Episode 238

posted in: Show Notes


Outrage over TomTom speed traps for motorists

TomTom Australia says it is planning to sell GPS data collected about its customers’ journeys to road authorities and private companies even after it was forced to apologise when that same data was used by Dutch authorities to set speed traps.
TomTom was hoping to offer the data – which includes journey times, speeds and routes taken – to Australian organisations like the RTA and VicRoads in the second half of this year, although nothing had been confirmed

“It’s not active for Australia yet although we do have the base data,” he said.
The Australian Privacy Commissioner, Timothy Pilgrim, said companies that sell GPS devices should be very upfront about what they are going to do with information collected from the devices. The ability to opt-out should not be buried in the fine print of a lengthy privacy policy, he said.


Thunderbolt is a revolutionary I/O technology that supports high-resolution displays andhigh-performance data devices through a single, compact port. It sets new standards for speed, flexibility and simplicity. And it’s on the new MacBook Pro and the new iMac.

Intel co-invented USB and PCI Express, which have become widely adopted technologies for data transfer. Apple invented FireWire and was instrumental in popularising USB. Their collective experience has made Thunderbolt the most powerful, most flexible I/O technology ever in a personal computer.

Thunderbolt I/O technology gives you two channels on the same connector with 10 Gbps of throughput in both directions.

You can move data to and from peripherals up to 20 times faster than with USB 2.0 and up to 12 times faster than with FireWire 800. You also have more than enough bandwidth to daisy-chain multiple high-speed devices without using a hub or switch. For example, you can connect several high-performance external disks, a video capture device, and even a Mini DisplayPort display to a single Thunderbolt chain while maintaining maximum throughput.


PM defends ‘quality’ digital set-top box scheme for pensioners
pensioners will be given high-quality, easy-to-use set-top boxes under a $308 million budget measure that’s been attacked as overpriced, unsafe and vulnerable to rorting.

Defending the value of the $350 per box scheme, the Prime Minster said the cost included installation, a lesson on how to use the technology and a 12-month support package.
The opposition has likened the scheme to the government’s ill-fated insulation scheme, saying set-top boxes can be bought at electrical retailers for as little as $40.

Master Electricians Australia today warned the scheme could result in the deaths of installers.
The peak body’s chief executive Malcolm Richards said an online training scheme for antenna installers for tradesman was inadequate.
***Only available to full rate pensioners***

Millions of children at threat from bullying, cyber-predators on Facebook social networking website 7.5 million of the 20 million minors who used Facebook in the past year were younger than 13, and a million of them were bullied, harassed or threatened on the site, a study released yesterday said.
More than five million Facebook users were 10 years old or younger, and they were allowed to use Facebook largely without parental supervision,

Microsoft buys Skype for $US8.5bn MICROSOFT agreed to buy internet phone company Skype Technologies for $US8.5 billion ($7.8bn) in cash

Mr Ballmer vowed to continue to support Skype on non-Microsoft platforms, which means keeping the service available to iPhone and Mac users.
About 170 million people log in to Skype’s services every month, though not all of them make calls. Skype users made 207 billion minutes of voice and video calls last year.

The Skype deal ranks as the biggest acquisition in the 36-year history of Microsoft

Labor ends voluntary net filtering scheme government will scrap its voluntary internet filtering grants program to save $9.6 million over three years

A combination of reasons led to the decision, including moves by Telstra, Optus and Primus to voluntarily block child abuse websites

Problems abound for password firm LastPass LastPass uses an encrypting process called salting to protect passwords. They are encrypted using a formula and random data, and with salting, the encoding process cannot be reversed.

Despite the advance encryption, LastPass, a small company that employs just 11 staff, told users to change their master passwords to keep their accounts secure

alot of people angry-but it seems a bit of damned if you do and damned if you don’t

real estate site will list data free
Onthehouse.com.au is the latest technology and property group to hit the sharemarket with its $55.1 million

founder Michael Fredericks has been running the business privately for the past five years and says the key to the new company is the integration of a real estate content platform for consumers and real estate agents.
“This is a fully vertical mode where we are supplying the industry with software tools and doing it on a single platform,” Mr Fredericks said. “The other key market is the consumer product where we will make available up-to-date sales data and analytical data . . . we’re the first to bring a fully integrated set of data . . . and we’re making it free online.”
Onthehouse is similar to the model used by Britain’s zoopla.com, which not only provides listings of properties for sale but also current information on what properties have sold for. The latter, which is similar to information provided by companies such as RP Data, will be available free on Onthehouse’s website
The site has 1.2 million unique visitors a month and it’s expected to eventually generate revenue from banner advertising.

Google to release Chrome laptops in June
Google’s aim is to encourage people to use web-based applications, claiming that that is where most people spend their time and that most tasks can be accomplished online.
The internet giant said because Chromebooks are not weighed down by software and applications common to most laptops, they boot up in eight seconds instead of minutes.
The company said battery life on the device will last a day, security updates will be done automatically and they will be faster than traditional laptops.

Isn’t this really what the ipad is?

Osama Bin Laden’s hideout to feature in video game A downloadable map featuring Osama Bin Laden’s hideout has been developed for the video game Counter-Strike: Source
Since being made available on 7 May it’s been downloaded more than 9,000 times.

Sony to restart its PlayStation Network by end of May The company shut its online video game network on 20 April, after discovering a major security breach.
Spokesman Satoshi Fukuoka admitted the company had missed a self-imposed deadline of restarting a partial service by the weekend.
He said Sony continues to investigate the case, after personal details from 100 million accounts were compromised.
The company had originally hoped to restart some of the services on the PSN last week.

Apple is ‘most valuable brand’ in the world Apple has overtaken Google as the world’s most valuable brand, according to a study by the global brands agency Millward Brown.
It ends a run of four years at the top for Google.


Charlotte Motor Speedway, Panasonic flip the switch on the world’s largest HD screen — Engadget

Charlotte Motor Speedway and Panasonic held an event yesterday to celebrate the completion of the new world’s largest HD screen, which measures at 16,000 square feet (200 feet wide and 80 feet tall). Of course, the only natural thing to do when face with a screen this size is to play videogames on it, and CMS got very meta by bringing out NASCAR driver and simulation racing fan Dale Earnhardt Jr. to turn a few laps on the track in iRacing on the brand new display. The 720p display, located on the backstretch, is big enough for fans seated along the front stretch of the track between turn four and turn one to have a clear view of replays, standings and stats all the way across the track. Its official debut will take place May 21st during the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race and will also take a turn as a massive HDTV airing clips of Top Gear USA during a History Channel sponsored race the week after. You can see the videogame rig, screen and ceremonial oversized remote above while video of them actually playing is available at the source link.

Google Reader (1000+)
Residents of SoCal’s Torrance should consider themselves lucky, as they’re now living in America’s first-ever city to have a pipelined hydrogen-fueling station. You can thank Shell and Toyota for picking up this government-funded green project. Sure, while the few other hydrogen stations still rely on delivery by supply truck (presumably running on diesel, ironically), this nevertheless marks a new milestone for our squeaky clean fuel, and it’s only a matter of time before more stations get piped up to Air Products’ hydrogen plants. If there’s any indication of a time frame, Wired reminds us that 2015 should see the arrival of many new mass-market hydrogen cars from Toyota, Honda, and Mercedes-Benz. Not long to go now, fellow tree huggers.

AC/DC stand firm on digital download ban | Information, Gadgets, Mobile Phones News & Reviews |
THEY are the last major act to refuse to sell their music on the internet but AC/DC remained staunchly anti-digital today, confirming their songs would never be available to download.
With even The Beatles now finally making their music available on Apple’s iTunes, experts say the rockers, whose album Back In Black is the second highest selling in history, were missing out on millions in lost revenue by refusing to allow their work to be sold in the digital marketplace.
Speaking at the world premiere of their new concert film in London, the band’s guitarist Angus Young said he refused to sanction downloads of individual tracks because their songs should be heard as part of a full album.
He said, “I know The Beatles have changed but we’re going to carry on like that. For us it’s the best way. We are a band who started off with albums and that’s how we’ve always been. Usually the best tracks were on the albums.”
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The guitarist, known for his schoolboy outfit, also rubbished rumours the band, whose Black Ice tour was the second-highest grossing tour in history, were considering retiring.
Speculation surrounded the future of the veteran five-piece, whose ages range from 56 to 64, after singer Brian Johnson was quoted as saying he was considering quitting when they finished the 168-date run of concerts between 2008 and 2010.
Johnson denied he was thinking of hanging up his legendary flat cap. “No, never. Not as long as I can still walk and sing. I should think we’ll be back.”

