14th > February > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Pirate plays Third World card in MS court case

Microsoft has lost the first software piracy case in Kenya because of an extraordinary dismissal decision by the Commercial Court in Nairobi last week, according to the newspaper The East African. Microsoft had been seeking the imprisonment of Mohamed Suleiman, managing director of local PC OEM Microskills, whom it accused of illegally loading its software, and had also asked the court to put the company into receivership. Suleiman said the ruling was "a victory for morality against the unethical mercenary tendencies of a greedy multinational that thrives on bullying tactics." Last year Microsoft successfully applied to the court for a search order and, accompanied by its lawyers and the police, raided Microskills' premises, taking documents and 68 computers -- and discovered counterfeit Microsoft software. There was then an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the matter through arbitration. Microsoft demanded 30 million Kenyan shillings ($417,000), but Microskills said it could not afford to pay this and carried on trading in Microsoft software, in contravention of a restraining order issued by the court. Shem Ochuodho, chairman of the Computer Society of Kenya, who was involved in the arbitration, admitted that both sides had a case. Piracy resulted from high prices, he said, with the software cost being around the same as the hardware cost for a PC. Suleiman, while not denying that the PCs had Microsoft software, argued that Kenyans should not be expected to pay more for software when their income is ten-times lower than people in the western world. He told The Daily Nation that "Office 97 sells for over $700 in Kenya" and that even if the 5 per cent duty and 15 per cent value-added tax is deducted, "the price still remains at over $500", observing that "the same software sells at far less below this price" elsewhere. Windows 98 was selling at $198. The BSA estimates that nine out of ten software packages in Kenya are pirated. A report by Vincent Opiyo of the US Department of State in November said that "The Kenya computer software industry... is dominated by foreign companies led by those from the United States of America. US companies have exploited this industry... imported software accounts for 95 percent of the market...". In discussing software distribution, the report also noted that "Microsoft would ideally not like a VAR handling IBM/Lotus products". No explanation seems to have been given by the court for its decision, and it is not at present clear whether there was a judicial desire not to enforce Kenyan copyright legislation which came into effect on 1 January, or whether events at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle had influenced the outcome. The new legislation requires the setting-up of an anti-piracy committee, but government departments may not yet have nominated their representatives; the software industry is known to have made its own proposals. ®
Graham Lea, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Washington saddles up in Quixotic pursuit of on-line privacy

It was an entertaining week on Capitol Hill. Inspired to action by opinion polls which cite privacy fears as America's chief gripe with the Internet and the Information Revolution, Congress responded with a flurry of hastily run-up proposals to preserve the Netizen's false sense of on-line security. To begin, Senator Robert Torricelli (Democrat, New Jersey) unveiled a most bizarre plan that would outlaw the use of cookies without the surfer's express prior permission. "The fundamental right to privacy should not be sacrificed to the Information Age," Torricelli said via a prepared statement. Fair enough, but cookies have a score of non-commercial uses -- storing passwords, keeping track of visits so that pages can be updated appropriately, and recording a user's viewing options and preferences, to name but a few. There is also the aggravation to a user of deliberately having to accept cookies every time a site proffers one. Surely the issue is what a Web site may do with the information it stores in a cookie, not whether or not they may drop one on a person's hard drive. The Register predicts that this little legislative gem is destined to be laughed off the Senate floor, unless it receives a significant overhaul. Meanwhile, Senator Tom Daschle (Democrat, South Dakota) announced the formation of what he calls a Senate Democratic Privacy Task Force. (We are not at present absolutely clear on the distinction between a Congressional "task force" and, say, a Congressional "committee" or a "caucus" [both of which we do understand to have particular meanings], but we will continue listening for hints.) "Some of our most sensitive, private details end up on databases that are then sold to the highest bidder....That is wrong, it's dangerous, and it has to stop," Daschle said, also by way of a statement. Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat, Vermont) is expected to head up the panel, or whatever it is. But wait, there's more. Senator Richard Shelby (Republican, Alabama) and Representative Edward Markey (Democrat, Massachusetts) also threw their hats into the ring, announcing the formation of a bipartisan Congressional Privacy Caucus consisting of both Senate and House Members. "Families...do not want complete strangers buying and selling their personal profiles like currency," Shelby noted. Privacy concerns are strongest among America's most conservative politicians, who resent any meddling suggestive of an Orwellian government presence, and among those most liberal, who typically delight in thwarting the ambitions of Big Business. Shelby is a conservative Republican from the deep South; Markey is a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts. Yet both argued vehemently, indeed passionately, against a bill last November which made it possible for medical insurers, banks and securities firms (hence their databases) to be merged. Thus Shelby and Markey, ideological strangers on most issues, will serve as co-chairmen of the new caucus. On the regulatory front, the citizen watchdog group Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) against Web marketing firm DoubleClick. The complaint follows the merger of DoubleClick and Abacus Direct, a catalog database firm. DoubleClick intends to correlate anonymous Internet profiles in their database with the personal information contained in the Abacus database, EPIC maintains. The group is asking the FTC to investigate the practice, to destroy all records wrongfully obtained, and to invoke civil penalties against the company. The FTC has not as yet indicated whether or not it will launch an investigation. So there you have it. Task forces here, caucuses there all going off at cross purposes, silly proposals to restrict cookies, conservatives and liberals joining hands, grassroots organizations and well-heeled corporate lobbyists colliding.... Looks like a splendid session is shaping up. ®
Thomas C Greene, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

