Only the iPhone can save mankind

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Identify yourself, on the cheap

The cost of the UK government's planned ID card scheme has dropped to a bargain £5.6bn the government's latest six monthly report into the project's progress reveals.

The newly slashed figure covers the total cost of providing ID cards and biometric passports to UK and resident Irish citizens, and foreign nationals wishing to extend their leave in the UK. The last government estimate back in May was £5.75bn.

Bet you can't enforce that ban

The Administrative Court of Appeal in Hessen state this week overturned a ruling by a lower court that had prohibited Austrian online gambling operator Bwin from providing gambling services over the internet to German customers. The ruling focused on what the court described as the practical impossibility of enforcing a ban on online gambling.

Child porn ring smashed

Police have dismantled an international child pornography ring that used the internet to produce and distribute tailor-made videos to some 2,500 customers in 19 countries. In all, 92 arrests have been made and 23 victims aged nine to 16 have been identified. The videos allegedly contained heinous content.

Music retailers say DRM sucks

Killing DRM is saving digital music, reckons British retailer 7Digital. The company says DRM-free music sales now outnumber sales of DRM-encumbered music by 4:1, and credits EMI with the shift. Removing the locks and keys also helps shift albums, with 70 per cent of MP3 sales by value being full albums.

Paging the rest of the music industry... the BPI, for instance, which this week suffered a case of the blushes when figures obtained by The Reg showed that the number of file-sharers disguising their BitTorrent activity with encryption is skyrocketing. Naturally, it claimed this as proof that its crackdown is working. We're not sure we follow that, but what can you do?

Open secrets, sesame

US federal law enforcement agencies have obtained access to clear text copies of encrypted emails sent through Hushmail as part a of recent drug trafficking investigation.

The access was only granted after a court order was served on Hush Communications, the Canadian firm that offers the service. Hush Communications said it would only accede to requests made in respect to targeted accounts and via court orders filed through Canadian courts. All rather less secret than we had been led to believe.

Reform patents pending

Microsoft is trying to patent automatic goodbye messages, including "Have a great afternoon!" and "Ciao, Harry!"

Last week, the Redmond software giant tossed an application at the US Patent Office that demands the exclusive rights to a tool that lets you "automatically send a goodbye message when ending a conversation" over IM.


Yahoo! and Microsoft have removed Iran from the country lists of their webmail services as stronger US sanctions against the Islamic republic begin to bite. Not so at Google. The do-no-eviler firm has kept Iran as an option on the Gmail registration page. So far, anyway.

If it looks too good to be true...

Buyers unable to wait until Friday were looking to hundreds of eBay auctions to get their hands on Apple's latest Newton-a-like - but many of the auctions are fakes and scams, prompting eBay to tighten its restrictions on sales of the much-desired handset. And look, here it is, Friday already.

Your name's on the list, you're not going out

Anti-terrorism proposals outlined by the Government this week will include a sex-offenders-style register for those convicted of terrorism offences, and will allow MI5 to access the UK's large and fast-growing DNA database. Two words: function creep.

And while we're talking DNA databases, police chiefs this week released a list of the crimes that will get you a spot on the database. Picking wild flowers, bothering badgers, and messing around with the coin of the realm all make the list.


Macrovision has published a patch defending against a security vulnerability in its SafeDisc copy protection software that has become the target of a hacker attack. The Macrovision update comes 20 days after the security vulnerability was discussed in non-specific terms on Symantec's Security Response Weblog.

And a blogger has uncovered what he claims is a "massive" bug in Apple's Mac OS X 10.5 Finder app that could result in the loss of data when folders are moved from a Mac to directly- or network-connected storage.

Corporate shopping

Dell is forking more than $1.4bn on storage company EqualLogic, which specialises in iSCSI storage area networks optimised for virtualisation.

The direct-selling PC giant says the deal is done, and will hit earnings by two to five cents per share each fiscal year until 2010. The firm reckons the hit is worth taking to increase its share in the business.

Sat nav hardware providers Garmin and TomTom are embarking on the second leg of the race to acquire map data firm Tele Atlas. Garmin topped TomTom's initial offer last week, but now TomTom has raised its bid. Looks like being a sprint finish, this one.

Software security vendor Symantec is to snap up data loss prevention (DLP) firm Vontu for $350m in a combined cash and options deal.

It's the latest in a number of recent acquisitions in the DLP market, with EMC and Websense already having dipped their toes into that sector.

Doing a distant deal

The Bluetooth special interest group (SIG) is prepared to embrace Wi-Fi as a high-speed connection option while it waits for Ultra Wide Band (UWB) to become available on phone handsets, according to presentations by SIG chair John Barr.

Virtual Amazons

Red Hat has answered the virtualisation bandwagon's call in a major way by ushering in a new era that could be described as "Linux on the move".

The biggest news of the day was the deal with Amazon, which has gone all tech-utility and is renting out space on its data centre. Now customers will be able to run Linux on their rented space.

Customs cuts costs

HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has decided to restructure its IT outsourcing contract. The move comes in response to HMRC's aim to cut its IT running costs by about 10 per cent by 2010-11.

The Aspire contract with Capgemini and other IT service suppliers was originally signed in 2003-04 and was due to run for 10 years. It will now be extended to June 2017.

