Episode 123

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Strathfield calls in administrators

ADMINISTRATORS have been appointed to electronics retailer Strathfield Group.

The move comes after poor Christmas trading conditions and a worsening outlook for 2009 at Strathfield.
The Strathfield board made the decision to appoint administrators BRI Ferrier last night, which may see Strathfield offload company-owned stores to franchisees.
It expects substantial impairments will result in negative net assets and shareholders funds positions as at 31 December 2008.
Less than satisfactory Christmas and post-Christmas trading results hit Strathfield’s working capital position and funding requirements, the company said.

Yahoo posts $US303 million loss

YAHOO swung to a fourth-quarter net loss as the company recorded over $US600 million ($903 million) in unusual charges and total revenue took a hit from falling international sales.

The internet company reported a net loss of $US303.4 million, or 22 cents a share, compared with net profit of $US205.7 million, or 15 cents a share, a year earlier. Excluding items, earnings rose to 17 cents from 13 cents. 
In the quarter, Yahoo recorded $US108 million for restructuring charges, a $US488 million goodwill impairment charge related to its international segment and a charge of $US7 million to pay advisors related to strategic proposals with Microsoft and Google. 
Total revenue decreased 1.4 per cent to $US1.81 billion. Revenue excluding traffic-acquisition costs dropped 2 per cent to $US1.38 billion, compared with the $US1.37 million expected by analysts. 
In October, the company expected total revenue of $US1.77 billion to $US1.97 billion.

Centrelink to use voice ID

CENTRELINK will this year deploy a biometric voice authentication system to identify and manage its clients, after spending several years investigating use of the technology.

Centrelink chief information officer John Wadeson said the welfare agency had been investigating the use of voice authentication since 2002, but was reluctant to use the nascent technology until it could handle the agency’s stringent security protocols.  

“We were one of the first organisations back in 2002 to use voice as an online service when it was used to lodge income reports.

“For the past two years we’ve been playing with voice authentication, but until six months ago it wasn’t ready for serious use,” Mr Wadeson said.

“Now that it has matured, we have readied our IT systems to support this technology and are all set to go with it this year.”

The voice authentication technology, being supplied by Telstra as part of its managed telecommunications services contract with Centrelink, is on trial involving 10 Centrelink employees. But the welfare agency is planning to extend it to the general public.

“We have 10 people in an active trial at the moment and the whole system can be rolled out across the business when we need to. But first we want to test the system further” with more people from the public taking part in the trials, he said.

Trial users must have their identity verified through biometric voice authentication technology before accessing personal accounts. The biometric ID replaces the client number and password system that Centrelink currently uses for client access to their accounts.

On initial set-up of the service, the caller is asked to authenticate their voice by counting from one to 10, in addition to answering a number of “secret questions”, Mr Wadeson said. Once the system verifies the user’s voice, it is their password.

“It is a bit of a process to record your voice, so the authentication software recognises it. But once you’ve done it, it’s done for good, Mr Wadeson said. “From that point there will be one or two pre-recorded secret questions for a user to answer and then they will have access to the system and their account.”

Hungry snake discovers you are what you eat

It turned out to be a red belly black snake about 165 centimetres long – a species well known for a taste for other snakes.

“It looked like there was a stick or branch off a tree that was coming up towards it, so we drove past to about get 10 metres away from it and I ducked up the back lawn and around to have a close look,” he said.

Mr Barton says his wife called out to him to ask him what he was staring at.

He yelled back, “Well, it’s a jolly big black snake eating another one! Consuming it! You keep an eye on it and I’ll duck in and get the camera.”

Mr Barton says it took about 10 to 15 minutes for the black snake to fully consume the brown snake, which he says was about 135 centimetres long.

Then it went off for a snooze.

“It was fairly sluggish after such a huge meal,” he said. 


I walked up and got within three metres of it,” he said.

“I was having a close look at it when it opened its mouth a little bit and I spotted this beady eye and the head of the brown snake in its mouth!

