21st > November > 2000 Archive

Apple slashes two-way G4 prices

Apple announced steep discounts on its dual processor G4 Macs today in the US and Europe. US buyers can claim $300 off the 450MHz dual-processor Mac, and $500 off the 500MHz two-way before the end of the year, bringing prices to $2199 and $2999 respectively. In the UK, the same models get £250 and £400 discounts to £1349 and £1949 respectively. As with the earlier Cube discount, UK buyers save slightly more proportionately: 14 or 16 per cent, compared to 12 or 14 per cent for the US models. Unlike the Cube offer, however, it isn't tied to a purchase of an Apple monitor (or anything else). The mail-in rebates apply to all models purchased before the end of the year. With the Cube and G3 Powerbook discounts announced earlier this fall, Apple now has discounts across its entire professional range, suggesting an urgent need to clear inventory, and makes way for the long-awaited speed bump at MacWorld in January. It also - and unexpectedly - makes the two-way Macs much more competitive against SMP Intel PCs, given that Intel discontinued SMP-capable Celerons earlier this year, ties current two-way workstations to the dead-end RAMBUS memory, and SMP-capable Pentium 4 won't be introduced for the best part of a year. But then Apple really ought to get round to introducing an operating system that takes advantage of SMP across the board... Details of eligibility for UK buyers can be found here, and for US buyers here. ® Related stories Apple opts for DDR SDRAM in 600MHz G4s Apple's Cube-for-Cash deal comes to Britain Apple offers cash for Cubes Apple sees growth despite depressed sales
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Nov 2000

MCI Worldcom is ‘random billing’ specialist – official

Plagiarism CornerPlagiarism Corner Regular readers will know that The Register employs some cunning booby-traps to foil the most obvious plagiarists. Yesterday, the British online IT news wire computerweekly.com followed up our report on Vint Cerf being named as the new chair of ICANN, with one remarkably similar. "As an engineer Cerf worked on early ARPANET protocols and co-authored what became TCP/IP in the early to mid 1970s" we noted. "As an engineer in the 1970s, Cerf worked on early Arpanet protocols and played a key role in the development of the TCP/IP Internet protocol," agreed Computerweakly.com. At The Register, we pointed out how Vint Cerf had previously confronted conflict of interest questions on his web site, Cerf's Up, and cited a paragraph of his discussing the issue. Computerweakly.com also pointed out that at his website - Cerf's Up, in case you missed it - Cerf "hit back" at accusations of er, ... conflicts of interest. And quotes the same paragraph verbatim. But most amusingly, we note that computerweekly.com's description of Cerf's employer, MCI Worldcom diverges ever-so-slightly from the company's own mission statement:- "He... is currently a vice-president of MCI Worldcom, which currently specialises in random billing." For many Americans, negotiating MCI Worldcom's calling plans, Kafkaesque customer service and "Heisenbills" - call charges based firmly on the uncertainty principle - has become a set of life-skills as valuable as carving the Thanksgiving turkey or filling out IRS returns. And "random billing specialist" has been Reg shorthand for a while now. So it's with some relief that we declare it official. ® Related Links "It's Control-V for paste, right?" computerweekly.com Vint Cerf takes ICANN hot seat The Register Related Stories Economist pilfers Reg'trademark' AMD price cuts revisited
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Nov 2000

It's like the Love Bug, only less romantic

Virus writers are slushy at heart - naming the latest computer masher "Romeo & Juliet". This nonetheless pesky virus arrives as an HTML email that contains an executable file entitled "My Romeo" and a compiled help file called "My Juliet" (a .chm attachment). It works the same way as the "Love Bug virus", which ran riot across systems earlier this year, in that once executed it sends an email out to everyone in the recipient's address book. The Love Bug crippled networks around the world using this technique in May, and cost untold millions in damage. But the difference, according to anti-virus software firm GFI, is that the Romeo & Juliet virus starts running without user intervention. No attachments need to be opened to start the virus spreading, only the email itself - the code is embedded in the body of the email. ® Related Stories Intel victim of pesky pre-Chrimbo computer virus Chernobyl virus writer faces three years in chokey Call for fresh "Love Bug" charges
Linda Harrison, 21 Nov 2000

Easier.co.uk on life support machine

A British dotcom that helps people buy and sell property on the Web is about to slip into a coma. The board of Easier.co.uk today announced that it intended to flog the company's business and non-cash assets in a bid to realise as much cash as possible for its shareholders. Once completed, all that will be left is a cash shell, available for a reverse take-over by some other outfit. Easier was established in November last year. It raised some £11.2 million in February 2000 when it was admitted to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM). The Company's Net service enabled people to buy and sell homes without paying commission. Easier sought to generate its revenue by selling the details of those sellers and buyers to interested parties. However, when it announced its maiden interim results in September the company said that while pre tax losses for the half-year were less that expected, revenue was below par. The company's share value has fallen by almost 90 per cent this year. Despite having a £30 billion debt problem BT just can't seem to stop spending cash. BTopenworld said today it had forked out $15 million for a 17 per cent stake in location-based information provider, wcities. The outfit currently has info on 230 cities around the world although this figure is set to rise to 400 by Spring next year. The info is going to help bolster the content for BTopenworld customers - especially for punters seeking stuff on the move. ® Check out Cash Reg and make sure your company hasn't gone titsup.com
Tim Richardson, 21 Nov 2000

Where next for Corel?

