, but only in a specifically U.S. context) son of liberty complains he can't understand your English. Kit. Everyone knows Macs are more secure than PCs, right? Not so, according to this article, which got one Mac-lover a little hot under his apple-coloured collar: You said this: `The contest just shows that Mac users have to worry about vulnerabilities just as much as other computer users, Dai Zovi said. It's a fact of life with which all security experts are familiar, but to which some Mac users seem resistant.' My practical experience over the last 17 years demonstrates that he's wrong and so are you. I've been using Macs since 1990 - the System 6 days. Before we got MacOS X, there were a few dozen Mac viruses in the wild. In about a decade of using Macs powered by System 6 and System 7 (up to MacOS 7.6 and yes it was out of date in y2k), I never saw a single bit of Mac malware in the wild and yes I was running anti-virus software of various sorts and I had a home internet connection from about 1994 onwards (I did find a server that had Mac malware available for download - so it said. I left it there, not wishing to tempt fate). There are - as of the last reports I just checked - no viruses in the wild for MacOS X. All of the tiny number of malicious programs in the wild for MacOS X requires user interaction, and they are only encountered very rarely. Windoze had tens of thousands of bits of malware attacking it the last time I looked and they are ubiquitous. I've frequently had Web sites try to install Windoze malware on my Mac. Yes, I still run anti-malware software. The fact is that Mac users do not have to worry about malware as much as those running MS Windoze. We have to worry about it to the extent that the users of secure Unix systems have to so worry - i.e., not a lot. Unfortunately, quite a lot of Windoze fan-boys (yourself, perhaps?) seem to be resistant to these facts of *real* life. I'm not doubting that Dai Zovi said that Mac users have to worry about vulnerabilities as much as other computer users, but he's wrong and so you were factually incorrect in your response to his comment. `D' for effort on your part, I'd say. Rowland.  If you don't like being referred to by such an insulting term, don't use insulting terms like that for me, eh? Windoze fan-boy? That's too funny to even be insulting. Dismissed. Another insult came hurtling in the direction of El Reg in response to the news that the Russians managed to "crack" OpenOffice security. That's right, crack: How can you place such a lie in the headline of the article ? There is a huge difference between brute-forcing passwords (Which can be done to any data in any format of any application), and "cracking OpenOffice security". You should publish an apology, titled "I was wrong: OpenOffice security has not been cracked". That, or you should contact Intelore and collect your money for the free publicity you gave them as "crackers". Still crack. Crack, crack, crack. Cracked yet? Superman's very own nemesis has been dug up on Planet Earth, yep, like the velveteen rabbit, kryptonite is real: "when the team had worked out the structure of the mineral,... they typed it into Google" I was kind-of-hoping that a real scientist would have had better tool at his disposition to check if someone, somewhere, had discovered a mineral... sigh... we're getting to a point that if it's not in google, it doesn't exists... Davide News a little more out of this world came in the form of the UK's most foul-mouthed celebrity chef. Gastronome Gordon Ramsay is to replace his apron with an advertising hat, and extol the virtues of social networking to Britain's SMEs. You were none too impressed with his qualifications: So businesses need a dodgy cook, failed footballer, to tell them to outsource their IT to BT, which means in reality to have it looked after by someone with a dubiously gained degree, working out in Pune who has no instructions, minimal training and poor English skills......Tossers! - Grahame Confirming what we already suspected, Milton Keynes was crowned the world centre of porn and sex this week: To make this more disturbing, search for bestiality. MK comes 4th in that list. Can we draw the conclusion that MK has become a haven for disloged welsh sheep shaggers? http://www.google.com/trends?q=bestiality&ctab=0&geo=all&date=all But is there a different explanation? I bet you the presence of the BT data centre at Bletchley, from where a lot of their IP connectivity breaks out, distorts the figures. All the locations towards the top are the BT data centres, from memory. Vodafone has a very large mobile datacenter there (maybe other mobile operators do too), and alot of the mobile handset traffic goes through there. It might be possible that all the traffic is based on the IP of the gateways there? Just a though. Cheers Gavin Must be true. All sorts of sites off me good deals for people living in Milton Keynes--cut price viagra, lonely and nubile young women, all the usual. Heck, even my ISP sends me job offers for IT workers in Milton Keynes. Maybe it's because my ISP's offices are there, and so that postal address gets attached to my IP address. But it can't be that simple. Can it? Simple suggestions sometimes go down as well as a winding road, as Sheryl Crow found out with her crappy (sorry) eco-friendly plans to use less toilet paper and dispense with the services of paper napkins. Oh dear: Hi Lester, I am delighted that Ms Crow can happily use just one or two sheets of toilet