7th > November > 2000 Archive

Broken CD with wrench

Orange boss Snook moots transaction ‘tax’ and bossy fridges

Orange boss Hans Snook remains his old ebullient, semi-crazed self despite the recent sideays shuffles masterminded by his new taskmasters at France Telecom. Speaking at Symbian's Developer Expo in London yesterday, the great visionary outlined a nightmare future, OrangeWorld (like Westworld but wired) of wired fridges, self-diagnosing cars and real-time biometric monitoring of joggers.* In OrangeWorld your every move from dawn to dusk (and beyond) will be planned for by Ananova (oh yes...) but Snook fervently hopes that the green-haired bimbo with a sound made up in equal parts of New Yoik, bourbon and a Commodore 64 speech synthesis program will have Wildfire's speech technology successfully transplanted to it. In which case one does wonder about the amount Orange paid for an animation of a green haired bimbo, but there you go. More significantly this CEO on speed (which more than ever, Snook has to be) is banging out quick-fire billable mobile applications, and pitching a revenue model that is "transaction-based." The mobile service provider model for the future, he says, will have to be able to accommodate micro transactions, so the service provider picks up a little money every time your Avatar wakes the kids, gets you the top ten, switches the heating on, and so forth. A rake off from the credit card companies whenever you buy something using your mobile. Readers with long memories will recall that in just about pre-Internet days Microsoft was being denounced for - and hotly if unconvincingly denying - plans to act as the gatekeeper for online transactions. Snook's plans clearly reinvent this demon, and should raise a lot of dust just as soon as the right people notice. There is however an underlying logic to them. Current mobile network charging, he says, has to change because in charging for the delivery pipe the service providers will simply reinforce their image as "merely a delivery mechanism." The logic of this is that Snook envisages a world where the service itself is free, or nearly free, while the service providers make their money by charging a little for all of the mobile applications used and transactions made. It's also a handy notion for service providers who don't have an entirely global presence - i.e., all of them - because they don't actually need to provide the service in order to provide the more lucrative life-organisational capabilities. You can see similarities between this vision and the current differentiation between ISPs and portals. Snook's list of planned applications is scary - deliberately, we assume. "A sensor monitors your heartbeat and tells you when you have reached your ultimate heart rate [sic] for the day." You can control "a wide range of household appliances... your fridge will order food when supplies are low." In the video, the fridge even phones up the jogger and tells him to go collect the groceries. Again in the video, your car repeatedly tells you it's got a minor fault and books itself into the garage. It never seems to tell you what the fault is, and what it'll cost, so clearly it's in league with the garage, which (serious point) will no doubt have paid Orange a goodly retainer for presence on the A list of providers. Which is of course another row waiting to happen. Will it happen? Portal approaches like Orangeworld will stand or fall on the basis of the quality, utility and versatility of the applications they offer - they'll be entirely dependent on giving people something that's worth paying for. And bearing in mind how good at this software is today, we fear the answer is no. They'll be up against free services provided on what we can now safely call the traditional Internet, and they'll have to justify cost by demonstrating clear value for their own 'premium' services. But Orange could convince us. If, for example, instead of doing the video on an attractively traffic-free Pacific Coast highway, scheduling meetings in light, airy, high tech offices, how about successfully negotiating the Tottenham-M11 route at 7pm on a Friday? Now that would be convincing... ® *Bonkers Orangeworld services roadmap Music and video - 2000 (Snook says current absence is all Microsoft's fault) Smart cars, biometrics, bossy wired fridges - 2001 'Trevor McDonald' option for Ananova - 2002 (we made that up) Related Stories Orange reshuffle brings in France Telecom exec range phones will clean your teeth too
John Lettice, 07 Nov 2000

Learnfree.co.uk shuts up shop

Learnfree.co.uk, the Times Education Supplement's Web site that offered educational resources to students, parents and teachers, has been closed down because of "the present conditions in the online education market." The site has announced its own demise: "Thanks for coming to visit Learnfree.co.uk. Unfortunately, Learnfree has gone to the great website in the sky - we've been closed until further notice." Certain aspects of the site have been retained and set up separately, which casts doubt on the reason given for the site's closure. If the market could not sustain one site, how will it sustain three or four? The parts that have been kept include a directory of nurseries in the UK, a youth sports magazine and an interactive service that gave students the opportunity to "talk to" historical figures. Links are available on the site. The customer care manager at News International newspapers said he could not speculate as to whether the site will return at some point in the future. ® Related Stories Foodoo.com goes down the frying pan Boxman founder slams IBM for collapse Eve.com goes titsup.com E-Exchange goes titsup.com
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Nov 2000

Le French are stingy and Germans uppity

French e-shoppers are the stingiest, while Germans get the most annoyed at malfunctioning sites, a report claims. The Japanese are the most adventurous - apparently 41 per cent said they would buy just about anything online, closely followed by Brits (39 per cent). And despite the fact that eighty per cent of buying attempts on the Web fail, cyber-shoppers are generally not promiscuous and stick to their favourite sites, according to the survey by market researchers Infratest Burke. However, it reckons dotcoms are missing out on $6.1 billion in sales through a combination of factors. Many abandoned e-buys are the result of reluctance to enter credit card details (46 per cent) and dodgy Website functioning (42 per cent). In addition, punters have to resort to using the phone to finish off a third of all purchases - with the result that 60 per cent said they would not return to the site. Other statistics include: 47 per cent of Americans and 41 per cent of Swedes started shopping online at least two years ago - compared to just a quarter of the French and 15 per cent of Brits. Americans spend the most online, £1,096 per year, compared to the French $491, and the average spend of $754. Angry Germans said they would be most likely to pick up the phone if a site malfunctioned (67 per cent), compared to 27 per cent of Swedes and Japanese. Around two thirds of customers are loyal and re-buy at just one or two sites, while an extra 21 per cent of cyberdollars would be spent if alternative online channels were available. ® Related Stories Buy online without a credit card Don't trust foreign Websites, Americans warned Massive e-commerce spending boom predicted Online shoppers get ripped off
Linda Harrison, 07 Nov 2000

Microsoft IE 6 to cut off some more air supplies

Microsoft is going into testing of Internet Explorer 6, a product that'll be integrated in Whistler, and which is clearly intended to take IE further down the integration trail. Both Windows Media Player and the MSN Instant Messenger client will be hard-wired further into the browser, and Microsoft also seems to be considering adding antivirus capabilities to Outlook Express - which itself is integrated into the browser these days. Microsoft will still likely be appealing when Whistler and IE 6 ship, but that's still an impressive triple legal matter that won't be addressed for as long as Judge Jackson's remedies remain in suspended animation. With Media Player and IM Microsoft is integrating out two of the usual victims, but if the antivirus plan goes ahead it'll be destabilising a whole new set of companies. This is of course all part of the 'damn the torpedoes' strategy Microsoft adopted when it became clear the trial was going bad on it. As there's no sense from the company's point of view in avoiding provoking the antitrust authorities any more, it might as well just carry on as normal, but more so, and bet the lot on winning in the end. Or leaving as much opposition as possible sufficiently Netscaped for it to be impossible to put them back together again. Paul Thurrott's WinInfo reports that many of the new features in IE 6 simply copy functionality already present in MSN Explorer, the rather more hard-wired implementation Microsoft put out for MSN users earlier this year. Paul also trails the prospect of as yet unknown extensions to Dynamic HTML for 6. MSN Explorer at least has a kind of alibi for the approach taken in that it's intended as a simple version of the browser for newbie types, so there's at least an argument that says they should have less choices available to them. But by carrying these 'lock-in' features over to IE in general, Microsoft is kind of undermining that argument - why should these choices be Microsoft choices, and why is it getting even more difficulty to make alternative choices? Microsoft first added the Explorer bars features to Internet Explorer 4 in 1997, and the company has integrated them into Windows Explorer as well. Current versions of Internet Explorer offer three such bars, including Search, for searching Web site content; Favorites, for storing and managing frequently visited Web sites; and History, for quickly finding sites that you've recently visited. IE 6 will add two more Explorer bars, the Media bar and an Instant Messenger (IM) bar. The Media bar will integrate a Windows Media Player control into the browser in the same way that a player is integrated into MSN Explorer. The Instant Messenger bar, which might be called the Online Buddies bar by the time IE 6 ships, will integrate the MSN Instant Messenger client into the browser, again in a manner similar to that in MSN Explorer. IE 6 will also feature as-yet-unknown extensions to Dynamic HTML (DHTML) and other features for Web developers, as well as a My Pictures feature that will allow users to easily view, save, and email pictures over the Internet. ®
John Lettice, 07 Nov 2000

