27th > March > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Intel tweaks notebook pricing

As part of what Intel describes as its normal pricing activity during the year, the firm will lower prices on its microprocessors for notebook machines today. (The Intel channel had been told there was a 700MHz Coppermine mobile being released today, but so far, there is no sign of that part). The changes affect both the Pentium III Coppermine mobile processors and the Celeron mobile processor. We understand that the next implementation of SpeedStep, a technology which helps conserve battery life, is due towards the middle of this year. The biggest price decreases occur on the 650MHz 0.18 micron Pentium III, which sees its price fall from $637 to $426 today, a drop of 34 per cent. The 600MHz processor which also uses SpeedStep falls from $423 to $316, a drop of 25 per cent. The 500MHz LV (low voltage) chip using the 0.18 micron process falls from $294 to $241, an 18 per cent fall, while the 500MHz vanilla 0.18 micron chip now costs $198, a drop of 19 per cent on its former price of $245. The Celeron mobile processors, already aggressively priced, see the following changes. The 500MHz 0.18 micron part drops by 16 per cent from $134 to $112, the 466MHz 0.25 micron chip remains at $96, the 450MHz 0.18 micron mobile Celeron falls by 11 per cent from $96 to $85, while the mobile Celeron, the 433MHz which uses 0.25 micron technology also remains static at $75. All the prices quoted are for quantities of 1000, and we can expect to see changes in notebook prices using these microprocessors over the next weeks. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Rambus faces antitrust accusations

Memory technology company Rambus received a blow to its plans Friday when Hitachi, which faces legal and US government action for alleged infringement of patents, fought back by invoking US antitrust legislation under the umbrella of the Sherman Act. Last week, Rambus stepped up its claims that Hitachi, a large manufacturer of semiconductor memories, was violating its patents by asking federal body the International Trade Commission (ITC) to ban imports of DRAMs which allegedly used one of its patents. At the same time, Rambus extended its legal attack by filing suit against console maker Sega. But on Friday, according to reports, Hitachi fought back by filing a separate action in a Delaware court, demanding that the Rambus action be dismissed. Hitachi claimed the patents in question, in any case, were common knowledge as they had been discussed in JEDEC standards forums. Hitachi also wants the case it initiated on Friday transferred to the Californian district court where Rambus made its allegations. According to Electronic Buyers' News, the Hitachi countersuit says: "Rambus has used its lawsuits to assert that [synchronous] products compatible with the JEDEC standards infringe Rambus patents, making Rambus technology the dominant, if not sole standard in the industry." This Hitachi claim broadens the case considerably. If Rambus won its case for alleged patent infringement against Hitachi, it is feasible that other semiconductor companies could also face similar action by the memory technology company. Last week, a report by investment brokerage Morgan Stanley said that Rambus shares were likely to hit the $500 mark because its technology would dominate the memory market. But many third parties in the PC industry, including a number of large semiconductor manufacturers, are reluctant to adopt Rambus technology because of its royalty licensing scheme and its current high price. ® Related Stories Morgan Stanley's vote for a $500 Rambus Rambus extends Hitachi legal action to Sega
Mike Magee, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

