5th > October > 2007 Archive


RIAA hits paydirt: wins first music-sharing jury trial

The Recording Industry of America today won its first jury trial against an individual accused of illegally downloading music. A federal jury fined Jammie Thomas, 30, of Minnesota $220,000 in damages to the six record labels suing her for copyright violation. Thomas will pay $9,250 for each of the 24 songs the prosecution focused on for the case. The RIAA alleges she shared over 1,702 songs in all over the Kazaa peer-to-peer network. Read more about the case here. Thomas denied any wrongdoing over the course of the three day trial. Her attorney, Brian Toder, argued that although the prosecution had fingered her screen name and IP address, they had little proof it was Thomas behind the keyboard — or that music was actually shared with anyone over the account. Toder suggested Thomas may have been victim to a spoofer, cracker or other malicious intrusion of her home network. US District Judge Michael Davis ruled the labels did not have to prove the songs were transfered for Thomas to be held liable. The act of making the songs available is enough to constitute copyright infringement, he said. Davis instructed the 12-member jury the range of the fine was $750 to $150,000 per song. Attorney for the record companies, Richard Gabriel, spoke with reporters outside of the courthouse after the verdict. He said the RIAA will continue to aggressively pursue those it suspects of copyright violations. "This is what can happen if you don't settle," Gabriel said. ®
Austin Modine, 05 Oct 2007

Coming to a Windows PC near you: 4 critical security updates

Microsoft plans to roll out four "critical" security updates that stamp out remote execution vulnerabilities in Windows, Internet Explorer, Office, Outlook Express and Windows Mail.
Dan Goodin, 05 Oct 2007

Sun patches multiple flaws in Java

Sun Microsystems has issued patches for several vulnerabilities in its Java Runtime Environment that leave users on Windows, Linux and Solaris wide open.
Dan Goodin, 05 Oct 2007

IBM preps Power6-based blade and Blue Business Platform

IBM has some server shenanigans planned in the coming months, and we'd like to share them with you. Let's start with IBM's blade servers. In February, IBM will dish out its long-awaited Power6-based blade server, according to David Tareen, a marketing manager at IBM. That February date proves important as it gives some sort of time line for figuring out how IBM will push the Power6 chips through its product line.
Ashlee Vance, 05 Oct 2007

Google and Frontline smack Verizon over US wireless auction (again)

Score one for the anti-Verizons in the ongoing battle for the 700-MHz band, a slice of US wireless spectrum set to be auctioned off by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in mid-January. On September 27, more than two weeks after it brought legal action against the FCC over rules that would allow consumers to attach any device and any application to the band, Verizon asked a federal court for an ultra-quick review of the action. The mega-telco wants its complaints straightened out tout de suite - before the auction arrives. But last night, the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit denied Verizon's request for a fast track. It was one of those short but sweet decisions: "Upon consideration of the emergency motion for expedited review, the oppositions thereto, and the reply, it is ORDERED that the motion to expedite be denied." The decision is a fillip for Frontline Wireless, the well-connected startup lobbying for open access to the 700-MHz band, and you can bet Google is pleased as well. The Mountain View, CA outfit is fighting just as hard to loosen Verizon's grip on American airwaves. The Verizon agenda With its 700-MHz auction rules, laid down on August 10, the FCC applied an open access requirement to a 22MHz portion of the band. As it stands, the winning bidder will have no choice but to open the 700-MHz "C Block" to any device and any application. Of course, Verizon prefers the current situation, where it has complete control over its wireless bandwidth, and early last month, the communications behemoth filed a "petition for review" with the Court of Appeals, insisting that the FCC remove the open access requirement. According to the court action, the FCC's decision was "arbitrary, capricious, unsupported by substantial evidence, and otherwise contrary to law". Judging from earlier comments filed with the FCC, Verizon is arguing that an open access requirement would inhibit the "free speech" of the band's winning bidder. Clearly, Verizon wants to be that winning bidder - as long as the open access requirement is removed. How did it take the decision from the Court of Appeals? The company refused to give us a comment. Frontline fights back Meanwhile, Google and Frontline are anxious to keep that open access requirement right where it is. Four days after Verizon asked the court for an expedited review of its petition, Frontline told the court to reject the request. "Verizon has failed to demonstrate why a single hypothetical outcome for a single potentially affected party is so exceptional that it constitutes irreparable harm that strongly compels expedited review," read a court filing from Frontline, whose executive staff includes former FCC chairman Reed Hundt. In other words, the company thinks Verizon is trying to rig the auction in its favor. Frontline has even gone so far as to suggest that the FCC should bar Verizon from the 700-MHz auction. In a recent filing with the commission, the startup said that the telco violated FCC rules after its September 17 meeting with current chairman Kevin Martin. Following such a meeting, Verizon is required to publicly disclose the details, and Frontline said it failed to do so, claiming that the telco's "ex parte" letter about the get-together could "only be described as opaque." "That letter provided just a one-sentence description of the September 17, 2007 meeting between high-level Verizon executives and the Chairman, his staff and the Wireless Bureau Chief, and was so deliberately obfuscatory that it did not bother to even identify the issues discussed," Frontline complained in its own filing. And Google too Google made much the same argument with its own FCC filing earlier this week - and then some. After Verizon filed its original letter about the September 17 meeting, the commission asked the telco to file a more detailed letter - and the company complied. But the search giant is still peeved that Verizon is trying to bend the FCC's ear even as its suing the commission in federal court. "Given that Verizon already has appealed the order in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, however, it may not also at the same time seek FCC reconsideration," read a filing from Google. "Under these circumstances, the Commission should declare that Verizon may not sidestep the mandatory procedures of the Communications Act and the Commission’s rules by denying the public the right to understand and respond to its reconsideration positions – or enjoying two bites at the proverbial apple." Yes, this all sounds very catty. But the future of the US internet access hangs in the balance. If the open access requirement remains in place, Google may even bid for the wireless band, as it reiterated yesterday in a post to its official public policy blog. "We are still carefully analyzing whether and how we might participate in the upcoming auction," wrote Richard Whitt, Google's Washington media and telecom counsel. "However, if we do end up bidding and ultimately win the spectrum in question, we would ensure that consumers have the right to decide which devices and applications they want to use on our network. We would also encourage third party software applications - even those that compete directly with our own services - on the theory that users deserve the right to pick and choose the programs they want to use online." It's a theory we agree with. ®
Cade Metz, 05 Oct 2007

