3rd > November > 2000 Archive

Six charged in $3m New York school computer bid-rigging scam

An ex-New York schools superintendent was among six people charged with nicking $3 million through a computer bid-rigging scam yesterday. Celestine Miller and her husband, William Harris, were allegedly paid $1 million for their part in the scheme, which siphoned off cash meant for school computers. The bribe came from Thomas Kontogiannis, a millionaire developer, authorities said. It included several European trips, two houses, at least $10,000 in payments for American Express bills, $80,000 in contributions to "Friends of Celestine Miller" - for her failed 1998 Republican congressional campaign, and $50,000 in cash - which was handed over in a brown paper bag, today's New York Post reports. In all, $6 million was steered in rigged contracts over three years to Kontogiannis and his mates via a series of phoney bids. Just $3 million went towards computers and services in the 19 designated schools in Queens, New York -leaving kids with old and virtually worthless kit, authorities said. The gang were rumbled when a low bidder became suspicious after failing to win a contract and complained to the authorities. All six, including Kontogiannis' lawyer Raymond Shain, and Kinson Tso - the owner of the Long Island computer company that "won" the bids, were charged with bribery and related crimes. "Brazen does not describe Celestine Miller," said Edward Stancik, the Special Schools Investigator whose office conducted the probe. Miller's lawyer, Ron Russon, countered: "She's a distinguished educator, not a felon." The District Attorney's office is suing the six for $6.3 million. In related news, ZapMe Corp has been forced to withdraw it offer of free computers to US schools. It planned to send ads to student's PCs in return for the service, but reportedly got bad publicity for trying to commercialise the classroom. ® Related Stories Microsoft: "UK schools sitting on a time-bomb Schools inspector slams mobiles and the Net
Linda Harrison, 03 Nov 2000

Ellison not dead and not leaving Oracle

Oracle today rubbished rumours that its flamboyant founder Larry Ellison was flying the coop. The speculation that CEO Ellison and CFO Jeff Henley were leaving apparently started hours before the software giant's doors opened for business at its California HQ this morning. It helped drag Oracle's share price down almost six dollars from its opening price to just over $26. The company was swift to deny the gossip being whispered to traders, which apparently also included the rumour that Ellison had died, Reuters reports. "Both are staying and couldn't be more energetically engaged in the business. Rumours are categorically, absolutely untrue," said Oracle Spokesman Kevin McGuirk. Oracle's stock rose to around $29 on the news. On Monday Channel 4 showed a report of the choppy 1998 Sydney to Hobart yacht race, in which Ellison cheated death. ® Related Stories Ellison: The ego has landed Who's the most powerful IT exec in the world? Ellison laughing all the way to the bank Ellison looks back on the horrors of the Sydney/Hobart yacht race
Linda Harrison, 03 Nov 2000

For Sale: LineOne

There's speculation today that British ISP, LineOne, could be up for sale. Bloomberg claims that United News & Media Plc and BT are to start showing a bit of leg next week to woo some interest in the ISP. One of the reasons, it seems, is that not only does LineOne apparently leak money, it's also deemed to be "too small" to compete effectively in an increasingly competitive market. Although with 1.3 million registered users, how big does it have to be to compete? Current estimates value the ISP at £340 million - half what it was estimated to be worth a year ago. Bloombergreckons T-Online, Tiscali and Terra Lycos could be potential suitors for the business. However, it seems not everyone is interested. Matt Peacock, a spokesman for AOL UK, would not be drawn on any potential bid except to say that he thought it was "not an enticing business for us". A spokesman for BT declined to comment on market rumour or speculation. No one from LineOne was available for comment by press time. ® Related Stories LineOne forgets to turn off unmetered service ISPA slaps LineOne
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 2000

CIX bought by Norwegian outfit

The great grandpappy of British ISPs, CIX, has been bought by Norsk Data - a subsidiary of Norwegian telecoms and IT outfit, Telenor AS Details of the deal were not disclosed. According to a statement: "The acquisition of CIX strengthens Norsk Data's portfolio of services in the UK." No one from CIX - which stands for Compulink Information Exchange - was available for comment by press time. No doubt they were busy throwing another log on the fire while flicking through a Saga holiday brochure and sipping a hot milky drink. In May CIX denied that customers had forced its MD, Doug Birtley, to leave the company after the ISP incensed users by introducing new punitive terms and conditions. And in August, it abandoned its toll-free Net access service a month after it was introduced despite boasting that "unlike newcomers to the Internet market, CIX cannot afford to provide a sub-standard service". ® Related Stories CIX kicks its own butt CIX denies customers forced MD departure
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 2000

Net dad Vint Cerf slams RIP

Vinton Cerf, one of the founding fathers of the Internet, has attacked the RIP bill as a dangerous new piece of legislation. Speaking at the Compsec conference in London yesterday he commented: "Oh my god. A lot of us in the US are very worried about the RIP Bill, it has raised some of the same concerns as Carnivore." He said that he acknowledged that it was a matter of balancing an individual's right to privacy with the need to protect society as a whole, but was worried about the circumstances in which it comes into force. As the online population grows the issues of personal privacy and corporate security will become more and more important, he said. Indeed an example is the subject of a public key as a global ID - and the potential for abuse inherent in it. If we are uniquely associated with a number then anyone can use that to find out everything about us including things we might rather they not know. He says that while he "cannot stress enough the importance of a workable public key infrastructure," anyone who believes encryption will solve all the difficult issues in the online world is "clearly insane." Cerf says that the solution to this is to treat it rather like we do credit cards. Use multiple public keys, each one can be uniquely associated with your relationship with a company, rather than with you personally. While stressing that as more business is done online the security and reliability of the net will become synonymous with the security of the economy, with "very serious implications" for a network failure, Cerf is keen to point out some positive trends too. Since 1988 the Internet has been growing at between 90 and 100 per cent every year, and for the first time every country in Africa has some - albeit limited - access to the Internet. By 2009 half the world population is expected to be surfing the web in some form. Things can only get better? We'll see. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Nov 2000

