13th > June > 2007 Archive

2

Yahoo! shareholders shun protest vote

Yahoo! shareholders today re-elected the company’s directors and rejected calls to restructure compensation for senior executives. Three advisory firms had called on shareholders to vote at Yahoo!’s annual meeting in Santa Clara, California against several board members as a way of protesting the $71.7 million compensation afforded CEO Terry Semel. According to the Associated Press, Semel’s compensation is the highest among CEOs at the Standard & Poor’s 500 companies that filed proxy information this year. The advisory firms had recommended that bonuses and options for senior execs be tied to company performance, including stock price and search engine market share. The company’s stock price has dropped 10 per cent in the past year, and according to the latest figures from Hitwise.com, Yahoo! accounts for only 21 per cent of Web searches, well behind Google’s 65 per cent. Sixty-six per cent of shareholders rejected the proposal, voting in favor of the board. Investors also defeated efforts to create a board committee on human rights and establish a new policy that would prevent the company from censoring its sites in China. In recent months, Yahoo! has been sued in U.S. District Court over the imprisonment of two different Chinese journalists. Both were imprisoned after the company released information about their Internet activity to the Chinese government.®
Cade Metz, 13 Jun 2007
Microsoft
6

Microsoft recruits latest open source expert

Tom Hanrahan has left the Linux Foundation, where he was director of engineering, to work for Microsoft instead.
Gavin Clarke, 13 Jun 2007
Symantec

Symantec promises unified storage for managers

Vision 2007Vision 2007 Symantec continues to rally 'round its Network United banner with Data Center software Prez Kris Hagerman's keynote at the Symantec Vision conference at Las Vegas. If one can measure a company's enthusiasm for a project by velocity and gusto in which it lobs soccer balls into the audience — it's clear this is serious business. On a sliding scale of one (being a *hhhghfft* kind of throw) to ten (mere inches from making a journalist's unsuspecting crotch and laptop meet with unfortunate force), I'd give it an 11.
Austin Modine, 13 Jun 2007
4

Google throws a bone to privacy watchdogs

Google is cutting back the time it holds user-identifying data - a little. But will this be enough to placate privacy advocates? The search giant is to scrub personally identifying information after 18 months, compared with the limit of 18 months to two years it set out in March.
Dan Goodin, 13 Jun 2007
Warning Speed Camera
42

EFF lawyer is smokin' on Google Street View

Google's Street View service is barely two weeks old and it's already attracted plenty of criticism from privacy advocates. Photographing people up close and without warning as they go about their daily routines and then publishing those images for all the world to see may tread just a teensy bit over the line, they say.
Dan Goodin, 13 Jun 2007
1

BPEL, business process management, SOA and you

Over the last few columns we have looked at how Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) based systems can be built using the Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO).
John Hunt, 13 Jun 2007

Nvidia clocks up GeForce 8600M for 8700M GT

Nvidia is about to announce its new top-of-the-line GeForce 8-class mobile GPU, the 8700M GT, after briefing the Japanese media today.
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2007
Recycle sign
3

HP challenges staff to help it go green

Hewlett-Packard announced Tuesday that it would be setting a "carbon footprint challenge" for its 4,000 employees in Ireland to help make the company greener. The challenge is part of a company-wide effort to reduce energy usage by 20 per cent before 2010.
Stephen Errity, 13 Jun 2007
15

Privacy chief warns EU on terror laws

Europe's data protection chief has warned Portuguese ministers that fundamental rights to freedom are being abused in the name of security. Portugal takes over the rotating EU Presidency on 1st July. The European Data Protection Supervisor (EDPS) has told the Portuguese ministers for justice and the interior that anti-terror laws proposed in Europe have shown a lack of understanding of human rights law and says that anti-terror laws could be written which would safeguard privacy rights. "I fear that messages such as 'no right to privacy until life and security are guaranteed' are developing into a mantra suggesting that fundamental rights and freedoms are a luxury that security can not afford," said EDPS' Peter Hustinx. "I very much challenge that view and stress that there should be no doubt that effective anti-terror measures can be framed within the boundaries of data protection." The EDPS is the privacy advisor for the EU's governing bodies and has been increasingly critical of some of the legal measures put in place and some of the activity of EU bodies in the name of anti-terrorism. Hustinx has criticised a proposal from the EU Council of Ministers on how to deal with data protection in matters of policing and justice, where he said there was a danger that information could be passed to bodies not concerned with law enforcement. In the past he has also criticised the activities of payments body SWIFT and said that a ruling by the European Court of Justice on the transfer of airline passenger data to US authorities left Europeans' data potentially exposed. Hustinx told the Portuguese ministers that European politicians were making increasingly alarming statements on the issue of compromises of citizens' privacy. He singled out comments made by Home Secretary John Reid at a recent G6 summit in Venice. "The Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, Dr John Reid, called for human rights law to be rewritten, stating that 'The right to security, to the protection of life and liberty, is and should be the basic right on which all others are based'," wrote Hustinx in his letter (pdf) to Portuguese justice minister Alberto Costa. "This position could be potentially dangerous and may produce more problems than it seeks to solve. Not only does it reveal a lack of understanding of the current framework of human rights in general, and data protection legislation in particular, which both enable proportionate measures that are necessary for public security or defence, it also ignores the lessons learned about the abuse of fundamental rights from dealing with terrorism within Europe's borders over the last 50 years. "There should be no doubt that effective anti-terror measures can be framed within the boundaries of fundamental rights. It is these rights that need to be protected under all circumstances in a democratic society," wrote Hustinx. Copyright © 2007, OUT-LAW.com OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.
OUT-LAW.COM, 13 Jun 2007

Koreans offered first 70in LCD TVs consumers can buy

Want to own the world's first 70in LCD TV that's actually available for consumers to buy? Then hurry over to South Korea and visit the Lotte Department store. You'd better be quick: it only has 100 of them to sell.
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2007
4

Sony claims more than a million PAL PS3s purchased

Sony has sold more than a million PlayStation 3 consoles in Europe, Australia and other territories that use the PAL TV standard, the head of the company's European entertainment operation, David Reeves, has claimed.
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2007
6