“So I got the camera ready, took the shot as the brown snake came out a few inches, fastened onto the black’s lower jaw and pulled itself completely out.

“It had all this mucus all over it. Then the two parted ways.”

Mr Barton reckons that somehow the brown snake turned itself around inside the black snake.

“When you tell these stories no-one believes you, but I have the photographs,” he said.

Google promises offline Calendar support
 “We have been testing the feature internally at Google for a while, and plan to release offline Calendar for wider testing by our most avid business users within the next few weeks.”
The move signals Google’s commitment to providing more offline working capabilities, after having released offline Google Docs last year and Gmail offline support earlier this week.

Microsoft to unblock Windows Service packs
 The company revealed on Thursday that it would be removing the option of blocking the Windows XP SP3 and Windows Vista SP1 updates from the Automatic Update service.
Windows Vista will be the first to see its update blocking taken down. The company will remove the feature for Vista SP1 updates on 28 April. Users will still be able to block the Vista SP2 release.
For Windows XP SP3, the unblocking option will lifted on 19 May.
In other Windows news, the company announced on Friday that it would be ending the Windows 7 beta program. The next publically released version of the operating system will be a release candidate, usually considered the last step before a formal release of a product.
While the company has yet to name a specific target date or month for release, Windows 7 is expected to reach the market some time in the first quarter of 2010.

Microsoft refreshes Vista Service Pack 2
 The update is expected to be the last build before the Release Candidate and the final code are made available.
According to sources, the Release Candidate is now expected in February, with the official availability of the service pack coming sometime in the second quarter of 2009.
Vista SP2 contains all the updates made available since SP1, which was released in March 2008. It also contains changes to support new types of hardware and some emerging standards, according to Microsoft.
These include Windows Search 4.0, which promises improved relevancy and faster searching, Blu-ray support, Bluetooth 2.1 Feature Pack, Windows Connect Now to simplify Wi-Fi configuration, and support for UTC (Universal Time Coordinated) timestamps in the extended FAT file system.

Set-top boxes to ensure signal
 THE Rudd Government will give away set-top boxes to ensure pensioners in Mildura – the first area where analogue television signals will be turned off next year – can still get TV signals.

The Government expects the package will be used by about 3000 Mildura households which are unable to afford new digital TV sets or the set-top boxes that convert analogue TVs to digital.
The package will be available to homes where at least one resident receives either the full age pension, the disability support pension, carer’s payment or equivalent veteran’s payment.

Google looks for internet blockers
 GOOGLE has unveiled a plan aimed at eventually letting computer users determine whether providers are inappropriately blocking or slowing their work online.

The ISPs say they need to take reasonable steps to manage ever-growing traffic on their networks for the good of all users. Content and applications companies fear the providers have the power to discriminate, favouring some traffic over others. 
Google will provide academic researchers with 36 servers in 12 locations in the United States and Europe to analyse data, said its chief internet guru, Vint Cerf, known as the “father of the internet.” 
“When an internet application doesn’t work as expected or your connection seems flaky, how can you tell whether there is a problem caused by your broadband ISP (internet service provider), the application, your PC (personal computer), or something else?” Mr Cerf wrote in a blog post. 

Government dodges questions on axed NetAlert web filter funding

 THE Rudd Government has dumped a $125 million program to provide families with web filtering software as it prepares to test a mandatory web censorship scheme.

The NetAlert program, introduced by the Howard government, allowed families to download free web filtering software to prevent children from seeing inappropriate content on home computers.

A spokesman for Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said there were only 26,000 copies of the software still being used in November last year.

“Only about 2 per cent of households with dependent age children and an internet connection (were) using the filter,” he said.

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales proposes ‘Flagged Revisions’

 WIKIPEDIA is considering tightening rules on who can edit the online encyclopedia after vandals last week changed the entries of two US senators to erroneously report that they had died.

Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales proposed the change, called “Flagged Revisions”, after the vandalism of the entries on Senator Ted Kennedyand Senator Robert Byrd.

The proposal, which was approved 60-40 by participants in an online poll, would not allow first-time or anonymous users to make instant edits but would require that they be approved first by trusted users.

“This nonsense would have been 100 per cent prevented by Flagged Revisions,” Wales wrote on the Wikipedia user forum page.

David Thorne and the mysterious spider drawing email

 THE man whose attempt to pay a bill with a drawing of a spider became an internet sensation says he is a serial prankster who believes the web should be a playground.

David Thorne, who runs the website 27bslash6.com, said the “spider drawing” emails became so popular that his site crashed under the strain of hundreds of thousands of visitors last week.

The emails, in which the prankster tries to pay a bill with a drawing of a seven-legged spider, are just one of the jokes posted to the website – and Mr Thorne says they are all real.

Gallery Read the original email conversation on David Thorne’s website »

“Every person on the site is real, not constructed. There would be no amusement for me otherwise, though I do not use last names and in some instances the names have been changed,” Mr Thorne told news.com.au.

Prince Harry’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy ‘announced split on Facebook’

 PRINCE Harry’s ex-girlfriend Chelsy Davy announced the end of her relationship on Facebook, it has been reported.

Britain’s News of the World newspaper said Ms Davy announced the end of her relationship withPrince Harry by changing her status on Facebook to: “Relationship: Not in One”, according to the Associated Press.

Experts warn of mp3 player hearing loss ‘catastrophe’ 

Time for a new world order: PM – National – BrisbaneTimes – brisbanetimes.com.au
Time for a new world order: PM


Kevin Rudd has denounced the unfettered capitalism of the past three decades and called for a new era of “social capitalism” in which government intervention and regulation feature heavily.

In an essay to be published next week, the Prime Minister is scathing of the neo-liberals who began refashioning the market system in the 1970s, and ultimately brought about the global financial crisis.

“The time has come, off the back of the current crisis, to proclaim that the great neo-liberal experiment of the past 30 years has failed, that the emperor has no clothes,” he writes of those who placed their faith in the corrective powers of the market.

“Neo-liberalism and the free-market fundamentalism it has produced has been revealed as little more than personal greed dressed up as an economic philosophy. And, ironically, it now falls to social democracy to prevent liberal capitalism from cannibalising itself.”

Mr Rudd writes in The Monthly that just as Franklin Roosevelt rebuilt US capitalism after the Great Depression, modern-day “social democrats” such as himself and the US President, Barack Obama, must do the same again. But he argues that “minor tweakings of long-established orthodoxies will not do” and advocates a new system that reaches beyond the 70-year-old interventionist principles of John Maynard Keynes.

“A system of open markets, unambiguously regulated by an activist state, and one in which the state intervenes to reduce the greater inequalities that competitive markets will inevitably generate,” he writes.

He urges “a new contract for the future that eschews the extremism of both the left and right”.

He mocks neo-liberals “who now find themselves tied in ideological knots in being forced to rely on the state they fundamentally despise to save financial markets from collapse”.

He advocates tighter regulation and policing of global finances, and identifies the immediate challenge as restoring global growth by 3 per cent of gross domestic product, the amount it is expected to fall in 2009. Next week, as Parliament resumes, his Government will chip in with a second economic stimulus package.

Mr Rudd commits to keeping budgets in surplus “over the cycle”, meaning deficits should be temporary. In a further sign the Government is not contemplating additional tax cuts, which would deliver a permanent hit to revenue, he stresses that stimulus measures have to be paid for when the economy recovers.

Mr Rudd singles out Thatcherism as a culprit, as well as the former Howard government. His essay implicitly attacks the Opposition Leader, Malcolm Turnbull, who this week urged the free market be allowed to dictate commercial property values as he slammed a Government measure to prop them up.

Mr Rudd’s essay follows the blast Mr Obama gave Wall Street bankers yesterday for awarding themselves $28 billion in bonuses last year at the same time as they were being bailed out by taxpayers.

