Cyber Ramblings - May 22, 2001

22 May 2001
Compiled by Kevin Smith

PS2 Going Wireless in UK

Fans of Sony's PlayStation 2 in the United Kingdom may soon be able to take each other on at their favorite games regardless of where they are. The Japanese company has struck a deal with Telewest to make its games available over the Telewest's TV network. Telewest has invested millions in enabling homes around Britain to have speedy Internet access and interactive TV through broadband technology. The alliance is the latest in a string of tie-ups this week by Sony as it tries to transform the game console into a home entertainment hub with capacity to handle Internet access, telecoms, broadcasts, movies, music and games. The deal is one of the first European link-ups between a broadband network and computer entertainment. Sony said it would be testing downloading facilities that could eventually enable customers to try new PlayStation 2 games with Telewest later this year. It would also look into the feasibility of multi-player gaming via the cable firm's network.

G-cluster Launches Mobile Gaming Service

G-cluster has announced plans to launch an advanced mobile gaming service for deployment in key public locations around the world, such as airports, hotels and metropolitan centers. G-screen uses proprietary client and server technology to deliver a rich gaming experience at a high speed to devices such as handheld computers and laptops. It is backed by a turnkey installation, management, service and billing solution, including hardware which can be rented to consumers who do not own a mobile device and a selection of games. The first deployment will be in Helsinki. G-screen relies on high-speed networking technology, and G-cluster will create local network "bubbles" to make the necessary bandwidth available.

Fox Has Big Plans for Mexico

Newly elected Mexican President Vicente Fox has high hopes for his country, and all of Central America, in catching up with the rest of the world in the technology race. Fox said the explosive growth of telecommunications and the Internet can give Third World countries a leg up in leveling the field with more developed countries around the world. "This is, I think, the greatest opportunity that civilization and underdeveloped countries have to catch up, avoiding many stages of development and this is basically what we need in Latin America and in Mexico," Fox told Reuters in an interview on Friday.

Fox, whose election ended 71 years of rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) when he took office in December, said the creation of a nationwide fiber-optic network with Internet links would enable Mexico to revolutionize provision of education, health and government services.

"It is the only way we can make that big jump. It has to do with education, it has to do with information, it has to do with knowledge and it has to do with networks, with hardware and with software," he said. Fox said he has gotten commitments from several telecommunications companies to pool their systems in creating a network spanning the length and width of the country.

Nevada Government Computers Hit with Porn Virus

The Nevada legislature's e-mail servers were struck by a computer virus last week that brought pornographic images to computer screens all over Carson City. It was the second time in one week the virus shut down computer systems in the state capital. The problem surfaced when a legislator opened an e-mail attachment, thinking it was from an engineering associate. Instead, it introduced a virus into the system, and spread it to all the people on the legislator's address book, including fellow lawmakers. Recipients had their Internet browsers hijacked and redirected to one of four pornographic websites. System administrators shut down the e-mail servers Wednesday and Thursday to eradicate the virus. The virus reappeared a few days later as it made its way through security patches, but state officials say the situation is in check now.

AOL Raising Price For Unlimited Plan

America Online Inc. said that it is increasing the price of its unlimited-use plan by $1.95, or about 9 percent, to $23.90 a month with the July billing cycle. The last time the Internet provider increased the price of its unlimited service package was April 1998. Over the period, usage on the service has increased more than 50 percent, with the average user spending up to 70 minutes online a day. AOL's other pricing plans will not be affected by the change. AOL has 29 million subscribers overall but it is unclear how many of them take the unlimited service plan. The price increase will help fund improvements in the AOL service, including the next software upgrade, AOL 7.0, company officials said. The upgrade will increase the integration of local and broadband content and enhance other areas, such as personal finance, entertainment, news and sports. Some industry experts speculate if this price increase could create a ripple affect of other ISPs raising their prices, similar to the airline industry.

