Olongapo Telecom & Information Technology

Friday, February 22, 2008

Microsoft opens door to open-source software community

By Glenn Chapman - Agence France-Presse
SAN FRANCISCO -- Microsoft on Thursday announced it is increasing the openness of its software to appease antitrust regulators and please businesses trending toward more diverse computer systems.

Microsoft said it is making "broad-reaching changes" to its technology and business practices to enhance the ease with which its software interacts with partners, customers and competitors.

"These steps represent an important step and significant change in how we share information about our products and technologies," said Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer.

"Our goal is to promote greater interoperability, opportunity and choice for customers and developers throughout the industry by making our products more open and by sharing even more information about our technologies."

Microsoft's newly announced principles apply to all its top-selling software and fit a patent framework addressed by European courts, said Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith.

"Microsoft is taking all necessary steps to make sure we are in full compliance with European law," Smith said in a conference call.

"The interoperability announcement represents the changed legal landscape for Microsoft and the technology industry."

EU competition regulators responded with a skeptical statement that "takes note" of Microsoft's "intention" to improve the compatibility of its software with rival products but still voiced antitrust concerns.

"This announcement does not relate to the question of whether or not Microsoft has been complying with EU antitrust rules in this area in the past," the European Commission said.

The commission has long accused Microsoft of abusing its dominant market power by making software that is incompatible with products made by its rivals.

EU regulators slapped a fine of nearly 500 million euros ($741 million) on Microsoft in 2004 for abusing its dominant market power.

A new European Commissions investigation targets the interoperability of a broad range of software, including Microsoft's popular Office package, with rival products.

Microsoft CEO Ballmer said in a conference call that the firm is backing its words with actions, posting more than 30,000 pages of previously safeguarded software protocol information online for anyone to view.

"Today's step is certainly qualitatively and quantitatively different from any step that we as a company have taken in the past," he said.

"We realize it is committing the company not just to mere words, but to actions that will live up to these principles completely."

Microsoft said it would post thousands of additional pages of software protocols on its website in coming weeks.

The protocols, previously only available for fees, show software engineers how to enable applications to communicate and exchange data with popular Microsoft programs such as Outlook.

A test of Microsoft's move will be whether developers can mine useful nuggets from the mountain of information, said analyst Michael Cherry of private firm Directions on Microsoft.

"If we really wanted to sit down today and do something, how long would it take us? And if we have problems, who do we ask?" Cherry said.

Microsoft's senior vice president of server and tools business, Bob Muglia, told AFP to expect the firm's software to be increasingly molded to work with other companies' products.

"These announcements are like McDonald's releasing the recipe for its secret sauce," said AR Communications strategic consultant Carmi Levy.

"This announcement signals that Microsoft is finally ready to commit to an entirely new business model. This is a radical shift from Microsoft's traditional bull-in-a-china-shop strategy."

Microsoft said its new principles include ensuring open connections, promoting data portability, increasing support for open connections, and fostering closer ties with the open-source community.

Open-source applications consist of software considered public property and freely available for people to use and modify.

People will be able to freely customize programs to work with Microsoft software, but if they sell applications for others to use, Microsoft will extract fees, according to Ballmer.

"In some sense we are opening up, and yet we retain valuable intellectual property rights," Ballmer said. "The clear message is that patents will be readily available for the right fee."

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Telecoms experts clash in DoJ’s NBN probe

By Jerome Aning - Philippine Daily Inquirer

The justice department’s probe into the aborted NBN-ZTE deal on Thursday took testimony from a National Economic and Development Authority official who said the proposal of China’s ZTE Corp. was a “good deal” and a technical consultant for the competing Amsterdam Holdings Inc. who countered that the AHI bid was better.

AHI head Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, did not show up at the hearing and sent instead consultant Richard Pratte, an industrial engineering and telecoms expert who was part of the team that drew up the AHI proposal.

Ruben Reynoso Jr., NEDA assistant director general, said that had the ZTE deal pushed through, the government would have saved P4 billion a year in communication and Internet bills.