In a message to Mr Obama and the US Congress, Mr Rudd counselled against erecting trade barriers. “Soft or hard, protectionism is a sure-fire way of turning recession into depression as it exacerbates the collapse in global demand.”

The message was reinforced in Davos yesterday when the Trade Minister, Simon Crean, described the “buy American” provisions of the new Obama stimulus package as “very worrying”. “On the face of it, it looks like it contravenes commitments made to the World Trade Organisation,” he said.

Labor’s ‘deafening silence’ as web censorship trials delayed 

With smart email you don’t even an address

Stanford University scientists are perfecting an email system that figures out who messages are intended for and finds them whether or not senders know the addresses.

Semantic technology that understands phrases and relationships between words instead of simply recognising typed characters can scour data bases and the internet to track down intended email recipients.

Stanford computer science associate professor Michael Genesereth and fellow researchers in Ireland, Austria and at the university began testing a semantic email addressing system several years ago.

It worked so well that the experiment will be expanded to the approximately 6000 people in the Stanford Computer Science Department this year.

If that succeeds, as Genesereth is confident it will, the semantic email technology will be put to use throughout the acclaimed Silicon Valley university’s campus and then “who knows”.

Several big corporations have reportedly already expressed interest in the system.

“The idea is to change the way we address email,” Genesereth said.

“You really want to send messages to people, not a string of characters. This way, you describe the person you want to receive the email instead of characters.”

For example, if someone wants to send a message to the head of a department or peers in a work group they enter that into their email system, which then figures out where to send messages.

“In a sense, your address book does become obsolete,” Genesereth said.

“There is a lot of data about people and organisations. It is semantic data available on the Web and our email programs should be able to use that for smart addresses for our messages.”

Semantic email is expected to first take root in companies and other organisations interested in letting workers more efficiently mine internal personnel data bases.

As companies share data with partners and information on the internet grows more reliable, semantic email addressing should “grow virally,” according to Genesereth.

Researchers downplay concerns that junk email senders will seize upon the technology to deluge people with “semantic spam.”

“It is funny but true, you could target specifically the people you want to reach,” Genesereth said.

“There would be less need for spam blasts in a world of semantic email. Instead of sending email to everyone you send it to people who actually might be interested in what you are talking about.”

Semantic email technology could be turned against spammers by filtering out messages based on who is sending them.

Email systems commonly filter potentially unwanted messages based on perpetually updated lists of sender addresses considered spam sources. Spammers dodge such filters by routinely changing sending addresses.

“Issues that exist with semantic email are no different than exist with current email,” Genesereth said. “If my email knows who is sending the message, I could use a smart spam filter.”

Online advertisers hammered by click fraud

Click fraud surged to a new high in the final three months of 2008 as criminals had armies of hacked computers pretend to be customers checking out online ads, according to a report released on Wednesday.

Click Forensics, a US firm that audits internet traffic, reported that 17.1 per cent of clicks on online advertising were frauds evidently intended solely to drive up bills for businesses paying “per click.”

The rate was a half of a percent higher than the one reported in the same quarter a year earlier.

Networks of hacked computers referred to as “botnets” are said to be responsible for nearly a third of the click fraud in final three months of 2008.

“It seems that the online advertising industry is not immune to the growing tide of cybercrime during this recessionary period,” said Click Forensics president Tom Cuthbert.

“Both the overall click fraud rate and the rate of click fraud originating from botnets were the highest ever in Q4 2008. Advertisers should pay close attention to these types of threats.”

The 28.2 per cent rate of fraudulent clicks on advertising at internet search engines, including Google AdSense and Yahoo Publisher Network, represented a tenth of a percent drop from that reported in the final quarter of 2007.

Internet firms including Yahoo and search king Google rely heavily on revenue from pay-per-click ads and employ technology to expose bogus clicks so advertisers don’t have to pay.

