29th > May > 2007 Archive

6

Employee data sans frontières...not in France, Tyco told

The French data protection authority has fined a subsidiary of US firm Tyco Healthcare over the transfer of employee information across borders and inadequate data safeguards. Tyco Healthcare France was fined €30,000. It is believed to be the first time that a US-based multinational has been fined for unauthorised overseas transfers of personal data. La Commission Nationale de l'Informatique et des Libertes (CNIL) imposed the fine after discovering that Tyco's human resources database was using personally identifiable information more extensively than the company had admitted. Tyco notified CNIL in 2004 that it was operating a human resources database containing personal information, as required by French law. When at a later date CNIL requested further information from the company, Tyco said that it had stopped using the database. An inspection in 2006 by CNIL found that not only was the database active, but that it was being used more extensively than the company had indicated. "The CNIL noted at an on-the-spot check that not only was the use of the system not suspended, but that it was very regularly used and updated, in spite of the many legal uncertainties raised by the CNIL," said the CNIL in an unofficial translation of a statement in French. The CNIL said it has raised questions with Tyco about the destination of data, the reasons for international transfer and the safety and security of the data on the network. The fine is evidence of the culture clash between US corporations and European governments on the issue of data protection. A fundamental principle of European data protection is that personal information is only shared with countries with equally stringent protections. The US is not classified as one of those countries. In recent months Europe and the US have clashed over data transfers in airline systems and a banking system. The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) has been mired in controversy after it was discovered that it had transferred thousands of financial transaction details to US authorities. SWIFT is based in Europe and co-ordinates international payments. It has, since 2001, allowed US authorities access to the international financial transactions of Europeans. The body has been condemned by national and EU privacy chiefs, and the European Parliament has now called on it to alter its business. US authorities have also long had access to 34 pieces of information about European travellers flying into the country under a deal with the European Commission over passenger name records (PNR). A new version of that deal, which is also opposed by the European Parliament, is currently under negotiation ahead of a July deadline. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 29 May 2007
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11

UK firms contest 'absurd' software patent ruling

A group of small British businesses has mounted a challenge to changes made by the Intellectual Property Office's (formerly known as the Patent Office) to the scope of the monopoly a patent holder can be granted for a software patent.
Lucy Sherriff, 29 May 2007
fingers pointing at man

Sanyo results hint at financial recovery

Scandal-hit electronics firm Sanyo showed signs it may be on the road to recovery despite posting net losses of ¥45bn (€275m) in its annual results.
Emmet Ryan, 29 May 2007

Bloggers risk the sack, says survey

More than a third of employees who keep personal blogs are posting information about their employer, workplace, or colleagues and risk dismissal, according to new research. Human resources firm Croner commissioned YouGov to ask employees if they kept a personal blog and, if so, what information they post. Of those who keep a blog, 39 per cent admitted they had posted details which could be potentially sensitive or damaging about their place of work, employer, or a colleague. Gillian Dowling, technical consultant at Croner, said the problem is similar to that of the early days of email use. "In the 1990s when emails were introduced as a new means of communication employees were lulled into a false sense of security by the informality that this type of communication brings," she said. "Many recipients received rude, angry, or otherwise inflammatory emails which had been written and sent in the heat of the moment. Back then it was common to train staff on the use of emails which included advising employees not to send inappropriately worded emails in haste. Employees were advised that the use of emails was the equivalent of sending or dictating a letter, and just as binding. These concepts remain in email or internet policies today," she said. "With blogging, the employee, sitting in front of his computer screen, experiences the same lack of embarrassment as there is no face-to-face contact. An employee can be lulled into a false sense of security and sound off about his bad day at work on a blog without fully considering the impact such a posting may have. "If there is a negative impact on the organisation's corporate image which is so serious that it breaches the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, the employee could be dismissed for gross misconduct," she added. "The blog could also be evidence of other conduct issues or reveal workplace discrimination or bullying. Confidential secrets could be disclosed including financial information or new product development, or whistleblowing all of which could have a negative impact on the business. Employers need to ensure that they carefully consider the impact of blogging on their organisation and take appropriate steps to minimise any potential risk." Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 29 May 2007
26

Poland probes gay Teletubbies

Poland's government is investigating the possibility that one or more of the Teletubbies may be covert Friends of Dorothy, Reuters reports. Ewa Sowinska, the "government-appointed children rights watchdog", has told local press she would ask psychologists to investigate whether the kids' show "promoted homosexuality", explaining: "I noticed (Tinky Winky) has a lady's purse, but I didn't realise he's a boy. At first I thought the purse would be a burden for this Teletubby...Later I learned that this may have a homosexual undertone." Mercifully, although Poland's powers that be have taken some flack of late for certain anti-homosexual leanings - including the education minister's proposal to sack gay teachers who punt a "homosexual lifestyle" - parliamentary speaker Ludwig Dorn warned Sowinska from making public announcements which might turn her department into "a laughing stock". In any case, all well-informed Teletubbies fans know that Tinky Winky's penchant for handbags is just a phase he's going through, while Po is actually the gay member of the quartet. ®
Lester Haines, 29 May 2007

