14th > April > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Who's afraid of the big bad dotcom?

Dotcoms don't pose the threat to traditional businesses as was once feared, according to a survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Instead, traditional businesses which embrace the Net and e-commerce are seen as the next major movers and shakers in the business world. This reverses previous scaremongering which warned that traditional businesses would be flushed away by the new wave of dotcoms. Now, it seems, dotcoms have become dotcommodes. Companies such as Amazon.com were cited as examples of a new breed of business that could steal significant market share overnight. Forty-three per cent of the companies surveyed said that traditional competitors with e-business capabilities posed the greatest threat to their business. Thirteen per cent said dotcoms presented the greatest threat. "Although dotcoms receive much of the Internet-related hype, the world's leading companies clearly believe the real competitive threat comes from their traditional competitors, especially those that are embracing e-business," said Noel Taylor of PricewaterhouseCoopers. ®
Tim Richardson, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Sun shines as toothsome McNealy uses bottom word

As widely expected, at least here at The Register, Scott McNealy's firm Sun Microsystems (ticker SUNW) had a storming quarter, managing to show a 94 per cent net profit on vastly increased sales of its non-Intel servers. The figures, which buck quite a few server trends, caused McNealy to utter the immortal words: "We kicked some serious bottom". Sun reported a net profit of $508 million in its quarter, a 94 per cent rise year on year, but its share price fell on Wall Street, still afflicted by concerns about the bubble.com phenomenon. Sun's good figures were fuelled because it has cut prices but more importantly persuaded the corporate world that its server technology has headroom, or as the industry prefers to describe it, scalability. Several major corporate wins helped Sun's results, but Scott McNealy cautioned its shareholders that they should not expect the next quarter to scale the same, Icarus-like, heights. He did, however, say that growth continued to be healthy in its mainstream server business. ®
Mike Magee, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Nvidia outlines Euro board sales strategy

Roy Taylor, sales director of Nvidia Europe, today outlined the firm's strategy to ensure PC mind share for its graphics chips. In some respects, Nvidia is following the route taken by Intel to develop its business model, he says. The graphics chip vendor has only three major chip customers in Europe -- Elsa, Guillemot and 3D Power -- and does not make boards, but the firm spends a great deal of time outlining its product roadmaps to PC manufacturers and system builders. The aim is to encourage this Euro- channel to buy products incorporating Nvidia chip technology. Nvidia also ensures that PC manufacturers gets early samples of boards using the Nvidia designs, and provides cooperative marketing funds to companies which adopt the technology in their final products. Nvidia currently has sales offices in France and Germany, but is set to open an office in the UK in the next two months, Taylor says. ®
Mike Magee, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

WAP phone virus threat

Sellers of antivirus products are caring, sharing folks - why else would they constantly remind us that viruses are nasty, dangerous things? And it would appear that when it comes to WAP phones, viruses will also pose a major threat, says the boss of a company which by some strange freak of nature just happens to offer WAP virus protection. "If we haven't seen any type of malicious code on WAP phones by the end of the year then we will have been very lucky," warns Risto Siilasmaa, boss of Finnish security software outfit F-Secure. Finland is, of course, famous for being the country with more mobile phones than inhabitants, a country where even the reindeer are always on the dog*. The company says simple digital phones are also subject to attack through SMS text messages which could contain malicious code such as the extremely dangerous virus that sends all your friends a voice message telling them you're on the train. ® * Cockney rhyming slang. Dog and bone = phone
Andrew Thomas, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Tiny gets bigger in US showroom push

One of the UK's biggest PC manufacturers, Tiny, has stepped up its State-side operations with the opening of 32 West Coast showrooms. It plans another 65 by the end of the year. US customers will also be able to order online or by phone. Tiny has built its reputation on in-store help - customers can try out the range of computers available and staff are asked to respond to queries in simple English. The basic computer will start at $799 and this will include a 466MHz Celeron, 15in screen, 48x CD-Rom, speakers, 56K modem, Windows 98 and Lotus software. The company also offers the whole consumer kit deal from printers to videomail. "We're very motivated to appeal to the American consumer who has a strong sense of 'value purchasing'," said Neil Stevens, product and marketing manager. "In this respect, the US home-computing and small-office needs are very similar to those in Europe." We've no idea what Neil is on about (isn't he supposed to speak in plain English?) but The Reg is still sceptical about Tiny's chances of success. First of all, Americans buy American and it's not as if there isn't a pretty darn good choice already. Secondly, what self-respecting American is going to buy a PC called "Tiny". Has Neil never been to the US? Big roads, big cars, big burgers, big hats, big buildings, big guns, big big big big. The words: "I'm gonna get me one of them those Tiny computers" are about as likely to be heard as "Oh I'd love a nice cuppa tea". May we suggest rebranding the PCs to something more evocative. Like "Muddafudda". ®
Kieren McCarthy, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Disaster hits Intel Coppermine supply

