29 March 2008

Sony products – NOT for consumer benefit.

Certain manufacturers push for their proprietary standards, in order to maximise profits in the investment of their technology. This is generally NOT to the benefit of the consumer.

One such example is the memory card. There are many standards and new one always being brought out. It is debatable whether the new standards are of benefit to the user or just another means of the companies to force the users to upgrade to their new technologies.

This comparison will compare Sony’s Memory Stick to the Secure Digital Card.

When Sony invented the 1GB Memory Stick, the technology was already in place to deliver it with a capacity of 32 GB.

For all intensive purposes the technology required to produce 2GB is the same, whether it be in SD or Sony’s MS format. To be fair to the comparison the same manufacturer, Sandisk is used.

2GB in

Micro SD - $43.95

(Sony)M2 - $65.95

This example clearly illustrates that there is a premium of 50% to use the Sony product, with no benefit to the end user whatsoever.

Source: mobile issue 1 Summer 07/08

28 March 2008

Men admit road rage attack on toddler

Two Perth men have pleaded guilty to a road rage attack which left a toddler with a gashed face that required plastic surgery.

Jason Paul Cominelli, 32, from Stratton in Perth's east, and his twin brother Murray Dean Cominelli, admitted smashing the windows of the car driven by the two-year-old's mother with a heavy metal steering lock in August last year.

They had driven after the mother's car after another traffic incident in Perth's eastern suburbs.

When she stopped outside a hotel, with her daughter and four-year-old son inside her car, one of the men shattered the windows with the lock.

Police believed the lock had gone through the window and hit the girl.

She received a V-shaped wound running from the temple to the cheek and underwent reconstructive plastic surgery.

Following the operation, a Princess Margaret Hospital spokeswoman said the girl was recovering well.

The Cominelli brothers fled the scene but were later each charged with two counts of assault occasioning bodily harm and one count of criminal damage.

A spokeswoman for the Midland Magistrates Court said the two men appeared in court on Thursday and pleaded guilty to the charges.

They are due to reappear in the court on April 25 for sentencing.

Carey opens up in television interview

Disgraced AFL star Wayne Carey never "intentionally" struck his girlfriend, he told ABC's Andrew Denton in a confessional TV interview.

Denton said it was one of the hardest interviews he's done: "Normally there's light and shade, difficult things and good things, but this was all difficult."

"When I asked him about being aggressive toward women, he was surprised he'd be seen that way," Denton said.

Carey allegedly smashed a wine glass over girlfriend Kate Neilson's face in a Miami hotel last October.

Nor was the former AFL great sorry for indecently assaulting a woman outside a Melbourne nightclub in 1995, telling Denton the press conference in which apologised was forced on Carey by his football club and that his words were insincere.

But Carey said in the interview he is too ashamed of his behaviour to go out in public.

Carey, 36, also admitted to binge drinking and using cocaine in an interview with Andrew Denton, to air.

Denton described Carey as "articulate, polite and almost charming" throughout the two-hour interview, in which he opened up about how he has been spending his time.

"He has been too embarrassed to go outside for the past eight weeks and has been hiding from house to house because he's so ashamed of what he's done," Denton has told News Ltd.

"We forensically went though everything on the record about him since 1995, all the incidents he has been involved in.

"We also talked to his family members, his older brother Dick and older sister Karen, who were there to piece together how he went from being the king to where he is today," Denton said about the interview to be aired on ABC's Enough Rope on Monday night.

Carey is expected to be charged over lashing out at police during a domestic dispute at his Port Melbourne penthouse on January 27.

The former Melbourne premiership captain is already facing criminal charges for assaulting police in the US state of Florida, which happened after he allegedly smashed a wine glass over his girlfriend.

The revelations about Carey's behaviour have resulted in him losing various lucrative jobs in the football media.

Carey also said he resorted to binge drinking during his AFL career and began using cocaine after football "because it enabled him to drink longer," Denton said.

But Carey "flatly denied" receiving an estimated $180,000 for a recent New Idea interview in which he revealed his addiction to cocaine.

Denton said the denial "seemed unbelievable" thought Carey was evasive in other parts of the interview.

"I think he came really wanting to be candid but left not being as candid as he wanted to be," Denton told Fairfax.