AnalysisAnalysis Last week, Corel's former Linux project lead, and now CEO, Derek Burney gave an equivocal backing to the company's Quixotic free software initiative. "We made it very clear that there are no sacred cows and we'll leave no stone unturned in determining our strategy," he told IDG News Service. Burney also said that he thought open source is fine for operating systems "and nothing else" Which will have caused rue smiles from EMACS or Apache users. But at least that's consistent with the Cowpland-era point of view, though. His predecessor never promised to turn Corel's applications into software libre, and went the quick and dirty route using WINE translation hooks. So the question is - if not Linux, then where? Covenant not to sue Microsoft's recent investment has induced Corel to .NET its applications, and the pair kissed and made up in a SECC filing delightfully headed Covenant Not To Sue. The deal suggests that Corel could pick up some valuable expertise in Microsoft-flavoured middleware. But if so, it would do well to heed the example of Borland, the company it so nearly acquired earlier this year, which also went paddling furiously up Middleware Creek about three years ago. Ironically, Borland too had just received a shed load of cash from Redmond, on that occasion as part of an out-of-court settlement which - is this ironic enough for you? - closed a staff-poaching case Borland had brought against Microsoft: an exercise that netted Redmond Anders Heljsberg, one of the lynchpins of its .NET strategy. Heljsberg led Borland's Turbo Pascal and Delphi projects, and it was when the latter began to roast Visual Basic in creating the client end of client/server apps, with faster development times and far superior execution, that Microsoft moved in and began hiring. Heljsberg is co-author of C# and the accompanying (but usually ignored) common run-time: Microsoft's version of a JVM. So we make that three degrees of separation. Quick on the Draw However Borland blew its bounty on Visigenic, just as the bottom was dropping out of the commercial ORB business, and has only just washed up back in the land of the living as a pure tools company. The Borland/Corel deal fell apart when Corel's stock price crashed - along with other Linux stocks and the cream of the tech business too - earlier in the spring. So the intention to take Corel into if not middleware, then at least "strategic tools" was clearly there in the pre-Burney era. How much our Derek wants to dally there, we've yet to see. A smarter bet for Corel could be to go back to basics, and capitalise on its foothold in the creative content business. Corel Draw remains the major money earner, but over the past twelve months Corel has made a number of useful acquisitions, including Bryce and KPT, that are very much at home on the Mac. Given Apple's ambitions to grab some of SGI's low-end workstation business with cheap multi-processing systems - Jobs was inordinately proud of SGI subsidiary Alias|Wavefront's decision to port Maya to OS X, Corel could ride that train - if it makes some shrewd acquisitions. That way, it wouldn't be competing with a single vastly better-resourced opponent, as it does today against Microsoft in office applications and against Adobe in desktop content. Perhaps. It isn't about bundles, or volumes or packaging ... but it's an earner. The new CEO says a three-way re-organisation is pl7anned, with spooky management consultants McKinsey advising on strategy. ® Related Stories Corel moots Linux sell-off Corel plan for MS .NET Linux revealed in SEC filing How old chums cobbled up the MS Corel deal Microsoft describes its Java killer Corel, Inprise/Borland call off merger Corel plus Borland plus Linux - is this the big one? Inprise in play after Yocam splits?
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Nov 2000

BT sacks domain grab contractor

BT is to launch a technology incubator business that will exploit the thousands of ideas its boffins come up with at the company's labs in Suffolk. BrightStar is set to be launched officially at the end of the month and is based at BT's Advanced Communications Technology Centre in Martlesham. It is already incubating 13 companies and it's already hoped three will be spun out by March next year. In the future, BT plans to incubate up to 15 new companies a year using finance from outside the company. It's hoped each could be worth around £100 million within three years. Unfortunately for BT, the people at BrightStar and BT's labs aren't as bright as they make out. Last year, BT's Labs at Martlesham received a full makeover and re-named Adastral Park. The science and technology hothouse is built on land that was once part of RAF Martlesham Heath. The RAF's motto is Per ardua ad astra (through adversity to the stars) - hence Adastral Park. Except, when the rebranding exercise was completed, someone forgot to register the domain. Check out adastralpark.com, adastralpark.co.uk or adastralpark.net and instead of finding your way to the brain of BT, you hit upon an adult dating agency for people of "all persuasions". The site was set up by Ric Hayman, a BT contractor at the time, who registered the domains the day after Adastral Park received its new name and livery. He told Reg: "I only bought it because it was there. You wouldn't walk by £20 note on the floor and not pick it up, would you?" He denies cybersquatting because at the time, there was no trademark to infringe. But that didn't stop him from being sacked from his job as a contractor. Nor did it stop BT's lawyers from threatening legal action. Hayman claims he was offered a little sweetener if he handed over the domains. He declined, and asked for £2 million instead. BT refused. According to Hayman, he even registered the company name Adastral Park Ltd before BT managed to file for the trademark. The point of this little yarn? Well, there is none really. It's just amusing, that's all - a ringing endorsement of BT's on-the-ball management style. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Nov 2000

The Euro Software Patent Chamber of Horrors

The idiocies of the European Patent Office are to be highlighted in a unique exhibition opening today. Between 11am and 12:30 in Munich, the European Software Patent Horror Gallery will open to the public, hosted by FSF founder Richard M Stallman, only this time wearing his League of Programming Freedom hat. The show is part of an effort to show how the ownership of fundamental concepts such as multi-tasking, filename conversion and even abstract processes that have nothing to do with software - dynamic pricing, for example - have been granted to individuals or corporations. For example, the concept of a "Computer system and method for performing multiple tasks," filed by six engineers from IBM Germany in 1993 is currently in the works. That leaves the Apple Macintosh and Win9x pretty safe, we guess. But no, really - we're not making this up, and it's deadly serious for anyone writing software in Europe. The EPO, up till now a peripheral quango, is pushing to have its edicts enshrined in binding European law at this week's European Patent Convention in Munich. As Graham Lea pointed out here recently, this runs counter to EU policy on freedom of information, and fundamentally alters the balance of power towards the multinationals and away from free software. This has implications for the exercise of that power, for example in anti-trust cases. In a statement, FFII-watcher Arnim Rupp says: "The American mega-corporations, to whom most of these illegally granted patents belong, are still waiting for a change in the European Patent Convention. If the Diplomatic Conference sets the wrong signal in Munich [this] week, Germany will hopefully abide by the words of the Ministry of Justice and refuse to ratify the new European Patent Convention. The issue at stake now is how to keep 30000 mines from detonating and how to give back basic legal security to European IT enterprises and citizens." If it passes, national patent delegations will only be able to overrule decision on 2/3 majority votes. The Gallery will be unveiled in the Helios at Munich's Forum der Technik today. ® Related Links FFII home page Software Patents - the League for Programming Freedom Eurolinux petition Related Stories Software patents: will Europe roll over for the multinationals? Linux bods petition over European patent laws Linux alliance fights against Euro software patents
Andrew Orlowski, 21 Nov 2000

