2nd > August > 2000 Archive

Linux distros revamp for summer

SuSE and RedHat are at it again: preparing to parachute a new drop of their distros. SuSE said yesterday it will release 7.0 this month, and RedHat has made a beta of what it calls the Pinstripe release of Red Hat Linux 7.0 available for download. SuSE has a thrice-yearly schedule, and RedHat updates every six months or so, and this time round they're roughly in sync. Both produce versions for Alpha, PowerPC and Sparc alongside Intel x86. Whether these releases matters much to anyone other than SuSE or RedHat - or the other folk who use one of these as the basis for their own distros, such as Mandrake or SGI - we're not quite sure. As Linux systems are typically used for a specific function - for example web serving, mail serving, graphics or as development systems - then the big events in the calendar are releases of Apache, the webserver and its allied caching or clustering add-ins, or Sendmail, or XFree86, or Perl and Python, respectively. Some project milestones impact everyone of course, such as the kernel itself, and the glib libraries, but since both the big distros offer auto update features to roll these in as you go along, then it's obvious that the SuSE and RedHat milestones have more to do with visibility and an indication of taste as much as anything. But for the record, here's what's made it and what hasn't, in a nutshell. SuSE will offer the big upgrade to XFree86 (no surprise there, given the ties between the two), StarOffice and the ReiserFS journaled file system. It's also spruced up its Yast installation and configuration tool. RedHat also include XFree86 but taking a more conservative approach, doesn't think ReiserFS is quite ready for prime time yet, so that's a download rather than an install-time option. RedHat thinks the new sendmail will be ready for the full 7.0 release, but that the big Apache revamp will sneak into a subsequent point upgrade after that. You can't complain about any lack of transparency here, as in open source land everyone can find out exactly what's going on, and how late or how crummy it is. But we'd love to know if these marketing distros matter that much to you. Given that the very flexible Debian distribution continues to thrive - both with end-users and "derivative" distros such as Corel Linux - even though it lags behind in the packaging race, suggests that this marketing point-release race is a bit of a sideshow. Is it? Feel free to sound off. Lucy Sherriff writes Red Hat's ftp site is here. Be prepared for a long wait. Alternatively, hang loose for a couple of days, when the distro hits the mirror sites. If you get to the site and it asks for a username and password, then in case you get stuck there, the username is anonymous and the password is your mail ID. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Aug 2000

SGI and Sony talk cubes

SGI and Sony are more likely to continue as partners than rivals, whatever Sony's plans are for its experimental multiprocessor machine, GScube. Or so says SGI. "We don't see this as competitive," Greg Estes SGI's VP of telecomms and media tells us. As demonstrated, GSCube is useless without some kind of big server behind it, he points out. At SIGGRAPH it was demonstrated with an SGI Origin 3000. The GSCube is "something that delivers a lot of textures and polygons. You're not going to be able to take Maya and run it on this", he says. Although we suggested here that the GSCube might be an SMP - it, er isn't actually symmetrical - it's 16 Playstation2 Emotion Engines on a PCI bus. In demos, the machine was deployed to experiment with techniques of screen space subdivision, in other words breaking down the screen into regions. Sony has said the GSCube, which is an experimental unit at the moment, will result in real products by the end of the year. Likely uses for the Cube's offspring include high resolution digital cinema systems or production systems for content creators. We Demand Video The system can output twice the resolution of today's high definition TVs, says Estes. SGI sees Cube-like systems as the machines that distribute video on demand (VoD), or other broadband interactive content, the middle-tier if you like between the servers and the home systems. On the other hand, he says, that kind of rendering power will likely make its way onto the high street eventually. A Playstation2, Estes points out, already has much if not all of the capabilities of a $200,000 SGI workstation of a few years ago. Only a few years ago it was obligatory for Larry Ellison and Bill Gates to sprinkle references to VoD into their keynotes, and the idea failed to become mainstream. BT's own VoD trials were poorly received for example, and today US coach potatoes typically pick out their viewing from a program guide that selects from hundreds of fixed schedules. In their different ways, both Bill and Larry were fixed on the serving aspect, and failed to pay enough attention to the distribution quality. Priced cheaply enough, the GSCube and the SGI alliances could be the catalyst for a new tier to the industry - which you can think of as a branch exchange. The customers could be existing customers, or ASPs, or a hybrid of the two. We'd like to see who'll bite. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 02 Aug 2000

