27th > September > 2000 Archive

Congress might screw RIAA over MP3 shares

US Representative Rick Boucher (Democrat, Virginia) introduced a bill, called the "Music Owners' Listening Rights Act of 2000", in the House Monday which would protect a downloadable audio database from copyright infringement complaints if it were accessible only to people who had previously purchased the music in another format. In other words, if they behaved just like MP3.com. "Simply stated, a consumer who lawfully owns a work of music, such as a CD, will be able to store it on the Internet and then downstream it for personal use at a time and place of his choosing," Boucher said. Boucher explained quite rationally that his legislative amendment would not adversely affect royalties, because consumers must prove current ownership of the music they download. Too late, alas, for MP3.com, which has already paid a $20 million settlement to four major labels, and then got reamed to the tune of $118 million with a court judgment in favour of holdout antagonist Universal Music, which insisted on its day in court and associated pound of flesh. We love the ballsy way Boucher refers to the purchaser of a musical work as its 'owner'. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) will undoubtedly take a radically different view. However, the RIAA may soon find itself marginalised. Microsoft Nemesis and former DoJ antitrust specialist David Boies has accused the RIAA of "serious errors" in its court filings and has stated that MP3.com is already protected by the US Home Recordings Act. The courts have not seen fit to agree, but if Congress should somehow manage to grow a spine after the election season, which it often magically does, the legal ambiguities governing fair use of copyrighted material, on which the RIAA has lately feasted, will get sorted out much to its chagrin. ®
Thomas C Greene, 27 Sep 2000

Compaq sweats, gets Inspiration

The company formerly known as The Big Q and also known as Compaq, is re-branding itself yet again, next Monday, with a fantastic advertising campaign that flies in the face of history and literature. Monday, it will unveil a whole new series of advertisements claiming that "Inspiration is the Number One Cause of Greatness", with a reddish background, strangely reminiscent of the colour DEC used when it changed from being Little Blue to Big Maroon. The advert will show a little boy launching a paper glider into the sky, with blue sky and fluffy clouds in the background, and is intended to reposition Compaq. This is what Michael J Capellas is telling everyone (except The Reg, which only has sources close to Compaq). "To: Compaq Worldwide Team "Next week is a very important week for everyone at Compaq. We've worked hard and sweated a lot this past year. We've sharpened our strategy, accelerated innovation and delivered a lot of 'cool stuff.' Our business is back on track. Now we're ready to communicate, in a more compelling and consistent way, who we are and what we stand for. "On Monday, we will formally launch a bold new image of Compaq - one that reflects the evolution of our business strategy, the expansion of our solutions capabilities, and our determination to lead the transformation of computing and communications in the Internet age. I want to briefly update you on the cornerstone of this communication effort - our new, global Brand initiative. "Compaq has strong Brand recognition - a name that's known around the world. But we need to enhance and extend our Brand to properly represent the breadth and depth of this company. A powerful Brand, and the equity it creates, is an extremely valuable asset that serves multiple purposes: "•It helps differentiate a company's products by effectively communicating the unique benefits customers want. "•It defines our relationship with - and our commitment to - customers and partners. "•It symbolizes and promises customers both Compaq quality and Compaq value. "In essence it helps personify the heart and soul of our business and the reason our business exists. Bottom line: a strong Brand helps build a competitive advantage for all our businesses. "Building and sustaining a strong Compaq Brand involves a great deal more than creating new ad campaigns or changing our logo. It showcases the evolution of our corporate strategy. Monday in San Francisco, Compaq senior managers are meeting with industry analysts to discuss our vision for the future and further define our strategy for delivering that vision. "We will share that strategy with you later next week. "For many of you, the first visible sign of our new Brand initiative will be the advertising, which begins in Monday's Wall Street Journal. In the weeks ahead, you'll see a new Compaq Brand identity reflected in many places and in many ways. You'll see it in our promotional brochures, our product packaging, our customer presentations, our call centers and more. "The first phase of our advertising campaign begins to roll out in the US and Canada. The rest of the world will launch this new advertising in mid-October. The tagline we will use in our advertising and promotional materials is Welcome to the new IT - Inspiration Technology from Compaq. "Let me briefly explain the thinking behind this new and distinctive positioning. By listening to our customers we've learned that technology is not an end in itself, but a means to inspire individuals and businesses to reach their full potential. To help make this possible, Compaq provides the tools and intellectual horsepower that customers apply, in profound ways, to unleash the creativity of the human mind and spirit. "We believe the true differentiator in any business is the person - not just the technology. What counts most is what each individual can aspire to achieve with technology and the results they deliver. Every one of our customers has a powerful story to tell about how technology has truly made a difference in their businesses and their personal lives. As we roll out our Branding campaign, we will share these stories with the rest of the world - stories that demonstrate how real people are using innovative Compaq technology, products and services to help them go beyond the limits of information technology. "We also will share with you in more detail our Brand image and strategy in the days to come. Each of us needs to both understand and embody Compaq's Brand promise. Why? Because each of us - individually and as teams - brings the Brand and the company's strategy to life by adding value for our customers. "We will hold an "all managers" communication meeting Thursday, October 12, to update the worldwide management team on our Corporate and Brand strategies. The presentations from that meeting will be videotaped and rebroadcast for all employees from October 12 through October 16. Details about these meetings will be communicated shortly. "We have a great story to tell. Thanks to your hard work during the past year, we've established credibility and momentum in the marketplace. The new Brand campaign will play a major role in leveraging your efforts and accelerating our progress. "We believe Compaq is the best place to turn to - the best partner to work with - for the IT solutions that customers need to meet the challenges and opportunities in this digital age. Now, we're ready to let the world know, in a clear and compelling way, just how great Compaq can help them become. "I'm excited about this new campaign because it really captures the Compaq I know - the spirit of innovation... the commitment to customer success...the belief that people, enabled by great technology, can achieve great things. I'm confident you will feel the same way. "Michael" Cough. That's when he speaks briefly. Just wait until he really starts speaking. It will be enough to wag off the tail of a donkey. Compaq, the Great Satan of Perspiration, closed up sixty two cents on Wall Street yesterday, to scale the dizzying heights of $29.0599. And just before Q brings it down, you can temporarily view the advertisement here. ®
Mike Magee, 27 Sep 2000

SightSound pulls out of $50m IPO

Online film e-tailer SightSound.com has pulled out of a $50 million float, citing poor market conditions. The Pittsburgh-based outfit, which lets users download films over the Net, today withdrew the IPO, which had been planned for Nasdaq. The company "does not believe that the public markets would favourably respond to an initial public offering of the company's securities at the current time," it stated in and Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Reuters reported. SightSound, which rents and sells film from its "virtual video store", had planned to use the cash raised to buy more content, develop its own content and pay litigation expenses in patent protection. ® Related Story MP3 distributors threatened with patent suit
Linda Harrison, 27 Sep 2000