FBI tracks Bill Gates credit card hackers to Welsh village

The FBI and British police expected to find professional criminals when they descended on a small village in west Wales last Thursday. Instead, they got two 18-year old hackers armed with nothing more than a £700 computer. Raphael Gray, 18, is accused of stealing 23,000 credit card details, including the credit card number of the world's richest man, Microsoft boss Bill Gates, from "eight banking Web sites". Another unnamed youth was arrested in the swoop in Clynderwen, Pembrokeshire, part of an FBI-led investigation into a suspected $3 million fraud. Gates' credit card number and others were recently sent to NBCi by a hacker called Curador (Welsh for custodian). Gray, the self-styled Saint of E-commerce, began his hacking spree just six weeks ago, according to the Sunday Telegraph. "I knew the man was from the FBI because he had an American accent and was wearing a trench coat," he told the paper. "There were eight local police officers in a riot van with him so it was an unusual sight in Clynderwen. I just wanted to prove how insecure these sites are. I have done the honest thing but I have been ignored. That's why I posted the information on the Internet." Gray and his suspected accomplice have been released on police bail. But what will happen to the "eight banking Web sites", from whence the credit card details were obtained? Surely, these companies have a duty of care to their customers, which would oblige them to take all reasonable measures to keep credit card details safe and secure. If two 18 year-old hackers can squirrel the credit card numbers of 23,000 accounts, then these sites are clearly not safe and secure. Perhaps it's time for regulators to toughen up their act. ® Related Stories Hacking credit cards is preposterously easy Biggest online credit card heist leaked to MSNBC Chinese hackers turn to identity theft Credit card fraudsters cost Expedia $6 million French credit card hacker convicted Chinese Govt. loosely implicated in credit info heist Online store security holes let hackers buy at cut price Net credit card fraud pushes up crime figures Popular online billing software hacked Credit card details published on Web after hack attack
Drew Cullen, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Hopes of deal fade as DoJ rejects MS offer

Microsoft's settlement proposal is apparently not good enough for the DoJ and the plaintiff states: the two sides remain "sharply divided", according to reports over the weekend citing "sources familiar with the matter". Microsoft's proposal was faxed on Friday to each plaintiff state, as well as to the DoJ. It has been described as "complex" and "incomplete", with the lawyers requiring technical assistance to be able to understand the offer. The DoJ was apparently polling the states' lawyers over the weekend as to their opinion about Microsoft's document. No bilateral talks have been held so far, other than one joint meeting with Judge Posner at the beginning of the mediation. ABC News reported that a source said Microsoft agreed to oversight of its business practices by the government, but not to what it could do so far as adding features or functionality to Windows, and that Microsoft was insisting that it not be required to admit that it had violated the law. A Los Angeles Times report suggests that DOJ and state officials may declare today (Monday) that negotiations are at an impasse. It seems that DoJ and plaintiff states lawyers agreed to consider a settlement proposal that did not require breakup, with the DoJ apparently outlining the areas that would have to be addressed. It 's probable that the mediator, Judge Posner, could well have been responsible for bringing this about as a way of getting the talks going again after they had essentially stalled. The Washington Post also suggests that an idea that has arisen is "offering computer makers choices about what software they wanted installed on their products". It is of course extraordinary that Microsoft should have power over such matters in the first place, so the sooner there is a uniform price list, the better it will be for users and the industry generally. Although it is possible that a more acceptable proposal could be negotiated, it appears that Microsoft's effort at brinkmanship has been trumped by Judge Jackson with his Tuesday deadline. He would need confirmation from the DoJ and/or Judge Posner that negotiations were really getting somewhere before agreeing not to release his findings of law on Tuesday. For Microsoft, the key issue is that Jackson's findings of law are a finding on the merits of the case, which could be used by the class-action litigants, although Microsoft would fight this of course. Under the Clayton Act, it will be possible to use the findings of fact. If Microsoft appealed, it is likely that findings could not be used in the interim, although the precedents are mixed about this. It is strange that any sincere effort by Microsoft to settle the case would have been couched in obcsure technical terms. At this stage, all that was needed were some simple heads of agreement. It rather looks as though Microsoft is making a PR play, and is trying to regain some credibility. If so, it is a dangerous game, since Microsoft could be accused of conduct consistent with an effort to manipulate its stock price. The relationship between the state attorneys and the DoJ was always going to be a little difficult, and it is to be expected that now there is some substance to consider, there will be some differences of opinion. However, on the whole, the more likely result is that the states will act as a stiffener to the DoJ. Should there be a settlement, we predict that a role will have to be found to Bill Gates, to show what a clever fellow he is, and how he saved the day. During the consent decree negotiations in 1994, it was said that it was at his insistence that four critical words were removed in the integrated product clause, but we have our doubts about this. Judge Jackson has made his opinion clear: he said he didn't see a distinction between Gates' control of Windows and Rockefeller's control over oil prices. ®
Graham Lea, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Muddle erupts over dual CPU Intel platform

