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Planet Data Center goes offline after fire

Mon, 2nd June 2008, 17:23

Customers of hosting provider The Planet, are going through some tough times. On Saturday evening at 5:45 pm local time an electrical short caused a fire and explosion in the power room which knocked out walls and caused the entire facility to go offline. The Planet is reporting that no-one was hurt and no servers were damaged. Estimates suggest 9,000 servers are offline, affecting 7,500 customers, with initial ETAs for repair of at least 24 hours from onset.

The fire marshal has now allowed partial power from back up generators to be used and many of the servers on the second floor are back on line. Servers on the first floor are still down.

The Planet staff have shown exceptional professionalism through this ordeal and have posted updates almost every fifteen minutes on the Planet Forums.

We did note that the updates Kevin was placing are now being posted by Brooke since 7:30 this morning. The latest post states that the downstairs servers will begin coming online this evening. We will continue to update this story as it develops.

   link to ThePlanet's forum

The real-world implications of the rise of internet computing

Sun, 1st June 2008, 21:23

EVEN when the sky is blue over Quincy, clouds hang in the air. The small town in the centre of the state of Washington is home to half a dozen huge warehouses that power the global “computing clouds” run by internet companies such as Yahoo! and Microsoft. The size of several football pitches, these data centres are filled with thousands of powerful computers and storage devices and are hooked up to the internet via fast fibre-optic links.

Yet even more intriguing than the buildings' size is their location. Quincy is literally in the middle of nowhere, three hours' drive from the nearest big city, Seattle. But it turns out to be a perfect location for data centres. As computing becomes a utility, with services that can be consumed from everywhere and on any device, ever more thought is being put into where to put the infrastructure it needs.

Where the cloud touches down is not just the business of the geeks. Data centres are essential to nearly every industry and have become as vital to the functioning of society as power stations are. Lately, centres have been springing up in unexpected places: in old missile bunkers, in former shopping malls—even in Iceland. America alone has more than 7,000 data centres, according to IDC, a market-research firm. And each is housing ever more servers, the powerful computers that crunch and dish up data. In America the number of servers is expected to grow to 15.8m by 2010—three times as many as a decade earlier.

Until a few years ago, the location of servers was an afterthought, says Jonathan Koomey, a consulting professor of environmental engineering at Stanford University. Most sat in cupboards or under desks. The computers in corporate data centres were often housed in the firm's basement. And dedicated “server farms”, which came of age during the dotcom bubble and often housed the machines of internet start-ups, were mostly built in Silicon Valley and other high-tech hubs.

The geography of the cloud

Now this haphazard landscape is becoming more centralised. Companies have been packing ever more machines into data centres, both to increase their computing capacity and to comply with new data-retention rules. As space gets tight and energy costs climb, many firms have begun consolidating and simplifying their computing infrastructure. Hewlett-Packard, the world's biggest computer-maker, for instance, is replacing its 85 data centres across the world with just six in America.

Internet firms, meanwhile, need ever larger amounts of computing power. Google is said to operate a global network of about three dozen data centres with, according to some estimates, more than 1m servers. To catch up, Microsoft is investing billions of dollars and adding up to 20,000 servers a month.

As servers become more numerous, powerful and densely packed, more energy is needed to keep the data centres at room temperature. Often just as much power is needed for cooling as for computing. The largest data centres now rival aluminium smelters in the energy they consume. Microsoft's $500m new facility near Chicago, for instance, will need three electrical substations with a total capacity of 198 megawatts. As a result, finding a site for a large data centre is now, above all, about securing a cheap and reliable source of power, says Rich Miller of Data Center Knowledge, a website that chronicles the boom in data-centre construction.

The availability of cheap power is mainly why there are so many data centres in Quincy. It is close to the Columbia River, with dams that produce plenty of cheap hydroelectric power. There is water for cooling, fast fibre-optic links, and the remoteness provides security. For similar reasons, Google chose to build a new data centre at The Dalles, a hamlet across the Columbia River in the state of Oregon.

Such sites are in short supply in America, however. And with demand for computing picking up in other parts of the world, the boom in data-centre construction is spreading to unexpected places. Microsoft is looking for a site in Siberia where its data can chill. Iceland has begun to market itself as a prime location for data centres, again for the cool climate, but also because of its abundant geothermal energy. Hitachi Data Systems and Data Islandia, a local company, are planning to build a huge data-storage facility. It will be underground, for security and to protect the natural landscape.

So will all data centres end up in remote places like Quincy or Iceland? Not necessarily. For many applications, speed is of the essence. To make sure that its web-search results show up almost instantly, Google has to distribute its data centres around the world. Financial-services firms want to have access to trading data in real time, which explains the high density of data centres near New York and London. And fast-moving online games must be hosted near their players.

Even when speed does not matter, many firms want their servers close by, says Mike Foust, the boss of Digital Realty Trust, which builds and rents out data centres. Sometimes this is for maintenance; sometimes it is because “server huggers” do not want to let go. Security also counts. The Boyd Company, which advises companies about where to put their data centres, thinks more should be built in the provinces. Demand for secure locations for back-up centres, which many firms now have to maintain, will give rise to huge regional data centres, such as the one being built in Newport in Wales.

The criteria that companies use to pick a site keep evolving, says Mike Manos, Microsoft's director of data centres. His team feeds 35 sets of data into an electronic “heat” map of the world. With colours that range from green to red, it shows where conditions are favourable and which places should be avoided. And Microsoft needs a lot of choice: if a new service suddenly becomes popular, it needs to be able to increase computing capacity quickly. That is also why it uses shipping containers pre-loaded with up to 2,000 servers, which can be up and running within hours. In the firm's Chicago data centre, over 200 such containers will populate an entire floor.

Yet it will not just be market economics that determines the shape of the clouds. Local governments give tax breaks in the hope that the presence of big data centres will attract other businesses (the computing plants themselves usually employ only a few dozen people). Regulation is a factor, too. SWIFT, a bank-transfer consortium, has announced plans to build a data centre in neutral Switzerland, so that data collected in Europe will not be stored in an American facility, where it could be subpoenaed by the United States government.

In future the geography of the cloud is likely to get even more complex. “Virtualisation” technology already allows the software running on individual servers to be moved from one data centre to another, mainly for back-up reasons. One day soon, these “virtual machines” may migrate to wherever computing power is cheapest, or energy is greenest. Then computing will have become a true utility—and it will no longer be apt to talk of computing clouds, so much as of a computing atmosphere.

https://www.economist.com/business/PrinterFriendly.cfm?story_id=11413148

Inside the Attack that Crippled Revision3

Sat, 31st May 2008, 10:10

Quoted from https://revision3.com/[..]

on May 29th, 2008 at 07:49 am by Jim Louderback

As many of you know, Revision3’s servers were brought down over the Memorial Day weekend by a denial of service attack. It’s an all too common occurrence these days. But this one wasn’t your normal cybercrime – there’s a chilling twist at the end. Here’s what happened, and why we’re even more concerned today, after it’s over, than we were on Saturday when it started.

It all started with just a simple “hi”. Now “hi” can be the sweetest word in the world, breathlessly whispered into your ear by a long-lost lover, or squealed out by your bouncy toddler at the end of the day. But taken to excess – like by a cranky 3-year old–it gets downright annoying. Now imagine a room full of hyperactive toddlers, hot off of a three hour Juicy-Juice bender, incessantly shrieking “hi” over and over again, and you begin to understand what our poor servers went through this past weekend.

On the internet, computers say hi with a special type of packet, called “SYN”. A conversation between devices typically requires just one short SYN packet exchange, before moving on to larger messages containing real data. And most of the traffic cops on the internet – routers, firewalls and load balancers – are designed to mostly handle those larger messages. So a flood of SYN packets, just like a room full of hyperactive screaming toddlers, can cause all sorts of problems.

For adults, it’s typically an inability to cope, followed either by quickly fleeing the room, or orchestrating a massive Teletubbies intervention. Since they lack both legs and a ready supply of plushies, internet devices usually just shut down.

revision3_f5_dos.jpg

That’s what happened to us. Another device on the internet flooded one of our servers with an overdose of SYN packets, and it shut down – bringing the rest of Revision3 with it. In webspeak it’s called a Denial of Service attack – aka DoS – and it happens when one machine overwhelms another with too many packets, or messages, too quickly. The receiving machine attempts to deal with all that traffic, but in the end just gives up.
(Note the photo of our server equipment responding to the DoS Attack)

In its coverage Tuesday CNet asked the question, “Now who would want to attack Revision3?” Who indeed? So we set out to find out.

