8th > August > 2000 Archive

Straight outta Seattle: Redmond Linux

Ever wondered what a Seattle-flavoured Linux distro looks like? The Redmond Linux project could give us a clue. Former Microsoft staffer Joseph Cheek is the lead developer for the distro, which he says brings some of Microsoft's Cathedral software engineering practices to the open source Bazaar. Cheek told The Register that Redmond Linux was leading on ease of use - and more controversially, adopting the kind of software Q&A procedures that he learned in Redmond. The distro uses Caldera's distro as a base (Cheek is a co-author of a book about Caldera Linux) but with some UI modifications. Redmond Linux isn't alone in making Linux easier for new users. Eazel and Helix Code are complimentary projects intended to make it take the Unix out of navigating Linux, and Corel's own Debian-based Linux is also going after the same user. While Cheek pays tribute to these - saying Corel Linux has done a "fabulous job" - he says Redmond Linux is trying to go one further by orientating the UI around tasks, rather than applications. "Corel has made its desktop very similar to Windows. We're trying to do one better. We're not including the kitchen sink: all the program menus and find menus for example." He also says help will be more prominent than in Microsoft's UIs. But the idea of bringing Microsoft software practices into an open source distribution might strike some as sacrilegous, given the company's reputation for software reliability. What's he thinking? Cheek acknowledges that it sounds er, bizarre. "Great things came from the Bazaar method. Peer review works very well in some areas, such as security and producing tight and stable code, but not for everything," he says. "It doesn't guarantee usability, or something that installs easily. It typically doesn't publish test plans or hold accountability for those test plans." Cheek spent a year and a half in Microsoft's testing group before leaving to join Linuxcare, and lives a mile away from the main Redmond campus. What do his former colleagues make of it? They're "intrigued but non committal" he says. We wondered if Microsoft's lawyers might be so easy going. "Well Microsoft doesn't use the Redmond name specifically, so I don't really anticipate problems." The waggish appropriation of the Windows 2000 logo for the project might be viewed differently he acknowledges, but "we're testing the waters." For now Redmond Linux is purely a volunteer project - Cheek holds down a day job at Linuxcare - and he says funding would be welcomed to produce shrinkwrap CDs. The distribution went into beta a couple of weeks ago and is slated to go gold in November. ® Related links Redmond Linux Eazel Helix Code
Andrew Orlowski, 08 Aug 2000

Intel engineers AMD's success, Dham it

If you fast flip back to The Register No. 18, dated 22 May 1995, you will find us reporting the exit of Intel senior VP Vinod Dham to Nexgen - the hi-tech firm which AMD finally bought and which helped catapult it into the big time. Just two years later, we reported in issue No. 62 on the mysterious disappearance of Dham, although Dana Krelle - a Nexgeneer and who also worked for Intel in the past - helped us out in his absence. Krelle, famous for more than just his chocolate chip doodles, told us in No. 60 of the things Dham had brought to AMD. He said then: "...during a lunch conversation, that Vin Dham and he had brought much more to the organisation than just technology. They also brought some of their Intel infrastructure ideas, meaning the whole company is now much sharper than it was before." Issue No. 72, just a little while later, reported that Vin Dham had joined startup Silicon Spice. And yesterday, the fruit of Dham's endeavours came to pass, as networking chip firm Silicon Spice was bought by Broadcom for a cool 1.24 billion buckaroos. As part of the deal, Vin Dham stays on in the new structure. If you've been following this so far, you'll recall from the first click-piece how important Dham was at Intel. Without Nexgen - Dham again, dammit, AMD wouldn't be the thorn in Intel's flesh it is now. When Dham left AMD, there were persistent rumours that he'd fallen out with CEO Jerry Sanders III, reputedly not the easiest of people to work with. Those rumours re-surfaced when Atiq Raza, another key figure at Intel wooed away to AMD, unexpectedly left the firm as its chief operating officer (COO!) around about this time last year. He's now, to the best of our present knowledge, at Mellonex, a firm working with the absolutely fabulously named Infiniband - the trade org working on the next generation of IO. You have to ask yourself whether AMD would be anywhere today without the influence of these industry luminaries. Because AMD has become more Intel-like. An unnamed mole at AMD who has been there through thick and thin, tells us that his group has grown a great deal in the last eighteen months. Ye chaos of the past has given way to an ordered structure where if you want to get a pen, you have to fill in a stationery requisition form in triplicate. Intel must be cursing themselves that they couldn't hang on to Dham, Raza and the others who transformed AMD (now King Kong?) into a simulacrum of the Great God Chipzilla. After all, given Intel's moves into the networking market, Broadcom is now an enemy of its strategy there, too. Sorry for all that click-history. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Aug 2000