Computer program suffering ‘schizophrenia’ admits to terrorist bombing | Information, Gadgets,

FOR probably the first time in history, a computer program has claimed responsibility for a terrorist attack.
But don’t worry — it was just insane.
In a bid to find new ways to treat mental illnesses, researchers at the University of Texas drove an artificial intelligence program a little bit bonkers.
The university’s DISCERN program, first released in 1993, is a neural network capable of processing stories told to it and gradually sifting out the meaningful parts.
In an experiment, the researchers deliberately told DISCERN to learn too much in order to simulate the effects of schizophrenia.
“It’s an important mechanism to be able to ignore things,” said one of the researchers, Uli Grasemann, a computer science graduate student.
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“What we found is that if you crank up the learning rate in DISCERN high enough, it produces language abnormalities that suggest schizophrenia.”
In humans, it’s believed that this occurs when the brain is flooded with excess dopamine.
“When there’s too much dopamine, it leads to exaggerated salience, and the brain ends up learning from things that it shouldn’t be learning from,” said Mr Grasemann.
What happens next — in both humans and DISCERN — is that connections between relevant information can be lost or mixed up.
In the program’s case, this led to some strange results.
“After being retrained with the elevated learning rate, DISCERN began putting itself at the centre of fantastical, delusional stories that incorporated elements from other stories it had been told to recall,” the university said.
“In one answer, for instance, DISCERN claimed responsibility for a terrorist bombing.”
Mr Grasemann said the results showed that DISCERN really did work like a human brain.
“Information processing in neural networks tends to be like information processing in the human brain in many ways,” he said.
“So the hope was that it would also break down in similar ways. And it did.”
The research team included a professor of Psychiatry from Yale who compared DISCERN’s results to those of human patients.
The team said it hoped that the experiment led to new ways to test potential schizophrenia treatments on computers before humans.

Teens free to watch online porn at the library | Information, Gadgets, Mobile Phones News & Reviews
TEENAGERS don’t need to hide dirty magazines under their mattresses anymore – they can simply go to the library to watch porn online.
Children aged 13 and older can easily access hard core porn in New York City’s public libraries by simply claiming to be of age on the software and clicking off the filters that block adult content, the New York Post reports.
Library-goers say it happens all the time. “You’ll see three or four kids, 13 or 14 years old, and they’re all gathered around a computer giggling,” said a regular at Brooklyn’s central library at Grand Army Plaza.
Even teens who don’t want to surf for smut can be exposed to it.
“A lot of the times, I see people watching pornography and stuff like that. The man right next to me today was watching naked women,” Julio Sosa, 14, said at the Jerome Branch in the Bronx.
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Library officials defend their policy of allowing easy access to porn as a free speech issue, claiming that only five percent of web traffic on public library computers is to porn sites.
“Our staff carefully monitors use of computers in adult areas. It is long-standing library policy – here and across the nation – to abide by the First Amendment,” said New York Public Library spokeswoman Angela Montefinise.
But Julio Sosa said teens watch it anyway. “She (a librarian) comes over and tells them to stop watching it, but once she leaves, they just go right back to watching it,” he said.
City library collections never included pre-internet porn, in books, magazines or movies, and some religious leaders and politicians said the standard should be the same for online porn.
“There’s a big difference between exercising your ‘freedom of speech’ at home and exercising it in a public place such as a library, where you’re surrounded by other people – including children,” said Staten Island Borough President James Molinaro, who is threatening to cut taxpayer funding of libraries.

Budget 2011: $308m for free TV kit – Hardware – News
Communications Minister Stephen Conroy confirmed over the weekend that the Federal Budget due to be delivered on Tuesday night contains $308.8 million to continue a scheme that is seeing pensioners provided with a free set-top box to assist them with making the switch to digital television.
“The Gillard Government’s Digital Switchover program is ensuring people in regional and remote Australia have access to the same number of digital television channels as people in capital cities. When the switchover is complete in 2013, all Australians will have access to metro-equivalent TV services, no matter where they live,” Conroy said in a statement.
“For most people, making the switch to digital television is straightforward and inexpensive. However, the government recognises that some Australians, particularly the elderly, people with disabilities and their carers may require assistance to switch to digital TV.”
The program provides eligible pensioners with a high-definition set-top box and assistance to install the hardware and use it — at no cost to the recipients. The 2011/2012 budget provides funding for the program until the end of the Digital Switchover program across Australia at the end of 2013.
The news comes as the Federal Government is increasingly ramping up its push to switch the nation over to the new digital television standard. The spectrum used for the analog television signal — known as the “Digital Dividend” — will be reallocated to other purposes, such as supporting mobile networks in Australia.
Just last week, Conroy announced a switchover date for regional Queensland, as well as the launch of free-to-air digital TV services by satellite to residents in remote and regional Western Australia, via a government-funded service.
A number of towns in regional Queensland, such as the regions of Wide Bay, Capricornia and Darling Downs, will switch to digital-only TV on 6 December 2011.
“More than four out of five households in regional Queensland have already converted to digital TV, according to the latest Digital Tracker survey to the end of March 2011,” Conroy said at the time. “Those households yet to make the switch to digital now have a deadline for when their analog TV signals will be switched off for good.”
Conroy said that 79 per cent of households across Australia are now digital-ready, according to the latest figures from the Digital Tracker survey for the first quarter of 2011.
“Whether by terrestrial or satellite broadcast, almost four out of five households across Australia has now made the switch to digital TV. This compares to less than half of households which were digital ready just two years ago.”

Happy 20th Birthday Internode! – The Take
From its humble beginnings in Adelaide in 1991, Internode has emerged 20 years later as one of the country’s biggest internet service providers, serving 20,000 customers and employing 450 people across Australia. Congrats to Simon Hackett and all at Internode on the big milestone!

Why do Aussies pay more for software? – Software – Insight
When it comes to software prices, there have long been grumblings from those who, by accident of birth, happen to live outside the United States. Why should they be charged a premium when, increasingly, people are merely downloading software off the internet? And, more recently, where is the benefit consumers should be getting from the strong Australian dollar? Trend Micro is one of the worst culprits, but it’s not the only one charging big mark-ups to Aussie consumers.
It’s been a big month at Adobe. The latest release of the company’s Creative Suite has been eagerly awaited by people in the media and design industries. Its software is powerful, but it’s pricey.
In Australia, the full-blown Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection will set you back AU$3949 (plus GST) for those who choose to download it off the internet — that’s about US$4230. Yet in the States you can download the same files for just US$2599. In other words, there’s a 62 per cent mark-up, then add GST on top of that. I fell foul of the difference myself when upgrading Audition, the sound editing tool I use for my podcasts on BNET and ZDNet Australia. If I was an unscrupulous consumer I would have registered myself as a US resident when I first downloaded the product, saving myself an ongoing history of price mark-ups (and avoiding GST in the process).
Trend Micro’s new Titanium Maximum Security software is available for US$55.95 in the US, but costs AU$125 (+GST) here — that’s 2.2 times the price. Microsoft’s Office Professional (at AU$817 + GST) costs 75 per cent more in Australia. The list goes on.
Ironically, a strong market presence helps push the price up. Aussies wanting to download Vegas Pro, video production software from Sony Creative, are charged in US dollars and not charged GST — in effect, you’re importing the software. In bigger markets Sony charges in local currencies, but, in those cases, the mark-up is nowhere as extreme as it is with the major software vendors.

Adobe puts the difference down to “customer research that assesses the value of the product in the local market”. In other words, dropping the price here won’t pay off in terms of incremental sales. It’s the old elasticity of demand argument. Put another way, they’re all saying, “Let’s charge those Aussies more because they’ll grin and bear it”.
There’s also the excuse that costs are higher here. Microsoft says location-specific factors include the size of the market, local taxes, duties and in the case of physical retail, logistics. These don’t apply, of course, when we’re looking at downloadable products, except for the need for parity with indirect channels. Much as they’d love to, a software vendor can’t be seen to undercut retailers when they sell direct.
Microsoft also says that consumers do not want to see frequent changes in recommended retail pricing, based on fluctuating exchange rates. It said consumers would not like to see retail prices constantly “move up or down in line with the international currency markets” and that tying local products too closely to the exchange rate would make pricing “unpredictable”. There’s a difference, of course, between introducing a new price each day, or even each month, based on how the dollar is performing, and recognising in your pricing that over time the dollar has continually strengthened. If we related the prices today to the exchange rate in early 2009 (when the US dollar was worth AU$1.40) Microsoft Office would be 17 per cent more here than it did over there. Perhaps that’s a fair differential for the cost of doing business in a smaller economy, but what’s the real reason for the 75 per cent difference we see today?
This has to be where the “local costs” argument falls apart. Software vendors survived in a market where the Aussie dollar was worth 40 per cent less than it is today, yet they managed to cover distribution and channel costs. What’s changed?
As to price fluctuations, I’d take them any day in exchange for parity with US prices. If it’s really all about what the customer wants, why not give us the choice to buy in the local currency, or in US dollars. I’m sure all business customers (and most consumers) would be with me on that.
If, for the mass market, retail margins are muddying the waters, then we must just count the days till they’re cut out of the equation. I don’t remember the last time I bought software in a store. In a world where more commerce is happening online you have to wonder what future they have. The same goes for geographic pricing. Consumers hate it and many will find ways to avoid paying more than they have to. It’d be nice if these cloud-focused companies recognised that the cloud is global and treated everyone the same.