10 reasons why the Black Hats have us outgunned

Here they are: The Black Hats form a well integrated community that shares knowledge effectively. Should you, after months of research and effort, create an exploit that allows you to hack Windows or any other frequently used software product, you can auction the exploit on the internet in a well organised manner. Yes, the hackers have their own auction sites (it's true). And if you're looking to write a virus, say, well, there are hundreds of sites out there that can provide you with source code to help you construct something really fiendish. Different modules for setting up a mail server or planting a specific Trojan or whatever. Open source is all the rage, even among hackers. Becoming a Black Hat is a career option even for those who are not super geeks. Time was when Black Hats needed to have a computer science degree or a similar level of exposure to computer technology in order to operate effectively. It's comforting to know, should you want to become a Black Hat, that the barriers to entering the trade are much lower now. It's true that you'll never become a "legendary Black Hat" if you can't cut a little C++ code. Nevertheless, out there on the internet there are websites where you can buy fully functional software for launching exploits that others have written for you. Yes, there are indeed hacker-devoted software products freely available for purchase by anyone capable of installing software. $200 or so should buy you something useful (including updates). There are even specialist virus tools designed to circumvent specific AV products. You know how it is. You want revenge on some company or other who sold you something that turned out to be dud and refused to allow you to return it. So you send them a virus or two, but you just can't seem to infect them because the AV technology they use has the signature of every virus at your disposal. Have no fear. The same software vendors that can sell you exploit tools also have specific viruses for sale which are guaranteed to get around any specific AV product that you can name. There's one for Norton, one for McAfee, one for Kaspersky, and ones for AV products that you may never even have heard of. Hell, there's lots of specialist software out there. If you have a budget in the $1,000 to $5,000 region, you can even buy Trojans that are purpose built to steal credit card data and mail it to you. There are SDKs for the more advanced hackers. "OK, nice to know that lame-brains can become hackers, but I'm more ambitious than that. I want to cut code with the best of them. I want to be a genuine fully fledged bad-ass Black Hat". Well Cinderella, you can indeed go to the ball. To get started all you'll need is one of those comprehensive hacker SDKs (cost about $320, but hey you can't be a carpenter without tools can you?) Yes, there are indeed such products for sale out there. It helps if you can read Russian, by the way, given the limitations of Babel Fish. There's a market for your data. "OK, I go out onto the net and try an exploit here or there and I hit pay dirt - a whole file of thousands of credit card details. What do I do now?" My advice to you dear boy, is forget about trying to buy stuff on eBay or Amazon with all that stolen data. Simply sell the data and leave it to someone else to do all the dirty work. How much to sell for? Well it depends, but you should be able to get $30 per credit card as an absolute minimum and if you've got really lucky and managed to get the PIN number of the card (a difficult data item to get your hands on) then it should be close to $500 per card. Yes, there are markets out in cyberspace where you can sell data - not just credit card data, but Social Security Card data (for US citizens), birth certificate data, billing data, and driving license data (all of which can be used to set up bogus bank accounts). There are botnets to rent. Don't tell me, let me guess. You've got a great scheme in mind to flood the world with a particular kind of spam and it's bound to pay off. But you just don't have the computer power you need. Let me introduce you to an Asian friend of mind who's been established in the Black Hat trade for a year or two. He repeatedly floods the internet with Trojan viruses to continuously assemble and grow a botnet. He has to keep on doing it because every now and then PCs get cleaned and fall out of the net and anyway the bigger the botnet the more the commercial opportunity. My friend will rent you a portion of his botnet for 20 cents per PC per day (roughly current rates) and he'll throw in a whole database of email addresses too. He thinks of himself as an Internet Service Provider. Some rogue websites are very subtly managed. You're thinking of setting up a website with some "poisoned downloads" and perhaps even a script or two which runs in the browser and will infect visitors with a virus given half the chance, but you've heard of security companies that send spiders round the web examining sites and testing for malware, so they can put you on a blacklist. So what's the point in putting in the effort if it all comes to nothing? Well don't despair. I know a Black Hat who keeps an up-to-date list of the IP addresses of all those spiders. He'll rent it to you and you can build the site so that it presents innocuous executables to the spiders and infects everyone else. Would I steer you wrong? Good hackers know how to stay safe (they stay abroad) It's what may keep you up at nights. You've pulled off some real coups; stealing data here and there, setting up a healthy spam business, arranging a few rogue auctions on eBay, assembling a sizable botnet and so on. Then the news breaks that a hacker in Denmark has just been arrested and the net is awash with pictures of him. It looks like he's going to spend years and years in a place where champagne is never served. That must be the third hacker arrest this year - dammit this is becoming a dangerous profession. Sometimes hackers even get caught. Well, please bear in mind that 30 percent of all Black Hat activity is in the US and, well, it's not often that you hear of a US hacker getting banged to rights. I mean the average bank robbery with a gun in the US nets less than $10,000, while the average bank robbery with a PC nets more than 10 times that figure. Many more of the gun-toting bank robbers get caught than the PC-toting ones and some of them even get shot. Your chances of getting caught are slim to zero - especially if you initiate it all remotely through a server somewhere in Moldova. Well, OK, you're a worrier, so move to Moldova. Sensible hackers don't hack in their own back yard - so change back yards. And when was the last time you heard of a hacker from Moldova getting caught? The banking system has its channels "OK so I've moved to Moldova, but how am I going to pick up the money I'm earning?" Gosh, you don't know much about the international banking system do you? Here's my advice. Set up a convenient little off-shore account in the Cayman Islands and pass the money through there. Even in this internet era when it is oh-so-difficult to ensure the secrecy of data, no data ever seems to escape from those Cayman banks. And as regards your Black Hat activity, my advice to you, as a Moldovan, is to specialise in denial of service attacks (software to carry them out available from the usual suppliers). The DOS ransom fees are around $50,000, if you hit a big company, and you can usually extort $10,000 from the smaller ones. That's good pay for a week or two's hard hacking. Not all businessmen are entirely averse to the odd hack (on a competitor) As you seem determined to embark on a life of cybercrime I have one last piece of advice for you. Don't ignore the business world as a lucrative source of income. I know what you're thinking. Those guys are my prey. Well it's true that some of them are, but some of them could become your customers - if you make the right contacts and do the right kind of marketing. I mean, which businessman could fail to be pleased when his major competitor suffers a big data hack or loses a few days web business because of a DOS attack. Which businessman doesn't think, "hey what if I arranged for something like that to happen?" And which businessman having formulated a good competitive tactic doesn't put it into practice. There's good money to be made in focused hacks, theft of intellectual property, denial of service and large scale data theft. You might even get paid twice - by the customer and the victim. Acknowledgments: Some of the information used to produce this article was gathered from presentations given to me by Yuval Ben-Itzhak of Finjan and Patricia Booth of CA, both of whom have a deep knowledge of the extent of the IT security malaise. It's no longer just a serious threat—it's a well organized and expanding industry. Copyright © 2007, IT-Analysis.com
Robin Bloor, 13 Jun 2007
plaster_75