Intel, Panasonic set music security standard

A deal struck between Intel and Panasonic-Matsushita will likely better any music security proposals set by the Secure Digital Music Initiative (SDMI) working group, the companies said today. Intel and Panasonic have developed software products which they say will offer security on music held on PCs and transferred to other storage media and portable MP3 players. Panasonic-Matsushita spokesperson Sakon Nagasaki claimed: "Consumers will be able to buy secure music anywhere, from a variety of online and offline sources and play it everywhere on a wide range of SD memory card enabled audio devices." Intel's contribution is to provide a proprietary "tamper resistant software" which will allow electronics firms and jukebox app vendors to make SDMI compliant platforms. And the software already exists on two Japanese SD audio player models supplied, unsurprisingly, by Panasonic. It is unclear how other members of the SDMI initiative will react to this pre-emptive strike by the two big giants. Intel's software includes a music transfer agent, a secure music manager and a music distribution integration toolkit. SD memory cards are made by firms including IBM, Matsushita, SanDisk and Toshiba. You can find additional information on the announcement here, at time of press. ®
Mike Magee, 08 Aug 2000

IBM boffins put Linux on very large wrist watch

IBM has announced that it's put Linux onto a "smart watch" in order to demonstrate that the OS can scale down to small devices. But it's only a research demo, and not intended as a product. Which from the sound of it is maybe just as well. It's a fat watch, for starters. It's 56mm x 48mm x 12.25mm, which from where we're sitting sounds more like what you get when you cross a wristwatch with a pack of cigarettes. And the hardware spec doesn't exactly sound like it's a triumph of downward scaling - it has eight megs of flash, eight megs of DRAM and "contains a powerful processor", type unspecified. At some point in the future that might be the sort of hardware that's commercially viable in a smart watch, but today it's more of a communicator-level spec, and it hasn't shrunk Linux markedly further than we knew it could shrink already. Inside it has RF and IR communication with PCs and mobile phones, calendar, address book and to-do list functions, and a measure of email. It can view condensed messages and receive pager-like ones. Obviously if anybody ever went commercial with a device like this it would need the comms to be a bit more convincing; it could have a mobile phone or similar inside, or given the strong likelihood of some useful Bluetooth products actually having shipped by the time this happens, it could simply have a Bluetooth link to the mobile in your pocket, and get the email from there. Ah yes, but at that point you spot another reason why this is IBM researchers playing in the sandbox, rather than a product. If you've got a mobile phone in your pocket with a larger display, why do you want to read your email on your watch? And if you haven't got a mobile in your pocket, don't you want to be able to use your watch as one? Back to the drawing board... where IBM's boffins are planning version 2 with a high res screen and Web access. But we bet it's still not a product. ®
John Lettice, 08 Aug 2000

UK retailer exposes M$ subliminal ad plan

Our thanks to UK online retailer Bluepoint (and to reader Chris for point it out to us) for 'revealing' Microsoft's latest selling technique: subliminal advertising. You know the kind of thing: flash up an image so quickly it's below the viewer's perception threshold but gets picked up and (hopefully - if you're the advertiser) acted upon by the subconscious. Cinema trials by Coke in the 1950s saw sales of the well-known sugared water rocket during the interval, and presumably the Beast of Redmond is hoping for something similar with Windows Millennium Edition. Here's the original ad, which you can see in all its glory over at Bluepoint's Web site, but using The Reg's unique, patent pending image enhancement software (yours truly hitting the Print Screen button on his keyboard real quick), we can reveal the message hidden within: Nice gag ad, Bluepoint. Perhaps Bill really will do something like this - assuming he hasn't already... ® Related Story MS Windows a 'sack of bile' - Novell
Tony Smith, 08 Aug 2000