PC manufacturers and distributors have learned from Intel that there will be a massive shortage of Coppermine processors until June. The problem is at its acutest on the Pentium III desktop range, but is particularly bad for chips running at speeds over 700MHz, sources says. However, The Register understands that Dell, a premier customer, will continue to receive ample supplies of microprocessors, while other firms will have to make do with what they get. A combination of yield and packaging issues is to blame for the latest shortfall. One packaging supplier has cut back its commitment to supply Intel to less than 50 per cent than it promised. The yield problem, we understand, is due to technical difficulties with Intel's flip-chip packaging. An Intel spokesperson declined to comment on the problem, saying that the firm did not discuss relationships between it and its customers. However, she added: "The 0.18 micron technology continues to be the fastest ramp we've had." This chip drought is the latest in a long litany of supply problems since Intel announced the Coppermine processors on 25 October 1999. Just one day after the high-profile launch, Intel notified customers of shortage on a number of products. This shortage lasted for several months. Intel then started to move its manufacturing process from Slot One (SECC2) technology to flip chip packaging, meaning a temporary shortage of motherboards to take the products.®
Mike Magee, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

PR gaffe of the week: Gates gives $10m to Capitol Hill

MS on Trial. Not Just the week after Bill Gates toured Washington in the wake of Judge Jackson's guilty verdict, it's been revealed that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to donate $10 million towards the construction of a visitors' centre on Capitol Hill. As the Foundation is nothing to do with Microsoft (no, really...) then the donation is nothing to do with the trial. And as the donation can't therefore have been masterminded by Microsoft's spinmeisters, it can't be yet another example of Microsoft's infinite capacity for PR own-goals. But who the hell's going to believe that? Whether it was a case of somebody at the Foundation thinking it was a good idea to offer the donation or whether some of Bill's friends on the hill thought it was a good idea to ask is neither here nor there. No matter how often you say it's not intended as a bribe, it's going to look like one, and so Bill and Microsoft are going to sustain further damage to their already battered reputations. Great idea, people - lets spend $10 million of Bill's money on making him look bad. According to Foundation public affairs director Trevor Neilson, the donation has been in the pipeline for many months, and is nothing to do with the trial. The trial of course has been going on for several years, and you'd kind of think at least one of the Foundation's brains trust, or at least one of Bill's friends on the hill, would have noticed it, and anticipated the scope for friendly fire casualties. ® Related Stories Gates hits Washington in serial lobbying schmooze MS, Bush little helper says sorry, keeps both jobs
John Lettice, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel still semiconductor Bigzilla

Intel has kept its number one place in the chip pecking order in 1999, with a worldwide market share of 15.9 per cent. Sales of semiconductors amounted to $168.7 billion last year, a rise from the previous year of over 21 per cent, a Dataquest survey reveals. But while Intel stayed worldwide top dog, other players shuffled around in the league of top ten players. Japanese firm NEC stayed as number two, while Toshiba knocked Motorola out of the number three slot. The PowerPC player now sits in the number six position. Texas Instruments, ST Micro (formerly SGS Thomsen) and Hitachi all kept their positions in the global marketplace but Infineon - the former Siemens subsidiary - is now number eight globally, while Dutch firm Philips dropped to number ten in the league table. The memory market grew the most in 1999, with sales surging by over 46 per cent. CPU business stayed stable with a 33 per cent share. ®
Mike Magee, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Grauniad bang up to date on CeBIT

Every week, typo-filled British national newspaper The Grauniad produces a supplement called The Editor, which summarises important and interesting stories of the week. And just to show the hacks over in Farringdon have got their fingers on the pulse, they've just produced a report on massive trade show CeBIT, held each year in German town Hangover. The piece, headlined 'How to keep up with technology', summarises important techie stuff from the show, which, it says, has just taken place. CeBIT was held at the end of February. ®
Adamson Rust, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

VNU closes in on ZD Europe

It's kind of official. Stein & Co, new owner of the Ziff-Davis paper empire, is to dispose of its European operations. And word on several streets is Dutch publishing giant VNU is the buyer.
Drew Cullen, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Metallica sues Napster