LimeWire founder on law: ‘I was wrong’ – Business – News
Lawyers working for the four largest music labels have tried to convey in US court that LimeWire founder Mark Gorton was so determined to help people pirate songs, that he thumbed his nose at copyright law, artists’ rights and even the Supreme Court.
The copyright case brought in 2006 against Lime Wire and Gorton by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), the record companies’ trade group, is in its final stages. A year ago, US District Judge Kimba Wood found Gorton liable for inducing mass copyright infringement. Last October, Wood ordered that Lime Wire’s peer-to-peer service, LimeWire, which Gorton has acknowledged was used by millions of people to pirate perhaps billions of songs, be shut down.
It was the court that determined Gorton would pay. A jury is now tasked with deciding the amount. They can choose anywhere between US$7 million and US$1.4 billion. Not only could a big damages award mean a pay day for the labels, it will also serve to make Gorton an example of what happens to people who operate services that help people illegally share music.
With Gorton having already been found liable, the record labels are operating with a big advantage. There’s no more question of whether Gorton infringed the labels’ copyrights. Lawyers for the record companies can now hone in on just making him look bad. In court, Gorton provided plenty of assistance.
Glenn Pomerantz, the labels’ lead attorney, tried to show the jury that Gorton knew that LimeWire helped people share music illegally and knew about the damages the service inflicted on the music industry. Pomerantz tried to illustrate that not only did Gorton refuse to stop but he worked hard to make LimeWire more efficient at pirating songs.
LimeWire founder Mark Gorton took the stand in US federal court in New York.
Gorton acknowledged knowing LimeWire would do many of the same things that Napster did when he founded LimeWire in 2000 and he knew that the courts had ordered Napster to cease file-sharing operations. He acknowledged that all his important file-sharing competitors closed down or tried to legalise their operations after the Supreme Court ruled that these kinds of file-sharing operations were “unmistakably unlawful” in what is now known as the “Grokster decision”.
Pomerantz showed the court a snippet from a Gorton interview in The New York Times shortly before the Grokster decision came down: “If the Supreme Court says it is illegal to produce this software, LimeWire will cease to exist.” But Gorton acknowledged that after the decision came down, LimeWire operated as before.
“I was wrong,” Gorton told the court. “I didn’t think our behaviour was inducing. I understand that a court has found otherwise.”
But Pomerantz and the labels don’t believe Gorton misread the law. They argued that he knew exactly what he was doing when he refused to cease operations. Pomerantz showed a letter that was written to Gorton soon after the Grokster decision came down on behalf of the top labels: Universal Music Group, Sony Music Entertainment, Warner Music Group and EMI Music. It spelled out the ways the Grokster decision applied to LimeWire and that the labels would sue if Gorton personally didn’t “cease and desist”.
Gorton didn’t take them at their word. He said on the stand he thought that the labels just wanted him to start trying to convert users to some kind of paying service.

Leighton firm plans WA, Singapore cable – Communications – News
Leighton Contractors subsidiary Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) has announced plans to build a 4800km multi-terabit cable between Perth and Singapore, with the help of Alcatel-Lucent.
The cable’s route (Credit: Leighton Contractors)

The company has just signed a contract with Alcatel-Lucent for the design, construction and installation of the submarine cable and has begun the first phase of the project, which involves design, route survey and acquiring permissions from Australia, Indonesia and Singapore. It has been planning the project for the last 18 months.
The cable will be laid through the Sunda Strait in Indonesia and will provide around eight times more capacity than similar regional routes, according to the company. Initially, the cable will provide 40Gbps per wavelength transmission, but it had the potential of providing 100Gbps per wavelength transmission and that, as such, it would be the first of its kind from Western Australia to South East Asia, ASC said.
The upgrade will depend on demand and will require putting in new equipment at the ends of the cable, according to Peter McGrath, chairman of ASC (International) and executive general manager of Leighton Telecommunications.
The cable will use D+ fibre, with two fibre pairs providing an ultimate capacity of at least 6Tbps, or over 16Tbps after the upgrade.
“This new cable system will fill the much-needed gap in the marketplace connecting Australia via the Indian Ocean to Singapore and offering a more cost effective, higher capacity and lower latency route than alternative east coast routes,” McGrath said.
It will provide a redundant southern route, he said, which many companies wanted, as they could use it to avoid outages. He added that the cable had also been spawned partly because of the resources boom. The company has already received pre-commitment from carriers.
The undersea cable will terminate in Perth at a Metronode datacentre at Senton Park. Traffic will be transported across Leighton subsidiary NextGen Network’s network to Sydney.
“Importantly, this will enable end-to-end services from Singapore to Sydney, at 10Gbps, 40Gbps and eventually 100Gbps speeds,” he said.
Latency from Perth to Singapore, and Sydney to Singapore, will be 24ms and 48ms respectively, according McGrath.

Budget 2011: NBN cleans up on funding – Communications – News
The Federal Government will invest a further $35.6 million in funding for programs around the roll-out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) as part of this year’s Federal Budget, and has said that it believes it will spend $3.09 billion on the project in the next financial year off-budget.
Over five years, $34.4 million will go directly to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE). Part of that funding will go to support the finalisation of the $11 billion deal between Telstra and the government that will see Telstra lease its ducts and pipes to NBN Co, decommission its copper network and move customers onto the NBN.
The funding will also go to DBCDE to establish the new Universal Service Obligation company (USO Co), as well as the establishment of an information service for consumers and small businesses to inform them about the roll-out of the NBN and to support their migration to the new fibre network.
This portion of the funding will also cover the interim satellite service operations as part of the USO obligations, and will go to fund specialists who will determine whether a particular premise is adequately served by non-NBN fibre providers before NBN Co rolls out the network to that premise.
Meanwhile, $1.2 million over the next five years will go to the Department of Finance and Deregulation to oversee the new USO Co entity.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will receive an additional $7.2 million over the next four years so that the authority can develop and implement network standards and codes for the NBN.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will receive $5.6 million to ensure that there is adequate competition on the NBN, and to monitor the backhaul provided to the NBN Co points of interconnect by other wholesalers to ensure that prices remain the same across Australia.
The parliament will also require an additional $2.1 million in funding over the next four years to support the new Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network established after the 2010 Federal Election and chaired by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott. The committee’s first meeting will be on Monday.
The Attorney-General’s Department has also allocated $4 million over four years for legal aid commissions and community legal services organisations to utilise the NBN to provide legal assistance to people in regional and rural areas of Australia. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the amount of litigation by providing people with better access to legal services in order to resolve legal problems before they reach the courts.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has, however, canned the Vocational Education Broadband Network. The program was designed to provide vocational education and training institutions with high speed broadband services; however, the government has said that the NBN will provide this function instead. The government expects to save $78.4 million over three years by cancelling this project.
Funding for the construction and roll-out of the NBN itself is not included in the budget; however, the government expects to inject $3.09 billion into the project in the next financial year, and a total of $20.6 billion over the next four years. The government’s total investment in the project has been put at $27.5 billion.

Spectrum auction funding

In preparation for the auction of the 700MHz and the 2.5GHz spectrum bands as a result of the digital dividend, the government will spend $8.3 million over the next three years in order to plan, value the spectrum, develop licensing framework and prepare for the auction itself.

Budget 2011: digital school funds slashed – Business – News
The Federal Government has cut $132.5 million from the funding of the Digital Education Revolution program as part of the Federal Budget handed down by Treasurer Wayne Swan this evening.
As part of the government’s pledge to return the budget to surplus by the 2012/13 financial year, over half of the funding allocated over the next four years has been “redirected” from the program that was designed to invest in implementing ICT into schools, to “support other government priorities”.
Instead of the $48.1 million originally allocated to the project each year, the initiative will receive only $20 million each year until the funding is pulled entirely in the 2014/15 financial year.
The remaining funding will be used for the establishment of a Digital Education Advisory Group and for the Digital Strategy for Teachers as well as other initiatives that support the Digital Education Revolution program such as the National Digital Learning Resources Framework.
According to the budget documents released tonight, this cut will not affect the aim of delivering laptops to every school student in Year 9 and above for the last few years. The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations said in the document that the program is “on track to support schools in meeting a one-to-one ratio of computers to students in Year 9 and above by 31 December 2011”.
See ZDNet Australia’s complete covera

Telstra Tough 2 – Mobiles and PDAs – Hardware – Reviews


It won’t win any fashion parades, but the Tough 2 will appeal to tradies who are after a phone that’s unlikely to easily shatter.

Editors’ rating:


The good

  • A genuinely tough phone
  • Hamster Homie!
  • It’s really quite robust
  • Blue Tick certified
  • It’s rather tough
  • Did we mention it was tough?

The bad

  • UI is slow and clunky
  • It’s ugly
  • Suitable only for a working niche of phone users. Or teenagers generally.


The Tough 2 is ugly — solid, jarring, brick ugly. We might even be tempted to use slightly less delicate terms to describe it, but we don’t want to offend any of our readers with such language. We think we’ve made our point.
If you want a phone to show off to people with its intricate thin design, huge display screen or delicately engineered components, this isn’t it. On the other hand, if you’re the tradesman type who can’t have a phone in your work cab on the grounds that the average glitzy-looking phone quickly fills up with grease before shattering into non-working pieces, the Tough 2 might be just your style.
In fact, to a certain aesthetic, the harsh style of Tough 2 could almost be seen as having a Soviet-style brutal chic, with stark lines and design notes reminiscent of the brisk designs of Antonio Citterio
No, we can’t maintain that charade for even a second. This is an ugly phone, and that’s all there is to it.


