8th > May > 2000 Archive

The Register breaking news

Compaq's Enrico The Cloak takes wing

Enrico Pesatori, a senior VP at Compaq in charge of its server strategy, is to leave the firm to head up server firm Synaxia, it emerged yesterday. Pesatori, nicknamed "The Cloak" when he was at Digital, because he often wore a cloak when he was out and about, was in charge of Compaq's Alpha Wildfire project, which the firm is to formally introduce on May 16th next. He also had responsibility for Compaq's high end so called "industry standard" Intel-based boxes. The departure of Pesatori leaves a large gap in the senior management structure of Compaq, which is still struggling to re-engineer itself following the departure of CEO Eckhard Pfeiffer last year. Pesatori had worked for both Tandem and Digital, acquisitions engineered by Pfeiffer during his reign at the firm. That made him a survivor after the Compaq "night of the long knives" which deposed Pfeiffer and eventually replaced him with Mike Capellas as CEO. Terry Shannon, editor of newsletter Shannon knows Compaq, told The Register: "The latest iteration of the New World Order is interesting indeed. There is now no senior VP and group general manager of ESSG." Further, said Shannon: "As a result of the realignment, Compaq has stripped the top layer of the ESSG org chart. Three ESSG divisions now report directly to Capellas. These units, Industry Standard Servers, Business Critical ervers, and Storage Products, are managed by Mary McDowell, Bill Heil, and Howard Elias respectively." That takes Pesatori out of the management layer completely. In an exclusive interview earlier this year, Pesatori went some way towards de-emphasising Compaq's Alpha strategy, and promoting its Intel-based server line, running Windows 2000. However, he said then that Compaq expected $1 billion worth of revenues from Wildfire during the course of this year. Pesatori was also responsible for stopping the development of Windows NT and 2000 for the Alpha microprocessor last year, a move which he explained by saying that Compaq "did not want to confuse its customers".
Mike Magee, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Rambus no longer makes Intel's eyes twinkle

Analysis A senior Intel source told The Register in February that he was very surprised when Rambus became the unexpected star of its Developer Forum show. We can thank senior Intel VP Dr Albert Yu, however, for putting the spotlight on the amazing dancing Rambus. Yu, demonstrating the Willamette processor at IDF, unequivocally stated that Intel's up-and-coming IA-32 architecture was inseparable from Rambus memory. Although he didn't burst into wild eulogies about Rambus, he said that it was the only memory type suitable for, so-to-speak, Intel's prince of IA-32 chips. As the swan is to other birds, as the sturgeon is to fish, as a king is to men, as musk is to perfume, and as the head is to limbs, so is Rambus to double data rate (DDR) memory, he might have said, if he had let poetry engulf his mind. Perhaps thankfully for his audience, he didn't. Yu's unequivocal support for the Rambus-Willamette dream ticket produced rhapsodies on Wall Street that very evening. The Rambus share price (ticker RMBS) twinkled brightly in the New York firmament, and once more became the darling of the brokers. Over the next day or two, them that had ears with which to hear, heard a very different story both from Yu and from other Intel executives. It transpired that while Willamette was yoked to Rambus, its elder brother, Foster - intended for workstations and servers, would instead use the less noble synchronous memory option, DDR memory. At a press conference at IDF, Peter McWilliams, an Intel fellow, ruled out DDR for the desktop, while Peter Glaskowsky, a senior analyst at Microdesign Resources, said that it was inevitable that there would be DDR chipset solutions for Willamette when it arrived. And, at a series of one-to-one briefings beside the swimming pool on a scorching Palm Springs day, Yu repeatedly refused to be drawn on exactly why Willamette was so closely linked to Rambus. Nor would he expand further on why Foster seemed to have a love-affair with DDR memory. According to two stories on Electronic Buyers' News (EBN) at the end of last week, it now appears that Intel is readying a cunning Baldrick-style plan to do the same for Willamette as it is being forced to for the current generation of IA-32 processors, the Coppermine family. EBN reports that Intel, faced with a threat from Athlon Thunderbirds (which uses DDR memory), is now repositioning Willamette to be a mainstream desktop solution, implying that it has realised it has to prevent AMD from continuing to nibble at the x86 hand that originally fed it. The same stories suggest that Intel is readying a memory translator hub (MTH) solution that will allow Willamette to dance the funky chicken with DDR as well as Rambus. The EBN reporters have been busy indeed. They also reported Friday that Micron will now use its Samurai DDR chipset to support the AMD Athlon, as well as Pentium III processors. It is true, beyond doubt, that Rambus memory is still vastly more expensive than synchronous memory. It is also true that demand for Rambus RIMMs has not yet begun to overwhelm PC manufacturers. And it is also a fact that Intel's i820 Rambus chipset has not gone down a storm with third party mobo manufacturers nor with Intel's major customers, the PC manufacturers. But we suspect that this lengthy Rambus game is not yet over, despite this latest evidence of an Intel u-turn. Between February and June, we are given to understand, teams of frantic mengineers and womengineers have been hammering out a new type of Rambus, with cheaper casing, a lower form factor, and more reliable technology. The marchitecture departments at Rambus are likely to go into overdrive too, in an attempt to persuade the world+dog that RIMMing is good stuff, especially the new, improved version they will show us. We are likely to find out when we attend June's Computex show in Taipei how the PC industry at large views these latest maneuverings in the memory war.
Mike Magee, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Via KX-133 boards one degree under?