Swap your spare computer power for very little

Do you fancy trading your unused computing power for the chance to be entered into a $4,000 prize draw. If that's your price, Porivo Technologies has launched a scheme to use individual's spare computing capacity and put it to use on large-scale projects. These include identifying online bottlenecks and testing the performance of high volume web sites. Anyone who fancies swapping their unused computing power for the chance of a $2,000 voucher to spend at BUY.com can download Porivo's PEER application from its homepage. There are two "runner up" prizes of $1000 each. A couple of months ago, The Reg reported a project run by Distributed Computing thatplanned to buy excess capacity from computer users. It estimated that an average user could earn $10 per month by signing up. After we ran the story a number of people suggested that this might just cover the increase in the users electricity bill. Perhaps a slight exaggeration, but a point well made. In light of this the PEER arrangement sounds like a very good deal for Porivo. For four grand it gets access to massive parallel computing power, with the bill being footed by the PEER user in exchange for entry in a sweepstake. Porivo says that a user's computer gets entered in the sweepstake once every fifteen minutes. So, the longer you donate your computing power to Porivo for, the better your chances of winning. ® Related Stories SETI concept gets commercial
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Nov 2000

Transmeta IPO raises $273 Million

Despite IBM's snubbing of the Crusoe processor for its ThinkPads, someone, somewhere still loves Transmeta, handing over the readies for 13 million shares - ten per cent of the company. The IPO raised $273 million and values Transmeta at around $2.7 billion. The IPO shows investors can still be persuaded to buy into technology stock, despite a 20 per cent drop in the Nasdaq Composite Index over the last two months. ® Related stories Intel claimed to have squeezed IBM to dump Transmeta IBM knifes Crusoe ThinkPad on eve of Transmeta IPO Transmeta speed debate - damned lies and benchmarks?
Andrew Thomas, 07 Nov 2000

Mad geeks rush to buy unusable P4

First kid on the block syndrome has hit new depths - crazed technophiles are buying Pentium 4 chips at sky-high prices, regardless of the fact that mobos to support it can't be had for love nor money, making the chips useless. The chip will launch for real on 20 November, but dealers in Taiwan, Belgium and the US already have parts available for sale - mostly ES engineering samples 'mislaid' by companies sent the chip for evaluation. On average, an early adopter should expect to pay around $1200 for a 1.5GHz P4, compared with the official launch price of $795. ES parts rarely deliver the full performance of even the earliest production processors, making the huge markup even worse value for money. For this reason, leaked benchmarks for the new CPU should also be treated with a large amount of caution. But the main drawback to paying through the nose to get the new chip two weeks early is that there simply aren't any mobos available to support it. So what are these loons doing with their P4s - sleeping with them? ® Related Madness Pentium 4 sprouts in Brussels
Andrew Thomas, 07 Nov 2000

Freeserve's mouse mat gets wired

Freeswerve's launched a new gadget just in time for Christmas that it claims offers a revolutionary way to access the Net. The Freeserve First Click Internet Power Pad combines pre-programmed buttons and smart card technology to create a wired mouse mat that's more than just a pretty picture. The buttons offer shortcuts to specific Web sites and the smart card technology ensures security for e-commerce transactions. The smart cards also contain personal information and preferences to improve surfing. John Pluthero, CEO of Freeserve, said: "By simplifying access and use of the Internet and all the e-commerce sites it has to offer, our proprietary First Click device will drive to the Freeserve portals those users who are inhibited by technology and who might not otherwise contemplate shopping online." High street retailer, Dixons, is to stock the product both singly and bundled with PCs in the run-up to Christmas. First Click can be yours for £29.99. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Nov 2000

Transmeta helping out AMD, MS with Sledgehammer coding?

UpdatedUpdated An extremely low-key triple alliance of Microsoft, Transmeta and AMD has been working quietly to ensure Microsoft software will support AMD's 64-bit Sledgehammer chip from the word go. This despite public claims by Microsoft execs that Sledgehammer will be playing decidedly second fiddle to Intel's Itanium. The deal probably originates in AMD's cosying up to Transmeta earlier this year on the subject of power management, but specifically got going, we're told, because the simulator AMD shipped Microsoft was a dud. The fact that Microsoft was shipped a simulator at all makes it clear the company intended to support AMD, but Microsoft's refusal to work with the cripplingly slow code it got from AMD was the catalyst. So what does AMD do? Call for super-morpher. According to our sources, Transmeta modified the software to morph standard x86 to VLIW, along with all the Sledgehammer extensions and the differences from Pentium 3. Despite the presence of the Demon Torvalds on the Transmeta roster, you can see how this kind of approach might entrance Microsoft's high command. Microsoft is getting Transmeta-based development platforms that behave like Sledgehammer ones, and as Sledgehammer ones don't exist yet, they'll be a lot faster than the alternative. Just getting a foot into the door in Redmond would be a pretty good reward for Transmeta, but we understand that Microsoft is also pretty clear that it will use Transmeta in its Tablet computers. These are currently just demo prototypes, with no committment to actual production, but you can maybe see an Xbox parallel here. A year ago Microsoft (it later claimed) showed the Xbox design to the OEMs, but the OEMs weren't interested, so Microsoft said it would do it without them. This could happen again, if Microhard turns out to be an attractive option for the company. Meanwhile, claims that Compaq had cancelled its Transmeta notebooks entirely bounced off the Transmeta IPO, which earlier today hit $42, twice the increased debut price of $21 and easily enough to make the Klondike contingent come over all misty-eyed. For the record, we're told that Compaq's commercial division has received a number of incentives from a very large chip company to keep clear of Transmeta, but that Compaq Consumer has declined similar bungs, and will go ahead as planned in December. We'll see. ® Related Stories Desperate Dell begging Transmeta for a Crusoe deal? MS drags feet on AMD Sledgehammer support AMD talking to Transmeta - official
John Lettice, 07 Nov 2000
Cat 5 cable

