13th > April > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

AMD's Athlon strategy pays off

Semiconductor firm Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) made a net profit of $189.3 million on a turnover of $1.09 billion for its latest financial quarter, and attributed the profit surge to strong sales of both flash memory and its x86 Athlon microprocessor. The profit came in a quarter that is usually not the best for semiconductor firms, but was helped by Intel's inability to ship as many of its x86 processors as it would have liked. Jerry Sanders III, CEO of AMD, described the results as the best quarter in the firm's history, with sales in its three product groups all growing by as much as 89 per cent compared to the same quarter last year. Sales of the Athlon grew 50 per cent in the quarter, totting up at 1.2 million units, he said. AMD shipped a total of 6.5 million microprocessors, when the K6 family is taking into account. Sanders also revealed that the current quarter was showing good signs of growth. This will be aided by its further microprocessor introductions, codenamed Thunderbird and Spitfire, expected to arrive in late May or early June. Deals AMD made with firms like Cisco and Alcatel for flash memory also contributed to the pot, with AMD forecasting that demand will exceed supply for some time. Sanders said this quarter sales of x86 chips will be "modestly higher" than the last. AMD expects to ship 1.8 million Athlons and that average selling prices will hold up in the quarter. Like other technology stocks, AMD saw its share price falter during yesterday's training on Wall Street, but it closed at $76, up by over $5. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Rambus far from Rambust despite loss

Licensing technology for Sony's PlayStation accounted for the bulk of Rambus revenues in its second financial quarter to 31 March, the firm said yesterday. Revenues, at $15.7 million for the quarter, were a record, but after taking into account employee stock option charges amounting to $171 million, the balance sheet showed a paper loss of $166.8 million. Revenues for this period include $4.4 million from an unnamed licensee which Rambus has cancelled its contract with. Rambus licenses its technology in return for royalties to third-parties. So far, Nintendo and Sony have so far accounted for the lion's share of royalty revenues, bu Rambus said it expects some PC licence fees to come its way during its third financial quarter. The share price, apparently affected by the general nose dive on Nasdaq, fell by $32 to close at $214. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Take The Reg SETI challenge

Well, now I'm sorry I mentioned SETI in the first place. At least we now have definitive evidence that the strange alien creatures based in Hanger 20/22, Maddox Street have minds of their own. While the Denebian Slim Devil [read rather intelligent and thoughtful chap - Ed] M. Magee pours scorn on the 250,000 years of CPU time that have currently been expended by PCs around the world on the analysis of radio signals from around the galaxy, others are less sceptical. Take for example your humble writer, who in association with the late lamented Pete Sherriff (an entity so weird he/she/it defied logical explanation) has processed well in excess of 150 SETI work units over the last few of your Earth months, thinks the project is more worthwhile. As the SETI folks themselves state, what's more useful for taking up those spare CPU cycles, flying toasters or the analysis of radio signals to detect possible extraterrestrial intelligence? Anyway, enough internal sniping. What we want to find is the reader who has processed a SETI work unit in the shortest time. The challenge is open to all, regardless of the hardware at your disposal. But we will be checking with SETI Central in Berkeley, so don't try to cheat. Our aim is to find which combination of processor and operating system can munch its way through a typical SETI workload in the shortest time. We'll need to have detailed description of the system involved and an average calculation time over at least five work units. Overclocking is allowed, nay, encouraged. The only regulation for this competition is that you must have paid for the computer out of your own pocket - using an Alphaserver in a university computer science lab is a tad unfair. You have until the end of April to send in your entries, and what better prize for the winner than a genuine alien lookalike Intel Bunnyperson™ in the colour of your choice? We'll also throw in a rather old but functional Intel Seattle motherboard (the one that works) and whatever else we can find in the back of the drinks cabinet. Live long and prosper. Send your contributions to Andrew Thomas ® Related Story CPU initiative wasted on extra terrestrials
Andrew Thomas, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

