Saturday, October 29, 2005

Journal Reviews Ex-MIT Professor's Papers

An AP newswire article, via ABC News, reports that:

The publisher of a scientific journal is investigating the accuracy of several papers written by a biology professor who was fired by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for allegedly fabricating research data.

Luk Van Parijs wrote three papers for the journal Immunity in 1998 and 1999, before he finished his postdoctoral work at the California Institute of Technology and became an associate professor in MIT's Center for Cancer Research.

"The allegation of fraud is a very serious offense," said Lynne Herndon, president and CEO of Cell Press, which publishes the Cambridge-based journal. "This is something we take very seriously, as do all scientific journals."

MIT says Van Parijs, 35, who was fired Wednesday, has admitted fabricating and falsifying data in a paper, several manuscripts and grant applications. He had been on leave since August 2004, when a group of colleagues reported the allegations to MIT administrators.

A woman who answered the telephone Saturday for a listing for Van Parijs said he was not available for comment.

Science Groups Defend Evolution

An AP newswire article, via CBS News, reports that:

Two national groups say the state can't use their copyrighted material in proposed science standards that critics contend promote creationism.

The National Academy of Sciences and National Science Teachers Association called the proposed standards misleading and objected to language — sought by intelligent design advocates — suggesting some evolutionary theory isn't solid.

"To say that evolution is sort of on the ropes is unfair to the students of Kansas," said Gerry Wheeler, executive director of the teachers' association.

The State Board of Education is set to vote Nov. 8 on whether to adopt the new standards, which must be updated periodically under Kansas law. Current standards treat evolution as a well-established theory that is crucial to understanding science.

Rootkit Takes Aim at AOL

Michael Myser writes in eWeek:

Security researchers have identified a rootkit being spread through AOL's popular instant messaging client and AOL chat rooms.

Bundled within the previously identified W32/Sdbot-ADD worm, the lockx.exe rootkit file is installed when users click on the file link within the IM window. Though neither the worm nor the rootkit file are new, it appears to be the worm's first foray into the AIM (AOL's Instant Messenger) network. What's more troubling is that rootkits haven't previously been spread via IM.

"This is the first instance of a rootkit coming through the IM vector," said Tyler Wells, senior director of engineering for FaceTime Communications.

FaceTime discovered the additional rootkit using IM honeypots monitoring IM networks, Web sites and chat rooms for malicious content and URLs.

Vietnam aims to launch first satellite in 2008


Vietnam has resurrected its delayed project to launch a satellite and now plans to put one into orbit in 2008, government sources said.

Hanoi's plans to put a satellite in space are a priority for the government which is keen to acquire a powerful symbol of its sovereignty and technological prowess.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has formally asked authorities to reopen an international tender for the construction of the country's first satellite after months of standstill, sources said.

The premier said the satellite carrying up to 20 communication modules would have to be launched before the second quarter of 2008 and earlier this month sent written instructions asking the state-owned Vietnam Posts and Telecommunications Corp (VNPT) to go ahead with the bidding for the "Vinasat" satellite.

Red Herring Profile: Blue Security Spams Spammers

Image source: Red Herring

Via Red Herring.

Like many boys growing up, Eran Reshef was fascinated by an animal that would gross out most adults: the blue frog, a poisonous species with luminous cobalt blue skin and shiny black warts found in the tropical forests of South America.

Twenty-three years later, the Israeli serial entrepreneur’s fascination has come full circle, with a startup called Blue Security. Its flagship product is the downloadable Blue Frog anti-spam application, which is represented on the company’s web site by a wide-jawed blue frog with bulging eyes and a three-fingered hand raised in a sort of a wave.

“When I was a kid I used to read about these frogs so poisonous that after one brush with them, for the rest of their lives predators try to avoid eating them again,” says Mr. Reshef.

He hopes the program will act much like its namesake in the wild, but targeting a different predator—the people who send spam, and the companies whose products are touted in the unwanted emails.

FCC delays votes on telecom deals

A Reuters newswire article, via CNN/Money, reports that:

The Federal Communications Commission said it postponed until Monday a meeting to vote on Verizon Communications' $8.6 billion purchase of MCI Inc. and SBC Communications Inc.'s $16 billion acquisition of AT&T Corp.

The FCC had tried to schedule votes several times Friday, but sources close to the matter said the commissioners and staff were still reviewing and negotiating conditions the agency may require before clearing the deals.

The agency plans to take up the mergers at a public meeting that is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. ET Monday. An FCC spokesman declined to comment on the reason for the delay.

FCC Chairman Kevin Martin had proposed approving the deals without any conditions. The agency is split with two Republicans and two Democrats so Martin must convince at least one Democrat to support his decision or reach a compromise.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Mr. Sulu: "I'm gay"

Image source: CNN / AP

An AP newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

George Takei, who as "Star Trek's" Sulu was part of the Starship Enterprise crew through three television seasons and six movies, has come out as a homosexual in the current issue of Frontiers, a biweekly Los Angeles magazine covering the gay and lesbian community.

Takei told The Associated Press on Thursday that his new onstage role as psychologist Martin Dysart in "Equus," helped inspire him to publicly discuss his sexuality.

Takei described the character as a "very contained but turbulently frustrated man." The play opened Wednesday at the David Henry Hwang Theater in Los Angeles, the same day that Frontiers magazine featured a story on Takei's coming out.

The current social and political climate also motivated Takei's disclosure, he said.

Russian satellite reportedly fails to reach orbit

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

A Russian satellite has failed to reach its designated orbit, Russian news reports said Friday, marking the latest is a series of mishaps that have dented the prestige of the country's space program.

The Mozhayets-5 satellite, intended for optical experiments, was launched Thursday by the Kosmos-3M booster rocket from the northern Plesetsk launch pad. Space officials have lost contact with the satellite which failed to enter its planned orbit, the ITAR-Tass, Interfax and RIA Novosti news agencies reported.

The rocket also carried seven smaller foreign satellites that successfully entered their designated orbits.

Officials at Russia's Space Forces that oversaw the launch weren't immediately available for comment.

As many as 1,000 Texans receive fake flu vaccine

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

As many as 1,000 Exxon Mobil employees and 14 residents of a senior citizens home were injected with fake flu vaccine, authorities said Friday, and the owner of a home health care company was arrested.

Preliminary tests indicated the syringes were filled with purified water, U.S. Attorney Chuck Rosenberg said. And no ill effects from the shots were reported.

But Hermina Palacio, head of the Harris County health department, recommended that people who received the shots get tested for blood-borne pathogens such as the AIDS virus and hepatitis B and C.

End of U.S Daylight Savings Time: Time to reset your clock


It’s that time of year again, when pumpkins sprout on doorsteps, the winter coats come out of the closet, and most Americans get an extra hour's sleep by resetting their clocks. (Remember? Spring forward, fall back.)