Carey also denied he had been paid for a New Idea interview that he and his girlfriend gave, in which he admitted to having a cocaine problem, Fairfax reported.

Carey will appear in court in Miami next month on two felony charges of aggravated battery of a police officer and a charge of resisting arrest with violence.

If convicted, he could face up to 15 years in an American jail.

ninemsn 28 March 2008

Two charged in US with torturing Aussie

An Australian tourist was celebrating his 26th birthday and in the middle of a round-the-world holiday when he was bashed and burned alive in a fire pit on a Californian beach.

Robert Schneider remains in a medically induced coma with third-degree burns and his parent are calling on the local beach community to help catch his attackers.

US prosecutors have already filed torture and assault charges against two men accused of taking turns kicking Robert and bashing him with a skateboard before throwing his near-comatose body in a pit of burning wood.

Robert was eventually dragged from the pit, on San Diego's Ocean Beach, by a homeless man — but not before Robert suffered severe burns to his torso and legs as well as a fractured skull and face, local police said.

The brutal attack happened on February 27, the night of Robert's 26th birthday.

His mother, Judy Schneider, said to television news station NBC San Diego: "Having a brawl on the beach is one thing. But beating a kid to death? And who throws a kid in a fire?"

She and husband Peter have been by their son's side at a Californian hospital for the past three weeks while Robert has undergone repeated skin grafts and surgeries, NBC reports.

Local police are looking for two transients known to the area, 21-year-old Damian Maple and 46-year-old Frank Montoya.

San Diego Police Lieutenant John Leas said the two suspects met Robert on Ocean Beach and shared a few drinks around a fire before a fight broke out.

"Eventually when they were done [bashing Robert] and he was almost comatose, they proceeded to put him into the fire ring where they had been burning about six different pallets of wood," Lt. Leas said.

The San Diego County district attorney Bonnie M. Dumanis today filed torture and assault charges against Maple and Montoya.

"In serious case like this one, it's not unusual for us to file criminal charges against defendants before they are in custody," Mr Dumanis said.

"The victims in this case deserve justice and anyone with information is asked to contact local law enforcement."

Maple and Montoya will be profiled on FOX TV's America's Most Wanted show on March 30. Between them they face seven felony counts and up to life in prison if convicted.

ninemsn 28 March 2008

Crazy John's rides on virtual network

case study | Crazy John's

THE writing was on the wall as a protracted and costly legal stoush between Telstra and Crazy John's drew to a close in mid-2007.

When the two parties went their separate ways, the late John Ilhan, founder of mobile phone retailer Crazy John's, knew he had to carry out his attack with precision and speed.

For more than a decade, Ilhan's $300 million company had been one of Telstra's top dealers.

The bitter divorce led to Crazy John's switching partners, aligning with Vodafone to offer products ranging from pre-paid mobile telephony to small business services at more than 100 outlets.

By piggybacking on Vodafone, Crazy John's became a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) a few months later, launching the service under its own name.

The lead time to launch was extremely short and Crazy John's had to cobble together disparate systems to meet its deadline, recalls former chief technology officer Ken Tan.

"Most companies that become a MVNO don't have a lot of money, so they tend to take shortcuts with back-end systems.

"Some would choose a telco-in-a-box system, while others would purchase some systems off the shelf and develop the rest in-house.

"John wanted to do things properly, so we began designing and documenting the business flows and use cases first," he says.

The key to removing the roadblock then became clear: "There were standalone systems such as customer relationship management (provided by Graham Technology), billing and other back-office systems such as payment gateways, mobile porting, inventory management and finance, that were not flexibly working with each other," Dr Tan says.

"Connecting them through middleware solved the problem and reduced the complexity of changing the system for changing market conditions," he says.

Crazy John's mobile network had to be highly streamlined and optimised for the beating it was about to take. "Customers don't like waiting around for provisioning and activation processes to complete, nor do they care if sales representatives need to work with many legacy systems," he says.

They're generally time-poor and intolerant of system limitations. "We needed a way to glue everything together while maintaining flexibility in the system so we would be able to modify processes according to changes in the market.

We looked around for a solution. "A number of products were evaluated before Oracle got the nod. We also looked at BEA AquaLogic but selected the Oracle suite because of its inherent integration with other Oracle products on Crazy John's platform," he says.