Betfair catches whiff of tennis match fix

The gentlewomen of the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) have gotten their knickers in a twist over some unusual betting activity at the online betting exchange Betfair, the AP reports. The suspicions led Betfair to suspend payouts on the match, in which 120th-ranked Mariya Koryttseva beat No. 96 Tatiana Poutchek of Belarus 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals of the Sunfeast Open in India. The latest incident - which brought back memories of allegations of possible fixing in a match between Nikolay Davydenko and 87th-ranked Martin Vassallo Arguello in Poland back in August - says as much about an abundance of caution at Betfair as it does the moral state of tennis. In that case, which is still under investigation by the the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), Betfair took the extreme and unprecedented step of voiding all bets on the match. Betfair conducted an internal investigation of the betting on the Koryttseva/Poutchek match, and eventually paid out, satisfied that nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. Tennis, like boxing, is an easy game to fix, and the earlier Betfair incident appears to have opened up a can of worms for the sport. Last month, Gilles Elseneer of Belgium said he was offered more than $100,000 to lose a first-round match against Potito Starace of Italy at Wimbledon in 2005. The French weekly newspaper Journal du Dimanche recently reported that several Italian tennis players had online betting accounts. That in turn raised the hackles of the Italian Tennis Federation, which threatened legal action against the players. The WTA is investigating the circumstances surrounding the Koryttseva/Poutchek match.® Burke Hansen, attorney at large, heads a San Francisco law office
Burke Hansen, 05 Oct 2007

Linux on mobile: manifest destiny?

When the Linux Foundation emerged from the collision of the Open Software Development Labs (ODSL) and the Free Standards Group in January 2007, cynical observers described it, with some justification, as "yet another Linux knitting circle". Probably more than any other software phenomenon, Linux has generated a plethora of lobbying groups, alliances and standards organizations. This applies especially to what is growing into one of the most important development areas for Linux - mobile devices.
Phil Manchester, 05 Oct 2007

Westcon catches Latin American minnow

Westcon, the specialist networking distie, is moving into Mexico and the Caribbean for the first time, through the acquisition of Cernet of America, and a sister Mexican company called Cernet Tecnologia en Telecomunicaciones.
Team Register, 05 Oct 2007

Facebook faces more legal trouble

Social networking site Facebook has been ordered to turn over information on whether registered sex offenders have set up profiles on its site.
Ciara O'Brien, 05 Oct 2007

Birmingham trust signs up to VoIP

The Heart of Birmingham Teaching Primary Care Trust has signed a contract with BT to host its IP telephony services. The services will be delivered over the NHS national broadband network, N3, which is being rolled out by BT as part of the £12bn NPfIT.
Kablenet, 05 Oct 2007