WAP really is useful

As we all know/have been told, WAP is going to change the world forever. No doubt it will also have the fastest uptake ever with consumers (wait for those graphs) and wap.inc will be worth more than all the FTSE 100 companies together within a month. But while we can argue over the merits of buying a CD over a phone while standing outside HMV, WAP will be a guaranteed success with one market - the deaf. In fact, so great is the difference that WAP will make to deaf people that the RNID (Royal National Institute for Deaf people) has created two new positions at its London offices - one for mobile technology and one for the Internet. The RNID has several projects in the pipeline and has already tested some WAP browsers. It is even prepared to build a product itself if commercial kit is not up to scratch. According to director of technology, Dr John Low, the charity already has good links with the major mobile manufacturers. WAP technology really could change the lives of the UK's 8.7 million deaf and hard-of-hearing people who have to contend with being treated as stupid on an almost daily basis. Perhaps WAP marketeers could use them as an example occasionally (you can only buy so many bunches of flowers, lads). Links Royal National Institute for Deaf people
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Babbage boffins build heavyweight printer

In a world fixated with time-to-market issues, it is refreshing to discover a newly launched printer that has been a mere 150 years in development. The London Science Museum has completed a mechanical printer originally designed by Charles Babbage as an output device for his Difference Engine, widely regarded to be the first computer. Although Babbage never completed the Difference Engine, largely due to the relatively unsophisticated engineering processes of the 19th Century, boffins at the museum successfully built one from his original drawings in 1991. Now the 2.5 ton monster printer is complete, navigation tables produced by the mechanical computer - no luggable itself, weighing in at 3 tons - can be automatically printed. And the printer is surprisingly advanced. It can text wrap and can be programmed for different column widths and line spacing. It can even produce printing plates for use in a conventional printing press. ® World's first erratumnotbug Science Museum technicians claim that they found a number of mistakes in the design of both the Difference Engine and the new printer, which they believe were deliberately included by Babbage in a bid to prevent industrial espionage. The same excuse is, of course, used today by leading chip makers to explain inadequacies in their products. Related story Byron's daughter was first programmer... NOT
Andrew Thomas, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

News Avatar speaks! (But what will be Ananova's first words?)

The digipuppeteers pulling the strings of cybernewsreader Ananova are in a tizz trying to decide what her first words should be. Ananova will make its first newscast next week and those promoting the pixel person want it to say something apt in honour of such an occasion. That's why Net users are being urged to e-mail their suggestions to come up with an "immortal phrase that will enter the history books". Ananova's creators cite other such moments in communications history to add weight to their appeal: Samuel B Morse, for example, tapped out: "What hath God wrought?" in his first telegram. Phone inventor lexander Graham Bell said: "Mr Watson, come here - I want you." And Ray Tomlinson, who sent the first e-mail, wrote: "qwertyuiop." Well, here are a few suggestions to get started. What about "Your efficiency impresses me", "Here is the news", or "Don't you even think about fantasising about me, I'm only a computer generated image, go get a life, you adolescent geek." Other suggestions can be sent to firstwords@ananova. And if your suggestion is used you get a prize. Ananova is owned by the Press Association. It will replace its NewsCentre with ananova.com next week. ®
Tim Richardson, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Martha Lane-Fox turned away from top London restaurant?

One of Britain's top nouvou riche Web stars was looking sour-faced outside Soho trendy eating spot Mezzo's last night. Martha Lane-Fox was spotted leaving the restaurant empty-stomached after being made to wait at the reception desk for a full 30 minutes. It is not known if the dotcom millionairess, who was last year voted fourth hottest date in toff mag Tatler, was unable to secure a table at the establishment or was stood up at the last minute. ® Related Stories Tatler awards Foxy lady Little Black Book accolade The wit and wisdom of Martha Lane-Fox
Linda Harrison, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Apple customises MacOS X for Wintellers