Corporate thrash rockers Metallica yesterday accused Napster of effectively trading in stolen goods when it filed a copyright infringement suit against the digital music seek, locate and download software company. Worse, the suit, filed with the US District Court for the Central District of California, claims Napster is a "corrupt organisation". In addition to the copyright infringement allegation, the suit cites the unlawful use of a digital audio interface device and states that Napster violated the US Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). Metallica and the companies that publish its music and are assigned its copyrights, Creeping Death Music and the decidedly un-rock'n'roll sounding E/M Ventures, base their claims on the way Napster's software allows users to trade in illegal copies of the band's music across the Net. That, said the band's drummer, Lars Ulrich, is "in effect, trafficking in stolen goods. "We take our craft - whether it be the music, the lyrics, or the photos and artwork - very seriously, as do most artists. It is therefore sickening to know that our art is being traded like a commodity rather than the art that it is," he added. To be fair, Ulrich is laying it on a bit thick here, since Metallica, like most major acts, is as much a tight business organisation as an artistic endeavour, but broadly he has a point. "From a business standpoint, this is about piracy - aka taking something that doesn't belong to you; and that is morally and legally wrong," said the tub-thumper. Interestingly, Metallica's allegations are also made against a number of US universities - specifically the University of Southern California, Yale University and Indiana University - who originally banned the use of Napster on campus networks, but have since relented. Says the suit: "Napster has devised and distributed software whose sole purpose is to permit Napster to profit by abetting and encouraging the pirating of the creative efforts of the world's most admired and successful musical artists. Facilitating that effort are the hypocritical universities and colleges who could easily block this insidious and on going thievery scheme." It's certainly true that, in public at least, Universities' dislike of Napster had more to do with its log-jamming effect on their networks than its possible use in piracy. The irony here is that Napster was designed to aid the distribution of MP3 files, and MP3 has always been said by the format's proponents to be about taking the power of distribution away from the major labels and putting it back in the artists' hands. Clearly, as a band of artists, Metallica disagrees. And as an international business too, that goes double. Metallica's action is the second legal assault launched against Napster, which is currently the target of an anti-piracy suit brought by the Recording Industry Association of America, on behalf of its record label members. ®
Tony Smith, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Tags for your fags (and perfume and PC parts)

Ever bought extra components for your computer, plugged them in and decided that the quality is somewhat suspect? [No, I just buy my PCs from mail-order companies - Ed]. Remember that Chanel No.5 you bought from a reputable salesman standing on Oxford Street - she never forgave you for that did she? (Rash: 3 days; Smell: 3 baths). And the dodgy cigarettes - was the sore throat worth the 30p saving? Well, those days will soon be over. With some new fancy technology you will be able to pay the disproportionate premium safe in the knowledge that you have the real thing. International Paper Co has teamed up with Motorola and come up with a new cheap way of mixing silicon with ink. Such "smart tags" will create "smart packaging" and everything along the way will no doubt pick up a few IQ points as well. The tags emit a radio signal that can be checked, traced etc and so should reduce the opportunity for theft and counterfeiting - something that costs manufacturers a bloody fortune every year. Those companies reportedly interested include Sony, Clairol and Philip Morris. The BiStatix techology behind the packaging could be a nice little earner for Motorola, but The Register is more interested in the concept of security men equipped with James Bond-style location detectors: "He'sh heading north with the Malboro Lightsh. I have him in my shightsh." ®
Kieren McCarthy, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Caminogate: Will the horror never end?