The Tough 2 is ugly for the same reason that Panasonic’s Toughbooks are usually pretty ugly. They’re not designed to look good on a shelf; they’re designed for tough work out in the field where more delicately designed components wouldn’t last a single day. The design is meant to make the Tough 2 easy to use with harshly raised physical buttons for every task and a 2.4-inch Gorilla Glass screen.
Telstra states that the casing is “abrasion-resistant” — we’re honestly not sure if you’d notice a design this stark being actually roughed up — but is more specific in terms of what else the Tough 2 can withstand. It’s rated with an ingress protection rating of IP54. If you’re not up to date on ingress protection, it rates protection against solids and liquids by number. The 5 in 54 suggests that it’s protected against limited dust ingress (but not totally protected, which would be level 6) and the 4 means it should be protected from water sprays from any angle on the phone, but not actual immersion. Telstra also rates it with a “Blue Tick” for those using it in rural areas, so country tradies should be well served here too. The camera on the rear is a 3-megapixel model, and there’s a front-facing 0.3 megapixel camera on offer as well.
What you don’t get for your money is what could be deemed a smartphone. This is a Java-capable feature phone with many of the bolt-on features we’d expect from a modern smartphone, including microSD compatibility, Bluetooth, GPS and MP3 playback. But fire up any of the unit’s menus and you’ll be taken back more than five years in terms of phone user interface design, from beeping menu shifts to SMS-style text entry, even for email and big chunky icons. Coming from the perspective of testing Gingerbread Android phones to the Tough 2 was something of a system shock, and we had to keep checking the calendar to make sure we hadn’t accidentally slipped back into 1998 somehow.


The caveat that this isn’t a smartphone is an important one. It’s technically email and web capable, but the experience of doing so is limited by both the screen and interface. There’s a few nice little tricks up the Tough 2’s sleeve, like using the volume controls to scroll down web pages or default spoken tones for number pad presses, but this is still a basic phone. It’s not just all work and no play, though, with integrated camera — which, like mobile phone cameras from five years ago, takes rather grainy and washed out pictures with weird colour balance — MP3 player and a selection of games. We’re not too sure how many tradespeople could keep a straight face while playing a game called “Hamster Homie”, but we suppose it’s better than nothing, and Nokia’s got the intellectual property for Snake locked up safely in a vault anyway.
In terms of durability, the Tough 2 took everything we could throw at it, including throwing it at walls and dropping it on tiled floors with aplomb, or more commonly a bit of a dull thud. It even survived an afternoon with a four-year-old using it as a play toy without any particular protests. Clearly it’s not an indestructible phone, but there’s no way we’d do the same thing with an iPhone or Galaxy S II.
The Tough 2 is rated with 150 minutes of talk time and 250 hours of standby, which means one factor from mobile phones of years gone by has survived its time travel intact. Unlike just about every smartphone on the market, the Tough 2 can survive more than a day away from a battery charger with ease. We’re tempted to point out that battery life benefits from the fact that you’re unlikely to use it for as long as you might a smartphone, as the design of the phone and the user interface make it far less accessible than the average smartphone is. Then again, that’s rather the point; most folk who would want a phone of this style probably don’t spend all day on Twitter in any case. If you do, in case it wasn’t apparent, this isn’t the phone for you.


The Tough 2 is undoubtedly a niche phone for the trades market, and perhaps for terminally clumsy folk — teenagers, perhaps — who are good at destroying phones without actually wanting to. It performs the basics of mobile telephony well and will even manage more upscale utilities with a bit of a struggle. Clearly, for the price Telstra’s asking for the Tough 2 you could buy a much more richly featured smartphone. If you only needed a relatively tough phone on the Telstra network, the Motorola Defy would be an obvious alternative. If you need the mobile phone equivalent of a Toughbook, however, the Tough 2 might be just what you’re after.

Google wants Android to be device hub – News
Google announced a collection of efforts to put its Android devices at the centre of a host of electronically connected devices. Everything from home lighting and irrigation systems to game controllers and keyboards.
(Credit: James Martin/CBSi)

It also revealed at the Google I/O show in San Francisco a small Android device called Project Tungsten that can connect to speakers and home stereo systems to stream music from Google’s new cloud-based music system.
Using near-field communications (NFC), Google did a demonstration using Tungsten to play music. Touching a CD to a Tungsten device activates the music on a person’s cloud-based music library in about a second, and touching it again starts playing the music. Getting CD manufacturers to put NFC abilities into CD cases wouldn’t be easy, but the interface was a lot slicker than navigating endless sub-menus to get to the music you want.
One big deal coming in an Android 3.1 update to its Honeycomb tablet OS is the ability to make an Android device a USB host. That means people can plug USB devices into it.
For tablets that means they can more easily replicate PC abilities, such as fast typing on a keyboard or game console experiences with a game-specific controller. It also means photos and videos can be directly uploaded from cameras.
One gigantic demo being shown at Google I/O: a giant tilting labyrinth-style game big enough to hold a person and a marble the size of a bowling ball.
Google also announced a home automation initiative for Android. With it, people can control lights, irrigation systems and whatever else is electronically reachable. Google is working on a new protocol to attach such devices and manage communication. And while it works with USB to start, Google plans a Bluetooth interface later.
Google demonstrated the home automation technology with an exercise bike. The faster a person pedalled, the better he fared in a basic Android game.
Honeycomb runs on tablets only today, but Google plans to release a related version called Ice Cream Sandwich for phones, too, in the fourth quarter.
Google got a lot of applause at its Google I/O conference, but the loudest came with the news that the company and Samsung are giving Samsung Galaxy 10.1 Android tablets to each of the attendees.
“Thanks to Samsung, all 5000 of you are getting one today,” said Hugo Barra, director of Android product management at the conference.

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Freebies at Google I/O have happened before, but previously they had always been phones. The move signals that tablets are Google’s front-and-centre Android priority when it comes to currying favour with programmers.
Android competes well with Apple’s iOS when it comes to phones, but on the tablet front it trails the iPad significantly. Samsung pioneered the Android tablet market with its Galaxy Tab, but it barely dented Apple’s iPad dominance.
Even with Motorola’s Xoom, running the tablet-optimised Honeycomb version of Android, applications are few and far between. But the developers already in Google’s orbit at the show clearly were excited about their new freebie.

Facebook ‘leaked keys to account data’ – Security – News
US computer security firm Symantec said Facebook accidentally left a door open for advertisers to access profiles, pictures, chat and other private data at the social network.
Symantec discovered that certain Facebook applications leaked tokens that act essentially as “spare keys” for accessing profiles, reading messages, posting to walls or other actions.
Facebook applications are web software programs that are integrated onto the leading online social network’s platform.
Symantec said that 20 million Facebook applications such as games are installed every day.
The tokens were being leaked to third-party applications including advertisers and analytics platforms allowing them to post messages or mine personal information from profiles, according to Nishant Doshi of Symantec.
“Fortunately, these third parties may not have realised their ability to access this information,” Doshi said in a blog post.
“We have reported this issue to Facebook, which has taken corrective action to help eliminate this issue.”
Symantec estimated that as of April, nearly 100,000 applications were giving away keys to Facebook profiles.
“We estimate that over the years, hundreds of thousands of applications may have inadvertently leaked millions of access tokens to third parties,” Doshi said.
Facebook confirmed the problem, which was discovered by Doshi and Symantec colleague Candid Wueest, according to the computer security firm.
There was no reliable estimate of how many tokens have been leaked since the release of Facebook applications in 2007.
Despite whatever fix Facebook has put in place, token data may still be stored in files on third-party computers, Symantec warned.
“Concerned Facebook users can change their Facebook passwords to invalidate leaked access tokens,” Doshi said.
“Changing the password invalidates these tokens and is equivalent to ‘changing the lock’ on your Facebook profile.”

Microsoft buys into global telco dreams – Full Duplex – Blogs
It’s always interesting to watch the collective internet’s response to moves by Microsoft, which are almost unanimously viewed with something bordering on suspicion and contempt. Yet, there seems to be very little consideration of the fact that Microsoft’s US$8.5 billion has shrewdly turned the company into what is effectively the world’s biggest global telecoms operator — and given it an express pass to use that operator to unify its massively popular desktop computing, enterprise and gaming environments with its nascent mobile effort.
The success of Skype as one of the internet’s genre-defining applications is without refute; despite the marginal success of competing efforts like Google Talk and Microsoft’s own Windows Messenger, Skype has captured the mindshare of a generation as the way to communicate with other people over the internet using voice, video and even screen-sharing. It’s an established, cross-platform, relatively polished application that is only ever let down by its reliance on an internet that isn’t always kind to time-dependent communications.