SSL bug stars in MS June patch batch

Microsoft's June Patch Tuesday brought six security updates - four of which earn the dreaded rating of critical. The critical fixes are designed to address flaws in Windows' Schannel security package, Internet Explorer, Outlook Express, and a Windows library file flaw.
John Leyden, 13 Jun 2007
Fujitsu Siemens

Fujitsu Siemens waxes up mini mainframe

Fujitsu Siemens Computers (FSC) has launched two new business servers in its B2000 range. The SX100-D is aimed at entry-level mainframe users while the SX160 is intended for medium performance apps.
Kelly Fiveash, 13 Jun 2007
3

Truphone enhances its presence

Truphone, the VoIP provider for Nokia Series 60 devices with decent connectivity, has added presence to its offering, as well as making it work over 3G networks - where the operator allows it, of course. Truphone has been one of the most voracious critics of network operators trying to exclude VoIP from their data services, or even disabling the function on handsets, because unlike the competition Truphone is aimed at non-technical customers so needs to be tightly integrated into the normal phone experience. The new features demonstrate that, with users now being offered Truphone as an option to send an SMS, in just the same way as that option already appears when they make a phone call. A presence service moves contacts in to, and out of, address-book groups when they are connected to the Truphone service (and thus can be contacted for free). The intention is to allow contacts to know which profile a user has selected (silent, meeting, etc.), but for the moment you can only tell if someone is there or not. The software is much better at noticing, and connecting to, Wi-Fi networks - certainly faster than the last version, and it will now work with 3G networks too. Other VoIP clients, such as Fring and Skype, have long worked over 3G, but Truphone was limited to Wi-Fi to keep things simple and avoid the data charges (ironically, the simplicity argument is put forward by Vodafone as an excuse to remove the VoIP capability from the Nokia N95, at least in the UK). Customers with unmetered data have asked for 3G compatibility, and version 3 supplies that at the cost of some simplicity in connection management. The tight integration of the Truphone client with the Series 60 applications; address book, dialler and messaging, is a demonstration of what is possible with an open phone OS, and a stark reminder of the kind of thing which will be impossible (at least from a third party) on Apple's iPhone. Users would have trouble identifying where a manufacturer's application ends and Truphone starts, which is perhaps just what Apple wants to avoid. Version 3 of the Truphone client is available as beta now, with a couple of known bugs. Full release is expected this week. ®
Bill Ray, 13 Jun 2007
Fujitsu Siemens

Fujitsu results: good mid-table performance

Fujitsu Services posted a good increase in revenue profits and claimed a record forward order book of £6.6bn, up from £6.5bn last year. For the year ended 31 March 2007, Fujitsu made a profit before tax of £172m, up 11.5 per cent on last year, and increased turnover by 7.5 per cent to £2,465m.
John Oates, 13 Jun 2007
26

China runs out of surnames

China has been forced to mull the possibility of allowing double-barrelled surnames - a break with the ancient tradition that citizens adopt one of a hundred single character surnames. The majority of Chinese take their surnames from the list, considered "part of the country's cultural heritage", the Telegraph explains. So embedded is this tradition that "ordinary" Chinese people are referred to as laobaixing, or "old hundred names", and schoolkids have to learn the lot by heart. In fact, other less common surnames bring the official total of permitted surnames to 161, but this doesn't do much to offset the fact that there are now 93 million Wangs in China - closely followed by 92 million Lis - something which is causing the authorities a bit of a problem. One official explained that "there are so many people who share an identity that it is becoming confusing", while Beijing police household registration officer Guan Xihua offered: "Such names cause great trouble in daily life." Indeed, China Daily notes that the name Wang Tao is shared by no less than 100,000 people. The solution is, the powers that be reckon, to allow double-barrelled combinations. China Daily gives the example of a baby whose dad's surname was Zhou, the mother's Zhu, and who could therefore be called Zhou, Zhu, Zhouzhu or Zhuzhou. Another proposal to expand the surname roster is "lifting restrictions on what counts as a surname to allow a greater variety of characters, including from ethnic minority languages where currently the closest sounding Chinese surname is commonly used". However, parents will still not be able to use the "unsimplified, old-fashioned characters still used in Taiwan and Hong Kong" or Chinglish surnames. Furthermore, the western alphabet is strictly off-limits, meaning no Fleur de Lis or Brooklyn Zhous in the foreseeable future. ® Bootnote The top ten Chinese surnames are: Wang, Li, Zhang, Liu, Chen, Yang, Huang, Zhao, Zhou, Wu.
Lester Haines, 13 Jun 2007
59

Macs are more secure: official

Apple's recent campaign claiming its machines were more secure and less likely to crash or pick up a virus than Windows PCs has been cleared by the UK's Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).
John Oates, 13 Jun 2007
14

Embedded problems: exploiting NULL pointer dereferences

InterviewInterview Barnaby Jack developed a method for exploiting certain NULL pointer dereferences on the ARM and XScale architectures (and likely PowerPC). This method affects a lot of devices since most mobile phones and PDA are ARM based, and high-end routers often use the XScale architecture.
Federico Biancuzzi, 13 Jun 2007
5

Toshiba slashes HD DVD hardware sales forecast

Toshiba has taken an axe to its HD DVD player sales forecast, despite claims from the HD DVD Promotion Group (PG) that the company's "latest promotional efforts are clearly resonating with consumers and showing that price is king when it comes to hardware".
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2007
94