Intel's chipset from hell, the i820, has projectile vomited in Chipzilla's face yet again. The cursed Cape Cod mobo hit the headlines again this week, this time Intel blaming memory manufacturers for problems with the Serial Presence Detect (SPD) chip included on new SDRAM DIMMS. The SPD holds information about the speed and size of the memory and passes it to the system BIOS. If the data is missing or unreadable, the system either hangs or fails to boot at all. Older BX boards don't need the SPD chip at all - progress, eh? But memory manufacturers point to a couple of issues: firstly there isn't a firm standard for exactly what format the data in the SPD should take, and secondly, this is a BIOS issue, and therefore Intel's problem, not theirs. In light of the fact that memory costs more than the motherboard itself, then it is surely sensible to modify the cheaper component. Intel is now looking at producing a revised BIOS for the CC820 which will take a rather more relaxed attitude to SPD data. Intel has a list of recommended memory for the 820 on its web site, but there is now an issue even with approved memory requiring a hardware modification to the mobo. A product change notification was issued for the CC820 by Intel on March 28, advising users to replace a capacitor with a resistor. This change prevents a problem occurring where the capacitor - which is supposed to smooth out the power going to the DIMMS - occasionally discharges itself, sending a spike to the memory which is interpreted as a data corruption, hanging the system. Adding a 150 ohm resistor between the Memory Translator Hub (MTH) and the SDRAM eliminates the bug. While this component change is hardly rocket science, it will be way beyond the technical capabilities of most users, so the dreaded phrase 'product recall' is looming large on the horizon. And as if this was not enough, there is now an issue with certain AGP graphics cards hanging the system because the mobo doesn't supply enough voltage to the AGP slot. The mobo has to support either 1.5 or 3.3 volts to the AGP slot, depending on whether the card is a 2X or 4X device. The Asus Geforce DDR card requires 3.3 volts, but the CC820 only supplies 3.07 volts, causing the uncharitable to wonder if the CC820 was designed on the back of a napkin by the janitor at Satan Clara. Intel points the bony finger of blame at the power supply manufacturers here, recommending changing to a more expensive switched power supply. So here we have a mobo that only works with some memory, doesn't work all the time even with that, requires that you put the DIMMs in a specific order, needs component changes and a new power supply. Engineers have a technical term for such a product - crap. Not too long ago, Chipzilla had a reputation for solid, reliable (if not particularly high-performing) mobos. The 820 with its slug-like MTH certainly maintains the modest performance part, but has undoubtedly permanently damaged Intel's reputation for quality motherboards. ® Related stories Intel i820 sales flap weakly towards flop Fresh Intel i820 chipset close to completion Further memory problems dog Caminogate Intel Cape Cod mobo stinks Caminogate IV -- We have no idea what you did last summer
Andrew Thomas, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Sony to add hard drive, modem to US PlayStation 2

Sony will ship the US version of the PlayStation 2 with an 8GB hard drive and a modem, an unnamed company insider told Bloomberg today, a month ahead of Sony's official announcement. Bloomberg's deep-throat didn't say whether Sony's hand was forced by Microsoft, which announced its hard drive-equipped X-Box console last month, but it's easy to believe that this is the case. X-Box isn't due to ship until late 2001 - the best part of a year after PlayStation 2 made its debut - but Sony is acutely aware of the danger that the rival machine presents. Even if Microsoft's console does only half of what the company claims it can do, it can still build up sufficient expectation in buyers to persuade them to steer clear of PlayStation 2. That, after all, is what PlayStation 2 did to Sega's Dreamcast. By adding hard drive and a modem, Sony reduces the 'feature deficit' between PlayStation 2 and X-Box. But it's a wonder that Sony didn't build in a modem in the first place, considering its aim to make the PS2 the home gateway to the Net. Perhaps it reasoned that broadband access would render modem devices unneccessary. So what's the rationale for the new feature set? It suggests to us an attempt, with the hard drive, to subvert interest in X-Box, and a move, with the modem, to counter Sega US' decision to give away Dreamcasts in exchange for subscriptions to its Internet access service. According to the Bloomberg source, Sony will announce the changes to the PlayStation 2 at next month's games-oriented E3 show. ® Related Stories Sony to fold US music, movie wings into broadband unit X-Box unleashed: MS snubs PC OEMs, dumps AMD Athlon PlayStation 3 to ship 2002 Sega US preps free Dreamcast lure for its ISP Japanese firm offers 50,000 free Dreamcasts
Tony Smith, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Sony to launch wireless data network 1 July

Sony is putting the final touches to its Bit-Drive business-oriented broadband communications service ahead of its 1 July launch. According to a Nikkei report, Bit-Drive is based on a wireless network capable of shifting data around at a rate of 1.5Mbps - not quite up to Ethernet standards, perhaps, but rather better than current modem or ISDN offerings. Based in six Japanese cities, the service will provide SMEs with permanent and semi-permanent connections to the Net, a host of ASP-type services, and the gateway server hardware. Sony is aiming 1000 subscribers by March 2001, rising to 100,000 within five years of the launch. In fact, it could have many more. Sony's interest in broadband networking derives from its belief that almost all home and business services will be delivered across the Net in the very near future, for which high-speed comms infrastructure is essential. And Sony naturally wants to control as many elements in that network as it can. The PlayStation 2 is primarily about controlling the flow of music, movies and other entertainment media into the home. That's the focus, but if it can control the home and office, then so much the better. In Japan, it's building the network on its own, though it will also work with third-parties. Indeed, earlier this week, Sony announced an $8 million investment in US wireless networking start-up ArrayComm. Sony's moves here are not dissimilar to investments its new arch-rival, Microsoft, has made in cable TV companies around the world, including the purchase of a 60 per cent stake in Japanese cable operator Titus Communications. This is in addition to cable TV network partnership, SpeedNet, it has already struck with Softbank and the Tokyo Electronic Power Company. Bit-Drive itself will provide five service packages:
Tony Smith, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Reader of the decade (until next week)