An interesting snippet from MacOS Rumors: according to sources, Apple has been teasing would-be MacOS X on Intel licensees with customised start-up screens. That, suggests the site, is a sign that Apple is looking at licensing an x86 version of MacOS X seriously. Apple is, taking licensing seriously - it would be foolish not to, if only to see what the reaction among Wintel vendors is - but that's not why the OS has a customisable start-up sequence - it's simply canny Apple engineers using the flexibility of MacOS X to the full. MacOS X, like Unix and Linux's X Window GUI, stores many of its graphical and other resources as editable files, contrary to Apple's long tradition of burying it all in resource forks, and usually encoded resource forks, at that. Preferences and the like are now easily editable XML files, and hurrah for that too. The upshot is, that you can swap in and out GUI elements like... er... start-up screens, menu bars, buttons and what have you. This, we suspect, is largely how the OS supports both the Aqua UI and the traditional Platinum interface, which, we're told, is hidden deep within the OS' latest test release. ® For more on the MacOS X's interesting internals, check out John Siracusa's excellent analysis over at Ars Technica.
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

AOL.de found liable for online music piracy

A German company is demanding around $50,000 in damages after a court found America Online liable for online music piracy. A Bavarian state court in Munich yesterday ruled in favour of Hit Box Software and said ISP AOL was responsible for letting people swap bootleg music files on its service. Hit Box lawyer Stefan Ventroni said the ruling would help protect musicians against illegal use of their tunes on the Web. "With this verdict, they can demand that such Internet pages be blocked," he said. AOL plans to appeal. The US company claimed it had acted to stop the forum as soon as it discovered what was happening, and that it was unable to track all of its Internet traffic. "Total control of all pages on our servers is technically almost impossible," a representative for AOL Germany said. "Also, that would amount to censorship." Karlsruhe-based Hit Box's concerns centred around three instrumental versions of pop songs that were downloaded for free more than 1,000 times via AOL. The tunes, including a karaoke-intended version of "Get Down" by the Backstreet Boys, normally cost up to $15 on a CD. The company demanded 100,000 marks ($50,000) in damages, but judges put off a ruling on the size of the award, the Associated Press reported. A representative for Gema, Germany's main music licensing group, said: "The Internet is not a lawless space…Right now, the rights of creative artists are being trampled on in the Internet." ® Related Stories AOL beats back Freeserve ad complaints Saudi prince takes $1bn AOL stake AOL mops up Bertelsmann stake
Linda Harrison, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

BT McKinseyed in bid for world leadership

BT's been McKinseyed. The telco has announced details of a monster restructuring initiative it claims will enable it to become the "world leader in the next wave of the communications revolution". The plans include separating the UK fixed network business into wholesale and retail divisions. And in common with other large corporations BT is to group its other businesses by market sector rather than geography. The result of the management consultants' arcane art is that there will now be four businesses that go to make up BT:
Tim Richardson, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Dell takes on full Palm line – almost

Dell has extended its agreement with Palm to sell the full range of the PDA developer's products. Dell already offers the Palm III, IIIx and V models, and will now add the IIIe, IIIxe and Vx. The VII will be added to the line-up shortly, said Dell. Oddly, though, the company isn't offering the colour IIIc - at least, it hasn't mentioned that it will - so we assume Palm may be holding these back for itself, particularly in light of predicted shortages in small form-factor colour LCDs. This is a good deal for Palm: it has always promoted its PDAs as an adjunct to a PC - though of late, it has placed more emphasis on their role as standalone devices. So selling them alongside PCs makes a lot of sense. Get potential buyers think of the Palm as just another peripheral, and the PDA could become as uniquitous as the printer. Dell will sell Palms through its corporate-oriented Dellware direct sales site, and through its more mainstream e-commerce operation, Gigabuys.com. ® Related Stories Cellphone LCDs to dominate display production this year Nintendo Gameboy delay confirms Palm profit fears Palm profits surpass Street 'spectations
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