MS, Bandai designing Power Ranger talking toy

Microsoft has teamed up with Bandai America to produce a talking Power Ranger toy with a download capability. Or so Japanese paper Nihon Keizai Shumbun tells us. The paper isn't particularly free with details, but although on the face of it the joint project seems relatively modest, if you think about the convergence implications you'll likely wind up in places you definitely don't want to go. As The Register's in-house market segment deemed Power Rangers uncool several years back we'd no idea the blessed things still existed, but apparently there's a new show out on Fox Kids Network this month, and the Microsoft-Bandai talking toy will ship in September as a tie-in. It's to be priced at a stiff $59.99 (sheesh -- why not just by the kid a mobile phone?) and for this you'll be able to connect it via cable to the TV and download up to four phrases or sound effects. Later, the Power Ranger will be able to repeat these noises for you. It's not much, true, but there's obviously plenty scope for development here. Add more local intelligence (or not -- you could always run it as a networked thin client), wireless, give them the capability to interact with one another, let it receive email and short messages from parents... After all, why does a CE appliance have to look like a pocket computer? One for kids could just as well look like a Power Ranger -- scary, no? ®
John Lettice, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

NT 4.0 and Millennium win MSDN reprieve

The one interest group that seems to have a hotline to god when it comes to changing Microsoft's mind has apparently done it again. A week after Paul Thurrott revealed that Microsoft Developer Network subscribers weren't automatically getting NT 4.0 CDs any more, and would be getting Millennium later in the year, the entire position has been reversed, and Microsoft has apologised to Paul for the 'confusion.' Microsoft's careful attention to developers has historically been one of the lesser-known but most important secrets of the company's success, and in this case a few days of outrage from the subscribers seems to have done the trick. Microsoft supplies MSDN subscribers with a regular refresh of product disks, but as Thurrott reported last week NT 4.0 disks didn't come with the most recent drop, and enquiries revealed that Millennium (aka Windows ME) wouldn't be going out to them either, because it's a consumer OS. The intention underlying these ham-fisted actions was clearly to downscale NT as fast as possible and heave developers over to a Win2k track instead. Lack of support for Millennium simply meant that Microsoft's planners didn't really see the continuation of the Win 9x line as of any serious importance, and wanted to focus on future Win2k-based consumer code. But this was clearly a heave too far. Developers need to carry on working with NT for quite a while yet, and as far as consumer developers are concerned, this goes for Millennium too, in spades. It's not clear what the successor is yet, and even if you're really optimistic you can't expect it before late 2001. So you develop for Millennium, or you don't develop. The Microsoft policy has now been reversed via something of a handbrake turn. According to an email being sent out to subscribers, NT is still being supported, and is still available for download. This in itself doesn't reverse anything, as Microsoft never said it was going to pull support anyway, but new subscribers will get NT 4.0 with their disks, and existing subscribers will get updates as normal. As far as Millennium is concerned, developers will get beta and RTM code when it's available later this year. But although all this appears to put things back to approximately where they were before the Win2k rollout, developers would do well to remember that although Microsoft is going to carry on supplying them with what they need to develop for NT and Millennium, it is still Microsoft's intention to engineer the switch to Win2k as quickly as possible. So even though the stick's been withdrawn, the carrots are inevitably going to get scrawnier. ® See Also: WinInfo story MS pushes developers to switch from NT to Win2k
John Lettice, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Bugs, Gartner and Dell rain on Win2k's parade

In the past few days Microsoft has suffered from some unfortunate coincidences. First, Gartner Group VP Michael Gartenberg knocked 6 per cent off the stock price by predicting that 25 per cent of companies would have trouble switching to Win2k. Then the usually trustworthy Michael Dell said he expected uptake of Win2k to be slow, and finally the story got out that Win2k had 63,000 bugs in it. In the run-up to this week's big Win2k launch party, none of this is particularly helpful, and although the bug story might have been useful on its own (because it shows how seriously Microsoft takes its duty to its customers), it does seem to have escaped at the wrong time. 63,000 might seem like a big number, but to be fair it's pretty much what you'd expect from a software project of this size. The number of bugs and their nature are revealed in an internal document leaked to Mary Jo Foley of Smart Reseller (who's obviously been hogging the photocopier all week), and this makes it clear that the headline number is severely misleading. It's a "known defect" list rather than a bug list. There are 21,000 "postponed" bugs, which will generally be stuff that got skipped in order to get to gold code before the end of 99. Then there are 28,000 instances of changes that didn't get made to the code, but these will mostly be cases of the code not working as elegantly as Microsoft wanted it to, rather than of it malfunctioning. In total the document estimates that there are 28,000 issues/defects that might cause problems. Which is of course approximately what you'd expect, and you'd also expect Microsoft to be working feverishly towards Service Pack 1 in order to get them fixed. Numerous analysts have been recommending that companies wait for SP1 or even SP2 before doing a wholesale upgrade, so again we oughtn't to be surprised that there's stuff in the gold code that needs fixing - this was expected. And Gartenberg and Dell? Microsoft's stock price seems to have got the fuzzy end of the spinmeister in these cases too. Gartenberg pointed out that one in four companies upgrading to Win2k are likely to have problems getting it to work with their existing software and systems, and he mildly stressed that companies doing wholesale upgrades should be prepared to tackle the problems. But as wholesale operating system upgrades are non-trivial exercises, he was really only stating the obvious. Dell meanwhile said he wasn't seeing an acceleration of sales because of Win2k, but that's not news either. Microsoft's own predictions, revealed at its analysts meeting last year, are for Win2k to start affecting revenues in the second half. ® See also: Smart Reseller on vast bugcount
John Lettice, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Piracy gets political as MS loses Kenya case