The enterprise data warehouse vision

Traditionally, enterprise data warehouses (EDWs) were regarded as systems of record. Thought of simplistically, queries were either run directly off the EDW or from a data mart that referred back to the EDW as and when necessary (hence its status as a system of record). However, it is now clear that that definition of an EDW no longer holds good or, at least, is not what many people mean when they refer to an EDW.
Philip Howard, 29 May 2007
Panasonic DMC- FX100
11

Panasonic premieres 12.2 megapixel compact

Panasonic has announced a brand new compact digital camera boasting a massive 12.2 megapixel resolution plus the ability to record high-definition video.
Scott Snowden, 29 May 2007
3

Blog your way to the dole queue

Blogging is a risky business which could interfere with your greasy climb up the company ladder, according to a not-so-revelatory study. It found that over a third of employees surveyed had written blog posts about their employers, of which some 39 per cent admitted revealing details that "could be potentially sensitive or damaging about their place of work, employer or a colleague". Human resources (sic) firm Croner commissioned the survey, which was carried out by YouGov. As a result of the findings, Croner said it will be advising companies to consider ways of limiting the negative impact of employees' personal, bitchy blogs on their business. Gillian Downing, techie consultant at the HR firm said: "An employee can be lulled into a false sense of security and sound offs about his bad day at work on a blog without fully considering the impact such a posting may have. "If there is a negative impact on the organisation's corporate image which is so serious that it breaches the implied term of mutual trust and confidence, the employee could be dismissed for gross misconduct." Helpfully, the study suggested encouraging workers to positively channel their creative juices into what it described as a, er, "corporate blog". It reckoned that internet policies, which already restrict many employees' email and website usage in the workplace, could be extended to include blogging. The study compared blogging to the naivety displayed by email users back in the early 90s when they were apparently unaware of the potential damage firing off a few angry missives here and there could cause. How quaint. Forgetting that it's not 2003, Croner said blogs were in fact "burgeoning" in the UK blogosphere. It's an empowering tool, apparently, where anyone can freely whinge about anything. No, really? But such a clampdown perhaps overlooks one important fact: Most bloggers garner very few readers, a bit like listening to one man and his dog sat in the corner of the local pub ranting about the big bad boss. It can be quite entertaining, but is the kind of noise most people choose to ignore. Anyway, as everyone including the Today programme on Radio 4 will tell you, it's all about social [cough] networking and Facebook now where you can setup groups and have a right good old moan about why your job sucks. And it can all be done by invitation only to keep snooping bosses out of the picture. ®
Kelly Fiveash, 29 May 2007
1

UK regulator urges caution on data sharing

The Information Commissioner has published some advice for government bodies that want to share information but think data protection laws prevent them from doing so. The advice note gives a rough idea of the mindfulness public bodies ought to have for human sensibilities when they start shunting data between computer systems. The gist of it adheres to basic data protection principles - have a sound reason for doing it in the first place, consider how it might effect ordinary people, give people proper consent before using and sharing information, and so on. Scratch the surface, however, and it gets interesting. Last autumn, the government ordered a review of how data protection law might prevent it from realising its grand vision for information sharing. The rough idea was that an omniscient state might know enough about people's lives to justify its interference in their private affairs when they had broken no law. This is a controversial idea to say the least (which perhaps explains why the review is late and, ironically, secret). The review's remit was also brash in that it implied that data protections might have to be cut back in order to give the grand vision room for manoeuvre. The ICO started a quiet campaign in support of information sharing within the boundaries of existing law since the Cabinet Office announced last year that it and the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA - now the Ministry of Justice) were reviewing whether existing protections should be cut back because they were too restrictive. The ICO subsequently told the DCA that the whole exercise was unnecessary - existing law allowed the public sector to share information as long as it did so responsibly. Funnily enough, the government drew its justification for database-targeted social intervention from its mantra of "rights and responsibilities". The ICO has refrained from wading into this one publically (the advice note is little more than a circular and its official guidance on the matter is still on the drawing board). But it has given an indication, which is the closest the establishment has come to a public debate on this very sensitive matter. The regulator expects public bodies to weigh what it thinks would be the benefits of information sharing against the risk that it might offend people's privacy. It recognises that information might be shared either for an individual's benefit or for the greater good. But the advice note claims that the ICO consider individuals first, to see if they would have reason to complain that the information sharing had treated them with "unfairness" or resulted in their "unwarranted detriment", including distress and embarrassment. Ultimately, the benefits must outweigh the risks to individual privacy. ®
Mark Ballard, 29 May 2007
1