EPIC surveys state of global encryption and snooping

Analysis Efforts by governments to regulate encryption have largely been defeated, for three reasons: political action; a realisation that it was becoming increasingly impossible to enforce encryption controls; and most of all because of the rise of electronic commerce. The third annual report on the worldwide state of encryption, issued earlier this month by EPIC, the Electronic Privacy Information Center in Washington DC, documents the relaxations that have occurred, and gives a very interesting review of encryption regulation. Although encryption has declined as a primary issue, there appears to be no relaxation of back-door security checking mechanisms for police and intelligence agencies. Easy key cracking has gone considerably beyond 64 bits, which had been allowed in some countries. With smart card encryption security compromised, as well as the RSA code, the next step is seen to be 2048-bit encryption. The present problems for hackers and spooks are not over whether encryption can be cracked, but how long it would take. There have been several significant liberalisation steps recently, with perhaps the most significant being the US decision to relax encryption export regulations from January and the knock-on effect that this has had on other countries. Those countries that tried to enforce encryption controls, whether on trade or the compulsory depositing of encryption keys, have nearly all relaxed their policies, or are not enforcing them. In the UK, however, Home Secretary Jack Straw has called for more restrictions on cryptography. Countries that have the strongest desire to control encryption include many of the former Warsaw Pact countries, together with those with a troubled history of civil rights. No international agreement It has proved impossible to get any universal agreement about encryption, so the debate has taken place in a number of sub-universal bodies such as the OECD, the European Union, and the Council of Europe. The civil rights aspect is considered to be covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The OECD has produced its Guidelines on Cryptography Policy, which influenced the European Commission decision to support the unrestricted development of encryption products and services. Canada, Germany, Ireland and Finland were enthusiastic supporters. US pressure for the OECD to adopt key escrow was not successful. The European Commission has shown itself to be opposed to restrictions on encryption, and opposes any national controls being used in trade between member states. The G-8 industrialised countries adopted the OECD guidelines. Enforcement of encryption laws could be by lawful access using encryption keys, or through forced disclosure, as in Singapore and Malaysia, for example. The Council of Europe, now with 40 member states, is working with the Computer Crime Division of the US Department of Justice with a view to producing a draft convention on computer crime by the end of this year. This will include provision for built-in wire tapping capabilities for all telecommunications and networking equipment. Nor is the work confined to European countries: apart from the USA, there is liaison with Canada, Japan, South Africa, UNESCO, and other agencies. Key escrow or key recovery has generally fallen from favour, says the EPIC report, because key access systems introduced security weaknesses, costs were often high, and they could be circumvented. The demise of key escrow, which had been advocated by US envoy David Aaron, was precipitated when the Wassenaar Arrangement group rejected it at the end of 1998. This Group of 33 industrialised countries, which evolved from the cold-war COCOM, agreed to restrict "dual use" technology which could be used for peaceful and military purposes. The weakness of the arrangement was that it was discretionary and not mandatory, so it was ultimately ineffective - especially as it did not apply to Web downloads. Spooks still busy Some countries have a strong desire to monitor human rights advocates - in Honduras and Paraguay for example - as well as groups such as journalists and political opposition party leaders, as happened in France where the Commission Nationale de Contrôle des Interceptions de Securité estimated that there were 100,000 intercepts a year. In the UK social activists, unions and civil liberties organisations have been monitored by the security services, as detailed in the 1998 STOA report of the European Parliament. The same report drew attention to the massive monitoring of worldwide communications by the US National Security Agency, via Echelon. In February it was claimed in the European Parliament that Echelon was also being used for economic espionage. There was little demand for non-governmental encryption until secure electronic communication was required for business reasons, and encryption became a major issue as email replaced telephone calls in communications. Governments in certain countries had a strong desire to be able to monitor all communications as part of a stated desire to control dissidents, while individuals wanted privacy, especially for medical, financial and personal communications. A particular requirement by dissident groups was the need to ensure that messages were not altered in transit. Countries that still have significant restrictions on the private use of encryption include much of the former Soviet Union, Burma, China, Pakistan, Tunisia, and Vietnam. So far as the future is concerned, the EPIC report notes that police and intelligence organisations are seeking new powers to obtain encryption keys, and are getting increased budgets, so raising concerns about the expansion of surveillance and the need for public accountability. ® Related Stories Gates, Gerstner help NSA snoop - Congressman RSA-155 code cracked France braces for smart card fraud onslaught
Graham Lea, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Digital, yeah, Digital, gets fresh lease of life