There is a piece at Tom's Hardware which takes 12 KX-133 mobos, while the good doctor's staff go round with their stethoscopes and maybe a speculum or two to find out how healthy they are. The answer seems to be that one or two of them are throwing a sickie... Meanwhile, over at Tech Report, there is some info on why AMD's Thunderbird might have some trouble working with the KX-133 chipset. The arrival of AMD's infamous Socket A has been heralded by quite a few muddaboardz with support for said thing. Over at Slot A, you can view the latest list. At JC's pages, there is an update of his Pricewatch saga, where he looks at the availability of ze Athlon and ze Intel Copperwhoppas. Struggling with Microsoft high end operating systems? Take a look at Ars Technica, which points to an MS event log utility. Slight self-reference stuff here, but Ace's Hardware has a little more to add on the burgeoning mystery of Willamette, Rambus and DDR. According to this place, ServerWorks has been licensed to produce a DDR chipset for Willamette. ServerWorks (formerly Reliance), has a broad agreement with Intel to produce DDR chipsets for server and workstation products.
Mike Magee, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

1GHz Intel shortages hit tier-two PC builders

UK system builders are losing Intel business to tier-one rivals due to 1GHz chip shortages. Despite Intel declaring that its 1GHz chips would not be available in volume in Europe until Q3, some UK customers feel they can't wait that long to get these monsters inside their systems. But this leaves many tier-two PC builders unable to fulfil orders; and lengthy lead times or a complete lack of the 1GHz Pentium IIIs in the channel are driving customers into the arms of bigger competitors. Dell and Tiny Computers are among tier one vendors currently with supplies of the chips in the UK – Tiny has two-week lead times. Others, like Simply Computers, are "sceptical" about forthcoming deliveries, but have been promised supplies next month. "We haven't had any of these chips yet, but we have been told to expect them," said Kevin McSpadden, Simply sales and marketing director. "Intel appears to be supplying its biggest volume customers first. But this means we can't compete on the same level. Our customers want machines with the chips, but there is only a certain amount of supply," said McSpadden. He added that around half the customers enquiring about the Intel 1GHz chip settle for the AMD equivalent – which Simply is not experiencing shortages with. But the other 50 per cent take their business elsewhere. Other system builders, such as Mesh and Time Computers, have decided not to sell systems using the chip at the moment. Paul Kinsler, Mesh MD. said: "We are taking orders for the 1GHz Athlon in limited quantity, with lead times of around two weeks. "But Intel has not made its 1GHz chip available to us. These chips are also in limited quantity, and Intel's tier one systems builders get preference at the moment – which is something we don't have a problem with." Intel stands by its Q3 date for volume availability of the component in the UK. "It is not in full production yet – we have a limited volume which is currently aimed at enthusiasts in the US market," a representative said. Other system builders are not so happy, feeling the supply shortage puts them at a competitive disadvantage. "This quarter has seen improvements in availability, but there are still genuine shortages," said Simon Panesar, MD of Leeds-based Panrix. We've had a handful of chips, but there has been more demand than supply. "We've definitely lost business because we can't get hold of the chips. Given the competitive landscape, it's always frustrating to have these situations arise," said Panesar.
Linda Harrison, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