Send digital snaps to mobile devices

Ericsson and Canon have snuggled up to work together on a way of transferring images from digital cameras to mobile devices. The agreement centres on the development of imaging applications for the current GSM standard, GRPS and the forthcoming 3G. The companies said they would release consumer devices, separately, next year. Ericsson said that the technology would allow simple fast and reliable transfer of images to wireless devices and other Internet users. The consumer would, it said, be able to easily send images along with text or voice messages. Bearing in mind the human condition, the potential for embarrassment if the sender accidentally taps in the wrong number is, it must be said, huge. Just think about that one for a minute. ® Related Stories Man fined for rude SMS SMS ovulation comp provokes flood of filth Text me, sex me, anyway you want me
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Nov 2000

NTL cuts 1,300 staff in restructure

Top UK cable company NTL has announced it will sack 1,300 staff (of 22,000) in a restructure of the company. The news comes a week before the company's quarterly results and is due to a series of acquisitions it has made in the last year and a half. The cuts are perfectly logical since there has been some overlapping with the acquired companies - the largest of which was Cable & Wireless' consumer arms. And this means it's middle management that will get it in the neck. NTL president Barclay Knapp said it was the right time for a review of the company's structure and processes and has spotted heavy cost savings in cutting through management levels. "Delayering" was the term used. The jobs will be cut over the next year. ®
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Nov 2000

Priceline.com CFO quits and staff face axe

Flawed and loss-making auction site Priceline.com is looking even more precarious with the announcement that its chief finance officer Heidi Miller has packed her bags and 16 per cent of the staff are to be fired. The news came complete with some poor Q3 results. Miller had been in the job less than a year and had come from Citigroup where she was one of the top female execs. Her move to Priceline was sold as the Internet revolution taking shape. Another high-profile figure for the company, William Shatner - who did the site's ads - was also exposed as having never used Priceline. Sales of airline tickets through Priceline have been far lower than expected. At least that's what it blamed a $2 million loss on (from a $341 million revenue). This is an improvement from the $12 million it lost in the same quarter last year, but even so, the company's continued loss has led to cost-cutting. That means a P45 for 87 of its employees. Other bad news? A TV show based an entire programme on Priceline's high incidence of customer complaints. One of its affiliates went under last month, raising large questions about the business model used. There's more. Lawsuits have been filed against three Priceline directors, accusing them of profiting by selling company shares before its dreadful results were announced last quarter. We're talking $247 million apparently. What else? Share price peaked at $104.25 in March. It's now at $6.85. Oh dear, oh dear. However while we were checking out this story news ed supremo Rob Blink Blincoe remembered that Priceline was supposed to be launching in Europe very soon. We hadn't heard anything about it. No wonder. We called up the company and were informed that it was launched this Monday but very very quietly. "Discreet" was the word used. Now, we could be nasty and say this is a reflection of the company's terrible state, but then Priceline's spokesman presented a good case: "It's a discreet launch and only has the airline product to start with. The reason why we did it was because of the high-profile failures of for example online banks like Egg. There'll be a gentle ramp-up of products and then a big £10 million marketing campaign in January for when everyone is so depressed after Christmas that we want to get on a plane and have a holiday." The european site can be found at www.priceline.co.uk. ® Related Stories Priceline buries two cash cows Wall Street savages Priceline.com
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Nov 2000

400 Freecall users out on their ear

British ISP, 24-7 Freecall, has kicked off 400 subscribers it claims were abusing its unmetered ISP. It claims some users stayed connected to the flat-fee unmetered service for 23 hours a day. In a statement issued late yesterday afternoon the ISP said those fingered by the company had used the service commercially - something that Freecall maintains is in breach of its terms and conditions. In a statement, the company said: "24-7Freecall has terminated 400 subscriber accounts that were being used in contravention of the Company's Terms & Conditions. "These accounts were abusing the service or being used by businesses, both of which are expressly prohibited, and constitutes a very small percentage of our total user-base. Some of these subscribers are online continuously for over 700 hours a month! "24-7Freecall is a dial-up service and is not designed for direct connection, always on use or for heavy business users. We are introducing ADSL for that. "We will keep monitoring to ensure that the service for the vast majority of our subscribers is maintained at a very high level." Yesterday, The Reg reported how Freecall, sent termination notices to a number of subscribers giving them just 24 hours to quit. ® Related Story 24-7 Freecall does a Freeswerve
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 2000