Guninski finds another IE 5.5 security hole

We have a problem with IE security bugs - they all look the same to us. So thank goodness for George Guninski, who's found yet another security hole in Microsoft's IE5. The problem affects IE 5.5 and Outlook and Outlook Express, and exploits the compressed help file (.chm) format. Guninski has found a problem with the .chm format before. Last time Microsoft patched it by requiring that the help files run from the local file system. But the problem has resurfaced because the new problem reveals the location of temporary Internet files or folders. Guninski made the discovery public on the Bugtraq security mailing list. He wrote: "Once a temporary Internet files folder name is known, it is possible to cache a '.chm' in any temporary Internet files folder and then use 'window.showHelp()' to execute it.There are other ways to execute programs once a temporary Internet files folder is known and document is cached in it, but 'showHelp()' seems to be the simplest." Guninski spends a lot of time finding holes in Microsoft's software. Previously the software giant has criticised him for the short notice period he gives before going public with the flaw. Guninski informed the company about the latest hole on 15 November. ® Related Story M$ moves slowly to patch latest IE 5.5 hole
Lucy Sherriff, 21 Nov 2000

Compaq $60m lawsuit centres on DVD violation

More details have emerged concerning Compaq's legal tussle over alleged video compression patent violations - action that could see the PC vendor being forced to cough up at least $60 million in damages. When the story broke yesterday, we wondered what it might relate too - and now we know. The seven companies who have come together to tackle Compaq - and Apple, Dell and Hewlett-Packard (though they have only been sent warning letters) - claim it is ripping off their MPEG 2 patents. MPEG 2 compression technology underpins DVD, and the suit claims that certain DVD drives shipped in Compaq PCs - and, presumably, Apple, HP and Dell machines too - contain unlicensed intellectual property. The plaintiffs are Matsushita, Mitsubishi, JVC, General Instrument, Philips, France Telecom and the US' Columbia University, all members of MPEG LA, a patent pool of 16 MPEG intellectual property owners. As MPEG is a global standard, you might think it comprised open intellectual property. Not so. Contributors can maintain ownership of their technology which was later incorporated into the specification. A case in point is Germany's Fraunhofer Institute which owns the compression algorithm behind MPEG 1 Audio Layer 3 - better known as MP3. MP3 playback IP is freely licensed, we recall, but if you want to ship a commercial MP3 encoder application, you have to pay up. Compaq seems to have incurred the wrath of the plaintiffs by refusing to license their IP. "Compaq has refused to enter into any licence with plaintiffs or the licence offered by MPEG LA.," is how the suit puts it. Fair enough, we say. Compaq bought the DVD drives it ships in good faith, we imagine, so surely the seven should be pursuing the DVD manufacturer, not Compaq? It's a bit much to expect PC vendors to check every component to make sure that it rightfully uses relevant patents. And if Compaq can make such a mistake, we imagine many much smaller, more pricing-conscious vendors will have too. So, as we noted yesterday, it does indeed seem that The Big Q is being made an example of. ® Related Story Compaq sued for $60m over video patent
Tony Smith, 21 Nov 2000

Ozzy Osbourne to bite head off Net media co.

Bat biter Ozzy Osbourne, Pantera and seven other metal bands are together suing a trio of media companies, including online video company MCY, for broadcasting bootlegged concert footage. MCY was granted permission to tape the gigs - last summer's Ozzfest 2000 tour - specifically for broadcast across the Internet. Its crime, in the eyes of the bands' managers and the tour organisers, was to sub-license the Web cast to DirecTV and InDemand for televisual broadcasting. The bands claim to be shocked at the poor quality of the footage, but we suspect the fact that they didn't make any money out of the broadcast - provided on a pay-per-view basis - has more to do with it. Oz and co. also claim copyright infringement, trademark dilution and infringement, unlawful appropriation of names and likenesses, irreparable damage to reputation, and violation of the bands artistic vision and creative control over the tour. MCY does seem on a sticky wicket here. The Ozzfest organisers even asked it to prevent the pay-per-view broadcast, but it ignored them, they claim. Indeed, the suit alleges MCY CEO Larry Stessel told them - in, it has to be said, a rare case of dotcom realpolitik - "Sue me, I don't care. I'd rather be sued by the bands than DirecTV and InDemand - they have more money. By the time this suit comes to court, MCY will probably be out of business anyway." DirecTV and InDemand said they would broadcast the event, since they had a good-faith agreement with MCY to do so. The concert broadcast went ahead on 10 November. MCY is apparently still operational, though we couldn't get beyond its Web site's 'you don't have the right plug-in' message to learn more. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Nov 2000

Hello, Australia, are you there?

It was connection chaos for millions of Internet users yesterday - and to think we never noticed. Millions of people in Australia, Asia, America and Europe found it difficult, no impossible, to get onto the Net, after a 39,000km-long undersea cable was severed, possibly by a trawler, in the wee hours of yesterday morning (Brit time), somewhere near Singapore. Worst affected was Australia where, according to AFP wire reports, gridlock became "so bad that the (PTT) Telstra system jammed". At "the height of the crisis", only 30 per cent of Telstra's ISP infrastructure was operational. It's now running at 70 per cent. So much for network latency. Expect slow service to Australian Web sites for the next few days then, while repairs get underway. ®
Drew Cullen, 21 Nov 2000