Microsoft has lost the first software piracy case in Kenya because of an extraordinary dismissal decision by the Commercial Court in Nairobi last week, according to the newspaper The East African. Microsoft had been seeking the imprisonment of Mohamed Suleiman, managing director of local PC OEM Microskills, whom it accused of illegally loading its software. It had also asked the court to put the company into receivership. Last year Microsoft successfully applied to the court for a search order, and accompanied by its lawyers and the police, raided Microskills' premises, taking documents and 68 computers - and discovering counterfeit Microsoft software. There was then an unsuccessful attempt to resolve the matter through arbitration. Microsoft demanded 30 million Kenyan shillings ($417,000), but Microskills said it could not afford to pay this and carried on trading in Microsoft software, in contravention of a restraining order issued by the court. Shem Ochuodho, chairman of the Computer Society of Kenya, who was involved in the arbitration, admitted that both sides had a case and that piracy resulted from high prices, with the software cost being around the same as the hardware cost for a PC. Suleiman, while not denying that the PCs had Microsoft software, argued that Kenyans should not be expected to pay more for software when their income is ten-times lower than people in the western world. He told The Daily Nation that "Office 97 sells for over $700 in Kenya" and that even if the 5 percent duty and 15 percent value-added tax is deducted, "the price still remains at over $500", observing that "the same software sells at far less below this price" elsewhere. Windows 98 was selling at $198. The BSA estimates that nine out of ten software packages in Kenya are pirated. A report by Vincent Opiyo of the US Department of State in November said that "The Kenya computer software industry... is dominated by foreign companies led by those from the United States of America. US companies have exploited this industry... imported software accounts for 95 percent of the market..." In discussing software distribution, the report also noted that "Microsoft would ideally not like a VAR handling IBM/Lotus products." No explanation seems to have been given by the court for its decision, and it is not at present clear whether there was a judicial desire not to enforce Kenyan copyright legislation which came into effect on 1 January, or whether events at the World Trade Organisation meeting in Seattle had influenced the outcome. Another factor is that as the new legislation requires the setting-up of an anti-piracy committee, it may well be that government departments have not yet nominated their representatives, although the software industry is known to have made its own proposals. After the result was announced, Suleiman said the ruling was "a victory for morality against the unethical mercenary tendencies of a greedy multinational that thrives on bullying tactics." ®
Graham Lea, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Gates was big Mac fan, ex-girlfriend reveals

"We all bought Macs. Bill bought a Mac. Bill was using a Mac. Bill was using a Macintosh. Not a PC." Well, that's what Gates' old girlfriend, the venture capitalist Ann Winblad, apparently said to Michael Gross in an interview for a book to appear next month (My Generation, published by Cliff Street/HarperCollins). But it wasn't just the Mac that Gates admired: Winblad recalls being present with him when Steve Jobs was speaking, and that he had confessed to her: "Some day I'll be as good a public speaker as he is. How do I do that? I'm going to work on that." Of course Microsoft had had an early Mac prototype in January 1982 in the shape of some circuit boards (known at Microsoft as SAND -- Steve's amazing new device). Then Apple agreed that Microsoft could have four later prototypes to develop a spreadsheet, graphics and a database, while Apple would do the word processor and Basic. But some key weaknesses in the contract made it possible for Microsoft to develop these as well, so getting a critical head start on Apple. What seems to be new in Winblad's recollection is just how enthusiastic Gates was about the Mac in the early days. Of course this is not exactly surprising in view of the remarkable similarity between the Windows and Mac GUIs, not to mention the subsequent protracted court case as a result of this (won by Microsoft, by attrition). Winblad first widely advocated the word "vapourware" (coined by Mark Ursino at Microsoft for smoke-and-mirrors developments). According to Stephen Manes and Paul Andrews in their book Gates (Doubleday), she also turned Gates vegetarian for a time, and told him that Steve Ballmer was "the biggest jerk that I've ever met". ®
Graham Lea, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

