Oracle is reported to be under investigation by the US authorities for breaking federal anti-bribery laws in Africa.
The FBI field office in Washington, fraud prosecutors in the Justice Department’s criminal division, and attorneys for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are reported to be looking into sales of Oracle databases and applications in unnamed Western and Central African countries.
The agencies are probing whether Oracle employees or people acting on behalf of the database giant made improper payments to secure deals in the countries, The Wall St Journal said.
Under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, US companies and staff are not allowed to offer bribes to officials representing foreign governments or employees of state-owned companies.
The Wall St Journal does not name its source for the story and Oracle would not comment when contacted by The Reg.
Oracle has been in hot water in the past with the US authorities and politicians.
The DoJ last year took Oracle to court alleging Larry Ellison’s software giant had defrauded the US government of hundreds of billions of dollars between 1998 and 2006.
Oracle had been obliged under contract with the US General Services Administration to tell the body when commercial discounts on software had improved and to extend them to government customers. The DoJ said Oracle had misrepresented its true commercial sales practices – meaning government customers received deals on worse terms than customers in the private sector.
Meanwhile, in 2002, state legislators in California investigated a $95m Oracle database contract that had been awarded without other bidders being considered and which saw the state paying for at least $6m in unused Oracle software licences.
Among the fallout from this California database investigation was the end to no-bid contracts on deals worth more than $100,000.
The US government, though, has also proved a valuable friend to Oracle in the past. Colleagues of the DoJ’s criminal investigation unit in the antitrust division in 2009 were hard at work lobbying European regulators to let Oracle’s purchase of Sun Microsystems sail through.
According to the latest WikiLeaks disclosures, European Commission regulators were concerned that Oracle would hamper development of MySQL, owned by Sun, should the deal proceed. The DoJ’s antitrust division had approved Oracle’s $7.4bn purchase in August 2009 but concerns lingered inside the European Union: Oracle president Safra Catz met with European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes in October that year and with the US mission to “push for rapid European Commission approval of the merger.”
According to the leaked DoJ cable, the DoJ’s antitrust unit saw a successful completion of talks between Oracle and EU as a “high priority”.
“Its senior officials and investigative staff are currently engaging productively and intensely with their DG COMP counterparts, and are in close touch with Oracle and Sun, in the hopes of preventing a divergent outcome,” the leaked cable says. ®
30 August 2011
Last updated at 10:54
Facebook has paid $5000 to those who found the biggest security holes in its site
Facebook has spent $40,000 (£25,000) in the first 21 days of a program that rewards the discovery of security bugs.
The bug bounty program aims to encourage security researchers to help harden Facebook against attack.
One security researcher has been rewarded with more than $7,000 for finding six serious bugs in the social networking site.
The program runs alongside Facebook’s efforts to police the code it creates that keeps the social site running.
A blog post by Facebook chief security officer Joe Sullivan revealed some information about the early days of the bug bounty program.
He said the program had made Facebook more secure by introducing the networking site to “novel attack vectors, and helping us improve lots of corners in our code”.
The minimum amount paid for a bug is $500, said Mr Sullivan, up to a maximum of $5000 for the most serious loopholes. The maximum bounty has already been paid once, he said.
Many cyber criminals and vandals have targeted Facebook in many different ways to extract useful information from people, promote spam or fake goods.
Continue reading the main story
It’s hardly surprising that the service is riddled with rogue apps and viral scams”
Mr Sullivan said Facebook had internal bug-hunting teams, used external auditors to vet its code and ran “bug-a-thons” to hunt out mistakes but it regularly received reports about glitches from independent security researchers.
Facebook set up a system to handle these reports in 2010 which promised not to take legal action against those that find bugs and gave it chance to assess them.
Paying those that report problems was the logical next step for the disclosure system, he said.
Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos, said many other firms, including Google and Mozilla, run similar schemes that have proved useful in rooting out bugs.
However, he said, many criminally-minded bug spotters might get more for what they find if they sell the knowledge on an underground market.
He added that the bug bounty scheme might be missing the biggest source of security problems on Facebook.
“They’re specifically not going to reward people for identifying rogue third party Facebook apps, clickjacking scams and the like,” he said. “It’s those sorts of problems which are much more commonly encountered by Facebook users and have arguably impacted more people.”