US extends tax-free Net to 2006

The moratorium on multiple and discriminatory Internet taxes looks likely to continue, following the House Judiciary Committee recent vote by 29-8 to pass an amended version of HR3709. The Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce sent its majority report to Congress last month. The Committee also agreed to eliminate all taxes on Internet access, so repealing an existing Federal law, but this is misleading as not all of the US has free local access to the Internet, and there are taxes on telephone accounts and calls. Nevertheless, the moratorium on tax-free purchasing via the Internet should continue until 21 October 2006. Local traders have complained this is unfair since their customers do have to pay state and city taxes. Grover Nordquist, a member of ACEC, said that it lays the groundwork for even more taxpayer-friendly Internet legislation next year. On an unrelated international tax matter, the US has until 1 October to comply with the WTO decision that its foreign sales corporation scheme is an illegal trade subsidy. If it is not then ended, the EU could retaliate by putting substantial tariffs on US exports, including IT. It is believed that this has made it possible for Microsoft, Intel and other major players to reduce their taxes by 15 per cent. However, the US government intends to repeal the FSC programme and then introduce new legislation to reduce income taxes on the foreign subsidiaries of US companies. This may be challenged again by the EU.
Graham Lea, 08 May 2000

Apache.org owned by white hats

Friendly strangers briefly took over the Apache Software Foundation server by exploiting a series of common configuration errors, and then announced their presence by inserting an advertisement for Microsoft at the bottom of the home page.
Thomas C Greene, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Spam-u-like service sets out Brit stalls

A London-based e-company is to launch a service enabling Net users to request direct marketing e-mails. OK-mail - said to be the first opt-in service in Britain - will collect and provide e-mail addresses of consumers who have specifically asked to receive online mailshots. Lionel Thain, one of the co-founders of OK-mail, said; "We are totally anti-spam. We always seek permission from consumers before sending them any information." The service has been designed so that Net users have to give their consent twice - once when they register and once to confirm. This, according to Thain, will ensure that people's names are added to the list without their consent. OK-mail received 1 million in VC backing in March and reckons it will have signed up between two and three million people by the end of the year. To find out more go here.
Tim Richardson, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Intel's Glen Echo canned?

Sources close to Intel's plans said over the weekend that its ambitious Glen Echo project, which was supposed to sample towards the end of last month and was scheduled to ship in July, has been cancelled. That will give Lancewood, its trusty workaday server muvvaboard, a further lease of life and two further revs which will last for a clear nine months more, the same sources said. Glen Echo, which was provisionally named the S440GE2, was to have used Ultra160, fast CuMine technology, have a 100MHz spin and will use either a Hudson (5U) or Byrd (2U) chassis, as we exclusively revealed in March. The Glen Echo board was to have made use of two Intel chassis designs, the Hudson and the Byrd, but now it is apparently dead (and we are unlikely to get confirmation from Intel on its status*), Lancewood will have to bridge the gap by lasting nine extra months and supporting the chassis changes. The Lancewood revs will have the suffixes GXH (Hudson) and GXG (1GHz) support. This latest news is yet another blow for Intel's chipset division, beleaguered as it is by all sorts of factors including getting Willamette to market, coping with i820 continuining difficulties, getting PC-133 support to market and last, but not leastly, introducing the Merced processor and support for the same. Lancewood was intended for Coppermine-based servers up to 850MHz, and Intel, according to insiders, is rushing to increase capacity during this month. We will attempt to discover how this may affect other up-and-coming plans from Intel, over the coming days.
Mike Magee, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

PlayStation 2: How to play any DVD

Poor old Sony. A Register reader informs us that there is now apparently a 100 per cent foolproof way of loading Region 1 DVDs, even after the latest batch of drivers, designed to prevent this, have been loaded. "Load the DVD into the PlayStation 2. At the browser screen, select the CD icon then press and hold square and then circle until the DVD menu appears, holding both buttons all the time. Then there are two ways to play the movie; you can either select the play icon or the movie start icon which is in the middle to the far left. If one doesn't work the other one will."
Andrew Thomas, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Gates group plans to cut off NZ yacht team's wind supply