BT to lose £1.2 billion for Italian 3G auction pull-out

The Italian government has decided it will keep the £1.2 billion deposit put forward by BT-backed consortium Blu for its 3G mobile phone auction. It claims that irregularities and inconsistencies in the auction process mean that the consortium hasn't fulfilled its obligations and so is not entitled to the return of the deposit. BT is, unsurprisingly, not too impressed and is going to court both through Blu (today) and on its own (tomorrow) to dispute the decision. It was Blu's unexpected decision to pull out of the auction after only two days that left just five bidders for five licences. The knock-on effect of this was to reduce expected revenues from £20.8 billion to a paltry £7.1 billion. The Italian government was livid and announced an immediate enquiry. The enquiry decided that the auction results would still stand and the process was fair and equitable. At the same time, however, it decided that there were questions about Blu's behaviour and so the government should keep its deposit. It is this dichotomy that leads BT to believe it has a strong case. Exactly what these irregularities and inconsistencies are remains vague - violation of auction procedures in the way it dropped out and violation of confidentiality rules because it made it clear to others that it would pull out - and are likely to remain so until the legal challenges/arguments are run through. The government was widely criticised for how it handled the auction. There were eight original bidders but two were known to be merely speculative. That left six bidders for five licences - a recipe for disaster. When Blu pulled out, the government saw its dreams for a windfall vanish. Why did Blu pull out? Well, according to BT is was because of the consortium's setup and rules. Blu comprises eight members: BT, Banco Nazionale De Lavoro, Distacom, Edizione Holdings, Italgas, Mediaset, Palatinus and Sitech. After two days, BT, Banco Nazionale, Mediaset and Distacom wanted to keep in the process but the others wanted out. Those for represented a 52 per cent majority but an 80 per cent vote in favour is needed for positive action, according to Blu rules. BT says it even offered to take a bigger stake in the consortium but couldn't afford the asking price. And so it looks as though it was a case of too many cooks spoil the broth. And the Italian government, smarting from an embarrassing loss of nearly £14 billion, thought it would try to recoup some of it from the company that caused the situation by pulling out. After all, when £1.2 billion is up for grabs, why not give it a whirl? Incidentally, the final winners were: Telecom Italia, Omnitel, Wind and the IPSE 2000 and Andala consortiums. And just for completion, they are owned/backed by: Telecom Italia: Telecom Italia Omnitel: Vodafone Wind: Enel, France Telecom IPSE 2000: Telefonica, Sonera, ACEA Andala: Hutchison Whampoa, Tiscali, CIR Group, Sanpaole IMI There you have it. ® Related Story BT may be investigated for 3G auction-rigging
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Nov 2000

Itanium set for March launch

Proving that life at Intel goes on despite the imminent birth of Pentium 4, Chipzilla is flaunting Itanium - the chip that time forgot - at the Systems show in Munich this week. The Intel stand has a selection of Itanic systems on show, including a Dell PowerEdge housing no fewer than four CPUs and running an early version of M$' 64-bit Whistler OS, build 2257, running mySQL and interacting with SAP under Linux. Loose tongues on the Intel booth hint broadly that the famously-elastic official launch date for Itanic has now been firmly nailed down for March 2001. Other vendors with Itanium systems chez Intel include Compaq, Fujitsu Siemens and HP. Unisys is also showing a rather attractive 16way Xeon server. Check out TecChannel for pictures and more details (in German). ®
Andrew Thomas, 07 Nov 2000

AOL 6.0 gets user flak

AOL's 6.0 version software upgrade is getting flack from punters who claim it is wrecking their machines. The upgrade, released by the ISP to a furore last month, is experiencing many of the same problems as version 5.0, Network World reports. Missed network settings, PC slowdowns and email gone walkabout were just some of the glitches cited. One long-term AOL user described the upgrade as "a disaster." "I have been using AOL for about five years and have never encountered problems with other upgrades," Richard Lopez, a San Francisco lawyer told Network World. "But this is the first time I have upgraded with a DSL connection." Apparently Lopez downloaded 6.0 from AOL's site, only to have it delete his TCP/IP and network adapter settings within minutes. After four hours spent trying to correct the damage the AOL customer service representative advised him to ditch 6.0 and "forget about the upgrade". There have also been stories of email address books going west, and of entire days of work being lost, according to Network World Fusion's AOL 6.0 forum. Such hitches caused it to be re-named "AO-Hell 6.0" by one forum contributor. For a list of alleged bugs still not fixed in the software, check out the site from keen AOL followers Observers. AOL had not returned any calls regarding this story by press time. ® Related Stories Saudi prince doubles AOL stake to $2bn AOL-MSN hype war starts AOL bigger than Industrial Revolution Steve Case funds homophobes - by mistake AOL, Time Warner confident of merger success
Linda Harrison, 07 Nov 2000

Wetnose.com catches cold

Wetnose.com, one of a flock of online pet retailers, has gone titsup.com after making losses of £1.6 million. The company blamed large start-up expenses and poor market conditions for its collapse. Accountancy firm Mazars Neville Russell has been appointed as liquidators. Bright Station has a spring in its step today after reporting improved revenue growth for Q3 to the end of September. Revenues for the period were £2.4 million - an increase of almost 25 per cent. Losses before tax rumbled in at £4.6 million. Carphone Warehouse reported half-year pre-tax profits of £17.4 million on sales of £447.9 million – better figures than expected following the recent decline in its share price. It blamed the bad figures from Ericsson and Motorola for its recent slide on the stock market. Shares rose 7p to 198p after the results were announced. E-commerce software developers, Infobank, announced deepening losses of £7.82 million down from a £1.97 million loss previously. The loss came despite an increase in revenue to £706,000, but the company said it was comfortable with the results. The group depends on a share of revenues from transactions on clients’ web sites. ® More Cash Reg here.
Team Register, 07 Nov 2000

Sony to sell music via cellphones

Sony is to begin distributing music to mobile phones thanks to a new partnership with Japan's largest cellphone network company, NTT DoCoMo. Sony will invest in AirMedia, the JV formed last February by DoCoMo and consumer electronics company Matsushita. Sony and Matsushita will develop phones that can download and playback music tracks via the airwaves. Other devices will allow music to be downloaded via cellular networks to users' home audio equipment. Sony will also provide content. AirMedia's music service is still in development, with its launch scheduled for the tail-end of this year, according to Japanese newspaper Mainichi Shimbun, when DoCoMo rolls out its PHS personal phone network. AirMedia itself will then be relaunched as a new opertation, presumably one better able to merket itself and its media services to consumers. Some 20-odd more music and media companies will also invest in the company. ®
Tony Smith, 07 Nov 2000

Napster told to say 'Sorry, Metallica'

UpdatedUpdated Napster must apologise to rock band Metallica, if it's to convince the music industry that it's serious about becoming a 'legitimate' - in the recording companies' eyes - operation. That at least is what Recording Industry Association of America CEO Hilary Rosen has told her opposite number at Napster, Hank Barry, according to a letter leaked on the Internet and since confirmed by the RIAA as genuine. Nice try, Hilary, but we think Napster will see through this one, and will be as willing to say sorry to Metallica for the bands' alleged losses due to contributory copyright theft as Australian Prime Minister John Howard is to apologise to the Aboriginal people for past atrocities perpetuated against them. Why? Because an apology would be tantamount to admitting Metallica's allegations were correct and that the MP3 sharing company is indeed contributing to copyright theft, and it sure as hell isn't going to say that, last week's deal with Bertelsmann Music Group notwithstanding. Such an admission is really what the RIAA is after here. Rosen's letter bemoans the scorn poured upon Metallica and, in particular, drummer Lars Ulrich, the band's main spokesman. This is just plain daft. Ulrich is a bright fellow - whatever you might think of his music and his stance on Napster - and should have realised the band's actions weren't going to win them any favours from Napster proponents. If the poor guy wasn't prepared to take the heat, he'd have stayed out of the kitchen. Rosen's point is that "[Napster's] guys have fostered the abuse that Lars and the band have taken for standing up for their rights, rights which you have acknowledged in theory in the past but now have a financial interest in supporting since you are taking Bertelsmann's money. "Metallica took a stand on behalf of artists... They have been my heroes in this thing, and I am determined to make sure that if this thing turns out to benefit everyone, they are not left out." But they may well be. Metallica's label is (ultimately) owned by Universal, which has publicly stated is disapproval of the BMG-Napster deal, so the band's work is unlikely to find even a legitimate home on Napster's servers. Update Thanks to Reg reader Nathan for pointing out that Metallica's US label is Elektra, part of Warner. Here in the UK, it's Vertigo, a Universal sub-label. Clearly Metallica licenses different companie the rights to distribute its work in different territories. In an increasingly Net-connected world, that's going to prove difficult. After all, what if Warner allows sales by BMG-Napster and Universal doesn't? If such confusion doesn't force the major labels to come together on this issue, nothing will. ® Related Stories Full coverage: The Napster Controversy
Tony Smith, 07 Nov 2000