High prices, false steps help Windows lose to Linux in China

When Bill Gates was questioned about Chinese support for Linux during an interview with Red Herring recently, he claimed that "our fastest growing server business is in China", which was surprising. Gates was also extremely upset when the interviewer suggested that the Chinese liked Linux: "What the heck are you talking about? I think what you're talking about is that you're assuming that the American does a reliable job in reporting on China. I doubt you read the government's press release... what the press in [the US] wrote and what the facts are is 100 per cent different." We were intrigued, so we decided to investigate what was going on in the software business in China. We found that although Gates has made six sales trips to China, Linux is gaining ground. Graham Brant, Microsoft's general manager for Microsoft Hong Kong, said in May that Microsoft has a "a great market share [in China] but not a lot of revenue". Microsoft software is just too expensive for the market. With Microsoft not being able to ensure that Windows is pre-loaded on most PCs in China, the consequence is that the piracy rate is believed to be around 95 per cent. Winning friends and influencing People - not As a result of a series of political blunders by Microsoft, there has been considerable criticism of the company in the press and in government circles. In December, Microsoft lost a major piracy case against the Yadu Group on what it called a technicality, but the result was that Microsoft was castigated for its heavy handedness. MS Office 2000 is offered at $480 (compared with around $400 in the US), and this represents five months salary for the average white collar worker. Kingsoft word-processing software, which is specially designed for the Chinese market rather than adapted from a US version, costs about a quarter of the equivalent Microsoft product and has a market share of around 30 per cent. In January, there was a report in the Yangcheng Evening News that major ministries were being banned from using Windows. Microsoft claimed this was not true, but hit back so fiercely in a press release that the newspaper said it may sue Microsoft for defamation. Qing Sihan of the Chinese Academy of Sciences clarified the situation, noting that the government "has not yet made a decision on what kind of operating system to recommend for computer networks, so different organisations and ministries make their own decisions". Two Chinese Linux distributions have been developed with government support: Red Flag Linux (a project of the Academy of Sciences, in which Compaq is a junior partner), and TomLinux. There is additional support in that Jiang Mianheng, the son of Chinese president Jiang Zemin, plays a prominent role in the management of Red Flag. Yesterday, the China Daily reported that Chen Chong of the Ministry of Information Industry had said at the launch of a new edition of Red Flag that it would "break the monopoly of the Windows operating system in the Chinese market" and that "the Ministry would give its full support to the development of Red Flag Linux, as well as all the other Linux systems". Red Flag Linux has gained around a quarter of the server market since it was launched at the end of last year. The Chinese government also reported yesterday that software sales in the first half of this year grew to 9.1 billion yuan ($1.1 billion), with the domestic proportion being 30 per cent. The penetration of Linux in China is impossible to assess accurately because it is of course copied from machine to machine, although one report attributed to a foreign PC executive suggested that around 10 per cent of new PCs in China will have Linux pre-installed this year. In four months at the end of last year, TurboLinux sold 20,000 copies through Federal Software Stores, ahead of Windows 98, NT, and Linux from other distributors. The Chinese Linux Softhouse web site reported early this year that TurboLinux had 47 per cent of the Linux market, Blue Point 25 per cent, and RedFlag 7 per cent (although this has probably increased considerably since the survey). Taiwan running dogs booby-trap software It did not help politically that Microsoft used Taiwanese programmers to localise the Chinese version of Windows 95, and it was claimed that they had embedded slogans such as "take back the mainland" and "communist bandits" in the product. Then there was considerable concern when the story about the US National Security Agency possibly having a back-door to Windows for spying purposes broke earlier this year. There was grave suspicion in China that Microsoft might have included a key for the NSA in NT4 service pack 5, as a quid pro quo for getting approval to export NT to China. (see story) The deputy minister of information industries, Chen Chong, said at the time that China was very keen "to control our own destiny", while the People's Liberation Army Daily noted in February that "without information security, there is no national security in politics, economics, and military affairs." A closer examination of Gates' claim for Microsoft's success in the Chinese Windows server business shows that Microsoft donated NT4 Server, SQL and Exchange and support for a Government online project in a single Chinese province, so it was not exactly "business". All that Microsoft seems to have received in return was an agreement that the provincial government would mandate the use of legal software. Microsoft's Chinese revenue is small, and only some 450 people are employed there. It is claimed that there was an increase in revenue of 83 per cent in the fiscal year just ended, but the president of Microsoft China said it was the smallest of Microsoft's 65 subsidiaries. Brant said at the end of May that Microsoft's China operation was the sixth largest revenue-generating market, after Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and India. Most of the Microsoft China revenue is from OEMs. By 2004, it is expected that the Chinese IT market will triple (it was thought to be $11 billion in 1999), with compound growth averaging 28 per cent between 1998 and 2003 according to IDC. Japan still accounts for some 70 per cent of Microsoft's Asian business, with around $2.5 billion in revenue. There are nearly 100 people in Microsoft's research lab in China, and $80 million will be invested over the next six years, according to Gates. The lab is headed by the Taiwan-born Kai-Fu Lee and did not gain popularity when it poached research staff from key Chinese government projects. By donating software and services, Microsoft has been able to start some collaborative projects, such as at Harbin Industrial University where it is jointly developing a bilingual dictionary and automatic translation, but with both Mandarin and Cantonese being spoken, the problems are multiplied. Microsoft is also a strategic partner with Tengtu International's joint venture with the Chinese government and Chinese technology companies for primary and secondary school education, which was approved late last month by the Ministry of Education. A dampener for Microsoft is that the intellectual property resulting from these collaborations is owned by the universities and non-exclusively licensed to Microsoft. 'Challenge the MS hegemony The most damaging political blow for Microsoft was the acrimonious departure last year of Juliet Wu, the general manager of Microsoft China. She immediately set about writing a revealing book describing her experiences - Up against the wind: Microsoft, IBM, and me - which sold 100,000 copies in the first two months. Her main criticism was that Microsoft was unwilling to be sufficiently flexible in the Chinese market, which essentially required having lower prices and adapting software for the market beyond just localisation translation. Wu also accused Microsoft of being insensitive in its government relations. Wu's book was followed by Fang Xingdong's Arise and challenge the hegemony of Microsoft, which added to the grief. Gates himself has been more diplomatic on the US front, with an article in the Washington Post in May advocating that the US should grant China permanent normal trade relations status. It is also quite possible that within a year China will be admitted to membership of the WTO, which would mandate the need for the Chinese government to take a tougher line against software piracy and enforce intellectual property rights - or itself face sanctions. For Microsoft, there is a dangerous possible downside to this: the Chinese government might then decide to avoid any anti-piracy enforcement problems by declaring Linux to be the official operating system for the government in the future. If the world's biggest potential market went Linux, it is easy to envisage a consequent domino effect that would not just strengthen Linux in the rest of Asia, but have a profound effect in the western world as well. ®
Graham Lea, 08 Aug 2000