Motorola upgrades PowerPC G4

Motorola yesterday unveiled its latest PowerPC G4 processor, the 7410, but the new processor is unlikely to please Mac users looking for a chip capable of catching up with Intel's ever-growing megahertz lead. To be fair, the new chip isn't meant for Macs. Motorola is aiming the 7410 at the embedded market, but it does highlight some of the new technologies the company is bringing to its desktop processor line. The 7410 will be based on a 0.18 micron fabrication process with copper interconnects, allowing it to run cooler and draw less power than the PowerPC 7400, better known as the G4. Performance-wise the two chips are much of a muchness, but a 500MHz 7410 draws the same power as a 400MHz 7400. The 7410 is also about half the size of its predecessor. The chip supports up to 2MB of external L2 cache. It will ship at 400MHz, 450MHz and 500MHz, though Motorola also promised a 550MHz version soon. But where is the next major revision of the G4, designed to get the chip up to the 1GHz mark? Motorola isn't saying directly - though an announcement of progress on the 'G4 Plus' is expected next month at the Microprocessor Forum. Motorola announced the G4 Plus at the same venue, last year. Then, the G4 Plus was being discussed as a 700MHz and up chip, but we expect that to be increased to within striking distance of 1GHz, primarily to make the chip a better competitor for Intel and AMD CPUs. PowerPC already gives x86 is pretty good run for its money, despite the difference in clock speeds, but try telling that to eager PC buyers who can't see past the numbers. Motorola is believed to be sampling the G4 Plus already, though it has yet to announce that officially. ® Related Stories PowerPC G4 Plus breaks 1GHz barrier Where the hell is... the PowerPC 'G4 Plus'? For all our Apple and PowerPC stories, check out The Mac Channel
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Jobs unveils upgraded iBook

UpdatedUpdated Apple CEO Steve Jobs has just announced upgrades to the company's consumer-oriented portable Mac, the iBook. Speaking at Apple Expo Paris, Jobs said the iBook's top-of-the-line model - the Special Edition - will now sport a 466MHz PowerPC 750 (aka G3) processor, up from 366MHz, and will finally offer a FireWire (aka IEEE 1394) port and a DVD-ROM drive. The iBook SE will be available in its exitsing graphite colour scheme and now lime too. The regular iBook will now ship in lime and indigo, in place of tangerine and bondi blue. Like the SEs, both vanilla iBooks will also ship with a FireWire port. Jobs also said that ATI's Radeon graphics card would be offered as an option with the Power Mac G4 and the G4 Cube. Radeon was supposed to have offered for these machines when they were announced back in July, but Apple pulled support at the eleventh hour. Popular rumour suggests Jobs himself canned the plan after ATI inadvertently leaked details of the Apple product launch ahead of schedule. A more likely explanation is the problems ATI have had ramping up volume production of Radeon chips, which is why the Mac version of board was only scheduled to become available this month. Jobs' keynote was apparently delayed slightly because someone set the fire sprinklers off last night and flooded half the exhibition hall. Eau, no... ® Related Stories Jobs snubs ATI over new Mac leak - allegedly ATI pre-announces Apple MacWorld unveiling Apple Paris protest plan pulled UK users prepare anti-Apple protest action The Register's Mac Channel
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Apple ships MacOS X public beta for $30

Apple has released its public beta, but only on CD and for those Mac users keen enough to shell out 25 quid or 30 bucks, depending on their country of residence. The software will only be made available through the AppleStore, though we note that US buyers, unlike their European counterparts, have the option of buying a brand spanking new Power Mac G4 or a G4 Cube with the beta pre-installed. According to Apple, the Mac OS X Public Beta is designed to run on all PowerPC 750 or 7400-based Macs - ie. all G3s and G4s - though not machines with CPU upgrade cards, we note, or the original PowerBook G3. It requires a minimum of 128MB of RAM. "We're excited to have our users test drive this public beta version and provide us with their valuable feedback," said Apple CEO Steve Jobs in a statement. In other words, 'you pay us to help us test software that we can sell to you for even more money when the final release ships'. All this for software that "doesn't meet all of Apple's strict quality standards", according to the company's own FAQ. Of course, there's no reason why Apple shouldn't make some cash out of the beta, and the cost of the software is low, but does the company have to be quite so disingenuous about it? Company spin doctors will point out the cost to Apple of shipping the software, and it's true, it does cost money to churn out thousands of CDs - about 20 pence or 50 cents apiece - and post them out to interested punters - a similar sum. But if that's the criterion on which the beta is priced, why not make it available as a free download? We also note that the beta appears to require a copy of MacOS 9 to allow it to run your existing applications, allowing Apple to flog some more copies of its current OS too. It will be interesting to see whether the beta operates happily alongside older versions of the classic OS. The public beta will expire on 15 May 2001. ® Related Stories Jobs unveils upgraded iBook Apple MacOS X beta more NeXT than Mac - sources MacOS X public beta in two weeks - Jobs Apple preps 'low key' MacOS X public beta The Register's Mac Channel
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

MS names date for Mac Office 2001

Microsoft has at last said when it will ship Office 2001 for the Mac: just under a month from now, on 11 October. The suite will be re-branded Office:Mac on launch, as will its component apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. New to the suite is Entourage, which brings Outlook's email and PIM functionality to the Mac version of Office for the for first time. Think of Entourage as a single-user oriented version of the more workgroup-oriented Outlook. Entourage should synchronise fully with Palm handhelds. And given Psion's re-found interest in the Mac market, so will the upcoming new version of MacConnect, which links Macs to Psion's Revo, and Series 3, 5 and 7 handhelds. Psion recently told us it was waiting for Outlook for the Mac to ship first, but we hope the company actually means Entourage. It's going to be a bit of a git if you can't link your Psion to Office, otherwise - not a move guaranteed to win Mac users over to the Psion platform. Microsoft is working a separate Mac version of Outlook 2000, codenamed Watson, aimed at companies keen to integrate Macs into their Exchange Server 5.5-based infrastructures. Microsoft has yet to say when Watson will ship. Office:Mac will ship for $499 in the US - upgrades from Office 98 will cost $299. ® Related Story Psion recommits to Mac
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Apple forces name-switch on Napster cloner

Apple's lawyers have been quietly busy persuading a Napster clone developer to change its name. And, indeed, the software company formerly known as AppleSoup should now be referred to as Flycode. Flycode received a cease and desist request from Apple's ever more busy legal eagles some six weeks ago shortly after AppleSoup, founded by one of Napster's co-founders and one of the MP3 sharing software company's early financial backers, set up shop. Of course, it's a wonder the duo didn't think of this before, it's so obvious. It's impossible to imagine that Apple wouldn't get shirty about another IT company using the A word, particularly after it was sued by the Beatles' recording company, an action that was later settled out of court (Apple said it wouldn't produce any music software, and then a couple of years launched its QuickTime multimedia code). There's nothing like having your own name questioned to make you vigorously pursue anyone whose name is equally too close for comfort. AppleSoup... sorry, Flycode... - strewth, this is confusing - is working on a Napster clone that has built in copyright protection schemes. The software is still some way off launch, apparently, so the name-change shouldn't hit the company too hard, which is probably why it agreed to Apple's request. The tremendous cost of fighting Apple almost certainly figured highly in the company's calculations too. ® Related Stories Industry friendly Napster clone launched Apple seeks intellectual property watchdog Apple raises legal sword over rumour sites Cobalt still mooting anti-Apple Cube lawsuit
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Taiwan vendors team to push 1394

A band of Taiwanese companies and Taiwan-based subsidiaries of US operations have come together to promote IEEE 1394 as the standard connectivity and networking technology for information appliances. The consortium, dubbed The Taiwan 1394 Club, will be kicked off later this month by founder members Via, Texas Instruments, Joinsoon Electronics, Procomp Informatics, Asian MGI Software and Microsoft Taiwan, local business paper the Commercial Times reports. The group hopes to recruit a further 200 Taiwanese operations to its cause. News of the alliance comes just a few weeks after the Intel-sponsored USB 2.0 specification was given its first public airing. USB 2.0 takes the peripherals bus' throughput to 480Mbps, from 12Mbps, beyond 1394's 400Mbps. Surely, then, that makes it a better bet than 1394, aka FireWire and iLink? True, 1394 does have some technological advantages over USB 2.0 - it's a true peer-to-peer system, for example - but we suspect the real concern here is the degree to which support for USB 2.0 puts power in the hands of Intel, something the Taiwanese majors have become increasingly keen to avoid. The alliance will presumably attempt to counter Intel's USB 2.0 promotional efforts by pushing 1394 as a better, more consumer-oriented alternative. ® Related Stories Via puts weight behind 1394, DDR 1394 support threatened by encryption IP confusion - MS exec Optical IEEE 1394 does 100m in 400Mbps NEC unveils IEEE 1394 'Firewireless' home LAN Related Link 1394 Club homepage
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Apple Paris protest plan pulled

