A founding member of hacking crew gLobaL heLL recently charged with breaking into US government and corporate systems is being held in gaol on charges of burglary and car theft. gLobaL heLL member Patrick Gregory, aka MostHateD, missed an important appointment in federal court Wednesday during which he was expected to plead guilty to telephone fraud, computer trespass and data theft, because he was already under arrest. Gregory was arrested after the local sheriff's burglary squad found evidence sufficient to charge him. The sheriff's department discoverd after making the arrest that Gregory had been expected in federal court on the computer and phreaking charges. No details of the burglary case were available at press time. ® Related Story MostHateD to plead guilty in gLobaL heLL hack case
Jonathan Littman, author of a 1996 book about hacker legend Kevin Mitnick called The Fugitive Game, is suing the Disney and Miramax movie studios for using parts of his work for an upcoming film without his permission. The film is based on a 1996 book called Takedown by reporter John Markoff who originally covered the Mitnick story for the New York Times. Littman alleges that screenwriter John Danza "lifted themes, scenes, dialogues, and virtually the entire Part I section of The Fugitive Game for the final shooting script." The studios have declined to comment on the suit. ®
Computer enthusiasts have cracked the encryption protecting Stephen King's on-line novella Riding the Bullet, and are distributing pirated, cracked copies via the Web for free. The novella sells for US $2.50 at some of its on-line distributors; others have been giving it away as a promotional gimmick. The 16,000-word novella, published by Simon & Schuster, was posted earlier this month at several sites licensed for its electronic distribution. It has also been posted on a number of sites in its cracked free edition, though the publisher says most of the hosts have been cooperative in removing it when notified. Cover art in the cracked file which appears only in a certain legal distribution suggests that the original file came from Glassbook, an electronic publisher distributing PDF versions of the novella. It is not known whether Glassbook's own public key was attacked or whether Adobe's crypto system for PDF was exploited. Either way, this case, along with a number of other high-profile cracks and tricks recently used to defeat music and DVD copyright protections, should incline publishers to think twice before rushing to market poorly-protected intellectual property via the Web. ® Related stories ebooks ride bullet to mass market Stephen King publishes novella on Net only
UK PC builder Viglen is to start an ISP next month through a deal with LineOne. From mid-April, all Viglen PCs will come pre-loaded with the VigOnline ISP. Users of the "free Internet service" will pay call charges but no monthly fee. The two are also developing a customised portal, giving Viglen customers access to more than a million LineOne pages of UK-based content. LineOne, owned by United News & Media and BT, has similar "mothering" deals with The Express, Dorling Kindersley, Sainsbury's and Psion, which it uses to boost membership and traffic. Bordan Tkachuk, CEO of London-based Viglen, said: "We expect this latest addition to the Viglen portfolio to be well received, particularly within the education market where there is a rapid adoption of Internet technologies." UK ISP LineOne has 850,000 users, and claims a current growth rate of 20,000 new members per week. It struck a deal earlier this month to offer toll free and subscription free Internet access through discount telco Quip! The service was due to go live today. ® Related Stories LineOne joins Free Everything gang LineOne users to get free phone calls Sugar steals Virgin's 'unrewarded entrepreneur'
Tiny Computers is offering very small businesses a PC and Web site building package for under £1500. The UK system builder will launch it's t:BUSINESS venture on Monday. Aimed at individuals or SME cyber virgins, it will offer a Pentium III 650MHz PC with Windows 98, printer, scanner and a Web site facility from Sage for £1,199 (EX-VAT). Users will send their details to Sage, who will set them up with an e-commerce equipped Web site. This site is free for the first three months, after which customers will be expected to fork out £50 per month to keep it running. Customers will be expected to update their own sites, with demonstrations taking place in Tiny shops. The PC comes with 20GB hard drive, 128MB SDRAM, DVD-ROM, 17in monitor, as well as a Lexmark 3200 printer, 300 dpi scanner and Microsoft SBE 2000 software. "This is an easy package aimed at a person who's never used the Internet before," said a Tiny representative. ® Related Stories Tiny Online touts 24/7 Net for 'less than £30' per month Teachers get Tiny PC deal
A Cambridge academic who registered URLs bearing the names of 130 authors says he now regrets trying to sell the domain names. Mark Hogarth has spent around £750 on registering hundreds of domain names, including martinamis.com and jeanettewinterson.com. His plan is to set up a string of Web sites through which he can redirect users to Amazon and cream off a commission when they buy books. But his mistake was trying to cash in early by selling the URLs to the writers themselves. Hogarth sent letters to 10 authors, including Martin Amis, offering to sell them the Web sites bearing their names. Speaking to The Register, Hogarth said he now regrets this action which he describes as a "very ham-fisted approach". He says he wanted to sell one URL to get his business venture started, but the scheme has backfired. "There were some people who were a bit annoyed," he said. Hogarth also ran into trouble when Jeanette Winterson went to register her own dotcom, only to discover it had already gone. Writing in The Times, the Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit author said: "A writer is his or her