The change officially takes place at 2 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 30, but most Americans will turn back their clocks an hour before going to bed Saturday night. (Others may forget and arrive an hour early at church or brunch.) The time switch marks the end to daylight-saving time, which started in April.

UPDATE: Hijacker of '' Is Arrested


I' ve just found out a distressing bit of news from Kieran McCarthy's blog where he says the LA Times plagarized his story on this, which he filed first this this morning with The Register.

Kieran's storyin El Reg is here.


Richard Marosi and Joseph Menn write in The L.A. Times:

Four years after dodging a $65-million court judgment by fleeing the country, former online-porn mogul Stephen Michael Cohen was arrested by Mexican authorities in Tijuana and handed over Thursday to U.S. agents.

Cohen, a multiple felon and longtime con man, had been on the run since before 2001, when a judge ordered him to pay a San Francisco entrepreneur for hijacking the Internet address In 1995, Cohen forged a letter to Internet authorities to gain control of the address, which he transformed into a highly profitable site for pornography ads.

Cohen, who had been living in a Tijuana mansion, was arrested on an immigration violation by Mexican authorities and turned over to agents of the U.S. Border Patrol, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Marshals Service, according to Deputy Marshal Tania Tyler.

Cohen was being held without bail at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in San Diego.

His apprehension was the latest twist in one of the most bizarre and longest-running feuds of the dot-com explosion.

Brazil: Call for press law repeal after arrest of website editor

Via Reporters sans Frontières.

Reporters Without Borders called today on Brazil to repeal its press offences law, which enabled the arrest on 26 October of editor and commentator José de Arimatéia Azevedo, of the Internet website Portal AZ (, which was shut down by a judge in Teresina (capital of the northern state of Piauí).

“He was arrested even though his lawyers said he had no intention of fleeing or avoiding a future court summons,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “The Brazilian parliament should repeal the 1967 press law, passed during the 1964-85 military dictatorship and giving judges the right to imprison journalists for their public comments or writings.”

Police arrested the editor in a raid on the Teresina offices of Portal AZ using a warrant issued a few hours earlier by Judge José Bonifácio Júnior at the request of lawyer Audrey Magalhães, who had been criticised in an editorial on the site.

Arimatéia Azevedo, who has long specialised in investigating organised crime, criticised online (under the pseudonym of Xico Pitomba) Antonio Rivanildo Feitosa da Silva, of regional TV station Meio Norte (his former employers), who was suing him for defamation and insults.

Daily fix....

Via Enjoy!

ICANN-VeriSign Deal Could Prove Costly

Jim Wagner writes in

As more registrars digest a proposed settlement deal between VeriSign and the Internet governance body ICANN, at least one is feeling some heartburn over higher rates they could be facing.

VeriSign and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) settled VeriSign's antitrust lawsuit this week, and in the process approved a proposed deal that provides an improved framework for new registry services.

ICANN is taking public comments on the settlement agreement until mid-November and will make a final determination after public comment has come in.

Some registrars, the companies that reserve domain names for Internet publishers, are already weighing in on the deal, which, in part, extends VeriSign's management of the popular .com TLD beyond 2007 to 2012.

Another Black Eye for Microsoft Patch Creation Process

Ryan Naraine writes in eWeek:

A private security research firm has published an advisory with details on a fundamental mistake made by Microsoft Corp. that caused a security patch to ship without an adequate fix for the flaw it was meant to address.

Cesar Cerrudo, founder and CEO of Argeniss Information Security, found that the inadequate fix was included in the MS05-018 bulletin that shipped on April 12, leading to a situation where a new patch had to be created to provide comprehensive protection.

Cerrudo, a well-known researcher who specializes in application security, published technical details, here in PDF form, to explain how the original patch missed several attack vectors.

The original patch was meant to address a denial-of-service flaw on CSRSS (Client/Server Runtime Server Subsystem), the user-mode part of the Win32 subsystem.

However, when Cerrudo reverse engineered the bug to build an exploit, he found that that the vulnerability could still be exploited.

Atlanta's Hartsfield Airport boasts full WiFi coverage

Marc Perton writes over on Engadget:

Travelers passing through Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport may soon find that the airport’s high-tech infrastructure runs deeper than iPod vending machines. The airport this week rolled out a WiFi network that covers all 5.8 million square feet of its premises, allowing travelers to connect from just about anywhere, including the tarmac (which could mean actually being able to use your laptop while you’re stuck in an idling plane).

Of course, the service comes with a price: fees will run from roughly $7.95 per day to a monthly rate of $38 for frequent fliers. So far, there’s no word on whether travelers using airline clubs will be able to get free access, or if they’ll be forced to pay for WiFi, as is happening at Boston’s Logan Airport.

Blu Gene doubles it's own record

Image source: IBM

Via The BBC.

The Blue Gene/L supercomputer has broken its own record to achieve more than double the number of calculations it can do a second.

It reached 280.6 teraflops - that is 280.6 trillion calculations a second.

The IBM machine, at the US Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, officially became the most powerful computer on the planet in June.

The fastest supercomputers in the world are ranked by experts every six months in the Top 500 list.

Blue Gene's performance, while it has been under construction, has quadrupled in just 12 months.

MIT Fires Professor Over Falsified Data

An AP newswire article by Michael Kunzelman, via ABC News, reports that:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has fired a biology professor for allegedly fabricating research data.

Luk Van Parijs, an associate professor in MIT's Center for Cancer Research, was placed on leave after a group of colleagues reported the allegations of "research misconduct" to MIT administrators in August 2004.

He was fired Wednesday, according to MIT spokeswoman Denise Brehm.

The school says Van Parijs, 35, admitted to fabricating and falsifying data in a paper, several manuscripts and grant applications.

An MIT investigation found no evidence that his co-authors or other members of his research group were involved in the alleged misconduct, said Alice Gast, the school's associate provost and vice president for research.

Red Tape Chronicles: ATM fee for getting nothing

Bob Sullivan writes in the MSNBC Red Tape Chronicles:

We all know it often costs money to get your own money at an ATM machine; but now, you might have to pay up when you don’t get money. Let me introduce you to a fee you've probably never heard of -- the "ATM denial fee." Rejection, it turns out, can be costly.

Some banks are sneaky; their ability to slip itsy-bitsy fees onto your monthly statement proves their creativity knows no end. The death-by-a-thousand-cuts draining of our bank accounts happens relentlessly -- $3.00 check enclosure charge; $2 out-of-network withdrawal fee; $10 for dipping below a minimum $1,000 balance for an afternoon; $13 for new checks. One of those fancy free checking accounts can easily cost $50-$100 a year.

But the denial fee is a new entrant into this game, or at least, it is new to me and many industry insiders. Bank of America, on the other hand, says it's old hat. Either way, here's how $1.50 leaked out of my checking account for money I didn't get, and how it might be leaking out of your account too.

