04/08/2011

Moshi Monsters invade New York

Though there are over 15m US Moshi Monster users, so far they've only been able to play on-line.

On 5th August 2011 that will change as Moshi Monsters launch their range toys including the 6 plush Moshi Monsters and 32 Moshling mini figures at Toys"R"Us in Times Square from noon through 3pm.

There will a range of 'special' appearances and activities including: -


  • Moshi Monsters characters, Poppet and Katsuma, appearing live in the fur!
  • Moshi Monsters themed face painting.
  • Autographs by Mr. Moshi himself (Michael Acton Smith, founder of Mind Candy and creator of Moshi Monsters).
  • While supplies last, attendees will receive a complimentary Moshi Code giveaway, created exclusively for the event, of a super sparkly Liberty trophy, used to decorate a user's virtual room on MoshiMonsters.com.


The first 250 attendees will also receive a special copy of Moshi Monsters Magazine

03/08/2011

Ofcom publishes report on DEA site blocking compliance

Ofcom the super regulator that looks after radio, broadcasting, media and telecoms has published a report (PDF) about blocking access to sites that publish illegal (copyright infringing) material in-line with section 17 and 18 of the Digital Economy Act DEA).

The report is quite long and complex and goes into detail on the different ways that sites can be blocked i.e. IP address, DNS manipulation, uniform resource locator (URL) manipulation, simple packet inspection (SPI) and deep packet inspection (SPI). There are also potential hybrids of various of the above methods with varying degrees of cost and effectivenes.

There is an existing system for blocking access to illegal material (such as child pornography) with a list maintained by the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF), though it can be effective for specific URLs, it can break (such as the incident when and entry on Wikipedia was blocked and most of the traffic from the UK to Wikipedia came from 6 proxies run by the dominant ISPs).

Amusingly where references to getting round several of the schemes are mentioned in the report, they have been redacted.

The report does indicate that existing methods of reporting copyright abuse (under section 97A of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988) are not going to be speeded-up by injunctions under section 17 or 18 of the DEA.

The report points out methods of encouraging site owners to co-operate in that if a blocking notice was put on the site, all of their site would be blocked, which might encourage the site to remove the offending content. There is also mention of co-operation of virtual private network (VPN) providers as pretty well all blocking can be undermined by utilising a VPN tunnel.

Ofcom are also keen to ensure the injunctions are not unduely punitive and there is accountability.

01/08/2011

VoIP can be a dangerous game

Many businesses are starting to deploy or already have deployed IP PBX's (private branch exchanges) which are the guts of VoIP that route calls to local telephones or allow employees to make external calls.

Companies will either run the IP PBX themselves or even deploy remotely in a data centre (generally for a multisite company) or run a hosted system from a VoIP company.

Unfortunately if these systems aren't deployed carefully it can be easy for 'hackers' to connect to them and make out-going phone calls which can rapidly generate huge bills (they tend to target international premium rate numbers that they control, or just are used to route calls for 3rd parties).

Asterisk is a very commonly used open source IP PBX and in the past, the default SIP configuration allowed open access (this has been closed in newer releases). Many IP PBX's will also have open VoIP/SIP access (i.e. unauthenticated remote access - which allows remote users to dial internal extensions, however without having a sensible dial-plan these users can do outward dialling too).

In some cases the VoIP configurations will only allow secure connections, but the web configuration will have default credentials, so a remote attacker can just go in and create a new VoIP user which they then use to outward dial.

A company suffered such an attack over the weekend and was faced with a bill for £12,000+ worth of phone calls.

Though the company was to blame for not securing the web interface, the telephony provider (which could be a normal PSTN provider i.e. someone who provides traditional fixed line services or a VoIP provider) should have provision to check for unusual traffic patterns. So if normally calls are just made to the UK, they should block calls if there's suddenly a large volume to international numbers.

Any company getting a new phone system should check their provider offers such checks or they could be faced with large bills that they'll be liable for.