MS automates Irish data centre

Microsoft is shelling out $500m on a new European data centre in Ireland to support its growing online business.

There will be tens of thousands of servers pumping out web-based apps to internet fanciers all over the world, the company says. But it only needs to hire between 15 and 20 staff to run things, because most of it will be automated.

Turning the other cheek at Facebook

Facebook is bracing itself for a user backlash after it launched a bid to turn hype into profit, when it punted a trio of new advertiser features at New York marketeers overnight. The attack marks the first joined-up effort to make the cold, cold heart of web 2.0 start pumping cash.

How broad did you say that band was?

Carphone Warehouse is set to step into the Irish broadband market with the launch of three packages under its TalkTalk service. The mobile phone retailer expects to unveil its TalkTalk Broadband products before Christmas. "The plan is to have TalkTalk Broadband available by the end of the year," a spokesman said.

Windows Live makes it so?

Microsoft has officially announced the next generation of Windows Live. Whatever that means. We think it means that Microsoft has removed the beta tag from a group of Redmond-built tools you may or may not be interested in using. Call us cynics, if you must.

Five or more email portions a day

Research In Motion (RIM) has launched its BlackBerry Professional Software, for deployment in firms where between five and 30 people feel bereft if separated from their email. The package incorporates all the core features of RIM's Enterprise Server, but is designed to run on the same computer as the local email server.

Vote for us

Public sector services firm Northgate is eyeing up the election business, kit and caboodle. A senior executive told The Register this week that the firm is looking at becoming "the whole package" for electronic voting. Russell Osbourne, MD of land and property, said the company is exploring how it might expand its involvement in democracy.

Amazon goes for Prime market

Amazon is going for your Christmas quids by extending its "Amazon Prime" service to the UK. For an annual one-off payment of £49 punters get "free" next day delivery to mainland UK addresses on their orders for a wide range of items. A similar service already runs in the US and Japan.

Social engineering makes for red faces at Salesforce has been caught with its pants down after phishers persuaded an employee to hand over customer contact details. In a letter to customers the, er, customer relationship management (CRM) software vendor admitted that it had been hit by a number of dodgy phishing and malware attacks.

Hacking for grades

It's the stuff of movies such as War Games - two California men accused of hacking into a University database system to change their grades face up to 20 years' imprisonment. John Escalera, 29, and Gustavo Razo, 28, are charged with conspiring together to increase their marks by manipulating California State University.

Data loss at HMRC

Thousands of customers of UK insurer Standard Life have been left at risk of fraud after their personal details were lost by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Data on 15,000 pension policy holders, sent in a CD from HMRC offices in Newcastle to Standard Life's Edinburgh headquarters by courier, never arrived. Ouch.

Money, money, money

Gartner has said business leaders should create two IT budgets for the coming year, as it warned of ongoing economic doom and gloom.

The tech analyst firm reckoned that, given the fall out from the recent credit crunch that has continued to shake the financial world, it was important for firms to have a backup plan in place. Two budgets: one with some money in, and the other, empty?

Carphone Warehouse shrugged off any taint of economic gloom this week as it predicted its second half will be buoyed by US expansion and the launch of new products like the iPhone in the UK. The mobile phone chain/operator/broadband provider struck its bullish stance as it unveiled first half results that showed revenues of £2.1bn, up from 1.8bn last year.

Not content with redefining the mobile phone and computer industries, the iPhone can now take credit for creating new jobs and saving the UK economy, apparently. The news comes from O2, which is recruiting more than 1,400 new bods to help punters understand just how radically cool their new phone is. Groovy, man.

BT's second quarter profits have been spanked 29 per cent by its cull of middle management and accompanying restructure, the firm revealed. In the three months to 30 September, BT's net income was £435m, down from from £629m a year ago. Someone buy them an iPhone.

The news from BT, along with similarly gloomy news expected from Virgin Media, prompted a round of Newspaper and City knife-sharpening this week.

But Virgin put a brave face on things, reporting a turnaround in its fortunes with news it has reversed the flow of customers away from it, following its embarrassing public defeat over TV rights by Sky. For the three months to 30 September across broadband, TV, and home phone, the group added 13,000 net new punters.

Sun Microsystems failed to blow away investors with its first quarter results but did hand in a decent performance. The server maker boosted revenue by close to one per cent, hitting $3.22bn in sales. It also posted net income of $89m, which compares to a net loss of $56m in the same period last year.

And finally...

Carnegie Mellon University has redeemed itself by winning the $2m first place prize in the DARPA Urban Challenge. Stanford University took second and $1m, while Virginia Tech took $500k for third. Six of the 11 vehicles finished the 60 mile course.

Education here in Blighty, on the other hand, took an interesting turn this week when a student's mum sent a stripper to her lad's school to celebrate his 16th birthday. According to the Telegraph, the mum also asked the teacher to film the event.

Distractions like that at school could explain this kind of thing.

Sadly, lottery firm Camelot has withdrawn its "Cool Cash" scratchcard after it required a higher than absolute zero grasp of how numbers work to understand it. According to the Manchester Evening News, to qualify for a prize, punters had to "scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card" This proved too taxing, and the card has been withdrawn. The nation hangs its head in shame. ®

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