own trademark. Our reputation is our name. If I cannot go on the Web, as myself, in my own right, with my own work, then how am I to trade?" Winterson said she was preparing to take Hogarth to court to get back her "kidnapped" name. "I hope there's a more amicable resolution than going to court," said Hogarth. "I hope it wouldn't come to that. But I'm certainly not going to give it (the domain name) up." Hogarth says he doesn’t class himself as a cybersquatter, indeed he admits: "I'm not entirely sure what a cybersquatter is". He claims it is "quite rare" for a celebrity to own the URL for their name. Regarding his new venture, Hogarth wants "a vibrant, positive site for the author…like a personalised bookshop", and says he is no longer interested in selling any of the URLs. He has started a Web site, writerdomains.com, which explains his plan to "develop superb Web sites devoted to some of the world's favourite writers". He hopes the first site, davpilkey.com, will be up and running in a couple of weeks, although author Pilkey has not been contacted about the venture. A quick scout around the Web revealed that a couple of other sites Hogarth might be interested in buying - markhogarth.net and markhogarth.org - were still unregistered. Would Hogarth care if a stranger registered them? "I really wouldn’t mind," was his reply.® Related stories Cybersquatter? Not me, says owner of Greatdomainrobbery BAA attempts to shaft sheep site Mr Oxford University accuses Oxford University of murder
AMD bucked the trend in high technology stocks yesterday as it saw its share price rise to $60, rising by $5.25 during the day's trading. That followed positive reports by several analysts suggesting that its quarterly results, due in April, were likely to be better than expected, as well as market research which showed AMD was gaining market share over chip giant Intel. According to market research firm PC Data, AMD took 42 per cent share of the retail PC market in the US in February, a figure which is close to the last reported figures by the company in January. In other news, AMD said that while it will sell off its communications products division, it will hold onto its network products division, because of growth in that sector. While AMD's share price rose, other tech stocks did not fare so well. Intel's share price fell by nearly five dollars on the day, while Rambus has seen its price fall during the week. Yesterday, the stock fell to below $300. It has seen a steady decline during the week. ®
Michael Dell, the computer magnate, reckons BT is charging too much for ADSL and is taking too long to roll out its services. Join the queue. Unlike mere mortals, the Texan gazillionaire doesn't have to stand in line: he gets to meet Sir Peter Bonfield, BT chief executive, and tell it straight to his face. Bonfield and Dell met up in London four weeks ago, according to Chris Ayres of The Times, who got hold of the scoop. Well that blows Dell's chances of becoming a major supplier to BT, Britain's biggest purchaser of PCs. It stumps up more than £60 million a year to buy kit from Computacenter. Or is Michael Dell turning into a bit of a loose cannon? In the same trip to London, last month, he criticised AMD's "flaky" Athlon. BT declined to confirm or deny that the Bonfield-Dell meeting took place. But a BT "source" defended the company's ADSL plans. "What we are doing is the most ambitious roll-out of ADSL services in the world," The Times reports. US ADSL charges - typically $40 per month - do not include Internet access fees and equipment costs, unlike UK ADSL trial fees - typically £50 per month, the BT source said. ®
The legal wrath of Sun lawyers has descended on a site which was distributing what the company claims is confidential, proprietary and copyright information. Gerald Karczewski, assistant general counsel at Sun Microelectronics, has written to a site called Sunhelp, claiming that it is illegally publishing and duplicating Sun documents to third parties, and violating its trademarks. In his letter to the site, Karczewski threatened the owners of the site that other sites it maintains may also infringe its rights. The site ran what its Webmaster described as a "Sun rumor mill" but has conceded defeat and removed the offending documents. Sun's legal department said that the site's actions could be punished by a federal criminal action which could bring a fine of up to quarter of a million dollars and jail for five years, as well as civil penalties of up to $100,000 for each copyright work infringed. Said Karczewski in his letter: "In this case, there is very little question that your actions are nothing but willful. Your admission on your website verifies this conclusion. Your admission reads: 'The .PDF files above are marked Sun Proprietary/Confidential - need to know, so expect them to be yanked as soon as someone from Sun realizes that they're accessible from the outside world'." However, he added in a later paragraph that Sun wanted to avoid litigation, and instead demanded the Web site owners return the materials, agree not to violate Sun's trade secrets or copyright rights and remove material that could violate its trademark rights. ®