Facebook should consider setting up a “walled garden” that only allowed vetted applications from approved developers to connect to the social networking site, he said.
“Facebook claims there are over one million developers on the Facebook platform, so it’s hardly surprising that the service is riddled with rogue apps and viral scams,” he said.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/technology-14715442
Comment “The more one pleases generally, the less one pleases profoundly” – Stendahl
Eric Schmidt had two objectives in the TV industry keynote he delivered last Friday evening, apart from getting out of Edinburgh alive. Those objectives were simple: plug Google, and plug the internet. Schmidt went about this by being self-deprecating and devoting much of his time to buttering up the audience, which was memorably once described to me as “TV’s bottom-feeders”. As a result, his speech was wide-ranging but fawning and bland.
Meanwhile, the audience listening to Schmidt appears more confident than ever that when it comes to TV, Google is the wrong company with the wrong plan.
The part of the speech calculated to “generate debate” was a short passage lamenting the absence of “polymaths”.
“There’s been a drift to the humanities – engineering and science aren’t championed. Even worse, both sides seem to denigrate the other – to use what I’m told is the local vernacular, you’re either a ‘luvvy’ or a ‘boffin’,” said Schmidt, adding that:
“Your IT curriculum focuses on teaching how to use software, but gives no insight into how it’s made. That is just throwing away your great computing heritage.”
Well, that part is true: but it’s only part of a larger dumbing-down of education in order to meet government targets – Goodhart’s Law in practice. The teaching of geography, history, basic maths and English has (arguably) become even weaker than science teaching in recent years. How else does one explain that almost half (44 per cent) of employers have to teach basic literacy to school leavers? Or that teachers try their best to dissuade pupils from taking hard sciences, knowing it will bump the school down the league tables? One pupil choosing a science subject over “soft” subjects can cause a school to drop 50 places. Including such observations into the speech would have given it real impact.
Schmidt’s speechwriter – and one sees the work of the wondrous Sarah Hunter in this – fails to realise that while “luvvie” is always used pejoratively, “boffin” is almost always used affectionately. “Geek”, if anything, is the pejorative equivalent.
Schmidt mentioned antitrust issues without really addressing them, and accused his accusers of protectionism.
“Consumers are the ones in the driving seat – all we’re doing is hitching a ride; and the door is open to anyone. Online, competition is only ever a click away, and there is more of it than ever. As history has shown, it’s common for once-leading online services to become out-innovated and overtaken. Our rivals are formidable innovators and who knows what new start-up stars will join the fray.”
He also repeated the dodgy statistic that “the internet accounted for over 7 per cent of GDP in 2010: £100bn”. The figure comes from a Google-commissioned report. It is dodgy because it adds up the retail value of goods sold over the internet in the UK.
As for Google’s own platform, he presented a determinism that people in the audience found patronising.
“Doubts have been raised over whether personalisation to this extent is even desirable for society. There’s a fear that filters will become so narrow, we’ll wind up living in a bubble of our own prejudice,” said Schmidt.
“In practical terms – what’s the alternative?” he then asked. “Without some form of filtering, we would drown in information. So the real question is, if not personalisation, what kind of filtering should we have? The nanny model where someone else has the power to dictate what you should and shouldn’t see? Or the lucky dip model where things are plucked out at random? To my mind, both these alternatives to personalisation are far worse.”
For alternatives, ask HBO or AMC. The business plan there is very simple: you pay for the TV, and they make stunning programmes. Or the BBC of old, which with a charter to enlighten people, went about making quite mind-expanding factual TV, oblivious to accusations of “elitism”.
Google is very much in a straitjacket: it’s a classified ad-broker and Google’s technology is geared towards feeding those machines. Its vision of TV advertising is narrow and constrained, and hasn’t changed in years.
It’s much like Bill Gates’ idea of TV – and while Schmidt pleaded for more companies to be led by engineers, when Gates and Schmidt attempt to do “the vision thing”, it isn’t a great advertisement for companies led by engineers.
Schmidt unctuously praised almost every constituency there: BBC, Sky, ITV and the independents, as well as lamenting the regulation that kyboshed Project Kangaroo. ITV was shackled by onerous regulation (such as the CRR rules, which are going anyway), and Schmidt sympathised.