Fancy an earful? Click here for tech support

If you're at a loose end this afternoon and fancy copping a bit of an email earful, try throwing a query over to technical support at CCTV outfit Gadspot.com.* The reply is likely to surprise and delight, as one Reg reader found out: Hi Would like to download latest firmware for a GS1600. Your website not clear on how to find this (poor layout - no "Support" or "downloads" section on homepage and a main search resulted in no hits. Eventually found the download page by searching the FAQ, however the link on your website isn't a link: http://www.gadspot.com/information.php?info_id=11 Additionally; whilst searching for this image, I tried ascending from another firmware link to http://www.gadspot.com/images/ which resulted in an error page. Not a big problem but doesn't look very professional. Here's the response, and it's a beauty: HI, We are shock the you are bad mouthing us, If you log into www.gadspot.com, scroll down the page on the left hand side you will find the download section. Please don't make un necessary comments like that.You don't even have to go into the FAQ, to look for the download section. If you're un able to find it by not looking and being a pain in the butt! you don't have the right to blame us. Atten: You must do a factory restore on the camera first, before doing a firmware change. You must do the change locally, If this process aren't done right it will damage the camera. Best regards, Rufus Tech Support Gadspot, Inc. Our correspondent at this point retaliated with an email to every Gadspot.com addy he could find: FAO Gadspot customer service / complaints. You might want to have a word with Rufus, he's not presenting the most professional image to your company by calling customers, in very bad English, that they're a "pain in the butt" when they raise legitimate complaints. I don't believe I'll be re-ordering from Gadspot in the future thanks to this shoddy treatment. The fact remains that the file was hard to find especially as the url was commented out within the html - the average visitor would never have found it. This turned out to be a bad move, as Rufus was quick to point out: Hi, Is it ok for you to say this to us (poor layout - no "Support" or "downloads" section on homepage and a main.page. We do give people are support the best you can. It's your choice that you don't want to order from us again. We were not the one to bad mouth you in the first place saying that we here at gadspot have poor support. People like you that don't look carefully or that don't read the fine line and want to be spoon feed with all the answer. So we refuse the right to server you. For being mean. Best regards, Rufus Gadspot, Inc. Good Lord. Well, our man can consider himself well and truly "servered", and no messing. We emailed Gadspot.com yesterday to ask if it was their standard policy to unleash Rufus on customers, but the company has not, as yet, replied. Doubtless we'll get a righteous mouthful in due course. ® Bootnote *Gadspot.com is in no way affiliated to Gadspot.co.uk.
Lester Haines, 13 Jun 2007
7

Japanese offered USB bum-cooling cushion

Bot too hot? Then you need the USB cheek chiller, a PC-powered cooling seat cushion now on offer from those crazy folks at Japanese gadget specialist Thanko.
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2007
1

Babelgum touts indie credentials

Bablegum, the P2P internet TV platform which is set to go head to head with Joost this summer, has signed up a raft of new independent content providers. The new deals with indie producers include documentaries, short films, and music footage. Bablegum says minnows will get the same billing as mainstream media conglomerates. In the run up to its full launch, Bablegum has bagged news content from Reuters, AP, and ITN, and come out against YouTube-style user-generated footage. Babelgum boss and telecoms tycoon Silvio Scaglia, ranked by Forbes as the world's 746th richest person, said: "The agreements we've announced today will be followed by many more as we build a library of up to 100,000 hours of independent and mainstream content from around the world." Joost, which is backed by Skype's founders, offers a similar full screen on demand service to Babelgum, and is set to launch around the same time. Both plug their interactive features like chat and search. With similar technology, both London-based outfits know victory will be delivered by the quality of their programming. Babelgum's dedication to indies is admirable, but Joost probably edges it at the moment with more big names like MTV, Comedy Central, and Aardman Animations. Babelgum is here in public beta. Joost is in beta here, and requires an invite from an existing viewer. ®
Christopher Williams, 13 Jun 2007
Handcuffs
4

AOL phisher nets six years' imprisonment

A California fraudster who posed as a rep from AOL's billing department in order to trick users into handing over financial details was jailed for 70 months (five years and 10 months) on Monday, Information Week reports.
John Leyden, 13 Jun 2007
26

Iran approves death penalty for pornographers

Iran's parliament today approved the death penalty for "persons convicted of working in the production of pornographic movies", AP reports. The vote was an overwhelming 148 to five in favour of the move, which declared that "producers of pornographic works and main elements in their production are considered corruptors of the world and could be sentenced to punishment as corruptors of the world". The Koranic term "corruptor of the world" is one of the highest-ranked misdemeanours "on the scale of an individual's criminal offenses" and carries the death penalty under Iranian Islamic law. The "main elements" in question are actors, cameramen, directors, and producers of grumble flicks, although the bill also recommends "convictions ranging from one year imprisonment to a death sentence for the main distributors of the movies and also producers of websites in which the pornographic works would appear". The bill now faces approval by Iran's "constitutional watchdog", the Guardian Council. The legislation was reportedly provoked by the case of actress Zahra Amir Ebrahimi, who appeared to have sex with a man in a widely-enjoyed amateur tape which escaped onto the internet and subsequently did brisk trade as a bootleg DVD. Ebrahimi, who vehemently denies she is the star of the film and dismisses it as a fake "made by a vengeful former fiancé bent on destroying her career", faces a possible fine, public flogging, or "worse" for breaking Iran's public morality laws. The other half of the romping couple fled to Armenia, but was hauled back to Iran and is currently in jail on similar charges. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Jun 2007
8

Pipex plotting carve-up for Tiscali deal

ExclusiveExclusive The breakup of Pipex and sale of its residential broadband customer base to Tiscali is looking increasingly certain. Insiders at the takeover target say the terms of the deal will be announced in four to eight weeks. In the meantime, managers are working out the personnel carve-up, with employees destinations in the split already decided. Tiscali's poor reputation for customer service, worsened by its response to a recent extended email outage, is said to have set some Pipex staff against the sale. The Register also understands that Pipex's WiMax licence, which complicated speculations over the UBS-brokered auction of the firm, will remain with the rest of Pipex, concentrated on business customers. As part of the deal, Tiscali will provide the refocused ISP with access to its unbundled network, which is one of the most extensive in the UK and should lower its costs in providing broadband. Tiscali has unbundled more than 400 exchanges, compared to Pipex's 100. Pipex has about 570,000 customers across its broadband brands, which include Toucan and Bulldog. Each of the big players in the dog-eat-dog communications market - Virgin Media, BT, Sky, Carphone Warehouse - have been linked with a bid for the firm, but have all fallen by the wayside amid rumours of an over-ambitious valuation and concerns over its diverse interests. Italy-based Tiscali, which has almost 1.5 million subscribers in the UK, stepped into the spotlight in the middle of May when it confirmed it was in early discussions with Pipex. Back then, Goldman Sachs analysts valued Pipex's telecoms business at £211m and the hosting and network services at £178m. As middleweights lacking profile and resources compared to the bundling frontrunners, Tiscali and Pipex have similar problems in attracting residential customers. Jonathan Coham, a broadband analyst at Ovum said: "This is an interesting move, but Tiscali needs more than just subscribers to maintain its position. They've typically been a low-spending broadband provider, with limited additional services...they'll need to follow this up." Tiscali and Pipex refused to comment on this story. ®
Christopher Williams, 13 Jun 2007
5

