10th > July > 2000 Archive

Notebook PCs a liability – Compaq

A survey conducted on Compaq's behalf by MORI has concluded that business is under threat because of the lack of notebook security. MORI surveyed over 2000 businesses in the UK on Q's behalf and discovered that 60 per cent of employees do not use a password when they log on to a notebook or PC while over 75 per cent do not take adequate security precautions when they're being road warriors, and toting their expensive little machines around the world. There's an agenda here, of course. Compaq wants to push a new fingerprint "biometric reader" it's just about to launch. According to the research, up to 50 per cent of support calls to IT help desks are because people forget their passwords, while 15 per cent of people use their own name as their password. Over half the people surveyed think that their laptops are susceptible to theft, while 35 per cent, and we're not sure if these figures overlap, make things worse by putting all their confidential business data eggs into the notebook basket. Compaq puts forward some guidelines for road warriors guilty of these sins of commission and omission. You should always store the serial number of your laptop separately from your laptop. When security want to bung your bags through their systems, delay putting your notebook on the line until you're the next one through. Don't leave your notebook in the car. Lock your notebook away when it's not being used. Don't leave it on display in your hotel room. Never let it out of your sight wherever you are. Never write down passwords, and especially don't scribble passwords in the same bag as your notebook. (Some passwords are pretty hard to remember, aren't they? Try committing L17jE53MF321246 to memory). Encrypt data (cough). All of this leads us to the inevitable conclusion that MORI survey suggests that notebooks are an expensive and insecure crock of dung at the end of a sepia rainbow. If they weren't so expensive in the first place, they wouldn't be so desirable. Ah for those good old days of the first Compaq luggable, which it would be hard for anyone to steal at a fast lick. Although Compaq doesn't give this piece of advice, never use your notebook on an aeroplane or train when the person sitting next to you could be a journalist. You will be able to tell this if they seem to order more drinks than others on the flight/train, and have a scruffy demeanour about them, while still travelling first or business class. Oh, and notebooks break easily too... ®
Mike Magee, 10 Jul 2000

Semi kimonos open: 12 inches revealed

The firms which make the equipment used by semiconductor firms to make silicon chips are predicting a rush to 12in wafer technology worth an estimated $60 billion in investment. That news will be announced at a semiconductor industry silicon fest, Semicon West, with firms including Applied Materials expected to show a line-up of machinery to accomplish the miracle. Firms such as Intel, NatSemi, TSMC and AMD are customers of such companies, and the capital investment and sheer slog of making the switch is not a piece of cake. Intel said earlier this year that it would begin fabricating microprocessors using 12in wafer technology, but the machinery is of a different order to the current 8in wafer technology in place at most of its current factories. However, the advantages of moving from 8in to 12in technology are that you can make many more chips from the latter. The disadvantage of moving to a 12in fab process is that the wafers are inherently more fragile, and require a different sort of handling by the complex machinery which eventually churn out CuMines, Itanics, Celerons, Durons, Athlons and the rest. Intel estimates new fabs cost over $2 billion each. There is actually a very useful guide to how sand turns into microprocessors are made on the Intel site. ®
Mike Magee, 10 Jul 2000

Israel to make a million 1.7GHz Pentium 4s

Chipzilla has ordered its plant in Israel, Fab 18, to drop everything and produce 5000 Pentium 4 wafers - each containing around 200 little P4s - within six weeks. Sources close to Fab 18 tell The Reg that these chips will be rated at 1.7GHz. Fab 18 is used to dealing with abrupt U-turns. Until March, the plant had been churning out loads of Timna system on a chip (SoC) processors, but switched over to Pentium IIIs in early April and has shipped 10 million Coppermines since then. [So how come there's still a shortage? - Ed]. The halt on Timna production again calls into question Intel's commitment to the SoC concept. Factions within the chip giant have long looked down their noses at SoC processors as the sort of thing imitators did and regarded them as not worthy of attention. Apparently, there's only one stepper at Fab 18 capable of etching P4 wafers, so it looks like at least one employee is in for some serious overtime. ®
Andrew Thomas, 10 Jul 2000