Fresh from two major reorganisations last year plus countless - and barely documented - min-reorgs, Microsoft is at it again. Is it because president and CEO Steve Ballmer likes the "continuous reinvention" sound-bite? This time around Ballmer is merging the platforms division with the developer group, with Jim Allchin keeping his job as head of all things OS in the former, but Paul Maritz, once the number three at MS, taking charge of the combined operation. And there hangs a tale, we think. Microsoft's last but one major reorganisation took place, funnily enough, at the end of March 1999. Life's too short to reprise it in detail, but Maritz being put in charge of developer then looked pretty much like a demotion. But by the end of July somebody at Microsoft was spinning to the Wall Street Journal that Maritz was poised to leave the company. There are two exquisite ironies to the WSJ tale. First of all, although it didn't cite the name(s) of whoever was mapping out Paul's future for him, it did quote Mich Mathews as saying he was staying with the company "for the immediate future." Hardly a denial that, but one of the other facets of the latest reorg is that Mathews herself is to head up a new centralised marketing division to spin across the Microsoft business groups. So we hope she and Paul are getting along. The other irony is that one of the reasons that was being put forward for Maritz dropping out of the picture was that he was spending more time at his farm in Zimbabwe. As we Registered with some prescience at the time, this probably was not a smart idea, and indeed in the intervening months the position of white farmers in Zimbabwe has worsened considerably. Teams of Robert Mugabe inspired "war veterans" are currently camped on many of the properties, and frankly, it's not the sort of picture you'd relish dropping into after dropping out of Microsoft. The new Maritz day job will involve combining Microsoft's efforts at producing the Next Generation Windows Services strategy that was announced when Bill Gates took more of a back seat. This is going to be a case of linking the various Microsoft products into a coherent (?) distributed platform, so it's a lot broader than just an OS development programme (Allchin's bag). But clearly it will involve OS development as well, so the reorg makes some sense. Meanwhile there's word of another reorg, this time a sales-led one designed to push servers and Internet services into the enterprise, and this could come as ealry as next week, according to US reports. Continuous reinvention or total chaos? You decide... ® Related stories: Maritz, one time MS number three, to leave company MS reorg - so how many divisions was that? Click for more stories
Infineon, the former semiconductor wing of Siemens which was spun off earlier this month, said today it will build a 12-inch (300mm) wafer module at its existing plant in Dresden. The firm will plough over €1 billion into the plant over the next three years, and the additional fab facilities will create over 1000 additional jobs at Dresden, in Saxony. The move will allow a jump in productivity as well as cost savings for chip production, the firm said. Motorola and Infineon started work on 300mm wafer technology two years back and started producing 64Mb memories on wafers at a pilot line last September. The Dresden Infineon fab currently employs nearly 3000 people, and the move to a 12-inch wafer model will produce yields of 2.5 more than the existing eight inch technology largely in use at semiconductor facilities around the world. ®
Information available publicly on the Intel Web site has confirmed that the firm's 1GHz Coppermine microprocessor cannot be used for dual processing. Yesterday, leaked documents we saw earlier in the week, said that Intel's Lancewood motherboard would support just about every flavour of Coppermine known to humankind, except for the 1GHz chip. At this page, you can dowload the info. In a table on page 18, a footnote confirms that the 1GHz microprocessor will not work in tandem with another 1GHz Intel chip. But Intel does not explain in this publicly available document exactly why putting two 1GHz microprocessors in harness will not cut it. According to one system integrator close to Intel's plans, the reason for this is because the 1GHz Pentium III uses a different stepping to other Coppermines. As of two weeks ago, he said, that particular stepping was not rated for dual usage. He points out that Intel, in the PDF referred to above, indicates that after 1GHz chips start to arrive in quantity, it will no longer rate processors in terms of MHz. As he says: "Doesn't 'an official 1.066 Genuine Intel Pentium III with Internet Streaming SIMD instructions' just slide off the tongue." There is more to this than meets the eye. If you scoot over to our hardware roundup today, you'll see a link to a page on Ace's Hardware which suggests both AMD and Intel's 1GHz processors are, in some way, overclocked.
The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has subpoenaed documents from eBay relating to an investigation of auctioneers Sotheby's and Christie's amid allegations of price-fixing of commissions, the Associated Press reports. eBay disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday that the government is examining its changes in commissions and buyer's premiums and "discussions, agreements or understandings with other auction houses." The request stems from a federal investigation begun in 1997 of Sotheby's and Christie's, which together control 95 percent of the US $4 billion worldwide auction market. eBay warned shareholders that the cost of defending itself in the investigation could adversely affect earnings and divert management attention from its regular business. The company also said other suits could follow. This week, eBay revealed it had contacted police after bidders complained they had not received the merchandise from a California man doing business on the site. eBay says it gets complaints from about one in every 25,000 transactions. "A large number of transactions occur on the eBay Web site," the company said in its SEC filing. "As a result, the company believes that government regulators have received a substantial number of consumer complaints about the eBay Web site which, while small as a percentage of its total transactions, are large in aggregate numbers." ®