Angry British Mac users have called off their planned disruption of Apple CEO Steve Jobs' keynote speech at Apple Expo Paris on Wednesday. Group leaders have instead been persuaded to meet with the head of Apple Europe and "key Apple UK executives" at the company's UK HQ sometime after the show - presumably after 19 September, too, which is the deadline for interested parties to submit questions for the team who will meet Apple. The protest was originally called to bring to a wider public the injustices UK Mac users feel they have suffered over the cancellation of the British English version of the Mac OS. The team also wished to show their disapproval of Apple's apparent disregard for its more ardent users, and the legal threats the company has made at various fan sites, such as iCards. Other issues the team wished to raise include the plight of smaller Apple resellers, who are being forced to buy from larger mail order dealers because it's cheaper than using Apple's official distributors, the company's poor showing in the UK High Street, and its servicing procedures. All of which are fair points to raise, but it has to be said, the group is unlikely to gain much of a positive response from Apple Europe. These days, Apple's strategy is run from the centre, leaving the UK and the rest of Europe little more than sales and marketing operations. They're unlikely to have much of a say in OS and other product roll-outs - and that includes sorting out Web sites who get in the way of the company's wider plans. The channel issues aren't likely to any more easily resolved. Support for small resellers and schemes to get more Macs into the High Street are down to the resources a company can bring to bear, and resources are governed by the money brought in by sales. Apple has understandably chosen to focus on channels that bring in the highest revenues, and they, alas, don't include small resellers, good though many of them are. Apple's showing on the High Street is as much about Dixons' stranglehold on that market as anything else, and given the poor way the retailer has sold Macs in the past, you can hardly blame Apple for being more interested in selling through the group's out-of-town chains, such as PC World. And Apple appears to do reasonably well out of its main High Street outlet, the John Lewis Partnership. In short, there are no clear answers Apple Europe's mandarins can give the protestors, just as Apple has been unable to do for the last ten years or so. The channel issues raised this week have been around for ages, and boil down to the long-held desire by both users and Apple itself that it sell more machines in the UK. We'd like to see that too, but short of a sea-change not at Apple but within the British PC sales channel itself, we're sceptical. ® Related Story UK users prepare anti-Apple protest action
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Apple adds Genentech boss to board

Apple was clearly so impressed with Genentech chairman and CEO Arthur D Levinson's performance in their Power Mac G4 Cube promotional video that the company has given him a place on its board. Levinson gushed so freely on the style, elegance and coolness of the Cube, that Apple CEO Steve Jobs obviously felt he was so on message he deserved a place in the Mac maker's 'star chamber' of directors. Genentech is one of the world's leading biotech companies, using genetic engineering techniques to create new medical drugs. Levinson has been with the company since 1980. In 1995, he'd worked his way up to become CEO and president. Last year he also became chairman of Genentech's board. Levinson's arrival on the Apple board will bring to the company a valuable perspective on the science and engineering market, an area it is keen to pursue, given both the computing power of the PowerPC 7400's AltiVec vector processing engine, which is well-suited to accelerating science-oriented applications, and the upcoming Unix-derived MacOS X. ® For all The Register's latest Apple stories, check out our Mac Channel
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Apple seeks intellectual property watchdog

Apple's recent brush with Mac-oriented Web sites publishing details of upcoming product launches has clearly forced the company to rethink its legal support. To beef that up, the Mac maker this week launched a quest for someone to pursue any it suspects of infringing its trademarks and copyrights. The company's IP Witch Finder General - or Trademark Counsel, as Apple's job spec. more mundanely describes the role - will be charged with seeking out - and sorting out - anyone who violates Apple's intellectual property, in the US and abroad. "Responsibilities include US and International trademark and copyright searching, filing, prosecution, maintenance and enforcement, including trademark litigation," states Apple's job posting. Yet the position may not be entirely about "enforcement". Another part of the spec. shows that the counsel will be responsible for "drafting and negotiating permissions, consents and assignments... Responding to third party/client questions and requests." Do we have the basis for some kind of licensing programme here? Certainly plans to allow third-parties to license the Apple brand have emerged at the Mac maker in the past - most notoriously, perhaps, Gil Amelio's Apple Cafe concept for franchised cybercafes, and mooted tie-ins with Swiss watchmaker Swatch. Current CEO Steve Jobs has in the past noted his respect for Sony and his desire to base Apple's broad branding strategy on that of the consumer electronics giant - to make Apple a household word for quality consumer products. As Sony has done with its Sony Style campaign, so Apple may be considering getting its name into non-core products to help promote its brand and thus sales of its computers. ® For all our Apple stories, check out the Mac Channel
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

What the hell is… Apple's Display Connector?

Apple's proprietary Apple Display Connector (ADC) may not be quite so proprietary or such a smart piece of Apple technology as the company would have us believe. According to one Register reader, ADC is simply is Plug and Display (P&D) port, developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA) under the sponsorship of IBM and published as a standard in June 1997. And, indeed, Apple's ADC port does look broadly like a P&D connector. P&D transfers both digital and analog video data to a compliant monitor. It also provides a USB channel and an optional IEEE-1394 (aka FireWire) channel too - which is exactly what ADC does. P&D is not dissimilar to the Digital Visual Interface (DVI) connector, though the latter omits the USB and FireWire lines. Given the greater support for DVI in the digital display world, it seems likely that ADC is, in fact, a version of it with the USB lines enabled. In that respect, ADC would be proprietary. The connector at the Mac end could also support standard DVI screens - they'd simply not provide USB throughput. Apple's monitor tech specs. don't describe the true nature of ADC, so it's difficult to say how accurate our reader's claim is. However, the ADC port looks pretty much like a P&D or DVI port, so there's got to be something in it. Apple's monitor FAQ states that its new displays were designed specifically for the new Power Mac G4 and the Cube, but that's not an explicit statement that you can't use them on a Windows machine equipped with a suitable display card. The tech specs. for, say, the Cube only lists Apple's monitors and standard SVGA screens as compatible. Perhaps someone from Apple would like to set the record straight? ®
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

Version 3.0 of Tarantella pressures Citrix

Licking its wounds, Citrix regroups next week at its Thinergy Conference in Florida. But ahead of that Tarantella chose this week to crank up the pressure another notch by releasing Version 3.0. This, the company's Peter Bondar tells us, involves a complete rewrite rather than minor adjustments. He says it now supports ten times the number of users, and 50 per cent less CPU time, so that 600 users can hang off a 700Mhz server, bargaining for 6Mb of RAM per user. Of course apple-for-apple (or even lemon-for-lemon) comparisons with Citrix only go so far, as Tarantella sits in the middle of a three tier plan, sitting between the client and the host application servers. Tarantella is really just a daemon that delivers and manages display information, with - the argument goes - the expense of deploying a specialist middle tier being offset by gains such as follow-me printing, saving state information and the ability to dispense with running terminal software elsewhere. Version 3.0 also supports the latest version of the RDP protocol, 5.0, found in the Windows 2000 Server lines. One thing Citrix can't claim to match is the ability to bounce jobs around server farms in different locations, which might be different countries, and manage them from one location. Pricing stays the same, says Bondar, at £249 per concurrent user list. He says most of the business is on Solaris for now, although he expects the Linux side to grow, and Hitachi is to build a black-box network appliance server based on Linux that runs the Tarantella daemon. The software itself is slated to roll out on October 30. ® Related Stories The Register dances the Tarantella Caldera goes Unix with SCO acquisition SCO unleashes Tarantella for Linux
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Sep 2000