Sony adds Basic to PlayStation to sidestep EC import tax

Sony's attempts to get European tax officials to classify the PlayStation 2 as a computer and not a video game player aren't being restricted to court action. According to Computer and Video Games magazine, the European PlayStation 2 package will contain a copy of YA-Basic, an open source implementation of the classic beginners' programming language*. Sony will argue that since the PlayStation 2 can be programmed by users, it should be considered a home computer, not a games machine. The Japanese giant wants to persuade European Commission customs officers that the PlayStation 2 is a computer because the company will have to pay a two per cent import duty otherwise. The YA-Basic bundle is exclusive to Europe, the only territory to impose a different import tariff on computers and game equipment. YA-Basic is likely to be fairly... er... basic, but it should provide coders with limited access to the console's 3D graphics engine. Programmers fed up with attempting to enter 10 PRINT "Hello" 20 GOTO 10 programs in in-store PlayStation 2s will be able to do so through an on-screen virtual keyboard. More serious users will be able to plug in a USB keyboard, C&VG notes. Last week, Sony Computer Entertainment chief Ken Kutaragi said the company would even take the EC to court if it refused to budge on the issue. ® * Actually, we have one guy in the office who learned programming using COBOL, but we won't embarrass the poor fellow by revealing his name. And, yes, we do know that thanks to that nice Mr Gates, Basic, Visual or otherwise, is no longer a beginners-only language. Related Story Sony sees red as EC dubs PlayStation 2 a 'game console'
Tony Smith, 07 Nov 2000

Infineon to announce record revenues

Semiconductor maker Infineon today unveiled record annual revenues and fourth quarter revenues up 82 per cent a day early. At least, Infineon's results statement is dated 8 November, and since even Munich can't be 24 hours ahead of the rest of Europe, the data must have slipped out ahead of time. That said, it could also be a typo, we guess. Ahem. Either way, the chip company saw Q4 revenues rise 82 per cent year on year to E2.38 billion ($2.76 billion), itself 30 per cent up on Q3. Before tax, Infineon's earnings totalled E807 million, up 120 per cent on the previous quarter and a 42-fold increase on the same period last year. Net income for the period reached E581 million. Gross margins reached 53 per cent of revenue. Infineon's Q4 revenue proved to be the best of the year, as the company predicted nearly a month ago on investor fears of a downturn in the semiconductor business. The company said its latest revenue figures were driven by "strong demand" for memory chips and its Wireline and Wireless subsidiaries' broadband and wireless comms products. The Memory Products group's Q4 revenue contribution totalled E1.27 billion, up 168 per cent on the same period last year and up 47 per cent on the previous quarter. Earnings for the group rose quarter-on-quarter 160 per cent to E727 million. For the full year, the group's revenues hit a record E3.47 billion, up 147 per cent from 1999. Looking ahead, Infineon said it expects to grow "significantly above the industry average" during 2001. Its definition of 'industry average' is market researcher Dataquest's prediction of a 27 per cent increase in chip sales throughout next year. However, the company did admit that it expects a dip in memory sales over the coming quarter, thanks to "current uncertainties in the worldwide PC markets". Not to worry, though - the market will have recovered by the second half of fiscal 2001. "We expect the market outlook to remain strong into 2003," said Infineon president and CEO Ulrich Schumacher. The company expects to spend 30 per cent of its 2001 revenue covering "expected capacity constraints". ® Related Stories Infineon set for record sales despite market fears Infineon defines 'very fast' data transfer speed Infineon countersues Rambus Rambus piles pressure on Infineon
Tony Smith, 07 Nov 2000

Thunderer blasts the Mac…

British daily newspaper the Times has pissed off the nation's Mac users be screening a TV ad in which a would-be computer buyer states: "I know I want a PC, not a Mac." The ad, for the Times' Saturday edition, focused on promoting the 4 November issue's PC supplement. Not surprisingly, UK Macatistas have spent the last few days hollering about media bias, anti-Mac attitudes on behalf of the Times editorial staff and even conspiracy theory guff about a plot between Microsoft and Times owner News International. One Mac fan described the ad as an "extraordinarily offensive outrage", the poor dear. Indeed, even Apple itself is a mite peeved, and has asked the Times for an explanation. "We are looking into this, we have spoken with the Times, and have requested a transcript of the ad," said Apple UK spokesman David Millar, according to MacWorld UK. Still, there's not much it can do. Since the ad arguably reflects the character's opinion and not a statement of fact - the kid in question doesn't, after all, say a Mac isn't as good as a PC, whatever anyone else might think - it's unlikely to be ruled as a bad ad, either by the Independent Television Commission, which oversees Britain's commercial TV channels, or the Advertising Standards Authority, the ad watchdog. Both bodies should expect a raft of complaints from hot-under-the-collar Macatistas, however, especially since quite a few of the latter are running around the newsgroups screaming 'revenge!' They clearly forget the major, positive media presence Apple has thanks to the regularity with which the iMac turns up on TV, in movies and ads in magazines and colour supplements of the type often bundled with the Times Saturday edition... ®
Tony Smith, 07 Nov 2000

Homework ‘more important than Web stardom’

After checking out Martin Sawyer's site yesterday (see Ever killed a PC?), we noticed it also contained a pretty well put together review of an ATI Rage Fury Maxx graphics card. Ever on the lookout for new talent, The Reg human resources department swung into action and asked Sawyer if he would be interested in contributing as a freelance reviewer. We were shocked, nay, humbled by his response: "I've just found out that running your own Web site is a very difficult job. To keep the viewers happy, the amount of work you have to put into the site is incredible. This basically means that I'm short of time for the site as it is. I run the site and I'm still at school, in the fifth year (Scottish highers), and my other full time site operator is also still at school doing GCSE's. "If I had time then I would say yes, but as it is, school work is taking priority, and the site is taking second priority. If I'm going to try and do Computing Sciences of some sort in Uni, then I'm gonna need to get B's in all five of my highers at least." So it was a sad gathering of jaded old hacks seeking solace in The Masons Arms last night. It certainly wasn't like that in our day. Almost everything, with the possible exception of doing the washing up or tidying our rooms, was more important than homework. But as the absinthe took hold, we got to thinking. If only we had stuck in at school, maybe we coulda been contenders. ® Check out Homework Central Ever killed a PC?
Andrew Thomas, 07 Nov 2000

Dobedo sacks 23 employees

UpdatedUpdated Dobedo - the Swedish cartoon-based chat outfit aimed at the under 25s - has sacked a third of its workforce. It's understood the redundancies take effect immediately. Twenty-three people have lost their jobs - 20 in Sweden, two in Germany and one in Britian. Kai Lundgren, MD and CEO of Dobedo, said that most the job losses involved technical staff. The company is looking to outsource development work in future, he said, adding that Dobedo wanted to change focus and become more of a "media" company. Lundgren confirmed that the dotcom was forced to take the action in a bid to reduce its cash burn as it seeks further funding. He denied reports that Dobedo has put on hold any future roll-out of the service. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Nov 2000