Ericsson and Red Hat team to build Linux challenge to MS .NET

At first it may look like just another deal to put Linux onto a screenphone, but in reality this week's Red Hat-Ericsson alliance has far broader scope and implications. Ultimately it could turn out to have been one of the pivotal breakthroughs in the implemention of a Linux-based version of .NET. Although the first product of the deal will be an Ericsson Cordless Screen Phone running Embedded Red Hat Linux, the points to note are that first, it's intended as an end-to-end alliance, and second that it puts the highest shipping Linux outfit into bed with a company with lots of bucks and expertise in networking, wireless, consumer markets and telecommunications in general. For Red Hat there's a massive boost in business credibility associated with this. The two will be developing consumer products using Linux, Java, broadband and Bluetooth technology, but there's plenty extra beyond that. They'll be designing Internet services "specifically targeting operators (telecommunications, Internet and Application Service Providers) that are increasingly looking to offer consumers new, easy-to-use and innovative levels of service." Now, Microsoft's .NET is not what you'd call original; it's more of a translation of developments that are already happening into Microsoftspeak, with all that entails - so you can't call the Red Hat-Ericsson plan a knock-off of .NET. But clearly it's intended to do at least some of the same things, and if Bill Gates is paying attention he's probably as angry over this one as he was about Symbian. Symbian itself may be a little puzzled by one of its major shareholders going end-to-end with Linux rather than EPOC, but there's more than an element of horses for courses here. EPOC devices are client devices, so there's something else at the server end, and it could just as well be Linux. Which is precisely what it will be according to the Ericsson plan. As Bjorn Krylander, general manager of Ericsson Home Communications, said: "Red Hat delivers unique software and expertise in all the areas critical to launch this initiative: the embedded Linux software powering affordable and reliable devices for home communications, the Internet servers powering the back end infrastructure and the networking and communications that ties together thousands of loosely connected mobile devices." That sounds a little Microsoftish too, doesn't it? Linux at client and server end, with services being seamlessly delivered to all sorts of different home appliances. Ericsson also has a programme called Vizion which will be part of the initiative, and which will "link many wireless and wired devices in an integrated home network." And here's another Krylander quote that may have some resonance for billg: It "is a natural extension of our vision of anywhere, anytime communication." Matthew Szulik, Red Hat president and CEO, describes the initiative as enabling "a comprehensive range of post-PC products and services." Post PC? End-to-end Linux? New classes of packaged services for operators and ASPs? This is right up against .NET. ®
John Lettice, 02 Aug 2000

Cobalt still mooting anti-Apple Cube lawsuit

Cobalt Networks continues to mull over legal action against Apple for allegedly swiping the design of its own cube-shaped computer, the Qube. Right now, the company, which makes small-office oriented Internet access servers, appears to be investigating the ramifications of action against Apple. Cobalt said it's "concerned" that Apple's Power Mac G4 Cube violates its trademarks. However, it has yet to initiate any action against Apple. The irony here is that Apple successfully sued one Korean company, Future Power, and forced an out-of-court settlement on another, eMachines, on the same grounds. The Mac maker said they had infringed its trademark on the design and styling of the iMac. Action from Cobalt would be particularly galling since the company was founded in part by ex-Apple staffers. Apple's success against the iMac cloners derived primarily from those companies' use of a dual colour scheme and styling rather than the iMac's all-in-one construction. Since the Qube and the Cube are visually very different, any action brought by Cobalt would have to centre on the machines' shape. Apple, of course, could argue that Cobalt was just aping NeXT, which launched an ill-fated cubic computer back in the late 1980s. Apple subsumed NeXT when the two merged back in 1997 - the year Cobalt introduced the Qube. ® Related Stories Full Coverage: Apple's Cube
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 2000