The answer to the criticism that Google takes more out of the UK than it puts in – it pays no tax – was addressed like this:
“We provide platforms for people to engage with content and, through automated software, we show ads next to content that owners have chosen to put up. But we have neither the ambition nor the know-how to actually produce content on a large scale. Trust me, if you gave people at Google free rein to produce TV you’d end up with a lot of bad sci-fi!”
We don’t doubt that. But whether Google is the right technology partner for TV companies looks as iffy as it did on Thursday.
At least he didn’t do a Steve McLaren, and deliver it in a faux Scottish accent. ®
Over the last couple of weeks we’ve had a couple of our eCommerce customers ask us about abandoned shopping baskets and whether it’s a common occurrence. Well, it most certainly is, so I thought I’d write a blog post about it from some research we’ve done.
From some online sources we’ve found, the percentage of abandoned shopping baskets can be as high as 65%. This is where a customer comes to your site, browses your products, adds something to their shopping basket and then for whatever reason doesn’t complete the order. Depending on the average cost of each transaction on your site, this 65% of lost business could result in a massive potential amount of business that you’re losing out on. And think about, the customer has found your site, your marketing and SEO have worked, now it’s down to you to convert that customer into a sale.
So, here are some ideas as to why your customer might not be completing the checkout process:
This is something we come across time and time again, but it doesn’t always have an easy solution! If the average cost of a product on your site is £10, then a customer won’t be too happy about paying a standard courier charge of £7 or £8. Whilst we’re in a situation these days where everyone wants their delivery to be guaranteed next day, there are some options as to what you could do. If it’s not too bulky, how about looking to ship by standard Royal Mail 1st or 2nd class postage? You can print your postage labels online, and unless you’re sending via Recorded Delivery or similar, you don’t even need to queue in the post office. If your local post office isn’t too easy to get to then how about saying on your site that you only post items on a Tuesday or a Thursday? This means you go to the post office twice a week and send then. If a customer then has a choice of £2.95 for Royal Mail 1st Class or £7.95 for a next day courier delivery, it’s their decision. If they only have a choice of £7.95 and the product they’ve chosen is £10 then it might well put them off.
Nowadays, the most common and often the cheapest method of taking payment on your website is via Paypal. Their standard option is free to setup and then you just pay a transaction charge each time someone pays. Most eCommerce software providers build in the necessary code to link to Paypal so it’s very easy to integrate. An awful lot of people use Paypal, but there are always people that don’t so if Paypal is your only payment option, you may well lose some people. If you are trading as a business make sure you have a Paypal business account as you can then allow the customer to just enter their credit card details without them needing to have a Paypal account and without them needing to login. If you are after other payment methods, then the Paypal Payments Pro system is very good and integrates with the site so as far as the user is concerned, they don’t leave your site. Everything is done within your site but the processing is done via Paypal. Other providers include Nochex (much like paypal) and SagePay.
Just Shopping Around
In much the same way as you might pop in and out of a handful of shops when you’re looking for a particular item, people will do the same online. They’ll visit your site and may add the products to the basket just to keep a running total of what they’re spending or just to keep track of the item once they’ve found it.
Don’t Have The Money
Think of it as window shopping. They want your product, they really do, they just don’t have the money. Adding the product to their shopping basket may be as close as they’ll get, but keep in contact with them if you’ve captured their details until such time as they can afford it!
Using Your Catalogue
Unless you produce a printed catalogue of your products, your online shop is essentially your catalogue. People may well just be browsing your products but may prefer to phone you to place the order that. If you take phone orders then always ask how they found you. They may well mention if they’ve found your products online. There are still a lot of people wary of online security who prefer to speak to someone in person.
Something Was Broken
Because your customer base can be very varied, there may be some people who don’t shop online very often who just simply get confused. You may have run through the site yourself before it launched, got family and friends to test it for you, but if the only people testing the site are people confident in shopping online, you may be missing something. Maybe some wording is a bit ambiguous, maybe a link isnt as obvious to some people. They may have got to the checkout or payment page and just simply didnt know what to do next. Having your phone number and an email address on show at all times on your site may help this. Give them a sales or customer service number so if they get stuck then they can call for assistance. You can also try a Live Chat facility. If you get reports that they got an error message or something failed to load then obviously get in touch with your web developers for them to hunt around for the problem.