Enthusiasm can get you a long way - and in the case of Fred Moldofsky, a 43-year old day trader from Houston, Texas, it could take you all the way to gaol. Moldofsky has been arrested and charged with securities fraud, after allegedly engineered a fall in Lucent's share price by posting a fake press release on a Yahoo! message board last Wednesday night. The following day, Lucent's share price fell by as much as 3.6 per cent, reducing its market cap by a whopping $7.1 billion. It didn't take too long to trace Moldofsky. A trace from Yahoo! through to AOL, his service provider, took police straight to his doorstep. Now he is in deep doo doo. Moldofsky, who is accused of trading 6000 Lucent shares on the day the bogus press release was posted, faces a maximum ten-year sentence and a $1 million fine, if found guilty. The Securities and Exchange Commission has also filed a related civil suit against him. And, we guess, that anyone who sold Lucent shares on Thursday, the day after Moldofsky is alleged to have posted the bogus press release, could have a case for suing him. The bogus press release was based on a genuine earnings warning released by Lucent on 6 January. Moldofsky is accused of posting it under the moniker "hot-like-wasabe". Accompanying this was the header: "LUCENT RELEASES EARNINGS WARNING! DAMN!". Moldofsky is also accused of reposting the fake 20 times under the name of a regular poster on the Lucent message board who was known for his bullish sentiments on the stock. ® Related Story Pairgain 'mastermind' faces huge Pairloss
Taiwanese motherboard manufacturer Epox has issued a warning that installing a version of Windows 95 on its Athlon 7KXA motherboard which uses a Via chipset can cause BIOS corruption. But a similar problem appears to affect other Athlon mobos using the KX133 chipset too. According to this Epox page, installing the retail release of Windows 95 4.00.950 (Retail Release) affects the BIOS, meaning that a consumer's PC will not work next time it is rebooted. Epox is suggesting that the best workaround for the problem is to avoid installing this particular implementation of Windows 95, instead installing OSR2x or later. However, if the BIOS is damaged, consumers will need to contact their suppliers or Epox themselves to arrange for the BIOS to be re-flashed. C'T magazine, has more information on the problem, which you can find here. According to this piece, which is in German, the problem is not just restricted to Epox, but other boards, including NMC and Aopen boards, are also affected by a similar problem. That would seem to suggest that the conflict is with the chipset and the OS, rather than the Athlon microprocessor. No one from Via was available for comment at press time. ®
An MBO and a name change will see CCM Distribution re-invent itself as a hi-tech investment house called Fundamental e-Investments and divest itself of its current core business. CCM managing director Brent Cutler will lead the MBO of the computer components distribution arm, which will continue to operate as normal, according to a statement from group chairman Robert Durston. Fundamental e-Investments will hold a stake in CCM, and although terms were not discussed. The investment house will "use its cash to invest in fast growth companies, predominantly, but not exclusively, in the telecom, internet and media sectors," the statement said. As a precursor to the launch of Fundamental e-Investments, CCM has made its first investment and now owns a 34 per cent stake in WAP Integrators, the developer of a WAP-based gambling service. Fundamental e-Investments will be run by CCM founders Peter Kitson and Stuart Willmott. The news of the split came in CCM's financial results statement for the year ending 30 September. Pre-tax profit was £918,844, down on £1.4 million on the previous year. Turnover was £22.9 million, up slightly on 1998's £22.4 million. Back in January, CCM MD Brent Cutler denied rumours that the company was about buy an Internet company. The rumours were fuelled by a sudden rise in CCM's share price. He told The Register: "These take-over rumours are untrue. There is no Internet deal in the offing. We don't know how the speculation started. I think people have misinterpreted what's going on and think we're going to buy an Internet company." He also said: "If people think you are about to be a dot.com company, you become more valuable." ® Related Stories Net rumours boost CCM share price CCM dips toe in e-commerce waters Seagate MBOs HDD business at rock-bottom price
S3's suitor for its 3D graphics chip business is Via, according to a source "close to the talks" cited by Electronic Buyer's News. Neither S3 nor Via have confirmed the claim, but, as we said yesterday, Via remains one of the four most likely buyers - the rest being Nvidia, ATI and Intel - primarily because it has already mooted buying S3, earlier this year. And the companies are already involved with each other through a joint spin-off operation, S3-Via, which is working on ways to integrate S3's graphics technology into Via's low-end PC chipsets. Via's rival, Acer Labs, has been doing the same kind of work with ArtX, now owned by one of S3's rivals, ATI. EBN's mole couldn't say whether the deal involves the S3 name - the one most associated with the chips - or the Diamond brand - the name most associated with the end product, the add-in cards - or even whether Via will take the technology and engineers alone. ® Related Stories S3 chip team sale: the potential buyers lined up S3 readies graphics chips hive-off