Confusion and uncertainty from Intel on support for dual-processor configurations for its latest flip chip (FC-PGA) packaging for Pentium IIIs is causing users across the world to suffer from CPU Angst. Posts on the Intel support forum underline the muddle, as the chip company makes a move from the previous slotted SECC2 packaging to a plug-in Socket 370 configuration. One customer posted a message called "Can Intel get its act together?" which claims the firm has delivered conflicting data about dual processing for the flip chip packages. He points to documents posted on Intel's own Web site which are accerbating the confusion, in particular this PDF datasheet and another PDF datasheet here. He says that on the first page it is claimed that the processors enable systems which are scaleable up to two processors. Then, he says, "Under 2.5.1 it says that not all procs are VALIDATED for use in DP systems." This refers customers to another PDF which can be found here to find out which chips are dual processor capable. He adds that this last document contains a large list of processors with footnotes, and only Intel's 500E and 550E, stepping cB0 are listed as not being validated for dual processing. The others seem not to suffer from this condition. Note 12, he says, indicate that processors cannot be used in dual processing systems, but this refers to Intel's latest and greatest Coppermine chip, the Slot 1 based 1GHz part. There is more information on the Pentium III support forum which contradicts this information, he adds, including one which says that Pentium IIIs in FC-PGA packages are not validated in dual processing systems. "If/when we validate them for DP operation, we will note it on the forum and on our support website," a message says. Another message says this: "Currently the Pentium III processor in the FC-PGA package does not support dual-processing. The processor has been hardware disabled for such functionality. Future versions of this processor may include this feature." Meanwhile, another reader who has had trouble with the CC820 (Cape Cod) boxed mobo says that validated slot to key solutions for it do not exist. "This is very practical but completely useless advice," he says. "We overcame this by using Gigabyte's retention mechanism and Gigabyte's 6R7+ slocket - works fine. It's not validated by Intel, but works." But there is more. He confirms that the FC-PGA packaging does not support symmetric multiprocessing. "The CPU must be in the SECC2 (Slot 1) package," he says. "This means that SECCs still will be in demand." That is in despite, in Intel's own words, "a rapid move from Slot 1 (SECC2) packaging to flip-chip (FC-PGA) packaging". The real question then, is when the firm will announce dual processor support for flip chips. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

FBI computer security consultant busted

A so-called 'ethical hacker' from California who had been a computer crimes consultant with the FBI appeared in federal court last week to face fifteen counts of computer trespass. Max Ray Butler, who once worked as an FBI source in computer crime, offers network penetration testing to clients interested in learning how a malicious hacker might break into their systems. A useful and essential service to be sure, but Butler, apparently, took it a bit too far. He has been charged with breaking into systems at NASA, the US Departments of Energy, Defence and Transportation, and the University of California at Berkeley. In an indictment handed down 15 March, Butler is accused of causing 'reckless damage' during unauthorised intrusions carried out in May of 1998. Butler was also charged with possession of 477 passwords belonging to customers of California ISP Aimnet. He was released after posting US $50,000 in cash bail. US Magistrate Patricia Turnbull ordered him not to use computers except for work while awaiting trial. Butler faces fines ranging from $5,000 to $250,000 and jail terms totalling more than 50 years in prison if convicted on all counts, the US Attorney's office in San Francisco said. ®
Thomas C Greene, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Nvidia detonates new features for $0.00

A hidden feature in an Nvidia driver is set to provide better functionality for cards based on the company's technology. The additional features will not cost users a cent, but do require some tweaking of the awful Windows registry. That's one on the nose for the competition. 3dfx showed two features to be supported in its Voodoo 4 and 5 cards - full-screen anti-aliasing (FSAA) and motion blur at CebIT 2000 - earlier this year and has been harping on about both features for the last six months or so. Anti-aliasing gets rid of those jagged edges on diagonal lines which limit 3D games' realism. But now FSAA has appeared in the Nvidia Detonator driver version 5.08, as revealed on Reactor Critical a couple of days ago. Nvidia maintains that the driver is in its early beta stage and it isn't publicly supporting it. But the FSAA feature is in there, and requires some tweaking of the registry file to reveal it in its full glory. Information on how to enable the money-for-nothing feature, which requires some registry tomfoolery, can be downloaded from here. Modifications are made at your own risk. The feature, when enabled, works just fine and gives FSAA on GeForce 256 cards. It also indicates that NV15, which will appear in GeForce 2 cards, is going to fully support the feature when it arrives. ® You can email Fuad Abazovic for more details
Fuad Abazovic, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