AMD thumbs nose at Intel woes

Toni Beckham, the nice lady in charge of investor relations at AMD, has gone on record to re-assure people that while Intel might have a problem, its own status in Europe is absolutely fabulous. Beckham told an AMD investor that the firm's guidance on its futures has not changed. In a posting at Silicon Investor, she is quoted as saying: "We remain on target to reach our previously stated goals. The analysts who downgraded the stock did so without having spoken with AMD. AMD has reiterated its guidance twice since we first issued it when we announced financial results for Q2. It is not our policy to respond to analysts' comments. We would have to issue a press release daily." Spelling it out in words of one, two or at the most, three or four syllables, the story seems to be, as reported here ad nauseam that European vendors and distributors are getting plenty of supplies of chips from AMD, and not very many at all from Intel. We have no idea who this unnamed analyst could be. Nor do we particularly care. And just in case you get the wrong idea, The Register may be on the list of approved sites at AMD, but the obverse of this coin is not true. AMD will take the axe to its microprocessor prices yet again in October, maybe as early as the 9th. ® Related Stories AMD still fab despite analyst downgrade Intel slide a little wafer thin Hector Ruiz is the new Jerry Sanders Intel blames Europe for lower profits Register gets AMD approved Chip makers ready their steeds for desperation derby < a href="http://www.theregister.co.uk/content/archive/11018.html">Intel's pricing, May to September
Mike Magee, 27 Sep 2000

Revealed 3Com's first Net appliance – Audrey

3Com is busily preparing the way for the launch of the first product in its upcoming Ergo family of Internet appliances with a Web site of its very own, as a reader over at PalmStation has discovered. The site, currently sitting on 3Com's public server, announces Audrey, 3Com's Palm-connectable appliance, aimed at women. According to the site, Audrey will ship in a range of pastel colours - shades of Apple's iMac here - and sport a 6.25in x 4.75in (the resolution is 640 x 480, judging by the site's HTML) touch-sensitive screen; built-in 56kbps modem, speakers and microphone; serial and USB ports; and a wireless keyboard. Audrey is based on National Semiconductor's Geode CPU. Audrey will ship with its own Web browser and personal information management features. 3Com is basing some Ergo products on the Palm OS, others on QNX's Neutrino realtime OS - we suspect the latter is being used for Audrey, though the site gives no clues. Buttons on the machine's front panel take users straight to each application. The browser button doubles up as a radio tuner-style knob that cycles through the device's 'channels' - 'bookmarked sites' to the rest of us. Audrey does, however, have Palm's HotSync technology built in, so handheld-equipped families can back up their data and ensure they all know what each of them is up to. All very Jetsons, you might think, and indeed Audrey has a certain 'kitchen appliance of the future' look about it. It also looks like an Etch-a-Sketch, and sports a metal carry handle-cum-wall mount attachment on the back. 3Com is backing Audrey up with a family-oriented Web portal with an online magazine and bulletin board. 3Com announced the Ergo family earlier this year, but gave few details about the products that would make up the line. Audrey - then unnamed - was described simply as an appliance for the kitchen. ® Related Link 3Com's Audrey site Related Stories 3Com licenses Palm OS and Zen - and QNX 3Com buys Net radio supplier Kerbango
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

US Air Traffic Control system vulnerable to hackers

A US government report, due to be published today, will assert that the US air traffic control system could be vulnerable to hackers. It says that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) failed to complete proper background checks on foreign nationals it employed to ensure that the system was Y2K compliant and other computer experts called in to look at the overall security of the system. According to US newspaper, USA Today the report concluded that the FAA "allowed and is continuing to allow contractors to undertake sensitive assessments of the weaknesses in its systems without sufficient assurance that the individuals performing these assessments are reliable and trustworthy." Whether this is an example of extreme US paranoia, or a legitimate cause for concern is hard to determine. The report says that the system has a pervasive weakness that leaves it vulnerable to hackers, but does not specify what kind of damage an intruder could do once in the system. Representatives from the FAA and other government agencies are due to testify at a House science committee hearing on Wednesday about FAA security lapses. Meanwhile an FAA spokesman downplayed the threat to the system: "We think there are stringent protections which we are moving to improve daily" The lack of security checks on employees extends right to the highest levels of clearance, the report said. It concluded that FAA officials have let background checks lapse for 75 of 350 senior agency employees with top-secret security clearance. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Sep 2000

Nvidia to take X-box South Bridge to PC OEMs

Nvidia will move into the chipset market with an X-box inspired product it's currently calling the Media Communications Processor (MCP). MCP essentially combines peripheral I/O, networking and audio functionality onto a single piece of silicon. The product is being developed for Microsoft's X-box games console, for which Nvidia is also creating the 3D graphics ship, but Nvidia reckons it can easily modify the part and sell it to PC OEMs. It will also create a North Bridge chip to go with it that integrates its GeForce graphics technology. Speaking to EE Times, Nvidia senior marketing VP Dan Vivoli said the company sees an opportunity to sell to PC vendors keen to build both fast 3D graphics and networking support into cut-price consumer-oriented systems and simple terminal-style machines for business, both applications where the balance is tilted very much in favour of cost over performance. Bringing GeForce into the mix would up the latter without overly prejudicing the former, certainly much less so than adding a standalone 3D accelerator chip. Indeed, combining these features puts Nvidia in a strong position to push into the Net appliance arena when it finally kicks off. Vivoli claimed the company has already made some design wins for the two parts. The non X-box MCP and the North Bridge chip should become available early 2001, said Vivoli, even though the X-box version of MCP won't ship until towards the end of the year. ® Related Stories MS X-box deal: Nvidia goes multimedia
Tony Smith, 27 Sep 2000

More lawsuits fly in Intel/ Broadcom spat

Communications chipmonger Broadcom has asked a California superior court for an injunction against Intel in a bid to stop Chipzilla from selling products Broadcom claims are the result of stolen trade secrets. In the latest round of the acrimonious feud between Broadcom and Intel, Broadcom claims Intel used Broadcom chip secrets to speed up development of its own products. Broadcom says Intel, and its subsidiary Level One Communications, obtained confidential Broadcom silicon from a third party and reverse-engineered them. "Had Intel not resorted to these tortuous actions, its competing products would have been delayed for many months, if not years, and it would have lost major customers to Broadcom," asserts the suit. An Intel Europe spokesman retorted: "While we have no comment on this specific motion, we are confident that our actions are lawful within the bounds of normal business behaviour." The court has been asked to block sales of a number of Intel products, including its Media Access Controller and Gigabit Ethernet Physical Layer Interface chips, and Broadcom is also asking for the appointment of an intermediary to monitor Intel to ensure its compliance. The comms company also alleges it has evidence of smoking-gun e-mails and testimony from Intel employees portraying Intel as "attempting to play catch-up by any means necessary." Intel filed a suit in Delaware against Broadcom in August, claiming the company had been poaching Intel employees and copying its technology as part of "a carefully crafted plan." Broadcom counterclaimed against an earlier Intel suit in June, in which Intel sought to block Broadcom from hiring three former Intel employees. ®: Related Stories Broadcom broadsides Greater Intel Intel sues Via, Broadcom Intel broadsides Broadcom for poaching secrets
Andrew Thomas, 27 Sep 2000