Internet giant Yahoo! has become the target of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation into whether it disclosed customer data to third parties in violation of federal regulations, the Associated Press reports. The company has been ordered to turn over documents investigators hope will enable them to determine if it violated FTC consumer protection regulations concerning the use of personal data. Yahoo! revealed the action in its annual report filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Thursday. The investigation may also include Yahoo!'s subsidiary GeoCities, which hosts Web sites for the technologically challenged. GeoCities reached a settlement with the FTC in 1998 in which it agreed to change the way it collects and distributes information about its customers, the wire service says. In its SEC filing, Yahoo! warned shareholders that any negative findings by the FTC could result in actions "which could potentially have an adverse effect on our business, results of operations and financial condition." The company said it is prepared to defend its privacy practices. This is only the latest in a string of controversies questioning whether Internet companies can implement adequate privacy policies without regulatory oversight. Earlier this year, Web advertising outfit DoubleClick elicited outrage among privacy advocates after announcing plans to combine non-identifiable aggregate data with identifiable personal data that it collects from consumers. The company scrapped the plan in response to blistering public criticism. The Clinton administration has urged US Web companies to regulate themselves in order to avoid government intervention. But market forces being what they are, the companies will naturally put that off until the last possible minute -- say, just about the time when some really horrible bill will have reached Conference Committee on the Hill -- and continue getting away with as much abuse as they possibly can in the mean time. They just have to hope that they'll pull the rabbit out of the hat in time. ®
In the belief that the ASP industry is being held back by the problem of ASP-enabling existing applications, IBM and Citrix have today announced a service that is intended to make it possible for software vendors to go "from nothing to the Net" in five days, as Citrix iBusiness VP Chris Phoenix put it. IBM's ASP Prime Solution Centres worldwide are intended to help developers to enable applications for Web hosting and Internet delivery, using the Citrix' Metaframe application server and Nfuse portal technology. IBM's centres are in Oregon and Minnesota, with plans announced today to add four additional centres: at Hursley, England; Sydney, Waltham, Mass. and San Mateo. IBM will be offering technical and marketing assistance to UNIX, NT and AS/4000 developers. There's a great deal of investment, and probably consideable potential, in the ASP market, but so far there's not that much evidence of revenue. The IBM Citrix deal is intended to address best practices for service level agreements, provisioning, billing, settlement and data center management - but without adequate financial returns, it is all doomed. ®
Operating system supplier Microware Systems will appeal against the US District Court for the Southern District of Iowa's decision to chuck out its claim that Apple violated its trademarks. The ruling, made on 17 March, said that Apple's MacOS 9 was not a misappropriation of Microware's OS-9 trademark. OS-9 has been available for nearly 20 years, whereas MacOS 9 only shipped last autumn. That said, MacOS 9 is a natural extension of Apple's OS numbering scheme based on version number, and on that basis the Iowa court ruled in Apple's favour. It also noted that OS-9, an embedded operating system, and MacOS 9, a desktop OS, were aimed at very different markets and would therefore not be confused in the minds of customers. ® Related Stories Apple defeats 'OS 9' trademark suit OS-9 developer sues Apple over MacOS 9
Watford Electronics has turned cybersquatter by registering URLs using the names of some of its rivals. When David Atherton, MD of Dabs Direct, went to register his name as a dotcom, he found it had already gone to an outfit called Cresta Enterprise Ltd. So had davidatherton.co.uk and dabs.org.uk. Unbeknown to Jungle.com owner Steve Bennett, Cresta has also registered stevebennett.co.uk. It turns out that Cresta is a company owned by PC builder Watford Electronics, registered to the same Luton address as its parent. Atherton said: "I have no plans to use the URL at the moment. But if I did, I would make a short phonecall to my old friend Shiraz Jessa. I understand he sells PCs at 10 to 15 per cent margin - will I get the dotcom at the same price?" Cybersquatter Jessa, joint MD at Watford, said the domain name shopping spree had been a light-hearted attempt to goad his competitors. "It was just a joke. I expected one of them to approach me about it, but neither of them have and now I'm £100 out of pocket," he said. Web entrepreneur Bennett said he wasn't bothered about owning his own name as a URL at the moment. "If they don't do anything with it, I don't give a monkey's," he said. But if they do something with it that I don't like, I would be forced to take appropriate action." Jessa claimed Watford had no intention of starting any business ventures with the domain names. But he did agree to sell them to the duo "at the usual computer margin". ® Related Stories Jeanette Winterson demands return of kidnapped name London police in URL ownership row Jungle.com gets yer juices flowing Dabs Direct launches Playdirect.com
As predicted, Sony will recall utility CDs shipped with all its PlayStation 2 consoles to date, the company admitted earlier today. The reason: the bug exposed by users earlier this month that allows the console to play DVDs from any region - a feature that violates Sony's DVD licence agreement. Sony has already had to asks user who experience problems with faulty DVD playback to return their PlayStation Memory Card. Shortly after the console's release, it rapidly emerged there were problems with some consoles in which they overwrote the DVD driver with saved game information. Sony narrowed the bug down to some faulty MCs. The latest recall only affects the PlayStation 2 utility disk. Console owners will be able to return their CD from 1 April by post, or at their local Seven-Eleven between 7 and 21 April. Sony, of course, has a close relationship with Seven-Eleven through a major e-commerce deal signed earlier this year. Sony is now shipping all PlayStations with the updated Utility CD. However, that leaves some 1.25 million disks in circulation. A massive advertising campaign will draw users' attention to the upgrade. The cost