Click Forensics said motives for fraud include pumping up commissions earned on ads and driving up expenses for competing businesses.


Blu-ray takes off as prices drop

More than 5 per cent of Australian households have a Blu-ray player and the high definition movie format is gaining significant traction now that players have dropped below $400, movie studios and retailers say.

Just under 1 million copies of Blu-ray movies have been sold in Australia to date and there are 29 titles on the market, with all major studios planning to ramp up Blu-ray releases this year.

Sales of Blu-ray players in Australia spiked from 3000 in August and September last year to 6600 in October, 8400 in November and just under 20,000 in December, market watcher GfK reports.

Simon Bush, chief executive officer of the Australian Visual Software Distributors Association, said sales of Blu-ray movies last year totalled $25,974,000, a 357 per cent increase on the previous year.

“Blu-ray uptake has exceeded even that of standard DVD at the same point in time, which was the fastest adopted consumer technology the world had seen,” he said.

“Today you are hard pressed to buy a TV set which is not full HD [high definition] capable and, with some leading manufacturers providing free Blu-ray players and with players themselves dropping to around $300 complemented now with a good supply of quality filmed content, Blu-ray will really take off in 2009.”

Bush said with Iron Man and The Dark Knight, released towards the end of last year, one in five discs sold was Blu-ray, indicating that the format was “capturing consumer interest”.

Liz van Hooven, managing director of Universal Pictures, said the key Blu-ray titles being purchased were action and thriller genre films, “which follows the same trend as when the standard DVD format was released back in ’97”.

“The Blu-ray format continues to grow strongly,” she said, adding that this was helped by strong retail offers of players linked to flat panel sales.

Roger Clarke, managing director of Warner Bros, said that, in the 21 months since Blu-ray was launched, the format had been taken up by 5.3 per cent of households in Australia.

“It took us 12 months more to hit that number with standard definition DVD,” he said.

Clarke said 35 per cent of sales at Warner Bros were for back catalogue titles, indicating that consumers are replacing their libraries of regular DVDs with Blu-ray titles.

“I think it’s gaining substantial traction,” he said.

Richard Uechtritz, chief executive officer of JB Hi-Fi, said Blu-ray sales were lifting now that prices had come down but there was “still a long way to go” as more people were buying regular DVD players, which can be had for under $100.

The introduction of an R18+ rating for computer games in Australia continues to be delayed by South Australian Attorney-General Michael Atkinson.

Censorship ministers last March agreed “in principle” to canvass public opinion on the proposed introduction of an R18+ classification for games and to release a discussion paper on the issue. But Mr Atkinson is still yet to provide his final comments on the paper after earlier refusing to make it public unless changes were made.

Mr Atkinson’s opposition to an R18+ rating has long frustrated Australian adult gamers, as any changes to the classification regime require unanimous approval from the Commonwealth and all state and territory attorneys-general. Mr Atkinson has said he knows that his stance is impinging on adult freedom, but it was necessary to restrict children’s access to “potentially harmful material”.

The draft discussion paper, titled “R18+ for computer games” was sent to ministers last September and details the advantages and perils of introducing an adults-only rating for games.

If it gets released, the paper will be available to the public via the internet and provided to interested parties such as industry groups and family associations to seek their views.

Victorian Attorney-General Rob Hulls, who took the lead in drafting the discussion paper, said there were “persuasive arguments” for an adults-only category. “While computer games have predominantly been considered the domain of children, the most up-to-date research indicates a steadily growing trend in adult consumers,” he said. “It seems inconsistent that in Australia adults are allowed to view ‘adult only’ films but not computer games with an equivalent high-level content.

“With the increasing convergence between films and games, the different approach to classification principles is difficult to sustain … Australia is out of step with the rest of the developed world on this issue.”

Australia is the only developed country without an R18+ games classification, meaning any titles that exceed MA15+ standards, such as those with “strong impact” violence or sexual content, are effectively banned by the Classification Board.