Global Voice hits right note with €32m bond

Irish-owned data network firm Global Voice, which trades as euNetworks, has raised up to €32m in funding through the issuing of a convertible bond. Global Voice said it intends to use the proceeds of the bond to accelerate the roll-out of metro networks and associated services in London, Berlin, and Munich.
Charlie Taylor, 05 Oct 2007
PC World

PC superstore puts Microsoft on sale for under £150

The bargains just get better and better at PC World. This week it's got the world's leading software company on sale for a measly £149.99.
Joe Fay, 05 Oct 2007

BT says its Wi-Fi kibbutz isn't targeting 3G

BT has played down suggestions its new Wi-Fi sharing initiative is designed to compete with 3G mobile broadband in future. It will bid to improve coverage by opening the network to other ISPs' customers, however. The telco launched a bid with Spanish start-up FON yesterday to persuade its two million Home Hub router owners to join a wireless bandwidth-sharing community. FON makes money by selling access to non-members worldwide. BT's retail internet services director John Hurry said the project would be targeting "hundreds of thousands" of UK members in a year's time. Coverage targets have not been made public. FON's operations chief Deigo Cabezudo said his firm is developing software for seamless handover between routers that will make mobile VoIP calls on the BT FON network more reliable. BT Openzone general manager Chris Bruce played down the network's potential as a mobile competitor. He said: "It's a portable rather than a mobile solution. It's about what's possible now - Wi-Fi is here today." He reiterated BT's stance that it will address its agnostic WiMAX policy when spectrum becomes available. Openzone is pressing ahead with its 12 Wireless Cities plan, which aims to provide seamless Wi-Fi in urban centres to BT FON members. Bruce blamed the failure of municipal wireless in the US on providers' reliance on a single revenue stream. He said BT's relationships with local councils and multiple sources of income from the installations would ensure the project's stability. The deal between BT and FON is exclusive and indefinite. However, Hurry said other ISPs customers would be welcome to join the community and use Openzone hotspots in the near future if they buy a special router able to provide other Foneros with secure access. Cabezudo said the BT Fonera router for non-BT customers will probably be available "by the end of the year". It could cause some interesting legal friction. The first wave of Total Broadband customer sign-ups, being taken now at btfon.com, will have their Home Hub firmware updated on Monday, BT said. ® Bootnote Spotted: Niklas Zennstrom and Janus Friis, fresh from jumping the Skype ship, at the launch party for BT FON last night. Why would BT want to schmooze two men who have done more to drive down its voice revenues than most, and are now behind a competitor to BT's Vision IPTV service in Joost? Just asking.
Christopher Williams, 05 Oct 2007

Northamber blames Vista, weak dollar for revenue slide

IT distributor Northamber has seen revenue for the year ended 30 June 2007 tumble to £182.2m, down a hefty £22.2m on its 2006 figures. The Surrey-based firm's chairman D M Phillips blamed the slow adoption of Microsoft's Vista and the weakness of the US dollar for putting a dent in Northamber sales.
Kelly Fiveash, 05 Oct 2007

MS claims Halo 3 is world's fastest selling game

Halo 3 has proven to be a shrewd investment for Microsoft. The software behemoth claims the game is the world's fastest-selling video game to date, generating sales in excess of $300m (£150m/€190m) during its first week.
James Sherwood, 05 Oct 2007

O2 Cocoon mobile phone

ReviewReview O2 may have beaten its rivals to the iPhone, but it’s already launched a first assault on the mobile music market with a distinctively quirky own-brand design, the Cocoon. With 2GB of tune-packing internal memory and 2GB memory card support it’s ready to go toe-to-toe with most other music phones. And, strangely enough, alarm clocks too...
Simon Lorne, 05 Oct 2007