Solving the middleware problem was only one part of the puzzle.

Dr Tan's departure from the company in December would have left a gaping hole but he decided to remain an integral part of the Crazy John's operation.

As systems integration and software development managing director for Enterprise Glue, he continues to drive technology projects at Crazy John's, especially its MVNO business.

The Crazy John's mobile platform has "tremendous potential", he says, hinting at bigger things to come in the pre-paid space.

"There's a perception that pre-paid customers aren't creditworthy and they're consequently given less visibility.

"But pre-paid customers are actually more valuable than post-paid customers because operators are paid upfront," the Melbourne-based executive says.

Unlike traditional operators, Crazy John's chose the platform with pre-paid customers in mind.

"Crazy John's is probably one of the few telcos that can give pre-paid customers near-real-time usage. If a pre-paid customer goes into the Crazy John's portal now they can see how much they've used.

"Other carriers don't want pre-paid customers to have access to their statements because they think that might tell them they're spending too much, but we disagree."


Crazy John's turned into a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) overnight and needed an integrated platform.


Oracle middleware tools were deployed by Enterprise Glue to bring together disparate systems, including customer relationship management and billing.


Crazy John's is a fully functioning MVNO operator.

AAP February 26, 2008

Credit card security doesn't travel we’ll

CREDIT cards issued in Australia are being skimmed in increasing numbers and used to commit fraud here and overseas.

Old-style magstripe cards cannot be validated by the chip and PIN systems used widely around the world, but some card issuers permit their use for customer convenience.

As a result, insecure cards are prized by international criminals.

"If you use an Australian credit card in some countries, it is likely to be blocked," Lockstep Consulting smartcard and security expert Stephen Wilson says.

"This is because acquiring banks understand there is so much fraud in some jurisdictions that the card has become compromised."

Australian Payments Clearing Association chief executive Chris Hamilton says that local banks are developing plans for the introduction of chip and PIN.

There is no industry mandate on the switch, but APCA has established a Chip For Australia forum to co-ordinate the migration of autoteller, eftpos and credit card systems from magnetic stripe to chip technology.

Meanwhile, Stephen Wilson says card skimming at autotellers is only the tip of the iceberg. Organised crime gangs use matchbox-sized portable devices - bought online in bulk - to collect information from hundreds of magstripe cards at a time.

"It's so much easier for a criminal to bribe someone than try to tamper with an autoteller," Wilson says.

"Typically, they give a device to an attendant at a late-night service station or convenience store and get him to swipe customer cards for a while.

"Then they come back, pay the going rate and walk out with several hundred credit cards in a memory stick."

Industrial-scale card theft is an inevitable response to changing fraud opportunities, chief executive Carl Clump says of Retail Decisions, a payment card company that specialises in retail card fraud prevention.

By the time British financial institutions rolled out chip and PIN-protected cards in 2005, "the fraudsters had already changed their business model", Clump says.

Three years before, "they knew chip and PIN was going to curtail the opportunities for fraud with lost or stolen cards", he says. "So they turned their attention to card not present (CNP) - where the retailer never sees the piece of plastic behind the transaction nor, indeed, the cardholder." Lucrative CNP environments include mail or phone orders, interactive television purchasing and online shopping.

"CNP fraud is romping away," Clump says. "British statistics indicate that for the first six months of 2007, total card fraud was up 15 per cent compared with the same period in 2006.

"Lost and stolen fraud was down 15 per cent.

"On the other hand, CNP increased by 44 per cent. So CNP now represents 50 per cent or more of total fraud in Britain."

APCA's figures suggest a similar story. In 2006-07, domestic and overseas CNP fraud on Australian-issued cards reached $40 million. In contrast, total fraud committed with lost or stolen cards cost $16 million.

Frost and Sullivan industry analyst Simon Hayes says local consumers have not pushed for greater card security because they're not generally held liable for fraudulent transactions.

"There has always been a lack of enthusiasm here for chip cards with PIN because there's nothing in it for consumers," he says.

"People don't like being ripped off, but if it happens they're reasonably confident the banks will reimburse them."

Banks generally charge the fraud back to the merchants, so they also have been quite slow to move on more secure systems.

