Porn on your console, failed DVD pirates and a merry Christmas to all

News Schmooze: Turmoil in the approach to the festive season, with Microsoft under scrutiny, mobile phones under attack and the UK government keeping an eye on everything

It's that time of year again, and the Schmoozer is going to wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year with gift recommendations based on this week's most entertaining news items. An obvious idea might be video games -- either a console to console the one you love or a few games to send the kids on a holiday into cyber-oblivion for a couple of weeks. This would no doubt be encouraged by Microsoft and Nintendo, who have been racking up fewer sales than they might have hoped over the past few weeks. Microsoft found it necessary to defend itself from charges that its Xbox is failing to make a dent in the videogame market, although Nintendo, as a veteran of the industry, didn't seem to attract much negative publicity. Nvidia was confident enough about the future of PC and console games that it is upping the manufacturing of its graphics chips.
Microsoft defends Xbox console, software sales
Xbox sales 'sluggish'
Nvidia anticipates graphics recovery for 2003 Should videogames be sold in discreet brown paper bags, like porn or booze? Conservatives in the US seem to lump it into the same category, with the National Institute on Media and the Family issuing a "fail" grade to the industry, whose products it called "disturbing". This seemed to be largely on the strength of a couple of high-profile games such as Grand Theft Auto III: Vice City and BMX XXX, both of which feature scantily-clad ladies of the evening and other dangerous content. This, it is argued, should not be allowed to exist in videogames, which should remain the province of little kids -- unlike the somewhat smaller Hollywood film business. Games makers characterised the remarks as "grotesquely unfair".
Videogame sex and violence 'epidemic' condemned You might want to think twice before putting that mobile phone under the tree. Anti-radiation activists are apparently growing weary of trying to scientifically prove that radio waves can cause cancer, and are taking matter into their own hands. In the Cranlome area of Dugannon, Northern Ireland, they recently broke through an electrified fence surrounding a mobile phone mast and brought the monstrosity down by severing its legs with an angle grinder. One wonders whether they were waving torches and pitchforks as well, like the mob in "Frankenstein".
Mobile mast destroyed over cancer fears Jon Johansen, known in Norway as "DVD Jon", may be ringing in the new year with a three-month prison sentence if prosecutors have their way. He created the DeCSS program for removing copy protections from DVDs, and after his trial ended this week, a ruling is expected early in January. Defence lawyers argued that, in fact, Johansen's efforts failed as piracy per se, since he only managed to transfer about 5 percent of his two favourite films to his hard drive.
'DVD Jon' DeCSS hacking trial ends Dmitri Sklyarov got an early Christmas present when his company was found "not guilty" of charges under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The jury was told that in order to be guilty under the law, the company had to intend to break it, as well as, in fact, breaking it. The jury found that the law was a bit confusing, which acted in Elcomsoft's favour. Sklyarov was not allowed to testify in court, perhaps because middle-aged ladies find him adorable. "It's unfair," he said of this decision.
Sklyarov reflects on DMCA case Finally, a late gift to the people of the UK: Next year they will get a chance to have their say about the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act, which critics say is so dreadful that it breaks human rights laws. It was nearly expanded, as you may recall, to allow every tax official and local council drone in the country access to your cyber-records. Perhaps a re-think will do something towards sorting out the network of paradoxes now embodied in British snooping regulations. The link below is a comprehensive list of ZDNet UK's reports, which should give you something to read in those dull days after the Queen's Speech and before your New Year's Eve bash.
Privacy in the UK: Where next? The News Schmooze is ZDNet UK's irreverent take on the week's news. Send your tip-offs to: mailroomuk@zdnet.com.


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