You'd think Bill Gates had troubles enough; but no - he is reportedly involved in an Americas Cup consortium that intends to buy out the competition and 'cut off the wind supply' to the holders, the New Zealand Americas Cup team. The proposed mechanism is simple enough, and is only a ghastly coincidence as far as Bill is concerned. Sportsmen and sportswomen are known to have a very fluid view about the country they represent, so that inducements are being offered to persuade the New Zealand Americas Cup team to race for the United States in 2003, the Observer [UK] reported yesterday. NZ had the rare distinction of successfully defending the Americas Cup in March. The mechanisms used by the US to retain the Cup for gazillions of years up to the point it was pried loose by the enterprising Antipodeans actually have a certain amount in common with the dubious business methods Microsoft is currently taking legal flak for. You can understand that there are people in the US who regard it as their patriotic duty to get the thing back, but it is a surprise that Bill Gates, not known as a sailor, is involved. Apparently 20 of the 30 team members have been offered a substantial deal to live for two years in the US (to gain the residency requirement), with sign-on fees of $60,000 and salaries of $150,000 for six years. There's also a possibility of any deserters acquiring US citizenship. So far, there are no reported mutineers. It turns out that the approach to Kiwi sailors was made by Sean Reeves, an ex-sailor who was the lawyer for Team New Zealand Corporation. He is said to be acting for a syndicate that includes Bill Gates. A Microsoft spokesman declined to comment. Surely it's just by chance that Stefanie Reichel, the German ex-girlfriend of Gates and MS lawyer Bill Neukom, (and the one claimed to have been told to destroy apparently incriminating emails about OEM deals involving DR-DOS and MS-DOS) happened to work with the marketing team for the San Francisco Yacht Club's entry in the Americas cup race in March? She previously worked for Microsoft in Redmond and Germany, where her job was to persuade German OEMs such as Vobis to stop pre-loading the Digital Research product. Reichel was also an "uncooperative witness" in the Caldera versus Microsoft case. Reichel left the sailors to become vp of business development with freeshop.com, a Seattle Internet start-up. Can somebody reassure us that this is all a coincidence?
Graham Lea, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Too little, too late? MS sets out its stall for the judge

MS on Trial Microsoft is leaking the main thrust of its response to the DoJ proposed final judgment, the Washington Post suggested yesterday. It will apparently have three parts: first, a rebuttal of what the DoJ proposed; second, some mild chastisement suggestions; and third, some procedural proposals to Judge Jackson so that Microsoft can drag out the case for as long as possible - with the probable objective of trying to delay the Final Order until a new and more malleable US President is installed. Microsoft would do this by asking for discovery about the basis for the DoJ's filings, and seeking depositions and hearings to examine the DoJ's evidence, but it is far from certain that this would be granted. It depends how confident Judge Jackson feels that his Final Order would not be overturned on the ground of not letting Microsoft present enough argument. The DoJ would no doubt say that the Declarations are just supporting documents that bear on the adequacy of the DoJ's proposal, and not further documents that incriminate Microsoft - although they do of course. Gates' smoking-gun email could be seen in the context of offering a reason why conduct remedies would never be sufficient, since Microsoft would not abide by them. More time needed, says Neukom Bill Neukom, Microsoft's head in-house lawyer has been suggesting that a $400 billion company needs more than 12 days to respond to the DoJ's proposal (he wants a "significant expansion of the remedy process"). It is unlikely that Microsoft can persist with its denials of having done anything wrong in its filing on 10 May, as this would invite the wrath of the court; it would be contemptuous if not suicidal. It hardly matters what innocuous conduct remedies Microsoft suggests against itself, since it would appear to be most unlikely that any significant argument would prevail. The DoJ will no doubt urge, to Judge Jackson's probable approval, that he should ignore Microsoft's delaying tactics so that the case could go quickly to the Supreme Court. Although theoretically the Supreme Court could decline a reference under the Expediting Act, this is very unlikely in view of the economic effects of the case on the stock market. After all, the justices are political appointees, and some are shareholders too. Judge Silberman of the Court of Appeals did finally admitted he controlled a fund that held Microsoft