MS roadmaps Blackcomb, plans mid-year beta of next Win2k rev

When Microsoft let it be known that it would merge development of the Win2k-based Odyssey and Neptune projects into one single development effort, Whistler, we predicted that there would be more news on the evolution of the MS development roadmap RSN. And were we right? A few weeks later, news has started to leak of a Whistler successor for the 2002 timeframe, codenamed Blackcomb. The information, leaked to Mary Jo "Secret Files" Foley of Smart Reseller, seems to have been dished out to Microsoft's developers around the same time as they were told about the Odyssey-Neptune merger. That move combined development of Odyssey, the next business version of Win2k, with Neptune, the fabled consumer implementation of Win2k, the rationale being that there was no sense in running two parallel developments of the same codebase, considering the overlap. The appearance of Blackcomb on the horizon doesn't mean a reversion to the twin-track consumer-business approach for Win2k code, but it does tell us quite a bit about the approach Microsoft is going to take with Whistler. Last year Mary Jo got a secret files drop that revealed Microsoft's plans for Neptune and Millennium. These seemed wildly over-ambitious to us at the time, and the subsequent downscaling of Millennium really was awfully predictable. Neptune did however remain as an apparently ambitious big project that would be difficult to ship. Until, that is, it was merged into Whistler. Whistler's appearance signalled that Microsoft was going to concentrate on shaking the bugs out of Win2k and use that as a stable foundation for future projects, rather than getting itself tied up in radical consumer-specific kernel rewrites. Now, two things about the latest news make it clearer that this is happening. First of all Microsoft has roadmapped an alpha release of Whistler for April, and a public beta for July. Microsoft will still be engaged in the Win2k debugging exercise in the run-up to the alpha, and that scheduling is so tight that it isn't conceivable for Whistler to be much more than Win2k-plus. So Neptune has been downscaled too, right? But not to the extent that happened to Millennium. We can expect Microsoft to try to get to stable code fast, and then concentrate on adding 'must haves' that are sufficiently attractive to make it a feasible candidate to supplant Millennium in late 2001. Its worth noting here that Whistler isn't being seen as a platform for Microsoft's Next Generation Windows Services architecture. NGWS will be a relatively nebulous project until MS fleshes it out as promised this Spring, so skipping it for Whistler is another sign that the objective is to ship code in a reasonable timeframe. The other important point is the very (or should we say 'hazy'?) existence of the Blackcomb project. Microsoft OS development historically oscillates between Big Bang projects and projects that ship. Early in the development cycle the planners blue-sky like crazy, and leaks of this process get blown up into huge projects that really aren't do-able. But during development there's an opposing process that brings the feature set down to something shippable. The lengthy development periods for Win 95 and Win2k are obvious examples of where these opposing forces didn't balance correctly, but Win 98, 98 SE and (probably) Millennium are happier cases for MS, if not earth-shattering new experiences for the customers. So what's happening now is that Whistler is moving into the 'shippable' category, while Blackcomb can act as a repository for all of the stuff that won't go into Whistler, in order to make it shippable. As Blackcomb won't be with us until late 2002 at the earliest, there's currently plenty of time for blue-skying. And considering that's two years away, we can safely predict that whatever it is that Microsoft is currently speccing for Blackcomb definitely won't ship. But that something else will, and it might be related. We note, incidentally, that Mary Jo's sources say Whistler is likely to come in 32-bit and 64-bit versions, but we'd caution you not to hold your breath. ® See also: Smart Reseller story MS cancels Neptune
John Lettice, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Deutsche Telekom parades Net flat fees

Blimey, that didn't take long: Deutsche Telekom announced plans Friday to introduce unmetered Net access, just one day after it was told to by AOL Europe (see AOL demands flat fees for Germany). Ron Sommer, DT CEO, said ISP subsidiary T-Online would introduce unmetered Net access before summer for DM100 (£30) or less per month, AP reports. Mobilcom, Germany's third biggest telco, says it too will introduce flat fees, after building a huge fibre optic network across the country. The heat is now on AOL Europe: according to some of our German readers, AOL Europe has promised to introduce a DM50 flat-rate since last year. What will it do now? What's good for T-Online customers, is not necessarily good for other ISPs. AOL and others will no doubt pile on the political pressure to see Deutsche Telekom's interconnect fees reduced. ®
Drew Cullen, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Desktop Lawyer offers bargain basement prenuptial service

The man behind a new lovers' legal service has denied he is trying to mislead anyone even though pre-nuptial agreements aren't legally recognised in Britain. Desktop Lawyer -- the outfit that also offers online divorces -- claims the service is good news for cautious lovers who plan to pop the question on Valentines Day. The pre-nuptial agreement costs only £29.99. The Webco said it enables couples to reach "a financial agreement before marrying, and ensure that it is only their hearts they are giving away at the altar". Richard Cohen, legal director of Epoch Software, the developer of the Desktop Lawyer service, said: "We predict that over the next ten years, 20 per cent of UK couples will be using pre-nuptial agreements. "So while this service is not yet legally binding in this country, there is little doubt that pre-nuptials will continue to gain popularity and recognition on both sides of the Atlantic. "I must stress that we are not trying to mislead anyone," he continued. Desktop Lawyer's pre-nuptial agreement will simply allow people to make a record of their financial circumstances before marrying, and under current law a judge may or may not decide to take notice of this." A spokesman for the Lord Chancellor's Department said the government has voiced its interest in pre-nuptial agreements, but had "no firm commitment either way". Cohen's teenage son, Benjamin, recently scooped a ton of gongs courtesy of the mysterious site, InternetAwards.co.uk. ® Related Stories Divorcees do it on their desktops Teenage dot com sensation sweeps Mystery Awards</</p>
Tim Richardson, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Cabletron shares jump as company splits

Cabletron's shares rose five per cent on Friday after the networking vendor revealed plans to split into four. The new units -- to be called Riverstone Networks, Enterasys Networks, Global Network Technology Services and Aprisma Management Technologies -- will do business in the service provider, e-business, services and infrastructure management software markets. They will start as subsidiaries of the US networking giant, but the plan is to eventually spin them off as separate public companies. "Our action today has a single purpose -- to give us the focus and agility to seize these market opportunities and better serve our customers," said Piyush Patel, Cabletron CEO and president. "Each of these companies will speak with clarity of purpose to its shareholders, customers, partners and employees." Shares topped $40 at one point following the announcement, their highest price since 1997. They closed up $2 at $38. ®
Linda Harrison, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Durlacher slams metered prices