Baltimore beats analysts with Q2 salesfest

Computer security firm Baltimore Technologies has surpassed Q2 expectations, with revenues of £16.3 million, against £14 million forecasts. Losses were also lower than anticipated, coming in at £13.4 million - far lower than the forecast range of £18.4-£21 million. The company said this was an encouraging sign it would perform to market expectations and turn a profit by the first quarter 2002. Fran Rooney, CEO, commented: "Really what we are seeing is our ability to win deals in the United States ahead of our competitors, and across the world." Baltimore's market is significantly different from US competitors Entrust and Verisign, he said. "With Verisign, they don't even describe themselves as an e-security company and we really don't see their business model as something we want to move into." The company has signed a deal with US B2B ecommerce software house Commerce One, to provide security services and products to the Marketsite section of the portal. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2000

BT admits SurfTime billing fiasco

A week after BT denied it had cocked up the bills for some of its SurfTime customers, the telco has finally admitted that it made a mistake. A red-faced spokesman for the telco admitted this morning that there had been a "breakdown on internal billing procedures" and that steps were being taken to make sure it didn't happen again. He said that those customers who were fleeced would be refunded in full. The billing blunder appears to have affected a number of Freeserve customers who had signed up to the flat-fee unmetered access service. By forking out £5.99 a month to BT they should have been able to access the Net off-peak without adding to their phone bill. However, the billing blunder meant that Net users were also charged for the cost of the local-rate phone calls. An internal memo seen by The Register confirmed that the telco did indeed have a problem. "SurfTime calls made during the period 1st June to 12th June may have been incorrectly priced as a result of a data error," the memo reads. "This error was spotted as part of BT's normal checking of its bill accuracy. The calls affected would have been to Freeserve's number 0844 0402001. A fix was implemented on 12th June and unbilled calls prior to that date have been corrected. Unfortunately, a number of bills have been sent out between the launch date of 1st June and the fix being implemented. BT is currently in the process of identifying customers affected and the resultant impact on their bill. The error in pricing will be automatically calculated and applied to the customers account for inclusion on their next bill." Last week Ian Fenn, director of Chopstix Media Limited, claimed one of BT's customer service operators admitted to him that the telco had incorrectly charged punters, although this was denied by BT. No one at Freeserve or BT would say how many people had been affected. ® Related Story Surftime encounters billing problems
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 2000

MS WinME ‘promotional’ deal is a disguised price hike

Yesterday Microsoft revealed the price of the Windows ME upgrade, happily trumpeting that its "promotional" price of $59.95 "makes it affordable for Windows 98 and Windows 98 Second Edition customers to stay current with the latest consumer operating system." It's a great deal, said Microsoft, and by a remarkable coincidence several stories alleging that WinME had been priced low appeared across the Web. We were particularly taken by a bijou opinionette piece by a Gartner analyst who should know better. The "promotional" $59.95 will be for an unspecified but limited period, after which it will "revert" to $109, which is the current price for the Windows 98 SE and Windows 95 upgrades (bizarrely, the latter is still listed at shop.microsoft.com). But if you cast your mind back to around a year ago, when Win98 SE came out, don't you remember a certain amount of confusion with service packs, upgrades that were a lot cheaper, even upgrades that were free? Well you should. If you look here, you'll find that Microsoft is still offering Win98 users the opportunity to upgrade to SE for $19.95. Similar prices were prevalent in various other parts of the world, and while Microsoft UK did give away the SE upgrade to a few early applicants, later ones got hit with "media costs" that mysteriously came to around that price too. But anyway, last time around, Microsoft put out a new OS, SE, at the same time as the service pack, and it really looked a lot like a service pack. The whole thing was a mess, and the company wound up only being able to charge Monopoly (we use the term advisedly) money for it. This time around, the WinME upgrade from the previous version still looks pretty much like a service pack, and our friend the Gartner analyst sagely observes that the reason the price is "lower" is because there's actually not a lot new there. It's even pretty well possible to ugrade Win98 to WinME functionality for free, if you work your way systematically through the downloads and service packs. But if you actually buy it it's not free, it's not cheaper, it's more expensive - if you miss the "limited time" promotion, upgrading from SE to WinME will be five times more expensive than moving from 98 to SE. But that's not what the press release and a number of pubs say, is it? ® Related story WinME - not bad at all
John Lettice, 02 Aug 2000