of all this to Sony is said to be a considerable sum, though much will depend on whether users actually do return their CDs. After all, the scope to play Region One DVDs - Region One is the US, in the DVD industry's map of the world; Region Two is Japan and Europe - is a very appealing feature, particularly when the film business is so keen to enforce it. Region One compatibility is particularly to be wished for since far more movies have been released in the all-digital format in the US than elsewhere, and many of them provide more features than their other-region equivalents. ® Related Stories Hackers use PlayStation 2 to dump DVDs to tape PlayStation 2 can play US DVDs - apparently Sony asks buyers to return faulty PlayStation 2 MCs Sony disputes PlayStation 2 Memory Card recall Sony to recall all PlayStation 2 Memory Cards Sony plugs US DVD PS2 grey market Sony PlayStation 2 prices hit £1000 on UK grey market
Psion today announced that it is licensing the EPOC version of the Opera browser. This particular bulletin must be a strong contender for least unexpected news of the year, as Psion operatives have made no secret of the fact that the netBook will use Opera, just as soon as the coding's complete. Opera 4.0 for EPOC went into public beta at the end of February, and the product should be finished in the relatively near future. According to Psion it will be bundled with the netBook and Series 7 ranges, and will be available separately for the 5mx and other models (which it is already, from Opera, of course). The bundling aspect does of course mean that it's likely to be a couple more months before the netBook and Series 7 can be regarded as feature-complete, and this is of particular significance for the netBook, which is intended as a mobile notebook substitute for volume sales to corporate customers. Effectively, Psion has been running a beta program of the netBook with potential customers since it was launched last year, so we can expect this to continue for a while. We can maybe even expect new versions of the machine to turn out to be the ones that really chalk up volume sales. ® Related Stories Opera goes public with EPOC browser beta Be to bundle Opera Web browser
Analysis The discredited US business patent issuing machine is being tweaked, but the signs are that it will not bring about the reform needed. The action plan of the US Patent and Trademark Office's new business methods patent initiative has words of comfort about industry outreach and quality issues, but it is failing to impress those at the patents coal face who know that the USPTO will continue to use its rubber stamp too liberally. The new USPTO programme will introduce a second pair of eyes to give an additional layer of review by a senior examiner. In addition, the guidelines for computer patents will be revised in April. Supposedly, more attention will be paid to prior art - patent jargon for earlier technology and patents related to the application - since in very many applications, there is nothing novel. Apart from silly US patent case law, the situation is made worse by the ponderous USPTO, which has never managed to keep current on technology when that is the essence of its business. When the first software patent applications began to be filed, hardware experts were used because the agency had no software expertise. The situation has not improved greatly. What has happened is that patents for business processes that are neither new or unique are being granted by a gung-ho USPTO that only gives a cursory glance at them before waving them through. Anything man-made The problems for the IT industry begin with the US constitution, which allows patents to be granted to "new, useful, non-obvious" inventions in one of four categories: "process, machine, manufacture, or composition of matter", with the result that the US Supreme Court has decided that patentable subject matter covers "anything under the sun that is made by man". Business methods were excluded until the July 1998 US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals decision in the State Street Bank versus Signature case, where the court found that a computerised method of administering mutual funds was valid, and that it was not necessary for the program to be tied to a physical invention. Another case in April 1999 that had the effect of cementing the decision was AT&T versus Excel over a patent for call message recording for telephone systems, where the same court (which is the specialised appellate court for patent cases) reversed the district court's finding for Excel. In 1998, 700 software patent applications were made that covered financial or business methods, with 300 being concerned with the Internet - so-called cyberpatents. Previously, copyright law had been used to protect computer programs. A few prominent instances of patents taking advantage of these extraordinary decisions are well-known, but there are now thousands of US patents granted or being applied for in a latter-day gold rush. The Amazon patent on a one-click checkout was defended against Barnes & Noble; Bruce Dickens' patent on a work-around for Y2K date changing is fortunately being re-examined; the GeoWorks' wireless data protocol patent is being enforced; and the Priceline reverse-auction patent is being vigorously defended. There are also patents that are plainly based on fantasy, like the hyper-light speed antenna. The international angle The USPTO will be arranging a meeting about e-commerce patents, probably in July, which is a good move if suggestions made are actioned. But before this happens, there is an important Diplomatic Conference for the adoption of the draft Patent Law Treaty at WIPO in Geneva from 11 May to 2 June. The text of the basic proposal is here. Article 6 precludes any national patent office from imposing different requirements to those under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. This concerns the USPTO, but it remains to be seen whether