E-minister puts brave face on auction farce

The collapse and utter failure of the auction for Broadband Fixed Wireless Access yesterday put e-minister, Patricia Hewitt, in a difficult spot. How to explain that the expected £1 billion windfall from the licences had, in fact, turned into a measly £38.2 million. How to pass over the fact that only 16 licences of the 42 up for sale even received a bid. Why the large number of companies that registered their interest were reduced to just ten (officially twelve at the time - what happened to the other two?) before the auction kicked off - and of them, two pulled out within days. And that's just for starters. How come the auction went through its last five rounds without a single change? Was the government just hoping someone would spend some more money for fun? How could Ms Hewitt explain that from round eight until round 21 - when it was finally put out of its misery - the grand total of £80,000 was added to total takings? What had gone wrong? How will those huge swathes of the UK without any bidders get access to this technology? What can we learn from this almighty cock-up? Is anyone for the chop? We have one major answer to this farce: the government unnecessarily restricted the number of bidders by insisting on a ridiculously high reserve bid. Why? Because it's just plain greedy. Labour's interventionist approach - free market forces as long as we make at least £x million - may have worked for the hopelessly hyped-up 3G auctions but business learns its lessons fast. Maybe the government should too. Anyway, back to Patricia. She didn't do a bad job, especially considering what she was facing. Of course, she's hasn't had to actually face the press yet. And according to the DTI press room, she doesn't intend to do so. Her response - in an official press release - was as follows (feel free to draw your own conclusions): "As a result of this auction 60 per centof the UK's population will have access to a new source of high speed Internet. This will provide competition to fibre, cable links, DSL phone lines and satellite, which also offer access to broadband services. It will add to the broadband coverage provided by these technologies and bring us closer to the delivery of broadband services across the UK. There will be further opportunities to develop wireless broadband services when licences are offered next year for spectrum at 3.4 GHz, 10 GHz and 40 GHz." "I have asked for a report on the outcome of the auction to help us plan for future spectrum allocations. This will involve talking to operators and other interested parties on how BFWA can be developed into a commercial proposition in all parts of the country. It will examine also the scope for awarding licences in those regions where no licences were sold. "We will work with public and private sector stakeholders to pull together various broadband initiatives that are being pursued at national, regional and local level into an effective programme for getting broadband services to every part of the UK." ® Related Link Auction site - see the whole sorry story here Related Stories Fixed wireless auction a complete shambles Fixed wireless auction is go! go! go! Bidders named for fixed wireless auction Roll-up! Roll-up! Second money-burning Internet auction on way
Kieren McCarthy, 21 Nov 2000

Intel AGP 8x spec published

Intel has published the draft spec of the AGP 8x standard - an extension of the existing AGP 4x bus - including an outline of a 64-bit version supporting Itanic and its successors. AGP 8x is unlikely to appear in products until 2003 at the earliest, but should offer bandwidths of over 2GB per second. Intel is seeking input from OEMs and chip companies to be incorporated into the final spec. The bus is planned to operate at the current AGP 66MHz frequency, but will use a DDR-like technique to use the rising and falling edges of the clock signal. ®
Andrew Thomas, 21 Nov 2000

The Reg – a reader's guide

Based on the number of emails we receive from irate readers (many of them written in green crayon - not an easy thing to do in Outlook Express), it would appear many people consider The Reg to be variously opinionated, biased, racist, too tough, too weak, political, apolitical, too technical, not technical enough, pro AMD, anti AMD, pro Intel, anti Intel, pro Rambus and anti Rambus. Here then is the definitive reader's guide to Register editorial policy. The Reg is racist We have variously been accused of being anti Canadian, Jewish, Israeli, American, German, French, Taiwanese, South African, Welsh and Russian - not usually all at the same time. Surely such a track record clearly shows we don't really have any favourites, bashing people of all nationalities with exuberant equanimity whenever they do something stupid. A quick count of venomous emails produces the Reg xenophobe list of the top five hard-done-by races. Here they are in descending order of outragedness: Welsh Germans Americans Jews Canadians Canada wins hands-down in the bulk email stakes, mainly caused by a single ill-advised reference to baby seal clubbing (whoops, there we go again). Any nationalities incensed by their omission from the above list should not worry - your turn will come. The Reg is pro/anti company X For any publication to be accused of bias towards a company is by no means unusual. But at The Reg we appear to have made it into something of an artform. Not only are we pro Intel, AMD and Rambus, we are also anti AMD, Rambus and Intel - frequently in the same story. Of course, the fact that we receive hundreds of 'pro Intel/anti AMD' emails could well be seen as more of a reflection on the number of AMD groupies out there just waiting to be incensed, than proof of genuine bias. Cruelty to Intel now seems to be socially-acceptable, while taking a poke at AMD is right up there with fox hunting and baby seal clubbing. And anyone genuinely thinking The Reg is in Intel's pocket should check out some of the internal snottograms circulating within Chipzilla's worldwide PR operation concerning Messrs Magee and Thomas. But with some companies we will admit to bias - for example, we hate BT, but then so does everyone else, so that's OK. Rambus Inc is currently running a close second (actually it's the investors we can't stand), but while we still get emails complaining of our critical take on that company's litigious nature, we can't remember the last time anyone wrote in support of BT. The Reg is opinionated and biased Guilty as charged. If you want to express your opinion, start your own bloody publication. ®
Dr Spinola, 21 Nov 2000

Cardiff Prison official faces child porn allegations

A senior member of staff at Cardiff prison has been arrested by police after kiddie porn was allegedly found on his laptop computer. The official - who has not been named - has been suspended from the Prison Service. The man has been bailed and is due back in court in February. A spokeswoman for the prison service declined to comment further. ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Nov 2000

Nokia unveils first Symbian Crystal Communicator

Nokia has taken the wraps off its first Communicator based on Symbian's Crystal reference design - at its mobile Internet show in Prague, as indeed we said the company would several weeks ago. The 9210 Communicator is intended as a 'do-everything' high speed mobile device, and is intended to ship in the first half of next year. Which means, although Nokia claims it as a world first, the game's afoot. Microsoft and Sagem claimed their own integrated first just a few weeks back, and there will be a Motorola Symbian first along in a minute. Nokia claims the 9210 as "the world's first integrated mobile multimedia device for al mobile professionals," which is maybe narrow enough to be defensible. The company also - somewhat bizarrely, seems to have adopted the slogan "surprisingly effective" for it. We've no idea why this comes as a surprise to the company. It follows the clamshell - phone hinged down the middle approach of Nokia's previous Communicators, and weighs 244g. It has a 4096 colour display, can work with Microsoft file formats, and (world first number two) is claimed as the world's first SyncML enambled product. It's dual bandwidth 900/1800 (i.e., European and non-US model only, for the moment), and supports High Speed Circuit Switched Data (HCSD), with claimed data speeds up to 43 kbps. Expansion is via a memory card, with a 16Mb version included. ® Related stories Inside Symbian's Crystal communicator Nokia, Psion, Intel demo next gen Symbian Quartz kit
John Lettice, 21 Nov 2000