Fuel cell to power notebooks and mobile phones

A development by Motorola could be the first step towards fuel cells small enough to power a mobile phone and laptop computers. The Motorola boffins have developed and demonstrated a multi-layer ceramic system that processes and delivers fuel and air to the fuel cell membrane electrode assembly (MEA). By eliminating the need for two discrete tubes to carry the methanol fuel and the water, the new system can be made small enough to be used in a miniature fuel cell, the company said. For those unfamiliar with fuel cell technology, probably the most memorable example of their use was in the Apollo 13 spacecraft. This was the jinxed moon mission during which a liquid oxygen tank that fed the fuel cells exploded 200,000 miles from earth. In order to get back safely, the crew ate hot dogs to keep hydrated and turned off all the heaters to conserve power. However, most of the time these fuel cells don't explode. The prototype from Motorola uses a reservoir of methanol (nice and cheap) that, when combined with the oxygen in the air, produces electricity at room temperature. The company said that it would initially work on a hybrid of traditional battery and fuel cell. Previously, as in the case of Apollo 13, DMFC systems have used discrete tubes to mix the fuel components and deliver the mixture to the fuel cell. The new design from Motorola uses a multi-layered ceramic technology. The lower layer processes the liquid fuel while the top layer looks after passive air delivery. Jerry Hallmark, manager of Motorola Labs' energy technology lab said that the number of features people now expect on their gadgets meant that there was a greater need for longer lived power sources. "We need to develop new energy solutions - and fuel cells could be the breakthrough technology. Our challenge is to make these systems small, light and easy for consumers to use," he said. "Eventually, these fuel cells could enable what people just dream of today - a lightweight energy source that would safely power a cellular phone for a month." And even if the fuel does go bang, it is extremely unlikely that you would be 200,000 miles from home. And even if you are, so long as you remember to eat hot dogs, you should be OK. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Sep 2000

Andreessen to get even richer with LoudCloud IPO

Marc Andreessen, the not-too-poor co-founder of Netscape, has filed plans for an IPO of his latest Net venture LoudCloud.com. The company is worth around $600 million and he hopes to make $150 million from the float. Andreessen owns 18.2 per cent of Loudcloud, giving him another $100 million to sit on his estimated $500 million current worth (excuse us while we spit with envy). VC company Benchmark Capital owns the largest stake - 19.4 per cent and another 8.8 per cent is owned by the company's CEO, Benjamin Horowitz, who used to be head of AOL's e-commerce section. There's been minor rustlings about this being a bad time for a float (where is the stock ever not volatile?) but with ole Marcy boy on board and the fact that LoudCloud doesn't do silly consumer stuff, it looks like a safe-ish bet. Of course, what you all want to know is, what does LoudCloud actually do? This is a bit of a toughy - even after trawling through its Web site. Obtuse terminology squashes out the real words, leaving you with a strange sense of emptiness. However, it is safe to say it builds Web site back-end stuff. Two almost intelligible excerpts on its products are below: "A new scaling technology called Rapid restore lets Loudcloud instantaneously tap into a pool of stand-by servers to replace a failed machine in a live environment." And: "Global Connect will include global load balancing, which means Internet traffic will automatically be distributed to the customer site geographically closest to its end users." Not that LoudCloud is making any money of course. It lost $49 million last half-year and is now $122 million in the red. This stands against an annual revenue of around $4 million. It even made a point of telling people not to expect a profit in the near future in its filing. And we'll leave you with a Andreessen-is-so-rich-it-makes-you-sick fact: he was a millionaire before he could legally rent a car. He's 29 now. ® Related Link LoudCloud
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Sep 2000

AOL turning Japanese with DoCoMo

AOL and Japanese mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo have signed a big touchy feely deal in which they will both work on the mobile Internet market. It not actually official yet (probably formally announced today) but then it's hard to keep a $100 million deal quiet. That, incidentally, in the sum that DoCoMo is expected to invest in AOL Japan. It will also be taking a 42 per cent cut of AOL Japan, but it's not buying it, right? DoCoMo, if you didn't know, is the company behind the great mobile success in Japan of i-Mode - a kind of useful form of WAP. AOL's share in AOL Japan will slip from 50 per cent to 39 per cent. Is this a good deal? Yes, it is - for both companies. NTT DoCoMo, not matter what people tell you, is still pretty small and insignificant. It's had a lot of interest because of i-Mode's success and WAP's failure and has used this to grab an alliance with AOL - sadly, one of the most powerful Internet companies. It is also good news for AOL. It gets entry into the Japanese market (always nice) and it gets access to i-Mode technology. There's inevitable talk of i-Mode being pushed into Europe and the States. There's little chance of this happening with the current technology but you can be sure AOL and DoCoMo will be working on the next generation with expansion in mind. If it doesn't catch on elsewhere, AOL is still a winner because it will have the Japanese market. ® Related Stories Palm, DoCoMo begin joint development talks What the hell... is going on with the US and mobile phones A skip skap a-skiddidy WAP i-Mode goes down again DoCoMo crash knocks media back towards WAP
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Sep 2000

S3/VIA integrated chipset hits the streets

The chipset formerly known as Twister, S3 and VIA's ProSavage KM133, is now sampling. Designed for Socket A Duron and Athlon processors, it combines VIA's Apollo KT133 chipset with the S3 Savage4 3D and Savage2000 2D graphics engines, and is aimed squarely at the value PC segment. The launch of the ProSavage KM133 follows on from the duos's first joint venture product, the Intel compatible ProSavage PM133. "AMD is excited about the performance the VIA ProSavage KM133 chipset delivers to value-conscious users," emoted Richard Heye, VP and General Manager of AMD's Texas Microprocessor Division. Like Intel's 810 and 815 chipsets, the KM133 is a Shared Memory Architecture (SMA) chipset supporting up to 2GB of PC-133 SDRAM and integrates graphics features such as AGP4x, 32-bit full colour rendering, texture compression, multi-texturing, hardware motion compensation for DVD playback, and display options for TVs or DVI 1.0 compliant Digital Flat Panels. In addition, the South Bridge offers AC-97 audio, MC-97 modem, Super I/O and ATA-66/100 support, networking or Home PNA, four USB ports and an external AGP4x expansion interface for a separate graphics card. The ProSavage KM133 is sampling now and will enter mass production in Q4 2000. The mobo is priced at $40 in OEM quantities. ®
Andrew Thomas, 27 Sep 2000

ZDNet proves yet again why it's the best

Do you remember all that stuff about unmetered Internet access - you know, how it all went horribly wrong and everyone has had to scrap it? Well one of the most interesting aspects of it was when AltaVista went temporarily insane and denied rumours (for about a month) that it was lying about having subscribers to it service. It was talking hundreds of thousands, we were looking at, um, none at all. What's all this to do with ZDNet - the drinking man's news site? Well, it seems this whole news story has passed it by (mind you, it was only plastered all over the nationals. And radio. And Internet). Go to ZD's unmetered access specials and "Check the Updates now!" and you'll find that AltaVista is: "Responsible for kick-starting the unmetered revolution. AltaVista is one of the last to market with a service. Putting the emphasis on quality of service its offer turns out to be more expensive (£50 a year) than originally envisaged. AltaVista is basing its prices on surveys it has done on unmetered usage and is convinced unmetered narrowband services will continue to be hugely popular. It predicts that half of Britain will be surfing within a year." Not much of an update when you come to think of it. Have a look for yourself here. But do it quick, we don't reckon it'll be there for long.
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Sep 2000

