Innovation and Technology Weekly – No. 17, 2003

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Issue 17, 2003

This week's headlines:

Paid content market in Europe will grow to €3.2bn
April 24, 2003

The latest findings from Jupiter Research reveal that paid online content is still a nascent industry in Europe but is forecast to grow rapidly over the next four years. For 2003, only 9 per cent of Europeans will purchase online content and services, resulting in revenues of €693m, but this figure is projected to grow to 23 per cent in 2007, resulting in revenues of around €3.2bn.

In 2003, 21 per cent of consumer spending will be for services such as premium e-mail, e-cards, SMS composer, webhosting and anti-virus software, with a further 13 per cent spent on text and picture-based forms of content such as news and 23 per cent on multi-media content. Adult-related content will be responsible for 43 per cent of spending.

However, by 2007 multi-media related content - driven by high broadband usage - will take the lead with 50 per cent, ahead of paid text and picture-based services with 25 per cent. For the first time, adult content will not be the primary generator of revenues accounting for just 25 per cent of consumer spending.

Full story: Telecom Paper Back to top

ICANN changes put domain names at risk
April 24, 2003

IT managers with any of the 14 generic top level domains in their portfolio risk losing them if they do not keep their registrar informed of their current contact details. Under new proposals from the ICANN every domain owner will be obliged to update their full contact details on ICANN's publicly available WHOIS database annually.

ICANN wants to increase the accuracy of its records by forcing owners to keep their details updated, which would help it resolve possible disputes. Although domain owners currently have to supply full details to the WHOIS database, many do not and the policy has not been widely enforced leading to occasional confusion about domain ownership.

Under the new rules, domains with incomplete or incorrect records will be suspended for 15 days and then deleted if the records are still not amended. The proposal is expected to come into force by the end of May.

Full story: VNUnet UK Back to top

New domain for professionals
April 23, 2003

A long-delayed internet domain specially designed for doctors, lawyers and accountants should be up and running by July, the domain's sponsor has said.

Doctors using websites in the '.pro' domain will be able to email prescriptions and lawyers will be able to sign contracts online thanks to built-in technologies that encrypt communications and enable digital signatures, said Atlanta-based RegistryPro.

Applicants for the new domain names are required to show copies of their professional certifications and pay an annual fee of $125. RegistryPro hopes to expand the domain to include architects and other professionals in the future.

Full story: Yahoo / Reuters Back to top

Microsoft opens up Windows
April 22, 2003

Microsoft has agreed to help its competitors access information about Windows as part of an anti-trust settlement with the US Government.

Microsoft will make it cheaper and easier for other software companies to access key pieces of computer code that their software needs to work well with Windows. The announcement comes after months of negotiations between Microsoft and the US Justice Department, which is overseeing an anti-trust settlement involving Microsoft.

The changes could be helpful to companies such as Sun Microsystems that are battling Microsoft in the market for server software. The Justice Department said the changes would 'substantially' revise the licensing terms for the Microsoft software.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

E-mail more important than the phone in business
April 22, 2003

After more than 125 years the reign of the telephone is over. Its usurper: e-mail. A survey of business people at 387 organisations found that 80 per cent believed e-mail was more important than the telephone market researcher META Group said. Just as surprising for analysts were findings that 74 per cent of the respondents believed being without e-mail would present a greater hardship than losing telephone service.

E-mail's rise to prominence is the result of the technology's ability to reach multiple workgroups or individuals in different geographical locations at the same time, the research firm said. E-mail also offers mobile workers the ability to communicate with more people faster. Finally, the technology creates a written record of all interactions.

However, e-mail's importance within a business underscores the need for phone-like reliability and stability. In addition, the rising e-mail volume means workers are spending several hours a day managing inboxes, as opposed to focusing on their jobs.

Full story: Techweb Back to top

Airports scan for SARS victims' flushed faces
April 24, 2003

In a bid to stop the alarming global spread of the deadly SARS virus, airports in the Far East have begun using thermal imaging cameras to detect the flushed faces of travellers suffering from a fever.

The infra-red thermal imaging scanners are now being used at Singapore's Changi airport and Japan's Narita airport in Tokyo. Hong Kong, the worst hit region after China, is set to introduce the scanners this weekend.

The technology can detect individual passengers with a temperature higher than 38.0°C - a telltale sign of SARS. These passengers' faces show up as a red image on the screen.

However, the thermal screening will only detect people who contracted SARS some days earlier and have already developed a fever. People incubating the virus will not have developed symptoms and will not be stopped.