(inaudible) unveils new chiefs for IPO

Former Microsoft UK product chief Mark Edwards has joined Symbian, the company announced today, to fill the top sales and marketing position. (inaudible) has also appointed a new CFO Thomas Chambers to "prepare for a public flotation - a natural next stage in Symbian's development, and key to our continued success," according to CEO Colly Myers in a statement today. Chambers was formerly CFO at First Telecom. Edwards, who joins via (inaudible)'s largest shareholder Psion, previously worked at HP and oversaw UK Windows launches in the UK for Microsoft. It's mildly ironic, since Microsoft has ramped up its efforts to destabilise the venture in recent weeks. The super soaraway Grauniad reported that (inaudible) "has been hit by revelations that two partners, Ericsson and Motorola, have been talking to other computer companies." As Ericsson is a major investor in the Quartz class devices, and the success of its high-right phone strategy pretty much depends on the platform, it's hard to see it throwing its (inaudible) investment away just yet. As the Americans say, go figure. Given Microsoft's handicaps - both in terms of technology lag it's 18 months behind - and its lack of firm top tier partners, its gameplan is at best to play for a draw, and create uncertainty around the market for the forthcoming advanced integrated phones. At Monday's (inaudible) Developer Conference in London, CEO Orange Hans Snook will share the stage with (inaudible) CEO Colly Myers, and the first integrated Crystal phones (the ones with the keyboard) will make their debut. ® Related Stories Microsoft declares war on '(inaudible)' Sh... Symbian Psion's Series 9, Odin found in Norwegian wood Gates rails at 'proprietary Symbian', looks for the insanity defence Symbian's Myers on Microsoft, antitrust and those memos MS poaches Symbian exec for wireless ops Inside Quartz: Symbian's new Palm-killer platform
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2000

McAfee frozen PC lowdown

Yesterday we heard that a McAfee automated virus update had caused PCs to freeze up - something that wasn't appreciated by sys admin and those wishing to, say, use their computer. Details were sketchy but you readers have come up trumps and emailed us all the relevant info. A McAfee employee also helped explain how to fix the problem. Basically, an update file to inform the virus scanner of new variants caused an outdated version of the scanning software (its "engine") to continuously scan files on your computer (looks like a file override problem). Since virus scanning is a priority task, this activity managed to consume 99 per cent of processor power, leaving the computer completely frozen for any other tasks you may want to do. Apparently you can still do some work on the machine but it will be very, very slow. The old engine, version 4.0.02, is a year-and-a-half old and should really have been updated to the new 4.0.70 version, which apparently works fine with the latest update. Now, some have said that people are daft to not have updated the engine and this is true enough but of course nothing is as simple as it seems. One sys admin informed us that he'd been trying to upgrade his companies virus engines for months but neither he nor McAfee could find a way to do it. We don't know the full reasons why this might be so, but it does demonstrate that there may be many users who legitimately have the old engine and presumably aren't terribly happy at the moment. So what's the solution? Well, you're gonna have to stop the scanning software. Then you can either delete it and reinstall it, preferably with the new and latest versions or download McAfee's superdat fix file (sdat4103.exe - the offending dat file that has caused all the problems is 4102.dat) and install it. This is a bit of a pain in the arse and we'd advise only those happy with mucking about with a PC's inner workings to do it. If you're a layman, the IT support boys will probably be around sometime today. If you're running Win 9x, you could sort it out yourself, but with NT, it'll most likely need administrator access to get at the relevant files. Below therefore are a range of suggestions. We'll put McAfee's first: ® If this document does not answer your questions, you may contact the following website: www.mcafeehelp.com. This site specializes in support for our retail products. However, many of the issues also apply to our corporate products. You will be able to search for a solution or information regarding your program. If you do not find what you are searching for, you will be given other support options such as Email Express, Forums, and Phone support. You may also obtain online technical support at by visiting http://support.nai.com. 4102 Dat resource Issue Symptoms Win 95/98 & Win NT All system resources are being used up showing approximately at 99%. Some have difficulties in getting into alternate modes to fix the issue. This occurs only after installing the 4102 dats. Solution For WIN 9x & Win Me Restart the Computer in MS-DOS Mode 1. Shut the computer down so the power is off. 2. Wait 20 seconds or so. 3. Turn the computer on and immediately begin pressing the F8 key on the keyboard once every second repeatedly. Do this until the Windows Startup Menu appears. If you get a keyboard error, press F1 to resume and then continue pressing the F8 key once every second. 4. Select "Safe Mode Command Prompt Only" (usually option #6) from the Windows Startup Menu, then press the Enter key on the keyboard. 5. Windows will then boot into MS-DOS Mode. You will be left with a screen with a black background. The last line will have a DOS prompt that looks like C:\> (followed by a blinking cursor). Rename the Conflicting File 1. Type the following command into the keyboard, pressing Enter after each line. AT the C: type DIR names.dat /s ( enter ) It will tell you what directory the file is in. Then navigate to that directory. REN NAMES.DAT NAMES.OLD Then apply the super dat Then rename names.old to names.dat If you use Windows NT Here is a way to get into NT to make the following changes below: (Renaming the conflicting files) Hit Control-Alt-Delete and click on Task Manager Click on File and New Task (Run) Type "Net Stop Mcshield" and hit Enter (NOTE: IT might be necessary to type net stop Mcshield.exe) For NTFS you will have to use a third Party DOS utility we suggest the link below. http://downloads.mediadna.zdnet.com/info/com.zdnet_downloads_0016ZF_0016ZF.html?se=ink Rename the Conflicting File 1. Type the following command into the keyboard, pressing Enter after each line. At the C: type DIR names.dat /s ( enter ) It will tell you what directory the file is in. Then navigate to that directory. REN NAMES.DAT NAMES.OLD At the C: type DIR mcshield.exe /s ( enter ) It will tell you what directory the file is in. Then navigate to that directory. REN MCSHIELD.exe MCSHIELD.OLD Then apply the super dat Then rename names.old to names.dat Then rename mcshield.old to mcshield.exe At this point the Issue should be resolved. When the machine is running like treacle it is faster and more reliable to use the Windows key to get the start menu, rather than the mouse. You can also choose Programs | Command Prompt as an alternative to Run "cmd". As a technicality, you do not "get to Dos" - NT does not run on Dos in the manner of Win9x. You get to the NT command prompt. To the novice user, it looks the same and functions the same, however. If the command net stop "Dr Solomon's McShield" (the /y is not actually needed) does not work, try net stop "Network Associates McShield" On my system, this is the name of the service. You can also type net start to see a list of the currently running services. You most certainly do *not* want to restart the system at this point - the scanner is stopped, and restarting will only cause it to start up again! At this point, you can now use you machine normally, albeit without the virus scanner. You can download the latest sdat4103.exe and install it. I can't seem to get the file at the moment - maybe their server is overloaded with downloads for some reason. I ran the "superdat" update to update the scan engine it did fix the problem. The only stumbling block in this solution is that we have a WAN with over 5000 computers connected to it. Each with an old scan engine. They have made an updated DAT file that should work with our version of the scan engine. Right as I was leaving I downloaded the new DAT file and ran my Perl script to update all the BDC's in our domain. In theory tomorrow when people log in they should automatically get the new definition and our problems will be over. In the mean time we still have an old scan engine that most likely will not get updated untill McAfee can figure out their own software. The easiest way to get your 95 or 98 computer running is boot in DOS, go to the McAfee directory, then rename vshwin.exe to something else. You'll have to reinstall VirusScan (if you dare) but at least you can get your computer running. There are some registry keys that load McAfee Antivirus in normal mode in Windows 9x. To view these keys, run the program c:\windows\regedit.exe. This can be done in safe mode. The keys are: My Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run And My Computer\HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\RunServices The values under each section are applications that are run when windows starts. The ones related to McAfee are Vshwin32EXE, VsStatEXE, and possibly one that contains "WebScanX" under the Run Key. Under RunServices, the values are Vshwin32EXE and possibly the "WebScanX". These keys can be saved by selecting the key (Run or RunServices) and choosing the Export Registry File option from the Registry menu. Then, the offending keys or values can be modified. After rebooting and running the updated .dat file, The keys may be restored to normal by opening the registry key files that were previously exported. Rebooting one more time should put the system back to normal. Additionally, I have found it VERY useful to modify these two registry keys to eliminate unnecessary programs loading at startup. It's amazing what kind of performance increase you can get out of your system by doing this (as well as finding out how many programs INVADE your computer by installing something that loads in startup). There are other ways that things are loaded when starting Windows, but this is the most common and most commonly overlooked. Related Story McAfee virus update freezes PCs
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Nov 2000