We all thought Digital was dead, right? Well not in India. Digital India, which is listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, and is 51 per cent owned by Compaq, told The Register today that it has opened offices in London and Vienna and in June will also open a Munich office. Som Mittel, president and CEO of Digital India (DI), said that since last July, his firm had made the decision to focus on software for the enterprise. He said: "Europe will have a major resource crunch and this can make or break a company. India is well established as a place for high quality resources." DI employees 500 staff worldwide, but 425 of those are software engineers, with the vast majority located in different locations around Bangalore. He said 70 people were involved in Web technology, with 30 more coming on board shortly. Because Compaq is a major investor in the company, that alllowed DI to work with its customers and partners on Internet infrastructure, call centres and system management, as well as Web enabling applications. The teams specialise in support and development for Unix, VMS, NT, Oracle, SQL, Java, and XML, amongst other software technologies, said Mittel. Large corporations were struggling to integrate their existing heterogeneous systems but the reasons for moving to Intranets were too compelling for them to ignore, he said. Setting up business to business applications was a major reason and significantly clipped costs, he said. The breakdown of how many PCs there are worldwide is most interesting. India, for example, is now buying something over 1.2 million PCs a year, but, according to sources, while worldwide penetration of PCs is something like 60 per 1000 of the population, in the US it is 300/1000, while in India it is 1.5/1000. The odd thing here is that India has a high proportion of literate English speakers and so should, by rights, be a major player in the industry. We're certain that one day it's time will come. It was nice to see that old maroon Digital logo again, notwithstanding... ®
Mike Magee, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

DoJ MS trial lawyer spars with Judiciary Committee

MS on Trial Microsoft-related fireworks were thin on the ground yesterday, when DoJ antitrust chief Joel Klein and FTC chairman Robert Pitofsky were witnesses before the House Committee on the Judiciary. The oversight hearings on antitrust agencies weren't "a response to any particular event", as chairman Henry Hyde (Republican, Illinois) put it, but were scheduled last January and required as part of House rules. With elections in sight, and lashings of lobbying money to be consumed, it was still a time for vested interests to be vest. Hyde himself is a strong supporter of antitrust enforcement, and wrote recently that: "We must support the use of more government resources for antitrust enforcement and less for government regulation of markets. When we do that, a thousand innovations will bloom." This may not be the sense in which Bill Gates refers to innovation. Hyde said there would be no comment on the merits of the Microsoft case, and added that "everyone would benefit from a toning down of the rhetoric and a greater faith in the court system to come to the right resolution." Collaboration between the FTC and DoJ does seem to work - only last week joint "Competition collaboration guidelines" to assist businesses to assess the risk of being challenged in collaborations were issued - but it is surprising that there appears to be no attempt to deal with the strange anomaly that both the FTC and the DoJ have responsibility for antitrust enforcement. Klein chose a telling passage from Judge Jackson's findings to read to the Committee: "Only when the separate categories of conduct are viewed, as they should be, as a single, well-coordinated course of action does the full extent of the violence that Microsoft has done to the competitive process reveal itself..." In speaking about criminal enforcement of antitrust, Klein stressed the use in international enforcement against cartels and skipped any consideration of the appropriateness of criminal proceedings in the Microsoft case, where there is a greater effect outside the USA than within it. So far as the future was concerned, Klein said: "While we are committed to seeking relief that will stimulate competition, innovation and consumer choice in this important market, we have not made the final decision regarding the relief that we will recommend to the court." The occasion did provide some time for a few fireworks to be let off. John Connors (Democrat, Michigan) hoped there would "not be those who are using this case as a fund-raising cash cow or an attempt to intimidate the DoJ" and criticised Gates' TV commercials to seek public support. Zoe Lofgren (Democrat, California) reminded everyone that Judge Jackson was a Reagan appointee and "not someone who is known as a wild flaming liberal who is out to destroy the free market system". Not surprisingly, several Republicans weighed in for Microsoft, with George Gekas (Pennsylvania) and Steve Chabot (Ohio) claiming that the case focussed on competitors' complaints and not consumer interests. Joe Scarborough (Republican, Texas) thought Klein acted more as "a front man for disgruntled rivals rather than consumers". Klein defended competitive markets, and volunteered that when the DoJ approved the WebTV acquisition by Microsoft, there had been six or seven competitors complaining to the DoJ. ®
Graham Lea, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Marmite online – Web site brings yeast extract to the masses