French newspaper gets e-edition

French daily Les Echos will be published electronically on the iLiad, a portable device that lets you read and write as you do on paper. It is the first official European newspaper deal for iRex Technologies, a spin-off from Royal Philips Electronics. Last year, Belgian daily De Tijd was distributed electronically as part of an small experiment with 200 subscribers. iRex also secured a deal with the Yantai Daily Media Group, which started the daily publication of an electronic edition of all newspaper titles. However, Les Echos will be the first European paper to introduce an iLiad on a permanent basis. Two Dutch daily newspapers have also shown interest. iRex recently negotiated with Amazon.com, but the online bookseller decided to develop its own closed eBook system, to be introduced next month. "We couldn't agree on a deal, because the iLiad uses open formats such as PDF and HTML, and Amazon wanted a solution that resembled Apple's iTunes, which isn't open either," a spokesman told The Register. ®
Jan Libbenga, 29 May 2007
12

No charges for webcam suicide audience

Chatroom users who watched a man hang himself live via webcam in March will not face any charges, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has confirmed. The BBC reports that police evidence handed to prosecutors did not amount to a criminal offence in the suicide of Kevin Whitrick, 42, from Wellington, Shropshire. Mr Whitrick had suffered from depression following a serious car accident which he had not recovered from. In a statement, a CPS spokesman said: "We examined all the evidence passed to us by the police and have concluded that none of the comments made in the chatroom amounted to a criminal offence." At the time of his death, reports said fellow chatroom users on Paltalk.com had goaded Mr Whitrick into taking his own life. ®
Christopher Williams, 29 May 2007
32

Endemol in 'win a kidney' TV show rumpus

Dutch TV station BNN is rejecting calls to axe a TV programme in which a terminally-ill woman will choose one of three contestants to receive her kidney, the BBC reports. The Big Donor Show - spawn of Big Brother creator Endemol - is due to screen this Friday. The 37-year-old organ benefactor, known only as Lisa, will select the lucky recipient "based on the contestants' history, profile, and conversation with their family and friends". Viewers can chip in their two cents' worth by sending advisory SMS's during the 80-minute spectacle. Reaction to the planned airing has been predictable enough. Joop Atsma, of the ruling Christian Democrat Party, decried: "It's a crazy idea. It can't be possible that, in the Netherlands, people vote about who's getting a kidney." BNN has defended the project, and claims "it will highlight the country's shortage of organ donors". The station's former director died of kidney failure after spending years on a transplant waiting list, the BBC notes. Alexander Pechtold of Dutch social liberal party D-66 agreed with the need to raise the organ donation issue. He told Radio Four's Today programme: "For years and years we have had problems in the Netherlands with organ donations and especially kidney donations. You can have a discussion about it if this is distasteful, but finally we have a public debate." ®
Lester Haines, 29 May 2007
6

Sony Ericsson W880i slim phone

ReviewReview Ultra-slim phones are a gimmick, right? Yes, they're mere millimetres from front to back, but in shaving off around half the thickness of a standard candybar, the phone makers must have compromised on the skinny handset's feature set, surely? Sony Ericsson's Walkman-branded W880 is now readily available - we look at how well it measures up.
Tony Smith, 29 May 2007
5

Nokia says patent dispute hurts 3G

The success of 3G phone technology is being put at risk by a patent dispute between Nokia and Qualcomm, Nokia said today. According to Reuters, the handset maker argues that uptake of the technology is threatened because of the legal battle between itself and chip maker Qualcomm. Chief technology officer Tero Ojanpera said: "We are in negotiations but there's no agreement. This whole discussion might have an impact on 3G technology." He warned that uncertainties about the licenses mean people are investing in mobile WiMAX rather than 3G technologies. The two had a cross-licensing agreement up until April this year. The deal said Nokia would pay fees to Qualcomm to use patented technology. It also set out how Qualcomm could use technology for which Nokia claims it holds patents. But the agreement is the subject of ongoing legal wrangling in Europe, and expired before they could agree renewal terms. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 May 2007
6

NASA says goodbye to love triangle astronaut

Astronaut Bill Oefelein, who you may remember from the tale of nappy-wearing astronaut Lisa Nowak, is leaving NASA, the space agency said on Friday. Nowak, who now faces charges of attempted kidnapping, drove almost 1,000 miles wearing an astronauts nappy, and disguised in a trenchcoat and wig, to confront a woman she believed to be a rival for Oefelein's affections. Four months later, NASA asked the US Navy that Oefelein be reassigned. He has been transferred to the Naval Network Warfare Command Virginia where, according to reports, he is expected to work in satellite communications. NASA has not elaborated on its reasons for requesting the transfer, saying only that it had "determined that Commander Oefelein's detail is no longer required for the purposes it was originally granted". ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 May 2007
14