Internet attacks leave lots of evidence. In this case it was pretty easy to see exactly what our shadowy attacker was so upset about. It turns out that those zillions of SYN packets were addressed to one particular port, or doorway, on one of our web servers: 20000. Interestingly enough, that’s the port we use for our Bittorrent tracking server. It seems that someone was trying to destroy our bittorrent distribution network.

Let me take a step back and describe how Revision3 uses Bittorrent, aka BT. The BT protocol is a peer to peer scheme for sharing large files like music, programs and video. By harnessing the peer power of many computers, we can easily and cheaply distribute our huge HD-quality video shows for a lot less money. To get started, the person sharing that large file first creates a small file called a “torrent”, which contains metadata, along with which server will act as the conductor, coordinating the sharing. That server is called the tracking server, or “tracker”. You can read much more about Bittorrent at Wikipedia, if you really want to understand how it works.

Revision3 runs a tracker expressly designed to coordinate the sharing and downloading of our shows. It’s a completely legitimate business practice, similar to how ESPN puts out a guide that tells viewers how to tune into its network on DirecTV, Dish, Comcast and Time Warner, or a mall might publish a map of its stores.

But someone, or some company, apparently took offense to Revision3 using Bittorrent to distribute its own slate of shows. Who could that be?

Along with where it’s bound, every internet packet has a return address. Often, particularly in cases like this, it’s forged – or spoofed. But interestingly enough, whoever was sending these SYN packets wasn’t shy. Far from it: it’s as if they wanted us to know who they were.

A bit of address translation, and we’d discovered our nemesis. But instead of some shadowy underground criminal syndicate, the packets were coming from right in our home state of California. In fact, we traced the vast majority of those packets to a public company called Artistdirect (ARTD.OB). Once we were able to get their internet provider on the line, they verified that yes, indeed, that internet address belonged to a subsidiary of Artist Direct, called MediaDefender.

Now why would MediaDefender be trying to put Revision3 out of business? Heck, we’re one of the biggest defenders of media around. So I stopped by their website and found that MediaDefender provides “anti-piracy solutions in the emerging Internet-Piracy-Prevention industry.” The company aims to “stop the spread of illegally traded copyrighted material over the internet and peer-to-peer networks.” Hmm. We use the internet and peer-to-peer networks to accelerate the spread of legally traded materials that we own. That’s sort of directly opposite to what Media Defender is supposed to be doing.

Who pays MediaDefender to disrupt peer to peer networks? I don’t know who’s ponying up today, but in the past their clients have included Sony, Universal Music, and the central industry groups for both music and movies – the RIAA and MPAA. According to an article by Ars Technica, the company uses “its array of 2,000 servers and a 9GBps dedicated connection to propagate fake files and launch denial of service attacks against distributors.” Another Ars Technica story claims that MediaDefender used a similar denial of service attack to bring down a group critical of its actions.

Hmm. Now this could have been just a huge misunderstanding. Someone could have incorrectly configured a server on Friday, and left it to flood us mercilessly with SYN packets over the long Memorial Day weekend. If so, luckily it was pointed at us, and not, say, at the intensive care unit at Northwest Hospital and Medical Center But Occam’s razor leads to an entirely different conclusion.

So I picked up the phone and tried to get in touch with ArtistDirect interim CEO Dimitri Villard. I eventually had a fascinating phone call with both Dimitri Villard and Ben Grodsky, Vice President of Operations at Media Defender.

First, they willingly admitted to abusing Revision3’s network, over a period of months, by injecting a broad array of torrents into our tracking server. They were able to do this because we configured the server to track hashes only – to improve performance and stability. That, in turn, opened up a back door which allowed their networking experts to exploit its capabilities for their own personal profit.

Second, and here’s where the chain of events come into focus, although not the motive. We’d noticed some unauthorized use of our tracking server, and took steps to de-authorize torrents pointing to non-Revision3 files. That, as it turns out, was exactly the wrong thing to do. MediaDefender’s servers, at that point, initiated a flood of SYN packets attempting to reconnect to the files stored on our server. And that torrential cascade of “Hi”s brought down our network.

Grodsky admits that his computers sent those SYN packets to Revision3, but claims that their servers were each only trying to contact us every three hours. Our own logs show upwards of 8,000 packets a second.

“Media Defender did not do anything specific, targeted at Revision3″, claims Grodsky. “We didn’t do anything to increase the traffic” – beyond what they’d normally be sending us due to the fact that Revision3 was hosting thousands of MediaDefender torrents improperly injected into our corporate server. His claim: that once we turned off MediaDefender’s back-door access to the server, “traffic piled up (to Revision3 from MediaDefender servers because) it didn’t get any acknowledgment back.”

Putting aside the company’s outrageous use of our servers for their own profit, and the large difference between one connection every three hours and 8,000 packets a second, I’m still left to wonder why they didn’t just tell us our basement window was unlocked. A quick call or email and we’d have locked it up tighter than a drum.

It’s as if McGruff the Crime Dog snuck into our basement, enlisted an army of cellar rats to eat up all of our cheese, and then burned the house down when we finally locked him out – instead of just knocking on the front door to tell us the window was open.

In the end, here’s what I know:

  • A torrential flood of SYN packets rained down on Revision3’s network over Memorial Day weekend.
  • Those packets – up to 8,000 a second – came primarily from computers controlled by MediaDefender, who is in the business of shutting down illegal torrent sites.
  • Revision3 suffered measurable harm to its business due to that flood of packets, as the attacks on our legitimate and legal Torrent Tracking server spilled over into our entire internet infrastructure. Thus we were unable to serve videos and advertising through much of the weekend, and into Tuesday – and even our internal email servers were brought down.
  • Denial of service attacks are illegal in the US under 12 different statutes, including the Economic Espionage Act and the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.
  •  

Although I can only guess, here’s what I think really happened. Media Defender was abusing one of Revision3’s servers for their own purposes – quite without our approval. When we closed off their backdoor access, MediaDefender’s servers freaked out, and went into attack mode – much like how a petulant toddler will throw an epic tantrum if you take away an ill-gotten Oreo.

That tantrum threw upwards of 8,000 SYN packets a second at our servers. And that was enough to bring down both our public facing site, our RSS server, and even our internal corporate email – basically the entire Revision3 business. Smashing the cookie jar, as it were, so that no one else could have any Oreos either.

Was it malicious? Intentional? Negligent? Spoofed? I can’t say. But what I do know is that the FBI is looking into the matter – and it’s far more serious than toddlers squabbling over broken toys and lost cookies.

MediaDefender claims that they have taken steps to ensure this won’t happen again. “We’ve added a policy that will investigate open public trackers to see if they are associated with other companies”, promised Grodsky, “and first will make a communication that says, hey are you aware of this.”

In the end, I don’t think Media Defender deliberately targeted Revision3 specifically. However, the company has a history of using their servers to, as Ars Technica said, “launch denial of service attacks against distributors.” They saw us as a “distributor” – even though we were using Bittorrent for legitimate reasons. Once we shut them out, their vast network of servers were automatically programmed to implement a scorched earth policy, and shut us down in turn. The long Memorial Day weekend holiday made it impossible for us to contact either Media Defender or their ISP, which only exacerbated the problem.

All I want, for Revision3, is to get our weekend back – both the countless hours spent by our heroic tech staff attempting to unravel the mess, and the revenue, traffic and entertainment that we didn’t deliver.

If it can happen to Revision3, it could happen to your business too. We’re simply in the business of delivering entertainment and information – that’s not life or death stuff. But what if MediaDefender discovers a tracker inside a hospital, fire department or 911 center? If it happened to us, it could happen to them too. In my opinion, Media Defender practices risky business, and needs to overhaul how it operates. Because in this country, as far as I know, we’re still innocent until proven guilty – not drawn, quartered and executed simply because someone thinks you’re an outlaw.

- Jim Louderback
CEO - Revision3

UPDATE
We’ve received several requests for some technical data to illustrate the specifics of the attack. So we’ve provided a text file with some more “under the hood” data.

This file represents every packet we identified as being part of the DoS for a period of time less than .02 *seconds* on Monday morning. If you count, there’s a total of 96 packets. (We removed 12 legitimate packets from the trace). We used a combination of tcpdump and wireshark to gather this information. (this particular trace is from tcpdump)

View the text file: rev3packettrace.txt

Google Donates and Helps Collect Aid

Tue, 13th May 2008, 13:07

After Cyclone Nargis struck Burma, Google put a donation link just below the search box on its site to Web users could actively participate in relief efforts.