Two former soldiers have started a Web site to supply homesick expatriates with British fare. expatshopping.com offers all the home comforts of Britain, such as Tetley Teabags, Heinz Baked Beans and OK! Magazine, online. Launched this week, the site lists over 1500 brands at UK shop prices plus delivery charge. Ex-military policemen Richard Finch and Simon Aldrich got the idea after unfulfilled cravings for Colman's mustard in the far flung reaches of Bangladesh. According to Aldrich, he asked Finch to bring him over some of the mustard, but Finch forgot. "I went ballistic," Aldrich, marketing director of the new company, told the Daily Mail. "From there, one idea led to another and when we got home we studied the feasibility of a Web site." The two 30-year-olds have set up a £250,000 fully automated 6000sq ft warehouse in Osbaldwick, near York. From there the comfort foods can be shipped to 239 countries. According to the pair, the best selling product so far is that good old empire standby Marmite, followed by Paxo Sage & Onion stuffing, Bisto gravy granules, Bovril and Heinz Tomato Ketchup. Delivery prices for the world's 14 million ex-pats vary depending on destination and size of order, but it is definitely best to get a few items on the shopping list at the same time. For example, getting a box of Kelloggs Cornflakes to Mexico will cost £1.29, plus delivery charge of £14.78 (standard – eight days) or £34.01 (Data Post – four days). The same product costs £1.29 + £11.22 or £24.44 when sent to Spain. Finch said ex-pats had been flocking to use the service – 86 British High Commissions have apparently viewed the site: "We can't believe the enthusiasm of the response so far," he said. "One ex-pat in Slovakia listed ten items he wanted, including nylon tights for his wife." ® Related Story Govt calls ex-pat IT professionals back to Blighty
Linda Harrison, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

BT is completely seaworthy

BT has denied that today's announcement outlining major structural changes at the monster telco was little more than "rearranging deckchairs on the Titanic". Sir Peter Bonfield, BT's CE, was responding to a remark, which questioned the seaworthiness of the monster telco and its share price, which has pitched and yawed wildly over the last six months. Elsewhere, BT said it would publish major announcements including pricing details in the next fortnight about ADSL. Winged watchdog OFTEL has broadly welcomed BT's announcement today arguing that it was a significant step towards "greater transparency". "Transparency is a key component of effective competition," it said in a statement. "Oftel's strategy is that where there is effective competition, there is less need for regulation," the outfit added. ® Related Story BT McKinseyed in bid for world leadership
Tim Richardson, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel Solano PC-133 chipset supplies to disappoint

A boxed motherboard version of Intel's Solano II chipset, which utilises synchronous memory (SDRAM) is now unlikely to arrive until September or October this year, it has emerged. But in a further sign of channel alienation, it appears that major PC manufacturers will get mobos from Intel as early as June. The channel is already upset about Intel's boxed chip scheme, after they were told just after Coppermines were launched on 25 October last year that they would have to wait for supplies. That led one major European distributor to tell The Register "We had an Intel business, but it was just chipped away by the firm." Intel has clear priorities about which firms get its top of the range microprocessors, but AMD, its much smaller rival, has carefully cultivated the channel over the last two years. And it's not only the channel that is disturbed by Intel's apparent shift of direction. A major second tier vendor, who did not wish to be named, and which supplies a number of large UK corporations with PCs, said: "The 815 will be a niche product. Some of my customers will want it, but I have had trouble supplying my Intel only customers with enough product. I am still suffering shortages and the 500MHz Celeron has only just become available in any quantity." An Intel spokesman said that he could not comment on unannounced products. ®
Mike Magee, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Pirates named and shamed on Web