Chipsetzilla wins back market share

Intel veep Paul Otellini told analysts this week that the chip behemoth "has recaptured its chipset market share" and in particular has boosted production of the 815 range. Otellini said when the 815 was introduced early this year, it was 'production limited' because Intel's fab capacity was devoted primarily to processor output. "In Q3 we were able to get enough capacity to build a much higher volume of 815 chipsets," he said. "We have gained back the chipset market share we previously held." And Otellini, executive vice president and general manager of the Intel Architecture Group, confirmed that Intel will adopt double-data-rate SDRAM for the company's upcoming Pentium 4 when DDR memory 'becomes mainstream in the market.' "We will take advantage of DDR, after introducing a single-data-rate SDRAM chipset for Pentium 4 next year," he added. Otellini maintained the current party line that Rambus is still Intel's preference for the high-performance PC market segment, but added: "in the drive into multiple market price points, we find the need to have multiple memory solutions." P4 will still launch as a Rambus-only platform on the 20th of this month, Otellini saying: "there is sufficient inventory, production capacity, and supplier commitment that the memory ramp will match our processor ramp. Direct Rambus won't be a ramp limiter." He would not be drawn on contractual issues related to its agreement with Rambus that currently forbid Intel from shipping a DDR-enabled chipset until 2003. ® Related stories Intel 'to dump Rambus completely' Rambus to play bit part in Intel's 2001 plans
Andrew Thomas, 03 Nov 2000

Mitchell: I was the ‘fall guy’

Andy Mitchell claims he took the rap for AltaVista UK's failed bid to offer unmetered Net access. Speaking to the BBC Mitchell said he was just the "fall guy" for the failed operation and that he wanted to "wash his hands" of the whole affair. By inference, he fingered his former employees as being behind Britain's biggest Internet scandal. Said Mitchell: "Somehow the company had to remove itself from this product, and I had been the spokesperson so far, and so I found myself in the middle of some very unusual corporate politics." He said he joined AltaVista in February this year and made the announcement about offering unmetered Net access a month later. He said it was impossible for anyone to put together such a massive deal in such a small time. "The truth is that the idea of the service was conceived long before I joined the company, so as I said, I was probably less of a managing director and probably more of a spokesperson," he said. He said his biggest regret was that he never "grabbed or retained control, and found myself in a very public and very awkward situation." Mitchell's comments are believed to be the first time he has publicly gone on the record to explain what happened. Until now, he has taken responsibility for the bungled episode. Today's interview help shed some new light on the affair, and while his honesty is to be welcomed since it helps balance the account of the events surrounding the farce, many questions still go unanswered. Unfortunately, the man who could answer them is no longer in charge. Last month Rod Schrock, AltaVista CEO, resigned to "spend more time with his family" - a comic euphemism in the UK for getting the sack. At the time, Sam Sethi, European Marketing Director of CMGI, (parent of AltaVista) told Reg that Schrock's departure had absolutely nothing to do with the botched operation in the UK. No one from AltaVista would comment on Mitchell's allegations. Instead a spokeswoman said AltaVista "didn't want to get into a slanging match" with Mitchell. "AltaVista said all it wanted to say at the time," she said, before wishing Mitchell well in his new job. ® Related Stories AltaVista scam man gets new job Alta Vista MD speaks to the Reg
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 2000