The ruling military junta in Burma banned Google and Gmail from the region in the summer of 2006. 

Google added the donation link,  under it's search box. When you click this donation link it provides two donation options; one to Unicef and the other to Direct Relief International. Google will match these donations and provide up to $1 million to victims.

Google's donation page does not include any fees or charges, so 100 per cent of a donation will be transferred directly to relief efforts.

Microsoft is also helping out despite being banned in Burma.

DOT Org Domain Face 10% Increase in Registration Fee

Tue, 13th May 2008, 11:24

Companies that own .org domains will soon see rates increases to renew, transfer, and register new domains. The company that operates the .org domain, Public Interest Registry (PIR), has decided to raise wholesale rates from $6.15 to $6.75 per domain this year—a 10 percent fee increase, following last year's 2.5 percent increase.

PIR informed the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) of its plans in a letter (PDF) sent earlier this month. The increase will go into effect on November 9, giving those who own or want .org domains another six months to take advantage of the current price.

PIR doesn't require ICANN's approval in order to raise rates, but it is limited by ICANN on how much it can raise them per year. According to ICANN's registry agreement for .org domains, service fees cannot be increased by more than 1.1 times the previous year's max service fees. The original agreement started out in 2006 at $6 per domain, meaning that 2007's maximum service fees would have been $6.60, and 2008's maximum is $7.26.

 VeriSign, has raised the prices for .com and .net the maximum allowable each year under its agreement with ICANN.

Host Color has added osTicket support

Mon, 12th May 2008, 12:37

Host Color has added osTicket, an open source ticket support system to hosting plans. 

Many web entrepreneurs and website owners, who have established successful online businesses often ask how to expand to the next level, improve their services and have better communication with their customers and partners. Host Color offers them osTicket, an organized solution which will help them handle customer requests and manage their priority.

osTicket is easy-to-use support ticket system that integrates inquires made via mail or a web-based form into simple multi-user web interface. The software archives customer requests and responses, so you can organize them and provide your customers with quick and accurate help. osTicket is a professional website tool that allows you trouble free migration from your current support system if you need more advanced solution.

Host Color knows that customer support is the most essential part of any successful online business. You can attract a lot of customers but if you have lax support you can't keep them long. It is crucial to have a reliable Help Desk and provide customers with prompt responses. osTicket is the right solution for that.

 

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Official 'dotME' Rollout Schedule

Tue, 6th May 2008, 22:46

 

For those who thinks it's all about you... well you can now have a "dot me" web address.

Official “.ME” Rollout Schedule

Finally we have some concrete time frames for the public launch of the .ME domain names!

May 6 to May 20: General Sunrise Period. During this time, anyone with a trademark is eligible to apply for a .ME domain.

May 20 to June 6: Quiet Period. The registry will be closed to registrars. Sunrise auctions will begin for names that received multiple applications. .ME domain names that receive only one application will be awarded.

June 6 to June 26: Landrush. This is the first opportunity for the public at large to apply. Anyone who doesn’t have a trademark, but is interested in a specific .ME domain, can apply during this period. This is also when Sunrise challenges begin.

June 26 to July 15: Quiet Period. During this time, the registry is closed to registrars. Names for which there was only one application during the Landrush Period are allocated. Landrush auctions will begin for names that received multiple applications.

July 17: Open Registration. Domain names are registered on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

 

Hostopia Now Inks Deal For Tucows

Tue, 6th May 2008, 20:25

 

May 6, 2008: Web hosting provider Hostopia, and Internet services company Tucows announced they signed a agreement yesterday for Hostopia to acquire Tucows' shared hosting customer assets. The agreement will be inked on May 15, 2008 for $1.6 million

Tucows offers Internet services to a global network of over 7,000 web hosts, ISPs and other providers of Internet services, as well as provisions millions of email boxes and manages over seven million domains.

Hostopia and Tucos will work together to move these accounts to Hostopia's unified web service platform by July. The accounts involved in the transaction will continue to be served under the familiar Domain Direct brand, which will operate as a managed service by Hostopia.

"We are very pleased to have concluded this transaction. We are already hosting some of the Tucows Retail Service Group's users so the impact on customers should be minimal," says Colin Campbell, CEO of Hostopia. "Our plan is to provide customers with numerous upgrades and additional value-added services to earn their loyalty and continued business. Traditional web hosting is fast evolving to the software as a service model and Hostopia is perfectly positioned to offer these services to these customers."

Second deal for Hostopia 

This marks the second acquisition Hostopia has announced in the past couple weeks. Last week, the web host signed a definitive agreement to purchase the customer assets of web hosting provider Luxomovera, which operates as uplinkearth, in an all-cash offer for an unspecified amount. The transaction will add another 12,500 small business customers from uplinkearth's data center facility to Hostopia's unified web services platform by June 30.

Hostopia provides web services that enable small- and medium-sized businesses to establish and maintain an online presence. The company's customers are communication services providers, including telecommunication carriers, cable companies, Internet service providers, domain registrars and web hosting providers.

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Liquid Web Powers New Windows VPS Offering with Parallels Virtuozzo Containers

Tue, 6th May 2008, 20:22

RENTON, Wash., May 6, 2008 – Liquid Web, a leading managed hosting provider, has launched a new Microsoft Windows virtual private server (VPS) offering powered by Parallels Virtuozzo Containers. The offering will be delivered from Liquid Web’s two fully owned and operated mid-western datacenters. This represents an expanded partnership with Parallels, who already supplies Liquid Web with Parallels Plesk Control Panel software, which is bundled with all Windows dedicated server offerings.

Parallels Virtuozzo Containers includes the Parallels Infrastructure Manager, a robust set of management tools that helps Liquid Web personnel deliver their “Heroic Support,” which has become a trademark of their services. Using the Parallels Infrastructure Manager and Parallels Plesk control panel software, Liquid Web can offer their customers a control panel for adding software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications as well as the ability to scale the size of their VPS.

"We are pleased that Liquid Web has selected Parallels Virtuozzo Containers and the Parallels Open Platform for this important new offering and that our two companies are deepening our partnership," said Serguei Beloussov, CEO of Parallels. "Parallels Virtuozzo Containers offers the highest levels of density, manageability and scalability, which makes it an ideal solution for datacenter owners who want to offer a wide variety of fully managed services,"

Liquid Web takes advantage of the Parallels Virtuozzo Containers’ architecture to offer "burstable" memory – for example, temporarily adding more memory to a container during a short period of high activity – so clients may have access to more server resources than they actually pay for. The architecture provides this capability while guaranteeing minimal levels of service so clients never have less memory than they contract for.

"Our VPS offerings give a significant competitive advantage over hypervisor-based solutions," said Travis Stoliker, Marketing Director of Liquid Web. "The high density, reliability, power savings, and management tools of Parallels Virtuozzo Containers allow us to provide our customers with more attractive offerin

Parallels Virtuozzo Containers is the world's leading operating system (OS) virtualization solution. On a single physical server and single OS installation, it enables users to run workloads in multiple, simultaneously running execution environments called "containers". Compared to other virtualization technologies, Parallels Virtuozzo Containers offers the highest levels of density, performance and manageability.

The Parallels Open Platform enables hosting with Parallels virtualization and automation technology through integration with a wide range of third-party applications and systems. The Application Packaging Standard (APS), a key element of the platform, is used by independent software vendors (ISVs) and service providers to seamlessly integrate applications to offer to the more than 10 million businesses and individuals that use Parallels products.



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Data center loses Peter Gabriels Server...literally

Tue, 6th May 2008, 19:29

Thought this was cute. Ok...not so cute but worth sharing

With all the news about security threats lately, Peter Gabriel thinks that data mining is kids play.

Here's the message on the front page of

https://petergabriel.com/ 

The majority of Real World, Peter Gabriel and WOMAD web services are currently off-line. Our servers were stolen from our ISP's data centre on Sunday night - Monday morning. We are working to restore normal service as soon as possible.

Our first move has been to get our store up and running, so if you want WOMAD Charlton Park tickets or Music from Real World Records, we are back in business.

 

Hostopia Inks Deal to Aquire Uplinkearth

Sun, 4th May 2008, 17:19

Web hosting company specializing in small and medium business support, Hostopia, will sign a definitive agreement to purchase the customer assets of New Jersey-based hosting services provider, Luxmovera, LLC's uplinkearth.