stock so had to recuse himself from an earlier phase of the case in February 1998. He has never clarified whether he held Microsoft stock on the occasions when he ruled against Judge Sporkin in 1995, or subsequently when he ruled for Microsoft. It has been rumoured that Microsoft would be willing to offer a version of Windows with IE access suppressed rather than removed, but this is likely to laughed out of court because it does not address the issue of taking up users' disk real estate, let alone keeping the bugs in fine breeding form. It's also rumoured that Microsoft would be willing to allow OEMs to have flexibility over the first screen, which of course hardly matters to Microsoft since it has effectively eliminated the competition. Microsoft is also said to be willing to show no favouritism to OEMs. Less to API offer than meets eye? The fourth supposed concession - that Microsoft would make available "parts of the Windows system code used by independent software companies to design their software applications to run on Windows" requires parsing. It would seem that the access may well be just to APIs (of which very many are deliberately undocumented), and not to parts of the source code. Whether this would be done completely and in a timely fashion is doubtful, based on Microsoft's previous record in these matters. It sounds like a potential rerun of the undocumented MS-DOS and Windows 3.x calls sagas. There is also no reason to suppose that there would not be additional restraints on this, including an NDA; a fee (as a minimum, probably membership of MSDN); and provisions to make it essentially impossible for such licensees to be involved with the Wine or other Windows-bypass projects. It is of course an admission that Windows does not after all have an open interface. The concessions, if made, would not appear to add anything to those leaked during Judge Posner's mediation attempt, and the Washington Post story yesterday suggests that the proposals will add up to less than what was on offer. If Microsoft feels very bold, it might say that it has done more good than bad, and that it would formally undertake not to act "illegally" in the future, without actually admitting it had acted illegally in the past, as has been found judicially. Microsoft would of course also try to convince the court that there are conduct remedies to address the findings of illegal behaviour, and that a drastic breakup is not needed. It is known that Microsoft's defence will include a filing by Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering of Washington - concentrating on the alleged iniquity of a breakup and probably trying to find some legal substance for a significant delay. It just happens that Boyden Gray, a White House counsel to Presidents Reagan and Bush, works for this firm and has offered the view that George W Bush would drop the case if he won. Gray, speaking at a New York University conference on Friday at which the DoJ's chief trial lawyer David Boies was scheduled to appear but cancelled without any explanation, claimed that he thinks the case will be settled, but after the November presidential election. At one point in his presentation, Gray suggested that a duel might be the best solution - but it would more likely be a bare-knuckle fight than a gentlemen's duel. Nicholas Economides, a NYU economist, suggested at the conference that Microsoft would settle, "and end up with legal fees and triple damages of .$6 billion or so'". In fact, Economides is misinformed, as this is not a possible legal outcome of the present case since Microsoft would have had to have been offered a jury trial if a claim for damages exceeded $20: no monetary damages were claimed by either the DoJ or the Plaintiff States. Douglas Melamed of the DoJ noted that remedies are supposed to be forward-looking. Rick Rule, who is retained by Microsoft, admitted that Microsoft was in the difficult position of having to produce remedies for offences it claims it did not commit. Rule thought it probable that the case would go first to the Court of Appeals, and that it was unlikely that the Supreme Court would hear the case on an expedited track. Rule also claimed that Microsoft wasn't looking to a White House change but to the courts: "It doesn't need political intervention to win," he claimed. Stanley Liebowitz of the University of Texas also supported Microsoft again (the breakup plan was "boneheaded", he claimed) and it would not be surprising if he supported Microsoft's filing on Wednesday. Judge Jackson played an amusing trick on Microsoft when he invited the company to suggest how it would propose dealing with its sins at the same time as the company wanted to protest its innocence. It will be very interesting to see if he grants Microsoft any time extension before the hearing scheduled for 24 May.
Graham Lea, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Beeb brings Mitterand back from dead