Redstone hunts ISP to get DSL skills

Redstone Telecom has announced that it is in the market for an ISP, following its recent £40 million spend on data group Fastnet. The company said that an ISP would bring Internet skills to the company which it regards as essential for its planned DSL services. Graham Cove, the chief exec at Redstone said that it would not suffer the same fate as Thus, because it was more diversified. Japanese giant, Softbank, has halted the flotation of five subsidiaries after the collapse of its stock price this year. Since February, the share price has slipped and slithered from Y60,666 (£373.48) to its closing price yesterday of Y9,250 (£56.95). The decision is being described as a "set back" for the company' s president, Masayoshi Son, who once commented that Softbank was: "a bet on the Internet." Shares in ARM Holdings fell 5 per cent yesterday on fears that Net-based mobile phones like WAP were not as popular as had been predicted. ARM provides the chips for many of the world's mobile phones. Other sufferers included Carphone Warehouse and Nokia. AOL's worldwide expansion plans slipped a little yesterday when its Latin America subsidiary was forced to lower its IPO offer from $15-17 a share to $8-10. The float was seen as being over-ambitious since Latin America's Internet economy has yet to be proved. The auction for 3G mobile licences in Germany is proving even more interesting than the cash bonanza experienced in the UK. Obviously learning the lesson that the process causes companies to vastly overpay to win a licence, two bidders are being investigated for collusion. MobilCom and Debitel appear to have agreed to take each others' customers depending on who wins the bid. German authorities were not impressed but then also have no intention of kicking their money out of the process. To check out more Cash Register e-biz dealings, click here. ®
Team Register, 02 Aug 2000

Hardware chiller thriller round-up

There seems to a lot of cooling going on in hardware land, so today we bring you some of the reviews we found, as well as the usual mix of reviews and other stuff - the good the bad and the really ugly. Planet Hardware has been chilling out in a big way. First off it has reviewed the CAF12 card cooler. The installation was fairly painless, the airflow is impressive, but it's a bit noisy. Go here for more details. And for the truly overheated, they've also had a look at the hddHO-FAN from 3dfx. Insane Hardware is keeping cool during the Southern Hemisphere's winter with its snaps of nVidia's GeForce2 next generation coolers. These pictures were taken at Computex, so check 'em out! Further cold stuff can be found at Anandtech, who did a roundup of socket-A and socket-370 coolers a couple of weeks back. If you didn't get to it the first time round, here it is now. Moving on to warmer subjects: Hardware Unlimited has reviewed D-Link's DMP-100 MP3 Player. This gets a big thumbs up straight off, for having a clear case and doesn't do much wrong, apart from using AAA batteries and not having a belt clip. HardOCP has stuck up a head to head of the Classic Athlon and the upstart(!) T-Bird. Benchmarks a-go-go. And while you're there, they are giving away their one gig T-bird. It is broken, but as they say you'll have the most expensive key ring ever. ® Think you could do with another dose of silicon? Have a snoop around in our archives
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2000