Reg reader finds hardcore Barbie porn

Last week we wrote a story debunking a hysterical article by the Daily Mail which claimed kids were at serious risk of viewing pornography while searching online for their favourite toys. According to the article, porn sites were including words like Barbie, Pokémon, etc into their meta tags to push up traffic and scoop money from banner ads. We ran our own tests and discovered that the likelihood of any children stumbling across porn when looking for Barbie was extremely small. We hadn't reckoned on our resourceful readers, though, one of whom, Simon Elliott, stumbled upon the holy grail of Barbie porn. We'll say no more, but check it out if you fancy a laugh. Click here. ® Related Stories Porn fiends' Barbie scam nonsense Click here for furniture porn!
Kieren McCarthy, 21 Nov 2000

Reg pops Brit net lit zit

Quite a week for comps down here at Vulture Central. On top of the excitement over our Codebreaker competition results and our latest Bluetooth give-away, we can now announce the ten unclogged pores who will be curling up with a copy of The New English Book of Internet Stories. We asked for a 30-word outline of the ideal internet story. Predictably, many of the entries were XXXX-rated e-rotic gropefests, with at best a tenuous connection to the internet. Wash your minds out with soap, the lot of you. Mind you, Chris tickled our fancy with: Microsoft executive found tisup.com in 'donkey shlong five dollar sucky sucky' horror. Chris, you've got a great future in tabloid journalism. Less graphic but winning plaudits for compacting onanism, Bill Gates, Linus Torvalds and some html into three action-packed sentences was Craig Wallace's: Linus Torvalds makes joke in chat room about someone killing Bill Gates. World wakes up next day to dead Gates. Cause: Win2000 crashed while he was enjoying his a -href="http://www.fufme.com/"-Genital Drive-/a-. Good effort. Some of you approached the challenge with more gravity, electing to address key net issues. Andy Poulton clearly has an axe to grind: I logged on to a BtoC site, navigated quickly and easily to the product I wanted. the order form was simple to complete and the order delivered the next day. Yeah, right Andy. Dream on. Wayne Pasco wants to see a story about: A company that realizes that they won't really make gazillions off the net and learns to live with the fact instead of whinging about fickle investors :). Get back to your collective farm, comrade. Adding a current affairs slant was Nick Jones: Freeserve goes bust. Blair intervenes, preventing E-Britannia becoming Dome 2.0. White Knight AOL houses huddled homepageless masses. Brusselcrats call foul, hand Freeserve to Deutsche Telekom for Germany's last 5DM coin. So that'd be AOL you favour then, Nick, and not Freeserve? Thought so. Of course, you can always have a go at the telly, in a world-weary Pete Cooper stylee: Group of clods star in far fetched Internet start-up based drama for backwater TV channel, providing weekly entertainment for all Internet pedants. There's a horrible ring of truth and inevitability about this one. Alternatively, you might ignore the brief and turn in a film synopsis. Scott Paddock: Time Bandits meets High Noon - sort of. Midgets on Shetland horses dispensing justice in a digital "old-west" wasteland of "virtual-this-and-that" with no "actual" lawmen around. Sounds to me more like The Matrix come Westworld with a bit of Black Beauty thrown in. What the producers will want to know before they sign the cheque is 'Demi Moore - is there any way she can be persuaded to keep her kit on in this movie?' Vincent Lewis displays the Hollywood right stuff in his Typo: Sandra Bullock plays top internet whizzkid whose computer has been 'booby trapped' with a bomb. She must keep typing above 55 words per minute or boom. 59 seconds later. BOOM! Why not make it a short and cast Sly Stallone in the lead? Then tie his hands behind his back. Boom Boom! Well, that's all entertaining stuff. Naturally, we had to pick someone to receive an additional honour - our exclusive, can't-buy-it-in-the-shops Reg lapel pin. We liked Markus Primhak's The Everyday Life of a Temporary Cybernetics Engineer: Via his ' bio-port ', Professor W. transmogrifies into a sentient line of code to search cyberspace for artificial intelligence. Prof. gets destroyed by virus called 'The Vulture'. Prof. misses 'Today' interview. A virus called 'The Vulture'? There's a thought… But enough of this frivolity. The Reg pin goes to David O'Flynn with a piece of fantasy so improbable and preposterous that he deserves applause for sheer nerve: C++ programmer pulls supermodel. David claims that 'Some might say it's a work of genius.' Come off it mate. You'll be telling us next that the acclaimed parvenu of prestidigitation, David 'Paper Bag' Copperfield, has shagged Claudia Schiffer. You're having a laugh. ®
Lester Haines, 21 Nov 2000

BBC sacrifices virgin online

We were shocked, nay appalled, to find that that paragon of free speech, the BBC, prevented a loyal Reg reader from discussing sky-diving online. Respectable Janek Czekaj posed the following question to an online chat room discussing Dilys Price - a 68-year-old sky-diver: "I have some work colleagues in California who go sky-diving and the US approach seems very professional but a lot more relaxed, more fun and that I believe builds confidence in virgin jumpers - it came out in the programme that way?" The question was rejected. "Sorry. You have used language which has been deemed inappropriate for this chat. Please rephrase your question and try again." Presumably it was the word "virgin" that caused offence and the BBC is running an automated filth detector on its site. Now, the question is: is the BBC more worried about people discussing a rival to its radio stations, paedophiles dragging its name through the mud, or just virgins in general? ®
Kieren McCarthy, 21 Nov 2000

EMI falls into red on failed Warner tie-up

EMI, the world's third largest record company, said today its attempt to merge with Warner - itself soon to be bought by AOL - knocked an anticipated first-half profit into a loss. Quite a significant loss, at that. This time last year, EMI reported a profit of £31.9 million ($45.3 million at today's exchange rate), or 4.1 pence a share. Today it reported a loss of £31.3 million ($44.6 million), or 4.0 pence a share. EMI actually made a profit before tax, only to see it driven down to the reported figure by one-off items. No wonder, having been effectively refused permission by the European Union to join up with one fellow major music company, it's now courting another, Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG). EMI has around ten per cent of the US music market and just under 19 per cent of the European arena. Sales rose 12 per cent in the US, over the six-month period, which rather scuppers the company's allegation - made through the Recording Industry Association of America - that Napster is killing the music business. Quite the reverse, in fact - it's pointing the way forward. EMI said it is looking to the online market to improve its standing. It expects to have 20 per cent of its sales through online retailers - in a mix of CD sales and digital downloads - by 2005. EMI yesterday announced three new digital music distribution partnerships, with Streamwaves in the US, and In Demand and DX3 in Europe - just three of the 27 new media companies EMI has invested in or signed alliances with. ® Related Story EMI picks partners for Euro digital music trial
Tony Smith, 21 Nov 2000