And so today we award the (perhaps premature) Reader of the Decade award to one Ed Ross (stand up, Ed). Ed has had the good sense to set up a webring for Register readers and welcomes you all to join here. After the initial buzz had worn off though, concern grew. Aren't webrings a little disturbing? (What do they do? What do Reg readers have in common? Are we creating a race of single-minded cynics? The possibilities are too terrifying to contemplate.) And so, we did the right thing. We emailed Ed, offering him the use of the world-renowned vulture logo and asking for feedback while simultaneously sneaking round his dustbins to find out what he's up to. Our paranoid concerns seemed at first to be confirmed - Ed is a programmer specialising in M$ software - Cripes! We've been targeted by an M$ cell working deep in Britain, laying booby traps before they're disbanded post-DoJ judgment. On the other hand, Mr Ross is a webring fanatic - he has at least nine to his name. We'll only know when Ed gets back to us. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

UK overclockers turn up the heat

Overclocking – that strange hobby of (mostly) US-based geeks and propeller-heads. The preserve of people who can't resist fiddling with stuff but who aren't really to be taken seriously. Maybe once, but that's all changing. If you want proof that the overclocking sector in the UK is coming of age, look no further than Stoke-based Overclockers.co.uk (OcUK). OcUK is a hybrid overclocking information site and online computer gear reseller set up in June 1999 by Web designer Mark Proudfoot and PC retailer Peter Radford, and is now pushing in excess of £30,000 of kit out the door each week. Not bad for a business set up by a couple of enthusiasts who maintain a hands-on approach to overclocking. "Peter and I were interested in overclocking and it soon became obvious that while there was lots of stuff available in the US but not here. So, we put our heads together and went for it," Proudfoot said. OcUK also proudly boasts that it was the first place to publish a review of the Abit KA7 mobo. If you want to read it for yourself, simply follow this link here. The subject of overclocking has been a hot potato for some time, with AMD – among others – taking a dim-ish view of the practice. In January, The Register reported on how Chimpzilla went bananas at some overclocking sites. At the time, the chip maker said it wasn't after individual overclockers just resellers of o'clocked gear. But Proudfoot reckons OcUK has had no trouble with vendors. "We've had no adverse reaction form any manufacturers as yet. We're selling their kit, and that's got to be good for them." "Or perhaps they haven't spotted us," he jokes. Among the lines OcUK sells, you'll find AMD, Intel, Asus and Abit kit – everything from chips and fans to mobos and memory. ®
Sean Fleming, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

BBC publishes site-gaggers guide

The Register tips its beak to the BBC for publishing a step-by-step guide on how to get a Web site gagged - and at worst, land some poor sod in court. Gagging the Net in Three Easy Steps sets out in plain English exactly how to use and abuse the current legal flux which suggests that ISPs in Britain are liable for what is published on their servers. Not only does it expose the folly of the current legal vacuuum left in the wake of the Laurence Godfrey vs Demon case, it also tells people exactly how to go about it. Interestingly, most of the ISPs canvassed by BBC News Online's Giles Wilson say they would close down a Web site if a complaint were made. Yet one legal expert told The Register that since this whole business has yet to be heard in a court of law (Demon settled the libel action out of court) it couldn't be regarded as a precedent. While it tipped the balance in favour of litigant and against ISPs on this issue, it did not set this in the stone of law, he said. He also blamed media hot air and hype for fanning the flames of the story. Even so, it's also easy to why ISPs would be so concerned. So, The Register has its own little exercise to see how easy it is to gag a Web site. One Read the BBC's guide to gagging the net in three easy steps. Two Instead of setting up your own Web site to make offensive remarks about someone, publish them instead on a public bulletin board or forum, for example, at Speaker's Corner, one of the British Government's sites. Please note, the BBC does have a feedback section but - and here's the clever part - it vets all contributions before they are published. Shame really, because it would have been really nice if this exercise could have worked on the BBC, but there you go. Three Get the person you defamed (of course, that could be you under a different name) to contact Downing Street and insist they take down the offensive remarks, or the Web site as a whole... or you'll sue. ® Related Stories Anti-censorship site censored! Demon coughs up damages in Godfrey libel case
Tim Richardson, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Weenie jibe in FrontPage leaves MS web servers wide open