Net blasts off for outer space

The first satellite to form part of a solar system wide communications network will launch this month, according to Vinton Cerf, the creator of the TCP/IP protocol. Speaking at the Compsec conference, he outlined his work as a visiting scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory research facility in Pasadena. One of the problems facing space research is that each mission has to be designed from scratch - including the communications protocols used - so very little recycling is possible either of equipment or ideas. Back in 1998 Cerf announced the plan at the INET conference, attended by our own Andrew Orlowski. "When you're talking about Pluto, TCP doesn't look too attractive anymore," Cerf acknowledged at INET. At Compsec he reiterated this. "The round trip to Mars for a signal is between ten and 40 minutes, so it was obvious we needed something else." He proposed a system of relay stations, or "Interplanetary Gateways" to deal with the delay. He said: "We'll need some relays which terminate the IP and send it by some other means: these transmissions will be kind of unique: very high in error rate, and very low in signal to noise ratio." With the November launch of the first prototype, it looks like the network is beginning to become a reality. Cerf says that the 2001 Moonlander mission will have communications based on the standard, and predicts that by 2004 there will be six satellites in orbit round Mars. "This means that by the end of the decade we will have a two planet network." ® Related Stories Net dad Vint Cerf slams RIP
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Nov 2000

Microsoft Hack: Warned of weakness three months earlier

Microsoft knew about the weakness in its security three months before it was hacked, but failed to do anything about it, according to a speaker at the Compsec conference in London. James Adams, CEO of iDefense, a computer security company, has said he warned the software giant about the vulnerability three months ago. "They could have closed the door," he said. He was giving a keynote speech on the changing nature of war. He said that there had been a proliferation, matching the speed of the digital revolution, of conflict in the virtual space. He cited the LoveBug virus and the Microsoft hack as two prime examples of this conflict. The Microsoft hack was accomplished by breaking through the firewall via a remote worker's machine and using this as a platform from which to launch the attacks, he said. Microsoft claims that no source code was compromised, but the debate rages on. At the time of writing no one from Microsoft was able to confirm or deny the allegations. ® Related Stories MIcrosoft's choice: Law or Order Register story inspire FBI raid on student How you hack into Microsoft: A step by step guide Redmond strives to cram great MS hack back in box MS hacked! Russian mafia swipes WinME source?
Lucy Sherriff, 03 Nov 2000

BT may be investigated for 3G auction-rigging

The Dutch competition authority NMa is pondering whether to investigate BT over possible rigging of the Netherlands 3G mobile licence auction. BT was present in the form of subsidiary Telfort and held talks with another bidder, Versatel, on the first day of the process - something that was against the rules. Telfort eventually won one of the five licences for £255 million when Versatel pulled out. Starting with eight bidders, Versatel was the last to leave and the day before had bid £232 million for licence D - the same one that Telfort eventually won. On top of this, BT is also under review by Italian authorities for its 3G auction. That auction ended when the Blu consortium, which included BT, pulled out suddenly. It had started with eight bidders for five licences also. While BT isn't exactly the most honourable company, and, let's remember, we're talking about millions and millions of pounds, you have to take these investigations with a big pinch of salt. Both the Netherlands and Italy stood out among the countries auctioning 3G licences because they expected far more in revenue than they received. The Netherlands government (and remember the revenue from the auction is all big pile of free money to the government) said before its auction it expected an average of £475 million for each licence i.e. £2.4 billion in total. In the end it got just £1.73 billion. Italy's failure to achieve what it expected is even more stark. It reckoned it would get £20.8 billion. It got just £7.1 billion. It must also make their blood boil when they look at the UK and German chancellors, who pocketed £22 billion and £32 billion respectively. Now, is it any wonder that the Dutch and Italian governments have launched enquiries into the process when extra billions of pounds have just failed to materialise? (Answer: No). ®
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Nov 2000

Car companies offer AOL for $3 staff perk

General Motors and DaimlerChrysler are to offer cut-price AOL Internet access as a perk to staff. In all, 300 US employees will get to log onto the Net for $3 per month - AOL normally charges $21.95 for the privilege. They will also be offered AOL's interactive TV for $5 a month, and an interactive TV-Satellite TV combo for $31.95. The AOLTV and Hughes Electronics DirecTV offer will be one of the first to come out of the ISP's $1.5 billion investment in Hughes. Around 200 GM and 100 Daimler staff will be eligible in the US when the scheme kicks off early next year, with the companies considering expanding the programme worldwide if it is successful. "It is imperative that all our employees have access to the Internet," said Jim Holden, DaimlerChrysler president and CEO. "The concept of having a Web-savvy workforce is at the heart of our business-to-employee strategy." In February Ford announced it would give each of its 350,000 workers worldwide the chance to lease a PC - an HP Pavilion - with Net access from UUNet for $5 a month. ® Related Stories Ford workers drive home with a cheap PC Saudi Prince doubles AOL stake to $2bn AOL-MSN hype war starts
Linda Harrison, 03 Nov 2000

