A technology blog for The Economist Group IT team

Tuesday, June 17, 2003

Poundradio, Outlook 2003 and browser hijacking

PCCW owned company Poundradio looks likely to get 13 of the 15 regional wireless broadband licenses currently being auctioned in the UK. The UK Radiocommunications Agency has some info (well a lot, actually) on applications and availability of the 3.4Ghz spectrum. If you take a look at the latest bidding round; you'll see that there's quite some contrast to the amounts being offered compared to the 3G auctions of a couple of years ago. There's some debate about whether PCCW will bother doing much with rural licenses, but this is interesting technology - the spectrum can be used for voice as well as data. Whether this (rather than cable) will lead to local loop unbundling remains to be seen.

Maybe this will really see voice over IP (VOIP) take off. VOIP certainly hasn't delivered on early promise, but that largely revolved around corporates and enterprises piggbacking voice services on their existing data circuits. The problem was that voice calls were (and are) cheap - anyone with any kind of volume should get around 1p/minute for a transatlantic call. Now, however, we all have wireless handsets at home, but still have analogue lines. Perhaps wireless broadband will lead the way to a digitally connected home.

I mentioned a while back how Microsoft web mail sites have implemented image blocking capabilities (turned off by default), well now it's the turn of Outlook. Outlook 2003 (Outlook 11) will, by default, block the loading of images not embedded in the message when viewd in the preview pane. The latest beta release also has this behaviour, by default, when messages are opened. However, products with anti-spam technology (i.e. Outlook, web mail and, soon, Exchange) are now co-ordinated by one team within Microsoft, so it seems logical that the default when viewing may be switched to allow external images to be seen when a message is opened. Microsoft say that their driver in these initiatives is two fold: to stop the verification of e-mail addresses and to prevent children accidentally viewing porn. It also has implications for reputable publishers and marketeers. The preview pane setting is sensible - people aren't really opening a message when they view it in this way, but if opening a message supresses externally hosted images, a lot of HTML e-mails are going to need re-formatting and their value to the publisher re-assessing.

Lastly for today, browswer hijacking. This is a real pain. Do the basics and make sure that you have "Download unsigned ActiveX controls" and "Initailize and script ActiveX controls not marked as safe" set to to "Disable" in Tools->Internet Options->Security" in IE or equivalent in your browser. If you've been hijacked, then take alook at SpywareInfo for how to get your browser back.
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