Gay London vicar blackmailed by online friend

A gay London vicar has fled his parish after an online liaison turned into a blackmail attempt. The Reverend Neil Follett, 50, struck up a friendship with a German academic over the Internet. This resulted in the German visiting him at his Victorian vicarage in London's exclusive Knightsbridge district. But the relationship soured, according to today's Times newspaper, after the two bickered over an alleged credit-card bill. The academic decided to play his trump card, and threatened to reveal the Rev's sexuality secret to the tabloids. Follet, who has three kids and is separated from his wife, revealed details of the blackmail to churchwardens and members of the parochial church council and told them he was gay, before doing a bunk on police advice. The scandal came just days after churchwarden Captain Ian Powe - who commanded HMS Yarmouth during the 'Cod War' - was arrested for alleged anti-gay harassment against Follet. Captain Powe, who has denied any wrongdoing, is out on bail. Yesterday, ageing Pope John Paul slammed a gay rights march in Rome as an "offence to Christian values". Those taking part, including drag queens who stripped to leather thongs and stilettos, were deemed "against natural law" by the pontiff. ®
Linda Harrison, 10 Jul 2000

Back with the WAP

A week is long time in politics and, it seems, mobile application protocols. We still maintain WAP is crap while also saying it will become popular at some point. How can we be so two-faced? Easy. The current slew of gateways, sites and phones are the equivalent of early Gameboy models. Your WAP phone is a Gameboy, your PC, the games console. One is one hundred times better but that won't stop people from sitting on buses and pumping away at a tiny toy. So last week we had the news of Kannel's open-source, free WAP gateway and Nokia/Cable & Wireless also got in on the act saying they will also produce an open-source "mobile platform" to run apps on. What are these apps everyone is going on about? Don't ask stupid questions. Oh, and some stuff on WAP porn of all things. So what's new? Well, Richard Birkby took exception to our claim that everything currently available was "rubbish" and suggested we looked at his site, wap.currypages.com. He was on to a winner here because curry and lager are the lifeblood of the vulture. So we had a peek. Well, for a WAP site, it's very good. Check out latest reviews or input your home town and get access to reviews of the curry houses there. According to Rich, he now gets more hits on WAP than the Internet. The review setup is good for WAP - short, pithy, basic information - although the quality of review is as variable as the curry houses themselves. We say: Chicken Madras and WAPpadoms please. Here we go though - another shite idea. "Digital Bridges signs development deal with Steve Jackson". That right the "leading" WAP entertainment developer (an industry of hundreds of Pied Pipers heading off in different directions) is to produce sorcery games. What the hell are they? Oh, role-playing things. Does anyone else remember those fantasy books (think it was Steve Jackson and one other) where you took decisions like "Go left (turn to page 56) or go right (turn to page 94)"? Well, presumably, it will be just like that. Except of course, if you hang up, will there be some kind of memory of where you got up to. Probably not. So once you start, that's your lot. And it will cost loads of money. Will it work? You know what - it probably will, but not for three years or so. We've also got a survey for you. We hate surveys and this is an old one too (June) but then it's from Forrester who are often the most interesting of the poll-takers. Forrester says that by next year all new mobiles will be WAP-enabled. Probably true (at least that's what everyone is banking on). This will cause "hypergrowth" in WAP. All this access to the Internet stuff will split people into two types, apparently. One group will use a whole range of devices to access the Net, the other group will have just one. Uh-huh. But here's the crunch - only the PC will really be used for buying goods online. "Retail revenues from the mobile Internet will prove difficult to attain because consumers will be unwilling to make complex purchases over the mobile Internet." So there you go. Last, but not least, our old friends at the WAP group have turned on us evil journalists. Unsurprisingly though, it was ZDNet that got it in the neck for going for the easy, melodramatic angle and failing to do proper research - really? That's unheard of! Check out the emails below: Subject: Yet another pundit saying WAP will fail. From: XXXXXXXXXX I thought we buried the "WAP is dead" discussion. Often the subject of poorly informed reporting, sensationalism and a lack of something media-worthy for a journo to print. "WAP is dead..." is far more interesting to the average reader than "WAP push architecture", hence the prevalence of such articles. Hopefully the media'll get fed up with reporting on WAP and this will take the heat off the community to live up to the much hyped expectations, letting us focus on the real objectives at hand. Disappointing, especially as we have fellow members hailing from ZDNet itself. Graham Subject: RE: Yet another pundit saying WAP will fail. From: XXXXXXXXXXX I have sent my response in to ZDNet. Read as follows - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Poor reporting. Very typical of what's coming out of the US at the moment. Time to wake up and smell the coffee... WAP & Wireless is a $600bn industry. The fact that this reporter talks of "Web Phones" smacks of naivety. Did we once refer to the TV as "Radio with Pictures" or the Internet as "Electronic Publishing"? New paradigms, not new technologies viewed through old paradigms. Who would have thought that Lynx browsers, gray text pages, poor content, insecure transactions , 9K connections would then become the Internet as we know and Love ? Isn't there an a similarity between this and WAP as it stands right now? Let's take a rain check and see how things stand in 2001. Subject: RE: Yet another pundit saying WAP will fail. From: XXXXXXXXXXX The interesting thing is that he says "WAP is dead," but more than 20% of the responders to his mini-poll said that they already owned a WAP phone. If that is death then I want to die like that :-) Riza We would like to make it clear that anyone that would like to comment on The Reg's stance on WAP need only click here. If it's interesting enough, we'll whack it on the Letters page. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Jul 2000
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BOFH wants to know: how dangerous are your users?