Sony, Honda prep people-like robots

Sony has developed a 19 inch high robot, codenamed SDR-3X, capable of walking on two legs, kicking a ball and a few other nifty tricks. Meanwhile, Honda has unveiled a four foot tall bipedal robot that can even shake hands with people. Sony's offering has 24 joints, which means it can walk, change direction, balance, dance and... er... kick. Some more unkind observers have suggested that this last attribute be tested on the AIBO robotic dog, also produced by Sony. Clearly The Register cannot endorse cruelty against animals - even plastic ones - but we couldn't help giggling anyway. It can distinguish between colours using a CCD (charge coupled device) camera mounted on its head, and can be controlled using spoken commands. Honda, on the other hand, has designed its robot to "co-exist and co-operate" with human beings. They've called it ASIMO - more than a passing reference to Isaac Asimov, creator of the Three Laws of Robotics - but also manages to stand for Advanced Step in Innovative Mobility. We are not sure what this little guy is supposed to do exactly, but it scores big points for geek-cool. Neither company has said when they plan to start selling their machines, or what the price tag is. Honda has not even decided yet whether it will sell the ASIMO. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 21 Nov 2000

Solar Sunrise hacker joins Mid-East cyber-war

The ongoing war of packet floods and Web defacements between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian hacktivists saw a new and famous name enter the fray last week: Ehud Tenebaum, the Israeli hacker known as "The Analyzer," who was fingered by the US government in 1998 as the mastermind of one of the biggest Pentagon hack-attacks in history. The twenty-one year old Tenebaum is serving as CTO of the security firm 2XS. Two weeks ago, according to Tenebaum, he heard from a hacker group he founded in 1996, called the Israeli Internet Underground (IIU). The group asked Tenebaum if his company would provide security solutions for Israeli companies for free. "They claimed they are going to help all the Israeli sites that are under attack, or sites that there is a good reason to believe will be attacked," says Tenebaum. "I liked the idea in general." The result was a partnership between 2XS, Tenebaum's company, and the IIU, now self-described white hat hackers aiming at a defensive role in the mid-East cyberwar. The IIU established a Web site listing the names of companies and organizations in Israel that the group determined were vulnerable to intrusions. Organizations that found themselves on that list could contact 2XS, which provided them with patches, workarounds or advice on how to close the holes. "We agreed to provide a solution to anyone who wants a solution," says Tenebaum. The project ended on Saturday, and Tenebaum pronounces it a success. "I can tell you we had hundreds of companies contacting 2XS." Seven weeks of violence between Israelis and Palestinians has claimed at least 256 lives, according to CNN, which counts the dead as 218 Palestinians, 25 Israeli Jews and 13 Israeli Arabs. Groups supporting both sides of the conflict have brought it on line with denial of service attacks, Web defacements and computer intrusions against their opponents' networks. "It's wrong to take these kinds of things to the Internet, because it involves a lot of companies that did nothing," says Tenebaum. Israeli police searched Tenebaum's home, and detained Tenebaum, in March, 1998, while investigating what then-US Deputy Defence Secretary John Hamre called "the most organized and systematic attack to date" on US military systems. The attacks exploited a well-known vulnerability in the Solaris operating system, for which at that time a patch had been available for months. The raid was the culmination of an investigation code named "Solar Sunrise," involving the FBI, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, NASA, the Department of Justice, the Defence Information Systems Agency, the NSA, and the CIA. Two California teens were also charged in the case; both later received probation. "This arrest should send a message to would-be computer hackers all over the world that the United States will treat computer intrusions as serious crimes," US Attorney General Janet Reno said at the time. "We will work around the world and in the depths of cyberspace to investigate and prosecute those who attack computer networks." After a brief stint in the military, Tenebaum was indicted under Israeli computer crime laws in February 1999, and pleaded not guilty in September of that year. The case has languished in the courts since then. "I would prefer to have it finished soon," says Tenebaum. "This trial is keeping me from doing a lot of stuff that I need to do in the business world." © 2000 SecurityFocus.com. All rights reserved. Related Stories Celebrity hacktivist joins the Mid-East cyber-war Cyberwarfare levels the playing field Cyberwar declared in the Middle East
Kevin Poulsen, 21 Nov 2000

Intel and Broadcom best friends again

Intel and Broadcom are reported to have kissed and made up, and settled all claims and counter-claims against each other. A brief joint statement was distributed earlier today saying: "Intel Corporation and Broadcom Corporation today announced they have settled all claims against each other brought under Intel's trade secret lawsuit against Broadcom, filed in California Superior Court in March 2000, and under Broadcom's trade secret cross-complaint against Intel, filed in June 2000. Both companies expressed satisfaction with the terms of the settlement agreement, which are confidential." Neither company was available for further comment. ® Those lawsuits in full More lawsuits fly in Intel/Broadcom spat Broadcom broadsides Greater Intel Intel sues Via, Broadcom Intel broadsides Broadcom for poaching secrets
Andrew Thomas, 21 Nov 2000

Blunder cuts Lucent Q1 sales by $125m

Lucent admitted today it has made a mistake its Q1 fiscal predictions, a cock up that will effectively wipe two cents of its earnings and cuts its sales figures for the period by $125 million. Oh dear. Poor old Lucent doesn't seem to be having a good time of late. Today's warning to investors that they should take the company's previous with a pinch of salt follows an unexpected drop in Q4 2000 earnings and the departure of CEO Rich McGinn, fired to make room for Henry Schact, who the company reckons is better able to get it back in the black. On 23 October, Lucent said Q1 2001 would see the company break even - ie. post zero earnings. Today's confession means Lucent will actually lose money during the quarter, which ends at the tail end of December. Q1 2001 was already going to be well down on Q1 2000's $1.08 billion (33 cents a share). Q1 revenue was projected at $7.9 billion - already a drop of seven per cent on Q1 2000 and down 16 per cent on the previous quarter - so the $125 million dip isn't too much of a difference, but it doesn't exactly inspire confidence in the company. Indeed, its shares fell $2.94 to $18 in today's early trading. That's the lowest the company has been in three years. ® Related Story Lucent boots out boss
Tony Smith, 21 Nov 2000