Kids give up fags for mobiles

Teenagers are giving up cigarettes in preference to fashionable mobile phones according to an anti-smoking organisation and the tabloids - who know a good story when they see one. The scurrilous claim is based on a survey that showed smoking levels were falling among teenagers. The survey was published in the British Medical Journal and a joint letter by Clive Bates, director of Action on Smoking and Health and Professor Anne Charlton of the University of Manchester appeared in the letters section. It was in this letter that the two said kids were stubbing out their fags in preference to mobiles. It's just this kind misinformation that brings the country down. Kids love cigarettes. They would never swap them for a fancy walkie-talkie and it's disgraceful to suggest they would. According to the mad pair, "the mobile phone is an effective competitor to cigarettes in the market for products that offer teenagers adult style, individuality, sociability, rebellion, peer group bonding and adult aspiration." We say: nonsense. It's just this kind of left-wing touchy-feely rubbish that has turned kids into whinging, spoilt brats. What's rebellious about mobiles? And anyone that starts talking about peer groups has read one too many sociology text books. We were told at school that we smoked because of peer group pressure. No we didn't - we smoked because we loved it and everyone else hated us loving it. Can you honestly tell us that mobiles induce the same kind of hatred from respectable members of society? Plus the whole idea that kids will swap one for the other is just plain daft. It's a piece of piss to smoke while you're on the phone. It's only when you're driving a car at the same time that it gets difficult. Keep puffing kids! ®
Kieren McCarthy, 03 Nov 2000

UK Web site to lift lid on ‘police corruption’

A Web site allegedly operated by "serving and retired Surrey Police officers" is set to blow the whistle on police corruption. The site is due to go live on Sunday and claims to be written and produced by serving officers who have themselves been the "victims of police corruption". It claims it will details the "conduct of certain senior police officers". Those behind the site claim they are merely "expressing [their] rights under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998". Article 10 relates to freedom of speech. Those running surreypolice.com have already received a letter from the Surrey Police Force, based in Guildford, threatening "injunctive relief". This, though, is for cybersquatting. Although the name of the sender has been blanked out, the letter says: "It is my view that if your use of the [surreypolice.com] domain name amounts to passing off. Due to the content of the site, it is clear there can be no reason for the use of this domain name other than to damage the goodwill of this organisation." However, the deadline for those running the site to "cease using the above domain name" passed last Friday. The site is still up and running although at the time of writing there were no allegations of police corruption posted on the site. A holding page on the site reads: "This is NOT an 'official' UK police web site. "The domain is funded, written and managed by serving and retired Surrey Police officers who have themselves been victims of police corruption and who want to see changes made. "Many of us have tried in vain to encourage people in positions of authority to address the serious concerns we have raised about the conduct of certain senior police officers. "The overall majority of our colleagues on uniform police patrol share our fervency and zeal to remain loyal to the principle for which we became police officers; honesty, truth & justice. "We will undoubtedly be brandished by senior police officers and Government Ministers as disgruntled and disloyal individuals. This is not the case." A spokeswoman for Surrey Police confirmed that the letter on the site was genuine but refused to comment further. It's understood officials have been in meetings all afternoon discussing the matter. Surrey Police failed to comment on the site despite numerous attempts by The Register to contact the force. ®
Tim Richardson, 03 Nov 2000

Intel wants to have DDR cake and eat it

VIA could go ahead with its own DDR chipset for Pentium 4, with or without Intel's agreement. The world's number one and two chipset makers are known to be discussing an agreement whereby VIA could provide DDR support for the P4 in the light of Intel's current agreement with Rambus which prevents the company from supporting DDR memory on its own chipsets until 2003. At the same time Intel is also talking to Rambus in a bid to get the three year ban lifted. Intel needs to introduce DDR support for the P4 very early in 2001 if it is not to be seen to be lagging behind AMD in price performance. The Rambus memory which will be the only option with early P4 systems is still considerably more expensive that the DDR SDRAM which, in most cases, offers comparable performance. The chip giant would ideally like to have its own DDR chipset offerings for P4, but if the talks with Rambus end in stalemate, it will need to fall back on VIA's ability to introduce just such a chipset. However, Intel doesn't want to sign away its intellectual property to VIA only to find its own hands suddenly untied. In the meantime, VIA's patience is wearing thin, and this week Taiwan's Commercial Times quoted Timothy Chen, a Via spokesman based in California, as saying: "It is our plan to make a DDR chipset for the Pentium 4. I can't comment about the timeframe. "Intel will have a big hole in their roadmap for the next six months," added Chen. "Next year will be the most trying time for Intel." Back in July, Eric Chang, VIA's director of product marketing, said that although VIA didn't currently have a licence for future IA32 architecture, he was confident that it soon would. "We've got 40 per cent [chipset] market share now and will have at least 50 per cent by the end of the year," he claimed. "With that market share, Intel needs us onside." ® Related stories VIA 'to be number one chipset vendor by year end' Rambus is wonderful, says VIA
Andrew Thomas, 03 Nov 2000

Single South African surfers search for sex

Single South African surfers are a good catch - young, into sex, and rolling in cash, a survey claims. Around 53 per cent use the Net more than once a day, while a quarter of respondents to the MSN survey said they log on daily. Meanwhile, 18 per cent of South Africans have indulged in an online romance, and the most searched for item on the Web is, surprise, surprise: sex. The average surfer is 18 to 35-years-old, with a monthly salary of R10,000 (£914.50) and disposable income as high as R5,000. Just over a third of respondents have shopped online - topping the US (27 per cent) and the ten per cent global average, ITWeb reports. More than 12,500 netizens answered questions for the survey in July and August, no doubt keen to get their mitts on the new VW Beetle prize offered by MSN. "We believe this means it represents the South African Internet user as a whole," said MSN marketing specialist Joanne Scholtz. ® Related Stories Hi-tech South Africa is 'too white' Bomb explodes at Microsoft SA South African man shoots PC
Linda Harrison, 03 Nov 2000

Readers' Letters Storm in a TEMPEST?