Sony goes mobile crazy with DoCoMo

That's right, folks, at some unknown time in the future you might be able to play cut-down versions of PlayStation games on a tiny screen on your mobile phone and pay through the teeth for the priviledge. Does life get any better? People seem pretty excited about it. It's certainly got a lot of coverage. Strange then that neither Sony nor NTT DoCoMo are bothered about putting out a press release. We don't know for sure but it might have something to do with the requirement that press releases contain facts, timetables - that sort of thing. In fact, the only thing solid to come out of this grand launch is that there will a cable to connect DoCoMo's i-Mode phones with PlayStation consoles. So that's a cable then. For the amazing wireless world that we are living in (aren't we?). Sony could have saved itself a lot of trouble and just installed one of those modem things. Of course the possibility of actually playing games before 3G technology (oh no, there is just far too much pressure building on what 3G will bring us) is minimal. Nokia does some games itself for WAP phones but we're talking very simple ones like solitaire, backgammon etc. Old YoHoHo will be happy with this though because it pumps up i-Mode's image. Sony in return gets more developers looking at PlayStation 2 before it finally comes out. Win-Win. Yum-Yum. ® Related Stories We've found a good WAP idea! (go down the bottom to see a slagging off of Nokia's mobile games idea) So what will WAP 2.0 be?
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Aug 2000

MSN and Freeserve in numbers squabble

Freeserve has accused MSN of fiddling the figures in the latest batch of number crunchings from Net pollster MMXI Europe. The figures show that MSN is the most popular Web destination in Britain, jumping ahead of Yahoo! and pushing Freeswerve into third place. A spokesman for Freeserve claimed MSN had massaged its figures by adding more sites under its MSN banner. Gillian Kent, head of marketing for MSN UK, retaliated and told one newspaper that its success was due, in part, to its improved search engine. "Figures don't grow 17 per cent because of a new search engine," snapped the Freeserve spinster to The Register. Kent said that if Freeserve had a problem, it should go and talk to MMXI. ® Related Story How Microsoft played the numbers game to boost MSN
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 2000

MS gives Republicans $1m, Republicans use Solaris anyway

Is just a little care and foresight too much to ask from Microsoft's PR spinmeisters? Yesterday we reported that Microsoft had given $1 million worth of software and cash each to the Republican and Democrat conventions, and it's just the shortest step from there to checking to see what the conventions' Web sites are running on, isn't it? So the $900,000 worth of software the Republicans copped clearly didn't include Web servers, as www.gopconvention.com is running Apache on Solaris. Microsoft is the second largest contributor to the Republican convention, and under current circumstances is widely viewed as trying to buy itself a get out of jail free card. Microsoft sees the GOP as more likely to be supportive, so it would surely have been sensible to ply them with strong servers. Yet the GOP, bless 'em, gives the business to Sun. Sun may of course have donated the gear as a McNealy merry jape - all things are possible. But, you ask, what about the Dems? They're less likely to favour Microsoft, more likely to agree with Sun and Oracle over the company's fate. But, ahem, dems2000.com is running Microsoft IIS 4.0 on Windows NT. ® See also Check what they're running at Netcraft MS Hotmail servers begin switch from FreeBSD to Win2k
John Lettice, 02 Aug 2000

ISPA stalls on Line One decision

It could be weeks before the Internet Service Providers Association (ISPA) rules on LineOne's decision to ditch unmetered access. Clare Gilbert, chair of ISPA, told The Register that a decision was unlikely to be forthcoming in the near future. She also refused to comment on the content of the letter from LineOne to the industry body. Last month ISPA wrote to LineOne accusing it of breaching its code of conduct calling for the ISP to compensate it users fully. LineOne has denied any wrongdoing. ® Relaterd Stories LineOne replies to ISPA ISPA slaps LineOne Customers bash LineOne LineOne ditches free Net access
Our correspondent, 02 Aug 2000

EC raids German publishers in Net book boycott probe

The European Commission has raided five German publishers, including mighty Bertelsmann, to see if they colluded in a boycott of Internet booksellers. And it's all Austria's fault. More than 30 German publishers and book wholesalers refused to supply Libro, an Austrian online book retailer, when it started offering from 1 July 20 per cent discounts on books. On 28 July, Libro said it would stop offering discounted books to German customers, and revealed that Bertelsmann and other publishers would resume supplies if it dropped legal action demanding compensation for loss of sales, according to Bloomberg. In making this agreement, Libro may have also fallen foul of EC rules against restrictive competition. In Germany, price setting for books is legal - retailers charge at the price set by publishers and have done so for more than a hundred years (the UK equivalent, the Net Book Agreement, was scrapped some years ago). In 1993, the system was extended to Austria, an EU member since 1995, and Switzerland. However, under EU rules, it is illegal to fix prices in more than one member state. ®
Drew Cullen, 02 Aug 2000