High telco charges and per minute billing are holding back the development of the Internet and e-commerce in Britain, according to hard-hitting report from Durlacher Research. Net use among domestic users would increase by 46 per cent if these two issues were addressed, Durlacher claims. Users would more than double the time they spend online if Britain adopted widespread unmetered access, it says. Average Net use per residential user would triple from 130 hours per year to 386 hours, if Britain adopted widespread unmetered access, according to Durlacher, which held interviews with some 4000 homes. These figures do not take into account the increase in new users that such a move would generate. Nick Gibson, Durlacher's senior internet analyst, said: "It is clear that the widespread adoption of unmetered internet access would provide a massive boost for what is already a rapidly growing UK Internet economy. "Thankfully, the impending introduction of new technologies and new pricing plans should start the unmetered access ball rolling." A spokeswoman for BT said it was an "interesting report", adding that the adoption of unmetered access was "something we've recognised for a long time." In December BT announced plans to offer flat-fee unmetered access to the Net. A spokesman for telco watchdog, OFTEL, said that an announcement concerning BT SurfTime would be made within the next couple of weeks. If it receives the OFTEL rubber stamp the service could be available by the Spring. ® Related Stories BT intros unmetered Net access Deutsche Telekom parades Net flat fees AOL demands flat fees for Germany Valentine's Day debut for Telewest free Net calls service
Tim Richardson, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Proto-Itaniums reach proto-Forum

The Intel Developer Forum starts tomorrow but the chip company has already announced that there will be eight Itanium (Merced) systems being displayed at the bi-annual jamboree. Compaq, Bull, Dell, Siemens Fujitsu, HP, IBM, NEC and Silicon Graphics as was will all show prototype server and workstation prototypes. Just in case we blink and miss it by accident, Intel will claim that there are now thousands of prototype server and workstations using the Itanium chip and running Oses including 64-bit Linux, Monterey 64 and 64-bit Windows. The machines will also be running application software, but Intel is concentrating on the Itanium platform as an e-commerce vehicle. The company will announce that the Merced chip will be in production in the middle of this year, and that means that HP's guestimates that machines will actually start selling round about October are likely to be correct. There is still some way to go, however, on the software front. A quick gander at the IDF agenda shows that there are several sessions for developers, mostly focusing around the porting of drivers for the Itanium processor. Some other interesting little items on the agenda include sessions on next generation websites, how to move Intel's 820 to the FC (flip chip) PGA packaging, the PC 2001 design guide (my goodness is it that time already), designing server memory subsystems for DDR synchronous memory and Rambus memories, integrating Bluetooth technology into mobile PCs, and optimising for the Willamette processor, as well as tips for optimising existing code for Willamette. Intel will also take a look at 1000 Base T networking, and building Easier PCs with Windows Millennium. Later on today, Andy Grove, Intel's chairman, will be talking to the European press (that's us, folks), and he delivers the keynote speech when the conference starts tomorrow. The Intel Developer Forum starts tomorrow here in Palm Springs. ®
Mike Magee, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

William Plague defaces No.10 Web site

The Tories were seeing red at the weekend after personal attacks and racial abuse appeared on the new Number 10 Web site. The Downing Street site, which went live on Friday, includes interactive forums for Joe Public to email opinions and views to our glorious leader. But people have been taking advantage of the freedom of the Policy Forum to attack many minorities, including the Conservatives. One person, whose comments have now been removed from the site, masqueraded under the guise of "William Plague", while another used the name "Dead Alan Clark, MP for Kensington and Chelsea", the Sunday Times reported. On Saturday, a discussion group asked "What are the biggest problems parents face today?" To which William Plague replied: "Paedophile uncles and Portillo." "Tommy Blair" answered with rascist abuse (using a combination of letters and numbers to bypass any possible filters) while "Dead Alan Clark MP" was calling for criminals to be sterilised. Today the site also saw Labour fall victim via the site's Speakers Corner forum. Comments ranged from "Blair is about as cool as a bowl haircut", to the more straightforward "Blair is a f**ker". It also included anagrams of the two parties, with The Labour Party coming out as "A Bluer Tory Path", and The Conservative Party Conference emerging as "French contraceptive on every seat". The Tories were not amused, with one representative saying: "We think that if the government is going to have a chatroom on its flagship Website, sensible steps should be taken to ensure that the material featured is tasteful". Meanwhile, Downing Street seemed overwhelmed by the situation. "There is a filter on the site for swear words, but it's impossible to stop every combination," said a representative. There are three staff responsible for monitoring the Website, but they only currently work office hours. "If a message is put up in the middle of the night, it could stay up until the morning," the spin-doctor admitted. The site, which cost £75,000 to set up and will have yearly running costs of £130,000, is to include a weekly online broadcasts from Tony Blair.® Related Story Tories pull plugs on ill-fated ISP
Linda Harrison, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

DDos degrades the Net

Whether pesky kids, or the CIA, are to blame for last week's high profile distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, it seems all Net users were affected by the online mischief-making.
Tim Richardson, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Freeserve ADSL trial springs into action