Pity le pauvre BBC. After years of Birt-led cut-backs and the transfer of journo talent to the attrocious CNN-wannabe, BBC News 24, it's clear the Corporation doesn't have sufficient good news staff left over for its online news operation. At least that's the only explanation for the site's latest gaffe. In a news item covering the recent Nantes vs Calais footie match, eagled-eyed Register reader Simon Nash spotted a pull-quote attributed to France's President Mitterand. Not bad, since said Pres. has been propping up the daisies - or 'les fleurs de ma tante dans la derriere', if our O-level French is anything to go by - for the last four years. The correct quotee, President Chirac, was unavailable for comment, but we note that in a wonderfully Blair-like way he declared the 2-1 match to have been won by both teams. Evidently, la troixieme way...
The Register breaking news

US urges stiffer penalties for Net crimes

We never cease to marvel at the smooth, silent process by which corrupt alliances among well-heeled industry lobbyists, putatively 'independent' government commissions and Congress can pervert justice. Most recently, the US Sentencing Commission (USSC) sent a new and grossly Draconian packet of industry-inspired guidelines to Congress, requiring substantially more severe punishments for malefactors convicted of using the Internet to commit crimes. Industry Flacks as Legal Scholars The USSC is acting under orders from Congress to recommend federal sentencing guidelines compatible with recent legislation addressing on-line crime. The Commission has generated numerous recommendations and guidances related to Net crime in the past two years, though interestingly, the Commissioners seem to have consulted exclusively with 'industry representatives' possessing clear vested interests in devising these schemes. While perusing a number of these documents we were soon impressed by the frequency with which the phrase 'industry representatives' appeared in citations of legal authority, especially for copyright cases. "Industry representatives provide both anecdotal reports and data suggesting that intellectual property offences are damaging American industry and that currently such crimes are not deterred adequately," the Commissioners dutifully report. "Industry representatives repeatedly complained that infringement cases were not prosecuted frequently, and that when prosecuted, the penalties were not sufficiently severe," they add. "Industry representatives look to the Commission to send a signal to both the public and prosecutors via heightened guideline penalties that these crimes are serious and that their prosecution is important in the hope that this will deter intellectual property offences," the Commission insists. "Industry representatives believe an additional important reason to increase penalties for intellectual property offences is to provide a model for overseas law enforcement," they say. And who are these 'industry representatives' which the Commission trusts so completely and is so slavishly bent on accommodating? No less than the Software Publishers Association, the Business Software Alliance, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) - four of the many special-interest groups most hysterically terrified of the Internet. In an amazing piece of legislative sleight-of-hand, the guidelines now base sentences on the retail value of the copyrighted or trademarked goods infringed. This is where the rubber leaves the road, as sentences that overvalue deterrence often have no rational connection to the actual damages to victims. "The Commission adopted retail value of the infringing items not because they were trying to use gross gain as a measure of the seriousness of the offence, but because it was a clear and easily applied proxy for loss to the victim," the guidance states. The Commission is "particularly concerned that proxies for loss be easy to calculate even if not precise." This is pure, unadulterated, Massachusetts-Bay-Colony, Puritan vindictiveness masquerading as justice, because the sale of pirated goods does not necessarily displace the sale of legitimate ones. Often, consumers who buy pirated goods could not have afforded, and would never have bought, the factory product. It's unfair as well because retail prices don't account for production, marketing and distribution costs and other business overhead. The true loss to copyright holders is obviously the profit they earn on their goods, but this is difficult to calculate in a fluid marketplace and often too small a figure to result in satisfying penalties, so the Commission has pushed all the sliders to maximum and decided to sentence offenders on the basis of a loss that, however easy to calculate, is one it would be impossible for any company to sustain. Thus those who upload pirated content to the Web, "thereby making the software instantly available for downloading by others throughout the world," should get longer sentences than your garden-variety, part-time pimp, huckster and street peddler. What we have here is a lot of 'industry representatives' clever enough to get Uncle Sam to do their dirty work so that they can bleat about the 'freedom' and 'empowerment' afforded by new technologies, and with apparently clean hands to boot. It's a Sin to Tell a Lie Saving the children is another of the Commission's preoccupations, with stiffer penalties recommended for on-line sexual enticements directed at minors. The USSC affirmed that it was "particularly concerned about sexual predators who 'troll' the Internet (using its anonymity and large number of 'chat rooms' intended for children) to contact and sexually exploit children." Fair enough, but also included is a most ominous provision which essentially makes it a crime to lie about yourself to a brat. Now, one can be busted for "misrepresentation of... name, age, occupation, gender, or status, as long as the misrepresentation was made with the intent to persuade, induce, entice, or coerce a minor to engage in prohibited sexual conduct; or facilitate transportation or travel, by a minor or a participant, to engage in prohibited sexual conduct." This may be a pre-emptive strike at those who might be tempted to repeat a defence used by Internet celebrity and Java developer Patrick Naughton, who argued at trial that he never believed he was chatting with a kid, but was merely indulging in a bit of harmless on-line fantasy with an unknown correspondent. Lying might be construed as evidence that the adult participant is not taking the dialogue seriously; thus the new legal language makes lying part of establishing criminal intent, and so diminishes its effectiveness as a defence. The Commission also recommends stiffer criminal and monetary penalties for identity fraud and hacking credit cards. Predictably, not one word was said about the responsibility of those entrusted with such data to secure it. If the guidelines are approved by Congress, judges will be required to conform to them unless they can cite compelling legal reasons not to do so. The proposals look good for Congressional approval. The timing couldn't be better: in an election year, no Member dares to risk being labelled as soft on crime, regardless of any civil-liberty implications. The smart thing to do is vote for any measure that implies the ruthless defence of victims, and let the appellate courts sort out all the Constitutional niceties later.
Thomas C Greene, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Splitting MS and the great Chinese Wall puzzle