Another P4 mobo floods onto the market

Gigabyte's new GA-8TX mobo joins Aopen's AX4T, shown at last month's World PC Expo 2000 in Tokyo, and Intel's own D850GB Garibaldi and swells the number of boards available for Intel's new flagchip P4 to, er, three. The dual Rambus i850 (Tehama)-based 8TX also features a Creative CT5880 sound chip, four RIMM sockets, ATA 100, AGP 2X, 4X and Pro, five PCI slots and everyone's favourite unused socket, CNR. Pricing and availability remain to be announced. ®
Andrew Thomas, 21 Nov 2000

Employees blush at AltaVista porn deal

Employees at AltaVista UK have expressed their concerns about the company's deal with a Nasdaq-listed porn company. According to sources close to the company, some of the employees have taken offence at working so closely with the porn merchants. Some feel the deal with Private Media Group breached their employment rights. Others believe it is tantamount to sexual harassment. A spokeswoman for AltaVista denied any knowledge of the complaints but added that the deal - which was tipped to be up and running a week ago - had been delayed while the outfit reviewed the detail of the deal. However, she said the deal should be in place by the end of the week. Bjorn Skarlen, Internet Director of PMG, dismissed the employee concerns saying that the adult material peddled by his company was all legal and above board. He said AltaVista was currently scrutinising the 1500 or so adult-related keywords to make sure they were suitable as part of the deal. Last month PMG signed an advertising and directory deal with AltaVista in a bid to grow its business. The adult entertainment outfit will advertise its wares on AltaVista's sites in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. In return for pointing sex-related searches to PMG, AltaVista can expect to receive a share of the revenue if people sign up to the subscription based adult sites. ® Related Story AltaVista pimps for pornmonger
Tim Richardson, 21 Nov 2000

Police fence stolen goods online

Ever wonder why the police have the best drugs and hi-fi systems? Sorry, that is a completely false and libellous allegation and completely without foundation. However, there is the question of what happens to all the kit that the police inevitably end up with - the lost, found and stolen goods that no one ever claims. Well, they are sold at police auctions. But then few people know where and when these take place and many more balk at the idea. Well, no more! Two e-commerce companies - eBay.co.uk, you know, and iForce - have persuaded 15 police forces throughout the UK to sign up to a new online auctioning system. The system combines iForce's software and eBay's trading site. As they tell it, the new setup will benefit government, businesses, charities as well as average Joe. It will save the authorities the cost of collection, storage and delivery, increase the goods' sale price and benefit all those that buy em cheap. They've got a point too. "The potential of the web to revolutionise traditional approaches has been somewhat forgotten in recent months as the dotcom gloom has been peddled. This announcement shows that there are still many new areas where e-commerce solutions have huge potential to re-engineer inefficient business and organisational processes," said Matthew Peacock, group chief executive of iForce. Now that's what we like to hear - optimism. It works like this: iForce does the collection and delivery, cataloguing, stock management and warehousing. The goods are then sold on eBay.co.uk. Stuff catalogued so far includes sports clothes, CDs, computers, DVD players and jewellery. The service will be up and running the first of December (just over a week's time). On the other side of the coin: while the police enter the commercial IT world, the crazed bunch at BSA (Business Software Alliance) seem to think they can become the police. They can't of course but that hasn't stop them sending out official looking audit forms to hundreds of companies. In them you are asked to go round the office and justify possession of your software. And god help you if you haven't got the certificates. Note that the BSA doesn't actually say you have to fill it in - because you don't - but it goes as far as it can. And if you don't? Well don't come running to us when you find a toothless watchdog sucking on your leg. Oh, and the deadline was yesterday. ® Related Stories BSA deploys imaginary pirate software detector vans
Kieren McCarthy, 21 Nov 2000

MP3 to kill the CD by 2005 – MORI

The CD is dead, buried by MP3. Or at least it will be by 2005. That's the conclusion of punters in the UK, a recent survey by market researcher MORI reveals Some 1629 adults were asked about their CD buying habits over the next five years. MORI's results suggest that young adults in particular are "planning to abandon CDs in favour of MP3, music downloads, digital audio players and portable collections". Or are they? MORI's survey was commissioned by Creative Labs, which produces portable MP3 players and so is hardly a disinterested party. A quote on MORI's release gives the game away: "The MORI findings confirms many of our views," said Duncan Jackson, Creative Labs' European director of retail. So while, according to MORI's numbers, a third of all people between the ages of 15 and 24 reckon they'll have stopped buying CDs within five years, it doesn't follow that they'll all be storing their music on portable devices or PCs. Currently only 14 per cent of Internet users - in turn a subset of the sample - download music from the Net. This means there will have to be a significant shift towards digital music distribution if the aforementioned 33 per cent of people between 15 and 24 can do what they expect - in the way MORI predicts and Creative Labs hopes will happen. Actually, we think MORI is broadly on the right track. Around a third of all respondents said they expected to have virtual music collections by 2005. And this is unsurprising, considering the rise of Napster and the interest of companies like Sony in selling music via Net-based pay-per-listen systems. But we do think MORI is stretching the point when it claims the CD is on its last legs, and we reckon the reason most people don't think they'll be buying that many of them in future is more because there's so little stuff worth spending 15 quid on. There's also the Napster factor, which has helped persuade people that the Net is a source of high quality, free music. It will be interesting to see how MORI's respondents change their views once proper paid-for online music services become the norm. ®
Tony Smith, 21 Nov 2000

uTravel.co.uk goes titsup.com

Another one bites the dust. Yes, United News & Media-backed travel site uTravel.co.uk has gone titsup.com, joining a host of other Web sites that have folded in a pre-Xmas rush. The reason? Extremely competitive conditions. Nothing to do with haemorrhaging money then. We don't have the figures on how much money this site managed to burn for its six million page impressions a month, but we must be talking millions of pounds again. Depressing, ain't it? Anyway, UN&M's online arm, Xilerate, decided that more investment in the one-year-old site just wasn't worth it - especially since there are so many other sites in the market - lastminute.com must be the most well-known. In fact it looks as though Xilerate might be moving away from the whole consumer market: "Our strategic emphasis is now to develop our considerable B2B assets," said chief executive Andrew Nugee. UTravel was small-fry and the news barely touched UN&M's share price. So farewell uTravel, have fun in the dotcom graveyard with all the others: thestreet.co.uk, garden.com, streamline.com, wetnose.com, foodoo.com, clickmango.com, boxman.com, learnfree.co.uk - need we go on? ®
Kieren McCarthy, 21 Nov 2000