The Business Software Alliance (BSA) has masterminded a scheme to name and shame software pirates on the Web. It has created a substitute Web page to slap on sites it has closed down for selling unlicensed software. The page, set with a brick-like background, declares: "This site has been disabled by the Internet Service Provider at the request of the Business Software Alliance. For further information about software piracy, please visit the links below." It then has links to the BSA and nopiracy.com sites, and a list of international hotline numbers for the BSA. The amount of time the BSA page can be displayed will depend on the ISP involved, but it will only be a matter of days or weeks, a representative said. As well as targeting sites offering copied software, the BSA has vowed to close pages involved in "other illegal software activities". It includes in its definition anyone found "publishing methods of hacking into computer programs and password protections". The piracy-fighter claims to have received 577 leads in 1999 denouncing Web sites that offered software without a licence. This resulted in 249 UK Web sites being pulled. "By posting a Web closure seal on the home page of illegal Web sites, BSA hopes to make the Internet safer for legitimate commerce," said Mike Newton, campaign relations manager for BSA UK. "There are thousands of pirate Web sites located on the Internet, and virtually every software product now available on the market can be located on one of these sites. Internet piracy represents perhaps the single greatest threat to electronic commerce." ® Related Stories BSA declares UK piracy truce BSA breaks chatroom piracy ring 40 per cent of business software illegally installed
Linda Harrison, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Amazon.com, others hit by music download patent suit

Little-known US company Intouch has claimed Amazon.com, Liquid Audio, Listen.com and a stack of other e-tailers and digital music companies have violated its patented concept of 'try before you buy' music samples. Intouch's patents, granted in 1993 and 1999 - the latter, granted on 5 October 1999, is the most relevant of the two; read it 5,963,916" target="_blank">here - essentially cover the use of an in-store kiosk or a computer to download snippets from a song to allow a potential buyer to decide whether he or she really wants to cough up for the whole track. At this point, we'd like to note that Intouch is infringing an idea of our own, which we came up with years ago - honest, guv - to whit, the preview via a distribution mechanism of music before purchase. We have a name for this concept. We call it radio... Intouch's suit, filed in the San Francisco Federal Court, demands Amazon.com and co. pay up legal fees and damages amounting to all the money Intouch believes it has lost because of their alleged misappropriation of its technology. Amazon, not surprisingly, denies the claim, and we imagine the other named parties will too. Most of them have been offering sample downloads long before Intouch's patent was granted. ®
Tony Smith, 13 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