Napster usage stats support RIAA claims

The prospect that Napster might be shut down last week appears to have triggered a rash of last-minute downloads from the MP3 sharing service, according to data from Internet-oriented market researcher NetValue. The company's stats show that the volume of Napster downloads between 26 July and 28 July was four times higher than usual. Friday 28 July was Napster's deadline for closure before the US Appeal Court overruled an earlier District Court judgement against the software company. It's very hard not to conclude that the sudden burst of download activity wasn't anything more than an attempt to grab as many free tracks as possible before the service was terminated. That should please the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), since it pretty much confirms its contention that Napster is primarily used to avoid paying for music. Napster may lead to increased CD sales, but users' basic motivation is to get stuff for free. The service was set to end on Friday 28 July, so all its users quadrupled their efforts to get songs they would have had to pay for if they waited until after that date. In the end, Napster's appeal has permitted it to continue operating, so the real test will be whether download activity as pre-shutdown levels is maintained or users ease off now there's no threat of closure. In the run-up to the trial, more than eight million people used Napster last month, up 40 per cent on the previous month, according to NetValue's numbers. UK usage has more than sextupled between March and June. ® Related Stories Full Napster Coverage
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 2000

Bacteria make themselves silicon jackets

Researchers at the State University of New York may have taken an inadvertent first step towards workable bio-transistors, taking advantage of a bacterial strain's ability to convert light into electricity to create an optoelectronic switching element. While trying to rid their clean rooms of bacteria, the scientists discovered that the bugs had stuck to molecules of a dissolved semiconductor in the lab's "pure" water supply. This behaves like a "seed" attracting other semiconductor molecules to the formation until the bacterium is encased in a shell of the material. The discovery was made in the course of an investigation into a particularly hardy strain of bacteria that was contaminating the semiconductor and lowering the yield. Director of the centre for biosurfaces Robert Baier explained to the EETimes: "When we started this study, we were just trying to find the source of bacteria in the fab, and how they could remain alive after all the heroic measures to eradicate them." "These bacteria can cause a lot of problems in the clean room, like shorting out adjacent lines on chips, and inside these armoured shells they are almost impossible to kill," he said. But what could have been an affliction in the lab, could pave the way to exciting new biotechnology. The researchers assert that if a photosensitive bacterium were to be embedded in a chip, this would form the basis of a bio-transistor. Baier believes that the current flowing in a semiconductor can be controlled by the chlorophyll in a single cell. Light shining on photosensitive bacteria triggers the emission of an electron which could be used to switch a simple transistor. "This is a new class of biochips which I believe can be adapted to many uses," said Baier. "At present it's at a primitive stage, like the crude crystal detectors that preceded today's radios." ® Related Story Neuro boffins mimic brain action
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2000

Mobile users in love with Win2K

US research outfit Sosinsky has published a report on laptop users' reactions to Windows 2000 Professional. And it all looks pretty positive for the folks at Redmond. There seems to be an overwhelming appreciation for Win2K Pro in terms of its reliability, plug & play, offline/online synchronisation and power management features, while users remain a tad unconvinced of its encryption abilities. 74 per cent of surveyed professionals thought Win2K Pro was a "very good" laptop OS. Of those who actually used Win2K Pro as their primary OS, 82 per cent thought it a "very good" laptop OS. Other fascinating facts emerged, such as an average 22 month lifecycle for a corporate laptop, while personal notebooks can expect to survive a little longer - up to 26 months before being thrown in the bin. A whopping 73 per cent of respondents said that Win2K Pro is their primary OS on their corporate laptop, and 47 per cent prefer it on their personal machines. Over half report that their laptop mobile time - time spent running a laptop on battery power - is only between ten per cent and 25 per cent of their total laptop use. A meagre three per cent report being mobile with their laptop more than 75 per cent of the time. ®
Andrew Thomas, 02 Aug 2000