it will have any significant effect on cyberpatent applications. Only by having much better informed examiners is there any hope of improving the system. Whatever changes in patent application and examining procedures come about, the problem remains that a significant number of US patents have been granted in breach of the examining rules. The system is broken, and duff patents have to be removed, by challenging and re-examining each one. It is most unwise that the compensation package for patent examiners is based on how many patents they review. Fortunately, the new USPTO initiative does include provision for enhanced technical training. A change of US law is not needed: the solution is to apply the law. A problem that has yet to be faced is that in quite a few cases patents have been granted for business processes where there is a previous implementation that could not have been patented at the time, since it was before the State Street Bank case. If the USPTO does not start its own re-examination process, those who actually invented the earlier business process should produce the prior art to invalidate the relevant opportunistic patent, and send it to the USPTO. Business procedures used for years on Minitel (for example the shopping cart) have subsequently been patented for the Internet. The USPTO has just become the second Performance-Based Organisation under a concept introduced by Vice President "Mr-Internet" Gore and the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (really). A PBO is supposed to be accountable for results by having clear objectives, specific measurable goals, customer service standards and targets for improved performance. These need to be set out in the public domain, with Commissioner Todd Dickinson's and other senior jobs being on the line if the improvements are not substantially met. Maybe Greg Aharonian, whose Patnews never fails to entertain, should be put in charge of a USPTO quality control programme. At present, Congress is considering a bill to allow the USPTO to keep the fees it gets from applicants. This should give it the money to deal with the mess it has created by failing to reject applications that should never have been granted. For a start, salaries should be increased to attract more and better people. The Register has its own suggestions for sorting out patents mess: Cyberpatents should be limited to around three years, rather than the 17 years they currently enjoy, because they become outdated very quickly. The re-examination of duff patents, and the opponents' legal costs, should be paid by the patent holder if the patent is not upheld on re-examination. Public comment should be solicited via the Internet before a patent is granted. Business process patents should not be recognised outside the US, while the mess is being sorted out. ®
Hyperlinking, or deep linking, where links bring surfers from one Web site past the home page of another and directly to the relevant content is perfectly legal, according to US District Judge Harry Hupp in his ruling on a case brought by Ticketmaster against rival Tickets.com.
The latest Linux US retail sales figures for February 2000 from PCData show that Corel Linux jumped from 2.3 per cent in November to 19.6 per cent in February, while Red Hat's share dropped from 58.5 per cent to 40.4 percent. Over the same period, Macmillan's share dropped marginally, but SuSE showed a tenfold leap from 0.7 per cent to 7.1 per cent. Corel's Linux sales data include WordPerfect8 for Linux . Caldera experienced a drop in its share, but this may reflect its targeting at the enterprise, where retail sales are small. Corel CEO Michael Cowpland pronounced himself "thrilled" at the level of support, which is the only bright news for Corel for some time. The WordPerfect Office Suite for Linux is scheduled for US and Canadian retail release this weekend. Corel says that it has added additional dates for its road show next week, where seven shows have sold out, and 10,000 people have said they would attend. ®
A former Intel employee was indicted in California yesterday by a US grand jury on charges of stealing trade secrets pertaining to the company's Itanium microprocessor and disclosing them to a new employer, which happens to be an Intel competitor. Malaysian Say Lye Ow faces an incredible 30 years in prison and US $1.5 million in fines for taking documents and computer files relating to the design and testing of the Itanium 64-bit processor, which is being developed jointly with Hewlett-Packard. He'd probably get off more lightly for stealing State Secrets. Prosecutors are withholding the name of Ow's current employer because the company is cooperating in the investigation. No further details were available at press time. ®
A former employee of Intel was charged in California with stealing trade secrets relating to the firm's future IA-64 Itanium chip, Dow Jones reports Malaysian Say Lye Ow faces an incredible 30 years in prison and US $1.5 million in fines for taking documents and computer files relating to the design and testing of the Itanium 64-bit processor, which is being developed jointly with Hewlett-Packard. He'd probably get off more lightly for stealing State Secrets. Ow, the wire says, took trade info from Intel with him to a new employer, not disclosed but which apparently is Sun Microsystems, as the documents and hard drives were seized at the Sunnyvale facility of the firm. The thefts were alleged to have happened in May and July of 1998, but, according to an Intel representative quoted in the Dow Jones' story, had little impact on the firm's current plans for the 64-bit microprocessor. Sun and Intel found themselves in an unseemly spat at last month's Developer Forum in Palm Springs, as first revealed here. But this matter, presumably, is completely unrelated to that. ®
An electronics student who emailed a pornographic picture to his friend accidentally sent it to everyone at his college whose surname began with 'C'.