paper whenever she goes to the karzi. Knowing that has really made my day. Ms Crow obviously doesn't suffer from IBS, Crohn's disease or any number of gastroenteric complaints which plague thousands of people in the Western World. If she did then she wouldn't spout useless crap like this. Try campaigning against the massively useless amounts of junk mail that get sent or the equally useless advertising junk that finds its way into newspapers and magazines. That would make a far bigger difference than being obsessively control freakish about how much bog roll I use. But it doesn't have the catchiness of mentioning arses and crapola. Open your mouth less Sheryl, suggests Jamie. Am I the only one who finds this ration of one square per visit a tad miserly? Perhaps I defecate in particularly carefree manner but I think a bare (pun) minimum of 3 squares are needed to ensure a squeaky-clean posterior. I would suggest that Sheryl makes sure that, for the litigious US market, there is a warning printed on the dining sleeve of the same sort of you find on thermometers: after first use, oral and "other" should not be swapped. BTW, all you need then is the aftermath of bad food or the biological approach to cough medicin (a strong laxative, as you wouldn't DARE cough) and you'd have a whole new meaning for 'having your hands full'. Let's just say that I have a suspicion that Ken -I rarely flush the loo- Livingston will be the first adaptor of her scheme.. All the more reason never to shake his hands.. [Sorry, heavy lunch :-) ] Mr. Haines, It sounds rather like she thinks her sh-- doesn't stink. Or, it comes out in glassine packets. If we start using 'cloth' in place of the paper we now use, did she comment on the extra water we would be using to WASH these items ? Did she say what she was using as 'Feminine Napkins' ?? At the risk of adding to our pollution problems, I think she should soak her head. Thank you for this fine, money saving article. I was thinking about buying one of her albums. :>D JB Well, I believe that when it's of the right consistency (your diet is optimal), it comes out with a minimum of "residue", so one sheet (personally I'd say two, so that you don't miss the sheet, but then again my arse is probably bigger than hers). Sometimes a few handfulls isn't enough to clean up. Having said that, after seeng the clogging up of the bend after a woman parking breakfast has finished cleaning and the denudation of the toilet roll thereafter, I suspect fifty is the norm fow women's clean-up operation. It does mean they NEVER get skids, but it does mean they're spending an awful lot more time looking at "nearly clean". Only after a few pints of guiness do I seem to need more than a dozen sheets no matter the problems. Sticking with big plans, heard about the Kremlin's idea to link Alaska and Siberia with what would be the world's longest undersea tunnel? So then what you're saying is maybe this project will be put on ice. Sincerely, Arah Leoanrd And with that, we're going to cool off down at the local. Tune in again on Friday. ®
A recent survey from market researcher Evans Data Corp shows some interesting, if slightly contradictory, trends in the acceptance of mashing up as a future business tool. This is the capability of pushing together functionality from different applications to create new, additional services for users: the classic current implementation being putting Google or Microsoft mapping services into other applications such as van delivery management services where finding locations quickly and easily is a genuine business benefit.
The US's Department of Veterans Affairs has bowed to requests to allow pentacles to be "added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on goverment-issued headstones of fallen soldiers", AP reports. Eleven families across the US had issued a lawsuit demanding the right to honour their fallen sons with the five-pointed star. The VA decided to settle "in the interest of the families involved and to save taxpayers the expense of further litigation", a spokesman explained. The settlement also agreed to the VA stumping up $225,000 in attorneys' fees and costs and that the pentacle be "placed" on the grave markers within 14 days. We should point out that the pentacle in question indicates affiliation to the Wiccan religion, and not the Aleister Crowley Appreciation Society. The five points represent earth, air, fire, water and spirit, and the symbol joins those of Buddhism, Christianity, Eckiankar, Islam, Judaism, Seicho-No-Ie, and Sufism Reoriented* on a list of 39 which the VA "permits on gravestones". Reverend Barry W Lynn, boss of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which represented the Wiccans in the lawsuit, trumpeted: "This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America, including among our nation's veterans." Wiccan high priestess and plaintiff Selena Fox said: "I am glad this has ended in success in time to get markers for Memorial Day." The VA settlement also satisfies another lawsuit brought last year by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of "two other Wiccan churches and three individuals", AP notes. ® Bootnote * No, Jedi does not feature on the list, in case you were wondering.
RedHat has rejigged its JBoss offerings in a move it reckons will make it the default choice for businesses that have had enough of the proprietary world. It has also signed a deal to acquire MetaMatrix, which it will integrate into its new JBoss product set.