Doctor Warns of Nerve Damage from Cell Phones

Radiation from mobile phones can lead to nerve changes in some people, causing headaches, blurred vision and difficulty in thinking, a Melbourne doctor said. Dr. Bruce Hocking, a consultant in occupational and environmental medicine, presented three case studies of nerve changes from mobile phone radiation at the annual meeting of the Royal Australian College of Physicians in Sydney. In one of the case studies, a 72-year-old man experienced a persistent "bruised" sensation on his scalp for over a year after extensively using a mobile phone. Dr Hocking said he was led to conclude that mobile phones could cause peripheral nerve change in some people.

Apple Doing Away with CRT Displays

Apple Computer Inc. is ready to make bulky cathode ray tube displays things of the past. "We will be the first with all LCD displays in the industry,'' chief executive Steve Jobs said Monday in opening Apple's weeklong conference for thousands of software developers. Apple already is selling a pair of flat-panel liquid-crystal displays, a 15-inch and a 22-inch, both of which were lowered in price Monday, to $599 and $2,499, respectively. Apple also will introduce a new 17-inch display for $999 early next month. LCD monitors offer higher resolution and take up far less space than traditional PC displays. The decision doesn't involve Apple's line of popular iMac computers, the colorful desktops that combine a computer and monitor all in one. Those models, which feature a 15-inch screen, will remain the only vestige of CRTs, Apple officials said. Citing heavy feedback from consumers, Jobs also said the company now is shipping all Mac computers with its latest OS X operating system, two months ahead of what the company had planned.

EU Monitoring Possible Monopolies

The European Union's top antitrust official said Monday he is watching the market positions of Internet units set up by former national telecommunications monopolies, including Deutsche Telekom's T-Online subsidiary. The liberalization of European telecoms has left some former monopolies and their online units in a particularly strong position, Mario Monti said in a speech at a conference on competition in Berlin. "The position of T-Online here in Germany, for example, appears to be very strong: and I can see similar situations in several other member states,'' he said. Monti's office opened an in-depth probe May 8 into a joint venture between T-Online, leading German tour operators TUI and C&N, and Lufthansa. The Commission warned at the time that this "powerful and unique" alliance could leave consumers with less choice for online travel services. A ruling on its investigation is expected by September.

37 percent of Software Pirated

Software piracy grew in 2000 for the first time in more than half a decade, and 37 percent of the programs used by businesses worldwide are illegal copies, a trade group of software makers reported. The worldwide dollar losses to software makers due to piracy dropped slightly to $11.75 billion, however, due to a growing market for software and lower prices, the group said. The Business Software Alliance, an organization of productivity software companies such as Adobe and Microsoft, has conducted the study since 1994. This year's findings reverse what had been a steady drop in rate of pirated software. "It appears that there is more change in attitudes towards piracy in periods of economic growth, when business are adapting new technology to keep up with demand and competitive pressures, than in times of slower growth,'' the report said. Technologically advanced regions like North America and Western Europe have a "fundamental piracy problem,'' it said. The Asia-Pacific nations--where more than half of all programs in use last year were stolen--are increasingly accounting for worldwide piracy.

Shortage of Staff Delays Virus Warnings

Staff shortages and vacancies in key positions kept a U.S. government anti-computer-crime unit from alerting the public to dangerous computer viruses until the damage already was done, according to a report released today. "While some warnings were issued in time to avert damage, most of the warnings, especially those related to viruses, pertained to attacks under way,'' the General Accounting Office (GAO) said in an audit of the National Infrastructure Protection Center. The GAO, an investigative arm of Congress, blamed the delays on lack of a system to share information government-wide and a shortage of skilled staff. The center, created in 1998, has been operating with just 13 of the 24 employees NIPC officials say are needed to fulfill the center's responsibilities, the GAO said. The agency also has been hindered by leadership vacancies, such as the chief of the Analysis and Warning Section, a position that has been filled for only about half of the center's three-year existence.