AAP February 26, 2008

Labor about-face on hi-tech snooping

A BILL that extends police powers to eavesdrop on private conversations and emails has been referred for review following intervention by Democrat and Green senators.

The Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Amendment Bill, described by federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland as "time-critical" and containing only minor "technical changes", will be examined by a Senate committee.

"The bill seeks to expand the covert intelligence-gathering powers of ASIO and the Federal Police by allowing monitoring of multiple communications devices," a spokesman for Democrat Senator Natasha Stott Despoja said.

"The Rudd Government was less than forthright about this, attaching these amendments to an extension of sunset provisions, and saying there were no new powers for security or law enforcement agencies. "But both the Law Council and Electronic Frontiers Australia have expressed concern that it amounts to an incremental expansion in telecommunication interception powers."

Ms Stott Despoja said last week she would oppose the bill in the Senate, after it had passed through the House of Representatives without comment. The Government then agreed to refer the bill for further consideration.

Ms Stott Despoja's spokesman said Labor had slammed the former Howard government over the original legislation in 2006, and had demanded dozens of amendments that were rejected. "The ALP said at the time that a 'lazy attorney-general' had 'not struck the balance', and as a result privacy was not sufficiently protected," the spokesman said.

"Yet the first act of the new Attorney-General is to revisit the bill, without considering whether the privacy of innocent third parties will be breached."

AAP March 25, 2008

Consumers pay for banks' creaky system

BANKS are gouging penalty fees from customers caught out by 30-year-old payment processing systems that cannot transact in real time, industry experts say.

Banks slugged householders more than $1.6 billion in penalties for failed direct debits, exceeding card limits and late payments on credit cards last year, consumer magazine Choice says, but they have been slow to adopt new technology to prevent errors.

Banking systems and practices will come under scrutiny in a Senate inquiry on the Fair Bank and Credit Card Fees Amendment Bill, introduced by Family First Senator Steve Fielding last year.

"Outrageous bank fees need to be reined in," he said. "Banks have been encouraging people to use electronic transactions, but instead of fees coming down they've gone up.

"The issue is doing away with fees that are totally unfair, and getting the rest back to reasonable cost recovery." Mike Aston, chief executive of real-time payments processing developer Distra, said most banks and credit card firms were still using systems that were 25 to 30 years old, and written in the obsolete Cobol language.

"Until recently, these systems did the job, and there wasn't much incentive to replace them," he said.

"But there have been a lot of regulatory and competitive changes in the past few years.

"These clunky old systems can't get any closer than 24-hour settlement.

"During the day they're simply exchanging messages about transactions, while settlement and reconciliation takes place overnight as a batch process."

Distra, a local technology startup, had developed and proven a next-generation retail payments switch that allowed real-time settlement and reporting, Mr Aston said.

National Australia Bank is the first locally to adopt Distra's platform. Four British banks are using it to meet immediate settlement rules as part of the Faster Payments program.

Senator Fielding said some banks charged up to 16 times the real cost of processing a dishonoured cheque, and 92 times the cost of processing a failed direct debit transaction.

"If, for example, your pay goes in late and the money is not there to cover three automatic payments, Westpac would charge up to $50 for each failed transaction," he said.

"National Australia Bank would charge a fee of $30 daily for overdrawing the account, and $35 for each deferred payment - adding up to $135 just in the first day.

"These penalties hit the people who can least afford it, the low-income earners, pensioners, young people - $30 is a lot of money to them, and they feel they've got no comeback against the banks."

The Senate Economics Committee will start a new inquiry after a part-heard review was stalled by the federal election in November.

The bill had been tightened up in response to initial feedback, Senator Fielding said.

Choice's senior policy officer, Elissa Freeman, said the substantial issues had not changed, despite efforts by the Australian Bankers Association to provide more information about penalties.

"We continue to hear from consumers who are frustrated by fees applied to their accounts," she said. "While some banks have tried to improve things, there are too many still charging high fees."

Ms Freeman said the proposed bill "takes us further down the path" to establishing a regulator with the "necessary powers to provide oversight" on penalties.

"At the end of the day, this issue cannot be resolved through disclosure alone," she said.

Mark Ganz, senior industry analyst at IBISWorld, said banks continued to invest "significant sums" in technology and payments infrastructure, but "most of these features are simply add-ons" to old systems.