'Dettol Man' cleans himself to death

A coroner has recorded a verdict of death by misadventure on a reclusive Manchester man whose obsession with cleanliness led local children to dub him "Dettol Man". Jacques Niemand, 42, of Didsbury, died of "an inadequate supply of oxygen to his vital organs" provoked by over-exposure to Dettol, the Telegraph reports. The inquest heard that he "habitually placed buckets of Dettol around his flat", while the rooms were "littered" with bottles of the liquid. Niemand's sister Ruth Bain explained that her brother had suffered from an "obsessive cleaning disorder" for some years, but didn't seek medical help "because he feared the prospect of being detained under the Mental Health Act". Accordingly, he hadn't seen his GP since 1992. Bain said: "He didn't want any help and was scared of receiving it." Pathologist Dr Lorna McWilliam told the inquest it was "difficult to say whether [Niemand's] exposure to Dettol had been through ingestion or inhalation". She elaborated: "I cannot be sure his death arose through using an excessive amount at one time, but I suspect there must be an element of that." Recording a verdict of misadventure, Manchester coroner Leonard Gorodkin described Niemand's demise as "a most unusual kind of death", admitting: "We do not know if death occurred quickly or over a period of time." Gorodkin suggested the fatal dose might have arisen since Niemand "knew workmen were due to begin improvements to his flat on the day he died he may have wanted to make himself particularly clean". He did, however, disagree with Bain's suspicion that her brother had wanted to kill himself. He concluded: "If that had been the case the level of chlorate in his body would have been much higher." ®
Lester Haines, 29 May 2007
iSoft logo

iSoft rescue package in jeopardy

Sickly NHS provider iSoft was predicted to make a full recovery - thanks to a takeover bid from Aussie company IBA Health. But CSC, the main contractor company responsible for getting iSoft products running in the NHS, has objected to the deal.
John Oates, 29 May 2007
7

Bulldog fingers sacked employee for credit card scam

Cable and Wireless, the former owner of ISP Bulldog, has blamed a sacked employee for the illegal use of a database containing 100,000 customer details. The firm has taken out a High Court injunction against the woman, named by the BBC as Seemab Zafar, who was canned by Bulldog in 2005 after failing to return as planned from a business trip to Pakistan. She now runs an outsourcing business and has denied any involvement in the data theft. The breach emerged when customers began receiving unsolicited phone calls asking them for credit card information. According to the BBC, Pakistani call centres tricked customers into giving details which were used to take money and set up fake PayPal accounts. The injunction demands that Zafar and third parties stop using the data, and tell Cable and Wireless exactly what information it included. The firm said it believes the legal action has led to the destruction of all copies of the database. Cable and Wireless was keen to point out that accounts which had been attacked by the credit card scam were not directly based on financial data taken from it. In a statement, it said: "There is no evidence that any credit card details have been misused. Indeed, the credit card details in the sample customer information held by the BBC do not match the customer database." It also said its use of outsourcers was unrelated to the crime. It said: "Make no mistake, we will take every possible course of action available to us to bring this matter to a suitable conclusion and to ensure the protection of Bulldog customers." Bulldog was bought by Pipex in 2006. ®
Christopher Williams, 29 May 2007
7

Google faces multiple privacy probes

Google is reported to be facing a fresh regulatory investigation: this time in the US, and into its acquisition of ad serving firm DoubleClick. According to The New York Times, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has opened an investigation into the planned $3.1bn deal. Quoting an unnamed source, the paper says an agreement was reached last week as to which of the FTC or the Justice Department would take up the inquiry into the much complained about acquisition. The FTC says it doesn't comment on pending investigations. Privacy groups including the Electronic Privacy Information Centre, one of the groups behind the original complaint, have welcomed the news. But other industry watchers have warned that any investigation will have to focus on the effect of the deal on competition, rather than on privacy. "Strictly speaking, privacy is not an anti-trust issue," said Harvard University law professor Andrew Gavil. Read more in the NYT here. In faintly related news, Google confirmed over the weekend that it will cooperate with an EU investigation into its retention of users' search data. The firm issued a statement saying: "We believe it's an important part of our commitment to respect user privacy while balancing a number of important factors, such as maintaining security and preventing fraud and abuse. "We are committed to engaging in a constructive dialogue with privacy stakeholders, including the [European Commission privacy advisory group], on how to improve privacy practices for the benefit of Google users and for everyone on the internet." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 May 2007
132