Divine Comedy on Forbes: "Attack of The Blogs"

The only comment that I provide on this is that if a company (or anyone else) cannot stand up to online scrutiny, then it has no business being in business.

Danial Lyons writes in Forbes:

Web logs are the prized platform of an online lynch mob spouting liberty but spewing lies, libel and invective. Their potent allies in this pursuit include Google and Yahoo.

Gregory Halpern knows how to hype. Shares of his publicly held company, Circle Group Holdings, quadrupled in price early last year amid reports that its new fat substitute, Z-Trim, was being tested by Nestlé. As the stock spurted from $2 to $8.50, Halpern's 35% stake in the company he founded rose to $90 million. He put out 56 press releases last year.

Then the bloggers attacked. A supposed crusading journalist launched an online campaign long on invective and wobbly on facts, posting articles on his Web log (blog) calling Halpern "deceitful,""unethical,""incredibly stupid" and "a pathological liar" who had misled investors. The author claimed to be Nick Tracy, a London writer who started his one-man "watchdog" Web site,, to expose corporate fraud.He put out press releases saying he had filed complaints against Circle with the Securities & Exchange Commission.

Halpern was an easy target. He is a cocky former judo champion who posts photos of himself online with the famous (including Steve Forbes, editor-in-chief of this magazine). His company is a weird amalgam of fat substitute, anthrax detectors and online mattress sales. Soon he was fielding calls from alarmed investors and assuring them he hadn't been questioned by the SEC. Eerily similar allegations began popping up in anonymous posts on Yahoo, but Yahoo refused Halpern's demand to identify the attackers. "The lawyer for Yahoo basically told me, ‘Ha-ha-ha, you're screwed,'" Halpern says. Meanwhile, his tormentor sent letters about Halpern to Nestlé, the American Stock Exchange, the Food & Drug Administration, the Federal Trade Commission and the Brookhaven National Laboratory (involved in Circle's anthrax deal).

UK Survey: Offshore call centres damage your brand


Four out of five UK adults feel "negative" about the trend of locating call centres overseas, with more than half feeling "very negative" – particularly those who have used an overseas call centre, according to a survey by Harris Interactive.

The analyst firm surveyed almost 2,300 UK adults in July this year and found that even many of those who had never used an overseas call centre had a negative perception of them.

Outsourcing firms are aware of the perception and, according to Harris Interactive, had hoped that customer concerns would be allayed once they had experienced the service. But this is not the case, apparently.

Low Tech: Major Dust Storm on Mars Visible with Backyard Telescopes

Image source:

Robert Roy Britt writes on

A major dust storm has just broken out on Mars and the event will be visible this weekend with good-sized backyard telescopes.

The timing is incredible. Amateur skywatchers around the world are planning to gaze at Mars Saturday night because it will be closer to Earth than anytime until the year 2018.

The dust storm was no more than a small bright dot Thursday yet it was large and obvious Friday, as seen in images taken by Clay Sherrod at the Arkansas Sky Observatories.

NASA took note and is monitoring signals from its Mars rovers, one of which has detected signs of the storm, has learned.

Dell sues man for domain-squatting

Via The Inquirer.

THE DELL CORPORATION has filed suit in an Illinois district court against a man who it alleges has cybersquitted sites it should own.

Dell Inc is suing Jeremy Mondell for doing business under the trade names Dellsmedia and

The firm alleges Mondell infringed its trademarks contrary to the Lanham Act, the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act, unfair competition under Illinois Statute 756 ILCS 103/65 and the common law of the state of Illinois, and also for unfair competition and deceptive trade practices Dell claims Mondell breached in Illinois.

In short, Dell is throwing the book at Mr Mondell.

Microsoft Strong-Arms South Korea

Via Wired News.

Microsoft said that an investigation by Korea's antitrust watchdog could lead to the withdrawal of Windows from the country, or to delays in introducing new versions of the operating system there.

Microsoft's competitive practices have been under investigation by the Korean Fair Trade Commission, which is looking into the company's inclusion into Windows of streaming media and instant messenger technology.

Singapore bans gay Web site, fines another

A Reuters newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Singapore has banned an overseas-hosted gay Web site after receiving complaints it was recruiting underage boys for sex and nude pornography, and promoting a promiscuous homosexual lifestyle.

The city-state's media watchdog, the Media Development Authority (MDA), said on Friday that it had also slapped a S$5,000 fine on a local gay Web site, titled "Meet Gay Singapore Friends," and warned the operators to remove offensive content.

ISP identification issue trips up S. Korean firm

A Reuters newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

South Korea's information ministry will allow cable network operator Powercomm to add new customers from Saturday after the company moved to address issues raised over its operations, a ministry official said on Friday.

The Ministry of Information and Communication had barred Powercomm, which launched its broadband Internet services last month, from adding new customers since late September. It said the company incorrectly identified itself to other service providers when exchanging Internet traffic.

The ministry had also asked Powercomm, 45.4 percent owned by long-distance call carrier Dacom Corp., to build backup routes in its nationwide networks.

"The identification problem has been addressed and Powercomm can start taking new subscribers where it completed setting up backup routes," an official at the ministry's telecommunication committee said.

EU: Six Telecom Firms File Qualcomm Complaint

An AP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Six telecommunications equipment makers said Friday they filed antitrust complaints with European regulators against Qualcomm Inc., claiming the California-based wireless technology company was refusing to license essential patents on fair terms.

Nokia Corp., LM Ericsson, Broadcom Corp., NEC Corp., Texas Instruments Inc. and Panasonic Mobile Communications Co. Ltd. asked the European Commission to investigate and stop Qualcomm's alleged abuse of EU competition rules.

"The companies believe that Qualcomm's anticompetitive behavior has harmful effects for the mobile telecommunications sector in Europe, as well as elsewhere, because carriers and consumers are facing higher prices and fewer choices," they said in a joint statement.

They said Qualcomm was making it harder for rival mobile phone chipmakers to compete because it was refusing to license essential patents on the latest cell phone technology on reasonable terms and offered lower royalty rates to handset customers who only buy Qualcomm chips.

"Sophisticated" eBay fraudsters jailed in Britain

A Reuters newswire article by Matthew Jones, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Three Romanian fraudsters were jailed on Friday in London for a worldwide fraud carried out via Internet auction house eBay which netted at least 300,000 pounds.

Some 3,000 victims from as far away as the United States and South Korea were snared by the trio in a scam involving crime bosses in Romania and which police fear continues to this day.

Judge Duncan Matheson sentenced Nicolae Cretanu, 30, to 3-1/2 years and his wife Adriana Cretanu 23, and their accomplice George Titar, 26, to 30 months each.

Turkey, Motorola reach deal on Telsim debt

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Turkish authorities said a deal had been reached with Motorola to settle a dispute over debts owed to the US telecom giant by Turkey's second largest mobile phone operator Telsim, in state receivership since 2004.