Reynoso said the NBN-ZTE project would have been a potential revenue earner as areas not yet covered by commercial cell phone and Internet service providers could subscribe to the state-owned national broadband network.

Good return

He said the estimated rate of return on investment in the $329-million ZTE project of around 29 percent was favorable as the NEDA normally considered a 15-percent return as “a good figure.”

The NEDA official also clarified that the agency’s primary task was to “review and comment” on completed contracts submitted to it and that background checks were the responsibility of the implementing department or agency.

He said the NEDA evaluated the ZTE proposal at its value, adding that as a government official “he presumes everything was done with a presumption of regularity.”

Reynoso also said he did not meet the Senate’s star witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. to discuss the NBN project.

He said he knew Lozada “socially,” having met him several times at the NEDA office when Lozada would visit the then NEDA head Romulo Neri when the latter “felt a need to relax for while.” He said he did not know of any instance that Lozada intervened or exerted influence to push for the project.

Confidential info

Speaking to reporters, panel member and Justice Undersecretary Jose Vicente Salazar said Neri could be charged for leaking confidential information about the contract to Lozada.

He said the details that Lozada disclosed about the NBN-ZTE deal, including the proposals of ZTE Corp. and AHI, were considered confidential, citing a Malacañang memorandum banning the premature disclosure of details regarding government deals and provisions of the Revised Penal Code pertaining to infidelity in the custody of public documents and revealing trade secrets.

Salazar said that no document has been presented to the panel indicating that Neri hired Lozada as a consultant authorized to view documents on the NBN project.

“There seems to be no written authorization which would entitle Lozada to get a copy of these documents,” said Salazar.

Pratte said the AHI offer was more advantageous because no government loans or guarantees would be involved as AHI proposed to undertake the project on a build-operate-own basis. He said AHI’s rates would also be 25 percent lesser than the lowest prevailing rates. He said the company would earn income by offering its broadband services to private companies.

The $246-million AHI proposal also ensured government control of the security of all data transmitted via the NBN, Pratte said.

He said the AHI project would cover 57 percent of the country’s population, including those living in all chartered cities, all provincial capitals and all first- and second-class municipalities.

Pratte said he found it “strange” that the NEDA should consider AHI’s proposal as limited in coverage when it would be using 587 broadband sites against ZTE’s 300. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Police nab 22 in child porn sweep

Police nab 22 in Canada's largest ever child porn sweep

Agence France-Presse

OTTAWA -- A police sweep overnight nabbed 22 people in what officials authorities called Tuesday Canada's largest coordinated child pornography investigation ever.

The Ontario Provincial Police and 18 municipal police services from across the province took part in the probe that began in January, revealing computers here being used to swap images online of child sexual abuse.

Twenty-five search warrants were executed in 16 communities across Ontario on Monday, including Toronto and Ottawa, resulting in 73 criminal charges of possession and distribution of child pornography being laid.

Detective Staff Sergeant Frank Goldschmidt, the Ontario police child pornography task force coordinator, said the arrests represented "the largest coordinated child pornography sweep in the history of Ontario," and of Canada.

Twenty men, one woman, and one teen face charges in the case, officials said.

Additional arrests are pending and the police investigation is continuing.

"Every image of child pornography represents the irrefutable evidence of a child being brutalized and it's not just about impersonal abstract images," Ontario police Commissioner Julian Fantino told reporters.

"The exploitation of children by whatever means is appalling unconscionable and a particularly vile crime."

"The production and distribution of pornography, the luring of young people by pedophiles for their own deviant purposes, and the proliferation of Internet sites where pictures of just about every imaginable kind of abuse of children including infants can be accessed by anyone is a major concern to police agencies worldwide," he commented.

The sweep should serve "as a very loud wakeup call to all those who commit these horrific crimes ... you can run, but you can't hide," he said.

From April 1 to December 31, 2007, the OPP child pornography task force investigated 1,515 cases and laid 539 related charges, authorities noted.