Episode 24Episode 24 BOFH 2000 Episode 24 (Quiz no.3) Sure, they look about as likely to rebel as the pack of mindless sheep that they are - but can they be trusted? Are your users reading forbidden literature? Are they trying to climb the technical greasy pole behind your back? How will you know? Can the cattle prod be trusted to solicit the truth? It's time to put it to the test! Put yourself in your users' place and answer these simple questions to see if things are going according to plan at YOUR workplace. 1. A MAC Address is: a. A place you get Quarter Pounders b. A street address in Scotland? c. Something Technical d. A Hardware Address in Networking e. Something technical a system administrator changes to cause the Boss's machine to lose network connection. 2. You ring your Systems and Network people because the server has just gone down and you want to know when it will be up again. You expect them to tell you: a. A number of minutes b. A number of days c. To sod off d. The incriminating evidence they found in your email folder e. The incriminating evidence they just placed in your email folder 3. The low-power components in your laptop are optimised to run at what voltage? a. DC? b. AC? c. Whatever the adapter says d. Just under 3 volts e. 240 volts AC, and not a volt less! 4. You bring a box of 9 track tapes of your life's work to the operators to read in so that you can download them to your PC. The operator tells you it should be there in an hour. This means: a. It will be loaded into your home share in an hour. b. It will be loaded into your home share today sometime c. It will be loaded into your home share this week sometime d. It will be loaded into your home share when hell freezes over e. The Operator's bin has recently become full 5. You smell smoke in the building. You know immediately that: a. You should sound the alarm b. You should make your way quickly to the exit, notifying staff as you go c. You should turn your machine off in case the sprinklers activate d. The System Administrator is interviewing consultants again. e. The operator's bin doesn't need emptying any more. 6. The faultiest piece of crap in the building is: a. Sitting in the bin outside the head of IT's office b. Sitting on the floor outside the head of IT's office c. Sitting on the floor inside the head of IT's office d. Sitting on the desk inside the head of IT's office e. Sitting on the chair behind the Head of IT's desk, talking on the phone. 7. The best place to backup your files is: a. To your Home Share, just like the System Admin said b. To the TEMP directory, just like the System Admin said c. To ZIP disk d. (c) to Several Zip disks, and possibly CD-ROM e. To the Recycle bin, to save the System Admin the trouble. 8. The danger of leaving your machine switched on is: a. It could catch fire b. It could become a security risk c. The disk could crash d. It wastes lots of power e. The processor might burn the System Administrators hand when he replaces it with a... faster one... late at night. 9. The security and integrity of your email is protected by: a. Your password b. Company Policy c. PGP Encryption d. Microsoft's pursuit of excellence. Waaaaaa ha ha ha! e. Two pints for the System Administrator every Friday night 10. A System Administrator slaps a piece of paper down in front of you with lots of large technical words on it... which don't mean anything to you. He also indicates a line, with a large X beside it. You: a. Sign on the line b. Sign on the line c. Sign on the line d. Sign on the line e. Refuse to sign on the line then check on your life Insurance Payments. How did your users do? Mostly A Nothing to worry about here. Your users are so feeble minded you're lucky they can manage a keyboard without filling it with dribble. Mostly B As with B, you're pretty much in the green here. You might want to cancel any geek magazine subscriptions just in case someone's found the bin you're dumping them into. Mostly C Still not TOO much to worry about, but you probably want to check offices for books entitled anything "for Dummies" (after cancelling the above mentioned magazine subscriptions). Mostly D This looks serious. It would somehow seem that someone technical has slipped through the resume screening process (i.e. the shredder). Did someone say Inquisition? Mostly E No no no, you're supposed to pretend to be one of your USERS! Not yourself! What were you thinking? Advance to go and try again! ® BOFH is the Bastard Operator From Hell. He is the creation of Simon Travaglia. Don't mess with his copyright.
Simon Travaglia, 10 Jul 2000