Under the deal, Motorola will be paid 500 million dollars (414.4 million euros) and will also get 20 percent of the planned sale of Telsim if the price exceeds 2.5 billion dollars (2.1 billion euros), Ahmet Erturk, the head of the state deposit insurance fund (TMSF), was quoted as saying by Anatolia news agency.

In return, Motorola has agreed "to end all lawsuits it has opened against the company (Telsim) and Turkey as of today," he said.

Two arrested for using university computers for Islamist militant propaganda

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

An Algerian and a Moroccan were arrested on suspicion of using the computer system at the University of Geneva to spread propaganda about Islamist militant groups over the Internet, local police said.

A journalist for the German-language newspaper Weltwoche who graduated from the university in Geneva told school officials that the computer system was being used to send hate messages and to make excuses for Islamist terrorist attacks.

After receiving the report, the university filed a complaint against unknown perpetrators last Tuesday.

Searches by police and university officials led to detaining a 27-year-old Moroccan, who did not have papers to stay in Switzerland, and a 41-year-old Algerian, who had gone into hiding when his petition for asylum was dismissed.

Vodafone pushes $1.5B Bharti deal

A Reuters newswire article, via CNN/Money, reports that:

UK-based mobile phone company Vodafone Group Plc returned to India on Friday with a $1.5 billion deal to buy 10 percent of the country's top mobile phone company Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd.

Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone company by revenue, said it would have preferred to buy a larger stake in Bharti but dismissed suggestions that the small economic holding would leave it with too little leverage and no dividends. "We expect dividends from this company in the next couple of years," Chief Executive Arun Sarin told a London conference call, adding that Vodafone would have similar rights to those of larger Bharti shareholder Singapore Telecommunications.

Level 3 and Cogent Reach Agreement on Equitable Peering Terms

Via Yahoo! News.

Level 3 Communications and Cogent Communications today announced that the companies have agreed on terms to continue to exchange Internet traffic under a modified version of their original peering agreement. The modified peering arrangement allows for the continued exchange of traffic between the two companies' networks, and includes commitments from each party with respect to the characteristics and volume of traffic to be exchanged. Under the terms of the agreement, the companies have agreed to the settlement-free exchange of traffic subject to specific payments if certain obligations are not met.

The modified arrangement is designed to mitigate any impact to customers' Internet connectivity as it sets forth an agreed process to protect customers upon the expiration of the peering relationship, or upon violations of the agreement that are not remedied in accordance with the revised agreement. Those protections include advance written notice to the customers of each party upon termination of the agreement, as well as terms assuring the continued exchange of traffic for a reasonable transition period.

The specific terms of the agreement are confidential.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

NASA Astronauts Hail Space Station's Fifth Year

Image source: MSNBC / NASA

Tariq Malik writes in

Five NASA astronauts held a reunion of sorts in Houston, Texas Thursday to celebrate the upcoming birthday of a rather bulky five-year-old to be: the International Space Station (ISS) currently orbiting Earth.

The astronauts – all of them space station veterans– gathered at NASA’s Johnson Space Center (JSC) to reminisce about their experiences aboard the ISS, which will hit the five-year mark of manned operations on Nov. 2.

Chinese Cyber-dissident detained during EU visit

Via Reporters sans Frontières.

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the arrest of cyber-dissident Shi Xiaoyu because of his online reporting on workers’ protests in the southwestern industrial city of Chongqing. Shi has been held by the Chongqing authorities since 20 October.

“Shi’s detention is unacceptable as all he did on the Internet was to defend workers’ rights enshrined in the Chinese constitution,” the press freedom organisation said. “It is shocking to learn of the arrest of yet another cyber-dissident while a European Union delegation is in China to discuss human rights.”

Reporters Without Borders added : “The Chinese authorities must immediately release Shi and the approximately 60 other cyber-dissidents currently in prison.”

Shi was arrested when members of the Chongqing public security department travelled all the way to his home in Shaoxing, in the eastern province of Zhejiang, and escorted him back to Chongqinq. They took his laptop and personal notes. It is still not known where exactly he is being held in Chongqinq.

Hotmail outage hits Apple and broadband users

Following up on a story from Tuesday, Tom Sanders writes on

A problem with Microsoft's Hotmail and MSN email service is preventing users from multiple providers from sending messages to the Microsoft email services.

Users of the Mail application in Apple's OS X operating system on Monday started reporting that email messages addressed at Hotmail and MSN addresses weren't being delivered. The problem doesn't occur if a copy of the message is sent to the user's own account. Changing the priority setting from 'normal' to either high or low also provides a workaround, users reported on the forum.

Microsoft was made aware of the issues with the Apple users by on Monday. The company acknowledged the problem and said it has been working on a solution. As of Wednesday afternoon there was still no fix and Microsoft couldn't provide any background information on what was causing the problems.

Subscribers of the Comcast broadband internet service reported similar issues last week. The provider started blocking all outgoing email sent to Hotmail and MSN accounts after these messages were queuing up on their servers. The issue was resolved on October 20, as reported earlier this week.

Austin's Forgent settles another patent infringement case

Via The Austin Business Journal.

Austin's Forgent Networks Inc., along with its Compression Labs subsidiary, has reached an agreement with Research In Motion Limited over a patent license dispute.

Forgent settled with Waterloo, Canada-based Research In Motion (NASDAQ: RIMM), with the agreement covering Forgent's data compression technology embodied in its JPEG-related patent, often referred to as the '672 patent.

Research In Motion is a leading designer, manufacturer and marketer of wireless products for the worldwide mobile communications market, including the BlackBerry wireless platform.

Canadian military tracks beer keg to test security

A Canadian Press article, via The Globe and Mail, reports that:

A Canadian-led marine security surveillance trial involving existing and experimental technology is being called a success.

The trial involved tracking a metal beer keg from Liverpool, England, to its intended drop off point in Nova Scotia's Chedabucto Bay.

Using satellite, sonar, radar and unmanned aerial surveillance and stealth buoys, researchers were able to track the pretend contraband and eventually seize it, as it was transferred between four vessels.

Zotob/IRCbot Cost $97K per Company

Via Red Herring.

The Zotob worm that crippled corporate computer networks in mid-August cost infected businesses an average of $97,000 to clean up, but its impact was milder than the Slammer or Sasser worm outbreaks, a security software company said Thursday.

Some 61 percent of the organizations hit by Zotob reported that cleaning their systems required more than 80 hours of work, Cybertrust said. The healthcare industry experienced the greatest Zotob impact with 26 percent of companies experiencing problems from Zotob, compared to 7 percent of financial institutions.

Cybertrust surveyed 700 companies about the Zotob worm’s impact.

The worm began to spread four days after Microsoft released a note on August 9 detailing a vulnerability in its plug-and-play feature for Windows 2000. The worm, which propagated by installing a backdoor entry in infected computers, spread quickly because many corporate users failed to download the patch in time to prevent an outbreak in their networks.