Essex girls to get free WebTV

The land of white stilettos is to receive free Internet connections as part of a government drive to get Brits wired. The Essex housing authority is looking for quotes from suppliers who fancy the contract. It wants to include between 250 and 5000 homes in the scheme, which will connect tenants to the Net through their tellys. The business from the Swan Housing Group is up grabs on the Website of Cardiff-based Acequote.com. The company reckons an increasing number of government organisations are using this form of online bidding to secure quotes for contracts. Last month the government announced it was to give out 35,000 PCs, at a cost of £10 million, to the most cash-strapped areas of the country. Just one in 20 of Britain's poorest families has an Internet connection. ® Related Stories AOL to sell set-top boxes WebTV propels e-district to financial stratosphere Poorest Brits to be given PCs MPs slam Blair’s eGovt plans
Linda Harrison, 21 Nov 2000

Fujitsu Siemens de-emphasises desktop PC biz

Fujitsu-Siemens said today, in a London strategy briefing, that it will concentrate on its mobile computing business and services to back up its products for the next three years Paul Stodden, the new chief executive at Fujitsu-Siemens, said users want mobile access now and the pressure is already on companies to deliver, even though the technology - for example, UMTS-based devices - will not be in place for a couple of years. The company said its definition of mobile referred to the user, rather than the devices Joseph Reger, VP of strategic marketing, said that the company would be providing services that would keep its customers mobile. Fujitsu-Siemens will also concentrate on providing infrastructure for its big corporate clients. According to Stodden the three factors that old economy businesses look for when getting online were security, reliability and service levels. He said the shake out of the dotcom sector highlighted the lack of investment in infrastructure. This was changing, he said, as old economy companies is moving into the online space. Reger said it would be no good if Fujitsu-Siemens started to prepare for the brave new world of communications and mobile devices two years from now. "Two years from now is much too late," he said. This transition will happen only if companies could be convinced that it was a safe place to do business, and providing a safety net would be one way of doing that so the company plans to offer a wide range of support services to its customers. According to Reger these services cannot be free - people who did not take advantage of them would then be losing money - and the company hopes this will help double revenues from services. At the moment 60 per cent of revenues are from PC sales. It said it would spend E750 million over the next three years. The money would go towards hiring at 850 new consultants and to design and engineering, although the company would not say how much would be spent on each. The company has incurred deep losses since it was created earlier this year. The company has been beset by management tensions since the merger and has lost market share to Compaq, one of its biggest rivals. ®
Lucy Sherriff, 21 Nov 2000

Gameplay zaps 20 jobs

Gameplay is poised to axe as many as 20 people from its operation following a decision to downsize the games portal company. It is also planning to close two offices in Colchester and Wimbledon. Operations will now be focused in Vine Hill (London) and Leeds. Tim Coles, MD of Gameplay, confirmed that the company was undergoing restructuring but said that nothing had been decided yet and that the company was making a number of changes which "may lead to redundancies". Sources close to Gameplay told Reg that some staff left on Friday but Coles denied this. One source told Reg: "There are lots of very, very, very unhappy people here, with 20 redundancies and a complete loss of faith from those working at the heart of the company." ®
Tim Richardson, 21 Nov 2000

Republicans peevishly await Bush coronation

As the manual re-count proceeds in several Florida counties carefully chosen by the Gore people to boost his chances, and its various parties square off in quest of vindication by the courts, Republicans have turned to their favourite tactic of alleging deliberate malfeasance and perfidious intent among their opponents. Feeling the heat of a possible Gore win, or Electoral College stalemate, Republicans are now actively accusing the Miami-Dade County canvassing board of 'manufacturing' votes for Gore. "Miami-Dade has become ground zero for producing a manufactured vote," US Representative John Sweeney (Republican, New York) said, and characterised the election officials cooperating with this madness as "pit bosses". Sweeney is not alone. "This thing is rigged," US Representative David Hobson (Republican, Ohio) declared. "It is a joke on our democracy." The accusations are typical of the Republican political art-form: they are at once serious, poorly documented, and sometimes comical. We've heard of Bush ballots being sneakily added to the Gore pile. This happened once, and was undoubtedly an honest mistake by an exhausted worker. We've heard of chads being taped onto ballot cards, obviously to cover up Bush wins, the Republicans say. Actually, no such case has been confirmed in any of the counting rooms. Tape was found on at least one absentee ballot, but as they are not punched, it's likely it was done by the voter or an official to keep it from falling apart. We've heard of chads piling up on the floors of the counting rooms, further proof that 'the people', to whom Bush sang syrupy arias of 'trust' during his campaign, can't be trusted to handle ballot cards without destroying them. That's confirmed to have happened a grand total of once. And we've heard of chads actually being eaten, as in some Checkpoint-Charley swallow-the-microfilms moment. Not likely, a Republican supervisor and judge said, observing with a sly smile that he "didn't think they would taste very good." Capitol Hill is clearly gearing up to take the smarm-baton from Florida Republicans if Dubya fails to achieve his coronation. House Majority whip Tom DeLay (Republican, Texas) distributed a memo reminding other Republicans that the US Constitution empowers Congress to reject a state's electoral votes if majorities in both chambers determine that the local election was corrupt. We look foward to further 'evidence' of election scandals, due to appear daily until the Electoral College convenes. ®
Thomas C Greene, 21 Nov 2000