UK security industry pleads for closer goverment ties

The hi-tech civil security industry has said it needs a cosier relationship with government if the UK is to stay ahead in the "war on terror". Terrorists are finding new and frightening ways of subverting security, the industry warned today, and said companies that operate within it would not be able to keep up with the rapidly evolving threat unless government brought them "inside the tent". Representing the Security and Resilience Industry Suppliers Council (RISC), Timothy Otter, vice president of business development at Smith's Detection, said a close relationship with government would allow the industry to adapt its private research investments to emerging threats more quickly. He cited speeches given by the outgoing Home Secretary John Reid that suggested a "competitive" security industry, yet one backed by government, would be equally vital as a source of wealth for the UK as it was a means of keeping borders safe. "If we can achieve this, it will be a win win for the UK in that national security will be enhanced and it will increase our industrial vitality and it will increase our international influence," said Otter. "The aims of RISC are to develop an enduring industrial strategy," said Otter, who was standing in for Stephen Phipson, chairman of RISC and managing director of Smiths, at an industry conference hosted by the Royal United Services Institute. Close ties with government were "critical". In particular, he said, industry wanted to be made aware of what the latest security threats were. He complained that a lack of government support for the security industry had forced it to develop products for the world market rather than tailoring them specifically for the UK. "This strategy lays us open to huge threats," he said. The European Commssion has already launched an initiative - the European Security Research and Innovation Forum - to create what would in effect be a single market for surveillance technology by getting EU countries to demand the same technologies to counter the same threats. The UK and US have proposed the same, but the UK's position on immigration has caused the EU to lock it out of a raft of security measures it wants to get its hands on, including the Visa Information System, a database that is proposed to store the biometric details of around 70 million immgrants to the EU at any one time. The US also has a bilateral agreement with the UK that allows them to co-operate on security technology, according to James DeCorpo, director of the US Department of Homeland Security's Eurasia office. Khoen Liem, principle scientific officer for security research and development at the European Commission, said that some of the €32bn the EC has committed to joint research funding with private firms between 2007 and 2013 might be used to prop up firms where there was not a market for their goods, but there was a security need. The EC might even consider paying 100 per cent of a private firm's security research funding, he said. The idea that a civil security industry could simultaneously sustain both the means and the mechanisms by which the UK could protect itself from the outside world is one that had been dropped from the Home Office's Security and Counter-Terrorism Science and Innovation Strategy, published yesterday. But it may continue to be a stick with which the industry lobby bangs its drum. ®
Mark Ballard, 13 Jun 2007
1

Creative Live! Cam Optia AF webcam

ReviewReview The Optia AF is Creative's 13th webcam branded under its Live! banner, but the first to feature both an auto-focus lens and a two-megapixel image sensor.
James Sherwood, 13 Jun 2007
7

Tao Group throws in the towel

Entertainment software platform maker Tao Group Ltd went into administration on 31 May it has emerged.
Kelly Fiveash, 13 Jun 2007
Apple Safari logo
45

Apple's Safari lacks bold vision

Another issue has cropped up with Apple's newly released beta of Safari for Windows. This time, the browser is having trouble seeing bold text on web pages. Headlines (including those of The Register) have mysteriously disappeared. Half of the web in Safari is practically invisible.
Jan Libbenga, 13 Jun 2007
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Orange rapped for 'unlimited' broadband

Orange was cut down by advertising watchdogs today for claiming its broadband and home phone service is "unlimited" without mentioning its fair use policy. In an adjudication over a complaint by T-Mobile, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said Orange had broken its code of practice in a magazine ad. It neglected to allude to its 40GB monthly download and 1,000 minute monthly calling rations, which Orange said was an error. At the moment the ASA thinks it's ok to describe such services as "unlimited", even if there's a fair use cap, as long as it's in the small print. Orange said about one per cent of broadband customers and two per cent of phone customers exceeded their quota, which the ASA agreed meant that a small print qualifier would have been good enough. It told Orange to make sure it included one in all future advertising. Orange plans to continue to advertise its bundle as "unlimited", and said the limits do not apply when it deems that users are using it fairly. It did not explain what "fair" means. A Downing Street petition calling for a ban on the advertising ruse clocked up almost 10,000 signatures before it closed on 10 June. A government response is expected soon. ®
Christopher Williams, 13 Jun 2007

3GSM morphs into Mobile World Show

The 3GSM World Congress has renamed itself the Mobile World Show, hoping to attract a more sexy media crowd than the middle-aged telecoms executives who usually frequent the place. 3GSM World Congress Asia also gets renamed Mobile Asia Congress, to maintain the connection between the two shows. In February 1995, 1,400 mobile telecommunications executives - most of the industry back then - headed to Madrid for a few days for the GSM World Congress (successor to the Pan European Digital Conference, originally held in London 1987). In 2001 3G services came along, so a "3" was added to modernise the event. The congress has historically been a place for telecoms execs to meet and discuss business behind closed doors, and that's still true - as evidenced by the number of companies which last year took meeting rooms but not stands, including Google and groups such as the OMTP. But launches of new products and services make better headlines, and the congress has become much more of an industry show in recent years, to the extent of having its own red-light district where the purveyors of adult services can show off their wares. 50,000 people made it to Barcelona in 2007, and few of them managed to see more than half the products and services on display. If the GSMA, organiser of the congress, achieves any success in "attracting visitors from the information technology, entertainment, and financial services industries, as well as the mobile industry", then Barcelona is going to be somewhere to avoid next February. ®
Bill Ray, 13 Jun 2007
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EC dampens fears over IT tax