Web servers running Microsoft Internet Information Server with FrontPage 98 extensions have a built-in back door, thanks to some code with abusive comments about Netscape that was inserted in the software by a Microsoft coder. Microsoft has acknowledged that the code can act as a back door password, making it a lot easier for hackers to gain unauthorised access. The code, in dvwssr.dll, is commented "Netscape engineers are weenies!" But considering the consequences of its discovery, that probably makes Microsoft engineers suicidal bozos. According to a story in today's Wall Street Journal, Microsoft acknowledges the existence of the hole and intends to issue an email bulletin and security alert, but at time of writing the company appeared not to have done so. It seems to be possible to fix the hole by simply deleting dvwssr.dll, but the delay in publishing the alert perhaps suggests that the code isn't entirely pointless. If it turns out to be, maybe Microsoft could publish us a list of any other useless DLLs it ships... Microsoft does, however, seem to be taking the issue seriously, and views the unauthorised insertion of the code as a sacking offence. But the fact that the offence was committed in the first place will raise further questions about the security of Microsoft's Web offerings, and make it even more difficult for the company to get sites to use them. You wait hours for a massive PR own-goal, then two come along on the same day... According to the WSJ, the hole was identified by security consultant 'Rain Forest Puppy' who was tipped off about it by a European employee of e-commerce software outfit ClientLogic Corp. Mr Puppy, who's been prominent in the exposure of previous IIS security problems, has emailed Microsoft warning that the hole could "improve a hacker's experience". The problem isn't there in Win2k servers with FrontPage 2000 extensions, so an upgrade might be a good idea. But not necessarily to Win2k. ®
John Lettice, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

VA Linux Systems disputes IDC server market findings

Linux hardware specialist VA Linux Systems claims IDC's latest survey of the Linux server market is wrong - at least as far as its own position in the chart goes. IDC's survey put Compaq at the head of the top five Linux server vendors, followed by IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and, perhaps surprisingly, Fujitsu Siemens. VA, along with other names well-known for their support of the open source OS, such as Penguin Computing, were relegated to IDC's 'others' category. But according to a VA spokesperson, "VA Linux would have placed fifth in IDC's ranking, but IDC didn't break us out separately because they'd categorized us under 'Other'." The IDC research covers the last three months of 1999. VA's own numbers, for November 1999 to January 2000, its second fiscal quarter, show some 3645 servers were sold. That's clearly more than Fujitsu Siemens' 2286 server shipments, so we should be number five, reckons VA. Possibly, but don't forget that the two sets of figures are out of sync by a month, and VA's January 2000 sales may be significantly higher than they were in October 1999, the first month IDC's survey considers. VA says that even allowing for that, it should still be in there ahead of Fujitsu Siemens. Certainly, if you use VA's figure to calculate a monthly average and run that over two months - essentially ignoring January 2000's sales and assuming it didn't sell anything in October 1999 - it still sold more kit than Fujitsu Siemens. So what has IDC to say about all this? VA told us that the researcher has agreed to clarify its findings, but when we checked nothing had yet appeared on the company's Web site. And IDC has yet to make an official response to our request for clarification. When we get it, we'll let you know. ® Related Story Linux server market dominated by IT giants
Tony Smith, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