Uplinkearth accepted the all-cash offer last week. The companies plan to migrate all users of record from uplinkearth's data center facility to Hostopia's unified web services platform by June 30, 2008. The companies indicated that all users shall continue to be served under the familiar brand of uplinkearth, which will operate as a managed service by Hostopia.

Colin Campbell, CEO of Hostopia noted, ''We are very pleased to have concluded this agreement with uplinkearth. They have approximately 12,500 small business subscribers, which we feel are very compatible with the Hostopia web services platform. Our strategy will be to migrate all users and present them with many upgraded features and services. Over time, we will expect additional value-added services to be a logical upgrade path for many of these small businesses. Hostopia's main focus is private-labeled, wholesale outsourced web services that we sell to Telco's and broadband providers. Acquisitions such as uplinkearth complement our organic growth plan by adding end-users to our unified platform and giving us revenue-per-user opportunities through the many additional value-added services we offer, such as fax-to-email and collaborative email with wireless mobility synchronization.''

Michael Yablonowitz, Co-founder and President of Uplinkearth added, ''My partners and I have built a very successful hosting services business over the years. We are experiencing increased demand for new services from our customers which can drive opportunity for our business to grow. We decided the market timing was ideal to transfer our user base over to a highly capable provider in the hosting and SaaS arena - one who can deliver the high-demand services our users need. Hostopia's proven credentials and track record in migrating large numbers of hosted business customers made them the ideal choice as our chosen buyer. We think our users will eagerly respond to the many new upgrades and value-added services Hostopia plans to offer them.'

 

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'

30 MONTHS IN PRISON FOR CRIMINAL COPYRIGHT INFRINGEMENT

Sun, 4th May 2008, 17:26


Forty Defendants Convicted In Operation Copycat To Date

SAN FRANCISCO – U.S. Attorney Joseph P. Russoniello announced today that David M. Fish, 26, of Woodbury, Conn., was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court in San Jose, Calif., to 30 months in prison on charges of criminal copyright infringement and circumvention.

Fish was also sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ronald M. Whyte to a three year term of supervised release following his release from prison, a mandatory special assessment of $500, and the forfeiture of computer and other equipment used in committing the copyright offenses.

The case is part of Operation Copycat, an investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office targeting online warez groups, which illegally distribute newly-released movies, games, software and music online. Operation Copycat has resulted in 40 convictions thus far and is part of a larger federal crackdown against the illegal online distribution of copyrighted materials known as Operation Site Down.

On Feb. 27, 2006, Fish pleaded guilty to five counts in federal court in San Jose, including four counts in the Northern District of California case for conspiracy to commit criminal copyright infringement; distribution of technology primarily designed to circumvent encryption technology protecting a right of a copyright owner and aiding and abetting; circumventing a technological measure that protects a copyright work and aiding and abetting; copyright infringement by electronic means and aiding and abetting. On the same day, Fish also pleaded guilty to one count of criminal infringement of a copyright in the Southern District of Iowa. The two cases involved separate investigations and conduct in both jurisdictions. The charges were consolidated and prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.

In the Northern District of California case, according to court documents and information presented at the sentencing hearing, from approximately August 2004 to July 2005, Fish served as the site operator as well as a scripter, equipment supplier, broker and encoder for warez sites. As a site operator, he built and managed the warez site and controlled the daily operations of the site and server. Fish also circumvented technology measures designed to protect or limit access to copyrighted materials. Without circumvention, many of the copyrighted works could not be reproduced and made available to others. Once the DVDs were circumvented, they were uploaded onto the warez site and downloaded and accessed by hundreds of other warez participants.

Scripters for warez sites create, program and help build the sites. Suppliers provide an unauthorized copyrighted movie, game or software while equipment suppliers provide hardware (such as hard drives, computer parts, and computer servers) to the warez site. Brokers find groups to participate on the warez site and encoders circumvent the technological measures and protections of copyrighted works on the DVDs designed to prevent unauthorized access and copying.

In the Southern District of Iowa case, Fish participated in a separate warez site from Jan. 21, 2003, through April 21, 2004. The warez server used in this case was determined to contain approximately 13,000 pirated software titles including movies, games, utility software and music. Transfer logs confirm that defendant Fish assisted in the uploading of 131 software titles and downloading 373 software titles to and from the warez FTP server between Aug. 16, 2003, and March 29, 2004. The Iowa case resulted from an earlier national initiative against online piracy known as Operation FastLink.

Operation Site Down and Operation FastLink are the largest and most successful global criminal enforcement actions ever taken against the organized piracy groups which are responsible for most of the initial illegal distribution of copyrighted movies, software, games and music on the Internet. Consisting of multiple FBI undercover investigations, these two operations have so far resulted in a total of 108 felony convictions; more than 200 search warrants executed in 15 countries; the confiscation of hundreds of computers and illegal online distribution hubs; and the removal of more than 100 million dollars worth of illegally-copied copyrighted software, games, movies and music from illicit distribution channels. Countries participating in these U.S.-led operations include: France, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Portugal, Hungary, Israel, Spain, Australia, Singapore, Belgium and Germany.

Alentus Acquires Website Source and SpeedFox

Sat, 3rd May 2008, 14:45

Laguna Niguel, California. - May 1, 2008

Alentus Corporation announced that it has acquired Austin, Texas-based Website Source, Inc. and SpeedFox, Inc., providers of Linux website hosting.

The acquisition adds $2.6M and 14,000 clients to Alentus portfolio. The current Website Source infrastructure is being integrated into the Alentus global, redundant Cisco-powered network, and all Texas staff has been retained.

“This acquisition provides a stable and solid addition of Linux powered web hosting to the Alentus client base. And at the same time, it offers Windows hosting options to Website Source and SpeedFox clients. We are pleased with how the companies complement one another and look forward to growing our client base by offering a more complete menu of hosting services to the Internet community,” said William King, Alentus Corporation CEO.

Financial details of the cash and stock transaction were not disclosed.

Alentus Corporation is based in Laguna Niguel, California, with Data Center and Network Operations Center facilities in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and Columbus, Ohio, USA.

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Idologic offering distributed and redundant DNS services

Sat, 3rd May 2008, 00:34

Idologic, a reseller and dedicated web hosting company based in London, Ontario, Canada, announced earlier that it would begin offering distributed and redundant DNS services to its existing customers for free.

These dedicated and redundant DNS services allow customers to experience true 100% uptime. It's a must have for companies that depend on email or for customers that have accounts spread over multiple services, said Damiaan Habets, Idologics CTO.

The DNS services, which are spread across two separate networks located in Georgia and Texas, are specifically designed for customers who require unparalleled reliability or customers with accounts on multiple servers.

This service is designed to provide 100% uptime. Even if the customers primary server is down, the DNS service allows a backup service to accept mail and queue it. When the primary server is restored, the mail will be delivered as usual, added Habets.

The new DNS services offered by Idologic are also expected to improve the speed of customers web sites on both a network and server level. For customers with advanced configurations, the distributed DNS services can also be used to enable load balancing and failover setups.

For customers who utilize multiple servers to host their web sites, these new DNS services allow them to only have one set of name servers. This will make hosting simpler for Idologics reseller customers and in turn, their customers.

This is an offering we are very excited about. I think it is something our customers will really appreciate and grow to love,said Jeff Gardiner, Idologics CEO.

The distributed DNS services will be available free of charge to Idologic reseller and dedicated hosting customers. For customers choosing to have their DNS running off of a private IP, private IP addresses will be available at a charge of $2.50 per IP per month.

 Idologic, which was founded in 2001, is a high quality reseller and dedicated web hosting company based in London, Ontario, Canada. The company prides itself in providing unmatched customer service and offering powerful hosting solutions to all of its customers.

Hostjury doesn't  give you our opinionated view of web hosting providers (often geared towards the host that pays the most for advertising) - Hostjury wants to give you, the user, the ability to recommend and review your web hosting provider to other users and to share your real hosting reviews.

Hostjury is the "one-stop-shop" for web hosting reviews and information.

Help us to help you and other users by reviewing your webhost on Hostjury, and get a chance at one of those iPods Hostjury is giving away!

SharkSpace goes Green

Thu, 1st May 2008, 19:24

SharkSpace LLC , one of the leading web hosting providers based in

the United States, with an intention to better protect the environment

has gone green from Earth Day (April 22, 2008).

SharkSpace over the last several months has moved their entire server fleet to new energy efficient Dell servers.  The servers consume up to 25% less energy than previous generations. When combined with impressive performance gains, this results in up to a 3X increase in performance per watt over previous generations. SharkSpace also uses energy efficient florescent light bulbs in all their office locations.