MS pulls legacy hardware drivers from Windows ME

Windows Millennium Edition (WinME) is virtually ready to ship, according to a report at Win98Central. But the latest version of the code doesn't include drivers for legacy hardware, which strongly suggests Microsoft intends to make the break with the next (and last?) rev of the Win9x code. According to the site, the latest version of the WinME code is "post beta," i.e. pretty much operational. Other sources tell us that Microsoft accidentally released beta 3 RC1 on Saturday, then pulled it, so this is probably the code Win98Central's writer has got hold of. Millennium does seem to be prone to accidental premature releases - this is the second time it's happened during the development process. The OS itself isn't expected to ship until at least late May, but since it was downgraded to approximately the status of a Win9x service pack last year, there's no real obstacle to Microsoft having code ready early. The current code has IE and Outlook Express 5.5, the MovieMaker program which allows you to edit videos, and a few Win2k-style components, including a hibernate function. It removes real mode Dos, but doesn't otherwise make significant progress in terms of legacy removal, so you could think of the removal of driver code from the OS (if that's how it's going to ship) as a kind of legacy removal by axe. Microsoft itself currently faces both ways as regards WinME and legacy. It says that Windows 95/98 and NT 4.0 "do not support legacy-free modes of operation," and that designs with "no legacy hardware parts" will require Win2k or WinME. But although these two support legacy-free systems, they will also run on current systems. That's if you can still get the drivers, of course. Microsoft also expects early "legacy-free" systems, like early legacy-free supporting OS code, to have "components removed from the user's perspective" that aren't removed entirely, really, just hidden. Here's the justification: "The main benefit of legacy-free design is in not exposing legacy components to users. A user who does not have access to these components is prevented from getting into problems with system configuration and usage." Logically, this surely means that tech support in the future should deliberately lie to people about the capabilities of their hardware, right? ® See also: Win98Central story
John Lettice, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

BT boob exposes personal details

BT has published - by mistake - the names, telephone numbers and email addresses of more than 800 phone users on its official Numberchange Web site. The boob – which comes in the same week bra maker Gossard is to hold National Cleavage Day - is a gift to spammers and other low life who could use the information to try and sell tat to unsuspecting people. BT may have its knockers, but this is a clear breach of personal privacy and an embarrassment to the telco. The blunder only concerns those people who've signed up to BT's E-Postcard feature. This email alert function allows people to notify others what their phone number will be following 'The Big Number' changes that are set to take place next month. Each postcard contains the name, old phone number and new number of customers. It also contains their email address. At the bottom of each postcard it reads: "This service is provided solely for the Customer's own use and is not for sale to any third party." Well, who needs to sell it when it's freely available on BT's site? No doubt access to the hundreds of files should have been protected by a password and BT will be doing all it can to rectify the lapse in security. No one from BT was available for comment by press time. The 'Big Number' affects Britain's numbering system and has been instigated to create extra capacity for millions of new numbers to meet demand for telecoms. ® See Also BT's Numberchange Web site - we haven't included a link to the exposed files, that would be plain silly, wouldn't it?
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Martha Lane Fox ate my mouse

Is there no escape from lastminute.com? Lunchtime sandwiches delivered to The Register were wrapped in a paper bag which read: "Want to eat something really special tonight? Grab a mouse." "Restaurants, travel, entertainment, gifts - do something lastminute.com" It's enough to give one indigestion. Still, apart from picking through said sarnies in search of dead rodents, you'll be pleased to hear that lunch went down as well as lastminute.com's share price. And like Martha Lane Fox and Brent Hoberman, we're still waiting for it to come up again. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