Worksnug goes live on Ovi

Last week (28/07/11) Worksnug announced their new iPhone app which includes all of HP's ePrint locations. The app offers an augmented reality display showing locations of workspaces and now also free HP ePrint solutions. The locations can also be viewed using a traditional map view. The app also providers addition tools for the mobile worker such as an integrated decibel meter in the mobile app, allowing users to assess and share noise levels inside working locations, and a unique ‘VoIP Checker’ tool, which assesses the ability of public WiFi networks to support VoIP calls.

Today (01/08/11) Worksnug have announced the availability of their Symbian app which has gone live in the Ovi store.

Worksnug also have a Blackberry client.

Worksnug was founded by Richard Leyland in 2009 to solve the problem of where to work when on the move and has now a growing database of public and public workspaces. The company has relationships with Plantronics, Cisco, Skype and HP.

New PhonePayPlus regulations affect all PRS providers

Ofcom has issued a statement concerning premium rate phone services (PRS) which come into force on the 1st of September 2011.

PhonePayPlus (PPP) is the industry regulator for PRS (and Ofcom have empowered PPP to handle all PRS regulatory issues). PPP will issue a new Code of Practice (12th edition) on the same date (12/10/11) and this will affect all PRS providers (not just the current subset).

The new code will tighten up issues left in the previous code and PPP is there to protect consumers (Ofcom have to power to ban companies and individuals from operating PRS if they misuse them).

31/07/2011

Springboard gives birth to 10 promising companies

Friday 29th July was investor day for Springboard, the mentoring and accelerator program based out of Cambridge, where the 10 companies that had gone through the system did their final pitches to a packed audience made up of investors (in Springboard itself), mentors (including myself) and lots of VCs.

Springboard is loosely based on the TechStars program out of the US and was initiated by Red Gate Software in 2009 (this being the second incarnation). This year it was supported by Red Gate, angels and NESTA and took place in the Hauser Forum.

Compared to The Difference Engine (a similar program which took place in Sunderland last year) the teams and pitches were definitely more polished and all came out vastly improved (and some radically different) from when they started the program.

The teams were (in order of appearance)

Adwings - Lithuania - a ad publishing platform that allows tracking of campaigns to various destination media including print, digital and mobile.

Apiary.io - Prague, Czech Republic - A 'techy' service allowing companies to quickly build and deploy web APIs (application programming interfaces) while testing and monitoring and documenting them.

Arachnys - Cambridge, UK - a services for providing due-diligence on companies in emerging markets by consolidating all available information.

Hubflow - Bournemouth, UK - a service that converts existing training material into a mobile format (with tracking metrics to see how well the user is performing). This allows companies to offer training materials to their employees on their mobile device to be completed in dead time (such as when commuting) or at their own convenience.

Mayday - London, UK - a web based service that plugs into a company's .Net process to alert the company to errors in the process, hopefully before customers start complaining.

MiniMonos - Wellington, NZ - a virtual world for children (male) between 8 and 12. A Freemoim service with subscriptions and virtual goods. The site has been around for 2 years, but the new site launched last month and now has around 300,000 users. Membership packs will be available from Sainsbury's in Oct (next to Moshi Monsters etc).

Playmob - London, UK - a platform allowing games developers to easily integrate charitable payments into games (i.e. for virtual goods) and for Charities to easily sign-up to the service which should fully launch in October 2011.

Publification - Tartu, Estonia - a web based HTML5 authoring system and browser based eReader that works across multiple platforms (i.e. desktop and mobile). Once books have been downloaded they can be read off-line. The platform can be white-labelled for publishers and authors can also self-publish.

Tastebuds - London, UK - dating site based on music likes where matches are made based on music preferences. Users can just add artists they like or the service will import from Last.fm and/or Facebook.

Total Gigs, Newcastle, UK - a web service allowing disparate users to share content from events they have attending (making them into groups). After the event has taken place users can relive the event from the group content.

The program was driven by John Bradford with day to day organisation help from Jessica Williamson.

John's next accelerator program is Ignite100 and if the quality improves every time he runs one, it should produce some amazing companies.