Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/11/24/week_end_24/

Vista licenses, police fingerprints, Zimmermann speaks

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By John Oates

Posted in Business, 24th November 2006 14:35 GMT

IBM settles overtime issue

Big Blue has paid $65m to settle a long-running case over overtime. Some 32,000 US-based IT workers are in line for payments. The boys and girls in blue suits will get paid for working more than 40 hours a week. The computer giant is not admitting any liability, but paying up anyway.

Share option fallout

We've had more fallout from the ongoing investigation into backdating share options in the US. Online recruitment firm Monster.com is facing one such investigation. Its founder and CEO has already quit over the row. This week saw its top legal bod and general counsel making the long walk. This is going to be the first of many such cases.

Police roadside dabs

It's been a busy week for police technology stories. First up, 10 police forces are trialling a handheld fingerprint device – there's a joke there somewhere, but we'll move on. Police techies reckon 60 per cent of stopped drivers lie about their identity - which seems a little high to us. However, it will no longer be a problem because police can instantly take fingerprints and check them against the national database.

Met Police are having less success keeping their hands on their own data. It emerged this week that the Metropolitan Police have lost three laptops containing payroll and pension details for 15,000 officers - if only they'd been wearing head-mounted evidence cameras they'd be able to see where they'd left those missing laptops.

Officers in Haringey are testing eight helmet-mounted cameras. They reckon it will help collect evidence against "youngsters who are intent on causing trouble". We reckon it will provide a whole new chapter in Beadle's About style police clips on YouTube.

Zimmerman speaks

Pretty Good Privacy is the encryption package created by Phil Zimmermann – we caught up with him this week to hear what he's been up to.

Encryption has gone from being a slightly suspicious hackers technology to being a legal requirement for lots of mainstream businesses. Zimmerman ended up in trouble with US customs who considered his product a munition and therefore not suitable for export. The legal hassles were sorted out and Zimmermann is currently working on encrypting VoIP calls.

Ballmer spooks Linux lovers

When Microsoft sealed a deal with Novell there were warnings that it might lead to legal action or at least legal threats. And this week it came to pass. Microsoft chief exec Steve Ballmer said Linux infringes Microsoft intellectual property.

Saying ain't proving, of course, and open source advocates fiercely rejected Ballmer's claims. But let's face it, Microsoft is hardly inexperienced in corporate law. Of course, no one needs to win any court cases...just spread a little fear, uncertainty and the other one...

Will Linux sue back?

On the same issue, we spoke to the Free Software Foundation's chief attorney Eben Moglen who had a different view. He reckons changes to the General Public License is the way to head Microsoft off at the pass. This issue is not going to go away and Microsoft is past-expert at playing the legal long game.

Vista's licentious licenses

And here's another issue you will mainly be reading about next year – Vista licenses. Vista gives Microsoft many of the rights it already claims under its Genuine Advantage programme – so if it suspects the software is dodgy, rightly or wrongly, they can switch it off remotely.

You must also agree to send a fair bit of information over to Redmond so it can "activate" your copy of Vista. And if you don't activate it, Microsoft will switch it off. The courts have looked at similar issues before and we wouldn't be surprised if Vista licenses didn't bring their own bunch of lawsuits.

Dell results aren't

Dell posted results this week. Well, sort of. The company is still dealing with an SEC investigation so results are dependent on investigators giving it the nod. Assuming they do, Dell saw overall sales rise to $14.4bn, an increase of $500m, but PC sales fell by almost the same amount, to $4.7bn from $5.1bn.

Tiny Caribbean island takes on Bush

Another slowburner this week – Antigua is taking on the might of the US over its decision to outlaw internet gambling. The law was tacked onto an unrelated piece of legislation about US ports. And Antigua reckons this might work in their favour. The bill was written in a hurry and leaves loopholes for US horse racing and the Indian casino business. But by treating foreign suppliers differently to domestic companies the US may have left itself open to legal action under World Trade rules. So far, the US is simply ignoring the World Trade Organisation, but its own legislation might make this harder to do.

Vodafone overcharges

Vodafone has admitted it has been overcharging customers who use premium rate text numbers. Pay-as-you-go users found an extra 12 pence charge every time they used such a service. Vodafone is deciding whether it's going to do anything about the snafu.

Two for your Christmas list

Well, the Christmas lights are on in London, and a Bond film out, so minds turn naturally to gadgets. Thanks to Ofcom for legalising one of the Reg's favourite gadgets. From 8 December you can legally plug a low-powered radio transmitter on top of your iPod, so you can play your music through a car radio, or any other kind of radio.

Ofcom has also ruled that the 20,000 CB radio users no longer need a license to pursue their hobby.

In other not really Christmas related news police are searching for a gang who emptied a lorry containing half a million quid worth of Xboxes. So look out for suspiciously cheap consoles in Staffordshire. It's not the only incident – the same distributor lost another load five days ago.

Security snafus

In security news this week a Manchester man has been convicted of using an MP3 player to hack into cashpoint machines. He attached it to the back of freestanding machines – like the ones in shops – and recorded details as they were sent over the phone line. He got his hands on £200,000 of other people's cash.

It also emerged that bank PINs are not quite as secret as we supposed. The hole needs to be exploited by a bank insider, but it shows a way to guess PINs in one or two attempts. It should take 5,000 guesses to find a PIN. And the hole means people from other banks can get hold of your number.

That's it for this week, thanks for reading... ®