Full story: New Scientist Back to top

Peer-to-peer Outlook competitor released
April 23, 2003

An email and instant messaging program that lets users share contact details, appointments and other information without the need for an expensive central server has been released.

Chandler 0.1 is designed to provide similar features as Microsoft's Outlook. But instead of storing shared information on a central server, a more robust peer-to-peer network is used to distribute information between the computers of individual users. For example, a user's copy of a company's contact list could be quickly updated from the nearest computer on the network.

In the finished program, expected before 2005, users should be able to share even more information, including presentations, photos and even newsfeeds. And it should be possible for users searching for information on their own machines to simultaneously search the entire network.

Full story: New Scientist Back to top

Giant CCD imager snaps first shot
April 18, 2003

A giant CCD sensor, in fact the largest ever deployed on a telescope, has captured its first images. The sensor, which is mounted on the Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope (CFHT) in Mauna Kea, Hawaii, uses an array of 40 individual CCD chips to take images containing 340 million pixels. In contrast, typical digital cameras on sale in the high street contain just 3 million pixels.

The CCD chips, made by e2v technologies of the UK, are a key part of the CFHT's wide-field digital imager called MegaCam. The chips are mounted in an array that has a central area made from four rows of nine CCDs and covers an area of 25 x 25 cm. This is equivalent to a 1 degree x 1 degree field of view on the sky, roughly the size of four full moons. Each CCD chip is sensitive to wavelengths from 300 to 1100 nm and contains 2048 x 4612 pixels.

It took e2v 18 months to manufacture all 40 CCD chips, each of which has a surface flatness better than 10 microns to ensure that all the light stays in focus without the need for any mechanical correction.

Full story: Physicsweb Back to top

Degree of difference used to sort data
April 18, 2003

Researchers from the Institute of Applied Physics in Spain have found an efficient way to sort inconsistent sets of data into groups that share some similarity.

Grouping objects that are similar in some way is the first step in many types of data searching and analysis. Being able to group sets of data that do not necessarily share the same characteristics, such as disparate internet attacks or incomplete telephone surveys, is more useful and more difficult than grouping data whose pieces match up.

The researchers' used the method to classify different types of web attacks, grouping them by severity. This more fine-grained way of classifying web attacks could help programmers build more secure software, including better intrusion detection systems and firewalls.

Key to the method is comparing the edit distance, or the minimum number of elementary edit operations - such as deletions, insertions, substitutions - needed to transform one piece of data into another. The method allows for sorting the data without using a hierarchical structure.

Full story: Technology Review / TRN Back to top

Where spam comes from
April 24, 2003

For anyone plagued by junk e-mails, the question that often baffles most is how did the spammers get your address. US researchers at the Center for Democracy and Technology set out to answer this question.

The researchers set up 250 different e-mail addresses and waited six months to see what kind of mail the addresses were attracting. The addresses were posted on websites and newsgroups and addresses were provided in response to services on popular websites such as eBay and Amazon. E-mail addresses were also sent to websites in response to jobs, auctions and discussion boards. Finally researchers posted addresses in the Whois database of information about the owners of domain names.

The researchers received over 10,000 messages. Only about 1,600 of these were legitimate e-mails. Over 97 per cent of the spam was sent to addresses that had been posted on public websites. To prevent mail- harvesting on websites is to replace characters in an e-mail address with human-readable equivalents or with the HTML numeric equivalent.

Full story: BBC News Back to top

Digital neurosis: Do you suffer from PPMT?
April 18, 2003

People's anxieties and fears over e-mail etiquette and the inescapable phenomenon of digital blunders has given rise to a new term - pre and post mail tension (PPMT).

As many as half of us fail to properly understand personal e-mails - giving rise to conflicts which may not have occurred if messages had been communicated face-to-face - and blame the resulting confusion for arguments and even relationship break-ups. The plain text nature of most e-mail means common conversational ploys, such as sarcasm, often do not travel well. Furthermore a massive 61 per cent of e-mail users are afraid that any personal or sordid information they include in an e-mail will fall into the wrong hands and be circulated.

According to Yahoo! Mail, who polled 26,000 e-mail users, people can also become obsessed with 'inbox expectations' - constantly opening their inbox to see if a particular e-mail has elicited a response. The survey also revealed that 64 per cent of us have problems concentrating on work if we are waiting for a reply to a specific e-mail.

Full story: ZDNet / Back to top