Skype could be the linchpin in Microsoft’s efforts to link the lounge room, business, mobile and internet worlds. (Microsoft, Skype and David Braue/ZDNet Australia)
Obvious synergies between Skype and Microsoft’s own messaging platforms — and, in particular, its new enterprise-focused Lync unified communications platform — are only the beginning of the value that Skype brings to the company. By baking a communications platform that people already know, trust and use into its Xbox 360, for example, Microsoft has opened up a completely new channel for communications that will complement existing voice-chat with an added element of communication between gamers.
Using Skype’s online video will let you not only taunt your distant opponents, but watch their grimaces of frustration as you frag them to kingdom come, again and again, while making unkind gestures with your tongue and fingers. After all, each of the bazillion Xboxes that now have a camera and microphone-equipped Kinect device is now set to become a ready-made Skype conferencing station. Enter someone’s Xbox Live! ID and you’ll be able to request a voice or video session or, perhaps, just broadcast a message to them as a Skype chat. If you ever needed an easier way to call the kids to dinner, this could well be it.
The deal will improve portability between Xbox Live!, Windows Live! and Skype credentials, which are bound to undergo a rationalisation once smooth interoperability has been established. It will also boost Microsoft’s credentials with consumer-electronics giants like Panasonic and Samsung, which have built-in Skype compatibility in their TV sets, and long ago decided that the platform was the most appropriate to use as a TV-to-anything communications platform, choosing it over Microsoft’s own Messenger offerings. If Microsoft ever needed a way to better extend its reach into the lounge room and throughout the mythical “connected home”, it just found one.
Microsoft’s purchase of Skype could also mean good things for its Windows Phone 7 platform, which has been struggling for a competitive differentiator and might just have found it. Other smartphones already support Skype as an optional add-on, of course, but by owning its communications underbelly, Microsoft can integrate Skype throughout its mobile and desktop platforms with an unmatched level of interoperability.

Of course, this whole proposition could backfire horribly; Microsoft’s ownership of Skype will put it in competition with the very same telcos that it has been working with to build credentials for Windows Phone 7. Telstra faced a similar situation with Apple’s iPhone, which customers were demanding, but which nicely circumvented Telstra’s own online content properties for Apple’s.
In fact, Skype’s entire business model is based on circumventing telcos. And no matter how much Microsoft may want to put Skype everywhere, telcos are going to struggle to justify actively promoting a tier-two smartphone platform that will undercut their hugely profitable voice-based business models. Instant-messenger apps are one thing — they generally can’t make calls to real phones — but Skype is a complete communications service that not only lets paying customers make calls to real phones, but also supports voicemail, call holding, call forwarding, conference calling and so on. You know, like a real telco.
To put it another way: put a fully-integrated Skype on your Xbox, and it becomes your new home phone. Connect it to an NBN or other suitably fast broadband service and you won’t need a landline at all.
Microsoft has already turned the console into a Foxtel set-top box, but the ease with which the Xbox can become your home’s communication centre is simply mind-blowing. Can it be long before Microsoft supports any of the dozens of Skype-compatible phone handsets and allows them to be plugged straight into the back of the unit?

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Telcos may grudgingly accept smartphone apps that allow use of Skype to call any landline in Australia for around four cents per minute — heck, 3 even tried an if-you-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em push to promote Skype to its users — but they won’t want to give away the farm. They might not be able to stop users from buying Xboxes, but given WP7’s low market share, they may find it easier to turn their backs on a platform that should by all rights be promoting Skype integration as a key differentiator. Microsoft will be walking a tightrope here, and at this point it could go either way.
There is always the chance that Microsoft could blow its chances by trying to aim too high, too far or too low for Skype all at once, as it is wont to do. Skype users love what it offers, and Microsoft needs to be careful to be adding features rather than simply replacing or changing them to suit the Microsoft way. The company’s best approach in the short-term is to keep Skype intact, but to capitalise upon the tremendous opportunities that its brand and reach provide.
Speaking of which, arguments from the “it’s too expensive” crowd totally ignore the tremendous commercial potential of the deal. Microsoft can not only bridge the gaps between its products and those of others, but it just bought 170 million customers and a heavily-utilised app providing a direct sales channel through which it can push all of its new initiatives, bundles and specials (think “renew your XBox Gold membership and get 10 free hours of phone calls per month” or “watch three ads on your Xbox and we’ll give you a free 20-minute call to anywhere in the world”).

At a cost of around $50 per customer (as little as $13 per customer if you go by some estimates that Skype in fact has 600 million customers), Microsoft has bought itself a massive exposure within the user community of a genre-defining communications platform that makes it a major player in global telecommunications.
Forget early efforts like MSN, which Microsoft originally pitched as an alternate internet of sorts — Skype lets Microsoft skip all of that infrastructure and Skype its way in front of users in completely new ways. Even if the company does nothing but keep running Skype as is, it will continue to benefit from a strong revenue base and ferociously loyal customers that straddle both consumer and business markets. But if it makes smart decisions that build on Skype’s realised and unrealised potential as a global telecommunications disruptor — well, the Skype’s the limit for a company that has become one of the world’s biggest telcos overnight.
What do you think? Is Microsoft’s buy a shrewd win, or a disaster for Skype — or both?

Telstra, Voda did 4G to brag: Optus – Communications – News
Telstra and Vodafone have only announced launching 4G services for the end of this year to “brag”, according to Optus CEO Paul O’Sullivan, and said his company doesn’t see consumer demand for Long Term Evolution (LTE) devices just yet.
Telstra and Vodafone have separately made announcements recently to offer 4G mobile internet services using free spectrum in the 1800MHz band that was previously used by 2G services. According to O’Sullivan, the two telcos won’t have many customers buying up this year.
“The [LTE] announcements so far have been at 1800MHz frequency. Those are announcements which we feel are really being very much for bragging rights. People wanting to be saying they have it and maybe provide it to a very small number of customers,” Paul O’Sullivan told ZDNet Australia in a teleconference this afternoon.
“Certainly in the next nine months or so we don’t see the consumer demand and availability of affordable devices for 4G being all that significant in the market place,” he said. “However, I can assure you we will launch 4G and LTE sometime soon and we will do it when it is ready.”
Optus conducted a series of trials of LTE technology in Sydney last year, but O’Sullivan said that he believes 4G would only become appealing to customers once the telcos acquired spectrum in the 700MHz band as a result of the digital dividend spectrum auction in 2014.
“The major roll-out of 4G in Australia will happen at 700MHz … That’s where you’re going to get the really big investments from the carriers and the big roll-outs. We think that’s the stage where you’re going to see very widespread consumer take-up and acceptance of the technology.”
However, O’Sullivan said that the telco would launch 4G services before the digital dividend, but it will be driven by consumer demand for 4G and the availability of devices. In the meantime, O’Sullivan said Optus would focus on upgrades to its existing network.
“We’ve invested half a billion dollars every year for the last five years in our mobile network. Over the last 12 to 18 months, we’ve acquired and doubled our spectrum holdings in the capital cities,” he said. “We have undertaken a significant metro build of new sites and we’ve been bringing those on stream. We now have over 80 per cent of our sites on fibre and we’ve been dramatically upgrading the backhaul capacity to our network. This year you’ll see a continuous and aggressive metro build.”
In response to O’Sullivan’s comments, Telstra said its own LTE roll-out was just another stage in strong consumer demand for mobile internet.
“From Telstra’s perspective we see strong interest from our customers in reliable, fast mobile connectivity and the integration of LTE technology into the network is a way to continue to deliver high quality services and meet growing customer demand,” Telstra said in a statement, adding that it will be years before the digital dividend spectrum is available.
“In the meantime, we’re making use of the allocations we have today so that we can start providing these services to our customers earlier than waiting for the other spectrum bands to become available.”
Vodafone Hutchison Australia was also contacted for comment, but had not responded at the time of publication.

ISPs must keep some data under new law – Communications – News
Australian telcos will soon be required to retain customer traffic data under a new law proposed to allow Australia to accede to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime.
The Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime is a treaty designed to foster cooperation and common policy between nations for dealing with multi-national crimes committed on computer networks across the globe such as online fraud or child pornography offences. It has been in place since 2004; however, the Australian Government first flagged its intention to become a signatory to the treaty in May 2010, releasing a discussion paper on the convention in February 2011.
In its report handed down to Parliament yesterday (PDF), the joint committee on treaties said that privacy concerns raised about internet service providers (ISPs) being required to retain all email and communication information from customers under the convention were addressed as part of the Convention itself, and would be covered under Australian legislation.
“The Convention itself does … contain guarantees for human rights protection and judicial review, and there is reason to be confident that these protections will be enforced: the framework of domestic law effected by Australia’s accession to the Council of Europe Convention on Cybercrime provides robust privacy safeguards and accountability mechanisms,” the report said.
According to the Attorney-General’s Department, the convention will require ISPs to preserve email and other communication data for users that law enforcement agencies are investigating for criminal activities.
“In some cases that may be as small as one text message, in other cases it might be two months worth of emails. It’ll differ depending on the case,” Catherine Smith, assistant secretary in the telecommunications and surveillance law branch of the Attorney-General’s Department, told a committee hearing in March.
The actions would be targeted, according to Smith, and ISPs would not be required to keep all data on all users under the convention, as had been suggested.
ISPs already keep data on users for various lengths of time; however, this would regulate under what circumstances and for how long they need to hold information in case law enforcement requires it.
The committee recommended that the government accede to the convention, but raised concerns over a lack of transparency from the government while it was investigating the treaty. The committee has subsequently recommended that the government report to the committee on any potential legislative changes that need to be made in order to accede to the convention.
According to the committee’s report, the following pieces of Commonwealth legislation will need to be changed:

  • the Criminal Code Act 1995 will need to have computer offences expanded;
  • the Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters Act 1987 and the Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 will need to be changed to allow law enforcement to require ISPs preserve and collect traffic data and stored computer data at the request of another country; and
  • the Copyright Act 1968 will have to be expanded to cover extended jurisdiction obligations in the convention.

