Good news drowned by wave of security blunders

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As always, we'll begin with the good news, not because we're people who like to look on the bright side of life, but because it's quicker to get it out of the way now.

HP upped its sales and profits forecast for the second quarter, revealing it would add another billion dollars in sales, and earnings per share would be up seven cents to 64-65 cents.

Cisco also muscled in on the good news act by announcing a 34 per cent increase in third quarter profit and sales, up 21 per cent to $8.9bn.

Computacenter was more cautious. It revealed Q1 product sales had failed to meet expectations and the overall financial performance was below that achieved in the first quarter of 2006. Told you the good news wouldn't last!

Dell reduces box shifting activity...

At least Dell took a break from its usual bad news to provide something interesting. It revealed plans to boost its server business by shifting fewer boxes. Stop rubbing your eyes, it's true. The plan is not to sell fewer servers but to pack more systems into fewer boxes. Customers will be able to receive four 1U systems or 10 blades in a single box. The boxes also have a built-in corrugated pallet, removing the need for a wooden one.

...and opens another front

In another bid to revitalise sales, Dell became the first vendor to join the Microsoft/Novell pact concerning interoperability between Windows and Linux. Dell will buy SuSE Linux Enterprise Server (SLES) coupons from Microsoft and establish a services and marketing program to migrate existing business Linux users to SuSE.

The price is right no matter what it is...

As for our friends at Microsoft, the good news was that its buddies in the UK government were not going to put pressure on to bring UK pricing of Vista into line with the US version. The government rejected a petition on its e-petition website calling for fairer pricing, saying companies could charge what they liked. In your case, £350 for Vista Ultimate and £195 for our American cousins.

...but the product needs a little work

The bad news was that while its UK pricing was secure, Microsoft's products weren't. The software giant released seven critical patches on Tuesday as part of its regular Patch Tuesday update cycle. The patches covered security bugs in Excel, Word, Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, Microsoft Exchange, BizTalk Server, and Windows DNS Server and all allowed hackers to inject malicious code onto systems running vulnerable software packages.

Forefront not at the forefront?

Still on the subject of security, Microsoft released the final version of its Forefront Client Security anti-malware software for enterprises to manufacturers. Security rivals were quick to suggest the software would prove little better than Microsoft's consumer anti-virus software, which performed disappointingly in independent tests earlier this year.

Low prices, low security

Still, whatever the weaknesses in Microsoft's security, they were nowhere near as bad as those at TJX, the US-based retailer responsible for the world's biggest known theft of credit-card numbers. It transpires TJX used an old Wi-Fi security protocol most people wouldn't use at home, failed to use firewalls or install software patches, and disregarded requirements imposed by Visa and MasterCard concerning how card information was stored and transmitted.

British Gas leak

Meanwhile, British Gas found itself in trouble after users complained they were at risk because when they tried to pay their bill on the company's website their credit card information was sent over an unencrypted link. The worst bit is the company can only fix it between 10am and 5pm next Monday...

I'm sure it was around here somewhere

Still, there are worse ways of losing data - as the US-based Transportation Security Administration found out last week when it admitted it had mislaid a hard drive containing the names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, payroll information, bank account and routing information of 100,000 people employed at the agency between January 2002 and August 2005.

Stick it up your USB port

Meanwhile, some silly people have created a worm that spreads by copying itself from infected machines onto removable devices such as USB memory sticks. When the USB stick is plugged into another computer the worm, known as SillyFD-AA, is activated. At least you have a good reason not to let that salesman from Fascinating Components load his presentation onto your PC.

Improve your security, compost your data

People concerned about their personal security and the environment can save two birds with one stone by composting their shredded bank statements. If nothing else, the soggy potato peelings and biodegradable nappies might be more of a deterrent than a firewall.

Not our fault

The company responsible for providing Vista upgrades for people who were given vouchers when they bought PCs in the run up to the launch of the OS has blamed PC manufacturers for the mess. ModusLink marketing and communications manager Christine Pothier also dismissed claims the problems had been caused by a spike in demand for Vista. "The number of orders was not overwhelming and has nothing to do with why shipment was delayed; it has solely to do with the fact that we didn't have the product to ship," she said.

Windows without Windows

Perhaps as a mean of avoiding such a debacle in the future, users might be interested in Nivio's Windows XP hosted desktop service. The company claims it can stream a desktop to any compatible browser so you can remotely access Windows apps on Linux, Mac, or even a handheld device. A hosted desktop also lets you run the latest Windows apps even if your own system is not capable or compatible.

Aussies going iSoft

Australian health specialist IBA Healthcare is talking to investors about raising funds to pay for the purchase of troubled UK healthcare provider iSoft. Shareholders will get one new IBA share for every iSoft share they hold.

Elsewhere, Sage snapped up Snowdrop Systems for £17m in cash. Founded in 1991, Snowdrop makes systems which automate jobs for human resources departments. It had sales of £7.5m last year.

Apple seeks green peace

Apple CEO Steve Jobs was busy polishing the company's environmental credentials last week, but Greenpeace still wasn't entirely satisfied. Jobs provided a list of all the noxious chemicals the company has already eliminated from its products - in some cases in advance of legislation - and provided a timetable for the removal of toxic substances the company has yet to rid its products of.

Things we wish we had time for

The UK's Premier League is suing YouTube for showing clips of football matches. Understandable, given the quality of most premier league matches. Do you really want young children watching this crap?

Meanwhile, a schoolboy convicted of swindling £250,000 through internet scams has been caught again despite being out on bail and banned from selling goods. What was that saying again? If at first you don't succeed...

One thing we're glad we missed out

Over 11,000 people have signed a petition to save reality TV star, hotel heiress, and convicted drunk-driver Paris Hilton from jail. Who are these people? Somehow we suspect the US authorities will react the same way to this online petition as the UK government did to the Vista one.

Technology in motion

An American inventor has built a jet-propelled portaloo which can be operated "on the throne" using handlebars. Quite why you'd want to be in motion while passing a motion is not for us to reason why. One question: does it make him a crap driver? ®


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