Java flaws bust Navigator security

A bug in Navigator allows anyone to read a PC's local files over the Internet. The startling hole affects every Navigator since version 4 on all operating systems. Dubbed Brown Orifice by the person who posted a program to exploit the hole, the bug's potential damage has already been over-hyped by the press but as one expert told The Reg: "It's still pretty bad." The problem results from two complementary errors. First of all, flaws in Netscape's code and Sun's Java allow a network socket to be kept open and accept connections on that socket respectively. Secondly, a flaw in Netscape's Java allows an applet to read any local files by simply tapping in a URL in the form "file://". The hole cannot be used to run or change any of the files, as has been falsely claimed by the IT press (so no viruses etc), but remains extremely damaging as external viewers will be able to pore over whatever exists on the hard drive. It's not hard to see that with a little imagination, extensive damage could be done to a company and its network. The implications are massive and as yet Netscape/AOL has failed to come up with a patch. Over a thousand people are known to have downloaded the exploitative applet so far and that's likely to be just the tip of the iceberg. It's not known whether the problem has been written out of version 6 of the browser, currently available in preview form. It seems unlikely though. Focus' technical information on the problem can be found here. Jack Clark of Network Associates hadn't had time to work on the flaw but wanted to stress that people need to start thinking differently about security. "People have to realise they should update all applications - it's not just Microsoft that suffers from security problems. Companies need to keep an eye on and employ fixes and updates," he told us. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Aug 2000