ONDigital signs up vill-o'-the-visp

BTOpenworld is to provide a Net access service via TV for UK broadcaster ONDigital. Under the agreement, BTOpenwoe becomes the virtual Internet service provider (VISP) for ONdigital's Web TV service, ONnet, launched in September. Sine then more than 20,000 customers have signed up to ONnet. However, the service from Openwoe is a narrowband product although there is some speculation that it could be ramped up to a broadband product in the future. ®
Tim Richardson, 07 Nov 2000

Decent Dell honours PC offer after online price cock-up

Dell is do the decent thing and honour a cheap PC offer made after an online price cock-up. Last month a glitch on the direct PC vendor's site let eager punters take advantage of ordering computers with two concurrent special offers. But they were later told they would have to cough up hundreds of dollars more than the price stated on the site, causing many to get miffed and cancel orders with the US giant. Dell has now had a change of heart, no doubt scared of losing customers and face had it welshed on the deal, and says it will stick to the original quote. "Hopefully we can win the business back of customers that wanted to cancel their order," Dell representative Tom Kehoe told CNET. The glitch affected two models in Dell's Dimension L range of computers. E-shoppers were offered a machine with Intel Celeron 566MHz for $295, or with Pentium III 800MHz for $435. Neither had a monitor, but were touted with both a one-off $100 promo and three-year warranty worth $99 by accident. Apparently most of the bargain hunters discovered the Dell offer on the techbargains.com Website. Amazon, Buy.com, Argos, Egghead and Staples have all seen online price fiascos over the last year. ® Related Stories Egghead in damn DRAM jam Amazon sells Phantom Menace for 12p Argos £3 TV fiasco provokes test-case lawsuit Argos welshes on three quid Net TV 'offer'
Linda Harrison, 07 Nov 2000

Inside Symbian's Crystal communicator

Symbian's Crystal platform made its public debut at the Symbian Developer Forum in London this week. As it's the basis for Nokia's successor to its 9000 range, to be unveiled later this month, and the likely successor to both of Psion's Series 5 and Series 7 ranges we thought it worth reporting what we saw in some detail. First a caveat. These notes are based on the Crystal SDKs (C++ and Java) given away at the Conference this week, which include a PC Crystal emulator. Because licensees are free to customise this base platform as they wish, final Crystal implementations won't necessarily be identical to what's already on show. The base package contains some deliberate omissions, such as the Telephone application itself, that Symbian leaves entirely to OEMs. And of course, since this is a software platform, it doesn't give any clues at all as to what the finished hardware will look like. On the other hand, what we'll see from Nokia, Psion and the other licensees won't necessarily be too radically different either, and as was the case with the first Quartz demos, there are a mass of substantial strategic clues here about real products hitting the market over the next twelve months. The base Communicator spec is for a keyboard based device with a 640x200 screen. Symbian positions it as a device more suitable for data entry than the Quartz palm platform. Quartz borrows PalmOS prime usability features - persistent applications, and hiding the file system - and doesn't include a base file manager, although third party ISVs will undoubtedly add this. But most radically for Psion users, we expect, the major change will be the System screen. The default desktop is an evolution of the "Today" view on Psion's Revo and 5MX. You get status information on the left, and three context buttons on the right - we say buttons, but Crystal has default placeholder text there for now - and a curious, horizontally scrolling workspace in the centre that reminds us of the conveyor belt from The Generation Game. Those three buttons are the first clue that Nokia led the design initiative for Crystal, as it closely follows the design of the existing 9000 Communicator. Another clue is that Crystal doesn't include default pen support - that's for the OEM to add, or not as the case may be. Psion users are familiar with pen input, Nokia Communicator users aren't. The "Desktop" (the new name for Psion's System option) not only defaults to a Today view, but actually is the Today view: Crystal calls on a discrete File Manager application to perform housekeeping. Task switching has moved from ER5's application identifier box in the top right corner (that's gone altogether) to the pull down menu. Since this menu isn't visible, and must be explicitly invoked by the Menu key or off-screen button, this is a move that favours penless Crystal machines. Even more curiously the File Manager lives in the "Office" group by default: as with the Psion Series 3, the keyboard application shortcuts can invoke program groups rather than single apps. You'll find Word, Sheet, and a PowerPoint Viewer in the default Crystal Office group. Crystal has on board converters for the Microsoft Office apps. Of course whether this arrangement makes it through to shipping product, we'll have to see. Psion programming veterans will be cheered that OPL remains part of the base package. On the software side the long-promised data integration is obvious from the Send As menu. Symbian ER5 machines already have an integrated contacts store, that makes takes you into the straight into the appropriate contact field (such as mobile phone number, or email address) depending on the type of message being sent. This menu pretty much removes the need to think about what kind of transport the is being used (SMS, Fax, Email, IR, Bluetooth) before you start typing the message. Which is pretty neat. Finally, we noticed from the presentation by Symbian product manager Sander Siezen that Crystal will be extended to include larger screen sizes and different input methods. So it looks like the sub-notebook segment is the next stop for this platform - leading to some interesting competition between big-Crystals based on Intel's XScale and Transmeta Crusoes... The launch of the first Crystal communicator will take place in Prague in three weeks, at Nokia's Mobile Internet show. So Symbian licensees are lining up like this:- Sony has bought into the Pearl platform, the mass market smartphone coming in late 2002. Sanyo, Motorola, Psion and Ericsson have already committed to the Palm style phone. And Nokia will launch with Crystal. That leaves Symbian shareholder Matsushita, but since Panasonic is a major consumer brand we'll not very adventurously place a bet that this will be an MP3 player based on Quartz. ® Related Stories Nokia, Psion, Intel demo next gen Symbian Quartz kit Psion's Series 9, Odin found in Norwegian wood
Andrew Orlowski, 07 Nov 2000

DoubleClick settles patent cases with both Sabela and L90

The leading provider of ad delivery software DoubleClick has settled two separate court cases regarding infringement of its patents. The first case against Sabela (now owned by 24/7 Media) concerned DoubleClick's patent on "adserving" technology. This enables a company to collect stats on the use of online ads. Sabela uses adserving technology to measure the click-through response. At the time the lawsuit was first announced, Sabela claimed there was "no basis" for it and vowed to fight it to the end. This determination obviously put it in good stead because DoubleClick's lawsuit has been dismissed with prejudice. Both companies have "granted each other certain rights", which, of course, we're not allowed to know about. And they have also agreed not to disclose any other details of the agreement. Did money change hands? Did DoubleClick back down on the condition that Sabela didn't tell anyone about it? God only knows. But an interesting comparison comes in the form of the second settlement with L90. Now don't forget this is a totally different case, so any comparisons would be tenuous (despite what we just said). You'll just have to make up your own minds. L90 is a direct competitor to DoubleClick. Two months after DoubleClick was granted a patent on a "method of delivery, targeting, and measuring advertising over networks" (September 1999) - which basically means the way in which cookies are left on people's computers - it launched a patent infringement case against L90 for the way it served up banner ads. L90 responded by firing back counterclaims. At the time, DoubleClick appeared to have a number of heavy-duty backers who spoke of the integrity and power of the US patent system and pundits used the case as a test case for the future of cyberspace issues. However, all this time later, the two (forgive the legal jargon) "have entered into an agreement pursuant to which the parties will enter into definitive documents to settle the patent litigation". Which basically means they've kissed and made up. Again, no information, no terms of agreement, no admittance of money changing hands, no nuffing. Very similar you'll note to the Sabela case. One of two things have happened here. Either DoubleClick has backed down but doesn't want anyone but the big boys to know so the software doesn't effectively become open source. Or Sabela and L90 have agreed to pay some sum of money or annual fee to DoubleClick for using the technology. The second is possible, but why keep it secret if this is the case? We'll try to see if we can find out what has really gone on, but don't hold your breath. ® Related Stories DoubleClick, referral URLs and why The Reg is wrong Another day, another DoubleClick privacy PR disaster
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Nov 2000