"These seem to be doing the job, but clearly banks will reach a point where they need to totally overhaul their payment system," Mr Ganz said.

"At present, the business case in time, complexity and cost does not justify the small improvement an overhaul would make to some of the existing shortfalls."

Mr Aston said real-time payment systems allowed financial institutions an opportunity to become more agile in service delivery and developing new revenue streams.

AAP March 25, 2008

Kaz sale collapses over price gap

TELSTRA's attempt to sell the remainder of its information technology services group, Kaz, has stalled because it could not agree on a price with prospective buyer Fujitsu Australia.

It is understood the two groups were up to $90 million apart on the price, with Telstra wanting close to $190 million and the buyer offering only $100 million.

Fujistu's bid had been pushed along by chairman Ted Pretty, who was involved with the original $333 million deal to buy Kaz in 2004 when he was senior Telstra executive, and who is familiar with the remaining operations of the business.

The group was also understood to be interested in parts of the struggling small business telecommunications company, Commander.

Fujistu's failure to complete the deal has left the door open for rival IT services group CSC, which looked at Kaz last year before walking away.

A Telstra spokesman refused to comment on whether the negotiations had fallen through with Fujitsu or what it was planning for the business.

CSC Australia declined to comment on whether it was again interested in Kaz.

A Fujitsu spokeswoman said it did not comment on speculation.

Telstra had engaged with a number of multinational services companies over several months in an effort to offload its troubled services arm, according to industry sources.

However, Fujitsu was the only serious bidder to emerge from this process. It began negotiations with Telstra earlier this year to purchase the remainder of Kaz.

The telco acquired the business for $333 million in 2004, and has realised about $230 million from slicing off parts it over the past couple of years, including $215 million when it sold superannuation processing subsidiary AAS in 2006.

Telstra's spokesman wouldn't disclose the value of the remaining Kaz business but it is believed to have about $180 million sitting on its balance sheet.

Price was always the sticking point between the two parties, with the telco demanding much more than Fujitsu was prepared to pay.

"You get the feeling the business is not profitable, otherwise the deal would have been done," a source close to the deal said a couple of weeks ago.

"An offer of $100 million would stack up pretty quickly because it's not very big for the likes of Fujitsu."

While Telstra has been busy carving up Kaz and selling it off piecemeal, one of the key remaining assets is Aspect Computing, the group's government division.

Fujitsu was interested in controlling this piece of Kaz as part of efforts to bolster its Canberra presence, a source familiar with the negotiations said.

"The Aspect Consulting business is very large in Canberra. Fujitsu would be interested in increasing its footprint in Canberra through the old Aspect business, and it must be looking at the original Kaz outsourcing business," the source said.

The multinational would take advantage of the asset when the time came to bid on big-ticket federal government outsourcing projects coming up for tender in the next year.

During 2007, Telstra conducted a lengthy review of its Kaz business and chief executive Sol Trujillo made it clear the business was not considered core for the company.

Early last year, Telstra removed responsibility for its big-four accounts from Kaz: NAB, Woolworths, Westpac and Qantas. These are now managed by Telstra's enterprise and government group.

"What is there left to sell?," one person familiar with the business queried.

The shift coincided with the jobs of 650 Kaz staff being moved within Telstra.

AAP 15 March, 2008

26 March 2008

Dad guilty of putting baby in microwave

A young father has been convicted of badly injuring his infant daughter by putting her in a microwave in a Texas hotel room, with jurors rejecting his claim he was insane at the time.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before finding 20-year-old Joshua Mauldin guilty of felony injury to a child.

After the verdict, they deliberated Mauldin's punishment for two hours without a decision. They were set to resume deliberating on Wednesday.

Mauldin faces anything from probation to life in prison.

He pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, saying he was having a psychotic episode when he put his then two-month-old daughter, Ana, in a hotel microwave for 10 to 20 seconds last May while her mother and grandmother were away.

Prosecutors and Mauldin's defence lawyer, Sam Cammack, had no immediate comment after the verdict.

Mauldin sat emotionless as his daughter's foster mother detailed in penalty phase testimony how Ana's burn wounds still needed to be cleaned every day and how she screamed during the painful process.