Creationists open biblical history museum

The science desk here at El Reg has long held that creationism belongs in a museum. Now it seems that the creationists agree with us, as they have opened just such an institution. All right, it is in Kentucky, but at least they're trying. The organisers, Answers in Genesis*, say they expect upwards of 250,000 visitors in the first year. The new museum, which says it sheds light on the biblical account of Earth's formation, shows humans living alongside dragons dinosaurs (just after the expulsion from Eden, of course), and contains a 30-foot tall replica of Noah's ark. It contains 60,000 square feet of exhibits that have been designed by Patrick Marsh, the man behind the Jaws and King Kong rides at Universal Studios. It promises visitors "a fully engaging, sensory experience", complete with "realistic scenery, computer-generated visual effects, over 50 exotic animals, life-sized people, and dinosaur animatronics". Scientific American notes that the launch of the $27m facility at the very least proves that the creationist movement is solvent. And at $20 a ticket for adults, this situation should only improve. ® *Insert obligatory Phil Collins joke here.
Lucy Sherriff, 29 May 2007
16

Son of Star Wars test aborted

The latest test of the Pentagon's controversial space ICBM interceptors has been aborted after the target failed to work. The target rocket took off from the launch site in Alaska on Friday, but according to the head of the Missile Defence Agency, it "did not reach sufficient altitude to be deemed a threat, and so the ballistic missile defense system did not engage it". STARS target rocket taking off from the launch site in Alaska The rockets used to simulate enemy ICBMs in Missile Defence tests are assembled by Sandia National Labs, using surplus Polaris first and second stages with a commercial Orbus third stage. Polaris was the original American submarine-launched ICBM, dating from 1955, and went out of US service in the early 80s. The obsolete rockets are "refurbished" for use as Strategic Targets System (STARS) clay pigeons by Missile Defence, but it's perhaps not surprising that such an old bird has suffered a mishap. The test has been widely reported as a failure for the Pentagon's Missile Defence Agency (MDA). Many Reg readers have also suggested that previous postponements due to bad weather at the Kodiak Island target launch site indicate a lack of puissance on the part of the missile shield. It's important to note that the only weakness exhibited by the postponements and Friday's aborted test is in the targets, not the defences. Even so, the MDA will no doubt be smarting somewhat. This was the first test where operational interceptor systems rather than protoypes were to have been used. It would have been a useful demonstration of the space-interceptor kit's viability, if successful. Riki Ellison, of the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, told Reuters that "we need more demonstrations of the capability and this just delays this". Reuters also quoted the MDA's spokesman Rick Lehner as saying that the retread Polaris' unplanned plunge into the Pacific "reinforces the need" to deploy mid-course interceptors in Poland. Lehner reportedly suggested that missiles launched by Iran could similarly go astray and land in Europe, even if Europe was not Iran's target. If that's what Lehner actually said, he would seem to have wandered off his script just a tad. It's reasonable enough to suggest that a Shahab/Taepodong ICBM might take off from Iran aimed at the USA and suffer a defect causing parts of it to crash in Europe. However, it isn't terribly plausible that the missile warhead(s) would function as designed in that event. And exactly how mid-course interceptors - designed to stop ICBMs outside the atmosphere - based in Poland would help in such a case is even less apparent. What does seem clear is that with funding for the initial interceptor deployment in Eastern Europe struggling to make it past Capitol Hill, the MDA will be wishing it had some more reliable ICBM targets to hand. ®
Lewis Page, 29 May 2007

Vodafone cuts losses

Vodafone Group PLC said this morning that it has met expectations for its most recent financial year but conceded that market conditions remained difficult in Europe. The mobile phone giant today posted results for the year ended 31 March 2007, which showed revenues up 6 per cent on the year to £31.1bn. The company managed to trim its operating loss from last year’s £14bn to a slightly more platable £1.6bn. This left it with a pre-tax loss of £2.3bn. Vodafone said earnings per share rose 11.4 per cent to 11.26 pence, while total dividends increased by a healthy 11.4 per cent to 6.76 pence. Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) was said to be up to £11.960bnn. Vodafone said it expected group revenue for the coming year to be in the range of £33.3bn to £34.1bn, with adjusted operating profit in the range of £9.3bn to £9.8bn. The firm said it was battling strong competition in key European markets. "We expect market conditions to remain challenging for the year ahead in Europe, notwithstanding continued positive operating trends in data revenue and voice usage," said Vodafone CEO Arun Sarin in a statement accompanying the published results. He added that Vodafone has signed agreements with Yahoo! in the UK, as well as providers in Germany and Italy with banner and content advertising seen as an important revenue stream for the business over the coming year. Data revenue was said to have grown 30.1 per cent in the past year with the firm ramping up its Vodafone Live! service to integrate mobile and PC environments. The firm attributed significant growth in emerging markets to the acquisition of Hutchison Essar in India, and Sarin said: "A key priority for the year ahead is to continue the expansion of the network and capture the growth opportunity in the market." Vodafone topped the FTSE 100 index this morning with gains of 3.7 per cent. Shares are currently trading at 157.6 pence per share, up 4.10 per cent. According to Reuters, traders have today been talking up the possibility of a bid for the firm from AT&T. However, Vodafone refused to comment. More from Vodafone here. ®
Kelly Fiveash, 29 May 2007
5