TSMC to spend $500m on US subsidiary

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC) is to spend up to $500 million on a US subsidiary. The chip subcontractor company today said its board of directors had cleared the plan to buy out almost all the shares it does not already own in WaferTech LLC. The chip factory in Camas, Washington, is currently a joint venture with US chipmakers Analog Devices, Altera Corp and Silicon Solution. TSMC plans to up its stake in WaferTech from 67 per cent to 99 per cent, and has budgeted $6 per share for the move. The chip outsourcing sector has seen speedier growth than the rest of the semiconductor industry as companies take advantage of the service in a bid to cut production costs. ® Related Stories Chip plants shut in Taiwan power blow up TSMC sales soar on fab contracts TSMC outstrips Intel in wafer starts
Linda Harrison, 07 Nov 2000

Eazel to ship second GUI preview today

Eazel will later today give Linux users a "sneak preview" of the Internet services technology to be built into its upcoming GUI for the open source operating system. The company will unveil its Network User Environment, a key component of its Nautilus GUI. Essentially, NUE is a set of APIs, called Eazel Services, around which Net-enabled applications can be built. They will be included in Nautilus' second preview release, which boasts "improved usability" and "additional features", according to Eazel. Eazel is only going to release two of its APIs, Eazel Software Catalog, an intelligent online software installation tool, and Eazel Online Storage, which will provide Nautilus users with virtual, Net-based hard drives. Eazel will itself offer online storage facilities, 25MB of it per user. That's rather like Apple's iDisk facility, part of MacOS 9 and, we presume, MacOS X. iDisk essentially permits remote drives to be mounted across a TCP/IP connection. Indeed, there's much about Nautilus that sounds like MacOS, though that's no great surprise since there are a few ex-Apple software folk working at Eazel. The way Nautilus displays a thumbnail of a file's contents within its icon is rather similar to the way MacOS X works. Still, since so much of the MacOS' GUI has been 'inspired' by work at Xerox Parc and elsewhere, that's fair enough, we reckon. And heaven knows, Linux needs a solid, user-friendly interface if it's to break beyond the world of the nerd. No wonder, the Gnome guys want it to be the UI for the next major release of their environment - which, of course, it will be. And, unlike MacOS X's UI, Nautilus is free and issued under an open source licence. The Eazel Services sneak peek will be posted later today at Eazel's Web site as a free download. ® Related Stories Hertzfeld spills all about Eazel Andy Hertzfeld Part II - Microsoft, Aqua and greed
Tony Smith, 07 Nov 2000

Japan reacts to Taiwan chip threat

IPTC Planning, originally set up earlier this year to study the feasibility of creating a business out of the trading of semiconductor design assets (intellectual property, or IP), has evolved into a business enterprise called IPTC Corporation. The idea of running a six month feasibility study to see if IP trading has business potential is a tad amusing considering that the virtual component exchange (VCX) has been happily doing just that for over two years in Livingston, Scotland. Founder IPTC members Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Nikkei Business Publications have been joined by nine additional companies: Innotech, Canon, Thine Electronics, Zuken, Spinnaker Systems, Matsushita, Mitsubishi Electric, Meitec and Rohm. In the process, the company has increased its working capital to 430 million yen IPTC President and CEO Shojiro Mori said: "While the pursuit of profit is important, even more important is that we establish an exchange in Japan and provide a service for the trading of semiconductor IP." Mori added that the business would likely operate at break-even level for the foreseeable future. Last month, Scotland's VCX signed up seven new members with the addition of Sun, NEC, Nortel Networks, Conexant Systems, Scottish electronics companies 4i2i and Nallatech, and SIP supplier Dolphin Integration, bringing its membership to more than 40 companies. But Andy Travers, CEO of the VCX, doesn't see IPTC as competition: "We're working together. We've already had several meetings with IPTC and Dr Mori," he says. "There are quite a few Japanese members of the VCX, and IPTC has primarily been set up to allow Japanese industry to compete better with Taiwan by establishing a standard foundry process in Japan. "They're looking to build towards becoming a test shop to harden IP so it can be used more quickly and have already intimated a desire to cooperate with the VCX. We're due to go to talk with them again at the end of this month - one of the items for discussion will be licensing our patented IP trading system to them." IPTC intends to begin experimental trading this year and in December will begin signing up further members with a view to launching official trading in April next year. The company expects to have around 100 IP products tested and registered for trading by April 2001, and aims to have 1500 registered by 2005. ® Related Story Scots to coordinate chip intellectual property right exchange
Andrew Thomas, 07 Nov 2000