If you’re trading online and people are entering their personal data, you should get an SSL certificate on your site. This gives you https at the start of your web address and puts a padlock on your browser to show the user that information they enter in their browser is encrypted on its way to you. This gives them peace of mind and confidence that your site is genuine. They arent expensive and your hosting company or web developer can sort this for you.
What Can You Do?
So you’ve read the possible reasons above, what can you do to ensure your customer has the best possible experience? Here is a short list of some simple ideas you could try:
- Contact Details. Ensure you have your phone number and email address on view on your site so people can easily contact you
- Look at your pricing, both for products and delivery. Are you competitive? See what other sites of your type and size are doing and ensure you have as many delivery options available as you can manage.
- Make your navigation obvious. If the customer is checking out, make sure the process is straightforward. Make it clear which route they must take and give accurate information about where they are in the process and what it is they need to do.
- Keep an eye on your abandoned baskets. If you use something like Magento, you may well have a report telling you which baskets have been abandoned. If customers have to register you may well have their details so you can email them or call them to see what the problem was and whether there is anything you can do. Other eCommerce packages will capture the users details before they pay so check your sales lists to ensure you keep on top of people who don’t pay. Even if you just convert 20% of those failed orders it’s more business for you with very little effort
- Adhere to Distance Selling Regulations. If you’re trading online you need abide by certain guidelines. Make sure your company name and address is on the site. Offer clear refund and return policies. Give customers a method of contacting you. The more confidence your customer has in you and your business the more likely they are to buy and then come back and buy again.
- Maintain Contact. Contact your customers regularly. Whether it’s via Facebook, Twitter or a periodic email, make your customers feel valued and they’ll come back
- Get some live chat software. We wrote about this recently here. It’s software you install on your PC to interact with your customers live through an online chat box.
- Search. Put a search facility on your site so customers can easily find the product they’re after
- Usage Statistics. Monitor your usage statistics through something like Google Analytics to see what products and pages people are looking at. You can also view entry and exit pages and that may give you an insight into why people are abandoning baskets. If everybody leaves on the Delivery Charges part of the checkout then you know there is an issue. You can set Goals in Google Analytics to help you understand how people checkout
Hopefully this has given you some ideas but feel free to contact us to chat about things in more detail.
29 August 2011
Last updated at 15:28
Larry Page’s involvement is revealed in company documents, said US attorney Peter Neronha
Google’s chief executive Larry Page knew that adverts for unlicensed Canadian pharmacies were running on its US site, according to a government prosecutor.
Rhode Island attorney Peter Neronha told the Wall Street Journal that incriminating emails had been uncovered as part of an official investigation.
The search giant agreed last week to pay $500m (£306m) to settle the case.
It declined to comment on the specifics of Mr Neronha’s allegations.
Instead, it issued a statement reiterating its regret about what had happened.
“With hindsight, we never should have allowed those ads on Google in the first place,” it said.
Peter Neronha, who led a Justice Department investigation into the advertisement and sale of illegal medicines in the US, was less circumspect in his assessment.
“Larry Page knew what was going on,” he told the Wall Street Journal.
The accusation was based on company documents and emails obtained during the course of the investigation, said Mr Neronha.
However, he declined to go into detail about Mr Page’s involvement or what was contained in the files, according to the newspaper, “citing grand jury secrecy”.
The claims are impossible to verify as documents relating to the case are not currently in the public domain.
It is unlikely that the matter will ever get an airing in court as both sides signed a non-prosecution agreement as part of the settlement.
Google was advised in 2003 by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy that it was illegal to import non-controlled prescription drugs into the United States.
Yet a number of Canadian pharmacies were advertising such products through the company’s AdWords system and shipping them to US-based customers.
According to prosecutors, Google later blocked overseas pharmacies from targeting US users, but allowed Canadian companies to continue their activities, even providing them with advertising support.
It finally launched a clamp-down in 2009 when it learned of the government’s investigation.
In August 2011, the company agreed to forfeit the estimated $500m that it had made from running such adverts.
Google also put in place a number of new compliance procedures to make sure that such action would not be repeated in future.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/technology-14708119
The unfolding saga surrounding the HP Touchpad contains a goldmine of salutary tales. So, just what can we learn from the last few days?