AltaVista spooked by ghost service

AltaVista has refused to provide any proof that its much-hyped unmetered access product - announced in March - is anything more than a phantom service. Despite repeated requests for confirmation the e-company has failed to deliver any proof that the service has been rolled out. One PR said the service was being used by more than 100,000 people and that 90,000 a month were signing up to the service. However, when pressed, another PR said this was merely the number AltaVista could accommodate per month. No one using the service has come forward despite a Register plea yesterday for them to do so. A similar request made by the Mirror also proved fruitless. A newsgroup search has also failed to unearth any evidence that Net users in Britain are using the service. And no one at AltaVista's PR agency was able to supply details of a single user. There is a growing weight of evidence that something is not quite right at Alta Vista and that its unmetered service is simply bogus. Whispers of suspicion surrounding the authenticity of its offering have grown over the last couple of months to a deafening roar. The Register is sceptical that the service -endorsed by Britain's Prime Minister, Tony Blair - even exists. One Net user who contacted The Register said: "Despite registering my interest on the very day of AV's announcement I haven't been offered anything. "I have been sent several emails about how super the service will be, however," he said. According to AltaVista's PR agency, only AltaVista's UK MD, Andy Mitchell, is prepared to speak to the press on this subject. Although he is reportedly "on holiday" he was contacted by his PR agency and asked to address the concerns. He refused. No one else at AltaVista was prepared - or is able - to comment. ® Related Story Reg Lonely Hearts
Tim Richardson, 08 Aug 2000

HW Roundup Gladiac compatibility nightmare continues

Insane Hardware has a report on the continuing compatibility difficulties that the ELSA Gladiac seems to be suffering from. Now there are problems with another Athlon mainboard - the KV200-R KT133. Click here for more info. No one knows whose fault this is yet! If you are a budding Linux user, but don't really know where to start then this could prove useful. The Duke of URL has published an article going over the basics of what to put in your Linux box, as well as what not to do. Go here and be informed. CPU Review has got a review of the Gigabyte 7ZM board. Although not effusive in its praise, the site's reviewer does seem to be at least mostly happy with the board, if not the tech support department. System Logic has a tip for anyone having stability problems with their AGP bus. Must haves are an AGP card (no, really?) and a fan plugged into the aforementioned card. Interested parties would do well to follow thislink. Anf finally, just because it is funny, have a quick peek at this one. Suggestied captions for the picture include "Why use your palm when you can get Claudia to use her Palm instead?". Not in very good taste, we know, but funny anyway. Sorry if anyone is offended. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Aug 2000

Software Warehouse's old retail chain shuts doors

One Stop Computer Solutions, formerly Software Warehouse's retail business, has fallen into administrative receivership four months after Jungle.com boss Steve Bennett offloaded the business. All 30 shops at the Midlands-based business are currently closed, and more than 150 staff are believed to be affected. Martin Hall and Vincent Sweeney at Price Waterhouse Coopers were yesterday appointed administrators. The company was previously part of Steve Bennett's Software Warehouse empire, and was started in 1992. He sold the chain of shops via an MBO on 1 April to a group of six Software Warehouse directors and district managers. They paid a total of £1 plus the stock value for the business and changed the name to One Stop Computer Solutions. As part of the deal, Jungle bought the mail order and logistics side of Software Warehouse, while Bennett put his efforts into e-tail venture jungle.com. Although One Stop is unconnected with Bennett, he said today he would honour warranties on goods bought before 1 April. One Stop chiefs were unavailable for comment. Bennett put One Stop's failure down to growth in online shopping. "Unfortunately for the stores, the summer has seen a slow down in retail sales as many purchasers have migrated their shopping online," he said. In unconnected news Jungle has laid off around 20 staff. The redundancies at its warehouse in Coleshill, Warwickshire on Friday - including 20 full-time employees - was put down to automation and re-organisation at the warehouse. According to Bennett, the redundancies follow moves to make the company more efficient - it has visited rivals such as Dabs.com and been taking advice from Logica on how to improve the business. They add to the other 20 staff culled in June at Jungle. Bennett said the company, which has recently built a £1 million 30,000sq ft extension to the warehouse, will be profitable by the end of this year. ® Related Stories Jungle job cuts follow Software Warehouse merger Jungle buys Software Warehouse ahead of planned IPO
Linda Harrison, 08 Aug 2000

