Global Dispatches

An international news digest

University Dean Fired Over Chip R&D Fraud

SHANGHAI -- The firing of a prominent academic official here this month for faking the development of a well-known chip family is an embarrassing setback for the Chinese government, which views high-tech research and development as a key piece of China's economic future.

Chen Jin, who was the dean of Shanghai Jiaotong University's School of Microelectronics, was sacked after a government investigation determined that he falsely claimed that he and a team of co-workers developed the Hanxin series of digital signal processors used in mobile phones and other devices.

The initial Hanxin DSP chip was hailed by Chinese officials as a breakthrough for the country's semiconductor industry after it was unveiled in 2003 by a company Chen had set up. Three more versions have been released since then.

The fraud began to unravel in December with the start of a two-month investigation into the Hanxin project. The investigators from China's Ministry of Science and Technology, which helped fund the chip development work, found that none of the chips met the specifications claimed by Chen.

For example, they discovered that the dual-core Hanxin 4 is based on a processor core from ARM Ltd. in Cambridge, England, not on one developed by Chen and his team, the Shanghai university said.

Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Kenya Withdraws From Telecom Cable Project

NAIROBI, Kenya -- A debate about open access threatens to delay the Eastern Africa Submarine Cable System project, which is designed to link the African continent to global telecommunications networks via fiber-optic cable.

Construction is slated to begin by the end of June. But earlier this month, the Kenyan government announced that it is withdrawing its support for the $200 million project because of wrangling over whether to provide Internet service providers with free access to the fiber-optic link.

In addition, the sponsors of the project have yet to choose a construction company to lay the 9,900-kilometer cable from the Sudanese city of Port Sudan to Durban in South Africa.

"Three years have passed now since the project was envisioned, and nothing has been done apart from holding meetings," Bitange Ndemo, Kenya's permanent secretary for information and communication, said in an e-mail message.

Michael Malakata, IDG News Service

Alleged E-mail 'Bomber' Faces Trial After Ruling

LONDON -- A teenager who allegedly crashed a former employer's server by sending a torrent of junk e-mail, a practice known as mail bombing, is due to stand trial after a British appeals court rejected a lower-court ruling that the incident didn't violate the U.K.'s Computer Misuse Act.

David Lennon, 18, faces up to five years in prison on a charge of unauthorized modification of a computer. The case comes amid calls for revisions to the Computer Misuse Act that would add more specific language to address denial-of-service attacks.

In early 2004, Lennon allegedly used a program called Avalanche to launch a denial-of-service attack that crashed the e-mail server at Domestic & General Group PLC, a London-based company that provides warranties for home appliances and other products.

A judge at the Wimbledon Magistrates' Court in London had ruled last November that Lennon didn't violate the law on misusing computers because the company's Web site invited e-mail responses.

Jeremy Kirk, IDG News Service

Australian Military Tests RFID Technology

SYDNEY -- The Australian Department of Defense last week began a pilot project aimed at using radio frequency identification technology to upgrade its logistics operations.

The pilot project, which is budgeted at 20 million Australian dollars ($15.2 million U.S.), calls for attaching RFID tags to shipping pallets used by the Defense Materiel Organization 's logistics division. The DMO manages the movement of goods to more than 50 military locations in Australia and overseas.

The RFID technology initially is being rolled out at two-dozen facilities. The goal is to make it easier for troops to locate items in shipments, which can be difficult because of the often spur-of-the-moment nature of military logistics, said Malcolm McKeith, director of the DMO's visibility program.

The pilot project involves the testing of active RFID tags programmed with the inventory numbers of all the items loaded on a pallet, McKeith said. A full inventory of the supplies will be gathered automatically as trucks drive through a specially constructed scanning gantry, he added.

David Braue, Computerworld Today (Australia)

E-commerce Tax Law Extended in Europe

BRUSSELS -- The European Commission was forced to extend its existing rules governing value-added taxes (VAT) on e-commerce transactions until the end of 2008 after failing to agree on proposed changes.

The current law, passed in 2002, was due to expire at the end of next month, and the European Union planned to replace it with two general laws covering all VAT levies, not just taxes on e-commerce. But the European Commission said last week that the EU's 25 member states had failed to reach a required unanimous agreement on the new laws.

Currently, all e-commerce vendors selling products in Europe have to collect the VAT charged in the country where a buyer is located. If the 2002 law wasn't extended, only European companies would have been subject to the VAT requirements, placing them at a competitive disadvantage against other businesses. "We had to prolong the directive; otherwise, the system would collapse," said a spokeswoman for the European Commission.

Paul Meller, IDG News Service

Compiled by Mike Bucken.

Briefly Noted

Intel Corp. last week disclosed plans to shut down its Glasgow, Scotland, development operation and lay off the facility's 17 employees by September. The Glasgow unit develops Ethernet media access control protocols, which control the flow of data through LANs. Intel tried to transfer the workers but couldn't find another home for them, a company spokeswoman said.

Ben Ames, IDG News Service

East African countries, including Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, are coordinating their efforts to pass cybercrime laws that would be similar to ones now being put into effect in the Southern African Development Community region. The SADC countries started harmonizing their cybercrime laws last year to deal with cross-border criminals. Work in that region is expected to be completed by the end of 2007.

Michael Malakata, IDG News Service

Wipro Ltd. in Bangalore, India, last week said it's acquiring Quantech Global Services LLC in Okemos, Mich., for about $10 million in cash. The acquisition will add mechanical design to the list of IT services offered by Wipro. Quantech, which has offshore facilities in Bangalore and the Indian city of Hyderabad, does computer-aided design and engineering work for the automotive, aerospace, consumer goods and heavy engineering industries.

John Ribeiro, IDG News Service

Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. said a computer glitch left customers unable to withdraw money from its automated teller machines on May 13. The trouble began when a suspected disk-drive problem disrupted cash withdrawals at some 21,000 ATMs. Service was restored after about eight hours, according to Bank of Tokyo.

Martyn Williams, IDG News Service

Dell Inc. CEO Kevin Rollins earlier this month attended the opening of a computer lab at a school for the children of migrant workers in Beijing. The lab has 38 Dell OptiPlex desktop PCs, one PowerEdge server and a projector donated by the company. Dell declined to disclose further details of Rollins' trip.

Sumner Lemon, IDG News Service

Global fact


Percentage of government departments in Latin America that plan to increase their IT spending this year from the amount they spent in 2005.

Source: Government Insights, McLean, Va.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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