In 2009, five games were refused classification, but several were later given MA15+ ratings following appeals or edits. Forthcoming games such as Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars, FEAR 2: Project Origin and MadWorld have received MA15+ ratings despite adults-only labels in Britain.

Suffering password fatigue

They’re a headache, but we need them, writes Natalie Apostolou.

There is a common strain of amnesia floating around the desks of those sun-kissed and briefly stress-free workers fresh from summer holidays. Frequently this affliction causes normal, intelligent employees to lose all grasp of their faculties when confronted with a password prompt screen on the first day back at work. They simply cannot remember their passwords and they have to call a helpdesk to reset them.

While the average business user juggles at least six passwords, according to security studies, this number may be amplified to more than 20 when taking into account the increasing use of social networking sites and daily online usage of web-based utilities and entertainment such as banking, gambling, news sites, private email, Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace.

That’s without remembering personal identification numbers, or PINs, for bank cards, credit cards, telephone accounts and other household utilities or service companies that demand proof of identity when dealing with them over the phone or electronically.

It’s not surprising that the instances of password resetting are 10per cent higher in the first three weeks of January than any other time of the year. According to Prodigy Communications, which services more than 500 corporate clients, password amnesia and mismanagement eat into productivity.

Prodigy IT managing director Craig Brady says that while password management is problematic, it is the responsibility of the individual and the company to be vigilant about managing security and access to online areas.

The proliferation of passwords is becoming a headache for users, network administrators and online providers alike. The menace of identification fraud, hacking and phishing means that ubiquitous usage of a familiar password is akin to posting your credit card number on a Facebook profile.

The insidious sounding Conflicker virus has been worming its way through simplistic password configurations since November, infecting more than 9million PCs in the US, Europe and Asia via USB sticks.

The adaptable virus exploits network passwords and spreads throughout corporate networks easily by hacking in to simple passwords and then locking network users out of their accounts.

As such, the demand for more sophisticated password protection systems is becoming pervasive.

Mr Brady suggests that all companies invest time in educating staff on the importance of password security and management.

It is usually larger corporations that install a complex password system, such as a login system that requires employees to change passwords regularly and uses unique alphanumeric combinations, but Mr Brady recommends that this should be enforced no matter what the size of the company, ASX-listed blue chip or single-computer home office.

“Using a complex password system is an easy way to maintain good security practices,” he says.

However, he concedes that some people will always rely on their techies to help them.

“The advent of the on-call IT helpdesk has made users lazy in retaining password information. Not very long ago a company would have to be on a wait list for the techy guy to come out to the premises and reset passwords,” he says.

While the habitual and creatively challenged nature of humans insists that “123456” or “password” remain in the top five of password usage, the danger of security breaches is demanding that users become aware of their importance.

One security professional, Stephen Gillies, suggests using “muscle memory” to create a sound but recallable password. “A pattern on the keyboard can jog your memory, TgbyhN0011 is an easy to remember pattern on a standard keyboard, for example,” he says.

Mr Gillies, who is a member of the System Administrators Guild of Australia, also warns that saving passwords to mobile phones as a backup can also backfire.

“With the number of places your contacts are synchronised these days, your phone synchronises with your computer, your computer perhaps with your work account, even GPS units can synchronise phone books. There are too many places this data may end up to rely on this method of storage any more,” he says.

He also stresses the importance of wiping the data off all old equipment and avoiding using the “remember my password on this machine” feature because of the threat of a stranger using a computer while a desk is unattended.

Mr Brady recommends off-the-shelf software management systems such as Password Keeper to help employees manage their password information securely. These applications require only one password to enter and are heavily encrypted.

The topic of social networking draws the ire of most IT administrators, who all concur that applications such as Facebook cause the most potential and actual security threats to companies and their staff.

“Block it,” Mr Brady says, but he adds that introducing a policy of only lunchtime, pre and post-work allocated times is also effective in curbing its usage.