OS/2 lives! IBM turns life support back on

Analysis OS/2 lives - albeit somewhat belatedly. After years of neglect and silence IBM has promised annual refreshes of client and server versions, and consolidations of fix packs on CD. It's not exactly what you'd call a huge vote of confidence, but it's quite a jump for a company that for years has given every impression of wanting to turn of the life support. The fix packs will remain free, but they will also be offered with other goodies on CDROM, in consolidations that IBM is calling Convenience Packages. There will be no charge to customers who have support under the Passport Advantage or Software Choice programmes. The first Convenience Package is scheduled for 30 November in at least 15 languages. Apart from offering more device drivers and a developer kit with Java Technology Edition 1.1.8, there will be significant video enhancements, DVD/UVD, Geyserville power management and USB support. IBM's announcement is not the long-awaited new version, but it is of considerable comfort to OS/2 developers. During the Microsoft trial we saw how IBM had effectively left OS/2 for dead. Well, it turns out that the corpse was not quite dead after all, and is being kept alive because of some big-spending IBM enterprise customers who have found that OS/2 applications just continued working, and wanted more of the same, together with some SOHO users and small developers. Despite IBM's callous neglect of an operating system used affectionately by quite a few oldies, the corpse has started twitching and could be about to stage some form of recovery. There appears to be some signs of OS/2 reinvigoration, but as to whether this will lead to a renaissance, it is too early to judge. Project Odin OS/2 would surely be in a sunset condition for most people if Project Odin - previously called the Win32-OS/2 Project - had not set out to make it possible to run Win32 applications in OS/2 natively, without needing either Windows or Win-OS/2. When IBM effectively threw in the sponge, it cited the difficulty of making Windows applications work with OS/2 as a reason for getting ready to lay out the body. Netlabs is tackling the problem through binary compatibility, by converting Windows EXE and DLL files to the OS/2 LX (linear executable) format, and reassembling them in memory, as OS/2 requires. Although permanent conversion is possible, dynamic on-the-fly conversion is also allowed, so that Win32 programs could run under other operating systems as well, from the same code. There's still some way to go with this free, open source project, but the results so far look promising. Some Windows applications may run faster under OS/2, but most are likely to run 10 to 15 per cent slower because it is not possible to use the full functionality of OS/2 after the conversion. Another development track is the Everblue Project, which is porting xlib to OS/2 (xlib is the Unix equivalent of the OS/2 Presentation Manager). The hope and expectation is that it will be possible to port nearly every UNIX application to OS/2. So far, there is emx for porting non-GUI applications, with xlib intended to take care of the GUI. When this is done, Netlabs plans to port Wine (a Win32 implementation for UNIX/X11) to OS/2. So far as a finishing date is concerned, Netlabs says "never", because the Win32 API is a moving target. Neglectful After the bruising negotiations between IBM and Microsoft over Windows OEM prices that were revealed during the trial, IBM did almost nothing to market OS/2, and tried to become chums with Microsoft. IBM's current announcement is one of the most deeply hidden and un-trumpeted press releases we have ever encountered. There was certainly a missed opportunity to do some resurrection work during the continued absence of Windows 2000 and as the tide began to turn against Microsoft, but IBM was utterly silent. Analyst Dan Kusnetzky of IDC sagely notes on MSNBC that OS/2 is "an example of how an excellent operating system that's been marketed in a mediocre way can be beaten by a mediocre system that's marketed in an excellent way". There are many serious OS/2 supporters with helpful web sites that keep the faith. Tom Nadeau, who operates the www.os2hq.com web site, writes passionately and persuasively about the merits of OS/2. John Urbaniak, president of Aviar, develops OS/2-based software for plant engineers and maintenance managers. He speaks of hard times, but says he has found "more current interest in the last few weeks than in the last year". Urbaniak believes this may result from Judge Jackson's activities. He also identifies one of the biggest problems being IBM's own apparent indifference to OS/2. The current announcement is widely welcomed for its demonstration that there's life in the old girl yet. OS/2 capabilities and future OS/2 has always been good at doing several jobs at the same time, such as formatting a floppy, searching a large file, downloading another file, or running several DOS sessions at once. Simplistically, Linux could be viewed as an OS/2 competitor. While Linux enthusiasts are rediscovering the joys of Unix derivatives and the open source development model, OS/2 stalwarts are using the object-oriented model to drag and drop data from a data file to an application icon. OS/2 has an object-aware language called Rexx which allows desktop objects to be used in sophisticated interactions without programming, because of the System Object Model (SOM) - a kissing cousin of CORBA. The TCP/IP implementation is also much praised. Users who have tried both OS/2 and Linux tend to suggest that Workplace Shell is superior to anything currently existing for Linux [or it used to be, before IBM started breaking it - Ed]. Apart from the merry band of OS/2 bug fixers and support staff, IBM has undertaken no serious marketing for OS/2 and largely shuns it internally: the speech group stopped supporting OS/2, Lotus scorned it, and it's a very rare IBM PC that has OS/2 preloaded. Much of IBM is having a love affair with Windows, or at least is hoping that it could make loads of money by fixing Windows, but at its root, IBM is in the business of making money by keeping enterprises happy. Putting aside the enthusiasm and the cheerleading, IBM is at heart operating-system agnostic. Of course there are deficiencies for OS/2 users - there's a need for some better native development tools, for example. There has been increasing pressure on IBM to make OS/2 open source, and perhaps to give some serious backing to Project Odin. Stranger things have happened, but because of the amount of Microsoft code in OS/2, this route would need a generous judge. Related Story IBM witness: the inside poop on MS and IBM killing OS/2 Link The IBM OS/2 announcement
Graham Lea, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