The Attorney-General’s Department today told ZDNet Australia that these laws will be amended under the Cybercrime Convention Amendment Bill 2011, which the government is planning to introduce in the winter sittings of parliament.
Attorney-General Robert McClelland welcomed the findings of the report yesterday.
“This recommendation is an important step towards Australia acceding to the Convention, which will enhance international cooperation whilst providing Australian agencies with necessary tools to combat cybercrime,” McClelland said in a statement.
“It criminalises certain types of conduct committed via computer networks and contains a series of powers and procedures such as the search of computer networks and interception.”

Vic school fibre network to go to NBN? – Communications – News
Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon has said he is happy to talk to the National Broadband Network Company (NBN Co) about sharing the state’s school fibre network as it continues to roll-out the National Broadband Network (NBN).
Victorian Education Minister, Martin Dixon (Credit: Luke Hopewell/ZDNet Australia)

At a press conference opening Victoria’s latest connected classroom, Dixon said that he was happy to talk to NBN Co about leasing the VicSmart fibre backbone, designed to connect schools to high-speed broadband.
“If we’ve got an asset like a fibre-optic service right out to all of our schools and it’s got the capacity for the use of the community … why not share?” the minister said.
Despite his willingness to share the VicSmart fibre with NBN Co, the minister expressed his doubts over the NBN itself.
“From an education point of view, we need to be able to give schools the best opportunity to be connected to the broader world, to be connected to each other [but] I don’t know enough about the NBN to know [if that’s the right option],” he added.
NBN Co welcomed the minister’s statements, saying that it’s always looking for ways to roll out the network faster and cheaper.
“We’ll pretty much talk to anybody who has some assets and some investment in assets that we can take advantage of,” Jim Hassell, head of product development and sales for NBN Co, told ZDNet Australia today.
“As a general principle if there’s something there which we can use that will make it faster or cheaper or both to roll the [NBN] out and it makes sense then definitely we will do it,” Hassell added, saying that NBN Co is currently conducting many similar conversations with other network operators.
Not all fibre networks are within NBN Co’s sights, however, with high-speed research networks like Australia’s Academic and Research Network (AARNet) to be left alone.
“AARNet is a bit different, however. What they’re doing is linking up institutions and they’ve got some very fast links there like 10Gbps, so we would see AARNet as a complementary to the NBN as opposed to something that we would think of taking over,” Hassell said.

Erik’s Notebook


Microsoft is planning on ramping up the amount of advertising free users of Skype see while they are making video calls and using the rest of the service.
By Emma Barnett, Digital Media Editor

Talking yesterday at the announcement of Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype for $8.5bn, Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive said that he could see huge revenue potential in the online video chat service, especially in the video advertising area.

Tony Bates, Skype’s chief executive, who will now become the president of the Microsoft Skype division, said: “We think advertising is a powerful monetising stream for us.”

Ballmer than revealed that the acquisition had come about after both companies had been discussing Skype using Microsoft’s sales team to ramp up advertising on the internet telephone service.

Neil Stevens, Skype’s vice president and general manager of its Global Consumer team, would not reveal exactly how the increased level of advertising would affect those making video calls but did say: “The key thing will be not to get in the way of the calls…We need to find a clever way of doing it [inserting adverts].”

Currently Skype users see limited advertising messages on the top of the video screen when using the service on a Microsoft powered laptop. However, it has yet to take advantage of more lucrative video advertising.

Bates also batted off claims that other companies, rumoured to have been Google and Facebook, had also tried to acquire Skype in the last few weeks. He said: “We were very focused on our IPO [Initial Public Offering] and had an unsolicited offer [from Microsoft].”
Skype has been downloaded 700 million times and has 10 million paying customers.
Ballmer joked that lots more things in life would be better and easier if conducted over video calls, such as school meetings and family reunions. “There are better ways to do these things…and Skype and Microsoft will power them together,” he quipped.
Analysts told The Telegraph that Microsoft’s purchase of Skype, the largest deal in its 36-year history, is part of a broader push into the consumer world.


By Josh Taylor, ZDNet.com.au on May 10th

The Federal Government will invest a further $35.6 million in funding for programs around the roll-out of the National Broadband Network as part of this year’s Federal Budget and has said that it believes it will spend $3.09 billion on the project in the next financial year off budget.
$34.4 million over five years will go directly to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy. Part of that funding will go to support the finalisation of the $11 billion deal between Telstra and the government that will see Telstra lease its ducts and pipes to NBN Co, decommission its copper network and move customers onto the NBN.
The funding will also go to DBCDE to establish the new Universal Service Obligation company (USO Co), as well as the establishment of an information service for consumers and small businesses to inform them about the roll-out of the NBN and support their migration to the new fibre network.
This portion of the funding will also cover the interim satellite service operations as part of the USO obligations and will go to fund specialists who will determine whether a particular premise is adequately served by non-NBN fibre-providers before NBN Co rolls out the network to that premise.
Meanwhile $1.2 million over the next five years will go to the Department of Finance and Deregulation to oversee the new USO Co entity.
The Australian Communications and Media Authority will receive an additional $7.2 million over the next four years so the authoirty can develop and implement network standards and codes for the NBN.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will receive $5.6 million to ensure there is adequate competition on the NBN, and to monitor the backhaul provided to NBN Co points of interconnect by other wholesalers to ensure prices remain the same across Australia.
The parliament will also require an additional $2.1 million in funding over the next four years to support the new Joint Committee on the National Broadband Network established after the 2010 Federal Election, and chaired by Independent MP Rob Oakeshott. The committee’s first meeting will be on Monday.
The Attorney-General’s department has also allocated $4 million over four years for legal aid commissions and community legal services organisations to utilise the NBN to provide legal assistance to people in regional and rural areas of Australia. The aim of the initiative is to reduce the amount of litigation by providing people with better access to legal services in order to resolve legal problems before they reach the courts.
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations has, however, canned the Vocational Education Broadband Network. The program was designed to provide vocational education and training institutions with high speed broadband services, however the government has said that the NBN will provide this function instead. The government expects to save $78.4 million over three years by cancelling this project.
Funding for the construction and roll-out of the National Broadband Network itself is not included in the budget, however the government expects to inject $3.09 billion into the project in the next financial year, and a total of $20.6 billion over the next 4 years. The government’s total investment in the project has been put at $27.5 billion.

Spectrum auction funding

In preparation of the auction of the 700MHz and the 2.5GHz spectrum bands as a result of the digital dividend, the government will spend $8.3 million over the next three years in order to plan, value the spectrum, develop licensing framework and prepare for the auction itself.
See ZDNet Australia’s complete coverage of the budget.


May 9, 2011

Telstra has upgraded broadband services in northern Tasmania where NBN Co is already connecting customers.
Exchanges in Dilston and Bridport have switched to ADSL2 broadband, the telco giant announced on Monday.
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The copper-based technology is capable of delivering download speeds of 20 megabits per second, and is the main form of broadband in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
While faster than the existing ADSL’s 12 megabits per second, ADSL2 is still much slower than the 100 megabits a second the NBN’s optical fibres will deliver.
Telstra’s copper wires are scheduled to be replaced with NBN Co’s super-fast optical fibres during the next nine years.
Telstra Country Wide’s general manager for northern Tasmania, Michael Patterson, said there would be no overlap with the national broadband network (NBN) with the latest ADSL2 upgrade.
“These are outside our current plans for the NBN,” he said.
“There’s enough demand from our customers to invest in infrastructure to improve broadband.”
Last year, the Tasmanian towns of Smithton, Scottsdale and Midway Point became the first three places in Australia to be hooked up to the NBN.
Scottsdale is only 30 kilometres south of Bridport, where Telstra has installed ADSL2 connections.
George Town, about 50 kilometres west of Bridport, has been announced as another town to be linked to the NBN in the next stage of the rollout.
A Telstra spokesman said the ADSL2 switchover was part of an ongoing network upgrade where it made commercial sense.
Since January this year, NBN Co has been charged with installing optical fibre connections at greenfield sites, where housing is yet to be built.
Telstra was already installing optical fibres at housing developments under its Smart Community program, but this wasn’t done in Tasmania.
Under national broadband network “cherry-picking” rules, NBN rivals can only lay high-speed optical fibres first if they resemble the government’s network.
NBN Co to be questioned twice a year
NBN Co will be required to appear before a new parliamentary committee at least twice a year.
The joint national broadband network committee will hold its first public hearing on May 16 in Sydney.
Independent MP Rob Oakeshott, who chairs the inquiry, said NBN Co executives should expect a grilling at least twice a year, in the same way the lower house economics committee scrutinises Reserve Bank of Australia governor Glenn Stevens.
“We will have NBN Co appear as often as required,” Mr Oakeshott said on Monday.
“The work is significant – I think twice a year would be conservative in what we can expect.”
Mr Oakeshott considers himself a backer of the $36 billion NBN, but said he needed more details about the information and communications technology (ICT) project.
“Naturally, I want to see the best possible ICT for the most effective price,” he said.
“Personally, I would be asking questions in regard to issues around engineering and rollout … and also from a financial perspective to make sure we get [the] full bang for [our] buck.”
NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley is scheduled to appear before the joint parliamentary inquiry on May 16.
He appeared before a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra in February and took questions from a separate House of Representatives committee in Sydney less than two weeks ago.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/nbn-co-telstra-fight-over-tasmania-20110509-1efqg.html#ixzz1LzmQoqLb


THE government is considering offering sweeteners to encourage Telstra and the company delivering the $35.9 billion National Broadband Network to lock in an infrastructure-sharing deal.