NASDAQ, Dow show ugly trend towards speculation

Update An ugly momentum is developing in both the tech-heavy NASDAQ and the blue-chip-rich Dow, with twitchy investors locking themselves into a cycle of buying anything that tumbles and selling anything that rallies. Things looked all right at midday on Thursday, however. Following a bitter day of losses on Wednesday, the NASDAQ posted a moderate gain of 90.59 in midday trading Thursday, while the Dow edged down 72.60, as investors sold Old Economy shares to buy New ones at a conservative rate. Overall, tech issues that reported decent earnings on Wednesday and Thursday posted moderate gains, while those with poor earnings reports continued to slide. So far, so good. Thursday's modest midday rally suggested a sane approach to dot-com mania, with investors responding realistically to market forces and actual numbers, as opposed to the superstitious mass buys and sell-offs to which we have grown accustomed in the past year. But in late afternoon trading, nervous shareholders rushed to sell anything that showed even a modest rally, and so undid the hard-won gains of the day, sending the NASDAQ composite down another 92.85 points to 3,676.78 for a loss of 2.46 percent. The NASDAQ has fallen nearly 770 points thus far this week, and is off 27 percent from its 10 March high of 5,048.62. It closed down 9.65 percent Thursday from its close on 3 January, finally wiping out all of its gains for this year. Worse, as the tech sector slid late Thursday, blue-chip investors caught the willies and also began selling issues on the rise, leaving the DJIA to fall significantly and end down 201.58 to 10,923.55 for a loss of 1.81 percent. Meanwhile the bond market enjoyed a predictable and noticeable lift, with 30-year Treasury bonds rising 9/32, and 10-year Treasury notes up 4/32. The NASDAQ composite had taken a severe pounding Wednesday, recording its sixth-largest percentage loss and its second-largest point loss. Triggered by poor earnings news from Microsoft, the plunge swiftly gathered momentum, dragging an entire complex of dot-com shares into the vortex. Internet service companies posted the worst declines, falling about 10 percent overall. By day's end, the composite had slid 286.39 to 3,769.51 for a loss of 7.1 percent. As usual, the Dow Jones Industrials siphoned off a good deal of the NASDAQ's losses as investors sought refuge in solid Old Economy shares. But dot-com jitters got the better of investors in afternoon trading, leaving the Dow to close off 161.95 at 11,125.13. The Wednesday troubles started when Goldman Sachs lowered third-quarter revenue predictions for Microsoft, citing a reduced demand for PCs. Shares fell 4.50 to 79.38 on a volume of 76.5 million, nearly twice the company's daily average. Microsoft is down 25 percent this month and 32 percent this year, making it what The Register considers a decent bargain well worth looking into. Hewlett-Packard slid 11.31 to 134.50; Intel 8.88 to 121.88; and Cisco 5 to 65. Not quite in bargain range yet, but all worth following in the coming weeks. Chip maker Advanced Micro Devices enjoyed some Good news Thursday after reporting better than expected first-quarter earnings. We note, however, that AMD has yet to depreciate the costs of its new manufacturing plant in Dresden, so we remain not quite impressed. We'd like to have a second look at those earnings returns after the plant has been taken fully into account. Overall, the NASDAQ is a buyer's market. The problem is a plethora of spineless bargain hunters who are selling the minute they turn a quick buck, or, put another way, speculating rather than investing. ®
Thomas C Greene, 13 Apr 2000
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Bertie Ahern in £1m porn scandal, while Serbian hackers go haywire

Cybersquatting has found a new lease of life with the arrival of www.bertieahern.com (specialising in teenage girls in uncompromising positions) and a dedicated group of Serbian hackers going for big-name sites. Irish premier Bertie Ahern is none too plussed, and was forced to raise the issue in the Irish Parliament. The site(and its sister site www.thetaoiseach.com) is a blatant attempt to get the concerned party to buy it out -here is very little material on the site and text is mostly restricted to how to buy the URL. It also prominently features a denial of an Irish Times story, claiming the site's owners had approached the Taoiseach, asking £1m for the web address. As they say, all publicity is good publicity. At the same time, Serbian hackers have gone on a huge dot.com sacking spree, nabbing, among others, Manchester United, Adidas, Viagra, Jamesbond, France, Italy the list goes on. The boys from Belgrade managed to hack into Network Solutions and register themselves as the owners of a whole range of different sites. Once there, they redirected email to a Hotmail account and changed DNS servers to an American ISP, causing a total loss of web services for the sites concerned. A flag page featuring a coat of arms and the title "Kosovo is Serbia" was displayed instead, with the message "Be happy if we hacked your site because we hack ONLY the best sites on the internet". Apparently, it also needs sponsors. See it here while you can. Most sites have wrestled back control, but bertieahern.com is still trading legitimately. While cybersquatting on brand names has been outlawed and such companies are allowed to put claim to the relevent URL, it is still lawful for anyone to register a site under someone's name. The mistake TransNames.com (the company behind bertieahern.com) made is that it asked too much - who is going to pay £1m for the URL of the Irish Prime minister? They are messing with the wrong people, especially considering the growing media interest. Why didn't it control its greed and walk away with £10,000? ® Related stories Hackers to wage war on Serbs
Kieren McCarthy, 13 Apr 2000