The European Commission has brushed aside claims that tariff duties could be re-introduced on IT products. According to IT trade body Comptia, changes could be made to the Information Technology Agreement (ITA) that, if implemented, could have far-reaching consequences for the IT industry in Europe.
Kelly Fiveash, 13 Jun 2007

It's business not technology

Editor's blogEditor's blog A recent chat with Peter Dragunas, HP's director of network domain solutions, has highlighted the way business models are now assuming greater importance than technology in the development of service-based environments. His own area of responsibility, HP's telecommunications service provider customers, are proving to be a good hunting ground for inspiration and guidance on how to develop solutions to the business problems faced by many other sectors where a service-based infrastructure is being implemented or contemplated.
Martin Banks, 13 Jun 2007

Ofcom's Nathan Barley quango slammed by public

Ofcom has published the public consultation responses to its PSP concept. And they don't make comfortable reading for the regulator. The PSP, or Public Service Publisher, is a new quango that would cost taxpayers between £100m than £150m a year - handing out money to new media types for interactive websites, and other "user generated content" gimmicks. Ofcom loves the idea - and gave the task of investigating it two new media production houses who would stand to gain handsomely from the new gravy train. Unsurprisingly, they thought a Nathan Barley Quango, or NBQ, was a splendid idea. The public responses should be sobering, however. Most are skeptical of the need for the new quango, while many more are completely indifferent. And some are very scathing. Step forward, W Jackson: As a self-actualizing media node, I welcome this redistribution of government funds from provincial luddites to new media 'creative' Sohoites. Cool Britannia lives! The creative industries initiative was good but didn't radically empower young creatives and their 360-degree thinking. Unleash the collective wisdom of new media and see us swarm! If Tony had done this when he first got in (and I know how hard you tried, Ed) then thousands of people could already be employed - let's use those redundant factories to turn out polyphonic ringtones. Critics - like Orlowski at The Register - will complain that this is pork-barrel politics for tech. utopians. That this has no relevance to' 'ordinary' people and their lives. Well, I've had enough of that patronising rubbish. I've launched a post-ironic web brand - nar.ciss.us - that was created using the competitively-priced labour of redundant industrial workers. It shows that anyone can 'get' asynchronous java - even people from the North. If anyone wants to brainstorm this - then twitter/IM/SMS/Skype/email me. I'm up for an 'emergent conference'. Ed Richards's initiative 'gets' new media on so many levels. Let's flashmob this bitch up to escape velocity. PEACE Excellent stuff, sir - take a bow. Another, Dr Stephen Jones, points out that new and old media are complimentary, and don't need taxpayer-funded pampering. The consultation document is founded on several dubious premises. The report states that new media displaces old media, and that public service material should therefore be targeted at new platforms. However, as commentators have pointed out, new media enhances old media. Nor is there a rationale for public investment in platforms where the barriers to entry are already low, and where private investment is plentiful. The PSP idea in its current form is little more than a taxpayer-funded subsidy for web production houses. OFCOM should instead fulfill its commitment to strengthening public service broadcast material. Reader Mark Splinter submitted a long, thoughtful, and passionate response that boils down to: why not just give the money to a thousand mavericks directly? You don't really need a quango. The Ofcom proposal before me does absolutely nothing to alter the problem that the best creative ideas can be lost in bureaucracy. The examples given are uninspired grey goo, the illustration styles used are ten years old, and sending text messages to a panel of experts is elevated to the status of innovative debate. It smells bad, and I must present to Ofcom the possibility that they are a regulator, not an artists' loft, and they really don't know what they are doing. Asking a couple of the internet equivalents of Werner Hogg to comment on the idea of receiving free public money will get you a distorted answer, probably involving "yes please" and "exactly how high would you like us to jump?" If you offered me 50,000,000 I would also probably tell you that you need an "edgy urban mix of interrelated electronic Web 2.0 synergies" and then laugh all the way to the bank. Trust the punks, the mavericks, the lunatics, the fringe of the fringe. Use public money to help them fight against the bland requirements of corporations and venture capitalists. Be not afraid of 1000 failures. Be bold, or you are being superfluous and irrelevant, and perhaps ridiculous. Ofcom doesn't think it's being ridiculous though. Turning its own "evidence based" policy-making guideline on its head, it concludes there's "broad support" for OFCOM intervening with a new quango, so it's full steam ahead. That's democracy in action, then. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 13 Jun 2007
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Cornish separatists menace Jamie Oliver

Celebrity chefs Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver have received an email threat from the "Cornwall National Liberation Army" (CNLA) saying the separatist group will "strike at the heart" of their restaurants at Padstow and nearby Watergate Bay. According to the Western Morning News, police are taking "very seriously" the organisation's pledge to firebomb Stein's premises and target Oliver's charitable Fifteen venture. It blames both "incomers" for "the inflation of house and other living costs at Cornish expense", and "alienating" local people. The email, signed by the CNLA Directing Council, was apparently sent via an Egypt-based website, and claims the group has "substantial funding" from the US and other countries and has drafted in the incendiary expertise of a Welsh nationalist. It promises to purge Cornwall of the "imperialist" English flag, and lists its "operational objectives", beginning with: "Padstow (Padstein) and Rick Stein Operated Businesses". It continues: "It is common knowledge that Rick Stein and his businesses are held in contempt by many Cornish nationals who live in the Padstow area and we are currently seeing Stein ride over local democracy." To mock Stein's claim that local businesses have "benefited from the 'rosy glow' of publicity his ventures have attracted", the email adds: "One of our activists was a member of the Free Wales Army who were responsible for the burning of English holiday homes in that Country creating for the Imperialists another 'rosy glow' from the heat of the fires. "At a unspecified date, Rick Stein will himself feel a 'rosy glow' in our Cornish port of Padstow. His vehicles and those of his clients and customers are also bona fide targets for our activists." Regarding Oliver, the CNLA continues: "Another incomer who has caused the inflation of house and other living costs at Cornish expense and subsidised by European funding who, together with his clients and customers and the owners of the hotel, are also targets of the CNLA." The CNLA is a newly-formed alliance of An Gof - "a secretive group which claimed responsibility for a series of attacks in the 1980s, notably on St Austell courthouse" and the Cornish Liberation Army. The email explains: "At a recent joint meeting, members and financial supporters of the An Gof militant organisation (founded 1980 and reformed 2007) and the Cornish Liberation Army agreed to dissolve their respective organisations and to combine all resources and reform as the Cornish National Liberation Army (CNLA). Substantial funding has been received to continue what have previously been low-key activities with donors from the other Celtic nations as well as the United States. "The previous low-key operations by those former organisations will be incorporated into the CNLA programme such as the removal of the Imperialistic and racist English flag of St George (white with a red cross) wherever it is flown in Cornwall (Kernow) as has already occurred on Bodmin Moor cafes (where they have been replaced correctly by St Piran Flags) and at Tresillian. Graffitti [sic] operations may also continue." Police have, the Western Morning News reports, assembled a task force to probe the matter. Chief Constable Stephen Otter said: "We would look at what lies behind the threat and then we would put things in place to prevent anything happening." ®
Lester Haines, 13 Jun 2007
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Techies of Leeds unite