The budget papers show the government is examining financial support for the proposal, which was announced by Kevin Rudd and Communications Minister Stephen Conroy last June.

The document says the government faces “unquantifiable” contingent liabilities because it has indemnified the board of the NBN Co, chaired by Commonwealth Bank director Harrison Young, from legal action relating to the negotiation and finalisation of the transaction with Telstra.

The infrastructure-sharing deal is crucial to the rollout of the network, as it allows the NBN Co to use Telstra’s pits, pipes and ducts, and will see Telstra decommission its copper network to become the NBN Co’s biggest customer rather than its biggest competitor.

Without the agreement, the costs of the NBN rollout would blow out by billions of dollars, potentially forcing the government to pour extra billions into the project and the NBN Co to borrow extra money.

While Telstra and NBN Co struck a non-binding financial heads of agreement in June last year, the negotiations for the final agreement have been delayed.

In March, Telstra delayed a shareholder vote on the deal, citing hurdles, including uncertainty over the deal’s tax treatment.

The government says it will invest $27.5bn in NBN Co to build and operate the project, with $18.2bn of this to be handed over in the next four years. For 2011-12, the government plans to inject $3.1bn in equity into the project.

According to the budget papers, the NBN Co will need continuing equity injections to meet its obligations to Telstra under the deal.

“Accordingly, the government is considering the provision of financial support arrangements to facilitate the finalisation of the agreements,” the papers say.

The government was effectively providing Telstra a guarantee for NBN Co’s obligations.



  • AAP

  • May 11, 2011

MICROSOFT has announced plans to buy internet phone service company Skype for $US8.5 billion ($A7.9 billion) in a move aimed at carving out a bigger presence in an online arena dominated by Google and Facebook.

The acquisition of Skype, which had reportedly also attracted interest from Cisco, Facebook and Google, is the largest ever by the US software giant.
“Skype is a phenomenal service that is loved by millions of people around the world,” Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer said in a statement overnight announcing the purchase.
“Together we will create the future of real-time communications so people can easily stay connected to family, friends, clients and colleagues anywhere in the world.”
Microsoft said Skype will become a new business division within Microsoft with Skype CEO Tony Bates assuming the title of president of the Microsoft Skype Division, reporting directly to Ballmer.

Tens of millions of people use Skype to make low-cost or free phone calls over the internet using their computers or smartphones. Skype bypasses the standard telephone network by channelling voice and video calls over the web.
Buying Skype could be a way for Microsoft to shed some of its business software image and gain momentum in a hot smartphone market at a time when internet lifestyles are going mobile.
Microsoft’s Windows is the dominant computer operating system but its Bing search engine lags far behind Google and its Windows Phone mobile platform has been losing market share to Apple’s iPhone, Google’s Android and Research In Motion’s Blackberry.
The companies said Skype will support Microsoft products like the Xbox game console and Kinect motion controller, Windows Phone and a wide array of Windows devices. Microsoft will also support Skype clients on non-Microsoft platforms.
“Mobile is clearly moving to be a rich communications capability above and beyond just voice,” Bates said at a joint press conference with Ballmer in San Francisco.
“We also focus very, very heavily on video. Video is in our DNA.”
“At Microsoft we see tremendous opportunity to bring together what people want all on a single screen,” Ballmer said. “We are committed to optimise Skype for TV with Xbox and Kinect for the phone and for the PC.”
Microsoft’s biggest acquisition until now had been its 2007 buy of digital marketing firm aQuantive for $5.85 billion. Microsoft unsuccessfully tried to buy Yahoo! in 2008 for $44.13 billion.
Microsoft and Skype said the deal has been approved by the boards of both the Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft and the Luxembourg-based Skype, which is owned by investor group Silver Lake.
Magnus Rehle, managing director of Greenwich Consulting, said Microsoft is “buying a brand and a big chunk of customers.”
“It could (also) be a defensive strategy from them… to block Facebook and Google from doing it instead,” Rehle added.
Analyst Douglas McIntyre of 247WallSt.com said Microsoft’s “real motive for a Skype buyout is likely to be to increase its mobile search engine share, something it has been unable to do so far.
“Skype may be a cheap ticket to the next huge search market,” he said.
Gartner research vice president Leif-Olof Wallin said Microsoft had been forced to pay a high price for Skype but the deal has potential.
“The acquisition price sort of indicates that there has been some kind of bidding process that drove up the price,” Wallin said.
“We see a lot of fit between the Microsoft strategy to increase consumer focus and Skype,” Wallin added.
“If this is integrated in the right way, it has a lot of potential to leverage platforms like Xbox and Windows Phone to new heights.”
Skype was founded in 2003 and acquired by online auction giant eBay in September 2005. It was sold to the investment group led by Silver Lake in November 2009 in a deal that valued the company at $2.56 billion.
Skype has 170 million users and logged more than 207 billion minutes of voice and video conversations in 2010.
Skype last year announced plans for an initial public offering of stock and appeared on its way to profitability, but investors are evidently eager for a payoff.
Other members of the investor group led by Silver Lake include eBay, CPP Investment Board, Joltid Limited, Europlay Capital Advisors and Andreessen Horowitz.
The acquisition is subject to regulatory approvals which the companies said they expect to obtain this year.


Lucy Battersby

May 10, 2011

Construction on a new 4800 kilometre under-sea cable between Australia and south east Asia will start within a year, Leighton Contractors subsidiary Australia-Singapore Cable Ltd announced this morning.
Australia-Singapore Cable (ASC) also announced a deal with Alcatel-Lucent to build the cable, which is currently in the design and route survey phase. Construction is due to start in the first three months on 2012 and the cable is expected to be operating in 2013.
The cable will run from a new data centre in Shenton Park, Perth, over Indonesia’s Sunda Strait and land in Singapore, and will be capable of carrying 100 gigabit per second.
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“This new cable system will fill the much needed gap in the market place connecting Australia via the Indian ocean to Singapore and offering a more cost effictive, higher capacity and lower latency route than alternative east coast routes,” ASC chairman Peter McGrath wrote in a press release today.
The cable gives Leighton’s other internet subsidiary, NextGen, an overseas link to carry internet traffic from its new cross-country underground fibre-optic network. This new network recently started operating in Geraldton, Western Australia, and Victor Harbour in South Australia. It was built with funding from the federal government under the Regional Backbone Blackspots Program. NextGen’s network gives internet providers an alternative backhaul provider in regional areas to Telstra, which has held a monopoly over routes to smaller markets

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/technology-news/new-undersea-cable-promises-faster-speeds-20110510-1egkw.html#ixzz1LupsgUQa


Glenn Chapman

May 10, 2011

YouTube on Monday added 3,000 new movies for “rent” online in the United States as it continued an evolution aimed at wooing viewers away from television.
“You’re spending just 15 minutes a day on YouTube, and spending five hours a day watching TV,” YouTube head Salar Kamangar said in a post at the Google-owned video-sharing website.
“As the lines between online and offline continue to blur, we think that’s going to change.”
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In addition to beefing up its online movie roster, YouTube was increasing support for “partners” who create amateur clips that are attracting “TV-sized” audiences at the website, according to Kamangar.
Approximately two billion video views are logged daily at YouTube, which is available on 350 million devices, he noted.
“Whether it’s short movie trailers, funny movie parodies or full-length blockbuster films, we encourage you to sit back and settle in to the YouTube movies experience,” Kamangar said.
Movies available for streaming as online rentals at YouTube had been mostly older titles but the Google-owned technology firm has been collaborating with Hollywood studios to find ways to make fresh films available.
YouTube said that it is broadening its rental service at youtube.com/movies with new films from Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers, NBCUniversal, Lionsgate Films and “many great independent studios.”
New releases will cost $3.99 to rent while library titles will cost $2.99, YouTube product marketing manager Camille Hearst said in a blog post.
People will have 30 days to watch rentals, needing to finish a movie within 24 hours from when viewing is started. Hearst promised some titles would be available for streaming the same day they are released on DVDs.
The list of titles being added to YouTube included “Inception” and “King’s Speech” as well as “Green Hornet” and “Despicable Me.”
“In addition to the hundreds of free movies available on the site since 2009, you will be able to find and rent some of your favorite films,” Hearst said.
“The new titles will begin appearing later today and over the coming weeks to www.youtube.com/movies, so keep checking back.”
Many movie pages will feature extra content such as interviews as well as parodies and remixed clips uploaded by YouTube users, according to Hearst.
YouTube has been evolving from its early days as predominately an online stage for amateur snippets of backyard stunts and other antics.
In April, YouTube added a stage for live events at the world’s leading video-sharing website.
YouTube Live launched online at youtube.com/live, letting people subscribe to watch shows or events streamed by the Google-owned operation’s partners.
The video-sharing website had live-streamed concerts, sporting events and interviews previously, but on an intermittent basis. The Live platform made real-time programming a standard part of the service.
YouTube has reportedly been preparing a major overhaul of the website by creating “channels” to compete with broadcast and cable TV.
Already the third most viewed website in the world, it hopes the plan will further boost traffic to the site and take a bite out of the $70 billion US television advertising market.
YouTube in March debuted what it said was the first feature-length Hollywood movie created specifically for the Internet.
“Girl Walks Into A Bar” was described “a comedy about a seemingly unrelated group of characters spending a single night at 10 different bars throughout Los Angeles.”
It was directed by Sebastian Gutierrez, who wrote the screenplay for “Snakes on a Plane” starring Samuel L. Jackson, and produced by Gato Negro Films and Shangri-La Entertainment.
It could be watched at youtube.com/ytscreeningroom.
YouTube, which was bought by Google in 2006 for $1.65 billion, has been adding professional content such as full-length television shows and movies to its vast trove of amateur video offerings in a bid to attract advertisers.