In addition to the new server fleet and lighting, the company will also reduce its energy use by converting its paper files to electronic versions through document imaging technology. With the conversion, the company expects to use about half of the paper it is currently using, furthering SharkSpace's commitment to environmentally friendly operations.

SharkSpace LLC Founder & CEO Scott Jones said: "Today, we are proud to have taken a first step towards true energy sustainability by integrating green power and energy-efficient strategies into our operations. As a company that strives to best serve the residents of our community, we feel an obligation to do everything we can to protect our environment. We view this not only a matter of corporate responsibility, but also a case of moral and ethical accountability. By joining The Green revolution, we're expanding our scope beyond just optimizing our own operations to helping the industry set higher efficiency standards and develop better environmental practices."

Electronic waste (e-waste) is the fastest growing type of trash in the United States. E-waste makes up 2% of the garbage, but produces up to 40% of the lead in landfills. E-waste in landfills can leach toxic substances into the soil and groundwater. Electrical power plant emissions clog up the environment. There is a lot being said in the media right now about the importance of maintaining a healthy and green environment and the message is now starting to be heard that the responsibility does not only lie with large companies. Environmentally sustainable practices are the responsibility of everyone and must start in our own backyards to dramatically feel the impact of positive change for the environment. Whether the changes are as small as beginning a recycling routine, or maybe changing your light globes to minimize energy consumption or larger changes such as optimizing the internal efficiency of your home through structural changes; these decisions will ultimately have a positive impact on the environment.

Review SharkSpace Hosting Services on Hostjury so potential clients can make informed choice

Hostingplex Launches Clustered Web Hosting Service

Thu, 1st May 2008, 05:10

TORONTO -- April 30, 2008 -- Hostingplex, a leading provider in web hosting services announced today that it has launched its clustered hosting service.

The proprietary cluster technology is unique as it makes use of the well-known control panel by cPanel. The company claims customers will still be able to enjoy the benefits of a cPanel web host, while taking advantage of a robust & scalable clustered web hosting infrastructure.

"We're really excited about our clustered web hosting service," says Kevin Moonlight, Senior Systems Administrator with Hostingplex. "We've invested a great deal of time and money into this superior infrastructure and now our customers will be able to benefit from that" adds Kevin.

The clustered hosting service starts from $7.50 per month and is available immediately to new & existing customers.

About Hostingplex:

Hostingplex, an Inverdigm company founded in 2000, is a world-wide leading web hosting solutions provider, helping small businesses create and maintain their online presence. With fully-featured, attractively priced hosting plans, backed with our unconditional 30-day money back guarantee and strive towards providing industry leading customer satisfaction, Hostingplex has become a trusted name for small businesses. For more information, please visit https://www.hostingplex.com

Security is Everything

Wed, 30th April 2008, 13:19

Speaking ahead of the 15th anniversary of the day the web's code was put into the public domain, the web's inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, stated, “ the world wide web is "still in its infancy". (End quote)

Cyberthreats, cybercrime, cyberterrorists, cyberattacks. How about data mining, data theft, data monitoring. Add malware, rootkit, keylogger, spam. Seven out of eight dictionaries I checked still describe Trojan: A native or inhabitant of ancient Troy.

Many dictionaries fail to included this terminology in the rank and file of common words. Commentators struggle to coin the phrase that will adequately describes the newest threat. The reality of the world we live in.

Experts at McAfee warned a little over a week ago that malware creators were hacking into pro-Tibet Web sites and infecting them with malware that could then be injected into site visitors' PCs.

A tech paper headlines stated that threat against Internet Explorer fell last month. But the body of the text stated that Mozilla Firefox was drawing fire and that the threats to this browser, substantially increased.

While the following list of suggestions is not by any means intended to be the beginning and end of Internet security, it may raise your awareness of some places to start.( I focus on the free ones)

Firewall

To keep the sensitive data from your hard drives from roaming on the web, its essential.

For Windows XP, the Windows Firewall is not good enough. ARA recommend using Comodo Firewall Pro Free instead. First introduced as a part of Service Pack 2, XP's firewall is not capable of blocking outbound connections. This is the number one reason for using a software firewall, as a router (also known as a hardware firewall) takes care of inbound connections perfectly.

For Windows Vista, Microsoft addressed this problem; spyware and viruses that "phoned home" with stolen information would be caught by Vista's firewall. If you have Windows Vista, there is no need for Comodo or any third-party firewall. Regardless of whether you're on XP or Vista, a router is essential. We would even go as far as saying that a hardware firewall is more important than having a software firewall enabled—regardless of which OS you're running.

Anti-virus

The must of security application. If you insist on not shelling out a dime: Antivir, Avast, or AVG.

The choice between the three comes down to user preference: download and install them one by one (never, under any circumstances, have more than one anti-virus program installed on your computer) .

 

Anti-spyware and Anti-adware

Thanks to Microsoft's acquisition of GIANT Company Software in December 2004, the software maker now has an anti-spyware offering available for Windows XP, and comes included with Windows Vista.

Windows Defender, while a very solid application, may be better than Spybot but it is still not quite there yet. Lavasoft Ad-Aware Free is the freeware application ARA recommend, but they do not suggest disabling Windows Defender; use them together.

Encryption

Despite the Supreme Court ruling that border guards can copy your hard drive, they never ruled you had to make it easy for them. Password-protection is a possibility, but passwords can be cracked too easily in this day and age. Give a 13-year-old the right program, and weep as he breaks into your p0rn stash and locks you out of it. For all your privacy needs, encryption is the way to go. TrueCrypt is an application that offers on-the-fly encryption with minimal user intervention. It is the best that is out there right now, and it's entirely free. Furthermore, TrueCrypt is available for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux.

Linux

Snort is an open-source intrusion prevent and detection system that performs real-time traffic analysis and can block attacks from a number of different vectors. Snort is often used in conjunction with the Basic Analysis and Security Engine (BASE), which provides a web-based visual interface for viewing Snort logs and notifications.

Wireshark is a popular packet-sniffing and protocol analysis tool that uses PCAP to intercept data that is being transmitted over a network. Users can filter the data with regular expressions or other parameters and view the data in a simple color-coded grid.

AppArmor is an open-source framework for Linux that reduces the potential for exploitation by instituting the principle of least privilege. It is much easier to configure than SELinux and is also less resource-intensive. It is tightly integrated in openSUSE and is being adopted by Ubuntu and other popular distributions.

Nmap is an open-source port scanner and network analysis tool that is lightweight and easy to use. It is particularly useful for security auditing and detecting running services on a network. A relatively new graphical front-end called Zenmap includes a command wizard that will help novice users put together nmap commands.

Netcat, which is described by its developers as the TCIP/IP Swiss Army knife, is a powerful tool for reading and writing network data. Netcat is extremely versatile and can be used for a wide variety of things including port scans, file transfers, and for interacting with remote network services from the command line. There is also an improved, more modern version called socat

 

So you've done your homework and built your great wall against China. What if you still become a victim. I got the answer for that also. The Internet Crime Complaint Center

File your complaint here so the FBI can interrogate the cybercriminal with all them newly approved interrogation methods that Justice Scalia says “are not torture because, they are not punishing the person”

That is, if they can find the person :>)

HostJury Web 2.0 Style

Tue, 29th April 2008, 14:55

Some of you may have noticed the small changes taking place at Hostjury.

Stories that are more of a general interest as opposed to strictly the hosting news. Although simplicity does have its advantages, with the maturing and evolution of the web, (appropriately named web 2.0), it necessitates adapting to this changing landscape.

The premise of Hostjury.com, as a site driven by “real” client reviews, continues to be our primary goal. Departing from this philosophy would dilute our commitment to those that have utilized this site.

 

Some of the Hosts listed in the database have generated a large number of reviews. Some for the exceptional services they provide their clients as hosts, while others for their unprecedented and exceptional ability, to alienate the clients they once enticed with promises of unmatchable uptime and 24/7 live support.

 

Still waters may run deep

Still, a large number of hosting companies anonymously deliver the services their clientèle expect. While not totally wowing their hosted clients, they have not annoyed their clients to the point of seeking out a refuge to vent their frustrations because they can not reach customer support, and their site is down again. So they haven't generated massive reviews. Many of these same companies, are quietly involving themselves in green initiatives, charitable activities, or upgraded services as the technological landscape shifts.