The witness, Heather Croxton, said she hoped to adopt Ana, now one year old.

Another trial scheduled for next month will seek to terminate the parental rights of Joshua and Eva Mauldin, who live in Arkansas. Croxton's husband is a step-cousin of Eva Mauldin.

Croxton said Ana will need more operations to remove scar tissue and reconstruct her left ear, but she said she was more worried about the day Ana finds out what happened to her.

"I can only imagine how (she) would feel, knowing that the man that was supposed to take care of her did this to her," Croxton said as she cried.

"As far as telling her the truth ... I don't see how we cannot tell her. She's going to want to know how she got those scars."

Cammack told jurors during closing arguments on Monday that mental illness was probably the only explanation for his client's actions.

"Joshua Mauldin has been somebody with mental illness from the time he was 10 years old until the time this offence was committed," he said.

But prosecutors countered that Mauldin was driven by anger that he was in a loveless marriage and was stuck in a new town with a baby he didn't want to care for.

"All (Mauldin) has done is try to wrap himself in some psychiatric flag and say, 'I did it and I was crazy,"' Galveston County prosecutor Xochitl Vandiver told jurors.

"That's what he's trying to pull on you all. Don't fall for it, because it is a lie."

Officials say Ana suffered second and third-degree burns to her left ear, cheek, hand and shoulder and needed skin grafts.

Before putting her in the microwave, Mauldin had punched the baby and put her in the hotel room safe and refrigerator.

At the time, Mauldin had just moved to Galveston, about 80km south-east of Houston, from Warren, Arkansas, to become a preacher.

Cammack said Mauldin was a loving father who tried to run into traffic and kill himself after realising what had happened.

The state defines not guilty by reason of insanity as having a severe mental illness that prevents someone who is committing a crime from knowing that it is wrong.

23 March 2008

NSW fire station 'built wrong way round'

A $2 million state-of-the-art fire station in Bathurst has been the wrong way round, making it impractical and dangerous, the NSW Fire Brigades Union says.

Work on the station on Alexander St was begun with much fanfare, with former NSW emergency services minister Tony Kelly describing the taxpayer funded station as state-of-the-art, as he turned the first sod.

Things had soured by the station's opening on March 14, however.

A building bungle means the facility has been built the wrong way round, forcing fire engines to drive out the back door rather than front, News Ltd newspapers reported.

But using the back exit has caused problems for drivers, who have been forced to make dog-leg manoeuvres to get onto the road.

The new station is impractical and dangerous, the union says.

"Imagine a 20-tonne truck doing a dog-leg on ice at 2am while responding to an emergency," union state secretary Simon Flynn said.

"It is a totally ridiculous situation. We actually think that the government has built the wrong station - it can't be possible that this is the same building that we saw in the plans. It is a total stuff up."

IBM GSA – Employment Agency Fraud

IBM-GSA (a Telstra /Lend Lease Joint venture) is involved in a large scale monetary fraud together with its suppliers i.e. the labour hire agencies. These agencies are some of the larger employment firms in Australia.

The primary objective for any employment agency, like in any business, is to create profit. This is achieved by selling a resource with a profit margin. To distance themselves from the human element of the trade, agencies commonly refer to people as resources. The resource has to be a sellable commodity otherwise profit cannot be generated by the agency. The recruiter is not concerned by the need for employment of an individual, rather a profit margin dictated by the agency.

IBM-GSA has fraudulently underpaid it workers through the agencies. This procedure has been detailed and passed on to one of Australia’s largest law firms, Slater and Gordon, that specialises in rights of the disadvantaged worker. A response was given as a positive, that the matter falls within the definitions of Corporate fraud. This as it is a practice that is still occurring to this day.

The firm was then asked when it could start a class action law suit against the companies involved, the response given was that they are too busy, it is not financially viable for them, and that the prospective litigant would have to undertake the matter of their own financial accord.

Australia’s Anglo-Masonic court system dictates the success of any court matter brought forward. It is not in the interest of many corporations to have this matter made public, let alone the commencement of a class action law suit, from an individual who is not of the Anglo-Masonic background.

In a similar matter, an individual, who rounded down the cents of employee’s pays, was discovered, and convicted. In the example mentioned above, the figure is far greater than that of the convicted individual.