BOFH: Skip diplomacy

Episode 34Episode 34 "Hurry up and get the door open!" I gasp as the PFY fumbles with his swipe card at the back door of the building. "Ok, ok," the PFY whispers back. "I'm working as fast as I can! >swip< Got it!" >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >click< "Right, I'll hold the door, you pick up that lot." "Okay," the PFY says, hefting up a bunch of machines. "But Archimedes - who in this company would have an Archimedes?" "No idea," I lie, not wanting to risk refreshing his memories of the whole thing - his secret stash of machines in the room next to the Boss' office, our discovery of him using them, his reprogramming, his subsequent regression, his encounter with the dentist from Marathon Man, the discovery of a second stockpile of running Archimedes in a basement room... "So what are we doing with these?" "Dumping them in the skip before anyone notices," I snap back. "So get a move on." "What skip?" the PFY asks. "THAT ONE!" I reply, nodding with my head. "When did that arrive?!" he gasps. "About 6:30pm, right on the change of security shift so that neither of them will be interested in it," I say. "So why didn't we chuck this crap out then?" "BECAUSE," I respond. "We have to wait till there's no one around to ask questions." "Why not just come in early tomorrow then?" "Because (a) there's bound to be someone who comes in early to fire off an email to their boss about some work topic before bunking off for a couple of hours kip in the sick room, and (b) leaving a skip unattended overnight is an invitation for people to do what we're doing." "Which is?" "Getting rid of evidence." "Why's this evidence?" "It's not, but the rest of the stuff we're going to chuck in the bin tonight is." "What stuff?" "Those two large SSA disk enclosures that we talked the Boss into a couple of years back." "The ones that cost 20 grand." "Yep, and were never used because they weren't compatible with the adaptors in our machines..." "Oh. What else?" "The 200 slot tape library that we bought for cheap which ended up having handling errors about 50 per cent of the time." "Oh yeah, that was another 40 grand. What else?" the PFY asks, as he heaves his load into the bin. >crash< >crash< ... >crash< >crash< "I dunno - but I know there's about three cupboards full of our purchasing mistakes that need to be disposed of on the Q.T." "But won't people see them when they come to work?" "No chance - I'm going to cover them with a thick layer of ITIL manuals." "What ITIL manuals?" "The ones in the helpdesk area, the Boss' office, our office, the consultants' offices, the company library and the IT Library." >swip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >click< "But... won't people notice them missing?" "Of course they will - the same way they'd notice a cold sore is missing." "You mean they won't say anything?" "Who'd want a cold sore back?" "But won't people notice them in the bin?" "They might, but ITIL manuals are like kryptonite to enthusiasm. If someone sees them in the bin they're not likely to delve any further to see if there's anything good in there." "Point taken," the PFY says, as I unlock one of our many storage cupboards (personally keyed and marked 'Outflow Waste Pumping Station'). "Bloody heavy," the PFY gasps as between us we heft it to back outside. "Just rest it on that will you?" >swip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >bip< >click< "Okay, lets go." . . . >CRASH!< "Who's that?" a voice gasps from the other side of the skip. Funny who you meet dumping stuff in a skip in the middle of the night. Like the Boss, for instance, with a couple of armloads of recently purchased 'biometric security devices' which have been found to be just as crap as we’d warned him... ... Like the Head of IT a quarter hour after that with some ITIL manuals (bonus!)... ...Like the CEO pushing the multifunction 'smart' whiteboard which has only ever been used as a normal whiteboard but has been ruined by non-whiteboard markers and abrasive cleaning pads... BUSTED! The ensuing dumping amnesty was a great thing for forging alliances at all levels of the organisation and will be spoken about in hushed tones for years like a soccer game in Flanders. …The rest-stops at the pub while security dumped a load of CCTVs with a non-standard proprietary interface… …the camaraderie as we formed a human chain to help one of the stores guys dump 97 trolley tyres… …followed shortly thereafter by every man for himself when the Old Bill turned out to investigate a skipful of burning tyres... . . . The next morning . . . “OKAY, WHO BURNED ALL THE ITIL MANUALS?” the IT Training contractor bloke snarls, seconds after turning up to his empty office shelves. “It was him,” the PFY says, pointing to the Boss. Ah well, camaraderie’s overrated… BOFH: The whole shebang The Compleat BOFH Archives 95-99
Simon Travaglia, 05 Oct 2007

Money men rubbish spooky fears over 3Com deal

Bain Capital Partners, the private equity shop that sounded the death knell for 3Com this week, has moved to kneecap talk of a national security block by the US.
Christopher Williams, 05 Oct 2007

MS drops nagware validation for IE7 installs

Microsoft has dropped the requirement for Windows XP users to go through Windows Genuine Advantage validation in order to get Internet Explorer 7.
John Leyden, 05 Oct 2007

IBM coughs up SMB software

IBM has reached out its sizeable hand to the little people in the biz world with the launch today of a new range of software products.
Kelly Fiveash, 05 Oct 2007

Spammers turn YouTube into spam relay channel

Miscreants have turned a YouTube service into a spam relay channel. YouTube contains a facility that allows users to invite their friends to view videos that they are looking at or have posted. This "Invite Your Friends" system is being used to send out "massive quantities of spam", according to content security outfit Marshall.
John Leyden, 05 Oct 2007