NSI Serbian ‘hack’ is simple email spoof

Network Solutions has denied reports that 2,000 dotcom Web sites were hacked by cyberterrorists giving them access to personal and financial information. A senior spokeswoman for Network Solutions in the US told The Register: "Network Solutions seems to have been identified as the villain here -- but we're the victims as well. "Considerably less than 2,000 domains were affected and no financial details were disclosed," she said, referring to a story published by London freebie Metro, although she wouldn't say exactly how many had been hijacked during the last week. The problem appears to be that cyberyobs have discovered a way to spoof Network Solutions into handing over control of a Web site to a third party. This is done, simply it seems, by sending what appears to be a genuine e-mail from the owner of the domain. Network Solutions systems are not hacked, the e-outfit claims. It' s just a case of old-fashioned fraud and deception. According to Network Solutions, people that have signed up to MAIL-FROM -- the lowest protection scheme available for a domain name record and the default system for all registrants -- are the ones at risk from having their sites hijacked. Here, authority to carry out instructions is simply denoted by a valid e-mail address -- or not, as the case may be. A similar method was used by two Turkish football fans to dupe Network Solutions to hand over the keys to Leeds United Football Club's dotcom Web a fortnight ago. They publish an animation of a Galatasaray fan walking up to the Leeds logo, dropping his shorts and urinating on the club's badge. The site was taken down within 24 hours. Network Solutions' spokeswoman refused to comment on individual cases although she said she was aware of the LUFC.com incident. Even so, she maintained that fraudulent e-mails were "not a widespread problem" and that the company had "launched a full investigation" into the matter. She added that there was nothing stopping domain name owners to opt for other, more sophisticated security measures if they want to ensure greater protection. Both an encrypted password systems and a pretty good privacy (PGP) system are available from Network Solutions and both are free of charge. She urged anyone worried about this to visit the Network Solution Web site here. So it seems that those sites that were hacked (The Register's aware of around 50 or so) signed up to a pretty basic security system, a bit like locking up your house and leaving the key under the nearest flower pot. If security was an issue, they should have done more to protect their e-property. Equally, if Network Solutions is serious about this, it must accept that its basic level security system has now been compromised and it should now take action to do something about it. And pronto. ® Related Stories Bertie Ahern in £1m porn scandal, while Serbian hackers go haywire
Tim Richardson, 14 Apr 2000
The Register breaking news

Spiked WSJ story lives on at ZDNet UK

Remember that Wall Street Journal story that disappeared suddenly earlier this week? The one that said the US government side intended to ask for Microsoft to be forced to grant free licences to the source code for Internet Explorer? Well, you can still read it if you want to. Actually, there was a clue to where you could still find it in our original story on the subject. The story was published on the WSJ Interactive edition for a couple of hours, during which time it was picked up by ZDNet US and republished under what we presume is a licensing agreement. The ZD version was word for word the same, and credited the WSJ and the WSJ writer. Naturally, the ZDNet US story doesn't exist now either. But remember we pointed out that it had also been republished by ZDNet UK, aka CyberChump Central? Well, we thought we'd just sit and watch this one through the week until 6pm BST on Friday, so we could give ZDNet UK an opportunity to test its out of office hours disaster recovery procedures. If you want to see that non-existent WSJ story, it's still on the ZDNet UK site in plain. As we mentioned earlier, it doesn't credit the WSJ or the author, but attributes it to ZDNet US. We're sure that this must mean that ZDNet UK has its own special OEM deal with the WSJ, otherwise it would effectively be stealing WSJ stories and passing them off as its own, wouldn't it? But it seems to be a habit, whatever. Today's WSJ story about the Microsoft security hole is presented in the same way on ZDNet UK - word for word, but no credit to WSJ or writer. Who we note happens to be avid Register reader and former AP heavyweight Ted Bridis. You know about this stuff Ted? But it looks simple enough to get in touch with whoever at ZDNet UK is doing this. Click on the ZDNet US attribution, which is where the byline would be if it were ZDNet originated, and you get a mailto to one Richard Barry, who just happens to be editor of ZDNet UK. ® Related stories: MS may be forced to give away Explorer source
Malcolm Volio, 14 Apr 2000