News in brief

Short takes from this week's news

Short takes from this week's news

Walsall U-turn on outsourcing mega deal

Walsall Council has dropped a proposed outsourcing deal with Fujitsu, which in December 2004 was named preferred bidder for the £500m contract. Council leader Tom Ansell said, "Cabinet members felt that the needs of the people of Walsall would not be best served by the partnership proposals in its present form." Ovum Holway analyst John O'Brien said, "Local authorities have become far tougher customers to do business with, and suppliers will need to prove they are up to the challenge."

BT Global Services uses CyberGuard firewalls

BT Global Services has deployed 140 CyberGuard firewalls as part of a project to provide secure managed services to companies in the finance sector. BT and CyberGuard have customised the firewalls to meet the needs of BT's clients. The firewalls were integrated into BT's existing infrastructure without disrupting its services.

Police to develop face recognition technology

The Police IT Organisation has begun work to develop a business case to deploy face recognition technology across the UK. The organisation is developing a national database of facial images and videos, which can be retrieved and shared between police forces. Dubbed "Find", the system will be piloted in the first quarter of the year.

US regulator to formally check IBM accounts

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is formally investigating possible inaccurate accounts posted by IBM for its first quarter last year. Financial analysts complained last year about IBM's accounting of expenses related to employee stock options. The SEC was already looking into the matter informally, but the step up to a formal investigation means the regulator can order the disclosure of documents.

Quicktime security patch causes problems

A security update to Apple's Quicktime media player is being blamed for a variety of problems for users running Mac OS X or Windows. Apple released the Quicktime 7.0.4 update last week to fix several serious security issues, but some Mac OSX users who have installed the patch have complained of deleted files and applications, and unplayable movie files. Some Windows users have also reported difficulties. suffers CRM service outage, which offers hosted customer relationship management systems, has confirmed that its European subscribers faced an outage earlier this month. The outage, which hit Europe, the Middle East and Africa, came just weeks after a major failure in December when users were unable to access the service for almost a whole day. Salesforce has 18,700 subscribers, including mobile telecoms provider Orange, Avery, Expedia and TravelEx.

Firms collaborate on spyware measures

Several leading software companies are collaborating on standards to identify and combat spyware. The Anti-Spyware Coalition is producing spyware detection guidelines, which are due to be published in October.

Pinder takes over as chair of Becta

Former e-envoy Andrew Pinder has been appointed chair of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, the government agency that oversees the use of IT in schools and colleges. Welcoming the appointment, skills minister Phil Hope said, "Andrew was the prime minister's e-envoy and has worked in both the private and public sectors in his career. He will play a key role in driving forward technology in the education agenda."

H&M signs Tiscali to deliver VPN

Clothing retailer H&M has signed up internet and broadband company Tiscali to deliver a quality of service-enabled IP virtual private network across its branches. The service - designed, implemented and managed by virtual network operator TFM - will allow H&M to run its store and stock management systems, Epos systems and voice over IP telephony system.

HSBC prepares bird flu contingency plans

HSBC has said it is preparing for staff to work at home and through video and teleconference links in the event of a bird flu pandemic. In a worst-case scenario, the bank believes that up to half its staff may be unavailable for work. Other contingency plans discussed include cleaning offices once an hour to limit infection.

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