Canadian and US police said in a new study they traced pornographic images involving children to more than 205,000 unique computer addresses in Canada.


Russia becomes 'spam superpower'

Russia has become a "superpower" of spam e-mail, becoming the second most prolific country after the United States in producing junk emails, a computer security firm said Monday.

"The country has stormed into second place, accounting for 8.3 percent of the world's spam, or one in 12 junk mails seen in inboxes," according to security firm Sophos in its quarterly update on spam email.

Between October and December 2007, the United States remained the spam leader, accounting for 21 percent of these emails, which contained unsolicited marketing pitches and sometimes viruses or other malicious software.

But on a regional basis, Asia ranked first with 32 percent of all spam, followed by Europe at 27 percent, with North America in third place, accounting for 26.5 percent of junk email.

The "dirty dozen" spam-relaying countries were the United States, Russia, China (4.2 percent), Brazil (4.0 percent), South Korea (3.9 percent), Turkey (3.8 percent), Italy (3.5 percent), Poland (3.4 percent), Germany (3.2 percent), Spain (3.1 percent), Mexico (3.1 percent) and Britain (2.5 percent).

"Countries that continually remain among the top spam-relaying countries need to ensure that they are doing more to proper defend computer systems," said Mike Haro, senior security analyst at Sophos.

"If they continue to sit back as compromised computers spread malicious emails and malware, then hackers will continue to look at these systems as easy targets in their efforts to turn them into botnets," which can be controlled by hackers.

In one of the latest efforts to bypass spam filters, Sophos said cybercriminals sent out their messages with supposed music files from stars such as Elvis Presley, Fergie and Carrie Underwood attached to the messages.

The files actually contained a monotone voice encouraging people to buy shares in a little-known company.

"This spam campaign is a perfect example of how cybercriminals will change their approach and tactics in order to trick users into making bad choices," said Haro. Agence France-Presse


Criminal intent becoming more pervasive in web attacks

Criminal intent is clearly becoming the motivation behind most web attacks and malicious software caught by companies like Trend Micro, an expert said recently.

In an interview, David Perry, global director of education for Trend Micro Inc., said that in his 33 years of computer experience, he has seen more malicious attacks and software launched by people with "largely financial gain" in mind.

In the United States, he said that identity fraud has become a profitable business, as “phishing” or the act of stealing of sensitive information from users with the intent of selling or using it, has become a greater concern among security companies.

He said that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has reported that about 15 million identities were stolen in the US alone.

The Trend Micro executive also noted that computers worldwide are also being hijacked using computer malware to generate so-called "click frauds." Click frauds are now used by fake affiliates to trick online advertising services of Google and Amazon to generate fraudulent traffic to certain websites.

Using hijacked computers, these fake affiliates are now able to generate fraudulent advertising revenue by driving more traffic or "clicks" to target websites, Perry said.

The executive said that click fraud is now a headache in the web advertising world.

"It is wreaking havoc to the rest of the Internet advertising world. Advertising clicks are generated by malware. It is now very common," he said.

He stressed that this is one way that malicious groups are now defrauding users and online services.

Citing a few more examples on how criminal intent is now pervasive in web attacks and phishing activates, Perry said that a Trojan program that intends to steal online account information can fetch anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 in the underground market. A credit card number with a personal identification number can sell for about $500. These figures, he added, were culled from "cybercrime forums."

TrendLabs has been reporting about 3,000 malware and 17,000 blocked web addresses a day, Perry said. He added that he has also seen more spam activities increasing in China.

"I'm seeing more activities in China. I've seen the 'make money spam' and the 'illicit software spam' and the 'promised of jobs.' There has also been a rise of phishing in China," he said.
By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

BPO firms clinch deals worth $40M

Business process outsourcing (BPO) companies clinched $40 million worth of deals at the two-day e-Services Global Sourcing Conference held in Pasay City, the event organizer Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) said.

This year’s e-Services hosted a record number of local and foreign buyers in attendance, including 140 exhibitors, the state-run CITEM said.