Next Wednesday sees the inaugural evening meeting for the Leeds chapter of GeekUp - the techie social night that is taking the north-west of England by storm. GeekUp is a monthly techy meet-up held in Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool. Leeds' first event will be held at the Cross Keys pub, in Water Lane, next to the Round Foundry Leeds Media Centre.
John Oates, 13 Jun 2007
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Creative tunes laptop-friendly X-Fi audio enhancer to UK

Creative announced its X-Fi ExpressCard laptop sound module in Japan more than a month ago, but it's now confirmed the add-on is coming to the UK.
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2007
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US harvests anti-terror research

The US will redirect the bulk of its investment in civil surveillance technology next year into the production of devices it can deploy in its war on terror. The US will have increased its investment in product development by three quarters, suggesting a four-year programme of investment in civil surveillance and counter-terror detection technologies, which has had an annual budget of $800m, is starting to pay off. James DeCorpo, director of the Eurasia office of the US Department of Homeland Security, told UK civil surveillance industrialists yesterday that the department planned to "accelerate the development and deployment" of homeland security technologies. The production and trial of prototype technologies was also being "accelerated", he said. These are described in the department as "high risk/high pay-off" technologies and "game changers" that have a five year development cycle, and on which the DHS will have spent five per cent of its budget this year, and it will spend more than double that - 11 per cent - in 2008. Foremost among the proposed developments will be the Future Attribute Screening Technology (FAST), which is nearing its first trial at US border posts. DeCorpo said FAST "will be looking at intent" of people crossing US border posts, by using cameras and algorithms to watch for behavioural attributes that might suggest someone should be examined more closely by the border police. "From a psychological standpoint, people behave in certain ways when they are under stress. For example, one's nose gets cold when one is under stress. Facial muscles behave in different ways. While other scanners see through clothes and [examine] gait," said DeCorpo. People would be given an easier ride through customs if their behaviour didn't raise the suspicion of the border patrol's intelligent cameras. The department has already deployed a system that tries to predict how likely people are to be a terrorist or member of an organised crime gang according to information stored about them in a variety of civil, commercial, and criminal databases. The Automated Targeting System categorises people according to levels of risk derived from this information. Managed by Homeland Security Advanced Projects Agency (HSARPA), it will also nearly double its spending on turning prototypes into workable "products" for use by US border and anti-terrorist personnel. Spending here will have risen from 35 per cent to 60 per cent in 2008. Most of the money will come from another area of its budget, which was being spent on developing interoperability standards for its civil security tech armoury. Fifty per cent of its budget is being spent here this year, but only 18 per cent in 2008. The US, UK, and Europe have been trying to make sure their technologies can interoperate so they might one day form constituent parts of one vast civil security system. The agency has apportioned its product development budget between the detection of explosives, chemical and biological weapons, and "human factors", the protection of borders and infrastructure, building command and control systems, and interoperability standards, and designing geophysical mapping systems. ®
Mark Ballard, 13 Jun 2007
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MS polishes UK dialect dictionaries

Microsoft is calling for final contributions to its UK dialect dictionaries - due for free release in July. The plan is to prevent its spellcheckers picking out non-Redmond terminology, the BBC reports, thereby eliminating the wtf? redlining of un-American vocab. The idea was spawned in Oz, and later adopted in Blighty. MS UK has worked with The British Library on the project, and while Devon, Yorkshire, and Lancashire have come up with the goods, areas such as Cambridge have so far failed to deliver. Nonetheless, MS is now in the process of "sifting through the thousands of responses with a view to compiling dictionaries specific to certain areas". Microsoft Office 2007 product manager Darren Strange said: "It's the diversity of Britain's dialects that has led us to develop the new dictionaries. So in future, your Microsoft Outlook will be able to recognise emails where you ask your "marra" to get you a "buttie" instead of inserting red lines beneath all the unfamiliar words. "We wanted to give everyone the chance to adapt and personalise their software, and at the same time recognise the diversity of dialects we use here in the UK that makes us completely different to any other country in the world." To underline this last point, Jonathan Robinson, curator of English accents and dialects at The British Library, chipped in with: "Britain has a rich heritage of different accents and dialects and, contrary to popular opinion, there is still a great deal of lexical diversity across the UK - where else would you find the words 'cob', 'batch', 'bun', 'barm cake', 'stotty cake', 'scuffler' and 'bread cake', all meaning bread roll?" Readers wishing to contribute to the dissemination of proper English can get details here. The 31 May deadline for submissions has been extended, the Beeb says, presumably to allow the good burghers of Cambridge to pull their linguistic fingers out. ®
Lester Haines, 13 Jun 2007
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George Bush's watch clocked on eBay

It didn't take long for George Bush's wristwatch - allegedly swiped on Sunday by Albanian former godless Commies - to pop up on eBay.
Lester Haines, 13 Jun 2007
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SonicWALL tags Aventail

Security appliance firm SonicWALL has agreed to buy SSL VPN remote access supplier Aventail in a deal valued at $25m cash. The deal is expect to close in July and to have no bearing on SonicWALL's Q2 revenues, which the firm continues to expect will fall somewhere between $45m and $47m, made up of sales of firewall, UTM, censorware, and other security technology.
John Leyden, 13 Jun 2007
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Shake those pinkies with the USB Dance Mat game

We thought real dance mat games were bad enough, but at least players can argue it keeps 'em fit. Not so the miniature, USB-powered version that's just been released.
Tony Smith, 13 Jun 2007
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New site marries Google, Yahoo!