Can't pay - won't pay To quote from your page on Only UK viewers have to pay:- "instead they work by detecting the TV tuner's local oscillator which always leaks a small amount of radiation back up the aerial." I have to question this because there's a couple of flaws here. Firstly 99% of tv's sold now conform to CE approval, hence limiting there RF emissions. And secondly, what happens if your using a cable tv / satellite tuner / etc?? The local oscillator is going to not be passed up the coax to the antenna because of a cascade of RF amplifiers in those devices. I suppose the tv licensing 'authority' will try to kid us that the signal goes through the satellite tuner and out of the dish to the satellite where they can use XY or Z to pinpoint the BBC service thief?! 'The' TV detector van should be renamed "psychological prompting vehicle" because that's the only purpose it serves, ie, The one and only psychological prompting vehicle is seen in the area and people spread the word, and lo and behold, a panic purchase of TV - Taxdiscs! Anyway that's my 99p's worth, and before you ask, No I dont have a tv license, I pay enough taxes as is. Jump up and down This chap works for a Tempest manufacturer - we'd better keep his name out of here - and he writes... TEMPEST has no meaning. But people like to speculate. You can simulate this yourself, by placing an AM radio next to you computer; then, tune the radio up and down the dial until you hear your computer on it. That's what they intercept and reconstruct. On the other hand "TEMPEST stands for "Telecommunications Electronics Material Protected From Emanating Spurious Transmissions". Catchy, no?" No, it doesn't stand for anything. It is a codeword whose meaning is defined as the unwanted dissemination of information by electromagnetic means. TEMPEST was defined initially by CESG which is a branch of GCHQ. It's original meaning was classified but is now public domain. TEMPEST assessments are carried out on equipment, rooms, buildings etc. both in Government and in private sector. TEMPEST is *not* some sort of great mystery or magical technique. It is a widely studied area which is now much more controlled by regulations such as Radio frequency Interference laws common to the European Community etc. The TVLA (technical dept.) are not interested in TEMPEST technology as it is exactly the opposite of what they are trying to achieve. They CAN tell what channel and programme you are watching using "their low tech equipment". I'm sure I used that last piece of tin foil on the turkey... You might be interested to note that it is possible to intercept VDU emmanations at 1km for monochrome (Black & White) and more for RGB. Both figures are likely to be greater using sophisticated technical means. If you are worried that I am reading your VDU, you might consider 'papering' your walls, floor, ceiling, doors and windows with aluminium baking foil. This will greatly reduce the risk but not enough to be secure. Remember also, power cables and phone lines etc. leaving your 'baking' room. Regards. Gatekeeper "What, us?" EM emissions from electronic devices have long been a source of worry for organisations carrying or transmitting sensitive information. I imagine that even the IBM golfball typewriter's keystrokes could be monitored by "listening" devices. Typically, most counter-measures have concentrated in the government/military arena, where the research bases at GCHQ Cheltenham and RSRE Malvern and in the USA, the National Security Agency, have long developed and maintained NATO MilSpec standards for manufacturers to comply with. When working for several major IT vendors in the 1980s, during a demonstration of intercept techniques, I was informed that it was possible to pick up a screen/PC signature as much as a mile away from source! Various well known systems houses were contracted by Govt to provide quality assurance services and compliance certificates for manufacturers' wishing to sell computer equipments to the (secret) state. This is all public domain stuff, if you read the relevant magazines. It's conceivable that such counter-measures are now included in manufacturers' production runs as standard nowadays; otherwise, I imagine electronic intercept of, say, Bank of England information is perfectly possible if they don't use other means of protecting their electronic environments (safe cages for operators for example). As for television intercept by the TVLA, the TVLA must be being disingenuous when it says it doesn't know about TEMPEST tested equipment precisely because it's using low-level intercept equipment (to detect unpaid TV licensees using their sets) that TEMPEST is supposed to defeat! ®
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2000

Sun's Oz super computer goes horribly pear shaped

A terse note at the site of APAC, the outfit running Australia's bid "to be recognised as an 'advanced computing' country," reveals something deeply embarrasing for one of the industry's most prominent pushers of gigafloppery. It says: "The initial configuration of the APAC peak computing system failed acceptance tests in September 2000, so the process of acquiring a system has been restarted. It's hoped there will be a system available by the second quarter of 2001." So who blew it? Well, in a release in August Sun Microsystems (for it is they) revealed that it had "joined forces with the Australian Partnership for Advanced Computing (APAC) to install a powerful computing system for Australian researchers and industry professionals. The system will be installed in the APAC National Facility at the Australian National University, which is the host institution for APAC." Oops. The cringeworthy paragraphs roll onward: "The three-year agreement will see an initial commissioning of a 200 Gigaflop system in September 2000, [our heartless emphasis throughout] comprising a cluster of four E10000 compute nodes, and will progressively upgrade this to over one Teraflop by mid-2002. This means a five- to ten-fold increase in the capacity of the largest computer systems available for research and education in Australia." Or not. "We look forward to delivering our support to Australia's high-performance computing, research and development sector through this project," said Sun spokesman Russ Bate, who presumably is still looking forward to delivering it. APAC is intended to give Australian scientists access to advanced computing power from their desktops, rather than them having to go overseas for heavy-duty crunching. So the glitch whereby the Sun gear seems not to have worked to spec is a serious issue for Australia, plus it was intended to be a pretty powerful system. APAC has been looking for such a system since August of last year, when its executive director said it was looking at the likes of IBM, Sun, NEC and HP. But a little bird (and where the hell do you think we got this stuff?) tells us that Sun might have got the APAC gig in the first place by letting it be known that it had won the ASCI Q (Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative) contract to provide a supercomputer for the US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to use to simulate underground nuclear testing, among other things. Regrettably (if the little bird tells true), Compaq won that one in August with a $200 million 12,000 Alpha processor 30 teraflop nightmare. And following Sun's disgrace, Q is now said to be gunning for the reopened APAC contract. ®
John Lettice, 03 Nov 2000