Eidos to get £700m offer

Infogrames is understood to have offered a buyout deal for Eidos that values the computer games company at £700 million. The talks are said to have reached the final stages, with the French software group putting forward an all-share deal, making Eidos shares worth between 600p and 700p, according to todays FT. But the FT admitted the deal could still go either way - whereas the talks "could be completed within weeks", it added that the deal "could still fall through over valuation and management issues". Online car retailer OneSwoop is reported to be in secret talks with a range of car manufacturers over buying unsold, pre-registered cars. These are cars that the companies have registered as sold to boost monthly sales figures, but in reality sit on the lot unsold. The talks come as a range of government bodies start prying into the car business to find out why UK cars are so expensive. QXL.com and Orange have signed a team to offer auctions via WAP. QXL already has a similar deal with BT Cellnet. E-bookers.com has denied press reports that it is running out of cash. The online travel agency said it was in "advanced discussions" with potential investors about extra funding. It is due to announce second quarter results next Monday, and will include further financing details at this point. E-bookers raised $60 million when it floated, and had $32 million left at the end of March. It has a cashburn of around $3 million a month. Freeserve and the Bradford & Bingley building society have joined forces in an online property Website. The database of houses for sale will draw on the files of Bradford & Bingley's own network of 370 estate agency branches. The site will be launched to Freeserve's 3.4 million users in the autumn. ®
Team Register, 10 Jul 2000

Top Secret US plane ‘caused Chinook crash’

When an RAF Chinook helicopter carrying almost all the senior intelligence officers working in Northern Ireland crashed into the Mull of Kintyre six years ago, pilot error was given as the official explanation of the disaster. Since then, a number of people and especially UK IT mag Computer Weakly have continued to maintain that it was software in the on-board systems which led to the crash rather than human error. But a third explanation for the crash has now come to light: that a top secret hypersonic US plane, codenamed Aurora and which is reportedly capable of flying at up to 20 times the speed of sound, created a massive jet wake into which the helicopter flew, causing the crew to lose control. RAF Machrihanish lies just ten miles from the Chinook crash site and at the time of the crash was operated by the US Air Force. Machrihanish boasts the longest runway in Europe (over three miles) and the entire surface of the runway is painted four times a year, to match the surrounding undergrowth. The massive runway length is necessary so it can be used as an Emergency Airfield Over-flow (EAOF) site. It is one of the few runways in Britain that can cope with any aircraft landing with technical problems, including the Russian Bear and the P3 Orions of the Royal Norwegian Air force, who regularly used the air base as part of the NATO 'staging point' exercises. Secret Underground facility The runway faces east/west in a remote part of Scotland, enabling aircraft to approach the base from the sea, unobserved - ideal for covert or secret activity. It is also claimed that Machrihanish is host to a large, secret underground facility guarded by elite troops from the US Navy SEALs. A number of military-watching web sites claim that the US military was at the time using Machrihanish as a base for testing its Aurora - the existence of which is still denied. When the Aurora codename leaked out, the US government is alleged to have renamed the project 'Senior Citizen'. Jet wake Aurora was rumoured to be operating at speeds higher than Mach 8 from Machrihanish at the time of the Chinook crash and is alleged to have inadvertently 'brought down' the chopper, which lost control after flying through its jet wake. Shortly after the crash, the Americans left Machrihanish. The British government would certainly have been none too pleased if the US had indeed wiped out most of the UK's senior intelligence officials in one fell swoop. Machrihanish is now reported to be deactivated, with only a skeleton staff, but still appears to be guarded like Fort Knox. During the 1980s, NATO invested a lot of money in the base and decided to post an American Navy Special Warfare (SEALs) unit there, known as Spec. War 2. The UFO BBS has a story which originally ran in the Scottish Sunday Post in May 1993. Oil rig engineer Chris Gibson is reported to have seen the aircraft from the rig Galveston Key. Gibson saw a dart-shaped plane taking on fuel from a US Air Force Tanker. Mach 3 blips were detected on radar over Machrihanish, and Gibson, a man who had worked for the British military and was trained to recognise enemy aircraft, saw a triangular object that he could not identify. It was travelling with two F-111s and refuelling from a KC-135 tanker plane. First news of Aurora using Machrihanish came when a report filtered out about an RAF radar man picking up an unidentified craft travelling at three times the speed of sound near the Kintyre peninsula. Locals started querying terrific sonic booms ripping through the sky near the base. Then the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute investigated earth tremors and strange shock waves across the Friesian coast, and said the probable cause was the sonic boom from an aircraft flying at a speed of 4000mph. Area 51 Robert McNeil, writing in another respected Scottish paper, The Scotsman, claimed last June that not only was Aurora/Senior Citizen flying from Machrihanish, but that alien spacecraft were being dismantled there. McNeil reported that Ron Halliday, the chairman of Scottish Earth Mysteries Research, had claimed that remote areas of rural Scotland were being used in similar ways to the mysterious Area 51 in the United States, where secret aircraft are supposedly tested and where the alien victims of the Roswell UFO crash were supposedly taken for dissection. According to Halliday, the prime candidate for Scotland's Area 51 was Machrihanish, which he said had long been the subject of rumour and bizarre speculation. He added that the MoD owned huge areas of land in Scotland but no one knew what they were doing. "These are parts of Scotland where people just never visit because access is so difficult. Extra-terrestrial flying discs could be stored here as, geographically, we're in a good situation for communication with London, the US and western Europe," Halliday is reported as saying. "Machrihanish would be an ideal spot from which to operate aircraft technology that the Government wanted to keep secret - including devices allegedly developed from captured alien discs." People living nearby have frequently reported strange ear-splitting noises and mysterious smoke-rings in the sky. ® Related Story Commander Collins and the Helicopter of Doom
Andrew Thomas, 10 Jul 2000