Monster ISP Freeserve officially launched its ADSL trial today -- almost three months later than planned. The trial was due to go live in November, but it had to be delayed due to the lack of pricing information from BT. The result, is that Freeserve's full rollout of its broadband service will not begin until the summer. BT is expected to begin rolling-out its full ADSL service in the Spring. Nevertheless, the trial is now up and running, but only 150 people from greater Manchester and West London are taking part. Although the kit is installed for free, triallists still have to shell out £49.99 a month for the broadband service, although this is less than what was mooted last year. ITN, Virgin Records and @Jakarta are all providing content, and Freeserve says it is in talks with 20 others. A spokesman for Freeserve confirmed that less than half of the 150 triallists had been wired up so far to the broadband service. ® Related Stories Freeserve ADSL trial to cost £60pm ADSL gets green light from Freeserve
Tim Richardson, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

AMD profits from PIII famine

AMD is clearly doing rather nicely out of The Great Coppermine Shortage. The company announced on Friday it expects chip sales for the current quarter (due to end next month) to at least match, if not exceed, those of the previous three-month period. That quarter included Christmas and all the extra spending on new PC kit that goes with it. Holiday quarters are typically so strong, they make for a slow sales between January and March. It's quite something to see this period's sales get close to those of the Christmas quarter, let alone match or even surpass them. Taking a decidedly unconfrontational tone, AMD simply highlighted stronger than expected demand for low-end CPUs and "robust" trade across the range. AMD has done much of late to grasp the speed lead from Intel, but the company's currently much-expanded sales are really more down its arch-rival's weaknesses than its own strengths. Only recently, Gateway shipped its first AMD-based PC -- because of Intel's inability to supply sufficient Pentium III processors. And Dell said its most recent quarter's sales were hit by a lack of Intel parts. AMD's last completed quarter, Q4 1999, saw sales of $968.7 miilion and profits of $65 million. ® Related Stories AMD jumps gun in MHz wars Gateway 600MHz Athlon box spotted First .18µ Athlons hit Japanese High Street System builders back Athlon 850 Dell share price falls on bad Intel news
Tony Smith, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Cannabis e-retailer claims moral righteousness

A Californian man charged with selling marijuana online was acting on "moral righteousness", his lawyer claimed last week. Michael Aronov, who ran a Web site supplying marijuana for medical purposes, was indicted on Friday for illegally distributing the drug in Louisiana, the Nando Times reported. Aronov stands charged on seven counts of shipping marijuana and one count of advertising a controlled substance for sale on the Net. He was caught after sending a package of wacky backy to two undercover agents, and now faces up to up to 39 years imprisonment. But Aronov's lawyer, Eric Shevin, said his client was acting as a Good Samaritan because the two agents had claimed to have health problems. "My sense is that Michael responded to a sense of moral righteousness rather than legal judgement," said Shevin. "He at no time possessed any criminal intent. His desire has and is to help people who are in need." "All the evidence will show he was only involved in trying to assist people who had what appeared to be legitimate medical need for serious illnesses." Distribution of hash for medicinal purposes in illegal in Louisiana, but legal in California when accompanied by the consent of a doctor. Shevin's line of argument did not appear to phase US Attorney Eddie Jordan, who proclaimed: "This is another example of our expanding effort to pursue individuals who use computers to conduct illegal activities".® Related Stories Dope dealers drive eBay potty Yahoo takes pot shot at marijuana look-alike Congress meddles with cybersquatters Bluntmen hack SlimCity to promote the wicked weed
Linda Harrison, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

British hack savages hand that feeds him

The Register tips its hat to IT hack, John Sabine, who took offence at being given his very own domain by ItsBob.co.uk as part of the Webco's launch last week. So outraged was John at this alleged act of bribery, not only did he bite the hand that fed him, he chewed it up and spat it out. "Don't try to bribe journalists unless you're going to do it properly," he warns on his site. "I'm a UK IT journalist. I am independent, honest. And what's more, despite ItsBob's obvious attempt to bribe its way into favourable editorial coverage (the domain was given to me) I thought I'd take the opportunity to make a few comments about the service." And he does. Quite unfavourably too. This PR stunt may well have backfired, but it's still definitely well worth a visit. PR "professionals" please take note.
Tim Richardson, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Is another MS antitrust case brewing in Japan?