Net exec takes lie detector test

An executive at the Mirror's ISP, ic24, has taken a lie detector test to prove that the service really is free. ic24's marketing director, Jill Playle, underwent the polygraph test to prove that the new "After Eight" campaign - providing free Net access between 8pm and midnight, Monday to Friday and 9am to 5pm at the weekend - is a genuinely free offer. Playle said: "It's time to call a spade a spade and to clear up all the confusion that riddles the market right now. "We're all sick to death of reading about so-called free Internet time, as long as you pay a set up charge or a monthly fee. "That's not free at all. With this offer we're giving our users exactly what it says on the packet and I would urge others to start doing the same before we're all tarred with the same brush," she said. Strong words. That should ruffle a few feathers in the marketplace. In fact, none more so than the Mirror's, very own campaigning Net journo, Matt Kelly, who's torn into poor performing ISPs - including LibertySurf and LineOne - like a man possessed. Can't wait to see him rip into ic24 should it ever fall below his impeccably high standards. ® Related Stories LineOne ditches free Net access Customers bash LineOne ISPA slaps LineOne Virgin delays unmetered Net access promise
Tim Richardson, 02 Aug 2000

Universal to launch digital music trial

Universal is finally set to follow Sony and EMI with the launch of a digital music download service of its own. The music company, one of the world's 'big five' recording operations, will launch its service, codenamed Bluematter, this week - more than seven months after it originally planned. This time last year, Universal said it would launch a full digital music service by the end of 1999. December rolled by, and there was still no service. And then Universal's parent, drinks giant Seagram, got involved in merger talks with France's Vivendi. The new service, which is being called a 'trial' by Universal, will offer 60-odd songs, rather less than the 100 albums being offered by EMI. However, Universal said it will add new songs to the roster weekly, in preparation for a full-scale roll-out sometime in the autumn. The trial at least will offer tracks in RealNetworks proprietory format, though Universal executive VP Heather Myers said other formats would be considered, according to customer feedback. Copyright protection technology will be provided by Intertrust, a long-term partner with Universal on digital music. Like EMI's service, Universal's Bluematter will be primarily be offered through third-parties, in particular online retailers. Tracks will also be sold by Universal's joint venture with fellow 'big fiver' Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG), GetMusic. ® Related Stories EMI digital music service to debut next week EMI to launch digital music service in July
Tony Smith, 02 Aug 2000

MS starts Web hunt for pirates

Microsoft has gone into battle against software piracy armed with a new Web searching tool that scans sites for evidence of pirated goods being offered for sale. The new technology will be monitoring the Web 24 hours a day. By automating the routine and time-consuming parts of the job, Microsoft reckons that it will identify thousands of illegal sites every day. Already there have been 64 criminal raids and 17 civil lawsuits in 15 countries resulting from Microsoft's anti-piracy efforts. "The Internet is creating a fascinating global marketplace," said anti-piracy manager Diana Piquette. "But it is also bringing numerous risks that we want retailers and honest sellers to look out for." The Reg suspects this tool could be scanning for suspiciously low prices as an indicator of piratey behaviour, but has had no confirmation from Microsoft as yet. Concerned good citizens who think they may have discovered some nefarious doings should email the anti piracy team here. ® Related Stories Scots busted in £3m MS piracy raid CD replicators landed with $1.5m piracy bill M'Soft anti-theft evening ends in robbery
Lucy Sherriff, 02 Aug 2000

How to save your ass. By the FT

Yesterday we ran a story pouring cold water over an FT piece suggesting that London was in line for an electricity blackout due to the construction of power-hungry data centers in the capital. We were therefore extremely impressed when the same journalist embarked on an arse-saving exercise with a follow-up story today. Headlined "Warning on Web electricity needs", this article pointed that due to operational delays (built in by co-locators), there was a risk that companies would be tempted to look to the continent to build such facilities. Absolutely true and fortunately lending an air of truthfulness to the previous piece. We say bravo to such journalistic enterprise. Keep up the good work. And well done for the pioneering work on using the phrase Internet hotel instead of server farms or data centres. Just because you can't book in for a night and the room service is probably crap doesn't mean its not a valid term. ® Related Story FT's Net scaremongering denounced
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Aug 2000