 

Research made easier

Companies are swallowed up by larger hosts, or merged to strengthen already sound business models. New companies appear, while some, thankfully fade away. So we will begin announcing companies as they are added to our data base. Users will still be able to add a reviews for companies we've missed. Just follow the cues under “Add your own review”  Suggest a change by emailing us feedback@hostjury.com

 

Some of the coming changes will allow you to view updated news, or special offering including discount coupons being offered by various companies along with their customer reviews. Many of the changes you'll see in the coming weeks at Hostjury, will make researching and identifying a prospective host for your site a less daunting experience. Hostjury will always continue to be driven by “real” customer reviews, so enjoy the changes

Web hosting and the economy

Tue, 29th April 2008, 13:52

The economy and looming recession have been the talk of the town for the past few months in the media. With the fears of a more thorough, long-lasting recession building up after the onset of the housing bubble, millions of foreclosures, foreign wars (Yes, I'm a libdrool puppet) and the collapse of a number of large companies -- what's in it for the web hosting industry and consumers?

Well, recent articles in the Canoe (CNN and others have had similar reports) suggest that the technology sector has largely in part been immune to the cutbacks seen in many other industries. Immune, entirely? Of course not, as even us IT folk still have to consume the more expensive goods, gas and depend on the increasingly volatile market as a whole but IT seems to have cemented itself in as a necessity rather than a luxury. As the population of the internet continues to skyrocket, more companies will take their sales online to reduce the effects of the local economy on their companies & products.

For example, an online retailer may not see the full-fledged effects of the recession if their products are being sold to other countries where the mortgage fiascos have not had as large of an impact. Millions of other examples can be cooked up, but some still see the recession as a good thing. Myself included, admittedly. The recession is offering the market some correction -- in essence, we're being reprimanded for expanding too quickly beyond our means and market itself. Overspending and living off credit will have a fast, deafening impact on every industry no matter the offering. (Except toilet paper, toilet paper is as safe an industry as potatoes.)

So, what's all this mean for web hosting?

The impact of the economy as a whole will leave aspects of the industry in ruin. While there won't be any widespred distress just yet, a number of companies with lower profit margins will be hit the hardest as the economy fluctuates. The rising gas, food and necessity prices will drive up their costs to the point where their operations will no longer be profitable or even feasible.

The results will be clear: In 2008 we'll see more acquisitions, mergers and companies disappearing overnight. It's safe to say that if you haven't kept backups up until this point you should start ensuring you have frequent backups just in case the company you're utilizing chooses to go next. As we've seen in the past, mergers and acquisitions may not necessarily end up all that pretty. Ipowerweb & Endurance International are a prime example.

Only time will tell the full effects, God willing, Hostjury will be here too :)

Unveiling Microsoft's Live Mesh

Fri, 25th April 2008, 10:54

Microsoft's Live Mesh service, a new service, that will synch all of a user's devices and applications to produce a seamless framework, was unveiled at Web 2.0.

Microsoft has said the service will use open standards and be rolled out to Windows machines, Macs and mobiles. (the fact that Live Mesh is not available on Mac at launch was not missed by many)

The idea is to connect PCs and devices "using the web as a hub," wrote Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief software architect, in a draft of a memo slated to be distributed to Microsoft employees. "We aspire to bring together Windows, Windows Live, and Windows Mobile by creating seamless experiences that span these offerings," Ozzie wrote.The initial version of Live Mesh will work only with PCs running Windows XP and Vista, but Microsoft says it plans to add support later for mobile devices and Apple Macintosh computers.


In the initial version, extra features will include the ability to use one Windows PC to access and control another that they've made part of the same mesh. People will also be able to connect their meshes to other users' meshes, for sharing files and collaborating on documents.

Microsoft is also setting up Live Mesh to let outside developers write programs to work with the system. For example, the maker of a digital picture frame might write a program that uses Live Mesh to automatically receive and display photos from a camera over the Internet.

The core service from Microsoft is "a small slice, a small sliver of what the platform can do," said Amit Mital, the general manager of the Live Mesh team. "What the platform is about is providing access to all this capability" for use by other software and hardware developers.

This Isn't New 

This isn't new. One existing company in the online storage and sharing market is Palo Alto-based Box.net.

Box.net, the web’s first online file system, launched in 2005, announced earlier this year its OpenBox platform. The open platform connects data from Box.net with other applications and services across the web. OpenBox permits companies and developers to integrate applications and services on the Box.net website. They have expressed confidence in their ability to withstand the new challenge from Microsoft.

"Their competency is in desktop software and they clearly have the ability to push people to these products," Aaron Levie, CEO said. "However, the great thing about the Web is it's an open environment where the best product generally wins, and the products that have the right networks around users are able to maintain that kind of traction."

Linux KDE platform in all Brazil's Public Schools

Fri, 25th April 2008, 02:15

ProInfo and Linux Educacional - KDE in Public Schools in Brazil


Brazil's Ministry of Education (MEC). have just unveiled that KDE on Linux is to   become the software platform in the primary school education system in Brazil.  By the end of this year, 29,000 labs serving 32,000,000 students,
will be fully deployed and in active use.

There are plans to increase this to 53,000 labs serving 52,000,000 students by the end of next year (2009). What is interesting about this project is that it not only provides infrastructure (computers and net connectivity), but also open content to students in public schools.

The software installed on these systems is "Linux Educacional 2.0", a very clean Debian-based distribution, with KDE 3.5, KDE-Edu, KDE-Games.  The use of KDE4 in future implementation is just starting to be explored.
 
You can have a look at the clean desktop here:
Linux Educacional
 
Notice the addition of a quick navigation bar on top: this was the result of study conducted by the project's researchers, and gives quick access to content and activities.
 
The whole system performs extremely well and it was available at the forum in multiterminal stations. This new versions incorporates lots of improvements gathered from the feedback provided by previous version, which is already deployed to thousands of labs in the country.
 
 



The open content and the Linux Educational distribution can be found at https://webeduc.mec.gov.br/ in Portuguese only.
 
 
special thanks to piacentini
https://piacentini.livejournal.com/7871.html

Outsourcing Debt Collection: Lessons to Learn

Thu, 24th April 2008, 16:16

With the economy in a free fall, India's call centers are receiving calls from more than frustrated consumers in America. While down and out Americans are increasingly defaulting on their payments, the businesses responsible to collect these debts are relying on outsourced Indian call centers to do their bidding. But they are not the first industry to venture into these waters.

Americans have grown accustomed to receiving calls from India for insurance claims and credit card sales. But debt collection represents a growing business for outsourcing companies, especially as the American economy slows and its consumers struggle to pay for their purchases. Automated dialing and Internet technology capable of contacting tens of thousands of Americans every hour has put confidential information like Social Security numbers, addresses and credit history at operators’ fingertips.

Debt collectors in India often cost about one-quarter the price of their American counterparts, and are often better at the job, debt collection company executives say. So far just a tiny fraction, maybe 5 percent, of American debt collection is done outside the country, industry executives estimate. There may be new business is in the pipeline. Just over 4.5 percent of all bank credit card accounts were delinquent in the fourth quarter of 2007, according to the Federal Reserve, up from 3.5 percent two years before. Businesses in the United States put $141 billion in delinquent consumer debt up for collection in 2005, according to a Price Waterhouse Coopers survey commissioned by an industry group, and debt collection agencies collected $51 billion that year. They kept nearly a quarter of that in profits.

In recent times, outsourcing as a publicly debated topic seems to revive every four year. Like elections.
While it appearance in the public arena may be cyclical,  for consumers, it is a source of discontent that usually appears every time the need to call for support arises.

Lessons Learned

A  study by Gartner indicates that outsourcing customer service options can cost a company more. Up to 30% more than keeping the staff in house. Research director Alexa Bona pointed out that “the outsourced service is often more efficient, but then outsourcers need to make a profit too.”  The report went on to give a bad outlook on outsourcing, indicating that 80% of companies that outsource to save money will fall short of goals. Additionally, 60% of those that outsource parts of their business that interact with customers will actually lose clients. However, the report did indicate that, if done successfully, companies can save 25 to 30% by outsourcing.