Ever feel the need to search Google and Yahoo! at the same time? A new site from IdeaLabz and the Toll Free Yellow Pages lets you do just that, delivering search results from Google and Yahoo! in split-screen format.
Cade Metz, 13 Jun 2007
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Torvalds slams Sun over Linux intentions

You can almost hear the ebb of conversation on everything from Linux drivers to closing the information gap over the crackle of a roaring log fire and playful popping of wine corks.
Gavin Clarke, 13 Jun 2007

Symantec's 'Hamlet' becomes 'Endpoint Protection'

Vision 2007Vision 2007 Symantec is cracking open the lid today on a gumbo of acquired security technologies which will replace its current business security software, Symantec AntiVirus. Endpoint Protection 11.0, formally code-named Hamlet, has entered public beta for users curious to get a whiff of Symantec's latest concoction, expected to be ready for public consumption in September.
Austin Modine, 13 Jun 2007
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Hello, Apple PR. Dr. Freud will see you now

CommentComment I was humiliated recently after purchasing a new Apple notebook. My novelist wife needed a fresh machine to replace her aging iBook. Solid application response times and a smooth web experience will no doubt help her craft a bestseller. In addition, she's not dealing well with the cancellation of Veronica Mars and spent the last couple of days exhausting her hard drive by downloading three seasons of the show. So, I went off to Apple's web site and shelled out more than $2,000 on a MacBook Pro. Like all of our previous Macs and iPods, the system is making its way from China. That last bit humiliates the American in me, but I'm able to suppress nationalistic urges with remarkable ease. The real humiliation came last week when I phoned Apple to figure out why it refused to respond to our request to attend the World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. "We appreciate your interest but cannot accommodate your request," spokeswoman Teresa Brewer said. Apple, of course, lets the mainstream set into the show along with pamphleteers like InfoWorld and InformationWeek and bloggers. The Register happens to be the most popular technology publication in Europe and one of the most read publications on the planet, but that's not good enough for Apple. Why not? "I'm sorry, but we cannot accommodate your request," Brewer repeated. I spend enough on Apple products to want to like the company. My desire to like Apple is made stronger by the day dealing with a Vista PC in the office. Vista acts like a lobotomized version of Mac OS X and refuses to work with just about anything crammed into a USB port that requires additional software. Apple's PR staff, however, makes it near impossible to like the company. That's part of their modus operandi, which is fine. But, in all honesty, I'm concerned about the long-term mental health of the flacks. Apple corporate has turned these talented PR professionals into little more than call center workers who repeat the same, frustrating phrases over and over again, refusing to activate anything resembling human emotion or intellect. This has to be dehumanizing, and I suspect many of the PR staff seek therapy just so they can drive to Cupertino each morning. As best as we can tell, Apple blacklisted El Reg because we insisted on pointing out that Steve Jobs cannot pronounce 'Jaguar' - opting instead for Jagwyre. We've been banned for similar things in the past. I once compared then Veritas CEO Gary Bloom to the Simpsons character Artie Ziff. Veritas canceled a planned dinner on the spot, and the phone stopped ringing. Over the years, the likes of IBM, Sun Microsystems, Dell, HP and a host of others have made it clear that we were not welcome. Remarkably, Microsoft and Intel, despite heaps of abuse, have always taken our calls. (Lovely vendors that they are, all of the above have since welcomed us back with mostly open arms. We salute their good judgment.) Typically, PRs from the other vendors have the decency to claim that we're not blacklisted and often promise to "keep us in the loop." We still seem to miss the loop afterwards, but the kind words make us feel better - feel wanted. Apple, by contrast, is indecent. It humiliates reporters by disguising automatons in PR pod people flesh. I give the company credit for having this same stance in its irrelevant pre-iPod period and during its iPod hey-day. No doubt, Apple will continue to offend reporters after iPod sales start crashing and after the company's share price makes its inevitable trek toward $0. I do, however, refuse to allow Mr. Jobs to let his verbal insecurities carry on to this day. We're well past Jagwyre now and into Leper country. Can't you let it go? Buying a $2,000 machine from Apple and then being molested by a impolite robot from the same company is humiliating. Thankfully, I'm afforded space here to deal with my issues. Here's hoping Apple's health plan includes robust coverage for psychiatric visits. The PR staff need their own form of help. If not, may I suggest Martin Heidegger's Being and Time? Or as Steve would say, Martin Hehieohklghd's Beeeeen and Tom. ®
Ashlee Vance, 13 Jun 2007
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FBI logs its millionth zombie address

Federal law enforcement agents targeting botnets recently recorded a grim milestone, identifying the millionth potential zombie victim, the FBI said Wednesday. Operation Bot Roast, as the cyber crime project has come to be known, has now logged more than 1m IP addresses belonging to a botnet. That amounts to plenty of owners, most of whom are oblivious that their Windows 98 box is a cog the sprawling machine at the heart of cyber crime.
Dan Goodin, 13 Jun 2007
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Patent holder calls for eBay 'Buy-It-Now' injunction

That tiny company in Great Lakes, Virginia is re-launching its attack on eBay’s Buy-It-Now button. Four years after a federal jury found that eBay had infringed on its patent, MercExchange LLC has asked the court to shutdown Buy-It-Now, a service that allows eBayers to purchase items at set prices, without bidding at auction. U.S. District Court Judge Jerome B. Friedman has not said when he will rule on the case, the Associated Press reports.
Cade Metz, 13 Jun 2007
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Microsoft clarifies Windows Server virtual licensing

The beefier your Windows Server license the less copies you'll need for running Microsoft's operating system in virtualized environments. That's the takeaway of a new Microsoft white paper intended to clarify the company's licensing policy for Windows Server 2003 Release 2 on virtual servers. Microsoft's paper accompanies an online calculator to help customers estimate the number of licenses they need and to predict the cost of running Standard Edition, Enterprise Edition and Datacenter Edition of the operating system on virtual servers.
Gavin Clarke, 13 Jun 2007