MS offers to free OEMs, dis-integrate IE to escape noose

If no agreed settlement of the Microsoft antitrust case is in the offing by Tuesday, Judge Jackson will issue his findings of law. Microsoft made an offer of settlement late last week, but this seems to have been rejected as inadequate by the government over the weekend. But although that suggests the judge will indeed be needing his black cap, details of the Microsoft proposal leaking out indicate that the company is willing to give quite a lot of ground in order to escape the noose.
Team Register, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Fujitsu Siemens sacks All The President's Men

Fujitsu Siemens Computers has kicked out its joint presidents amid a warning over profits. Winfried Hoffmann and Robert Hoog left the top spot at the European PC vendor on Friday. Fujitsu Siemens insisted the two - formerly heads of Fujitsu Europe and Siemens respectively - would remain at the company and were happy with the demotions. "They have stepped down so we can appoint a single person to lead us," a Fujitsu Siemens representative said. But the company was unable to say what Hoffman and Hoog would do now that they were no longer directors - this will apparently be decided "over the next few weeks". Tetsuo Urano, executive vice chairman, has taken over the role of president temporarily until a "strong, international leader" can be found. "We have no idea when that will be," admitted the representative. Sources said the reason for the oustings lay in poor second quarter figures for the vendor. According to the Siemens Fujitsu representative, the job changes were a mutual decision. "The new financial year begins April 1. This will be the end of the integration of the two companies and we wanted to signal a new beginning with a single president and CEO." But she confirmed the company would not meet its profit targets for its first six months in business, ending 31 March. "January was pretty bad, after what was an excellent Q4," she said. "We set ourselves fairly tough targets in regard to revenue and volumes... There has been a great deal of investment and integration and general restructuring of the company. This will have eaten into the bottom line in terms of profitability." The company insisted this was only a "short term" hitch. Sources said Fujitsu Siemens had lost its footing under Hoffman, who had put too much emphasis on developing the consumer side of the business – ignoring the business sector. Word on the street is also that the integration process has not run as smoothly as the company claims – especially in the UK, where staff have been shunted to Farnborough, then back to the Bracknell offices. *Fujitsu-owned ICL is in talks to offload its European computer spares division to a 3i-backed MBO. The company expects £150 million from the sale. ® Related Stories Fujitsu Siemens PC sales don't shine Fujitsu Siemens sign on the dotted line
Linda Harrison, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Aureal close to collapse – execs out on their ears

Aureal has purged its entire executive management team and is considering "all necessary actions to either sell the Company or its assets or wind down the Company". The putsch for the digital audio company follows a horrible set of Q4 results, which saw the firm effectively run out of cash. It sees the departure of "President and CEO, Kip Kokinakis, its Chief Technical Officer, Scott Foster, its Chief Financial Officer, David Domeier, and its Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel, Brendan O'Flaherty, along with all senior staff members of Aureal". The board is seeking turnaround management. Word on the street was that Aureal has effectively been up for sale for several months, with Intel and Creative tipped as interested prospective buyers. Looks like any negotiations on that score has broken down. Aureal announced the departures, just one day after the company posted a very poor set of Q4 results (23 March). For the three months to 21 January sales were $8.5 million, down from $11.2 million in the third quarter and $10.8 million in the year-ago fourth quarter. Worse, losses ballooned to $9.5 million, compared to a loss of $3.5 million in the fourth quarter of 1998. The year-to-date loss for 1999 was $26.9 million, compared to a loss of $18.5 million for 1998. Kokinakis blamed the results on the "patent litigation with Creative and trial process distracted us. To fight and win a lawsuit of such magnitude was a major undertaking for a company our size, and it didn't come without significant costs. Both our people and financial resources were stretched, especially during the fourth quarter, and that impacted our efforts to further expand the reach of our products". Patent litigation expenses were $6.4 million in 1999, an increase of over $6 million from the prior year. "Unfortunately, even when you're right and you win in court, it can have a huge impact on your business," said David Domeier when he was still Senior VP Finance and CFO of Aureal. "We can't measure the impact of the trial process and attendant market disruption on our sales for the quarter or the year, but we know the customers were confused by what was going on. We lost sales and incurred substantial costs in preparing for and fighting the case in court." ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Apple open source OS to ship on Intel