Dell Computers, once outsourced its call center to foreigners, and  have now relinquished them back to local control.
AT&T insists it made the decision to repatriate the jobs after successfully bargaining "competitive" wages with the CWA. But customer pressure to improve service may also have been a factor. Users of AT&T's home DSL service frequently pillory the company on online bulletin boards and blogs.
A poster on DSL reports.com complains that AT&T's "India tech support doesn't know anything." AT&T's spokesman declined to identify the vendor currently handling the company's offshore DSL support.
On Hostjury.com , there are numerous reviews, many of them quite humorous detailing the interaction between customers and service representatives. But a number of companies profiled on Hostjury have  related similar experiences.  
Brent Oxley CEO of HostGator was  asked “If you were to have started HostGator today, would you have done anything differently?  
"There was a very short period of time, years ago when it was just me and I couldn't afford 24/7 support personnel. I worked myself every second I was awake, but in order to cover shifts while I slept I chose to try outsourcing. This was by far one of the costliest mistakes I’ve ever made. The amount of money lost from customers leaving and damaged reputation far exceeded any amount of money saved. If I could go back in time and do it all over I would have found some way to come up with money to pay for in house support." he said


Many of these firms moving towards foreign outsourced services need to pay heed to the lessons learned by the IT industry. Customers of these firms must also be vocal about the need to keep these service local. Or they too, may be expressing their discontent with customer service, if they find themselves in the unfortunate place requiring it


Simply for reading pleasure

For your enjoyment, I have included some satirical views I've encountered, of the teaching methods utilized in call centers, as well as humorous exchanges from call center reps.

Workers were told that understanding Sylvester Stallone's lines was the final frontier in mastering American diction. Others were asked to watch Titanic and Ally McBeal, so they could mimic an acceptable American accent.
But no amount of training prepared them for what was to come.
More than 30,000 employees at Indian call centers, among whom Radhika becomes Ruth and Satish becomes Steve, are told to adopt American names and say they are calling from a U.S. city in order to put their American customers at ease.
Their training includes a smattering of U.S. history and geography, along with speech therapy so that they will sound "American." Some call centers are adorned with American flags to give a cultural feel to the place.
Along the way, these employees are exposed to a way of life that can come into direct conflict with their conservative values and, sometimes, their sanity.
Partho Banerjee, a 24-year-old employee at a call center in Mumbai for TransWorks, a computer outsourcing company, blushes when he recalls a sales pitch that he made to a 45-year-old American woman.
"She asked me to marry her," he said.
On another occasion, Partho let his accent slip and had to confess after being pointedly questioned that he was, in fact, an Indian sitting next to a telephone in Mumbai.
"The man told me, 'You guys blew up the WTC,'" he said. "I tried to explain India had nothing to do with it, but he just banged the phone down."
Another employee at a call center named Maulik Bhansali, 22, spoke to a man who kissed him over the phone many times before apologizing, "Sorry, if you are not gay. Is there anybody else in your company who is?"
Mandakini Pradhan, 21, once dialed an American home in an attempt to sell a caller ID system. The man told her, "Aren't you the girl who lives next door? Can you see me? I am naked."
One young call center employee  almost lost his job after telling a customer during a call that was monitored by his supervisor, "You will be intimated soon."  The American client who took the issue to the top brass, told us that a word like “intimate' was unacceptable as it meant something on the lines of intimacy.  Since Indians speak English the way Britishers do, we use a few expressions that common Americans normally don't.”
Indians are not always the victims of these quaint clashes of culture. Americans, too, suffer from a communication gap.
Veer Sagar, CEO of Selectronic, a medical transcription company, says that in his line of work his employees need not speak to Americans but merely listen to voice files of doctors' dictations and type out what they have heard.
Despite creating "an American ambience" by feeding his workers Coke and pizzas on weekends and making them watch two Hollywood movies every week, many in his firm cannot fully comprehend what Americans say.
Veer remembers a doctor who had said, "the patient's salary is twenty grand." The Indian transcript was typed, "The patient's salary is twenty. Very grand."
Another worker wrote that the patient was "a base reporter" when the doctor meant "ace reporter." Similarly, a doctor's analysis, "He is fond of marijuana," became, "He is fond of Mary Yuvane."
And "the incident occurred while at Macy's Thanksgiving parade," became "the incident occurred while Macy was giving thanks to the parade."

Open Source Community and forum software

Thu, 24th April 2008, 15:08

It isn't often that I take the time to give kudos to the software I use, despite being as militant as I am for open source. For the past few years I have been attempting to use as much open source as possible without giving into proprietary stuff. For the most part, open source wins.

There's several pieces of community software that I have built sites on these days. Most of which I've used to build other communities and sites. There's a few that I'm going to be detailing today including phpBB, Vanilla, punBB and SMF (SimpleMachines). Each piece of software has it's benefits and drawbacks, hopefully you'll find this post remotely useful.

Starting with the one I'd consider the underdog...

PunBB

PunBB is a fast and lightweight PHP-powered discussion board. Its primary goals are to be faster, smaller and less graphically intensive as compared to other discussion boards. PunBB has fewer features than many other discussion boards, but is generally faster and outputs smaller, semantically correct XHTML-compliant pages.

Success.
And they succeed at their mission. PunBB is very lightweight right out of the starting gate & for a basic community. The PunBB site features a great set of addons, plugins and frequent software and security updates. One aspect that I especially liked was a feature on their site named 'SpinkBB' which allows you to easily create a custom color scheme with minimal effort.

The underlying drawbacks I found about PunBB though was that it was almost too minimal. Many basic features seemed to be lacking but if the forum wasn't for my business site, I would have continued to use it for personal use. PunBB does a great job at what it intends to do: lightweight ass-kicking. :)


The next forum up is one of my favorites despite my inability to use it, at all.

Vanilla

Vanilla is an open-source, standards-compliant, multi-lingual, fully extensible discussion forum for the web. Anyone who has web-space that meets the requirements  can download and use Vanilla for free!

Vanilla is one of those forums that you simply want to use. It's minimalistic, absolutely stunning and basic enough that anyone can wield it. There's a massive range of extensions and an absolutely gorgeous site for fetching them. The man behind Vanilla is Canadian as well, maybe that's why I have some odd inextinguishable desire to have Vanilla's babies.

However that's where the love stops. Actually, that's right where the abuse started. Vanilla is great if you wish to continue using it in it's vanilla form or with any of the 'released' themes. Customizability, though?

Vanilla drawbacks

Vanilla has a stunning plugin system, a diverse range of themes developed for it but it's theming and template system is absolutely horrendous. I have used many, many forum systems prior and had no problems making minor tweaks, fiddling and all-in-all surviving in the code (despite having zero coding ability). Vanilla on the other hand, despite reading the documentation and spending a few days digging around on the official forum left me dazed and confused.

It may be far too advanced for me or things are just in general obfuscated. I couldn't get even the smallest changes implemented without an outright desire to drive myself off the nearest cliff. Since I'm in Toronto the trek to the nearest cliff would be several hours. Nonetheless, I was willing and ready to make the trip.

Vanilla is one of those systems you want to love but know you'll end up in ruins as an alcoholic after attempting to wield it for long. A ten in my book.. for the masochist.

Official Vanilla Forums

Onwards!

phpBB

Millions of people use phpBB on a daily basis, making it the most widely used opensource bulletin board system in the world. Whether you want to stay in touch with a small group of friends or are looking to set up a large multi-category board for a corporate website, phpBB has the features you need built in.

phpBB is hard to deny in the open source community. It's one of those forums that have been around and is older than rocks, it's frequently updated and there's a gigantic plethora of addons, plugins and themes available for it solely due to it's age. It's great, usable and the latest version really does have a lot to offer as a forum.

One of my own problems I have with phpBB though is my security concerns. As a piece of software it's been around for such a long time that with all of it's past, I simply can't trust it to build a community on. With the past phpBB team's delays and insane amounts of exploits being released for it... ah. But it's hard denying such beauty -- the latest version of it had an insane amount of effort put into it and is one of the most usable pieces of forum software out there today.

Even if you don't consider using it on a long-term basis I would recommend at least giving it a try.
phpBB Official Site
phpBB Community

SimpleMachines

SMF can trace its roots all the way back to a perl powered message board, YaBB. After awhile, there became a demand for a php coded version of YaBB. So that is where YaBBSE comes into play. While YaBBSE was getting bigger and bigger, there were certain aspects of it that just needed improvement and reworking. The decision was made that it was best to separate from YaBBSE because it was a lot different from YaBB and it was best to start from scratch. At this point, SMF started being developed. On September 29th, 2003, the first beta of SMF was released to charter members, SMF 1.0 Beta 1. While this was a huge milestone for SMF, only charter members had access to use it. But on March 10, 2004, SMF made its public debut with the first public SMF release available to everyone.

Last but certainly not least, SimpleMachines. SimpleMachines or SMF for short (Simple Machines Forum) is my favorite of all of the available software out there today. It's a great mix of usability and features, all the while still offering easy customization and addons.