Google introduces flight search ability

Elinor Mills writes in C|Net News:

A new search feature on Google lets people quickly get to airline flight information.

Users can type in two different cities, or airport codes, in the Google search box to bring up two boxes for entering departing and returning flight dates. Below those are links to the travel Web sites Expedia, Hotwire and Orbitz. Clicking on one of those links leads directly to flight options for your selected itinerary on that site.

Mars to swing unusually close to Earth this weekend

Image source: NASA

An AP newswire article by Alicia Chang, via USA Today, reports that:

Mars is ready for another close-up. For the second time in nearly 60,000 years, the Red Planet will swing unusually close to Earth this weekend, appearing as a yellow twinkle in the night sky.

Mars' latest rendezvous will not match its record-breaking approach to Earth in 2003, when it hovered from 35 million miles away. But more skygazers this time around can glimpse the fourth rock from the sun because it will glow above the horizon.

Texas prosecutor admits to using work computer for porn

Renee C. Lee writes in The Houston Chronicle:

A Montgomery County assistant district attorney acknowledged Wednesday that he received and sent pornographic e-mails using his county computer.

First Assistant District Attorney David Bluestein came clean after the accusation was made in a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Montgomery County's 284th District Court.

Earlier this year, Bluestein temporarily lost his e-mail privileges for having an autopsy photograph of a nude male on his computer.

U.S. Gov't Approves Two Huge Telecom Mergers

An AP newswire article by Jennifer C. Kerr, via The Washington Post, reports that:

Federal antitrust regulators on Thursday approved two multibillion-dollar telecommunications mergers: SBC Communications Inc. and AT&T, and Verizon Communications Inc. and MCI Inc.

The Justice Department attached some conditions to the mergers, requiring Verizon and SBC to divest some local fiber-optic network facilities in 19 metropolitan areas.

Without the condition, the mergers would have resulted in higher prices for certain customers in eight metropolitan areas in Verizon's territory and 11 metropolitan areas in SBC's area, the Justice Department said in announcing approval.

The Federal Communications Commission still must sign off on the deals. The agency is scheduled to vote on the mergers Friday at its monthly public meeting, though the decision could slip to next week.

U.S. Cell Phone Tracking Shot Down (Again)

Ryan Singel writes in Wired News:

Federal law enforcement attempts to use cell phones as tracking devices were rebuked twice this month by lower court judges, who say the government cannot get real time tracking information on citizens without showing probable cause.

This summer, Department of Justice officials separately asked judges from Texas and Long Island, New York to sign off on orders to cellular phone service providers compelling them to turn over phone records and location information -- in real time -- on two different individuals.

Both judges rejected the location tracking portion of the request in harshly worded opinions, concluding investigators cannot turn cell phones into tracking devices by simply telling a judge the information is likely "relevant" to an investigation.

BT outlines its plans for battle with pay-TV rivals

Saeed Shah writes in The Independent Online (UK):

BT has announced plans to enter the television market, putting the telecoms group in direct competition with satellite operator BSkyB and the cable companies.

The dominant telecoms company will offer a new broadband product from autumn next year which will be integrated with a Freeview decoder for picking up the digital terrestrial television signal. It will supplement the Freeview channels with on-demand content, such as movies, plus a "catch-up TV" archive of recent programmes. It will also have a personal video recorder, capable of digitally storing 80 hours.

Ian Livingston, head of BT's retail division, said the service would be open only to the company's broadband customers, currently comprising 2 million households.

Scanner Grabs Identity Data From Driver's License

Evan Schuman writes in CIO Insight:

A high roller walks into the casino, ever so mindful of the constant surveillance cameras. Wanting to avoid sales pitches and other unwanted attention, he pays cash at each table and anonymously moves around frequently to discourage people who are trying to track his movements.

After a few hours of losses, he goes to the cashier and asks for a cash advance off of his credit card. The card tells the casino his name, but not much else. As is required by card issuers, the cashier asks for some other identification, such as a driver's license. That license offers the casino a ton of CRM identification goodies, but the cashier is only supposed to glance at the picture and the name to verify identity and hand the license--and its info treasure trove--back to the gambler.

Not any more, at least if a Minneapolis company called Cash Systems Inc. has anything to say about it. The firm was recently awarded a U.S. patent for a device that can grab all of the data of almost any U.S. driver's license in seconds and instantly dump it into a casino's CRM system.

FCC's Martin Phones In on Video Franchising

Via Light Reading.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Kevin Martin told an audience of telecommunication industry professionals the Commission plans to discuss video franchising issues in its November meeting, and suggested some sort of regulatory action may result.

More pleasing words could not be heard for many in attendance here. The video franchising issue has been increasingly on the minds of telcos and their equipment vendors in recent months as RBOCs like SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. move closer to large-scale rollouts of their video products.

Traditionally, video service providers (to date, cable companies) have been required to obtain local-level franchises in each market where they sell video. It is a rigorous and costly process, and one the telcos would very much like to avoid.

Rest assured a full-court press by telco lobbyists is under way to pass legislation creating a state-wide video franchise or no franchise at all.

"Old School" Media Companies Ready to Panic?

A Reuters newswire article, via Wired News, reports that:

WPP chief executive Martin Sorrell warned on Thursday that leading media companies like News Corp. are on the verge of panic amid seismic shifts brought on by the internet.

He singled out the recent internet acquisition spree by Rupert Murdoch's media conglomerate as one sign that media conglomerates are scrambling to catch up, saying News Corp. has been making internet acquisitions "almost willy-nilly."

Sorrell, head of the world's second-largest advertising and marketing company and one of the media sector's best known prognosticators, told attendees at a Internet Advertising Bureau conference that declining circulation, viewership and revenue figures had big media companies running scared.

NSA patents under security scrutiny

Paul Marks writes in NewScientist:

The hyper-secretive US National Security Agency – the government’s eavesdropping arm - appears to be having its patent applications increasingly blocked by the Pentagon. And the grounds for this are for reasons of national security, reveals information obtained under a freedom of information request.

Most Western governments can prevent the granting (and therefore publishing) of patents on inventions deemed to contain sensitive information of use to an enemy or terrorists. They do so by issuing a secrecy order barring publication and even discussion of certain inventions.

Experts at the US Patent and Trademark Office perform an initial security screening of all patent applications and then army, air force and navy staff at the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security Administration (DTSA) makes the final decision on what is classified and what is not.

Now figures obtained from the USPTO under a freedom of information request by the Federation of American Scientists show that the NSA had nine of its patent applications blocked in the financial year to March 2005 against five in 2004, and none in each of the three years up to 2003.