House of CardsHouse of Cards WTO director Pascal Lemy made some optimistic remarks about US compliance with recent WTO rulings to the Caribbean media last week. He noted that ultimately it is in the US's interest to maintain the core principles of fair trade that underlie the WTO itself. Logically, he is absolutely on the mark. Of course, with a "faith-based" administration in office, just how far logic will carry us remains to be seen. Republican Congressman's house raided Ties to convicted Indian gambling lobbyist Jack Abramoff could well take down another socially conservative Republican allied with that same controversial lobby. According to online reports, US federal agents raided the home of California Congressman John Doolittle on Tuesday. Notorious lobbyist Abramoff is currently serving a five year sentence for a variety of corruption related charges and has been working closely with federal prosecutors to try to shave time off his own sentence. Obviously, time off his sentence means potential prison time for others, and the "get tough on crime" crowd has to be wondering how they got themselves into this mess. The political magic of harsh prison sentencing is becoming a political nightmare for some. To paraphrase the Chinese, gamblers always seem to live in interesting times, and their political patrons are no exception. Party Gaming plc continues to let the good times roll... Partygaming plc continues to report strong earnings growth and a more muscular price to earnings ratio. It remains to be seen if this week's mixed news in the online gambling world will put out that fire. Except for in Turkey Where Partygaming pulled up stakes last week. The passage of legislation in Turkey last month restricting online gambling drove the world's leading listed online gaming company out of what is really a relatively unimportant market. Bwin sucks it up and takes a hit Austrian online wagering outfit Bwin reported losses of $734m last year, primarily due to the write off of its US-facing business, making the name a bit of a misnomer. Slingo and Pixelplay hook up Online gaming provider Slingo has partnered up with PixelPlay, an IPTV company. Slingo games will be available over the PixelPlay platform. Pope's car poops out Goldenpalace.com, an online casino known for its high profile publicity stunts, tried to auction off - allegedly for charity - a car formerly owned by Pope Benedict that it had bought a couple of years ago on eBay for $244,000. Bidding topped out at $204,000, short of the reserve amount. Bestline Sports and BetOnline tie the knot Long overdue consolidation continues to touch the online gambling world, as two more providers announced a merger last week. Bigger really is better, in this business - liquidity is everything. ® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office.
How will AMD's upcoming ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT perform. Pretty darn quickly, it would seem, if preliminary tests posted on the web ahead of the troubled chip maker's official release date prove correct.
SapphireSapphire SAP has called time on SOA and outlined changes to NetWeaver for broad use of composite applications, deeper integration with Microsoft, and Web 2.0. Chief executive Henning Kagermann rallied 15,000 delegates at SAP's customer and partner conference today. He claimed SOA would be largely delivered in 2007 and that NetWeaver and mySAP ERP 2005 are poised for mass adoption, with NetWeaver uptake more than doubling in the next year. SAP expects 4,000 customers on NetWeaver during the next 12 months.
HP's homegrown attack against Teradata and IBM has appeared in its full glory. Customers of large sizes can now purchase the Matrix-sounding Neoview “data warehouse platform.”
California remains the fertile crescent of the US technology industry, employing more tech workers and paying higher wages than any other state.
Sun Microsystems rode a slight increase in product sales to a profitable third quarter. The server maker posted Q3 revenue of $3.28bn – a 3 per cent rise over the $3.18bn brought in during the same period last year.
With AMD's horrible first quarter now out in the open, analysts have started to deliver fresh data that documents just how much market share the chipmaker ceded to Intel in recent months. Intel's share of the x86 processor market rose to 81 per cent during the first quarter, according to data from Mercury Research. That total is up from 74 per cent of the market in the previous quarter and 74 per cent again during the first quarter of 2006.
Michael Hoffmann, the head of the European operations of HP's printer division, has told German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung that his company is going to sell low-cost ink alongside better quality cartridges.
IBM takes no prisoners when collecting a debt, even when it's relatively small and the debtor is a low-income school district that is atoning for sins committed two decades earlier.
Symantec and Shenzhen-based network and telecommunications equipment supplier Huawei are close to finalizing a joint venture deal, China Daily reports today.
Amazon pulled a lot rabbits out of the hat in Q1, with sales creeping past $3bn and net income coming in at $111m - 115 per cent up year-on-year. North America sales were $1.62bn - 30 per cent higher than last year - while the rest of the world climbed 35 per cent to $1.39bn. The tanking dollar accounted for eight per cent of overseas growth. Amazon may be the world's biggest book's retailer, but today's results show that it is becoming an increasingly powerful force in consumer electronics. The online retailer's "electronics and other general merchandise" category grew 48 per cent to $947m in the March quarter, accounting for 31 per cent of overall sales against 28 per cent in Q1, 2006. In the company's earnings statement, company founder Jeff Bezos took Amazon Prime, the company's membership club out for a spin. "We're pleased ... especially with the number of people joining Amazon Prime," he said. "Prime continues to grow as a percentage of overall units shipped, and we're very grateful to our Amazon Prime members." Which is nice. So how many people have shelled out the $79 annual fee for getting free express shipping. Amazon's not saying, so we guess that this revenue stream is still in growth mode. ®