Abit KA7 gets more kudos

If, like me,you've discovered that your computer is limping a little, then the first place you want to check out today is Hexus.com for its system price guide. Staying with the first time system builder looking for a decent board, the mobo-minded at Arstecnica think they have found just the thing. The Abit KA7 has been the subject of much discussion in hardware land over the last couple of days, and it gets another, almost, glowing review here. Not recommended for overclockers, but they have a lot of good things to say about it. Another last Hurrah for the BX chipset. BX Boards takes a peek at a new board from Soyo, based on the old timer from Intel and the HPT370 from Highpoint. They say that the Soyo SY-6BA+100 is a super stable overclocking board, so if you are happy with a 100MHz rated chipset running at 133MHz, then it is probably a go. Just don't forget, you'll have to live without AGP4X and the /2 AGP divider as well. And back to Hexus for the last piece today; the new chiller man at Hexus.com has already caught the attention of a couple of people for his diary of his overclocking efforts. We thought you'd probably appreciate being pointed in its direction, in case you hadn't seen it already. Loads of pics too. ® We have a section called Hardware Roundups (there's a permanent link on the front page). You can take a peek here.
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jul 2000

‘Magnificent breasts’ get pulled by content security firm

Email monitoring is set to be the next cyber cash-cow, according to a report out today. It may sound slightly Big Brotherish, but more and more companies are latching onto the idea of monitoring staff email to stop unwanted or dangerous data from entering or exiting their cyberwalls. IDC has forcasted that the worldwide market for content security will reach $952 million in 2004, compared to the paltry $66 million that was generated last year. Content security covers items such as attachments, .exe files, viruses, porn or spam sent via the Net or email. Products allow firms to scan traffic for excessive file size, corrupted data, or words and phrases that may cause offence - such as profanities, porn, or racist or sexist remarks. But how can companies be sure that their security software will only throw out the dangerous stuff? How will the technology know that the incoming email headed "Tart" isn't actually a message from someone's mum, refering to her secret family recipe for Treacle Tart? "It depends on the context," explained Chris Heslop, marketing director at UK content security firm Content Technologies. "For example, 'Breast' would be OK within the context of chicken. But in the context of 'magnificent', well that's different." Indeed. Magnificent chicken breasts could prove extremely offensive to a vegetarian. Anyway, the point is that a whole mixture of nasties can now be spread by the exploding medium of the Web, which can damage a company's reputation as well as its customer confidentiality, or risk virus infection. Alternatively, this type of monitoring activity spells less freedom for staff using the Internet at work. According to Content Technologies, the US content security market is being driven by legal concerns, while European companies are more worried about privacy issues, and in Asia/Pacific the protection of intellectual property is a key factor. Last year a bunch of staff at The New York Times were fired for sending "offensive" and smutty emails. They were found out when the company intercepted internal emails. ®
Linda Harrison, 10 Jul 2000