Ofcom's termination cap will hurt profits, 3 UK says

3 UK has lodged a complaint with the Competition Appeal Tribunal against Ofcom's capping of termination rates, claiming it will restrict its ability to turn a profit. The termination rate is the amount paid to the receiving operator when a call is made into their network - so when a T-Mobile customer calls a 3 customer, T-Mobile pays 3 for handling the call. The problem is that 3 customers don't have enough mates on other networks calling them, so while the other four networks find their termination rate payments being roughly equal, 3 finds itself paying out - to the tune of £50m in 2006, according to 3 UK chief executive Kevin Russell. Last time Ofcom examined the termination rates, in 2004, 3 was excluded from capping as it wasn't considered to have SMP (Significant Market Power) - other operators has caps imposed. 3 was later deemed to have SMP over calls coming into its own network. But the caps are now expiring, so Ofcom wants to force the other operators to cut their termination rates to 5.1 pence per minute by April 2010. It plans to do so in four equal steps over the next four years, and wants 3 UK to cut its rate to 5.9 pence per minute over the same period. But Kevin Russell (in a FT interview) said the cap will jeopardise 3's drive to profitability, which is already running six months late. The answer, of course, is to get more people to call into the 3 network, or reduce the number of calls made out of it. But that would mean increasing prices, a move 3 can't afford to take. It almost seems that this attack on Ofcom is an attempt to shift blame when 3 fails to announce profitability again this year. ®
Bill Ray, 29 May 2007
21

Tiscali rained off in marathon email snafu

Tiscali subscribers have been unable to send emails since last Monday, and the ISP has given no word of when it will fix the cockup. The problem has blocked SMTP outgoing mail, though Tiscali's service status message was not updated to reflect the seriousness of the problem until yesterday. The number of complaints on its own contact forum has steadily increased in number and anger throughout the past week. At time of writing on Tuesday afternoon, Tiscali had no explanation for the disruption. It sent us this statement: We are aware that we are currently experiencing problems with some customer outbound email. We are working on the problem and apologise to customers affected for any inconvenience. We will continue to update our online service status page as we have further information regarding resolution. The next update will be this afternoon. In response to a hail of angry messages, a Tiscali employee calling himself Mr Tibbs told users in the firm's official forums on Thursday that "due to the nature of the problem, we do not expect it to be fully resolved for another few days". One customer, set to exchange contracts on a house purchase today, responded: "Total Bo**ocks, Tiscali. You have a big problem and you don't have the decency to admit it. This is not just a small problem for those of us relying on you to provide the service you are paid for." ®
Christopher Williams, 29 May 2007
20

Brit cuffed for German towel-torching raid

A Brit coach driver successfully liberated Italian Riviera sun loungers from foreign occupation by setting fire to the towels traditionally used to denote German territorial sovereignty. Glyn Bowden, 55, was driver for 55 South Wales tourists at at Diano Marina near San Remo. He yesterday recounted how the Germans "put their towels on the best sunbeds on the private beach and by a nearby pool", much to the chagrin of the British party, The Daily Mail reports. Following complaints, Bowden told his party to "leave it to me", and duly dumped the towels at the end of the pool. He reported: "The following morning the Germans put them down even earlier so I did the same - with them shaking their fists at me from their windows." "The next morning about 20 towels were there again so I collected them up, put them on a pile on the beach - and lit them. All the British tourists were cheering. But just a few minutes afterwards three police officers turned up and arrested me." Indeed, Italian police held Bowden for two hours before the hotel's bosses successfully petitioned for his release. Bowden said: "They were going to charge me with criminal damage but the hotel - which owned the towels - intervened on my behalf." The unrepentant Brit - who ensured no further German towel manoeuvres for the rest of the trip - declared: "The Germans thought they owned the private beach but I wanted to make sure my tourists got a crack of the whip." We should note at this point that Bowden did in fact have recourse to international law to resolve the matter without incendiary action. Back in 2005, German lawyer Ralf Höcker declared sun lounger annexation illegal, explaining: "British tourist would be quite within their legal rights to ignore the reservation implied by the towels if there is nobody there." ®
Lester Haines, 29 May 2007
Warning: roundabout

Ask.com's bogus Information Revolution

ColumnColumn Over the past couple of months, the British public have been subject to a widespread poster campaign, imploring them to join the "Information Revolution". Posters have appeared in train carriages, buses, and restrooms, plastered in self-consciously militant leftist graphics, demanding freedom of expression and choice. Initially, the posters appeared with no indication of who was behind them, perhaps in the hope that some would be sufficiently naïve about advertising finance to believe this was a genuine guerrilla movement. Sadly not. It is just very naïve guerrilla marketing.
William Davies, 29 May 2007
4