Apple looks set to release version 1.0 of its Darwin open source operating system core real soon now - and for the first time the code will be made available for Intel-based systems. On Saturday, Apple's open source development lead, Wilfredo Sanchez, posted a message on the company's Darwin Development bulletin board saying: "Wednesday, the whole thing compiled for the first time for both PowerPC and Intel. That's been my target for the past couple of months, and now I'm just ironing out details. "All of the source required for Darwin 1.0 is now available. I imported the kernel... this AM. That was the last project left." The 'required' indicates that the software isn't yet ready for public release, but it can't be too far off. And the timing is consistent with Apple's release schedule for MacOS X, which has what it calls "final beta" shipping in Spring 2000. Since Darwin forms the basis for MacOS X, it makes sense that version 1.0 should tie in with the full OS' last test release. Of course, this is still some way from a 'MacOS X for Intel' announcement, particularly given the open source nature of Darwin means a port to x86 was always likely to come from someone if not Apple itself. However, with Apple reportedly in talks with a number of PC vendors who have approached the Mac maker with a view to licensing its next-generation OS, Sanchez's comments do take on a new significance. Apple should now be sufficiently secure in the difference between its hardware and others - from a styling perspective, rather than on the basis of core technology - that offering MacOS X to x86 vendors shouldn't cannibalise Apple's machine sales (which is, of course, where it makes its money) and could even be seen as a promotional exercise for MacOS X. You have to ask, though, why an Intel vendor would want MacOS X, rather than Linux. Linux has some clear attractions, but it lacks - for now at least; KDE 2.0 and the Gnome/Eazel project may change things - a solid user-friendly desktop interface. MacOS X can provide that, and provided the likes of Adobe and Macromedia, are happy flipping a switch on their compilers and knocking out Intel versions of their MacOS X applications. That said, there's little evidence that ISVs are targeting MacOS X's cross-platform Cocoa API (aka Yellow Box), which may make licensing MacOS X less attractive. It has to be said to, that if vendors are talking to Apple, the discussions are likely to be little more than exploratory talks with a view to learning whether the companies can co-operate rather than whether they will actually do so. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Cosmopolitan wins £4000 damages from porn-threat cybersquatter

A cybersquatter who threatened to sell celebrity name URLs to porn sites has been ordered to pay damages in the High Court. Jaei England was told to pay £4000 to Cosmopolitan after it was revealed he sent a letter to the magazine's editor demanding cash for domain name cosmopolitan.co.uk. England had threatened to sell the URL for "adult entertainment purposes" if Cosmo failed to cough up. He was also ordered to turn the domain name over to Cosmo's publishers, the National Magazine Co. This is the first time a British Court has acted in the grey area of cybersquatters targeting stars with porn Web site threats. England had sent similar letters to TV presenter Carol Smillie and TV doctor Hilary Jones, and also owns jefferyarcher.co.uk, specsaver.co.uk and childrensbbc.co.ukl. He said he planned to appeal against the judgement. His defence was: "I am struggling to set up a firm for myself and do not need something like this fine right now. As far as I am concerned, I wasn't trying to blackmail anybody. I was quite willing to sell the sites for just £50 each, in the end." That's not the way it was seen by Smillie's solicitor, who said: "I thought it was an outrageous letter and put it straight into the bin", the Sunday Telegraph reports. In related smutty cybersquatter news, The Ritz is battling to shut down a site using its name for unsavoury activities. The swanky London hotel has lodged a High Court claim against the owners of ritz-casino.com a site displaying adult porn images. Parm Holdings was hit by the writ after the Ritz's legal eagles claimed the site had sullied the establishment's "pre-eminent reputation for quality, luxury and elegance". Down the road in Knightsbridge, Mohamed Fayed has had his own cybersquatter row to deal with. He has managed to evict the American squatter who registered dodialfayed.com, named after the Harrods-owner's late son. Robert Boyd, of Dayton, Ohio, had put the URL up for auction at £250,000.® Related stories BAA attempts to shaft sheep site US outlaws cybersquatting
Linda Harrison, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Hackers use PlayStation 2 to dump DVDs to tape