How you hack into Microsoft: a step by step guide

Microsoft's recent sacking at the hands of unskilled malicious crackers has engendered a vast cloud of false scent from company flacks, who in past days have progressively shrunk their damage assessments. According to company sources, the intruders had access for only 12 days, not six weeks as first reported, and did not corrupt any software in development. Others note that, twelve days or not, the intruders can't have helped stealing the source code for the new versions of Windows ME/2K and Office, and might well have implanted back doors, laying the foundation for easy remote exploitation once the finished products reach the marketplace. So, were the walls of the castle breached? Was the digital diadem of William Perfidious defiled by the grubby hands of the unwashed? Or did a handful of malicious kiddies manage nothing more than to give the Kingdom of Gates a scare? We don't pretend to know; but we're going to walk you through the likely steps the intruders would have taken, and let you decide how much damage they might, or might not, have done. Barbarians at the gate Network security becomes increasingly difficult as point-and-drool cracking tools proliferate. So many painfully easy-to-use appz have been developed in recent years that persistence is now a far more reliable predictor of success than skill: even a newbie cracker can succeed by using pat scripts and casting his nets wide enough. The Microsoft intrusion was almost certainly not the work of elite hackers; if it had been, we would not now be reporting it. What we're going to detail below is how a fool can (and did) sack the Magic Kingdom. Everything the newbie cracker needs to break in to the Microsoft Developers' Network is readily available on the Web following a brief search. Here's how you go about it: First, you'll download a Trojan which can be distributed via e-mail. QAZ, which was used in the M$ attack, is a fine choice because it will automatically copy itself throughout shared folders on a LAN. It's a malicious backdoor program masquerading as the familiar Microsoft utility Notepad. Once activated, QAZ searches for notepad.exe and copies itself in place of the standard Notepad file, while simultaneously re-naming it note.com. The beauty here is that when someone executes their Trojanised Notepad, it also launches note.com, or the original Notepad, so the application appears to behave normally to the user. It then searches the entire LAN for additional copies of notepad.exe to infect. To get it implanted on a LAN in the first place, you need to feed it to someone dense enough to execute it. It's easy enough to distribute as an e-mail attachment, but not everyone will fall for it. Thus there are two chief obstacles to getting started, neither of which is terribly difficult to overcome. First there is social-engineering - that is, baiting the victim. The wording of the e-mail message has got to make executing the attached program both desirable and sensible. Presenting it as a software patch or upgrade is a common stratagem, though there are others. Zipping it and naming it PornCollection.zip or DirtyJokes.zip is another. If the e-mail message makes sense in context of the attachment, and if it's sent to enough potential victims, the combined laws of probability and human nature ensure that some dumb bastard will activate the payload. And with QAZ, you only need one victim; it will propagate on its own. Your second obstacle is anti-virus software. Not a tough one either, despite all the glowing claims of heuristic genius touted by anti-virus vendors. We took several of the most popular Trojans: Back Orifice, SubSeven, NetBus and Hack'a'Tack, and first verified that our copy of Norton AntiVirus would detect them, both as-is and zipped. We then compressed them using a sweet little developer's tool called NeoLite and ran Norton AntiVirus again. Not one Trojan was detected, because NeoLite alters the signatures used by anti-virus manufacturers to identify malicious code. Only the Trojan Deep Throat, which we received already compressed by NeoLite, was detected, presumably because it's usually distributed in that form and its compressed signature is known. And the beauty of NeoLite is that it's self-extracting. No third-party software like WinZip need be loaded on the victim's machine for the compressed programs to be executed. On the inside Once you've managed to infect a machine on the target LAN, QAZ will e-mail you the IP automatically, activate WinSock and wait for a connection on port 7597. Simply check your mail, connect, and, voila, you're in. We're assuming you have the sense to use a Web-based e-mail account for QAZ to communicate with, which you will have opened with fictitious personal data, and that you know the basics of concealing your computer's IP. Now you'll need to swim around inside the LAN sharkwise until you find yourself a nice, juicy target. Be patient; as the Trojan spreads, more machines will come on-line for you to connect to. Check them all thoroughly. What you're looking for is a box to which you can connect directly, and which is trusted by your ultimate target - some machine with valuable data on it. You can pretty well assume that any box containing real treasures will be protected by a firewall. You probably won't be able to connect directly to it with a Trojan, but that's all right. There are other machines on the LAN which your target box will trust. So find out which of the boxes to which you can connect might themselves be plugged into something sweet, like another box with the source code for Win-2K, par example. The strategy here is to leapfrog from machines which you own, to the one you want to own. Where do you want to go today? Now you've got access to a machine with interesting, valuable data. Let's say it's on the MS Developers' Network, and contains the source code for Win-2K. What's your next move? It would make sense to download the code first so that if you're suddenly discovered and shut out, you'll at least have something to show for your efforts. Source code is jealously guarded and of course extremely valuable to Microsoft's competitors. Owning it can be immensely profitable for you, especially if you know a sleazy development house in a country with virtually no piracy enforcement, like in Russia, say, or anywhere in East Asia. You might also wish to implant malicious code of your own in the source to make it easy to exploit once it reaches market, or, alternatively, examine it closely for weaknesses already coded into it, to get a jump on the competition once it ships. A lot of valuable data gets served up on these products; merely knowing where the weaknesses are before the security industry catches on can lead to considerable riches. So how difficult would that be? Obviously, profiting from such an intrusion requires skill; though as we've illustrated, getting inside the network is child's play. You might be a dangerous cracker, and one so clever that as part of your social-engineering strategy you've deliberately opted to use common tools and techniques to conceal your true, terrifying capabilities. But then again, you might not. More likely you're a young fool with virtually no skills and little ambition, snapping up toolz and appz from the Web and feeling your way blindly towards the cracker pantheon. You'll do no harm because you don't know how to do harm, but you'll think quite highly of your insignificant achievements. You'll recall your modest exploits with fondness, boast about them in IRC h4x0r chatrooms hoping to impress some k1dd13 even lamer than yourself, and get busted by one of the hundreds of Feds who regularly hang out in these venues. And that, more than anything, is what Microsoft is fervently hoping. ® Related Stories MS hacked! Russian mafia swipes WinME source? Redmond strives to cram Great MS Hack back in box MS blocks staff dial-in access after 'minor' hack
Thomas C Greene, 07 Nov 2000

Russian credit card scam hits Brit Web host customers

Fifteen customers of a small British Web hosting company have had small amounts of money unlawfully charged to their credit card accounts. The money has nominally been paid to a Russian company called Incomtel. The amounts taken are between £5 and £10. All the accounts were charged in Russian roubles. All fifteen customers had the money refunded by their banks or credit card companies. Some users claim they have had money taken from a card account which had been used online only in transactions with the Web hosting company, Gloucester- based Fasthosts - and they are not happy. One victim said Fasthosts had made no effort to keep customers informed. "We can forgive them for being hacked," he said, "but not to leave us, the clients, without knowing anything about it." We too have run into the communication problems with Fasthosts. The company has declined our invitations to comment on the concerns raised by some of their customers. The company will not speak to us over the phone, and has not replied to emails we sent. Apparently they have been forwarded to the "general manager" but no-one seems to know, or be willing to say who he or she is. Another victim told us: "They [Fasthosts] are complete muppets." Incomtel itself has denied all knowledge of the transactions, claiming payments never arrived at its account. It says that someone is using the company name fraudulently and has referred the matter to the security services. ® Related Links An excerpt from a usenet thread on the subject. Related Story Fear drives net security spend
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Nov 2000

MS trial hell will never end: Bristol verdict turns to dust

Microsoft's sole antitrust trial 'victory' (if you don't count the class action dismissals) has crumbled to dust. US district court judge Janet Hall, who earlier this year awarded Bristol Technology $1 million, has now whacked Microsoft with $3.7 million in costs, and opened the way for a new trial. Bristol CEO Keith Blackwell said it was a good way to start a Monday, but we think he meant getting $3.7 million, rather than kicking off another antitrust suit. But he still might. Bristol's previous antitrust suit against Microsoft was basically a legal screw-up. The jury was given a form to help them disentangle the issues, but perversely (as we'd say in UK legal parlance) checked the first box to the effect that Bristol hadn't successfully defined a relevant market. No relevant market, no suit, basically (see links below for more detail). Bristol got a derisory $1 for nailing Microsoft on one minor count, and Judge Hall seems to have been trying to make amends ever since. She first upped the damages to $1 million, and is sending out some pretty strong signals by awarding Bristol costs, albeit not the $6 million Bristol asked for. Essentially, the evidence presented by Bristol in the trial consisted of the smoking pistols, withholding of air supply and general despicable conduct we've all become familiar with in the past few years. Because of the jury's decision that there wasn't a defined market to harm, none of this evidence was valid. But at least morally (and despite crowing over the 'victory') Microsoft looked guilty as hell. And if Bristol decides to come round for another go, we should be able to see what effect the learning process has had on both sides. Frankly, we have to tell you we thought the Bristol trial transcripts spoke of a pretty ramshackle, second eleven kind of approach by all parties, and if it's back on, it'd be a help if they got their acts together and made it better reading. ® Related stories MS could still be found guilty in Bristol antitrust case Analysis: How MS used the WISE Trojan Horse against Unix Bristol case: how MS escaped the guilty verdict
John Lettice, 07 Nov 2000