Barclays crazy man loose in London

While quietly munching on our lunch and observing the local wildlife (dontcha just love the summer?), we were extremely surprised to hear what sounded like a woman having a massive argument. Catching glimpses of a solitary person through the bushes in Hanover Square, London, we were further shocked when it became clear it wasn't a woman at all but a suited-up guy screeching and swearing into the air as cars swerved to avoid him. He kept this up for a full ten minutes, disturbing many and entertaining we sick vultures (fresh meat). He then walked past us, still screeching incoherently. What could have knocked the switch, bent the mechanism? We were confused. Then, exiting the square, he stood still and proceeded to scream abuse at the building opposite. We looked up: Barclays. This whole Net security issue is bigger than any of us thought. ® Related Story Barclays online cockup
Kieren McCarthy, 02 Aug 2000

Caldera goes Unix with SCO acquisition

The long-trailed deal between Caldera Systems - the Linux part of Caldera, rather than Lineo, the separate but blood-related embedded Linux company - and SCO has happened. Caldera is acquiring SCO's Server Software and Professional Services divisions, leaving SCO with Tarantella and the revenue stream from SCO OpenServer. Caldera was only interested in the compatible SCO business, so SCO is now able to continue its strong competition with Citrix, for whom the deal must be very bad news. The rationale for the deal is that Caldera will be the first Open Internet Platform that combines Linux and Unix. Caldera will now get access to 15,000 partners worldwide, although it has to be admitted that they can'tbe very active, in view of SCO's hard times. But perhaps this deal will invigorate some of them. SCO will get 28 per cent of Caldera Systems' shares (17.54 million, with 2 million reserved for employee options), plus $7 million in cash. In addition Ray Noorda's Canopy Group, which staked Caldera, has agreed to loan $18 million to SCO. SCO OpenServer revenue was $11.1 million in Q3, and SCO will get around 55 per cent of future OpenServer revenue. Ransom Love, CEO of Caldera Systems, will become CEO of a new Caldera Inc, which became a shell company after Caldera won its antitrust case against Microsoft. SCO president David McCrabb will become president of Caldera Inc. Bryan Sparks will remain with Lineo, which has filed for IPO. The deal is interesting because of the complex and somewhat incestuous relationship between Caldera, SCO, Microsoft, Citrix, and Novell. Microsoft acquired SCO shares as a result of getting SCO, founded in 1978 by Doug and Larry Michels, to produce a version of Unix called Xenix. Microsoft had licensed Unix from AT&T, and the product was first marketed in 1979. In 1987, Microsoft was concerned that AT&T's Unix applications might not run with Xenix. As a consequence, AT&T agreed to add some Xenix code to its Unix and to pay Microsoft a royalty for this. Ray Noorda subsequently acquired Unix from AT&T for Novell, held it for two years, and then it was sold to SCO in 1995 - with Novell receiving a 13.8 per cent holding in SCO as part of the deal. The next year, SCO realised that the code added to Unix was no longer needed or relevant, so it asked Microsoft to agree to end the agreement. Microsoft refused, with the consequence that SCO complained to the European Commission competition directorate early in 1997. In FY 1998, SCO paid Microsoft more than $1.138 million in royalties. In January, Microsoft sold its entire 12.3 per cent holding in SCO, and the SCO share price began to collapse. Caldera Systems received a $30 million investment from Sun, SCO, Citrix, Novell and venture capitalists before the IPO, and this was then converted to shares that are locked until mid-September. The Citrix investment in SCO was linked to the company's desire to encourage access to any application on any platform with any device. The market hasn't paid much attention to the deal so far, with SCO shares marginally up and Caldera's marginally down, on low volume. For Caldera, this deal could add some shine to its image, but it is a deal for the long term rather than the immediate future. It does improve Caldera's positioning in the SME business Linux and Unix market. ®
Graham Lea, 02 Aug 2000