Pipex-Intel WiMAX emerges as Freedom4

The first serious attempt at a WiMAX ISP is getting tarted up for launch, but keeping its pricing cards close to its bosom. Pipex and Intel Capital's joint venture has been branded Freedom4, and has a spanky new website here. Freedom4 says it'll flog businesses a symmetrical 4Mbit/s connection, but not when or for how much. It's currently only accepting registrations of interest. The "Home Worker" package provides symmetrical 1Mbit/s coverage, and Freedom4 says it'll guarantee data rates and install the kit within seven days of your order. According to its coverage map, Manchester, Warwick and Milton Keynes are ready for punters already. The firm holds one of two national 3.6GHz WiMAX licences issued by Ofcom so far. The other is owned by Hong Kong-based Pacific Century Cyber Works, which hoovered up 13 UK spectrum licences in 2003, but has failed to make use of them. Pipex, in the process of dismantling itself, has high hopes for Freedom4. It's set to be spun out a separate business after trials registered "significant demand" for WiMAX. As it stands, Pipex CEO Mike Read retains overall control of the outfit. ®
Christopher Williams, 05 Oct 2007

Spam, scrams and scams - take your pick

Microsoft vs Google, vs Microsoft, vs Microsoft? Google and Microsoft met for a bit of legal jousting on Capitol Hill this week. The subject? Google's proposed $3.1bn merger with online ad firm DoubleClick. Microsoft said the merger would hinder competition in the online ad market and endanger the privacy of people everywhere, while Google maintained that the deal would be good for everyone and would promote free speech. But not all the top brass at MS got the memo, and just days later reports emerged of comments by Jean-Philippe Courtois, head of Microsoft International. He said we should put our trust in the regulators: "The question is not for Microsoft to have specific views... as in all markets, it is for the regulator to see if the competition is right." Googling for privacy Meanwhile, Google has proposed breaking up the information gathered on users of its services in order to better preserve their privacy. The company told the US Senate that it was investigating the measure after consultation with privacy groups. Neither the Australian High Commission nor the German courts were impressed. The Aussies went on the offensive over Google's habit of serving sponsored links along with its search results, while the data protection authorities in Germany have written to EC competition heads about the proposed DoubleClick acquisition, concerned the deal will give Google unprecedented access to users' personal data. Microsoft apes Google's aps In a bid to spin its web-based version of Office into contention with rival internet behemoth Google, Microsoft has said it will begin accepting applications for beta testing its web apps later this year. Feeling the pressure perhaps? Unlike Google, MS says users must already own an offline version of the software before they can play. Google grows its own Meanwhile, Google has completed the integration of Postini into its corporate email service and more than doubled the capacity of inboxes to 25GB. The free Gmail inbox offered to webplebians remains at 3GB. Yet more Google Astonishingly, more news from Google, but less good this time. Speculation is mounting that the search giant could have been compromised. Watchers say a proliferation of rogue sites turning up in search results suggests the firm's security is not what it should be. Google says it is working on it, and has fixed many of the issues already. See you in court Thirty-year-old single mother of two Jammie Thomas is almost certainly wishing she hadn't said as much to the RIAA. Thomas appeared in court earlier this week to answer allegations that she illegally shared 1,702 songs on the Kazaa file-sharing network. However, her peers were swayed by the arguments of the RIAA and found in its favour. Thomas has been fined $9,250 for each of the 24 songs the prosecution focused on for the case. The RIAA alleges she shared over 1,702 songs in all over the peer-to-peer network. Fine times Also facing fines are three men accused of forcing spyware onto more than 15 million computers. The trio has agreed to pay $330,000 and to to be monitored by federal authorities for up to eight years. A quick compare and contrast is left as an exercise for the reader. Sue-ts you, sir A (relatively) small Texas company has sued AOL, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo!, claiming that all four web giants have infringed its patent "for conducting business transactions over the internet". Performance Pricing Inc filed suit last week in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division, insisting that four of the biggest names on the net are stepping on its patent with their ad technologies. In anti we trust The European Commission has launched an anti-trust investigation into chip maker Qualcomm. It is the third chip or memory competition case launched by the commission since July, and follows a recent commission competition court victory over Microsoft. The case concerns accusations first made against Qualcomm by rival chip makers in 2005, when Nokia and others made a formal complaint to the commission, alleging that Qualcomm abused the fact that its technology was chosen for use in the technical standard used for third generation (3G) mobile phone technology. Slap in the FaceBook Facebook has wrestled control of the web address face-book.com away from an Isle of Man-based firm that operates it as a revenue-raising link