PlayStation hackers have discovered a second way to use the console to bypass the DVD industry's strict regime. The first hack overcame the games machine's DVD regionalisation software, and now users have found out how to circumvent its DVD copy protection mechanism. According to EE Times and reports from Register readers, Japanese Web sites devoted to Sony's console reckon the PlayStation's analog RGB output port can be used to copy a DVD onto VHS. Essentially, the signal sent from the PlayStation is picked up by a VCR's input socket and recorded as if it were an on-the-air broadcast. Sony built in the industry-standard Macrovision copy protection system to prevent just such analog to analog recordings. Macrovision's system works by modifying the output signal. On a TV, the picture will look fine, but when it passes through a recording system, the Macrovision modulation interferes with the picture signal making it unwatchable. The Japanese sites have published schematics of a device that they claim can strip out the Macrovision signal. The box essentially converts the RGB signal to an NTSC (the US analog TV standard) composite signal, but appears to negate the effect of Macrovision too. Of course, the real problem for Sony is not the acts of the hackers, but that it arguably shouldn't have included the RGB port in the first place. The regulations for the licensing of DVD technology, as administered by the industry-funded DVD Copy Control Association, prohibits the use of analog DVD outputs in DVD players. Of course, Sony can argue that the PlayStation 2 isn't a DVD player but a console that happens to play movies. This may be one of the reasons why the functionality isn't built in, but is provided through software on the console's memory card. However, such an argument is unlikely to cut the mustard with an industry near-paranoid about the threat of piracy. Sony is unlikely to recall existing units to fix the problem, but it may well be forced to revise the console, particularly for its US and European releases this autumn. ® Related Stories PlayStation 2 can play US DVDs, apparently Sony asks buyers to return faulty PlayStation 2 MCs Sony plugs US DVD PS2 grey market PlayStation 2 prices hit £1000 on UK grey market
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Iridium creditors sue Motorola for $1.99bn

Iridium creditors have begun legal action against Motorola. They claim the company, which created Iridium and held an exclusive contract to maintain the comms operation's 66 satellites, failed in its legal duties. The suit, filed with the New York District Court, alleges that Motorola was aware of Iridium's problems and failed to inform fellow shareholders. Instead, the suit claims, Motorola acted to get as much money out of the company as it could before the inevitable happened and Iridium was liquidated. According to a report in yesterday's Mail on Sunday, the creditors believe Motorola signed contracts with Iridium that led to nearly $1.4 billion being paid to Motorola to no benefit to Iridium. They also claim Motorola covertly competed with Iridium by producing satellite systems for Teledesic - a deal that brought Motorola a 26 per cent stake in the 'Internet in the sky' company. Teledesic is, of course, run by Craig McCaw, whose decision to pull out of negotiations to buy Iridium led to the company's liquidation. It's no surprise, then, that creditors might be a tad aggrieved with Motorola for working with Teledesic, even though the latter never really competed with Iridium. The cellphone company's satellites were never designed for broadband data networking, the role Teledesic has in mind for its own devices. As for Motorola's other alleged infringements, the creditors may have a point, but whether it justifies legal action is another matter. Motorola has, after all, sunk a heck of a lot of money into the venture, and last year took some a major financial beating thanks to its exposure to the satellite venture. It's not surprising then that over time it has acted to minimise that exposure. Proving that it wielded unacceptable power over Iridium and used that power to force a series of valueless contracts on it will, however, be difficult to prove. However, the creditors, owners of IOU bonds worth around $1.99 billion, have a lot to lose if they don't pursue the case. And expect them to pursue it aggressively. ®
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Universities hit by Net costs