Anyone who says they expected the fire sale of HP touchpads to turn into a global gadget grab is a liar. Fortunately nobody has yet, not publicly anyway – indeed, apart from a few bits of coverage complaining about website crashes and HP’s risky strategy , there hasn’t been that much written about it at all.
Which is a shame, because the overall effect was pretty profound. Think about it. Here was a tablet computer that nobody wanted, apparently: not the customers in Best Buy, and certainly not the company that had spent $1.2bn to buy the technology just over a year before.
HP announced the Touchpad sell-off with very little additional information apart from vague statements about continued support, an over-the-air operating system update and general remarks to the effect of, “We’re not going to let WebOS die.” In theory, buying an HP Touchpad was – and still is, if you manage to get your hands on one – a huge risk.
But surely people aren’t so dumb as to buy a device when they don’t know what the future holds for it? Either yes they are – or just perhaps, the strategists and pundits got it wrong and there’s more to this whole tablet thing than a one-horse race with a few stragglers.
So, what lessons can we take away? First off, and to give the poor multi-billion company some credit …
1. The Tablet Effect is real. Really.
HP’s CEO, Leo Apotheker was not the first to coin the term ‘tablet effect’. While it is barely a year old however, we should be in no doubt about the impact the forearm-top devices are having on the low-end PC and netbook markets.
However, the take-away lesson from the past week is that we’re talking about a tablet effect, not an iPad effect. Whatever fan boys may like to think, Apple didn’t invent the form factor; however (and unlike Microsoft) it did make the device usable, embracing simplicity and the user experience just as it did for smartphones.
We should all be grateful for the relentless pursuit of great design exhibited by Steve Jobs’s Apple. But let’s not think that the only tablets in the world in a few years’ time will be iPads, any more than we should think the tablet itself will become the dominant form factor. We’re too fickle a race for that, and no doubt there exist form factors we haven’t even thought of yet.
Indeed, as the events of the past few days have illustrated, a massive pent-up demand exists for tablet form-factor devices from any manufacturer, if only …
2. A price point can be identified for mass tablet adoption
Apple may have been first to market with a workable design, application and content delivery model for the iPad, but it remains a premium product. Cue massive mistake from just about every other manufacturer – that Apple’s pricing structures should be adopted by everyone else.
What a bad idea, for so many reasons – not least that Apple purchasers are prepared to pay a premium because it’s Apple. The rest of the world’s customers are not prepared to do so, or indeed, simply haven’t been able to afford them. In other words (hope you’re listening Google), get the pricing right and customers will follow.
It could be argued that HP went in too cheap, moving the price point well within the $99 justify-to-wife territory, as (the uncondonably sexist) Linksys used to say. Linksys’s other, tried and tested price point for commodity tech items was the $199 justify-to-self: recent events quite clearly illustrate the existence of a latent opportunity for commodity end-point devices that are both simple to use and affordable to buy.
Given that cheap Android devices from unknown manufacturers are already available, it’s worth noting a third factor – that people buy from people and companies they trust. Even, apparently, if the companies are trying to divest themselves of the stuff in question. At least the quality won’t be in doubt.
Less relevant (sorry, geeks) is what’s happening under the bonnet, for example which OS is running. Which suggests, despite what the commentators might have you think, that …
3. WebOS has – or had – a market, as do other operating systems
A long time ago, the first Palm Pilot devices became very popular very quickly, on two counts: device usability and developer platform. That was it. With WebOS, the (supposedly rejuvenated, but cash-strapped) company strove for similar goals, achieving the first in spades but struggling to grow the second.
While things like mass market adoption don’t happen overnight, the fact is that the two factors work together. People build apps for Android devices because of the now-present user base, and people buy such devices because they have the apps. It’s a lesson that in-for-the-long-haul Microsoft knows very well, which is why the company continues to chip away with Windows Mobile 7 despite it being a seemingly thankless task.
HP knew it too – as HP’s CFO noted, the potential for ROI just wasn’t in a timescale which made sense for the company. That still offers an opportunity for others, and it would be folly to write off WebOS too quickly, particularly given that up to 2 million devices have just entered the market.