dump. Manx outfit YOLAPT registered the domain on 3 October 2004, several months after Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg launched thefacebook.com, but while it was still only available to a few US colleges. Penguins out on a limb An ARM, to be precise. The firm flexed its mobile muscle by revealing a fairly broad coalition focused on developing a version of Linux well-suited for future smart phones. Partners include Marvell, MontaVista, Movial, Mozilla, Samsung and TI. The companies intend to craft an open source operating system, development package, and a browser that could could run on just about anything from a phone to ultra-mobile PCs. Bidding on this item has ended Skype co-founder and chief executive Niklas Zennstrom has quit his job managing the day-to-day running of the eBay-owned IP telephony outfit. He walks away with a share of a $530m profit-related pay off. In an SEC filing, also today, eBay said it would take a $1.43bn hit in charges relating to Skype in Q3. Skype's founders say they are happy with the cash they've trousered, despite missing out on the huge payday they would've scored if the service was a bigger success. If Skype had hit profit targets, Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom would have taken home three times as much bacon. Staying with eBay, the firm also went on the offensive against wannabe Skype-alikes, deleting auctions that carried click-to-call buttons for VoIP rival Jajah. Jajah released its embeddable buttons last week, and decided to take the provocative step of promoting a special version for eBay auctions. Businessweek claimed there had been a deal between the two to approve the buttons, but no such talks occurred. Data retentive UK telecoms firms must keep phone call logs for a year under legislation which came into force this week. But firms say it'll make little practical difference to them, since they already store this kind of data for billing purposes. The Data Retention (EC Directive) Regulations 2007 are intended to ensure that security services have a reliable log of mobile and fixed-line phone calls to be used in investigations. They are also designed to ensure a uniform approach across the industry. Fresh air in MySpace Or is that just the sound of O2 offering customers access to their MySpace accounts, only eight months after Vodafone announced its exclusive with the Murdoch-owned portal. The telco says it is suspending data charges for November and December, after which the mobile operator suggests you take advantage of its "unlimited" data tariffs. Navigating acquisitions Nokia has jumped into the personal navigation business with the acquisition of Navteq for €5.7bn ($8.1bn). The Chicago-based navigation technology firm has about 3,000 employees based at 168 offices in 30 countries. The company will operate independently, providing existing customers with mapping information and continuing to run Traffic.com. Not one to be left out of a trend, Microsoft picked up shopping site Jellyfish. Jellyfish offers shoppers cashback for buying from its affiliate merchants, who can decide how much to pay the site by way of commission. As well as product searches, it runs reverse auctions in the style of a TV shopping channel, where the steeliest bidders can pick up a bargain. Spamtastic The Security and Exchange Commission prompted smiles on Thursday, as it reviewed data showing stock-touting junk mail has dropped significantly since a tough anti-spam campaign kicked off in March. Meanwhile, Symantec says spam related to financial services comprised 21 per cent of all junk mail in the first six months of this year, down from 30 per cent during the last six months of 2006. But it is not all good news: Overall, spam is up. It just isn't stock advice anymore. Scamtastic More than $2.1bn in counterfeit cheques destined for the US have been seized and 77 arrests made in Netherlands, Nigeria, and Canada as part of an international crackdown on cheque fraud scams. The full extent of the fraud is unknown, but scams in which fraudsters trick consumers into accepting phoney cheques or money orders and wiring some of the money in return are increasing at an alarming rate, according to the National Consumers League (NCL). TV and radio was full of discussion, including news that as many as one in 10 Brits falls victim to this kind of scam. In related news, APACS reports that a doubling of overseas card fraud is pushing up industry losses even as domestic fraud decreases. The banking industry association says total credit card fraud losses increased by 26 per cent to £263.6m in the six months to June 2007, compared with £209m in the first half of 2006. Scramtastic Questions are mounting over how Israeli planes were able to sneak past Syria's defences and bomb a "strategic target" in the country last month. Israeli F-15s and F-16s bombed a military construction site on 6 September. Earlier reports of the attack were confirmed this week when Israeli Army radio said Israeli planes had attacked a military target "deep inside Syria", quoting the military censor. Blast from the past Users of encryption technology can no longer refuse to reveal keys to UK authorities after amendments to the powers of the state to intercept communications took effect on Monday (1 Oct). The Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) has had a clause activated which allows a person to be compelled to reveal a decryption key. Refusal can earn someone a five year jail term. And finally... James Blunt is, officially, a w*nker. We'll say no more. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2007