BT fingered by own LLU plans

The sorry saga of local loop unbundling (LLU) took another turn for the worse today after the Times reported that more than a third of Britain's population will be without broadband services because they live in "deadzones". The leaked BT document identifies Cornwall, Wales, the North East, North West, Scotland and Northern Ireland as potential trouble spots where, for technical and commercial reasons, broadband ADSL services are unlikely to be introduced. If the report were accurate, some 23 million people - a smidge under 40 per cent of the population - would be outside the catchment area for ADSL services. A spokesman for the monster telco told the newspaper that the leaked document portrayed a "pessimistic" view of things. BT's line to date has been that ADSL could be rolled out to some 80 per cent of the UK population, although such deployment would take time. A BT insider has confirmed that the telco is looking at other ways - such as satellite services - to deliver broadband services. Elsewhere, the FT reported that Oftel officials have attempted to amend proposed legislation forcing ahead LLU across Europe. The new amendment scraps a December 31 2000 deadline for introducing LLU with a wishy-washy "reasonable timescale". A spokeswoman for Oftel said she was unaware that such an amendment had been tabled. ®
Tim Richardson, 27 Sep 2000

Transmeta claims five-year jump over Intel

Once upon a time, it was impossible to get a word out of Transmeta, the chip start-up which established a Garbo-like mystique in pre-launch mode by the simple expedience of keeping its gob firmly closed. Today, it's difficult to get the chip designer to shut-up. Dave Ditzel, CEO and one-man PR juggernaut, is now claiming that the company is a whole five years ahead of AMD and Intel. Speaking to Reuters in Tokyo yesterday, he said his rivals would have to adopt a software approach to catch up design and that would mean starting from scratch. "From my 20 years of experience, it would take at least five years to get a new microprocessor out the door," he said. Very interesting - but didn't Ditzel claim just a two-year lead over AMD and Intel in January at the US launch of company's flagship Crusoe chip? That's what our reporter on the ground recalls him saying. Perhaps it's all part of the pre-IPO hype. More likely, we remembered wrong. ® Related Stories Fujitsu unveils Transmeta notebooks Transmeta files for IPO Transmeta chips not up to scratch - Toshiba Hitachi plans Transmeta Crusoe notebook for November
Drew Cullen, 27 Sep 2000

New MSN client swipes your email, spams your friends

Microsoft's ever-resourceful marketing goblins seem to have come up with a killer combination of features designed to win hearts and minds for MSN Explorer, the jazzy Internet-email client intended for newbies from the Great Unwebbed. The second beta of the software has a built in 'spam a friend by mistake' function, and if you happen to have an MSN email account, it may confiscate your POP service and give you a Hotmail account instead. These little gems have been dug up by Woody's Windows Watch, which amusingly describes the spam a friend feature as "like Melissa but in slow motion." This is basically a handy feature which appears to have been enhanced by the goblins into a horrible own-goal breach of Netiquette, and it works like this. If you're running Outlook Express, the second time you load MSN EXplorer it asks you if you want to import your address book. If you say yes, it kicks in a dialogue box asking if you'd like to tell all your contacts about your new email address. It then previews a message from 'you' that says how great MSN Explorer is, and urges the recipient to click on the link and follow the download instructions. According to Woody's, there is no obvious way to edit this. The second prong of the MSN Explorer attack applies only to MSN email users. It appears that Explorer is extremely keen to convert them to Hotmail users instead, which means you lose the POP facility and wind up with Web email instead. This is being viewed by some as a bad thing that loses you features, but as The Register recalls you need either Outlook or the MSN client in order to access MSN email in the first place, people wanting to lose the proprietary MS stuff but still get to their MSN mail (which as it happens, includes us) might see this as an advantageous side effect. Woody's proposes to report further on this for a future issue, but we might just check it out ourselves in the meantime. ® See Also: Woody's Windows Watch
John Lettice, 27 Sep 2000

Psion mounts £299 digital radio land grab

Would-be Nathan Barleys will have another gadget to flourish next month when Psion ships its "smart" digital radio tuner, Wavefinder. It's the first mass-market device for picking up DAB (Digital Audio Broadcast) transmissions, according to Psion and the BBC. Wavefinder is just over two feet long (including cable, obviously), looks like a soap on a rope, plugs into your PC's USB port - Mac users are shunned, for now - and can pick up both of the main transmission standards, L-Band and Band III. You can't actually do anything much with the L-Band capability right now, but a patch for the software is pending. The PC provides the user interface for selecting channels, as the only display on the Wavefinder is a strange pulsating light. But a Psion exec hoped it would become a design classic alongside the Zippo, the VW Beetle and the Fender Strat... It'll cost £299 including VAT, although more importantly the make-or-break bundles are beginning to roll. Dixons will promote a PC bundle with Wavefinder for £999 in all of its stores it said, on launch day, 17 October. It's a bulky device containing over 400 components on the circuit board. Psion has a roadmap to integrate these to produce something cheaper and smaller, but that first requires a critical mass to justify the investment of course. But it could happen. Strip away the flashing light, the antennae and the translucent plastic, and the actual circuit board is only as long as and only slightly wider than your correspondent's packet of Rothmans King Size. A friendly Kingswood Warren techie from the BBC looked it over and decided that with further integration, and by removing one of the two DSPs, it could easily become something the size of your little finger. And at that stage we're talking PC Cards, or something that could strap to the back of a Quartz communicator. Plus aerial... If it seems like digital radio has crept up on you while you weren't looking, that's probably because it has. Local multiplexes were only opened for business this spring, and London receives 35 stations. But Psion MD David Levin today described it as broadband's best kept secret, and the specifications are really quite impressive. There's no back channel, but you can in theory receive data at 1.5Mbps. Bandwidth is flexible: you can say, be broadcasting a concert at 256Kbps, drop back to 56Kbps for a speech interlude, and while that's broadcasting, simulataneously send down some data at high speed. Yes, data - and that includes streaming video, applets, and URLs. The interactivity only works when you've got a parallel internet connection. With GPRS set to trickle data out at less than 20Kbps to begin with, and 3G unlikely ever to top 128Kbps, that's a tantalising prospect. One that left network representatives who were present at the BBC Portland Place preview today scratching their heads. Remember these folks have paid £22 billion for the right to do much the same in the UMTS auction. By contrast, Digital One turned up at the DAB auction on its own, received its franchise for peanuts, and now covers 80 per cent of mainland Britain... Given the pent-up demand for broadband here in the United Kingdom, DAB strikes us as one of these technologies that chimes with the particularly British genius for improvisation. Psion launched a Wavefinder Web site today. DAB is the standard for Europe, Africa and Asia, but not the US. Which is at best two years behind. With an inferior technology. Again. ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Sep 2000

Intel: you will talk to the Internet

John Miner, VP and general manager of Intel's Communications Products Group, told bemused delegates at Networld+Interop that the rapid convergence of voice and data networks is being driven by the move to e-business and the addition of voice capabilities to the online experience. In English, this roughly translates as: "You need ever more powerful processors, and lots of them. Please buy them from us." In his address, Miner also announced key new technology building blocks for accessing Web sites using speech commands. "Companies are beginning to deploy Internet-based voice applications such as voice portals in the e-Business infrastructure to enhance, personalize and automate online transactions," said Miner. "Intel is paving the way with cost-effective, standards-based solutions such as our voice portal platform, which are stimulating innovative applications that provide powerful speech capabilities for the Internet." Let's hope these fabled voice recognition products are capable of cutting through marketing bullshit like that. ® Register factoid Should Intel feel the need for advice on how to write a decent press release, the company could do worse than to email Dr Spinola for advice here.
Andrew Thomas, 27 Sep 2000

Blair swaps PCs for kids

Tony Blair is offering to swap one PC in return for every five children, this headline from VNUNet suggests. Some colleagues have urged me to take up Tonee's offer - possibly because I am the father of five. Which they think is greedy. ®
Drew Cullen, 27 Sep 2000