Flame of the Week AMD gets it right, and we don't

"Qwerty" writes:-<

IDIOT! Do some research you fukn retard! Maybe you'd see that DDR systems are available right now. I don't expect a retraction from your sorry ass. Integrity and unbiased reporting is way too much to ask. PS...FUCK YOU ®
Our correspondent, 03 Nov 2000

Flame of the WeekAMD get it DDRrright. But we don't.

"Qwerty" writes: IDIOT! Do some research you fukn retard! Maybe you'd see that DDR systems are available right now. I don't expect a retraction from your sorry ass. Integrity and unbiased reporting is way too much to ask. PS...FUCK YOU ®
Our correspondent, 03 Nov 2000

Readers' letters the best of the rest

Eight miles high Andrew Brown DarwinWars author writes:- Mushrooms are more complicated than your Norwegian correspondent, thinks. Fly Agaric contains not one but two hallucinogens (atropine and butrophine, if my raddled memory serves) and the point is that each is poisonous if taken in large enough quantities to induce an interesting time, but both together tend to cancel each other out. Yet the proportions vary between individual mushrooms, so you may end up with a handful that are lethally unbalanced towards one or the other poison. The solution that the Lapps (not the Norwegians) came up with was to use their reindeer as an averaging mechanism. The reindeer eat a lot of these mushrooms from time to time, so many that their pee contains a roughly 50/50 mix. This makes it safer than the unprocessed raw mushrooms and probably not much more disgusting. It's not just Lapps. So far as I know, the practice is also common among other Finno-Ugric tribes in Siberia. Norwegians wouldn't do this because they have alternatives, like alcohol; and because there are very few reindeer south of the arctic circle. So far as I know, it wouldn't work with elk; at least I have never heard of the experiment being made. SlowCoMo How useless is Java with just 10k of memory on a cell phone? Not as useless as you might think... I share much if not all of your skepticism, but I should say that with restricted i/o and none of the huge crappy Java packages wasting space, you can fit a tidy little application in that much room. I played around with a Java iButton from Dallas Semiconductors a couple of years ago (ie the "Java Ring") and with no user interface at all, you can actually cram a modest little application into a fairly small amount of space. Of course the cell phones have a UI, but it's a dumb little one, so presumably the support for it will be fairly compact. On the other hand, I can't think up any great applications, either. But presumably in a few years, with vastly more memory and better interfaces including Bluetooth, such devices will really be useful -- for something anyhow. I sure hope there is no telephony module for that Java, BTW, otherwise you could download a game which turns into a trojan horse, making some expensive toll call to a foreign country.... - Laurence R. Brothers An AMD reprise As a faithful reader of the Reg, I am disappointed by your absolutely horrible journalistic coverage of the alleged Athlon/DDR problem. This is especially true with regard to your feeble attempt to substantiate the existence of the problem in the article entitled "AMD 760 Problem Identified?" Come on, Tom's group was working with a pre-lease version of the Gigabyte board. For you to the draw conclusion that this review somehow justifies your earlier articles, I question both your logic and that of the Reg for allowing you to publish it. Anyhow, I hope you'll able to rectify and/or clarify the Athlon/DDR problem. Until you do, I will read Reg articles with a great deal of skepticism. Regards, Bill Luna
Andrew Orlowski, 03 Nov 2000

MS helps you hack Scientology out of Win2k registry

A bizarre storm over Windows 2000 and Scientology in Germany has resulted in Microsoft conceding defeat. Microsoft Deutschland has posted instructions for removing the defrag program from all Win2k products. Strange but true, the fact that the defrag program was written by Executive Software of California, whose CEO is a member of the Church of Scientology, became a major issue in Germany. We at The Register could perhaps understand people getting exercised about the operating (or indeed the database) software they run being produced by outfits run by deranged, pop-eyed megalomaniacs. But no, in Germany it's the defrag program and Scientology. Scientology is indeed a major concern in Germany, where it is viewed as a big fat con rather than a religion (let your dispassionate stance slip a tad and you can see their point). But the killer that made Microsoft run up the white flag (with terrifying registry hacks written all over it) was the involvement of the Bundesamt für Sicherheit in der Informationstechnik (BSI), which is the German Federal Office for Security in Information Technology. German government departments and states declined to buy Win2k without BSI approval, and the BSI wasn't impressed by defrag's Scientology connections. The intervention of The Wallet does seem to be strangely influential in Microsoft's strategic decision making so, Win2k can now be disintegrated, as far as defrag is concerned. If your German's up to it. ® Related links: How to get rid of Scientology-related defrag by hacking your registry, following German instructions A much more detailed take on the matter from c't, and you'll need serious German for this too
John Lettice, 03 Nov 2000