UK company presents the pop-out post-a-phone

A UK design company has gone eco-friendly with its recyclable landline handset, which is so flat it can be posted through your letterbox. The Post A Phone is just 0.4cm thick and made from recyclable cardboard and plastic.
James Sherwood, 05 Oct 2007

IBM drops attempt to patent outsourcing

IBM has abandoned a ludicrous attempt to patent outsourcing after an internet outcry. Big Blue submitted this highly original invention to the US Patent office in January 2006. Its principal claim was for "a method for identifying human-resource work content to outsource offshore of an organisation".
Christopher Williams, 05 Oct 2007

Forget municipal Wi-Fi, welcome to Zigbee City

Utility company Göteborg Energi AB has selected NURI Telecom to provide Zigbee-enabled electricity meters to every home in the Swedish city of Gothenburg. The meters will then link themselves together to allow remote meter reading without infrastructure costs.
Bill Ray, 05 Oct 2007

Spammers target hamsters after Ig Nobel winning research

Today is surely the biggest day of the year for boffins and those involved in the pursuit of boffinry. Because today, the Ig Nobel awards are handed out. Well, they were handed out last night, but the boffins will be having their hangovers today, and that is even more important. As regular readers will know, the Ig Nobel Awards are given to scientists who have contributed a certain something to the overall store of human knowledge, and have simultaneously made us all wonder, "what were they thinking?" The tagline of the awards is "research that makes people laugh, then think". This year's illustrious winners include the team of geniuses who came up with the idea of a "gay bomb". Although it was not ever constructed, the idea behind this was that when unleashed behind enemy lines, the chemical bomb would render enemy soldiers more interested in pursuing one another, than in fighting an actual war. The prize for physics went to a team who tackled the tricky and vexing question of just how it is that sheets become wrinkled. A team that demonstrated that ducks can't tell the difference between the Japanese and German languages, if they are played backwards, won the prize for linguistics. Glenda Brown of Australia took home a trophy for her unstinting search for the best way to index titles that start with "The". She said the band "The The" cause particular difficulties. Thankless work, we are sure, so good to see it being recognised. Medical work is recognised, too. So let's hear it for the researcher who discovered that the injury most often sustained by professional sword swallowers is a sore throat. But our favourite has to be the work done in Argentina, which determined that viagra can help hamsters recover from jetlag. Splendid news indeed, since hamsters are known for their globe trotting. We are a little confused tough, as to how you would spot a jetlagged hamster. From our own childhoods we seem to remember the damn things spent virtually 24 hours a day sleeping, or hiding in a plastic boot. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2007

Doubters fret at Nokia Navteq deal

CommentComment Nokia has spent the greatest part of its life being misunderstood by US stock analysts, and its move to acquire US mapping company Navteq, for a colossal $8.1bn, at $78 a share, is no exception.
Faultline, 05 Oct 2007

Kim Jong Il: dictator, gnome, and now 'internet expert'

This week's historic reconciliation summit between North and South Korea has delivered an unexpected nugget of pure news gold: as well as being a "mad as cheese" bon viveur and the world's greatest golfer, Kim Jong Il considers himself an expert in packet-switched networking. That's actually a tricked-out Mac Pro. Liquid cooled and everything. News agency Yonhap reports the reclusive despot made the claim in reponse to a request from South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun that South Korean industry trading in the North be allowed online. Kim responded: "I'm an internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." It almost sounds like BT's reasoning for not laying fibre to the home. But we digress. "If that problem is addressed, there is no reason not to open [the internet]," Kim continued, explaining that the internet isn't for ordinary North Koreans, only experts like him. The regime tightly controls all communications in North Korea. Internet access is completely locked down for military and important government applications. Kim, a notorious ladies' man, reportedly asked for then-US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's email address when she visited in 2000. Presently, there are two Kim Jong Ils listed on Facebook. He's probably trawling for babes as we write - his loneliness was of course well documeted in Team America: World Police. ®
Christopher Williams, 05 Oct 2007