The current realty and construction boom has increased outsourcing demand for designers, it added.

New partnerships formed at e-Services included one between a Swedish company and five Philippine BPO firms on establishing an offshore IT vendor business, CITEM said.

A corporate research company in the United Kingdom is planning to expand its BPO services in the Philippines, it also said.

There were also about 60 business meetings arranged between Philippine companies and foreign delegates from Japan, the United Kingdom and Sweden, it added.

The conference paved the way for industry players to move on with their Roadmap 2010, which identifies aggressive talent development as the most important factor for growth, followed by the need to establish a first-rate business environment, and the promotion of the “next-wave cities” for BPO operations.

Oscar Sañez of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines said that if the three areas were addressed, the industry stood to grow 40 percent annually through 2010. INQUIRER.net


Nokia to incorporate Google search engine in mobile phones

HELSINKI--Finnish mobile phone giant Nokia said on Tuesday it had reached an agreement with Google to incorporate the Google search engine in its handsets.

In a first stage, the US firm's search technology will be available in a limited number of countries on Nokia's high-end N96 and N78 models as well as on the Navigator 6210 and the classic 6220.

The agreement, for which financial details were not disclosed, will gradually become available in more 100 countries in 40 languages, Nokia said in a statement.

The Google search engine is already available on Nokia Internet navigators, known as Nokia Internet Tablets, and Nokia last year signed an agreement with Google to share videos from Google's You Tube service to make them accessible on Nokia's N95 8GB model.

The latest agreement is part of Nokia's strategy to offer a product that combines written and oral telephone services with document and photo sharing, audio and video applications, Internet navigation and on-line music. Agence France-Presse

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DTI names four more ‘next-wave’ cities

Balanga, Cainta, Legazpi and Urdaneta are the latest to be added into the government’s list of cities groomed as investment destinations for business process outsourcing (BPO).

Representatives from each of these four cities presented the respective local initiatives at the ongoing eServices conference.

Since 2005, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has included about 45 so-called "next wave" cities list.

The Commission on ICT (CICT), meanwhile, has certified 20 of these cities as ICT hubs, based on criteria such as worker supply, telecom infrastructure and other factors necessary to sustain a local BPO industry.

The goal of this campaign is to expand the BPO industry nationwide in anticipation of further investments from the global market.

"We are not concerned about demand. It’s the competitiveness we want to maintain," said CICT chairman Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua, in a briefing.

The BPA/P (Business Process Association of the Philippines), which is working with DTI and CICT, is targeting to grow industry revenues from $5 billion (as of 2007) to at least $12 billion by 2010.

Cebu and Davao were among the first to be recognized by the DTI as investment destinations outside of Metro Manila. Since then, Cebu has attracted more 30 investors (including Accenture, IBM and India's Wipro) while Davao currently has seven locators (including call centers PeopleSupport and Link2Support), according to DTI's report.

Overall, there are at least 90 companies that either invested or expanded their operations in these cities, according to DTI. By Lawrence Casiraya - INQUIRER.net

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Sun transcends gigahertz wars with multi-core technology

It is no longer just about the gigahertz, Sun Microsystems said.

As microprocessor speeds measured in gigahertz continue to increase, chip manufacturers are faced with issues of power consumption and heat. While it is not giving up the gigahertz wars, which focus on producing faster processors, Sun Microsystems said it is more keen on delivering systems that are designed to deliver more "throughput" instead of just speed.

Unveiling its next-generation UltraSparc server, Sun said it can now deliver "eight cores in one processor die," which translates to a 64-core system-on-a-chip, said Alvin Lye, regional sales manager of Systems Practice of Sun Microsystems for South Asia, in an interview.

While Sun is not exactly competing with Intel's Xeon, its eight-core processor aims to address problems related to increasing power consumption and heat dissipation in faster chips.

AMD and Intel have also moved to multi-core processors.

Lye said that Sun will continue working with Intel and AMD, but the vendor will also push its chip multi-threading technology.