Penguin sticks head in the sand

The US publishers of a harrowing real-life tale about Net-related child abuse are refusing to admit they cocked up after naming the book after a Web site owned by a British woman. Ever since Katie.com - Katherine Tarbox's personal account of being seduced online by a paedophile - was published earlier this year, Katie Jones' Web site (katie.com) has been flooded with emails. Some are from victims who think they are sharing their experiences of child abuse with Tarbox. Others are from people who get enjoyment from sending abusive emails to someone they think has been assaulted by a paedophile. Kate Jones took down her site in May to stem the flood of misdirected correspondence. "The book was published using my domain name in the title," said Londoner, Kate Jones. "I was getting unpleasant email from people and it upset me on a personal and professional level," she said. Kate Jones wants the book's publishers, Dutton (a division of the massive Penguin empire) to change the title of the book so she can regain control of her domain. "I want them to admit they got it wrong and for them to put it right. I want them to admit they've made a mistake," she said. No one at Dutton in New York was available for comment. The book's publicist, Kathleen, slammed the phone down twice when The Register called. Her PA hung up once. In between slams, this is what we got. "I can't talk about it...I've got instructions not to talk to any of the London press," said Kathleen before hanging up. Asked later whether she would be issuing any statement she said, "No!" "Any response will come through our legal department," she said, before hanging up. Again. There is little doubt that this is a sad and disturbing episode that does not reflect well on Dutton or Penguin. Kate Jones' personal Web site - a domain she registered for her own use four years ago - has effectively been hijacked. Dutton's action in naming the book katie.com (the author's own Web site is katiet.com, surely they could have used that?) was thoughtless and clumsy with little understanding of the repercussions. Any legal challenge against the publisher to seek redress is unlikely to be forthcoming not least because Penguin is a gazillion-dollar business and Kate Jones isn't. Also, this is a legal grey area with no case law to draw upon. Despite this, I can't help but think that there is a case of natural justice that needs to be answered. To my mind, this is corporate cyberterrorism, corporate cybertheft if you like, and it's as repugnant as an any malicious attack on a Web site. My sympathy goes to Kate Jones and what she's gone through. She's been put in the unenviable position of being a focus for child sex abuse victims and the warped individuals who get a kick out of paedophile activity. But if it's distressing for her, just think what it must be like for those kids who thought they could turn to katie.com for help? Haven't they been let down? And all because some literary types thought it would make a good book title. ®
Tim Richardson, 08 Aug 2000

Chinese government shuts down dissident site

The first dissident site run from inside China has unsurprisingly been shut down and officials are hunting for its organisers and the hosting company. While China is normally renowned for its open attitude towards its citizens' opposing beliefs - it no longer kills them, it just locks them up - the Ministry of State Security (every good country should have one) took exception to the "counter-revolutionary content" which was "too sharp and anti-government". Quite right, too. The Chinese government takes a keen interest in Internet technology and provides first-hand expertise through supervision of everyone's Web sites. It helpfully cuts out news and political sites from outside China, saving its people from unnecessary confusion. As for the removed site, the only clue police have to go on is the name given to the man who set up the site - Xin Wenming. Which apparently sounds like "new culture" in Chinese. ® Related stories Iraq's first Internet café opens up the world Chinese Govt backs MP3 site
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Aug 2000