Click here to send an email on your bog-standard phone

If you were wondering which hi-tech toy you'd waste five minutes on today, look no further. Now you may know about this already but today was the first we'd heard of it. What are we on about? Sending an email message using your run-of-the-mill, industry-standard mobile phone. All of those that are now writing us an email to show how bloody clever you are, go away and look at some other stories. Those left: here's how you do it. Go to the messaging bit of your mobile. Right, go to 'new message' or whatever. Type a cap "M", then a space, then type the email address you want to send it to, then another space, then the email message. Then the number you punch in depends on your mobile operator. The numbers are below: BT-Cellnet - 07720 296 269 Orange - 07974 914 680 One-2-One - 07946 354 378 Vodafone - 07769 707 344 Hit 'Send' and away you go. So what's the catch? Well, this service is run by iobox (which has some other fancy stuff on its site). As such, you will get three free "m-Mails" - that's what they call them - to do with what you want. After that you'll have to register online to continue to use the service. From that point, your operator will charge you as if you sent a text message and iobox will charge 6p a message. The thing is, this service was started up at the beginning of the year. So why haven't we heard of it? Because iobox has been concentrating (apparently exclusively) on corporates and big deals. Here's our suggestion Cheer yourself and others up. Treat this setup as if it were three wishes from a genie. You have the chance to send three emails, so use them well, use them when a moment of inspiration hits you. Don't pause but tap out an email and send it to the lucky fellow/lass. Now that should make this gloomy Monday go with a bit more of a bang. ® Related Link For any more information, look here. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Jul 2000

Pentium 4 pricing revealed

Sources close to Intel's plans have now revealed the prices for the first two flavours of the up-and-coming Pentium 4, formerly codenamed Willamette. The Pentium 4 running at 1.3GHz will cost $795 when it debuts in September, with its 1.4GHz brother coming in at $895. But Intel will attempt to start its familiar pricing scheme only two months later in November this year, with the 1.3GHz costing $625 and the 1.4GHz $795. Those prices will be for units of 1000 but indicate further speeds and a typical Intel price curve over the months to come. Intel, as expected, has now placed the Almador family of microprocessors on its roadmap, and has started talking about the Pentium III fabbed at 0.13 micron. And the company, the same sources reveal, will not license the Pentium 4 buses to other companies, implying that the chipsets will stay firmly in Chipzilla mitts. The system price with Rambus RIMMs and an Intel motherboard based on the Tehama chipset is expected to be high. We shall have more details later this week. ® (Apologies for an earlier edit of this story where the prices were originally transposed)
Mike Magee, 10 Jul 2000

Mutant Watch registry hacked, McCarthyite Senator says

The Mutant Watch Web site has been attacked by activists bent on destroying its registry, site spokesman and neo-McCarthyite busybody 'Senator Kelly' is reported to have said. "Last night, these cowards hacked through Mutant Watch security. They defaced my personal likeness (which I don't mind) but more importantly, they deleted the entire Mutant Registry database, containing the names of hundreds of thousands of known and suspected mutants... Ask yourself this chilling question: what are they trying to hide?" Kelly said, according to a story posted on Countdown (which includes its own Senator Kelly 'Hate Watch' archive). Mutant Watch is a brilliant, seemingly straightforward hate site, set up as a promo for X-MEN the movie by the Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, through which the loony US Senator rants about the insidious danger to American families posed by a growing number of mutants in our ranks, and leaning for support on numerous half-assed 'scientific studies' by, for example, the US "Center [sic] for Disease Control", and several 'scientific experts' no one has heard of who claim that genetic mutations are on the rise. "The genetic heritage given to us by our Creator has been contaminated, with tragic consequences. There is a growing number of individuals out there who are impure at their most basic level. They are not, technically speaking, human," the Senator warns. "The threat that these individuals pose to our way of life cannot be underestimated. It touches every facet of our daily lives. And unless we take a stand now, our children will face an uncertain future where the rules of the game are dictated by genetic aberrations. A world where no place is safe: not your home, not your bank, not even the sanctity of your own mind." The site features a quiz for visitors to determine if they too might be mutants, including such telltale signs as a tendency to experience déjà vu or to excel in sport. Those who get a high score are warned that "the Genetically Pure Patriot Brigade will be in contact [with them] soon". On another page visitors are invited to snitch on suspected mutants, using supporting evidence chosen from drop-down menus including such observations as: "The individual in question has a tendency to: a. change personalities at will b. appear and disappear unexpectedly c. diffuse tense situations" And so on, in a well-played tongue-in-cheek manner. It's quite good craic indeed. We rather hope the movie will turn out half as good. ®
Thomas C Greene, 10 Jul 2000