Orange offers extended network coverage

Orange is to charge customers for extending network coverage into buildings with limited or no coverage, while still billing them for calls carried over their own broadband connection, according to the firm's picocell strategy, announced today. Pico (or femto) cells offer the opportunity for license-holders to deploy tiny GSM cells. Connected to ADSL lines they can provide low-cost connectivity for any GSM mobile, converting a mobile call to VoIP while taking load off the operator's network. O2 is trialling femtocells in customers' homes to provide free in-home voice calls and delivery of 3G services such as streaming video and online gaming, without relying on network coverage. Qualcomm reckons femtocells are the ideal home network, for streaming video around the house and as a direct competitor to home Wi-Fi. But Orange wants to see companies who have trouble getting coverage in basements or back offices paying to have a picocell fitted and connected to their broadband to provide the coverage they need. The firm is keen to emphasise that this will be part of a communications deal and the price will be negotiable. It also doesn't preclude Orange doing all those other exciting things tiny cells make possible, but it does show how Orange is positioning the technology and where it sees the revenue potential. ®
Bill Ray, 05 Oct 2007
Warning Speed Camera

Geeks and Nerds caught on film lacking geeky nerdiness

Canada was shocked to its honest-to-goodness core this week by the news that the country's PC repairmen are undermining its sweet as maple syrup image. Canadian TV show CBC Marketplace did a hidden camera investigation into computer repair firms to see how many technicians could correctly fix a hardware problem.
Kelly Fiveash, 05 Oct 2007

Computer glitch nixes death row appeal in Texas

A Texas inmate was sent to his death after a computer glitch held up his appeal filing, and a presiding judge refused to extend the deadline. Earlier that day the US Supreme Court said it would consider a case from Kentucky, in which lawyers were arguing that the lethal injection is unconstitutional. The Houston Chronicle reports that judges were expecting to receive an appeal, triggered by the Supreme Court's ruling. Judge Cathy Cochran told the paper that several of her colleagues were prepared to stay in their offices waiting for Michael Richard's lawyers to file his paperwork. "A number of judges stayed very late that evening, waiting for a filing from the defence attorney," she said. Judge Paul Womack was one of those who stayed in the office, waiting for the appeal. "All I can tell you is that night I stayed at the court until seven o'clock in case some late filing came in," he said. "I was under the impression we might get something... It was reasonable to expect an effort would be made with some haste in light of the Supreme Court [action]." But Presiding Judge Sharon Keller refused to allow the appeal to be filed after 5pm, and did not consult with her colleagues on her decision. She said: "I think the question ought to be why didn't they file something on time? They had all day." The court does not accept emailed appeals. Lawyers for 49-year-old Richards said a computer problem meant they couldn't print their filing in time to get it to the court by 5pm. They added that if the court would have accepted their submission by email, they still would have made the deadline, and that they only needed an extra 20 minutes. Richards was executed later that day for the murder in 1986 of Marguerite Lucille Dixon, a 53-year-old nurse and mother of seven. Civil rights campaigners said they were considering filing an official complaint about the debacle. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 05 Oct 2007

DRM on steroids controls backfires on Blu-ray

The introduction of a new form of encryption control for Blu-ray discs last week has been accompanied by playback snags and worse, on a number of players.
John Leyden, 05 Oct 2007

Alcohol makes you smart enough to study it

CommentsComments Studious teens can now take a course in "alcohol awareness" and earn a certificate equivalent to half a GCSE. The exam appears not to include a practical section, instead focussing on the dangers of drinking to excess. Always willing to discuss alcohol, you bit right in:
Robin Lettice, 05 Oct 2007

Open .NET challenge for iPhone development

It stole the summer and broke hearts, with its empty promises on customization and a hardware lock down that turned some iPhones into bricks. Now, a new device could provide an alternative for developers interested in mobile applications after the start of a process porting a Microsoft-like architecture has begun.
Gavin Clarke, 05 Oct 2007

Microsoft and Bungie part ways

The whispers and omens of Halo developer, Bungie Studios departing from Microsoft were true. Microsoft announced today it will spin its record-breaking development team back into the wild.
Austin Modine, 05 Oct 2007

Lawmaker shows nudie pic to high school seniors

Ohio state legislator Matthew Barrett was supposed to give a group of high school seniors a civics presentation using PowerPoint slides he had prepared on how a bill becomes a law. What they got was an anatomy lesson when the computer he was using displayed the image of a topless woman. The busty photo appeared shortly after Barrett inserted a memory stick into a school computer. He said there were several snickers from the 20 or so students in the senior government class at Norwalk High School. The democratic lawmaker quickly removed the data stick and apologized. He told the Norwalk Reflector it was the first time he had done the presentation using PowerPoint and said he received the stick as a gift from an aide about three weeks earlier. Ohio State Police have taken custody of the device and computer to discover exactly where the image came from. House democratic staffers later said the image had been downloaded by one of the legislator's four children. School officials in the future plan to screen class materials before guest speakers give presentations. ®
Dan Goodin, 05 Oct 2007