Baltimore/AppGate go for public access to company networks

Baltimore Technologies has signed a deal with AppGate that will see it provide a security layer to AppGate's flagship server product of the same name. This will provide application authentication, a level of security beyond a company firewall. The tie up means that a network that has proper identification and authorisation procedures, that allowed different people to access different applications, could be in part opened to the public, according to Tim Dunn, Baltimore's UK business development manager. For example, a PC manufacturer could allow customers to track their products from manufacture to dispatch, and if necessary through tech support or a repair process. He stated that the many high profile breaches of security are down to bad planning. "Big companies are often so concerned with the time to market and cost elements of launching an online presence that the issue of how secure it will be is not considered until the die is cast for the budget and time scale. Security often comes in a very poor third to the cost and deadlines," he said. Another major challenge facing providers of Internet security products and applications is to promote their products without scare mongering. Dunn said that it was important for companies like Baltimore not to look like "ambulance chasers". "We need to focus on the opportunities that proper security can open up to companies," he said. He went on to say that presenting the worst case scenario of what could happen without proper security in place is probably counterproductive, and companies needed to start selling their products from a more positive standpoint. ® Related Link AppGate's server product Related Stories Baltimore beats analysts with Q2 salesfest
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Sep 2000

Now T-Online loses CFO

Dear oh dear oh dear. It's a trickle then it's a flood. It looks like the rumours that T-Online's entire board would resign over Ron Sommer's (CEO of parent company Deutsche Telekom) interference may well be true. Having already lost chairman Wolfgang Keunje "for personal reasons" (isn't everything personal?) and marketing chieftain Ralf Eck, the CFO Christian Hoening has now walked out the door. He's been swiftly replaced mind by the former assistant to Deutsche Telekom's FD, Rainer Beaujean. Hmmm. The question is: how long can DT behave like Stalin before commercial pressures start pushing back? On the news, T-Online share price dropped over 5 per cent - unsurprising when you consider Hoening was the man that masterminded the company's huge IPO. DT's share price slipped half a per cent. ® Related Stories T-Online's boardroom battles
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Sep 2000

HWRoundup GeForce2 MX board hoard

Sport and geeks rarely mix, but Formula One is a bit of an excdeption. After all, there is a whole big pile of technology involved here. The gang at Planet Hardware have decided to investigate the nature of the beast in Grand Prix racing. And we are not talking about Schumacher this time. Dan's Data takes a good long look at Abit's Siluro GeForce2 MX graphics card. Despite the fact that it still costs a little more than its competitors, the review is very positive. And being the most expensive doesn't mean it costs a fortune. Point and click, you know the drill. Taking a small dip into the mainstream, I think it is worth mentioning that there is a review of the Dell i4000 notebook over at Sharky's today. If you have a spare $3,000 to fork out on a new bit of kit, maybe this is the machine for you. It even has bits of colourful stuff on it. More game card action at GamePC today. They've taken a peek at another GeForce2 MX offering, this one from Asus. Click here for the full details. All about Twin View. And if that means more to you than it does to me, good on yer. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives.
Lucy Sherriff, 27 Sep 2000

That's right folks, it's another WAP round-up!

Okay, so what's been happening with WAP? Well, not all that much. i-Mode has got some more useful publicity with AOL's deal with NTT DoCoMo. People are talking about i-Mode taking over the world again. But mostly it's been a case of folk looking beyond the narrow confines of mobile phones and philosophising about the bigger Internet picture. Sadly, no one seems to think WAP is as good as they themselves had cracked it up to be. First up comes the re-reporting that "Internet mobile phones" haven't been a success with the public at large. Half the UK population have used the Internet but less than one per cent have bothered with WAP or digital TV. This looks like as good a place as any to cock-a-snoop at IDC. In April this year it decided that by 2002 more people would be accessing the Internet by mobiles that through landlines. By 2001, every mobile phone would be a WAP phone. But just five months later, it tells the world that, actually, mobile Internet browsing would be equal to landline connection by 2004. Good to see such level-headed forward thinking. What else? Oh yeah, Sony has produced the CMD-Z5 mobile. It's really great because it doesn't use this silly WAP protocol. Oh no, this amazing contraption works with HTML. Now why didn't anything think of that before? It is so far ahead of its time in fact that there isn't a single Internet site at the moment that it can access. Now that is ground-breaking. AirFlash has joined with Thomson directories in its vision to build the ultimate location-based database for mobile users. We still remain unconvinced that this l-commerce malarkey is a goer but then we got trashed with the company's VP of marketing two nights in a row and if such a top man has put his career on the line for this then there must be something to it. Also, Anywhereyougo.com found that almost 20 per cent of WAP calls were being trashed or delayed by poor WAP portals. Tell us something we don't know (actually we think we'd heard this line before - it's all becoming a bit of a blur). Oh, and did we mention that that idiot Negroponte has now become an expert on mobiles. According to him, 3G phones just won't happen and you can get 64Kbps out of a GPRS phone. Nuff said. Well, until next time. ® Related Stories AOL turning Japanese with DoCoMo Blind dating on your WAP phone IBM thinks WAP phones are small potatoes WAP's the matter you? Hey! Gotta no respecta Despite brickbats, WAP will grow - IDC
Kieren McCarthy, 27 Sep 2000

Greasing the free software skids under Novell

Although Red Hat rolled out its big budget distro Red Hat Linux 7.0 this week, a far more intriguing release has appeared this week with nary a mention from the corporate trade press. It's come via the flamboyant and ever-entertaining Jeff Merkey, formerly chief scientist at Novell where he took the credit for designing the Netware 4.11 kernel, Netware SMP, Wolf Mountain clustering and other landmarks. Merkey and coding pardner Darren Major walked out of Novell in 1997, and were soon hit by a lawsuit that prevented them using Novell source code authored during their employment. Nonetheless, Merkey's Timpanogas Research Group has continued to fight its way out of the legal cocoon by creating GPL equivalents of official Red Box software. TRG offers a GPL file system, the Open Source Novell File System; MANOS, aka "Open Source NetWare", a clustered NetWare file system M-Squared (M2FS), and Open Source NDS. At Networld Interop this week TRG was showing off its Ute-Linux and Ute-Cluster-Linux distros that will ship in the next three weeks. It's particularly intriguing as Merkey's merry men have received close and helpful attention from Microsoft in their endeavours, although this relationship ran into the rocks earlier this month. And Merkey is one of very few folks intimately acquainted with the source code to Linux and NetWare and Windows 2000. But we wondered, what possessed Merkey to spin what sounds like a Novell Groundhog Day? Well, he tells us, there are many things Linux can do wonderfully well, but there are others that Novell can still do better. "The only bad thing about Linux is that it's a general purpose OS. The nice thing is that it's got a really good following of guys who are open to change, and it's evolving very rapidly." So the aim is to take the best of both, and put them out under GPL. So TRG's coming at it from both ends. There's an open source Netware that has a Linux and NT execution environment - the latter use Microsoft's PE execution format and DLL loaders - and Linux distros with a NetWare HA clustered file system environment And NDS: ah, yes ... NDS. TRG has delayed the release of an open source NDS because of the instant destruction this would wreak on his former employer, where he still has many close friends. "NDS is a tactical nuclear weapon - if we put it out Microsoft and other competitors will use it like a sickle, and reap and harvest the Novell installed base." he says. "It's not beneficial to customers in any way," But Merkey says Microsoft has been "very good to us" when it saw Novell as a common competitor. TRG was working on native read-write file system support for NTFS until its lawyers turned nasty earlier this month. Markey responded by terminating his contract with Microsoft. "I dissolved the agreements, said here's your shit back and get out of my face." He's disappointed as he had good working relationships with Redmond developers. And he doesn't expect a comeback similar to the trouble he had from Novell. "Intellectual property is defined as source code and documentation, and we don't have that anymore," he says. "It's not like I'm posting the source code on the web - I'm not." TRG is now working on implementing a clean room alternative instead. Despite some vivid and memorable arguments with key free software developers over the past year, Merkey says "Linux and Alan Cox have made us feel like family," and he was full of praise for luminaries such as Hans Reiser (ReiserFS) and IDE guy Andre Hedrick, whose independent approach to Microsoft to may have precipitated Microsoft's NTFS volte face. It's to be hoped they change - as Hedrick told The Register, co-operation is just the kind of thing that could swing an appeals court. If not, Merkey's a man who knows where the bodies are buried. As he wrote earlier this month:- "The last thing they need is for me to take the stand and testify as to what kind of deals they offered to get us to leave Novell in 1997 and divide the NetWare markets by using the 'Linux IP Laundry-Mat' to launder Novell's NDS for their consumption." ®
Andrew Orlowski, 27 Sep 2000