Sony unveils Vaio TZ notebook range

Today in London in a somewhat understated fashion, Sony released details of its latest Vaio notebook range: the TZ series, aimed predominately at the higher end of the market.
Scott Snowden, 29 May 2007
7

Half of black Britain on track for DNA database

Half of all black British males are destined to become records on the police National DNA Database by 2010, according to an analysis of government figures by the Liberal Democrats. If you count only men of an arrestable age, 68 per cent of them will have been nabbed and dabbed by the police by 2010. Just 14.4 per cent of white males are expected to be on the DNA database in the same time. Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell used the figures to raise a question about the "disproportionate" targeting of non-white people by police, or "racial profiling", by which people's behaviours are stereotyped according to the colour of their skin. The extent of errors on the DNA database, and the number of children contained on it, are also problems that are putting the National Police Improvement Agency, the authority responsible for its upkeep, on the defensive. The number of innocent children on the database has been a cause for concern among campaigners and the Conservatives. In respect of children, the pertinence of the question of innocence has caused campaign group Action for Rights of Children to warn how youngsters could be stigmatised by having a presence on the DNA database that marked them out as potential criminals. Campbell called for all innocent people to be removed from the DNA database. "There is absolutely no justification for keeping the DNA record of anyone who is not charged with an offence," he said. "This arbitrary method of collecting DNA will alienate minority groups who already feel unjustly targeted," he added. Government figures show there are 244,695 black British males on the DNA database, said the Libdems in a statement today. Using government estimates that there will be 4.5 million people on the DNA database in three years, official predictions of population growth and ethnicity, the Libdems have predicted that there will be 288,652 black males on the database. That's 51.9 per cent of black males and 68 per cent of black males of an "arrestable age". There is, already, 45 per cent of the black British male population on the DNA database, according to the Libdem numbers. Yet the predictions for the growing ethnicity of the DNA database might be underestimated. A total of 667,737 people were added to the DNA database last year (a similar number were added the previous year, almost 500,000 the year before and around 400,000 for the three consecutive years preceding that). Yet the government forecast used by the Libdems reckons the database will have increased by only a quarter of a million people next year, about 300,000 the year after, and would only reach levels approaching 600,000 new additions in 2010.®
Mark Ballard, 29 May 2007
Key end
2

Logica CEO retires early

Logica CMG's CEO Martin Read is to retire after 14 years at the IT services firm. Read said he has hastened his retirement plans in an attempt to quell "unsettling speculation" following Logica CMG's mixed trading results which saw profits grow but shares drop.
Kelly Fiveash, 29 May 2007
1

T-Mobile internet biz buys a slice of VoIP action

Jajah, the Austro-Californian VoIP outfit we profiled last week, has announced that the mystery second investor in its third funding round is Deutsche Telekom (DT). DT's T-Online Venture Fund paid about $5m for a "less than five per cent stake" in Jajah. Intel coughed the rest of the $20m earlier this month. The chip giant plans to load Jajah firmware onto every CPU it ships from 2008 onwards. The DT deal was cut at this year's 3GSM mobile phone trade show in Barcelona. Jajah co-founder Daniel Mattes told the Register that execs from T-Online moved very swiftly to pony up the cash for a slice of the self-proclaimed "Google of VoIP". DT's mobile arm, T-Mobile, has been among the most receptive operators to over-the-top internet services. Its Web 'n' Walk tariff packages' liberal fair use policies have made them popular with VoIP users. Mattes said the telco had made the investment because "they have no choice" but to accept that cheaper VoIP calling will become the norm. In return for a small chunk of equity, Jajah will get ready access to T-Mobile subscribers, who numbered 31 million in Germany, 17 million in the UK, and 25 million in the US at the end of last year. Jajah has accrued about two million users in 55 countries in its first operational year, and plans an IPO next year. Perhaps equally important to the VoIP operation is the Mutually-Assured Destruction-style protection of DT's telecoms patents, which should help it dodge the intellectual property mauling which has sabotaged Vonage's expansion bid Stateside. ®
Christopher Williams, 29 May 2007