More Oracle Security Woes: Weak Password Hashing Algorithm

Over on the SANS Internet Storm Center's Daily Incident Handlers' Diary:

Handler Joshua Wright and Dr. Carlos Cid from the Information Security Group at the Royal Holloway, University of London have published a paper describing the inner workings and vulnerabilities in the Oracle password hashing algorithm. A copy of the paper is available through the SANS Reading Room at

The authors findings indicates that the password hashing algorithm is weak, and subject to a number of attacks. If an attacker is able to obtain Oracle password hash information from a compromised system, through traffic sniffing, SQL injection or other attack vectors, they will likely be able to recover plaintext passwords with few resources, even when strong passwords are selected. The paper also recommends several actions Oracle DBA's can take to help mitigate this threat.

The SANS Institute contacted the Oracle product security team about these findings on 7/12/2005. Subsequent requests for clarification on what Oracle plans to do to address these vulnerabilities have gone unanswered. Oracle customers are encouraged to communicate their desire to resolve these vulnerabilities through the appropriate channels.

New telescope captures galaxy with one eye shut

Galaxy NGC 891 was chosen simply because it is a
beautiful object, says Richard Green, director of the
Large Binocular Telescope.
Image source:
NewScientist / Large Binocular Telescope Observatory

Kelly Young writes in NewScientist:

The Large Binocular Telescope in Arizona, US, has taken its first spectacular image, even though one of its eyes is still shut.

The $120-million telescope is the first of its kind, bring comprised of two 8.4-metre primary mirrors on the same mount. It is still being built, but when completed, the telescope should have vision 10 to 12 times better than the Hubble Space Telescope.

At present only one mirror is ready for observations, but even with "monocular" vision, the telescope has captured an arresting image of the spiral galaxy NGC 891. It was chosen simply because it is a beautiful object, says Richard Green, director of the LBT.

NGC 891 is just 24 million light years away in the constellation Andromeda. Once the telescope is fully operational, scientists hope to be able to study more distant galaxies, such as those in the background of this image.

House, Senate Still in Squabble Over DTV Details

Roy Mark writes in

Though a U.S. House panel joined its Senate counterpart Wednesday in agreeing to flip a 2009 switch on digital broadcasting, much remains in question.

The precise date, the exact cost and the absolute certainty of the digital television transition are issues that stand between the two entities as they search for a resolution.

As with all federal budget reconciliation bills, though, everything and anything is negotiable.

IRS torn between enforcement and e-filing

Aliya Sternstein writes in

Internal Revenue Service officials say they are caught between devoting technology resources to booking tax evaders and helping taxpayers file electronically.

Addressing a tax industry group yesterday, Mark Matthews, the IRS’ deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, said the agency needs to expand e-file and build an enterprise data warehouse that the chief financial officer’s division could use to track tax collections.

By law, the agency must receive 80 percent of all tax returns electronically by 2007. The agency also needs a tax collection data warehouse, which the Government Accountability Office highlighted in its review of the IRS’ fiscal 2004 financial statements. GAO found weaknesses in the IRS' ability to track unpaid taxes and minimize improper refund payments.

House Passes Bill to Allow NASA to Buy Soyuz Spacecraft

A Florida Today article by John Kelly, via, reports that:

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday to let NASA continue buying Russian spaceships to deliver astronauts and supplies to the space station until 2012.

The Senate already adopted a similar measure, though some minor details need to be worked out before the legislation is finalized.

NASA Administrator Michael Griffin and Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice asked Congress earlier this year to amend a arms control law that prevented the space agency from buying spaceships from the Russians. The intent of the law was to prevent Russia from providing nuclear technology to Iran.

NASA has relied upon Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get its astronauts to and from the International Space Station since the Columbia accident in 2003 grounded the shuttle fleet. Only one shuttle mission has flown in the nearly three years since.

However, Russia's obligation to provide such rides ended with a Soyuz that launched earlier this month. Beginning next year, NASA faced the prospect - barring more normal shuttle flights - of having no way to get its astronauts to the $100 billion international station.

German Web Hosting Provider 1&1 Plans Significant U.S. Expansion

Jim Louderback writes in eWeek:

International Web hosting provider 1&1, based in Karlsruhe, Germany, plans significant expansion over the next 18 months in both the United States and around the world.

In less than two years, 1&1 has vaulted into the top 10 of Web hosting and domain registrars in the United States. But according to CEO Andreas Gauger, in a series of wide-ranging discussions held here, he wants more. Much more.

Texas H5N1 News: Pandemic flu plan envisions up to 250,000 deaths

Mary Ann Roser writes in The Austin American-Statesman (obnoxious, but free, registration required):

Five million to 10 million Texans could get sick, as many as 400,000 could be hospitalized and as many as 250,000 could die during the first wave of an influenza pandemic, according to the state's latest plan to prepare for a worldwide flu epidemic.

The draft plan, which the Texas Department of State Health Services posted on its Web site this week, predicts a second wave of flu about three to nine months after the first bout. It estimates that there will be fewer infections and hospitalizations, and 18,000 more deaths.

Microsoft's Decoy Zombie: Microsoft Teams with FTC and Consumer Action to Promote PC Protection

Via Microsoft.

Today, Microsoft, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Consumer Action, a public watchdog and education group, launched a campaign aimed at helping consumers prevent their computers from getting turned into zombies.

Timed to coincide with National Cyber Security Awareness Month and Halloween on Oct. 31, the “Don’t Get Tricked on Halloween” campaign alerts computer users to the threat of zombie computers and how to protect their personal computers (PCs) from being infected with malicious code. In addition, Microsoft is announcing a legal enforcement action that for the first time specifically targets illegal e-mail operations that connect to zombie computers to send spam.

“The only way to slow the spread of zombies and other online threats is by going after them as resolutely and in as many ways as possible,” says Tim Cranton, director of Microsoft’s Internet Safety Enforcement programs.

AND, Brian McWilliams writes over on the Spam Kings blog:

Microsoft said it has filed "John Doe" lawsuits against the operators of 13 spam organizations that use illegal "zombie" computers to send their spam. The company held a press conference today with officials from the Federal Trade Commission to announce the lawsuits, filed in Washington State's King Country court on August 17.

Microsoft tracked down the spam operations by intentionally infecting a PC with some malicious code known to turn unprotected computers into zombies. The company said that within 20 days, the PC received more than 5 million requests to send 18 million spam e-mails. These requests contained advertisements for more than 13,000 unique domains. (Microsoft said it "cordoned off" its zombie to prevent it from actually sending out any spams.)

Microsoft aims to trounce Google

Via The BBC.

People are underestimating what Microsoft is doing with search technology, said Bill Gates.

The head of the software giant told the BBC that its ambition is to be bigger than Google in search.

He said that competition had ultimately been good for web users because it has pushed search technology. This means search would be "far better" in a year.

The next decade looks even better, he said, with a lot more advances in software technology ahead.

