Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Fight VAT-Crime: outsource your billing to the tax man!

The Dutch financial newspaper "Financieel Dagblad" reports on a scheme to fight VAT-fraud. The idea is quite simple. Let's use electronic billing in the EU and send a copy of every bill send in the EU towards the tax-service! This idea by mr. Wilbert Nieuwenhuizen sounds quite simple and with the total value of VAT-fraud exceding €100 billion it will probably be worth every penny that the tax-services invest in it. Electronic Billing in itself will save on average €25 per bill a copy to the tax man is easily made, so why should companies object.

Now as a telecoms and ICT guy, I like technical solutions to hard problems, but this one scares me. This could mean that the taxman pretty soon knows of any and all transactions in the country. On top of knowing whether the VAT paid and declared all matches up, they also know of any and all trades done in the country. Now I know that they can already get access to any and all trades that are on the books, by making a friendly phone call to a CFO, but this goes much further. What little privacy we have would be lost too. I would say instant Big Brother Award nomination!

So I propose the following. If the taxman knows al my transactions, then it should also do my books. Give me a monthly overview of how I am doing and if I run a business, how my business is doing. They know more than the accountant by now, so they can sign of on the books too. It can give me instant deductions on taxes when I qualify for them and give me an automatic extension of my payment term if my cash flow is not adequate. Than they are really useful and I'm willing to relinquish my privacy.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Updated: Release date Nokia E51 is November 12th

I just ordered Nokia's new and unreleased E51, because it gave me a whole lotta goodies for a 300 euro price-tag (through a friend). Unfortunately it was unknown when it would be released, except for Q4 2007, which could be the day after Christmas. But fortunately Amazon UK is now reporting that it will be available November 12th! (The same day as the iPhone is released in Europe (correction: UK only I hear, France on the 29th) Great! I really want to fiddle with the VoIP functionality and Wifi capability. Also it supports almost all e-mail systems right from the get go except it seems for Gmail, which is a pity. Iphone would have been cute too.. but Apples policy makes it hard to get without a subscription.

Update: It's available in Germany! Seems its been available for two weeks there already according to My Google-powers must have been very week not being able to find it. Though strange thing is that says that it is bald erhaltlich, or in English: Available soon. Great thing this globalisation/e-commerce/weightless economy. Stuff is on the market even before Nokia gets a word of it.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The day the routers died

Well Slashdot doesn't seem to pick it up. But this is just too funny and serious to just leave it unmentioned. So this is what I send them. I should go to RIPE again.

"The RIPE 55 meeting has just concluded. There was much debate on what to do on the imminent depletion of the unallocated IPv4 pool in 2010. We could do nothing or we could create a market place and facilitate transfer of IP-adresses, but it's all a train wreck waiting to happen. This is best shown however by a beautiful song "The day the routers died" also available on Youtube written and performed by Gary Feldman. So please all upgrade to IPv6 soon, or else you will not get 40Gbit/s to your mother."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Update: Using "evil" dataretention for emergency (e911 and 112) services good

At RIPE 55 a presentation was given by Alexander Mayrhofer on internet based emergency calls. One of the main problems they need to deal with is to get location data with IP-adresses. In the traditional telephone world we faked knowing where the caller of 112/911 emergency was, by equating it with the address in the telephone book. For years this was kind of sufficient, except when calling from an outside branch office, than you would notice the firemen arriving at the head office :-) Mobile made the world more difficult, but that is solvable by an antenna register and equipping phones with GPS. VoIP in its nomadic form is a different beast all together. The presentation is quite clear on all the complications.

This problem of tying IP adresses to locations is also faced by law enforcement when hunting down terrorists, child pornographers, serious crime and cyber criminals (the four horseman of the apocalypse). To aid law enforcement in this quest, the EU has written a data retention directive that requires telecommunications networks, to retain who was given what IP-address and at what location. The exact specifics vary between countries and interpretations of the directive. So lets bring these two together, give emergency services access to the up to date data retention databases and presto one of the problems (partially) solved. For ISP's it saves building two systems. For law enforcement it saves accessing two system and gets as an extra bonus that an ISP will be more willing to improve the quality of the database.

Update October 29th, 2007: Continuous improvement picked up on this article. He thinks that getting the information right for e911 will help the data retention people and not the other way round. I do think it is the other way round mostly. Getting data retention right will help in those occasions when someone calls a e911/112 emergency number. With data retention the government wants to know when and where you used your mobile/VoIP. They will need to get this right anyways. A special subsection is 112, so getting access to the special subsection sounds more logical IMHO than the other way round