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Contributions from Jack Schofield and Eric Doyle
Thursday March 3, 2005
The Guardian

Porn plunges

Pornographic spam fell by 92.5% last month, but spam for dating services (+171%) and financial services (+107%) grew dramatically, according to the latest UK statistics from Email Systems. For the first time, more than 90% of email messages were spam, and on Sunday February 6, spam peaked at 97.6% of all email traffic. Viruses only made up 0.61%. With porn becoming unpopular, medical and pharmaceutical-related messages made up almost half of spam emails. Neil Hammerton, Email Systems' chief executive, noted that spam had shifted towards cheap products, financial scams "and other consumer-focused opportunities in an attempt to encourage mainstream recipients to part with their cash". Current levels for spam and viruses are shown on the company's website.

Nokia goes RFID

Nokia has finally launched a kit that turns one of its phones into a mobile RFID reader, to target the growing market for the use of RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) chips. The Mobile RFID Kit, first announced last March, is part of the Nokia Field Force Solution for companies with field workers doing tasks such as repair and maintenance, asset management, and meter reading. It includes two Xpress-on RFID reader shells for Nokia 5140 phones, which have to be bought separately.

Unified Mandarin

Three main controlled vocabularies used by public sector IT systems are being merged into the Integrated Public Sector Vocabulary (IPSV). A single vocabulary will make it easier to create XML schema and to index resources. It will also simplify information access for citizens, customers, suppliers and internal staff in line with government directives. No date has been set for compliance with IPSV but, from this summer, the e-Government Metadata Standard (e-GMS) will become the mandatory metadata scheme in place of GCL. Public sector bodies that are currently standardising on existing vocabularies are being encouraged to continue their projects and then map to IPSV at a later date.

Sun blocker

The Eclipse open source development tools initiative for the Java environment is casting a bigger shadow on Sun Microsystems. At the second EclipseCon event in California this week, IBM is taking a back seat to pro mote new members BEA Systems and Sybase. Borland, a co-founder of Eclipse, is also stepping up its involvement. As the name suggests, Eclipse targets Sun's proprietary grip on Java and aims to weaken this by taking control of tools used in the development process. For example, BEA plans to offer an Eclipse-friendly version of WebLogic Workshop and the JRockit Java virtual machine.

Light dawns

Sun Microsystems and Intel are competing to bring light-based data transfer into the heart of the computer. Just as fibre-optic cable uses laser light, so a miniature version could enable chips to communicate at light speed. At Intel's Developer Forum in California this week, the company confirmed its development of an all-silicon laser that may replace circuit board connections. Outside the conference, Sun was touting its own Proximity Communication, which takes a more proprietary approach, relying on neighbouring chips to have corresponding light sensitive and emitting areas separated by small air gap. Sun claims that computers based on this technology could appear within four years.

Pressure group

An organisation formed from 10 UK IT user groups will be launched next month. The Strategic Supplier Relationship Group aims to improve the relationship between IT users and suppliers. The group has taken four years to get together, and the initial focus will be on licensing policies and guaranteeing product quality. The founder members are the Corporate IT Forum, IBM Computer Users Association, UK Oracle User Group, British Computer Society Elite Group, Institute for the Management of Information Systems, Society for IT Management, Charities Consortium IT Directors Group, Charity IT Resources Alliance, Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and Computer Weekly 500 Club.

Quick console

GFI claims its upgraded Network Server Monitor console can be set up in less than half an hour with no training. The company says the user interface in version 6 has been redesigned using the framework to make product configuration much easier. Network Server Monitor also supports Linux servers and targets companies that might consider Microsoft Operations Manager too complex or too proprietary. After configuration, the GFI monitor tests the status of services by performing and verifying tasks, such as a test login, rather than by making deductions from events. Checks are organised in folders and can inherit folder properties such as notifications, maintenance times and dependencies

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