A strange article in the Asian edition of the Wall Street Journal today tries to make the case that "criticisms of Microsoft are no more warranted in Japan than in the US". The opinion piece is by Shigeki Kusunoki, currently at the School of Law at Kyoto University, but also an associate of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama, which is ardently pro-free market and a staunch supporter of Microsoft. It was more than two years ago that Microsoft was hauled up before the Japan Fair Trade Commission on antitrust charges. Microsoft capitulated and agreed to a "Cease and Desist Order" from the Japan FTC that referred to "the fact that the conduct of the company violated Section 19 of the Antimonopoly Act (Unfair Trade Practices)". Microsoft agreed to stop tying Word to Excel, and Outlook to Word and Excel, which had forced OEMs that wanted just Excel to license Word as well. There are several particularly curious things about the AWSJ article today, starting with why it was written at all, since there is nothing new apart from Kusunoki's opinion that there was no difference between Microsoft's behaviour and that of market rivals. But his opinion does not even stand up to the facts: the JFTC listed 16 of Microsoft's unfair trade practices in the 14 December 1998 Order. A recommendation to Microsoft Japan was made by the JFTC on 20 November 1998. With its usual PR aplomb, Microsoft embraced the recommendation and claimed a victory, as we reported at the time. The second strange issue abut the AWSJ article is that Kusunoki says that "When the Japanese FTC issues a 'warning', it is an indication that the agency suspects illegal practices but is not completely sure of its case; a 'recommendation', in contrast, is [a] declaration that some practices are certainly illegal". He then goes on to say that "For Microsoft, then, it was a relief that Japan's FTC issued a warning rather than [a] recommendation." Perhaps Kusunoki meant to put these around the other way, because the JFTC did issue a recommendation, and a subsequent Order that carried penalties if not observed. Kusunoki predictably concludes that "antitrust law itself violates the basic principles of a truly competitive market economy", but why should this partisan point be made now: is it a desire to exonerate Microsoft from its past mistakes before the release of Windows 2000, or is there a further case being considered in Japan? ® See also: How Microsoft put a spin on Japan 'innocent' verdict
Graham Lea, 14 Feb 2000
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Porn sites undermine Paris brothels

The world's oldest profession is being threatened by online erotica, Paris brothel workers are claiming. According to Jean-Claude, doorman at the Pussy Club 187 on the city's Rue Saint Denis, the Internet has been "bad news for us, with all its pornography sites". "I have lost at least ten of my best customers – guys who used to pay Fr2000 (£190) for a girl. Now, they just have virtual sex on the Web," he told The Times. And to add insult to injury, the Rue Saint Denis, traditionally home to rows of sex shops and les femmes de nuit, has been invaded by the Internet companies' offices -- lured by cheap rents and modern telecomms systems in the area. There are more than 100 start-ups in the district, including Yahoo! France, which are scaring off prospective punters, The Times reported. ®
Linda Harrison, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

AMD to axe Athlon prices Feb 28

Updated We know from an Intel document that it will chop prices on its chips on February 28th. And now we learn that AMD will also slash its prices across members of its Athlon range, and on the same day. These will be the AMD prices on its premier Athlon K7 line of processors in a fortnight, as well as reductions on the K6-2s. The 500MHz K6-2 will drop to $54, the 533MHz K6-2 to $70, the Athlon 600MHz to $189, the 650MHz to $243, the 700MHz Athlon to $344, the 750MHz Athlon to $474, the 800MHz Athlon to $672 and the newly released 850MHz to $850. The price cuts from AMD indicate that it proceeding smoothly on its path, phasing out the lower members of the family as it introduces higher speed, and also slightly less expensive Athlons. As yet, we have no price details about the Intel cuts on the same day, but will strive to bring them to you as soon as we can. ®
Mike Magee, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Developers urged to port apps to Willamette

Intel will this week begin to outline to software developers the reasons why they should start to take advantage of the additional multimedia/internet extensions in the next generation of its IA-32 processor, Willamette. At the same time, the company will provide software developers with a number of tools and algorithms to optimise existing applications for the chips, which some say will debut on the 1st of October this year. Developers are being advised to use the Fortran, C, and C++ compilers, said Kea Grilley, director of platform marketing of Intel's desktop products group, today. Not all applications will benefit from the additional instruction set, and developers are being advised to use the Vtune analyser 4.5 to convert device drivers for Willamette, which is expected to sample in July of this year, using a .18 micron process. From other content presented this morning, it is evident that Intel is positioning the additional instructions as an aid to developing 3D solutions on Web sites. Grilley also said that Intel, with the aid of Cadence, will advise designers on the challenges posed by 1GHz plus technology. Those problems include signal integrity challenges, electro-magnetic interference and so-called "thermal" issues. Intel will, this week, also roll out details of its future graphics bus, dubbed Beyond4X. This is being developed in cooperation with a number of third parties including Diamond, Nvidia, S3, 3DFX, and Intense 3D, she said. ®
Mike Magee, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Internet security firm RSA's Web site hacked