Keenly watched Finnish 3D graphics chip company Bitboys has as near as dammit missed its self-imposed 31 March 2000 to announce its upcoming chip based on its Xtreme Bandwidth Architecture (XBA). Back in January, Bitboys unveiled XBA and promised to "introduce the final product specifications, product names and target prices of the first XBA enabled products March 2000". Well, boys, it's 31 March now, and there's still no announcement - what's happening, dudes? XBA provides 32-bit colour and a 32-bit Z-buffer, and enables one and two-processor acceleration systems, providing data throughput rates of 12GB per second and over 20GBps, respectively. The key to the technology is the inclusion of stacks of on-die RAM - up to 18MB of it - built into the chip using Infineon's embedded DRAM process. By tightly coupling memory and 3D engine, XBA-based chips are free of the key bottleneck - the system's memory bus - in other 3D chip and card designs. External DRAM is also supported, across a 128-bit bus. Bitboys' rivals approach to limiting those bottleneck by supporting ever-faster - and more expensive - forms of memory, such as Double Data Rate (DDR) SDRAM on the card. That's not enough, say the Finns, for today's high resolutions and frame rates. But until they get their products out it remains the only solution. That said, 3dfx's use of Gigapixel's tiling technology, due to be implemented in the next-but-one generation of accelerator after the Voodoo 4 and 5-powering VSA-100, should cut down its chips' bandwidth requirements significantly - and almost certainly more cheaply than Bitboys' design. In fact, Bitboys did announce a pair of chips last summer, the Glaze3D 1200 and 2400, with specs. not dissimilar to those mentioned at the XBA launch. These chips have yet to appear, but we assume they are in fact what Bitboys planned to announce this month. The 1200 and 2400 were originally scheduled to ship Q1 2000. Again, that doesn't seem to have happened - there's certainly nothing on Bitboy's Web site about it; and the company has yet to respond to requests for clarification - and we suspect that it was to mask their delay that Bitboys announced XBA instead. That's fair enough - after all, designing 3D graphics chips isn't something you can knock do over a good weekend - but it's now looking like the company has missed its second deadline too. The XBA-based chips are due to sample sometime Q2 this year, so Bitboys has more leeway yet on getting them out of the door. Volume production will take place during Q3, according to the current schedule. ® Related Stories Bitboys unveils embedded DRAM 3D graphics chip 3dfx to grab Gigapixel for $186m GigaPixel takes on 3dfx, S3, Nvidia with... tiles
UK media conglomerate Pearson, owner of Penguin Books, the Econmist and the Financial Times, has agreed to buy troubled publisher Dorling Kindersley for $311 million. The acquisition is a straightforward cash deal, with Pearson offering 430 pence for each DK share. That's four per cent more than yesterday's closing price of 413.5 pence. DK's shares have been rising since 26 January, when the company said it was looking for a buyer. That announcement came a week after it issued a profit warning. At one point, free ISP Freeserve was seen as the likely buyer, with its eye on DK's Web content. DK's finances were hit hard after a lucrative Star Wars: Episode One publishing contract proved... well... not very lucrative. Sales of merchandising - at least in the book business - came nowhere near their anticipated levels, leaving DK with a Death Star-sized pile of unsold items. The company's ill-fated attempts to extend its success in the mid-90s CD-ROM arena into the late-90s Internet world, didn't help much either. In total, the company lost $23.8 million in the six months to 31 December 1999 - the year before it was in profit, to the tune of £3.1 million - despite an increase in sales, much of it before last June's release of Episode One, we suspect. The Pearson takeover is expected to take place within six weeks' time, and will see the departure of founder Peter Kindersley as a company executive. Pearson hasn't said what it plans to do with DK, but as an aggressive pursuer of Internet business, it's likely to beef up DK's own Web and multimedia operation. ® For more UK Internet financial news, visit Cash Register
The Silliest Server of the Week award has to go to the team at ApachePDA, part of UK company Apache Services, which has dedicated itself to porting the best-known open source Web server software, Apache, over to the... er... Palm Pilot. The software is currently in alpha testing, but it's robust enough to serve the group's Web site - though whether it's actually running on a modem-equipped Palm or a PC running PalmOS emulation software, we're not sure. The code takes up at least 1680KB of the PDA's memory, so don't try it unless you've a 2MB or more Palm. It also has to be running PalmOS 3.0 or higher. Still, it's an impressive achievement, even if the Palm isn't exactly the most practical platform for hosting Web pages. There's something very nicely nerdy about such a pointless project - a sort of 'we did it because it's there' attitude, to slightly misquote Everest explorer George Mallory. Then again... there's that curious 1st April 2000 'last updated' message down at the bottom of the page and the images are stored in a directory called /avrilfish... ® Link ApachePDA's Web site
Steve Bennett's Jungle.com is to buy his PC mail order business Software Warehouse. The online music and IT venture expects to complete the share swap by the end of April, giving Software Warehouse shareholders 15 per cent ownership of Jungle. Through the deal it will take Software Warehouse's mail order, warehouse and logistics businesses. Jungle has also bought its business-to-business outfit, Corporate Direct, as well as Software Warehouse in Australia. Jungle will gain 500 staff and about £70 million in annual sales through the deal. It does not, apparently, want the chain of computer shops, which Software Warehouse plans to offload to a separate buyer. After the share price drop of online monsters such as lastminute.com, this reorganisation of Bennett's companies should put some solid logistics behind Jungle, which is expected to IPO imminently. "This will give Jungle a much better turnover and turn it into a bigger company," said Bennett, who declined to comment on flotation plans. The sale of Software Warehouse's retail arm, which is expected to take the form of a management buy out, should be completed in the next couple of months. Last August, Venture capitalist 3i agreed to pump £10 million into Jungle. ® Related stories: Jungle customers earn discounts through free ISP Jungle.com doubles first month sales target 3i drums beat for Jungle online