© 2011 AFP

This story is sourced direct from an overseas news agency as an additional service to readers. Spelling follows North American usage, along with foreign currency and measurement units.



The bubble is growing but when will it pop? Photo: Fairfax Art and Design

The tantalising prospect of finding the next Facebook, Groupon or Twitter is driving the biggest rush of venture capital into the internet start-up arena since dot-com mania first boomed and then fizzled more than a decade ago.
More than $US5 billion of venture capital investment flowed into young web companies globally in the first four months of the year, data from Thomson Reuters Deals Intelligence shows.
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Though small compared with the boom years, the sum puts 2011 on track to be the busiest in dollar terms since 2000, when more than $US55 billion was deployed to back nascent technology firms.
The latest frenzy bears some of the hallmarks of the previous web investment craze – exuberance over “concept” start-ups that have not launched their sites and intense competition among potential backers to place bets in presumptive hot spots, such as the social media space now defined by the likes of Facebook and LinkedIn.
Entrepreneurs such as Clara Shih, chief executive of Hearsay, a San Francisco-based speciality software provider, enjoy more leverage with investors than last time and talk about having their pick of potential backers. Shih said she had already raised $US3 million when cash came knocking at her door.
“Honestly, we weren’t thinking of raising money, but now it’s kind of landed on our lap, we may be open to it,” Shih said in an interview with Reuters Insider.
Herd investment behaviour gives rise to talk that another internet bubble is forming, particularly when analysts see valuations on the order of $US70 billion for Facebook and $US15 billion for Groupon calculated from private investments.
“I’ve heard … many venture capitalists who are saying, ‘No, there’s not a bubble,'” said Dana Stalder, a partner in the Silicon Valley office of the venture capital firm Matrix Partners.
“When you’re seeing valuations double in the last 12 months for the same company, the same team, it feels like a bubble to me.”
But other characteristics of the current boom do set it apart from the one that ended in collapse 10 years ago.

  • Venture capital investors say more of today’s young companies are profitable or on a clearer path to profitability as the advent of cloud computing helps to lower operating costs dramatically from a decade ago.
  • Online advertising and e-commerce, in their infancy a decade ago, have matured into accepted and more reliable revenue sources.
  • The rush to cash out through an initial public offering has slowed. Bountiful sources of private investment, a raft of new public company disclosure regulations and the growth of alternative venues for trading private company shares provide the means and incentive to delay going public.

Perhaps the most distinguishing factor from the “It’s different this time” litany is that today’s web frenzy is global.
In the three years that marked the height of the last boom, from 1999 to 2001, the venture capital industry sank $US96.4 billion into web start-ups, with more than 80 per cent of that or nearly $US78 billion in the United States alone, the Thomson Reuters data show. Of 10,755 venture capital deals over that run, 7174 took place in the US market.
Not so today. Of the more than $US5 billion of venture capital money invested so far this year, just $US1.4 billion has been deployed in US start-ups, according to Thomson Reuters data. Roughly three-quarters of the 403 deals have taken place overseas.
Moreover, it is the big deals that as often as not are now happening outside the United States. Of the 25 biggest consumer internet deals last year, 15 were non-US investments, according to Quid, a Silicon Valley research start-up that tracks venture capital investment flows. Nearly half, 12, were Chinese.
The investors as well as the start-ups have an increasingly international flavour. Perhaps the most notable new face among today’s internet king makers is Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, chief executive of DST Global. Milner has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in Facebook, Groupon and Zynga. Last month his firm invested $US500 million in 360Buy,com, China’s biggest business-to-consumer website.
While one of the distinguishing characteristics of the new boom is the tendency to remain private for a longer period, the IPO pipeline is nevertheless filling up with internet names.
So far this year, 16 web firms have filed IPO documents with US securities regulators, seeking to raise proceeds estimated at nearly $US4.1 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data. That already tops the full-year totals for every year except 1999, when 52 companies filed to raise $US4.2 billion.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/technology/biz-tech/internet-boom-20-is-here-starts-to-look-bubbly-20110509-1eesv.html#ixzz1LuEWk8KD


Written by Renai LeMay on Monday, May 9, 2011

Telecommunications industry rumours have long hinted that the nation’s number two telco Optus would follow in the footsteps of rivals iiNet and Internode and sign up with fledgling internet video player FetchTV. The rumours, it turns out, were true – but the partnership between the pair goes further than previous deals in the space.
iiNet and Internode are primarily partnering with FetchTV to bolt on the company’s internet video platform to their existing broadband services, rounding out their offerings with the third part of the industry’s long-anticipated ‘triple play’ bundle of broadband, telephony and video entertainment.
In a brief statement today, Optus and FetchTV revealed that they would indeed partner – but not just in the sense that iiNet and Internode have. Instead, the pair will collaborate to jointly develop an internet video service with integrated mobile functionality, to allow the delivery of video on the burgeoning smartphone and tablet platforms.
“The way people view and engage with video content is changing rapidly. Optus wants to be at the forefront of this change, which is why we’re partnering with FetchTV to develop a unique TV offerings across mobile devices,” said Optus Digital Media director Austin R. Bryan.
According to the pair, the new service is scheduled for launch in the second half of 2011, and is part of Optus’ broader TV strategy to develop a suite of “converged video services”, delivering “choice and control” for customers whether they’re at home or on the road. Price and specific details of the service will be available “closer to launch”.
The news comes as other players in Australia’s mobile ecosystem are ramping up plans to provide dynamic multimedia content through the burgeoning smartphone and tablet platform, in which Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices have taken an early lead, closely followed by Google’s Android operating system.
In late April, for example, Telstra announced that it would stream all AFL matches to mobile phones and tablets on the telco’s Next G network, as well as its T-Box set-top box, as part of a wide-ranging agreement with the Australian Football League.
“This agreement represents the coming of age for mobile technology and IPTV,” said Telstra chief executive David Thodey at the time. “No longer do Australians need to be tied to the lounge-room to catch Australia’s favourite sporting code live.”
TV stations such as the ABC, the Seven Network, Channel Ten and Nine have launched mobile applications to make their content available to consumers, and traditional newspaper publishers such as Fairfax have also developed sophisticated mobile platforms which allow streaming video to be consumed on the road by viewers.
It is not yet clear whether Optus’ partnership with FetchTV will allow the internet video company to provide its mobile platform to other customers such as iiNet and Internode, which do not own their own mobile networks, but do resell mobile access to other telco’s networks – such as that of Optus itself. Spokespeople from both Optus and FetchTV were not immediately able to provide further details on the matter this morning.


Fortune today released its annual “Fortune 500” rankings of America’s largest companies by revenue, revealing that Apple leapt 21 spots this year to land at #35 with over $65 billion in revenue.
Apple climbed 21 slots into the top 50 of the Fortune 500 this year. How’d it get there? The company not only continues to expand its reach in existing markets, it also keeps creating new ones.
Take the iPad, which showed the world the power of tablet computing when it was introduced last year. iPad 2 followed, and was one of the most highly anticipated electronic products this year. CEO Steve Jobs’ appearance at its debut in March reassured shareholders worried about his most recent medical leave. Regardless of who’s in charge, though, investors have plenty of reason to believe Apple’s magic spell on consumers can continue.
Apple’s profits of $14 billion in 2010 also made it the 8th most profitable company, up from 26th place last year. In the Computer and Office Equipment category, Apple passed Dell in overall revenue to move into second place behind HP. Apple leads that category in profits by a wide margin.
Apple was also cited as one of the seven biggest hirers of 2010, adding 12,600 employees during the year to reach nearly 50,000 total employees. Apple also leads the Fortune 500 in average annual investment returns over the past decade, averaging 45.8% annual growth.
Overall, Wal-Mart repeated as the world’s largest company with $421 billion in revenue, well ahead of second-place Exxon Mobil’s $354 billion figure.

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