While I admit I do find it a bit bulky and the 'default' template leaves a lot to be desired, I love it. Best of all? The community behind the system. Recently I had the opportunity to spend about 48 hours on their forum while a few of their team members made great efforts helping me move data from one old version of another forum (IPB) to SMF.

The process was not easy by any means and as it was one of my first times really digging into simplemachines from a technical standpoint, quite frankly it went horribly. Nonetheless their team was behind me 100% and even offered to help dig in on their own and spend their own time getting it up and running: To me, that tells me they're both confident with their software and care about the community enough to help get new folks using it.

Kudos SimpleMachines.
Official SimpleMachines Site
Official SimpleMachines Community

Building communities isn't the easiest thing to do but with free, open source software out there like the ones detailed above it certainly takes a lot of weight off our shoulders.

McCain's "Remove GasTaxes" Leadership or Folie

Wed, 23rd April 2008, 10:16

With oil set to break through the $120 mark and pump prices forecast to hit $4 bucks or more a gallon, Presidential candidate John McCain has called for all levels of government to remove their tax on gas. While this may bring a hoot from a couple of die hard Rush Limbaugh fans, the reality is that any relief would be short lived. While increased pump price do inflate tax coffers, revenue for government expenditures needs to be maintained with other areas of the economy teetering on disaster.

Most of us have a sense, that any tax relief would quickly be absorbed by the oil companies willing to swell their bludgeoning profit margins anyway. Other issues that John McCain should consider, are that while government takes a healthy share of the pump price, foreign governments in control of the oil, are taking approximately half of this pump price. While outside the scope of this article, many of these “friendly” governments utilize these windfalls to finance terrorism and suicide attacks. With such windfall profits, the need and cost of bolstering our militaries, may become even more blatantly apparent with time.

The Underlying Issue

While short term solutions may be debated, the underlying issue which has been facing western civilization for decades is the need to use less oil. In a growing global economy, even with more evolved extraction techniques, there simply will not be enough oil to meet the demands. Also, as we begin to struggle with the increased cost associated with the environmental impact of our lifestyles, there should be a realistic expectations of additional price increases.

Solutions

As a society, we need to shift our focus to changes we can adopt. Many of the pie in the sky solutions proposed after the 70's oil crisis, are no longer visions for the future. While a gas powered BMW automobile today has more on board computers than the first moon shot, computers and technological advances have allowed an American company, Tesla Motors to develop and produce electric vehicles that have 0 to 60 mph acceleration of 3.9 seconds, combined with an EPA rating of 135 MPG. Other advances such as utilizing lightweight carbon fiber instead of steel and plastic would revolutionize the automobile.

Technologies collectively known as concentrating photovoltaics are starting to enjoy their day in the sun, thanks to advances in solar cells, which absorb light and convert it into electricity, and the mirror- or lens-based concentrator systems that focus light on them. The technology could soon make solar power as cheap as electricity from the grid. Similar advances are being made in wind power, and utilizing hydrogen fuel cells.

An estimated 1.35 billion gallons of gasoline could be conserved annually if every U.S. worker with the ability to telecommute did so 1.6 days per week, according to a report released by the American Electronics Association,  "Fewer commuters on the roads means reduced fuel consumption, traffic congestion and air pollution," said Christopher Hansen, president of the association, the nation's largest high-tech trade group.

Embracing these solutions will revolutionize and revitalize our economy. 

Lots of oil 

Others would suggest that we should continue to develop underutilized sources of  domestic oil such as the Florida Gulf Coast, Alaska, or the Alberta Tar Sands. Alberta does have tremendous amounts of oil available. But at what cost. The deep mining and extraction of crude oil from the tar sands in Alberta has already generated a series of ecological threats:

• greenhouse gas emissions from tar sands production are three times those of conventional oil and gas production [currently tar sands production emits 27 megatonnes annum and is expected to rise to 108-
126 megatonnes per annum by 2015]. Thus, the tar sands are now poised to become Canada’s largest single emitter of greenhouse gas, compounding this country’s contribution to global warming;

•water depletion and pollution: where an average of 2 to 4.5 [and as high as 7] barrels of water are used to produce one barrel of oil, thereby seriously lowering the water levels of the Athabasca River, the Mackenzie Valley watershed and other related water sources in the region. And, toxic water spewing from tar sands production has infected fish and wildlife.

• boreal forest destruction through the stripping away of the Athabasca forest lands through oil mining operations, thereby digging a huge hole in the northern lungs of the planet that could, if completed, it would encompass a land mass the size of the state of Florida. Yet, the boreal forests have a key role to play in the sequestration of carbon dioxide emissions from greenhouse gases;

• tailings ponds, vast holding tanks the size of lakes, some as large as 15 square kilometers, containing hydrocarbons and other chemical by products from tar sands production.

But is John McCain  proposing relief that we can feel today. The pain at the pump will only escalate with continue dependence on oil from any source. Twenty five percent of all the oil produced has been consumed in the last ten years. As we sip from our water bottles, we need to consider that the bottle came from oil, and the water may have been used in the tar sands project. We can not eliminate oil from our diet overnight, nor can we depend on profit driven companies to lead the way. We the consumers need to lead. Until we do, we should expect to pay an ever increasing costs for our addiction.

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Google earnings Pale Compared to Another Earnings Report

Mon, 21st April 2008, 13:57

The BBC is reporting that Internet search engine Google has seen quarterly profits soar by 69%, beating expectations, boosted by strong advertising revenue. Net income climbed to $1bn (£499m) in the first three months of 2007, up from $592m on a year earlier.

While this is impressive earnings by any standard, it pales in comparison to another earnings report released last week by a Congressional research and investigation agency.

Cybercrime in its various forms-- computer crime, identity theft and phishing -- costs the U.S. economy some US$117.5 billion a year, reported the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

"These projected losses are based on direct and indirect costs that may include actual money stolen, estimated cost of intellectual property stolen, and recovery cost of repairing or replacing damaged networks and equipment," says the report, released through the offices of Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.), chairman of the committee on Homeland Security, and James R. Langevin (D-R.I.), chairman of the subcommittee on Emerging Threats, Cybersecurity, Science and Technology.

The goal of many сybercriminals is to infect thousands of computers and turn them into a network of devices that have been compromised by worms or viruses, known as a "bot-net." Bot-nets are a very powerful tool for crime, crucial to executing distributed denial of service attacks, spam and phishing scams, which makes them the growing weapon of choice for fraud and extortion.

While many articles are available, detailing various ways to lessen the risk of becoming a victim, the most powerful tool, Encryption, is not even in the toolbox. (at least legally speaking)

The Electronic Frontier Foundation has now filed a lawsuit challenging the the current Arms Export Control Law, which limits our ability to utilize this tool, on First Amendment grounds.

EFF, which has various lawsuits filed, including a class-action lawsuit against AT&T [Hepting v. AT&T] which accused the telecom giant of violating the law and the privacy of its customers by collaborating with the National Security Agency (NSA) in its massive, illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.

Shari Steele, Director of Legal Services at EFF states:


Quoting: “The United States Government requires network providers to keep their systems easily exploited. Encryption would enable companies to thwart unwanted intrusion by disguising the content of messages, making the messages virtually unreadable to anyone who does not possess the decryption key. Computer intruders would not be able to steal passwords or credit card information because they would not be able to read the data.

Furthermore, encryption helps authenticate users by making it difficult to forge information used to identify messages. But network security poses an interesting threat to U.S. law enforcement. If the system is secure, how can the National Security Agency intercept the messages of evil terrorists?

Rather than "ramp up" their own law enforcement techniques, the NSA and others have made a requirement that the networks "dumb down" to their level. Such antiquated Cold War thinking has resulted in the State Department refusing to remove encryption from the U.S. Munitions List, -- where it currently sits right alongside flamethrowers and B-1 bombers -- severely restricting its legal use on international networks like the Internet.” end quote

We all know how quickly these cases proceed. We should all continue to sleep with the doors and windows unlocked, and one eye open. Meanwhile its reassuring to know, by utilizing pseudonyms and other online identities, which provides an anonymity that is attractive to criminals, sources have estimated that only 5% of cybercriminals are ever caught or convicted.

I think I'll stick to my original thought. It may be better to phish five days and work two.

See also:

https://www.terroritory.com/2008/04/06/centers-tap-into-personal-databases/

https://www.terroritory.com/2008/02/12/senate-passes-bush-approved-fisa-update/

https://hostjury.com/blog/view/130/i-say-we-work-two-days-and-phish-five