Merrill Lynch top nob on dotcom downer

A Merrill Lynch top nob has downgraded 11 online stocks including eBay, DoubleClick and Barnes & Noble. Henry Blodget feels the Internet industry is slowing and competition is levelling the market. InterClubNet, an online network for football clubs to trade players, is going ahead with the float it announced last month. As is the trend, it has cut its initial self-valuation from £40 million to £30 million. The float on AIM is expected next week. Microsoft and book e-tailer BarnesandNoble have joined forces to launch a site that will sell digital books. A spokesman for Barnes and Noble said that it would be the first major Internet presence doing so. Moneysupermarket, the online mortgage service, has admitted that some technical hitches have prevented it from returning offers to customers within the guaranteed 48 hours since the site unofficially started business last week. The 14 lenders that have signed up include Woolwich and Bristol and West, have said that they will offer better deals through the site than elsewhere. The site only takes applications for mortgages over £150,000. Shares in Telewest rose yesterday on the back of speculation that it was ripe for a take-over bid. The cable TV company saw its share price increase 10p to 170p. NTL is seen as the most likely candidate. British-based mobile phones distie outfit - Phones International Group - is to float in the autumn. The company, which reported sales of £44 million last year, is said to be valued at £55 million. The European Commission has given the go-ahead for United Technologies and Honeywell International to create b2b portal, myaircraft.com, aimed at cutting procurement costs. For more dotcom financials, visit Cash Register. ®
Team Register, 08 Aug 2000

DTI and Which? at odds over phone safety

Consumers have been left without a clue - should they go hands-free or clamp their mobile phone to their ear? Research published by the government today indicates that hands-free mobile phone kits are safe to use. These new findings appear to totally contradict a recent report from Which?, the consumers association magazine. However, the two opposing views could be a result of nothing more than a dispute over methodology. One group of researchers measured the amount of radiation emitted by the phones, while the other measured radiation absorbed by the body, while using the phone. The Consumers Association (CA) said that it was not convinced that specific absorption of radiation (SAR) test was reliable or safe. Helen Parker, the editor of Which? said: "We stand by our original test results published earlier this year. We think there are problems with current SAR testing for hands free kits and we are carrying out more research into this area." So who is to be believed? A spokeswoman for the DTI said that it was not the department's place to comment on other people's research, and that its findings showed all the absorption levels were within the safe parameters set by the National Radiological Protection Board. The whole report can be found here. Meanwhile, the CA says that there is no standard SAR test, and that results vary widely from laboratory to laboratory. The DTI says that since this experiment compared SAR levels without and then with a hands free kit in the same lab, the results are indeed reliable. It is difficult to know who to trust since both groups have strong motives to keep the debate running. The CA wants to sell more reports and the government stands to make a handsome wedge from the sale of mobile phone licences. There is more information available than ever before on the safety of mobile phones, but it is often contradictory, and little help to the end users who need to make the risk assessment for themselves. The most sensible thing The Reg has heard in the debate is the suggestion that until there is clearer information, calls should be kept short. ® Related Stories My head hurts and I want $800 million 30 million Brits have a mobile phone WHO doctors clear mobile phones of cancer risk
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Aug 2000

Martha Lane Fox dating Neil Morrissey?

Dotcom femme fatale Martha Lane Fox is rumoured to be dating Men Behaving Badly star Neil Morrissey. The two were seen sharing a romantic dinner at swanky London eating spot Sheekey's, according to celebrity gossip mag Now. And Morrissey is reported to have "enjoyed several cosy dates" with the 27-year-old Lastminute.com millionairess. What's more, Oxford graduate Lane Fox is said to be so keen on Morrissey's thespianic talents that she has already twice turned up to see his performance in David Mamet's Speed The Plow, currently in the West End. A Lastminute representative today dismissed the reports. "They're not an item. They've never been on a date," she stated. "A couple of weeks ago she [Lane Fox] was said to be dating Robbie Williams," she added to highlight the idiocy of the claims. "I'm sure she's dating someone, but I don't know who that is." TV star Morrissey lived up to his bad lad image earlier this year when he temporarily stole the heart of Amanda Holden, wife of Family Fortunes presenter Les Dennis. She returned to Dennis after news of the affair hit the tabloids. ® Related Stories Tatler awards Foxy Lady Little Black Book accolade The wit and wisdom of Martha Lane Fox Martha Lane Fox turned away from top London restaurant?
Linda Harrison, 08 Aug 2000