Carnivore reviewer chosen

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has found a compliant, pseudo-academic body to perform its promised review of the Carnivore e-mail sniffer after several prominent universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Purdue University, Dartmouth College, the University of Michigan and the Supercomputing Centre at the University of California at San Diego withdrew their applications or simply refused to apply, over objections that DoJ restrictions would compromise their independence. US Attorney General Janet Reno proudly announced this week that the Illinois Institute of Technology's Research Institute has agreed to perform the review according to the DoJ's tight script. Results are to be submitted by December 2000. The organisation will be paid approximately $175,000 for its 'investigation'. The DoJ intends to spoon-feed to researchers just what bits of the Carnivore system they may examine, and will not allow them to publish any commentary independent of the requested study, which the Department will also edit prior to public release. A further caveat allows the DoJ to challenge any member of the review team on 'security clearance' grounds, which could enable them to remove members who are openly critical of the Clinton Administration and Reno DoJ's ongoing festival of increased government surveillance directed against citizens. The Department's restrictions have led several of America's most respected universities to characterise the programme as an effort to obtain a mere rubber-stamp with a prestigious name. Privacy watchdog outfit the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) sued the FBI in July under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to examine FBI documents related to Carnivore. EPIC General Counsel David Sobel ridiculed the DoJ study, saying that the Department is "going to retain control over both what the reviewers are given to look at, and even more importantly, control of the final product. In terms of an academic review of a system, that's really an unprecedented lack of independence." DoJ claims that the security checks are meant only to exclude anyone with a criminal record from working on the project. Editing will be done only to protect trade secrets belonging to Carnivore's software providers, the Department says. Critics have observed that DoJ was clever to use commercial software in Carnivore, which, according to the FOIA, must be protected from public disclosure. Not a few suspect that the decision to do so was a deliberate calculation meant to impede investigations of the system's inner workings. ®
Thomas C Greene, 27 Sep 2000

E*Trade security hole still not bunged

"A steel vault. A moat. Fort Knox. We've got something a little better," on-line brokerage firm E*Trade boasts to its prospective customers. E*Trade employs "some of the most advanced technology for Web security," the PR blurb continues. "In other words, your personal information is for your eyes only." So naturally it was with utter denial that E*Trade confronted network security specialist Jeffrey Baker's announcement that he'd found a gaping security hole in the company's Web service which could have enabled malicious hackers to use company-issued cookies to access and control customer accounts with ease. After a frustrating month of unsuccessful efforts to get E*Trade security geeks to acknowledge and address the problem, Baker reported it to Bugtraq Friday, after which the company quietly set to work on a slapdash fix. "E*TRADE seems to have rolled out a new cookie scheme over the weekend, but it isn't going to do one bit of good unless they plug the dozens of cross-site scripting problems littering their site," Baker says. E*Trade uses "an incredibly bone-headed cookie authentication scheme," Baker says, with a trivial encryption scheme, which would allow "a remote third-party attacker to recover the username and password of any E*TRADE user. The attacker can use this information to gain full control over the E*TRADE account." Not a particularly good state of affairs when you run a financial services Web site. The company has been predictably secretive, and has not to date posted any announcement or warning regarding the flaw on its site. Indeed, E*Trade didn't even bother to beef up encryption of account information in their cookies until after Baker publicized the gaffe. The company press office insists vehemently that no user accounts have been compromised as a result of the hole, but of course we have no way of verifying the claim. And still the site remains vulnerable to cross-site scripting, a well-known JavaScript attack in which a malicious hacker creates a URL allowing access to the E*Trade cookie. These could be sent to victims in e-mail messages or concealed on malicious Web sites. The vulnerability was described by the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) in early February. Further details on the E*Trade security debacle are available from SecurityFocus.com here and here. ®
Thomas C Greene, 27 Sep 2000

Hacks in tent uproar at Sun's ‘Net Effect’

Hacks were in uproar today at Sun's New York launch of its "Net Effect" strategy. After heated encounters at the registration desk first thing, journalists were ferried into a large, sweaty white tent near Central Park for the presentation. A gaggle of Sun execs, including company president and COO Ed Zander, senior VP chief marketing officer John Loiacono, and senior VP and chief technical officer Greg Papadopoulos, stood on stage under the canvas and preached about Sun's Internet prowess. Not only were today's product launches - workstations and servers based on the UltraSparc III technology - better than HP and IBM, but Sun was a more forward-thinking company, they claimed. There was no talk of spanking products - unlike at HP's super-server launch in the Big Apple two weeks ago - but it made no bones about the fact that it was the best in its field, in its humble opinion. To a background of New York police sirens blaring down Broadway, Sun wheeled out customers such as General Motors and McLaren that could barely contain their excitement at Sun's high-tech technology. Meanwhile, the California company got to show off its shiny Sun Blade 1000 workstation and Sure Fire 280R server which use UltraSpark III, while banging on about its lead in the "Net Effect". After all this chat about Sun's prowess in the Web arena, the assembled journalists traipsed into the press tent looking forward to using a bit of this technology to file their stories over a quiet drink. But behold, not one PC could be found, and the three phone lines on offer did little to satisfy the assembled hack hordes. Miffed and thirsty, some filed out to find solace in pricey cybercafes, while others decided to plump for the free buffet chicken wings. All seemed less than impressed with Sun's example of the "Net Effect". ® Related Stories Sun debuts UltraSPARC III and embraces copper HP wants to spank you with its Superdome
Linda Harrison, 27 Sep 2000

FBI consultant pleads guilty to hacking

Max Butler aka 'Max Vision' on Monday pleaded guilty to one felony count of unauthorized access to protected computers and recklessly causing damage. The former FBI consultant on computer crime had been indicted by a federal grand jury in March and charged with fifteen counts of breaking into scores of US government computers as well as possessing the passwords of 477 customers of California ISP Aimnet. Ironically, Butler had created and maintained arachNIDS, a catalogue of attack signatures at the WhiteHats Web site, designed to help sysadmins defend against intrusions. The FBI, the US Air Force, the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the US Navy began investigating Butler after Air Force systems came under heavy attack in May of 1998. He was later accused of breaking into systems of the Argonne National Laboratory and the Brookhaven National Laboratory; NASA's Marshall Flight Centre; the office of the Secretary of Transportation; the office of the Secretary of Defence; unspecified facilities of the Department of Defence; and game maker ID Software. Butler is currently free on bail and scheduled for sentencing on 22 January. He faces a maximum of five years in prison and $250,000 in fines. The remaining fourteen counts pending against him will be dropped at sentencing. ®
Thomas C Greene, 27 Sep 2000