Even the government thinks UK police are Web-stupid

The government is setting up a new police agency to deal with Internet crime. The hi-tech bobbies will tackle the increasing number of criminals that use the Internet to hide from the law. As we pointed out last week, the UK police haven't got the foggiest when it comes to making Net technology work for them. Criminals who are up on the latest advances appear to have virtual free reign (pun intended). As long as the requested £51 million in funding comes through, the unit will leap like a tiger and "make bobbies on the beat as familiar with technology as many criminals are becoming". Oh Christ. Anyway, we're hoping that's all bluff and the unit will in fact be a specialist group that gets to grips with the digital revolution (and perhaps advises the government on future Net-based legislation). It is due to start surfing and nicking in April next year and will, apparently, tie together all the work of regional police forces with folk such as Customs & Excise and the National Criminal Intelligence Unit. They may do better just to pull in the top police bods and start from the ground up. Mark Castell, who's leading the unit's creation, regurgitated the usual warnings about fraud, paedophiles and drug dealers and threw in a few Cassandras for fun. It will be interesting to see what the political aspect of the high-profile unit is likely to be. We'd also be interested to know where Mark stands on the RIP bill. Still, all good things come to those who wait. Dirty coppers In a wonderful piece of irony, The Sun today ran with an exclusive: "PORN-HUNT COPS CRASH COMPUTER." Luton's boys in blue were using their new, online PCs (put there to encourage off-duty familiarity with the Internet) when the system went down and technicians had to be called in. But why? Because when they had tried to access X-rated porn sites, they couldn't get past the filters. So when one of the UK's finest tried to bypass them, he ended up bringing the system down on top of him. Although worried about their technical ineptitude, The Reg isn't too angry. Let's face it, when we all first started using the Internet, at the first chance we got, we ended up at dirtylove.com or climax.com. Perhaps they can get back to catching the crims now. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Jul 2000

EDS chief flies into the arms of Computacenter

Computacenter has nabbed the UK MD of services giant EDS. David Courtley started as services director at the UK reseller giant today. The 43-year-old was reluctant to give more details on what his role at Computacenter would involve, saying he would rather wait until the reseller's PR machine spins into action later this week. But why bother when we can do a much better job? This is a real coup for Computacenter, which has been pushing to get into the high margin services business and shrug off its box-shifter image for ages. It is still seen in many circles as the UK's biggest PC dealer. Presumably, it will be Courtley's job to steer the company further in this direction. EDS last week signed deals worth a total of £1.85 billion with Rolls Royce and merged Australian banks - Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Colonial. ®
Linda Harrison, 10 Jul 2000

TV hunt for e-greedy start ups

The hunt for the next dotcom companies to burn up millions in venture capital, and then keel over and die, starts tonight at 8.00pm GMT. Demonstrating an astonishing sense of timing, Channel 4's programme, The E-Millionaire Show, starts broadcasting tonight, during the heart of the dotcom doldrums (not to mention Eastenders). The format is for aspiring dotcom businesses to fight it out for a million quids worth of venture capital funding. In the last two months, wannabe dot commers have been registering their ideas on the show's website. Business analysts have narrowed the field down to 15 finalists. When asked if the idea had been hatched when the market was more buoyant, a spokeswoman for the TV channel said that in fact it had taken only four months to get to screen. That would put the "germination" time of this idea back in March some time. It could be argued that the writing was on the wall for the Internet stocks but not everyone was looking. "No one is pretending that the dotcoms are having an easy time at the moment," said a Channel 4 spokeswoman. "But a good business proposition is a good business proposition. Even so, Channel Four isn't worried about the dotcom market - that is an issue for the winning company and the investors." So that's basically saying, "It's not our money, so we don't care." Fair enough. In a series of five heats, broadcast each night this week, the budding e-entrepreneurs will be grilled about their ideas by a panel including EasyJet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou; QXL founder Tim Jackson; and Mike Lynch, founder of the slick Web search company Autonomy. Viewers get to vote every night to choose that day's winner. At the end of the week there is a grand final. Of the viewers who voted for the winning proposition, there is a random draw for one who will get a one percent equity stake in the company. The winning venture will get £1 million to fund the company, and will be followed by a camera crew to track its progress over the next year. The remaining million will be divided between the runners up at the discretion of a panel.® Related stories Today's top 100 e-businesses: tomorrow's death list? The 'Which Dotcom Is Going To Die Next?' Game
Lucy Sherriff, 10 Jul 2000