Crimeware authors unleash bird flu-themed Trojan

John Leyden writes in The Register:

Today brings further proof that no human disaster these days arises without been exploited by internet ne'er-do-wells. Hot on the heels of a spam campaign punting Tamiflu, the drug believed most effective at protecting humans from the potentially-lethal H5N1 strain of the bird flu virus, comes a piece of malware designed to tap into topical concerns about the disease.

The Naiva-A Trojan masquerades as a Word document containing information about the bird flu epidemic in order to dupe unwitting Windows users into opening the maliciously constructed file. Once executed, the malware uses two Word macros to run and install a second item of malicious code, Ranky-FY, onto infected PCs. Ranky-FY gives hackers the ability to control compromised PCs.

France looking to ramp up online anti-terrorist laws

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

A proposed anti-terror law in France, presented to the cabinet, aims to clamp down on terrorist activity carried out via the Internet as the Al-Qaeda network develops increasingly dangerous online activities.

The proposed law would introduce measures such as extending the period for which cybercafes have to keep records of Internet connection data, but faces a tough battle against "cyber-jihadists" who avoid being tracked through cunning and the fluid nature of the Internet, according to experts.

Terrorists use the Internet for "communication, recruitment, planning" and, importantly, for military instruction, said Rita Katz, head of the Washington-based institute Search for International Terrorist Entities (SITE), which monitors Islamist websites.

"Everything is there, it replaces the training camps," she said.

First student satellite successfully lifts off

Via The BBC.

The first satellite built entirely by European students has launched from Plesetsk in northern Russia.

The 52 kg micro-satellite, Sseti Express, was designed and built by 100 students from 10 universities in nine countries.

It blasted off aboard a Russian Cosmos 3M rocket in the first launch from the cosmodrome since the loss of Europe's ice mission, Cryosat.

Sseti Express shared a ride with satellites for China, Iran and the UK.

Graham Shirville, who masterminded the telecommunications side of the project, said it was essentially a demonstration payload.

"It's the first European-built satellite that has been built largely by using the Internet as communication between the teams," he said.

Vulnerability researchers pick holes in Oracle patches

Joris Evers writes in C|Net News:

Oracle, the business software maker that has marketed its products as "unbreakable," faces mounting criticism over its security practices.

A quarterly patch update sent out by the company last week contained fixes for a laundry list of flaws affecting much of its lineup. But it left out some vulnerabilities that prominent security researcher David Litchfield expected to be tackled--leading him to call for a security overhaul at Oracle, including the resignation of its chief security officer.

"That was the last straw," said Litchfield, a security researcher and co-founder of U.K.-based Next Generation Security Software. "I was extremely disgusted and upset, and I think their customers should take umbrage too. Oracle needs to re-address their security philosophies--their understanding of what security is and what it means."

SBC to take on AT&T name

Nancy Gohring writes in InfoWorld:

Even after a breakup and a new marriage, Ma Bell's name is here to stay. SBC Communications, which expects to close its acquisition of AT&T this year, said on Thursday that it will adopt the name AT&T once the deal is finalized. It will be AT&T Inc., however, rather than AT&T Corp.

Edward E. Whitacre Jr., SBC's chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement that the AT&T brand has unparalleled recognition around the globe.

At the close of the acquisition, a new logo will be revealed as part of the largest multimedia advertising and marketing blitz that either company has ever launched, SBC said.

H5N1 News: Moscow zoo vet attributes bird flu spread to illegal poultry trade

Via RIA Novosti.

The Moscow Zoo's Chief Veterinarian said Thursday that the cause of the bird flu outbreak is the unmonitored transit of domestic birds, not wild bird migration.

"No one has proved anywhere that the carriers of avian flu are wild birds...However, the black market for trading animals provides all the conditions for the unmonitored transit of un-examined birds," Valentin Kozlitin said.

Kozlitin highlighted Russia's parrot trade, saying that 99% of these birds are sold illegally.

CarlyWatch: Fiorina pops up at Cybertrust

Guy Matthews writes in The Inquirer:

CARLY FIORINA has popped up on the board of security company Cybertrust, her first big move since leaving HP.

Fiorina, as you’ll remember, left HP under a bit of a cloud after her controversial decision to buy Compaq for $19 billion never really worked out. Plus channel partners of the company were left in some confusion as to their future role.

At one point it looked like she might head up the World Bank. Now she’s had to settle for Cybertrust. Both the nature of her role and her salary remain secret as yet. Cybertrust executives say Fiorina will bring her extensive industry contacts to the party, as well as her experience in leading HP.

H5N1 News: Roche temporarily suspends delivery of Tamiflu to U.S. due to increased demand

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Swiss pharmaceutical company Roche Holding AG said Thursday it had temporarily suspended shipments of the anti-viral drug Tamiflu in the United States to ensure that enough treatments will be available for the regular influenza season.

Roche spokesman Alexander Klauser said that Roche’s U.S. management suspended the shipments because of the increased global demand for Tamiflu, the drug that experts believe is most effective in treating flu in humans. Demand has increased due to fears of the potential spread of bird flu.

“The priority is that there is enough Tamiflu for the people who need it at the start of the influenza season,” Klauser told The Associated Press. “At the moment, there is no influenza currently circulating.”

Lockheed in Talks To Acquire Tech Firm CSC

Renae Merle and Ben White write in The Washington Post:

Lockheed Martin Corp. and three venture capital firms are negotiating to acquire Computer Sciences Corp., the giant California technology firm that has enjoyed a boost from increased government spending on information technology services, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.

CSC employs 11,000 people in the Washington area, and a merger with Bethesda-based Lockheed would continue the move by old-line weapon-makers into the information technology field.

Lockheed is interested in CSC's government contracts, which include information technology consulting and the development of vaccines through a joint venture in Frederick, sources with knowledge of the talks said. The discussions with Lockheed and the three private equity firms -- Warburg Pincus LLC, Blackstone Group and Texas Pacific Group -- just began, said the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the discussions are at an early stage.

Web 2.0 (Bubble 2.0?) Cracks Start to Show

Thankfully, Xeni puts the brakes on the phantasmically over-hyped "Web 2.0" shennanigans.

Xeni Jardin writes in Wired News:

Spam, scams and scatterbrains -- the same problems that plagued the old internet are cropping up again in a new wave of technologies known collectively as Web 2.0.

But this time around, proponents say Web 2.0 has been better engineered to withstand the troubles that wrecked Usenet, BBSes and free e-mail.

The cycle is so predictable, it's almost a natural law: Every new internet movement popular enough to generate buzz also generates a backlash.

This time, the debate revolves around the cracks that are starting to appear in Web 2.0, a term coined by O'Reilly Media Vice President Dale Dougherty to describe a post-dot-com generation of sites and services that use the web as a platform -- things like Flickr, BitTorrent, tagging and RSS syndication.

Dilbert: The "Anti-Walmart" Workplace

Click on image for enlargement.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

SBC CTO says IPTV is on track

Jim Duffy writes in NetworkWorld:

SBC claims its Project Lightspeed fiber build out is not delayed, even though it's now scheduled to pass 18 million homes six months later than initially intended.