Cash-strapped UK universities are being drained of money by careless Internet surfers. The total bill for unwarranted Net surfing in UK higher seats of learning could add up to a loss of around £450,000, according to The Independent, and is on its way to hitting the £600,000 mark next year. The UK newspaper says the figures are based on the assumption that 15 per cent of universities' Net access bill is derived from personal use by staff and students. Oxford and Cambridge are said to be the hardest hit by non-academic use of the Net – their losses stand at £21,443 and £19,886 respectively. Oxford University's director of computing services, Alex Reid, told The Independent: "We monitor the volume of traffic. But there's not a great deal we can do because we allow students and staff a moderate amount of recreational use of the computer network. We think it's important for them to develop their use of the technology." What an enlightened attitude. Cambridge, on the other hand, passes bills for Net access on to individual colleges. The colleges, in turn, "impose moral pressure on the students to be sensible in their use of the Net", Mike Sayers Cambridge's computing services director said. And with Cambridge staring at the second largest Net access bill in the UK university league table, it's an approach that appears to have a limited degree of success. Those canny Scots at Edinburgh University have cracked the problem though. By forcing academic departments to stump up the cash for using the Net, Edinburgh has halved its bills. ®
Sean Fleming, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Red Hat still in the red

Red Hat, the best-known Linux distributor, continues to see strong revenue growth - and almost equally large widening of its losses. Reporting the results of its fourth quarter today, the company revealed revenues up some 39 per cent on the same period last year, rising from $9.4 million to $13.1 million. Last quarter, the company recorded sales of $10.5 million, so the Q4 figures represent quarter-on-quarter growth of 24 per cent. Sounds fine, but then you see how much Red Hat actually made - or rather, didn't make. During the three months the 29 February, the company lost $24.6 million, though exceptional items leave the company better off, at just $5.6 million in the red. The items relate to money brought into the company from the coffers of acquisitions Cygnus Solutions and Hell's Kitchen, primarily the former, we suspect. For the year ago quarter, Red Hat lost $1.2 million. For the year as a whole, Red Hat recorded a loss of $19.2 million ($39.9 million before "adjustments") on revenues of $42.4 million, increases of 242 per cent and 28.4 per cent, respectively, on the previous year's figures ($5.8 million and $33 million). Said Matthew Szulik, president and CEO: "Demand for Red Hat products and services is strong in ISPs, Web hosting companies and manufacturers of Internet devices." Indeed. The company's roster of enterprise customers rose to 140 during Q4 from 60 in the previous three-month period. "Post the consolidation of our recent acquisitions, Red Hat is in position to accelerate revenue and margin growth on a global basis," he added. Maybe, but it would be nice to show some profit at the end of the day, too... ®
Tony Smith, 27 Mar 2000
The Register breaking news

Amstrad leaks like leaky thing over ‘Web phone’ launch

Details of Amstrad's mystery Web surfing product have started to leak out ahead of this week's launch. A screaming exclusive from ZDNet UK revealed the "smartphone", developed jointly with BT and manufactured in Asia, will offer a personal information manager (PIM) as well as GSM capabilities. The price, said to be so low that "you couldn't get a cup of cappuccino in the West End for it", is expected to be subsidised through Amstrad taking a cut of airtime or subscription charges. Meanwhile, the Financial Mail on Sunday dubbed Sir Alan Sugar's launch as: "the most important mass market electronic product since he kick-started Britain's personal computer market 15 years ago". It reckoned the device was similar to a 'Web phone', without needing a monitor or TV screen to access the Internet and send emails. The gadget was more likely to cost around £200, it reports. Sugar has booked the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in London for Wednesday's announcement, the same venue where Amstrad launched its cheap PCs to the masses. "Amstrad made its name in PCs and word processors by coming out with a cheaper product, and we reckon this is going to be another bonanza product," a source told ZDNet UK. "Sugar has always said that he wished he had a percentage of the monthly subscription Sky charges when he sold dishes, and this will generate that kind of revenue stream." Amstrad's share price was buoyant in anticipation of the announcement, up 80 pence to 610 pence, its highest share price in ten years. The Register will be at the QEII on Wednesday to bring you the latest on Sir Alan's Web toy.® Related stories and links ZDNet: Amstrad to launch 'smart mobile' Sugar steals Virgin's 'unrewarded entrepreneur Sugar flogs Spurs(.co.uk) to BskyB Viglen dips toe into net investments
Linda Harrison, 27 Mar 2000