The fact that HP may have lost $400m in the process, on top of the acquisition costs, proves beyond reasonable doubt that the company is in a serious strategic mess. It proved itself tactically moronic as well in how it approached the announcements and subsequent sale, reinforcing the ancient adage of …
4. Fail to plan, and plan to fail
The old ones are the best, eh? In this case, HP – that self-proclaimed biggest computer company in the world – demonstrated how to get something very wrong by not thinking through the ramifications. This happened not once – with the plan to ditch the PC and mobile hardware divisions, announced without warning even to senior executives in those divisions – but then a second time by flooding the market with low-cost hardware without informing its resellers how to deal with the consequences.
The result was not only that multiple online sites were faced with a massive, though not unprecedented demand for technology. They then sent out mixed messages of their own, based one would imagine on the information they had received about stock availability, whether or not a discount was to be applied, whether indeed each reseller was eligible for HP’s discounted pricing.
You don’t have to be a specialist in the field to guess that confidence in HP’s channel operations has been undermined, as the company did the equivalent of pulling out the rug from under the feet of the its resellers and partners.
And even as this was happening, tablet-hungry geeks were whipping themselves into a frenzy of excitement. A problem exacerbated by the fact that …
5. We are not individuals, particularly where the web is concerned
Anyone who followed the HP Tablet thread on hotukdeals.com – now with 22,000 posts, the longest thread the bargain hunters’ forum has seen – would know that just the potential to join in was enough to entice some people. To paraphrase, “I didn’t even want one until I started reading this!”
While lessons 2 and 3 are undeniable, we must also take into account the propensity of the human race to want to participate. Sometimes for better, sometimes for worse, the net effect is that people can follow the crowd, even when it’s not in their interests. Indeed, this factor is central to new technology adoption.
Not only was it demonstrated by the desire to own a device some may not even have heard of prior to the fire sale, but also the repeated behaviours that emerged once people had the bit between their teeth. Simply put, every time an online retailer mentioned the Touchpad, hordes of people would rush the site concerned, just about every time causing it to collapse under the load. Which led to the inevitable proof that …
6. Scalable deployment is even harder than clever people think
Call it what you like – adaptive IT, dynamic infrastructure, agile, whatever. If you believe the computer manufacturers, the whole point is that we can now build IT systems that can scale to meet unexpected spikes in demand. E-Commerce has been around for over ten years now, and site owners have had plenty of time to architect their systems in the right way to meet demand.
But site after site collapsed under the strain. Okay, the retailers exhibited some pretty daft behaviour of their own. You’d think you’d learn, if you were Misco or Staples say, and you’d just watched Dabs.com and shop.BT.com brought down, to keep schtum, or to invite people to a microsite by email, or indeed, to do absolutely anything other than say , “If you’re looking for reduced prices on the HP TouchPad, stay tuned! We’ll have some news soon, watch this space!” Come on guys, what were you thinking?
Worst culprit of all perhaps was HP itself, whose US website and employee shop collapsed under the demand. This is not a great advert for a company that sells world-class infrastructure, and who’s banged on about it for longer than anyone cares to remember.
From which we can draw the only conclusion that …
7. Information technology still has a long way to go
So, to summarise: we continue to be hungry for easier to use, cheaper end-point device form factors; Apple’s great designs and monopolistic stance may grant it short term success but it’s probably not going to take over the world; technology infrastructure is as big and prone to failure as it ever was; and as both companies and individuals we are, in the words of a Matrix agent, “only human”.
Disappointing perhaps – after all, if you’ve worked in IT for more than a couple of decades, you might have hoped we’d have learned some of these lessons and moved on by now. On the upside, the market churn, continued problems and countless mistakes will keep most of us in jobs for the foreseeable future, so it’s not all bad.
The HP Touchpad saga has still to play out: perhaps the level of market interest will spur activity around WebOS, and if not, Android; perhaps the flood of tablets into the market will spur other manufacturers on to produce lower-cost devices; perhaps the impact will be felt more around other industry areas such as publishing or HTML5 adoption; who can say.
The final lesson of all should be around making assumptions about which way this business is going, based on media hype or hearsay. However smart people make themselves out to be, however much research we ingest or advice we take, nobody has a monopoly on the future. ®
Jon Collins, director of Inter Orbis, researches the impact of technology on business, society and culture.
26 August 2011
Last updated at 18:03
The rise in online libel cases has been linked to social media sites
The number of court cases brought by people who say they have been defamed online has more than doubled in a year, experts have said.