Lloyd's of London insures against hacking

Computer security outfit Counterpane Security has begun offering coverage against losses due to malicious hacking, which will be underwritten in part by insurance powerhouse Lloyd's of London. Counterpane claims to be the first to guarantee direct reimbursement if an intruder should make a pudding of its defences. The guarantee is underwritten by brokers Frank Crystal and SafeOnline, offering $1 million in coverage for an annual premium of $20,000, and $10 million in coverage for $75,000. Additional coverage of up to $100 million will be available through direct negotiation with Lloyd's. Counterpane will compensate for the loss of, or damage to, information assets (e.g., data, customer lists, credit card numbers, budgets, proposals, work papers, or any other digital information) resulting from a breach of security or technology failure. The insurance also covers business interruption due to loss of use resulting from a breach of security, the company says. "This insurance protection allows our clients, and their customers, to differentiate themselves in their business by offering the highest level of security assurance to their customers. Participating companies will have taken every reasonable step to close the window of exposure for their businesses," Counterpane CEO Tom Rowley chirped. An endless series of reports funded by security product and service vendors, and encouraged by the FBI and other alarmist law-enforcement bodies, continue to show a rapidly-increasing and potentially devastating threat to all of Western Civilisation from malicious hackers. Because losses to malicious on-line activity are impossible to estimate accurately (those resulting from the Love Bug's devastation range from a few hundred million to $12 billion), it is difficult to say whether a heroic investment in security services and insurance might or might not be penny wise and pound foolish; though at some point, we suspect, the cost of protection could well exceed the cost of whatever damage might possibly be done. Still, it's not how much you lose, but whom you lose it to, that often matters in the Big Picture. Shareholders do seem a bit more confident when their company officers lose money deliberately, as when 'investing' in security schemes, rather than accidentally, as when whacked by fifteen-year-old kids, so from the perspective of investor confidence, at least, this all just might make sense. ®
Thomas C Greene, 10 Jul 2000

BT: a new dictionary definition?

Blimey, BT never fails to amaze. You'd think that after all the trouble it's had in the past four months it would have sorted out its PR. But it would appear that the big dumb giant is confused, saying one thing one day and another the next. The most recent cock-up is its suggested break-up into smaller dumb beasts. One thing we will give BT is that its ideas team is excellent. The proposal to split itself into different businesses and possibly float a few is exemplary. The company has become fat and lazy and is being outran by smaller, fitter competitors. Plus, BT's bureaucracy and internal power games make any sharp decision an embarrassing wobble. And so the split plan is a good one. The share price has suffered recently and by floating off the sexier arms of the company, you get greater flexibility and the cash to do something with them straight away. Accordingly, it looks like the fault lines run through Yell (Yellow Pages and Internet listings stuff), Openworld (the Internet side), BT Wireless (self-explanatory), Ignite (data/networks) and Concert (the joint venture it has with AT&T). Whether BT is really serious, whether it was a confidence booster or whether it is a great idea that everyone agrees in theory but will never happen in reality, we will have to wait and see. But then, the day after BT tells journalists this is what it is thinking of doing, it suddenly maintains that it never said it would float Concert. It really isn't hard to see why - AT&T called up and went ballistic. True to form, BT fell back on its customary arrogance and told everyone that they had been mistaken, that it never said anything of the sort. BT is in all sorts of trouble at the moment. Shareholders have started muttering and the boys on the board are beginning to quake. Top this with the EC's expected showdown over local loop unbundling and you have a potentially explosive mix. If it goes off at least we will see some movement. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 10 Jul 2000

VNU still to buy ZD Euro paper biz

We know we've told you this already but VNU is going to buy Ziff Davis' European IT magazines so it can become a serious player in the German market. There is still paper work to be signed apparently but the deal's a definite goer. Ziff's UK boss, David Craver, told his troops on Friday that for them the war is now over. There wasn't much more information available to staff but Craver mentioned the Ziff crew would soon need to vacate their sumptuous Tower of London offices. In the UK, VNU will get IT Week, PC Direct, PC Magazine and Computer Gaming News. Nightmare scenario realised: Episode 2 Here's a small crumb of comfort for those UK Ziffers who wonder what the future holds. They'll be feeling a little nervous because when VNU bought CMP's UK titles in July 1999 only one survived. The good news is that Brin Bucknor, VNU's UK MD, is the most empathetic manager around. This is an official and scientific view formed by the psychometric tester VNU hired to brain shrink its senior management and staff. So whether VNU gives you a job, keeps your magazine open, or tells you it will be mutually beneficial for both parties if you buggered off - it will all be done with a lot of love... ® Related Stories VNU to shell out £15m for ZD Euro paper biz
Team Register, 10 Jul 2000