MS on Trial The DoJ's proposed splitting of Microsoft into operating system and applications companies is full circle in a sense. Previously such a split was referred to as the Chinese Wall issue, and it has a curious history. Microsoft has not been at all consistent in its claims about the so-called Chinese Wall between operating systems developers and applications developers. The allegation has been that Microsoft obtains two significant unfair advantages by breaching it: by passing information at an earlier stage across the wall to Microsoft's applications developers, it can develop its applications earlier and gain a considerable marketing advantage; and by releasing critical information selectively, it makes it difficult for unfavoured external developers to use all the facilities available to Microsoft developers and favoured collaborators. Steve Ballmer has repeated many times that there was a Chinese Wall between operating system development and applications development. For example in 1983 he told Business Week: "There is a very clean separation between our operating systems business and our applications business... It's like the separation between church and state." Gates also maintained in 1984 there was a barrier. In May 1991 during the FTC investigation, Microsoft was suspected of leveraging control over the information flow between its operating systems and applications groups, in order to hobble competitors. Then in July 1992, Stewart Alsop wrote: "The Chinese Wall between systems and applications doesn't exist any more (at least, according to Mike Maples [then President of Microsoft], who's in charge of both sides now)... Microsoft does now own a significant share of the market for all kinds of personal computer software and it must change its way of doing business or risk the wrath of the huddled masses in a way that no company has had to risk it since IBM and AT&T were sued by the government in the early 1970s." Prophetic words. Gates confused the issue further in an interview with Forbes in December 1992: "We would never, ever use the term 'Chinese Wall'" and went on to defend the existing practice of passing information from the applications group to the Windows group, and vice versa: "We've got two-way communication! ... The products help each other". By the beginning of 1995, a Microsoft memorandum submitted to the US District Court in Washington relegated the Chinese Wall to a footnote, claiming that it never existed, and called the idea that it had existed "irrational". The latest example of crossing the Chinese Wall is the Gates' smoking-gun email of 11 July last year, in which he is apparently urging his executives to find ways to tie Windows to PDAs, and to make life difficult for Palm. It looks as though leopards-and-spots questions will have to be asked when Microsoft's files its proposed conduct remedies on Wednesday. ®
Graham Lea, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

BOFH and The Mahariji

Episode 17 BOFH 2000: Episode 17
Simon Travaglia, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Online ad service courts students

Students – love them or hate them, there has to be a way to make money out of them. Doesn't there? That would seem to be the thinking behind the burgeoning number of sites targeting the student community in the UK. The latest of which is StudentAd - a classified advertising service aimed at universities and further education colleges. The idea is a simple one - it replicates the noticeboard found in most college buildings. So if you want to sell your old books, or have a room available in your house, rather than write out the details on a bit of card and pin said bit of card over the top of someone else's bit of card, you can go online and advertise it on the Net. And the best part – from the students' point of view – is that it's free. All you have to do is go to the site, pick the region you want to advertise in and place your ad. Simple as that. StudentAd's MD, Gary Hector, is ready to fend off student pranksters though. "The service will filter out all swear words," he told The Register. But, as yet, there's nothing in place to weed out (if you'll excuse the pun) the sale of drugs on StudentAd. So, if you've got a couple of slabs of something fragrant under your bed and you need to expand your market... phone the police and do the right thing. According to Hector, the most popular items expected to be advertised are second hand books, vacant rooms and jobs. The service will make money by selling banner adverts, and line ads to companies wanting to target the students in their area. So far it is being promoted in around 12 regions, with a further 20 to follow later this year. The service should be capable of holding around 5000 ads per region, Hector said.
Sean Fleming, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Love Bug suspect arrested, girlfriend to follow