SBC is now saying Lightspeed will pass those homes in mid-2008 instead of year-end 2007 as first planned when it announced the project last year. Lightspeed is the carrier's $4 billion to $6 billion effort to provide fiber- and DSL-based voice, data and video services to consumers and businesses.

Napster has nothing to sell you....

Get ready for a massive backlash in the world of digital music.

As I mentioned earlier, pointing out an article which mentioned that Yahoo! is doubling prices for MP3 digital music subscriptions, there seems to a movement afoot in the "digital music subscripton" service provider world where they're trying to either (a) lock subscribers into long-term contracts for digital music downloads (and if the subscriber leaves the service, nullify their already paid-for digital music content), or (b) jack the prices through the roof. Or both.

And of course, the greed of the recording industry (and Hollywood) is behaind all of this.

I'm no expert here, but I foresee a backlash like an F5 tornado, leaving such of a whirlwind of discontent that seekers of digital music and video content will return to the digital underground of P2P networks to get what they want without being cheated and gouged.

Just my opinion, mind you, but it doesn't look good for digital music and video content subscription services -- they're certainly making efforts to make legitimate music and video content either too expensive, undesirable, or unworkable for the masses.

Andrew Orlowski writes in The Register:

Earlier this month, Napster began a billboard campaign making a virtue of its greatest shortcoming: that you don't get to keep any music. If you rent music from Napster, the music disappears when the relationship ends. If you want your music to last for life, you need a lifetime subscription to Napster.

Several other companies offer similar services. What they're really selling is a proprietary subscription radio service with a little time-shifting, and a little customization. Not a lot of customization because with a choice limited to a mere million songs there are sure to be a lots of tunes you can't hear, that you might want. And not a lot of time-shifting, either. But at the end of the day, you still have nothing to show for it.

Societies worse off "when they have God on their side"

From the "No-Duh" Department:

Ruth Gledhill writes in The Times Online (UK):

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

It compares the social peformance of relatively secular countries, such as Britain, with the US, where the majority believes in a creator rather than the theory of evolution. Many conservative evangelicals in the US consider Darwinism to be a social evil, believing that it inspires atheism and amorality.

U.S. cybersecurity testing shelved until 2006

Anne Broache writes in C|Net News:

A national exercise designed to test the government's readiness to handle cyberemergencies won't happen until February, a Department of Homeland Security spokesman confirmed Wednesday. The department, which is headed toward a cybersecurity makeover of sorts, originally planned to run the mock attack-and-response game--known as Cyberstorm--in November.

"While this exercise will be an important test of our readiness to respond to and mitigate a significant cyberattack, our first priority as a department is responding to real world events," spokesman Kirk Whitworth said in an e-mail to CNET "As a result of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many of the department's resources, as well as those of the private sector which would have been involved in the Cyberstorm exercise, were reallocated to deal with the disasters in the Gulf."

FEMA renews AT&T contract

Michael Hardy writes in

AT&T Government Solutions has received the nod to continue operating the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s National Network Operations Center. FEMA awarded AT&T a four-year, $8.9 million contract after conducting a competition.

AT&T has been involved in the design, installation, operation and management of the center for 16 years, according to the company. FEMA uses the center to remotely monitor and maintain its communications network, the applications that run on it and the information technology equipment and infrastructure associated with it. The center is part of FEMA's Mount Weather Emergency Operations Center in Northern Virginia.

Under the contract, AT&T will continue to provide networking, program management, configuration of local-area networks and wide-area networks, videoconferencing setup, and other duties.

H5N1 News: Improved global disease surveillance systems needed

Bob Brewin writes in Government Health IT:

Health ministers and delegates from more than 30 countries and international health organizations meeting in Ottawa, Canada, this week called for beefed up efforts, including improved disease surveillance systems, to prepare for a possible flu pandemic.

In a communiqué released yesterday at the end of the two-day “Global Pandemic Influenza Readiness” meeting, delegates, including Mike Leavitt, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, said that “while at this time, there is no pandemic influenza anywhere in the world, vigilance and surveillance need to remain high.”

But the delegates said monitoring the H5N1 strain of influenza, known as bird flu, is essential. They agreed that the immediate global public health issue “is to work collaboratively with the animal health sector to prevent and contain the spread of the H5N1 virus among animals and from animals to humans.”

Zipa Gains Nearly 1 Million Sites As It Weathers Katrina

Via Netcraft.

The past two months have been an extraordinary time for the InterCosmos Group, which operates a network of Internet companies in New Orleans. The company's colocation and hosting unit, Zipa, gained 990,000 hostnames between Aug. 15 and Sept. 15, capping a year of strong hostname growth. The huge gain appears to have come almost entirely from the registration of new domains that are now parked at Zipa, which added just 15,000 active sites on the month.

The company gained widespread notice during Hurricane Katrina, when its staff labored to keep its operations online as the city was battered and flooded. InterCosmos' domain registrar business, DirectNIC, is housed on the 10th and 11th floors of a 27-floor office tower near Lafayette Square, a portion of New Orleans that escaped the worst of the flooding. Employees live-blogged their efforts and posted photos of the storm's impact on the DirectNIC facility. An on-site webcam broadcast video of looting on surrounding streets.

Microsoft to retire Exchange Server 5.5 by year's end

Elizabeth Montalbano writes in NetworkWorld:

Microsoft will be retiring Exchange Server 5.5 and support for the product at the end of the year and is recommending users upgrade to the latest version, the company said Wednesday.

Microsoft is urging customers who are still running Exchange 5.5 to upgrade to Exchange Server 2003, a more secure version of the company's messaging and collaboration server product. Information about upgrading to Exchange Server 2003 can be found here .

According to Microsoft, the number of Exchange Server 5.5 users dropped by about 40% over the past year, evidence that customers have been upgrading in anticipation of the product phase-out.

Microsoft also reminded customers Wednesday that Exchange Server 2000 will move out of mainstream support into extended support at the end of 2005. Mainstream support includes free incident support, security updates and nonsecurity hotfixes. Once Exchange Server 2000 moves into extended support, customers will have to pay for support and nonsecurity related hot fixes, according to Microsoft.

L(3) sells off outsourcing subsidiary (i)Structure

Michael Cooney writes in NetworkWorld:

After reporting disappointing third-quarter earnings last week, network operator Level 3 Communications Wednesday sold off its outsourcing subsidiary for $81.5 million to Infocrossing, a technology and business process outsourcing provider.

The proposed deal for Level 3's (i)Structure business is an effort by the company to shed itself of what it termed non-core businesses. Once the sale is final -- expected in the fourth quarter of 2005 -- (i)Structure's 300 employees will become employees of Infocrossing, which currently has almost 550 workers. (i)Structure has IT operations in Omaha, Neb., and Tempe, Ariz.