Internet-related libel cases in England and Wales rose from seven to 16 in the year ending 31 May, legal information firm Sweet and Maxwell said.
The increase has been linked to a rise in the use of social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter.
The total number of defamation cases brought to court rose from 83 to 86.
Meanwhile, the Libel Reform Campaign group said smaller website operators needed more legal backing to protect themselves against actions brought by what it described as “corporate bullies”.
Commenting on the figures, Barrister Korieh Duodu, a media specialist with law firm Addleshaw Goddard, said much of what appeared online was written by people who did not check facts in the way that media organisations do.
But he also warned the trend of journalists using social media sites as news sources increased the risk of defamatory information appearing in national news stories.
“People who find themselves damaged on social media sites can often find it time-consuming and difficult to have the offending material removed, because many platform providers do not accept responsibility for their users’ content,” he said.
“Such is the speed at which information travels through social networks that one unchecked comment can spread into the mainstream media within minutes, which can cause irreparable damage to the subject who has been wronged.”
Mr Duodu said those who provide user-generated content on the internet should be held more accountable for what they write, through stricter regulation.
A spokesman for the Libel Reform Campaign said the draft Defamation Bill, currently going through Westminster, needed specific action to make it easier and less costly for website operators to mount a public interest defence, if they are taken to court for defamation.
“We need the select committee looking at the draft Defamation Bill to make concrete proposals to stop legal threats against internet hosts bringing down entire websites,” added the spokesman.
The UK government said the legislation, to reform libel laws in England and Wales, will help ensure people can state honest opinions with confidence.
Calls to give greater protection to “secondary publishers”, like internet service providers and online discussion forums, has been put out to consultation.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/uk-14684620
As Linux celebrates its 20th birthday, its biggest success – mobile – is turning into its worst headache.
Thanks to Google’s Android, and in turn thanks to the success of Steve Jobs’ iPhone and iPad, Linux has found a fresh lease of life.
Smartphones running the Android version of Linux account for 39 per cent of the market; Android has given existing phone-makers a fresh opportunity and propelled newcomers. iOS is second to Android on 29 per cent of the smartphone market, coming as it does from just a single OEM: Apple. iOS is number-one on tablets, however, with Android coming second.
The smartphone and tablet have arrived just as it seemed Linux’s biggest disruptive days were behind it.
What started as an off-the-radar hobby for geeks had crossed into the business mainstream by the 2000s as companies recognised it as an alternative to the cost and lock-in of Windows on the server.
While Linux failed to unlock the desktop, still owned by Windows, it was application and server makers’ adoption of it that turned Linux into the second most popular server operating system. Linux has borne various distros running on those servers – Red Hat, SuSE and Ubuntu being the most popular.
And yet, Linux is second, not first – albeit a healthy second. Despite the hard work by IBM, HP and Dell in making and selling servers, and the engineering and support work of Red Hat, Novell and Canonical, Linux still lags Windows.
Linux ascended despite the best efforts of Microsoft to discredit and sabotage it. Microsoft called Linux a “cancer” that threatened software makers’ IP, it launched a “get the facts” campaign to undermine the commercial story for Linux, and tried to put people off by insinuating they risked prosecution by Microsoft as Linux contained Microsoft patents.
Microsoft’s attacks blew themselves out, though, and cooler business heads are in charge as Microsoft’s server business has worked to make Linux run better on Windows server through its hypervisor software. Linux on the Windows hypervisor means more Windows servers in the cloud, rather than Windows servers losing out to Linux servers in the cloud.
Microsoft hasn’t stopped being any less threatening towards Linux, however, it has just changed tactics as the excitement shifts to mobile. As phone sales have exploded, Redmond has started hunting down Android device-makers, claiming the Linux they love violates its patents, and it is either prosecuting them or tying them up in deals to license its patent portfolio. The result is that Microsoft is profiting from Android, because under these deals Microsoft gets a percentage of the money from the sale of each Android phone.
Microsoft’s attacks have come as Apple has turned aggressively litigious against Android and those companies making and selling phones and tablets running Linux.
Round up the cheerleaders
As the heat is turning up, the company responsible for Android – and credited for having propelled Linux into mobile – has taken two steps that have left techs speechless. The standing army of cheerleaders who’ve spent the last few years shouting about how it’s game over for Apple, Microsoft, Nokia, RIM and anybody else not in love with Android are suddenly chilled by uncertainty.