AltaVista in missing persons manhunt

The Register has launched a desperate attempt to find users of AltaVista's headline-grabbing unmetered Net access service. An attempt yesterday to woo these elusive users - there are allegedly some 120,000 of them out there - with a lonely hearts ad failed to draw a single bona fide response. Britain's Net users - and the Reg - are now getting worried. "How can 100,000 people disappear like that?" asked one concerned Register reader. "It's spooky," said another. Which is why The Register is calling on all Net users to be on the look out for anyone who may have been formally invited asked to sign up to Britain's best-hyped Net access service. If you catch a sight of anyone, even the sneakiest of glimpses, then please post your findings over at The Reg Forum. Thanks, and happy hunting. ® Related Stories Reg Lonely Hearts AltaVista ISP in pointless queue-jumping exercise
Tim Richardson, 08 Aug 2000

IBM claims AIX 5L is proof of Monterey concept

AIX 5L, the latest version of the AIX operating system from IBM, will see the light of day this autumn, the company says. IBM is touting the system as proof of the success of Project Monterey, since it is a tangible result of the collaborative work. Contributions to the Project include IBM's DYNX/ptx multipath I/O and NUMA, and from SCO UnixWare and UNIX System V standard technologies. Bull is still contributing in areas such as scalability and workload management. IBM says AIX 5L has been designed to run cross platform applications with Linux with what the company describes as only minor code adjustments. It will also support IBM's Power and Intel's forthcoming IA-64 processor based platforms. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 08 Aug 2000

eBay, Yahoo pull spam auction

Yahoo and eBay have pulled an offer to sell a 20,000-name mailing list of US investors from their auction sites. Direct-marketing firm Market Logisitics offered the list which includes names, email addresses and telephone numbers. The two companies pulled the item off their auction sites saying that it violated their terms of service, which forbid the disclosure of personal data. The information would be of great value to marketers and spammers, although those on the list may not be so happy about its sale. Unfortunately we were unable to find out how much had been offered for the list before it was pulled. Market Logisitics doesn't seem too keen on talking to us either. ® Related Stories Sad geezer auctions himself on eBay Anti-racists sue Yahoo! over Nazi auction
Kieren McCarthy, 08 Aug 2000

CD replicator busted in $1.2m MP3 piracy case

A Swedish CD-ROM replicating company is to pay $1.2 million after being caught with pirated MP3 files and software. More than 20,000 CD-ROMs were found at Stockholm-based DCM Group, a division of Digital Communication Media (DCM), after a "knock and talk" version of a dawn raid. The Business Software Alliance (BGSA) and the International Federation of the Phonographic industry (IFPI) slapped the Swedes' wrists after they uncovered a haul of compilation CDs containing copied games, music files, and software from manufacturers such as Macromedia and Symantec. According to DMC, the company was an innocent party in the proceedings, and has agreed to up its anti-piracy measures as part of its $1.2m settlement, which will be meted out over the next three years. IFPI refused to reveal the names of the artists used for the MP3 files, but said they were all well-known international Latin pop artists. "DCM did not check the content of these orders and the pirates, operating through a broker, took advantage of this," said Geoff Taylor, deputy general counsel at IFPI. "This case demonstrates once again the urgent need for replication and mastering plants to put in place strict procedures to ensure that they respect copyright laws." Hans von Schreeb, DCM chairman, said the fraudsters had outwitted his company - which has been forced to postpone its IPO due to the fiasco. "This was a completely new and very advanced type of piracy which demonstrates why vigilance and correct procedures are required. "The pirates were very cunning and had an excellent technical knowledge of this business," he said. "We have paid a very high price for out involuntary participation." ® Related Stories Pirates - make 'em walk the plank CD replicators landed with £1.5m piracy bill M'Soft anti-theft evening ends in robbery
Linda Harrison, 08 Aug 2000