RSA Security has suffered the embarrassment of having its home page "defaced" by an intruder. The original defaced page can be found http://www.2600.com/hacked_pages/2000/02/www.rsa.com Now it get's complicated: there is a second defaced RSA home page, in which the company's site appears to be "owned" by the an intruder. This is a plain white page bearing a simple message. However, the IP address of RSA.com (205.181.76.22) and the IP address of the second "hacked" page (200.24.19.252) -- are not the same. The hacked page, a computer security firm employee writes, is on a "computer in the University of Antigua - (http://bachue.udea.edu.co). So what happened? One theory put forward by a very knowledgeable reader is that "the nameserver was hacked and the www.rsa.com IP forwarded to another hacked box which was used to host the defaced page. This box must have been hacked again, by someone else and a new page put up". The Register found the following text on the new defaced page (we've deleted part of the phone number for obvious reasons), "Wat up whats up to all my nigs ya know who ya are n #2600 and whats up all my #sesame nigs and call rigger if ya come here bc he is the gayest fuck ;) 718-815-**** all chans are on a irc server lol -tek pBK > * also irc.segments.org ;)" For those not fluent in h4x0r dialect, the gentleman or lady who hacked the RSA page wishes to offer warm salutations to all of his or her colleagues from the IRC channels #2600 and #sesame, and further invites all concerned to place nuisance phone calls to a gentleman or lady known as rigger ( a notorious hacker, apparently) , either as a friendly prank, or for malicious purposes. The overall tone suggests the former is intended. Additionally, we note that "nigs" should not be construed to express any racist sentiments, but is best understood as a term of fraternal affection along lines expressed by the familiar "homies". In the interests of investigative journalism we visited the #2600 and #sesame channels on irc.segments.org, following the message's reference to that network, but found ourselves alone with a bot which advised us, "Welcome to #2600 sit down and shuddup or fear a nice /kill or /kline." A subsequent visit to the same two channels on the more h4x0r-friendly efnet.org yielded the expected result, two rooms chock full of quiet, paranoid hackers and eager, chatty wannabes. No one volunteered any information which The Register felt was up to its impeccable standards of journalistic dependability, so we must refrain from passing along speculation proffered by anonymous strangers. The hack follows closely on the heels of RSA's boastful announcement last week that it was developing some new magic bullet to thwart DDoS attacks. The idea behind it is clever, we must allow: a cryptographic technique using so-called "client puzzles" which would accompany connection requests. "During an attack, legitimate clients would experience only a small degradation in connection time, while the attacking party would require vast computational resources to sustain an interruption of service. As a result, the subsequent burden of numerous requests placed back on the attacking party would severely limit its ability to continue the attack," RSA says. Of course the selection of RSA's home page for a graffiti attack could be a mere coincidence, or it could be a reply from the hacking underground meant to remind the company, and the rest of us by extension, that, all boasting aside, if you are connected to the Internet, you can be hacked, one way or another. A worthwhile reminder for all of us, we must add. ®
Thomas C Greene, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel: Memory strategy unchanged (cough)

Intel Developer Forum Pat Gelsinger, vice president of Intel's desktop products group, said today that Rambus memory is still the company's top choice for the desktop and mobile markets. But, at the same time, he acknowledged that Intel will use DDR (double data rate) memory for its server platform, and that unavailability and high pricing of Rambus RIMMs for the value market made it unacceptable. Speaking a day before he gives a keynote speech at the Intel Developer Forum, Gelsinger also said that the company, because of demand, was still unable to fulfil all of its commitments on Coppermine processors. Gelsinger said that he will speak tomorrow about Willamette, which he described as the first major [IA-32] architectural innovation since the introduction of the P6. "We'll have the biggest introduction of silicon this year, ever," he said. New silicon will include the Celeron 600MHz, Timna system on a chip technology, Willamette and the Itanium. He claimed that the Internet drove the need for high performance in processor raw power. "We found that performance of our PIII/800 has twice that of our best of class low performance chip," he said. Then followed an amusing interlude. Gelsinger showed ZD benchmarks which appeared to suggest that a Celeron had twice the performance of a Pentium III/800 in Internet terms. The figures he showed were challenged by a ZD journalist. Gelsinger strode over to the journalist, who had asked how much he was going to be paid for pointing out the apparent error, opened his wallet and handed him a $20 note. Gelsinger was emphatic about the performance of Rambus, particularly at the desktop and mobile levels. He said: "We're not changing our memory strategy. We need a next generation technology and the best way to accomplish that is RDRAM (Rambus memory). He said that Intel was incorporating two channels of Rambus memory into its future chipsets to emphasise that. "Our roadmap is not very different from what it was before," he said. "We'll ship multi millions of i820 [chipsets] in the next quarter, and some of these will be in two + two configurations, mixing synchronous memory and Rambus memory." That confirms our earlier story of a new rev of Caminogate which combines the two disparate memory standards. He said: "We do expect that the launch of RDRAM into the value sector will be longer and slower than we thought." The introduction of technology such as Willamette needed two channels of such memory to be able to deliver speeds in excess of 3GHz per second, he said. "We are not deploying or building products that use DDR in the mobile or desktop space. It [DDR] is too late, too little, it doesn't work and it doesn't fit in the desktop," he said. "We will use DDR in the server space. The first server product [using DDR] will appear in early 01." On Coppermine shortages, he said: "We still have more demand than we can supply. We'll catch up with all of our requests by the end of Q1. Until then, we can't really say we're happy with the situation. Gelsinger said that his keynote tomorrow will also concentrate on the proliferation of PC technology in the e-home, and he also showed the audience of European journalists several small form factor PCs, and some concept PCs he will demonstrate tomorrow. While there will be "zillions" of Internet appliances, in the end the PC will survive most of them, he is expected to say, and did say, today. Intel's policy of diversification will mean that the world will be under a blanket of its silicon, he said. ® IDF Spring 2000: Full Coverage
Mike Magee, 14 Feb 2000
The Register breaking news

Solaris for Itanium looking dead flakey

Intel Developer Forum Reliable sources at the Intel Developer Forum say that Sun's support for Intel's 64-bit Itanium processor with the Solaris operating system is weakening to the point of non-existence. Solaris is now likely to be dropped for the Itanium platform, according to the same sources. The reports, which could not be confirmed with Sun Microsystems at press time, would leave NCR in something of a hole, because its Itanium systems were based on the Solaris solution. Further evidence pointing to its demise came in presentation slides from Intel personnel earlier today, which noticeably left Solaris out of the picture, laying stress instead on the Microsoft, Monterey and Linux operating systems. We will update this story as fresh information emerges. ® IDF Spring 2000: Full Coverage
Mike Magee, 14 Feb 2000