But again education is key: “Never use the same password on corporate accounts that you would on Twitter, Facebook or Gmail, as you raise the risks of hacking considerably.

“Content filtering software is struggling to keep up with social network sites, and as a consequence they are a hackers delight.”

Tips for keeping access secure

– Never use the same password twice. If you must reuse pins and passwords, group them into logical categories which have a similar level of security. You may use a similar password for your Gmail and Yahoo IM accounts, but the PIN for your credit card should be different to any other PIN you have. For passwords with a low level of security, like website registration logins where there’s no risk of your identity being compromised, use something easy to remember.

– Mix it up. A strong password has upper and lower case characters with at least one number.

– Give it rhythm. For a random-looking password use the first letters of two phrases you will remember, like Mhall3bf (Mary had a little lamb 3 bags full).

– A pattern on the keyboard can jog your memory. System administrators call it muscle memory. TgbyhN0011 is an easy-to-remember pattern on a standard keyboard, for example (but don’t use qwerty as your password).

– Familiarity breeds hacking. Never use your birth date, car registration, children’s names or employee number. These are all easy to guess and are common.

Keep it fresh. Change your password at the same time you pay your credit card statement or mobile phone bill.

– For your eyes only. Never, ever give your password to anyone else. If you have trouble accessing a work system talk to your IT help desk. If you suspect your password is compromised, change it immediately.

Some hints from the IT desk

– Never change a password on a Friday, especially in the afternoon.

– Think of two good short words and stick some numbers/specials in the middle.

– Don’t be afraid to admit that you have forgotten your password.

– If your password is going to expire while you are away, then let it expire.

– Never give out data about yourself in a public forum which can compromise you. Your full date of birth, your mother’s name, your place of birth and your phone number should ideally never be available in one place.

– Never respond to requests for personal information from people you don’t know. Never click on links in email unless you have very strong anti-virus filters.

Never follow links in email to any banking or other important website – always enter your website URL yourself in the browser or select it from a bookmark.

Natalie Apostolou is editor of Digital Media magazine.

Strathfield Group in turmoil, company secretary resigns, shares on hold

By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: The woes continue at Strathfield Group with the news this afternoon that the company has requested a trading halt on its shares pending an announcement on the company’s financial position by next Wednesday 28 January.

A statement to the ASX from Strathfield Group this afternoon requests that a trading halt be placed on the shares until the company can release a statement “in relation to financial position, asset impairment and future direction”.

Today the company also released a statement that the company secretary, Trevor Hannah, resigned today after 17 years with the company. He was replaced as company secretary by Vaz Hovanessian.

As seen on TV; price rises to be featured on Today Tonight

By Martin Vedris

SYDNEY: Seven’s Today Tonight current affairs program will feature a story tonight by Helen Wellings on price rises in the consumer electronics industry.

Wellings told Current.com.au today that retailers such as Harvey Norman and Audio Solutions were canvassed for opinion and that the story will offer consumers tips on finding a bargain.

Price rises are the hot topic of the month with many major consumer electronics brands in Australia announcing imminent price increases. The news also comes at a time when Sony has admitted to its first operating loss in 14 years and LG Electronics has recorded a massive USD $487 million loss.

Sony is hoping collect on its gaming division however with the upcoming release of the anticipated Killzone 2 first-person shooter game.



EzyDVD bought out for $10 million

By Grant Shepherd

SYDNEY: The nation’s largest online DVD retailer, EzyDVD, last month fell into receivership after suffering debts of $18 million, leaving staff in 65 stores doubtful about their future.

In some good news for the retailer, the Franchise Entertainment Group, who is responsible for the Blockbuster and Video Ezy rental brands in Australasia, has bought out the chain for approximately $10 million.

The Franchise Entertainment Group says it will retain the existing EzyDVD brand and will continue operating roughly 40 of the stores that did not close over the receivership period.

EzyDVD’s head office, warehouse and distribution facility in Torrensville, South Australia, however will be closed down in approximately three months.