Celebrity hacktivist joins the Mid-East cyber-war

An attack by pro-Israeli hackers against the Hizbollah and Palestinian Authority Web sites over a week ago initiated the current Middle-East cyber-war, which has widened considerably, lately affecting sites in other countries and drawing talent from overseas. One incredibly prolific hacktivist and defacement artist known as DoctorNuker, founder of the Pakistan Hackerz Club, not only threw down the gauntlet on the Palestinian side last week, but even attacked an influential Jewish lobbying group on US soil -- the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) -- with a hacked homepage featuring links to enormously disturbing photos of Israeli aggression dating from 1948 to the present. More significantly, he also compromised two of the organisation's databases, one containing approximately 3500 e-mail addresses of members, and another containing the names, addresses and credit-card account details of roughly 700 donors. The public exposure of personal data marks an interesting escalation in a battle previously characterised by the aggravations of packet floods and DNS hijacks. "The idea of posting members' information came when I saw the e-mail addresses of [AIPAC contributors] belonging not only to big companies but government organizations -- US Senate and military departments. Nothing is effective unless it affects the big bosses," DoctorNuker told The Register. Until now the Doctor has been concerned chiefly with India's heavy-handed treatment of Kashmir, attacking scores of sites and numerous US government facilities in protest, including the hacked homepage at the Department of Commerce, where he warned the USA to "stop interfering in our internal affairs....or we will perform our next nuclear test....in your ass." The recent Palestinian cyber-resistance attracted DoctorNuker's interest because, as he told us, "we share the religion and we think alike." Meanwhile, the AIPAC Web site remains off-line while the organisation seeks to beef up its security. AIPAC will resume its on-line presence in a week or two, but "may not continue signing members up on-line," AIPAC press spokesman Ken Bricker told The Register. Interestingly, the people whose details were exposed have in large part been indulgent. "Of the sixty or seventy affected people who called us, most were sympathetic," Bricker said. "Only one I can remember was actually shrill." Also notable here is the characteristic restraint with which PHC members and fellow hackers have treated the exposed database of credit information. "We're aware of only three incidents of fraud associated with the intrusion," Bricker told us. Hackers, as we have pointed out before, tend not to be motivated by personal gain, but more by curiosity or bragging rights. Hacktivists, naturally, are even less concerned with material advantage. Bricker interprets the hack as an opportunity to reflect on the importance of solid Web security, and emphasises that the organisation is in no hurry to restore the site until its vulnerabilities are understood and adequately addressed. The FBI's National Information Protection Centre (NIPC) is doing what it can to trace the attack back to its source. DoctorNuker has of course assumed this much and says he "will not touch [AIPAC] for a while now....I know they are watching the logs and methods closely." But he's far from backing down. He may need to leave AIPAC alone for a bit, but he'll be pleased to deal with other targets. He'll "continue the cyber attacks, some hidden hacks and some public defacements, until they realize that they are in trouble," he told us. ® Related stories Cyberwarfare levels the playing field Cyberwar in the Middle East
Thomas C Greene, 07 Nov 2000

PSINet caught red-handed with spam contract

Stumbling ISP PSINet has owned up to a contract with a sender of bulk unsolicited commercial email - known to you and me as spam. It has long been a suspicion that some ISPs have had illicit contracts with spammers, despite a publicly stated policy against such practices. However, after news site CNet obtained an unsigned copy of a contract between PSINet and spammer Cajunnet, both companies were forced to admit their co-operation. Of course, there's a catchy term for all this: a "pink contract". Being caught red-handed comes as a big embarrassment to PissyNet, which hasn't exactly been in the top 50 growth IT companies recently. Cajunnet was, as you would expect, entirely unrepentant - if perhaps a little annoyed that it would have to find another ISP after having been kicked off by several others for producing too many complaint emails. The details of the contract give an interesting insight into the world of spamming, but won't come as a surprise if you consider spam as simply a business opportunity. Cajunnet agreed to pay a non-returnable, up-front fee of $27,000 to PissyNet for "increased risks associated with this agreement" - namely, the huge number of complaint emails it would soon be receiving and the damage to image were the agreement to come to light. We think PissyNet undercharged. Unfortunately the contract also makes a mockery of PSINet's stated policy on spam which states that people will be cut off if they are caught sending spam. Cajunnet sends out anywhere between five and 20 million spam emails at a time. This case follows a similar one last week where AT&T was forced to admit a professional relationship with spammer Nevadahosting.com. Quite frankly we are disgusted, revolted and not at all surprised. The fact that PissyNet has been caught out being underhand in its dealings - saying one thing and doing another - will probably be sufficient punishment though. ® Related Link CNet/New York Times article
Kieren McCarthy, 07 Nov 2000

George Dubya ridiculed on hacked RNC page

The Republican National Committee (RNC) Web site was defaced on election day with a lengthy essay impugning George Dubya's fitness for the office he seeks. "George W. Bush would make a great president for those states which traffic not so much in decency but bigotry. Not acceptance but hate. Not love but fear. There is no sense of human camaraderie amongst those who live south of the Mason-Dixon line," the author says. One might detect a few personal 'issues' of White guilt as he goes on, "gays, Blacks, Latinos, and even women, (once they've been knocked up and sent into a nine month hibernation until they can produce a male heir,) are treated as less than human. They're not even given the 3/5ths [legal recognition] that slaves once were. Their manifest destiny is serving that great tyrant, the straight white male." "Voting for Bush would be voting for myself and voting against anyone not like me," he observes. After detailing Al Gore's numerous assets in comparison with his opponent, the author concludes that he is, if not quite attractive, the lesser of two evils, and that "as such, I must vote Gore, and urge you to do so." The RNC has made a characteristically paranoid statement in response to the attack. "It's obviously a dirty trick late in the campaign by the Democrats," RNC spokesman Tom Yu told the Reuters wire service during an interview. "We're disappointed at the large amount of dirty tricks being played this late in the campaign by the Democrats," he added. We're not all that confident in this assertion, but the paranoia is familiar, as we recall from an earlier story where the Reps interpreted a spam campaign as a Dem dirty trick. Indeed, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) Web site came under attack yesterday as well. A notable difference here is that the Dems didn't rush to blame their opponents. ®
Thomas C Greene, 07 Nov 2000

Wearable Java computer open doors

A US firm is flogging a wearable Java computer which can be used as a key in the real and virtual worlds. The iButton from Dallas Semiconductor is touted as a two-in-one fob, and can be used either as a physical key to open doors or a computer key for secure network log-in, or for electronic signatures. The gadget is a 16mm Java-based chip in a key-sized metal cover, according to the company's Website. It has 64Kb Rom, 134Kb Ram, and can store more than 30 digital certificates. The iButton can also be embedded in everyday items such as rings, watches or wallets. To be made into a doorkey, the user presses it onto a Blue Dot, a device which transfers information to and fro the gadget. The device is already used in Istanbul, apparently. ® Related Stories Freeserve's mouse mat gets wired Porn site confusion forces gadget site relaunch
Linda Harrison, 07 Nov 2000

HWRoundup: Yo! Muthabordz!

BX Boards gets up close and personal with the new Socket A mainboard from Soltek. Featuring (fanfare please) multiplier adjust as well as other bits and bobs for you overclockers as well as the new VIA 696B Southbridge. Click here to find out how this one stands up against the Asus A7Pro and Abit KT7. And to contrast and compare reviewing styles, you can check out Hexus' take on the board here. All the hardware fashionistas will be sporting and Dually CPUs this season, according to the crazy Aussies at Insane Hardware. Findings from their overview of Asus boards include a trend towards integrated network cards and six-channel sound. Meanwhile, GamePC goes to town on what it calls the "Ultimate Pentium III Platform." I think you can tell from the tone that this will be a good review. Click here to find out why this lot were that happy. Oh, features include Dual FC-PGA Pentium III, Onboard Ultra160 SCSI, Onboard Dual 10/100 Ethernet, up to 2 GB RDRAM, AGP 4x, 64-bit PCI, ATA/100, Redundant ATX...[fades quietly into distance]. Chill out with AMDZone - they've got a review of the Taisol CEK733092 Socket A heatsink here and also with NFS Xtreme who've had a peek at the Vapochill - and now we're talking very chilly - over here. ® Still hungry for hardware? Check out our archives
Lucy Sherriff, 07 Nov 2000