Blazing winds tear through gigantic binary system

NASA astronomers think they have identified one of the most extreme binary systems ever, containing two extremely massive stars in very tight orbit. The boffins estimate that the larger of the two tips the cosmic scales at 62 solar masses, while its smaller companion can boast 37 solar masses. Located in the Large Magellanic Cloud, a satellite galaxy of our Milky Way, the system consists of two extremely massive stars orbiting each other at less than one sixth of the distance from the Earth to the Sun. The two stars are so close to one another they circle their common centre of mass in just 2.25 days. Astronomers predict they will eventually merge into a single ultra-massive star as they age and swell, containing around 80 times the sun's mass. "The merger of two massive stars to make a single super star of over 80 suns could lead to an object like Eta Carinae, which might have looked like LH54-425 one million years ago," says NASA's George Sonneborn. Eta Carinae is one of the most massive and luminous stars in the Milky Way Galaxy, with perhaps 100 solar masses. "Finding stars this massive so early in their life is very rare," he continues. "These results expand our understanding of the nature of very massive binaries, which was not well understood. The system will eventually produce a very energetic supernova." In such a tight system, the stellar winds crash into each other with astonishing results. Using NASA's Far Ultraviolet Spectroscopic Explorer (FUSE) satellite and ground-based telescopes, the star gazers have watched the collision of the stellar winds emanating from each star. The larger of the two stars is losing mass at the astonishing rate of 500 trillion tons per second, which it is flinging into space at around 5.4 million miles per hour. The smaller star is losing material at about a tenth of this rate. The astronomers determined that the matter spewing out of the larger of the two stars smashes into that from the smaller star, creating a collision zone, a curved surface of superheated gases that emit far ultraviolet radiation and x-rays easily detectable with the FUSE kit. This superheated zone then envelopes the smaller star. "These stars are evolving in the blink of an eye compared to the sun, which has looked pretty much the same for over four billion years," said Rosina Iping of the Catholic University, Washington, leader of the team that observed LH54-425 with FUSE. "But this binary looks totally different from Eta Carinae even though there is maybe only one million years difference in age. These massive stars zoom through their life cycle really fast. Will this binary system produce something like Eta Carinae? We don't know." ®
Lucy Sherriff, 29 May 2007
67

Online games turn British man into hero

UpdatedUpdated Whenever anyone goes crazy with a gun, the press are usually quick to blame video and computer games for the young person's violence. So we're grateful to one Reg reader for bringing the following to our attention - a man whose brain was so addled by the filth of online, and LAN gaming that he stepped in to try and stop an armed robbery he saw on the way to work. At 7.20am on Friday morning Adam Mapleson was on his way to work in IT support. At Rayleigh railway station in Essex he saw a male and female security guard struggling with two men. He went to help the guards and was shot in the chest by one of the men. The robbers got away with the cash box. Security firm Loomis is offering a £25,000 reward for information leading to their capture. Mapleson is currently being treated at Southend Hospital. A spokeswoman for the hospital told The Reg: "Adam is still with us and is making satisfactory progress." British Transport Police have arrested a man from Essex in connection with the robbery and attempted murder. Adam is a keen CounterStrike player - the first person shoot-em-up. Various gamers forums have covered the story and saluted Mapleson's heroism. More in Multiplay's forums here, or you can sign a "get well soon" card here on pure pwnage.com. ® Bootnote Thanks to gamer and Reg reader David "Red Plague" for the tip. Updated: A spokeswoman for Southend Hospital tells us Mapleson is continuing to improve.
John Oates, 29 May 2007
Blue sky
7

EU defence agency wants open skies for flying robots

The European Union's nascent military ministry, the European Defence Agency, is mounting a push to allow flying robots to operate alongside regular air traffic.
Lewis Page, 29 May 2007

Rackable drives out EVP Ford

The old guard executive purge at Rackable continues at pace. The server maker last week fired EVP Todd Ford, according to a regulatory filing. Ford served in a variety of roles at Rackable since 2002, including President and CFO. His tenure was tied to that of former CEO Tom Barton, who left the company last month.
Ashlee Vance, 29 May 2007
Broken CD with wrench

Ex-Altera CEO killed in bike accident

Former Altera chief Rodney Smith died last week after being struck by a car. Smith, 67, was riding his bike on the famed Sand Hill Road when he was apparently hit by an 87-year-old driver, according to a report in the Mercury News. Police are investigating the incident and have yet to assign fault to either party. Smith started at Altera - a maker of FPGAs (field programmable gate arrays) - in 1983 and spent 17 years as CEO. He retired as Chairman of the company in 2003. "He had great energy and he was a strong leader," Altera said in a statement. "With his many interests and his attention to detail, he brought a breadth of important experience to the new company." According to the Merc, Smith and his wife Mary have funded and taken part in clean-up efforts along the very stretch of road where he was killed. ®
Ashlee Vance, 29 May 2007
Google
12

Google acquires 'sandbox' technology for secure browsing

Google is acquiring GreenBorder, a Silicon Valley startup that helps protect web users against malware.
Dan Goodin, 29 May 2007
channel
5

GoDaddy now RegisterFly's daddy, says ICANN

The RegisterFly clusterf**ck took a major step towards resolution today with the official announcement by ICANN that GoDaddy will take control of the approximately 850,000 domain names still in the clutches of RegisterFly CEO Kevin Medina. The internet rumors of a GoDaddy takeover turned out to be true, and Medina now can devote himself completely to fending off the angry public with whatever resources he has left.
Burke Hansen, 29 May 2007