First, Google caused consternation by ending the Android code free-for-all. It broke with its practice of open-sourcing the most recent version of Android – Honeycomb. Google claimed it took a “shortcut” to get Honeycomb to market and did not release the code because it was not suited for use on phones. The next version of Android, dubbed “Ice Cream Sandwich”, will be open-sourced “by the end of the year“, we are now told.
Next, Google unsettled Android OEM partners with its plan to spend $12.5bn buying Motorola’s phone business – Motorola being the world’s second-largest maker of Android handsets. Google’s Android chief Andy Rubin claims it’s business as usual and that Google’s Android partners are on board with the deal, but the facts say otherwise.
Next page: A time to panic
27 August 2011
Last updated at 00:01
BT recently announced increased profits for the first three months of 2011
Telecoms giant BT is to raise call charges for residential customers by up to 5% on 3 December – the second increase this year.
UK landline calls will go up from 7.6p a minute to 7.95p a minute. Line rental prices will also rise, but calls to mobiles will be unchanged.
The changes come after a 10% rise in call charges a year ago, and a 9% increase in April.
But BT said these prices would now be frozen until 2013.
In July, BT group said profits before tax in the three months to 30 June were up 20% to £533m, driven by demand for home broadband products.
Under the changes, the cost of line rental for a customer paying by direct debit will rise by 70p to £14.60 a month.
Evening UK calls will go up from 1p a minute to 1.05p a minute. The call set up fee, which is a one-off charge for a call outside of a customer’s plan, goes up from 12.5p to 13.1p.
BT’s most popular Anytime calls plan will increase by 20p to £4.90 a month, but various other packages and bundles, some of which include broadband internet, will not be changed.
Calls to O2, T-Mobile, Orange and Vodafone mobiles will stay at 5.3p a minute in the evening, and 11.3p a minute in the daytime.
However, there is no guarantee that these prices will be frozen next year.
The changes come as consumers face rising gas and electricity bills and cuts continue to put a squeeze on family finances.
Continue reading the main story
This marks the 10th price rise from a major provider this year”
“We are disappointed that BT is raising its prices on the heels of significant energy price hikes just a month ago,” said Michael Phillips, product director at price comparison website Homephonechoices.co.uk.
“While BT’s price increases of 5% or less may be in line with inflation, it will prove very unpopular with households who are already feeling the pinch.
“This marks the 10th price rise from a major provider this year alone and it is inevitable that others will further add to this total.”
BT said that many of its customers had actually seen their call costs fall because they had moved on to specific packages.
“A report from Ofcom shows the UK has lower prices than the USA, Spain, Germany, France and Italy. The UK market is highly competitive,” a BT spokesman said.
He added that many of BT’s prices were lower than those charged by other providers.
Article source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/go/rss/int/news/-/news/business-14677298
Apple has given its new CEO, Tim Cook, a million reasons to stay on until August 24, 2021.
As required by Securities and Exchange Commission rules, Apple filed a Form 8-K on Friday to officially inform stockholders of company leadership changes that might affect stock performance.
Oh, if you haven’t heard, Steve Jobs resigned his CEO position on Wednesday, and was replaced by former COO Tim Cook.
Included in the brief filing is the following bit of largesse proffered to Mr. Cook:
In connection with Mr. Cook’s appointment as Chief Executive Officer, the Board awarded Mr. Cook 1,000,000 restricted stock units. Fifty percent of the restricted stock units are scheduled to vest on each of August 24, 2016 and August 24, 2021, subject to Mr. Cook’s continued employment with Apple through each such date.
At today’s value at the close of markets, those 1,000,000 shares would be worth $383,580,000.
Or, to look at it another fun – if ludicrous – way: on August 24, 2001, Apple’s stock was going for $9.29 a share. Today’s stock price is a 4,029 per cent increase over that 10-year-old bargain.
If Cook can keep Apple’s value increasing at the same rate that Jobs managed to achieve over the past 10 years, his 1,000,000 share bonus on August 24, 2021 will be worth $15,454,438,200.
That is, should he decide to sell such a hot stock immediately upon vesting. One doubts he’ll need the money. After all, according to Apple’s most recent Proxy Statement, Cook’s total compensation for 2010 alone was a cool $59,092,572. ®