But the Franchise Entertainment Group is still very optimistic about its purchase and sees the company as a perfect fit into its existing portfolio.

EzyDVD evidently suffered due to the downturn in the Australian economy, and gained substantial operating losses. But the company on average still gains revenue of around $20 million a year.

Paul Uniacke, director of Franchise Entertainment Group, has expressed enthusiasm about the retailer’s prospects and says “EzyDVD would maintain its position as a market leader because of its strong customer base”.

Dear Mark


It was nice to meet you yesterday at the Southport EB store.


I share with you the concerns regarding the standard of education in Queensland. Grammatical and spelling errors in advertisements and job applications are particularly alarming. I was quite shocked when attending a high school awards ceremony late last year to find that commendations were awarded if a student achieved a B mark in 3 subjects – while I appreciate that particular school may need to employ various methods of encouragement I think rewarding mediocrity is a terrible precedent.  Unfortunately this seems to have become quite common across the state.


Please click on the following link to read the details of our LNP education policies and juvenile justice policies.


Dear Sir or Madam,
OntheNet has received notice from Lionsgate Films Property, claiming that a user at has downloaded and is distributing copyright material (see notice details below).  At the time indicated, your connection with OntheNet (username: saltzer) had this IP address.
Please note that any such activity is in breach of the OntheNet terms and conditions of service and acceptable use policy (http://www.onthenet.com.au/aup.asp). Download and/or use of this software may also contravene applicable Australian copyright legislation.
Recent Infringement Timestamp: 22 Jan 2009 06:57:37 GMT equates to 22 Jan 2009 16:57:37 in Queensland/Australia.

UK will not legislate on piracy
 The UK’s Intellectual Property minister David Lammy has said the government will not force internet service providers to pursue file sharers.


There had been mounting speculation about government legislation on the issue as the music industry steps up its fight against the pirates.

Other countries, such as France, have supported tough action on file-sharers, who the industry claims cost them dear.

But Mr Lammy said legislation would be too complex.

“We can’t have a system where we’re talking about arresting teenagers in their bedrooms,” he told The Times newspaper.

Talk of the government forcing internet service providers to evict file-sharers from their networks grew last year as the British Phonographic Industry adopted a tougher stance.

The BPI, which represents the UK music industry, favours a “three strikes” policy, where file-sharers offenders are initially sent warning letters. Persistent offenders could be thrown off the network.

Sony earnings skid 95pc

 BATTERED by the strong yen and sliding consumer demand, Sony has reported fiscal third-quarter net profit skidded 95 per cent and reiterated it will likely swing into its first net loss in 14 years in the fiscal year ending March.

Spam rises 150 per cent in two months
THE number of junk emails being sent to computer users around the world has risen more than 150 per cent in two months, as spammers fight back against efforts to shut them down. In November, the level of spam junk emails fell dramatically after the plug was pulled on McColo, an American company accused of providing the gateway for much of the world’s junk emails. 
But, in just a few weeks, the world’s biggest junk-email gangs appear to have regrouped, as spam emails have now almost recovered to the same levels as before McColo was shut down. 
According to data compiled by Google, computer users can expect to receive more unsolicited emails this year than ever before. 
Spam or junk emails are unsolicited messages sent in bulk. Most are advertisements for dubious products and fake get-rich-quick schemes. 
Google’s analysis of spamming activity showed that the average PC user that was not protected with adequate anti-virus software would have received 45,000 spam messages in 2008, up from 36,000 from the previous years. 
The research showed that on the day that saw the highest volume of spam last year, in April, some users were receiving an average of 100 emails every minute. The company said that all indicators suggest that the problem will continue to get worse as spam attacks become “more frequent and more ingenious”. 
In November, McColo was taken offline in what was seen at the time as a significant victory against junk emailers. Security researchers accumulated evidence of alleged spamming activities at McColo, and persuaded its internet providers to get the web-hosting service to be taken down. 




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