Updated A Philippine couple, both bank workers, were identified on Monday as the chief suspects in the search for the Love Bug authors. Philippine Feds have finally got one body in custody, at least. They arrested 27-year-old Reomel Ramones after searching the house where, it is believed, the owner of the computer which launched the Love Bug virus resides. Ramones was led away in handcuffs by Philippine National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) officers from a flat in the capital, Manila where he lives with his girlfriend. Authorities said his girlfriend, 23-year-old Irene de Guzman, is expected to turn herself in late Monday or early Tuesday. NBI chief Federico Opinion said his agents obtained a search warrant after a weekend of comic bureaucratic frustration. Virus authorship is not a crime in the Philippines, so authorities faced a considerable challenge in figuring out what to charge the suspects with. The NBI said they finally obtained a warrant under the Access Device Act, which addresses the illegal the use of account numbers and passwords. The Act provides for an incredible maximum penalty of 20 years in gaol. Ramones has thus far declined to make a statement, police sources said. Opinion said no charges have yet been brought but noted that the NBI has 36 hours in which to do so. However, with the computer in question conspicuously absent, it seems unlikely that there would be enough evidence to charge Ramones or Guzman lurking in the scraps of telephone wiring, peripherals and computer literature the Feds did manage to confiscate. Time is running out to find the box, crack any encrypted evidence, or try to recover deleted (easy) or properly wiped (nearly impossible) incriminating files. NBI sources also wisely aired the possibility that neither suspect is the virus author, but might simply be the victim of an infected computer. "The user here is invisible; it could be anybody. The person we have identified is the registered owner of [the suspect] computer," an NBI official noted. The NBI said the investigation might lead to more arrests, but would not give details except for one cryptic comment from Opinion, who told reporters to "expect more fireworks. We might still apply for more warrants." Whether this is meant to imply that the couple in question are merely victims of the virus, or were working with accomplices, Opinion would not say. The American FBI traced the virus to the Philippines through an 'obvious' electronic trail. Too obvious, perhaps. On Saturday, a Swedish computer security specialist cast doubt on the FBI theory, saying he believed that a German exchange student located in Australia is responsible for the bug. If so, it would hardly mark the first time the FBI was humiliated by a teenager. US National Infrastructure Protection Centre (NIPC) Director Michael Vatis was extremely cautious in early interviews Monday, noting repeatedly that it's impossible to nail down a perpetrator until the hard drive is recovered and read.
Thomas C Greene, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Gates predicts Love Bug Apocalypse if MS broken up

MS on Trial Global virus armageddon will be the result of the breakup of Microsoft, "writes" Bill Gates in this week's Time magazine, due to go on sale today. Or very nearly, anyway; you may well wonder how the hell he makes that one out. It's simple, really, as Bill - or whoever knee-jerked the piece out so swiftly - explains. The front line defence against viruses is apparently a "continually evolving" computer operating system that encourages large numbers of software developers to write for it. But if Microsoft is split into two, there would be less innovation in the software, hence fewer developers, and ultimately less defence against viruses. "Bill" also claims that subsequent to a breakup new, more virus-proof versions of Office and Windows would be "much harder for computer users to obtain". So there you go. If you've been thinking that the reasons viruses are specifically targetted at Microsoft software are because Outlook leaves plenty big holes for them to drive through, and because Microsoft software has 90 per cent plus of the market, then you're wrong. On the contrary, continual Microsoft innovation must have made the software less vulnerable. The way "Bill" tells it, all of the stuff you read about security holes in Microsoft software (much of it... er... on the Microsoft Web site) can't possibly be true. And even if it is, so long as Microsoft doesn't get broken up, in the future it'll still be possible for consumers to buy new Microsoft software that offers better virus protection. Honest. Maybe.
John Lettice, 08 May 2000
The Register breaking news

Improve your golf with satellite maps

The Internet and its possibilities has got people thinking like never before - but then there is such a thing as. getting carried away. Now if someone had told you three years ago that they intended to hire satellites to track people's golf balls around a course, you'd have tapped them on the head and asked if everything was alright in there. But that is just what Golflogix.com reckons it is going to do. Golfers will be given a pocket-sized thingy which they place over the ball before each shot and presumably press a button of some kind. The thingy sends the ball's position to a tracking satellite orbiting the earth a couple of thousands of miles away. Once you have completed your round, you should then be able to go to Golflogix's Web site and see how you played each hole. This information will help you improve your game, according to the site's founders, who say money will come from leasing the tracking equipment to clubs, advertising and selling the acquired information to manufacturers. We foresee a few problems with this plan. For example, isn't it going to be prohibitively expensive to rent satellites? Also, non-military satellites aren't all that accurate, when it comes to positioning, which kinda ruins the point of all this. Plus, each course will have to be carefully tracked before golfers can use it so they know where the ball landed relative to the course. Plus, is looking at a chart of where your ball landed on each hole actually very useful as a training tool? Surely you would know where your ball landed - it's getting the ball where you want it that's the hard part. But, as golflogix founders are sure to know, we are not dealing with normal people here. Sorry golf fans, but you do tend to be on the wrong side of obsessive compulsive when it comes to improving your game. A whole industry of useless gadgets exists for people who will simply never be very good at the game. But the beauty of golf is that one in a hundred shots will be perfect, leading poor souls to believe that they might just be the best golf player ever born. Money is no object to the obsessed and satellites printouts of well-played holes will no doubt be framed in country houses the world over. Golflogix is starting in the US and then moving to Britain and Japan. We have no idea whether it will be a success.
Kieren McCarthy, 08 May 2000