"We've been weaned on the gigahertz mindset. It is like buying a car based on how fast it can go. While speed is still a feature, it is now becoming more about getting things done," Lye added.

The Sun executive also said that the chip multi-threading technology will push Sun's chip strategy for another "couple of years."

To support the push, Sun has introduced new ways to measure or benchmark the efficiency of servers. A "productive" server, Lye said, should be measured in terms of how much space it takes in a data center, how many watts it eats up and how much power it consumes.

The eight-core processor was launched globally three months earlier.
By Erwin Oliva - INQUIRER.net

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DepEd awaits DoJ opinion on cyber education

The Department of Education is just waiting for the justice department to issue a legal opinion on how to proceed with its ambitious “open and distance learning,” or cyber education project.

The government suspended the project last year after opposition legislators denounced it as another anomalous Chinese deal.

But now the project is apparently back on track. “It’s just a question of time, technology, costs, phasing, scale and social marketing,” said Education Secretary Jesli A. Lapus.

But the DepEd needs the opinion from the Department of Justice because it wants to comply with the rules, said Lapus.

“That is why we still can’t proceed with the project’s supply contract and loan agreement,” said Lapus, adding that to date, no contracts and commitments have been negotiated.

The P26.4-billion high-tech initiative aims to bridge the learning gap between urban and rural schools by using satellite technology to beam televised lectures to students and teachers in far-flung areas nationwide.

The project has now dropped the cyber education name and is now called simply open and distance learning.

The government initially considered undertaking the program with the Chinese firm Tsinghua Tongfang Nuctech Company (Nuctech) and Tsinghua University.

Late last year, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the presidential task force on education to evaluate and revise the project in a bid to put it back on track. Jerry E. Esplanada - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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NTC: Interconnection is key to lowering rates

In an effort to bring down international call and data rates, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) is keen on ordering interconnection of backhaul networks to international cable landing stations in the country.

“Currently, only the company that has put up a cable landing station can extend this connectivity to the mainstream network, say in Manila, and from there other telcos can interconnect for last-mile connections,” NTC Commissioner Jorge Sarmiento said in an interview. “There could be potential savings for the other telcos if they can hook up to the cable landing station itself.”

NTC common carrier division chief Edgardo Cabarrios explained that it was like “coming from abroad and having to land first in Manila and getting a connecting flight to Cebu.”

“There could be savings in flying straight to Cebu,” Cabarrios said. “That is the analogy of what we would like to do.”

Cabarrios added that backhaul interconnection would give end-users an option on which telco service to use since they would all be connected at competitive rates.

The three existing backhaul facilities were individually put up by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), Globe Telecom Inc. and Digital Telecommunications Philippines (Digitel).

Two more facilities are in the pipeline.

PLDT is set to spend more than $50 million as the Philippine landing party in the Asia-America Gateway or AAG, a cable project which will provide Southeast Asian countries their first direct, high capacity cable connectivity to the US mainland. It is also upgrading its existing APCN2 (Asia Pacific Cable Network 2) system.

Globe Telecom is spending $40 million just for the cable landing station of the TGN Pacific network which will link the country to Japan, Guam and the United States.

Digitel, which is part of the East Asia Crossing (EAC) submarine cable system, said through spokesperson William Pamintuan that it first wanted to get industry feedback at a hearing this Wednesday on the matter.

Digitel has been asking the NTC to make PLDT bare backhaul charges to non-capacity owners of its existing cable landing station.

PLDT and Globe could not be reached for comment.
By Riza T. Olchondra - Philippine Daily Inquirer

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Top ICT innovators cited

Ten information and communication technology (ICT) companies were cited Tuesday at the close of the e-Services Global Sourcing Conference and Exhibition for excellence in their field.

The 10 awardees were Advance World Systems and Media Farm (Outstanding Client Application of the Year); Tech Factors, Total Transcription Solutions and Navigator Systems (Outstanding Consumer Application of the Year); EMR Global and Next IX (Groundbreaking Technology of the Year) and; Transprocure, Pointwest Technologies and PeopleSupport (Most Progressive Homegrown Companies).

Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Felicitas Agoncillo-Reyes, who is executive director of the Center for International Trade Exhibitions and Missions, said the awards were intended to highlight the contribution of IP creation to the growth of the Philippine offshoring and outsourcing industry, particularly in animation and game development, back office business process outsourcing, contact centers, software development and maintenance, and transcription.

Among the finalists were companies engaged in developing homegrown automated teller machine systems, training applications, and back office systems.

Reyes said the e-Services Awards were established in 2001 to encourage local ICT firms “to push the limits of their creativity and innovation through healthy competition.”

This year’s international board of judges included Tholons Southeast Asia president Paul Santos, Headstrong country manager Nora Terrado, ICCP Venture Partners Inc. director Gerry Valenciano, Philippine Trade and Investment Center-New York trade officer Josephine Romero, and XMG Inc. research manager Benedict Ferrer. INQUIRER.net

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Phone viruses to spread as telecom, computer worlds merge

BARCELONA, Spain--Viruses and hacking on mobile phones are still rare but attacks are a looming danger as increasing numbers of people access the Internet and download files with their handsets, experts say.

A survey released this week at the industry's Mobile World Congress showed that only 2.1 percent of people had been struck by a virus themselves and only 11.6 percent knew someone who had been affected by one.

The poll by IT security specialist McAfee, based on 2,000 people in Britain, the United States and Japan, showed that 86.3 percent had had no experience of mobile phone viruses.

The survey did suggest however that the more developed the mobile market is, with high use of the Internet and downloads, the more likely people were to be hit by bugs.

Virus attacks in Japan, the most developed mobile phone market in the world, were far more commonplace than elsewhere.

"We should look at places like Japan which is where the future of mobile technology is," said Graham Cluley, a consultant at Sophos, another IT security firm.

"I wouldn't be surprised if we saw this problem growing because the phone is going to grow into a sort of mobile computer."

The website www.mobilephoneviruses.com, which tracks incidents of mobile virus infections, lists a handful of examples such as Skulls, Velasco and Commwarrior.

The latter infected about 110,000 phones in Spain last year, attacking phones running Nokia's Symbian operating system. It spread via MMS messages, text messages containing an audio, video or picture file.

"Viruses aren't a huge issue now but they have the potential to be so in the future when Internet use is more widespread," said a telecom analyst at the Forrester market research company, Pete Nuthall.

The industry is keen for phone owners to use their handsets for more than just calls and texting -- for which profits are declining in developed countries -- with Internet and video, games and mapping the basis of new product offerings.

"It's a risk that we should be aware of but one shouldn't make it dramatic and worry people," said Emmanuel Forgues from Russian IT security group Kaspersky. "But it's a risk that exists and is certainly going to develop."

"There are few viruses that attack the operating system now. What people are looking at is how to propogate viruses," Forgues added.

One use of a virus would be to implant something in a user's address book for publicity or fraudulent purposes, for example.

Cluley said there were about 350,000 viruses written to attack computers running Microsoft Windows and about 200 known ones for mobile phone operating systems.

Computer viruses were now being written by organized crime gangs to steal money and personal information, while mobile phone viruses "have tended to be written by kids to show off," he said

A 12-year-old boy wrote a virus for the new Apple iPhone which disables it, "turning it into a brick," said Cluley, and a user had to go to the boy's Internet site and download some software.

This crude bit of malware, which could not spread from phone to phone, was said to be an upgrade for the iPhone's operating system.

At French network operator Orange, a spokesperson explained that "with the convergence of the worlds of IT and telecoms the threat is going to get more and more serious.

"What interest developers is that their viruses spread as much as possible," but the company added that telephones used a number of different operating systems at the present time, make this difficult.

Nuthall predicts that "it'll take one big public mobile phone virus attack to create alarm."

In the future, he expects the network operators like Orange to provide protection to their clients.

"You'll end up seeing operators selling bundled services which include a McAfee solution, for example," he said. Agence France-Presse

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